Monthly archives: November 2009

Iranians Capture British Sailors (Again)

One of this blog’s finest hours came when I was able to point out that the British Navy personnel captured by Iran were quite possibly in Iranian waters, and that the British government had produced a fake boundary map with no legal basis to justify its claims.

Coming as it did in the middle of massive Jingoistic propaganda, even though my assertions were true to anybody who did five minute’s research, it gave me an uncomfortable week, but finally it was universally accepted that I was telling the truth.

But the current case of arrest by Iran of civilian yachtsmen is completely different. Civilian mariners have every right to transit through territorial seas. As with the last incident, complete ignorance of the Law of the Sea is making media coverage useless. The question is inot if

It is thought the vessel may have strayed inadvertently into Iranian waters, the Foreign Office said

Unlike military personnel boarding ships, civilian ships have every right to sail through anybody’s territorial waters, including Iran’s. The Right to Innocent Passage, subject to reasonable navigation safety regulations, is enshrined in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. So the Iranians had absolutely no right to arrest these yachtsmen, whether they were in Iranian territorial waters or not.

It is a sign of the times that the Guardian does not know and is apparently incapable of researching this basic fact, That the same seems to be true of the Foreign Office is deeply disturbing.

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The Dispensable Jeremy Greenstock

I know from personal experience that Jeremy Greenstock is an unusually kind person. It was interesting to watch his evidence this morning, and I am particularly pleased that Sky gave us two hours of it uninterrupted.

Jeremy’s contention that the Iraq war was legal but not legitimate is an interesting attempt at nuance. I don’t buy it, but it illustrates that he was plainly very uncomfortable about the whole thing. I am not sure that even now he has really come to the terms with the fact that all he was involved in was a charade. Bush and Blair had decided to invade at Crawford, a full year before Jeremy’s painstaking crafting of fig leaf resolutions and attempts at consensus building. As Greenstock conceded, the military timetable had been decided and the diplomacy had to try to run ahead. When it stumbled, the invasion carried on regardless. Greenstock was ridden over.

I thought Jeremy’s attempts to convince himself rather than us that Britian’s “commitment to the diplomatic route” won friends and helped to build a consensus after the invasion, was a rather pathetic (in the true meaning) attempt to explain away his own futility.

There was one hilarious abandonment of logic when Jeremy said that he believed Iraq did have WMD, but they are still hidden. He offered two attempts at evidence for this. One was that they had a concealment committee. Well, if so, somone on the committee would have leaked post-invasion. The second was that some fighters had been buried in the sands, and revealed when the wind blew away the sand. He offered that as evidence that weapons can be concealed in the desert sands. Actually, Jeremy, it is evidence that they can’t.

But what was entirely plain is that Greenstock is much more sceptical of the Iraq War than the committee who were questioning him. The packing of the committee with confirmed war supporters (Greenstock at one point made what I believe was a sly dig about committee member Rod Lyne’s role at the time in question) makes the whole exercise futile, not least by limiting witnesses to answering non-sceptical questions. There was a priceless moment when Gilbert invited Greenstock to agree that the French and Russians only opposed the war from national and personal interests, and Greenstock declined to do so.

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Iraq Inquiry Cover-Up

Still in Ghana, and the “Broadband” connection here can’t handle the live feed of the Iraq Inquiry, so I am following through the Guardian blog.

This struck me strongly:

11.09am: Lyne asks if the window the weapons inspectors were given to operate in was “so small it was not a window at at all”.

Meyer says he discussed this in a memo to London. He says he has not been abel to find it. It’s about the fourth time he has said that the inquiry has not been able to produce a document that he knows existed. So much for Chilcot being able to see everything!

It is of course possible that documents are being kept from Chilcot. It is however much more likely that Chilcot and his “independent” team of known Iraq War supporters are colluding in suppressing the documents.

I have to say that I rather like Christopher Meyer. I don’t put him forward as a candidate for sainthood, but he is the second witness (after Bill Patey) who is in fact a nice person. His evidence appears pretty candid and a damning confirmation that Blair was set on war for years before it was admitted, and that the whole WMD “issue” was a pretext.

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White Supremacists Occupy Afghanistan

Rather sums up the whole bloody debacle:

Two Czech soldiers were suspended along with their commander Monday after the soldiers were seen wearing Nazi insignia on their helmets while serving with the NATO-led force in Afghanistan.,7340,L-3802803,00.html

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Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey?

Travelling around West Africa by road, I still very frequently cross old British Bailey bridges. I cannot understand why we are continually being bombarded with news of the plight of the bridgeless people of Workington, and that the army has not been deployed to put up a Bailey bridge or its modern equivalent.

The Army must have bridging capacity. I recall, for example, that when we were holding armoured brigade exercises in Drawsko in Western Poland in 1996, a plan to take some tanks into Warsaw for PR purposes was scuppered by the fact that none of the bridges would take a British main battle tank, and it was rightly deemed not worth the cash to throw them up for a PR exercise. But I can’t believe that even this government is so incompetent that the army cannot get over a river. Or is all our bridging capacity being deployed to facilitate the movement of opium and heroin for the drugs warlords of the Karzai government?

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Iraq Inquiry: The First Big Lie

Sir John Chilcot was just ten minutes in to the first public session of the Iraq Inquiry when he told the first big lie – and a lie which, when examined, exposes the entire charade.

“My colleagues and I come to this inquiry with an open mind.”

That is demonstrably untrue. Three of the five members – Rod Lyne, Martin Gilbert and Lawrence Freedman – are prominent proponents of the Iraq war. By contrast, nobody on the committee was in public against the invasion of Iraq. How can it be fine to pack the committee with supporters of the invasion, when anyone against the invasion was excluded?

Let us look at that committee:

Sir John Chilcot

Member of the Butler Inquiry which whitewashed the fabrication of evidence of Iraqi WMD. The fact is that, beyond doubt, the FCO and SIS knew there were no Iraqi WMD. In the early 1990’s I had headed the FCO Section of the Embargo Surveillance Centre, tasked with monitoring and preventing Iraqi attempts at weapons procurement. In 2002 I was on a course for newly appointed Ambassadors alongside Bill Patey, who was Head of the FCO Department dealing with Iraq. Bill is a fellow Dundee University graduate and is one of the witnesses before the Iraq Inquiry this morning. I suggested to him that the stories we were spreading about Iraqi WMD could not be true. He laughed and said “Of course not Craig, it’s bollocks”. I had too many other conversations to mention over the next few months, with FCO colleagues who knew the WMD scare to be false.

Yet Chilcot was party to a Butler Inquiry conclusion that the Iraqi WMD scare was an “Honest mistake”. That a man involved on a notorious whitewash is assuring us that this will not be one, is bullshit.

Bill Patey (or “Sir William”, as they call him) is a witness before the committee this morning. Doubtless between Sir John and he, they will manage to steer round the fact he knew there were no WMD.

Funny thing is that, just as with Sir Michael Wood and his view on the legality of torture intelligence, Bill Patey is also an extremely nice man. When you unleash the evil of aggressive war, the corruption of your own body politic is one of the consequences.

Sir Roderick Lyne

Last time I actually spoke to him we were both Ambassadors and on a British frigate moored on the Neva in St Petersburg. Colleagues may have many words to describe Rod Lyne, some of them complimentary, but “open-minded” is not one of them.

If the Committee were to feel that the Iraq War was a war crime, then Rod Lyne would be accusing himself. As Ambassador to Moscow he was active in trying to mitigate Russian opposition to the War. He personally outlined to the Russian foreign minister the lies on Iraqi WMD. There was never the slightest private indication that Lyne had any misgivings about the war.

From Uzbekistan we always copied Moscow in on our reporting telegrams, for obvious reasons. Lyne responded to my telegrams protesting at the CIA’s use of intelligence from the Uzbek torture chambers, by requesting not to be sent such telegrams. Somewhat off topic but amusingly, he also responded to my telegram warning about Alisher Usmanov and his growing influence in the UK, saying that Moscow had never heard of the man – one of Putin’s closes oligarchs.

An open mind? Really?

Sir Lawrence Freedman

Lawrence Freedman is the most appalling choice of all. The patron saint of “Justified” wars of aggression, and exponent of “Wars of Choice” and “Humanitarian Intervention”. He is 100% parti pris.

Here is part of his evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution on 18 January 2006:

The basic idea here is that our armed forces prepared for what we might call wars of necessity, that the country was under an existential threat so if you did not respond to that threat then in some very basic way our vital interests, our way of life, would be threatened, and when you are looking at certain such situations, these are great national occasions. The difficulty we are now facing with wars of choice is that these are discretionary and the government is weighing a number of factors against each other. I mentioned Sierra Leone but Rwanda passed us by, which many people would think was an occasion when it would have been worth getting involved. There was Sudan and a lot of things have been said about Darfur but not much has happened…

…Iraq was a very unusual situation where it was not an ongoing conflict. If we had waited things would not have been that much different in two or three months’ time and so, instead of responding either to aggression by somebody else, as with the Falklands, or to developing humanitarian distress, as in the Balkans, we decided that security considerations for the future demanded immediate action.”

An open mind? Really?

Martin Gilbert

Very right wing historian whose biography of Churchill focussed on Gilbert’s relish for war and was otherwise dull. (Roy Jenkins’ Churchill biography is infinitely better). Gilbert is not only rabidly pro-Iraq War, he actually sees Blair as Churchill.

Although it can easily be argued that George W Bush and Tony Blair face a far lesser challenge than Roosevelt and Churchill did – that the war on terror is not a third world war – they may well, with the passage of time and the opening of the archives, join the ranks of Roosevelt and Churchill. Their societies are too divided today to deliver a calm judgment, and many of their achievements may be in the future: when Iraq has a stable democracy, with al-Qaeda neutralised, and when Israel and the Palestinian Authority are independent democracies, living side by side in constructive economic cooperation.,,1379819,00.html

An open mind? Really?

Baroness Prashar

Less known, and my cynical side says she ticked the female and ethnic minority boxes. But a governor of the FCO institution the Ditchley Foundation – of which the Director is Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the UK Ambassador to the UN who presented the lies about Iraqi WMD and was intimately involved in the lead in to war. So very much another cosy foreign policy insider.

So, in short, the committee – all appointed by Gordon Brown – have been very obviously picked to provide a complete whitewash. They are people whose attitudes and mindset lead them to accept the war as justified without the need for conscious connivance on their part. But if conscious connivance should be required, they are just the boys for it.

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Cameron and Iain Dale

Still in Accra. Nadira just phoned me from London to say that little Cameron – now 6 months old – was playing with the keys of her laptop – he has a fascination for mobile phones, remote controls and anything technical. Somehow he managed to open up firefox and navigate to Iain Dale’s blog.

The amazing thing is that it was Nadira’s laptop, not mine, and she can’t work out how he would have found the site, which she never looks at. Cameron is a family name – it was my father’s and is my brother’s middle name. But now I am worried that he has caught the zeitgeist and baby Cameron has become a Tory. Should I seek medical advice?

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The Inane Mary Dejevsky

The mind-numbingly stupid Mary Dejevsky seems to belive that diplomats should not be allowed to be divorced, or should lose their jobs if they do divorce.

…it has come out that our man in Yemen, Tim Torlot, is living at his official residence with an American journalist, who is expecting his baby… does the Foreign Office have to be quite as indulgent as it appears to be when the face of Britain abroad trades in a long-time partner

Wow! Ambassador has a girlfriend! Absolutely shocking. How did the Independent miss this one off the front page? But hasn’t this happened before somewhere? Mary reminds us:

The courage of our (former) man in Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, in exposing torture, seemed to blot out in the generous public mind the fact that he had installed a cabaret dancer in his official residence.

And plainly that was much more important than the torture stuff eh? And even worse than an American journalist, a cabaret dancer. Whisper it quietly.

I hope that none of this will “blot out in the generous public mind the fact” that Mary Dejevsky wrote this shameless gushing puff piece about murderous co-dictator of Uzbekistan, Gulnara Karimova:

What is certain is that Karimova is the product of a unique moment in history, her fate caught up between two ages and cultures: between Soviet Communism and its chaotic, free-market successor, between Asia and the West.

Interestingly the Independent seem to have been embarassed into pulling the piece from their website.

For someone who lectures us on morality, Dejevsky’s own seems to be curiously pliable. Besides which, she must have fucked someone at the Independent to be writing there rather than at Mills and Boon, where she belongs.

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Torturing Ordinary People

Obviously I feel a great deal of sympathy with Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin. Those of us who reveal connivance by our own governments in gross human rights abuse, find little protection from fleeting media support and interest.

One thing I would underline which Colvin said, as it mirrors precisely my own experience in Uzbekistan:

He said the vast majority of the prisoners were ordinary Afghans, many with no connection to the insurgency


That is the truth about the “War on Terror” torture industry which its proponents refuse to face. The overhwelming majority of those tortured have been innocent. Of course, after torture, they have all confessed their guilt….

The “ticking bomb” scenario is supposed to pose the classical justification of torture. It denies that any action is per se wrong, and posits that inflicting terrible pain on one person is justified if it prevents terrible pain to more numerous others. That is precisely the argument which was being put to me when I was officially informed of the new British government policy of using torture for intelligence:

There were difficult ethical and moral issues involved and at times difficult judgements had to be made weighing one clutch of “moral issues” against another. It was not always easy for people in post (embassies) to see and appreciate the broader picture, eg piecing together intelligence material from different sources in the global fight against terrorism

But the argument relies on a whole number of premisses. They include:

1. That the right person is being tortured and he does indeed have the knowledge to prevent harm.

In fact in the vast, vast majority of the War on Terror torture cases that is not true, as Colvin and I have both testified from actual experience – and as people like Baba Musa testify from beyond the grave – most torture is of the innocent.

2. That the torturer is a benevolent being who genuinely wants to learn the truth in order to prevent harm to others

In fact, in the vast majority of War on Terror torture cases, the torturer is seeking evidence to support a false narrative. In my case, the Uzbek dictatorship was seeking to win increased Western military and financial support by providing a vastly exagerrated narrative of the strength and penetration of Al-Qaida in Central Asia.

3. That there is an imminent threat of which intelligence can be got only from the tortured person

The 139 waterboardings of Mohammed Sheikh Khalid were not in fact aimed at preventing any future imminent threats, but rather at inducing him to confess to masterminding an unbelievably lengthy series of past terrorist atrocities as part of an extraordinary judicial process.

4. That the torturer is in a position to know 3.

In fact, 99% of War on Terror torture is random “Fishing expedition”

5. That the tortured will tell the truth under torture

In fact, as I saw from intelligence reports in Uzbekistan, people will confess to things which are demonstrably false if they think it will make the torture stop. Torture does not get you the truth. It gets you what the torturer wants to hear.

6. That only torture will get them to tell the truth

In fact. the consensus of Western intelligence professionals is that other interrogation methods are much more efficacious.

7. That with and only with knowledge from torture, the torturer will be able to avert the catastrophe

If you believe that, you watch too many Hollywood movies

I could go on. Modern moral philosophers usually identify nine premisses on which the ticking bomb argument depends. For me, there are already prior arguments about human civilisation and barbarity which come before even all of these. But an additional argument is the corrosive moral influence of torture on the body politic, as evidenced by the consistent lies told by New Labour about its pro-torture policy.

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Do Not Adjust Your Set

Have been away simply because the internet connection has been down for five days due to problems at Vodafone (formerly Ghana Telecom and a very murky privatisation deal indeed). Delighted to have a connection again, however slow, and hope to blog tomorrow.

I most missed the chance to tell you how much I hope the new President of the EU Council will be caught having an affair in Portsmouth.

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Jack Straw Lied To Parliament

The documents I obtained under the Freedon of Information Act yesterday are irrefutable evidence that Jack Straw lied to the parliamentary inquiry into extraordinary rendition. This is what Straw said:

I set out the British Government’s position on this issue on a number of occasions, including in evidence both here and to the Intelligence and Security Committee. I wrote a pretty detailed letter to a constituent of mine back in June, setting out our position. As I said there, there are no circumstances in which British officials use torture, nor any question of the British Government seeking to justify the use of torture. Again, the British Government, including the terrorist and security agencies, has never used torture for any purpose including for information, nor would we instigate or connive with others in doing so. People have to make their own judgment whether they think I am being accurate or not.

Yet all the time he had been personally directing a secret policy of using, justifying and conniving with torture, as these documents prove. I provide here a brief transcript with notes for those having difficulty understanding Civil Service jargon. :Deletions are by government censors.

My notes are in bold.

Download file


Classification redacted

From: Linda Duffield (Director, Wider Europe, Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

Date: 10 March 2003

Reference: 1

To PUS (Permanent Under Secretary, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Sir Michael Jay now Lord Jay)

cc: (Sir) Michael Wood, Legal Adviser

Matthew Kidd (Position redacted – representing MI6)


1. Michael Wood, Matthew Kidd and I had a meeting with Craig Murray (Me, British Ambassador to Tashkent) to discuss his telegram (Tashkent Telno Misc 01). (Detail of telegram deleted. In it I complained that we regularly receive material from the CIA, got from the Uzbek secret services, obtained by torture.) I said you had asked me to discuss this with Craig personally in view of the sensitive nature of the issues involved.

2. Craig said his concerns had been prompted by a presentation to the Uzbek authorities by Professor Korff (OSCE Adviser) on the UN Convention on Torture. Craig said that his understanding was that it was also an offence under the Convention to receive or to possess information obtained under torture. He asked for clarification on this. Michael Wood replied that he did not believe that possession of information was in itself an offence, but undertook to re-read the Convention and to ensure that Craig had a reply on this particular point.

3. I gave Craig a copy of your revised draft telegram (attached) and took him through this. I said that he was right to raise with you and Ministers (Jack Straw) his concerns about important legal and moral issues. We took these very seriously and gave a great deal of thought to such issues ourselves. There were difficult ethical and moral issues involved and at times difficult judgements had to be made weighing one clutch of “moral issues” against another. It was not always easy for people in post (embassies) to see and appreciate the broader picture, eg piecing together intelligence material from different sources in the global fight against terrorism. But that did not mean we took their concerns any less lightly.

4. (Whole paragraph deleted – this may have related to my querying of the accuracy of the CIA torture material).

5. After Michael Wood and Matthew Kidd had left, Craig and I had a general discussion about the human rights situation in Uzbekistan and the difficulties of pushing for a Resolution in Geneva, which we both agreed was important. (Section about US administation supporting Karimov in UN deleted)


6. In conclusion, Craig said that he was grateful for the decision to discuss these issues with me personally. At the end of the day he accepted, as a public servant, that these were decisions for Ministers to take, whether he agreed with them or not. If it ever reached the stage where he could not accept such a decision, then the right thing to do would be to request a move. But he was certainly not there yet. He had fed in his views. You and Ministers had decided how to handle this question. He accepted that and would now go back to Tashkent and “Get on with the job”.

7. I think it was right to see him. I am not sure this is the end of the issue (or correspondence), but it was a frank and amicable discussion and Craig appears to be making efforts to balance his work on human rights with other FCO objectives. We shall, of course, be reviewing these again once he has produced his post objectives for the upcoming year.


Linda Duffield

Director Wider Europe

Then Comes the Endorsement from Jack Straw:

Download file

Linda Duffield


Last night the Foreign Secretary (Jack Straw) read a copy of your minute of 10 March reporting your conversation (in the company of Michael Wood and Matthew Kidd) with Craig Murray.

The Foregin Secretary agrees with the PUS that you handled this very well. He has asked me to thank you.


Simon McDonald

(Assistant Private Secretary to Jack Straw)

Does anybody wish to now argue that Jack Straw told parliament the truth when he said two years later – when asked specifically about my account that hese events had happened

It is Mr Murray’s opinion. Mr Murray, as you may know, stood in my constituency. He got fewer votes than the British National Party, and notwithstanding the fact that he assured the widest possible audience within the constituency to his views about use of torture. I set out the British Government’s position on this issue on a number of occasions, including in evidence both here and to the Intelligence and Security Committee. I wrote a pretty detailed letter to a constituent of mine back in June, setting out our position. As I said there, there are no circumstances in which British officials use torture, nor any question of the British Government seeking to justify the use of torture. Again, the British Government, including the terrorist and security agencies, has never used torture for any purpose including for information, nor would we instigate or connive with others in doing so. People have to make their own judgment whether they think I am being accurate or not.

I have highlighted the bits that are plain lies to parliament in view of the above.

Any argument?

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New Evidence Jack Straw Guilty On Torture – A Smoking Gun

Finally I have indisputable documentary evidence that the British government had a positive policy of using intelligence from torture in the War on Terror, and that the policy was personally directed by Jack Straw.

Here are the minutes of the meeting at which I was told this:

Download file

All references to the CIA and MI6 have been literally cut out, but the meaning is till perfectly unmistakeable particularly given the heading of the minute.

And here is the absolute smoking gun of Jack Straw’s involvement::

Download file

Straw has been lying about this for five years. He dismissed my evidence on this to the Parliamenary Joint Committee on Human Rights as “Entirely untrue”.

Straw ruined my career over my opposition to torture intelligence, after I had been appointed Ambassador by his predecessor, Robin Cook, who was rather more well disposed towards human rights. It is wonderful that it is Robin Cook’s Freedom of Information Act which I have used to finally prove beyond any doubt that slippery Straw was up to his neck in approving intelligence from torture.

Minutes available as a JPEG here:

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Quilliam Foundation Threaten Webhosts To Close Down This Blog

Having failed to intimidate me, the Quilliam foundation have now written to my webhost in the Netherlands, threatening to sue them in England (English law claims effective universal jurisdiction on libel). They are demanding that my webhost pays damages to the Directors of the Quilliam Foundation.

You will recall that Alisher Usmanov got this website temporarily closed down by threatening my then webhosts. I hope Quilliam will find my current webhosts made of sterner stuff, but repetition or mirroring of the Quilliam Foundation posts would be helpful at this stage. Here they are:

Plus this one. of course.

I do not libel. All the money spent by the likes of Alisher Usmanov and Tim Spicer on lawyers’ letters to threaten me, my publishers and my webhosts has never resulted in anybody going to court against me, despite the fact I have always maintained the truth of what I have written and never bowed to threats to remove it. It is all still on here because it is all true.

I have written this to my webhosts:

There are loads of posts on my blog about this, and all my correspondence with them.

Key points:

At the time I pubklished my blog post, they had NOT filed their accounts

They filed their accounts six days AFTER I blogged that they had not filed them

At the time I blogged, their accounts were overdue and they did not have an extension ?” they applied for the extension THE DAY AFTER my blog that they had not filed their accounts ?” six days later they filed accounts

I have not at any stage accused the directors of stealing money. I have said that too much money goes into rewarding the Directors. Perfectly fair comment on a taxpayer funded organization ?” and a comment made by hundreds of others, repeatedly (google the Quilliam Foundation)

This is legal bullying. Having failed to intimidate me, they are trying to intimidate you

My own view is that, unless bloggers are prepared to stand up to this kind of intimidation, the internet is in deep trouble. The bad news is that English law claims the right to prosecute anyone anywhere in the world for posting to the internet as it can be read in England. This is a disgrace, and several US states have passed or are passing laws to protect their citizens from it. It is not impossible they would get your arse into an English court if they really wanted to make themselves infamous.

I am refusing to back down because I am quite confident that they are bluffing, and if they did go to court they would lose. I have in my five years of blogging received about sixty letters like the one you just got, and nobody has ever taken me to court, let alone won. It is called “chilling” ?” people are so terrified of UK libel law they usually back down when they get such a letter.

I cannot pretend it is one hundred per cent risk free to call their bluff. But if we give in the first time a wealthy institution pays a lawyer 500 dollars to write a letter, what is the purpose of our internet activity?


There is an interesting article in today’s Independent by Johann Hari about former “Islamic extremists.” Hari too notes the extraordinarily wealthy lifestyle of the Quilliam directors.

The most famous former Islamist fanatic in Britain is Maajid Nawaz ?” a high-cheekboned 31-year-old who walks with a self-confident strut. I make an appointment with him through his personal assistant, and he strides into the hotel lobby where we have arranged to meet in an immaculate and expensive suit. He seems to blend perfectly into the multi-ethnic overclass who use expensive hotels like this as their base…

We are served tea by the kind of effusive waitress who works in high-end London hotels. Maajid does not acknowledge her.

I get the impression Johann didn’t like Nawaz very much.

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That Got Their Attention Pretty Quick

From my statcounter log:

15 Nov 22:02:18 Safari 4.0.3 1280×1024 Arlington Virginia United States ( [Label IP Address]

Craig Murray – Corrupt Bloggers Wanted By US Military To Propagandise for Karimov Dictatorship I. BELK%22&start=10&sa=N

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Corrupt Bloggers Wanted By US Military To Propagandise for Karimov Dictatorship

(With thanks again to the excellent Ken Silverstein),

Gulnara Karimova is offering all expenses paid luxury junkets to Tashkent, plus a thousand dollars cash in the pocket, to US bloggers willing to blog about Uzbekistan without mentioning torture, massacre, dictatorship, slavery or environmental destruction.

As Obama has entered into a renewed military cooperation with Karimov, with military transit agreements already in place and an airbase agreement pending, it is interesting to note the Washington consultants organising this for Gulnara. It is a firm called Atlas International

Partners. The firm has three Principals. Here is an extract from the biography of each. What do their backgrounds have in common?:

Mr. Belk also assembled critical national security briefings in support of the President of the United States, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and served as a biological weapons expert for the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) in Iraq in 1998. Mr. Belk’s government service also included a tour in the White House as a special assistant for the Office of the Counsel to the President

Mr. Chichester has been a member of the U.S. Army Chief of Staff’s Eisenhower National Security Series Working Group and the Council on Foreign Relations?”where he co-chaired the Washington Term Member Advisory Committee. He is currently a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies

Ryung Suh received a BS in Chemistry from the United States Military Academy and completed his medical and graduate studies at Georgetown University. He holds faculty research and teaching appointments at Georgetown University School of Medicine, the School of Nursing and Health Studies, and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and serves as Senior Fellow at NORC at the University of Chicago.

Interesting too that Atlas feel quite abe to write:

I understand that Ms. Karimova is reviewing the proposal personally and will get back to us within the next 24 hours, which would be necessary to get your visa processed on Friday. Our feeling is that she is likely to give us a green light, so I am assembling a team of bloggers now


Without any apparent diffidence that their client is still subject to an outstanding New Jersey arrest warrant, which presumably is enforceable throughout the States as it has prevented her from travelling there for years. Are there not any laws about rendering assistance to fugitives from justice?

We wait to see which US bloggers start to write about the wonders of the Karimov regime. I presume that some of the pro-Obama blogs will feel this is a duty they can undertake in support of the administration’s’ new pro-Karimov position.

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Oil Must Benefit Ordinary Ghanaians

Ghana’s discovery of major oilfields is set to transform the country. But there has been little public debate on the fundamental effects that this will have, or even on upcoming short term government decisions that will have a major impact. So I contribute a few thoughts to encourage debate with my Ghanaian friends.

So far, there has been more interest in the international media than in the Ghanaian media over the question of whether the Ghanaian government will allow Kosmos Energy to sell its stake in Ghana’s bonanza Jubilee oilfield to Exxon Mobil for over 4 billion dollars, as Kosmos and Exxon Mobil have already agreed.

But Ghanaians should be very keenly aware of what is happening. The issue raises complex questions which go to the heart of the future of Ghana, a future that will be radically influenced for good or for ill by Ghana’s new position as an emergent oil rich state.

It may help to isolate and consider the following issues involved in the case, each of which is both critically important for Ghana, and a vexed point of dispute in Ghana’s vibrant political culture.

So let us look at Kosmos in the context of:

Property rights and state interference in the economy

Benefit to Ghanaians from Ghana’s mineral resources

The struggle between China and the West for influence in Africa



Property rights and state interference in the economy

To start with property rights, it has been put to me by Western diplomats in Accra that the government interference in Kosmos’ desire to sell its shares to Exxon Mobil is a signal that the NDC has not changed its spots, and is still a statist party opposed to free enterprise. But I am not sure that is fair on the NDC. Oil and gas concessions are not simple property rights. They are governed by long complicated contracts setting out many and onerous obligations on the owner of the concession, including for example obligations to carry out agreed exploration programmes.

A senior government minister has told me that Kosmos’ contract includes a clause giving GNPC a right of first refusal should they decide to sell, and that Kosmos agreed a deal with Exxon Mobil in breach of that clause. If that is true, then it is Kosmos, not the government, who are in the wrong. I would stress that I have not myself seen the contract and this is the province of the lawyers. But there are plenty of legitimate reasons why there should be such a clause. For example, it would be most undesirable if a single company were to buy up all Ghana’s hydrocarbon assets, establish a local production monopoly, and become an overwhelming power in the state.

Equally, the state would not wish concessions to go to a company who were interested in shutting down Ghanaian production to boost the oil price from their production elsewhere, were technically incapable of production, or were funded by drugs money. I hope that those examples illustrate that there can be a legitimate role for state intervention: the question is whether such intervention should be exercised in this case.

But the right that Kosmos do have is to receive the fair market price for their share. That must be at least what Exxon Mobil have offered. The Ghanaian government do not have any right to force Kosmos to sell to another buyer for less than the 4 billion dollars. That would indeed constitute an unfair infringement in property rights. But the right the Ghana government does have is to impose tax on the transaction.

Benefit to Ghanaians from Ghana’s mineral resources

Which leads us to the question of how ordinary Ghanaians will benefit from the oil. Here, there is one remedy that requires instant governmental action: whoever Kosmos sell to, the transaction must be heavily taxed as a massive capital gain.

An investor deserves their profit. Kosmos have bought their share of the concession, and had exploration expenses. Let us estimate that Kosmos expenditure at a generous 500 million dollars. The price they agreed with Exxon Mobil is reported variously at 4 or 4.5 billion dollars. To take the lower figure, that leaves them with a capital gain of at least 3.5 billion dollars.

The taxing of that 3.5 billion dollars must be the first major benefit to Ghana from its new oil industry. Ghana must here and now set down a marker that it is not, on oil, going to be ripped off to little general benefit, as it has been by the gold industry. The necessary amendment to the oil law must be rushed through so that Kosmos’ super capital gain is taxed at a minimum of 40% – whoever they sell to.

It is well established internationally that tax rates can be varied, windfall taxes can be imposed, and that national taxation approved by the legislature cannot be deemed limited by prior contract. Kosmos would complain, but a complaint that they only pocketed 2 billion dollars, not 3.5 billion, should be given limited sympathy. The tax should have to be paid by the purchaser direct to the government of Ghana, with Kosmos paid only the net sum after tax.

An empty government Treasury has added to the problems of economic depression to make life very difficult for people in the Ghanaian economy this year. That tax money – around 1.5 billion dollars – should be pumped into programmes which boost employment and economic activity. I would prioritise social housing and water, both of which need urgent attention in Ghanaian cities.

As a side issue, with gold at over $1,000 an ounce, I would strongly recommend the Ghanaian government to slap an immediate windfall tax on the gold producers.

You cannot consider the question of how ordinary Ghanaians will benefit from the oil, without looking at the terrible warning of Nigeria. The country has become a byword for corruption, fraud, thievery, drugs and violence. It may not be politically correct to say it, but we all know it is true. Because of Nigerian oil, Ghana is theoretically up to now a much poorer country than Nigeria, but in fact ordinary Ghanaians have a much better living standard than ordinary Nigerians (and yes, I have lived over three years in each country). Nigeria’s institutions have collapsed – to give just one example, Ghana’s universities thrive whereas even the great University of Ibadan is a literal wreck.

How does Ghana avoid becoming another Nigeria and escape the “Curse of oil”?

When Nigeria started pumping oil, its currency appreciated dramatically (and was kept artificially still higher). It became cheaper to import food than to grow it. Nigeria’s agriculture and rural economy collapsed. For example, in just ten years Nigeria went from being the World’s largest exporter of palm oil to being the world’s largest importer of palm oil. With the rural economy shattered, there was a massive population influx to the cities. But the oil wealth was monopolised by a small elite, and the majority found only squalor and degradation.

The first economic priority for Ghana once the oil starts flowing must be to keep the Cedi value low. Very low domestic interest rates, and the discipline to isolate a healthy amount of oil revenue in offshore development funds, will be an essential part of this strategy. At the same time, revenue must urgently be directed to rural infrastructure, to increasing farm prices and developing agro-processing industry, on a scale not previously attempted. Ghana already has a major problem keeping young people in farming. Think how much this will worsen when oil starts to flow. If the rural economy collapses, much of the weft of Ghanaian society will go with it, such as meaningful chieftaincies.

Plans to increase electricity generation and replace and extend Ghana’s aged electricity distribution network are an essential part of a policy to encourage economic activity and production throughout Ghana, not just in the oil centres. The failure of NEPA to provide a reliable nationwide electricity supply has been one of the chief causes of Nigeria’s failure to win economic development from oil.

Tax and royalties from oil production alone, nor the economic activity generated by offshore oil production and downstream industry, will generate the government revenue required to achieve all these things. For that reason, my answer to the Kosmos conundrum would be for GNPC itself to purchase the shares, at the price that would have been paid by Exxon Mobil. Hugo Chavez, while I am sceptical of his democratic credentials, has shown what a determined government can do for social equality with oil money. GNPC has offers on the table from major banks to fund the acquisition.

The struggle between China and the West for influence in Africa

China has an active policy of seeking to extend its influence in Africa, at the expense of Western influence. The Kosmos deal, and indeed the development of Ghana’s petrochemical resources, has become mixed up in this. As known to the Western embassies in Accra from their government contacts, rather than Exxon Mobil, the Ghanaian government wishes the stake to go to the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation.

That has made international news headlines, as a competition for an African mineral resource that pits China and the USA in head to head conflict. The US Embassy in Accra and the Obama Adminstration certainly see it that way. I suspect the Chinese Embassy do too.

Having just come back from Washington, I would assure you that the Americans are going to be very unhappy with Ghana if Exxon Mobil are blocked by the government, just in order to give it to the Chinese instead. If the Ghanaian government forces the sale to the Chinese for less than the Americans were prepared to pay, that would cause widespread outrage in the international community.

The clue is in what I just wrote: “Competition for an African mineral resource”. Those who kid themselves that either side is in this primarily for altruistic reasons, are easily deceived. Outsiders want African resources; that has been the truth of African contact with the rest of the world for centuries. That is not to say that there is no altruism in the relationship. From the West, I think of it as guilt money for slavery and colonialism. But whatever the motivation, the truth is that Ghana has over the years received hugely more free aid money from the UK and US than it ever has from China – totalling billions of dollars – and that it will do so this year too.

When asked by Ghanaian friends about .the relationship with China. I always tell them that, if offered genuinely free money, they should certainly take it. Equally, if these Chinese buses are reliable (time will tell) and cheap with good credit terms, certainly buy them. But the much vaunted billions in Chinese aid for Ghana is not readily apparent. Have you seen it? There are some football stadia – not a huge economic driver. The Bui project is a soft loan, not a gift, and the capital price is inflated.

Aspects to the Chinese way of doing things come with what aid there is. In particular the importation of low level Chinese labour, including convict labour, rather than giving jobs to local people, and some very unfortunate Chinese attitudes to employee relations and to Africans in general.

The government is working on a plan whereby the Chinese would get Kosmos’ part of the Jubilee field in exchange for building undersea gas pipelines, and the Chinese would also develop the onshore storage facilities, and perhaps refining and downstream industry too.

The problem with this plan is that that the Chinese do not want to pay 4.5 billion dollars upfront for the Kosmos concession. But if not they, who would pay Kosmos? Kosmos can certainly be taxed. Kosmos can within reason be controlled over to whom they sell. But the absolute right which Kosmos must retain is to sell their share at the market price.

The sums of money involved are mind boggling – that a share of less than a quarter in just one field is selling for over 4 billion dollars, shows how the economics of oil will dwarf the rest of the Ghanaian economy. That is why so many companies are anxious to be involved. That goes not just for the production from fields, but for all the downstream activity too. What worries me is that there appears a government determination to hand control of the bulk of Ghana’s nascent hydrocarbon related development to the Chinese, rather than deal on the basis of fair and open competition.

To say that there is a lack of transparency would be an understatement. A convoluted deal with the Chinese over Jubilee, pipelines, processing and downstream is being put together without anyone else being invited to tender. As far as I can see, it would give the Chinese Kosmos’ stake in the Jubilee field, with the Chinese paying much less than it is worth.

I may be wrong. It may well be that the Chinese proposal genuinely involves a huge aid component, or is of high quality and competitively priced. But in that case, they would only benefit from an open process.


There is no such thing as an environmentally friendly hydrocarbon industry. Production is messy, and use of the end product pollutes and causes climate change. There is no point in pretending otherwise.

But Exxon Mobil’s record on controlling local pollution effects at the point of production is abysmal. Their record in Nigeria (and Alaska) is appalling from the point of view of environmental degradation, community relations, repression and major corruption. They have a reputation as the most irresponsible polluting oil corporation in the World – with the exception of the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation, who are even worse.

It is worth a note in praise of Tullow Oil, partners and operators in the Jubilee field. An Irish company, their commitment to Ghana and to local employment and procurement has been exemplary.

It is vital for the future that a large part of the energy generated by hydrocarbons, and the resulting revenue, is devoted to funding the industrial development of renewable energy technologies. Ghana has great potential for wind energy, solar energy and above all wave and ocean current energy. Major projects in these areas should be developed with oil revenue.


Those Ghanaians who have been fortunate enough to acquire stakes in Ghana’s oilfields, are set to become the richest people in the land. Their families may be in a dominant position in Ghanaian society for generations. There is an understandable concern for who those Ghanaians are, and how they acquired their stakes. That seems to me a perfectly legitimate area for investigation, perhaps initially by the parliamentary energy committee.

Many government ministers are at least partly motivated in their opposition to the proposed Kosmos/Exxon Mobil deal by a belief that those close to ex-President Kuffour own a share in Kosmos, with the inference that the share was corruptly obtained. I do not know if that is true. I have not seen any evidence. If there is evidence, let it be properly investigated and acted on. If there is no evidence, forget it. But do not let us have policy in the most vital area dictated by partisan rumour.

Strangely, it is bipartisanship which is most worrying me. I pray that Ghana will never become corrupt at all levels like Nigeria, even though we know that oil brings that tendency. Yet there appears to be very little vigour in investigating and prosecuting corruption.

Both President John Kuffour and President John Atta Mills, on coming to power after defeating the previous government in election, appear to have taken the same view. As I see it, they judged that in Ghana’s new democracy, it is essential that when the government changes, it should be seen by all that vindictive action is not pursued against members of the other party. Only a very small number of middle ranking figures have suffered from anti-corruption action.

These were the actions of wise and generous hearted men. But the danger is that this forbearance can result in a toleration of corruption. A situation can even arise where the political class as a whole see the public purse as something they can loot, with the parties taking turns as they go in and out of power, and all the politicians agreeing not to pursue each other for corruption.

I am not saying that Ghana has reached that stage. I am saying that it is a danger and that you can be too tolerant. I first became known in Ghana when I warned of increasing corruption in the last years of the Rawlings administration. The same thing happened, only on an even bigger scale, in the last two years of the NPP government.

Let me put that in perspective: Ghana’s governance is still great compared to any other African country, and a huge amount of development has been achieved by generally first class government in the last decade. Corruption flourishes everywhere, including the UK. But it must be fought with more single-minded purpose than I see at present. With oil revenue coming, it is essential that the line against corruption is now drawn.

Let me conclude by saying that I offer these opinions simply as a friend of Ghana. They are entirely my personal view. Now that I am retired I can give an honest opinion without reference to the British government, IMF or World Bank ?” all of which would disagree strongly with many of my views here. Ghanaian policy is of course for Ghanaians to decide. I merely hope that I may provoke some thoughts useful to that purpose.

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Is Sting The World’s Greatest Hypocrite?


Since his creative juices dried up, Gordon Sumner aka Sting has received most publicity for his very public environmentalism. As in

The Rainforest Foundation was founded in 1989 by Sting and his wife Trudie Styler, after they saw first-hand the destruction of the Amazon rainforests, and the devastating impact it had on the lives of the indigenous peoples who lived there.

Not, you would think, the kind of chap who would be likely to take the money to propagandise for the most vicious regime in the World. But there was Gordon on October 17 at the Navoi Opera House in Tashkent, performing a “Charity Concert” with Gulnara Karimova for some of the “Charities” which have been set up in the past three years as the regime seeks to burnish her image to take over from her dissident massacring father.

I bet the oligarchs loved it though:

Even the cheapest ticket will cost more than 45 times the average monthly salary in Uzbekistan

Karimova herself has had opponents murdered, has through her company Xeromax taken ownership of much of Uzbekistan’s pathetically little industry, and runs both the city’s nightclubs and the profitable industry sex trafficking Uzbek girls to Dubai.

But the greatest irony of the arch tosser Sumner’s involvement is that the Uzbek government not only tortures thousands every year, has ten thousand political prisoners and massacres demonstrators. It is also responsible for one of the world’s greatest environmental disasters – the disappearance of the Aral Sea, and the huge toxicity of the remnant and of the blown seabed dust.

The Uzbek government gets most of its money from the State cotton plantations – Uzbekistan is the World’s second biggest cotton exporter. The use of all the river water for irrigation of the

cotton is the direct cause of the Aral Sea disappearance. The massive amount of pesticide and fertiliser needed to maintain a hundred year single crop monoculture is causing the poisoning and birth defects. The crop is picked by hand by forced labour and especially child slave labour. The arsehole Sumner may not have noticed, but in the last three years even Wal-Mart, Marks and Spencers and Tesco have put a total ban on Uzbek cotton in all the clothing they sell.

Did it not occur to Sting to wonder just where his glamorous hostess gets her billions from? Karimov and his daughter have for decades resisted every attempt to liberalise and diversify Uzbekistan’s agriculture. The slaves pick for them. And for Sting, apparently.

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Murray To Quilliam: Put Up Or Shut Up

Another libel lawyer’s letter arrived late this afternoon from Clarke Willmott for the Quilliam Foundation, funded by your taxes (if you are a UK taxpayer). As with their first one and their email, I give it in full so you can see their side of the story:

Download file

They now acknowledge that they only filed their accounts six days after I blogged that they had not filed them – a fact they left out of their first letter. They do say that they had an extension to file late from Companies House. That seems their one good point. The rest is easily refuted. I have replied thus:

Dear Michael Clarke,

I refute your points entirely. My blog posts are part of a wider political debate surrounding the Quilliam Foundation Ltd. The view that Mr Husain has swung from one extremist view to the opposite has been very widely reported and deplored in blogs and on newspapers. Anyone who one year supports Islamic terrorism, and the next year supports the invasion of Iraq and the occupation of Afghanistan, cannot be fairly described as stable. Indeed the one thing both viewpoints have in common is a support for killing people for political ends.

The view that the Quilliam Foundation is counterproductive in achieving its aims and thus a waste of taxpayers’ money, and that its Directors are over-remunerated, is also so widely expressed as to be the received wisdom about the organization. Indeed in paying a social parasite like a libel lawyer, it seems only to confirm that Quilliam has more taxpayers’ money than sense.

I am very sorry that you wish to waste more taxpayers’ money in trying to defend Quilliam’s non-existent good name. Of course you will profit personally: why should you not get on the taxpayer funded gravy train too? If you wish to claim this particular action is financed by other donations, I refer you to the concept of fungibility.

I view your proposed action as an appallingly illiberal attempt by a government funded organization to silence an outlet for political dissent in the UK.

I also insist that you tell me whether you had advance knowledge of the plan for Mr Ed Jagger to telephone me falsely pretending to wish to be able to make a donation, apparently in order to attempt to elicit financial information. If you do not refute in simple terms any involvement, I shall report you to your professional body. Please tell me if that is the Law Society or the Bar Council. I expect you have an obligation when asked to give information on where to direct a professional complaint.

If you wish to serve papers on me, you will find me for the next three weeks at C878/3, North Ridge, Accra. After that I shall be at home at 30 Whitehall Gardens, Acton, London, W3 9RD. My wife is now there alone with our young baby, and any action by you or your clients which upsets or harasses her before my return is something which I will take very, very seriously indeed and I would take every possible and imaginative action within the law to ensure that you would greatly regret.

Thank you for recommending me to get a solicitor. Sadly unlike your clients I am not rolling in taxpayers’ cash and I have no money for a solicitor. As Mr Jagger telephoned me to offer a donation, perhaps you might ask him if he could fund a solicitor for me? That would be kind.

I have nothing more to say to you and will enter no further correspondence with you, nor read any further correspondence by you. Please stop this pathetic and futile attempt at bullying and go to court. I have no doubt that Jack Straw (who you will be aware sacked me as British Ambassador precisely for not holding the views your clients are so well paid to propagandise) will make sure you get allocated a judge entirely on your side.


The only sad thing about this episode for me (other than the waste of time and energy and a certain distress to my family) is that the general opinion of Quilliam is so low, this appalling behaviour can’t make them much worse thought of.

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We are instructed by our clients to prosecute an action against you for libel.

I replied briefly to Quilliam’s lawyer’s letter threatening me with libel action:

Thank you,

I should be most grateful if you could send me a copy of the Quilliam Foundation’s accounts, which you say have in fact been filed.


That drew this response:

From: Rachael Gregory [mailto:[email protected]]

Sent: Thursday, November 12, 2009 4:39 PM

To: [email protected]

Subject: The Quilliam Foundation

Dear Mr Murray

Thank you for your response to our letter.

We are instructed by our clients to prosecute an action against you for libel. Full particulars are supplied in the letter that you have acknowledged.

Our client is not obliged to engage in correspondence with you about its accounts beyond the statement (made in our opening letter) that accounts have been prepared and have been filed at Companies House, in accordance with the law..

You may direct your request for a copy of the filed accounts to Companies House but in the meanwhile, our client requires a substantive response to the serious matters that are raised in our letter to you of yesterday’s date.

Yours faithfully

Clarke Willmott LLP

Rachael Gregory



Clarke Willmott LLP

1 Georges Square

Bath Street Bristol BS1 6BA

tel: 0845 209 1394

fax: 0845 209 2519

email: [email protected]


To which I replied thus:


Thank you. Had you noticed that your clients filed their accounts six days AFTER I had posted my article saying that they had not filed their accounts? Just trying to be helpful. I would also point out that Mr Jagger telephoned me and lied to me about why he was telephoning me ?” see the latest article on my website.


It appears to me that, even for a libel lawyer, Clarke Willmott was acting with questionable ethics by writing to me saying that accounts had been filed, yet not disclosing that they were filed six days AFTER I published that they had not been filed.

On the substantive question of whether the primary effect of Quilliam is the enrichment of its cosseted directors, that certainly is the general tone of this piece from the Times. The Times says the Directors salaries are 85,000 pounds a year.

85,000 POUNDS A YEAR SALARY. From the FCO. That’s 20,000 pounds more than my salary from the FCO for the much more onerous, responsible and dangerous job of being British Ambassador to Uzbekistan. Remember Quilliam is funded from our pockets as taxpayers.

The Times says:

The foundation refused to discuss individual earnings.

They are going to find that in court we are going to discuss their salaries, pensions, expenses and emoluments in very great detail indeed.

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