Monthly Archives: August 2006

Who bothers with the monkey if he can go straight to the organ-grinder?

From the Financial Times

Mr Blair should recognise his errors and go

By Rodric Braithwaite, UK ambassador to Moscow 1988-92 and then foreign policy adviser to John Major and chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee

Aspectre is stalking British television, a frayed and waxy zombie straight from Madame Tussaud’s. This one, unusually, seems to live and breathe. Perhaps it comes from the Central Intelligence Agency’s box of technical tricks, programmed to spout the language of the White House in an artificial English accent.

There is another possible explanation. Perhaps what we see on television is the real Tony Blair, the man who believes that he and his friend alone have the key to the horrifying problems of the Middle East. At first he argued against a ceasefire in Lebanon. Then, after another Israeli airstrike killed dozens of Lebanese women and children, he finally admitted, in California ‘ reluctantly, grudgingly and with a host of preconditions ‘ that military force alone would not do the trick, and now seems to have told his people to look for something better.

The catastrophe in Lebanon is the latest act of a tragedy rooted in European anti-Semitism and in the expulsion of an Arab people from their ancestral home. Both sides claim the right to self-defence. Neither hesitates to use force to pursue aims it regards as legitimate. No single event is the proximate cause of the current mayhem ‘ neither the Israeli onslaught on Lebanon, nor the Hizbollah rockets, nor the Israeli assassination of Palestinian leaders, nor the suicide bombings. The causes go back in almost infinite regression. In the desperate pursuit of short-term tactical gain, both sides lose sight of their own long-term interests.


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British ambassador to Iraq predicts civil war and breakup of the country

From the Scotsman

LONDON – Iraq is more likely to slide into civil war than turn into a democracy, Britain’s outgoing ambassador to Baghdad wrote in a leaked diplomatic cable, the BBC reported on Thursday.

William Patey’s final cable from Baghdad gives a far more pessimistic assessment for prospects in Iraq than Britain has disclosed in public. It warns of the prospect of Shi’ite militia forming a “state within a state”, like Hizbollah in Lebanon.

“The prospect of a low intensity civil war and a de facto division of Iraq is probably more likely at this stage than a successful and substantial transition to a stable democracy,” he wrote, according to excerpts quoted by the BBC.

“Even the lowered expectation of President (George W.) Bush for Iraq — a government that can sustain itself, defend itself and govern itself and is an ally in the war on terror — must remain in doubt,” said the cable, sent to Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Describing the main Shi’ite militia, he wrote: “If we are to avoid a descent into civil war and anarchy then preventing the (Mehdi Army) from developing into a state within a state, as Hizbollah has done in Lebanon, will be a priority.”

Patey did, however, also say that the situation in Iraq “is not hopeless”.

The Foreign Office said it does not comment on leaked documents.

“Every day the capacity of the Iraqi security forces to manage their own security is growing,” a spokeswoman said.

The view expressed in Patey’s cable reflects pessimism that has settled among senior Iraqi officials as violence has increased in the three months since a new “unity” government took power.

A senior Iraqi government official told Reuters last month that “Iraq as a political project is finished”, with the capital split into Sunni and Shi’ite districts and officials working to divide control of the country on ethnic and sectarian lines.

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Ambassador’s Tell-All Memoir: The Moscow Times Review

By Jill Lawless in The Moscow Times

LONDON – Craig Murray says he’s an accidental ambassador. His allies consider him a hero. His opponents say he’s a disaster.

Britain’s former top diplomat in Uzbekistan, Murray was removed from his post in 2004 after accusing the government of torture and of holding thousands of political and religious prisoners.

His comments won him praise from human rights groups, ordinary Uzbeks – and, he says, many other diplomats. But within months the self-confessed whisky-loving womanizer was accused of mismanagement and sexual misconduct, saw his private life splashed across the tabloid press, was hospitalized for a nervous breakdown and finally was removed from his post.

Murray is unrepentant about his highly undiplomatic behavior. To the British government’s chagrin, he has published a book, “Murder in Samarkand,” recounting the whole grisly affair.


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Public meeting at UCL on government plans to spy on internet users

Over the summer the Home Office is holding two public consultations on

government powers to spy on Internet usage and demand passwords from

computer users. A free public meeting at University College London is

being held on 14 August to hear a range of views on these powers, from

government officials and peers to computer security and human rights

experts. The meeting will also hear about problems in the way that

computer evidence has been used to obtain convictions. Attendees will

get a detailed insight into this obscure area of British law that will

have a huge impact on privacy and human rights in the information age.

For further details go here

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A class war?

Proving you can be a chinless wonder and an unpleasant bastard at the same time.

One of the points I make in “Murder in Samarkand” is that part of the antagonism towards me in the FCO was class based – I went entirely to state schools.

The FCO were quoted on Radio 4 on 28 July as saying that I was peddling an old-fashioned stereotype, no longer true.

Here is the board of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 2004, the year I was sacked as Ambassador. Several of this bunch appear frequently in “Murder in Samarkand”.

Every single member of the board went to private school. (Despite the name, Leeds Grammar is a private school). Which explains a huge amount – including how they can look down their noses at dead children, and think “we must buy Israel more time to complete this.”


Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs who the members of the Departmental Board are, broken down by (a) gender, (b) race or ethnicity, (c) whether they attended public or independent school and (d) whether they attended Oxford University or Cambridge University; and how long each has been in post. [172117]

Mr. Straw: The Data Protection Act prevents us from providing information about the ethnicity or race of individuals. The members of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Board, and the background information requested, as published in Who’s Who, is as follows:

Sir Michael Jay’Sir Michael has been in his current post for two years. He was educated at Oxford and London Universities, and Winchester College.

Sir Stephen Brown’Sir Stephen has been in his current post for two years. He was educated at Sussex University, the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and Leeds Grammar School.

John Sawers’ John Sawers has been in his current post for one year. He was educated at Nottingham University, and Beechen Cliff School, Bath.

Kim Darroch’Kim Darroch has been in his current post for one year. He was educated at Durham University, and Abingdon School.

Martin Donnelly’Martin Donnelly has been in his current post for two months. He was educated at Oxford University and Saint Ignatius College.

William Ehrman’William Ehrman has been in his current post for two years. He was educated at Cambridge University, and Eton.

Richard Stagg’Richard Stagg has been in his current post for one year. He was educated at Oxford University, and Winchester College.

David Warren’David Warren has been in his current post for three months. He was educated at Oxford University, and Epsom College.

Simon Fraser’Simon Fraser has been in his current post for two years. He was educated at Cambridge University, and St. Paul’s School.

Simon Gass’Simon Gass has been in his current post for three years. He was educated at Reading University, and Eltham College.

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HRW: Israeli failure to distinguish combatants and civilians is a war crime

From Human Rights Watch

(Beirut, July 30, 2006) ‘ Responsibility for the Israeli airstrikes that killed at least 54 civilians sheltering in a home in the Lebanese village of Qana rests squarely with the Israeli military, Human Rights Watch said today. It is the latest product of an indiscriminate bombing campaign that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have waged in Lebanon over the past 18 days, leaving an estimated 750 people dead, the vast majority of them civilians.

‘Today’s strike on Qana, killing at least 54 civilians, more than half of them children, suggests that the Israeli military is treating southern Lebanon as a free-fire zone,’ said Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch. ‘The Israeli military seems to consider anyone left in the area a combatant who is fair game for attack.’

This latest, appalling loss of civilian life underscores the need for the U.N. Secretary-General to establish an International Commission of Inquiry to investigate serious violations of international humanitarian law in the context of the current conflict, Roth said. Such consistent failure to distinguish combatants and civilians is a war crime.

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