But Is Everywhere In Chains 34

Yesterday 123 people were arrested for demonstrating in St Petersburg and Moscow. They were demonstrating against Putin’s unconstitutional restrictions on freedom of assembly. I have a high opiniion of Mikhail Gorbachev, whose over the top eightieth birthday celebrations were deserved. The truth is that Putin has rolled back almost entirely the personal and political freedoms which Gorbachev initiated. Mary Dejevsky has no problem with this, just as she has no problems puffing the Karimov family. It quite astonishes me that a person holding her opinions is accepted, indeed lionised, in the British media. Mutatis mutandi you could subsititute Putin and Russia for Hitler and Germany in this article throughout.

Yes, we don’t understand why modern Russians love Putin. Nor did we understand why Nazi Germans loved Hitler. And a good thing too.

Talking of eightieth birthdays, it is also this week the eightieth birthday of Dan Ellsberg, who was last week arrested while protesting about the detention conditions of Bradley Manning. The Sam Adams Associates decided to each send Dan, one of our members, a personal congratulatory message. This was mine:

I was sitting in a bar in Kumasi, Ghana, a couple of weeks ago. The bar TV was on Sky News, and a photo flashed up of a distinguished looking gentleman being forcibly led away by an over-armoured policeman.
“Good Lord, that’s Dan!” I said.
“Do you know him?” asked the barman.
“Yes, he’s a friend of mine” I replied. And I felt enormously proud.
I still do.
Your one lifetime has been worth many thousands. Here’s to the next twenty years of telling the truth.

It is quite astonishing that, while we are at war ostensibly to stop abuses of human rights in Libya, the government is pushing legislation to protect the Pinochets of this world – and the Emir of Bahrain, Karimov and all our other allies – from prosecution here for their tortures, rapes, maimings and killings. That this was done by a government including Liberal Democrats beggars belief. There is a good letter in the Guardian:

• We urge MPs to reject clause 152 of the police reform bill tomorrow. Official British statements abroad about our democratic values and commitment to international law are meaningless when our MPs are voting for a clause that would make it considerably more difficult to secure the arrest, in England and Wales, of those suspected of war crimes. We expect our MPs as elected representatives to reject any political interference with the courts and to respect their impartiality.

Our leaders are out of step on this issue: a new ICM poll shows that only 7% of voters would back plans to make it easier for those suspected of war crimes to visit the UK. When citizens are risking their lives protesting for human rights, democratic freedoms, and an independent judiciary in their countries – and especially now Britain’s role in supporting dictatorships is under the spotlight – this is no time to make it harder to arrest suspected war criminals here in the UK.

Bella Freud
Hanif Kureishi
Philip Pullman
Tony Benn
Robert Del Naja
David Gilmour
Polly Sampson
Ahdaf Soueif
Bryan Adams
Karma Nabulsi
Professor Quentin Skinner
John Pilger
Jake Chapman
Vivian Westwood
Noam Chomsky
Ken Loach
Rebecca Hall
Caryl Churchill
Victoria Brittain
Alexei Sayle
Ilan Pappe
William Dalrymple
Bruce Kent
Geoffrey Bindman
John Austin
Baroness Jenny Tonge
Ghada Karmi
Stephen Rose
Hilary Rose
Jeremy Corbyn, MP
Rev Canon Garth Hewitt
Salman Abu Sitta
Kika Markham

Finally, there is an extremely important exchange of articles between George Monbiot and Henry Porter which, if you ignore the personal status battle, makes some truly vital points about Nick Clegg’s failure to deliver on his pledges to roll back New Labour’s assault on personal liberty in the UK. Here are Monbiot and Porter.

It has also become clear that there has been no change in UK collusion with torture abroad. The government has still never said that it will not receive and use intelligence gained by torture abroad, and it will not say so. The much vaunted inquiry promised by Clegg into UK complicity in torture still shows no sign of happening, will be extremely circumscribed in its scope, conducted by the personally compromised commissioner for the intelligence services, and take place largely in secret.

Meanwhile what happened to that other coalition agreement mainstay, a House of Lords wholly elected, by proportional representation? It appears to have been entirely forgotten.

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34 thoughts on “But Is Everywhere In Chains

  • dlj

    You are right Craig, this is clearly a puff piece. It is not even necessary to try and counter the arguments with facts, such as those presented in books such as The Age of Assassins (Felshtinsky) or The New Nobility (Soldatov and Borogan). It is not even necessary to look beyond the glossy picture presented of Russia's economy, where average life expectancy for a man is not even 62. Instead, one need only to look at the shifty language used, as Orwell might have done, a language that reveals that someone is lifting phrases out of a stock repository, and is not really thinking about what they are saying. Thus, for example, the assumptions of Putin's critics are 'not entirely valid,' so they are valid in part? I like this one – the assumption that 'a KGB career was of itself negative' or 'it is not seen as a negative.' The first sentence doesn't actually make sense, and basically people don't see things 'as a negative.' What about also the use of cliche? – 'the common or garden police,' 'dyed in the wool career officer,' 'by his friends you shall know him.' Then there are the pseudo categories – who is is, and what he has done – they sound like one category to me.

  • Uzbek from UK

    Mr Murray, talking about Gorbachev one should realise that he is not such innocent as one pictures him. Undoubtedly Gorbachev should be credited with liberal reforms and ending of Cold War, but he was the one who order massacres in Baltic states and Caucuses in late 80ties as well as handling Chernobyl crisis. Of course comparing Gorbachev to dictators like karimov, lukashenko, putin or others alike and Gorbachev looks like innocent reformist but again he has few skeletons in his closet.

    Also for me as for Central Asian Gorbachev with his centro-russian politics did not seem to be very much liberal.

  • somebody

    Reposting this from yesterday

    somebody · 16 hours ago
    Soon Karimov, Netanyahu, Olmert, Livni and ALL other assorted criminals and war criminals will be able to visit this country without fear of arrest. The amendment got through the Commons yesterday and, after going through the Lords, will become law.

    Bella Freud and others write here on the ramifications. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/mar/29/no….

    as does Daniel Machover who does not make it clear that this amendment will ensure carte blanche in Israel. The entity can literally get away with murder in the past and for evermore.

  • Guest

    "arrest suspected war criminals here in the UK."

    The name "Blair" comes to mind (along with a few others!).

  • Neil Craig

    The reason Putin is loved is because he gave Russia an average of 7% growth. If any of our useless lumps could do that we would love them too. If any of them were even interested in trying, instead of doing everything possible to put the lights out, they would be quite popualr.

    Craig clearly hasn't noticed the irony of complaining about Russia's alleged lack of freedom, which really means the Russian peoples lack of interest in doing what western ruling classes think they should and complaining of"a person holding her opinions is accepted, indeed lionised, in the British media". "Lioniosed" meaning occaionally, just occasionally, , some part of the British media, not the Broadcast stuff of course which more people see, publishing something that doesn't accord with the will of the assorted war criminal, liars, thieves, murderers, organleggers, child rapists & Luddite parasites in charge here.

    • CanSpeccy

      Yah, but if Putin is serving the interests of the Russian people that proves hes a villainous nationalist. You know, Nazi, Fascist, etc. etc.

      That is the absurdity of the Liberal position. Anyone opposed to sacrificing the interests of the people in the interests of the global empire is, by definition, evil. All empires hate nationalism — obviously. And in a global empire, no nation can be allowed to survive: hence (a) the destruction of not only the European nations as genetic, cultural and religious communities, but also the American nation, where it's basically already over for the white people as the dominant group in places like Texas and New York, and (b) the vilification of Russia, China and Libya where the leadership believes in nation-building, that is to say building their own nation.

  • Guest


    I will be the first to say, I might be wrong on this ?. Craig, there is a big chess game going on and I think Putin may be playing it to protect the Russian position. We live in dangerous times.

    • CanSpeccy

      Protecting the Russian people means opposing the New World Order. So clearly Putin is evil. He probably is evil anyhow, but he knows what the Russian people want and to some extent must be providing it.

  • Paul Johnston

    Oligarchs, but especially Jewish oligarchs (which is very many) are highly unpopular in Russia and did not need Putin to make them so.
    End Quote

    Need you read anymore?
    Anti-Semitism is not his fault then, he just reflects it.

  • CanSpeccy

    The secret US Department of Defense history of US political-military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967, which was released publicly by Daniel Ellsberg and which became known as the Pentagon Papers, was in fact prepared by Ellsberg while in the employ of the Pentagon, either directly or under contract via the Rand corporation.

    During the time he worked for the US Government, Ellsberg is said to have been an enthusiastic cold warrior involved in the planning of Operation Phoenix, "an assassination program … to cripple the NLF by killing influential people like mayors, teachers, doctors, tax collectors-anyone who aided the functioning of the NLF's parallel government in the South.

    "Many of the "suspects" were tortured and some were tossed from helicopters during interrogation. William Colby, the CIA official in charge of Phoenix (he later became director of the CIA), insisted this was all part of "military necessity"- though he admitted to Congress that he really had no idea how many of the 20,000 killed were Viet Cong and how many were "loyal" Vietnamese …. since Phoenix was a joint operation between the US and the South Vietnamese, who used it as a means of extortion, a protection racket and a way to settle vendettas. Significantly, the South Vietnamese estimated the Operation Phoenix death toll at closer to 40,000."

    Ellsberg presumably explains his conversion from cold warrior to peace activist as the result of some kind of Damascus Road conversion. But what do you say to the claim (Webster Tarpley's, to be specific) that the release of the papers was a CIA operation to divert blame for the Vietnam War fiasco from the CIA to the Army?

  • Courtenay Barnett

    Craig – you said:-
    “Yesterday 123 people were arrested for demonstrating in St Petersburg and Moscow. They were demonstrating against Putin’s unconstitutional restrictions on freedom of assembly. I have a high opinion of Mikhail Gorbachev, whose over the top eightieth birthday celebrations were deserved. The truth is that Putin has rolled back almost entirely the personal and political freedoms which Gorbachev initiated.”
    …” Yes, we don’t understand why modern Russians love Putin.”
    It is not as easy as you make out – no straight line to human rights.
    What is human rights?

  • Courtenay Barnett

    If a man or woman cannot sustain life and limb – there is a need for survival rights – Malinowski’s primacy of needs ( see his theory of needs). Gives meaning to Jeremy Bentham’s observation “ nonsense on stilts”, if we place the civil liberties in a vacuum without a link to the survival rights.
    How do you actualise rights if people are wanting of food, shelter and clothing – thus there are the first order survival rights.
    Then, and sometimes conjunctively we might pursue, the second order civil liberties – freedom of speech etc.
    But – Gorbachev in the eyes of the Russian people led them to penury ( i.e. the “survival rights” were not addressed). Putin has provided the former – Gorbachev promised the latter. Therein is the explanation why the Russian people love and embrace one and not the other.
    Courtenay ( http://www.globaljusticeonline.com)

    • Craig_Murray


      Yes, but my point remains. You could make exactly the same point about Hitler and addressing German survival rights after the total economic collapse of Weimar. Still doesn't make him a good person. And I don't accept the notion that extinction of political liberty was essential to economic improvement – in either case.

      • Neil Craig

        So what crimes has Putin committed comparable to us attackinmg Yugoslavia and, under occuption, employing "police" openly committed to racial genocide and giving them our authority to murder, cleanse, kidnap & sell to brothels & dissect living people to steal their body organs. I dispute that Putin has done anything 100th as evil (it is even questionable if Hitler did anything which individually matched our organlegging).

        If he has not then there are no circumstances in which you can ethically attack him for not being "a good person" while keeping silent on the obscene, corrupt, genocidal, organlegging Nazi war criminals leading all 3 major parties here.

        • Craig_Murray

          But nobody could claim I was silent on the war criminals leading the main parties here. That is what I don't understand about what I may broadly call the left. They seem to think that if Obama and Caneron are bad, that somehow makes Putin or Ahmadinejad OK.

          • Guest

            "They seem to think that if Obama and Caneron are bad

            "think"!!!!!!, "if"!!!!!!.

            "Obama and Caneron are bad" I would have used the word…EVIL.

          • CanSpeccy

            "They seem to think that if Obama and Caneron are bad, that somehow makes Putin or Ahmadinejad OK. "

            And aren't Putin and Ahmadinejad bad, so far as the Western government/media complex is concerned, only because Obama and Cameron seek to overthrow them.

            No doubt they are in some degree bad, but are they any worse than most other dictators and pseudomocrats whole rule in countries loyal to the western alliance?

    • dlj

      The idea that Putin has promoted the economic well being and the security of ordinary Russians is questionable, to say the least. There is real evidence of massive corruption and extremes of wealth and poverty, and then there are the terrorist attacks on trains and planes. These are the first order survival rights that are under pressure, in part because of the lack of political freedom, a freedom that can challenge power when it goes wrong and help to distribute economic activity more widely.

  • Guest

    "And I don't accept the notion that extinction of political liberty was essential to economic improvement – in either case. "

    But it may (these days!) be the difference of a nations survival and well being!. We now know who was behind the troubles in Chile and Iran and brought about the dictatorships of Pinochet and the Shah. The same people are doing it as we write in Venezuela!, how long will democratically elected President Hugo Chavez last ?. Could be Putin is making sure that his country doesn`t suffer the same fate ?, but then it might be as you say ?, we will have to wait and see.

  • evgueni

    I read the Grauniad article twice now but fail to be offended by it. I think it is quite accurate. Yes Putin is a nasty piece of work, a war criminal. Needn't stop him from being popular in Russia. Closer to home, Thatcher performed a similar trick with the Falklands war. You've got to do what you've got to do to keep the empire together. Russian Federation is an empire and a young one at only 300 years or so. If Chechens are allowed to go their own way, who will next? Ordinary Russians are profoundly ignorant of their own brutal history, of Muscovy's origin as a Golden Horde Ulus and even of their true ethnicity, but that is the reality. Even Солженицын is not immune from this imperialism.

    I ought to declare an interest – I am a Ukrainian. Russian imperialism and Russians' distorted sense of history offends me. But I do not fail to see why Putin is approved of by Russians and many Ukrainians also. We do not want a belligerent Russia, but neither do we want a weak or disintegrating Russia.

    The Hitler comparison is just odd.

  • somebody

    Thread on Medialens

    Craig Murray police reform bill and war criminals – MikeD Today, 8:20 am
    Re: Craig Murray police reform bill and war criminals – johnlilburne Today, 10:39 am
    Re: Craig Murray police reform bill and war criminals – johnlilburne Today, 10:45 am
    Letter to MP – MikeD Today, 11:46 am

  • Courtenay Barnett

    Craig – to my mind the choice is not an either/or one between survival rights or civil liberties. I think that the reality of human existence dictates that human beings for survival must have food, shelter and clothing. Remove the primary needs and one is left with academic abstractions as regards where the best and fairness line for ‘freedom of expression’ ought to be drawn. Ultimately I agree with the principle that you expressed.

  • Courtenay Barnett

    Many years ago, just after being called to the British Bar, I wrote a little book entitled, “ Learn the law – a retarded text for advanced readers’. In that book after some reflections on human rights and liberty, I wrote:-
    “ …I neither dismiss the liberal appeal of Western societies, nor am I unmindful of the shallow fallacy of liberty without food, nor do I wish one at the expense of the other.”
    That is the real challenge – the pursuit of the primary survival rights and establishing the civil liberties.

  • technicolour

    According to a Russian I met, and with whom I sympathised about the fact that the UN had declared the last elections to install Putin 'not free and fair', the truth is worse than that. Because of the time zone difference the results of some local elections were announced nationally two hours before the elections had taken place.

    Why assume the Russians 'love' Putin? It's like assuming that the UK 'loved ' Blair (26 percent of the vote) or the Israelis love their own minority elected regime.

  • Helena Cobban

    I didn't know Chomsky voted in Britain? Personally, as someone who carries both UK and US passports, I think it's important not to abuse this largesse for political reasons but to choose which country to be politically active in. As Bentham said (wrote), the fundamental principle of democracy is that each person has one vote and none more than one. This feels particularly important in a time when (a) many people, including a large proportion of Palestinians, are actually stateless and don't have even one passport or one state to defend them, and (b) the US seems extremely eager to use its dual nationals everywhere (Afghanistan, Libya, Israel, etc) to smuggle its citizens in to influential positions in other countries.

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