Monthly Archives: November 2008

Jack Straw is an Habitual Liar

Jack Straw, so called Justice Minister, denies that he had any foreknowledge of the arrest of Damian Green.

Jack Straw denied directly to the BBC in the documentary “The Ambassador’s Last Stand”, and denied to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, that he had any part in the false accusations laid against me or in my removal as Ambassador for raising human rights concerns. Yet, as detailed in Murder in Samarkand, I have obtained documents in Jack Straw’s own handwriting, directing the process, and he held at least three meetings with Sir John Kerr to organise it.

On being sacked, I very openly leaked a number of government documents concerning UK policy, the use of torture material by our intelligence services, and the government’s attempts to frame me. Most of these documents were classified more highly than the documents leaked to Damian Green, like this one for example:

Yet when I leaked a number of highly classified documents, openly on the internet with my name and address, did the police come knocking at my door? No, they did not. They consulted Home Secretary John Reid, who consulted Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. They concluded that they should seek to kill the story, and not generate publicity by arresting me.

Does anybody really believe that Ministers decided whether someone as obscure as I should be arrested, but were not consulted on whether Damian Green should be arrested?

Jack Straw is a serial liar. Do not believe him.

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A Small Fightback

There are important similarities between the Damian Green case and that of Sally Murrer. Sally is the local journalist who was harassed, strip-searched and intimidated by local police, because she was given information on the police bugging of a Member of Parliament.

As her lawyer said in court “The measures used by Thames Valley Police against Sally Murrer are familiar in authoritarian states where the police are used to discourage the media from reporting on issues of public interest using confidential sources”.

That is absolutely true. The fact that Sally has been cleared in Court after a defence based on the European Convention of Human Rights is a small fightback for liberty. But her unnecessarily brutal treatment by the police (what possible reason can there be for strip-searching a journalist?), and her ordeal have already done that totalitarian work. She has announced she no longer has the confidence to continue journalism.

The extraordinary thing is the way that the media have failed to give Damian Green, let alone Sally Murrer, the prominence they deserve. Media inattention to startling human rights abuses is of course another characterisic of a police state. Indeed we have been treated to an egregious BBC commentator telling us that, after the Bombay incident, the Indian people are demanding “More stringent anti-terror laws and more powerful anti-terror police, as we have in the UK”.

Happily, the blogosphere reflects the concern of the educated public much better than the once free media. And the isolation of the Nu-Lab hacks and trolls on these issues is startling.

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The Jackboots Are On The Move

The Conservative immigration spokesman, Damian Green, is not a figure ordinarily likely to elicit much sympathy from me – although Boris Johnson’s call for an amnesty for illegal immigrants was the most sensible suggestion on immigration for many years. But the arrest of Damian Green MP is a constitutional outrage that may finally motivate our supine parliament to stand up to this domineering executive.

When Tony Blair halted the process of law in the BAE corruption case over arms exports to Saudi Arabia, I commented that we had abandoned the principle that no man, however high, is above the law – a principle which we had chopped off Charles I’s head to entrench.

Charles I famously failed to arrest opposition MPs when he arrived at the House of Commons with his soldiers to be defied by the Speaker and find that, as he observed, “The birds have flown”. That attempt was critical in precipitating the country into civil war.

The good citizenry of London and Cambridge will not be grabbing their pikes and muskets today; but they should. The arrest of Damian Green for doing his job of opposing the executive is a step too far in rolling back centuries of democratic achievement. The pretext is the excessive desire of this government to keep all public information secret, and prevent the taxpayer from finding out what has been done in their name and at their expense. This is the most secretive, as well as the most authoritarian, government of the modern era.

I can comment with more authority than most in saying that civil servants now have a duty to leak: the official narrative is now so often far from the truth across the whole field of government, that if civil servants do not leak there can be no informed democratic debate. To arrest an opposition MP for finding out what is really happening is a grim, grim move.

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Mumbai and the World We Created

The attacks in Mumbai are appalling, but the truth is that to date the numbers killed are small by the standards of inter-communal religious violence in India.

But this time Westerners are involved, so there is far more media attention than when it is “Only Indians”.

This is yet another illustration that the “War on Terror” has been entirely counter-productive and has made the World a much more dangerous place for the very Westerners it was supposed to protect. The apparent al-Qaida copycat motivation of the attackers is a further sign that the “War on Terror” threatens to destabilise not just Pakistan but the whole sub-continent.

William Dalrymple’s excellent “The Last Moghul” details the religous tolerance of old India, and its systematic destruction by the British. These events must be seen in their context, not just of the hideous and violent blundering of Bush and Blair, but of four hundred years of history.

None of which excuses the stupidity of the acts of religiously motivated violence unfolding before us. I am sorry to be obliged to concede that the evidence is strong that we live in a global age of renewed irrationality, where religious impulses can easily be channeled to violence and hate. Important groups of Muslims, Jews, Christians and Hindus seem all prone to the infection. The Christians have commanded the most firepower to date. I do not in the least despise religous faith – it can lead to self-knowledge and to concern for societal good. But Richard Dawkins is quite right about its capacity for evil.

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Rashid Rauf Murdered

There is a highly sensible article in today’s Times by Patrick Mercer MP about the possible death of Rashid Rauf (whose family are denying his demise).

New Labour remains so bent on its simple minded pursuit of a foreign policy based on brute violence, that questions of legality are simply ignored. The Conservatives – in this case Mr Mercer – must again be congratulated for resisting simple populism and standing up for the fabric of legality that must underpin freedom.

To put it bluntly, if Rashid Rauf was indeed killed by US action in Pakistan. then he was murdered. He was killed on no legal authority. US attacks into Pakistan and Syria (which Obama supports) have no legal basis. Rauf was a UK citizen. We do not have the death penalty. Does New Labour accept as a matter of policy that the US can simply murder British citizens abroad at will? The government must be pressed hard on this question.

If Rauf has been killed, the question arises as to why. He was the primary source for information on the famous so-called liquid bomb plot to blow up airlines, which sparked the greatest over-reaction of government measures in the entire debacle of the War on Terror. Ultimately 80% of those arrested in connection with the “Liquid bomb plot” were released without charge, and the jury found that, while a small group did have terrorist intentions, there was no organised plan or airline bomb plot.

That is extraordinary, but even more extraordinary is that the prime informant, the alleged major al-Qaida terrorist, Rashid Rauf, “escaped” from the custody of the Pakistani intelligence services and MI6, apparently by simply walking out of his cell.

Let us add to this the further strangenesss that Rauf had originally left the UK after a warrant was issued for his arrest as a suspect in the murder of his uncle, a death with no apparent political or terrorist motive. Yet the UK authorities failed to request his extradition from Pakistan when he was in custody there, even though they were involved in his interrogation, and he was still wanted for murder in the UK.

So if Rauf was murdered (and his family are denying his death) was it because he was a terror suspect, or because the intelligence agencies were covering their tracks? Was the reason that the UK government did not want to extradite him to testify in the UK, the same reason he had to be silenced by his murder?

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