Monthly archives: August 2007

A Letter for Gordon

From Stop the War

Gordon Brown will make a statement on the war in Iraq when parliament returns in October. Stop the War has begun organising a new mass campaign calling on Brown to bring all the British troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan immediately and to use his October statement to signal a break from George Bush’s foreign policy. An open letter to the Prime Minister is printed below and you can add your name online now at:

On Monday 8 October, Stop the War is organising a national troops out protest at Parliament, at which MPs will again be lobbied to reflect the opinion of the vast majority of people in Britain.

The latest opinion polls show that two thirds of the British people want the troops out of Iraq now and only six per cent think the war in Afghanistan is being won. Leaders of the British military have made it clear that they think the game is up in Iraq, or as Major General Richard Dannatt puts it, “We should get ourselves out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems”.


Dear Prime Minister

We urge you to use your October statement to signal a break from George Bush’s foreign policy and to bring all the British troops out of Iraq immediately, regardless of US plans. It is clear the presence of British troops in Iraq is a pointless waste of life. The majority of Iraqis want them to go. Most soldiers have been withdrawn to base outside Basra where they play no active role but are coming under fire regularly and taking heavy casualties. It is time to go. The occupation of Afghanistan is sliding in to chaos so familiar from Iraq and the troops should be brought home. An attack on Iran would be a disaster for the population and would increase instability in the region.

We need a change of course.

If you would like to join us in helping to build the troops out now campaign, contact the Stop the War national office and we will explain how you can get involved: Telephone 020 7278 6694 or email [email protected]

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How much longer? How many more?

Yesterday, Muqtada al-Sadr was quoted as saying of the British military presence in Iraq:

“They are retreating because of the resistance they have faced. Without that, they would have stayed for much longer, there is no doubt.”

Unfortunately for the British, the trend in casualties in Iraq does reinforce what he had to say about the situation. For the last year, the 3-month moving average for combat classified casualties has climb steadily, rising from 7 per month in July 2006 to 42 per month by the end of June this year. Total casualties for 2007 have so far reached 1246.

British casualties in Iraq

Casualty Monitor has more details and also looks at the more mixed picture arising from the statistics for the war in Afghanistan.

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Scottish Independence

Alex Salmond has endeavoured to launch a “National conversation” on Independence, with a White Paper leading to a referendum if he can get the Scottish parliament to legislate for one. New Labour has predictably responded that all this democracy is “A waste of money”, while presumably the ’50 billion they have squandered in Iraq and Afghanistan is money well spent.

I hope to contribute to the conversation myself by the publication of my next book. It is called Influence Not Power – Foreign Policy For An Independent Scotland, and will be published by Birlinn/Polygon in late Autumn. I will be finishing it over the next fortnight.

I strongly favour Independence for two basic reasons.

Firstly, Thatcherite economic and social policies were anathema to the Scottish people and convinced them they needed more control of domestic legislation, leading to the devolution settlement. Blairite foreign and defence policy – Iraq and Afghanistan, Zionism, Bush poodle, the hideous waste of Trident – is also anathema to the Scottish people and should lead to the realisation that we need our own foreign and defence policy as well.

Secondly, as a diplomat I worked beside excellent and effective Irish, Portuguese, Swedish, Slovenian, Slovakian, Danish, Norwegian and other diplomats. They were protecting their countries’ interests and playing a full and constructive role – often much more so than the UK – in mutually beneficial international cooperation. What is wrong with us Scots that we think we can’t handle the responsibilities and opportunities of Independence, if they can?

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The Location of the Holy Grail

I am really not that bothered about the Holy Grail. If my next door neighbour Rafa had irrefutable genealogical evidence, backed by DNA testing, that he was a direct descendant of Jesus I would say “So what”? Actually if Jesus did have children, there is a good chance he has many thousands of descendants wandering around. If someone could produce a drinking vessel he used, I would think that was a great historical artifact, but I wouldn’t be inclined to use it to cure my varicose veins.

So I neither know nor care much what the Holy Grail is, but I do know where it is, and it is in Scotland. For those feverishly studying the masonry at Rosslyn Chapel, you are less than an hour’s walk away. The Holy Grail is in Shillinghill in Midlothian, formerly known as Temple and before that as Balantrodoch, with numerous variant spellings. Dan Brown addicts will find the clues on the gravestones a particularly thrilling place to start.

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More Lord Scumbag

My article below detailed how some have done very well out of the war, particularly British Aerospace, with their unique hold over New Labour, their enforcer Jack Straw and his henchman Lord Taylor of Blackburn.

I noted that since the BAE scandal, their name had been dropped from Lord Scumbag’s extensive list of paid consultancies and directorships in the House of Lords’ Register of Members’ Interests, but postulated that some of his many other contracts might be from/for BAE.

With hust an hour’s googling, one of us (who will be known as “V”) has sent me the following:

Here’s the list of companies Lord Taylor of Blackburn has a registered interest with.

Non-parliamentary consultant

Adviser, Initial Electronic Security Systems Limited

Adviser, Electronic Data Systems Limited

Adviser, Drax Power Limited

Adviser, Experian Limited

Adviser, NPL Estates

Adviser, Lucent Technologies

Adviser, Fujitsu Services

Adviser, Canatxx Energy Ventures Limited

Adviser, LogicaCMG UK Limited

Adviser, BT plc

President, Wrens Hotel Group

Remunerated directorships Non-executive Director, A Division Holdings Limited

Non-executive Director, Eisis Limited

1: Initial Electronic Security Systems Limited

Initial Electronic Security Systems was purchased by UTC Fire & Security in July, 2007

The following is from the news section of their own website:

Monday, August 13, 2007

Flying High

High flyers Initial Fire Systems flew into action when BAE SYSTEMS awarded the fire company ‘Phase one’, the first stage in a complete refurbishment programme of fire protection at the defence manufacturer’s huge Warton facility.

The 750 acre site, where over 9000 people are employed is a final assembly site for BAE SYSTEMS – a major international company and one of this country’s leading exporters. Warton leads the world in systems integration and engineering for military aircraft, such as the Nimrod, Tornado, Eurofighter and Harrier.

The contract, one of the largest fire installations undertaken by Initial Fire’s Blackburn branch, involved the design and installation of 31 smoke detection and fire extinguishing systems, monitored and controlled by the British Aerospace Fire Station on sophisticated PC based NT graphics software, again designed and installed by Initial Fire Systems.

2: Electronic Data Systems Limited

From BAE’s website news archive:

BAE SYSTEMS Awarded Major Sub-Contract For Royal Navy Messaging Enhancements

07 Jan 2003

BAE Systems C4ISR has been awarded a major sub-contract by EDS Defence within the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence’s Naval Afloat Messaging Coherency (NAMC) programme. This will provide a coherent formal military messaging facility to Royal Navy vessels at sea and enable access to Information Exchange services provided by the shore-based Defence Message Handling Systems (Navy) [DMHS(N)], which was also supplied by BAE Systems.

BAE Systems will be supplying its Summit-iX Information Exchange software product to EDS Defence for incorporation into the NAMC solution. Summit-iX is also employed within the DMHS(N) and is currently being delivered to the Royal Navy’s new Type 45 destroyers.

Summit-iX represents the United Kingdom’s first implementation of NATO’s new messaging standard STANAG 4406 Edition 1 and, to ensure inter-operability with ships and submarines using the existing older standard, features the proven BAE Systems’ MPS2000 product integrated within it.

NAMC is a key element in the process of rolling out a consistent information infrastructure into the Royal Navy. Supporting the creation of network-enhanced capability, it will be fitted to current Royal Navy aircraft carriers, Type 42 destroyers, Type 23 and Type 22 frigates, and to some Royal Fleet Auxiliaries, replacing a number of legacy systems. This will allow the Royal Navy to gain the benefits of coherence with its existing systems, planned future systems and under-pinning shore based support infrastructures.

The BAE Systems C4ISR Communications & Defence Infrastructure team based at Portsmouth will be supporting EDS Defence’s activities, which are focused on completing fleet-wide rollout by the middle of 2007.

BAE Systems awarded contract for new Royal Navy Warfare Operator Training programme

13 Jan 2006 | Ref. 014/2005

BAE Systems has been awarded a contract by the Defence Logistics Organisation (DLO) for the Maritime Composite Training System (MCTS) Phase 1 programme, valued at approximately ‘100M.

This will provide the Royal Navy with a new shore-based Warfare Operator Training capability to meet the needs of the Type 45 Ready for Training later this decade and current in-service surface platforms.

MCTS offers a more flexible approach to training than is currently available and supports the aims of the Navy’s Versatile Maritime Training concept. Flexibility is achieved through the use of generic Classroom Based Skills Training for early training requirements ensuring that allocation to platform type can be deferred to the latest possible point in the training pipeline. High functional fidelity training is used where platform specific Individual Skills and Warfare Team Training are required. MCTS facilities will be situated at both the Maritime Warfare School Collingwood and the Devonport Waterfront.

Captain Mark Darlington, FLEET Assistant Chief of Staff (Naval Training and Education), said: “The SEABRIDGE partners bring a unique blend of expertise to this project. Their combined experience in the field of maritime operations and the training needed to support it, together with the already proven hardware and simulation software will better assist the RN produce capable, motivated and highly trained sailors primed to take their new skills into a highly demanding operational environment. The signing of this contract represents a very important step in bringing to life the concept of Versatile Maritime Training to support the Royal Navy of the 21st Century. The successful delivery of the MCTS project is vital to both individual and collective team performance.’

BAE Systems Integrated System Technologies (Insyte) leads the SEABRIDGE team with its partners Aerosystems International, EDS, Flagship Training, MDA and Serco.

Clive Richardson, Managing Director, BAE Systems Integrated System Technologies (Insyte), said: ‘BAE Systems, with our partners in the SEABRIDGE consortium, is delighted to have been selected to deliver the Maritime Composite Training System. We have used our deep experience in maritime operations to develop a cutting-edge, versatile training environment for Royal Navy personnel to develop and practice their skills. BAE Systems regards MCTS as an early step in the strategy to deliver coherent, timely and effective training to meet all the Royal Navy’s emerging requirements and to form the foundation of realisable joint training’.

Work on MCTS has started and facilities will be situated at the Maritime Warfare School Collingwood, Portsmouth and the Devonport Waterfront, Plymouth.

3: Fujitsu Services

Eurofighter Typhoon

We are working with Bae Systems and CASA on the European Eurofighter programme and Ground Support Systems for the aircraft. Fujitsu’s UK, Spanish, German and Italian arms are providing fixed and deployable IT infrastructures to their airforces. These run both engineering and mission support systems essential to the aircraft’s operation.

Source (

Also Fujitsu seem to have been working with BAE on some sort of software for Joint Operations/battlefield situational awareness. I can’t really work out what this is apart from its military, its communications and it’s something to do with BAE, take a look at the pdf and see if it makes any sense to you.

4: LogicaCMG UK Limited

This is an old news story from BAE’s own archives.

BAE SYSTEMS awards contract for security evaluation of royal navy’s type 45 destroyer communications system

06 Jun 2002

BAE Systems has awarded a contract for the security evaluation of the Royal Navy’s Type 45 Destroyer’s Fully Integrated Communications System (FICS) to Logica UK Ltd of Leatherhead, Surrey, United Kingdom, acting in the role of a CommerciaL Evaluation Facility (CLEF).

This represents a further significant phase in the fulfilment of the FICS programme – in February 2001, the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence awarded a contract for the development and installation of the FICS to Thales Communications Ltd. The latter is working in partnership with the BAE Systems C4ISR’s Communications & Defence Infrastructure team, based at Christchurch, United Kingdom, and Raytheon Inc, USA, to fulfil the requirement.

The contract award for security evaluation for Type 45 FICS follows closely upon the completion of the security clearance of the integrated internal and external communications systems being installed by Thales, in partnership with the BAE Systems team, on the Royal Navy’s new Landing Platform Dock (Replacement) platforms, HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark.

The contract complements Logica UK Ltd’s other commitments within the Type 45 programme. These include providing security evaluation services on the Data Transfer and Combat Management Systems, and supplying consultancy services for security evaluation to the BAE Systems Prime Contract Office.

5: Non-executive Director, A Division Holdings Limited

From their own website:

Our history

The establishment of the A Division Group of companies was the culmination of many years of expertise and experience in education ,health and information technology on the part of the core members of our team, which resulted in the formation of the A Division Group in London, England in April 2001.

Although the Group has wide ranging international activities ,interests and operations and indeed, global ambitions, the Groups primary activities are centred upon the educational field, where A Division Learning Systems Limited is a primary sub-contractor to BAE Systems plc ,one of the World’s leading Defence contractors, for the delivery of education based projects worldwide.

To date A Division Learning Systems Limited has successfully delivered and continues to support IT based educational systems and programmes ‘ including Smart Learning and CAD-CAM, in Brunei, Kuwait, Malaysia and Thailand.

6: Non-executive Director, Eisis Limited

Eisis Limited is a subsidiary of EDS Electronic Data Systems Limited which owns 50% of Eisis


This is the only thing I could find about Eisis, couldn’t confirm it from any other source as yet.

As Rector of the University of Dundee, one thing that shocked me was the way that New Labour have packed their apparatchiks on to University Courts (as on every other Board and Quango in the land.)

It therefore comes as no surprise to find that Lord Scumbag of Death, aka Lord Taylor of Blackburn, a man doing very nicely out of the war, is a life member of the Court of the University of Lancaster – where I am now an Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Law. I think I know some of the direction my research might take.

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Prisoner of Conscience

The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee reports the bleeding obvious, that our failure to support a ceasfire in the Lebanon materially damaged the UK’s political standing (courtesy of rabid Zionist and “Peace Envoy” T. Blair). The FAC report is well worth reading in full, as it is scathing on the disaster of Iraq as well.

The official government response shows that, for all Brown’s claims, spin is still alive and well. Lying through his teeth, an FCO spokesman said that:

The UK worked strenuously for a ceasefire in Lebanon.

In fact the opposite was true. I had a friend and former colleague call me from our Mission to the United Nations phone me from New York at the time in deep personal despair, as he had been instructed to keep an early ceasfire resolution off the Security Council agenda by making it known that we would veto it. Meanwhile everyday he was seeing news footage of dead Lebanese chhildren dragged from the rubble of their homes.

One brave man who tried to do something about it was Marcus Armstrong. For having better moral sense and a great deal more guts than the rest of us, Marcus is now in jail. I received this email yesterday asking for messages of support, and I thought this was the best way I could pass it on, with my warmest endorsement.

During August 2006 US airforce planes, and planes chartered by them, were stopping to refuel at Prestwick airport while delivering munitions to the Israeli army. These bombs were then being used in the indiscriminate bombing of Lebanon and Lebanese civilians.

Protestors gathered at Prestwick. Their aim was to raise awareness among the population locally and worldwide and to try to stop the flights. Information in the press and public channels was incomplete and contradictory.

Some of the issues under discussion were

Prestwick is a civilian airport unsuitable for such military activity

There was much secrecy surrounding the flights . Why?

Muntions passing through our peaceful part of Ayrshire were killing innocent civilians elsewhere

Shannon airport had already refused permission . Why was it granted at Prestwick?

On 3 nights in early August some of the protestors broke into Prestwick and to carry out a citizens inspection of the planes to establish whether the flights were actually carrying munitions. 8 of these protestors were tried at Ayr sheriff court ;last week . Evidence against them was incomplete. After the first 5 days of the trail 7 were released. Today was the last day of the trial. The last protestor, Marcus Armstrong , stood accused of breaking into the airfield and boarding a plane.

Marcus bravely conducted his own defence. He didn’t to deny the action but defended his motives. It was, he said, his responsibility , right and duty to try to protect the innocent civilians for whom the munitions were destined. He was trying to do this by gathering information, raising awareness and perhaps he would be able to disrupt the flights.

Its a difficult thing for a civilian to defend himself in a court of law. Marcus remained calm and focussed. At the end of the day the sheriff found him guilty and fined him ‘750. ( the maximum for this offence is ‘5 000) Marcus maintains that his action was not a criminal offence. He refused to pay the fine and has chosen the alternative, imprisonment.

The term of imprisonment is 28 days, though he is likely to serve only half of this. If you wish to support him you can write to

Marcus Armstrong,


Her Majesty’s Prison Kilmarnock,


Mauchline Road,




you may wish to add ‘prisoner of conscience’ on the envelope

A previous peace protestor says a picture postcard is most uplifting!

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“Recklessly Truthful” and “Heroically Flawed”?

A long interview with Steve Coogan in The Independent today:

Murray, says Coogan, is “recklessly truthful” and “heroically flawed”, the sort of well-intended but slightly damaged character that he relishes.

I am pretty happy with his characterisation of me and of Murder in Samarkand. I trust Steve and Michael, and I think they have got the message the film needs to convey. If it can be conveyed with humour, all the better. I am really starting to look forward to the filming now. We are just about at the point where production work will really take off, as filming on Genova is almost finished.

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There’s Good Money in Death

In posts below I outlined the theory, first put forward in JA Hobson’s Imperialism: A Study, that imperial adventures abroad impoverish a nation but enrich certain powerful interest groups within it. I applied this to the Iraq war. Market events of the last few days bear out my description of the fragility of the United States’ current financial architecture. Gordon Brown has loyally bought $125 billion of US Treasury Bonds in the last few months to help shore up his ally, with my money. Brown is a man who prides himself on economic prudence, that is a move he will come to rue.

When I give talks on Murder in Samarkand , I am keen to emphasise that the driver behind US Central Asian policy was the meeting between Bush, Enron and the Uzbek Ambassador in 1997. From twenty years experience as a diplomat I can tell you that the idea that big companies drive foreign policy is not an abstract concept, but comes down to very real contracts, very real money and very real, and often very nasty, people.

The same point was made last week by a BBC report that the arms manufacturer British Aerospace has made record profits due to the War in Iraq. The BBC, for once, deserves some credit for the frankness of this report, which begins:

BAE profits soar on Iraq conflict

Work to re-equip UK and US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan has helped profits to soar at defence group BAE Systems.

The UK’s largest defence firm, BAE made a pre-tax profit of ‘657m ($1.4bn), compared with ‘378m a year earlier.

BAE said the “high tempo” of UK and US military operations was increasing demand for land systems to support armed forces overseas. BAE, which is facing an anti-corruption probe by US authorities, saw its half-year revenues rise by 10%. The firm said its sales had benefited from its US operations, which achieved organic sales growth of 12% during the period.

Overall sales at BAE’s Land & Armaments business, which includes everything from tanks to munitions, rose 43%.

British Aerospace is of course the company that provided $1.2 billion in bribes for Saudi Princes, as well as trafficking in sex for them, and had Tony Blair decide that an investigation into the crime should be dropped “In the national interest”.

British Aerospace has the closest relationship with New Labour. When Robin Cook became Foreign Secretary in 1997, he announced that he intended to institute an “Ethical Foreign Policy”. Blair was determined to scupper this, particularly as it was known in the FCO and Downing St that Robin Cook planned to block a substantial sale of British Aerospce Hawk jets to Indonesia, a country which had a record of using air power against civilian populations in internal dissident areas.

Before Cook was ready, Blair ambushed him on the issue at one of New Labour’s very first Cabinet meetings. Jack Straw led the attack speaking in favour of BAE, strongly supported by Gordon Brown. In the first few weeks of Blair’s premiership, nobody was prepared to speak against him at Cabinet, and Cook was not just defeated, but deliberately humiliated by Blair. I have had an eyewitness account of this meeting from a then Cabinet Minister.

Cook was later to say that:

“I came to learn that the chairman of BAE appeared to have the key to the garden door to No 10. Certainly I never knew No 10 to come up with any decision that would be incommoding to BAE.”

Jack Straw has always been the most pervasive and insidious supporter of BAE in the Cabinet. It was Straw who lobbied hardest against Cook’s plans to limit BAE arms sales, and when Blair sacked Cook it was Straw who replaced him as Foreign Secretary. It was Straw who lobbied hardest for the investigation into the BAE bribes to be dropped, and it is Straw who now has become, supreme irony, Minister of Justice.

When Straw escorted Condoleeza Rice around the North West of England in March 2006, a BAE arms factory was the highlight of the trip.

Straw’s links with BAE are partly conducted through Lord Taylor of Blackburn, the former leader of the Blackburn with Darwen Council that includes Straw’s Blackburn constituency. Lord Taylor, an archetypal New Labour apparatchik from Straw’s constituency machine, has lived off the taxpayer in Labour Party appointed posts all his life. He is now chiefly known as the second highest claimer of expenses in the House of Lords. In 2005 Lord Taylor claimed over ‘57,000 of tax-free expenses, over three times the average claim of under ‘19,000. he spoke 15 times in the year.

But he doesn’t really need that public money anymore, as the grasping creep Taylor is the primary conduit between the defence industry and New Labour. He has been a highly paid “Consultant” to BAE for over a decade. He also has used some of that money to make major contributions to Jack Straw’s election expenses in his Blackburn constituency, declared by Straw in the Register of Member’s interests. Lord Taylor also regularly makes large contributions to fund Blackburn New Labour. When I stood against Straw in Blackburn at the last election, Taylor was present with Straw at a black tie event hosted by BAE in the constituency said to be “unrelated to the election”.

Interestingly, this year in the House of Lords’ Register of Members’ interests, BAE has disappeared from Taylor’s list of eleven paid consultancies and two paid directorships. It might be interesting to dig for links between these companies and BAE. Some are certainly arms firms – including the highly sinister Electronic Data Systems.

EDS is another of the arms companies that has made many billions from the Iraq war. Among their many current defence contracts is a $12 billion project on electronic systems for the US armed forces. Presumably a well-plugged in New Labour apparatchik like Lord Taylor was of no hindrance to EDS in March 2005 when they landed a ‘2.5 billion contract from the UK MOD for a similar project. Indeed, if Lord Taylor cannot help swing that kind of contract, why are EDS paying him?

I do not have power of words sufficiently to condemn the institutional sleaze of a system where a scumbag like Lord Taylor can be put, unelected, by Labour into a seat for life in the national legislature. There, while a legislator, he can act as a well paid and highly connected lobbyist for the arms industry. As someone who has been deeply patriotic, I must now say that I find myself unable to have any pride in my own country any longer.

What are our soldiers dying for again?,,2091253,00.html

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Forum Theatre Malvern 3 October


Unfortunately my talk at the Edinburgh Book Festival sold out weeks ago, but I shall be appearing at the Forum Theatre in Malvern on 3 October at 7pm, in support of Amnesty International.

You can buy tickets online here

Or call the Box Office on 01684 892277

Hope to see you there.

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We Killed One Million People – Yes, You and I Did

Today, we are calling the fact that, around now, on our best estimate, a million people have died in Iraq as a result of the chaos launched by the US and UK led invasion. That is a million people, the majority of them women and children, who would overwhelmingly be alive today were it not for the actions of governments acting on behalf of the large majority of readers of this blog, paid for by our taxes.

Click on the counter in the left margin to get an explanation of the estimate. It is based on the Lancet study that estimated 655,000 dead long since, an appraisal judged “sound” by the UK’s Chief Scientist and “If anything, an understimate” by the experts in the Department for International Development. Despite these endorsements from their own experts, the British government attempted to rubbish the study.

Not one of us has done enough to stop it. Whatever the vagaries of our electoral systems, it is to the eternal shame of both the US and UK that Blair and Bush were re-elected, by a substantial slice of our societies, after becoming war criminals.

Only the most rabid commentators now even attempt to justify the War in Iraq. Saddam Hussain was a terrible ruler, but the rate of death, the collapse of essential services and the destruction of integrated society, that we have brought upon Iraq is far worse. The near total silence of the pro-war lobby is stunning. I haven’t even heard “At least we got rid of Saddam” or “We brought freedom and democracy” for ages. Hopefully they hang their heads in shame. Except for the odd murmur that it’s all Al-Qaida’s fault, like the crestfallen schoolboy, head hanging, face flushed, caught with the stolen i-Pod in his pocket but still mumbling it was Tommy who done it.

Al-Qaida, of course, were virtually non-existent in Iraq before our invasion.

Gordon Brown is reportedly under great pressure from the White House not to pull out British forces and leave the US isolated. This is ridiculous. Basra, like so much of Iraq, is under control of disputatious local militias, often constituting rival units of the laughably named “Iraqi security services.” Our troops are effectively under siege, in horrible conditions, in isolated camps. When we send out patrols, we just lost three good men killed in four days.

Of course we don’t know the exact number of Iraqi dead. Nobody does – dead civilians are not considered important enough to count by the occupying forces. I don’t care if the estimate of a million is 50% out, either way. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people have died a terrible death, and we caused it. Not one of us has yet done enough to stop it. The guilt lies heaviest on Bush, Blair and Cheney.

But it lies on you and me too.

NB For a discussion of why the use of the estimate method is necessary and its likely validity see Casualty Monitor.

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Good for Gordon

The Village Voice detect hopeful signs that Gordon is not as much of a poodle as Tony. I hope they are right. It is worth following the link, not so much for my namecheck as for the lovely photo.

It would be churlish not to congratulate the government for at long last calling for the release of five British residents, against whom there is no smidgeon of evidence, held in Guantanamo Bay. My own campaigning on this issue has been mostly with the Save Omar campaign from Brighton. I have no doubt the government’s welcome change of heart is related to the departure of the odious Blair.

The BBC, however, seems to think it necessary to report the story with reference to the dangers the government is running by potentially letting innocent people walk the streets.

In the meantime the government is revealing its callousness towards all Iraqi life by refusing to allow Iraqi interpreters, working for the British forces, to have asylum in the UK. Of course we must, as we leave defeated, get out all Iraqi civilians who have worked for us and their immediate families. I do not want to see our soldiers training their guns on their own desperate staff as the last helicopter takes off.

When the government tried to stop me publishing Murder in Samarkand, one of the more despicable arguments they used was to try emotional blackmail by asking me to consider what reprisals the Uzbek government would take on my ex-staff. The obvious answer to that, is that of course the Uzbek government already knew the whole story, and who my staff were. What we should have been doing was offering to get my ex-staff out with their immediate families and give them asylum. They refused to contemplate that.

In fact the UK Embassy in Tashkent has since I left substantially reduced its local staff and, as far as anyone can tell, now performs no discernible function. I am happy to say that at least three of my close staff members have indeed managed to escape the country so far.

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190,000 missing weapons

The US seems much more concerned at having lost 190,000 weapons than at a multiple of that number in dead people losing their lives.

Doubtless many of these weapons are in the hands of opponents of the US occupation. Of those other weapons issued by the US that can be accounted for, most are in the hands of security services that are simply local militias in uniform and can switch allegiances from day to day.

You have to add to the 190,000 weapons the still greater potency of the weapons already in Iraq

before the invasion, looted from Saddam’s massive conventional arms caches which the coalition failed to secure while Bush and Blair had them desperately searching for non-existent WMD.

The other thing the US is good at losing is money. Of course, the poor US tazpayer is spending a triilion dollars on the War in Iraq, while the hopeless administration manages to mislay billions at a time.,,2008189,00.html

Much of that lost money lined the pockets of “contractors” and corrupt officials. Some will have again found its way through criminal channels to the Iraqi resistance. The US continually accuses Iran of funding and arming the Iraqi resistance. That is hardly necessary when the US is doing such a good job of arming and funding the Iraqi resistance itself, often through the well established criminal gangs within the US armed forces.

You really do have to wonder how long this can go on. The brainwashing of key portions of the US population through the media and evangelical churches, and the crass appeal by shifty politicians to “Patriotism”, has held the line so far against all the evidence of the disaster this is for the US as a nation. But at some time the patience of the people must surely snap – I suspect leaving a timid Democrat leadership scuttling to keep up.

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Life After Scandal (2)

I commented on the BBC’s first class production of Robin Soans’ excellent and thought provoking play, Life After Scandal.

I didn’t like the portrayal of my character; not in the script, which used my own words, but in the acting. What follows is a further comment I added, but I thought should be brought up to the top of the blog.

I heard it again this morning because Nadira was listening for the first time. I am now a bit more annoyed by the silly voice – like Charles Hawtrey with a lisp. The words were genuinely my own, and devalued by the petulant and childish voice in which they were delivered.

I think partly what annoyed me was that I do indeed have a congenital speech defect, and there is always a tendency to portray anyone with a speech defect as slightly ridiculous. Just because you cannot pronounce properly does not mean that your words do not have serious intent. I don’t mind the defect being reproduced, but not as evidence of unseriousness.

I can’t pronounce r or th. The condition is known as disarthria (which must have been some doctor taking the….) I also can’t distinguish between beer, bare and bear.

People often think that not pronouncing r is an affectation. When I try the result is just a mess, and I often have embarassing conversations where people can’t understand me. My name is particularly unlucky in the circumstance. It would not be at all natural for me to change the mess of my attempted r into a w, but if I did so people would perhaps understand better what I am trying to say. Roy Jenkins was always accused of his w for r being a deliberate affectation, and I suspect it was only in that sense, that it was the nearest sound he could consciously make that people readily understood.

I don’t mind now, but I was horribly conscious of this as a teenager and young man. I think it was the remembrance of the constant mickey-taking, some kindly meant, that made me so sensitive to my portrayal in this radio version of the play.

That aside, the play really is good. Here’s the link again:

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CIA Torture Results

One of my repeated arguments with the FCO was that torture is not just immoral. but fouls up the intelligence stream with highly dubious material. In my Ambassadorial telegram to then Secretary of State Jack Straw of 22 July 2004, I made the following points:

We receive intelligence obtained under torture from the Uzbek intelligence services, via the US. We should stop. It is bad information anyway. Tortured dupes are forced to sign up to confessions showing what the Uzbek government wants the US and UK to believe, that they and we are fighting the same war against terror…

In the period December 2002 to March 2003 I raised several times the issue of intelligence material from the Uzbek security services which was obtained under torture and passed to us via the CIA. I queried the legality, efficacy and morality of this practice…

I have dealt with hundreds of individual cases of political or religious prisoners in Uzbekistan, and I have met with very few where torture, as defined in the UN Convention, was not employed. When my then DHM raised the question with the then CIA head of station 15 months ago, he readily acknowledged torture was deployed in obtaining intelligence. I do not think that there is any doubt about the fact…

..this material is useless – we are selling our souls for dross. It is in fact positively harmful. It is designed to give the message the Uzbeks want the West to hear. It exaggerates the role, size, organisation and activity of the IMU and its links with Al Qaida. The aim is to convince the West that the Uzbeks are a vital cog against a common foe, and they should keep the assistance, especially military assistance, coming, and that they should mute the international criticism on human rights and economic reform.

I do urge you to read the full telegram if you have not already done so:

I think my next point about the Butler inquiry showing the intelligence services prefer their material sensational, was a particularly good blow.

The New Yorker has pioneered in reporting on extraordinary rendition, and the latest effort by Jane Mayer refers to Khalil Sheikh Mohammed, who confessed to every crime that he or his CIA torturers had ever heard of, including the murder of Daniel Pearl:

A surprising number of people close to the case are dubious of Mohammed’s confession. A longtime friend of Pearl’s, the former Journal reporter Asra Nomani, said, ‘The release of the confession came right in the midst of the U.S. Attorney scandal. There was a drumbeat for Gonzales’s resignation. It seemed like a calculated strategy to change the subject. Why now? They’d had the confession for years.’ Mariane and Daniel Pearl were staying in Nomani’s Karachi house at the time of his murder, and Nomani has followed the case meticulously; this fall, she plans to teach a course on the topic at Georgetown University. She said, ‘I don’t think this confession resolves the case. You can’t have justice from one person’s confession, especially under such unusual circumstances. To me, it’s not convincing.’ She added, ‘I called all the investigators. They weren’t just skeptical’they didn’t believe it.’

Special Agent Randall Bennett, the head of security for the U.S. consulate in Karachi when Pearl was killed’and whose lead role investigating the murder was featured in the recent film ‘A Mighty Heart”said that he has interviewed all the convicted accomplices who are now in custody in Pakistan, and that none of them named Mohammed as playing a role. ‘K.S.M.’s name never came up,’ he said. Robert Baer, a former C.I.A. officer, said, ‘My old colleagues say with one-hundred-per-cent certainty that it was not K.S.M. who killed Pearl.’

Meanwhile, the rats are deserting the sinking ship. Now that Iraq is such a disaster that nobody now argues that life for ordinary Iraqis is better than it was five years ago, everyone is anxious to pretend that they were against the war all the time, really, honest. Even the security services are now sending out weasel signals through their pet journalists.

Security Correspondents are amongst the worst denizens of the media, because they are so dependent on the security services feeding them tidbits to retail that they are terrified of offending them. Frank Gardner of the BBC is an especially bad example. His “This is a mock-up what a terrorist chemical weapon vest at Forest Gate might look like” was possibly the worst bit of journalism I have ever seen.

Richard Norton-Taylor of the Guardian is another such. When I was astonished to wake up one day and see that the British government had published a totally fake map of the Iran/Iraq border, in relation to the sailors captured by the Iranians, and that the media were buying the fake map, I phoned Richard Norton-Taylor. I was offering a major scoop, free. He didn’t want to know.

So I published on this blog – and had 60,000 hits, and the entry repeated all over the web.

The Mail then published an expanded version, and got a great reaction. I genuinely believe that making it public knowledge that our map was fake, helped to put Tony Blair back in his box and allowed diplomacy to get the captives released.

All of which was ignored by Norton-Taylor because he preferred to side with his security service contacts. It is worth noting that every time I was brought on the the BBC to say the map was a fake, the government put up against me “Sir” Alan West, who told a load of patent lies about the boundary on the government’s behalf, including the extraordinary lie that the Iran/Iraq maritime boundary had been settled by an agreement beyween the UK and Iran. I am quite sure that a number of questions about that impossible assertion occur to you reading that now. Not one of those questions occurred to any BBC “Journalist” interviewing Sir Alan.

At the time, Sir Alan was presented as a retired Admiral and independent expert. Just a few weeks later he now re-emerges as a much higher paid liar as our Minister for Locking Up Bearded Men Without Trial. I may have got the offical title a bit wrong, but the appointment of an unelected military man as a minister in charge of “Domestic security” is a development so sinister I cannot believe the lack of concern shown by the media. But then of course, it is the fiefdom of their security correspondents.

Which brings me back to Norton Taylor. MI6 are now using him to claim that they were against the Iraq war all the time, and were overruled by that awful Bush and Blair:,,2141372,00.html

I have no doubt they were against the war, in the sense that they would rather we hadn’t done it. But did they refuse to compile the dossier on Weapons of Mass Destruction, which they knew full well was untrue? No, and John Scarlett who actually compiled it is now head of MI6. They threw themselves wholeheartedly into the disastrous “War on Terror”, embraced torture and the other new techniques, and lapped up the extra funding and prestige it gave them. Did MI6 ever give plainly worded advice to the Cabinet that they were against the war? No – in fact they permitted the Cabinet to be fed the opposite impression. Has a single member of MI6 resigned over the War? No.

I am not unhappy to see rats leave a sinking ship. But to try to pretend they were never on board…

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“Shewhomust”‘s Review of Murder in Samarkand

I do love discovering reviews of Murder in Samarkand by real people. Not that formal MSM reviewers aren’t real, but it is really pleasant to get the views of people who just bought a copy, and this is one of the wonderful things the internet makes possible.

Anyway, this is a review by someone who goes by the Nomiker “Shewhomust”, presumably after the Rider Haggard character.

Craig Murray: Murder in Samarkand

Spoiler: it was the government who did it. And now we’ve got that out of the way, I can talk about Craig Murray’s book without worrying about premature disclosure.

Oh, and a disclaimer: those who know me will not be surprised to hear that he had me on his side as soon as I read the epigraph:

We travel not for trafficking alone;

By hotter winds our fiery hearts are fanned:

For lust of knowing what should not be known

We take the Golden Road to Samarkand.

Like many of its readers, I came to the book already knowing that Craig Murray was the British Ambassador to Uzbekistan between 2002 and 2004, was horrified by the corruption and brutality of the regime there, defied the British government to say so, and found that their response was not to examine his allegations but to attack him personally. I anticipated a grim and worthy read, after which I would be a better informed, if not a better, person; and grim it certainly is. My mind shies away from the photographs of dead bodies, with their smashed skulls and flesh boiled from the bones, and considers instead the less dramatic oppression of everyday life, the lack of law, the systematic corruption, the destruction of any economy the country may have, the influence of drugs barons and warlords.

Depressing reading, but not as bleak as it might be, for Murray is good company. His blog (syndicated to LiveJournal) is a mixture of press clippings and general news, but his personal entries are lively and entertainingly written. But I digress: he quotes a Sunday Telegraph article about rival screenplays for a proposed film of his book. The unsuccessful contender was David Hare:

Hare saw it as an essentially tragic tale and wrote a completely serious script, but it swiftly became clear that the film’s director, Michael Winterbottom, did not share his vision. He wanted to turn it into a farce, starring his old chum Steve Coogan.

Murray seems entirely happy about both interpretations, equally pleased with his stirring speeches, his rendition of Gilbert and Sullivan and his snappy one-liners: when, at the height of the SARS epidemic, a member of staff of the EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development – the text is peppered with initials, but a key is provided) e-mails to ask whether she should wear a face-mask at a forthcoming conference, he e-mails back: “I don’t know – how ugly are you?” This is not what I normally understand by the adjective “diplomatic”.

Tragedy, comedy, romance – but the narrative also uses the familiar crime fiction device of the unreliable narrator. By this I mean not that I doubt Craig Murray’s version of events, but that I was constantly aware that there were things he was not telling us. The elephant in the room is this: what caused this career diplomat to throw away his remarkably successful career? Or, if the answer to that question is too obvious, by what process did he decide that this was the battle he was prepared to fight to the death? No process of realisation is described, no gradual decision; instead the story proceeds a step at a time, I did this and then I did that. It is like reading fiction, interpreting the motives of a fictitious character, and although it feels impertinent to be speculating about a real person in this way, it restores an element of suspense, of uncertainty: I knew how the story turned out but I did not, after all, know what this would mean for the hero.

Impossible to round this off into a neat conclusion: do I summarise the book as a ripping yarn, and present myself as shallow and trivial? Or do I emphasise the appalling nature of the subject matter, and deter potential readers? Better not…

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J A Hobson – Imperialism: A Study

My efforts to bring the great J A Hobson out of obscurity, that people might use him as a guide to the motivation driving the Iraq war and other US foreign policy, are having some success. Moon of Alabama has posted an extract including this statement:

the adoption of Imperialism thus serves the double purpose of securing private material benefits for favoured classes of investors and traders at the public cost, while sustaining the general cause of conservatism by diverting public energy and interest from domestic agitation to external employment.

Let me post another key section. Hobson, an economist, outlines economic statistics and analysis to prove that the costs of the British Empire 1870 to 1900 had far outweighed any economic benefit to the economy as a whole. He goes on to state this:

Seeing that the Imperialism of the last three decades is clearly condemned as a business policy, in that at enormous expense it has procured a small, bad, unsafe increase of markets, and has jeopardised the entire wealth of the nation in rousing the strong resentment of other nations, we may ask, “How is the British nation induced to embark upon such unsound business?” The only possible answer is that the business interests of the nation as a whole are subordinated to those of certain sectional interests that usurp control of the national resources and use them for their private gain. This is no strange or monstrous charge to bring; it is the commonest disease of all forms of government. The famous words of Sir Thomas More are as true now as when he wrote them: “Everywhere do I perceive a certain conspiracy of rich men seeking their own advantage under the name and pretext of the commonwealth.”


Although the new Imperialism has been bad business for the nation, it has been good business for certain classes and certain trades within the nation. The vast expenditure on armaments, the costly wars, the grave risks and embarrassments of foreign policy, the stoppage of political and social reforms within Great Britain, though fraught with great injury to the nation, have served well the present business interests of certain industries and professions.


It is idle to meddle with politics unless we clearly recognise this central fact and understand what these sectional interests are which are the enemies of national safety and the commonwealth. We must put aside the merely sentimental diagnosis which explains wars or other national blunders by outbursts of patriotic animosity or errors of statecraft. Doubtless at every outbreak of war not only the man in the street but the man at the helm is often duped by the cunning with which aggressive motives and greedy purposes dress themselves in defensive clothing. There is, it may be safely asserted, no war within memory, however nakedly aggressive it may seem to the dispassionate historian, which has not been presented to the people who were called upon to fight as a necessary defensive policy, in which the honour, perhaps the very existence, of the State was involved.


The disastrous folly of these wars, the material and moral damage inflicted even on the victor, appear so plain to the disinterested spectator that he is apt to despair of any State attaining years of discretion, and inclines to regard these natural cataclysms as implying some ultimate irrationalism in politics. But careful analysis of the existing relations between business and politics shows that the aggressive Imperialism which we seek to understand is not in the main the product of blind passions of races or of the mixed folly and ambition of politicians. It is far more rational than at first sight appears. Irrational from the standpoint of the whole nation, it is rational enough from the standpoint of certain classes in the nation. A completely socialist State which kept good books and presented regular balance-sheets of expenditure and assets would soon discard Imperialism; an intelligent laissez-faire democracy which gave duly proportionate weight in its policy to all economic interests alike would do the same. But a State in which certain well-organised business interests are able to outweigh the weak, diffused interest of the community is bound to pursue a policy which accords with the pressure of the former interests.


In order to explain Imperialism on this hypothesis we have to answer two questions. Do we find in Great Britain to-day any well-organised group of special commercial and social interests which stand to gain by aggressive Imperialism and the militarism it involves? If such a combination of interests exists, has it the power to work its will in the arena of politics?


What is the direct economic outcome of Imperialism? A great expenditure of public money upon ships, guns, military and naval equipment and stores, growing and productive of enormous profits when a war, or an alarm of war, occurs; new public loans and important fluctuations in the home and foreign Bourses; more posts for soldiers and sailors and in the diplomatic and consular services; improvement of foreign investments by the substitution of the British flag for a foreign flag; acquisition of markets for certain classes of exports, and some protection and assistance for trades representing British houses in these manufactures; employment for engineers, missionaries, speculative miners, ranchers and other emigrants.


Certain definite business and professional interests feeding upon imperialistic expenditure, or upon the results of that expenditure, are thus set up in opposition to the common good, and, instinctively feeling their way to one another, are found united in strong sympathy to support every new imperialist exploit.

How do they do it?

In view of the part which the non-economic factors of patriotism, adventure, military enterprise, political ambition, and philanthropy play in imperial expansion, it may appear that to impute to financiers so much power is to take a too narrowly economic view of history. And it is true that the motor-power of Imperialism is not chiefly financial: finance is rather the governor of the imperial engine, directing the energy and determining its work: it does not constitute the fuel of the engine, nor does it directly generate the power. Finance manipulates the patriotic forces which politicians, soldiers, philanthropists, and traders generate; the enthusiasm for expansion which issues from these sources, though strong and genuine, is irregular and blind; the financial interest has those qualities of concentration and clear-sighted calculation which are needed to set Imperialism to work. An ambitious statesman, a frontier soldier, an overzealous missionary, a pushing trader, may suggest or even initiate a step of imperial expansion, may assist in educating patriotic public opinion to the urgent need of some fresh advance, but the final determination rests with the financial power. The direct influence exercised by great financial houses in “high politics” is supported by the control which they exercise over the body of public opinion through the Press, which, in every “civilised” country, is becoming more and more their obedient instrument. While the specifically financial newspaper imposes “facts” and “opinions” on the business classes, the general body of the Press comes more and more under the conscious or unconscious domination of financiers. The case of the South African Press, whose agents and correspondents fanned the martial flames in this country, was one of open ownership on the part of South African financiers, and this policy of owning newspapers for the sake of manufacturing public opinion is common in the great European cities. In Berlin, Vienna, and Paris many of the influential newspapers are held by financial houses, which use them, not primarily to make direct profits out of them, but in order to put into the public mind beliefs and sentiments which will influence public policy and thus affect the money market. In Great Britain this policy has not gone so far, but the alliance with finance grows closer every year, either by financiers purchasing a controlling share of newspapers, or by newspaper proprietors being tempted into finance. Apart from the financial Press, and financial ownership of the general Press, the City notoriously exercises a subtle and abiding influence upon leading London newspapers, and through them upon the body of the provincial Press, while the entire dependence of the Press for its business profits upon its advertising columns involves a peculiar reluctance to oppose the organised financial classes with whom rests the control of so much advertising business. Add to this the natural sympathy with a sensational policy which a cheap Press always manifests, and it becomes evident that the Press is strongly biassed towards Imperialism, and lends itself with great facility to the suggestion of financial or political Imperialists who desire to work up patriotism for some new piece of expansion.


Such is the array of distinctively economic forces making for Imperialism, a large loose group of trades and professions seeking profitable business and lucrative employment from the expansion of military and civil services, from the expenditure on military operations, the opening up of new tracts of territory and trade with the same, and the provision of new capital which these operations require, all these finding their central guiding and directing force in the power of the general financier.


The play of these forces does not openly appear. They are essentially parasites upon patriotism, and they adapt themselves to its protecting colours. In the mouths of their representatives are noble phrase, expressive of their desire to extend the area of civilisation, to establish good government, promote Christianity, extirpate slavery, and elevate the lower races. Some of the business men who hold such language may entertain a genuine, though usually a vague, desire to accomplish these ends, but they are primarily engaged in business, and they are not unaware of the utility of the more unselfish forces in furthering their ends. Their true attitude of mind is expressed by Mr. Rhodes in his famous description of “Her Majesty’s Flag” as “the greatest commercial asset in the world.”*20

The entire book is available online.

It is deeply saddening to me how much of the great heritage of Liberal thought is now neglected. I do hope you will take a look and see just how little we have learnt in the ensuing 100 years.

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Life After Scandal

I was invited to dinner last night, so I listened this morning on the Net to the abridged version of Robin Soans’ Life After Scandal which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 last night as the Friday play.

Robin does verbatim theatre. That is to say he interviews people and then weaves their precise words into a play. It works surprisingly well. I found this play fascinating and ultimately very moving. Not all the characters, even the “victims”, are sympathetic – I wanted to make “Melissa” eat her dog, and agree with the ever excellent David Leigh on Jonathan Aitken – but it still brought me close to tears. It is very hard not to feel sorry for Lord Montagu.

I hope that you feel that my dialogue helped to give the play some context and direction on the political use of scandal, without which it might itself have been in danger of becoming an exercise in prurience.

I have to say that I am rather annoyed by the silly voice and petulant tone the actor, Adrian Scarborough, gave my character. The words spoken do not necessitate that tone, and I feel rather devalued and made fun of. It did not destroy the effect of my words, but certainly lessens them. I understand that on radio, particularly where actors play multiple parts, voice must be strongly differentiated, but I still felt annoyed. I hope I am not being precious.

I am especially delighted to hear Corin Redgrave acting again after his illness (playing Jonathan Aitken – delicious irony). Corin is an immensely kind man. When I was under the storm of a government smear campaign, he phoned out of the blue (I didn’t know him) and invited me to a curry after his one man show. Imagine my happiness when Vanessa then joined us.

The full version of the play opens on 20 September at the Hampstead Theatre and should be well worth seeing.

I presume the BBC link will disappear after six more days. If anyone has the ability to save this with a permanent link, that would be helpful.

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Get A Little Extra Shafted By The Halifax

My son Jamie is on his gap year and has been working as a barman for an events company at Test Matches, Olympia exhibitions, etc. This is casual employment but offering in practice quite a lot of hours per week on average, just concentrated in heavy bursts.

Jamie was planning to finish shortly and to set off on a cheap hostel holiday around Eastern Europe. Unfortunately, the wages for one of the events at which he had worked did not come through in the expected week, This resulted in him slipping over – by less than ’50 – his ‘250 overdraft limit.

That does not sound like a disaster. But he had been booking his hostels online with his debit card, putting down the tiny deposits required.

8 deposits came in total to only a bit over ’30. But the Halifax allowed each transaction on the card, and then charged him ’30 penalty per transaction. That is a fine of ‘240 on ’34 worth of payments. As a result he has to cancel his holiday, as I have no cash either.

He spoke today to the Halifax, who said this was an “Adminstration charge”. But, as the payments went through normally, where precisely is the extra administration cost? The Halifax also said that pending the resolution of the current High Court case on the legality of such charges, they are not prepared to consider the case.

This is appalling. ‘240 of charges on ’34 of expenditure is plainly disproportionate. I was walking past a bank in Shepherd’s Bush yesterday and saw that a vandal had cracked one of the windows, which was being replaced. I tut-tutted with disapproval at the stupid violence. This morning if I see the vandal who did it, I will shake his hand.

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US Economic Vulnerability

The War in Iraq has already cost the US taxpayer over $500 billion and will cost over $1 trillion – that’s $1,000,000,000,000 – according to official estimates.

The war has been almost entirely deficit financed. It has added to the US’ already massive budget and current accounts deficits. The US economy can sustain its massive deficits because the rest of the World is willing to treat the dollar as its currency of note, and accept the value of the eurodollar.

Eurodollar is a term economists coined decades ago to denote dollars held outside the US. It is no longer that apt as most of them are held in Asia now. China alone holds about a trillion dollars – indeed there is a neat argument that China’s willingness to hold vast stocks of US paper has financed the Iraq war. Japan, perhaps surprisingly, also has over $400 billion.

How much money are we talking? Let me put it this way. China could buy all the real estate in London or New York – buy every property in the whole city – and have change. China could buy a controlling interest in every single company in the Dow Jones.

That, however, is not the danger. The danger is that China, Japan and others will come in time to doubt that these huge mounds of paper (OK, virtual paper) really hold the value that they are supposed to hold. They could start to diversify their holdings. The result in the US could rapidly tip towards extreme inflation, among other symptoms. Once the process starts it snowballs – the UK went through the economic trauma of slipping from being the key currency in the last century, largely as the result of expensive wars.

Confidence is a difficult thing, and the process could certainly be sparked by moves to switch major commodity trading to euros. The US is indeed jumpy about that, though the theory that this concern triggered the Iraq war is overblown.

Much of the trillion dollars war cost is redistributive within the United States. It is important to remember that to ordinary people – and to the unfortunate US taxpayer – the War in Iraq may look like an unmitigated disaster, but to easily identifiable groups the whole thing is a great success.

Record oil prices have resulted in obscene levels of profit for the oil companies. Armaments manufacturers have bulging order books and, given urgency of demand, have like the oil companies been able to increase not just profits but profit margins. The privatisation of war has brought massive contracts for those employing the many tens of thousands of mercenaries and the logistic supply contractors.

Like any war, increased career opportunities have opened up for the senior military. This one has been unique in the massive burgeoning of budgets, jobs and promotions within the security services also.

How the system works was outlined 100 years ago by the Liberal economist J.A.Hobson in his great book Imperialism – A Study. Written at the greatest extent of the greatest formal Empire the World has yet seen, Hobson proved, counter to the prevailing wisdom of both supporters and opponents of Empire, that the Empire had cost Britain money, not been a gain at the expense of the colonies. But while the net effect had been to make Britain poorer, the redistributive effect had made the ruling class, military and arms manufacturers much richer, at the expense of everyone else.

Hobson is now almost completely forgotten. In part this is because Lenin, a much lesser thinker, ruthlessly plagiarised Hobson’s work some years later and plastered it over with Communist claptrap. But for me Hobson’s Imperialism is in the same rank as J.S. Mill’s On Liberty, Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations and Tom Paine’s The Rights of Man, as essential reading on the foundations of modern political thought.

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