Monthly Archives: August 2008

Hypocrite Miliband And The Myth Of Western Moral Superiority

David Miliband was making great show today of fulminating in Kiev against Russian disregard of international law. Yet simultaneously he is continuing the sorry British record of participation in war crimes and contravention of the UN Convention Against Torture, Article IV of which covers “complicity” in torture. Both of these are serious breaches of international law.

Binyam Mohamed is a British resident who was the victim of illegal rendition and hideous torture in several countries.

Miliband has declined to release further evidence about the case on grounds of national security, arguing that disclosure would harm Britain’s intelligence relationship with the US.

Mohamed faces a “Trial” by military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay. Judges, defence and prosecution lawyers are all members of the US military. Neither Mohamed not his defence lawyers will be allowed to see much of the evidence against him. This includes evidence of participation in his torture by British security services, and details of where he was being held and interrogated over two years (Uzbekistan? Afghanistan? Poland? Diego Garcia? – Miliband is keeping it secret). By the symmetry of evil, UK evidence is being witheld on grounds it could damage security cooperation with the US, while US evidence is being witheld on the grounds it could damage security cooperation with the UK. This farce is sickening.

It was, of course, the excuse that security cooperation with Saudi Arabia would be damaged that led to the dropping of the prosecution of the vile corrupt executives at BAE. The operations of the security services are, beyond any shade of argument, above the law both sides of the Atlantic.

When I threw over my diplomatic career to expose the hideous UK/CIA complicity with torture in Uzbekistan, I genuinely believed that my personal sacrifice would form part of a movement which would end this abomination being carried out in our names. In fact, the Bush/Blair acolytes have pushed further to the point that poor Binyan Mohamed faces a fate that would have been beyond the pen of Kafka.

Never mind, let’s divert the public by pointing at those evil Russians!

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The Right To Be Wrong

Harry’s Place is the natural home for ex-socialists who joined the neo-con assault on the developing world, and then sought to justify themselves by extreme vituperation against anyone who exhibited a greater degree of political consistency. But these rather sad people need a home, and it is quite wrong for the site to be taken down.

I am genuinely flummoxed as to why people who disagree with something don’t simply argue back, expecially on blogs which have undermined the need for access to a printing press. The fact that I am really nice and the denizens of Harry’s Place really horrible does not in the least make the attack on Harry’s Place any more justified than Alisher Usmanov’s or Tim Spicer’s attacks on me. Support freedom of speech and an open web! Bring back horrible Harry!

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DGFA: A Sceptics Guide to Life

Richard Wilson, author of Titanic Express and a member of the team that maintained this site in its early days, has now got his own blog. Richard Wilson’s blog is a sceptics guide that seems to target anything from obscure place names on maps, through exposure of Britain’s complicity in torture, on to behavioural psychology.

In this piece he profiles Craig and talks about his decision to include him in his forthcoming book, ‘Don’t Get Fooled Again’.

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UN Confirms US Kills Sixty Children Among Ninety Civilians in Afghanistan

Yet another act of hideous brutality. The US is maintaining its claim to have killed “Thirty militants”. The UN, which unlike the US has actually been to the place to investigate, is confirming that the victims were sixty civilians including ninety children. Yet another notch upwards on the spiral of hate. How can anyone believe this is a solution?

“Investigations by UNAMA (United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan) found convincing evidence, based on the testimony of eyewitnesses, and others, that some 90 civilians were killed, including 60 children, 15 women and 15 men,” U.N. Special Envoy to Afghanistan Kai Eide said in a statement.”

The U.S. military has launched an investigation into the incident, after saying it was unaware of any civilians killed in what it said was a single air strike in the Shindand district of western Afghanistan on Friday.

Jets had targeted a known Taliban commander and killed 30 militants, the U.S.-led coalition said.

UNAMA sent its human rights team to the Shindand area to investigate, meeting local officials, elders and villagers.

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Russia/Georgia: Uncle Craig Answers Your Questions

Are We Entering A New Cold War?

Possibly. Although thankfully less people are now dying in Georgia, in diplomatic terms the crisis is in fact worsening fast. The formal US signing of the agreement to station missiles in Poland was rapidly followed by recognition by the Russian parliament of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Those are both major inflammatory acts for the other side, and it is difficult to see how the current administrations in Russia and USA can pull back on either the missiles or the recognitions.

More significantly, Russia announced it was increasing its troop numbers in the port of Poti. This effectively kills the six point peace treaty Russia signed. Almost certainly, Russia will argue that its commitment to withdraw troops from Georgia does not include Abkhazia or South Ossetia as it now views them as not part of Georgia. But Poti is not in Abkhazia or South Ossetia, so there is no figleaf of justification for the Russian occupation there. This is straightforward military aggression against a sovereign state.

Won’t The Oligarchs Rein Back Putin To Protect Their Financial Interests?

There is no doubt that the Russian and Western economies are now much more interlinked than during the Cold War. Russian commodities production, particularly oil, gas and metals and wheat, are essential to Western economies. Germany’s dependence on Russian gas for forty per cent of its electricity has a visible effect on German foreign policy and is the most striking example of the diplomatic effect of this integration. On the other side, Russia’s economic resurgence is almost entirely commodity driven and it still produces very little by way of manufactured goods for its own population. Most of these are imported from the West. The international tension has contributed to a 20% plunge in Moscow stock markets this year, and dipped sharply on the Georgia invasion.

Is this enough to prevent a cold war? In many ways, this is a subset of the question, is globalisation the end to war?

The answer I fear is no.

Take the Iraq war. Direct costs alone to the US taxpayer have spiralled to over a trillion dollars, while massive US government debt to fund it, and subsequent acceleration in the decline of the dollar, has been a major contributory factor to the global credit crunch. Economically it has been disastrous for the US population.

But it has not been disastrous for the people who fund George Bush. Oil prices have soared because of the Iraq war, and powerful oil companies have made excess profits totalling hundreds of billions. Very obviously, profits of the big armaments companies have also leapt substantially. The military and security services have also benefited from a massive increase of resources. Big oil, big arms companies, the military and security services – those are a government-swaying conglomeration of private interests with loads of money to buy politicians. That is true in both the US and Russia. It is a peculiar paradox of human society that those who benefit from war, hot or cold, are always able to get their hands on the levers of power much more readily than the bulk of the population, who lose out badly from the misallocation of resources.

Symbolically, Russia signaled yesterday it is turning away from the open economic path with a very significant announcement that it is resiling from several commitments needed for WTO membership.

Wasn’t Russia Provoked Into This Conflict?

Yes. The Georgian attempt to reclaim South Ossetia by force was foolish, even if provoked by South Ossetian shelling. It also appears to have been pretty vicious. But Russian claims of genocide are absolute rubbish. I have witnessed first hand the work of Human Rights Watch in several different parts of the Former Soviet Union, and been very impressed by their methods. They put the South Ossetian dead in the low scores, not the thousands. Of course that is still several score too many. But the Russian response has been grossly disproportionate. There are two key points of international law here. Georgian action was limited to its own sovereign territory. Russia invaded another country and failed the important test of proportionality.

But We Invaded Iraq, right?

Yes we did, and that was illegal too. But just because President Bush says Russia is in the wrong, it does not necessarily follow that Russia is not in the wrong, just as if President Bush said “The time is 10am” it does not necessarily follow that it isn’t (though I’d check, unless someone gave him a nice easy digital watch).

Kosovo is a very precise parallel. Serbia invaded a secessionist area of its sovereign territory, and NATO responded by attacking Serbia – killing many more people than the Russians did in Georgia. NATO would argue that proven genocidal tendencies of the Serb army made it necessary, and that has some weight in assessing proportionality. Nonetheless the NATO response was disproportionate. Most of NATO of course went on to recognise Kosovo as independent, just as Russia has South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Again, NATO being wrong then does not make Russia right now.

But Aren’t South Ossetia and Abkhazia Entitled To Their Independence?

I would argue yes, they are, if it is plainly the will of their population. I would argue the same of Chechnya, Dagestan, Kosovo and Scotland. But there lies the rub – the application of the accepted international law principle of self-determination of peoples, as it applies to separatist entities within a sovereign state, is the hottest dispute in international law. There is no doubt that the precedent of the break-up of the Soviet Union and of Yugoslavia had moved the law in favour of the separatists, but how far? Agreed separations like the Czech and Slovak are no problem, but there is no fixed law for a region wishing to separate against the wishes of the state it is in. Quite simply it depends on having the political clout to get the UN to agree.

North Cyprus is a de facto state which never managed to pull this off, and seems a good parallel for the likely future of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Many “Western” states are deeply wary of acknowledging separatists for their own internal reasons – Canada and Spain being good examples.

The Chechen case is important, because it illustrates both Putin’s extreme ruthlessness, and the fact that Russia has no principle on its side. Russia supports or opposes the rights of separatists purely as they benefit Putin’s aims to expand Russian influence.

Isn’t It All About Oil and Gas?

To quite a degree, yes. European powers have been trying to obtain a Trans-Caucasian pipeline which would enable Central Asian gas to pass to Europe without going through Russia, which currently has a monopoly of Eastern supply. Russia has been pressurising Georgia to block such a pipeline.

Georgia is just one pawn in the New Great Game of securing the Caucasus and Central Asian hydrocarbons. It is a game Putin has been winning hands down for the past five years. He has evicted US influence from Uzbekistan and tied up Uzbek and Turkmen gas supply. Rigged elections got Azerbaijan sewn up under the leadership of the son of the former head of the KGB. Shell have been chucked out of Russia and BP are in the process of being chucked out. Georgia was a last remaining pro-western irritant. Western oil companies remain strong in Kazakhstan, where President Nazarbaev has carried out a brilliant balancing act between Russia and the West. Putin is now bound to ratchet up the pressure on him.

Do We Need a Strong NATO to Counteract Russia?

No. That is the stupid and unimaginative answer – hence espoused by David Miliband, our foreign secretary.

His proposal to accelerate Ukrainian and Georgian NATO membership is foolish beyond belief. It will guarantee a new Cold War and boost the Zhirinvosky nationalist tendency in an already scarey Russia. NATO is part of the cause of the problem, not part of the solution. I recall when the Soviet Bloc collapsed reading an internal FCO paper entitled “Finding a New Role for NATO”. The options of a fundamental redesign or abolition were not considered. It simply dwelt on positioning a massive and unwieldy alliance, built to face down Russia, to tackle peace-keeping, drug-smuggling and human-trafficking. Of course, most of that was a cover for the structures, and jobs for the boys, to continue and in fact it just continued to control a massive nuclear-led arsenal still pointed at a disarming Russia, while all the time creeping closer to Russia. We pile on top of that new missile systems and US bases in former Russian satellite states, and our infamous decision to upgrade Trident with a system that means the UK alone could destroy every Russian city. The we worry about why Russia got paranoid and aggressive.

NATO has had its time, and the disaster of Afghanistan and brutality of Kosovo are not pointers to a new future. You can sense the relief of fools like Miliband at the comfort of returning the institution to massive cold war posture. We need a new start with Russia, which involved designing a completely new security architecture in which Russia plays a full part.

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Politically Correct Tedium

I have never pretended to political correctness, so I can happily abhor the sanctimonious politically correct bullshit that made the British contribution to the Olympic closing ceremony so appalling. The most dull dancing imaginable, completely unsuited in scale to the ceremony, and mismatching the Royal Ballet with (wait for it) a South London Hip-Hop ensemble and a dance group featuring able and disabled dancers. The quality produced was risible – it would not have graced a county fair, let alone the Olympics.

The PR bullshit said we were “honouring diversity”. No, we were honouring mediocrity, and then apparently honouring Hello magazine by introducing Leona Lewis and David Beckham. I think I should run in the 100 metres in 2012, thus honouring diversity by vastly increasing our representation of overweight and unhealthy middle-aged men.

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Unfortunately reaction to the Russia-Georgia conflict in the blogosphere has tended to be both ill-informed and over-simplified. The right have rushed to back Georgia and sections of the left to back Russia. There has, bluntly, been little worth reading.

If I can put on my professional diplomat’s hat (having with great reluctance taken off my producer’s hat, as the Fringe run of Nadira’s show closed yesterday) I would acknowledge that there are many diplomats who are achingly dull and conventional. But the best of them can bring knowledge of the region, languages, cultures and people to bear, and apply it to good effect. So, joining the old buffers’ club, I want warmly to recommend to you the thoughts of Ivor Roberts:

What is sauce for the Kosovo goose is sauce for the South Ossetian gander. In other words, if the West is prepared to champion Kosovo’s secession from Serbia and disregard internationally recognised borders without the endorsement of the United Nations Security Council, it cannot be surprised if Russia does the same.

and of Brian Barder

Of course recent Russian behaviour in Georgia has been disgraceful, brutal and disproportionate, and deserves to be condemned. But it’s as well to remember that even before the recent conflict Russia had military forces stationed legally in Georgia under an earlier agreement

It is well worth reading both articles in full, including the comments. I should say that I don’t agree 100% with either of them, but this is thoughtful and stimulating stuff.

When Shevardnaze was deposed, he flew straight to Tashkent. His old friend Karimov hosted him, and Shevardnaze advised Karimov not to allow any liberal dissent. Following De Tocqueville’s maxim, Shevardnaze said his mistake was reforming- reform leads to revolution. Karimov took him seriously as detailed in Murder in Samarkand, and intensified his bloody crackdown.

Attacks on liberty don’t only happen abroad. It is an astonishing fact that, under new rules affecting FCO employees brought in by New Labour, in future comments like Ivor’s, Brian’s and mine will be illegal.

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Gay Drivers in Italy

Some weeks late, just picked up on this incredible story. It is indeed from 2008, though that is hard to believe.

An Italian court has ordered the government to pay 100,000 euros (£79,919) to a man who had to retake his driving test because he was gay.

Berlusconi land is a rather worrying place. Attacks on Roma are now very severe and frequent, with signs of official collusion, while recent distressing photos on the net (which I won’t post) showed the bodies of two young drowned immigrants lying for hours on a beach while people just continued to sunbathe and party around them. I am 25% Italian myself, but deeply puzzled.

Thought inspired from here.

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More Popular Than Gordon Brown Shock

Who isn’t? I hear you ask. Anyway, it’s in the Financial Times, so it must be true:

Gordon Brown enjoyed a respectful audience, but two days later Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, elicited passionate support.

My appearance at the Edinburgh Book Festival was sold out again this year – 570 rather expensive tickets – rather to the bemusement of the organisers, who every year scratch their heads wondering who is this rude interrupter of their genteel event, and why so many people want to see him.

I enjoyed taking the opportunity to point out that some of their headline speakers are war criminals:

The one-time diplomat, who was sacked after speaking out about human rights abuses, used his appearance at the Edinburgh Book Festival to accuse Gordon Brown and John Prescott of war crimes

Incidentally, I don’t get a penny from the thousands of pounds generated in ticket sales, but I greatly enjoy the event. It was a delight having Ruth Wishart as the chairman; I have long had huge respect for her journalism.

I am frequently asked why I don’t speak at the Hay-on-Wye Festival, when authors whose books sell a great deal less than mine are feted. The answer is quite simple: the New Labour loving smurfs at the Guardian, and particularly editor Alan Rusbridger, brother-in-law to Tessa Jowell and David Mills, have vetoed me from the Guardian Hay-on-Wye Festival, to give its full title.

It appears that my publisher may not be prepared to publish key points in The Catholic Orangemen of Togo. The problem is fear of the cost of defending a threatened legal action by Tim Spicer, who has made many millions from taxpayers for running mercenary operations in Iraq and can afford the rich man’s suppression of free speech through libel law.

Any extracts the publisher will not publish will be posted on this website in approximately ten days. I do hope other bloggers will mirror or re-publish to help get the truth out there.

I hope to do a Q & A on Georgia in the next few days. But it gave great amusement to my family that the three international statesmen the Independent chose to comment were John McCain, Mikhail Gorbachev and Craig Murray. You have to see the actual paper, with out photos in a row, to get the full comic effect. Strange thing is, I sound much more sensible than the other two.

It is interesting to read through the comments after that article, particularly the number of Americans with extraordinarily ill-informed views on Iraq. Really scarey. Almost as bad as this:

“I am a Zionist,” stated Senator Biden.

Oh, the Paucity of Hope!

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Strange Fact

I didn’t make a fuss when this blog steamed past its millionth visitor mark, and we are now around the 1.3 million visitors since a new statcounter was put on some 30 months ago. That is visits, not pageloads, but does include returning visitors (I think).

Rather peculiarly, in the last 24 hours the biggest source of visitors has been the BNP website. I presume they are saying something nasty about me, but don’t recommend you to look to check. On the other hand, after my Quixotic stand against Jack Straw in Blackburn at the last general election, I had to speak at the count immediately after the BNP candidate. The hordes of New Labour supporters in the count listened to the BNP candidate in comparative quiet, but erupted into roaring jeers to try to drown out my brief speech. A plastic beer glass was thrown at me. The BNP candidate turned to me in astonishment:

“My God”, he said, “They hate you more than me”.

It was true. That simple fact tells more truth about New Labour than I could do in long essays.

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New Labour Show Their True Blue True Colours

The apparent favourite for the leadership of Scottish New Labour is a Blairite named Iain Gray. He has come out in his true blue true colours by suggesting that Scottish New Labour need to cooperate with the Scottish Conservatives in the Scottish Parliament.

It says volumes for the despair of the numptie party that they think being associated with the Scottish Conservatives would actually increase their popularity in Scotland. But it also is but the simple confirmation of the truth of British politics today. In Scotland, New Labour and the Tories have teamed up against the SNP in local government in Dundee and elsewhere, determined to cling to the old order. Economically there is little difference between New Labour and Tory, while the Tory party is slightly more liberal in social and legal matters.

New Labour and Tory both support the illegal invasion of Iraq; they both support breaking the Non Proliferation Treaty by acquiring a massively destructive and ruinously expensive new nuclear missile system, thus further fuelling Russian paranioa and aggression; they both support making public services more expensive and allowing huge private profits from them through the Private Finance Initiative. I can think of no reason any New Labour supporter should not vote Tory, except for New Labour’s greater emphasis on attacking civil liberties.

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Massive State Propaganda at the Olympics

I am an unabashed sports fan. I love watching the Olympics and get irrationally patriotic about it. Many of my friends find these traits irritating. But I have been really enjoying the last few days of British success.

Victoria Pendleton’s win in the sprint cycling was a great moment, but was completely marred by a classic propaganda moment by the monolithic state broadcaster. No, I don’t mean Chinese TV, I mean the BBC pumping New Labour as usual.

Victoria flashed across the line, and within two seconds the BBC cut to a shot of Tony Blair standing and applauding, holding him on screen for some time. It completely spoiled the moment for me – a sporting triumph marked by a war criminal. To complete the puff, the commentator praised Tony Blair’s “generous support for the British team”.

Bollocks – it was another example of a politician trying to gain kudos from national sporting achievement. And to describe Blair as “generous” is risible. Whenever you see Blair pop up anywhere, the first question to be asked is, who is paying for him? The great freeloader never pays for his own holidays, as has been frequently documented. On a previous visit to China, he received a US $500,000 payoff.

Bkair has been to Chima at least four times since then – visits which would seem to have but a tenuous connection with his official role as chief facilitator of illegal Israeli settlement in Palestine. Blair has been making himself useful to the Chinese, and obnoxious to human rights and environmental campaigners, by arguing that politics should be kept out of the Olympics.

So who is funding Blair’s Olympics?

The Mail is asking the same question, and got this response:

Earlier today Mr Blair’s spokesman insisted the couple were on a ‘family holiday’ but refused to comment on whether they had paid for it from their own pockets. He would also not be drawn on whether the Blairs were in China as someone’s guest


I think that we can take that as an admission that the revolting Blair is being paid off again. The question is, for what?

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New Labour Regrets End of Military Dictatorship in Pakistan

General Musharraf was a smooth-talking dictator, but no more than that. He instituted military rule in an illegal coup and continued to govern in the interests of himself and a narrow elite, continually rolling back surviving vestiges of the rule of law in Pakistan. Under his rule Pakistan stagnated and the economic gap to neighbouring India grew so large as to be insurmountable for at least a generation. Dictatorship does not fight extremism, it promotes extremism in desperate and repressed opponents with no legitimate outlet for opposition.

It says volumes for where our far right New Labour government now stands on world affairs that they regret the political demise of this odious dictator. Here is David Miliband, the neo-con muppet who is New Labour’s hope for political revival:

“The Musharraf years yielded significant dividends… It is important to highlight President Musharraf’s commitment to tackle terrorism, to promote dialogue with India, especially over Kashmir, and to root out corruption,” he said.

Yeah, right. Come to think of it, why don’t we have military dictators all over the developing world? Plainly Miliband holds that these dusky foreigners need the smack of firm government. Why Miliband believes that rooting out corruption is a good thing, while his own government pro-actively harbours and protects it in the BAE scandal, is beyond me.

Miliband is no more than a foolish, shallow little disgrace. Despite New Labour’s best efforts, this is still in many ways a lovely country. It is both astonishing and appalling that it should be represented by someone as insubstantive as Miliband.

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Another Dull Attack

I have been very busy the last few days giving interviews about Georgia – largely because there seem to be few others who are against missile systems and NATO policy, without being Putin apologists.

Anyway, there is a rather lame but surprisingly extended attack on me in the Sunday Times over my comments on the Fringe.

This is a particularly poor piece of journalism as the newspaper failed to contact me for comment. There are also a number of extraordinary omissions or distortions. To clarify:-

– I have never accused the Fringe of failing to promote Nadira’s show. They got the Fringe office to comment on something I haven’t said. I did point out they had listed it in the wrong category. If the Sunday Times had asked them to comment on that, I imagine they would have agreed they had done so. Promotion in general has been very good.

– Nadira’s show has had super reviews. It has had in Edinburgh in total (that I can find) two five star, four four star and two three star reviews. The Sunday Times has chosen to quote only from the two three star reviews.

– My complaint was very plainly that one publication had reviewed the Show without actually seeing it. That is obvious from the blog entry below. It is completely out of order for the Sunday Times to omit what my complaint actually was.

– I am very happy with audiences. An average of fifty is brilliant for the Fringe at 1.30pm.

– I stand by my more general comments that there is an excess of bad comedy and loutishness at the Fringe nowadays. I am not against comedy. I love good comedy.

Here are some of those reviews. Unlike the Sunday Times I am giving you a representative sample of one 5, one 4 and one 3 star review.

I suppose that I should be beyond being upset by a foolish piece of journalism like this. But the lack of professionalism of the Sunday Times, and their obvious malice, is very annoying.

The Murdoch press remain great cheerleaders for Alisher Usmanov. Stuart MacDonald appears to be trying to outdo his Dirty Digger stablemate Mark Franchetti in the worst journalistic standards stakes. But I think Franchetti is still ahead.

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There Are No Good Guys, But We Must Be Most Wary of Russia

Russia has no right at all to invade Georgian territory – which South Ossetia is. Russia’s actions are illegal. The US and UK, who launched an equally illegal and much more devastating invasion of Iraq, are ill-placed to be outraged. Georgia was acting lawfully but unwisely in attacking rebels in South Ossetia. But Putin is lying when he says Georgia was engaged in genocide, and Georgia’s attack was itself less devastating than Russian attacks on Chechnya – a precisely parallel situation. So Russia is also being hideously hypocritical.

But we cannot just say that all the major powers involved are behaving terribly. That is true but not enough. Lenin’s Tomb has an excellent analysis.

But it is marred by the tendency of the left to think anyone opposed to Bush must be a good thing, and so give Putin the benefit of the doubt. Putin has plenty of blood on his hands also, and not only in Chechnya.

The truth is that life for ordinary people in the ex Soviet countries which have had “Orange Revolutions” like Ukraine and Georgia, is much, much better than in those which have not, like Belarus, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. That is so evident as to be undeniable to anyone who has actually been there.

Yet resurgent Russian nationalism is a major threat to Europe, and so Georgia must be supported as Russia tries to increase its hegemony over the former Soviet Union.

Russia’s attempt to leverage its Russian minorities into political power has been most obvious in Georgia and remains a major threat in the Ukraine. Given its own opposition to separatism for the many ethnic areas within Russia, this is not a question of principle. I posted on this last week.

Most commentators have quite correctly picked up on the fact that this is in large part about control of oil and gas pipelines. Those who have seen me lecture know that I have been talking about Russian pressure on Georgia for the last four years. My professional eye on the diplomatic dances around the invasion shows me that, as I predicted, energy dependency has made Germany a Russian client state within the European Union.

Those in Poland and Scandinavia who have been campaigning against the Nordstream gas pipeline project are absolutely right. European dependence on Russian hydrocarbons is not only an environmental abomination but also a major security risk. A Russian pipeline through Poland would be designated a major strategic national security interest for Russia – and for Germany. I can see easily see it becoming a cause for future conflict.

An immediate ceasefire is required now and a de facto Russian annexation of South Ossetia must not be permitted, unless we eventually want a war for East Ukraine. Sadly, the West will learn the wrong long-term lesson. The answer is not to strengthen NATO. NATO is part of the cause of the problem, not the solution. By encircling and humiliating Russia, not least with new missile systems, NATO has creaated the climate in Russia so favourable to Putin.

The new NATO is the main symptom of the West’s chronic inability to create a new post cold war security structure. By clinging to and expanding NATO, we merely made the return of the Cold War inevitable – much to the benefit of the arms industry and military establishment. If our leaders had any imagination, they would realise that the answer is to wind down NATO and create new structures into which Russia should be drawn.

It is already a decade late for such thinking. With Bush and Brown at the helm and the military and arms industry in grater control than ever of policy in both the US and UK, it is currently impossible.

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Grumpy Thoughts from Edinburgh

I have been having a great time here with Nadira in Edinburgh. Audiences for the show have been extremely appreciative, though being on at 1.30pm they have not been huge, averaging around 50.

A couple of things have rather spoilt my mood today. I gave an interview to Radio Scotland for a morning talk show called Shereen. It is at the end of this feed (the link only works for one week).

As the last word an alleged journalist named Penny Taylor accuses me of exploiting Nadira, which is pretty nasty. I am not sure in what sense she meant – I am subsidising rather than benefiting from Nadira’s show. If she meant in our relationship, well Nadira is 26 now and well capable of making up her own mind. But what is especially annoying is that Ms Taylor has neither seen the show nor read my book.

If you listen to the whole programme (which I don’t recommend) you will hear that Ms Taylor was also giving strong views on the Georgian crisis despite being blissfully ignorant that South Ossetia is actually part of Georgia. I don’t mean she felt it should not be part of Georgia – I mean she really didn’t know that it is. Most of us are reticent to speak on subjects of which we know not the most basic facts. But evidently not Ms Taylor.

Giving forth opinions on a show you haven’t seen is foolish. Writing a review of a show you haven’t seen is thoroughly reprehensible. That appears to be the most likely explanation for what Greer Ogston has done in The List.

Ogston writes:

Nadira Aleiva (who was mistress to the controversial former ambassador in Uzbekistan, Craig Murray) tells her story through the medium of song and dance


Now it would be difficult to sit through seventy minutes of The British Ambassador’s Belly Dancer and fail to notice that it is not a musical. Nobody sings, at all. But the Fringe Festival office made a major cock-up and listed the show under “Musicals and Opera” in the Fringe programme. So if you hadn’t actually seen the show, but were cobbling together a review from the material about it you can find on the web, you might feel you could safely say the story was told through song and dance.

You would of course then end up looking very stupid. Take no notice of The List.. It publishes fake reviews.

This is where I come out as a grumpy old man. The abundance of silly review sheets, giving five star ratings to appalling amateurish shows by their friends in the incestuous world of fringe theatre, is a minor annoyance. Much more annoying is the almost complete absence on the Fringe of any endeavour of serious artistic intent.

This is my home town. As a young man I saw Steven Berkoff play Hamlet in a college gym, and Brian Blessed play a (surprisingly subtle) Macbeth in a church hall. Real actors of merit and experience crafted challenging performances for their art and for self-development. You always got the earnest student productions, and they are still around and welcome, but you are lucky to find a good one. But with over 2,000 fringe shows, we are deluged by purveyors of highly derivative stand-up comedy of mostly mediocre quality. At night the Fringe venues are positively anti-intellectual, as drunks roam around and belch laughter to “Observation comedy” about when your relationship is established enough to let your partner see the skidmarks in your pants. Bill Clinton famously described the Hay on Wye festival as “The Woodstock of the Mind”. Edinburgh is becoming its Ibiza.

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Max Mosley Joins Those Thwarting My Book

In general I do not believe in visiting the sins of the fathers on the children, but I must admit that I would be much more comfortable if Oswald Mosley’s son wasn’t doing quite so well as to be the multi-millionaire head of world motor racing, with his own string of prostitutes. Particularly as he actively supported his father’s fascist campaigns once he was old enough to know better.

I was slightly surprised to find that Oswald Mosley was still campaigning in London in the 1960s. What a tolerant people we are. Certainly if either of my grandfathers had seen him, they would have beaten the hell out of him.

If Max Mosley had finished his days as a retired solicitor in Hendon, I would not have begrudged him mild prosperity just because of his dad. But titular head of Formula 1? What are they thinking of? Couldn’t they track down any Hitler relatives for the post?

Infuriatingly, Max Mosley’s legal win over the News of The World (a case in which life sentences for everybody involved would have been fully justified – including the judge) has added to my difficulties in publishing The Catholic Orangemen of Togo. We already face FCO censorship, separate libel threats from Tim Spicer and Peter Penfold, and a friendly fire attack from Clare Short who doesn’t want me to publish her over-enthusiastic and well-oiled dinner party denunication of the British Empire (she denies it happened).

Now I have received the comments from my publisher’s lawyers, who suggests at several points that changes are needed due to the Max Mosley case.

The BBC just broadcast an interview with a Chinese dissident who said his greatest desire was for freedom of speech. Me too.

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China and the Uighurs

If it wasn’t for the border crossings, an eight hour drive from the Eastern border of Uzbekistan would take you into China. There you would be among the Uighurs, a people culturally and linguistically extremely close to the Uzbeks. Like the Tibetans, the Uighurs are culturally, religiously and ethnically oppressed by the highly racist Chnese state. But the Uighurs are Muslims and they do not get the press coverage of the Tibetans, even though their oppression has been still more systematic and brutal. Over a million Uighurs have been displaced by the Chinese state in the last three years alone. Thousands are murdered – either executed or disappeared – every year.

The Uighurs are one of a swathe of Muslim peoples across Central Asia, who fell into the thrall of foreign Empires between the middles of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. There are at least eighteen of these identifiable and mostly Turkic ethnicities, running from the Chechens in the West to the Uighurs in the East. About half the groups who fell under Russian, then Soviet, rule are now in “independent” republics named after Turkic ethnicities. But their political, cultural and religous freedom is still generally repressed as a consequence of continued domination by Soviet apparatchik elites who cling to power through ruthlessness. Meanwhile both Russia and China keep down the Turkic ethnicities within their borders through fierce and relentless brutality.

The War on Terror has enabled Russia, China, Karimov and other Central Asian leaders to characterise any manifestation of a desire for freedom in the region as Islamic terrorism and extremism. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, combining China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan*, is a dictators’ club. Despite having several theoretical fields of activity, the main practical focus is entirely on security and, in the words of their declaration, combating “terrorism, separatism and extremism”. That is code for repressing any moves to freedom in Central Asia. Co-operation extends to false flag operations and fake intelligence. The Uzbek government response to the Andijan massacre was an example of this, with the Russian government providing “Evidence” to back the Uzbek government’s story that the massacred demonstrators were terrorists organised by Chechens and funded by the USA (sic).

One good thing about the Olympics going to Beijing is that the western media has run a few articles on the plight of the Uighurs, of whose existence I suspect few western reporters knew a couple of weeks ago. It is entirely predictable that the Chinese governemmt is responding by organising “terrorist incidents” to try to blacken the Uighurs as part of Al Qaida. Do not be taken in by this rubbish.

*The Tajiks are not Turkic but Persian

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MPs Call Government Gagging Rules Oppressive and Draconian

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David Milliband, Labour’s so-called new start, is furiously defending the FCO’s new near-fascist regulations for its employees, rules so illiberal that even the House of Commons Public Affairs Committee has today called them “Draconian” and “Oppressive”.

Read this next bit carefully. Under New Labour’s New Rules, FCO employess may not, for as long as they live publish, broadcast or comment upon, in book, article or interview anything they have learnt or may have learnt in the course of their employment.

Read it again – astonishing isn’t it. The ever-excellent Brian Barder has been blogging about it for some time, including this:

The idea, of course, is that only the ministers’ version of truth will enter history. You can be confident that Jack Straw’s memoirs will not tell you that he instructed Richard Dearlove that we would use intelligence from torture, or that we colluded with torture and extraordinary rendition in Uzbekistan and elsewhere. You needed my memoirs for that. If Jack Straw had his way, I would not have been able to publish my book telling you the truth; in fact the new regulations were born directly out of Straw’s fury at Murder in Samarkand.

We now have a government so despised that it strives to protect itself further and further from scrutiny. The entire mess can be traced back to the decision to abandon international law and go for illegal war, torture and assassination. It is impossible to adopt such rotten tactics while maintaining liberalism at home. What New Labour have given us is a fundamental shift towards authoritarianism, which occasionally manifests itself in a dramatic symptom like this one. The body politic of this country is rotting from within.

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