Monthly archives: June 2010

Proof of Complicity in Torture

An FCO source warns me this morning that a vicious rearguard action is being fought within the FCO, to ensure that any government inquiry excludes my evidence and does not consider whether there was a policy of complicity with torture. Rather the security services wish it only to look at individual cases like Binyam Mohammed and assess compensation for them. The cover-up that these individual cases were accidents would be maintained.

I have now obtained under the Freedom of Information Act the final documents in the Tashkent series. These show beyond doubt that there was an official policy of obtaining intelligence through torture. I was, to the best of my knowledge, the only senior civil servant to enter a written objection to the policy of complicity with torture.

The picture built up by these documents is overwhelming and undeniable evidence of a policy of complicity in torture, even despite the censorship by government. The censorship has removed all mentions of the role of the CIA in procuring the torture intelligence from the Uzbek security services, and passing it on to MI6. Protection of the CIA appears to be the primary aim of the censor.

I set out below transcripts of the documents with a link to each document beneath.






OF 170345Z DECEMBER 02






This is useless, immoral and I believe illegal.

2. UN Special Rapporteur on Torture van Boven recently visited Uzbekistan. As a result of his investigation he described the use of torture by the Uzbek authorities as “widespread” and “systemic”. This accords with our own description of it as “endemic”. Suspected Islamic radicals are particularly often tortured – with increasing frequency to death.

3. I doubt the situation is much better in other Central Asian states. CENSORED

What safeguards are in place to ensure that we are not receiving, and potentially exposing Ministers to, intelligence obtained under torture?


5. Two thoughts occur. CENSORED

6. I would be grateful for the opinion of Sir Michael Wood on the legality in both international and UK domestic law of receiving material there are reasonable grounds to suspect was obtained under torture, and the position of both Ministers and civil servants in this regard.



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OF 241445Z DECEMBER 02






I have consulted Michael Wood.


2. No-one is in any doubt that torture is endemic in Uzbekistan, as van Boven’s report testifies. Your suggestion that intelligence is extracted under torture is disturbing.



4. I do hope that this reassures you. If not, perhaps we can have a discreet conversation in the margins of the FCO Leadership Conference.



DG DefInt


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Manuscript Note: Matthew Kidd, CENSORED

Grateful for views from both CENSORED and Legal Advisers.

Wm Ehrman

Fm Tashkent

To Routine FCO

TELNO Misc 01

Of 220903 January 03



Your relno 323


1. Thank you for TUR. I apologise for not findng you at the Leadership Conference, but I had decided to drop this. What seemed to be a major concern seemed not a problem to others, and this caused me some self-doubt.

2. However I see that the Economist of 11 to 17 January devoted its front cover, a full page editorial and four whole pages of article to precisely the question I had raised. Reading a newspaper on the flight back here 12 January, I was astonished to find two pages of the Sunday Mail devoted to exactly the same concerns. Back in Tashkent, I find Human Rights Watch urging the US government not to extradite Uzbek detainees from Afghanistan back to Uzbekistan on the same grounds. All of which emboldens me to think I am in good company in my concern. These stories all quote US sources as indicating that the CIA is accepting intelligence obtained under torture by “allied” governments. As I already explained, I too believe that to be most probably true here.


You accept that torture of detainees in Uzbekistan is widespread. Redacted.


I can give you mounds of evidence on torture by the Uzbek security services, and I have et victims and their families. I have seen with my own eyes a respected elder break down in court as he recounted how his sons were tortured in front of him as he was urged to confess to links – I have no doubt entirely spurious – with Bin Laden. Redacted.


6. I am worried about the legal position. I am not sure that a wilful blindness to how material is obtained would be found a valid defence in law to the accusation of having received material obtained under torture. My understanding is that receiving such material would be both a crime in UK domestic law and contrary to international law. Is this true? I would like a direct answer on this.


8. The methods of the Uzbek intelligence services are completely beyond the pale. Torture including pulling out of fingernails, electrocution through genitals, rape of dependants, immersion in boiling liquid – is becoming common, and I weigh those words very carefully. CENSORED.



Single Copies



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From: Linda Duffield

Date: 10 March 2003

Reference: 1


cc: Michael Wood, Legal Adviser

Matthew Kidd CENSORED


1. Michael Wood, Matthew Kidd and I had a meeting with Craig Murray (Me, British Ambassador to Tashkent) to discuss his telegram (Tashkent Telno Misc 01).


I said you had asked me to discuss this with Craig personally in view of the sensitive nature of the issues involved.

2. Craig said his concerns had been prompted by a presentation to the Uzbek authorities by Professor Korff (OSCE Adviser) on the UN Convention on Torture. Craig said that his understanding was that it was also an offence under the Convention to receive or to possess information obtained under torture. He asked for clarification on this. Michael Wood replied that he did not believe that possession of information was in itself an offence, but undertook to re-read the Convention and to ensure that Craig had a reply on this particular point.

3. I gave Craig a copy of your revised draft telegram (attached) and took him through this. I said that he was right to raise with you and Ministers (Jack Straw) his concerns about important legal and moral issues. We took these very seriously and gave a great deal of thought to such issues ourselves. There were difficult ethical and moral issues involved and at times difficult judgements had to be made weighing one clutch of “moral issues” against another. It was not always easy for people in post (embassies) to see and appreciate the broader picture, eg piecing together intelligence material from different sources in the global fight against terrorism. But that did not mean we took their concerns any less lightly.


5. After Michael Wood and Matthew Kidd had left, Craig and I had a general discussion about the human rights situation in Uzbekistan and the difficulties of pushing for a Resolution in Geneva, which we both agreed was important.



6. In conclusion, Craig said that he was grateful for the decision to discuss these issues with me personally. At the end of the day he accepted, as a public servant, that these were decisions for Ministers to take, whether he agreed with them or not. If it ever reached the stage where he could not accept such a decision, then the right thing to do would be to request a move. But he was certainly not there yet. He had fed in his views. You and Ministers had decided how to handle this question. He accepted that and would now go back to Tashkent and “Get on with the job”.

7. I think it was right to see him. I am not sure this is the end of the issue (or correspondence), but it was a frank and amicable discussion and Craig appears to be making efforts to balance his work on human rights with other FCO objectives. We shall, of course, be reviewing these again once he has produced his post objectives for the upcoming year.


Linda Duffield

Director Wider Europe

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Linda Duffield


Last night the Foreign Secretary (Jack Straw) read a copy of your minute of 10 March reporting your conversation (in the company of Michael Wood and Matthew Kidd) with Craig Murray.

The Foreign Secretary agrees with the PUS that you handled this very well. He has asked me to thank you.


Simon McDonald

(Assistant Private Secretary to Jack Straw)

14 March 2003

cc PUS


Michael Wood

Matthew Kidd

Alan Charlton

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FROM: Michael Wood,

Legal Adviser

cc: PS/PUS

Matthew Kidd, WLD

Linda Duffield


1. Your record of our meeting with HMA Tashkent recorded that Craig had said that his understanding was that it was also an offence under the Convention to receive or possess information obtained under torture. I said that I did not believe that this was the case, but undertook to re-read the Convention.

2. I have done so. There is nothing in the Convention to this effect. The nearest thing is article 15 which provides:

“Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made”.

3. This does not create any offence. I woud expect that under UK law any statement established to have been made as a result of torture would not be admissible as evidence.

Signed M C Wood

Legal Adviser

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Nobody can, on a critical reading through the above documents, doubt that there was a deliberate and considered UK government policy of receiving intelligence from torture, and that it had the support of Jack Straw.

The large scale censorship of the documents does not succeed in obscuring this. My favourite bit of censorship is from para 5 of my first telegram above:

“Two thoughts occur. CENSORED

Quite right, of course. There is nothing so dangerous as one of my thoughts, but two? Thank God the government have censored and protected the public from me.

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Those Russian Spies

I don’t have any difficulty in believing that the FBI really have discovered a colony of Russian sleeper spies in the United States.

Spying is an industry. Most of its activity is pointless, counter-productive and misdirected. Those employed in it have the strongest urge to strengthen and perpetuate their own industry. They are, worldwide, shielded from public scrutiny of their efficiency, and it is easy to persuade politicians to dole out more and more funds. Politicians are flattered to see papers marked “Top Secret” and their vanity is stoked by knowing about things happening that the public is not allowed to know about. It gives them a feeling of power.

But the extraordinary question is why the FBI would, after years of surveillance, pull the plug exactly now? A spy ring you have under complete surveillance and whose communications you have decoded is the most valuable asset imaginable. Simply think what could be learnt of Russia’s intentions towards the US from decoded instructions to these agents over the years. Think what “traitors” may have been revealed, with whom agents may have been asked to make contact. Why on earth would this priceless asset be thrown away?

Of course, for the long term future of their industry, spies are heavily dependent on the perception of an “enemy”. Perhaps there was concern that the perception of a viable enemy was slipping, so anti-Russian public and political sentiment needed to be stoked. Spies, of course, are not the only ones whose livelihood depends upon poor relations with an “enemy”. Obama’s pursuit of arms reduction negotiations with Medvedev is worrying the defence industry, Now what might cause domestic political problems for arms reduction negotiations with Russia?

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Government Torture Inquiry

Another breathless day without a moment to blog, but I am delighted at the prospect of an inquiry into British government complicity with torture. I had already written to William Hague offering to give evidence to any such inquiry, and suggesting to him that it is essential that all evidence is taken under oath and at risk of perjury proceedings.

I understand from FCO sources that tomorrow’s official announcement has now been postponed while desperate last minute efforts are being made by the security services and by the US Embassy to tighten the terms of reference. The answer to the question “Did the British government specifically request that anybody be tortured” is quite probably no, and there is a battle going on to ensure that this is the only real question asked.

There is also of course the crucial question of who conducts the inquiry.

I shall be posting tomorrow at 11.30 am new official documents from 2002, never public before, which make completely plain New Labour’s policy of complicity in torture.

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Doune The Rabbit Hole


Jamie is co-organising a music festival at Dounce Castle, largely I think because this is the kind of music he likes, and it sounded fun. Makes me wish I were young again. Acts confirmed so far include

Francois and The Atlas Mountains


Les Bof!

The Junipers

Adam Stearns

My Old Blue Terraplane

The Fast Camels

The Koolaid Electric Company

Punch and the Apostles

The Higher State

Paul Messis

The One Ensemble

The Wise Guys

Sunken, Drunken, and the Broken Boat

While the pitch is enticing:

Doune the rabbit hole is a two day tea party situated in the beautiful countryside surrounding Doune Castle, Stirlingshire. Come sit at our table and let me tell you what treats we have in store. Expect the tea to be strong; a blend of the finest psychedelic music complimented with a dash of folk brewed to perfection in a big pot of sunshine. And we mustn’t forget the cakes; indulge yourself in a delicious array of freshly baked delights comprising of poetry, dancing, philosophy, forests, stories, lights, trees, cows, theatre, comedy, dressing up boxes, whisky, games, face-painting, giant mushrooms, rainbows (but no rain), local ale and cider, lovely organic food, and many more surprises to come.

Interesting to see how they get on with a festival featuring a style of music rather than anybody famous.

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Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari

The stronger one is the one who can absorb the violence and the anger from the other and change it to love and understanding…This is the real jihad.” – Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari

Sheikh Bukhari died last week, and is much mourned by religious Uzbeks, and especially the exiled opposition leadership, to whom he was close. Bukhari was a direct descendent of Imam Muhammad Ismail al-Bukhari of Bukhara, the ninth-century author of the Hadith al-Bukhari. Sheikh Bukhari led a colony of Palestinians of Uzbek descent, mostly now in Gaza, who have maintained their Uzbek identity for generations.

He died shortly before a scheduled meeting with Turkish PM Erdogan to discuss reaction to the Gaza Flotilla attack. He devoted much of his life to seeking, through working with like-minded Jewish religious leaders, to use religion as a force for peace and agreement, rather than hatred and division.

This often placed him in a difficult position. For example, he lead a delegation to Sderot, to show sympathy for the population there but at the same time to explain to them the sufferings of his own relatives in Gaza. This attempt to promote understanding drew criticism from all sides.

The danger also exists that a non-violent tradition will be exploited by oppressors. Others, particularly Sheikh Kabbani and the Sufi Muslim Council, sought to hijack the Sufi Naqbandi tradtion and put it at the service of the linked Karimov and Israeli regimes and US neo-con organisations, and received a great deal of money for doing so.

Unlike them, Sheikh Bukhari never endorsed Karimov or the “War on Terror”. He never abandoned the rights of ordinary oppressed people. He lived a simple lifestyle, and was a living rebuke to those who seek to malign and misrepresent his religion.

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On Being Happy

I feel full of energy and – strangely – youth at the moment. The last two nights I did extremely good public meetings with the Global Justice Group in Halesowen

and for Medical Justice in Manchester.

They were vibrant and full meetings – the collection for Medical Justice afterwards raised over three hundred pounds for their Manchester branch. One of the things cheering me up is that I took a look through my engagements and realised I have raised tens of thousands for good causes at meetings over the last five years. It relieves the fear that my life has been wasted.

But what really cheers me up is the fact that there are so many good, informed and active people out there. I really must do more of this.

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Keeping Up With The Afghan Disaster

As of 1pm, the BBC were still running a piece recorded about twelve hours ago on McChrystal’s sacking. It included the observation that the military strategy was not plainly succeeding, given the 76 NATO dead in June alone.

Keep up. That was twelve hours ago. It is now 83 dead, including 4 more Brits.

That does not mention the 412 Nato wounded in June alone as well.

When will they stop this madness?

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Still No Liberty

My unease at the Lib Dem coalition with the Conservatives is crystallising into real alarm. We hear today from Theresa May that the 28 day detention without charge is to be extended. Apparantly is being renewed six months at a time under the coalition as opposed to a year at a time under NuLab.

That is supposed to be progress? Bollocks. It appears that the government has predictably been captured by the security services already.

Every Lib Dem MP who votes for 28 day detention without charge has forfeited forever the right to call themselves a liberal.

Anyone remember what the coalition agreement said about civil liberties? As I said at the time, my concern was that the Lib Dems had negotiated a fine sounding piece of paper while the Tories had got all the key ministries and the practical levers of power. This seems a prime example.

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American and Israeli Religious Nutters: Loving Each Other to Hell

You really do need to watch all of this video from the Christian Broadcasting Network:

A couple of years ago, while giving a lecture at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, I was astonished when a lecturer told me that half of his students would agree with the proposition that a war in the Middle East would lead to Armageddon, and that would be a good thing. In Ann Arbor, bot the Deep South.

The extent to which US support for Israel is driven by these christian violent religious extremists should not be underestimated. They are a major force in US politics.

The extraordinary thig is that violent religious extremists in both the US and Israel look forward to fighting sude by side against the forces of evil in the Last Battle in the Middle East, yet extremist jews and extremist christians each also believe that at the climax, when the world ends, their cherished allies will go to Hell with their enemies.

It is of course the American christians who are the most destructive violent religious extremists in the world.

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The War Falls Apart

General Stanley McChrystal has tendered his resignation (not necessarily accepted) as the rows about his crazy surge and plans to make Jalalabad a second Fallujah spill out into the public domain.

UK Special Envoy Sherard Cowper-Coles – who is less keen on killing people but believes we should occupy Afghanistan for at least a generation – has been sent away on extended leave to lie down for a few weeks in a darkened room.

Meanwhile the activists of the Democrats are finally getting their arses into gear in a serious way. This is just one of scores of examples:

The Danes, Poles and Canadians are planning to leave, and it was curiously the US reaction to the Israeli attack on Turkish vessels that lifted the taboo at NATO HQ on questioning the wisdom of following the US approach in Afghanistan.

Meantime a gentleman name Shahzad, unrepentant Times Square attempted bomber, demolished the entire rationale for the Afghan War. No matter how the tabloids portray it –

the import of Shahzad’s words is plain:

Replying to judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum’s questions over whether he feared killing children, Shahzad said: “I consider myself… a Muslim soldier. It’s a war. I am part of the answer to the US terrorising the Muslim nations and the Muslim people. On behalf of that, I’m revenging the attack.

“Living in the United States, Americans only care about their people but they don’t care about people elsewhere in the world when they die.” Shahzad told the court he armed his vehicle with three separate devices – a fertiliser-fuelled bomb packed in a gun cabinet, a set of propane tanks and gas canisters rigged with fireworks.

He added if America did not get out of Iraq and Afghanistan “we will be attacking the US”.

The notion that occupying Afghanistan prevents terrorism at home is plainly, in the words of Richard Barrett, formr head of counter-terrorism at MI6, “Absolute rubbish”.

Mr Barrett, who formerly headed counter-terrorism for the Secret Intelligence Service, dismissed the argument advanced by British ministers that the presence of 9,500 British troops in Afghanistan would reduce the threat to the UK.

“That’s complete rubbish. I’ve never heard such nonsense,” he said, warning that the presence of foreign troops risked inflaming anti-western sentiment among British Muslim communities.

“I’m quite sure if there were no foreign toops in Afghanistan, there’d be less agitation in Leeds, or wherever, about Pakistanis extremely upset and suspicious about what Western intentions are in Afghanistan and Pakistan”

Interestingly enough precisely the same points – that they had intended to attack as part of the war in Afghanistan – were made in court in the UK by Blackburn’s Ishaq Kanmi and Krenar Lusha when they were convicted recently of terrorist offences, but nowhere does this seem to be reported in the UK media.

I am now hopeful that we are approaching the end of the occupation of Afghanistan as the facts on the ground make the propaganda of the hawks irrelevant. If NATO does not wish to admit defeat, then it has only weeks to kick start serious work on a negotiated settlement with the Pashtun which it can claim as a reason to withdraw.

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The 4.45pm Link

George Monbiot may be a self-confessed hard-hearted bastard, but along with David Leigh, Simon Jenkins and Marina Hyde he prevents the Guardian from being only a NuLab propaganda machine.

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Liberals and the VAT Question

I remember having a passionate argument with John Pardoe about VAT in a pub during the Cambridge City by-election. Pardoe enjoyed Vince Cable levels of popularity as a liberal economic spokesman in those days – his flagship policy proposal was reducing income tax and increasing sales tax (sorry, too lazy to check if it was already called VAT then). He characterised it as switching from tax on income to tax on consumption. I was 17. I took myself very seriously in those days; it was with retrospect kind of him to do so.

I argued VAT was regressive – the rich and the poor pay at the same rate. As the poor save less, it means a higher proportion of their income will go on tax. Pardoe said the rich buy more expensive luxury goods, so will pay more tax.

I haven’t changed my mind in the intervening 35 years. I would much rather the extra 13 billion pounds had been raised by increasing income tax on incomes over the higher rate threshold.

I very much welcome the curtailment of housing allowances, which have boosted both private sector rents and property prices and contributed to Britain’s still overheated housing market.

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Budget Day

We all wait to see what the budget has in store. This is less fun than it used to be, as it has been heavily trailed that the personal tax allowance will be raised by £1,000 as a first stage towards lifting a very significant number of people out of tax altogether, and improving the work/benefit incentive. That is a good thing.

The banking levy will be another good thing, but far better would be a transaction tax that penalises continual speculative trades. Capital Gains Tax increases are likely to be watered down to protect wealthy tories with second homes. I fear we will see punitive duty increases on alcohol; only the wealthy are to be allowed to get drunk. But I am uncertain where the tax rise required is going to come from, if neither the basic rate of income tax nor the rate of VAT is to be increased.

I fear we may not get a great deal of detail on the cuts until the public spending round in the autumn, though we should get headline figures today, which will be helpful.

I very much favour public spending cuts. I am unabashedly ideologically committed to a major reduction in a role of the state. So I am more than happy to see an early hack at it. Of course the things I would immediately cut are not going to be cut. My main concern is that the legitimate redistributive role of the state is not weakened.

Some ideas of what I would do:

Cut Trident, aricraft carriers, nuclear submarines, end the Afghan War immediately.

Cut all local government salaries over £28,000 by 15%, with a phase in mechanism at the margin.

Make everybody in local government earning over £50,000 immediately redundant.

Freeze all civil service incremental pay scales.

Set an automatic civil service pay mechanism: annual salary increase = rate of economic growth plus inflation minus 0.25%. Backdate the formula to January 2007 and adjust salaries accordingly.

Cancel all PFI projects immediately without compensation. Pay only assessed construction cost to date.

Cancel all operating PFI schemes without compensation. Pay assessed construction costs plus interest minus PFI payments made.

End all government arts spending and close the British Council.

Replace incapacity benefit with a single needs assessed welfare payment to all unemployed people, regardless of why they are unemployed.

End all internal market procedures within the NHS and the rest of the public sector.

Institute a civil service and local authority recruitment freeze for three years.

Means test all state payments including basic old age pensions and child benefit.

Sadly the budget won’t be nearly this exciting. What would you like to see?

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Losing Afghanistan

The 300th British soldier killed n the Afghan War died today. The poor fellow survived for eight days before giving up in a Birmingham hospital. His injuries must have been appalling and that should remind us of the thousands of British soldiers maimed who did not die, some of whom sometimes wish they had.

Afghan casualties are, of course, very many times higher, with the additional horror that at least six Afghan civilians have been killed for every Afghan fighter.

We immediately have David Cameron and Liam Fox spewing out the standard propaganda about the occupation of Afghanistan making the world a safer place. This is quite simply a ludicrous proposition, and one to which the security, military and diplomatic establishments do not subscribe.

Listen to Richard Barrett, former head of counter-terrorism at MI6 and now UN co-ordinator on international terrorism:

Mr Barrett, who formerly headed counter-terrorism for the Secret Intelligence Service, dismissed the argument advanced by British ministers that the presence of 9,500 British troops in Afghanistan would reduce the threat to the UK.

“That’s complete rubbish. I’ve never heard such nonsense,” he said, warning that the presence of foreign troops risked inflaming anti-western sentiment among British Muslim communities.

“I’m quite sure if there were no foreign toops in Afghanistan, there’d be less agitation in Leeds, or wherever, about Pakistanis extremely upset and suspicious about what Western intentions are in Afghanistan and Pakistan”

Financial Times June 14 2010

That is self-evidently true. The notion that 9/11 could only have been planned from Afghanistan is self-evidently nonsense. Our occupation of Afghanistan did not stop 7/7 or Madrid or Bali. The danger of Kyrgyzstan just to the north becoming another totally failed state is apparently not even worth the expense of a tiny Embassy to see what is happening; compare the incredible sums poured into Afghanistan. And it is plainly and demonstrably true that our occupation of Afghanistan stokes anti-Western feeling in Islamic communities.

At least, with the electoral fraudster and corrupt drug dealer Karzai and his mob being propped up by us as a puppet government, British ministers have stopped even claiming we have brought democracy to Afghanistan.

The key question is whether Cameron and Fox actually believe this nonsense about propping up Karzai to keep us safe at home. It was promonted in Brown’s No 10 as a cynical propaganda line following focus group testing of what argument would best “sell” the war. Has Cameron, like Blair, reached the level of political mountebank where mendacity and self-delusion become indivisible?

We are only one 12 months away from the date Obama set to start drawing down troop numbers. McChrystal’s “surge” has done the opposite of awe the resistance – according to the UN, attacks are up 94% on their 2009 levels. The coming disaster of the attack on Jalalabad – McChrystal’s “strategy” – keeps being postponed as the stupidity of it becomes increasingly clear in the detail.

The Danes and Canadians are both withdrawing troops in 2011. The Polish Prime Minister last week called for NATO withdrawal. Those are the three major fighting contingents apart from the UK and US. The Danes have even worse casualty rates than us. By 2011 defeat will look very close.

This is a tribal war. The laughably named “Afghan National Army” we are supporting is 75% Tajik and Uzbek. The Afghan fighters against us are 75% Pashtun. We simply took sides in the civil war – the losing side. The Pashtun (whom Western commentators almost universally and completely wrongly label as all Taliban – less than25% of Afghan fighters would call themselves Talib) know that they will win again when we are gone.

In at most five years time, we will be gone, Karzai will be gone. Those we made our enemies – the vast majority of whom, including most of the Taliban leadership, had never had wished harm to the UK until we occupied them – will be in power.

If our aim is genuinely to avoid harm to the UK, we should start negotiating with them now our orderly but swift departure from the country, and what peaceful development support we will be able to offer to their government.

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