Search Results for : libya


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

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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Libyan Blowback

It is a terrible thing if any US diplomats have been killed in Libya, as now appears likely. My condolences to the families of all affected. They add to the thousands of deaths in Libya, and one can only hope that finally some of the proponents of “liberal intervention” will realise that bombing people into democracy is not a viable policy.

But part of the responsibility for these deaths lies with the US and Israeli far right activists who made a film insulting Islam, with precisely the intention of provoking a spiral of violence. There are many interest groups longing to promote a perpetual climate of war and fear; some of them, like these filmmakers, are easier to identify than others.

Be it attacks on US diplomats in Libya or drone strikes on villagers in Yemen, it is all part of the same hateful cycle of violence – from which fortunes have been made in the arms, mercenary and security industries, and which climate of hatred has given cover and unflinching western support for resource grabs by Israeli illegal settlers.

So many people have poisoned what should be a beautiful world. The deaths of US diplomats in Libya get noticed. The evryday deaths of so many others in this manufactured conflict do not.

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Losing in Libya

Gaddafi now controls 20% more territory than he did before we started this odious bombing campaign. He has been able to hold more and better attended rallies of more genuine supporters in recent days than he ever could before we started bombing. Exactly as I predicted, the effect of NATO bombing has been to rally nationalist support around Gaddafi, whom we have stupidly put in a much stronger position than he was when he only faced genuine internal rebellion.

The French and British have now backed down, and both have agreed that Gaddafi will be able to remain in Libya as part of any transition deal. That amounts to an acceptance that he will be the power behind the throne. The problem is, of course, that it is Gaddafi who is growing stronger and NATO which is growing weaker, with political will to keep killing crumbling as surely as NATO economies and currencies.

Hague and Cameron have moved, from abject weakness, to a position of allowing Gaddafi to remain in Libya, which they adamantly rejected three months ago. Then, there was some hope Gaddafi might have accepted it. Now, he has no need to accept a face-saving deal for NATO. He can just sit and watch them dwindle.

It is, moreover, a facesaving proposal that mocks the International Criminal Court, revealing it starkly as a tool to be brought out and used against the enemies of the western alliance, but simply shoved back in its box if they change their minds.

Obama made a shrewd political move to distract from the abject failure of the Afghan occupation to achieve any of its stated goals, by assassinating Osama Bin Laden. Expect now a similar ploy in Libya, with attempts to assassinate Gadaffi by bombing – and possibly by other means – being radically stepped up in an attempt to rescue some “victory” from this humiliation.

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Still Killing in Libya

Cameron attempted to make out, in his press conference in South Africa, that the only difference on Libya between Zuma and Cameron was over whether Gadaffi should leave at the beignning or end of a new political process. Zuma then flatly contradicted him by stating unequivocally that the NATO bpmbing should stop.

The US’ decision to recognise the Benghazi regime (which, remember, nobody has elected either) as the government of Libya is purely about removing legal obstacles to huge sums of cash being spread round ruling elites and arms industries. In fact, it is still the case that less than half the population of Libya are under rebel control. Gadaffi has been able in the last fortnight to mobilise much larger mass rallies of supporters than he could in the months before the start of the bombing campaign. There is strong empirical evidence that, exactly as I predicted it would, the effect of the NATO bombing campaign has been to shore up Gadaffi’s popularity and entrench him more firmly into power than when he faced a purely internal rebellion.

What a terrible mess, and terrible loss of life.

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Afghan Drawdown, Libyan Murder

Could anyone watch Jeremy Bowen’s piece on BBC News last night, which showed a grieving father hugging the wrapped bodies of two tiny children killed in a NATO bombing? The fact the tiny childrens’ grandfather was a Gadaffi minister seemed to Jeremy Bowen a possible justification – he posed a dichotomy that by killing these children, more civilian lives could be saved.

But how could this warping of utilitarian judgement work in practice? Bowen quoted NATO as saying there were command and control structures in the house as well as the Minister’s family. So bombing it saved civilian lives elsewhere. What constitutes a command and control structure in these circumstances? A mobile phone? A computer? And how does destroying that little bit of infrastructure save lives so directly that it could atone for our killing of tiny children? Jeremy Bowen, who interviewed me in Tashkent and I like, should be ashamed of himself. But he did get the tiny dead children on the ten o clock news for two minutes, which has done something to undermine the pro-war propaganda pumped out everywhere.

NATO is not saving civilian lives. It is killing civilians.

Meanwhile, Obama announces the beginning of the end of the utterly pointless occupation of Afghanistan. The Afghan war was was not as illegal as the Iraq war, as it did have a connection to 9/11. But we have achieved nothing after ten years we had not achieved after one year. There is still no non-fraudulent democracy, no rule of law, no women’s rights and no economic development outwith the narcotics sector. Nor will there be, and we will have made as little societal change as the Anglo-Afghan Wars or the Soviet occupation.

We have, however, killed an awful lot of small children. And lost many of our own who were little more than children,

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Cameron and Sarkozy’s Libyan Debacle

I wrote this on 25 March:

As predicted, the military action in Libya is going horribly wrong. The bombs and missiles are consolidating an undeserved nationalist support for Gadaffi and motivating more people to actually fight for him. The rebels are on the wrong end of ground battles and there is precious little evidence what majority opinion in Libya actually now wants. The western bombing forces are more and more involved in ground attack on pro-Gadaffi forces, and not only armour.

Our policy in Libya is in such disarray that I confess I have no idea what the policy is. I am quite certain that the “humanitarian intervention” motivation is a ruse to dupe the public in general and stupid liberals in particular. Johann Hari is not one of those, and this may be the finest thing he has ever written.

But NATO’s bombing has, as I predicted, only served to strengthen on nationalist grounds support for Gadaffi and the morale and activity of his forces. The vaunted ability of the rebels to sell oil will prove a short lived phenomenon as Gadaffi’s men sweep back through the oil installations.

Having achieved bugger all militarily, NATO are now out-manoeuvred comprehensively on the diplomatic front. Jacob Zuma and the African Union have negotiated a ceasefire deal and transitional government arrangement with Gadaffi, which Gadaffi has accepted and the rebels have refused.

Now, it is essential to bear in mind – which nobody in power is doing – that the aims of UNSCR 1973, from which NATO draws its mandate for the no fly zone and dubious claim of a mandate for attacking Gadaffi’s forces, are a ceasefire and a negotiated settlement. These are operative paragraphs 1 and 2:

1. Demands the immediate establishment of a ceasefire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians;
2. Stresses the need to intensify efforts to find a solution to the crisis which responds to the legitimate demands of the Libyan people and notes the decisions of the Secretary-General to send his Special Envoy to Libya and of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union to send its ad hoc High-Level Committee to Libya with the aim of facilitating dialogue to lead to the political reforms necessary to find a peaceful and sustainable solution;

Nowhere does UNSCR 1973 mandate regime change or insist that Gadaffi must go as the end result of negotiations. If Gadaffi has accepted an AU-brokered ceasfire, then he is in compliance with the UN Resolution. If the rebels have refused such a ceasefire, then they are in breach of UNSCR 1973 and it is they who are endangering civilians. It is the rebels who NATO should be attacking. Perhaps they will work out that it would be much better if they stopped attacking anybody, but I doubt it. They have chosen a side in this civil war, and military macho will propel them to continue to try to make that side win.

Let me be plain – I have no time for Gadaffi and would have been delighted if he had been overthrown by moral force, or even with a little violence, by his people, as in Egypt and Tunisia. But what we have now is a civil war in which it is by no means clear that Gadaffi’s opponents – including blood drenched senior ex Gadaffi regime members motivated by opportunism and possibly ethnicity – are going to put “good guys” in power.

NATO have no mandate to take sides in a civil war and propel their forces to victory. The aim of UNSCR 1973 is a ceasefire and negotiation.

There is no doubt that the CIA and MI6 are actively strengthening the determination of the rebels to resist a negotiated settlement, with promises of continued NATO air support and training, spotting, intelligence and other military assistance. They are therefore in direct violation of UNSCR 1973.

One sad thing in this is the complete lack of moral stature of the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon. He is mandated in UNSCR 1973 to be arranging negotiations, and those who enforce the no-fly zone are obliged under UNSCR 1973 to consult and cooperate with him. In fact he has done almost nothing and possesses absolutely none of the moral stature or personal charisma of Kofi Annan. Moon has no interest in anything but his stature and perks (UN staff call him the vainest Secretary General ever), and in making many millions from networking with the West for his retirement employment.

As NATO argue with complete illegality in Libya, I would call Moon the dog that did not bark. But that would be an insult to dogs.

All of which leaves Cameron, Sarkozy and Obama wedded to a policy which is completely contrary to UNSCR 1973, illegal, and still failing on the ground. They face a gigantic loss of face which can only be reversed by boots on the ground. My FCO sources tell me that they are already considering the officially unsanctioned provision of mercenary forces to the rebels. I asked whether there had been any discussion with Tim Spicer, and received a “I couldn’t possibly comment” response.

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Military Action Against Libya Is Not Illegal, Not About Democracy and Very Limited

I was much attacked, especially by “Liberal interventionists”, in comments across the blogosphere when I broke the news four days ago that:

A senior diplomat in a western mission to the UN in New York, who I have known over ten years and trust, has told me for sure that Hillary Clinton agreed to the cross-border use of troops to crush democracy in the Gulf, as a quid pro quo for the Arab League calling for Western intervention in Libya.

I must be wrong, it was widely opined, because the US was against military intervention in Libya; a number of quotes from Clinton and Gates to that effect were thrown around. Well, I was telling the truth and they were lying. The Arab League support was essential to getting the Security Council Resolution passed. The Security Council Resolution 1973 contains this preambulatory paragraph:

Taking note also of the decision of the Council of the League of Arab States of 12 March 2011 to call for the imposition of a no-fly zone on Libyan military aviation, and to establish safe areas in places exposed to shelling as a precautionary measure that allows the protection of the Libyan people and foreign nationals residing in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

As part of the US deal with Saudi Arabia, the Arab forces which are going to be used as poster boys for the action against Libya will come largely from the Gulf Cooperation Council, ie precisely the same organisation which the US and Saudi are using to put down democracy in Bahrain. So whatever this is about, it is not about support for democracy.

I have no pretence to omniscience, or great judgement. But I was a pretty senior diplomat, I do have a reputation to protect, and when I say I know for sure that something is happening in the diplomatic world, I do know it for sure.

There is no doubt that SCR 1973 does authorise military action against Libya. That is understood by the phrase “All necessary means”, which is precisely the phrase that Bush and Blair tried and failed to get into resolutions on Iraq. So unlike Bush and Blair, in launching attacks against Libya, Obama and Cameron will not make themselves guilty of the war crime of launching an illegal war of aggression.

That is not a minor point. International law is extremely important, and has to be rebuilt after the Bush/Blair demolition of the concept.

But for action to be legal it must stay within the confines of SCR1973, which are much more constrained than the warmongering media is putting over.

SCR 1973 SPECIFICALLY DOES NOT AUTHORISE GROUND INVASION
SCR 1973 SPECIFICALLY DOES NOT AUTHORISE VIOLENT REGIME CHANGE
SCR 1973 SPECIFICALLY DOES NOT AUTHORISE ARMING OF REBEL FORCES

SCR 1973 SPECIFICALLY DOES NOT AUTHORISE GROUND INVASION

Operative Paragraph 4
4. Authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary-General, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, and acting in cooperation with the Secretary-General, to take all necessary measures, notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 (2011), to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory, and requests the Member States concerned to inform the Secretary-General immediately of the measures they take pursuant to the authorization conferred by this paragraph which shall be immediately reported to the Security Council;

SCR 1973 SPECIFICALLY DOES NOT AUTHORISE VIOLENT REGIME CHANGE

Operative paragraphs 1 and 2:
1. Demands the immediate establishment of a ceasefire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians;
2. Stresses the need to intensify efforts to find a solution to the crisis which responds to the legitimate demands of the Libyan people and notes the decisions of the Secretary-General to send his Special Envoy to Libya and of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union to send its ad hoc High-Level Committee to Libya with the aim of facilitating dialogue to lead to the political reforms necessary to find a peaceful and sustainable solution;

SCR 1973 SPECIFICALLY DOES NOT AUTHORISE ARMING OF REBEL FORCES

Operative Paragraph 13
“13. Decides that paragraph 11 of resolution 1970 (2011) shall be replaced by the following paragraph : “Calls upon all Member States, in particular States of the region, acting nationally or through regional organisations or arrangements, in order to ensure strict implementation of the arms embargo established by paragraphs 9 and 10 of resolution 1970 (2011), to inspect in their territory, including seaports and airports, and on the high seas, vessels and aircraft bound to or from the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, if the State concerned has information that provides reasonable grounds to believe that the cargo contains items the supply, sale, transfer or export of which is prohibited by paragraphs 9 or 10 of resolution 1970 (2011) as modified by this resolution, including the provision of armed mercenary personnel, calls upon all flag States of such vessels and aircraft to cooperate with such inspections and authorises Member States to use all measures commensurate to the specific circumstances to carry out such inspections”;

On the arms embargo, the scope is simply geographic, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya being the official name of the country as recognised by the United Nations. Other provisions within SCR 1973 make it plain that phrase is simply used to denote the whole country.

Furthermore the initial UK draft of the Security Council Resolution contained a provision to exempt the rebels from the arms embargo. It read:

“to take all necessary measures, notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 (2011), to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory”

The phrase highlighted was dropped in the negotiating process. As paragraph 9 of SCR1970 institutes the arms embargo, the proposal would in effect have exempted the rebels from the arms embargo justified as protection of civilian populated areas. That has been dropped in negotiation and it is therefore explicit that the arms embargo applies to all of Libya.

So military action against Libya is legal provided and only provided it stays within the strict parameters of SCR 1973. I continue to believe it may prove unwise, and am most concerned at the civilian casualties that will certainly accrue from air strikes which the media will lie to us were incredibly targeted and precise. But this is not full scale illegal war of the Iraq kind.

We await events with apprehension.

Meantime the leader of the opposition and six other prominent dissidents in Bahrain have been thrown into jail, along with four hundred supporters, and foreign armies patrol the streets. Where is the Security Council Resolution about that? I repeat, this all has nothing to do with promoting democracy. It is about promoting US interest, controlling and directing pro-democracy movements where they cannot be stopped, but more widely clamping down on them with brutal force in favour of US client tyrants.

The media has now gone into full war gaming mode, and western public attention will be diverted in a false cloud of war patriotism from the vicious activities of western allies in Bahrain, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and elsewhere. The blogosphere now has a vital role to play in keeping truth available to those who wish to find it.

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UK and Libya

The advantage of a break fron blogging is the chance to give a digested view rather than the momentary reaction to events that blogging encourages. Juan Cole is the only blogger who consistently produces up to the second considered brilliance; but then he has a brain the size of a small planet.

So here are a few well-digested thoughts on the recent ructions over UK/Libyan relations.

It was absolutely right to release al-Megrahi. Every dying person deserves what comfort, pain alleviation and disease amelioration can be provided by the presence of family and by medical treatment. There should be no place in a justice system for the cruel vindictiveness of making a now harmless person die in jail. Scotland and the SNP have shown a civilised example; those who attack them have shown ugliness. There is a secondary but also valid utilitarian argument that to keep al-Megrahi in strict confinement while providing necessary medical treatment would have cost the taxpayer hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of pounds. to no purpose other than making some vicious people happy.

The Tories have shown their blood-baying, American bum-sucking true colours. New Labour have been caught in their usual horrible hypocrisy, attempting to capitalise on anti-SNP right wing media reaction, while having been deliberately paving the way for the release for years.

Those who believe that al-Megrahi was the Lockerbie bomber. believe he acted on Colonel Gadaffi’s orders. I have neard no-one argue that al-Megrahi acted alone. Even mad Aaronovitch, who loves attacking conspiracy theories, appears to believe that there was a Libyan government organised conspiracy to blow up the plane. So if Gadaffi was responsible, what logic is there in a view that it is fine for Blair and Brown to be pictured smiling with Gadaffi, but al-Megrahi must rot in jail? Who is more guilty, the man who gave the order, or his tool? But New Labour have been doing everything they can to give the impression that Gadaffi is now absolutely fine and rehabilitated, but the SNP were wrong to release his agent. Where is the logic in that?

Jack Straw has admitted that trade was the deciding factor in his agreeing that al-Megrahi should not be excluded from the prisoner exchange agreement. Bill Rammell has admitted that as an FCO Minister he told the Libyans that Gordon Brown did not want to see al-Megrahi die in jail. There is no room to doubt that the UK’s assiduous courting of LIbya saw all kinds of positive signals given quietly on al-Megrahi, whose release was an obvious Libyan demand in the normalisation of relations.

The infuriating thing is that New Labour actually did the right thing in their dealings with the Libyans. Jack Straw’s positions and Gordon Brown’s message were the right ones. But a combination of fear of the United States, a right wing populist media instinct and a desire to attack the SNP has led New Labour to tyy to hide the truth – and try so badly as to bring down more media scorn than if they had just come out and supported the release in the first place.

Al-Megrahi was not the Lockerbie bomber. The scandal is not that trade deals and the realpolitik of relationship normalisation led to his release. The scandal is that trade deals and the realpolitik of relationship normalisation were what led the Libyans to hand him over in the first place – very much in the way their ancestors had given hostages to Imperial Rome. His family were richly rewarded, made wealthy for generations by his acceptance of the role of sacrificial lamb, and there was the hope that he would be acquitted. That he was convicted on very dubious evidence shocked many, especially Dr Jim Swire, representative of the victims’ families, who followed the evidence painstakingly and has never accepted al-Megrahi’s guilt.

Syria was responsible for the Lockerbie bomb. But in the first Iraq war, we needed Syria’s support, while Libya remained a supporter of Iraq. Lockerbie was a bar to our new alliance with Damascus, so extremely conveniently, and with perfect timing, it was discovered that actually it was the Libyans!! Anyone who believes that fake intelligence started with Iraqi WMD is an idiot.

It haunts me that I had a chance to read the intelligence reports which, I was told by a shocked FCO colleague in Aviation and Maritime Department where I then worked, showed that the new anti-Libyan narrative was false. I say in self-defence that at the time I was literally working day and night, sleeping on a camp bed. I was organising the Embargo Surveillance Centre and I was convinced that a watertight full physical embargo could remove the need to invade Iraq. I was impatient of the interruption. I listened to my colleague only distractedly and did not want to go through the rigmarole of signing for and transporting the reports I hadn’t got time to look at then. Events overtook me, and I never did see them.

Which is not to say the Libyan regime was not a sponsor of terrorism. It was. It just didn’t do Lockerbie. It did indeed supply Semtex to the IRA. I have an obvious sympathy with the victims of IRA bombing, and their desire to obtain compensation.

But think of this. Why just Libya?

Is the United States offering to pay compensation to the tens of thousands of victims of CIA sponsored insurgents in Central and South America? Are we and the US going to pay compensation to the victims of UNITA? Are we going to pay compensation to the victims of British made cluster bombs in the Lebanon? Are we going to pay compensation to the victims of Executive Outcomes? Are the Americans going to pay compensation to the Russian and Uzbek victims of Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan in the days when he was a US sponsored terrorist? I could go on for a week.

Ultimately, negotiating with “terrorists” and “rogue states” has to be done. The strange thing is that New Labour’s Libyan policy has been one of its genuine successes – and makes a nonsense of its argument that we could deal with Saddam no other way. There should be more human rights emphasis in the relationship, but the apporach has been basically the right one, just as it was right to settle with the IRA, and just as it is long overdue to settle with the Taliban.

On a rare occasion when this government has shown wisdom, it appears ashamed of it.

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The Decline of Western Power 346

Boris Johnson sees himself as the heritor of a world bestriding Imperial mantle, but in truth he cannot bestride the Irish Sea. The overshadowing of the G7 summit by his peculiar concern that Irish sausages should not be eaten by those in Northern Ireland who do not believe in evolution, was a fascinating examplar of British impotence as he failed to persuade anybody else to support him. It looks like Danish bacon for the shops of Belfast and Derry will have to be imported through Dun Laoghaire and not through Larne. Ho hum.

The really interesting thing about the G7 summit is that it wasn’t interesting. Nobody expected it to change the world, and it won’t. John Pilger pointed out the key fact. Twenty years ago the G7 constituted two thirds of the world economy. Now they constitute one third. They don’t even represent most of the world’s billionaires any longer, though those billionaires they do represent – and indeed some of the billionaires they don’t represent – were naturally pulling the strings of these rather sluggish puppets.

It used to be that any important sporting event in any developing country would feature hoardings for western multinationals, such as Pepsi Cola and Nestle baby milk. Nowadays I am watching the Euros football pitches surrounded by electronic hoardings in Chinese. The thing about power is this; it shifts with time.

None of the commitments made on covid or climate change constituted any new money, any real transfer of wealth or technology. It was a non-event. Nobody will ever look back at anything beyond the personal as having started last weekend in Cornwall.

From there, pretty well the same people moved on to pretend to bestride the world militarily at NATO, where the first job was to pretend they had not lost the long Afghan war they have just, err, lost.

At NATO, they stuck out their tongues at China, which has upset them a lot by becoming the world’s most powerful nation. China was accused of an aggressive military posture, which is amusing in its utter lack of truth. Other than some construction of tiny artificial islands (which China is in fact wrong to claim can generate maritime claims according to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea), it is very difficult to understand on what this NATO accusation of aggression is based.

If China really is trying to outdo many centuries of western Imperial conquest – stretching up to the recent destructions of Libya and Syria – by building tiny artificial islands, it is a plan of extreme cunning and patience. NATO seem to have discovered their new enemy by reading Ian Fleming.

Let me tell you something that actually is true. I cannot think of any instance in world history of any power enjoying the level of economic dominance currently enjoyed by China, and yet showing such restraint and lack of interest in Imperial conquest. It is not China which is sailing aircraft carriers towards Boris Johnson, it is the other way round. In fact the restraint China shows in not carrying out the simple task of sinking Johnson’s silly aircraft carrier, undermines the propaganda of thousands of NATO press officers and social media operatives, including the UK’s very own 77th Brigade and Integrity Initiative.

It is even sillier to attempt to terrify us all with the thought that the Russians are coming. I know it upsets the Putin fans when I say it, but Russia’s share of the world economy has declined just as the G7 share has. As Russia was always, and still is, poorer than the poorest of the G7 nations, the NATO attempt to portray Russia as a great threat is really rather silly. If there is truth in the story of a couple of super military intelligence officers traveling widely but not killing many people, and of cunning Russian computer hackers engaging in cyber warfare while leaving cyrillic fingerprints behind, in a manner strangely identical to the CIA guidance on how to lay Russian false flags as shown in the Wikileaks vault 7 releases, then it is still difficult for me to understand why this would all require trillions of dollars in military hardware to stop it.

Interrupting hacking with Trident missiles seems neither cost effective nor proportionate. But then I am not an ace NATO military strategist.

Follow the money. Of course the NATO show is all about diverting simply incredible amounts of our money and resources into the military industrial complex, which is permanently profitable for politician backhanders; the arms industry remains the only “legitimate” industry more corrupt than banking, which is quite a feat.

I shall sleep safe in my bed at night knowing that the money NATO spends just this year to keep me safe from the Russian and Chinese tanks which are absolutely poised to roll up Princes Street, could have eliminated malaria forever. God bless our glorious leaders.

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Scotland’s External and European Ministry

Scotland must be a fully functioning independent nation in two to three years. We need to start now to understand and plan for the physical infrastructure of governance a modern state needs. Just one of the vast gaps at present is the ability for an independent state to interact with other states; that is, after all, what defines the very being of a state. Scotland will need its own foreign ministry. In short time.

That foreign ministry will need to be physically somewhere in the capital. It needs to be a prestige location that can host visiting foreign ministers and delegations and top level international meetings. The answer is staring us in the face in the old Edinburgh Royal High School, a truly magnificent though sadly neglected building.

Edinburgh Council has just taken the lease back from the prospective developers of yet another luxury hotel in the centre of Edisneyburgh, a name I use for the hollowed out tourist attraction which the centre of Edinburgh is fast becoming (Jenners is now to be yet another luxury hotel). There is a consultation in play on the future of the Royal High School. What worries me is that I have not seen a single element of that consultation that factors in the coming urgent question of the needs of Edinburgh as the capital of an independent state, nor have I ever seen any indication that Edinburgh Council or the Scottish Government have ever given the matter serious thought.

I have even seen it suggested that Independent Scotland will not need a foreign ministry, nor a defence ministry, because in these areas it can continue to cooperate with the British state. I should hope that I could forever destroy the argument for an Independent Scotland aligning with UK foreign policy in just nine words. I shall try:

Iraq. Libya. Afghanistan. Palestine. Yemen. Chagos. Catalonia. Trident. Rendition.

We simply cannot align ourselves with the butcher’s apron abroad. Quite simply, that would be to sacrifice a key attribute of a nation state. It would not be Independence. The immorality of UK foreign policy is a key motive for many Scots to want independence in the first place, myself included.

The UK Treasury admits that it receives (pre-covid) approximately £30 billion per year more in revenue from Scotland than is given back to the Scottish Government in block grant. In fact, numerous accounting tricks make that £30 billion an underestimate, but let us go with it for now. That money is spent on our behalf by Westminster, on reserved matters like Defence (including Trident), the Foreign Office, the Treasury, Immigration and Nationality, certain benefits and social services, and projects of UK strategic value, like (ahem) London’s crossrail, HS2 and the refurbishment of the Palace of Westminster.

After Independence, none of that £30 billion (in reality it will prove to be well more) will go down to London. All of it will be spent through Scotland, and the large majority of it will finally be spent in Scotland. That will of itself be a major economic boost, but for the purposes of this article I am concerned with the administration of that expenditure, all of which administration will on Independence be moved up from London to Scotland.

That means Scotland will be paying for a lot more civil servants in Scotland, rather than paying for civil servants in London. Scotland will need a Central Bank, a Finance Ministry, a Ministry of External Affairs, a Ministry of Internal Affairs (including immigration and nationality), a much expanded benefits ministry, an overseas aid ministry, a Ministry of Defence, and its own, but hopefully very small, security services. There will be others.

Recruitment should not be a big problem as many Scottish civil servants will be very happy to repatriate from the UK civil service. I do however caution against an automatic right for senior civil servants to transfer as many will have been steeped in neoliberal doctrine. Almost certainly, as with Ireland, London will have to grant a residual right to Scots to continue in London service, as much would simply collapse without them.

But we have to think where we can physically put all these civil servants. The truth is – and I know it is unpopular when I say this – the current Scottish Government is really only a glorified regional council, set up to placate a nation, and is extremely far from the scale of operation needed to run an actual independent state.

Just as there are those who think we should just continue to follow the UK Foreign Office, there are those who seem to think that bunging a few extra desks into St Andrews House will solve the problem. There has not been enough planning for the sheer scale of what is needed to administer a real nation state. Most European countries of Scotland’s size will have 20 to 25 separate ministries.

Sweden has 48,000 “core” civil servants in central government. Denmark has 68,000 civil servants working in “central administration”. By contrast, just 6,500 “core” civil servants work for the Scottish “government” at present. It is hard to find exactly equivalent figures because, while all these numbers exclude agencies, civil service jobs have been farmed out to agencies in differing degrees in different nations. Agency and other non-core civil servants working for the Scottish Government total around 11,000, but do also have their equivalent extras in Sweden and Denmark. What is plain is that after Independence the Scottish Government central operation, once it really is an actual Government and not a Mickey Mouse one, will have to be on an entirely different scale.

Here is a little illustration. The Scottish Government’s civil service only has one Permanent Secretary, and perfectly bluntly she would never have made it to five grades lower than that in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or the Treasury. After independence Scotland will need at least 20 proper permanent secretaries of high quality.

There are however 24,500 UK civil servants based in Scotland who work for the UK government. Many of these will simply be able to be transferred in – the very large majority of them (17,200) being from the Inland Revenue, and Revenue and Customs. But do not think this solves Scotland’s problems. There is a large difference between processing tax returns and running a state’s macro-economic policy, and the very large majority of all the UK civil servants employed in Scotland are non-policy staff.

The policy apparatus of central ministries aside, there is a useful legacy of physical government infrastructure currently housing these UK civil servants, much of it helpfully outside Edinburgh. Immigration and Nationality will have a good base in Glasgow for example and can expand into spare space in the overseas development administration in East Kilbride, which is larger than Scotland will need. But for reasons of democratic accountability the policy headquarters of these ministries, with their ministers – a whole new layer of Administration in Scotland – will have to be near parliament and the seat of government.

Speaking of parliament, I am convinced that Scotland will need after Independence far more by way of checks and balances on its executive, not least of which should be a bicameral parliament. That second chamber too will need to be accommodated somewhere, with its staff.

The new UK government buildings near Waverley station will provide a little of the answer to all of this, but will by no means be enough. Is there a masterplan for what ministry will go where, into what buildings – or even what the ministries will be? I hope you understand now why it is essential to commandeer the old Royal High School, and start to earmark other buildings in the capital.

To return to the question of external affairs, I hope in general we will avoid UK nomenclature for ministries. Ministry of External Affairs has a less pejorative tone than “Foreign Office”. I would tend to make it “Ministry of External and European Affairs”, to make plain Scotland views Europe differently. I also hope we will follow Ireland in eschewing the Imperial relic of the Commonwealth, and unlike the British Tories we will have a separate ministry for development aid.

As a state it is essential to interact with foreign states, and to do that, we must have Embassies abroad. Scotland will need Embassies in all European states, in major countries outside Europe including in the developing world, and in all fellow major oil-producing states. Ireland has 57 Embassies abroad, Denmark 71, Portugal 75 and Sweden 80. I suspect Scotland needs about 75.

In addition there are consulates, which will provide assistance to Scottish businesses and individuals abroad, and often issue visas, but do not handle political relations. If you need assistance in Los Angeles an Embassy in Washington is little use, for example. Ireland has 109 consulates and Portugal 250.

This is not at all as expensive as it seems. The UK has a major owned property estate abroad, much of it belonging to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and some of it literally palatial. An Independent Scotland will be entitled to 10% of that estate. Some of that will be able to be used directly to provide the offices and accommodation we will need, while some might be sold to provide funds for suitable premises.

To return to Edinburgh, I would expect at least 80 Embassies to set up in the Scottish capital, and possibly a good few more. Apart from the Europeans and major players, it is a fact of life that countries always like to open Embassies in really nice places for diplomats to live. There are over 1,000 foreign diplomats accredited to Sweden, of whom 667 are actually resident in Stockholm, the rest visiting. There will be a similar number of non-diplomatic Embassy staff. Edinburgh will need offices for at least 80 Embassies, some of them fairly large. While it is not up to the Scottish government to provide the premises, the demand will be significant.

Some 800 foreign diplomats with their families will substantially impact the higher end Edinburgh property market. That is aside from the much larger problem of housing perhaps 10,000 new Scottish Government civil servants in the capital.

These are excellent problems to have, and solving them will provide a major macro-economic boost to Scotland. But if the Scottish Government is serious about moving to genuine Independence within a short timescale, much more work needs to be underway on preparing Edinburgh to be a real capital once again.

If you want to campaign to bring about that Independent Scotland without delay, consider joining Now Scotland.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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The State You May Not Criticise

In the 15 year history of this blog, I have criticised the Human Rights records of states including Bahrain, Belarus, Brazil, Burma, Cameroon, China, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Ivory Coast, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Libya, the Maldives, the Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sweden, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Togo, Turkey, Uganda, the United Kingdom, the United States, Uzbekistan, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

The only country of which criticism has resulted in substantial legal and political action against me and attempted censorship is Israel. Criticism of Israel also immediately results in heavy suppression of traffic to my site from the corporate gatekeepers of Twitter, Facebook and Google.

Now a group of witch-hunting UK MPs has written to Amazon to complain that Alexa has quoted my blog on Israel.

It is worth looking at precisely what the MPs are complaining of in my case. Let’s look at the exact passage:

“Question: Is Israel guilty of war crimes?
Answer: Here’s something I found on the web: according to www.craigmurray.org.uk, ethnic cleansing on a massive scale and serial human rights abuse, including war crimes, yes, Israel is guilty of these atrocities.”

The website in question includes numerous conspiracy theories.

Now the MP’s of the All Party Group Against Anti-Semitism do not attempt to say what is wrong with this answer. They do not say why it is untrue – in fact, they do not even claim it is untrue. They do not say why it is anti-semitic; presumably, although they do not say as much, they must believe it is anti-semitic for the All Party Parliamentary Group on anti-semitism to be complaining about it. In fact, they ground their objection entirely on an unsubstantiated claim that this website includes conspiracy theories.

I maintain that the answer quoted from my website is self-evidently true and highly capable of proof. It states fact which a large majority of the public would recognise as true. Yet I am told by a journalist from the Times who contacted me, that on the basis of this incoherent letter from self-selecting MP’s, Amazon have blocked Alexa from quoting my website. This is only a tiny example of the removal of access to dissenting opinions – dissenting as in not conforming to the wishes of the political Establishment, although not diverging from objective truth. The trend towards this censorship on the internet is massive.

I am particularly concerned that one of the signatories of the letter is Lisa Cameron, an SNP MP. The statement that “ethnic cleansing on a massive scale and serial human rights abuse, including war crimes, yes, Israel is guilty of these atrocities” is completely in line with longstanding SNP policy on Palestine. Lisa Cameron’s part in having my website blacklisted for an opinion in line with SNP policy is shameful.

But it is not isolated. As I feared, the SNP’s large cohort of MPs at Westminster have become very comfortable there with their life of privilege and large income, and they have been almost entirely captured by Britnat standards and Britnat attitudes. Last week, we had the official party paper on defence policy in which Stewart MacDonald MP and Alyn Smith MP directly jettisoned the party’s long term commitment to unilateral nuclear disarmament in favour of “multilateralism” – a long word for no nuclear disarmament ever.

Along exactly the same lines of moving to align with the right wing obsessions of British Nationalism, the SNP’s Stewart Hosie had signed up to the off the wall Russophobic report of Westminster’s Intelligence and Security Committee, a report conditioned by the appalling list of war hawks who were the only ones asked to give evidence.

Land Reform has been reduced to the foundation of a Scottish Land Commission which can put public money towards other funds raised by community groups to buy out great landlords in specific tracts at an assessed “market price”. Yes, the market price. So the great success of the much touted land reform is that it has put £5 million of public money straight into the pocket of the Duke of Buccleuch, for some tiny and insignificant portions of his vast estates, marginal and despoiled moorland he was probably glad to be shot of. The Chair of Buccleuch Estates, Benny Higgins, is also economic adviser to Nicola Sturgeon.

There is much triumphalism at the new “realism” of the Blairite triangulated SNP and its positioning as a “safe” part of the Establishment. How much of the old radicalism of the SNP remains may, in small part, be measured by how many votes I garner in the election for President at the current conference. I fear it may not be a high number.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Militarism and the Populist Playbook

Why militarism is such a surefire winner for populists is an interesting question, to which the answer is probably an unpleasant reflection on human nature. Atavism and racism are the easiest way to political success, despite the demonstrably catastrophic consequences.

For an economically dominant power to allocate its resources under the influence of militarism, and then project the resulting capability for extreme violence on less wealthy or organised states, is the time-honoured way for populist politicins to satisfy the atavistic urge they have whipped up, while minimising the catastrophic consequences at home. UK military power is not for “defence” and has never been for “defence” since the formation of the UK. It is for the projection of military power abroad. The destruction of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and Yemen are all, in varying degrees, the result of the application of UK military force on weaker states.

These countries were unable to offer any significant military response; the major cost to the UK of destroying them has been the cost of munitions, supply and pay. Costs in British servicemen injured or maimed has been terrible for the individuals concerned but politicians don’t care; indeed our casualties are unrelentingly put to the service of whipping up more jingoism and militarism. British killed and maimed is of course a tiny number compared to the killed or maimed which Britain has inflicted.

There are other costs, of course. Almost all the terrorism in the UK has been blowback terrorism from this destruction abroad. There have also been resultant refugee flows which have disturbed the political equilibrium of all of Europe. But remarkably neo-conservative politicians are able to fashion those consequences into arguments for us to invade and kill still more frequently abroad.

Johnson’s announcement of an extra £16 billion of defence spending will be wildly popular with his electoral base, who love a bit of jingoism. It will be wildly popular with his MPs, because nothing lines the pockets of politicians and their close business associates as reliably as “defence” spending – except for Covid spending, but that giant chance to plunder the public purse will run out soon. In a country that could not afford to feed school children, a country that starves asylum seekers and lets kids drown in the channel rather than take them in, £16 billion extra to blow up other countries is no problem.

It is four times the amount of new money the government pledged yesterday to tackle the actual existential threat of climate change. To be spent instead on tackling a pretend existential threat. The idea that Russia or China wants to invade the UK is an utter nonsense. Neither has any plans to do so, nor has ever had any plans to do so. The UK has not been at war with either Russia or China for 150 years. We are however doing our best to provoke conflict, with billions more going into avowedly offensive cyber capability targeted on Russia and China. You also do not have to be a devotee of Isaac Azimov to understand that the pouring of billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money into the specific purpose of designing artificial intelligence to kill people is not necessarily a good long term goal. The advantage of these areas of spending for Tories is of course that outcomes are nebulous and thus the scope for super-profits and for corruption is simply enormous.

As I said, militarism is a very successful part of the populist brand. You therefore have this vast waste of money on offensive military capability being hailed by Labour under Sir Keir Starmer, the right wing muppet who leads the UK’s laughingly titled opposition. You also have, not coincidentally, a defence paper published on Tuesday by the SNP which tries to outflank the Tories from the right in extreme Sinophobia and Russophobia and proposes continued operations from Scottish bases post_independence by both US and English armed forces.

With the ousting of the left from Labour and the astonishing rightward gallop of the SNP, there is currently no realistic route to oppose militarism available in the UK’s – or Scotland’s – so called democratic electoral system.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

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Trident Must Be Destroyed, Not Given to Westminster

There appears to be a presumption that upon Scottish Independence, the Trident submarine fleet and its incredibly destructive WMD’s must simply be handed over to Westminster by Holyrood. That is wrong in international law; if the weapons remain on the territory of Scotland, a sovereign state, it will be for the Scottish Government to dispose of them as it chooses.

The principle is well-established and there is a directly relevant and recent precedent in the nuclear weapons in Ukraine. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the highly mobile tactical nuclear weapons were swiftly taken back to Russia but the Trident comparators, the strategic nuclear weapons with their silos and the Tupolev strategic bomber fleet and its weapons, were destroyed, many inside Ukraine itself, following the Budapest Agreement of 1994 between the US, UK, Russia and Ukraine and separate bilateral agreements between Ukraine and France, and Ukraine and China.


This photo is of a Ukrainian technician dismantling a SS-19 missile at a US government funded facility at Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine. [Russia of course breached the Budapest Agreement when it invaded Crimea, but that does not impact on the legal precedent of Ukraine’s right to dispose of the missiles on its territory].

There is no doubt that in international law, independent Scotland will be under no obligation to hand the Trident system over to Westminster. By taking another route, and seeking the dismantling of the Trident system under international auspices while ratifying the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, START and its protocols and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Scotland will earn great kudos at the United Nations. Making this intent plain at the time of the Declaration of Independence will help secure for Scotland the developing country votes which Scotland will need at the UN General Assembly, recognition by which is the defining test for a country’s Independence.

Scotland has a moral obligation to the world to destroy nuclear weapons on its territory. It is also the case that it should be a simple matter to mobilise international aid funding for the cost of decommissioning and dismantling the Trident nuclear fleet and its missiles – a process in which China, Russia, the USA, France and Westminster should be invited to participate. In fact, the decommissioning work would take years and would bring an economic boost to Scotland, providing far more work than the simple maintenance and operation of the nuclear fleet ever has.

The United Kingdom is a rogue state. It invaded Iraq in a blatantly illegal war of aggression, killing and maiming hundreds of thousands, displacing millions and setting the economic development of the country back 50 years. It significantly contributed to the similar destruction of Libya. It has brazenly defied the United Nations General Assembly and the International Court of Justice in refusing to decolonise the Chagos Islands. It is passing legislation to grant its soldiers immunity from war crimes charges and its secret service officers and agents immunity for murder and torture. To hand Trident missiles, and the capacity to unleash the destruction of the human race, over to the control of this erratic, declining imperial construct would be grossly irresponsible.

An Independent Scotland must not allow WMD to be operational from its territory for one single minute after Independence. We cannot prevent the UK from moving the Trident system out of Scotland before Independence is finalised – in which case we will at least achieve the system being non-operational for about ten years while a new base is constructed, which will itself be a worthwhile achievement.

We in the SNP have to stop pretending to be anti-Trident while expecting to be complicit in a transition plan to let Westminster keep operating Trident. That is an immoral stance and a grossly hypocritical stance.

You don’t negotiate over WMD. You destroy them.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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American Presidents

I have hardly blogged on the US Presidential elections for two reasons. Firstly the debate is so polarised that many people are oblivious to rational argument that moves outwith the few favoured memes of each side, and I have more than enough abuse in my life already. Secondly, it is some years since I spent any substantial length of time in the USA, and it is a country I find that I understand less and less. I prefer to blog about things where I bring not just judgement, but an extra store of knowledge.

I am very frequently chided for not posting on a subject; a number of people have approached me asking me to post on Nagorno-Karabakh, and indeed I have been offered money to post here on the subject, an offer I suspect would have turned out to be accompanied by conditions as to what I wrote. I will never accept such offers. I am not a corrupt shill like the highly respectable mainstream media journalists receiving secret UK government cash for propaganda from the Integrity Initiative. But also Nagorno-Karabakh is an ancient and tangled dispute with roots that lie deep in history, with complex modern consequences, and which would require a huge amount of reading before I was ready to take a considered view. It is part of a region of which I do in fact have a very deep knowledge, but on Nagorno-Krabakh not specific enough.

I think it is important not to become an all-purpose pundit who fires off unconsidered views on everything that occurs. Such pundits are two a penny in the mainstream media

On the US election I showed my limitations with a tweet yesterday evening predicting Biden would win fairly comfortably, and Trump would concede with good grace. I was wrong. I think Biden will win, but not comfortably and with margins in the key “rust bucket” states close enough for Trump to have every right to question in court aspects of the United States’ rickety voting practices. I still expect to see President Biden at the end of it all.

I know that many of my readers will be triumphant at the departure of Trump. I can understand that. From the viewpoint of US domestic policy and particularly attitudes to social division, race and immigration, the end of Trump’s cynical manipulation of atavistic instinct among the electorate will be in itself a good thing. This has not been a healthy period in US politics.

But Trump has not been defeated by a Bernie Sanders; he has been defeated by a corrupt political hack backed to the hilt by the large majority of the billionaire owned media, financed out of Wall street and with no intention of pursuing anything other than neo-liberal economic policies. It is also the firm re-establishment of the rule of the security state and the military-industrial complex. Trump’s instinctive isolationism made him an enemy of the security state interest which spent a great deal of time in trying to undermine its President.

With Biden we will return to business as usual, and that means war and invasions. Under Trump we have had no new wars started, even if he continued old ones with little control. Without Trump, I have not the tiniest doubt that Syria would have been bombed back to the Stone Age, exactly like Libya, and millions more people would have been killed. Irrespective of the undoubted damage Trump has caused inside the United States across many fronts, Hillary would have killed a lot more people. Just not Americans.

I pause to note that the terrorist in Vienna had attempted to go as a jihadist to Syria and fight against Assad. If he had not been prevented from doing that, he would have been financed by the Saudis, fed and clothed by the Turks, armed by the CIA, trained by the SAS and given air support by the Israelis. He might even have got to be a TV star posing in a White Helmet, or employment artfully placing chlorine bottles on beds for pictures by Bellingcat. Unfortunately, having been prevented from joining the western sponsored insurgency, he ended up killing Austrians instead of Syrians and now is a “terrorist”, whereas jihadist killers of Syrians are “heroes”. A strange world. The Manchester Arena bomber was of course physically brought in to the UK by the British military after fighting for “our side” in Libya. You do indeed reap what you sow.

I hope that those who consider themselves of the left enjoy their relief when the electoral process finally puts to bed the extraordinary populism of Trumpism, and returns the USA to the smoother control of the regular media and political classes and their billionaire controllers. Because anybody who believes any more than that is happening is a fool. I said that I did not blog about the US elections because of the appalling partisan nature of debate. The truth is the system threw up, again, two truly obnoxious candidates entirely antithetical to the real interests of ordinary people in the USA. Biden will do nothing to tackle the appalling wealth and resource inequality which is the most startling problem the country faces. He will hopefully resolve social tensions in the short term. But the cause of those social tensions is a system of gross exploitation of the middle and working classes which is not sustainable in the long term, and which was the root of the Trump political eruption.

Kamala Harris was of course the most right wing possible Vice-Presidential pick. Her advance into power, despite being entirely rejected in the Democratic primaries, is in itself a huge condemnation of the system. I believe I am right in saying that Harris’s Primary campaign was so disastrous she managed to obtain zero delegates at all to the Democratic National Convention. Zero, None. Absolute bottom of the pile. Rejected by Democratic voters as the candidate in toto. Attempting to confirm this zero delegate fact, I just looked up the Wikipedia page on her primary campaign, which turns out to be the most entirely false, hagiographic and manicured Wikipedia page I have ever seen, on any subject, which is saying a lot. Apparently her Presidential Primary bid was in fact a tour de force of brilliant debating and political strategy, recounted in enormous detail, not an abject failure resulting in no delegates. The extraordinarily dishonest Wikipedia page is not perhaps in itself hugely important, but it is emblematic of the sinister manipulation behind the scenes of Kamala Harris’s rise to power.

Let us put a note in our collective diaries to look again in two years and see whether the USA has entered a period of renewed social progress, or just reinvigorated its position as a violent threat to the world. I am looking forward to the period when Biden’s mainstream cheerleaders have to find something positive to say rather than just respond “But Trump is evil”. I predict most of the responses below will say nothing much more on analysis than “But Trump is evil.” Knock yourselves out.

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Forgive me for pointing out that my ability to provide this coverage is entirely dependent on your kind voluntary subscriptions which keep this blog going. This post is free for anybody to reproduce or republish, including in translation. You are still very welcome to read without subscribing.

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 11

Yet another shocking example of abuse of court procedure unfolded on Wednesday. James Lewis QC for the prosecution had been permitted gratuitously to read to two previous witnesses with zero connection to this claim, an extract from a book by Luke Harding and David Leigh in which Harding claims that at a dinner at El Moro Restaurant Julian Assange had stated he did not care if US informants were killed, because they were traitors who deserved what was coming to them.

This morning giving evidence was John Goetz, now Chief Investigations Editor of NDR (German public TV), then of Der Spiegel. Goetz was one of the four people at that dinner. He was ready and willing to testify that Julian said no such thing and Luke Harding is (not unusually) lying. Goetz was not permitted by Judge Baraitser to testify on this point, even though two witnesses who were not present had previously been asked to testify on it.

Baraitser’s legal rationale was this. It was not in his written evidence statement (submitted before Lewis had raised the question with other witnesses) so Goetz was only permitted to contradict Lewis’s deliberate introduction of a lie if Lewis asked him. Lewis refused to ask the one witness who was actually present what had happened, because Lewis knew the lie he is propagating would be exposed.

This is my report of Lewis putting the alleged conversation to Clive Stafford Smith, who knew nothing about it:

Lewis then took Stafford Smith to a passage in the book “Wikileaks; Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy”, in which Luke Harding stated that he and David Leigh were most concerned to protect the names of informants, but Julian Assange had stated that Afghan informants were traitors who merited retribution. “They were informants, so if they got killed they had it coming.” Lewis tried several times to draw Stafford Smith into this, but Stafford Smith repeatedly said he understood these alleged facts were under dispute and he had no personal knowledge.

This is my report of James Lewis putting the same quote to Prof Mark Feldstein, who had absolutely no connection to the event:

Lewis then read out again the same quote from the Leigh/Harding book he had put to Stafford Smith, stating that Julian Assange had said the Afghan informants would deserve their fate.

James Lewis QC knew that these witnesses had absolutely no connection to this conversation, and he put it to them purely to get the lie into the court record and into public discourse. James Lewis QC also knows that Goetz was present on the occasion described. The Harding book specifies the exact date and location of the dinner and that it included two German journalists, and Goetz was one of them.

It is plainly contrary to natural justice that a participant in an event introduced into the proceedings should not be allowed to tell the truth about it when those with no connection are, tendentiously, invited to. Whatever the rules of evidence may say, Baraitser and Lewis have here contrived between them a blatant abuse of process. It is a further example of the egregious injustices of this process.

If that does not make you angry, try this. Daniel Ellsberg was to give evidence this afternoon. Edward Fitzgerald QC applied for his videolink evidence to be heard at 3.15pm which is 07.15am in California where Dan lives. Baraitser insisted it could not be put back beyond 2.30 pm, thus forcing an 89 year old man to give evidence at 6.30am. Simply stunning.

As it happens, when Dan is 108 and on his death bed he will still be able to outwit James Lewis QC while reading Moby Dick and playing the ukelele, but the continual and cynical lack of concern for the defence just keeps punching you in the face.

John Goetz was the first witness this morning. Senior Investigations Editor at NDR since 2011, he was at Der Spiegel from 2007-11. He had published a series of articles on German involvement in the Afghan War, including one on a bombing raid on Kunduz which massacred civilians, for which he had won Germany’s highest journalism award. In June 2010 he went to London to meet with Wikileaks and the Guardian to work on the Afghan War Logs.

In a series of meetings in “the bunker” at the Guardian with the NYT and the other major media partners, the partnership was formed whereby all would pool effort in researching the Afghan War Logs but each party would choose and publish his own stories. This cooperative venture between five major news organisations – normally rivals – was unique at the time.

Goetz had been struck by what seemed to him Julian Assange’s obsession with the security of the material. He insisted everything was encrypted and strict protocols were in place for handling the material. This had been new territory for the journalists. The New York Times was tasked with liaison with the White House, the Department of Defence and State Department on questions of handling the material.

Asked by Mark Summers to characterise the Afghan War Logs, Goetz said that they were fascinating first-hand material giving low level reports on actual operations. This was eye witness material which sometimes lacked the larger view. There was abundant first-hand evidence of war crimes. He had worked with Nick Davies of the Guardian on the Task Force 373 story.

Julian Assange had been most concerned to find the names in the papers. He spent a lot of time working out technical ways to identify names in the tens of thousands of documents. Mark Summers asked f he had been looking for the names for the purpose of redaction, and Goetz confirmed it was for redaction. He had interviewed Assange on the harm minimisation programme of the operation.

On behalf of the group Eric Schmitt of the NYT had been speaking to the White House and he had sent an email identifying 15,000 documents the White House did not want published to prevent harm to individuals or to American interests. It was agreed not to publish these documents and they were not published. Summers asked Goetz if he was aware of any names that slipped through, and he replied not.

Goetz was not so involved for family reasons when the consortium went through the same process with the Iraq war logs. But he knew that when a large number of these were released in the USA under a FOIA request, it was seen that Wikileaks had redacted those they released more heavily than the Department of Defense did. Goetz recalled an email from David Leigh of the Guardian stating that publication of some stories was delayed because of the amount of time Wikileaks were devoting to the redaction process to get rid of the “bad stuff”.

Summers then turned to the investigation of Khaled el-Masri. Goetz stated that back in 2005–6 when in his first stint at NDR he had looked into what seemed at the time the extraordinary claims of German citizen el-Masri, who stated that he had been kidnapped in Skopje, flown shackled and hooded around the world, subjected to constant beatings and torture, eventually ending up in what he believed to be a US detention facility in Afghanistan. At the time his claims had seemed difficult to believe.

[If I might interject a personal note here, this is around the time I myself blew the whistle on the torture programme, as a UK ambassador. I was effectively called a liar by then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to parliament who described the extraordinary rendition programme as a “conspiracy theory”. I know how hard it was to be believed then.]

Goetz’s investigations had shown the story to be true. Using rendition flight logs and hotel records, he had even managed to track the actual perpetrators to North Carolina, and had spoken to some of them there. Enough evidence was produced for arrest warrants against 13 American agents or soldiers to be issued in Munich. Summers asked Goetz whether they were arrested. He replied that no, to their surprise, nothing was done to deliver the arrest warrant to the USA.

Then when the Wikileaks diplomatic cables were released, they had been able to see the pressure brought on the German government not to deliver the arrest warrant. The US had told Germany that to do so would have serious repercussions for the US/German relationship.

Summers asked if Goetz was involved in working through the cables for Der Spiegel. Goetz replied he was. In addition to the main media partners, Wikileaks had brought in a second phase of local media partners in the third countries involved, who might better be able both to redact and to know what were the important stories for a local audience. This had introduced some delays which were frustrating for Goetz.

Summers asked how thorough the process of redaction was. Goetz said that the original strict protocols remained in place and he did not know of anybody who had come to any harm. The State Department was actively engaged in the process. P J Crowley and others would call and request redactions and omissions. These were made. Eventually though a decision was taken by the US Government to withdraw cooperation.

Baraitser issued a time warning.

Summers then asked about events leading to the publishing of the unredacted cables. Goetz said this was a complicated process. It started when Luke Harding and David Leigh published a book in February 2011 containing the password to the online cache of encrypted cables. This was discussed on various mirroring sites, and eventual publication of the full cache by Cryptome after Der Freitag became involved. Cryptome was at that time very well known and an important source for journalists.

Summers then asked about the breakdown of relationships between Wikileaks and the Guardian. It was at this point that Baraitser ruled that Summers was not allowed to ask about what happened at the dinner he attended at El Moro restaurant. Summers made a formal request, as Lewis had introduced the subject with other witnesses who unlike Goetz had not been there. Lewis objected, and Baraitser said no.

James Lewis QC then cross-examined for the US Government and went straight to the publication of unredacted cables by Wikileaks in August and September 2011. Goetz referred to his earlier evidence on the releasing of the password, and said that Cryptome published first. Lewis countered that on 29 August 2011 Wikileaks had released 133,877 cables together with a statement that this was done “in accordance with Wikileaks’ commitment to maximising impact and making information available to all”. This was two days before Cryptome published.

A rather chaotic period ensued. Julian cried out from the dock that this was a misquote. He was warned he would be excluded from court by Baraitser. It turned out it was a misquote, and what I give above is the corrected version. There was then some rather confused questioning between Goetz and Lewis, of which the upshot was that those were unclassified and/or redacted cables (a quarter of the cache). Goetz said he could not comment to Lewis’s suggestion that some had names marked “strictly protect”.

Lewis suggested that after the collaboration, the material was just dumped. Goetz said no. Wikileaks had invested a lot of time, money and staff resources in the programme and from detailed discussions he knew they intended it to continue to roll out for at least another year. Then Cryptome had published.

Lewis quoted from a Guardian article of 1 September in which the original media partners, including Der Spiegel, condemned the release of the unredacted documents. He asked Goetz whether the 15,000 withheld cables had also been “dumped”? Goetz replied they were not cables, they were Afghan war logs, and no, not to his knowledge.

Lewis then said there was evidence that called Assange thoughtful, humorous and energetic. Did Goetz agree? He said yes. Lewis then quoted Christine Assange on what a good father her son was, and invited Goetz to comment. Goetz replied he was in no position to know.
[It is hard to explain this somewhat sinister finishing questioning. Possibly to counter psychiatric evidence?]

In re-examination by Mark Summers, Goetz stated that while the cables redaction process was going on, no names at risk had been published. To his knowledge, nobody had ever been harmed as a result of publication. He knew from his close involvement that Assange had tried very hard to prevent the publication of the unredacted cables. He had pleaded with Der Freitag.

In the afternoon, the witness was Dan Ellsberg, doyen of whistleblowers. Born in Chicago in 1931, he was educated at Harvard and Cambridge. He served in the Marines from 1954–7, and from 1964–5 was Special Assistant to the US Secretary of Defence. He was then involved in the making of an official classified 47-volume report entitled History of Decision Making in Vietnam.

Ellsberg briefly explained that the report showed that the war in Vietnam had been both continued in the knowledge that it could not be won. It showed that both the public and Congress had repeatedly been lied to. He had leaked the report to lawmakers and then the public as The Pentagon Papers. This had resulted in the famous case on prior restraint on publication. There had also been a less well-known criminal case against him personally under the Espionage Act. This had been dismissed with prejudice by the court.

Asked by Edward Fitzgerald to comment on the Wikileaks/Manning publication on Afghanistan, Ellsberg replied that he saw extremely strong parallels with his own case. These papers had the capability of informing the public of the progress of the war and the limited possibility that it could be brought to a successful conclusion at all. The Afghan War Logs showed operational-level information not a wider view, but the effect was similar. He strongly identified with both the source and the process of publication.

Fitzgerald then asked Ellsberg whether Assange held political opinions relevant to this publication. Ellsberg said it was absurd for the prosecution to argue otherwise. He had himself been motivated by his political views in his publication and Assange’s views were very similar. He had held very interesting discussions with Assange and felt a great affinity with him. They both believed that there was a great lack of transparency to the public over government decisions. The public were fed much information that was false.

When the public had so little genuine information and were fed so much false information, real democracy was not possible. An example was the Iraq War, clearly an illegal war of aggression in breach of the UN charter, sold on lies to the public.

The Afghan War Logs were similar to low-level reports Ellsberg had himself written in Vietnam. It was the same thing; the invasion and occupation of a foreign country against the wishes of the majority of its population. That could only bring defeat or endless conflict: 19 years so far. The war logs had exposed a pattern of war crimes: torture, assassination and death squads. The one thing that had changed since Vietnam was that these things were now so normalised they were classified below Top Secret.

All the Pentagon Papers were Top Secret. None of the Wikileaks documents were. They were not just below Top Secret, they had no restricted distribution classifications. This meant that by definition there should be nothing genuinely sensitive, and certainly not life-endangering, in papers of this classification.

Fitzgerald asked him about the Collateral Murder video. Ellsberg stated that it definitely showed murder, including the deliberate machine gunning of a wounded and unarmed civilian. That it was murder was undoubted. The dubious word was “collateral”, which implies accidental. What was truly shocking about it was the Pentagon reaction that these war crimes were within the Rules of Engagement. Which permitted murder.

Edward Fitzgerald asked whether Ellsberg was allowed to put forward the question of intention at his trial. He replied no, the distribution of classified material outside those designated to receive it was an offence of strict liability under the 1917 Espionage Act. This was absolutely inappropriate to trials of whistleblowers. “I did not get a fair trial and nor have recent whistleblowers in the USA. Julian Assange could not get a fair trial.”

Cross-examining for the US Government, James Lewis QC asked Ellsberg to confirm that at the time he copied the Pentagon Papers he was working for the Rand Corporation. He said yes. Lewis said that Assange was not being prosecuted for publication of the Collateral Murder video. Ellsberg said that the Collateral Murder video was essential to an understanding of the Rules of Engagement. Lewis countered that Assange was not being charged for publication of the Rules of Engagement. He was only being charged for publication of unredacted names of those who might come to harm.

Ellsberg replied that he had read the superseding indictment and that Assange was being charged with obtaining, receiving and possession of material including the Rules of Engagement and the Collateral Murder video, and all the documents. On publishing, he was only charged with the names. Lewis said the other charges related to conspiracy with Chelsea Manning. Ellsberg replied “Yes. They are still charges.”

Ellsberg quoted US Assistant Attorney Gordon Kromberg stating that prosecution was for documents up to Secret level containing the names of those “who risked their lives and freedom while helping the USA”. Lewis contrasted this with Ellsberg “when you published the Pentagon Papers you were very careful what you gave to the media”. Ellsberg replied that he withheld three or four volumes not to cause difficulties to diplomatic efforts to end the war.

Lewis suggested he was protecting individuals. Ellsberg said no; if he released those documents, the US government might have used it as an excuse to exit diplomacy and continue the war. Lewis asked if there were names in the Pentagon Papers that would risk harm to them. Ellsberg replied yes. In one case, a clandestine CIA agent was named, involved in the CIA assassination of a major Vietnamese politician. He was a personal friend of Ellsberg and Ellsberg had thought hard about it, but had left him in.

Lewis Asked Ellsberg whether he had read the article “Why Wikileaks is Not the Pentagon Papers” by Floyd Abrams, who had represented the New York Times in the Pentagon Papers case. Ellsberg replied he had read several articles like this by Abrams. He did not know Abrams. He had only been involved in the civil case, not the criminal one. He had seen him once, at an awards ceremony long after.

Lewis said that Abrams had written that Ellsberg had withheld four volumes, whereas “can anyone doubt” that Assange would have published all of them? Ellsberg replied he disagreed, Abrams had never had one minute of discussion with him or Assange. “He does not understand my motives at all in his article”. The position he outlines is widely held by those who want to criticise Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden while pretending to be liberal.

What he writes is simply untrue. Julian Assange withheld 15,000 files. He went through a long, hard process of redaction. He requested help from both the State Department and Department of Defence on redaction. I have no doubt Julian would have removed the volumes as I did, in my place. He had no intention to name names.

Ten years later, the US Government has still not been able to name one single individual who was actually harmed by the Wikileaks releases. I was shocked that Kromberg should make that allegation while offering no evidence. As nobody was hurt, clearly the risk was never as high as they claimed – as indeed the document classification would tell you.

They said exactly the same of me. They said CIA agents and those helping the USA would be hurt. “They said I would have blood on my hands.”

There now followed an extraordinary “question” from James Lewis QC who was permitted to read out about 11 paragraphs from various locations in one of Kromberg’s rambling affidavits, in which Kromberg said that as a result of Wikileaks publication, some US sources had had to leave their homeland, go into hiding, or change their names, in a number of countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, China and Ethiopia. Some individuals in Afghanistan and Iraq had subsequently disappeared. The Taliban were on record as saying that those who cooperated with US forces would be killed. One Ethiopian journalist was forced to flee Ethiopia after being named as a US source. The US Embassy in China reported threats had been made against some of their named Chinese sources. Wikileaks material was found in the possessions of Osama Bin Laden after he was shot. Lewis asked in a furious voice “How can you possibly, honestly say that nobody was harmed?”
Ellsberg With all these people who felt they were in danger, of course I am sorry it was inconvenient for them, and that is regrettable. But was any one of them actually physically harmed? Did one of them actually suffer the claimed physical consequences?
Lewis You call it regrettable that people were put at risk. Is it your position that there was absolutely no harm caused by the publication of the names of these individuals?
Ellsberg Assange’s actions are absolutely antithetical to the notion that he deliberately published these names. Had hundreds been harmed, that would count against the great good done by publication of the information. No evidence is produced that any actual harm came to them. But his has to be put in the context of the policies which Assange was trying to change, invasions that led to 37 million refugees and 1 million deaths. Of course some people could not be located again in a war that killed a million people and displaced 37 million. The government is extremely hypocritical to pretend a concern for them against their general contempt for Middle Eastern lives. They had even refused to help redact the names. This is a pretence at concern.
Lewis What about the disappeared? Is it not common sense that some had been forced to disappear or flee under another name?
Ellsberg It does not seem to me that that small percentage of those named who may have been murdered or fled, can necessarily be attributed as a result of Wikileaks, when they are in among more than 1 million who have been murdered and 37 million who have fled.

Lewis then asked Ellsberg if it was true he had held an encrypted back up copy of the Manning material for Assange. Ellsberg replied it was; it had subsequently been physically destroyed.

In re-examination, Fitzgerald took Ellsberg to a passage in the Kromberg affidavit which stated that the US Government could not positively attribute any death to the Wikileaks material. Ellsberg said that was his understanding, and had been said at the Manning trial. He was shocked. It was just like Iraqi WMD. He had at first been inclined to believe the government on Iraqi WMD, just as he had first been inclined to believe the government on deaths caused by Wikileaks releases. In both cases it had proved they were making it up.

COMMENT

The court heard a great deal more truth than it could handle today, and great effort was put into excluding more truth. The US Government succeeded in preventing John Goetz eyewitness contradicting their promulgation of Luke Harding’s lie about what Assange said at El Moro. The US Government also objected, successfully so far, to Khaled el-Masri’s giving evidence on the grounds that he will allege he was tortured in the USA. Given that the European Court of Human Rights and the German courts had both found el-Masri’s story to be true, only in the wacky world of Lewis and Baraitser could it be considered wrong for him to tell the truth in court.

Please share this article by every means at your disposal as all of us reporting this truthfully are suffering extreme social media shadow banning and other suppression.
 
 
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Backing the Wrong Horseman

Nobody knows how many people died as a result of the UK/US Coalition of Death led destruction of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and, by proxy, Syria and Yemen. Nobody even knows how many people western forces themselves killed directly. That is a huge number, but still under 10% of the total. To add to that you have to add those who died in subsequent conflict engendered by the forced dismantling of the state the West disapproved of. Some were killed by western proxies, some by anti-western forces, and some just by those reverting to ancient tribal hostility and battle for resources into which the country had been regressed by bombing.

You then have to add all those who died directly as a result of the destruction of national infrastructure. Iraq lost in the destruction 60% of its potable drinking water, 75% of its medical facilities and 80% of its electricity. This caused millions of deaths, as did displacement. We are only of course talking about deaths, not maiming. This very sober analysis from Salon makes a stab at 2.4 million for Iraqi deaths caused by the war.

The number of Iraqi casualties is not just a historical dispute, because the killing is still going on today. Since several major cities in Iraq and Syria fell to Islamic State in 2014, the U.S. has led the heaviest bombing campaign since the American War in Vietnam, dropping 105,000 bombs and missiles and reducing most of Mosul and other contested Iraqi and Syrian cities to rubble.

An Iraqi Kurdish intelligence report estimated that at least 40,000 civilians were killed in the bombardment of Mosul alone, with many more bodies still buried in the rubble. A recent project to remove rubble and recover bodies in just one neighborhood found 3,353 more bodies, of whom only 20% were identified as ISIS fighters and 80% as civilians. Another 11,000 people in Mosul are still reported missing by their families.

For a vivid illustration, here is a photo of Sirte, Libya, after it was kindly “liberated” by NATO aerial bombardment. NATO carried out 14,000 bombing sorties on Libya.

Sirte, Libya, after NATO bombing

The neo-con drive to dominate the Middle East, in alliance with Saudi Arabia and Israel, has caused an apocalyptic level of death and destruction. It really is very difficult indeed to quantify the number of people killed as a direct result of the policy of “liberal intervention” in these countries. Bombing people into freedom has collateral damage. There are also the vast unintended consequences. The destruction of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria launched a wave of refugee migration which led to politicial instability throughout Europe and contributed to, among many other consequences, Brexit.

For the purposes of argument, I am going to put an extremely conservative figure of 5 million on the number of people who died as a result of Western military intervention, direct or proxy, in the Middle East.

Now compare that to the worldwide death toll from coronavirus: 220,000. Let me say that again.
Western aggressive wars to coronavirus: 5,000,000 : 220,000.

Or put it another way. The total number of deaths from coronavirus in the UK so far is about half the number of civilians killed directly by the US military in the single city of Mosul.

Makes you think, doesn’t it? There are four horsemen of the apocalypse, and while of course I do not blame people for focusing on the one which is riding at them personally, do not forget the others. Coronavirus has not finished killing. But then nor have western wars.

The sight which I cannot stand is the mainstream media which cheered on the horseman of war as they argued for the invasion Iraq on the basis of lies – and still defend it as a “liberation” – who now pretend massive concern for human life. The hypocrites are disgusting.

I was wrong when I initially wrote about the coronavirus.

Before I detail where I was wrong, let me say where I believe I was right. Large general population sampling antibody studies are now just beginning to emerge, and I feel reasonably confident that I was in fact correct that the mortality rate of coronavirus is under 1%, and probably not too different from the 0.5% generally quoted for Hong Kong flu. The term “infection fatality rate” is now being used to describe this true mortality rate. The “infection fatality rate” is the percentage of those who get the disease who die.

These are very early days for whole population sampling antibody studies, and the true picture should become more plain over the next month or two. I must say I have found it alarmingly difficult to explain to people the rather simple concept that you cannot infer a mortality rate among everybody who catches the disease, from the results you get when by definition you have only been offering tests to the most acute cases presenting as needing serious treatment. Of course a fair proportion of the worst cases don’t make it through the disease. But there is a population of millions in the UK (and nobody has a serious idea how many) who have had the disease with no or mild symptoms, and who do not figure in the statistics.

The very large majority of people in the UK who have had coronavirus have never been tested. That is simply true. How many, nobody knows. That is also true.

I do not endorse the extrapolation from New York to the UK, in this Daily Mail piece, to try to calculate how many people may have had coronavirus in the UK. But buried in there is the best collection I can find anywhere of what sampling antibody studies are indicating for the “infection fatality rate” across various US and European locations, and there is a strong clustering under 1%. Now these are preliminary studies, though almost all from reputable institutions. Proper, large scale, antibody testing programmes to produce peer reviewed and authoritatively published studies are on the way, but not here yet. I repeat, though, that I think the infection mortality rate is somewhere below 1%.

Where I was wrong, was in not realising that what is different about this disease from a flu is that it is really very, very contagious. So a far higher percentage of the population get it, all at once. Over two seasons, only about 30% of the UK population got the Hong Kong flu. Unchecked, it seems this coronavirus can spread very much quicker than that. I do not know why, but it appears that it can. So the lockdown policies to prevent health services being overwhelmed are needed and do have my support.

I do not however support the level of alarmism and panic. Of course the disease is really appalling for those who get it badly. It is a painful, protracted and terrifying experience. But a similar level of scrutiny of extreme illnesses of other kinds would bring similar stories. I have had three brushes with death in my own life.

In 2003 I had multiple pulmonary emboli (bloodclots in both lungs), which left me in a coma for days, was incredibly painful and I understand very similar in terms of experience to the end phase of this coronavirus. In 1986 I was actually declared dead in a hospital in Kaduna, Northern Nigeria (salmonella paratyphoid B), and was woken up on a morgue trolley by a cockroach eating my nostril. In 1974 I had emergency surgery for peritonitis, and was in hospital for 5 weeks and then a convalescent home. Retailing the experience or images of any of these illnesses would be as capable or more of generating the terror being created by the detailed coverage of extreme cases of coronavirus.

Yes the coronavirus is horrible if you get it badly. Almost all severe disease is horrible and death very seldom consists of peacefully stopping breathing, despite Hollywood. I wonder if having lived so much in Africa has changed my attitude to death. We do not see death much in the UK. Did you know the British have a 350% higher propensity than the Italians to put their elderly into care homes? That is why the deaths in Italy were so much more visible, even though the truth is that the UK government is doing not significantly better, and quite probably worse, than the Italian government, at containing the virus. It is only now making a start at adding English care home deaths to the official statistics (Scotland has for weeks).

I do support lockdown, I do support every sensible precaution being taken because the virus is so contagious. I utterly deplore the vast quantities being spent on war, the $220 billion being squandered on Trident missiles while the most basic precautions stockpiling against the much more real threat of a pandemic were not undertaken, because Tories begrudged spending a few millions on the NHS. I get all of that and I repeat it. But we must not be panicked into believing that the threat is greater than it is. You have approximately a 99% chance, (still nobody knows for certain) of surviving this disease if you catch it. If you are under 60, your chance of death is almost certainly at worst 1 in 500 if you catch it. If you are older or like me have heart and lung issues, it looks a bit bleak. But we are not immortal, nor would I wish to be.

But remember this. Your odds of survival are massively better than were those of a civilian in a country that your country chose to invade in recent years. Did you, personally, do enough to try to stop that?

Remember, there are other horsemen.

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Mourning A Terrorist

The aim of this blog is to put forward reasonable points of view not easily found elsewhere, and it is important not to shy away from saying things because they run directly contrary to the popular mood. The stabbing of three people in Streatham was a tragedy, and while all are recovering, the mental and perhaps physical damage will be life-changing. But the death of the terrorist, Sudesh Amman, is also a human tragedy. The government’s populist response – to lock up those convicted of terrorist offences for ever longer and to seek to ban early release, even retrospectively – is crass and will make the situation worse, not better.

Sudesh Amman died aged only twenty. He had been jailed at eighteen for crimes committed when he was just seventeen. It is vital to state that those crimes were thought crimes – before he went to jail, Sudesh Amman had never been accused of attacking anyone. He was jailed for the terrorist fantasies he harboured as a child. Whether he would ever actually have attacked anybody had he never been sent to jail is a question it is impossible to answer. That he attacked people after being sent to jail is a simple fact.

That is not to downplay the idea he was a dangerous child. He had expressed the ambition to be a terrorist, posted violent fantasy online, downloaded posts on bomb-making and had acquired a combat knife and an air pistol. He may have gone on to carry out an attack. Or it may all have been just the bluster and rage of a frustrated child in a single parent family of five kids living in unpleasant circumstances.

It seems to me that intervention by the state was entirely reasonable in view of the seventeen year old’s state of mind. It is not at all obvious to me that branding a child, who had never attacked anybody, as a “terrorist”, thus destroying his prospects in life, convicting him of terrorist thought crime as soon as he turned eighteen, and sending him to prison to mix with hardened criminals and actual terrorists, was a sensible way for the state to intervene. By fueling his sense of alienation and injustice, that seems to me a course of action almost guaranteed to ensure that this child would emerge from prison as a twenty year old determined to commit an actual terrorist attack. Which is of course exactly what happened, and the death of young Sudesh Amman himself was the inevitable end of the tragedy.

SUDESH AMMAN

A seventeen year old harbouring fantasies of gross violence, but who has not carried those fantasies into action, should be a mental health issue not a criminal law issue. The state intervention should have been aimed at making Sudesh well and with future prospects in life. That may have involved a period of involuntary in-patient treatment, and we should have facilities that can provide that without branding young people terrorists before they have done anything violent.

It is of course worth noting also that with Sudesh as with so many others, if the UK had not invaded or attacked Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, his sense of injustice towards Muslims, which he fantasised about fighting to correct, would never have arisen in the first instance.

The idea that in future the answer is to lock away youngsters for life for thinking wrong, is at the moment extremely popular and helping the Tories surf still higher on their wave of xenophobic acclaim. That will simply stoke more grievance and create more terrorism. No matter how unpopular, those of us who try to think calmly and sensibly have a duty to oppose the baying of the mob.

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The USA Doubles Down on its Saudi Allegiance

For the United States to abandon proxy warfare and directly kill one of Iran’s most senior political figures has changed international politics in a fundamental way. It is a massive error. Its ramifications are profound and complex.

There is also a lesson to be learned here in that this morning there will be excitement and satisfaction in the palaces of Washington, Tel Aviv, Riyadh and Tehran. All of the political elites will see prospects for gain from the new fluidity. While for ordinary people in all those countries there is only the certainty of more conflict, death and economic loss, for the political elite, the arms manufacturers, the military and security services and allied interests, the hedge funds, speculators and oil companies, there are the sweet smells of cash and power.

Tehran will be pleased because the USA has just definitively lost Iraq. Iraq has a Shia majority and so naturally tends to ally with Iran. The only thing preventing that was the Arab nationalism of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Socialist Party. Bush and Blair were certainly fully informed that by destroying the Ba’ath system they were creating an Iranian/Iraqi nexus, but they decided that was containable. The “containment” consisted of a deliberate and profound push across the Middle East to oppose Shia influence in proxy wars everywhere.

This is the root cause of the disastrous war in Yemen, where the Zaidi-Shia would have been victorious long ago but for the sustained brutal aerial warfare on civilians carried out by the Western powers through Saudi Arabia. This anti-Shia western policy included the unwavering support for the Sunni Bahraini autocracy in the brutal suppression of its overwhelmingly Shia population. And of course it included the sustained and disastrous attempt to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria and replace it with pro-Saudi Sunni jihadists.

This switch in US foreign policy was known in the White House of 2007 as “the redirection”. It meant that Sunni jihadists like Al-Qaida and later al-Nusra were able to switch back to being valued allies of the United States. It redoubled the slavish tying of US foreign policy to Saudi interests. The axis was completed once Mohammad Bin Salman took control of Saudi Arabia. His predecessors had been coy about their de facto alliance with Israel. MBS felt no shyness about openly promoting Israeli interests, under the cloak of mutual alliance against Iran, calculating quite correctly that Arab street hatred of the Shia outweighed any solidarity with the Palestinians. Common enemies were easy for the USA/Saudi/Israeli alliance to identify; Iran, the Houthi, Assad and of course the Shia Hezbollah, the only military force to have given the Israelis a bloody nose. The Palestinians themselves are predominantly Sunni and their own Hamas was left friendless and isolated.

The principal difficulty of this policy for the USA of course is Iraq. Having imposed a rough democracy on Iraq, the governments were always likely to be Shia dominated and highly susceptible to Iranian influence. The USA had a continuing handle through dwindling occupying forces and through control of the process which produced the government. They also provided financial resources to partially restore the physical infrastructure the US and its allies had themselves destroyed, and of course to fund a near infinite pool of corruption.

That US influence was balanced by strong Iranian aligned militia forces who were an alternative source of strength to the government of Baghdad, and of course by the fact that the centre of Sunni tribal strength, the city of Falluja, had itself been obliterated by the United States, three times, in an act of genocide of Iraqi Sunni population.

Through all this the Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi had until now tiptoed with great care. Pro-Iranian yet a long term American client, his government maintained a form of impartiality based on an open hand to accept massive bribes from anybody. That is now over. He is pro-Iranian now.

Such precarious balance as there ever was in Iraq was upset this last two months when the US and Israelis transported more of their ISIL Sunni jihadists into Iraq, to escape the pincer of the Turkish, Russian and Syrian government forces. The Iranians were naturally not going to stand for this and Iranian militias were successfully destroying the ISIL remnants, which is why General Qassem Suleimani was in Iraq, why a US mercenary assisting ISIL was killed in an Iranian militia rocket attack, and why Syrian military representatives were being welcomed at Baghdad airport.

It is five years since I was last in the Green Zone in Baghdad, but it is extraordinarily heavily fortified with military barriers and checks every hundred yards, and there is no way the crowd could have been allowed to attack the US Embassy without active Iraqi government collusion. That profound political movement will have been set in stone by the US assassination of Suleimani. Tehran will now have a grip on Iraq that could prove to be unshakable.

Nevertheless, Tel Aviv and Riyadh will also be celebrating today at the idea that their dream of the USA destroying their regional rival Iran, as Iraq and Libya were destroyed, is coming closer. The USA could do this. The impact of technology on modern warfare should not be underestimated. There is a great deal of wishful thinking that fantasises about US military defeat, but it is simply unrealistic if the USA actually opted for full scale invasion. Technology is a far greater factor in warfare than it was in the 1960s. The USA could destroy Iran, but the cost and the ramifications would be enormous, and not only the entire Middle East but much of South Asia would be destabilised, including of course Pakistan. My reading of Trump remains that he is not a crazed Clinton type war hawk and it will not happen. We all have to pray it does not.

There will also today be rejoicing in Washington. There is nothing like an apparently successful military attack in a US re-election campaign. The Benghazi Embassy disaster left a deep scar upon the psyche of Trump’s support base in particular, and the message that Trump knows how to show the foreigners not to attack America is going down extremely well where it counts, whatever wise people on CNN may say.

So what happens now? Consolidating power in Iraq and finishing the destruction of ISIL in Iraq will be the wise advance that Iranian statesman can practically gain from these events. But that is, of course, not enough to redeem national honour. Something quick and spectacular is required for that. It is hard not to believe there must be a very real chance of action being taken against shipping in the Straits of Hormuz, which Iran can do with little prior preparation. Missile attacks on Saudi Arabia or Israel are also well within Iran’s capability, but it seems more probable that Iran will wish to strike a US target rather than a proxy. An Ambassador may be assassinated. Further missile strikes against US outposts in Iraq are also possible. All of these scenarios could very quickly lead to disastrous escalation.

In the short term, Trump in this situation needs either to pull out troops from Iraq or massively to reinforce them. The UK does not have the latter option, having neither men nor money, and should remove its 1400 troops now. Whether the “triumph” of killing Suleimani gives Trump enough political cover for an early pullout – the wise move – I am unsure. 2020 is going to be a very dangerous year indeed.

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The Roger Stone – Wikileaks – Russia Hoax

As ever, the Guardian wins the prize for the most tendentious reporting of Roger Stone’s conviction. This is not quite on the scale of its massive front page lie that Paul Manafort visited Julian Assange in the Ecuadorean Embassy. But it is a lie with precisely the same intent, to deceive the public into believing there were links between Wikileaks and the Trump campaign. There were no such links.

The headline “Roger Stone: Trump Adviser Found Guilty On All Charges in Trump Hacking Case” is deliberately designed to make you believe a court has found Stone was involved in “Wikileaks hacking”. In fact this is the precise opposite of the truth. Stone was found guilty of lying to the Senate Intelligence Committee by claiming to have links to Wikileaks when in fact he had none. And of threatening Randy Credico to make Credico say there were such links, when there were not.

It is also worth noting the trial was nothing to do with “hacking” and no hacking was alleged or proven. Wikileaks does not do hacking, it does “leaks”. The clue is in the name. The DNC emails were not hacked. The Guardian is fitting this utterly extraneous element into its headline to continue the ludicrous myth that the Clinton campaign was “Hacked” by “the Russians”.

It is worth noting that not one of those convicted of charges arising from or in connection with the Mueller investigation – Manafort, Papadopolous, Stone – has been convicted of anything to do with Wikileaks, with anything to do with Russia or with the original thesis of the enquiry.

Astonishingly, in the case of Stone, he has been convicted of saying that the Mueller nonsense is true, and he was a Trump/Wikileaks go-between, when he was not. Yet despite the disastrous collapse of the Mueller Report, and despite the absolutely devastating judicial ruling that there was no evidence worthy even of consideration in court that Russiagate had ever happened, the Guardian and the neo-con media in the USA (inc. CNN, Washington Post, New York Times) continue to serve up an endless diet of lies to the public.

Randy Credico was the chief witness for the prosecution against Roger Stone. That’s for the prosecution, not the defence. This is the state’s key evidence against Stone. And Credico is absolutely plain that Stone had no link to Wikileaks. The transcript of my exclusive interview with Randy has now been prepared (thanks to Sam and Jon) and follows here.

I spoke to Randy yesterday to clarify one point. The first conversation Randy ever had with Julian Assange was on 25 August 2016 and it was on-air on Randy’s radio show. There was no private talk off-air around the show. That was Randy’s only contact of any kind with Julian Assange before the 2016 election. His next contact with him, also an on-air interview, was not until Spring 2017, well after the election. He could not have been in any sense a channel to Wikileaks.

Here is the unedited interview from 10 November:

RC: Hello.
CM: Hello there, Randy. Hello, can you hear me OK?
RC: Yes, perfectly.
CM: Yeah. I’m good, I’m very good indeed. OK, let’s do it like this, shall we, it seems …
RC: Now listen, before you start, you can ask me anything you want, and this is the only interview I’m going to do. I’ll be in town with—like, all day long—with people asking me to talk about this and I just want to get it out of the way and move on. All right?
CM: No, I quite understand. And that’s very sensible. Now, let’s start then … let’s start … before we get into the substance, let’s start then with some of the atmospherics. How did it feel to you, you know, to be you … to be Randy walking into that courtroom?
RC: Well, you know, when I, when I … first of all, for the last eight months I knew this was eventually going to happen. So I’ve been on needles and pins, a lot of anxiety that … Wait a second … Hold on, hold on … can you start and do that again?
[aside] Bye, everybody. … I’m doing an interview with somebody here.
Hi, Craig. Hi, Craig.
CM: Yep. Yep. I’m here.
RC: Hello. All right. Start going. Start … start again.
CM: OK. Before we get into the substance, Randy, let’s talk about the atmospherics. How did it feel to be you? How did it feel to be Randy Credico walking into that courtroom?
RC: Well, you know, all of my life … I got into show business when I was 18 years old and I really was pursuing fame and notoriety and, you know, I finally got it, and this is “be careful what you wish for”—because this is certainly not something that I was relishing. For the past eight months, when Mr Stone was indicted, I have been suffering from heavy anxiety, having to appear as a witness under subpoena. And then when it finally happened, eight months went by quickly, and I got to tell you something, going into that courtroom, and anticipating it the previous night in which I couldn’t sleep was not a very comforting feeling. I walked in and, you know, it wasn’t the traditional way where you walk in from the back. You had to walk through the very front of the courthouse, past the defendant, past his family, past his friends, past his supporters, and then get on that witness stand right next to the jury, and begin answering questions. So after a while I was OK with it, but I knew it was going to be a long session; I knew I was going to have to come back the next day and continue and then I was going to have to go through the cross-examination. So it was just nothing but anxiety going in, and there was some relief when it was over but it was a different kind of a feeling because I felt bad for the defendant at the end of the testimony.
CM: Yeah, no, I’m sure you did. Did you catch his eye at any slight stage while you were … while you were talking?
RC: Yeah. You know, I tried not to. I didn’t think that was fair, so I did look at him. He was very morose looking, very sullen looking … and, you know, but for the grace of God, there goes I. I could’ve been in that seat, in that situation at some point in my lifetime, and the weight of the federal government with the vast resources in a case like that, and the defendant, he had … he had a lot of attorneys, but I didn’t think they were … they were really sufficient. These were not great barristers, you know what I mean? They were not good. And I found out they weren’t really that good because I had known earlier the way they were cross-examining previous witnesses that they just weren’t up to the job.
So, you know, you go in there and you’re under a lot of stress, and you’ve got to tell the truth and at the same time the truth is going to hurt the guy who’s sitting there … you know, just 25 or 30 feet away from you, and it could put him in prison. I mean—who wants to be in that position? All of my life, I have worked to get people out of prison. I’m a prison reformer. I’ve extricated people out of prison through clemency and changes of laws in the State of New York. And other activism that I have done like in Texas, I got 46 people out of prison. So this was a very bizarre, ironic situation that I was in at that particular point.
So yes, I caught his eye; I did catch his eye. You know, it’s such loose strings—it’s someone that you’ve known. I’ve known the guy for 17 years. And people say “How were you ever friends with this guy? You know, you’re an extreme left-winger, the guy is an extreme right-winger”. Well, I have no regrets meeting him, because I met him in 2002, after I had been working 5 years, visiting prisons, organizing families of prisoners who were subjected to New York’s racist and draconian Rockefeller drug laws. They were called the Mothers of the New York Disappeared. I was working with him, organizing, visiting their loved ones in prison, and we were moving forward to getting some substantial change in 2002, but we were at loggerheads with the government. So because Roger Stone was running the campaign of a third party candidate—a billionaire, a real maverick individual, who had some great ads that I saw—I went to Mr Stone because the Democrats and the Republicans in the race were not addressing the issue. Mr Stone actually not only agreed with my position there, but he spent … had his candidate spend … millions of dollars doing ads to repeal New York’s racist Rockefeller drug laws. And that was a very key moment in the historical run of this movement. Within a year and a half, the laws had changed, and each year there was major building blocks. We got the public to support us; we were getting politicians to support us. In 2002, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer—our two Democratic Senators—were not on board. And so, this guy Tom Golisano was on board and he did rallies with these families, he put them on television, and he, like I said, spent millions of dollars on ads. And if it weren’t for Roger Stone, that wouldn’t have happened. And so because of that within a year and a half, these families that I had worked with, there was retroactivity when the laws were changed within a year and a half, and that was a key component. And Mr Golisano stayed with it for another year, he continued to work with us.
So, something like that. Even though Mr Stone had screwed me over, had done some very nasty things over the next 17 years, there was still that soft spot for him because, when I look at those families and I remember their faces when they get reunited with their loved ones—he played a role in that.
So that’s the dilemma I was facing when I was on that witness stand. I was an aggrieved person. This could’ve been done, by the way, in a civil court, you know, my grievance against Mr Stone because, for me—for me—my position was I was kind of smeared by being associated with the Trump campaign with these bogus allegations of being the back channel to Wikileaks—which we’ll get into. There was never any back channel to Wikileaks—that was all hocus pocus! So, answering your question, it was … it was a very bizarre, uncomfortable experience undergoing those {inaudible} in that highly publicized and media-covered circus that was going on. Not a circus, but whatever was going on there, it was something that I would not want to go through again. And, look, I’ve performed in front of a million different audiences; I’ve worked strip joints when I was in air force bases; I’ve done vigils, rallies; I’ve worked the worst toilets in the room over a 45 year period in show business, but I still wasn’t prepared for that kind of atmosphere.
CM: Yes, I can imagine. Is it a fair characterisation to say that you, Randy, you’re on the libertarian left of politics, whereas Roger’s on the libertarian right, and you both met because there were some issues such as drug decriminalization on which you agree and on which he then did good work in decriminalizing communities in New York. Is that the basic analysis?
RC: Yes, I would say I once ran on the Libertarian party line in 2010. A lot of their positions I don’t agree with … but I’m on the left, he’s a libertarian right. He’s not like one of these people—when I met him he was not the ideologue that he was portrayed to be in the media in 2002—a far right Jesse Helms type or a far right John Ashcroft type. He was a libertarian, he smoked pot; you know, we had the same views on music. He actually was advocating for the pardon of Marcus Garvey, who was framed, who was a leader of Black Nationalism in the 20s, on these bogus mail fraud charges. So, you know, he’s kind of a sphinx, you know, politically. He’s not, like I said, a hard-core right-winger. He was not for the war in Iraq back in 2003. So, you know, I don’t even know what the right and the left is sometimes. You know, I really don’t know what that means. I mean Tony Blair’s supposed to be a Labour guy, but he’s as bad as George Bush is, and always has been. So does he really support Labour, is he a leftist? No. So, you know, these labels are a little confusing to me. But like I said, Stone—you know—he’s a showman. He’s a showman; he’s an exhibitionist. That’s what got him in trouble here. The poor guy is … you know, he’s a megalomaniacal showman. Just like I am. I’m in show business, why? Because I’m like him—I like to get laughs, and I want to be recognised. That’s him.
I said he’d done a lot of bad things to me but politically we were, you know, we coincided on a few major issues, and one of them was drug law reform in the State of New York. Now, mind you, 97% of the people that were subjected to the Rockefeller drug laws in the State of New York were black and Latino. And still are—they have been modified, not completely changed. But, you know, they were subjected to harsh punishment; they were getting 15 years to life. I know one kid by the name of Terence Stevens, paralysed from the neck down—from the neck down—with muscular dystrophy, and that guy was doing all of this time for possession on a bus! They ascribed it to him for possession! And he had done 10 years in prison, in the medical ward of a real dank prison—it was called Green Haven—for possession. And that was not like the exception to the rule. There were thousands of people in similar circumstances that were there that were just mules, or addicts that were doing this time—and Stone actually was very sympathetic to it. It wasn’t like it was a—you know, what would you call it—flash in the pan type of a push. He continued afterwards, he even wrote some op-ed pieces; but, like I said, he did some bad things to me over the years, but I’m a good natured guy, and I overlooked it. I let him get away with it.
CM: The astonishing thing about all this is … is that it all comes out of the Mueller inquiry, and the so-called Russiagate scandal, and yet none of these charges relate to Russia. And let’s be quite plain, to the best of your knowledge and belief—or to the best of your knowledge anyway—Roger Stone has no link to the Russian government that we’re aware of, and he certainly has no link to Wikileaks that we’re aware of. Is that your understanding?
RC: Well, actually what he had was … Look … Roger Stone … Here’s what happened. In 2015, Trump hired him. He lasted one month. Why? Because every time he did an interview it was more about him than it was about Trump; and Trump got frustrated with him and dumped him. And he may have given Trump advice here and there because, you know, he was the one who got Trump to run 30 years earlier; it was his idea, he kept pushing Trump. So he was kind of unceremoniously kicked out of the Trump camp.
Flash forward to 2016, he’s kind of hanging around the Trump campaign, he comes up with one of these Super PACs. And so he’s trying to ingratiate himself back into the Trump orbit there. And what he did was he, like, looks at Wikileaks and he sees what’s going on with Wikileaks, and he’s trying to get information. He’s going to guys like Jerome Corsi. You know, Jerome Corsi is a complete lunatic, you know, beyond the pale of conspiracy freaks … and he got hoodwinked by that guy. And this is my estimation, this is my analysis. He gets hoodwinked into thinking that he’s got a back channel. Right.
So he is showing, you know … First of all, the whole idea of a back channel is ridiculous. Julian Assange does not telegraph what he’s going to put out. He never has. He doesn’t compromise his sources and he always puts out that his whole M.O. is the element of surprise. So there was no reason for him to give it to Roger Stone, of the kind of preview of what he was doing. Why would he do that? When everything that he was doing, he was doing carefully, and he was selecting the time and then he’d put it out. There was no reason for him to give anything to Stone. No, Stone was playing the role of someone that had the inside information from Assange. Now, you know Assange, he’s very careful. He’s not going to … if he wanted to he would just give it directly to Trump, you know, but he didn’t. He never did. He didn’t need to go through Stone. But Stone was pretending that he had some kind of access to Wikileaks, and he was selling that to the Trump campaign—that he was able to get something in advance, he knew what it was. And so they didn’t think they were going to win, and they were looking for Hail Marys and this was one of them, and they brought him into the orbit and Stone was thinking that whatever this guy Corsi was giving him was accurate, possibly, and then … then me. All right? So, there was nothing there.
And then, the following month, in August 25th, after Stone had said a few weeks previously that he had direct contact with Assange, and he modelled at that to get a back channel. I had never met Assange, never had any conversation with Assange. In fact, I never ever even met him until the following year. So, on August 25th, through my friend, through someone then that worked with Assange got him on my radio show … on August 25th. And so, I was … it was a big fish for me. I had just gone from one day a week with my show to three days a week, and two of those days were prime time—5 o’clock drive time—and I let Stone know that I had Assange on my show. He didn’t even respond to that. I let him know. So I was kind of one-upping him. And Assange was on the show—we even talked about it: “Do you have a back channel with Roger … ?” And he laughed at it. You know, Stone was on my show on the twenty … two days previously … and I asked him about it, and he said that he had a back channel and he really couldn’t disclose what it was. And then Assange was on. So there was no back channel there, with me.
I went to London a few weeks later. I went to London to see a fellow by the name of Barry Crimmins, who is a left wing comedian, who I had known for 30 years; and we were in London together performing there back in 1986. It was the 30 year anniversary. He was working at the Leicester Square Comedy Club in London. And somebody underwrote my trip to see him. Three days. I hung out with him for three days.
I also had a letter from the General Manager from the station to give to Julian Assange, or someone that works with Julian Assange, with a proposal that he do a radio show out of the Ecuadorian Embassy, with an IFB, and do it over the Pacifica network, and it would be his show. But at that time remember in September he was preparing obviously putting stuff together, collating it, or whatever, and putting it together, for the eventual day that he was trying to put it out, which was on October 7th. Now, the date that he put it out they say it was to coincide with the Access Hollywood tape. Now, anyone, talk to Stefania Maurizi, she will tell you that they were planning to put that out a day or two earlier on the 7th. That was the day they were going to put it out. She was the one that knew, she never told anybody, but she did afterwards. And last year she said she knew they were going to put something out on the 7th, because she worked with Assange. She was one of the few journalists that he trusted, and rightly so.
But I never got in to see him. They didn’t, they didn’t see me, because Stone found out on the 27th, he knew that I was flying to London to see my friend Barry Crimmins, so … and possibly see Assange. He wanted me to find out from Assange, because he put somebody on my radio show—Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for President—he put him on my show on the 9th of September, and I owed him a favour and the favour was to find out if this email from Hillary Clinton to somebody existed regarding the situation in … in Libya, and sabotaging the peace talks with Gaddafi. Well, I never did that, I never gave it to Assange. I wouldn’t dare ask him.
I’ve been in that Embassy three times since, after that year 2017 when I spent some time with you and John Pilger in London and Edinburgh. That’s when I saw him. I never once asked him about his business. I didn’t want to know. I didn’t ask him how they did things … nothing. The stuff was so general. We talked about dogs, we talked about him running for Senate, and the Green Party, we talked about food. We talked about general things. And that was it. I never once saw … There was no way I was going to ask him to confirm if this email existed. In fact, I told Stone that if it existed, it would be on the Wikileaks website.
All right, so that happens; that happens, and nothing happens. I did say, I did predict, and I put it on Facebook after standing outside that Embassy on the 29th, I dropped the letter off. There was a guy from either MI6, MI5, or a metropolitan police department outside that building with a headphone on, or an earplug, and he was listening: you could tell, these guys are so obvious. And I dropped the letter off. I was in for less than 20 seconds. I knocked on the door on the left; a hand came out; I dropped the letter off from the station, and left; I went through Harrods and I was followed. So I extrapolated from that, that something must be coming up. I put it on Facebook: “Here’s a picture of me, look at this guy behind me. I got a feeling the guy inside’s gonna drop something this week.”
Two days later I said the same thing to Stone. So now, he’s going to use me as—well, I mean, well, he has to—as the back channel. Supposedly he had a back channel for months. But the whole thing was ridiculous: I mean, there was no back channel; there never was a back channel. This was Stone just blowing himself up as, you know, as an important person to impress. As you said yesterday in your tweet, that he was looking to make money, and he did, he did ask the family for some money when he said that this was coming out, and that in fact did justify his luck that it came out on the 7th, and they thought that Stone had the inside information; he had no inside information. All right, so that’s where we were back … that’s where we are back then, up until October first or second or third. So I had no back channel. I had no information; Stone had no information—but he continued to sell himself as a person that did.
And then the, then the … I think that Correa shut down this internet for a while after he got pressure from John Kerry at that meeting in Bogota of the OAS [Organization of American States]. And so I said to Stone at a dinner, the only time I saw him in 2016 was at a dinner on October 12th or 13th, and I told him that, that was information that I got from about 20 people that there was pressure—it was even in the paper. So that was it. So now we go a year later, Stone testifies. Are you with me there, Craig?
CM: Yes, I am with you.
RC: OK. Do you want to ask a question, or should I continue?
CM: No, you carry on. Go with the flow.
RC: I shall. You go forward. The following year, Stone testifies, he testifies to confirm, not to Mueller, but the House Intel Committee—they had opened up an investigation right after this whole Russia stuff—and I was totally against it. I thought the whole thing was a ridiculous thing, chasing down you know Russians being behind it. Hillary Clinton ran a terrible campaign. Julian Assange did not send a map to the Clinton campaign of every school in Michigan and Wisconsin … all right. So she lost. She was a horrible campaign….
I was a big Bernie person. I was supporting … I did a four day howler marathon for Bernie to get out to vote just prior on the day before the New York primaries. So I was still pissed off at Hillary because she had taken it away from Bernie. Her and her cohorts at the DNC had taken it away from Bernie. And if Bernie had won that primary, had won that nomination, he would have beaten Trump … I believe. But Hillary …
CM. Yeah, I know. There’s a lot of polling evidence that says that, I think.
RC: Yes, I think, I think … I really do think that Bernie would have won that election. So I was really furious! I was furious that he was out of it. I’m still furious. I ended up voting for Jill Stein that day. And I went to Jill Stein’s party on November 8th 2016. I think I had you on the show with Jill Stein just prior to that. And I had her on the show that day and I went to her party and Trump won, and I was very depressed about that … not that I supported Hillary, I mean she didn’t have any chance at all so it’s fine …
Now going forth, let me get back to 2017. He voluntarily—voluntarily—goes before the House Intel Committee. They didn’t subpoena him, they didn’t ask him to show up but he voluntarily goes up and it’s behind closed doors. Simultaneously he releases a 47-page screed that he’s about to read on YouTube, he reads it on YouTube, and then his opening statement. Forty-seven pages he reads to them chiding the whole process and slamming Schiff and everybody, putting this whole Russiagate thing out there. And then at the end they ask him if he had a back channel, and he says “Yes, it’s a journalist but I’m not supposed to say who it is”.
Now, the next day, I’m trying to reach him. I’m thinking he’s going to say that I was now, because I had sent him those text messages, he’s gonna say …. And then he sends me a text message saying “Look, just go along with this, don’t worry about it. You’ll get a lot of press out of this. They’re not going to believe you, Credico; they’re going to believe me.” So, look he was covering up his attempts; he had no connection. And by the way, this is not helping Julian Assange out, having Roger Stone and Trump and all these people out there saying that they’re connected to Wikileaks. This is not helping his cause—all right—because Roger Stone is radioactive. Julian Assange knows that he’s radioactive. He doesn’t hate Stone; he finds him to be some kind of showman, you know, an exhibitionist; but he had nothing … he’s smart enough to know that you don’t go there, and he didn’t go there. But, so … now, he’s got himself in a bind here: he has said he’s got a back channel, he’s gloating about it, you know, he’s showboating … and a few days later, he lets me know that he’s gonna name me as the back channel. And that’s gonna go public! He said, “Look nobody’s gonna believe you, Credico. And better that, uh … better that I name you than go to jail.” So he doesn’t mention this guy Corsi, who was the back channel that wasn’t the back channel.
CM: OK. Can you just hang on a second, Randy? He said “better he names you than go to jail”. What was he thinking: that having claimed to have a back channel to the committee, he had to try to substantiate it or he’d be in trouble for lying? Or was there was some other risk of jail?
RC: If he says … If he says that they … He didn’t even get a subpoena! In other words, they didn’t subpoena him. Adam Schiff said, “We’d like to know who that back channel is.” And you have to get a full vote on the committee to get a subpoena. Without even getting a subpoena, he went and named me. I said “Well, why are you naming me?”. He says “Why should I go to jail for you?”. Now this is a cocked hat situation for me at that particular point. You know, here I’m being named for something I didn’t do, but he can circumstantially say that I did, because I had told him that I had a connection with Assange on my show: Margaret Ratner Kunstler. You know, but she …. And that was it. When I asked her to get him on the show, she was furious that I even asked her. So, you know, I had a show for a year prior to that and I never asked her. I did not want to get involved and bring her into this. And so I gotta get my own guests. But now I had it three days a week, and so I asked her gingerly and she did get him on the show. But by telling him that, putting that name out, now he’s got her name. Right?
And now I told him on October 1st that something’s coming out which I had already announced, extrapolating on public comments by Assange saying that something is coming out; I think Sarah Harrison may have said that something was coming out; everyone knew that something was coming out. And so since I never was able to get that thing, and never tried, on the Libyan connection with Hillary Clinton—and … what’s his name? … Gaddafi—I felt obligated to get something. And by the way, this is coming from the Heathrow Airport, where I was at the duty free bar there, and I was getting free drinks, because I got a couple of bottles there, and it’s the only duty free store I’ve ever been in where they’ve got like three or four portable bars where you could drink. Instead of spending money at the bar, you know, twelve pounds per ale, I was getting all of these different booze samples that they had and then I was buying a couple. And so when I’m waiting around at the gate, you know, I’m just texting him too along with other people “Something’s coming out”. I’m gonna go back to 2017. So he’s going to name me, he says he’s gonna name me, and just to go along with it. And he’ll go to jail … I don’t know how he could go to jail by not answering the subpoena, or not giving up the name. He could always just take the Fifth Amendment. He could, like I did later on; I took the Fifth Amendment. For a variety of reasons I took the Fifth Amendment. So now he’s put me in a jam … all right, he names me, he names me as a back channel.
And there’s a ton of papers, a ton of stories out there in the newspapers and the electronic media that Randy Credico’s the back channel. Now everybody on the centre left hates me. People connected to the Clinton people think that I helped Donald Trump win, I facilitated it, and I got myself in a big jam right there. Now what do I do? Do I go up there, when I get the letter from the House Intel Committee, and contradict Roger Stone? If I do, then he’s in trouble legally and then he could go to jail for perjury. So I had to think about that. Even though he put my reputation on the line there I feel like … Look, people lie to Congress all the time, to Congressional committees; and, you know, it leads to wars; it leads to mass surveillance; it leads to … appointments to the Supreme Court federal bench. And so those are big lies that are never investigated and they get away with it. So his was a small lie except for it was about me though; that was the only problem. I don’t mind that he lied to Congress, because everybody lies to Congress.
CM: Yeah, I must say to that point I mean he hadn’t done anything. He’d boasted a bit; he’d tried to work an angle by claiming he had a contact he didn’t have; he’d then maintained that by telling the Intelligence Committee that he had a contact he didn’t have. But then, that’s a fairly harmless lie.
RC: You … you … you know what it is? It’s a fender bender. But it turned out to be a 21 trailer tractor pile-up. It was a fender bender. It was no big thing to tell them that. I kind of laughed at his 47-page statement. It was kind of entertaining. You know, he was putting on a show there. But when he put me in there …. Look, if it was anybody else, it’s fine. And it’s not like it was a major transgression to say that he had a back channel that he didn’t have. Right? That’s not a major transgression. When you lie about weapons of mass destruction—that is something that cost millions of lives, and people got away with that. People got away with lying to Congress about that, lately. You got guys who lie about not being spied on—there’s no domestic spying—that was a lie, they got away with that. All right? That’s the kind of stuff that affects them. This doesn’t affect, you know, anything. But he did lie to Congress, he did it five or six times, he kept lying; and there are five or six times that he lied in there and said that I had been providing him information from, like, early June all the way through October third or fourth or fifth. So … which is totally ridiculous, you know! And nobody else provided him with that, because Assange does not tip his mitt. You know what I mean?
So he was building himself up, ingratiating himself with the Trump campaign, which he had been disaffected from … thrown off the campaign. So he was clawing himself back on, and this was his way … and he was fishing around. Wikileaks had rebuffed him, told him “Stop saying you’re connected to us! All right? That’s not true.” They put that out there. They sent them a direct mail that “we had nothing to do with Roger Stone”. And all that was doing was hurting them, by saying that, you know, he was one of the most despised person in the US, whether it’s true or not the reasons why, but he’s a despised person in the US by a lot of people. And traditional right-wingers don’t like him, and the left doesn’t like him, because he’s a dirty trickster and he’s been connected … remember, he was connected to … with Mobutu, he helped out Mobutu do PR work; he helped out Marcos do PR work; Savimbi … did PR work for Savimbi; he was a big fan of Pinochet. So he doesn’t have a clean past. All right? He made a lot of money, made millions of dollars working with some of the most odious dictators in the 80s. And he and Manafort, and a few others, they had a PR firm and that’s who they worked for. All right? So let’s not say Roger Stone is an angel here. You don’t make money … maybe if this is the ghost of Lumumba, the ghost of Aquino, of Victor Jara, coming back to haunt Mr Stone. You know, but we just push that aside, we push that aside.
Getting back to Wikileaks: they rebuffed, they publicly said they did not have anything to do … and you know that was true: they did not. He did not have a back channel. He invented himself in, he insinuated himself into the Wikileaks orbit, as if he was like, you know, some part of it. And that wasn’t good for them, you know, because they were going to release that stuff.
Now Assange has material there. He’s got the material. Either he can not put it out there and possibly help out Hillary, or he could put it out there and help out … whatever it was, that wasn’t his decision. His decision as a journalist is: he’s got material and so his ethics as a journalist: you put it out there. You can’t hold back material. That’s the way he looked at it. And he put it out there. Because he had it. He got a big scoop there. And he had to put that out there. If he had a similar scoop on Trump, he would’ve put that out there. He does not compromise his ethics. He is a journalist, and he operates as a journalist in the best tradition.
CM: To move the story on now, though: next, Stone does get nasty and he gets nasty towards you because you won’t play along with his story and you won’t say you were a back channel when you weren’t, so he starts to threaten you.
RC: Well, here’s what happened. I went there back to London—and I don’t think I saw you this time around, I think there in November, and I knew I put it out, and I was covering for Pacifica the case of … the case that Stefania Maurizi had against the Crown Prosecutor Services over the emails that were suppressed by them, between them and the Swedish Prosecutor. So I went to that proceeding and … {inaudible} … and spent three or four days in London. I got to see Julian a couple of times and, you know, that was the last time I saw him, by the way. But I was still … I didn’t know what to do at that particular time.
I got the subpoena when I got back and I really thought that they were going to ask me about my communications with Assange, the House Intel Committee. So that was one of the reasons that I said, “Well, here I can go and use my First Amendment rights”, and my lawyer said “No, you can’t; you can use your Fifth Amendment rights.” And then, you know, Stone was hanging over my head that he was going to bring in Mrs Kunstler, and drag her through this. And, you know, he and I both come from Italian-American families and it’s chauvinistic but we don’t drag the women into it; that’s a tradition—you don’t bring the women into the mud here. But he was going to do that, he was going to bring Mrs Kunstler’s name into to it. She’s this woman with a pristine past; she’s done nothing. Her husband was the greatest civil rights attorney; he liked the fanfare, he got a lot of publicity, but he did incredible work. She did incredible work throughout her life, and she did it quietly. She does not like the trash …. She’s lived this humble life, and just done all of the grunt work legally, and I did not want to drag her through this, this entire quagmire. I didn’t want her name, and the fact I even broached her name to Stone, that was … I was an asshole for doing it. And for Stone to hang that over my head, that was one of the reasons why I took the Fifth Amendment when I did … and to the very end I had no idea what I was going to do. I was trying to do this—do you remember the Wallendas, you know, the tightrope specialists? I was trying to walk this line there where I could say I wasn’t the guy, wasn’t the back channel, without pissing off Stone, and to do that, say that I wasn’t the back channel, but like I said, without giving them information, without going before the Committee. But if I … the thing is once I took the Fifth Amendment, everyone assumed that I was a back channel and was helping out Stone. That’s just the way people think.
And then, the … I was working for this millionaire guy who was going to run for Governor. I was working throughout 2018; I had, like, a one year contract. He decided … he’s such a nice guy, rather than … rather than fire me, he decided to drop out of the race. OK, I worked with him for the previous year, OK, because he was a big shot with the liberal Democrats—he was like probably a billionaire—and he was a big finance guy who just couldn’t be seen at that point with me because I was now radioactive being associated with Stone, but I played it that way—I did take the Fifth Amendment but, like I said, people just assumed, and I started doing television shows, trying to explain myself; I couldn’t explain myself. And then I finally said … and he was getting upset that I was even out there, contradicting, gainsaying what he had put out there in front of the House Intel Committee. And why? Why was he upset? Because he didn’t want it to get out that he had been calling up Trump with this bogus information that he had gotten from this guy Corsi and somebody else. He had been calling up Trump, he had been calling the family, he had been calling up everybody, to get back in there, weasel his way back in there with this back channel claim that he didn’t have. And so he didn’t want to get that to be exposed. He got so furious with me that he started saying nasty ….
Now, I understand: he’s in a bad situation right now. He’s in a bad situation: he lied to Congress! Now he’s saying things about me, and he’s, like, saying nasty … now, look, going up to the … before I took the Fifth, he was sending me text messages to take the Fifth and not to talk. All right? And he’s text messaging this … in broad daylight! You know, we live in an age of mass surveillance … why would you be doing that, text messaging someone: “Don’t talk. All right? If you talk, you do this, do that!” And … but, you know that’s not the reason why. The only reason, the main reason was that I was worried that she would be dragged into this, because he could somehow circumstantially, you know, say that this is the … and I didn’t know he had these prior discussions with other people.
So now we’re going through … getting back to 2018, and what … I’m in a quandary here: what do I do? Big dilemma. Do I come out? And I finally said, “Look, I wasn’t the guy; this is all a complete lie.” And then he started sending out some of the text messages and emails—the one about … {inaudible} …, and all of that—to make it look like I was … {inaudible} …, you know, a war—a public battle between the two of us. And thing is … is that I don’t know why he did that. He’s escalating it. He’s getting stories planted about my character … he’s smearing me, and then … he’s threatening me. But the threats I never took seriously. All right? If I took them seriously, I would gone to the police department—911, and would’ve called up 911—”Somebody had threatened … “. I never took those seriously. It was a guy that was desperate now; he was acting in a desperate way. And he didn’t know what to do. Look, I’ve seen … the guy is sending these things out at two o’clock in the morning … you know, the guy, you know, he gets toasted. All right? He’s not doing it on a sober level. He’s sending out some very nasty things. And so when I … I got so sick and tired of him saying these things about me publicly, that I took the private emails, and I said when … when they got so bad … the smear job had got so bad … it was what was called a ‘brushback pitch’. I gave them to somebody in the media and said “Here, here’s what he’s saying to me in these emails.” And then that’s what … that’s what dragged in the Mueller people when they saw them. I wish I had never put them out, but he escalated it, and I put it out; and the next thing you know, they show up; they’re looking for me, and I’m kind of laying low. I did a show at the …{inaudible} …, my first public performance, and they’re there … they’re there, and they asked me to cancel it; I wouldn’t testify, and then I got a subpoena a couple of months later, and I have … Mow, when you go before them, the first thing they tell you is you can say anything you want, you just can’t lie. All right?
CM: Yep?
RC: Are you there?
CM: Yeah, I’m with you.
RC: You can’t lie to them. You just can’t lie to them. So I sat there and I told them they had all of our emails, they had subpoenas, they had the text messages, and you know, Stone was … Stone put himself into that situation. You know, when they were doing this broad investigation with the Mueller people … these are the best lawyers that exist in the US prosecutors. So like, some top level attorneys and FBI people assigned to it. And they found everything, and so now, now I have to go before the Grand Jury. And in fact I went before the Grand Jury, and I had to answer “Yes” or “No”, and I had the … I was there with my book Sikunder Burnes, by the way, which everyone was interested in … if you recall?
CM: I do. I recall the photos very well.
RC: So now I go before them. Nothing’s happened and months go by and Stone starts dripping out more text messages that were recently found. These were text messages I didn’t have: 2016 and 2017. He selectively cherry-picked some messages, dropped them out there and so they want to know. They call me back into DC, I gotta go back to DC and go over hundreds of pages of text messages with Stone. And the next thing you know, the following January 25th, Stone had lied and he had threatened … you know, I didn’t take the threats seriously. Like I said, I would have said something to the authorities, you know. But, you know, he did put it out there and he did try to get me to change my testimony. So … you know, you gotta be careful, you can’t do things like that. And so he got arrested, and now you know, he gets arrested and now the onus is on me. I know that I’m gonna be … I looked at those charges, seven … he had seven charges and five of them were related to me.
I’m in a real box right now. I felt terrible. But eventually, hopefully, the guy pleads out or he gets a pardon or whatever. He didn’t. He didn’t get a pardon. In fact, he hasn’t pardoned any of the people connected to this. And you would think that this guy would have gotten a pardon. I felt terrible, like I said, about having to testify, but if I don’t testify then I’m in contempt and can spend two years in jail on contempt charges. Plus, they already had the goods there, they had the goods, they had the text messages, and Stone was … you know, indiscreet, putting those things out there. Can you imagine Assange putting something out there like that? Would you do something like that, in the open? You know that everyone can see your Gmail. If you’re a follower of Assange, you don’t put in things in Gmail, because it’s like graffiti on a train: it’s hard to get off, you can’t wash it off, it’s there forever. And so … so he never had a back channel, though. Stone never had a back channel.
CM: Don’t you think there’s a tremendous irony here, because the Mueller inquiry set out to prove Hillary Clinton’s claims that the Russians had hacked the DNC and had then conspired with the Trump campaign and Wikileaks to take the election from her, and they couldn’t find any of that because it’s nonsense: it’s just not true, so …
RC: He wasn’t charged.
CM: So they found …
RC: He wasn’t charged. I repeat, Julian Assange was not charged here.
CM: No, precisely. And they end up … they end up doing the opposite: they end up actually trying Roger Stone because he was claiming that that original thesis was true, in fact. You know, he was claiming to be a link between the Trump campaign and Wikileaks, and fact there was no link between the Trump campaign and Wikileaks; so they end up taking someone to court for the opposite reason from what they tried to prove in the first place.
RC: Obviously, he did not have a back channel. Obviously, what he did was … he disrupted an investigation and threw everybody off. All right? So you step on toes when you do something like that. If he had just been hon… Look, all he had to do, Craig, for himself … all right, very easily … was go before that House Intel Committee, if they ever were even going to call him, and say “Look, I tried. I did not have a back channel. Nothing ever happened. You know, I was bluffing the Trump campaign … if he had just said that and just been honest …. He put himself in a bad spot all because of this narcissism or this megalomania, this need for attention. You know, the guy, like I said, is not everyone’s favourite character, and … you know …. Look, there was no back channel to Wikileaks, ever! You’re right, there was no back channel … I mean, that’s my opinion. I don’t see a back channel to Wikileaks. And I said that, that I don’t think … you know … if they have something they’re going to show at the rest of this trial. Maybe there was, but I didn’t see it. I don’t … so far, I don’t see anything. And why would Assange ever, ever, ever give up … you know, he doesn’t give up the source—A; and, B—he doesn’t tip what he … you know, tip his mitt, as it were. So that is where Stone got himself into trouble, with lying to Congress five times and then they couldn’t … and so the whole time they want me, you know, all … I got three subpoenas and Congressional committees—from the Senate, the House … two from the House judiciary, the Senate Intel—and I rebuffed … I said no to all of them. I didn’t want to get involved in that circus, that political circus between the Democrats and Republicans—I didn’t want to have anything to do with that. But from the Mueller people, they have the subpoena, and I was compelled, and … like I said there was nothing there that I did; but if people think that, you know, well maybe I was BS’ing Stone, you know, I was just trying to satisfy what … you know, the guy wanted something for the Gary Johnson … all because of this whole Gary Johnson, getting him on my show, and me trying to reciprocate it and I never did try. I’d never … He wanted me to get Assange on his show; that was the first request for getting Gary Johnson. I didn’t do that. So, look, this whole thing could have been avoided. All he had to do was, when he went in front of the Intel Committee, when he volunteered, to say that he didn’t have a back channel, that it was all BS, you know, that he was just bluffing, that he was trying to get in good with … you know … with the Trump campaign. So now, he’s facing … the biggest charge against Stone right now is guess what? Jury tampering, I mean, witness tampering. So the other things carry a couple of years; but the witness tampering carries 20 years, and I’m the witness that he tampered with! Now I told …. They did such a bad job, the defence attorneys yesterday. What he said was “Mr Stone … “. One charge was that he’d steal my dog! And I never took that seriously that he was gonna steal my dog. I volunteered, I said: “Stone likes dogs. Stone likes dogs, he’s got dogs, he loves dogs, he wasn’t gonna steal my dog”. I was never worried about him taking this dog of mine. All right? It was hyperbole of the highest order, and it was out of frustration, and probably juiced up on Martinis when he said it. I didn’t take it seriously, at all.
CM: And you were able to say that in the witness stand. That’s what you said, yeah?
RC: I said it. I literally witnessed … I said in the witness stand. You know, I can’t say that he didn’t try to get me to change my … to get me to take the Fifth Amendment. That was … He was one person that had advice. Everyone … I think I even asked you about it! I asked a hundred people what should I do—I had no idea! I’d never been in that situation before! Now what do I do? I knew what the cost was going to be: if I took the Fifth Amendment, people were going to wonder; and if I had not taken the Fifth Amendment, and testified, then Stone would have been charged, and he would have been guilty and possibly do some time in prison. So I was basically saving him then, and … Look, ironically he is now facing prison time.
CM: Yep. You did ask me. I advised you not to take the Fifth, I said you should go in there and tell, tell the full truth … was my advice.
RC: That’s right. I did ask you. I may have asked you on my show; I may have asked you by phone—but I remember you were the one of the few people that said “Don’t take the Fifth Amendment!” You were one of them. And a few others said the same thing: Ben Weiser said “Do not take the Fifth Amendment!” And Glenn Greenwald told me not to take the Fifth Amendment. So there were three people who told me … wise people told me not to take the Fifth Amendment. And lo and behold I did anyway, and all it did was create some problems. But Stone could have taken … that’s the thing, Stone could have taken the Fifth Amendment…. He could have done that and it would’ve been over with…. And now it’s dragged on, he’s put himself in harm’s way. You know, I did say that I wasn’t worried about this, but they didn’t ask me. The other threats about I’m gonna die … because there was a lot of things he said, but was I worried about that? No, I wasn’t worried that he was going to kill me! You know what I mean.
CM: The thing I take away from this is that you … plainly you forgive him for his bluster against you, which you never took that seriously in the first place, and I mean, I think it goes to your nature as the very kind and caring person you are, Randy: you’re more concerned now for Roger Stone … you know, you’re worried what’s going to happen to him, about him going down to jail, being in an awful situation. So despite everything, your main worry now is for him.
RC: I worry about that! I worry about the guy. Look, he’s 67 years old. He’s got a wife, he’s got friends, he’s got kids … you know, I don’t want to be the guy that’s responsible for him doing time in a US prison. US prisons are terrible … you know, that’s why, you know, we’re vying so hard to keep Julian from coming over here, and Lauri Love from coming over here, because of conditions of US prisons. That guy wouldn’t last a minute with a Nixon tattoo on his back, so I feel terrible that he put himself in this situation. Like I said, if his lawyer had asked me—his lawyer closed up, it was like “My God, this guy should have asked me some more questions … that I did not feel threatened by Stone personally.” You know what I mean? He made this threat, but I didn’t … I didn’t … I told him I’d never felt threatened by that. The thing is, that he had not emailed, telling me to take the Fifth, to stonewall all of this—he should have never done that! You know what I mean? I didn’t ask him for his advice on that. I asked people who were … legal people, people like yourself who know the legal system, what to do—and I got a mixed bag. At the end of the day, I ended up taking the Fifth Amendment. And, like I said, as bad as he’s been to me … I don’t want to see …. Look, jail is for people like Hannibal Lecter … people like … people like Rudolf Hess … and people like, you know … that commit the heinous crimes … people that get us into wars. Tony Blair, I’d like to see in prison. Pinochet, I’d like to see in prison … you know, before he died. Those are the kind of people that should be in prison—people that cause bodily harm, torture people—whoever tortured those loyal people in Uzbekistan … those are the people that should be in prison. But I am not … I had a father that did ten years in prison, OK? It ruined the kids … we all became hard-core alcoholics. You know, it was long before I was born. So I heard the horror stories of the prison that my father spent ten years in on the … on the … he was a male nurse on the tuberculosis ward. Ninety-nine percent of the people on that ward were black. All right? So he had an Italian … first generation, second generation Italian … that’s there, and you know they’re not good on race. My father was always good. That was the … that was what I took as a takeaway. But I always worked on prison reform because of I went through as a kid, listening to my father’s horror stories. So prison is not good for anybody. Now, Stone should do something like get probation or something. I don’t want to see the guy—at 67, 68 years of age—you know, the fact that he’s a broken man now, a broken-down man right now … he spent all this money. Look, I have a grievance against him—he has done some rotten things to me over the years; but, you know, forgiveness is a cardinal virtue, and I subscribe to having … you know, to forgive. I forgive. I forgive … and let it go. You know what I mean?
CM: Yes.
RC: The stuff that he did back in the 80s, that’s … he’ll have to deal with his maker on that … with those dictators … so he’ll have to deal with his … I don’t know how bad he is, what he did, I don’t know. But as far as me, I can forgive somebody. I don’t want to have resentment, I don’t want to carry resentment around. And I will be in a very bad spiritual way … a very bad spiritual way if in fact he goes to prison. It’s going to do a number on me to see that guy actually go into a maximum security prison, or any kind of prison. It’s not something that I want to see, personally. It’s not up to me … but believe me, it’s a lot of weight on my shoulders right now. And I don’t want to see anybody go to prison. It’s just not … it’s not the answer. Putting people in prison is not the answer. There has to be alternatives to incarceration. There are so many bad things that go on the world, and we spend a hundred thousand dollars here to put Roger Stone in prison. You know, it’s going to be a heavy burden for me to carry for the rest of my life, if he does go. And I, you know … I’m sorry that I’m in this …this … you know, I … right now, Assange is in a prison … and that kills me, every day that he’s in that prison. This bright … as you say, he’s the brightest person you’ve ever met. And I say, he’s the second brightest—you’re the brightest person I’ve ever met. But Assange is right behind you. And this brilliant individual is there, suffering. The people that put him through this should be in prison. The people that have been … the people on the CPS that conspired to put him there … and the politicians and the judges that put him there. Remember, when Garibaldi liberated San Stefano prison in 1860, you see, the first thing he said to one of the inmates was “Show me the judges!” And that how I feel: show me the judges. Who are … who’s doing this to Julian Assange? Just show me who the judges are! Show me those who are conspiring in the judiciary to destroy this young man, this brilliant young man, this great journalist. Show me who those people are. Those are the ones that should be behind bars.
CM: Yep. No, you’re absolutely right: there’s much more evil done by the State and those in a position of power in the State than there is by, unfortunately, the actual criminals (as the state sees them). Anyway, Randy, we ….
RC: You get these people, they’re so … the blacks and Latinos that go through the criminal justice system. It creates a lot of jobs for the bailiffs, for the lawyers, for the bail bondsmen, the jailers … you know, for the prison guards. Everyone’s got a piece of pie. But you need low-level so-called criminals; but the big criminals—the ones that start wars, the guys like Tony Blair and people like Jack Straw—they’re walking the streets.
CM: Yep. No, I quite agree. Well, we’d better wind it up, Randy. That’s been a long ….
RC: It was a long conversation … it was a long, a long … the end is in sight … and I’m sorry it was so garrulous there, but …
CM: No, that was excellent. And it’s very good that you got that off your chest, if you like, and, you’ve got the record set absolutely straight now for people to hear, which is superb.
RC: It’s the only interview I’m doing. I told you that I needed to get this off. Believe me … I’m getting calls all day long, to be interviewed. I did the one interview. It’s over—I’m not doing another one. So thanks very much for bearing with me … it was like going to a shrink, right now, and I got this off my chest. OK?
CM: It’s a new career for me. All right. I’ve got to go now, Randy, and get that processed. All right?
RC: Thank you very much. You know it’s the first time I’ve been interviewed by you. I’ve interviewed you 45 times over the years.
CM: Yes, it’s quite fun doing it the other way round.
RC: And give my best to Cameron and to Nadira. OK?
CM: I will do. Thank you very much. Thank you.
RC: All right. Thank you. Bye bye.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Le Mesurier Gets Cross

Perhaps the only fact on James Le Mesurier about which I would agree with the MSM war cheerleaders is that he was a very busy man. It is remarkable therefore that he found the time and inclination to follow “Philip Cross” on twitter. Given that “Philip Cross” has virtually never posted an original tweet, and his timeline consists almost entirely of retweets of Nick Cohen, David Aaronovitch and openly pro-Israel propaganda accounts, why would Le Mesurier bother to follow him?

“Philip Cross” has never posted any news other than to retweet columnists. He has never given an insight into a story. In addition to James Le Mesurier, why then were all these MSM journailsts following “Philip Cross” from before “he” gained notoriety for his Wikipedia exploits?

Oliver Kamm, Leader Writer The Times
Nick Cohen, Columnist The Guardian/Observer
Joan Smith, Columnist The Independent
Leslie Felperin, Film Columnist The Guardian
Kate Connolly, Foreign Correspondent The Guardian/Observer
Lisa O’Carroll, Brexit Correspondent The Guardian
James Bloodworth, Columnist The Independent
Cristina Criddle, BBC Radio 4 Today Programme
Sarah Baxter, Deputy Editor, The Sunday Times
Iain Watson, Political Correspondent, The BBC
Caroline Wheeler, Deputy Political Editor, the Sunday Times
Jennifer Chevalier, CBC ex-BBC
Dani Garavelli, Scotland on Sunday

Prominent Freelancers

Bonnie Greer (frequently in The Guardian)
Mason Boycott-Owen (The Guardian, New Statesman)
Marko Attilla Hoare (The Guardian)
Kirsty Hughes
Guy Walters (BBC)
Paul Canning

What attracted all of these senior MSM figures to follow an obscure account with almost no original content? No reasonable explanation of this phenomenon has ever been offered by any of the above. What a considerable number of them have done is to use the megaphone their plutocrat or state overlords have given them, to label those asking this perfectly reasonable question as crazed conspiracy theorists.

This week, on the day of Le Mesurier’s death, “Philip Cross” made 48 edits to Le Mesurier’s Wikipedia page, each one designed to expunge any criticism of the role of the White Helmets in Syria or reference to their close relationship with the jihadists.

“Philip Cross” has been an operation on a massive scale to alter the balance of Wikipedia by hundreds of thousands of edits to the entries, primarily of politically engaged figures, always to the detriment of anti-war figures and to the credit of neo-con figures. An otherwise entirely obscure but real individual named Philip Cross has been identified who fronts the operation, and reputedly suffers from Aspergers. I however do not believe that any individual can truly have edited Wikpedia articles from a right wing perspective, full time every single day for five years without one day off, not even a Christmas, for 2,987 consecutive days.

I should declare here the personal interest that “Philip Cross” has made over 120 edits to my own Wikipedia entry, including among other things calling my wife a stripper, and deleting the facts that I turned down three honours from the Crown and was eventually cleared on all disciplinary charges by the FCO.

I hazard the guess that at least several of the above journalists follow “Philip Cross” on twitter because they are a part of the massive Wikipedia skewing operation operating behind the name of “Philip Cross”. If anybody has any better explanation of why they all follow “Philip Cross” on twitter I am more than willing to hear it.

The “White Helmets” operation managed for MI6 by Le Mesurier was both a channel for logistic support to Western backed jihadists and a propaganda operation to shill for war in Syria, as in Iraq or Libya. Wars which were of course very profitable for arms manufacturers, energy interests and the security establishment. It should surprise nobody that Le Mesurier intersects with the Philip Cross propaganda operation which, with the active support of arch Blairite Jimmy Wales, has for years been slanting Wikipedia in support of the same pro-war goals as pushed by the “White Helmets”.

——————————————

Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

Recurring Donations



 

Alternatively:

Account name
MURRAY CJ
Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
Sort code 6 0 – 4 0 – 0 5
IBAN GB98NWBK60400532150962
BIC NWBKGB2L
Bank address Natwest, PO Box 414, 38 Strand, London, WC2H 5JB

Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

View with comments