Monthly archives: April 2009

Holocaust Denial and Holocaust Tourism

Gordon Brown had the kind of Auschwitz photo-call this week that I have always found in dubious taste. I say that with consideration because I have attended and even set up a lot of Auschwitz photo-calls, as I will explain.

Two days before Brown’s photocall, Gerd Honsik, an Austrian author, had been jailed for five years for holocaust denial.

In 1994 I was studying Polish language and culture at the Catholic University of Lublin. With a small group of other students I went one day to the Majdanek concentration camp. There is much less to see than at Auschwitz, but Majdanek has a bleak starkness.

When we first arrived, there were only the eight of us and our guide in the place. I was overcome by the horror of it and withdrew to sit by myself on a bank and think. Then a couple of tourist buses drew up. One was full of American seniors and one of French children, but both were the same in terms of happy chatter and clicking of lenses. It just felt deeply wrong.

After I had learnt some Polish and started work in the British Embassy in Warsaw, I found that my duties frequently involved escorting official visitors to the camps, particularly but not always Auschwitz. When they were politicians, I also had to oversee the organisation of press-calls for them. That never felt right. Nor did familiarity ever make me feel any better about walking around these places. I seemed to pick up on the evil in them – I know that sounds stupid.

I was involved in the events to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the camps. One of the things that did, was to bring me into contact with survivors, and also with eye witnesses to the liberation, from a variety of countries. In this and in other ways I received first hand information on the camps. I understood that the Jews were only the largest of the groups subject to mass murder – over a million Poles, other Slavs, gypsies, gays, communists.

There was (and remains) a peculiar tension over the running of Auschwitz, with frequent arguments over the emphasis of commemoration between its Polish and Jewish victims.

The German administration at Auschwitz was based in Oswiecim castle. When the camp was liberated, many of the surviving gypsies were settled locally by the Communist authorities. I once had a meeting with the seven Romany Kings of Poland, in their headquarters which is actually inside Oswiecim castle. I was meeting them because of Home Office fears that, once Poland joined the EU, the UK would be inundated with Polish gypsies.

The layers of irony were extraordinary – that the meeting was in that place, and that it was motivated (in my view) by continuing racial prejudice in the UK Home Office, though obviously of a less vicious kind. I learnt a lot from them about the problems of gypsies, and was able to give them some realistic information on the UK.

I have met people who were in the death camps, and people who liberated them. I view people who deny that the industrialised murder happened as cranky, and I don’t think disputes over precise numbers are of much importance.

But neither do I think holocaust denial should be a crime. It should be met with ridicule and social sanction, not with prison. From reports Honsik seems a nasty bit of work, whose holocaust denial is motivated by Nazi sympathy. But he is given a spurious glamour by his imprisonment, and more attention than he deserves.

Politicians like Brown should avoid being seen to milk the holocaust. Mass murder is not a photo-op. If people want to go and pay their respects, they should do so quietly, with reverence and without publicity.

There is nothing to be gained by Holocaust tourism if we view it as a crime perpetrated by evil cartoon Nazis unconnected to ourselves. Did Brown reflect that he too had the blood of hundreds of thousands on his hands for his part of the attack on Iraq? Did he think about the widespread policy of torture in which the UK and US are complicit?

No. He was too busy thinking about his photo-call.

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Scottish Labour Shame Again

New Labour can always depend on the unswerving corrupt money-grabbing loyal support of its high-living Scottish numpty MPs. All of them voted against the Gurkhas. The ever excellent Subrosa Blonde is hosting a good video on Tom Harris, the trendy blogger who costs the taxpayer a fortune.

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Warning: This Post Contains Sexism

The ridiculous panic that the media is trying to induce over flu, reminded me of this passage from Murder in Samarkand, p 217:

“We became the chief contact point for the EBRD permanent staff in London. of whom some scores of Brits were coming out for the Conference. This was also the height of the panic over the SARS epidemic.

…One female member of EBRD staff emailed me from London:

“Should I wear a face mask in the conference hall?”

“I don’t know,” I typed back, “How ugly are you?”. “

On Saturday I was invited to address Stop The War’s annual conference. This has shrunk down to what I might call a hard left core, with the other groups that used to be a prominent part of the coalition almost completely evaporated. The most obvious sign of this was the near complete absence of Muslims. But the christians, pacifists, environmentalists and others had mostly gone too. It is probably true that the Hard Left are the ones I am least at home with.

My speech centred on the recent fake bomb scare in the North West, and the relief it had temporarily provided the government from terrible headlines over the death of Ian Tomlinson and over Jacqui Smith’s expense claims. I threw in the following line because a speech needs jokes, and because I like to tease the left sometimes:

“You know, I make no claim to being politically correct. So I can say that, if I were married to Jacqui Smith, I would probably use a lot of porn too.”

Most of the hall laughed, but the feminists got most upset and started to interject. Points of order followed. When I had finished, a speaker from the floor said that my speech was such an important denunciation of the attack on civil liberties in the UK, that it should be copied to DVD and given out on tube stations. Then someone stood up and demanded that I withdraw my comments on Jacqui Smith.

I stayed and listened to an interesting talk on Iraq by Sami Ramidani, but when I left I was harangued on the stairs by a young woman who made Jacqui Smith look positively alluring. She told me I was a sexist disgrace. She seemed very proud of being the Chair of Glasgow Stop the War. I expect it too has a rapidly declining membership.

Anyway, the Stop the War Coalition has now put up videos of its conference keynote speakers on its website, but not including me. I shall take it I am not wanted in future.

Issues of gender equality arose at the Dundee University Court meeting on Monday. The University is in discussion to open a satellite campus in a Gulf state. It is potentially both interesting and a major source of revenue. However it seems that lectures would have to be segregated. There were two views on University Court. Some felt that we should respect local culture, and that the important thing was that women had education of equal quality. Others felt that segregation was so far removed from our values as a university that it was not something with which we should associate.

I feel strongly we shouldn’t do it. The issues are interesting, and cut across feminism. I expect that a few of the feminists who harangued at me at Stop the War would be quite happy with women being kept away from men. My thinking is not particularly feminist. I think mingling with all types of people is much more important to the university experience than anything a dull old lecturer will tell you. And I also pointed out to Court that, if a woman insisted on her right to attend a “Male” lecture, we could be in the position of enforcing segregation.

I have never been a fan of cultural relativism, so the argument of respecting local values cuts little ice with me. But I realise other will have a different view.


A view on the Stop The War controversy by someone else who was there comes on the Daily Maybe


I have no idea why they treat HOPI so badly. Do they get Iranian money?

On the “sexism” issue more generally, I added this comment in the debate below – I thought it might stir people’s brain cells a bit more:

Actually, I am against all forms of disadvantage on grounds of race, gender etc.

Where I differ is that I view sexuality (as opposed to gender) as simply another attribute and as open to use and to humour as any other.

As a teen I shovelled coal on a coalyard at weekends. In the course of the day men might easily lift and carry fifty tons of coal on their back, in hundredweight lots. I do not view that as any less exploitation of their bodies than the work a prostitute does. And I don’t view clerical drudgery as essentially different.

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Gurkhas and Jack Straw the Hypocrite

I cannot for the life of me understand the government’s attitude to the Gurkhas’ immigration status. It is an unwinnable political fight in which they have been trounced again, and the Commons defeat today is the most direct personal slap to Gordon Brown, coming immediately after Nick Clegg trounced him on this question at Prime Minister’s Questions.

As in the question of immigration rights for Iraqi interpreters working for the UK, the government has acted ungratefully, against all public opinion, and for no very clear reason.

I am in general an advocate of immigration. But plainly there is much more immigration than the government actually intended. It is a fact that the number of illegal immigrants in the UK is well over a million. I very much support Boris Johnson’s idea of an amnesty to allow them to stay in the UK. I have not heard another viable solution.

But what makes no sense is this. Every time I get on a 207 bus I am immersed in newly immigrant Somali, Sudanese and Russian people, and I appear to be the only person who speaks English on his mobile phone. I am not against that in the least, but if we can absorb these diverse groups with little attachment to the UK, how come we can’t fit in Gurkhas who have a long attachment to this country and have been prepared to die for it?

If the government were taking its stance against the background of a tough immigration policy, that would be wrong but at least it would be intellectually consistent. But to keep the Gurkhas out while letting several million other first generation immigrants in, seems perverse in the extreme.

Jack Straw was sitting alongside Brown in the Commons today. Jack Straw has a deserved reputation as an MP who assiduously cultivates his constituency. I stayed there for four months in 2005 when I stood against him.

I used to line manage the UK’s fifth largest visa operation (in Accra) and so I know my immigration rules. In Blackburn I forged close links with the Muslim community, and a constant theme was their gratitude to Jack Straw for assistance with visa cases. I met several instances of people living in Blackburn who were relatives but not dependants of earlier immigrants, and who told me they had obtained their visas following the personal intervention of Straw when Home or Foreign Secretary. In many of these cases, particularly involving nieces/nephews given settlement visas, I could conceive of no way within the immigration rules those visas should have been given.

Muslim community leaders in Blackburn understood this very well. They were under some pressure from national Muslim organisations to support me because of my opposition to the war in Iraq and to the torture of Muslims – and to oppose Straw for his roles in those things. But they asked me directly how as MP I would be able to help those kind of cases, when I would not be in a key government position like Straw.

I replied that I would be able to help those within the rules by assiduous work, and be able to help in cases of humanitarian concern where rules needed to be bent. But wholesale abuse of immigration procedure would not be something I would do. So they thanked me and did not support me.

So I watched the smirking Straw today. A man who sent hundreds of British soldiers, including Gurkhas, to their deaths in illegal wars. And a man who will not lift a finger to help the Gurkhas, even though he has worked continually to bring more immigrants into Blackburn, for his own political advantage.

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You Are All Going To Die

No, you are going to die, really. I guarantee you that.

I am quite amazed I have lived this long. I survived the real flu epidemic of 1968. I survived the coming of HIV/AIDS. I survived the scares over SARS and avian flu. Now I have to survive swine flu as well. Given the apocalyptic warnings over SARS, avian flu and swine flu, it is quite incredible that not only have I survived them, but all my family have too.

Except, of course, it is all bollocks. Viruses are a fact of life. Death is the most important fact of life. Nobody lives forever. Of course healthcare is important, of course deaths are sad. But the extraordinary over-reaction to a possible flu epidemic, and extreme distortion of the scale of individual threat, appears to indicate a societal belief that death shouldn’t happen at all.

The media projects a fear of death and sickness which is positively unhealthy.

Women get colds, men get flu and governments get swine flu. I expect with almost total certainty that I’ll survive it. If not, I’ll die. So what? I was going to do that anyway.

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Nobody Can Hear You Scream

Just before I gave my evidence to Parliament yesterday, my sister Celia telephoned me to say that I would be speaking not for myself but for all those thousands who had suffered unspeakable torture around the World in the War on Terror, whose screams and sometimes death rattles were heard only by their torturers. She told me I was speaking for those who could not speak.

She put me into a calm place, and I tried to give my evidence very coolly and professionally, but I believe I did manage once or twice to break through the twisted legalese in which the committee have mummified themselves, to bring home the human cost of torture to them.

You can see my evidence here:

If that disappears, Tony has kindly put it onto YouTube which you can find here:

But I am completely astonished, and horribly depressed, that there has been almost no mainstream media of this quite sensational information. There has been not one word in any newspaper or on TV. The Today programme on Radio 4 ran a story on it at 6.45am, but did not repeat it. A piece went up immediately on the BBC website

but it is very difficult to find it there without the url.

I really cannot understand why no newspaper or TV channel has covered what is quite a startling development in a prominent continuing story on the use of torture in the War on Terror.

I had hoped that my evidence yesterday would be a significant step in ending the policy of obtaining intelligence from torture, and of bringing to account the ministers who approved it. But without any sign of public or media interest, the politicians will feel they can safely ignore the truth I told.

I was trying to speak up for those who have no voice. I feel very strongly that I have let them down.

Only their torturers heard their screams, and hardly anybody else heard my voice either.

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Evidence To Parliament – Live Webcast

If I pretended I wasn’t nervous about my appearance before the parliamentary committee today I would be lying. Little patches of moisture appear briefly on the keys as I hit them, then evaporate.

I am nervous not for myself, but in case I fluff this real opportunity to redeem something of the honour of our country, and to end this barbarous collusion with torture. If I had the chance to speak uninterrupted for ten minutes, I am sure I could make an impact. But I am limited to short answers to questions from the committee.

You will be able to see this on live webcast here at 1.45 BST today.

If anyone knows how to capture this for podcast or youtube or anything…

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Viral Press Officers Needed

I am very busy now preparing for my appearance before the Parliamentary Joint Human Rights Committee. This will be at 1.45pm this Tuesday 28 April, in the Thatcher Room (!), Portcullis House. It is a public hearing and moral support would be welcome.

I have prepared the following press release:



Thatcher Room

Portcullis House

Tuesday 28 April 1.45pm

Formal Evidence Session on UK Complicity in Torture

Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights

Witness: Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan

(currently Rector of the University of Dundee).

In 2004, Craig Murray told us that:

– The British Government was complicit in the most vicious forms of torture

– He had been the victim of a lurid smear campaign initiated by New Labour

– The government was lying about all this

In 2004, much of the public and media was not willing to accept that the government would cooperate with torture or with false allegations against an innocent man. Many still had trust in the basic honesty and decency of government.

The evidence that Craig Murray was telling the truth about torture has now become overwhelming, including from the case of Binyam Mohammed. The UK “benefited” continually from intelligence passed on from the CIA waterboarding programme and from torture in countries including Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Egypt.

Craig Murray suffered the most high profile sacking of any British Ambassador for a century. But in 2005 the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee refused to hear him in evidence, despite allowing Jack Straw to appear and attack him.

Astonishingly, this is the first time Craig Murray will ever have been allowed to give formal evidence in the UK on his grave allegations, and be questioned on the truth of his testimony.

As the Scotland Yard investigation proceeds into MI5 and MI6 collusion in 16 cases of torture, Craig Murray will argue that it is not the security service operatives, but the Ministers who set the policy ?” and specifically Jack Straw ?” who should be facing criminal charges.

Contact: Craig Murray on 07979 691085 or [email protected]

Transcript of Craig Murray’s formal evidence statement is at

I need help to get this out to the mainstream media. Can you spare half an hour on Sunday or Monday to do that? Things you might do are:

– Find email addresses or fax numbers for newsrooms at newspapers, press and broadcast media and news agencies

– Send them a copy of the press release, and then telephone to make sure that somebody reads it

– Research on the internet reporters who have covered torture and extraordinary rendition, and send copies to them

– Speak with any journalist you have any contact with, alert them to the story and get them to pass it on to a suitable colleague

– Do not forget the Scottish media, political magazines and journals, specialist broadcasters, regional media and international correspondents in London

– Send copies to relevant NGOs – again following up with a phone call

– Rope in anyone with media experience and contacts you know to help

– Spread the news on the internet

Do not worry too much about duplication – it may be helpful, and there is much greater danger of too little being done than too much. I am sorry I am always asking you for help, but there is only one of me!

The parliamentary TV service is filming the hearing, so there will be footage and pictures available. It will also be webcast by parliament, though whether live or not I do not know.

You can cut and paste the press release, or it should be available in word and pdf here.

Download file

Download file

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Those Killed By US Torture: Alyssa Peterson

Not everybody went along with the US torture programme. Read the tale of Alyssa Peterson.

Did she kill herself in horror at what she had witnessed her own country do, or was she murdered in case she made her experience public?

Thanks to George.

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New Labour Corruption and Quilliam

My own view is that those who have adopted religous fanaticism – for whatever religion – display an absence of good judgement.

Ed Husain is by his own account a former religous extremist. He is one of the leaders among those who realised that, having tried to make a mark in the world through religious fanaticism, they can make more money and career progress by turning traitor on their former beliefs and colleagues, and jumping on the anti-Islamist gravy train.

Both the original fanaticism and the high profile and lucrative betrayal are evidence of a sociopathic character.

Husain is now a wealthy man. The government set him up in the Quilliam foundation and has thrown more than £1 million of taxpayers’ money at it. He is in great and lucrative demand on the mainstream media.

The Quilliam Foundation is the branch of New Labour tasked with securing the Muslim vote and reducing British Muslim dissatisfaction with New Labour over the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. If they wanted to do that whith New Labour money, that would be their own business. But I object fundamentally to their doing it with my and your money.

The party political nature of the Quilliam Foundation is shown in their astonishing and completely unbalanced attack on Osama Saeed, a prominent SNP candidate and a friend of mine. They try to portray him as an Islamic extremist.

If Osama is an Islamic extremist, then I am a Blairite.

For New Labour to have even the faintest hope of a respectable performance at the general election, they must protect their Scottish base against the SNP. This pathetic attempt to smear the SNP as connected to Islamic extremism is a blatant abuse of taxpayers’ money.

It is also desperate. Here is one of the “extremist” comments of Osama which they highlight:

“The aim of Islamic law, contrary to popular belief, is not punishment by death or amputation of body parts. It is to create a peaceful and just society, with Islamic scholars over centuries citing its core aims: the freedom to practise religion; protection of life; safeguarding intellect; maintaining lineage and individual rights. This could be the basis for an Islamic Bill of Rights.”

They also criticisng Osama for saying the “Danish cartoons” should be banned. I disagree with Osama on that one, but I also disagree with Nadira and every other Muslim I know on that one. Freedom of speech, sadly in my view, is not absolute in this country – witness the government’s banning of Geerst Wilders. Osama’s view on this is not extreme, it is mainstream.

The real scandal here is not Osama Saeed, who is a good man dedicated to freedom and to bringing Scotland’s Muslim community into its mainstream politics. The real story is the blatant misuse of taxpayer funds by New Labour.

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Sunday Morning Thoughts

It’s a beautiful morning, and I thought I might have a gentle mental ramble around the news.

It is very strange to find myself in agreement with the horrible Stephen Byers on anything, but he is reported as saying that the government may have to scrap ID cards and Trident II nuclear missiles as it slashes spending. It took a collapse of the worldwide Ponzi economy to drum at least some sense into New Labour. Byers is very close to Blair, but Blair would close down the NHS before closing down ID cards and nuclear missiles. So what is happening there?

It is almost tempting to propose that we should all vote New Labour to get the bastards back in again and make them clean up their own mess.

If Darling’s budget tells us anything, it is that Darling and Brown know that they are going to lose the election and are desperately trying to borrow enough to get them through and leave the hard decisions for the next lot. I see an argument for putting New Labour back in to take the pain and get so unpopular that even their under-educated Sun-reading Jane Goody-mourning core support will desert them, and the party will be wiped out forever.

Ok, let’s not do that. Not worth the risk they’d survive it.

There are going to need to be cutbacks in public spending. Trident should only be the start in the defence budget. The Typhoon Eurofighter is so highly specified that we only need that level of sophistication for a war against another major European power or the United States. What is the point of that? And what are we going to do with those aircraft carriers? Do we really still want to be able to fight major wars thousands of miles from home? The truth is, we cannot afford to.

As an Ambassador I was always amused to see on the recruitment ads that I earnt less than the average manager of a local government leisure centre. Those who remember the comedy show “The Brittas Empire” may be amazed to realise that Mr Brittas would likely be on £90,000 a year plus car, relocation expenses etc.

Almost the only aspect of local government which is media interesting enough to come under harsh scrutiny is child protection services. The awful faults there – top-heavy management, bureaucracy stifling efficient function, lots of people with no identifiable purpose, too few people at the sharp end, of too low standard and not allowed to use initiative – are actually repeated in every local government function.

I would start by making redundant everybody in local government who has either of the words “Director” or “Officer” in their title. That would save hundreds of billions of public money, while in three weeks everything would be working perfectly well again. I would then reorganise local government so that it received no money at all from central government, and had power to raise its own revenue from local income tax.

I am pleased at the overwhelming public support for the imposition of the higher rate of income tax. There is plainly a belief in social justice among the population which politicians, whose parties are funded by the rich and who are chasing company directorships before or after retirement, have been ignoring. The Sunday Times rich list is published today. This is a good time to confiscate unearned wealth. Let’s start by taking away the completely unearned £6.5 billion from the Duke of Westminster.

I am worried about the revelation by the Independent that David Cameron went on a freebie to South Africa paid for by a pro-apartheid regime lobby group. I know people can change, but only the most hardline of Thatcherites would ever have considered doing that in the 1980s, and anyone who could not clearly perceive the evil of apartheid has a deficient moral sense.

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Waterboarding Approved Specifically To Justify Iraq War

I have just learnt something which has convinced me that Bush, Cheney and Rice are indeed evil in the sense that Hitler was evil. I did not actually believe that until today.

The excellent and much-respected Marjorie Cohn, President of the National Lawyers Guild of the USA and Professor of Law at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, has discovered that waterboarding was first approved in July 2002 by Condoleeza Rice, specifically to force confessions of links between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein.

Everybody in the intelligence and security worlds knew there were no such links – Bin Laden and Hussein were enemies. Only torture could yield “intelligence” of such links to provide a justification of the invasion of Iraq. There could be no clearer indication that these evil people wished to launch an illegal war of aggression for their other reasons.

If it is not evil to use torture to try to create a pretext for launching aggressive war, then what is evil?

Here is the full text of Marjorie’s article.

When I testified last year before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties about Bush interrogation policies, Congressman Trent Franks (R-Ariz) stated that former CIA Director Michael Hayden had confirmed that the Bush administration only waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashirit for one minute each. I told Franks I didn’t believe that. Sure enough, one of the newly released torture memos reveals that Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times and Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times. One of Stephen Bradbury’s 2005 memos asserted that “enhanced techniques” on Zubaydah yielded the identification of Mohammed and an alleged radioactive bomb plot by Jose Padilla. But FBI supervisory special agent Ali Soufan, who interrogated Zubaydah from March to June 2002, wrote in the New York Times that Zubaydah produced that information under traditional interrogation methods, before the harsh techniques were ever used.

Why, then, the relentless waterboarding of these two men? It turns out that high Bush officials put heavy pressure on Pentagon interrogators to get Mohammed and Zubaydah to reveal a link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 hijackers, in order to justify Bush’s illegal and unnecessary invasion of Iraq in 2003, according to a newly released report of the Senate Armed Services Committee. That link was never established.

The Senate Intelligence Committee revealed that Condoleezza Rice approved waterboarding on July 17, 2002 “subject to a determination of legality by the OLC.” She got it two weeks later from Bybee and John Yoo. Rice, Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales and George Tenet reassured the CIA in spring 2003 that the abusive methods were legal.

Team Bush claimed – and still claims – that it had to use harsh techniques to protect us from the terrorists. They really sought to create evidence to rationalize an illegal, unnecessary, and tragic war.

That is absolutely stunning in its implications. How much of this did Blair and Straw also know?

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Hillary and Pakistan

I will go back out to Pakistan again later this year. In the meantime I have been talking to Pakistani friends and to journalists and others based in Pakistan, before trying to give a few considered thoughts on Hillary Clinton’s extraordinary and calculated remarks on Wednesday about the “mortal threat” to the USA posed by Pakistan.

The first and most obvious point is that, since Obama and Hillary have been in office, the United States has killed over 200 Pakistani civilians in Pakistan. Pakistanis have killed no United States civilians in the United States. For Hillary to call Pakistan a mortal threat is therefore somewhat rich.

The evidence is incontrovertible that missile strikes from aerial drones are a particularly indiscriminate way of killing. Very often the justification of the attacks is a desire to assassinate a particular indivdual; but the average number killed in each strike in Pakistan is 19. The majority of those killed have been women and children.

It should be self-evident that these brutal attacks will stoke resentment of the US in Pakistan. They are helping to create the fundamentalism which Hillary claims horrifies her. Which leads me to wonder, as I have wondered so often in the “War on Terror”, whether apparently brutish action by the United States is in fact intended to provoke a reaction.

The attacks not only stoke outrage, but are a blow to the self-esteeem of the average Pakistani and fuel contempt for the Pakistani government which permits the United States to attack its territory and kill its women and children. The truth is that the spread of the Pakistani “Taliban”, which Clinton so deplores, is not achieved through military strength but through popular sympathy.

One of the most potent things the Pakistani government could do to prevent the leeching of support towards Islamic extremists, would be to forbid the United States absolutely to carry out any more bombing operations in Pakistan, with the threat of physical resistance. That would damage the cause of the Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan much more effectively than bombing ever will.

I share the Clinton viewpoint that theocratic government is, in itself, a bad thing. But it is also important to consider the motivation behind the increasing support for Islamism – manifested in the issue of sharia law – among ordinary Pakistanis. We very seldom hear their voices. The very pleasant and highly educated Pakistani commentators from all sides we hear on the mainstream media, are a tiny fraction of the population.

I strongly supported the reinstatement of the judges sacked by General Musharraff, but these middle class concerns mean nothing to the 90% of the Pakistani population who live on under $350 a year. They have no access to justice at all and are subject to oppression by an arbitrary and extremely corrupt police, backed by corrupt courts. The appeal of sharia law is that the westernised system has corrupted and failed the poor. Add to that an economy going backwards while neighbouring India has surged forward. It is impossible to tackle corruption under the President who is its walking embodiment, but without radical reform the theocratic movement is going to continue to make ground – literally. Clinton’s harsh words and bombs will do the opposite of help.

On 12 April the US signed a new military agreement with Islam Karimov, the Butcher of Tashkent, for supply of US forces in Afghanistan through Uzbekistan – thus conclusively killing any hope that the Obama/Clinton administration would prioritise human rights in foreign policy. The increase of US forces in Afghanistan is in progress. The ultimate goal remains the revival of the Unocal plan for a pipeline over Afghanistan and through Pakistan to bring out Central Asia’s massive hydrocarbon resources to the sea. But the actual result of US action throughout Central Asia and of their support of deeply corrupt regimes in Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, continues to be the growth of fundamentalist Islam. A radical change of US policy is needed. Instead, like a desperate gambler, Hillary is upping the ante.

Either the United States is preparing the ground for ultimate invasion of Pakistan, or it is behaving very stupidly indeed.

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Carbon Capture – A Physical Impossibilty

The government is giving a coat of greenwash to its decision to smash its emissions commitments by giving the go-ahead to a new generation of huge coal-fired power stations. The propaganda focuses on the idea that 25% (in fact the measure says 20 to 25% and we can guess which it will be) of harmful emissions must be captured and stored.

Or to put it another way, the most atmosphere polluting of all electricity generation methods will be pumping out a massive increase to British carbon dioxide emissions, with a 20% mitigation of that vast increase. The even more pathetic aspect of the greenwash figleaf is the claim that 100% of the carbon must be captured by 2025.

If we continue to increase carbon emissions until 2025, the value of any reduction thereafter will be minimal; the situation is urgent and needs to be addressed now, not in sixteen years time. It also relies on a non-existent – and many would say physically impossible – technology. It would have been less of a punt to claim that in 2025 they will be replaced by nuclear fusion.

The problem is that when you combust coal or oil, the carbon dioxide produced, even when expensively compressed to its maximum. has a volume several times greater than that of the original coal or oil. Ideas that you put it back in the hole it came from do not work. Keeping a gas compressed also involves high pressure containment. The idea that this will happen on a massive scale, and that any significant proportion of fossil fuel emissions can be stored, does not even make credible science fiction.

The UK has both abundant renewable energy resources and is a world leader in the technology to exploit them. The failure of the government to look to a major boost to the nascent renewable energy industry for this next wave of electricity generation, may in fact be one of the biggest disasters of New Labour.

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Darling’s Fantasy Bubble Burst – Already

The government has just announced a first quarter fall of 1.9% in GDP.

It is important to understand this. That is not an annual rate of decline. It means that on 1 April 2009 the total economy meausred as GDP was 1.9% smaller than it was on 1 January 2009.

So for Darling’s budget projection of 3.5% decline this year to be true, the average decline over the next three quarters would have to be about 0.5%. Given that we are still on an accelerating decline (the -1.9% quarter follows a -1.6% quarter) that is plainly very very unlikely indeed.

My own Treasury source tells me that they had expected a – 1.5% decline in the first quarter as part of their -3.5% projection for the full year. The Treasury did not have the 1.9% figure from the National Statistical Office in advance of the budget.

So plainly Darling’s – 3.5% figure is wrong. It is worth noting that the IMF came out two days later with the same prediction as me, – 4.1%.

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Condoleeza Rice Appproved Waterboarding Torture

It emerges that Condoleeza Rice gave the go-ahead for waterboarding as National Security Adviser.

This blog brought you information on the torture of Khalid Sheik Mohammed over two years ago.

CIA Torture and Khalid Sheik Mohammed

The man was waterboarded – which causes excruciating pain and suffocation – over 180 times. That is about once every three days over the period in question. There are few examples in history of anybody ever being tortured so severely over such an extended period. Can you imagine the permanent mental anguish, of waiting for the next physical anguish to begin?

Plainly the “Ticking bomb” argument used by Cheney and the pro-torture lobby is a myth, when torture extends over years.

As a result of this extreme and prolonged torture, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed confessed to pretty well every terrorist atrocity you can name or planned terrorist atrocity you can imagine. In the UK alone, under torture he “confessed” to plans to blow up Heathrow, Canary Wharf, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. There are similar lists for pretty well every other Western country.

When I wrote the following back in 2007 this blog got 500 visitors a day: now it gets 5,000 let me repeat it:

Secret Confessions and Torture

Mohammed Sheikh Khalid has now, voluntarily and of his own free will, admitted he masterminded every significant event from the Norman Invasion through the bubonic plague, fall of Constantinople, and Great Fire of London, to the Battle of Little Big Horn, assassination of JFK and the Oklahoma bombing.

Or he might as well have. The extraordinarily comprehensive list of terrorist outrages for which he claims responsibility would be beyond the capacity of any but the most brilliant and inspired mortal; Khalid, I fear, is a more run of the mill thug.

But in truth, we have absolutely no idea what, if anything, he has confessed at all. The BBC brazenly reported all of yesterday that while Khalid did allege he had been tortured during his four years of secret detention by the CIA in various locations around the globe, he is now freely confessing under no duress and does not retract any of his confession.

Who says? The proceedings being held in Guantanamo Bay, and which the BBC report so uncritically, are held behind barbed wire, machine guns, gun emplacements, reinforced steel and concrete and combination locks, before an exclusively military panel. Khalid does not even have a lawyer present. For all we know, his confession could be an entire fabrication. The blandness of the BBC reporting in these circumstances is one of the worst examples of the appalling desertion of the principles of that once worthwhile institution.

The readiness of the rest of the media to push the “instil fear” button on behalf of the Orwellian government is predictable. They report as fact that Khalid also planned to blow up Heathrow, Canary Wharf, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and any other British building the Pentagon had heard of.

If Khalid really is freely and openly confessing all of this stuff, then what possible reason can there be to deny him a lawyer, and not allow public and media access to his trial? The atrocities he allegedly confesses – the Twin Towers, Madrid, Bali – left thousands of bereaved families. They have a right to see justice done, rather than this elaborate propaganda set-up, with its total lack of proper legal process or intellectual credibility.

Did Khalid really do all of this? Two facts must be considered. He has been through years of vicious torture and of solitary confinement. If the experience of others who survived extraordinary rendition is typical, he has been kept in total isolation, in darkness, beaten, cut, suffocated and drowned, suffered white noise and sensory deprivation. He will have been moved around, often not even knowing which country he is in. One good contact has told me that the CIA gave the Uzbek torturers their turn with him. I do not know that for certain, but who can contradict me?

After years of this, a person can be so psychologically damaged that they believe the narrative of their torturers to be the truth. It is perfectly possible that he now in fact believes he did all that stuff on the list, when he did not.

Alternatively, he may have decided to exaggerate his own role and achievements for the personal glory it brings. We can get the appalling situation where both the sides which benefit from and wish to promote the War on Terror – Al Qaida and the CIA – indulge in what becomes a grim mutual cooperation in exaggeration as each seeks to glorify their role. Thus do those on both sides who actually desire a “Clash of Civilisations”, promote one.

What is happening now in Guanatanamo Bay is a disgrace. We cannot in present circumstances accept anything that comes out of it as other than a completely unsubstantiated claim by the Pentagon. Some of it is quite possibly true. But this is no way to make the case.

Secret Confessions and Torture

The UK is complicit in this torture. Every bit of “intelligence” from the CIA torture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the thousands of other victims of torture by the CIA or their foreign liason intelligence agencies, has been shared with MI6 by the CIA. Jack Straw took the positive decision that the UK should accept intelligence from torture. That is the main point of the evidence I shall give to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights on Tuesday 28 April.

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Sky Doesn’t Get the Blogosphere

At 7pm Sky give us a news broadcast intended to link in with the news media, promoting their own website and referring to news in the blogosphere. It really is quite painful to watch; it is like your grandmother trying to be very trendy.

They are having a discussion between “bloggers” on the budget, the standad of which is childish at best. As usual, they have invited so-called bloggers to represent the parties – one Tory, one New Labour and one Lib Dem.

The problem is that minor party hacks don’t get any more interesting just because you call them “bloggers.” And it misses the entire point of he blogosphere. Political blogs are increasingly popular because they are not controlled by the political relationships and demands of media proprietors, or by control of other power structures. They offer unconstrained thought, information and debate, and one of the main constraints they escape is the cold dead hand of British party politics.

Sky’s gesture towards the blogosphere is undermined by complete lack of imagination.

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Lord Jones and Kalashnikovs

Lord Jones of Cheltenham has sent me his telling of the story recounted in The Catholic Orangemen of Togo about our seeing off the security service raid on the independent radio station in Accra. It differs from mine in some details, the most important of which is that we were actually with Graham Elson on this occasion as Roger Gale was working up country.

I confess that I am always pleased to have other eye-witness accounts of the many incidents in my books where dangerous people point guns at me. David Hare told me he had spent some of his time in Uzbekistan verifying the truth of some of the more physical enounters in Murder in Samarkand, like my attempt to shield Kristina in the car crash, and had clearly been somewhat surprised to find I really did that stuff.

The truth is I was petrified much of the time – including in the following incident, as told by Lord Jones:

Craig Murray arrived at our hotel on eve of poll with news of a melee up north in Ho, or maybe Hohoe. We readily agreed to accompany him to the local radio station Joy FM to find out what had happened. You tend to be very gung-ho on these missions and the thought that the evening might turn violent was not one which entered my head. Joy FM’s sister station Love FM confirmed the disturbance and told us that fourteen people had been arrested, one of them an opposition candidate. Craig asked what Joy FM intended to do with the news. ‘Well,’ said the young, bright broadcaster,'”Rawlings is giving his final Presidential broadcast on TV. We will make the trouble the main item on our news bulletin at 8 pm which is to be followed by a phone-in programme on the election.’ We watched the presidential broadcast. It was obviously pre-recorded with cuts when Jerry Rawlings started to get agitated. The whole thing was pretty disjointed but I gained the impression that he did not relish the concept of his party losing power.

The 8 o’clock radio bulletin followed and then all hell broke loose. There was a disturbance at the door and a group of uniformed and heavily armed large men appeared, each carrying what I am assured were Kalashnikov weapons. They were from the Bureau of National Intelligence. The leader instructed the young man in charge to stop broadcasting. Then Craig stepped in.

Craig Murray is not the tallest man in the world although the leader of this group of invaders was certainly a candidate for that title. Bravely Craig looked this man in the eyes and calmly said ‘You know I am Craig Murray the Deputy British High Commissioner.’ ‘Yes, Mr Murray, we know who you are.’ ‘Yes well what you may not know is that these three gentlemen have been invited by your government’ he paused jabbing his finger at (but not touching) the chest of the large man and repeating ‘YOUR government’ with emphasis, continuing ‘to observe these elections to make sure they are free and fair, and this person’ pointing at me ‘is a Member of Parliament from the House of Commons in London.’ At this every single member of the group pointed their Kalashnikovs at me. I kept as calm as you can in these circumstances. As Craig continued I was aware of a bead of sweat forming on my brow and slowly making its way down my forehead and left cheek. ‘Now,’ Craig continued, “Are you telling me and are you telling them and in particular are you telling him’ pointing at me again (I wished he wouldn’t keep doing that), guns still at the ready, lots of trigger fingering going on, ‘that you are going to close down this radio station? Because if you do, these gentlemen, including this important Member of the British Parliament’ pointing again ‘may decide to report that these elections have NOT been free and fair.’. He paused. ‘And it will be all YOUR fault’ jabbing finger again ‘YOUR fault’. Silence reigned for some moments. The guns were still pointing at me. They were very large. I gave outward signs of being calm. What was going on inside is a different matter. Another bead of sweat formed and made its way down the other side of my face.

Graham Elson tried to be helpful. I suggested they might like to go back and get further instructions as there had obviously been a mistake. After what seemed like an age, accompanied by more trigger fingering, they turned on their heels and left. After perhaps a minute we went outside to make sure they had really gone. They had left, but had stopped at the end of the road. We thought they might be about to take a pot shot at us from there, but when they saw us they got back into their vehicles and drove off. Joy FM stayed on air. ‘Thanks Craig,’ I commented. He chuckled. ‘You look like you need a drink,’ he replied perceptively.

Now if we had not been there, that radio station would have been closed down and the 2000 Ghana elections might have joined a long list of African elections which went wrong. Diplomats, MPs and others often get a bad press. All I can say is that Craig Murray is one of the most effective diplomats I have ever met and that like others I have known, the mission to observe this election was certainly no ‘jolly’.

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David Hare on the Flinching Milliband

David Hare made an a thought provoking speech at the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression awards. Worth reading, and not just because I get a mention:

But hypocrisy and double standards on the left now seem over-shadowed, dwarfed, obliterated by endemic, instituional hypocrisy on the right or, to put it another way, in government. Better, I think, to be a champagne socialist than a suppository-wielding, water-boarding capitalist.

In Howard Brenton’s play Weapons of Happiness, one character looks puzzeled at another and declares: ‘You really are something of a perpetual absence, old man.’ I’m afraid this line of dialogue always pops into my mind when I catch a glimpse of our present Foreign Secretary David Milliband, a kind of flinching, nocturnal badger of human rights. Again, it’s difficult to recall that the Brown government arrived covertly flagging discontinuity. It was, we were told, full of people who in an epic act of loyalty had been willing to hide their misgivings about the supine antics of the Blair period. While nobody was going as far as to offer what Robin Cook was moved from office for suggesting ?”?” an ethical foreign policy ?”?” nevertheless there was, again, the feeling that a renewed defence of democracy might involve some public restating of absolutes. Do I need to observe no such restatement has followed? More accurately, nothing has followed, except reversion to tribal diplomatic loyalties, the old half-truths and half-lies rolled out on behalf of dodgy allies. In the last two editions of the New York Review of Books you may read Mark Danner’s authoritative accounts of systematic use of torture by the CIA. Humiliation, beatings by use of a collar, sleep deprivation, suffocation by water, kickings, confinement in a box, shackles, prolonged nudity. Strange: we await the appropriate moral outrage from Whitehall.

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