Monthly Archives: February 2012


Death in Syria

The killings of Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik are deeply sad, as are the killings of all those millions of innocents who have died in the conflicts of the last decade whose names do not get such global sympathy. That is not to decry the sympathy; the world needs more of it, not less.

The Assad rule of Syria is brutal and it would be good if it were to end. There is no doubt the indiscriminate nature of the bombardment of Homs is vicious and wrong. But the same was true of the NATO destruction of Sirte. The idea that the answer to such deaths is to intensify the killing to a more industrial scale is crazed. The deliberate escalation of civil war in order to back a new winning side to gain leverage over economic resources appears to be the new standard method of advancing the interests of ruling western elites.

The truth is that Gadaffi was awful, but the life of ordinary Libyans is no better for the war, death and destruction and there is no practical improvement in human rights – indeed an awful lot more arbitrary rule, rape, brutalisation and killing by armed militias.

Life in Iraq is materially still massively worse than under the awful Saddam Hussain. The doctrine of “liberal intervention” is a screen for resource grab. The fact its practical effects on the countries upon whose inhabitants the necessary death – or “creative destruction” in the words of imperialist propagandist Niall Fergusson – is rained, are the opposite of those claimed, is hidden by the media simply declaring “Mission accomplished” and moving on. The awfulness of everyday life today in Iraq and Libya is not shown.

I hope Syrians can save themselves from their own government, their own militias, and above all from the awesome death-dealing of NATO.

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Goebbels Broadcasting Corporation and Koran Burning

BBC World has just lead its 9am headline with “More protests in Kabul over the inadvertent buning of the Koran by NATO troops”.

The word “inadvertent” has been interpolated since the 8am headlines. Who was responsible for its introduction?

It seems to me simply untrue that the Korans were burnt “inadvertently”. The BBC have just reported that they were being burnt in an “incineration pit”. That is not inadvertent. The US story is that the Korans were used to smuggle messages. If the books contained hidden messages, the Americans would have been analysing them, not burning them. They would certainly have been subjected to scrutiny, and it is therefore impossible that the Americans did not know they were Korans they were burning.

Inadvertent no. Inexplicably stupid yes.

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Fit and Well and Still Learning

I am now at my Accra home after some travels in Africa. There is still a sanity and courtesy in the African countryside – even in drought affected Mali and Burkina Faso – that is refreshing to the soul after London. It is a linguistic irony that great cities are so uncivil.

There is no doubt that climate change is affecting West Africa, but not in any way which is easily predictable to the inhabitants, or anyone else. Weather patterns are undoubtedly more unsettled and more capricious, and the reliable seasonal rains and winds I knew apparently a thing of the past. Ghana saw a steady, apparently inexorable and accelerating thirty year decline in water inflow levels behind the Akosombo Dam, suddenly reversed by three years of massive rains reaching the north, which also brought bumper harvests in Mali and Burkina Faso. Then in the last year an extreme rain failure in those same regions.

The lack of food security to millions of marginal Sahelian inhabitants is a problem which has been little tackled despite decades of largely useless – or, I would argue, often counter-productive – international aid efforts. Emergency response is always marginal and does not kick in until a great many have already died. We are not yet there in northern West Africa, but we are in great hardship and economic ruination from which farmers will find it hard to recover, particularly with regards to loss of livestock.

I apologise for these undigested impressions, and will give some more considered problems once I have had a shower and sleep and thought a bit.

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The Right to a Choice

You may have to trust me on this, but the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is a terrific organisation that does remarkably good work, considering that it works for member states as diverse, and governments as severally ill-intentioned, as the United States, Russia, Uzbekistan and the UK.

When I was looking to leave the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, I applied for a senior post at ODIHR and travelled to Warsaw for an interview. I believe my application was torpedoed by the FCO, who considered me far too committed to democracy and human rights to be allowed to work on the subject in a formal international body. There is a de facto – amd perhaps even an acknowledged – veto by member states on employment of their individual nationals in international institutions.

Yet somehow despite national governments ODIHR has managed to do its job credibly, and by and large OSCE election monitoring in particular has been very valuable, even where the result of the monitoring is not what some or even most member states on the OSCE Council want. All of Uzbekistan’s elections have been judged not free and fair, for example, with election monitoring missions generally not even being deployed on the grounds of assessment by ODIHR that the preconditions for free and fair elections simply do not exist.

Unfortunately ODIHR has no means to prevent member states from simply ignoring its reports, which they do, and the Heads of State whose election OSCE pronounced fraudulent immediately turn up as members of the OSCE council. But the rports themselves and the work behind them are good.

One important criterion for a free and fair election is that there should be a real choice offered to voters between genuine political alternatives. You find this expressed several times in the ODIHR guidance for election observers:

Genuine elections presupposes that the electoral process will be conducted in an accountable
and transparent manner and will provide a real and informed choice for voters,

A genuine election is a political competition that takes place in an
environment characterized by confidence, transparency, and accountability and that provides
voters with an informed choice between distinct political alternatives.

In Uzbekistan, for example, everyone has the chance to go and vote and there are several alternative candidates to choose between, but they all support President Karimov and his policies. In fact, this provision on distinct political alternatives and genuine choice has been repeatedly used by ODIHR and OSCE against elections throughout the former Soviet Union.

So what do we make of the EU – all of whose members are members of the OSCE – insisting that the leaders of all Greek political parties must sign up to an agreement to supprot the dreadful cuts in public spending, in imminent elections? With severe financial menaces, they are demanding that the Greek people be denied any real choice in the upcoming election. The EU members are thus in the most brazen breach of their OSCE commitments and obligations. It is appalling hypocrisy.

I am not sure in practice what mechanisms exist in Greece to keep independent candidates off the ballot or deny them access to the media. But the institutional advantages enjoyed by the main parties are massive throughout Europe, and having all the main parties campaigning on the same economic policy – due to direct foreign political pressure – cannot be a free and fair election.

I hope that the example of Greece will further open people’s eyes to what has happened in the UK, where the massive and growing gap between rich and poor is enmeshed with complete corporate control of what are now three neo-con main parties, whose policy distinctions are absolutely tiny. They all support bank bailouts, quantitative easing, public spending cuts and aggressive neo-con wars. The differences of degree are extremely marginal.

I published an article on this in The Guardian before our last general election – the rather foolish headline was not mine. But I am quite proud of that article, and believe there is increased understanding and support for the view it expresses.

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Frank Goebbels Gardner at it Again

Wonderful bit of balanced reporting from the BBC’s Frank Gardner. He said of Bahrain at 5.42pm on BBC News:

“The Shiite majority does suffer discrimination, but the rest of the population is getting fed up with the continual disruption and demonstrations.”

I remember similar arguments during apartheid:

“The black majority does suffer discrimination, but the rest of the population is getting fed up with the continual disruption and demonstrations.”

Doesn’t sound so good, does it? Anyway, here is to the BBC and keeping the interests of those troublemaking majorities firmly in the context of the much more important comfort of their oppressors.

He then explained that the oppression of opposition in Bahrain could not in the least be compared to the oppression of opposition in Syria, because in Bahrain the government had promised reform.

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Mentions and Non-Mentions

I was the answer to a question on University Challenge yesterday! Thanks to all who sent me messages to let me know. If anyone remembers the actual question I should be interested to hear. Apparently none of the students had ever heard of me.

From surprising mentions to surprising non-mentions. The Guardian wrote an excellent editorial on the continuing hypocrisy of the West’s relationship with Uzbekistan. Despite specifically covering the time I was there, and being about torture and rhe West’s reliance on Uzbekistan for supply to Afghanistan, resulting in a willingness to placate the Karimov regime, there is no mention of the British sacking their Ambassador for opposing this policy. It is not, I think, vainglorious to find it a strange omission.

I have mentioned before the Guardian consistently and completely writing me out of their reports about extraordinary rendition and UK complicity in torture. I am reminded of the fact that the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee asked seven different witnesses, including Jack Straw, specifically about me by name and my actions, but refused to allow me to give evidence on my own account.

When you are a whistleblower you become a non-person, simply written out of existence by the various organs of the Establishment, including those which pretend to constitute a form of opposition. Every now and then you get a reminder of your existence, reduced to a curiosity like the subject of a quiz question. But the official narrative closes over you and the truths you revealed, smoothly, like a Jack Straw speech or a Guardian editorial.

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The Nightmare of Government

I am wasting enormous energy lately in an absolute nightmare of visa applications. The insolence of office is to be seen in its most extreme forms, everywhere around the world, in those connected with the organised atavism of immigration control. I was chatting with a charming young lady, one of those wealthy young women who pass a brief season as interns and personal assistants before marriage to some dull heavy jowled banker. She was on her seventh visit to the Indian High Commission visa office, each time being sent back for reams more documents, which are nowhere asked for in the official guidance and checklists.

The British are even worse. The very experienced chief engineer on the electricity project I work on in Ghana, a man with engineering degrees from the UK and US and substantial international experience, was refused a visa to visit the Siemens factory in Lincoln from which we have bought over £13 million of British engineering exports so far. I genuinely have no idea why this baffling decision was made.

The British and Indians have one thing in common – they have both privatised their visa handling process out to profit making companies who employ cheap and unqualified labout to accept, sift and pass on the applications. The lady who had been sent back six times had got nowhere near an immigration officer. Experienced immigration officers still exist, locked away in back offices being fed trays full of less straightforward decisions, made a great deal harder to cope with as they have never set eyes on the applicant. I have line managed one of the biggest British immigration offices in the world, before the processing was privatised, and the best immigration officers never forget you are not granting entry to a pile of documents, but to a human being. The look in the eye is worth a thousand sheets of A4.

We have of course a similar experience to look forward to in the NHS, as the government decides that the profit motive rather than the desire to heal and to relieve pain is the best way to motivate a health service. This will, inevitably, result in de facto triage by sixteen year olds with no fixed contract and paid on various government job subsidy schemes, while the Tories will get a whole new raft of billionaire donors from our taxes, and private health insurance booms among the middle classes. This is the inevitable and highly predictable result of the government’s current NHS plans, and if the process is not stopped will be the situation come 2017.

To return to visas, added to the apparatus designed to reinforce fear at the airports, just moving around our world has changed from a great pleasure to a total misery. Within my lifetime, we have allowed state control over the individual – as a worldwide phenomenon – to intrude to the point where people have little more free will than farmed animals. The quality of life for the majority of people has declined, is declining and appears set to continue to decline. Meanwhile an elite super rich get richer and are free from any kind of restraint at all. The control of a stupefied population appears not in the least difficult.

Sometimes I despair.

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The Mystery of Quantitive Easing

The headlines all say that the Bank of England has pumped another £50 billion into the economy in the third round of quantitive easing. In fact, the money will not get far into the economy. It is given to the banks and other financial sector companies, and evidence from the previous £250 billion worth of quantitive easing is that almost all of it will stay there, being very handy stuff with which to fund massive salaries and bonuses.

This whole notion of what is and isn’t useful in the economy is strange anyway. This cold weather is making us all use a lot more gas for heating. Those higher bills will count as increased economic activity and higher GDP, but actually we are all less comfortable. This morning I have put on an electric heater to boost the central heating. That is increasing economic activity and increasing GDP. But for the last week I have been burning logs from my own garden on an open fire – that doesn’t increae GDP as I didn’t pay for them. But they were warmer and more pleasurable. A homely example that the automatic equation of GDP with a better life is nonsense.

There is a mystery about the way Q.E. works. The Bank of England does not just give the cash away to financial institutions, but exchanges it for assets. We are told that this is not the Bank of England saving the bankers from their mistakes by buying up toxic assets, but rather that the assets are gilts.

I do not understand this at all. Why would banks want to cash in gilts? Gilts are already perhaps the most liquid asset you can hold, other than cash, in the classic definition of liquidity that they can be easily sold without much affecting their value. On top of which, these same financial institutions are actually still buying bonds from the Bank of England on a regular basis, which would make the process pointlessly circular. And the current Bank of England bonds the banks are buying pay historically low rates, almost certainly lower than any gilts they are exchanging under Q.E.. Why would they do that?

The only sense I can see is that the Bank of England is giving cash in return for junk, and the gilts line is a cover. Any genuine official statistics on exactly what the Bank of England has bought up under Q.E.anywhere?

It is beyond doubt true that the effect of creation of new money is to reduce the value of currency already in circulation. The effects will show through in inflation and the exchange rate. Of course, those will continue to be affected by other factors as well, which is why there are better and worse times to do it. But in effect Q.E. is still a transfer of wealth from those who hold any of the currency to those given the new stuff. In other words, more cash from you to the bankers.

Actually if QE had been used genuinely to stimulate the economy it would have been a marvellous thing. With £350 billion we could have built an enormous amount of social housing on brownfield sites, converted derelict high streets into housing, built the Severn barrage and a high speed rail link from London to Aberdeen and still have had change. We could have reopened the steel industry to do it. a thousand manufacturing firms could have been re-tooled. Millions could have been employed. The entire logic of economic depression could have been turned around.

Instead we gave more cash to the bankers.

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The Organ of Synchronicity

Recently I have been plagued by coincidences. I was talking on a train about someone I hadn’t seen for thirty years, and then met them coming out of the train toilet. Had I subconsciously seen them on a platform and not consciously registered it? I don’t know, but coincidences of that nature have been occurring recently with a strange frequency. I have never quite been able to get my head round the theory of synchronicity.

In about 1986 I was working in the trade department of the British High Commission in Lagos. I went to visit a Yoruba turkey farmer near Ijebu-Ode who wanted help with his meat processing and freezing machinery. I spent an extremely pleasant day with his family. He showed me the massive church he was building, with a cantilevered roof. He had ordered a mighty organ from Rushworth and Dreaper, one of the world’s last manufacturers of real pipe organs.

The following week I left on leave. Before actual holiday I was doing a tour for ten days around the UK, visiting companies who wanted advice on doing business with Nigeria. The Department of Trade and Industry organised the itineraries through regional offices. In Liverpool I was delighted to find I had been sheduled to visit Rushworth and Dreaper and witness the skills and craftsmanship that go into building a pipe organ (there are literally hundreds of unglamorous wooden and lead pipes packed behind the showcase guilded exterior ones – which sometimes are simply dummies. Each pipe is a first class musical instrument).

Rushworth and Dreaper were most impressed that I had visited their customer just a week before. It was quite a coincidence given that, as far as I or the High Commission knew, he was just a turkey farmer and nothing to do with organs. But not that big a coincidence.

My tour over, a fortnight later I took my wife and children on holiday to Hong Kong. We went on to one of the big junks that sail Hong Kong Harbour as floating restaurants in the evenings. It was very packed, and we shared a table with a pleasant English couple. We introduced each other. “I am a director of a little Liverpool company that makes pipe organs”, he said, “It’s called Rushworth and Dreaper”.

As I said, I have never got my head round synchronicity. In some way human consciousness must on occasion be able to shape events that, by laws we understand, ought to be outside such influence. I have no idea how, why or how often, and to express such an idea is to invite ridicule. But that is what I observe.

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The Non-Investigation – Who Was Werritty?

I have discovered unpublished criteria used to compile Gus O’Donnell’s official “report” into the Fox/Werritty affair. I was told this yesterday by the office of the Permanent Under Secretary in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Werritty’s meetings with foreign or British officials abroad were included. Meetings which occurred in the UK were only included if Fox and Werritty were both present.

Meetings which Werritty held with UK government officials in the UK were excluded where Fox was not present.

It is frankly incredible that a report, ostensibly into whether Werritty had undue influence and access, would deliberately omit the facts of how much influence and access Werritty actually had.

The Matthew Gould meetings may be only the tip of the iceberg. What meetings did Werritty have with other senior FCO officials, with MI6 officials and with MOD officials?

Werritty’s access really was quite astonishing. As the Werritty/Gould email correspondence I published yesterday showed, he was able to get the Private Secretary to the Foreign Secretary to meet him one and one, without even giving an explanation of what he wanted. 99.9999% of taxpayers could not get a private meeting with the FCO’s Principal Private Secretary even with an explanation of why they wanted it.

I have been trying to think how to get over to you how difficult this is. Let me try it this way – Richard Branson could probably get such a meeting without explanation, Richard Dawkins probably could not. The vast majority of retired Ambassadors could not get such a meeting. The vast majority of paid lobbyists and think tank employees could not casually get such a meeting without explanation. I could not get such a meeting.

Yet officially Werritty was nothing but a paid lobbyist, the sole employee of an obscure neo-con think tank. But he could get that level of access under both New Labour and the Tories. How and why?

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Gould-Werritty – the Dodgy Diaries and Deleted Documents

Diary entry 27 Sep 2010
Diary entry 8 Sep 2009
Diary entry 6 Feb 2011

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has finally, this evening, released the Gould/Werritty diary entries under the Freedom of Information Act. The three links above are the diary entries for their meetings on 8 September 2009, 27 September 2010 and 6 February 2011. You may have to click a few times to get the full size image. The lines across the page usually run right across the main right centre column. The entire column, with all the details on the Adam Werritty meeting, has been redacted – literally cut out.

The same is true of all eight of the diary pages I have been sent for Gould’s meetings with Adam Werritty – all information has simply been censored. We can only speculate what is there, who else was present and the subject of the meetings.

If anyone doubts there is a cover-up of massive proportions on what Werritty was actually doing, doubt no more.

But there is one item the very existence of which is entirely damning of the FCO. An email exchange between Gould and Werritty. The emails themselves are bland and avoid mentioning the subject under discussion. But the email exchange was with Matthew Gould’s official email address on the FCO system. My initial Freedom of Information request received the reply that there was no material relating to Adam Werritty on the FCO system. These emails had therefore been deleted off it.

Fortunately, whoever deleted them had forgotten something – the FCO system allows you to attach relevant documents to your electronic diary entries. That created a copy which survived after the correspondence was deleted everywhere else on the system.

That opens up a massive question – who deleted the correspondence, and why, and how much other Gould-Werritty correspondence has been deleted from the FCO system which did not survive by chance attachment to a diary entry?

There is a further question – did the deletions happen after my Freedom of Information inquiry – which would have been a criminal offence?

I have always held it to be impossible, for example, that not one of the eight Gould-Werritty meetings was minuted. If an FCO official has a substantive meeting with somebody outside government, it is standard procedure to record it. One of those meetings even included Mossad officials. The email correspondence which survived on the diary entry but had been deleted everywhere else, shows at least some Werritty material was deleted from the FCO system. Is this what happened to the minutes and records of meetings?

The surviving email exchange is bland, but it still tells us quite a lot. It shows that Gould and Werritty were on first name terms in June 2010, when Gould was Hague’s Private Secretary, that Werritty had Gould’s mobile phone number and that Werritty was sufficiently established to be able to phone up the Secretary of State’s Principal Private Secretary – an extremely busy man – and book him for coffee and a chat on his own recognisances, without feeling the need to reference any organisation or subject of discussion:

From: Matthew Gould (Restricted)
sent: 11 June 2010 14:51
To: Adam Werritty
Subject: RE: Hi
Adam -yes, I did get the message, and asked [my PA -name redacted] to set something up for us. She will eb in touch this afternoon.
Looking forward to seeing you,
Matthew

Matthew Gould
Principal Private Secretary to the Foreign Secretary
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London SW1A 2AH
I2J email: [email protected] til telephone: +44 20 7008 2059 ()) ft.n: 8008 2059
Q uri: MailFilterGateway has detected a possible fraud attempt from “blocked::http:” claiming to be www.fco.gOY.uk

From: Adam Werritty [mailto:[email protected]
sent: 11 June 2010 14:48
To: Matthew Gould (Restricted)
Subject: Hi
Hi Matthew
I trust that you’re keeping well. I texted you yesterday on a mobile number I had for you but I’m guessing that you’re no longer on that number. I wanted to check if we could arrange for a chat next week over coffee as I’m keen to pick your mind on something. Could you let me know if you’re going to be around and when would suit?
As ever
Adam
Adam Werrity
M: +447921577884

Diary entry 16 Jun 2010 – email exchange

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The Invention of Terrorism

I was awoken just before 8am this morning by LBC asking me to contribute to the Nick Ferrari show. I had time to brush my teeth and then I was on. I greatly dislike these formats that give you a minute to express a view, and I frequently turn down LBC requests. However they generally contact you the night before, and the poor researcher sounded desparate to find anyone who would defend the release of Ibn Qatada.

I made a couple of points. A Tory MP whose name I did not catch referred as always to unelected judges in Strasbourg. This is a standard Tory catchphrase and rather ignores the fact that all our judges are unelected. But I also pointed out that Qatada has not been convicted of anything in this country and that if, as Nick Ferrari was claiming, he had been calling in this country for the killing of Jews, that would be an offence for which he could rightly be tried and jailed. Because the tabloids say something doesn’t make it true. In the six years he had been held in jail, the state had found no evidence against him that would stand the scrutiny of a court.

The Tory MEP (whose name I did not catch) then interjected that our anti-terrorism laws were not that strong, because there had not been a single conviction for terrorism last year. I did not have a chance to return, but that seemed to me to reveal the very heart of the problem. For those in power terrorism must exist. It is a justification of much of their power and a great deal of state apparatus, not to mention a great deal of private profit. If nobody is being convicted, it is not because there is no terrorism – despite the fact that, plainly, there isn’t, nobody has been killed by a terrorist in mainland UK for seven years – it is a sign that the system is not working.

Now if nobody had been convicted for burglary last year, I would worry. There are lots of burglaries. But that nobody has been convicted for a crime that did not happen, seems to me a good thing. What is deeply, deeply worrying is that we have politicians who think there should be a regular flow of convictions for terrorism, whether there is any terrorism or not.

On which subject, I am troubled by the current large terrorism trial in Woolwich. The defendants entered a plea of guilty after being told that they would then face a maximum fifteen year jail sentence, and would probably serve just another six. If they pleaded not guilty and lost, they could serve twenty five years.

Forget that the charge is terrorism – I deeply resent the effective introduction of plea-bargaining into our justice system, with the obvious danger that innocent people will take the less risky course. For what it is worth, my impression from the evidence in this case is that these were fantasisers about terrorism who were unlikely actually to become dangerous, but were rightly pulled up. It is very wrong that they were dissuaded from having the evidence against them tested by a jury. There is a particular danger that more detached individuals were induced by group psychology or pressure to join the others in this guilty plea, but may have been cleared.

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Know Your Limits: Syria

An important rule of good blogging is not to comment on matters which you do not understand. An important rule of my own life is not to try to understand everything, as no one man can. I have never tried to master the intricacies of Syrian internal politics, (or Lebanese for that matter). Assad senior perpetrated atrocities on a grand scale without ever getting much attention from the West. Hopes that Assad junior would make things much better seemed to come to nothing. If the revolutionary tide swept away the Assad crew, I should be pleased.

I do not know in depth why Homs is a hotbed of opposition, and what the tribal divisions are. I do know that Saudi Arabia – the apostle state of repression – is funding and arming the Free Syrian Army, which is anything but a good sign. I am very interested that the BBC reports bombings in Damascus as false flag bombings by the Assad regime, when I found that to note false flag bombings by UK/US ally Karimov in Tashkent was treated as crazed conspiracy theory.

But what I understand most is the diplomacy. On Libya, NATO took a UN Security Council Resolution authorising a no fly zone, and twisted it as cover to wage all out aerial warfare on one side in a civil war. Long after pro-Gadaffi sources lost any serious offensive capability, NATO were carpet-bombing Sirte, killing many times more people than Assad has killed in Homs to date.

If given an inch you take 500 miles, you should not be surprised when in future nobody will give you half an inch. That is the context of Russian and Chinese veto of any UNSCR authorising action against Syria. The total disregard for the spirit and precise wording of the resolutions on Libya to which Russia and China agreed, has stymied the chances of future united security council action, perhaps for many years. I actually predicted this, blogging on 5 October 2011

“Having absolutely abused UNSCR 1973, plainly NATO was seriously damaging the ability of the Security Council to work together in future, and making quite certain that China and Russia would not for many years agree to any SC Resolutions which might be open to similar abuse.”

All the sham indignation about a consequence the US, UK and France so directly brought upon themselves, and which was so obviously predictable, is pathetic.

It is fascinating the way this has been presented in the media, with graphics on all the major news channels showing the national flags of the thirteen countries who voted for the resolution, compared to the two against. There is some interest here – Azerbaijan is certainly a surprise and will be causing real heartache in the Kremlin. But the language from Clinton on the irresponsible use of the veto and on need for action outwith the United Nations, is completely out of order.

The United States has stymied UN action against Israeli aggression on numerous occasions, very often vetoing alone. I do not recall the BBC ever showing a graphic of all the national flags on one side versus just the stars and stripes on the other. Funny that. The threat of a veto is usually enough to stop a motion being tabled, but I am fairly confident in saying that the USA has exercised its veto to protect Israel on over thirty occasions. That US prevention of international action includes over Operation Cast Lead, not so long ago, where again the Israelis were killing far more civilians than are dying in the current – still deplorable – assault on Homs.

The drive for another war in the Middle East, from the same old suspects who profit from such wars, is relentless and pretty well any war of opportunity will do. What is happening in Syria is sad in its violence, and also hopeful insofar as some of it is motivated by a genuine spark of freedom. Those who purport to believe that internal conflict anywhere is best resolved by us bombing the hell out of a country and/or invading it, are a combination of cranks and cynical profiteers.

What worries me most is not the turmoil in Syria; it is the vultures circling over it.

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Continued Prevarication over Gould-Werritty

It is now four days and three postal deliveries since the FCO emailed me saying that they were sending me the Gould/Werritty diary entries by post, together with a covering letter – and something else of which the very existence is explosive news. But still, this has not actually arrived.

I know that there has been a massive argument going on in the FCO about what I am legally entitled to receive under the Freedom of Information Act, and just how much they are revealing by adding the additional bits of information. I cannot believe that they are going, even now, to resile from the commitment they made to me to send the documents, and I can only imagine there is continuing haggling over what can be redacted.

I have not succeeded yet, but I must say I am happily surprised that there is still enough of the rule of law left in this country for those within the FCO to prevail who were arguing that the FCO had to comply with its legal obligation and release the material. There were those who wanted the material simply to be quietly destroyed. I know names, and those will also follow later. I suspect this new, after the last minute, extra delay means there will be extra redaction in the material.

No wonder the arch-liar Gus O’Donnel as he left his job was arguing for the castration of the Freedom of Information Act. He has a great deal to hide.

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Gould-Werritty: the Continuing Cover-Up

Evidence continues to mount that, rather than simply pursuing commercial interests with then Defence Secretary Liam Fox, Adam Werritty was involved centrally in working with the British and Israeli intelligence services to try to engineer war against Iran. His official contact in all this was Matthew Gould, now British Ambassador to Israel.

Gould met with Werritty on 8 September 2009. At the time, Gould was Principal Private Secretary to then Secretary of State David Miliband. It is very unusual indeed for the Private Secretary to hold policy or lobbying meetings with outsiders in this way. Still more extraordinarily, nine months later, on 16 June 2010, Gould met with Werritty again, now as Private Secretary to current Secretary of State William Hague.

A Private Secretary only acts directly for his minister – the Private Secretary has no other role. For a Private Secretary to meet a lobbyist on behalf of two different Secretaries of State from opposing political parties is so very strange as to be almost inexplicable.

The government is extremely set on hiding what was happening. The existence of these meetings was revealed in the 22 December 2011 FCO reply to my Freedom of Information request.

Thank you for your email of 24 November 2011 asking for “all communications in either direction ever made between Matthew Gould and Adam Werritty, specifically including communications made outside government systems”. I am writing to confirm that we have now completed the search for the information which you requested.

I can confirm that the FCO does hold some information relevant to your request.

There are entries in diaries indicating that there were two meetings at which Mathew Gould and Mr Werritty were both present while he was serving as Principal Private Secretary to the Foreign Secretary on 8 September 2009 and 16 June 2010.

Since Mr Gould was appointed as HM Ambassador to Israel on 11 September 2010 there were three further instances on 1 and 27 September 2010 in London and a dinner on 6 February 2011 in Tel Aviv. The meeting on 1 September and the dinner on 6 September are already matters of public record as they are included in the report by the Cabinet Secretary “Allegations against Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP” published on 18 October 2011. Mr Gould attended the Herzliya Conference in his official capacity. Mr Werritty was also a participant. This is already a matter of public record.

The FCO holds no information relating to written communication (either electronic or mail) between Matthew Gould and Adam Werritty at any point.

The strange thing about this, is that normally in response to a Freedom of Information request you are given documents, not just told about them. In fact, that is a specific entitlement under the Freedom of Information Act.

I therefore replied on 23 December:

For Anna Bradbury,

Thank you for your most helpful response. Am I not entitled to copies of the documents (diary entries) to which you refer?

Best wishes,

Craig

I received no reply, so I wrote again on 23 January,

Neil,

Thank you. You refer to diary entries. Kindly send copies of those diary entries, which I believe the FOIA entitles me to see rather than simply be told of. This is not a new request, merely seeking a full response to FOI 1243-11.

Very many thanks,

Craig

On 27 January – after five whole weeks – I received this reply:

Dear Mr Murray

Please be assured that we are looking into this request and we will get back to you shortly on this.

Best wishes

Anna

It is a very simple request indeed – copies of two diary entries. But the FCO is extremely anxious not to give them out. FCO Legal Advisers were consulted and said that, under the FOI Act, the FCO was legally obliged to release them. The FCO has now gone to the Justice Department and Treasury Solicitors looking for a different answer. I have this from a sympathetic source in FCO Legal Advisers (which is a large department, and miffed to be overruled in this way).

My source has not told me what the diary entries say, but has said it appears that these meetings between Werritty and Gould were taking place without the knowledge of other FCO officials. That opens up one particularly interesting possibility. The Secretary of State at the FCO is the head not just of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office but also of MI6. His Principal Private Secretary is his right hand man for both roles. Was Gould therefore meeting Werritty on behalf of first Miliband and then Hague, with the MI6 hat on rather than the FCO hat on? The diary entries may give that away, particularly if they list the other participants in the meetings – or if they were held in Vauxhall Cross.

It is also worth reflecting whether other ministers or others in the Labour Party generally knew what Miliband was up to with Werritty. This is a particularly apt question given David Miliband’s New Statesman article today arguing that New Labour needs to move further to the right and be more big business-friendly.

There is still a very great deal which the FCO is holding back. In particular, we do not know if the eight Gould/Werritty meetings of which we now know, constitute the whole number, or if there are more. See for example this answer to a Parliamentary Question from Caroline Lucas MP:

Hansard 10 January 2012 Column 73W

Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth
Affairs pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Islington North of 31
October 2011, Official Report, column 374W, on Adam Werritty, how many
meetings in his official capacity Mr Matthew Gould has attended at which Mr
Adam Werritty was present since the commencement of Mr Gould’s employment at
his Department in 1993. [87577]

Mr Lidington: The Department does not hold information listing all meetings
held by officials. However, based on diary records in this case, we are
aware of Mr Matthew Gould attending four meetings in his official capacity
(8 September 2009, 16 June 2010, 1 September 2010, and 27 September 2010) at
which Mr Adam Werritty was present. In addition to this, though they were
not meetings, Mr Gould also attended the Herzliya conference in February
2011 and, as listed in the Cabinet Office report on the allegations against
my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset
(Dr Fox) of 18 September 2011, attended a dinner on 6 February 2011. Mr
Werritty was present at these events.

Consider this bit of the response:

The Department does not hold information listing all meetings
held by officials. However, based on diary records in this case, we are
aware of Mr Matthew Gould attending four meetings in his official capacity

Then compare to this bit of the reply to my FOI request:

I can confirm that the FCO does hold some information relevant to your request.

There are entries in diaries indicating

The FCO holds no information relating to written communication (either electronic or mail) between Matthew Gould and Adam Werritty at any point

The extraordinary thing is that Matthew Gould remains an employee of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but it is plain from these replies that the FCO have not taken the simple step of asking him how often he met Werritty and what communication there was between them. The FCO has instead limited itself to releasing either to me or indeed to parliament only that information which they were legally obliged to release because it was written down in an official FCO document.

It is a simply astonishing fact that, of the eight meetings between Gould and Werritty we do know of, not one was minuted or recorded or resulted in any correspondence. For anybody who knows the FCO’s insistence on recording all non internal meetings, it is simply not believable that eight meetings can be held and not a single word recorded. The only possible explanation is a deliberate and active policy of concealing what was happening.

Remember, if Gould had not made the mistake of noting some of these appointments in his official diary, we would never have been told that these meetings happened at all. How many other meetings with Werritty did Gould not put a reminder for in his official diary? We just do not know.

All this is a part of what seems to be a major policy of keeping from democratic scrutiny the activities of officials in dealing with the political classes’ most shady financiers. See for example the refusal to answer this question from yet another parliamentarian, Kevan Jones:

Mr Kevan Jones: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether (a) he, (b) any Ministers and (c) officials of his Department have met (i) Mr Michael Hintze, (ii) Mr Tony Buckingham, (iii) Mr Michael Davis, (iv) Mr Poju Zabludowicz, (v) Jon Moulton and (vi) Stephen Crouch; and where any such meetings took place. [78653]

Miss Chloe Smith: Treasury Ministers and officials have meetings with a wide variety of organisations and individuals in the public and private sectors as part of the process of policy development and delivery. As was the case with previous Administrations, it is not the Government’s practice to provide details of all such meetings.
A list of ministerial meetings with external organisations is published quarterly on the HM Treasury website.

Jones has listed a choice set of complete villains: we are not allowed to know of officials’ dealings with them. I have long argued that there is little point in a parliament dominated by three neo-con parties. But where even MPs are not allowed information about what taxpayer-funded officials are doing, I really wonder how MPs can put up with this charade and maintain any sense of decency and self-respect. The expenses help, no doubt.

Tension over Iran continues to be stoked for the next neo-con war. Werritty’s role as a go-between with MI6, Mossad and Iranian pro-Shah groups came briefly into view as a result of what the press thought was a ministerial gay scandal, but government and a complicit media and opposition have sought to bury it as quickly as possible, before the real truth is revealed. I am not going to let that happen.

The investigation continues. Do not get your news from TV or newspapers – only on little blogs like this is there any chance of catching a glimpse beneath the propaganda story.

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