Monthly Archives: May 2007


Political Memoirs

Robert Spain has posted on Unlock Democracy a review of the House of Commons Public Administration Committee’s report into political memoirs, and of the books of Christopher Meyer and Lance Price:

Thirdly is the involvement of politicians in the approvals process. The written submission of Craig Murray details the efforts of the foreign office to, effectively, prevent him from telling his side of his ‘ very public ‘ dispute with the government. He also states that he was told that the question of whether he would be allowed to publish his book was put to the then foreign secretary Jack Straw. This led to the bizarre situation of a politician being asked whether to approve publication of a book undoubtedly critical of himself (Memorandum by Craig Murray, ev 105 ‘ 7 ). By contrast, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, whose book was likely to be less controversial, defended the right of a minister to veto such a project, even though he had suffered from this himself (question 291).

http://www.unlockdemocracy.org.uk/?p=908

Unfortunately, he only seems to read the more boring memoirs and hasn’t read Murder in Samarkand. For that reason he hasn’t quite fully taken on board how illiberal the committee’s recommendation that the government use copyright law to stifle memoirs really is, and especially the government’s successful move to use copyright law to block the publication of documents released under the Freedom of Information or Data Protection Acts.

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Letter from Noam Chomsky

I just received a very nice letter from Noam Chomsky. I am so proud and excited, I am going to blog it, as there is nothing especially personal in it.

MIT

May 16, 2007

Dear Mr Murray,

I have a feeling I may never have written to thank you for sending Murder in Samarkand, which I actually enjoyed reading, between shudders. I was reminded of that oversight as the accolades were pouring in for Blair’s unwavering dedication to human rights. It really is a remarkable achievement, what’s recorded, and the record.

You might be interested in an article in the Christian Science Monitor, May 15, by Michael Jordan, called “Less free speech in Uzbekistan since Andijan massacre.” It describes how the country “that Washington had enlisted in its War on Terror had since clamped down on dissent,” unlike before, when it was a US ally, and it was all apparently just fine.

Sincerely,

Noam Chomsky

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Big Brother Is Watching Me

Having learnt how to post photos, I decided yesterday to post one of my time in Uzbekistan. I posted it then immediately thought better of it, so I clicked back to the building screen and scrubbed the entry. It was certainly posted for less than a minute; even, I am pretty sure, substantially less than thirty seconds.

Imagine my astonishment then to be contacted this morning from Uzbekistan by somebody who appeared in the photo. They had been forwarded a copy by the British Embassy in Tashkent, apparently to try to cause trouble between me and them.

The British government capturing and using a page I had up for a few seconds is a bit troubling. There was nothing in the small caption that would be likely to trigger an alert.

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Public Opinion on Iraq

Thanks to the ever excellent Blairwatch for pointing me towards this recent MORI poll:

Polling Data

Do you approve or disapprove of the way the prime minister, Tony Blair, is handling the current situation with Iraq?

———————–Approve———–Disapprove————–Don’t know

May 2007…………….17%………………..77%……………………6%

Jan. 2003…………….26%………………..62%…………………..13%

Sept. 2002…………..43%………………..49%…………………..11%

Do you approve or disapprove of the way the president of America, George W. Bush is handling the current situation with Iraq?

———————–Approve———–Disapprove————Don’t know

May 2007…………………9%…………………85%…………………6%

Jan. 2003………………..19%………………..68%………………..13%

Sept. 2002………………30%………………..59%………………..11%

Which, if any, of the following statements comes closest to your own view about the war in Iraq?

I supported the war and I support it now 11%

I supported the war but do not support it now 22%

I did not support the war but I support it now 3%

I did not support the war and I do not support it now 61%

Source: Ipsos-MORI

Methodology: Telephone interviews with 961 British adults, conducted from May 11 to May 13, 2007. No margin of error was provided.

Which result is quite astonishing, given the almost complete absence of anti-war voices from broadcast media. Also interesting how opinion polls on Iraq are virtually unreported in the media, given that such public opposition to a war this country is fighting is an extremely rare phenomenon.

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The End of Liberty

I am in general opposed to violence, except as a last resort. And I know that the police are not all fascists. Many policemen don’t like the drive against civil liberties any more than I do. But, even granted that they are only doing their job, I can promise you this. The first policeman who stops me as I am peacefully going about my lawful business, and demands to know who I am and where I am going, will get punched on the nose.

As the government whittles away our basic freedoms, there comes a point where you either resist, physically, or we all lose our liberty. I think Reid and Blair’s new proposal for a police power to “Stop and question” takes us to that point.

Of course, having skin of a regulation Scottish blue colour, I am not likely to be stopped. Jean Charles De Menezes was killed for having a slightly olive complexion and dark hair, and it is people of his hue and darker who will in fact be stopped and questioned.

The proposal is obvious madness – if the government was looking to provoke young British Muslims, no tactic would work better. Which does lead us, quite seriously, to be forced to question whether Reid and Blair are trying deliberately to cause an even further deterioration in community relations. There are two possibilities: either they are trying to provoke more “Islamic” violence, or they are very stupid.

Come to think of it, there is a third possibility. They may be trying to provoke more Islamic violence, and be very stupid.

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Russia, Energy Security and Alternative Energy

The Mail on Sunday have published the second half of my Russia piece, which should cause some controversy. They missed my name out on the web version! I look forward to comments.

http://www.mailonsunday.co.uk:80/pages/live/articles/news/newscomment.html?in_article_id=457865&in_page_id=1787&in_a_source

As I have said in comments on threads below, I have little sympathy for the view that George Bush is the only bad man in the World, and that any World leader whose interests differ from Bush’s, eg Putin, is therefore a good leader. In fact, I would view it as a fruitless and difficult exercise to view which of the two is more sinister. I do not give a second’s credence to the view that the attack on Iraq was wrong, but on Chechnya OK. Or that it was dreadfully wrong for Bush to support the despotism of President Karimov of Uzbekistan, but it’s OK now that Putin is doing it.

In fact I rather despair of the many on the Left who seem to accept Bush and Blair’s risible “With us or against us” logic, and conclude that any opponent of Bush is a good person. Anyone who believes that the Russian oligarchs are not just as evil and machinating as Dick Cheney, has switched off his critical faculties.

And finally the fact that the neo-cons have identified energy security as a problem, does not mean it is not a problem. What the neo-cons have got wrong is the solution, which is not endless wars of resource annexation, but profound measures of energy conservation and re-orientation, and a massive drive to develop carbon friendly alternative energy sources.

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A Breakthrough?

Murder in Samarkand has sold remarkably well for a book that has been almost entirely confined to a single spine-on copy, on the bottom shelf of the politics department. To date it has sold about 15,000. But given that, for most readers, the material it contains is eye-openingly explosive about the behaviour of government in the Bush/Blair “War on Terror”, that is not anywhere near the potential. That is especially so as all fifteen customer reviews on amazon.co.uk so far (some under paperback and some under hardback) have been five star.

In today’s book market, it is only really possible to sell more if you get in to the front of house promotions in the chain bookstores. I have been working desperately at that for a year. So you might imagine that this cheered me up. My publisher has just sent me this email:

” I’m very pleased to report that continued sales efforts have resulted in Murder in Samarkand being selected for Waterstone’s 3 for 2 Summer Reading promotion. This means that in the top 260 Waterstone’s branches, the book will be displayed in the promotional area at front of store. Waterstone’s have reordered over 900 extra copies to ensure greater visibility. This, coupled with the 3 for 2 offer, will increase sales, which continue to repeat well across the board. The Waterstone’s promotion started on 17 May and runs for one month. If sales are good, it will continue beyond mid-June.”

With John Reid musing about a State of Emergency to round up “suspects”, to virtually no media outcry, I think it is never more urgent to get over the naked and shocking truth about the “War on Terror”; the poor intelligence it is based on, the underlying agenda of its supporters, and the harsh machiavellianism of the government. I think, from readers’ reaction, that Murder in Samarkand gets that through to people’s hearts and minds, through a personal story, in a way that distinguished academic or journalistic surveys don’t always achieve. That is not to decry the other excellent books out there, particularly Moazzam Begg, Robert Fisk and Stephen Grey.

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Paranoia

I am having a lot of communications problems lately. A number of conversations in the last three days led me to work out that, although I appear to be receiving a fair number of emails, the vast majority of emails I am sending are not getting through. I have sent 78 individual emails in the last three days, and received just two replies. Meanwhile people have been chasing me for replies which I had in fact sent.

The strange thing is that my mail.ru and tiscali.co.uk email addresses are equally affected.

At the same time, people are repeatedly telling me that they are phoning my mobile phone, and leaving messages, when it is not ringing, or showing any missed calls, nor are there any messages.

Finally, five different cheques sent to me in the last two months have not arrived in the post. Because they are cheques, I had chased up. I do not know how much other mail is not getting through. Interestingly no attempt was made to pay in any of the missing cheques anywhere before the issuers could cancel them, and I have switched to BACS payments.

All of this can happen to anyone through technical faults with phones and emails. Sadly the Post Office does not have the Royal Mail culture of public service. I feel downright stupid even blogging about it. But, as the old joke goes, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.

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The Guardian Swells the Tide of Illiberalism

I have posted the Guardian’s reply with my original letter below. I have now gone back as follows:

Elizabeth,

Thank you. I am sure you appreciate that the concern of many natural “Guardian readers” over this article is that it reflects longer-felt anxieties about the direction the Guardian is taking. Michael White’s “Comment is Free” piece is another example of how the Guardian’s senior editorial team appear to have swallowed wholesale the authoritarian “War on Terror” agenda.

Of course a newspaper has the right to take what line it wants, although I am not sure the Murdoch/Daily Express world view really needs reinforcing. But, given the Guardian’s history, you cannot expect many loyal readers to be indifferent to the Guardian assisting the spasm of anti-liberalism which has afflicted our society.

I appreciate Mr Rusbridger is probably too busy hobnobbing with his sister-in-law Tessa Jowell and brother-in-law David Mills to respond to my emails. But if you could get past your numerous guards a sentence he will actually see, to the effect that Craig Murray would be grateful if he would at least read my emails, that would be very kind of you.

Craig

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Mystery Flights Helps Keeps Extrordinary Rendition on the Agenda

Last night BBC 2 showed “This World: Mystery Flights“, which did a good job of bringing together much of the available evidence on the illegal activites of the CIA extraordinary rendition programme. It included some brief but priceless footage of Jack Straw attempting to obfuscate before a parliamentary select committee. In constrast, Dick Marty cooly laid out the case against European government denials of culpability, an ex CIA boss passed the buck up the chain to the very top, and Clive Stafford Smith stated his intention to sue into the next generation until responsibility is accepted.

From BBC Online

“This World: Mystery Flights” pieces together the jigsaw of “extraordinary rendition”, the alleged illegal CIA transfer of terror suspects to secret prisons in Europe.

In far eastern Poland in 2002 and 2003 strange planes landed on an old disused runway in a secluded forest – nine times. The airport was closed but Mariola Przewlocka, the airport facilities manager, was told to accept the planes or “heads would roll”.

Airport staff were told to stay away while the passengers were unloaded out of sight. Mini-vans with blacked-out windows drove them away to a former Soviet military intelligence base, where it is believed the CIA has its own zone.

Extraordinary rendition

Was Poland a staging point in the network of secret prisons established by the United States in their “extraordinary rendition” programme? Did these mystery flights bring al-Qaeda suspects to Poland?

“It didn’t occur to anyone then that it might have something to do with transporting prisoners,” says Mariola Przewlocka. “All the rigmarole surrounding the flights – now I think it may have been possible.”

“Extraordinary rendition” is the CIA term for taking prisoners abroad for interrogation, a policy the US administration defends as a necessary tool in the “war on terror”. It denies that prisoners are taken to be tortured. But it offers no explanation for transporting them around the world to countries that are known to use torture, such as Uzbekistan, Morocco, Egypt and Syria.

Torture denials

Binyam Mohammed, a British resident from Ethiopia was “rendered” to Morocco in a Gulfstream N379P after he was arrested in Pakistan.

He says he was tortured there until he agreed to sign a statement his captors had prepared. The statement said that he was a member of al-Qaeda; that he had met Osama bin Laden and that he was part of a plot to explode a radioactive bomb in America. His lawyer Clive Stafford Smith believes US denials on torture cannot be true.

“He was taken by the Americans to Morocco,” he said. “He’s not Moroccan so there’s only one purpose and that’s for him to go through a little bit of extraordinary interrogation.”

Another rendition flight – this time a Boeing 737 – which stopped in Mallorca on its way to Afghanistan, was photographed by plane-spotters. When human rights organisations, journalists, lawyers and plane-spotters compared notes, and when the dates were matched with flight logs and other prisoners’ testimonies, the extent of the rendition programme began to be revealed.

It is alleged that the CIA flew their planes to 29 different countries and that there were 300 CIA landings in Europe alone, 80 in Britain. How many prisoners were rendered is still not known. Nor is it known whether many were subjected to torture.

Damaging

European governments continue to deny they were involved. Joseph Manchado, the plane-spotter who photographed the Boeing in Mallorca, is sceptical.

“I think the Spanish authorities knew that there were flights from Palma to Guantanamo. Clearly businessmen don’t fly to Guantanamo. I don’t suppose the authorities investigated – they just prefer to keep quiet and turn a blind eye to what was going on right under their noses”.

Few people in America or Europe have cried for the fate of these Muslim men who may or may not be guilty, but who have never been tried or given a chance to defend themselves in court. Some will think they deserve no mercy, in revenge for al-Qaeda’s crimes committed in their religion’s name.

But the former head of the CIA in Europe Tyler Drumheller admits the policy has been damaging. In an exclusive interview with the BBC he says: “It’s a mess, and it’s going to get worse. A lot of things were done after 9/11 that are going to be looked at for years to come. There are going to be commissions, inquiries, court cases.”

Mr Drumheller was head of clandestine operations between 2001 and his resignation in 2005. He cannot speak of the secret prisons, for fear of prosecution himself, but he believes the buck stops with the US President.

ANTI- RENDITION ACTION

Germany: Parliamentary investigation; arrest warrants issued by Munich court for 13 suspected CIA agents

Italy: Judge to decide on whether to try suspects in case of kidnapped imam

Portugal: Investigation opened in January by public prosecutor

Romania: Parliamentary investigation into secret prison claims

Spain: Judge investigating whether CIA flight stopovers violated human rights law

Switzerland: Criminal probe into use of Swiss airspace to fly kidnapped imam from Italy to Germany

By September 2006, the White House was forced to admit that “a small number of suspected terrorist leaders and operatives captured during the war had been held and questioned outside the United States in a separate programme operated by the Central Intelligence Agency”. But the president would not say where detainees had been held, or divulge details of their confinement.

Slowly Europe’s democracies are cranking into action in a belated attempt to hold their own governments to account. In Italy, a former chief of military intelligence is in court. Warrants are out for the arrest of CIA agents formerly based there and the government is being accused of a cover-up.

The former President of Poland, Aleksander Kwasniewski, and the former Polish Defence Minister, Radoslaw Sirkorski, have denied that Poland and the military airbase in question were involved.

The UK Government has said it does not know and has no way of finding out who was aboard the 80 CIA flights that landed on British soil.

This World: “Mystery Flights” was broadcast on Thursday 24 May 2007 at 2100 BST on BBC Two.

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Smile! A Small Blow Struck for Liberty!

Jury decides – not-guilty: intention to damage US bombers destined for Iraq was lawful

Report by Tabitha

This afternoon, Tuesday 22 May, at Bristol Crown Court, the trial of two Oxford peace activists Philip Pritchard and Toby Olditch (known as the ‘B52 Two’) concluded with the jury returning a unanimous verdict of not-guilty – in less than three hours. The two were charged with conspiring to cause criminal damage at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire on 18 March 2003 when they tried to safely disable US B52 bombers to prevent them from bombing Iraq[1]. The court heard the two men acted to prevent damage to life and property in Iraq, and war crimes by the aggressors [2].

The trial started on Monday 14 May 2007. This is the second trial for the alleged offence; the first in October 2006 ended in a hung jury, after 12 hours of deliberation spread over three days. The two accused were facing up to ten years in jail. There are two other similar cases awaiting re-trial, due to hung juries, at Bristol crown court.

The two activists maintain that war crimes were committed in the bombing as cluster bombs, which spread unexploded bomblets that kill and maim civilians (like mines) were used, as were ‘bunker busting’ bombs tipped with depleted uranium that fragments, spreading radioactive toxins which are harmful to civilians.

During the trial the prosecution accepted that even delaying the bombers would have prevented civilian casualties, as it would have allowed those fleeing cities more time to escape. In his hour and a half summing up today, Justice Crowther explained the legal tests that must be met for the prosecution to succeed, he reiterated the facts and summarised the evidence. A document ‘steps to verdict’ had been provided to assist the jury.

Toby Olditch said “We’re overjoyed, and thankful for the good sense of the jurors, for the wonderful support we’ve received, and for the commitment and expertise of our legal representatives. But hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people have still suffered as a result of the Government’s actions. It shouldn’t have come to the point that people had to take direct action to try to check the abuse of executive power.”

Phil Pritchard “I am delighted that the jury have returned a unanimous not-guilty verdict. Our action in trying to prevent illegal attacks on the people of Iraq in 2003 is vindicated. I hope war of this kind never happens again.”

Editors Notes

A full press briefing is available on request. Philip Pritchard is 36 years old, and a self employed carpenter and father. Toby Olditch is 38 years old, and a self employed builder. They both live in Oxford. The defendants were represented in court by barrister Edward Rees, Q.C. from Doughty Street Chambers, London. Their solicitor is Mike Schwarz of Bindmans & Partners, London.

[1] The two men were arrested inside the perimeter fences at RAF Fairford in the early morning of 18 March 2003, just two days before the bombing of Iraq started. They carried with them tools to damage the planes, nuts and bolts to jam the aircrafts engines, pictures of ordinary Iraqi civilians and paint symbolizing blood and oil. They also carried warning signs for attaching to any damaged planes which would help alert aircrew to their action. The two men acted nonviolently in a way which would not result in harm to anyone, including the military personnel at Fairford. They intended to stay with the planes and tell the operators what they’d done.

[2] Civilian casualties in Iraq since the invasion are estimated between 68,796 (Iraq Body Count) and 650,000 (Lancet October 2006). More bombs were dropped in the initial ‘shock and awe’ attack on Iraq than in the whole of the first gulf war.

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More Right Wing Guardian Propaganda

In the light of three men under control orders apparently absconding, the right wing media are having a field day.

Michael White, sole living member of the Jack Straw fan club and spiritual leader of the Guardian New Labour hacks, has written a “right-wing bigot in the lounge bar” piece to explain that that this terrorism is all the fault of human rights and judges.

http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/michael_white/2007/05/losing_control.html

He fails to note that the men have never been convicted of anything. If the evidence is “Solid” that they were plotting acts of terrorism, then charge them.

It is also rather strange to bluster on about the need to be able to deport people, and then complain because they may have left the country. Finally, of course, there is the strange logic that it is fine for British soldiers to invade Iraq and kill people, and it is fine for many thousands of British mercenaries to go to Iraq and kill people, but very wrong for our abscondees to want to go and kill people. A more logical position might be to oppose anybody heading off to Iraq to deal in death. Or put another way, accepting as a hypothesis (with no evidence ever produced) that these men do want to kill British troops in Iraq, there is an unavoidable prior question of what on Earth our troops are doing there in the first place. That question doesn’t seem to occur to Mr White.

Finally, a thought on communications intercepts. The government remain deeply opposed to the use of these in court. I am in favour. If surveillance has been properly and legally carried out, it should be admissible. The truth of the matter is that the Government does not want revealed how weak its so-called intelligence often is.

I can give one example. According to the US intercept agency the NSA, Al-Qaida frequently use the word “Wedding” as code for a suicide bombing. I recall as Ambassador being deluged with intercepts of “suspicious” conversations like “We’re going to a wedding in Bokhara.” Of such flimsy stuff is most of the material. If they keep it from court scrutiny, they can persuade natural authoritarian brown-nosers like Michael White to publish that it is “Solid”.

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Letter to the Guardian

I have just sent this letter to the Editor of the Guardian, not for publication:

Alan,

We have never met, although the Guardian was good enough to give me a column during the general election campaign, and I have written several comment pieces for you since.

I admit there are people in this country, a minority, who still support the Iraq war. Tony Blair did succeed in capturing the Labour movement, and so it is understandable (though to me regrettable) that a newspaper with ties to the broad left would contain a strong element which supports Blair. I have lived with that and never quite broken my 35 year old Guardian reading habit.

But I do think that Simon Tisdall’s unquestioning purveyance of US anti-Iranian propaganda just goes too far. For one thing, you would have completely to shut off your critical faculties to accept some of the scenarios he was fed by the US as plausible. And Tisdall was not retailing the story as “Isn’t it interesting, the US is saying this”, he was relating their wild surmise as plausible fact.

Juan Cole’s blog Informed Comment – which is always superb – has an excellent comment on the piece, which I think well sums up the baffled bemusement of the intelligentsia.

I was rather hoping Tisdall was giving us another San Serife, but the date was wrong.

Get a grip! You are supposed to be an Editor. I was, genuinely, a great fan of your writing as a reporter. Of course, some brilliant footballers make lousy managers.

Craig Murray

I’ll post a reply if I get one.

(more…)

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US Turns up the Heat on Tehran

By Simon Tisdall in Guardian Online

Iran’s secret plan for summer offensive to force US out of Iraq

“Iran is fighting a proxy war in Iraq and it’s a very dangerous course for them to be following. They are already committing daily acts of war against US and British forces,” a senior US official in Baghdad warned. “They [Iran] are behind a lot of high-profile attacks meant to undermine US will and British will, such as the rocket attacks on Basra palace and the Green Zone [in Baghdad]. The attacks are directed by the Revolutionary Guard who are connected right to the top [of the Iranian government].”

…US officials now say they have firm evidence that Tehran has switched tack as it senses a chance of victory in Iraq. In a parallel development, they say they also have proof that Iran has reversed its previous policy in Afghanistan and is now supporting and supplying the Taliban’s campaign against US, British and other Nato forces.

…Any US decision to retaliate against Iran on its own territory could be taken only at the highest political level in Washington, the official said. But he indicated that American patience was wearing thin.

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A Mighty Heart

I have been more than usually attentive to the reception given to Michael Winterbottom’s film “A Mighty Heart” at Cannes. This has exactly the same team of producers and director as the film of my memoir Murder in Samarkand, on which the cameras are set to start rolling in February, so plainly I have a major interest in the team’s success.

The papers today all carry an account of yesterday’s press conference at the premiere, based on the Pitt/Jolie celeb power. As far as I can gather, none of these reports were written after actually seeing the film itself. The only real film review I can find so far is this rather gushing one from Fox News.

Angelina Jolie Film About Slain Reporter Daniel Pearl Filmmaking of Highest Order

Monday, May 21, 2007

By Roger Friedman

“A Mighty Heart,” Angelina Jolie’s film about the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, had its first screening Monday morning at the Cannes Film Festival.

Simply put, the Michael Winterbottom film is an exceptional piece of work, deeply affecting and filmmaking of the highest order.

In purely Hollywood terms, the film is a certain Oscar nominee. Everyone involved in “A Mighty Heart” ‘ from Winterbottom to Jolie as Pearl’s widow, Mariane, to Dan Futterman as Daniel Pearl ‘ can be proud of a job very well done.

Based on the book by Mariane Pearl, the film follows the pregnant Mariane as she searches for her husband following his disappearance in Karachi, Pakistan, in 2002. At the time, Daniel Pearl was writing a story about shoe bomber Richard Reid.

Winterbottom’s cinema verit’-style only adds to the immediacy of the Pearl tragedy. This director has done a remarkable job.

And it’s not just Jolie and Futterman who shine. The entire supporting cast including Irfan Khan, who has already had a hit this year with “The Namesake,” and the always reliable Will Patton as a CIA agent, makes the back-stories of the film eminently watchable, too.

But ultimately it’s Winterbottom’s achievement with screenwriter John Orloff (‘Band of Brothers’) in making ‘Mighty Heart’ an ensemble piece.

Jolie, who’s probably the hottest celebrity right now and covered by every tabloid in the world, could easily have become outsized in a story with many elements. Instead, she is quite tempered here, and becomes a team player whether she likes it or not.

It’s easy to forget what a fine actress she can be. But her understanding of Mariane Pearl is unusually touching. For most of the movie, Mariane seems a little cool, distant and brittle as she absorbs the news that her husband has been kidnapped.

Jolie, however, finally shows the human side of this strong woman when she learns that her husband is actually dead. She lets loose with shrieks of anguish that are all too real. They are almost like animal cries, and I guarantee you, audiences will be pulling out the Kleenex at this moment.

Winterbottom also punctuates the film with lots of jump-cutting, nonlinear plotting and flashback, all of which help add to the tension. He and Orloff flesh out Daniel Pearl, too, a hard task since he could have vanished after the kidnapping. But working with Futterman they create a very real man who met a tragic and untimely death.

And what a strange press conference at Cannes Monday after the first screening of “A Mighty Heart.” How things have changed! There was more interest in Brangelina’s celebrity life than in the Pearl tragedy or the politics that instigated it.

I could only wonder what Mariane Pearl, who was there on the dais with the cast, producers and director, thought of this episode. It was embarrassing. One woman even managed to jump on the stage at the end and kiss Brad Pitt. Oy vey!

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,274172,00.html

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Someone Thinks I am A Hero

Which is rather nice. I do hope they go on to discover Murder in Samarkand, which may disillusion them a bit.

Time for change’s Journal

Tribute to a Hero: Craig Murray

Posted by Time for change in General Discussion

Mon May 21st 2007, 11:00 PM

Our world is in desperate need of heroism today ‘ and no kind of heroic action is in greater demand today, in my opinion, than speaking out against the numerous abuses and crimes of the presidential administration of George W. Bush, which poses the greatest threat to world peace and world civilization of our current era.

Of the numerous crimes against the American people, the American Constitution, and international law committed by the Bush administration, the one that scares me the most, with the possible exception of his illegal preemptive invasion of Iraq, is its treatment of its prisoners. I’ve discussed my opinions on this issue numerous times, but that is not the purpose of this post. Suffice it to say here that I consider the Bush administration’s treatment of its prisoners to represent one of the darkest chapters, if not the darkest chapter in the history of our nation. Indeed, I consider it to be a manifestation of evil. And that is why I feel the need to pay tribute to a man whose heroic efforts perhaps did as much or more to expose these abominable medieval horrors than any other.

Craig Murray was the British Ambassador to Uzbekistan from the summer of 2002 until October 15, 2004, when he was suspended from his post for his heroism ‘ that is, for speaking out and fighting against the horrors that he witnessed in his capacity as ambassador, as well as for exposing the role of the United States in perpetrating those horrors.

Stephen Grey, of Amnesty International, who himself was instrumental in exposing the CIA’s rendition program, describes how Craig Murray did something very similar, in his book, ‘Ghost Plane ‘ The True Story of the CIA Torture Program’. I’ll begin my description of Murray’s heroism by providing some background on the country that he was assigned to.

21st Century Uzbekistan

Islam Karimov had been the dictator of Uzbekistan since prior to the break-up of the Soviet Union. Grey describes the repressiveness of his rule:

Karimov’ still boiled some of his prisoners alive’ He was also proudly repressive. Back in 1999, he said: ‘I am prepared to rip off the heads of 200 people, to sacrifice their lives, in order to save peace and to have calm in the republic.’ He boasted of executing about a hundred people a year. More than six thousand political opponents were locked in his jails. Threatened by the revival of Islam, he ordered a huge crackdown on religion’ Tortures were said to include ripping out fingernails, pulling teeth, electric shocks, suffocation, and rape.

U.S. Collaboration

Because of the severe religious repression many Muslims fled Uzbekistan and ended up in Afghanistan, where they resided by 9-11-01. That set the stage for collaboration between Uzbekistan and the United States in pursuit of its ‘War on Terror’: The U.S. paid tens of millions of dollars to Uzbekistan in aid. American forces in Afghanistan would capture the displaced Muslims, who may or may not have been fighting for the Taliban, or they would simply take Muslims into custody after being handed them by bounty hunters; the U.S. would then ‘render’ their prisoners back to Uzbekistan or send them to Guantanamo Bay; Uzbekistan would either force their prisoners to confess to various al Qaeda plots or torture them; and they would turn over the ‘intelligence’ thus received to the CIA.

What did Uzbekistan and the U.S. have to gain from this relationship? Who can say exactly what motives lurk in the minds of torturers like Karimov, Bush and Cheney. I can only speculate: Karimov received lots of money and the legitimacy of U.S. support and was aided in his goal of having more prisoners to torture ‘ I suppose as an example to his population to help maintain his stranglehold over them. And we got more ‘intelligence’ for our ‘War on Terror’, as well as use of Uzbekistan for military strategic purposes.

Craig Murray blows the whistle

In his role as ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray saw continual evidence of the horrors that were perpetrated there. At first it was in the form of accusations of those who had been tortured ‘ and one had to consider the possibility that the accusers were not being truthful. But then Murray began to see more tangible evidence, such as photos. On September 16, 2002, Murray sent a telegram to his superiors:

“U.S. plays down human rights situation in Uzbekistan. A dangerous policy: Increasing repression combined with poverty will promote Islamic terrorism. Support to Karimov regime a bankrupt and cynical policy.”

Read whole article:

http://journals.democraticunderground.com/Time%20for%20change/182

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Putin’s Russia

I have been both snowed under and travelling like a madman lately, and therefore rather absent from this blog. Apologies.

The piece by me below appeared in The Mail on Sunday two days ago.

I would like to introduce it with the following thought. There are those who denounce any criticism of Russia, particularly over human rights, as a neo-con plot. That is plainly stupid.

On the blogosphere it is not hard to bump into the view that, on the international stage, anyone opposed to George Bush must be a good man, and any attack on anyone opposed to George Bush must be malicious. A much more probable scenario is that George Bush is a powerful and bad man, perhaps primus inter pares but nonetheless among many other powerful and bad men. Russia is in fact in the grip of vicious gangsters, ripping off the country with a freedom even the most ardent deregulatory neo-con in Washington could not conceive.

Investigative report: The Kremlin Killings

19.05.07

After a series of brutal murders of dissident journalists in Russia, Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, went to investigate.

His disturbing report reveals how deeply the cancer of criminality has infected Putin’s society

One Friday two months ago, Ivan Safronov, defence correspondent of the authoritative Kommersant newspaper in Moscow, made his way home from work.

After a mild winter, Moscow had turned cold in March and Safronov held a bag of groceries in one hand while keeping his coat closed against the snow with his other.

Arriving at the entrance to his grim Soviet-era apartment block, Safronov punched in the security code which opened the grey metal door at the entrance to the gloomy hallway.

So far this is a perfectly normal Moscow scene. But then ‘ and this is the official version of events ‘ Ivan Safronov apparently did something extraordinary.

He walked up the communal stairs, past his second-floor apartment to the top landing between the third and fourth floors.

Then, placing his groceries on the floor, he opened a window, climbed on to the sill and leapt to his death, becoming around the 160th (nobody can be certain of precise numbers) journalist to meet a violent end in post-communist Russia.

In the West, the cases of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, shot dead in her apartment block, and ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, poisoned by polonium in London last year, hit the headlines.

But in Russia, there was nothing exceptional about those killings. It’s long been understood that if you publish material that embarrasses or annoys those in power, you’re likely to come to a sticky end.

Continue reading

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23397248-details/Investigative+report:+The+Kremlin+Killings/article.do

As always, the unedited original was rather better; I may post it if I can work out how to prevent its length taking over the entire page. A follow-up article will appear this Sunday.

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Embassy Life

From McClatchy Newspapers

BAGHDAD, Iraq – U.S. Embassy employees in Iraq are growing increasingly angry over what they say are inadequate security precautions in the heavily fortified Green Zone, where recent mortar and rocket attacks have claimed the lives of six people, including two U.S. citizens.

In spite of the attacks, embassy employees complain, most staff members still sleep in trailers that one described as “tin cans” that offer virtually no protection from rocket and mortar fire. The government has refused to harden the roofs because of the cost, one employee said.

A second official called it “criminally negligent” not to reduce the size of the embassy staff, which a year ago was estimated at 1,000, in the face of the increasing attacks and blamed the administration’s failure to respond on concerns that doing so might undermine support for President Bush’s Iraq policy.

“What responsible person and responsible government would ask you to put yourself at risk like that? We don’t belong here,” the employee said, adding, “They’re not going to send us home because it’s going to be another admission of failure.”

Embassy employees have been ordered not to talk about security concerns or precautions with reporters, but three State Department employees in Baghdad discussed the issue with McClatchy Newspapers. All three asked not to be identified for fear that they’d lose their jobs.

(more…)

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