God, I Didn’t Know 98


UPDATE

Feeling much better now. Many thanks for the many kind – and often very wise – comments. I know why I can’t sleep, why can’t you lot?

I hate being away from Nadira for lengthy periods and am not well equipped to pass the small hours alone. Still feeling an immense frustration that truly evil men like Blair prosper, but that has been part of the human condition forever. Oh well – really must try and get some sleep now, it’s 5am here,.

Regular readers of this blog know that I am a manic depressive and sometimes feel almost suicidal, Don’t worry, I have three wonderful children and I am not going to leave them. But I feel so weak this evening. compared to the strength of the forces of evil, if you describe evil as illegal war and the massive profits to be made from waging it, and the sunsequent looting of resources.

I hope that those who saw Sir Michael Wood’s evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry today, and who have also read Murder in Samarkand, feel that I painted an accurate pen-portrait of my once friend.

I felt that Michael had stabbed me in the back by refusing to back me in saying unequivocally that intelligence from torture was illegal.

I did not know that, exactly at that time, he was engaged in a heroic struggle to try to stop the war in Iraq on legal grounds, and that he had drawn the full fury of Blair and Straw. He could not afford to open a second front on extraordinary rendition.

I have been struggling ever since to come to terms with what I saw as his going along with torture. I misjudged him.

But the way that the evil people like Blair and Straw manage to split decent people like Michael and me, is the lesson to avoid in future. Why is it that people like Michael, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, Bill Patey and I never managed to get together? (Bill Patey was the head of the FCO geographical department which included Iraq, and he, like very many others in the system, never believed the “Evidence” on Iraqi WMD.)

I am feeling so sad because different ways of trying to resist took us down different paths, and perhaps I am sad because I was harsher on some than they deserved.

But I am most sad because hundreds of thousands died so Blair and Straw could earn their lucrative standing in the USA. I feel nothing but despair.


98 thoughts on “God, I Didn’t Know

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  • tony_opmoc

    In my view Bush, Blair and Straw are mere Puppets of far more powerful forces.

    But in order to deconstruct this evil, we have to start at the most obvious targets, and bring them to trial.

    Under rigourous cross-examination, they are likely to reveal the sources that influenced them.

    The spread of this cancer is endemic. Its not going to go away, by for example replacing Bush and Cheney with Obama, nor wuth replacing Blair with Brown or Cameron.

    The Tories were even more in favour of war than Nu-Labour.

    The entire political system is rotten and needs replacing with something that is far more robust to withstand invasion and infiltration from evil forces intent to cause mayhem for the God of Greed.

    Tony

  • Jon

    @anno, you are clearly an intelligent person, which is why it is more depressing that you keep on using this site to push your religion at people. It rather adds weight to the view that, when people are vulnerable and unhappy, there’s always an evangelist on hand to take advantage of them.

    I doubt it is mainstream Islamic opinion that psychiatry is useless. But it is surely food for thought that the only other religion I can think of, that demeans the practise quite as much as you do, is Scientology.

    Perhaps you could accept that what is a truth for you, when it comes to religious faith, is sometimes not a truth for the next man?

  • Jon

    Most people are easily led, judge emotionally and let their biases rule over logic. But we can, and should, hold Bush and Blair to a much higher standard. In their lawlessness, I believe they knew exactly what they were doing, and calculated that they could get away with it.

    I am wary of religious concepts such as “evil”, but if it is to mean an inate and deliberate malpractise, practised on a huge scale with horrific consequences, then yes, I think this tag fits.

  • Jon

    @writerman and @glenn, I read your posts on the inherent failures of “the system” with great interest. Is it a failure of the electoral system? The media? Corporatism, neoliberalism or capitalism? I am not sure, but it is worthy of discussion.

    Food for thought on much the same topic is a movie, released last year, called “The International” – with Clive Owen and Naomi Watts. I saw it just this week. It asks some really big questions about the structure of corporatism, and unjust power relations in a neoliberal world – as well as being a bloody awesome action flick. I was quite shaken up by it.

  • Jon

    @Christopher – don’t be too hard on yourself – such is the nature of capitalism. You didn’t design the system, just as Craig didn’t either.

    I was troubled last year to find that the firm that I work for is involved tangentially in the arms industry, though such work did not cross my desk at the time. This developed in me such a disabling feeling of powerless, given the immoral ends that “good people” use weapons for, that I would not have been in a good position to be interviewed for jobs elsewhere. I had to work quite hard, mentally, to push away a feeling of powerlessness and anxiety.

    A better approach, which I’d recommend for you, is to draw up an “escape plan” and work towards it over the longer term. If you cannot quit immediately, then don’t feel bad, as that only worsens the situation. Try to get transferred to other work if you can. If that is not possible, carry out the work without going the extra mile, and don’t hate your clients – they are trapped in the same system too, and some of them don’t even realise it. If you can work towards a long-term plan of finding alternative employment, then that is a good idea too.

    Lastly, see if you can confide doubts about the morality of your work to a colleague, or to a boss. Occasionally you will find surprising avenues of solidarity and support. I recently was permitted to turn down some work for a manufacturer of UAV engines, on moral grounds, and I suspect that client will have to go elsewhere. But perhaps I am one of the lucky ones!

  • Jives

    Don,t beat yourself up Craig.This kinda stuff happens in a complex world.

    Often people we think are our enemies are,quietly,on our side but have their hands tied.

    Chin up!

  • anno

    Jon

    I’m not pushing anything at anybody. Your soul is attracted to the truth of what I wrote, in direct contradiction of your mind. I first noticed that my inner self was moving in a different direction to my conscious self, like clouds at different heights moving in different directions, propelled by different winds, when my six week old son died. I felt sure he was with God in heaven, in spite of the family difficulties.

    So I request you to take issue with your inner self,for daring to be drawn in an opposite direction to the control of your surface personality. By practising Islam I have co-ordinated my inner and outer beings. Those who disbelieve in God, while seeking truth and justice, have not understood that they have to co-ordinate themselves first in order to co-ordinate between themselves and others, in order to create Unity, in order to throw out the tyrants like Saddam, Bush, Blair and minions, most of them worse than the tyrants they serve.

    p.s Fair play to Frazer, and what Craig is doing is also brave and praiseworthy.

    Most diplomats are waiting for their fifty year apprenticeship to be completed in order to have a chance to influence the world. It takes courage to lose that chance, in exchange for truth speaking.

  • Jon

    @anno – if you are at peace with yourself, I am happy for you. I mean that genuinely. We all seek that, I think.

    But you still can’t help stating (“those who disbelieve…”) that non-religious people are somehow in a lower state of cognitive awareness than your good, enlightened self.

    I am happy to agree to disagree, particularly as I believe in freedom of religion. But I trust you believe in freedom of thought too, which is why I would try to persuade you to stop proselytising, especially around people who are at a low ebb.

    You are right about Frazer though, and perhaps he is right about himself too. Brave *and* nuts!

  • Christopher

    An important issue I feel emerging from this discussion is about degrees of separation from an act that we consider not acceptable. How much is okay, how little is not?

    Craig flying around the world performing his invaluable work uses aviation fuel. Think Shell may be supplying some of this? Shell has a murky record in Nigeria. Should Craig not travel because of this chance? I don’t think so. Why not? The link is too distant. Being sponsored by Shell (as if!) would be too close a link.

    Using evidence from torture another nation extracts?

    In my own situation, as Jon says, yes it is most likely something to get out of slowly ?” I am resourceful enough to find other avenues, as should be civil servants, politicians, businessmen, etc.

    However nothing is ever clearly black or white. The previous project I was involved in with the same Israeli organisation produced an amazing piece of medical equipment. The current project looks like it will be headed to military/security, and I am absolutely not happy with that idea because of events such as those Mary highlights and countless others. Specific end use is not disclosed thus I can choose to hide behind ignorance, which reminds me of a UAV project I worked on once that was actually for landmine detection and removal in the many countries that are still riddled with these evil devices.

    However like the majority of R&D it may lead to nothing than yet another footnote, or as looks likely the same technology is interesting in chip production and physics research and we could see some valuable breakthroughs from there (peaceful ones I hope). Next project with the Israelis may be medical again. Same people. What to do? Not be involved with a whole country? On this track then I should also never do business with the US or China again either and burn my UK passport as I emerge from the chunnel to take refuge with those whiter than white French…

  • Jon

    Christopher, I agree, there are some complex nuances. Doing something is better than nothing, always, even if one cannot go far enough. I would recommend a web search for “disciplined minds”, and buy the book too – I recommend it as fully relevant to this discussion. It’s on Amazon if you want to get a flavour of it, and I think it has its own website.

    On dealing or not dealing with Israel from a business perspective, I am generally in line with the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement there – I say boycott. In terms of academia, I am not sure – the academic world contains both hawks and doves. In terms of its people, no. I think people should always be ready to engage.

  • Anonymous

    Christopher,

    I have worked on stuff for the MOD over 30 years ago and had no qualms about it whatsoever. My brother worked on stuff for an electronics company, again over 30 years ago, and whilst I do not know if the stuff he was working on was arms related, a large part of what the company did most definitely was for the Military. He too had no qualms about it.

    My Brother-in-Law worked on Weapons of Mass Destruction in the 60’s – over 40 years ago, and then resigned to do something completely different. My nephew did the same about 5 years ago and he too resigned

    A couple of years ago, my Son was doing a lot of work for an Israeli company. They massively extended their contract with him, such that he tooled up for it, and then they pulled the plug on the entire contract without compensation at about the same time as Israeli’s were dropping white phosphorous bombs on Gaza. I have absolutely no idea of the detail of the company’s business. High tech stuff can be used for totally peaceful purposes as well as destructive ones.

    But the horrific truth about both the US and the UK with regards to high tech companies, is the enormous percentage of work that is done for military applications. It is probably higher now, than at any time since WWII.

    Most Weapons do eventually get used. What has changed since WWII is that now the vast majority of victims are not soldiers in battle. They are civilians. In fact most of the victims are completely innocent children.

    The World has gone Mad.

    People need to know the facts with regards to the implications of the work they are doing.

    I’d rather volunteer to go and work in the Congo with Frazer to disarm land mines than have ANYTHING whatsoever to do with their construction, but I cannot even escape that, because my Government uses the Taxes I pay to build the bloody things.

    Tony

  • Jon

    (Suspect the above post was from board regular tony_opmoc).

    @Tony, a very cogent post. Everyone needs to work out their moral limit. That said, you make it seem like it would be *right* not to have any qualms about working on weapons for the MoD, and yet you do seem to have given these things more than cursory consideration. The IDF may appear more wantonly cruel than the British military, but the latter are no saints – as the whole Inquiry is perhaps beginning, inadvertently, to show.

  • Craig

    arsalan

    You are wrong. War crimes are one of the best defined parts of international law. I recommend Nicholas Woods’ excellent book, called from memory “Iraq: War Crime or Just War?”

    Hussein and Blair are both war criminals. The important distinction you are making is that it is only possible to visit justice on the defeated. That doesn’t make those who get away without being tried not guilty of war crimes.

  • tony_opmoc

    Jon,

    I am not saying it would be *right* not to have any qualms about working on weapons for the MoD, but that most people don’t even think about it. They start a job that utilises their training and skills, that doesn’t necessarily have any defined ultimate use. An engine can be used for powering an ambulance or a tank.

    Incidentally although it was about 35 years ago, I am almost certain that some of my colleagues asked management quite openly, if they could be excused from work that was specifically destined for the Ministry of Defence on grounds of conscience, and that their wishes were granted without any problem whatsoever.

    I didn’t.

    Fortunately the vast majority of all the work I have done had absolutely no military connection whatsoever.

    Tony

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    Writerman,

    You say, “..think our “plan” which perhaps isn’t really a plan at all, but more of a process that’s inherent in the nature of imperialism, is to destroy and destabilize, spilt and impoverish, all those nations or people’s that are “outside the borders of the empire.”

    Your view is essentially my own, and some would argue understandingly, hold on, we have to take care of our children’s and their children’s future by suppressing or even eliminating those deemed to destroy our way of life. A crucial point that can lead to a discussion on Western Democracy – even our spiritual beliefs can fall into the mix. As a serviceman I was bought up with the Anglican church; interestingly I respect Archbishop Rowan Williams whose opposition to the Iraq war is well known, when he in October 2002 he signed a petition against the Iraq War as being against UN ethics and Christian teaching, and ‘lowering the threshold of war unacceptably’.

    He still holds that view and although I am not a devout Christian, I respect his guidance and the fact that we have become a fragmented society and for instance perhaps we should pay closer attention to other peoples beliefs, for instance Sharia law.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7239283.stm

  • glenn

    Jon: Sorry, no time to expand on those points today, but I believe these things are of central importance to our society. We’ll have to bring this up later.

  • Jon

    @Tony – a curiously mixed post. You hint that you think it might not be right to have no qualms about working for the MoD, but proudly state that you didn’t ask be excused on the grounds of conscience, and add no further qualifying statements. Did you have a change of mind later on in life, may I ask?

  • eddie

    Craig, no one is a criminal until they are convicted in a court of law. Surely you understand that? Your persistent use of the term “war criminal” is silly – you want to uphold the law when it applies to Blair et al and yet you flout the very principles of the law by using that term. It puts you on a par with some of the (i was was going to say nutters but shall desist) extreme elements on these boards and detracts from any claim you may have to be a serious commentator.

  • Chris Dooley

    eddie, at what point in WW2 would it have been acceptable to call Hitler a war criminal ?

    I know, I know, Godwins law.

    But please try to continue the discussion.

  • Richard Robinson

    The BBC R4 reporting of this went straight into Clegg talking about how the Lib-Dems would undo the prohibition on whistleblowing in the civil service. Is this to be taken seriously ? (if so, would it have helped avert this current disaster ?)

  • glenn

    Hitler wasn’t a war criminal either – or a criminal of any sort according to eddie – because he wasn’t convicted of a thing in a court of law. Nor was Attila the Hun or Vlad the Impaler, or… the point could be made at some length.

  • eddie

    I simply don’t accept your moral equivalence. Besides, if Hitler had won Churchill would have been the one hanged and the history books would be telling us all what a wonderful and noble cause the nazis fought for. When it comes to morality you have to make up your own mind.

  • George Dutton

    “Besides, if Hitler had won Churchill would have been the one hanged”

    Churchill would have been sunbathing in Bermuda with the royal family with the total gold reserves and art collection of the UK.

  • Chris Dooley

    eddie, I was not for one minute giving Blair the same moral equivalence of Hitler.

    Blair for all his twisted reasoning was not after genocide or a building a master race.

    But Blair’s crimes make him a war criminal all the same.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    Eddie,

    I have tried to understand your logic – I cannot – pre-emptively smashing a country resulting in disease, malnutrition, orphans, traumatised children, excessive infant mortality, young girls with disfigured faces from heat burns and phosphor, disabled boys with no legs who once enjoyed footie, mothers committing suicide in the hope of being united with their dead children, children walking around crying with shell splinters in their spines and bodies, babies dying of DU induced cancers – I could go on but the memories are too ghastly –

    Blair committed these crime and must be tried as a war criminal – he lied on the reason for war – the only reason he had – he said our assets and our people under our protection were at risk from WMD that could arrive and kill in 45 minutes – he lied, the intelligence and information was proven flawed/exaggerated and thousands died, millions lost their homes and tens of thousands were maimed/disabled.

    Blair must now be called to the bench to face those charges and redeem the country in his charge – only way!

  • tony_opmoc

    jon,

    I wasn’t proudly stating anything. If anything it was a confession of ignorance.

    Of course my view of almost everything is totally different now, than it was 35 years ago.

    Its called learning, and though I have been retired for over 5 years, I am still learning.

    If you come across new information that you are convinced is true, after the most detailed evaluation it is O.K. to change your mind.

    That is what learning is all about.

    Otherwise you are just a religionist, faith based, close minded cretin.

    The best thing most people can do, is to accept that much of what they believe may not be true, and question everything. For one thing, it keeps your mind working, and that is very important to ward off senile dementia – or even juvenile dementia which is becoming endemic.

    Alternatively – or maybe as well – watch Shameless.

    It used to be filmed opposite where I used to work.

    Tony

  • glenn

    Mark: Reading your accounts of your time there, I have to wonder. What do you think the British reaction would be, if that sort of everyday experience in Iraq would occur here, just once every few months.

    Suppose we did get massive long-term health problems, utilities almost non-existent, death-squads roaming around with check-points one well might not get through alive (either because of the trigger-happy goons manning it, or suicide bombers attacking it), and every one of us could name several friends, associates and close family members that had been killed already. Our infrastructure destroyed, our flag changed, our currency gone, the economy destroyed. And this went on year, after year, after year. A sizeable proportion of our population fleeing the country, or moving into safer zones, or dead, because their ethnic distinction had suddenly become important. And there is no end in sight to it, as the countries that did that to us salivate over our natural resources.

    Would we ever think well of the people who did that to us?

    To Eddie – I’m pushed to think how one could even start to wonder how they could defend people who did that to some other country, one which had never harmed or threatened us ever in the least way. Yet you do it all the time. Is it just your job or something?

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