Daily archives: February 19, 2010

UK and Torture: The Bitter Truth

Saloon bar bigot Bruce Anderson came out with a fierce defence of the government’s use of torture. It could have been written by Torquemada, Walsingham or Franco. To get that vital information about the ticking bomb, it would be morally imperative to torture the terrorist’s wife and children, he concluded.


Interesting is it not that to opine that Palestinian suicide bombers are justified is illegal, but to advocate torture of innocent women and children is patriotic?

I took grave exception because I saw the effects of women and children being tortured in front of suspects in Uzbekistan, where it happens pretty often. I wonder if Anderson would like to wield the electrodes on children himself. The man should be shunned from all civilised society.

What he is too thick to understand is that the “ticking bomb” scenario has never happened and almost certainly never will. His idea of the intelligence world is gleaned from Hollywood. I was delighted today to have the oportunity to publish the true situation in the Evening Standard. They gave me 950 words and I think it was the best turned piece I ever penned.

This is the truth of it:

The key point ?” and one I cannot stress too much ?” is that the vast majority of this material was absolute rubbish. The Uzbek government was eager to convince the US it was fighting a massive Islamic militant threat, so that the US government would continue to give large subsidies to this appalling dictatorship, and particularly to its security services.

The Uzbek government therefore rounded up en masse dissidents, the religious and those who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and tortured them into admitting membership of al Qaeda or other allied terror organisations, and into denouncing long lists of other “terrorists”.

The tortured were given the lists to sign up to, exactly as done by Stalin’s secret police, the direct institutional ancestor of the Uzbek security service.

The mundane truth is that torture in the “War on Terror” does not bring Hollywood-style information about ticking bombs in shopping malls.

It brings piles of rubbish that clog up our intelligence analysis. Torture gives not the truth but what the torturer wants to hear to make the torture stop. And given the destinations on the extraordinary rendition circuit ?” like Egypt, Morocco, Afghanistan, Syria and Uzbekistan ?” the relationship between the torturers and the truth was often very distant indeed.

I can swear to you that none of the intelligence I saw from detainees in Uzbekistan was useful. Much of it was palpably untrue, such as referring to terror training camps in places where we knew they physically did not exist.


Please do read the full piece. Not sure if they are going to open comments on this one.

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Corus: Definition of “To Mothball”

More bullshit from Mandelson.

“To mothball” means “To pretend not finally closed until after the election”.

I do not believe that the UK has a future based on services without a manufacturing base. The consequences of those attitudes are starting to come home to roost. I view it as ludicrous that hundreds of billions of taxpayers’ money can be thrown at banks, but nothing at a steelworks.


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Zakhem Roundup

The Ghanaian partner of Zakhem is the extraordinarily wealthy Paul Afoko. There is a fascinating expose of some of Afoko’s activities with Zakhem in Ghana here. The sad thing is the way that money provided for development aid, and wrapped up in that language, is used to line the pockets of the ultra wealthy:

The loan facility, which was approved by the African Development Bank, was packaged as the center piece of a public-private partnership project, as well as a project in line with Ghana’s Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS), and the banks strategic policy on supporting poverty reduction by improving the investment climate and facilitating public private partnership.


Here is a report of a bribery investigation in a Zakhem project in Liberia:

This whole matter hinges on the taped conversation between Harry Greaves and Aloysius Jappah. Although neither Jappah nor Greaves definitively admitted to who was responsible for initiating the offer of $300,000 USD. It is our findings from their statements during the interrogation that an offer to give bribe or receive bribe was made and that both Mr. Greaves and Mr. Jappah participated in the transaction.


When the United Nations says “Controversial” it means “Corrupt”

Government Cancels Zakhem Contract

(Public Agenda)

The Government of Liberia has cancelled the contract entered into by the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC) and Zakhem for the rehabilitation of damaged facilities of the LPRC’s facilities on the Bushrod Island.

Justice Minister Christina Tah said that the contract was not in the interest of the Liberian people and therefore it had to be nullified.

The “controversial” Zakhem contract valued at over US$25 million was negotiated for by the former managing director of LPRC, Mr. Harry Greaves who was later sacked by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.


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The Other Book

This reader’s review of The Catholic Orangemen of Togo appeared on Amazon yesterday. I like it very much because it seems to understand what I was trying to do. I really enjoy reading the readers’ reviews on both Amazon and on Facebook virtual bookshelf. When you write a book you crave feedback from those who experience reading it.

I remain very sad that my publisher buckled at the libel threats from Schillings on behalf of mercenary killer Tim Spicer, and I had to publish The Catholic Orangemen myself. The result was a much smaller readership. Murder in Samarkand deals with the extremes of human experience; The Catholic Orangemen is less spectacular, but I think it is better written and it contains the little wisdom I distilled from over a decade of working intensively on Africa and its problems,

As in his earlier book, Murray is enormously entertaining. But this is also by far the most informative book I have read about the nature of the problems modern African states tend to have. For instance he describes how many modern African countries have developed very restrictive trade agreements which allow them to accept subsidised US or EU produce, thereby bankrupting their own businesses, but won’t trade with each other because so many businesses are corrupt monopolies owned by relatives of government officials and they don’t want their neighbours to get the jump on them.

Murray also details a colossal level of corruption and bloodletting among all the West African countries, even the relatively stable Ghana. In the earlier part of the book Murray details his role in London having responsibilities for West Africa as a whole. Later he became Deputy High Commissioner of Ghana.

His most remarkable achievement here was in going to enormous lengths to facilitate a free election at the point when Jerry Rawlings had to give up power, having served two terms, and by virtue of incredible levels of organisation and very hard work managed to get a result.

This book is also frequently hilarious, never more so than in recounting his stage management of a Royal visit to Ghana, Duke of Edinburgh and all. At one stage the royal support team set up camp, so to speak, at an Accra hotel, at another the High Commissioner is gloriously upstaged. Some sections remind me of Evelyn Waugh’s ‘Black Mischief’. Murray speaks the truth and sometimes its shocking, often it confirms in glorious detail what one had often suspected, and sometimes it’s hilarious.

This book is set in the 90s, before Murray went to Uzbekistan, but was written quite recently, and Murray wasn’t as cynical about the morality of his own government during his stay in Africa as he later became. But what he has to tell us about the Arms for Africa affair reveals that what has shocked so many of us about Blair’s involvement in the Iraq war was not a one-off, driven by some compulsion to kowtow to the Americans. Long before 9/11 he was ignoring the painstaking work of whole departments of the Foreign Office to get his mates off the hook with their massively profitable corrupt arms dealing.

To anyone who loves Africa, and to anyone who wants chapter on verse on exactly how degraded the conduct of our government has become, this is essential reading.


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Pat O’Donnell Jailed

The jailing of Pat O’Donnell in Ireland for seven months for “obstructing a Garda” seems an appalling attempt to end local environmental opposition to a massive Shell pipeline project. Having seen so much of Shell’s appalling bullying of local communities in the Niger Delta, I did not really expect to see the same behaviour in Ireland.

A few months ago masked thugs attacked Pat and his brother and sank his fishing boat, thus ruining his livelihood. The Garda did nothing. Now they have arrested him for demonstrating, and a complicit judiciary has given a sentence for peaceful opposition activity that belongs in Uzbekistan, not in Ireland.


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