Monthly Archives: June 2007

“Sir” Salman Rushdie 25

I can talk about Salman Rushdie’s honour with a certain earned hauteur, having in the course of my life turned down three honours myself (LVO, OBE and CVO, since you ask). I have never understood why people accept honours when there is so much more social cachet in refusing them.

People in the FCO always imagined I turned them down because of a vague egalitarianism. Actually it is because, as a good Scot, I felt no need to accept anything from a provincial German family notable for lack of intellectual distinction. The Queen asked me, in Warsaw, why I refused, and I replied it was because I am a Scottish nationalist. She replied “Oh good” with a charming smile.

On two occasions I received a very pleasant personal gift from the Queen instead – a solid silver armada dish, and a piece of Linley joinery. This is in practice a much better deal, because with the higher awards, when you die you have to give them back (honest – there is a little label on the back that says so). The gifts, you can sell – and as I am now completely on my uppers, I am going to. Any offers?

I do have one honour – I am an Officier de l’Ordre du Mono.of the Republic of Togo. This was given me by the late President Eyadema, who as far as I know was the only recent Head of State who strangled his predecessor with his own hands. It was for my role in a surreal – and terrifying – peace negotiation with the Sierra Leonean rebels, which will turn up in a future volume of my memoirs. I would have refused the medal, but the FCO ordered me not to as, in the unusual circumstances, it might give unhelpful offence. In thanking President Eyadema, I asked him if the next up was l’Ordre du Stereo. Whether he understood my joke, made in bad French, I don’t know, as he replied, memorably, that I should drink coconut milk to make me piss. That may be a Togolese insult.

Anyway, back to Rushdie. I am afraid I believe that if people wish to insult religion, they should be allowed to. Freedom of speech is vitally important. Those Muslims shouting against him have every right to be offended, and every right to express their view, but must acknowledge Rushdie’s right to express his. If the Muslims are right, Rushdie will get his come-uppance eternally, which should be enough vengeance for anybody. You can’t make eternity last longer by killing someone quicker.

But I am astounded at the decision to give him a knighthood. Why? His corpus of work is just not that good. Midnight’s Children was readable, but a bit formulaic. Rushdie’s prose has all the cutting edge of a damp cloth. Satanic Verses may be shocking, but has little else to recommend it.

Who nominated Rushdie, and why? If we really felt the need to create a new literary knight, why not Alexander McCall Smith or George MacDonald Fraser? Both of them are much more original and prolific writers than Rushdie. Both actually live in this country, unlike Rushdie.

McCall Smith, certainly, has devoted a significant proportion of his time and his literary earnings to charity, something one could never accuse Rushdie of. If Salman Rushdie has an interest in life other than Salman Rushdie, it is not readily discernible.

Rushdie simply does not deserve to be elevated above a score or more of other writers in this country who are not knights. I am having dinner tomorrow in Dundee with Phillip Pullman and Jacqueline Wilson, both of whom I prize above Rushdie. This is a political, not a literary, award and Muslims have a right to be angry about that. But the answer is a political response, not violence. If Lord Ahmed is genuine, he should jump off the New Labour gravy train.

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Reader reaction 3

Rather a nice reader reaction to Murder in Samarkand this morning:

I am not one who has that innate ability to plough through endless books but a casual accquintance recommended your book so I bought it to read on holiday. I couldn’t put the thing down and believe me, that is a first. Most books take me weeks to read but I finished yours in four days. I knew this government was corrupt and devoid of any moral fibre, but the extent to which you have shed light on it, stuns me. I knew Blair was lying the moment he said in a televised debate prior to invasion of Iraq that the war wasn’t about oil. I have read a few other books about 9/11, the War on ‘Terror’ and the Iraq War and most of it needed to be taken with a pinch of salt, but your book struck a chord from the off and I had no reason to doubt or disbelieve the validity of your account. Anyone who doesn’t smell a rat with this government’s foreign policy (and domestic policies for that matter) needs their head examining.

Meantime, A Mighty Heart continues to garner stellar reviews in the States prior to its opening on Friday. A fun spat in the US when Fox News were banned from the premiere. Michael Winterbottom is now filming Genova in Italy with Colin Firth, and plans to start shooting Murder in Samarkand with Steve Coogan in February. Shooting will run from February to June to capture the range of extreme continental Central Asian weather conditions experienced in the book.

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Wikipedia and the Power of Terminology 4

A friend just emailed me this link, in which my entry is used as an example of biases on Wikipedia:

It is certainly true that my Wikipedia entry contains terminology which is expressly used to inculcate doubt. For example I “claimed” that Uzbekistan is not a functioning democracy. I should not have thought that was a dubious statement.

More significant, I think, is the curious entry that Murray “claims” he complained to the British government about the use of intelligence obtained under torture. This is a strange place to try to insinuate doubt. I have testified that I did this to the European Parliament and the Council of Europe in person, and in writing to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, and on pretty well every major media outlet in the World. The British government has never, once, denied that I did this. I have also provided documentary evidence like this,

This document was also submitted to, and republished by, the European Parliament, and the British Government has never denied its authenticity.

Furthermore my book, Murder in Samarkand, which details all of this, was submitted to the British government for clearance. They produced a document requesting what they distinguished as either factual or policy motivated changes. I have also published this document:

This is undoubtedly a real document as the British Government has claimed copyright over it. Other than where noted in this document (and I made most of the changes requested) there is therefore no dispute over the factual accuracy of Murder in Samarkand.

I do not however think it is necessary to believe in an institutional conspiracy at Wikipedia. The negative slanting of my entry is, I think, just the work of pro-Bush and pro-Karimov trolls.

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Dundee University – neither Green nor Caring 7

A date for your diaries. My Installation as Rector of the University of Dundee will take place on 26 September. This is an ancient traditional ceremony, which includes my being pulled through the streets of Dundee in an old carriage by students, and then giving a Rectorial Address. These used to be great occasions, when the Addresses were given by figures like Adam Smith, William Gladstone, Thomas Carlyle, Andrew Carnegie and J M Barrie. Those would last for hours and be repeated verbatim in the national papers. Even in my time, addresses by Clement Freud and Peter Ustinov were well worth hearing.

My predecessor, Lorraine Kelly, managed one sheet of A4. I shall be closer to Gladstone than Kelly, in length if nothing else, and intend to give the students some provocative thoughts on society, politics and the role of a modern university. I do hope that some of the readers of this blog will put the event in their diaries and make it to Dundee to support me.

On a happy note, I am heading up to Dundee tomorrow to attend the graduations of thousands of students. There is no role for the Rector at this other than to dress up in a robe and look portentous, but it is a happy time of achievement; maybe some of the youthful optimism might rub off.

Much less happy was the University Court meeting last week. The University is closing its Gardyne Road campus, and some scores of staff are being made compulsorily redundant. I am shocked by the near Victorian brutality with which human beings can be simply thrown away in today’s society.

I went to Gardyne Road to speak to affected staff directly. One man I spoke to had worked there for 17 years; he earned ‘22,000 pa and was being made redundant with just over ‘6,000 in redundancy pay.

‘6,000 after seventeen years? Is that how we value people?

There were three things that especially horrified me about this.

The first was the attitude of academics, who don’t seem troubled because these staff are non-academic – cleaners, cooks, janitors and library staff, for example. Yet they are people too, and the university could not function without them.

The second was the fact that the University is much more concerned with spin than the plight of these people. The University is still telling the media that there are no compulsory redundancies, whereas in fact scores will go through in just five weeks time. The University is also emphasising that some staff were offered relocation to another campus but refused. That is in fact only true of three or four staff out of some fifty facing redundancy.

The third thing that worries me is that the University is offering no more than the legal minimum compensation, and is behaving with all the heartlessness of Dundee’s multinationals. The sad truth is that the people being made redundant are precisely those unlikely to find jobs again in Dundee. Even commercial companies generally attempt to improve redundancy terms a little where possible, for the sake of image, unless actually going bankrupt. The University appears to have no sense of being more than just a business, no sense of community or social responsibility to the City.

My other big worry with the University this week is the lack of attention to environmental issues. I had already noted that there appears to be no concern for renewable energy generation or carbon neutral building, even in its extremely new and ever burgeoning estate. The photo-voltaic cell was invented at the University of Dundee, but I am yet to see one powering anything on what is Britain’s sunniest campus.

I was therefore not surprised to find the University marked 79th out of 102 on People and Planet’s “Green League”, firmly in the Poor Environmental Performance bracket.

Now that’s something else that will get a mention in my Rectorial Address…

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US Soldier Sodomised Female Iraqi Detainee 5

A Seymour Hersh interview with General Anthony Taguba, who investigated Abu Ghraib, confirms details of the abuse not previously public. It also confirms that the torture was sanctioned from the top. Not quoted here, but General Janis Karpinski has testified that she saw a memorandum on “Interrogation techniques” pinned to the wall by military intelligence at Abu Ghraib, signed by Donald Rumsfeld himself. Karpinski was at the top of the line of command of the guards – the military police – but not the interrogators. Taguba here notes that Rumsfeld not only denied advance knowledge, but even tried afterwards to deny having seen Taguba’s report or knowing what had happened.

Doubtless more of the detail of the war crimes at Abu Ghraib, and of extraordinary rendition and Guantanamo, will continue to emerge in the next few months as the war party becomes totally discredited.

Read the interview:

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27 June Warmonger Out! 39

Tony Blair will quit Downing St on the morning of 27 June. We all recall those stage-managed images of him entering through rapt crowds waving union jacks. Well, it is time for the reverse image as we boo the old warmonger out. I do hope you will join me there. Blair’s leaving will be covered worldwide and it is a great opportunity to get our point across. It was Blair’s support for Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, against the whole background of the war in Iraq, that led the Labour MPs to boot Blair out. We should remind the World why he has to go.

It needs enough people that the media cannot ignore it – and a determination not to be shunted somewhere invisible.

(I have, incidentally, no idea why the Stop the War Movement is dissipating energy on yet another long traipse in the rain around the deserted parts of Manchester three days previously, which will get no coverage at all.)

I have been determinedly trying to give Gordon Brown the benefit of the doubt. Sadly his strong support for anti-civil liberties legislation seems to leave little room for doubt. The need to maintain the right to demonstrate is another good reason to be there. Military Families Against the War have a permit for the demo.

We have already had a preview of the kind of hagiographic, cult-of-personality type reviews the BBC will be pumping out. When Blair announced his departure a month ago, the BBC produced a montage of his premiership that ignored the anti-war movement, cash for honours, the Mandelson/Blunkett resignations, the Lebanon, the Bernie Ecclestone scandal, David Mills or anything else that might be viewed as negative – or balanced.

Doubtless the Labour Party will have laid on some pro-Brown demonstrators. Let us make sure that those who hate what Blair has done to this country are represented in waving him off.

Be there. Downing Street. 27 June. 10am.

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British Casualty Monitor 4

Last week saw a number of grim milestones in the Iraq and Afghan wars. The 150th British soldier died in Iraq, closely followed by the 60th British soldier in Afghanistan. Around the same time the US death toll in Iraq reached 3,500. The last available survey-based estimate of Iraqi dead in the war is 650,000, as of June 2006, while in Afghanistan the total figure remains a matter of almost complete guess work. In both countries the situation continues to deteriorate.

In response, the British Casualty Monitor project has been started over at LFCM. They aim to provide regular graphical analysis of casualty trends, initially just for UK troops, that will help in understanding the true burden of the wars and the evolving trends in the conflicts.

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For a Secular, Democratic, Single State of Palestine 21

Events in Palestine are terribly sad. Forgive the banality, but it needs to be said. The terrible plight of the Palestinian people is a sore on the world. They have been uprooted from their homes and decamped into appalling conditions, with what little land they have left being constantly squeezed, hemmed in and deprived of water.

I thought I was well-informed on Palestine, but still reading Hilda Reilly’s The Prickly Pears of Palestine was an eye-opening experience. It is a difficult book to read. At first I found the constant repetition of the word “Martyr” to describe the dead annoying. But then, as misery piles upon misery, it brings a full understanding of just how devastating and all-pervasive is the reach of Israeli violence into the lives of Palestinian families. Reilly also does much to explain the disillusionment with Fatah, its corruption and lack of achievement, and the enthusiasm for Hamas, particularly among younger people.

In these circumstances appalling distortion of Palestinian society is inevitable. Those of us concerned for the Palestinians have been, rightly I think, concerned to correct the one dimensional view of Hamas portrayed in the Western media, and concerned to expose Western hypocrisy in seeking to penalise Palestinians for their democratic choice.

But it was nonetheless not a good choice. The Palestinians are victims of terrible racial persecution. Turning to religious fundamentalism is an understandable process, but very unhelpful. Above all, the Palestinians have never been a religious mono-culture. A former girlfriend of mine was a Palestinian Christian.

She and I used to campaign for a unitary, secular, democratic state in Palestine, that would encompass Palestinians, Jews and others who live there, in the combined lands of Israel and the occupied territories. That is what I still believe to be the solution. I am not sure how and when it became de rigeur to support a so-called “Two state” solution, with a tiny, fractured, walled, dry and non-viable Palestinian “state”. I don’t believe the UK was committed to that idea until Blair supported it in the Rose Garden all those years ago.

By associating themselves so completely with Islamic fundamentalism, the Palestinians are making the situation worse, and the Zionists very happy. But what did we expect? Palestine has been a prolonged genocide for sixty years, the worst example of ethnic cleansing since the eradication of Native Americans. Desperate people do things that seem stupid from the comfort of our armchairs. It is our comfort and indifference that has brought them to this.

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No British Guantanamo 4

Yesterdays decision by the Lords has been welcomed by human rights groups:

“Our law lords have today ensured that there can never be a British Guantanamo anywhere in the world … there can be no British detention facility where the law does not apply” Shami Chakrabarti, Liberty.

Lords rule rights law applies to Musa case

By Luke Baker in Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) – The Lords ruled on Wednesday that European human rights law did apply to British troops serving in Iraq in the case of an Iraqi man who died in their custody four years ago.

The decision means an independent inquiry, long resisted by the government, may now have to be conducted into the death of Baha Musa, an Iraqi hotel receptionist who died in September 2003 after being detained by British troops. It also means the government may have to order changes to the way troops operate on deployment.

The law lords’ ruling, by a majority of four to one, followed an appeal by the Ministry of Defence. A lower court will now decide if a public inquiry goes ahead. “Today we’ve been successful in the House of Lords and that means there must now be a full, public and independent inquiry into what went wrong,” Phil Shiner, a lawyer representing Baha Musa and other applicants, said.

“It seems clear from the public record that serious errors of judgment have been made at senior levels both within the military and the government.”

See also: Torture and Murder by UK Troops: No one found guilty


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Digger/Labour Gossip 5

Half the Met were turned out last night at taxpayers’ expense to guard the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park, where a “Charity” event was hosted by Rupert Murdoch. Guests included Gordon Brown, John Reid, Jack Straw and Margaret Beckett, as well as “Sir” Alan Sugar and the Israeli and US Ambassadors. Cherie Blair was not present, or she would presumably have left as usual with the “Charity” money in her handbag.

I struggle to maintain a vague deism lately, but I cannot believe any deity is benevolent when yet again catacysmic floods are killing innocents in Bangladesh, but God couldn’t even produce a very small meteor on target where really needed.

Rupert Mudoch arrived in the Foreign Secretary’s car with Margaret Beckett, and she was the last guest to leave; it took time for her to quaff so much of the Dirty Digger’s champagne. Whatever can this mean?

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Transcript of Today Programme 9 June Discussion on BAe Bribes Scandal 9

John Humphrys Does the end justify the means? Governments face that question all the time, and the answer is often yes, certainly if national security is threatened in any way. We do deals, we have relationships, with countries and leaders whose behaviour we deplore, especially if there seems to be no alternative. What about engaging in shady activities in the interests of creating jobs in this country? Well, that is the specific question that has been raised again this week with the revelation of the Saudia Arabian arms deal and the allegations that BAe paid massive kickbacks to a Saudi prince to get the contract. Well, Sir Andrew Green knows Saudi Arabia well, he was our Ambassador there for some years, and he’s on the line. Craig Murray is with me, he was our Ambassador to the Central Asian Republic of Uzbekistan. What’s your view of the deals that have been disclosed this week, they’ll have come as no surprise to you I imagine Sir Andrew?

Sir Andrew Green No, they don’t come as a huge surprise. I wasn’t aware of the detail of course, as these things are regarded as commercially confidential.

Humphrys Does it surprise you, before we move on from that, does it surprise you that Prince Bandar got so much, I mean more than a million [error – billion] pounds apparently in what are being called kickbacks.

Green I think that the allegation is more than that, but no, it doesn’t surprise me, any arms deal in the Middle East has payments for commission, or whatever you like to call it, associated with it. I don’t think there’s any news in that. I think the scale of it is surprising, yes. But, as you say, it’s a case of balancing our national interest against other factors and that’s very much one for the Prime Minister to take.

Humphrys But you, now that you’re no longer a diplomat you’re allowed to say this, what’s your view of it?

Green Well, it’s a matter of judgement, isn’t it. As you know, I’ve dealt with the Middle East for about forty years, and frankly I agree with the Prime Minister on this particular point. He said that our relationship with Saudi Arabia is vitally important to our country, and if you just look at the outlook for the country, if you look at Iraq collapsing into chaos, a confrontation with Iran developing at American behest, anarchy in Palestine, genocide in Sudan, instability in Lebanon, I mean it just seems to me plain commonsense not to have a bust-up with a very influential ally in the heart of the region.

Humphrys Do you agree with that, Craig Murray?

Craig Murray No, I don’t. I certainly regard our relationship with Saudi Arabia as very important, but the idea that you can’t maintain good relationships with a country without paying hundreds of millions of pounds in bribes is a very poor one.

Green That’s not quite the issue though, is it? I mean the issue is whether we should do something that would be extremely embarassing for the ruling family in Saudi Arabia. I mean, the contract having been in place for some twenty years or so, so that the decision before us now is whether to allow that investigation to go forward, or to stop it, which is what the Prime Minister has done.

Murray Well, I spent most of my career in Africa and working on Africa. In Africa very poor people have their lives ruined by the fact that their governments are extremely corrupt, and that hundreds of millions, billions of dollars of aid money, donor money and commercial money are kicked back to the rulers by Western companies. How can we deplore corruption in Africa when we are actively participating in it in Saudi Arabia? And how can we say the rule of law applies to everybody in the land, if the Attorney General can say, as he did, that in this case the national interest outbalances the rule of law. The national interest can’t outbalance the rule of law in this country, nothing can outbalance the rule of law, not even the Crown.

Humphrys Isn’t this the point Sir Andrew, aren’t we saying “Don’t do as we do, do as we tell you to do.”

Green Well, first of all I don’t think you can draw a comparison between the countries of Africa and those of the Middle East.

Humphrys Really, why?

Green Well, first of all, there are very many countries in Africa and the situations are different in each. I think the key to taking a view on a particular country is actually to know about it, and the Middle East is quite different. There are very few people in Saudi Arabia who are actually in poverty. It’s not a question of the people suffering, they’re all quite reasonably well off.

Humphrys It’s the principle that we’re talking about here.

Green Well, the other principle is that you have to take the World as you find it, and you can only operate within the situation that you find within a particular country and a particular region.

Humphrys Is that the case when you have a Prime Minister who says that he’s a liberal interventionist and he wants to change the World?

Green Well, you would have to put that one to the Prime Minister. What I am saying is that on this issue, where he decided the balance of interest was not to proceed, I think he’s right in terms of our national interest, I think he’s right in terms of the counter-terrorism point that they have made quite a lot of, and they are not wrong to do so, and people often forget that Saudi Arabia itself is the first target of Al Qaida, the same organisation which threatens us so seriously. And we need hard information on those people involved, on their networks, on their movements, and the Saudis are interested to help. And that…

Humphrys That’s an important point surely, Craig Murray. If we are threatened in any way then we have to take help where we can get it, however distasteful it may be.

Murray I think there have to be limits, at the end of the day, to what you do.

Humphrys What, even if national security is at stake?

Murray Yes, because our security in the long term isn’t helped by promoting injustice, and the regime in Saudi Arabia is not a democratic one and is a tyrannical one which uses torture very freely and has even tortured British subjects in the past: that can’t be in our long term interest to assist.

Humphrys I am afraind, sorry Sir Andrew, we have to stop it there. Craig Murray and Sir Andrew Green thank you both very much.

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Blair, the Media and a Possible Extradition 3

One of Blair’s outrageous parting shots has been to call for increased regulation of the press; seeking to further control what, in fact, has largely been a compliant rather than “feral beast”.

His full speech is truely perverse.

The Independent, one of the very few publications to adopt a critical position on Blair’s foreign policy, today hits back on their front page. Other reactions are summaried here by the Guardian.

Meanwhile, The Times has raised the attractive, if unlikely, possibility of an extradition bid which might serve to bring our soon to be ex-Prime Minister to justice in another European state.

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BAe Corruption and Governance in Britain (Updated) 6

Thanks to Chuck intervening with the BBC more succesfully than me, the link below now works! The BAe discussion is at the end of the final segment.

Many thanks to Clive and the server team for getting us up and running again after a persistent attack, probably not politically motivated, that had us off for some thirty six hours until yesterday afternoon.

On Saturday morning I had a sharp exchange of views on the Radio 4 Today programme with Sir Andrew Green, former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, over the BAe corruption scandal. John Humphrys was moderating.

I thought it brought out the arguments very well, and also for me illustrated precisely the ways that my thinking diverges from standard FCO thinking, thus explaining much of what occurred to me in Uzbekistan.

Sadly I haven’t been able to post a link or transcribe the interview because this segment of the programme is missing from the BBC web record of the Today programme. Here is the link to that: our interview was 8.55am. (I presume that link will only work this week).

I have phoned the Today programme, and filled in the BBC website online forms to report a fault. Neither elicited a reply. If anyone else has time to try to nudge the BBC on this one, it might do some good.

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Interview With Human Rights Monitor

Human Rights Monitor is an independent Geneva based publication which monitors the work of the UN’s Human Rights Council, a body which has very little interest in human rights.

What do you think about the decision at the last session of the UN Human Rights Council to keep the allegations about abuses in Uzbekistan confidential?

This is an indication of a worrying new bloc at work, with countries like Russia, Uzbekistan and Belarus feeling stronger in the face of the tarnished human rights record of the US and UK. They are increasingly flexing their muscles in international organs like the UN and the new Council. This is worrying indeed and may confirm our worst fears about the new Council being as bad, or worse, than the old Commission.

See full interview

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Extraordinary Rendition Continued 19

As I have explained before, the effect of public outcry over extraordinary rendition has been to switch it to US military bases in the UK rather than our civilian airports. There is an excellent article in the Mail:

The picture that proves ‘torture flights’ are STILL landing in the UK



The row over CIA ‘torture flights’ using British airports has deepened following fresh evidence that a plane repeatedly linked to the controversial programme landed in the UK just days ago.

The plane was logged arriving at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk last weekend, and watching aviation experts said the aircraft, piloted by crew clad in desert fatigues, was immediately surrounded on the runway by armed American security forces.

Here is another one, by gambling millionaire Stuart Wheeler:

You might have thought torture happened only in the barbaric Middle Ages. But as renditions expert Stephen Grey and human rights organisation Amnesty have recently pointed out, it is happening right now with the full approval of a supposedly civilised nation: the United States.

The US has also sanctioned the shackling of prisoners’ limbs, the threat of dog attacks and the prolonged maintenance of stress positions or repetitive exercises while attacking China, Eritrea, Burma, Iran and Libya for carrying out those same abuses.

Both of which illustrate a vital point. The most important rift in British politics today is not between left and right, it is between authoritarians and libertarians, between those who support human and civil rights, and those who prefer “Strong government”. This fault line coincides closely with those who support, and those who oppose, the Iraq war, largely because both issues depend on the prior question “Is might always right?”.

I therefore have much more in common with the Mail and Mr Wheeler, with Ken Clarke, Malcolm Rifkind, Peter Hitchens and Michael Ancram than I do with John Reid, Gordon Brown, or Michael White. This question of liberty is a prior question – without liberty, you’re not allowed to disagree over economics. That is what poor, deluded Polly Toynbee has failed to grasp in her view that we should support Blair, no matter how many countries he invades or people he kills, because of his allegedly good child poverty policies.

Our parties are still structured around an economic fault, so now that authoritarianism has become the more crucial dividing line, they are all split. New Labour less so, because it has become a career vehicle of those attracted simply to personal power and wealth. It is fascinating how the old hard left of different varieties of communist – John Reid, Christopher Hitchens, David Aaronovitch, Melanie Phillips and their like – have taken so avidly to the new order. Of course, they never believed in liberty anyway. The Tories are – as Wheeler notes in his article – perhaps the most split. Every instinct of Ming Campbell is with the authoritarians; strangely that is true of most Lib Dem MPs, but few of their activists.

Meantime, a must see documentary from the great Stephen Grey on Channel 4 Dispatches on Monday evening at 8pm:

Dispatches: Kidnapped To Order

Dispatches exposes a new phase in America’s war on al Qaeda: the rendition and detention of women and children. Last year, President Bush confirmed the existence of a CIA secret detention programme but he refused to give details and said it was over.

Dispatches reveals new evidence confirming fiercely-denied reports that many of the CIA captives were held and interrogated in Europe. Those prisons may now be closed but the programme is by no means over, it’s just changed. A new front has opened up in the Horn of Africa and America has outsourced its renditions to its allies.

Reporter Stephen Grey (author of Ghost Plane: The True Story of the CIA Torture Programme) investigates America’s global sweep for prisoners ‘ obtaining exclusive interviews with former detainees who claim they have been kidnapped and flown halfway across the world to face torture by America’s allies.

The film opens with an examination of the most notorious rendition story to date ‘ the kidnap of Egyptian cleric Abu Omar. This month in Italy the trial opens of twenty-five CIA officers accused of snatching Omar from the streets of Milan in broad daylight and flying him to Cairo four years ago. Grey travels to Egypt to secure an exclusive interview with Omar who defies the warnings of his interrogators not to speak publicly about his treatment. He details the torture that was inflicted upon him in his fourteen-month detention and the number of other ‘ghost detainees’ he encountered – people who are being held in secret, without charge.

This coincides with the BBC documentary on the BAE bribes, so check your recorder is working now. And if you read only one book this year make it Grey’s Ghost Plane.

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Extraordinary Rendition and the Negligence of Political Policemen 2

Our highly politicised police have issued a statement claiming there is “No evidence” of extraordinary rendition flights using the UK while transporting prisoners. This parrots the exact phraseology used by Jack Straw and Tony Blair,,1716238,00.html.

This careful coincidence of wording, together with the timing of the Association of Chief Polce Officers’ statement to coincide with the Council of Europe’s detailed and damning report on extraordinary rendition, shows just how NuLab has politicised the police.

The Council of Europe report is careful, detailed and stunning. The author, Dick Marty, is a senior Swiss judge who has conducted important terrorism trials. He knows evidence when he sees it. I was a witness before his committee.

It is worth reporting his conclusions:

It is my sincere hope that my report this year will catalyse a renewed appreciation of the moral quagnire into which we have collectively sunk as a result of the US-led “War on Terror”. Almost six years in, we appear no closer to pulling ourselves out of this quagmire, partly because of the lack of factual clarity – perpetuated by secrecy, cover-up and dishonesty – about the exact practices in which the US and its allies have engaged, and partly because of a lack of urgency and political will on both sides of the Atlantic to unite around consensus solutions.

By clarifying some of the unspoked truths that have previously held us back in this exercise, I hope I have spurred right-minder Americans and Europeans alike into realising that our common values, in tandem with our common security, depend on our uniting to end the abusive practices inherent in US policies like the “High-Value Detainee” programme.

In the UK we are still stuck in

secrecy, cover-up and dishonesty

as witness the fact that the terse denial by ACPO got more, and more favourable, media coverage in the UK than the Swiss judge’s 368 paragraphs of carefully weighed evidence.

Of course, the reason the British police have “No evidence” is that they have steadfastly refused to look for any. When the CIA flights have landed for refuelling at British airports they were registered as normal civilian flights. On board sometimes were prisoners: held under no lawful authority, shackled, blindfold, beaten , drugged and tortured. Even when there were no prisoners, on board were shackles, weapons, drugs and other illegal equipment. The police had every lawful authority to search while these planes were on the ground in the UK (I used to be the number 2 in the FCO’s Aviation and Maritime Department).

Not only that, but on numerous occasions the police had the aircraft actually pointed out to them by protestors. Of the hundreds of documented occasions when the CIA torture flights came through the UK, not once – NOT ONCE – did a British police officer go on board to look. And now they say they have no evidence! It makes me sick.

I was a witness before the Council of Europe inquiry. I should have happily been a witness for the SOCPA enquiries, only of course they didn’t really make any.

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Comment is Free – But Not That Free (Updated) 12

I wondered how the Guardian would react to my criticism of their editorial staff on comment is free. What they appear to have done is leave the article up, but remove links to it from the front page and the Comment is Free page. So there is no way 99.9% 0f readers will know it is there.

It was only posted at 6pm last night, and articles posted long before it are still listed in cif as “Latest”, but this one has been removed. The only way anybody visiting the site could find it would be to go to Comment Is Free then Index, then M, then Murray, then choose it. The Guardian can therefore claim they didn’t delete it – just made it impossible to find if you didn’t know about it.

So this link still works –

The remarks in question come in a comment I added at the end of the thread.

The Guardian has removed any reference to the article from the home page and cif listings, so there is no way anybody visiting the Guardian today knows it is there.

So I am asking everybody with access to a blog or site to post the above link over the course of the next week, to defeat the Guardian’s attempt to cut off dissent at its abandonment of its liberal tradition.

We have now mirrored the Guardian page just in case they do now scrub the original

Please post a comment after it – it would not take many more posts for it to reappear in the list of featured articles in the “Most commented” section. I presume that is driven by an automatic software.

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The Guardian and the Guilty 7

Hundreds of thousands of innocents are dead and horribly maimed in Iraq.

This is not a guiltless crime: we know who the guilty are. I would argue that their propaganda cheerleaders are also guilty, just as Goebbels shared guilt for the crimes of the Nazis. His defence at Nuremberg was that he was only a journalist, and it didn’t wash.

I strongly believe that, with hundreds of thousands dead, and our own civil liberties further destroyed by the day, those who led the cheers for this heinous government should be shunned, spurned and made social pariahs. That especially applies to the appalling Blairite crew who have hijacked the once liberal Guardian.

They carried an article by me on the latest Reid attack on liberty.

I have added this comment to my own article


Good point about the Iranian Maritime Boundaries issue. After I blogged the (indisputable) fact that no maritime boundary between Iran and Iraq in the Persian Gulf had ever been agreed and the MOD map was a fake with no legal force, it took some time to seep into the public consciousness. Eventually the Mail published it, then the BBC took it up, and eventually everyone except the mad people on the Harry’s Place blog accepted it as true. I have now been asked by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee to produce a paper explaining it to them.

The reason I note this here, is that before I did any of that, I phoned the Guardian and explained at length the problem with the map to David Leigh and Richard Norton Taylor. They took no notice whatever and the Guardian continued to reproduce the Blair fake boundary map as propaganda for weeks, with no hint there was a problem with it.

This is very sad for me, as I remember the days when the Guardian was a newspaper and not a Blairite neo-con rag. I think that what the Guardian/Observer has become under the war criminal supporting White, Tisdall, Wintour, Toynbee and Cohen is a national disaster. Rusbridger is just a cypher in a very bad wig. Anyway, I don’t want to derail the very interesting thread on civil liberties so if anyone wants to take any of this up, please move on to my blog.

This is where to discuss it.

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