Yearly archives: 2006

You’re attacking the wrong nation, Mr Blair

By Anatole Kaletsky in Times Online

It has been another awful week for Tony Blair, perhaps even worse than the mid-summer meltdown triggered by his fatally misjudged support for the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. First there was the craven surrender to Saudi Arabia’s demand for the suspension of Britain’s anti-corruption laws if they impinge on the personal finances of Saudi princes. Next came the derisive rejection of Mr Blair’s latest effort to ‘kick-start the Middle East peace process’ by every leader in the region. This was followed by the devastating report from Britain’s leading foreign policy institute, explaining how the Prime Minister had subordinated national interests to his unrequited love affair with President Bush. Then to cap it all, Britain’s supposed ally, the Iraqi Vice-President, commented that Mr Blair had been ‘brainwashed’ and ‘blackmailed’ by Mr Bush.

Nobody much cares any longer if Mr Blair rushes towards political perdition, but will his few remaining months in office sabotage the prospects of future Labour governments for years to come? The Chatham House report about the ‘disaster’ of Mr Blair’s foreign policy is surprisingly sanguine about the willingness of future prime ministers to change course: ‘His successor(s) will not make the same mistake. For the foreseeable future, whoever is prime minister, there will no longer be unconditional support for US initiatives in foreign policy.’

If only things were so simple. With every day that passes, Gordon Brown, through his silence on foreign policy, is closing off the options which should be available to the next prime minister. Having failed to hint at any objections to the conduct of the Iraq war or to Washington’s Middle East policies, Mr Brown is starting to get personally locked into the Blair-Bush axis. If he remains silent on foreign affairs much longer, Mr Brown will find it difficult to undertake the radical shift in British diplomacy that many of his supporters have been expecting and which Chatham House now describes as inevitable and necessary for Britain’s national interest.

The difficulty of executing a foreign policy U-turn if Mr Brown takes over, presumably sometime in June, will be greatly exacerbated if events in Washington and the Middle East continue to accelerate at their present pace. The problem is not just that the security situation in Iraq is deteriorating, but that the Bush-Blair duo are ruling out sensible options and creating new enemies almost every time they open their mouths.


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Ceasefire Petition

From Ceasefire Campaign

Add your voice to the chorus demanding a response to the Iraq Study Group report’s recommendations. Tell President Bush to change course NOW!

President Bush, we implore you to recognize that your policies in the Middle East have not brought democracy or stability, but have profoundly threatened the peace of the region and the world. We urge you to adopt some of the key recommendations of the Iraq Study Group and restart the Middle East peace process, pursue a diplomatic strategy and withdrawal from Iraq, and engage in talks with Iran. Countless lives and hopes for a better future hang on your decision.

To sign their petition go here

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From Witness

Outlawed: Extraordinary Rendition, Torture and Disappearances in the ‘War on Terror'” tells the stories of Khaled El-Masri and Binyam Mohamed, two men who have survived extraordinary rendition, secret detention, and torture by the U.S. government working with various other governments worldwide. “Outlawed” features relevant commentary from Louise Arbour, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, U.S. President George W. Bush, Michael Scheuer, the chief architect of the rendition program and former head of the Osama Bin Laden unit at the CIA, and Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. Secretary of State.

“Outlawed” places the post-9/11 phenomenon of renditions and the “war on terror” in a human rights context and calls for action end these human rights abuses.

NB Witness was founded in 1992 by musician and activist Peter Gabriel and the Reebok Human Rights Foundation as a project of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (now Human Rights First). It aims to use the power of video to open the eyes of the world to human rights abuses.

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Chicago man claims held and tortured by US troops in Iraq

By Matt O’Connor in

CHICAGO – A Chicago man who worked for an Iraqi contractor alleged Monday he was imprisoned in a U.S. military compound in Baghdad, held incommunicado for more than three months and subjected to interrogation techniques “tantamount to torture.”

In a federal lawsuit filed in Chicago, Donald Vance, 29, a Navy veteran, charged that his constitutional rights were trampled by American military interrogators even though they knew he was a U.S. citizen.

“I couldn’t believe they did this to any human being,” said Vance in a telephone interview.

Vance was taken into custody without charges in April. While imprisoned at Camp Cropper near Baghdad International Airport, Vance said, he was held in solitary confinement in a continuously lit, windowless and extremely cold cell as loud heavy metal and country music blared nonstop.

The lawsuit charged that Vance, a security consultant for a private Iraqi firm at the time, was denied basic constitutional rights to due process as if he were a suspected terrorist or enemy combatant.

“That’s why they did it to him – because they could,” said Jon Loevy, one of Vance’s lawyers. “If they could do it to Mr. Vance, they could do it to anybody.”

The suit sought unspecified damages and named Donald Rumsfeld, who stepped down last week as U.S. secretary of defense, as its lone defendant for his role in overseeing the military prison system in Iraq.

For the full article go here

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Root failures

Chatham House is a widely respected think tank on international affairs. A new report from its Director describes the root failure of Tony Blair’s foreign policy as his inability to influence the Bush administration in any significant way.

The invasion of Iraq was a ‘terrible mistake’ and the absence of a UN Security Council Resolution authorizing the use of force drove a ‘horse and cart’ through Blair’s earlier, self-proclaimed, doctrine of international community. The post-invasion ‘d’b’cle’ has undermined British influence internationally and over crucial issues including a two-state solution in the Middle East. A distancing of the UK from the US and a closer relationship with Europe are requirements of post-Blair foreign policy. However, the UK will have to work to be taken more seriously by its European partners.

Read the report here

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No 10 investigated for perversion of justice

By Rajeev Syal in Times Online

Downing Street aides and Labour officials involved in the cash-for-honours inquiry are being investigated on suspicion of perverting the course of justice, The Times has learnt.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has advised detectives to look into suspected attempts to hamper the nine-month investigation. Some e-mails and documents have yet to be handed over to the police while others have apparently “disappeared”. Some individuals are suspected of colluding over evidence.

For full article go here

Update 20.12.06: Smear campaign against cash-for-honours policeman

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The War on Shampoo

Google “Rashid Rauf – mastermind”. On the first page of results you will find CBS, the BBC, the Times, Guardian and Mail all describing Rauf last summer, on security service or police briefing, as the “Mastermind” behind the “Liquid terror bomb plot”. So the fact that a Pakistani court has found there is no evidence of terrorism against him cannot be lightly dismissed by the cheerleaders of the plot story.

Rashid Rauf still faces other charges, including forgery, and what is touted as possession of explosives, although what he actually possessed was hydrogen peroxide, which is not explosive. As hydrogen peroxide is readily obtainable without limitation from any chemist or hardware store in the UK, why you would source it in Pakistan to blow up jets in Britain was never very convincing. The Pakistani court perhaps felt so too.

Rashid Rauf has much to answer. He is still wanted in the UK over the murder of his uncle some years ago – a crime which, like the alleged forgery, had no apparent terrorist link. None of which adds to the credibility of the evidence he allegedly gave the Pakistani intelligence services about the liquid bomb plot in the UK.

A second and simultaneous development is even more compelling evidence that this massive scare was, as I said at the time, “More propaganda than plot”. Thames Valley police have given up after five months scouring the woods near High Wycombe where the bomb materials were allegedly hidden. They told the Home Office on 12 December that they would only continue if the government were prepared to meet the costs; they wished to get back to devoting their resources to real crimes, like armed robbery and burglary.

Remember this was a plot described by the authorities as “Mass murder on an unimaginable scale” and “Bigger than 9/11”. There have been instances in the UK of hundreds of police officers deployed for years to find an individual murderer. If the police really believed they were dealing with an effort at “Mass murder on an unimaginable scale”, would they be calling off the search after five months? No.

Which brings us to the lies that have been told – one of which concerns this search. An anonymous police source tipped off the media early on that they had discovered a “Suitcase” containing “bomb-making materials”. This has recently been described to me by a security service source as “A lot of rubbish from someone’s garage dumped in the woods”. You could indeed cannibalise bits of old wire, clocks and car parts to form part of a bomb – perhaps you could enclose it in the old suitcase. But have they found stuff that is exclusively concerned with causing explosions, like detonators, explosives or those famous liquid chemicals? No, they haven’t found any.

Wycombe Woods, like the sands of Iraq, have failed to yield up the advertised WMD.

The other “evidence” that the police announced they had found consisted of wills (with the implication they were made by suicide bombers) and a map of Afghanistan. It turns out that the wills were made in the early 90s by volunteers going off to fight the Serbs in Bosnia – they had been left with the now deceased uncle of one of those arrested. The map of Afghanistan had been copied out by an eleven year old boy. All of which is well known to the UK media, but none of which has been reported for fear of prejudicing the trial. I am at a complete loss to understand why it does not prejudice the trial for police to announce in a blaze of worldwide front page publicity that they have found bomb-making materials, wills and maps. Only if you contradict the police is that prejudicial. Can anyone explain why?

While the arrest of 26 people in connection with the plot was also massively publicised, the gradual release of many of them has again gone virtually unreported. For example on 31 October a judge released two brothers from Chingford commenting that the police had produced no credible evidence against them. Charges against others have been downgraded, so that those now accused of plotting to commit explosions are less than the ten planes the police claimed they planned to blow up in suicide attacks.

Five British newspapers had to pay damages to a Birmingham man they accused, on security service briefing, of being part of the plot. Only the Guardian had the grace to publish the fact and print a retraction.

A final fact to ponder. Despite naming him as the “mastermind” behind somethng “bigger than 9/11”, the British government made no attempt to extradite Rashid Rauf on charges of terrorism. That is not difficult to do – the Pakistani authorities have handed over scores of terrorist suspects to the US, many into the extraordinary rendition process, and on average the procedure is astonishingly quick – less than a week and they are out of the country. But the British security services, who placed so much weight on intelligence from Rashid Rauf, were extraordinarily coy about getting him here where his evidence could be properly scrutinised by a British court. However MI5 were greatly embarassed by Birmingham police, who insisted on pointing out that Rauf was wanted in the UK over the alleged murder of his uncle in Birmingham. Now he was in custody in Pakistan, shouldn’t we extradite him? So eventually an extradition request over that murder was formally submitted – but not pursued with real energy or effort. There remains no sign that we will see Rauf in the UK.

I still do not rule out that there was a germ of a terror plot at the heart of this investigation. We can speculate about agents provocateurs and security service penetration, both British and Pakistani, but still there might have been genuine terrorists involved. But the incredible disruption to the travelling public, the War on Shampoo, and the “Bigger than 9/11” hype is unravelling.

You won’t read that in the newspapers.

Craig Murray

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Diplomat’s suppressed document lays bare the lies behind Iraq war

By Colin Brown and Andy McSmith in The Independent

The Government’s case for going to war in Iraq has been torn apart by the publication of previously suppressed evidence that Tony Blair lied over Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.

A devastating attack on Mr Blair’s justification for military action by Carne Ross, Britain’s key negotiator at the UN, has been kept under wraps until now because he was threatened with being charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act.

In the testimony revealed today Mr Ross, 40, who helped negotiate several UN security resolutions on Iraq, makes it clear that Mr Blair must have known Saddam Hussein possessed no weapons of mass destruction. He said that during his posting to the UN, “at no time did HMG [Her Majesty’s Government] assess that Iraq’s WMD (or any other capability) posed a threat to the UK or its interests.”

Mr Ross revealed it was a commonly held view among British officials dealing with Iraq that any threat by Saddam Hussein had been “effectively contained”. He also reveals that British officials warned US diplomats that bringing down the Iraqi dictator would lead to the chaos the world has since witnessed. “I remember on several occasions the UK team stating this view in terms during our discussions with the US (who agreed),” he said.

“At the same time, we would frequently argue when the US raised the subject, that ‘regime change’ was inadvisable, primarily on the grounds that Iraq would collapse into chaos.”

He claims “inertia” in the Foreign Office and the “inattention of key ministers” combined to stop the UK carrying out any co-ordinated and sustained attempt to address sanction-busting by Iraq, an approach which could have provided an alternative to war. Mr Ross delivered the evidence to the Butler inquiry which investigated intelligence blunders in the run-up to the conflict.

The Foreign Office had attempted to prevent the evidence being made public, but it has now been published by the Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs after MPs sought assurances from the Foreign Office that it would not breach the Official Secrets Act. It shows Mr Ross told the inquiry, chaired by Lord Butler, “there was no intelligence evidence of significant holdings of CW [chemical warfare], BW [biological warfare] or nuclear material” held by the Iraqi dictator before the invasion. “There was, moreover, no intelligence or assessment during my time in the job that Iraq had any intention to launch an attack against its neighbours or the UK or the US,” he added.

The full transcript of evidence given to the Butler inquiry is available here


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Terror plot starts to fail in the mainstream

The BBC carried two pieces yeaterday that suggest the liquid explosive Terror Plot is looking rather less robust than has been previously suggested…

UK ‘plot’ terror charge dropped

A Pakistani judge has ruled there is not enough evidence to try a key suspect in an alleged airline bomb plot on terrorism charges. He has moved the case of Rashid Rauf, a Briton, from an anti-terrorism court to a regular court, where he faces lesser charges such as forgery.

Pakistan has presented Mr Rauf as one of the ringleaders behind the alleged plan to blow up flights out of London. The British authorities say they foiled it with Pakistan’s help in August. They say proceedings against suspects arrested in Britain will go ahead.


The arrest of Rashid Rauf in Pakistan triggered arrests in the United Kingdom of a number of suspects allegedly plotting to blow up transatlantic flights. The Pakistani authorities described him as a key figure. But an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi found no evidence that he had been involved in terrorist activities or that he belonged to a terrorist organisation.

As well as forgery charges, Mr Rauf has also been charged with carrying explosives. But his lawyer says police evidence amounts only to bottles of hydrogen peroxide found in his possession. Hydrogen peroxide is a disinfectant that can be used for bomb-making if other chemicals are added.

The BBC’s Barbara Plett in Islamabad says the judge’s decision has reinforced the already widespread scepticism there about the airliner plot. Several commentators said the threat was deliberately exaggerated to bolster the anti-terror credentials of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and that it helped to demonise British Muslims of Pakistani origin.

The Crown Prosecution Service in the UK said the dropping of charges against Mr Rauf in Pakistan would “make no difference” to the case against the men charged in Britain.

‘Suspected conspiracy’

In August, the British government requested the extradition of Mr Rauf, a Briton of Pakistani origin who returned to Pakistan four years ago, in connection with a 2002 murder. Scotland Yard declined to discuss which murder case the request related to. The government in Pakistan, which has no extradition treaty with the UK, said it was considering the request.

Rashid Rauf was arrested in Pakistan earlier that month over the alleged plot to blow up US-bound aircraft, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said.

He has been described by Pakistan’s government as a “key person” in the “suspected conspiracy”. The August arrests led to increased airport security around the world, causing major disruption. Passengers on many flights were forbidden to take liquids aboard aircraft.

Terror search ends amid cash row

Scotland Yard anti-terror officers are to stop a search of woodland linked with the alleged airliners bomb plot amid a dispute over funding. Thames Valley Police, which was guarding the woods near High Wycombe, Bucks, had said it might pull the plug over spiralling costs.

The force demanded the Home Office cover the ‘8m cost. Plans for either military personnel or fencing to be used to seal the site are understood to have been rejected. The search operation started after the alleged plot was uncovered in August.

Thames Valley Police are thought to have threatened to “walk away from the scene” if it did not get some financial assistance from the Home Office. The Home Office said its request was still being considered.

Pension reserves option

It is thought Thames Valley may have to dip into pension fund reserves to ensure the force has enough money to cover any unexpected costs next year, if the Home Office turns down its request for extra funding. Last month, the local force ended its search of Kings Wood and moved onto the Booker Common area.

Ch Supt Graham Bell, from Thames Valley Police, had described the Kings Wood search as “one of the most intensive large-scale searches I can remember”. The alleged plot sparked a massive security operation at Britain’s airports and MI5 raised the attack threat level in the UK to critical – its highest.

The authorities believed the targets were both US and UK airlines flying to all parts of the US.

See also The UK Terror plot: what’s really going on?

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9/11: The Roots of Paranoia

Christian Hayes article is an important dissection of the issues around theories of false flag terrorism, and the very real over-hypeing of the terrorist threat. I strongly recommend this balanced but incisive analysis.


By Christopher Hayes in The Nation

According to a July poll conducted by Scripps News Service, one-third of Americans think the government either carried out the 9/11 attacks or intentionally allowed them to happen in order to provide a pretext for war in the Middle East. This is at once alarming and unsurprising. Alarming, because if tens of millions of Americans really believe their government was complicit in the murder of 3,000 of their fellow citizens, they seem remarkably sanguine about this fact. By and large, life continues as before, even though tens of millions of people apparently believe they are being governed by mass murderers. Unsurprising, because the government these Americans suspect of complicity in 9/11 has acquired a justified reputation for deception: weapons of mass destruction, secret prisons, illegal wiretapping. What else are they hiding?

This pattern of deception has not only fed diffuse public cynicism but has provided an opening for alternate theories of 9/11 to flourish. As these theories–propounded by the so-called 9/11 Truth Movement–seep toward the edges of the mainstream, they have raised the specter of the return (if it ever left) of what Richard Hofstadter famously described as “the paranoid style in American politics.” But the real danger posed by the Truth Movement isn’t paranoia. Rather, the danger is that it will discredit and deform the salutary skepticism Americans increasingly show toward their leaders.

The Truth Movement’s recent growth can be largely attributed to the Internet-distributed documentary Loose Change. A low-budget film produced by two 20-somethings that purports to debunk the official story of 9/11, it’s been viewed over the Internet millions of times. Complementing Loose Change are the more highbrow offerings of a handful of writers and scholars, many of whom are associated with Scholars for 9/11 Truth. Two of these academics, retired theologian David Ray Griffin and retired Brigham Young University physics professor Steven Jones, have written books and articles that serve as the movement’s canon. Videos of their lectures circulate among the burgeoning portions of the Internet devoted to the cause of the “truthers.” A variety of groups have chapters across the country and organize conferences that draw hundreds. In the last election cycle, the website even produced a questionnaire with pointed inquiries for candidates, just like the US Chamber of Commerce or the Sierra Club. The Truth Movement’s relationship to the truth may be tenuous, but that it is a movement is no longer in doubt.


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Tories demand human rights focus

I continue to view Cameron’s new touchy-feely conservatism with a measure of distrust until proven otherwise. But nevertheless, this is quite an astonishing statement to come from the Conservatives, and goes beyond anything even Robin Cook said about how Embassies should conduct themselves. It would be both churlish and foolish to do anything other than stand and give William Hague a hearty cheer.


From BBC Online

Tories demand human rights focus

International human rights have been relegated by the Foreign Office, the Conservatives’ commission on human rights has said.

Shadow foreign secretary William Hague called for a government minister to be appointed to concentrate on the issue. Publishing the first annual report of the commission, Mr Hague said human rights would be central to Conservative foreign policy. He also called for ambassadors to be more “proactive” in championing them.

Mr Hague said: “Currently it depends to a large extent on the individual ambassador or diplomat. It should be a requirement of the job, and outstanding service should be rewarded and recognised.

“Embassies should become freedom houses. Ambassadors should provide dissidents with a platform, and – where appropriate – should be willing to join pro-democracy demonstrations.”

The report highlighted the case of Craig Murray, the British ambassador to Uzbekistan who was removed from his posting after speaking out about torture in the country.

National interests

Mr Hague said: “We have the privilege of living in freedom. But with that privilege comes the responsibility to use our liberty to speak up for those who are denied it. “It is not only morally right that we should speak for the oppressed; it is also in our national interests to do so.

“Dictators do not make the best allies. Freedom and prosperity go together.”

The commission, chaired by MP Gary Streeter, said ministers’ dual responsibility for both trade and human rights created a conflict of interest. The commission plans a “substantive consultation” with human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as a review of the arms trade.

The report details 18 countries monitored during the past year, and ranks them on freedom, rule of law and human rights violations. Burma had the most violations, while North Korea was the worst violator of freedom and rule of law.

‘Killing and torture’

Others near the top of the list for violations were Tibet, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, Vietnam, Cuba and Belarus. The commission called for further reform of the United Nations, describing it as “the only club in the world in which a country can frequently violate the rules with little or no penalty.”

Among instances of human rights abuses, the report mentioned “the killing and torture of civilians and the displacement of up to 25,000 villagers in Burma’s Karen district in the course of 2006 alone”.

It also highlighted “the 200,000 political prisoners incarcerated in North Korea’s jails, who are the victims of a regime which is known to arbitrarily imprison up to three generations for the transgression of a single individual”.

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Departing head of UN attacks Bush’s ‘war on terror’

By David Usborne in The Independent

Kofi Annan, the outgoing UN secretary general, has delivered a barely disguised broadside against President George Bush in his last major speech before leaving office at the end of the month.

He suggested that in the “war on terror”, President Bush had ridden roughshod over the international community and compromised America’s respect for human rights. Mr Annan made plain his concern that the United States had allowed its status as the world’s sole superpower, coupled with its desire to protect itself against terrorists, to undermine its historical commitment to multilateralism.

For the full article go here

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Pinochet takes his crimes to the grave

There is no reason to celebrate his death because he got away with it, writes Marisol Grandon in The First Post

So El Viejo is gone. I always imagined I’d jump up to celebrate this moment like the well-meaning Swedish hippies who make merry at General Franco’s death in Lukas Moodysson’s film Together. Try as I might, I can’t enjoy it.

Pinochet was a ruthless, unrepentant dictator who got away with murder. Because he was protected from standing trial to the bitter end, there is nothing to celebrate.

My father is a Chilean political refugee. He fled the country after the military coup in 1973. After years of half-stories too painful to recount fully, last night he finally put a figure on the losses he suffered – 16 of his friends and colleagues disappeared, no doubt tortured and killed by Pinochet’s guard. The location of their bodies is still unknown today.

That’s why exiles, survivors and families left behind will not see Pinochet’s death as a triumph, nor the conclusion of their suffering. A former political prisoner, Carlos Munoz, last night told me flatly that too many things have gone unanswered, and that all he wants now is for the commission investigating the crimes of the regime to continue.

This sentiment was echoed by the exiled Chilean novelist, Isabel Allende, who also remarked that “Pinochet will go down in history alongside Caligula and Idi Amin as a by-word for brutality and ignorance”.

While Margaret Thatcher proclaims her great sadness on the death of her friend and the Labour government studiously “notes” his passing, I can’t help wondering how Jack Straw is feeling.

When Pinochet visited Britain in 1998, Spain wanted to extradite him to face charges concerning the disappearance of Spaniards in Chile. Straw, then Home Secretary, squandered a real opportunity for due process, justice and reparation on the grounds of the General’s ill-health.

Pinochet left London in a wheelchair, yet found his legs shortly after arriving in Chile.

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When to leak?

Back in March published an article by Katherine Gun which still makes interesting reading.

Katharine Gun was a translator at the Britain’s communications spy agency, General Communications Headquarters. In 2002, she leaked a top-secret memo to a British newspaper, revealing the U.S. was spying on U.N. Security Council members before their vote on the Iraq war.

Where are the whistleblowers about Iran?

It is exactly three years since the United States and Great Britain invaded Iraq, and a little over three years since Martin Bright and his colleagues at the London Observer quietly tested the veracity of an e-mail passed to them anonymously, whilst I nervously waited to see if the e-mail I leaked would appear in a newspaper. All this for the purpose of slowing down, if not derailing, a war that many felt was being rushed into by gung-ho politicians Bush and Blair…

Go here for the full article

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EDM 335: Immediate Withdrawal From Iraq

From Stop The War

Close to 4000 Iraqis were killed in October, the highest figure since the 2003 invasion. November is going to record an even higher figure. The United Nations says 3000 Iraqis flee the country every day. Another 9,000 flee their homes every week to become internal refugees. US troops are being killed at a rate of close to three a day, with many more seriously injured. Six British soldiers have been killed this month, the second highest monthly figure since the beginning of the war.

Against this backdrop, the clamour to find an “exit strategy” dominates discussion of the war. Except, that is, in the British parliament. This week a cross-party attempt by over 100 MPs to give parliament the opportunity to discuss how Britain can extricate itself from the Iraq catastrophe was blocked by the Speaker of the House of Commons.

Two anti-war MPs, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, have now tabled a parliamentary motion calling for the immediate withdrawal of all British troops. Stop the War is calling on all its supporters to lobby their local MP by letter, email or at MP’s weekly surgeries to urge them to add their name to the following motion:

Early Day Motion EDM 335

That this House notes with alarm the conclusion of the October 2006 Lancet report that coalition forces in Iraq have been directly responsible for the deaths of at least 186,000 Iraqis since the start of the 2003 invasion; recognises that according to a September 2006 Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) poll, 78 per cent. of Iraqis believe that the US military presence in Iraq is provoking more conflict than it is preventing; recalls the conclusion of the April 2006 US National Intelligence Estimate on global terrorism that the Iraq conflict has become the cause celebre for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement; further notes the recent statement by the Head of the British Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, that British forces should be withdrawn from Iraq soon because their presence exacerbates the security problems; further notes that there have been over 118 British military deaths in Iraq since the 2003 invasion; and calls on the Government to withdraw all British forces from Iraq immediately.

LOBBY YOUR MP TO GET THEIR SIGNATURE ON PARLIAMENTARY MOTION EDM 335: IMMEDIATE WITHDRAWAL FROM IRAQ. Writing by post is the best way to get a response but you can also contact them through the web-site or by visiting them at their weekly surgery and raising the issue face to face.

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De Menezes officers ‘lied about shooting’

By Stewart Tendler in TimesOnline

The police marksmen who killed Jean Charles de Menezes may have lied about the death of the Brazilian during the botched operation, the High Court was told yesterday.

They had claimed that Mr de Menezes was wearing a bulky jacket when, in fact, he had on a denim one. They also claimed that they had shouted a warning, but none of the other passengers on the London Underground train heard them.

The details of the policemen’s claims were revealed as the dead man’s family began an application for a judicial review into the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service not to prosecute anyone over the shooting in July 2005.

Mr de Menezes, 27, was shot seven times in the head by two officers after he was wrongly linked with the bungled terrorist attacks on the London transport system the day before.

Opening the family’s case, Michael Mansfield, QC, told Lord Justice Richards, sitting with Mr Justice Forbes and Mr Justice Mackay, that the decision not to charge any officers was ‘a violation’ of the human rights of the de Menezes family. He said that Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights required an adequate trial or inquiry to ‘deter life-endangering conduct in future’.

Jonathan Crow, QC, for the Director of Public Prosecutions and the CPS, called the family’s human rights argument unsustainable. He added that, as far as a prosecution was concerned, a ‘judgment call’ had to be made.

The hearing continues today.

Previous postings on the killing of De Menezes:

28/07/05 – Perpetual War Justifies Everything

17/08/05 – The killing of Jean Charles de Menezes

19/04/06 – The shooting of de Menezes: inquiry witness on a collision course

04/06/06 – Met chief could face charge over Menezes

13/09/06 – De Menezes family brand promotion of officer ‘slap in face’

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A Rollicking Autobiography or a Morality Play?

From ZA@Play

Drew Forrest reviews Murder in Samarkand, a rollicking autobiography laced with jokes, racy incident, political gossip and colourful travelogue

At one level a rollicking autobiography laced with jokes, racy incident, political gossip and colourful travelogue, Murder in Samarkand is also a kind of 21st century morality play.

British ambassador to the former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan between 2002 and 2004, Craig Murray is a philandering party animal who is finally ditched by his long-suffering wife when he falls for a beautiful Uzbek nightclub dancer. But exposure to the horrors of President Islam Karimov’s dictatorship, and growing disquiet over the appeasement policies of his Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) bosses, force to the surface an under’lying humanity and moral zeal. He evolves into what must be a rare bird in a morally elastic profession whose stock-in-trade is compromise — an activist.

The ambassador turned missionary emerges vividly in his brushes with the terrifying Uzbek secret police, the SNB. Delayed at one of the endless roadblocks en route to an opposition meeting, he hurls a policeman’s cellphone into the night and overturns a table on the stunned commander. Confronting cops who threaten to rape and kill a detainee — and who point a gun at him while making menacing clicking sounds — he gets up close and personal: ‘You are not going to kill anyone, you fucking little cunt! Now sit the fuck down and keep your mouth shut!’

Bear in mind that the uniformed thugs of the SNB were licensed for every enormity, including (in a globally reported case, which Murray exposed) boiling oppositionists alive. His Uzbek staffers delighted in these slap-downs, which he claims also earned him the government’s grudging respect. ‘The Uzbek people,’ says opposition leader Mohammad Salih, ‘have one word for Craig Murray: hero.’

The FCO mandarins were not so admiring: months of conflict climax in a disciplinary inquiry on apparently trumped-up charges, exclusion from his own embassy and the sack.

The villains of Murder in Samarkand are the loyal servants of the British and American governments — no doubt clean-living family men with spotless employment records — who bend over backwards to excuse Karimov and credit his lies. What really sticks in Murray’s craw is the Blair government’s willingness to accept Uzbek intelligence, which he knows — and tells the FCO, without result — has been extracted under torture.

Fingered as the main apologists are Murray’s line manager, Simon Butt, who accuses him of being ‘over-focused on human rights to the detriment of British interests’, and the United States ambassador, John Herbst. For these, the issue is the war on terror and Karimov’s wily self-projection as one of its ‘moderate’ Islamic friends.

Herbst is hugely impressed by the dictator’s pro-Israeli rhetoric. It is suggested that the thousands of Muslim prisoners of conscience held in Uzbek jails — some for having beards — have earned the regime brownie points and Western aid. At that stage, Uzbekistan also played host to one of Donald Rumsfeld’s ‘lily-pads’ — giant airbases built to encircle the Islamic world.

The peculiar force of Murray’s revolt is that he cannot easily be dismissed as a malignant. A liberal opponent of terrorism and outspoken anti-communist, he had the vocal support of British business in Uzbekistan during his FCO showdown.

The Big Lie, he persuasively argues, was to spin Uzbek independence as a freedom-loving breakaway from the Soviet empire, rather than Karimov’s ploy to ringfence an enclave of the Soviet totalitarianism and extend the life of its bloodsucking elite.

Small wonder Murray scorns Blair’s New Labour as ‘all haircut and presentation’! How could the party of Keir Hardie, born of the British unions’ long fight for social justice, brown-nose such a regime?

The corrupting influence of the war on terror also underlies Labour’s assault on civil liberties at home, Murray argues. He points out that Blair’s bid to legalise the use of torture evidence — rejected by the Law Lords last year — was the first such move in two centuries.

And the towering irony is that appeasement failed. A year after Murray’s sacking, Uzbek troops mowed down 600 pro- democracy demonstrators at Andijan, sparking a wave of Pharisaical hand-wringing by the British government. Karimov’s response was to end the alliance and expel the US military.

Apart from the human rights dimension, Murray is surely right to argue that torture evidence is intrinsically unreliable, that praising fake reform will not encourage the real thing, and that indulging the brutality and misrule of the world’s Karimovs will fuel religious extremism and further discredit the West.

One expects nothing from the Americans, who have institutionalised torture at Guantanamo Bay and through ‘special rendition’. But it is hard to dispute Murray’s bitter complaint that Britain ‘has sold its soul for dross’.

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Winners in Bologna

Congratulations to Laura Perna, the 87 year old winner of the Premio Alta Qualit’ 2006, whose volunteer work in Congo secured her first place in this prestigious award. Craig also received recognition for his work against torture, winning the online popular vote and being awarded the Premio Alta Qualit’ delle Citta? from the Municipality of Bologna.

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