Yearly Archives: 2010


Still at Schiphol

I am becoming quite fond of my little corner of Schiphol airport. I have put up my Christmas cards and a few bits of tinsel. I now have a boarding card for the 0800 to Manchester. This is the sixth boarding card I have had. It is very hard to understand why, time after time, they don’t know a flight is cancelled until some time after it was due to leave and all the passengers have queued at the gate for hours.

Of course, Manchester is a lot further from Ramsgate than Schiphol is, so even if the flight atually goes, this represents rather dubious progress.

Happy New Year everybody.

Remarkably, KLM delivered my lost luggage, including my laptop, at 9.30 pm on New Year’s Eve. At that time a pretty lively party was already in full swing,much improved by the presence of a great many beautiful young women, mostly from Latvia. I am not sure why; my life as ever consists of a bewildering succession of chance encounters with really nice people. I am in the fortunate position of being able to say that Nadira was the most lovely of all, without indulging in dutiful hyperbole.

It was an extremely happy Christmas. Having my mum, both my brothers and all my three chidren together was as great as it was rare.

We have been through the laptop in lost luggage discussion before. The problem is that my shoulders dislocate at the drop of a hat, and I travel without hand luggage to avoid an accident.

2011 is going to be a very important year for me. particularly the first quarter. A number of crucial events are going either to set me up financially for the rest of my life, or result in real distress and failure. At present I have reason to be very optimistic. I am also very absorbed in my life of Alexander Burnes, which I hope will help establish a serious academic reputation.

The Portuguese edition of Murder in Samarkand has sold unexpectedly well in Brazil. The translation of the Turkish edition has just been finished.

I hope to do a Wikileaks retrospective in the next couple of days. Just a quick thought on the case of the poor young gardener in Bristol. Of the Jill Dando case, long before Barry Bulsara’s succesful appeal I blogged that this appeared to be a miscarriage of justice in which the police had fitted up the local weirdo.

Despite not being enamoured of landlords in general, I fear the same dynamic is at work in Bristol, albeit Chris Jefferies is much more intellectually capable than Bulsara. My instinct is that the police have picked up on Jefferies for being camper than a boy scout jamboree and archer than Trajan.

Jefferies’ release on bail has me worried that there was nothing against him other than the “He’s a weird one, guv” instinct of some not very bright cop. The case needs to be closely watched as history shows that the powers of the police to make the evidence fit the suspect are considerable.

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Why Students Must Join the Lib Dems

A great many people are asking me why I am not leaving the Lib Dems. Well, I am a party member because of John Bright and John Stuart Mill. I am not leaving it because of a nonentity like Nick Clegg.

I am hugely angry over tuition fees. The policy itself, with the effective withdrawal of the state from university teaching and the reinforcement of social division, is a terrible disaster. The blatant display of political opportunism and bad faith by Cless and his ilk will poison politics for a generation.

But not only am I staying in the Lib Dems, I am seeking actively to recruit students. A very high proportion of the student vote went to the Lib Dems at the last election. Those genuine Lib Dem voters are absolutely entitled to join the party. They voted Lib Dem – this is not entryism from outside.

Every Lib Dem MP must win a majority of a vote of his local party members to be reselected.

Under clause 11.7 of the Federal Constitution if a sitting MP wishes to be reselected they have to either:

win a majority vote of the members present at a local party general meeting (conducted by secret ballot)

or

If that resolution is defeated then the MP can request a ballot of all members of the local party.

http://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-time-to-end-the-special-treatment-for-sitting-mps-22319.html

I want to see many, many students join the party, in places like, oh, Sheffield Hallam, for example. The answer to the disillusion of students with our democratic system is for them to join the party and actively participate in, oh, Nick Clegg’s reselection vote, for example.

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Cold Weather Failures

The good news is that I am at Schiphol airport with a passable internet connection for the first time in three weeks. The bad news is that I am at Schiphol airport a great deal longer than I anticipated. Schiphol is colder than Heathrow and has mpre snow than Heathrow. It is operating normally – except for flights to the UK, of course.

A combination of crazed right wing thinking and crazed left wind thinking, so typical of the UK, is why our airports are rubbish.

The crazed right wing thinking is that our privatised infrastructure operates on the basis of maximising short term income. BAA is a renter of luxury goods retail space and the planes are just an unavoidable inconvenience. Following modern capitalist dogma, it carries no redundancy. It has only enough staff to just run the airport if they are all present and at full stretch. It can’t cope with a percentage not being able to get to work; it has no built in insurance of excess capacity.

BAA invests in only enough cold weather equipment to cope with a mild to normal winter. It has not tied up capital in equipment that may be fully needed only once in every five years. It crosses its fingers and hopes – it has, in effect, no insurance.

It is not of course unique. The philosophy of just in time ordering that transformed cash flows two decades ago, means total collapse if transport is disrupted. You hold no stock, carry no excess of anything.

It is this ideological commitment to short term profit maximisation that makes capitalism an unsafe model for British public infrastructure.

But then there adds to the chaos the left wing rubbish of health and safety culture. A man may not unload bags if there is any ice under his boots. He may slip. All risk must be eliminated and we must live hermetically sealed from our environment.

Weirdly the health and safety bullshit has become a part of corporate culture, an intrinsic part of management speak, trotted out by people who would sell baby parts to turn a buck, but not if there was a danger someone in the workplace would slip on the blood. Health and

safety is a mantra divorced of either morality or common sense.

Now where is that free champagne?

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They got the wrong person

There are many thousands of people imprisoned in Uzbekistan alone who should not be imprisoned and who suffer much worse conditions than even the genuine horrors of Wandsworth being visited on Julian Assange. But the Assange case has implications for ever deteriorating Western freedoms which should not be overlooked.

Then there are many war criminals who ought to be in jail and who are not. Most prominent of these are Bush, Blair, Cheney, Straw and their crew. A minor figurewho ought to be in jail is Anna Ardin. Here are two tweets she published after being “raped” by Julian Assange:

‘Julian wants to go to a crayfish party, anyone have a couple of available seats tonight or tomorrow? #fb’

‘Sitting outdoors at 02:00 and hardly freezing with the world’s coolest smartest people, it’s amazing! #fb’

She subsequently deleted and tried to expunge those. I doff my hat to Rixstep:

http://rixstep.com/1/20101001,01.shtml

For another avowed feminist trying to bring Assange down, analyse the use of language in this article by the Guardian’s useless Helen Piddle. For a worm like her to use words like bizarre and raggle-taggle in relation to John Pilger really defies rationality.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/dec/08/julian-assange-celebrity-supporters

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Ludicrous Attack on Assange

The decision to put Julian Assange in a cell over ludicrous sexual offence allegations is a politically motivated act that must be resisted. Assange has never been in hiding from the police, and there is no reason at all to believe he would abscond if granted bail.

This is kompromat – the use of sexual allegations to denigrate a person perceived as a threat to the state. They did it to Charles Parnell and Roger Casement and, a lowlier case, to me. This is an article I wrote on August 25:

The Russians call it Kompromat – the use by the state of sexual accusations to destroy a public figure. When I was attacked in this way by the government I worked for, Uzbek dissidents smiled at me, shook their heads and said “Kompromat”. They were used to it from the Soviet and Uzbek governments. They found it rather amusing to find that Western governments did it too.

Well, Julian Assange has been getting the bog standard Kompromat. I had imagined he would get something rather more spectacular, like being framed for murder and found hanging with an orange in his mouth. He deserves a better class of kompromat. If I am a whistleblower, then Julian is a veritable mighty pipe organ. Yet we just have the normal sex stuff, and very weak.

Bizarrely the offence for which Julian is wanted for questioning in Sweden was dropped from rape to sexual harassment, and then from sexual harassment to just harassment. The precise law in Swedish, as translated for me and other Sam Adams alumni by our colleague Major Frank Grevil, reads:

“He who lays hands on or by means of shooting from a firearm, throwing of stones, noise or in any other way harasses another person will be sentenced for harassment to fines or imprisonment for up to one year.”

So from rape to non-sexual something. Actually I rather like that law – if we had it here, I could have had Jack Straw locked up for a year.

Julian tells us that the first woman accuser and prime mover had worked in the Swedish Embassy in Washington DC and had been expelled from Cuba for anti-Cuban government activity, as well as the rather different persona of being a feminist lesbian who owns lesbian night clubs.

Scott Ritter and I are well known whistleblowers subsequently accused of sexual offences. A less well known whistleblower is James Cameron, another FCO employee. Almost simultaneous with my case, a number of the sexual allegations the FCO made against Cameron were identical even in wording to those the FCO initially threw at me.

Another fascinating point about kompromat is that being cleared of the allegations – as happens in virtually every case – doesn’t help, as the blackening of reputation has taken effect. In my own case I was formerly cleared of all allegations of both misconduct and gross misconduct, except for the Kafkaesque charge of having told defence witnesses of the existence of the allegations. The allegations were officially a state secret, even though it was the government who leaked them to the tabloids.

Yet, even to this day, the FCO has refused to acknowledge in public that I was in fact cleared of all charges. This is even true of the new government. A letter I wrote for my MP to pass to William Hague, complaining that the FCO was obscuring the fact that I was cleared on all charges, received a reply from a junior Conservative minister stating that the allegations were serious and had needed to be properly investigated – but still failing to acknowledge the result of the process. Nor has there been any official revelation of who originated these “serious allegations”.

Governments operate in the blackest of ways, especially when it comes to big war money and big oil money. I can see what they are doing to Julian Assange, I know what they did to me and others (another recent example – Brigadier Janis Karpinski was framed for shoplifting). In a very real sense, it makes little difference if they murdered David Kelly or terrified him into doing it himself. Telling the truth is hazardous in today’s Western political system.

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2010/08/julian_assange_1.html

There are a couple of things to add. The lead complainant is a serial crier of rape who made allegations against someone else which were found groundless, and has published a guide to sexual revenge over men. She consulted with the second complainant before the second complainant went to the police; these are not two unrelated complaints. The second one relates to a Swedish offence of not wearing a condom.

This from Danish WMD whistelblower – jailed for two years for whistleblowing – Major Frank Grevil:

Comparison of crime statistics between the three Scandinavian countries,

which have historically a highly similar societal structure, gives the

remarkable result that the incidence of sexual crimes is about ten times

higher in Sweden than in Denmark or Norway. Usually Sweden’s higher

proportion of unassimilated immigrants from first and foremost islamic

countries is blamed, but it would seem to be only a minor part of the

explanation. Rather, political instructions to the police seem to be the

major reason!

Critics maintain that Sweden has turned into a gynocracy, with some of the

most hateful female politicians – front figures for a party called

“Feministiskt initiativ”* – having publicly declared that male fetuses

should be selectively aborted, and all adult males castrated!

In such an atmosphere of hate, the Swedish police has been instructed to put

all alleged crimes of even the most remotely sexual character under the

statistical heading “rape”. This includes consenting intercourse between

teenagers with the female part being slightly under-age. It also includes

consenting intercourse where the female part was drunk.

So whoever initiated the plot to go for Assange on Swedish sexual charges knew what they were doing.

I am not a fan of radical feminists. They are hate filled individuals whose very souls are ugly. They seem particularly fixated with causing trouble to political radicals. Anyone who knows the real story of the Tommy Sheridan debacle knows that. They succeeded in alienating me from the Stop the War movement

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2009/04/warning_this_po.html

Now, very much more importantly, they are gunning for Julian Assange at a crucial time for democracy. Silly little girls.

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Still Blacklisted for Broadcast?

What on earth are they so afraid I am going to say?

Today Channel 4 News contacted me to ask me on to discuss wikileaks. I was not over keen to venture out in the snow, so a very nice lady called Leona said they would send a car to Ramsgate as they were “extremely anxious” to have my views as an ex senior diplomat who supported wikileaks.

She has just called back to say they have cancelled as “the running order has changed”. In fact I had made no preparations to go as I knew it would happen. This was approximately the fortieth consecutive time I have been booked by mainstream media then cancelled. In every case they approached me – I do not approach them – and then pull out usually close to the last moment.

I last blogged about this three years ago, when I posted this:

Blacklisted?

The last five times I have been invited on to television current affairs programmes, all within the last four weeks, my appearance has then been cancelled shortly before filming (except in the case of my comments on Newsnight’s piece on the Uzbek cotton industry, where I was called in and filmed, and then edited out).

This has not only been happening on the BBC. For example I received this:

Dear Mr Murray, ITV Sunday Edition – interview request I hope you don’t mind me approaching you out of the blue. I am writing to invite you onto our show, The Sunday Edition on ITV, this Sunday 18 November.

To give you some more background on the show, The Sunday Edition is ITV’s weekly news and review show, presented by journalists Andrew Rawnsley and Andrea Catherwood. We would like to ask you on to talk about aspects of international affairs: picking up from Gordon Brown’s Guildhall speech, what can and should we expect from his foreign policy?; the situation in Pakistan, Iran; and also the current domestic counter-terrorism measures. We would be happy to discuss other areas you wished to cover.

In terms of logistics, the programme is recorded live at 9.25am this Sunday, 4 November, at the ITN studios in Gray’s Inn Road, central London. We would of course of provide transport to and from the studio.

I do hope this is of interest. If you need any more information about the programme, or this request, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Kind regards,

James Reid

Followed by this:

Dear Craig, Many thanks for agreeing to come on the show this Sunday. Just to confirm the details, we will need to get you there for 8.45, to come on the programme at 9.25. Bekeh, our production co-ordinator will confirm the travel details with you when this is booked.

In the meantime, if you need any more information, please do not hesitate to let me know.

All the best

James

Then suddenly this:

Dear Craig, I hope all is well. I have been unable to get you on the phone this afternoon to let you know we had a change of plan for Sunday regarding the set-up for the programme, and are not going ahead with our planned interview. I wanted to say thank you very much for having agreed to come on, and for taking the time to talk to me on the phone. I apologies for this very late notice, and I hope this does not put you out.

Once again, may thanks for your time on this.

Best regards

James

Here is another example:

Dear Craig, I’m contacting you from the BBC’s Question Time programme where we are currently about to start a new season of programmes. I’m sure you are familiar with the format but just in case, each week five panellists take part in the programme – usually three politicians and two non-politicians. These other two panellists might be authors, artists, entrepreneurs, actors, pop stars or journalists. The idea is that they are non-political figures with an interest in current affairs – recent participants have included soul singer Beverley Knight, former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey and entrepreneur Martha Lane-Fox. We were wondering whether you would be interested and available at some point in the run to take part as a member of our panel? We have a number of dates coming up and it would be good to see if you are around. For example, we are in Leeds on the 18th October, Oxford on the 25th, Swansea on 1st November, London on the 8th November and Buxton on the 15th November. I hope this might be something that is of interest to you. Please let me know if I can give you any more information. Regards, Tom Gillett

Followed by:

Hi Craig,

Just getting in touch as I’m aware that we’d pencilled you in for this week’s programme.

I’m sorry to have to do this but I don’t think that we’re going to be able to go ahead with the booking this week. It just feels that this week is going to be all about Westminster politics and very little foreign policy which I think would be a waste of your experience. It would be better to book you in on a week where international matters are more prevalent so could you let me know your availability over the next few weeks and hopefully we can slot you in somewhere else.

Again, sorry not to be able to go ahead this week but hopefully we can re-arrange for a convenient date.

Very best,

Tom

No reply has been forthcoming to my emails on potential other dates.

Now obviously, it is not unheard of for current affairs programmes to invite people and then to cancel them. But it is very unusual – contrary to popular myth, television people are not notably more rude than normal. It is indeed so unusual that for it to happen five times in quick succession reaches the point where an underlying cause is definitely more likely than chance. It is worth noting that on all five occasions I did not approach the show; the show approached me. My contribution was discussed and a date agreed.

For Newsnight, I commented that the British government was not telling the truth in denying that they knew of the use of forced child labour in the Uzbek cotton industry, as I had reported it officially four years ago and written a book on the subject which they heavily vetted. On Sunday Edition this Sunday I was intending to query the veracity of the government’s claim that there are 2,000 Islamic terrorists in the UK, and consequently the need for yet more draconian anti-liberty legislation to “protect” us. I was also intending to point out the contradiction between Brown’s professed support for “Internationalism”, and his slavish devotion to an aggressively unilateral US foreign policy.

These are neither unusual nor extreme views, but you almost never hear them on television, and you won’t now be hearing them from me. I wonder why?

Posted by craig on November 17, 2007 5:59 AM in the category Other

End quote

It has happened, again and again, ever since – though with decreasing frequency, as I suppose it has become generally known I am not to be filmed. I don’t normally post about it, because obviously it makes it easy to portray you as paranoid. You will recall that even when I gave shocking formal evidence before the parliamentary human rights committee on UK complicity in torture, or when David Tennant played me in a BBC radio play of my life by David Hare, or when I presented the Sam Adams award to Julian Assange, I was not given a single UK broadcast interview about any of these pretty startling events. I have given literally hundreds of foreign TV interviews throughout this period.

I am convinced that there must be a formal mechanism behind this blacklisting. It is too complete, and kicks in so effectively every time I actually am invited. To edit me out of a lengthy feature on slavery in the Uzbek cotton industry, as Newsnight did, for example, is inexplicable otherwise.

This started in 2007. In 2005 and 2006 I made about 50 TV appearances on UK national television in each year. In the first half of 2007 I made over thirty. Since then, not one, but numerous invitations cancelled at the last minute. Now give me a credible alternative explanation to blacklisting.

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Prince Andrew Not Solely Despicable

The problem with the wikileaks method of releasing the documents through mainstream media outlets, is that they are then interpreted for the public by a lazy and incompetent group of “Journalists” whose arses have grown plump on the rewards of retailing spoonfed propaganda.

So the mainstream missed the underlying stories and context, simply because they are too lazy and stupid to know the facts. The Prince Andrew story is a typical example. The Guardian reports that the US Ambassador disapprovingly notes his jolly (and stupid) remarks about corruption:

“In an astonishing display of candour in a public hotel where the brunch was taking place, all of the businessmen then chorused that nothing gets done in Kyrgyzstan if President [Kurmanbek] Bakiyev’s son Maxim does not get ‘his cut’.

“Prince Andrew took up the topic with gusto, saying that he keeps hearing Maxim’s name ‘over and over again’ whenever he discusses doing business in this country. Emboldened, one businessman said that doing business here is ‘like doing business in the Yukon’ in the 19th century, ie only those willing to participate in local corrupt practices are able to make any money … At this point the Duke of York laughed uproariously, saying that: ‘All of this sounds exactly like France.'”

But the delicious irony of this, as regular readers of this blog will know, is that the US government was, fully knowingly, the greatest source by far of corrupt funds straight into the pocket of Maksim Bakiyev. He was awarded the supply contracts for the US base in Manas, Kyrgyzstan, and he ripped off more than US $60 million from the fuel supply alone.

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2010/06/afghan_war_spre.html

This is part of a deliberate US government policy of bribing and propping up Central Asia’s corrupt and dictatorial regimes in order to secure their support for US troops in neighbouring Agfhanistan. Indeed, the monies taken by Maksim Bakiyev from the Pentagon pale in comparison with the huge sums funnelled by the Pentagon to dictator’s daughter Gulnara Karimova in Uzbekistan for ground supply services to US troops.

None of which detracts from the boorish stupidity of Andrew’s remarks. It is a fascinating glimpse into the world in which Blair gave our biggest weapons company BAE immunity from prosecution for massive corruption. To the senior establishment, the idea of the rule of law is simply to be laughed down when they feel far away and unobserved, or gravely put aside in the public interest when they are on the record at home.

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2009/01/jack_straws_cor.html

You can learn more about Kyrgyzstan than the entire staff of the Guardian has ever known in my brief posting here:

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2010/06/kyrgyzstan_hund.html

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Raise A Glass to Wikileaks

The Guardian CIF has radically shortened and buried in a panel a piece I wrote for them – at their request – on Wikileaks.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/nov/29/us-embassy-cables-middle-east

Here is the original:

The well paid securitocracy have been out in force in the media, attacking wikileaks and repeating their well worn mantras.

These leaks will claim innocent lives, and will damage national security. They will encourage Islamic terrorism. Government secrecy is essential to keep us all safe. In fact, this action by Wikileaks is so cataclysmic, I shall be astonished if we are not all killed in our beds tonight.

Except that we heard exactly the same things months ago when Wikileaks released the Iraq war documents and then the Afghan war documents, and nobody has been able to point to a concrete example of any of these bloodurdling consequences.

As these are diplomatic telegrams, we have also had a number of pro-secrecy arguments being trotted out. These are arguments with which I was wearily familiar in over twenty years as a British diplomat, six of them in the Senior Management Structure of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

It is seriously argued that Ambassadors will not in future give candid advice, if that advice might become public. In the last twelve hours I have heard this remarkable proposition put forward on five different television networks, without anybody challenging it.

Put it another way. The best advice is advice you would not be prepared to defend in public. Really? Why? In today’s globalised world, the Embassy is not a unique source of expertise. Often expatriate, academic and commercial organisations are a lot better informed. The best policy advice is not advice which is shielded from peer review.

What of course the establishment mean is that Ambassadors should be free to recommend things which the general public would view with deep opprobrium, without any danger of being found out. But should they really be allowed to do that, in a democracy?

I have never understood why it is felt that behaviours which would be considered reprehensible in private or even commercial life ?” like lying, or saying one thing to one person and the opposite to another person ?” should be considered acceptable, or even praiseworthy, in diplomacy.

When Ambassador to Uzbekistan, I was rebuked by the then head of the Diplomatic Service for reporting to London by unclassified email the details of dreadful human rights abuses by the Uzbek government. The FCO were concerned that the Uzbeks, who were intercepting our communications, would discover that I disapproved of their human rights violations. This might endanger the Uzbek alliance with British forces in neighbouring Afghanistan. For the FCO, diplomacy is synonymous with duplicity.

Among British diplomats. this belief that their profession exempts them from the normal constraints of decent behaviour amounts to a cult of Machiavellianism, a pride in their own amorality. It is reinforced by their narrow social origins ?” still in 2010, 80% of British ambassadors went to private schools. As a group, they view themselves as ultra-intelligent Nietzschean supermen, above normal morality. In Tony Blair (Fettes and Oxford), they had both leader and soulmate.

Those who argue that wikileaks are wrong, believe that we should entrust the government with sole control of what the people can and cannot know of what is done in their name. That attitude led to the “Dodgy dossier” of lies about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Those who posit the potential loss of life from wikileaks’ activities need to set against any such risk the hundreds of thousands of actual dead from the foreign policies of the US and its co-conspirators in the past decade.

Web commenters have noted that the diplomatic cables now released reflect the USA’s political agenda, and there is even a substantial wedge of the blogosphere which suggests that Wikileaks are therefore a CIA front. This is nonsense. Of course the documents reflect the US view ?” they are official US government communications. What they show is something I witnessed personally, that diplomats as a class very seldom tell unpalatable truths to politicians, but rather report and reinforce what their masters want to hear, in the hope of receiving preferment.

There is therefore a huge amount about Iran’s putative nuclear arsenal and an exaggeration of Iran’s warhead delivery capability. But there is nothing about Israel’s massive nuclear arsenal. That is not because wikileaks have censored criticism of Israel. It is because any US diplomat who made an honest and open assessment of Israeli crimes would very quickly be an unemployed ex-diplomat. I don’t want to bang on about my own case, but I wouldn’t wish the things they do to whistleblowers on anybody. .

It is is no surprise that US diplomats are complicit in spying on senior UN staff. The British do it too, and a very brave woman, Katherine Gunn, was sacked for trying to stop it. While the cables released so far contain nothing that will shock informed observers, one real impact will be the information available to the arab peoples on how far they are betrayed by their US puppet leaders.

The government of Yemen has been actively colluding with the US in lying – including to its own parliament ?” that US drone attacks that have killed many civilians, were the work of the Yemeni air force. The King of Saudi Arabia shows no concern over the behaviour of Israel or the fate of the Palestinians, but strongly urges the bombing of Iran. It is not only, or primarily, in the Western world that we need to know more about what is done in our name. Wikileaks have struck a great blow against the USA’s informal empire.

The people discomfited by these leaks are people who deserve to be discomfited. Truth helps the people against rapacious elites ?” everywhere.

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While I Was Away

Here are some brief comments on events while I was busy biographing:

Prince William to wed Kate Middleton

I really don’t give a fuck. Have you noticed he is strangely getting less bald? They’ll both be middle aged and ugly before they come to the throne. Or hopefully not.

Coalition launch “Starve the feckless” scheme

Multiple orgasms at the Mail, Express and Telegraph at launch of amusingly impossible policy guaranteed to increase crime rate.

Demonstrators trash Tory Party HQ

I don’t really approve of riot as people get hurt. But the only thing that makes me angrier than the tuition fee increases, are the NUS leadership hacks who support New Labour who brought in tuition fees in the first place.

Interesting moral conundrum as to whether pre-emptive murder of NUS executives can be justified. Looking at Straw, Clarke and Aaronovitch, it is certainly a debate worth having.

Possible voluntary reduction in London bankers’ bonuses from £7 billion to £4 billion and then £3 billion later. Anyone remember why the public finances are bankrupt? The bonuses are justified by record profits based on funding and administering government debt, which was incurred by governments borrowing to give to the bankers. What?

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The Stew of Corruption

British democracy has lost its meaning. The political and economic system has come to serve the interests of a tiny elite, vastly wealthier than the run of the population, operating through corporate control. The state itself exists to serve the interests of these corporations, guided by a political class largely devoid of ideological belief and preoccupied with building their own careers and securing their own finances.

A bloated state sector is abused and mikled by a new class of massively overpaid public secotr managers in every area of public provision – university, school and hospital administration, all executive branches of local government, housing associations and other arms length bodies. All provide high six figure salaries to those at the top of a bloated bureaucratic establishment. The “left”, insofar as it exists, represents only these state sector vested interests.

These people decide where the cuts fall, and they will not fall where they should – on them. They will fall largely on the services ordinary people need.

Meanwhile we are not all in this together. The Vodafone saga only lifts the lid for the merest peek at the way the corporate sector avoids paying its share, hiding behind Luxembourg or Cayman tax loopholes and conflicts between international jurisdictions – with which our well provided politicians are very happy. The often excellent Sunny Hundal provides a calm analysis of the Vodafone case here:

http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/11/01/why-are-there-protests-against-vodafone-a-simple-guide/#more-18963

Let me tell you something else about Vodafone. Vodafone took over Ghana Telecom three years ago. They paid an astonishingly low price for it – 1.2 billion dollars, which is less than the value of just the real estate GT owned. The value of the business was much higher than that, and there was a substantively higher opening bid from France Telecom.

The extraordinary thing was the enormous pressure which the British government put on Ghana to sell this valuable asset to Vodafone so cheaply. High Commissioner Nick Westcott and Deputy High Commissioner Menna Rawlings were both actively involved, with FCO minister Lord Malloch Brown pressurising President Kuffour directly, with all the weight of DFID’s substantial annual subvention to Ghana behind him.

What is the point of DFID giving taxpayer money to Ghana if we are costing the country money through participating in the commercial rape of its national assets?

And why exactly was it a major British interest that Vodafone – whose Board meets in Germany and which pays its meagre taxes in Luxembourg – should get Ghana Telecom, as opposed to France Telecom or another company? Was privatisation at this time the best thing for Ghana at all?

This Vodafone episode offers another little glimpse into the way that corporations like Vodafone twist politicians like Mark Malloch Brown around their little fingers. It mioght be interesting to look at his consultancies and commercial interests now he is out of office.

BAE is of course the example of this par excellence. Massive corruption and paying of bribes in Saudi Arabia, Tanzania end elsewhere, but prosecution was halted by Tony Blair “In the National Interest”. BAE of course was funnelling money straight into New Labour bagmen’s pockets, as well as offering positions to senior civil servants through the revolving door. Doubtless they are now doing the same for the Tories – perhaps even some Lib Dems.

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2009/01/jack_straws_cor.html

It is therefore unsurprising the BAE were able to write themselves contracts for aircraft carriers which were impossible to cancel and that their New Labour acolytes were prepared to sign such contracts. It is, nonetheless, disgusting. Just as it is disgusting that there is no attempt whatever by the coaliton to query or remedy the situation. There is no contract in the UK which cannot be cancelled by primary legislation.

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23894666-bae-letter-was-gun-to-head-of-ministers-over-aircraft-carriers-deal.do

Meanwhile, bankers’ bonus season is upon us again and these facilitators of trade and manufacture are again set to award themselves tens of billions of pounds to swell the already huge bank accounts of a select few, whose lifestyle and continued employment is being subsidised by every single person in the UK with 8% of their income. This was because the system which rewards those bankers so vastly is fundamentally unsound and largely unnecessary. Money unlinked to trade or manufacture cannot create infinite value; that should have been known since the South Sea Bubble.

Yet even this most extreme example of government being used to serve the interests of the wealthy and powerful at the expense of everyone else, has not been enough to stir any substantial response from a stupoured, x-factored population, dreaming only of easy routes to personal riches, which they have a chance in a million of achieving.

Conventional politics appears to have become irretrievably part pf the malaise rather than offering any hope for a cure. But political activity outwith the mainstream is stifled by a bought media.

I see no hope.

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Tuition Fees Madness

I set out a comprehensive attack on the withdrawal of public funding from university teaching (for it is no less than that) here:

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2010/10/a_poisoned_cons_1.html

Now the actual figures have been released – £6,000 fees and up to £9,000 if you can prove you condescended to admit a few plebs – I do hope some Lib Dem Ministers will be shamed into rediscovering their integrity. But I doubt it.

If the object of this “reform” is to ensure that the Camerons, Cleggs and Osbornes of this world can go through life without ever meeting a member of the hoipolloi who is not serving them, it will succeed. If it has any other aim it will not.

The British government will spend less in total and less per student on higher education than any other developed country. It already spends less government money per student than the United States. This is a national disgrace much more fundamental than all the

macho nonsense about sharing aircraft carriers.

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Afghanistan

This wracked body is battling to keep going, with problems still arising from whatever it was that nearly killed me in Tahskent in 2003 (if that sounds mysterious, it is – read Murder in Samarkand). I have spent most of the last week acting as a pincushion for the local hospital.

All of which thoughts of mortality remind me that I need to travel to Afghanistan in January to finish my research for my biography of Alexander Burnes. This is fair notice to anyone in Afghanistan who might want to kill me – which is a pretty broad range.

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Positively Independent

I am speaking at a conference in Glasgow on Sunday to promote Scottish Independence.

http://www.scottishindependenceconvention.com/PDF%20Files/Posivitly%20Independent.pdf

There are many reasons I support Scottish independence (and Welsh independence and Irish reunification). But among those reasons, and the one which I shall be expounding on Sunday, is that the United Kingdom as an entity is fundamentally tied to US military and neo-imperial interests. Neither Robin Cook nor Lib Dems in government have been able to separate the UK from aggressive foreign occupations, ruinous military expenditure, addiction to weapons of mass destruction and a contempt for international law.

The UK must be broken up. I want to see a Scotland that accepts it is a proud and equal nation among other nations, but has no desire to be more than equal, that plays an active part in the UN and in strengthening the framework of international law, does not possess WMDs and which will never attack another country unless it or an ally is physically attacked,

A Scotland like that is acheivable. A UK like that is not. Part of the reason may be that the UK was in truth in itself an imperial construct, with Scotland, Wales and Ireland the first conquered people. Their later absorption into the imperial culture (which still infects unionists) does not alter that truth.

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Meteors or Meteorites over Kent

I have just seen the most beautiful site. A meteor of the deepest red, a distinct flare with a tail, came over in a great arc, moving very slowly and slightly wobbly, and gradually dwindling away to nothing. Just as it vanished, a second one appeared from the original spot and traced the same arc, like a celestial action replay. Each was visible for around two minutes.

It was breathtaking and beautiful. I don’t care if it was space junk frazzling as it entered the atmosphere, the effect was divine. My plans for November 5 seem a bit pointless now.

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Drowning in Spam

For those who have found it hard to get the site or to post comments, we are under a massive and concerted spambot attack. See this:

Download file

The interesting thing is that this is disguised as commercial spam but it isn’t – there are no real car dealers, fake watch salesmen and loan sharks at the end of the links.

Tim and Wibbler have repeatedly said they will look into a simple Captcha device to eliminate these attacks, but it appears not possible, perhaps due to our rickety old blog platform.

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Terror Scare Bullshit

Contrary to the false reports disseminated by government agencies, there were no detonators in the toner bombs. They would therefore almost certainly have failed to go off, just like the self gonad immolating bomber.

As for the weird insistence by the government that the bombs were designed to go off on the plane, I just don’t believe it. What is the evidence for this? If the object was to bring down a plane, why possibly call attention to the packages by addressing them to Chicago synagogues?

The only possible reason to insist that planes, not synagogues, were the target is to tap in to the public psyche which since 9/11 has been thoroughly indoctrinated with the airline bomb threat. In other words, deliberate government fearmongering.

There is now an official insistence that the bombs were physically created by the same man who created the underpants bomb. Actually entirely possible, in that both attempts were useless, had no access to detonators, and didn’t kill anyone.

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Diplomacy, Dictatorship and the Uses of Torture

There is a major profile of me in the latest Der Spiegel.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,724471,00.html

It is slightly overdrawn in its desire to paint a contrast between Ambassador Neuen and I, but is not unfair. Where it is wrong is its easy acceptance of the false dichotomy: is it better to suck up to a dictator and gain quiet influence over him, or to take a moral high stand but have no influence?

The mistake is in believing that crawling to a dictatorial regime makes them respect you. In fact the diplomatic cringe posture only enhances the super bloated ego and confidence of power of Karimov and his minions. They perceive diplomatic circumspection as weakness, and they despise the weak.

Remember, the senior officials of the Karimov regime have not encountered a single person — except Karimov himself – who dared to speak to them roughly, for decades. Almost everyone they meet, they have the power to have killed. Let me say that again so it sinks in. Almost everyone they meet, they have the power to have killed. They do have people killed, not infrequently.

The example given in the Der Spiegel article of forcing diplomats to wait for three hours in baking 105 degree heat – quite deliberately – for a ceremony to start, is not a major thing in itself, but is a demonstration of contempt.

By taking a different, robust and forceful approach, I shocked the Karimov regime and I simultaneously gave them world exposure they really didn’t like. In consequence I had far more influence with them – they hated me, but could not ignore me. When the British government moved to remove me, every single British company in Uzbekistan wrote to Jack Straw to protest, stating in terms that I was the most effective Ambassador for British interests. You will find the letters in Murder in Samarkand.

British influence evaporated when the British government made plain to Karimov I did not have their support for a strong line. Britain has had no influence ever since. On your knees is not a position of influence.

Diplomacy is also on my mind with relation to torture. Two former British Ambassadors, Brian Barder and Charles Crawford, have both attacked my analysis of the recent speech of John Sawers, head of MI6. Sawers’ speech was a defence of torture thinly disguised as a condemnation of torture.

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2010/10/lib_dem_ministe.html#comments

I will not waste much time on Charles Crawford, whose efforts are less of a blog and more a public exhibition of Attention Deficit Disorder. But Brian Barder is in an altogether different class, and his views merit further consideration.

http://www.barder.com/2934

Brian makes an argument that I have juxtaposed quotes from Sawers’ speech which were not actually next to each other. He claims that Sawers does not say that we receive intelligence from torture, or that Ministers have approved it.

Brian is talking total rubbish, To quash these accusations of misrepresentation, this is an unedited extract from Sawers’ speech:

“We also have a duty to do what we can to ensure that a partner service will respect human rights. That is not always straightforward.

Yet if we hold back, and don’t pass that intelligence, out of concern that a suspect terrorist may be badly treated, innocent lives may be lost that we could have saved.

These are not abstract questions for philosophy courses or searching editorials. They are real, constant, operational dilemmas.

Sometimes there is no clear way forward. The more finely-balanced judgments have to be made by Ministers themselves.”

There is no doubt that this means that we receive intelligence from torture by other security services, and that this is decided by Ministers. It can mean nothing else. Especially if you consider the background given here.

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2010/06/proof_of_compli.html

Of course, Sawers carefully does not use the “T” word here and only uses it in a passage condemning torture, passed to and swallowed by our complacent media. That is precisely the dishonesty which so annoys me.

The curious thing is that both Brian and Charles, like Sawers, are enthusiastic supporters of the argument that we ought to get intelligence from torture by others. As Brian says:

“For the record, there is no legal, moral, ethical or practical ban on scrutinising information, and where appropriate acting on it, regardless of the way it has originally been obtained or is suspected to have been obtained.”

Let us state the points where I agree with Brian. I accept that MI6 does not torture people. I accept that MI6 does not specifically hand over people to be tortured, request that detainees are tortured, or observe torture.

But Brian completely fails to take account of the UK/US intelligence sharing agreement. Under this. MI6 and the CIA share all intelligence. The Americans do all the things in the above list. Waterboarding and other physical tortures are just one part of the American arsenal. Under extraordinary rendition, hundreds were knowingly delivered up to torture. I have received direct eye witness evidence of CIA staff physically present at torture sessions in Uzbekistan. As Brian knows, MI6 will have received every US intelligence report received from all this activity. And there are numerous examples of MI6 staff assisting the CIA in getting suspects into the extraordinary rendition system. As Brian knows, the human intelligence reports circulating Whitehall are perhaps three to one CIA not MI6 sourced – but the CIA reports in London have been processed and issued through MI6. How does this affect the “Clean Hands” claims Brian accepts from Sawers.

But the fatal flaw in Brian’s – and Sawers’ argument is the frankly pathetic notion that, by regularly and gratefully receiving intelligence from dictatorships which they obtained by torture, we do not condone or encourage torture. Brian hides behind the “ticking bomb” argument that falsely posits that intelligence from torture is rare and relates to an instant and preventable threat. Brian has simply not answered this entire section of my article:

“It is the old man I met who had his children tortured before his eyes until he admitted false family ties with al-Qaida. It is the woman raped with the broken bottle, It is the lady who lived opposite me whose father was blinded as a political prisoner, and who was held down while a truck was run over her legs. All of that and thousands more did not stop the government, despite my profound objections as Ambassador, from accepting intelligence from the Uzbek torture chambers via the CIA.

John Sawers relies on the “ticking bomb” fallacy – the idea that torture happens to real terrorists and they give precise timely information to avert an imminent threat. That is a Hollywood scenario. There has never ever been a real life example that meets the ticking bomb cliche.

We encourage torture, we create a market for it, by accepting its fruits. The regimes who pass us this intelligence know we accept it, and they feel supported and reinforced in their abuse of human rights. Why would they take Western rhetoric seriously on human rights when they know we lap up the products of their torture chamber?

Remember the torturers are not altruists but agents of very nasty regimes. The information passed to us by those regimes is not for our good, but for the good of those regimes – and normally to convince us that the opponents of those regimes are all terrorists, whether true or not. In Uzbekistan, every bit of intelligence we could verify from the Embassy, eg on terrorist training camps in named locations in the hills, turned out to be untrue. Yet the intelligence services lapped up the Uzbek information because it greatly exaggerated the strength of al-Qaida in Central Asia, thus providing a spurious justification for our support of Central Asian dictators, whose help we wanted for our Afghan policy and for access to their hydrocarbons.

Torture does not get you the truth. It gets you what the torturer wants to hear. People will say anything, as their arm is held in boiling liquid, to make the pain stop. The regimes who do this do not hold truth as a high priority.

The torture material regularly received by the UK government is from countries where the vast, overwhelming majority of the people tortured are not terrorists at all but merely dissidents from abhorrent regimes. I speak from first hand knowledge.”

PerhapsBrian would like to answer it now.

Lastly, I am genuinely very saddened to see Brian joining in the smears against me with this:

The author of this scurrilous piece is in some danger of being taken seriously, being (as he constantly reminds us all) a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan who has achieved a certain fame through having insisted, I believe wrongly, that he was sacked from the Diplomatic Service for criticising the practice of torture by the Uzbek authorities and for having repeatedly denounced his own government for receiving, and sometimes acting on, information from the Americans but originating with the Uzbeks, some of which may well have been obtained by torture. He certainly did both these things, with characteristic gusto, but he was eased out of the Diplomatic Service ?” to put it politely ?” for other reasons.

Forget politeness Brian. I have no doubt you have been fed poison from some FCO related source. The best thing with poison is to spew it up.

A final point. The main object of my original post was to start some debate within the Lib Dem blogosphere. Yet no Lib Dem blogger has come forward to defend our ministers. I am not sure many activists currently see some of them as worth defending.

If after reading Brian’s harrumphing you need an antidote, there is an excellent article on Sawers’ pro-torture diatribe here:

http://www.septicisle.info/index.php?q=/2010/10/stepping-out-of-shadows-while-wanting.html

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