Israeli Murders, NATO and Afghanistan 242


I was in the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office for over 20 years and a member of its senior management structure for six years, I served in five countries and took part in 13 formal international negotiations, including the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea and a whole series of maritime boundary treaties. I headed the FCO section of a multidepartmental organisation monitoring the arms embargo on Iraq.

I am an instinctively friendly, open but unassuming person who always found it easy to get on with people, I think because I make fun of myself a lot. I have in consequence a great many friends among ex-colleagues in both British and foregin diplomatic services, security services and militaries.

I lost very few friends when I left the FCO over torture and rendition. In fact I seemed to gain several degrees of warmth with a great many acquantances still on the inside. And I have become known as a reliable outlet for grumbles, who as an ex-insider knows how to handle a discreet and unintercepted conversation.

What I was being told last night was very interesting indeed. NATO HQ in Brussels is today a very unhappy place. There is a strong understanding among the various national militaries that an attack by Israel on a NATO member flagged ship in international waters is an event to which NATO is obliged – legally obliged, as a matter of treaty – to react.

I must be plain – nobody wants or expects military action against Israel. But there is an uneasy recognition that in theory that ought to be on the table, and that NATO is obliged to do something robust to defend Turkey.

Mutual military support of each other is the entire raison d’etre of NATO. You must also remember that to the NATO military the freedom of the high seas guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea is a vital alliance interest which officers have been conditioned to uphold their whole career.

That is why Turkey was extremely shrewd in reacting immediately to the Israeli attack by calling an emergency NATO meeting. It is why, after the appalling US reaction to the attack with its refusal to name Israel, President Obama has now made a point of phoning President Erdogan to condole.

But the unhappiness in NATO HQ runs much deeper than that, I spoke separately to two friends there, from two different nations. One of them said NATO HQ was “a very unhappy place”. The other described the situation as “Tense – much more strained than at the invasion of Iraq”.

Why? There is a tendency of outsiders to regard the senior workings of governments and international organisations as monolithic. In fact there are plenty of highly intelligent – and competitive – people and diverse interests involved.

There are already deep misgivings, especially amongst the military, over the Afghan mission. There is no sign of a diminution in Afghan resistance attacks and no evidence of a clear gameplan. The military are not stupid and they can see that the Karzai government is deeply corrupt and the Afghan “national” army comprised almost exclusively of tribal enemies of the Pashtuns.

You might be surprised by just how high in Nato scepticism runs at the line that in some way occupying Afghanistan helps protect the west, as opposed to stoking dangerous Islamic anger worldwide.

So this is what is causing frost and stress inside NATO. The organisation is tied up in a massive, expensive and ill-defined mission in Afghanistan that many whisper is counter-productive in terms of the alliance aim of mutual defence. Every European military is facing financial problems as a public deficit financing crisis sweeps the continent. The only glue holding the Afghan mission together is loyalty to and support for the United States.

But what kind of mutual support organisation is NATO when members must make decades long commitments, at huge expense and some loss of life, to support the Unted States, but cannot make even a gesture to support Turkey when Turkey is attacked by a non-member?

Even the Eastern Europeans have not been backing the US line on the Israeli attack. The atmosphere in NATO on the issue has been very much the US against the rest, with the US attitude inside NATO described to me by a senior NATO officer as “amazingly arrogant – they don’t seem to think it matters what anybody else thinks”.

Therefore what is troubling the hearts and souls of non-Americans in NATO HQ is this fundamental question. Is NATO genuinely a mutual defence organisation, or is it just an instrument to carry out US foreign policy? With its unthinking defence of Israel and military occupation of Afghanistan, is US foreign policy really defending Europe, or is it making the World less safe by causing Islamic militancy?

I leave the last word to one of the senior NATO officers – who incidentally is not British:

“Nobody but the Americans doubts the US position on the Gaza attack is wrong and insensitve. But everyone already quietly thought the same about wider American policy. This incident has allowed people to start saying that now privately to each other.”

Craig Murray is a former British Ambassador. He is also a former Head of the Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He negotiated the UK’s current maritime boundaries with Ireland, Denmark (Faeroes), Belgium and France, and boundaries of the Channel Islands, Turks and Caicos and British Virgin Islands. He was alternate Head of the UK Delegation to the UN Preparatory Commission on the Law of the Sea. He was Head of the FCO Section of the Embargo Surveillance Centre, enforcing sanctions on Iraq, and directly responsible for clearance of Royal Navy boarding operations in the Persian Gulf.

Reviews of Craig Murray’s War on Terror Memoir, “Murder in Samarkand” – published in the US as “Dirty Diplomacy”:

“It really is a magnificent achievement” – Noam Chomsky

“A fearless book by a fearless man. Craig Murray tells the truth whether the “authorities” like it or not. I salute a man of integrity” – Harold Pinter

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242 thoughts on “Israeli Murders, NATO and Afghanistan

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  • Monty

    Fascinating post, Craig.

    I think all eyes will be on the MV Rachel Corrie. BBC reports that the MV Rachel Corrie has declared that it will continue to Gaza with its humanitarian supplies.

    I believe the MV Rachel Corrie is registered in Ireland.

  • Zim

    I’ve been noticing over the past few days that Google has not been highlighting the Israeli/Flotilla murders and kidnapping, in its “in the news” section.

    You can see here that even though the Israeli/Flotilla murders and kidnapping is by far the biggest story over the past few days with nearly 16,000 articles, it doesn’t feature in Google’s “in the news” section of the most covered stories.

    Curious, eh.

  • peacewisher

    Not at all curious, Zim.

    By the time the BBC refused to show the Gaza charity appeal last year it had become obvious that the mainstream media were being controlled by those who also control the Zionist entity.

    I think that was the last straw also for a lot of jews who previously had some sympathy with Zionism – including the MP Gerald Kaufmann.

    We are now in a period of gradual awakening… when people come to realise that they have been deceived.

    Rachel Corrie died for a humanitarian cause… as with Steve Biko in South Africa, the name is enough to defeat the media lies, and it looks increasingly like – as with Biko – her death was not in vain.!/pages/Rachel-Corrie/9284243339?ref=ts

  • CheebaCow

    I never use google for my news (so I can’t comment on the last few days), but I just checked and the top story is in relation to the raid, both on and has it at the top of the world section.

    It does make me happy that it appears that the deaths of the humanitarians will not have been in vain. However it is depressing that 40+ years of oppression against the Palestinians hasn’t caused the same outrage, but that’s the world we live in.

  • Ed


    Lots more good stuff at Glenn Greenwald’s blog, if for no other reason than to remind us that the slavish refusal of the American government to criticise Israel is not reflective of the views of all Americans.

    But thank you for the notes on NATO, I asked in an earlier thread if Turkey could ratchet up the pressure through the alliance and it seems they can. I still wonder though if the deal two weeks ago with Iran on the storage of enriched uranium is a key part of the backdrop here, without it I can’t make sense of why Israel would do something so obviously illegal and provocative.

  • ingo

    Fascinating insight Craig.

    Could NATO’s unease come from possible contingency planning as well, as the threats and possibilities of a middle east war have been on the cards for some time?

    NATO should have been disbanded after the cold war, it would have made for clearer lines in Afghanistan today.

    Now they are faced with mission creep and all sorts of obligations, off course there is no time to help Turkey, but help they must.

    If they do not react to this vile flagration of international law, then what is there to stop Turkey defending itself next time? and they will.

    If two activsts were shot before the helicopters landed their soldiers, then this contradicts all the spin trodden out by the likes of melanie Phillips of firebomb throwing activsts.

    It is disturbing that the news spin is so deep that it can divert the google machinery so fast, very worrying indeed.

  • Ian M

    Fascinating article, Craig. Since Bush and Blair I have felt that NATO was manipulated to become a tool for US foreign policy. The Georgia debacle was a frightening example of how politicians might try and ‘include’ distasteful regimes inside NATO in order to trigger further disastrous wars. NATO has zero business in Afghanistan – that is surely obvious. NATO was a cold war alliance, it has no relevance to the modern world. Especially now that the US views it as synonymous with the laughably entitled ‘international community’ ie the US and its satellites. We must applaud Turkey and also Ireland for the simple act of speaking up and defending their citizens against violence and murder. Why is it so hard for the UK and Europe to do this? It would have been a straightforward defence of our own interests not so long ago. It would do the US a power of good to hear that its so-called ‘partner’, Europe, is in complete disagreement with its policies. Is the sky going to fall in when we stand up for our beliefs? How have we managed to breed such a feeble, craven political culture when even the loon Maggie wouldn’t think twice about browbeating the US about its idiocy?

  • Zim


    What I’m saying is that even though this story is by far the most covered in media, it doesn’t appear in Google’s “in the news” section of the most covered stories.

    Google doesn’t control all those media outlets that are covering the story, but it does control its “in the news” section.

    So how is it that their “in the news” section doesn’t feature this story?

  • sabretache


    Thanks a bunch for a solid insightful analysis. On your home-ground so to speak, it’s what you really do excel at. As for the last word of that senior NATO officer, those of us who no longer have any career-dependant ties to the Anglo-American Imperial Project and its fellow-travelling derivatives, answered his question a long time ago, as I’m sure, in your heart you have to.

  • CheebaCow

    Zim, I was referring to the “in the news section’ as far as I know. I just double checked the link you included in your first post and the top story is related to the attack.

  • writerman

    Dear Craig,

    Excellent piece. The atmosphere you describe is precisely the one I ‘gleen’ from people I talk to who move in more rarified circles than I’ve chosen to. Whilst you were pushed out, I went into exile freely.

    Underneath the surface there are massive misgivings about the US leadership of NATO, and that US methods and interests simply don’t fit with Europe’s anymore. It was hoped that with the election of Obama things would change substantively, not cosmetically, from the Bush era. That, possibly, naive hope/delusion has been undergoing radical reappraisal over the last year or so.

    It’s now quite clear that Obama does not represent a clean break with the past, but merely a continuation, with an emphasis on continuity, especially in relation to the Middle East and the conflicts in Asia. This continuity worries many people in Europe, who are uneasy about where this may lead, witness the sudden resignation of the German president who made a ‘gaffe’ about the connection between German economic interests and the war in Afghanistan.

    Anyway, my fear is that the US is actually becoming more, not less, integrated with Israel, and that the relationship deeply harmful to the interests of the United States, which arguably cannot be the same as those of Israel.

    My biggest fear is that the United States is coming to resemble Israel more and more in the way it conducts its foreign policy, in relation to the rest of the world. The die hasn’t been cast definitively, but that seems to be the way things are moving.

    It’s startling; that even when the American people reject the policies of the Bush era and elect a president who they think represents the hope of change and peace and renewal, how much in practice, remains the same, almost as if the election had never taken place and didn’t matter. Ufortunately, from my ‘champange anarchist’ perspective, I suspect it didn’t, not really.

  • Zim


    The “in the news” section is in the right hand side of the Google news page.

    It’s got Theo Walcot and Fabio, amongst other things, there at the moment.

    It’s a quick link to the most covered stories of the day.

    The Israel/Flotilla incident isn’t mentioned.

    You have to wonder what munging of the search and indexing system produced a result that has had no mention of by far the biggest story of the past few days.

  • CheebaCow


    Ok now I see the section you are talking about. However I still don’t agree with your interpretation that it is google trying to hide a story. The first article, and article that is in the most valuable/visible part of the page is about the attack. The ‘In the News’ section is relatively hidden, if the attack was not in the ‘Top Stories’ section but in the ‘In the News’ section I would actually be more inclined to agree with you. Also note that ALL the content displayed on the news page is determined by google. They are under no obligation to display any of the stories they display.

  • Clark


    I’m just guessing here – I know that Google individually identifies our computer accounts by setting ‘cookies’ in them. I suspect that search results are modified for each individual computer user account; that is the sort of thing Google specialise in. Try clearing cookies, or try from a different machine, and see if results vary.

  • Ron

    You really have to wonder at the mental health of these Israelis.

    The psychopathology is interesting though in highlighting one of the features of the psychopath; an inability to understand proportionality. That’s quite a common theme in Israeli dramatics.

    “Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, has compared the Gaza flotilla attack with America’s fight against Nazi Germany in the Second World War.”

  • Zim


    It’s nothing to do with cookies. I use Firefox on stealth, so don’t have any.

    The indexing system has quite clearly been munged, to exlude the story.

  • CheebaCow

    The graph shows that 48 minutes ago there were still 1600 sources covering the incident, about 500 lower than 1 day ago. Seems like reasonable numbers to me. I think the fact that the graph displays a line for a time period before data has been properly collected is perhaps a little confusing. Anyway I don’t wanna derail the thread any more. I will agree to disagree =P

  • Zim


    Why do you think the most covered story by far over the past few days does not appear in Google’s list of most covered stories?

  • Clark


    all those graphs go to zero on the right for all articles. I suspect that it’s because they start counting now, so the number is low. At the update interval, the number is displayed (no longer zero), the graph moves left, and the new right is zero.


    when we’ve reassured Zim, could you delete this techy stuff please?, it detracts from an important piece.

  • CheebaCow


    Psychopaths can actually be very successful, as they have a cold rationality to their actions where they don’t let emotions get in the way. They can understand social expectations and conform to them when others are looking even if they don’t have the same values themselves, this is because they understand that to not do so would be detrimental to themselves. I think Israel’s behaviour has generally followed this same pattern. What has greatly interested me about Israel’s recent actions is that they seem to have stopped behaving as they did previously, and have actually become quite irrational in behaviour.

  • Ian M

    You do have to wonder about the psychology of the Israelis as mentioned above. The denialism that is rampant in Israel is obvious to anyone who has been there. The delusional nature of their ideological beliefs is quite staggering to outsiders. Their dependence on a manufactured narrative about their past and therefore their ‘rights’ is astonishing, as is their willingess to believe whatever the military tell them. Like the fantastist, the more dissonant their views are with reality, the more they shore them up and invent extravagant claims, making wild allegations against those who threaten their artifical worldview. Goldstone, peace activists, whoever challenges them must be met with slander, smearing, violence – whatever it takes. A classic example of the delusional nature of the Israel project is taking place in front of our eyes.Unfortunately for them, the more absurd their rationalisations, the more of a pariah they become, which of course reinforces their belief in their own exceptionalism, their ‘victimhood’ and their need to escalate the situation with even more lethal violence. That the founder of psycho analysis was Jewish is too ironic for words.

  • CheebaCow


    The ‘In the News’ section appears to the most common names/phrases of the last few days. Due to the highly political nature of Israel’s attack different news organisations are going to use very different words to frame the issue. Pro Palestinian articles will call it an attack or a massacre, whereas pro Israel pieces will call it defence or whatever terms they are using to spin the issue. This effectively halves the commonality of each phrase. It’s not surprising that sports stars are prominent in that section. Regardless of political views, one can agree on who the winner of an event was. Ok this really is my last post on the topic, sorry everyone.

  • Apostate

    The perceived irrationality of Israel resembles Nixon’s “mad dog” posture towards N.Vietnam.

    Nixon wanted to convince the enemy that he was capable of doing anything including using nuclear weapons.

    Israelis like the military historian, Martin Van Crefeld, have made similar threats re-willingness to target even Europe as pay-back for the “Holocaust” if it perceives it’s been forced into a corner.

    References to the apparent determination of the US to stoke Islamic resentment in the Middle East and Central Asia all point to the likelihood that the Anglo-US synarchy will use Israel to spark a major conflict in the near future.

    As economists like Gerald Celente have warned the bankers have done it before and will do it again.

    Did I mention that NATO will do the bidding of the bankers?

    Did I use the Z word before bankers?

    As if I would!

    Just in passing can I just mention that it was the French Rothschilds who bank-rolled LBJ’s escalation of the Vietnam war after the JFK assassination and the staged Tonkin incident.

    Well I did anyway.

    Wait for the censor……….

  • Zim


    I would have expected that with all the coverage this story is getting the term “Gaza” or indeed “Israel” or “Israeli” might have made an appearance.

    I find it surprising, to say the least, that Google’s indexing system is so poor as to more highly rate “David Laws”, “Land Registry” or “Crystal Palace” as more common news items than “Gaza” or “Israel” over the past few days.

    Indeed, were I a shareholder I’d be very concerned that any competitor could easily develop much better algorithms than Google are currently using on this feature.

  • Ron

    Oh dear. Even Stephen Nolan is now giving Israeli spokesman Marc Regev a hard time.

    Last night Kirsty Wark tore strips out of him or some other clone.

    The worm has turned.

    Let’s hope we can finally agree that Israel needs to be brought to heel and collectively work towards that goal.

  • Craig E

    I am a little bemused by the comments on the BBC that the detainees are being “Deported” given that these people were siezed on the high seas by armed soldiers, then illegally taken into custody in a foreign country how cna they the be deported if they never entered the the country volenterally in the first place?

    Craig E

  • Freeborn

    Censor in overdrive!

    References to cognitive dissonance incurred as result of Zionist psychological warfare programmes re-eternal Jewish victimhood,”anti-semitism” and the “Holocaust” now being deleted wholesale.

    We are grown up enough to make our own minds up about whether or not there exists a Zionist plan for WW3.

    It ill behoves a supposedly liberal blogger to delete links to evidence that such a plan exists.

    Mr Murray is now on the list at!

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