Monthly Archives: February 2010


Jack Straw Forgets His Lies

Lovely moment from an unpublished interview by Matt Kennard here, dating from 2006, in which Jack Straw forgets the particular lies he is supposed to be telling and dissolves into incoherence a la George W Bush:

MK: I was going to ask you about Craig Murray and Uzbekistan ?” the situation there. I was reading about you allegedly were trying to suppress his memoir. Is that correct?

JS: We were trying to get him to obey the rules. You need to get the lines off John on that if you don’t mind. But if you’re a diplomat you’re expected to abide by your responsibilities which include… you accept, again, privileged position, good money, access to all sorts of confidences, you got to… yeah, that’s the issue there.

http://www.thecommentfactory.com/uk-chilcot-inquiry-unpublished-interview-with-jack-straw-then-uk-foreign-secretary-from-2006-2688

Fascinating interview all in all. No wonder the student journalist, Matt Kennard, did not end up in the UK mainstream media – he’s much too good.

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David Hare: “They Knew Bloody Well They Were Getting Information From Torture”

Great interview with David Hare on Front Row yesterday.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qsq5

An MP3 grab here might be more permanent:

http://www.kasiminfo.co.uk/DT/2010/Audio/DH.mp3

Mark Lawson The playwright David Hare written scripts of stage including Plenty and most recently The Power of Yes, television such as Licking Hitler and movies The Hours and The Reader. But he has so far only been represented on radio by adaptations of his theatre pieces.

This weekend though Radio 4 broadcasts a previously unperformed play which grew out of an abandoned movie script. Murder in Samarkand is based on the memoirs of Craig Murray, who was removed in 2004 as British Ambassador to Uzbekistan after publicly protesting that the British and American governments were using intelligence procured through torturing prisoners.

The majority of movie scripts fail to get made but for different reasons. So why had this script finished up as a radio play?

David Hare I wrote it for Michael Winterbottom and he and I did not see eye to eye. He when he read the book thought that it was a farce and he imagined it with a comedian like Steve Coogan. I saw it as rather more serious so we were artistically at odds.

But also I don’t think people outside the film industry understand the degree to which drama really is disappearing from the English-speaking cinema. It’s been a sort of perfect storm that at the exact moment the studios lost their faith in what you might call human being based drama, at that exact moment the recession came along and now the success of Avatar is just confirming them in their judgement that that kind of film is finished.

I don’t think anyone yet knows, there’ll be a lagging couple of years before you realise, that there aren’t any human beings on the screen in your local Odeon anymore.

Mark Lawson Even if you had agreed with Michael Winterbottom, it would have been a hard movie to get funding for, wouldn’t it, I expect because of the theme of it. It explicitly attacks the British and American governments over torture in particular; in effect over their whole foreign policy. So it might have been hard to attract finance.

David Hare I don’t know. I mean it is a very funny story. It is about this man Craig Murray who is our Ambassador in Uzbekistan, and who is by his own admission a somewhat flawed character, meaning his private life was completely chaotic, his way of conducting business was extremely unusual, he wasn’t your representative Ambassador.

He was also a great high flyer: he didn’t go into Uzbekistan, and he didn’t go into the effects of the War on Terror, intending to come apart from his government or the Foreign Office. He simply regards himself as a classic liberal, and his government has changed beyond recognition.

Mark Lawson In the narration in the radio play he says lets get this out of the way, usual rules, its basically true but some names have been changed, but it is essentially it is based on his memoir.

David Hare It is, and the thing I did was to take out any accusation he makes in the memoir which can’t be corroborated. I only make those allegations which we know to be true and which are corroborated by other people.

That’s to say Craig Murray is the person who drew Foreign Office attention to the fact that they were receiving information which had been basically gained in the Tashkent torture chambers. The Foreign Office had a view of complicity which was that they said that, if we aren’t the people who actually do the torturing, there is no moral obligation on us to ask where did this information come from.

So they knew bloody well that they were getting information from torture. You can then have a legal argument about whether, by receiving that information, you are or are not complicit. But I am keeping to what is known, and it is a shocking enough story without any allegations which can’t be proven.

Mark Lawson One of the fascinating things about the play is that he is sleazy, he is arrogant; and in Hollywood whistleblowers ten to be quite saintly people.

David Hare That’s right. You know I think that’s probably why Michael Winterbottom wanted to do it as a farce, because he said let’s get somebody who is sort of nakedly ridiculous to play this part.

I thought that was the wrong way to go and I thought that a great actor – and I feel that David Tennant is a great actor – could give you both things. In other words he could give you the moral seriousness of the character, but he could also give you the wild side which undoubtedly is part of Craig.

Mark Lawson To what extent have you changed it from the screenplay, because there is a lot of narration in this which in your film scripts you have quite often shied away from.

David Hare Oh definitely. One of the things I did was to talk to a lot of people around the story, and one of them was his wife Fiona, and so I’ve included a lot of what Fiona told me which is not in the book, which was the point of view of somebody who was basically sympathetic to what Craig wanted to do, which was to alert the Foreign Secretay to the fact that he might be breaking international law, but who thought he was tactically very stupid and exhibitionist in the way he went about it.

That said, what I most admire about Craig is that he has been willing to pay the price for his principles. He adored being a diplomat and he will never go back to his jon in the Foreign Office and he really has, like many whistleblowers, really paid the price.

Mark Lawson To what extent did you consult him about what you were doing?

David Hare Not very much. I read an earlier draft of the book, which was even wilder and more scabrous. It was hilarious, I mean it was Rabelaisian, I mean it was not like any diplomatic memoir. But having said that I have written something closer to my own version of events. I went to Tashkent. I interviewed people who worked for him: it is strongly adapted.

Mark Lawson It is wild stuff as you suggest. At one pint he marries a pole dancer who has been working as an interpreter for him, and people think he has made this up but that did really happen.

David Hare Yes, and Nadira is now living happily, she has a child, she lives with Craig, and his life is now with his Uzbek girlfriend.

Mark Lawson The BBC is known to be very nervous about dramatisations of living people and there have been many problems over this over they years. There are certain rules. You are supposed to have permission I think if you dramatise a living person. Did any of this affect you?

David Hare Not in the slightest. I think BBC Radio is just exemplary; I mean it reminds me of what BBC Television used to be like in the good days. It’s moved at the speed of light. Obviously the subject of British complicity in torture is hotly topical at the moment and Wow! It’s going out a week after the principle evidence in the Chilcot inquiry. And I can’t think of any medium which moves as fast as radio can do.

Mark Lawson It has the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and actually he’s dramatised in this. There were no BBC nerves over that?

David Hare I dont detect any nerves at all from the BBC. I have been incredibly cooperative myself. In other words, my days in which I used to fight the BBC are long over.

Mark Lawson You wrote a famous essay on this issue. You used actually to trade expletives in pubs for your television plays.

David Hare Well, television used to be a bartering job where you would sit down and say I’ll have two B words for an S word, and there would simply be a trading session in the pub. But those days are gone, I think.

Mark Lawson Finally there have been cases of radio plays becoming movies. I think A Man For All Seasons was originally a radio play and one of Lee Hall’s also became a movie. You never know, you might get an offer to make a move of this now.

David Hare Yeah, I’ve had three offers already to make it a stage play since I wrote it as a radio play, but I am just going to wait and see how people like it on Saturday.

Mark Lawson David Hare. Muder in Samarkand is on Saturday at 2.30pm here on BBC Radio 4.

It is important for me that David makes the point so strongly that he has corroborated the story. It rather puts the lies of Jack Straw, David Miliband and Kim Howells in perspective, doesn’t it?

twodavids.jpg

David Hare and David Tennant at the recording of Murder in Samarkand.

WHY WAS THIS POSTED TWICE?

Because a 10am posting gets several thousand more readers than a 10pm posting – will tidy up later.

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DAVID HARE: “So they knew bloody well that they were getting information from torture”

Great interview with David Hare on Front Row today.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qsq5

An MP3 grab here might be more permanent:

http://www.kasiminfo.co.uk/DT/2010/Audio/DH.mp3

Mark Lawson The playwright David Hare written scripts of stage including Plenty and most recently The Power of Yes, television such as Licking Hitler and movies The Hours and The Reader. But he has so far only been represented on radio by adaptations of his theatre pieces.

This weekend though Radio 4 broadcasts a previously unperformed play which grew out of an abandoned movie script. Murder in Samarkand is based on the memoirs of Craig Murray, who was removed in 2004 as British Ambassador to Uzbekistan after publicly protesting that the British and American governments were using intelligence procured through torturing prisoners.

The majority of movie scripts fail to get made but for different reasons. So why had this script finished up as a radio play?

David Hare I wrote it for Michael Winterbottom and he and I did not see eye to eye. He when he read the book thought that it was a farce and he imagined it with a comedian like Steve Coogan. I saw it as rather more serious so we were artistically at odds.

But also I don’t think people outside the film industry understand the degree to which drama really is disappearing from the English-speaking cinema. It’s been a sort of perfect storm that at the exact moment the studios lost their faith in what you might call human being based drama, at that exact moment the recession came along and now the success of Avatar is just confirming them in their judgement that that kind of film is finished.

I don’t think anyone yet knows, there’ll be a lagging couple of years before you realise, that there aren’t any human beings on the screen in your local Odeon anymore.

Mark Lawson Even if you had agreed with Michael Winterbottom, it would have been a hard movie to get funding for, wouldn’t it, I expect because of the theme of it. It explicitly attacks the British and American governments over torture in particular; in effect over their whole foreign policy. So it might have been hard to attract finance.

David Hare I don’t know. I mean it is a very funny story. It is about this man Craig Murray who is our Ambassador in Uzbekistan, and who is by his own admission a somewhat flawed character, meaning his private life was completely chaotic, his way of conducting business was extremely unusual, he wasn’t your representative Ambassador.

He was also a great high flyer: he didn’t go into Uzbekistan, and he didn’t go into the effects of the War on Terror, intending to come apart from his government or the Foreign Office. He simply regards himself as a classic liberal, and his government has changed beyond recognition.

Mark Lawson In the narration in the radio play he says lets get this out of the way, usual rules, its basically true but some names have been changed, but it is essentially it is based on his memoir.

David Hare It is, and the thing I did was to take out any accusation he makes in the memoir which can’t be corroborated. I only make those allegations which we know to be true and which are corroborated by other people.

That’s to say Craig Murray is the person who drew Foreign Office attention to the fact that they were receiving information which had been basically gained in the Tashkent torture chambers. The Foreign Office had a view of complicity which was that they said that, if we aren’t the people who actually do the torturing, there is no moral obligation on us to ask where did this information come from.

So they knew bloody well that they were getting information from torture. You can then have a legal argument about whether, by receiving that information, you are or are not complicit. But I am keeping to what is known, and it is a shocking enough story without any allegations which can’t be proven.

Mark Lawson One of the fascinating things about the play is that he is sleazy, he is arrogant; and in Hollywood whistleblowers ten to be quite saintly people.

David Hare That’s right. You know I think that’s probably why Michael Winterbottom wanted to do it as a farce, because he said let’s get somebody who is sort of nakedly ridiculous to play this part.

I thought that was the wrong way to go and I thought that a great actor – and I feel that David Tennant is a great actor – could give you both things. In other words he could give you the moral seriousness of the character, but he could also give you the wild side which undoubtedly is part of Craig.

Mark Lawson To what extent have you changed it from the screenplay, because there is a lot of narration in this which in your film scripts you have quite often shied away from.

David Hare Oh definitely. One of the things I did was to talk to a lot of people around the story, and one of them was his wife Fiona, and so I’ve included a lot of what Fiona told me which is not in the book, which was the point of view of somebody who was basically sympathetic to what Craig wanted to do, which was to alert the Foreign Secretay to the fact that he might be breaking international law, but who thought he was tactically very stupid and exhibitionist in the way he went about it.

That said, what I most admire about Craig is that he has been willing to pay the price for his principles. He adored being a diplomat and he will never go back to his jon in the Foreign Office and he really has, like many whistleblowers, really paid the price.

Mark Lawson To what extent did you consult him about what you were doing?

David Hare Not very much. I read an earlier draft of the book, which was even wilder and more scabrous. It was hilarious, I mean it was Rabelaisian, I mean it was not like any diplomatic memoir. But having said that I have written something closer to my own version of events. I went to Tashkent. I interviewed people who worked for him: it is strongly adapted.

Mark Lawson It is wild stuff as you suggest. At one pint he marries a pole dancer who has been working as an interpreter for him, and people think he has made this up but that did really happen.

David Hare Yes, and Nadira is now living happily, she has a child, she lives with Craig, and his life is now with his Uzbek girlfriend.

Mark Lawson The BBC is known to be very nervous about dramatisations of living people and there have been many problems over this over they years. There are certain rules. You are supposed to have permission I think if you dramatise a living person. Did any of this affect you?

David Hare Not in the slightest. I think BBC Radio is just exemplary; I mean it reminds me of what BBC Television used to be like in the good days. It’s moved at the speed of light. Obviously the subject of British complicity in torture is hotly topical at the moment and Wow! It’s going out a week after the principle evidence in the Chilcot inquiry. And I can’t think of any medium which moves as fast as radio can do.

Mark Lawson It has the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and actually he’s dramatised in this. There were no BBC nerves over that?

David Hare I dont detect any nerves at all from the BBC. I have been incredibly cooperative myself. In other words, my days in which I used to fight the BBC are long over.

Mark Lawson You wrote a famous essay on this issue. You used actually to trade expletives in pubs for your television plays.

David Hare Well, television used to be a bartering job where you would sit down and say I’ll have two B words for an S word, and there would simply be a trading session in the pub. But those days are gone, I think.

Mark Lawson Finally there have been cases of radio plays becoming movies. I think A Man For All Seasons was originally a radio play and one of Lee Hall’s also became a movie. You never know, you might get an offer to make a move of this now.

David Hare Yeah, I’ve had three offers already to make it a stage play since I wrote it as a radio play, but I am just going to wait and see how people like it on Saturday.

Mark Lawson David Hare. Muder in Samarkand is on Saturday at 2.30pm here on BBC Radio 4.

It is important for me that David makes the point so strongly that he has corroborated the story. It rather puts the lies of Jack Straw, David Miliband and Kim Howells in perspective, doesn’t it?

twodavids.jpg

David Hare and David Tennant at the recording of Murder in Samarkand.

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The Truth Vanishes

Since the judgement in the Binyam Mohammed case, there has been a resurgence in the awareness of our government’s policy of collusion in torture. Kim Howells and David Miliband have been telling outright lies in denying it, while Bruce Anderson is leading the “Torture the Muslim bastards” wing.

With the government issuing blatantly lying denials, I decided to contact the Guardian to ask why they never published my indisputable documentary proof of a policy of using torture, sanctioned by Jack Straw.

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2009/11/jack_straw_lied.html

Thankfully the excellent David Leigh is back from sabbatical, Idly browsing while waiting for him to phone me back, I came across this from MerkinonParis:

A simple Graun story with a simple standfirst ‘The advice of worldly, well-educated Foreign Office diplomats is simply being ignored’

The article said :

‘Yet

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Speech To Scottish Independence Convention

THE United Kingdom is not an entity that deserves to exist because it has lost any moral authority it had.

With these words Craig Murray, the former UK ambassador who exposed torture and murder in Uzbekistan, made his case for the break-up the United Kingdom at the Convention’s February plenary.

Tony Blair’s failure to consider the human cost of war has brought us to where we are today, he said, and the only way to right the situation is to split up the UK.

Someone kindly made note of my speech to the Scottish Independence Convention, which is helpful as I don’t use a text. You can find the gist of what I said here.

http://www.scottishindependenceconvention.com/Blog.asp

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Blood on the Comic Opera

At the Nuremberg trials, it was deliberately decided that those selected for the visible judgement on aggressive war would represent a cross section of the Nazi leadership, including each branch of the Armed services. It was thought very important to include a representative of the journalists who had whipped up the hatred.

I think that was wise. I do not suspect we will ever see a war crimes trial, despite Polanski’s best efforts. But there are so many arch propagandists for the war in Iraq that it would be hard to know who to pick. Aaronovitch, Cohen, Phillips?

But I think possibly the worst offender is our old friend Frank “Goebbels” Gardner. Yet again his grave but reassuring features have been delivering smooth propaganda, this time from the comic opera re-re-re-re-re-re-re-reinvasion of parts of Helmand – an operation which is costing the UK taxpayer £2 billion this month, and the US taxpayer very much more.

I rather like the comic opera Afghan General they have fronting the operation, to restore the “Legitimate authority” of electoral fraudster Karzai. The “Taliban” have of course sensibly melted away. There are however plenty of civilians still around for the Americans to blow up. Twelve at once is unusual, but they are being killed all the time.

One of Gardner’s favourite tricks is to call ordinary Afghan courtyard houses “Taliban compounds”. It is not a compound, it is a house. Perhaps Afghans don’t live in things we would recognise in Acacia Drive – but they are their homes.

Anyway, let’s all get out the bunting and celebrate a great national victory over some empty houses and cowering civilians. Let today be known forever as Frank Gardner day. Gentlemen of England now abed are really missing out on this one.

Meanwhile the Afghan resistance will avoid pitched battles and pick off our poor troops slowly and patiently, until the day we can’t afford it any more and leave. Karzai will leave too, to live in Geneva and count his cash. Alistair Campbell will tell us how much better life has become for the people of Afghanistan.

Sir Jock Stirrup (a real comic opera name) has just told us that the missile killing twelve civilians was a setback, be we would get over it.

The twelve won’t get over it, of course.

Probably some social misfit of unstable mind somewhere in England has been nudged towards a violent response. All for the good – that will help keep the whole ultra profitable security behemoth rumbling on.

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Murder in Samarkand

By combining my story with the recent evidence from the Chilcot Inquiry, people may fully appreciate what an unprincipled and internationally violent Government we have. Once we understand that, we can look to mend it.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1250751/CRAIG-MURRAY-My-storys-torture-car-chases-sex-evil-tyrant–No-wonder-called-Doctor-Who.html

If I can sneak that hard political point into the Showbiz pages of the Mail on Sunday, I must be doing something right.

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Brian Cox Elected Dundee Rector

My congratulations and best wishes to Brian Cox, who has been elected to succeed me as Rector of the University of Dundee. Apologies it will take a little time to get the banner above changed (I am still not up to much of the technical stuff).

All is fine: I haven’t been bloging much recently because I have been snowed under due to the radio dramatisation of Murder in Samarkand, to be broadcast a week today.

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The Sheer Front of David Miliband

Having been roundly defeated in the Court of Appeal, and with it now established beyond doubt that the UK knew that Binyam Mohammed was being tortured by the USA, Miliband has the massive effrontery to welcome the decision.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blog/2010/feb/10/david-miliband-binyam-mohamed-statement

The truth about the government’s complicity in torture is becoming established beyond doubt. I am still shocked about the virtual media blackout on my own evidence to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LF9spgagSHI

But am comforted that the forthcoming dramatisation of Murder in Samarkand with David Tennant will do more for popular understanding than dry evidence ever could.

We will never see justice, but I would strongly support the calls for a public inquiry into UK complicity with torture. Preferably of an inquisitorial kind; but even the cosy conversations of the Chilcot committee have thrown up some truth.

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Alternative Vote

I suppose I agree, rather weakly, with the proposition that it is better to elect someone with the acceptance of the majority in the constituency rather than the enthusiastic support of a minority.

But Bliar won the last general election with only 35% of the votes cast – a fact he conveniently forgets as he continually reminds us he won three elections. The AV system would probably have actually increased New Labour’s majority in parliament in 2005.

The logical contradiction of a system which at constituency level ensures majority acceptance, but at the national level would give an even bigger majority to a party supported by only 35% of those voting, is a fatal flaw in the argument.

Plainly the system needs to be changed so a dangerous fanatic like Blair cannot reach power when his party has only 35% voter support. The way to do that is by single transferable vote in multi member constituencies.

Any referendum which does not include the option for real change is pointless.

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The UK and Corruption in Ghana

THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT ARE THE BIGGEST HYPOCRITES

British High Commissioner Nick Westcott is not afraid to step in to controversy. Having boldly told us that Vodafone did nothing wrong in their acquisition of Ghana Telecom, he now lectures Ghana that incoming governments must respect contracts entered into by the outgoing government.

Of course, that is true. As a general point, it is a simple statement of the legal position.

But we all know that Dr Westcott did not mean it as a general point. He meant that investigations into contracts including Kosmos and Vodafone must be stopped. Otherwise, he warned, investor confidence would be damaged ?” a warning that foreigners would take their dollars elsewhere.

But what is the logic of this position? No government may question any contract entered into by a predecessor, no matter how corruptly? That if you are a dreadfully corrupt foreign businessman, who has bribed a minister, you only have to hang on until the government changes, and then you cannot be investigated? Plainly this is a nonsense.

The fact is that, as detailed in a series of articles in the Financial Times of London, there are a whole number of questions about the Kosmos deal which give experienced observers great cause for concern.

One which particularly worries me is how, on the best oilfield in Ghana, Kosmos were able to get a royalty rate of only 5%, when the average on other fields is over 11%. There are suggestions that partners from EO were active on the Ghanaian government side of the negotiation.

There are also credible stories of Kosmos handing EO millions of dollars in cash notes for “marketing and publicity”.

Is Ghana forbidden from investigation because the government has changed? No, and they must not be bullied out of it by the British, Americans, IMF or World Bank. Those will always back wealthy Western companies against a developing African nation.

The Vodafone deal suffered ?” at the very least ?” from a lack of transparency and a lack of a level playing field for others ?” including France Telecom ?” who wished to compete. The final sales price was definitely too cheap.

I would like to know how Ghana Airways’ invaluable routes were awarded to GIA – a bunch of obscure and inexperienced investors who came only fourth in the official assessment of bids. The result has been the almost total disappearance of Ghana’s whole aviation industry.

I would like to know how industrial development funds were given to a network of companies the ultimate ownership of which traced back to the Minister of

Industry.

The British High Commissioner has the problem entirely backwards. It is not that the government is not honouring existing contracts. I am Chairman of several companies, including Atholl Energy. Atholl had a contract with the NPP government which has been honoured by the NDC government, because we carry our our work diligently and honestly.

The problem is that where contracts are not honest, action has not been fast enough or decisive enough to root out corruption.

Two of the worst examples are in the energy sector. Let us look at the case of another British company, Zakhem International Ltd. They are building the Kpone Power Project for VRA.

VRA bought the turbines from the manufacturer, Alsthom for US $70 million. They then paid Zakhem US $80 million upfront to install them and provide the ancillary equipment.

After three years, what do Ghanaian taxpayers have to show for their US $150 million? Absolutely nothing. An empty field at Kpone, surrounded by Ghana’s longest concrete wall so the Ghanaian public cannot see that their money has been stolen.

What is happening about it? Nothing, because Zakhem and their Ghanaian partners have stolen enough money to bribe all the officials involved. They are now claiming around town that the new government is also “In their pocket”.

Most of the $80 million has vanished forever, while the $70 million turbines are now badly damaged by disuse.

Or look at Balkan Energy. They claimed to have spent US $100 million on refurbishing the Osagyefo barge, at a time when they had really spent less than US10 million.

Under an astonishingly corrupt contract, Balkan are to lease the barge for $10 million per year, from the government of Ghana, but then charge Ghana over $40 million per year for its use as a “Capacity charge”. They will in addition charge the government of Ghana for the fuel, and make a profit on that too.

It is as if I rented your car from you for 100 Ghana cedis a month, then rented it back to you for 500 Ghana cedis a month plus charging you a premium on all the petrol you use.

Balkan stand to make a total of about $1.5 billion dollars in profit from the people of Ghana from this terrible deal. It is the most corrupt contract I have ever seen. It is astonishing that a country like Ghana would enter into a contract with Balkan, whose owner, Gene E Phillips, has stood trial as a gangster in the United States.

These are not crimes without a victim. Everyone who pays any VAT or other tax in Ghana is putting money into the pockets of these disgraceful conmen. Most of the taxpayers of Ghana are very poor, and the money is being taken by people who are very rich.

That is why I am speaking out. I am not supporting any political party. I am supporting the ordinary people of Ghana.

I first spoke out about corruption in Ghana back in 1999, when I was Deputy High Commissioner there. It caused a sensation in the Ghanaian media at the time. But people do not know that I was nearly sacked by the British government as a result.

The British government did not object at all to my attacking corruption in Ghana. The reason I was nearly sacked was because I said “Sadly some British companies have been involved in this corruption”. I was carpeted by the British government and told I must never mention British companies’ corruption.

At the time I was thinking of the British company International Generics Ltd and their involvement in scams over the La Palm and Coco Palm hotels.

The hypocrisy of the British government in defending corrupt British companies was most famously seen when Tony Blair ordered an end to a prosecution of the arms company BAE over massive bribes they had paid in Saudi Arabia. Blair declared that prosecuting BAE was not “In the national interest”.

Last week BAE again escaped criminal prosecution and were allowed to pay a fine instead, for corruption in Africa including Tanzania.

So Nick Westcott is only continuing a British hypocritical tradition of condemning corruption, unless it is British corruption.

The truth is that sadly there was a major increase in corruption in Ghana especially in 2007 and 2008. That was a major reason why the Ghanaian people voted to change their government. But so far there is little indication that the new government has done much to root out the corruption.

The danger in this is that ordinary people will become disillusioned with the political process.

Ghanaians are not stupid. People know who stole money, and they see them swanning around town in their fancy cars, unashamedly living the highlife. This can corrupt society. Young people can easily draw the conclusion that the way to make money is to be a corrupt politician or a drugs dealer.

The further danger is that, just like in Nigeria, they conclude that all the politicians of all the parties are into the corruption, and that is why everyone gets away with it.

I did not used to think that was true in Ghana, but I really am beginning to wonder, unless we see some effective action soon.

So rather than protecting the corrupt, the British High Commissioner should be offering help and assistance actively to attack corruption. That includes corruption by British companies.

He should also remember that, with oil revenues within touching distance, Ghana will soon have her own investment funds and no longer be so dependent on foreign investors. It is not for the colonial master to kick Ghana. The boot will soon be on the other foot.

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Straw Back At Chilcott

Straw has just been questioned on precisely the point I made about the huge gap between his evidence and what was said in the contemporary Foreign Office telegrams.

http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2010/01/jack_straws_big.html#comments

This relates to Security Council Resolution 1441 and what it means. Straw is holding the line that if the Security Council were to meet again “to consider” rather than “to decide”, that meant it was OK to ignore them and invade anyway.

Apart from the logical strangeness of the argument, the committee are suffering from an anglophone blindness that those of us who have negotiated at the UN know to avoid. “To consider” is indeed weaker than “to decide”. But the French language text is equally valid, and the verb there is se prononcer. As in prononcer un jugement – or, in English, to pronounce judgement. The committee should not ignore the other language texts.

I once, incidentally, spent four weeks of my life at a UN Commission arguing on whether to use should, ought to, has to, is to, or must to, in order to convey a duty to register a deep seabed mining concession with the appropriate international authority. That it would be “devoir” in French was agreed on day 1. As it was February in Jamaica it wasn’t a horrible four weeks.

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Alistair Campbell Snivels

I was watching the Andrew Marr show when Alistair Campbell broke down, apparently overcome that anybody could doubt the integrity of Tony Blair.

A minute later Andrew Marr asked him if he were not troubled by the 800.000 deaths following the invasion of Iraq, and Campbell snapped back:

“You can’t prove that”.

It was a very revealing riposte. Not only did it contradict the tearful innocent demeanour, it revealed the mindset of the guilty. Innocent people in the throes of deep emotion shout out “That’s not true”. They don’t shout out “You can’t prove that”.

“You can’t prove that” is the riposte of the criminal who thinks he is too clever to be caught. It actually answered the question perfectly – no, Campbell never thinks about the Iraqis whose deaths he helped to cause.

Marr’s estimate was pretty conservative, but that’s not the point. The point is that Campbell was intimately involved in the policy decision not to estimate or comment upon any estimates of civilian casualties in Iraq, precisely to give the “You can’t prove that” defence.

Marr’s question was exactly the one the Chilcot committee failed to ask Blair. They allowed him to witter on about how much better Iraq is now than it was under Saddam. Nobody asked if it was better for the million dead, the four million maimed, the four million refugees, the tens of thousands of new babies with birth defects.

Blair was allowed to get away with a whole stream of top end estimates of Saddam’s atrocities using the phrade “On some accounts”. “On some accounts” 50,000 were gassed, “on some accounts” 1 million Iraqis died in the Iran Iraq war.

Nobody put it to Blair that “On some accounts” 1.4 million died as a result of the invasion he launched on a basis of lies.

One day, perhaps Alistair Campbell can try the waterworks technique on the judges in the Hague.

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I Bet They Did

The Daily Telegraph let slip a most revealing fact:

“the BBC insisted that the play not be uncritical”,

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/celebritynews/7134792/David-Tennant-to-play-former-ambassador-Craig-Murray-in-new-BBC-Radio-4-play.html

The BBC was not insisting that the play be not uncriticial of a New Labour government which agreed to use intelligence from terrible torture in Uzbekistan, and cooperated with torture worldwide in the extraordinary rendition programme.

The BBC was in fact concerned that those facts were not given too much prominence compared to diversionary criticism of me for not being a teetotal monogamist, which is of course much worse than being a warmongering torturing murderous bastard.

Nadira was wondering when the media would stop calling her a lap dancer, when they would start using her married name, or mentioning her acting achievements (including the fact that she plays multiple characters in David Hare’s adaptation of Murder in Samarkand for Radio 4, in four different languages).

The answer I fear is never, not even in the Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2010/feb/02/david-tennant-samarkand-radio-4

nor in the EDP

http://www.edp24.co.uk/content/edp24/news/story.aspx?brand=EDPOnline&category=News&tBrand=EDPOnline&tCategory=xDefault&itemid=NOED02%20Feb%202010%2019%3A32%3A59%3A813

I will say however that I think David Hare had done a tremendous job and produced an excellent play which is both entertaining and profound. As I gather is usual for David, he did a tremendous amount of research, even travelling to Tashkent to interview eye witnesses as well as holding a meeting with the FCO to get their side of the story. I am actually quite relieved that the production does not simply rely on my word for the key events.

Please do publicise the broadcast by whatever means are at your disposal.

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Expenses

A national newspaper has put in a Freedom of Information request to the University of Dundee for the expenses claims of Court members over the last three years – precisely the period I have been Rector. Now why might they want to do that?

Personally, I only submitted any calims in the first six months when I was on my uppers and needed to claim travel and accommodation costs. Since I could afford it, for the last 30 months I have borne all expenses from my own pocket. So if anyone’s hoping for a scandal from me, they will be deisappointed.

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Farewell to Dundee

I came back from Africa and have been in Dundee for some University meetings and goodbyes. To get a feel for this look at Andrew Smith’s posting on my Facebook newsfeed at 12.57 yesterday and the subsequent comments!

Then last night we had a dinner for Scottish University Rectors at Edinburgh University before a meeting today with the Scottish Parliament’s All Party Group on Higher Education. Then 6.30pm tonight still at Holyrood I am addressing the Scottish Independence Convention. Back to London tomorrow.

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