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199 thoughts on “Jonathan Powell

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  • hawley_jr

    @technicolour: “depends what you mean by al quaeda. far as i know they got their name from a CIA database. otherwise what i think is pretty irrelevant, isn’t it, without proof of any kind?”

    I’m not sure what point you’re making.

    As you must be well aware, our discussion is not about proof, it’s about who we think is likely to be able to co-ordinate a large number of synchronous events, including multiple exercises by the military, in what is likely the best defended country on the planet, “in a feat of organisation that puts D-Day absolutely in the far shade…”

    When you wrote: “Well, hawley, I agree with it…”, I assume you meant that you thought Aaronovitch correct in saying the Bush admin could not have carried out such a feat, and it must therefore have been others.

    Did I get you wrong, and, in fact, you do think the Bush administration were sufficiently brilliant “to bring down the Twin Towers itself”?

  • technicolour

    “Did I get you wrong, and, in fact, you do think the Bush administration were sufficiently brilliant “to bring down the Twin Towers itself”?

    In actual fact, I don’t know, hawley. I don’t suppose the Bush admin would be too fussed about my opinion of its brilliance either way, though. What do you think?

    Interesting that you reckon that our discussion isn’t ‘about proof’. Obviously, I love logging on to hear opinions; they can be very illuminating. But I do like some proof of facts too, if you don’t mind me saying so.

  • Courtenaybarnett


    And finally, if, as you are trying to say, that I distort history, I challenge you to disprove the US foreign policy approach I just posted – in response to your “mission” ( not that I don’t enjoy it in responding) of questioning me.

    If I am in error, then within the US, I guess, I am in good company with the Los Angles Times – about the processes I just described:-,0,591109.story

  • Larry from St. Louis

    Courtenay, your non-analysis above was a way to back into your silly conclusion above that “The US assisted in the training of the JEM Darfuri rebels.”

    Yes, that’s a distortion of history.

    If that’s what counts as evidence to you, you can be convinced of anything.

  • angrysoba

    “By the way: I was ‘one of the few’ because I was actually around, with an internet connection and the time. From my years on this site I can name dozens of contributors who would have done the same, and no serious contributor who would not, in fact. Good Lord, Murray himself has stood against the BNP twice (and in fact is almost their polar opposite). If you remember, it took some time (and also your approach) to establish that jaded/apostate/steelback were not innocents abroad but an attempt to insert a poisonous neo-nazi agenda onto a board otherwise mainly filled with rather peaceful and curious people.”

    Tony Opmoc and Mark Golding seem to have no problem with them and seem to have some deeply fishy views.

  • angrysoba

    “hawley; depends what you mean by al quaeda. far as i know they got their name from a CIA database.”

    No. There are a few different ideas about where the name came from. Abdullah Azzam – one of bin Laden’s mentors, for example, had written a book called In Defense of Muslim Lands in which he had spoken of an Islamist equivalent of a Marxist vanguard party which he called the base (or “al Qaeda”).

    Jamal al-Fadl, a defector, had talked of al-Qaeda. Although his testimony probably should be taken with a grain of salt as he was a notoriously slippery character (he essentially needed protection from having ripped of bin Laden).

    Some others have said it was simply a reference to the physical base built in Afghanistan.

    It seems largely irrelevant. There clearly was an organization of militants who swore fealty directly to bin Laden.

    You might like to look at Jason Burke’s “Al-Qaeda” which goes into this. Or “Looming Tower” by Lawrence Wright. Or the one I think is the best, “Ghost Wars” by Steve Coll.

  • Larry from St. Louis

    angrysoba, those books are excellent.

    I simply wish that people would familiarize themselves with Sayyid Qutb and understand that the origins of al-Qaeda were certainly in the U.S. – but it’s not what they think, is it?

  • Jon

    @eddie – I have a different definition of “anti-American”, which is that it is a charge of racism against American people or their culture. That view is honestly held, not held specifically to annoy you, and not an indication that I have been careless with my arguments. I should be happy to hear what you meant, if your definition is different from mine.

    Indeed I have been at pains to ask *you* to take more care given your propensity for abuse, as well as the clear hint at the logical fallacy I pointed out in my last post. (I am willing to agree that neither failing causes you to be wrong automatically, but they are good ways to lose debating points!)

    *But the central point I put to you remains unanswered, again*. I think in New Labour I have identified your blind spot, and it is frustrating for me to expand on this argument at length only to have it ducked. I think Blair could be a high-functioning sociopath, given his apparent lack of compassion for the deaths he has contributed to (via the sanctions, as well as in conflict, somewhere between 1 million and 2 million people); but I suspect this suggestion too is met in you with strong automatic disagreement, and in common with the other things I have raised, all supporting evidence is dismissed or ignored.

    Can you admit to such a fallibility? It would, at the very least, make it easier to debate with you.

  • eddie

    No one wins or loses on these boards Jon, it’s all pretty meaningless in the grand scheme of things. IS there a scoreboard somewhere? I don’t agree with your interpretation of racism. You cannot be racist against a country, only against a race, unless you are suggesting that the USA as an entity (whatever that is) is racist? Have you ever been there? I would like to understand how much you know about the USA. I know it well and have been there many times and have friends on both coasts so I see it as a much more diverse and impressive country than is often displayed in the blinkered and ignorant view on these boards.

    As for Blair, do you know what a sociopath is? If you read the list of attributes I would like to know how many of these you feel Blair complies with? And how do you know he feels no compassion? (you say “apparent” lack of compassion, which is telling). Are you privy to his confessional or his inner thoughts? He made a difficult policy decision that, in the light of history, may prove to be right, or may prove to be wrong. As I said before, every leader struggles with similar decisions. Do you think Thatcher or Churchill were sociopaths for their decisions over the Falklands and Dresden? People died as a result of both. Every PM has to make tough decisions, it goes with the job, but doing nothing may cause more harm in the long run.

  • Jon

    Thanks for the reply, though I can’t help but feel you’ve again not engaged with what I was asking.

    If I may say, your rhetorical technique is interesting too – you raise a number of questions apparently intended to exclude me from the right to having an opinion at all. If I had not been to the US I would of course still have a right to take a view on its foreign policy, and whilst I agree it is a much more diverse country of views than it is often given credit for, if we think that Bush should have been impeached, or that he is a war criminal, we have a right to say so. Anyway, it was you who raised the charge of anti-Americanism against posters on this board generally, so I won’t strongly pursue this line of enquiry.

    I do indeed know what a sociopath is, but again that is besides the point – the thrust of my argument was that positions not substantially reflected in mainstream punditry often cause you react with anger, and I was interested to see whether you agreed that your membership of the Labour Party might affect how you process these things on a subconscious level. But I accept that I might not get an answer to that one, so I guess I will have to leave it. I am more interested in trying to get you to understand the benign motivations of most people here, rather than “winning” the debate per se.

    I think Thatcher is an unpleasant character who was primarily motivated by selfishness, but not sociopathy specifically. The Falklands was a stupid war whose best purpose (if I can call it that) was to boost her popularity ratings enormously, and in that endeavour it was successful. I think the mass murder of civilians was wrong in Dresden, but it was in the context of fighting fascism and signficantly prior to the development of international human rights frameworks. So I think the question is more complex there. That said, reading Churchill’s secret memo on the use of poison gas (see link) does make one wonder, but perhaps it is harder to judge against our evolved moral standards.

  • eddie

    You are entitled to your opinion and I don’t think anything I have said suggests that you are not. However, if you have not been to the USA or are ignorant of its history or constitution then I would think less of it. In many ways, the USA has a more vibrant democracy than the UK. But what are you, some kind of amateur pyschologist? Of course, if you are a member of a political party you have to compromise on your beliefs and take the bad with the good. That’s life. If there was a party for every opinion we would have millions of parties and a state of chaos. The reality is that stable governent can only be achieved through the party machine. Can you imagine a house of commons full of independents? Complete chaos. Compromise is a fact of life. In any walk of life you have to co-operate with people to get things done. You also have not answered the question about Blair and it’s not beside the point. You say he could be a sociopath, so let’s have your proof. How many of the common characteristics of a sociopath (20 or so) apply to him, in your view?

  • Jon

    A lot of that, eddie, I regard as diversion. This statement is not intended to be rude to you, but is intended instead to emphasise that – regardless of which excess deaths reports are accepted in relation to the Iraq invasion – I do not need to have read American History at Yale to criticise US foreign policy. You may require it, but that may have something more to do with your support for the status quo than a fair application of rules for discussion on this board. I would wager that many of the reasonable regulars here (i.e. not the disruptive ones) would not require it.

    I think I have a fair view of the American people, and we are agreed that their views are much more divergent than the MSM gives them credit for. Chomsky says the whole of the political system is skewed massively to the right of the US public, and I think he is right. However in my view there is a consistent authoritarian and aggressive tone to the US leadership and its civil machinery, which has worsened since World War II. This has occured in parallel, and perhaps because of, the development of neoliberal capitalism that has increased economic divisions in American society, especially since Reagan.

    There are indeed some vibrant areas of democracy that we should emulate – I envy their progressive radio stations for a start! But that does not detract from what their elite do on the world stage, I am afraid.

    Am I an amateur psychologist? Yes :op

    I agree with you on the difficulty of choosing a party to represent you entirely. But my position about the Labour Party in relation to Iraq is that the scale of the atrocity is so huge that I would have ripped up my membership card in disgust if I had one. I accept that you don’t feel that way, but would invite you to accept that I feel differently, as do large numbers of the British people (2 million of them, at least, though I’d wager it is more given the opinion polls).

    The reason I said that whether Blair was a sociopath was not entirely relevant to the discussion was that I was wishing to discuss how you react when faced with opinions that strongly disagree with your own allegiances and loyalties, rather than Blair in particular.

    Indeed, your setting me a homework target of twenty features of sociopathic behaviour made me smile for its arbitrariness. The point I was making was Blair’s apparent inability to empathise with others, but only where it conflicts with other areas of his world-view. So the dead in Iraq get little sympathy, since he bears substantial responsibility for their deaths. One would think that even a hint of responsibility for two million dead would cause the most enormous psychological burden, but apparently not in Blair et al. Sociopaths can often be excellent mimics of expected behaviour, which is why he can empathise with mass murder elsewhere, if that sympathy accords generally with the mainstream view (e.g. the Holocaust).

    On a wider point, I do wonder whether there is a sort of collective madness at work between the mass media and the Chilcot enquiry. As Craig quite rightly points out, there are many obvious failings in the testimony, but there is a quite wilful blindness from all involved to ask difficult questions, or to be frustrated that if the enquiry were to find fault, prosecutions are now guaranteed not to follow. Hey, there is even little outrage at the make-up of the panel, which is either pro-war or at least pro-establishment in its entirety. That this is presented as fair by the mainstream pundits at least indicates an enormous amount of collective denial.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Now there’s an interesting specimen of villain, Doctor Watson. He’s very well-disguised. You have to look deep into his eyes. The trouble is, by the time you do that, you’re dead.

    Would you like some opium?

  • eddie


    I’m afraid you know nothing about Blair’s inner life so the hypothesising in your seventh paragraph is worthless.

    You also seem to have very little understanding of how our media works and the economics of present day media outfits. This is the fifth inquiry and none has come to the conclusion that you want, so how many more do you want? Time to move on I think. If you think you can do better why not get involved instead of sniping from the sidelines? I don’t know who you are or what you do, but being an armchair commentator is probably not good for your mental health, when you feel so strongly about such matters.

  • Courtenay Barnett


    You said: ” If that’s what counts as evidence to you, you can be convinced of anything.”

    Yes – you are correct – I am convinced by your postings, that you are angry, bitter, upset with a lot of the persons who post on Craig’s blog, and prefer to resort to personal attacks rather than sift through that which is actually posted.

    Of course, you are the only one who is entitled to a point of view – or are able to anaylse or think.

    Nothing personal – Larry – you have indeed convinced me of this from our exchanges.

    Kind regards, and hope you, otherwise have a pleasant day.


  • Larry from St. Louis

    “The US assisted in the training of the JEM Darfuri rebels.”

    Where is the evidence of this? Why blame America first?

  • Jon

    Do I know about Blair’s inner life? Well, one can deduce certain things from his external behaviour, from interviews and the like. For example the psychologist Oliver James suggested that he does ‘sincerity’ very well; he knows what to say, and conversational delivery comes easy to him. He knows how to make a case based on emotion, on how he “feels”, and on abstract concepts such as how history will judge him. But conversely he does do ‘authenticity’ at all well, perhaps helped by his lawyerly knowledge of what not to say, and by his surprising inability to grasp that how he feels is sometimes not as relevant as how his actions make other people feel. His self-belief is enormous, to the extent that we went white with shock at being told by a bereaved father at a memorial service that “you [Blair] have my son’s blood on your hands”.

    So, this hypothesizing about Blair’s state of mind may be worth something, or it may be worthless as you say, but it is not categorically worthless because you say so. It is fairly amateurish, granted, and I am not qualified for psychoanalysis, but there are enough items worthy of consideration, in my view. Perhaps some of the thoughtful posters on this board would agree?

    There are some serious gaps in your logic, regarding the enquiry. If one posits the statement “We have had five enquiries and none have found evidence of wrongdoing” then it is a leap of logic to say “There was no wrongdoing regarding Iraq”. This implies that there are not other options, such as: the remit of the enquiries were not wide enough, or they were instructed not to look at the crimes of the people involved, or they were loaded with pro-war supporters, or…

    Hang on, that last one’s true, isn’t it?

    Well, time for you to move on, maybe, but not for the rest of us. For the two million souls in Iraq who want some justice, we won’t be ‘moving on’ at all. We are repeatedly denied answers, but we’ll keep on asking. Who knows, maybe we’ll get there in the end! 🙂

    I’ll close my involvement in this thread now, and you’re welcome to the final post if you want it. I’ve enjoyed the discussion, even if at the end of it we just have to agree to disagree.

  • Courteanay Barnnett

    There will be no justice forthcoming from this enquiry, nor will there be any for the Iraqi people under occupation.

    Jon said:-

    “there are (not) other options, such as: the remit of the enquiries were not wide enough, or they were instructed not to look at the crimes of the people involved, or they were loaded with pro-war supporters,…”

    Jon – that is precisely what these enquiries are set up to do – whitewash – and – try to legitimate or sanitise the illegitimate.

  • Jon

    Courtenay: I agree that the enquiry is intended to be a whitewash.

    As to whether there will be justice for the Iraqis – well, there may be in the long term. Maybe a long-term insurgency will use violence and terror against the international firms that stay there. Depends whether Iraqis feel that the oil wealth is fleeing out of the country against their wishes, or whether the money is used to rebuilt their battered country. Depends also on how Iraqis will judge this period in the longer term; five years hence, will they still be angry that so many hundreds of thousands died needlessly, or does time heal all wounds and all unjustices?

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