Monthly Archives: February 2013


The Persecution of Bradley Manning

The thrilling development in the trial of Bradley Manning is that Manning has acknowledged he is the source of the leaked materials, but employed a whistleblower defence. His case is that he was exposing illegal acts and trying to arouse legitimate public debate. However in the kangaroo court trial the prosecution has objected to Manning’s proposed evidence, and claims that Manning’s detailed references to specific war crimes are irrelevant and should not be allowed to be made in court. In other words, the state is seeking to prevent Bradley Manning from presenting his defence, and doubtless the military “judge” will comply with the state.

In order to overshadow Manning’s defence, the government and corporate media brought out, the moment the news of Manning’s defence was announced, the “news” that the government will put in the stand an all-American hero, a US Navy Seal, one of the Zero-Torture-Thirty killers of Osama Bin Laden, who will give evidence that Bin Laden had a stash of the Wikileaks released cables in his home.

That the timing of this piece of propaganda theatre was deliberate to wipe out public perception of Manning’s defence – and his not being allowed to make it – there is absolutely no doubt. But what in any case is the real value of this evidence?

Well, it certainly adds to the mountain of evidence that the US government will go after Assange the moment he leaves the UK. But against Bradley Manning it adds nil. Who would have thought that Bin Laden would not read the Wikileaks cables? Nobody would have thought that. Hundreds of millions of people read them. Many Arab Spring protestors in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen were motivated in part by information in the cables. Is the US government going to bring evidence on that too?

The problem is, of course, that Bin Laden was never convicted of anything. If the Americans had not murdered him, evidence from him about his view of the cables and what he intended to do with them might have been interesting. It may even have helped the prosecution. But they killed him rather than prosecute or question him, so they do not have that.

Perhaps enough time has passed for people to be a bit more dispassionate about the strange killing of Bin Laden. There was absolutely no need to kill him. He had no weapon. His small compound was completely secured by US Marines. At the time they shot Bin laden, there was nobody on the compound who could fire back. Bin Laden was an elderly man in poor health. Trained navy seals could have hauled him alive into the helicopter without adding more than 10 seconds to their mission time – and it seems they had plenty of time, time to go searching for Wikileaks documents anyway. It is perfectly plain that the truth is that Obama had instilled an understanding Bin Laden was to be killed, not captured.

But that makes no sense. If the Americans really believe the entire al-Qaida narrative which has been banged out incessantly by the media this last decade, then Bin Laden alive would have been the most valuable intelligent asset in US history. To kill him needlessly with no attempt at interrogation would be absolutely extraordinary. There was no operational need to do it in the compound that night. Keeping him alive would in no way have further endangered the troops on the operation. They did not want him to talk.

Now for a state to use the alleged intentions of somebody as evidence, when the state killed that person to avoid him giving evidence, is rather remarkable. Only in the Bradley Manning kangaroo court does it make sense.

The US government’s problem is that it has spoonfed to mainstream media journalists for years the lie that the Wikileaks cables release endangered lives. There is then this appalling lie that Assange stated that the informers deserve to be shot – a statement which the host of the small dinner has sworn was never made, and Assange swears he never said. But despite all this propagnda, and despite the fact that they are extremely keen to do so, and every mainstream media organisation in the whole world has worked on it, nobody has produced one credible instance of an individual who was harmed as a result of being named in a Wikileaks cable – unless you include the dictators whose people turned against them.

Part of the reason for this is rather prosaic. The State Department cables were not intelligence material. The media likes to call them intelligence because it sounds exciting and sells papers, but it is not intelligence material. It is just diplomatic reporting. And it is not highly classified. None of it is Top Secret – it is just Restricted or Confidential.

If the release of any material would endanger the life of the source, that material would automatically get classified Top Secret. That is why nobody has been endangered. The system works, The Americans should celebrate that, rather than try Hollywood-linked stunts to demonise Manning.

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The Starbucks View of Al-Qaida

The United States has set up its first Sahelian drone base, in Niger, in order to carry on the war against “Al-Qaedah in the Islamic Maghreb”. The problem is that there is no such thing as “Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb”. The US seems to confuse Al-Qaeda with Starbucks. Al-Qaeda does not have branches everywhere, a highly organised supply chain, and transfer pricing.

It is true that long standing ethnic militias in the Maghreb have adopted the styles and terminology of radical Islam, and have tenuous and occasional links with other radical islamic leaderships. But their income and supplies come from unrelated activities – chiefly extortion and smuggling – which have been going on since before al-Qaeda existed. These groups are disparate. There is no connection between the group which took western oil workers hostage in Algeria, and the Tuareg based militias who contolled Timbuktu. Indeed the Mali islamists had a close and cooperative relationship with the Algerian security services, and in their desert wanderings before the disintegration of central authority in Mali, were frequently refuelled and resupplied inside Algeria from government depots.

As usual in Africa, the base of these problems is poverty and competition for scarce resources between competing groups, all complicated by the legacy of colonialism. Hatred of the United States has not been a strong motivator in the Maghreb. But now the United States is about to introduce the concept of weekly drone kills and collateral murders, it will be. The USA is going to create the kind of anti-American unity which does not exist at present, and yet it claims to be fighting. Which will, of course, please the politicians’ paymasters in the arms and security industries just fine.

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Rennard Conundrum

I have known of allegations of sexual pestering against Chris Rennard for at least five years, and I find it impossible to believe Nick Clegg has not known for longer.

But I am baffled as to what the current fuss is about. The allegations of which I know are not of criminal offences, but the sort of inappropriate workplace conduct which should lose you your job. And it was always my understanding that was why Rennard resigned as Lib Dem Chief Executive four years ago. Unless there are new allegations which are actually criminal (and I have still not heard that alleged) what is actually supposed to happen now?

Why the allegations about Rennard were not published at the time, I don’t know. All the senior political journalists knew of them. There are some things, like Prince Phillip’s love life or Jack Straw’s visits to a South London address, which are well known but our corporate media somehow decides to hold back on. One group of people who do know every detail of such matters are the Metropolitan Police’s close protection officers, one of whom allegedly committed suicide recently.

Several things are happening with the Rennard “news”. Clegg has lied. The Tory media have dug up very old, stale news especially for the Eastleigh by-election. The current hysteria about all sex-related allegations (lead news story – Rennard; next item some dodgy Archbishop; next item BBC/Savile) propels this bit of old nonsense effortlessly to the top of news programmes. Meanwhile the bankers are still getting all our money courtesy of the state, Israel is devastating Palestine, the Bahraini despots oppress their people, Saudi and the US stoke terrible war in Syria. But evidently none of that is nearly as important as Rennard’s alleged rather pathetic attempts to get laid.

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Fashionable Economics

The ludicrous thing was that Britain had a AAA rating in the first place.

It is four years since I started pointing out the blindlingly obvious, that quantitive easing would cause inflation and devaluation. Four years ago this blog had far fewer readers than it does now, and I am quite proud of that piece, so do read it.

At the time it was a deeply unfashionable view – in part because it was New Labour doing it, so all the BBC and Guardianista media were backing quantitive easing. Even when I wrote this two years ago:

Inflation as measured by the retail price index remains stubbornly at 5.2%, despite all the obvious deflationary pressures on the economy and continuing weak consumer demand. Strangely, the attempts to explain this being offered by media pundits all miss out quantitive easing, or to use a more old-fashioned term, printing money.

It is deeply unfashionable to hold to the view that simply to create more money reduces the value of the money already in circulation in relation to the supply of available goods; but that is what all history tells us (the benchmark example being the rampant inflation after Spanish opening up of the New World greatly increased the amount of gold coinage in circulation). Common sense tells us that too. Otherwise we could simply solve many of our problems by printing another couple of trillion pounds.

A couple of years ago, I suggested “Enough quantitive easing and we can eventually get back to stagflation”. We are just about there. Why have none of the experts noticed?

nobody much agreed.

Fashion in economics is fascinating. Now every financial pundit on the BBC and Sky has noticed that quantitive easing causes devaluation and inflation. Suddenly they have remembered that if you create a lot of something, it decreases its unit value.

Hey, but the banks have the money that was created, and bank bonuses are back to normal. So all is fine.

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Bahrain Opposition Meeting at Frontline Club

Please, please, do watch the video that starts about three and a half minutes in. Absolutely horrifying yet hilarious brief account of British complicity in torture and repression in Bahrain over sixty years.

It finishes with today’s House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) announcing firmly that their current investigation into UK relations with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain will exclude human rights. The FAC has now published 36 papers of evidence it received in support of the government of Bahrain. It refused to publish any of the 19 papers received from the Bahraini opposition, on the grounds that the complaints of Bahraini government torture and repression might be “libellous” of the people commiting the torture.

I find that fact alone absolutely stunning. It genuinely almost makes me feel suicidal when I understand the extent to which we are losing the battle for human rights and some kind of ethical approach to government and society.

The video in question is poor quality because someone taped it from the screening shown at the meeting. I had asked for the original but was told they are updating it. On the meeting itself, the accounts from Bahrainis are fascinating. There were three Bahraini ex-MPs in the audience who had not only been expelled from parliament but stripped of their Bahraini nationality for supporting the majority of Bahrainis against the despot.

I was originally asked to chair, but while I was ill they had invited someone else, so I ended up making a short speech instead, The other speakers had much more knowledge of Bahrain and are a great deal more interesting.

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Non-Existent Bigger Than 7/7 Plot

The BBC has used “Bigger than 7/7” as the strapline for every alleged Muslim terror plot these past years, and the latest conviction was no exception. This conviction of three men from Birmingham was purely for thought crime. They possessed zero explosives and zero detonators. They had identified zero targets – the prosecution did not even claim they had. The prosecution did not know if they “planned” suicide bombs or times bombs, which is unsurprising as they did not know either, having not developed their fantasies that far yet. They had not made a practice bomb. They did possess some sports fluid which apparently they did believe might be of use in bomb making, but it did not in fact contain what they were said to believe it contained. They possessed none of the ingredients for a bomb.

The state did however have genuine and incontrovertible evidence that they had driven around in a car impersonating the highly distinctive voice of Murray Walker, saying “Now here come the suicide bombers, driving around, taking on England”. There does appear good evidence that they supported the idea of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, and thought about doing it themselves. The evidence that what they were doing in Pakistan was attending terrorist training camps was non-existent – they had obvious reasons why they might be in Pakistan.

Their fantasies and views were unpleasant, perhaps extremely so. But they had not actually done anything practical about it. This is thought crime – expressing sympathies with terrorism can in itself get you life imprisonment.

The comments by the judge about what dangerous, evil terrorists they were, are repeated with relish by the media. The judge said this so it must be true. But his comments are no more blood-curdling than the comments passed by a succession of judges on the tortured and wrongly convicted Birmingham Six. This article by Gareth Peirce is essential reading.

I strongly support the jury system, but there is plenty of evidence that where a recognisable ethnic group is societally identified as “the enemy”, juries are over-ready to convict them – and so, as Gareth Peirce’s article brilliantly illustrates, are the judiciary. The Catholic Irish suffered repeated injustice in the 1970’s. The Muslim community do so now. That is not to deny the existence of actual terrorists. But injustice inspires terrorism, it doesn’t reduce it.

Convicting “terrorists” with no bombs, no parts of bombs, and no targets is shameful.

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Voice of Russia Interview

Exclusive interview with Craig Murray

21.02.2013, 19:52
Craig Murray may be Britain’s most controversial former Ambassador. He was dismissed from his post in Uzbekistan in 2004 amid lurid allegations about his personal life, and medically evacuated from there after becoming dangerously ill. He concludes he was poisoned and suspects CIA involvement.
A senior diplomat for twenty years, Craig Murray is now a political activist and a blogger.He maintains his claim that the war in Iraq was based on false allegations about the existence of weapons of mass destruction.

If you can, listen to this rather than read the transcript. The transcript is a precis and contains a few mistakes – notably legal for illegal more than once, But mostly because I have noted before my spoken English does not transcribe well, relying heavily on inflexion.

I think there is a little bit of censorship with one sentence taken out, where I said the last ten years Russia has gone backwards in democratic development, but overall in a longer historic perspective it is possible to argue Russia is making progress. The second part of that is still in and sits rather strangely. The edit comes at 5.56 in the soundtrack and is pretty obvious and clunky when you know.

The Cyrillic is pronounced something like Chitat dalieh – read further

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Israel Grants Oil Rights in Syria to Murdoch and Rothschild 87

Israel has granted oil exploration rights inside Syria, in the occupied Golan Heights, to Genie Energy. Major shareholders of Genie Energy – which also has interests in shale gas in the United States and shale oil in Israel – include Rupert Murdoch and Lord Jacob Rothschild. This from a 2010 Genie Energy press release

Claude Pupkin, CEO of Genie Oil and Gas, commented, “Genie’s success will ultimately depend, in part, on access to the expertise of the oil and gas industry and to the financial markets. Jacob Rothschild and Rupert Murdoch are extremely well regarded by and connected to leaders in these sectors. Their guidance and participation will prove invaluable.”

“I am grateful to Howard Jonas and IDT for the opportunity to invest in this important initiative,” Lord Rothschild said. “Rupert Murdoch’s extraordinary achievements speak for themselves and we are very pleased he has agreed to be our partner. Genie Energy is making good technological progress to tap the world’s substantial oil shale deposits which could transform the future prospects of Israel, the Middle East and our allies around the world.”

For Israel to seek to exploit mineral reserves in the occupied Golan Heights is plainly illegal in international law. Japan was succesfully sued by Singapore before the International Court of Justice for exploitation of Singapore’s oil resources during the second world war. The argument has been made in international law that an occupying power is entitled to opeate oil wells which were previously functioning and operated by the sovereign power, in whose position the occupying power now stands. But there is absolutely no disagreement in the authorities and case law that the drilling of new wells – let alone fracking – by an occupying power is illegal.

Israel tried to make the same move twenty years ago but was forced to back down after a strong reaction from the Syrian government, which gained diplomatic support from the United States. Israel is now seeking to take advantage of the weakened Syrian state; this move perhaps casts a new light on recent Israeli bombings in Syria.

In a rational world, the involvement of Rothschild and Murdoch in this international criminal activity would show them not to be fit and proper persons to hold major commercial interests elsewhere, and action would be taken. Naturally, nothing of the kind will happen.

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Pistorius

The secret to commiting the perfect murder, killing someone and getting away with it, is to become a celebrity first. The media wave yesterday and today is that Pistorius is suddenly vindicated by the inarticulate policeman who could not cope with a very glib defence lawyer. It is like watching “Chicago” for real.

Botha was bamboozled by the defence counsel into saying that the police had no evidence that contradicted Pistorius’ version of events. But he had plainly given just such evidence – for example the height and downward angle of the shots indicating Pistorius was wearing his artificial legs. Pistorius had to walk right past the bed where he claims to have believed Steenkamp was to get to the place where he fired the shots, if he told the truth about where he was coming from. He did not bother to check on Steenkamp. He took the revolver from a holster by Steenkamp’s side of the bed. All of that contradicted Pistorius’ account of events. That a policeman was not verbally dexterous enough to put it together under pressure does not alter the facts.

Actually the prosecution had already made the most vital point right at the start of the trial. Even if the person locked in the toilet (and it appears it was a small discreet toilet, not a bathroom) had been a burglar, it would still be murder to pump four bullets in to them. Not to mention the fact that he made, by his own account, no attempt to ascertain who was in the toilet or where Steenkamp was.

Violence against women in South Africa, and gun murder, are both at epidemic levels. Anywhere else it would be astonishing that both the lead policemen and Pistorius himself had been involved in other incidents of shooting at people in the last two years.

I have always held that prison as a punishment should only be given to those who are an active danger to others. Even if you accept every word of Pistorius’ account, he should be in prison for it. I have a sinking feeling he will not be.

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Smoking Gun For Foreign Office/BBC Propaganda

An incredible Smoking Gun! Big Talk’s Kenton Allen tweets “Now off to the Foreign Office for a historic read through”. The exposure of Mitchell & Webb’s Our Men as state sponsored propaganda for the alliance with Uzbekistan is thoroughly confirmed. That the BBC is a party to this kind of insidious propaganda is disgusting.

Phillip Challinor commented on Our Men that now we have invented state-controlled satire.

I have also now received a further denial, now in writing, from Big Talk that Our Men is based on Murder in Samarkand, where they repeat that “it is also significantly informed by a large amount of research carried out with a number of the FCO’s staff, many of whom are serving diplomatic officers”. They further claim again that it is not set in Uzbekistan, but in a fictional country, Tazbekistan. They do not respond to the fact that their instructions to cast told them to study Uzbek people’s actions and manners.

With thanks to Mary for tracking down Kenton Allen’s tweet

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That Mitchell & Webb Crook 132

Robert Webb gave the following highly revealing answers to a Guardian interview in 2005:

Which living person do you most admire and why?
Christopher Hitchens

What makes you depressed?
Suicide bombers and their apologists

Which living person do you most despise?
George Galloway

he has now found a way to channel his hatred of the anti-necon movement into “comedy”, by making a sitcom poking fun at me, and making light of our government’s alliance with the Uzbek dictatorship.

Our Men, commissioned by the BBC, is a hilarious comedy about the drunken and incompetent British Ambassador in Tazbekistan [which the BBC says does not represent Tashkent, Uzbekistan] and the jolly despot President Kairat [No relation, says the BBC, to President Karimov].

Let us remind ourselves about the Uzbek regime with which the UK has a close military alliance. There are over 11,000 political prisoners held in terrible conditions. Thousands are tortured every year. There is absolutely zero freedom of speech, media, religion or assembly. All opposition parties are banned. Millions are forced into slave Labour in the state cotton plantations, including many thousands of children as young as eight years old.

Over 800 pro-democracy demonstrators were killed in a massacre at Andijan in 2005. Routine torture includes beating with rifle butts, smashing of knees and elbows with hammers, suffocation by gas mask with closed vent, electrocution,
mutilation of genitals, rape, both homosexual and heterosexual, rape with objects, and torture of children in front of their parents. There are properly documented instances of the most extreme torture imaginable, including Mr Avazov, on whom whilst Ambassador there, I obtained a pathology report from the University of Glasgow which said he had died of immersion in boiling liquid.


(Click for full size)

Good for a laugh, that, isn’t it?

But something is happening with Mitchell & Webb more sinister than an argument about the limits of comedy. World War 1 was terrible, but Blackadder Goes Forth is still funny and legitimate, while Mash and Catch 22 undermined war with humour. But this Mitchell & Webb vehicle is being written with the active cooperation of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Because the Uzbek government, the fifth most corrupt in the world according to Transparency International, is being sustained and protected by its alliance with the United Kingdom. Just last week the Defence Secretary announced to Parliament a new partnership with this vicious ductatorship which will see most of the equipment of British forces from Afghanistan leaving through Uzbekistan:

The Republic of Uzbekistan has already played a constructive role in helping to secure Afghanistan’s stability but will face increased security challenges once ISAF has withdrawn from Afghanistan. We have therefore been examining options for gifting surplus UK equipment to help meet those challenges. The departmental minute which I have today laid before Parliament describes a gifting package to the Republic of Uzbekistan of surplus Leyland DAF trucks and Land Rover spares that is intended to contribute to this. Both items have been examined and cleared against the consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria, which include an assessment of whether the equipment might be used for human rights violations or internal repression.

The last sentence is as breathtakingly tendentious as anything that has ever been said to parliament, but it is only about Uzbekistan, so nobody cares. In the last three years nobody, on any side of the House, has ever said anything about the appalling human rights record of the Uzbek government.

There is certainly huge room for satire in the British government’s support of this despotism – Bremner, Bird & Fortune did it to great effect. But the Mitchell and Webb comedy is coming from quite a different direction.

The comedy in “Our Men” comes from the exposure not of the hypocrisy of foreign policy, but from the exposure of our drunken and incompetent Ambassador. That is exactly what the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has put a huge media effort into telling everybody I was, ever since I blew the whistle on the Uzbek regime and our complicity with it.

The comedy also aims to defuse the horror of our alliance with Uzbekistan and make it banal, accepted and safe.

There is an obvious issue of copyright here, as the substance and themes of Our Men are clearly taken from my book Murder in Samarkand. My literary agent therefore contacted the man of business at Mitchell & Webb’s production company, Big Talk. He said that the series is completely different from Murder in Samarkand ; it has nothing to do with human rights and “the writers have researched the project with the diplomatic service“. That is a direct quote from my agent’s record of the conversation.

Talk about comedy at the service of the establishment. Big Talk also deny having heard of me or Murder in Samarkand, and say that Tazbekistan is not meant to be Uzbekistan. They lie. Here is a quote from their advice to actors, issued through the actors’ website Spotlight:

The accent is mild Russian. Perhaps have a listen to an Uzbek national speaking English to get an idea.

When David Hare went to Tashkent to research his adaptation of Murder in Samarkand, (which became the radio play starring David Tennant), which strongly attacks the government stance, he was not allowed even to enter the grounds of the Embassy to discuss it. Sir David Hare was left standing outside a locked gate. Yet the Diplomatic Service has been working with the writers of Our Men. The reason why lies in the quotes from Robert Webb right at the start of this article.

This is comedy in the service of the state; where the victims are the butt.

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John Bolton’s Fake Applause

The Oxford Union has dubbed fake applause onto the videos of John Bolton’s address to the Union. It has not done this for any other speaker.

If you listen to these videos of Bolton itching for war with Iran, you can hear precisely the same burst of ultra enthusiastic applause at the start, fading “naturally” as he begins to speak.

This dubbing in of applause is not used for any other speaker on the Oxford Union website, either before or after Bolton.

Everyone else just gets the actual applause that really existed.

Contrast the presentation of these question answers from Bolton with this from Julian Assange:

One futher interesting feature of the Bolton video is that the students asking questions – who were mostly hostile – are all edited out in favour of fake applause.

I was involved in heated negotiations with the Oxford Union on the transmission of Assange’s address, against attempts not by the students but by the Board of Trustees to block it “on legal grounds”. These conversations were not pleasant. When Assange’s address was finally put out, the sound was completely messed up and remained so for a fortnight, with this comment from the Oxford Union posted underneath:

Thanks for your feedback. We are aware there are issues with the audio when playing on mobile devices and we are working on getting this fixed as quickly as possible. The audio can be heard on desktops or with headphones on laptops.

I am therefore fascinated by the skill with which the Oxford Union have merged the dying of the fake applause over the start of Bolton’s speaking, when they were technically incapable of a simple straight sound feed of the Assange address.

Bolton is not only banging the drum for neo-con war, he is a war criminal with a direct role in launching the illegal role of aggression in Iraq. His address to the Union was the day before Assange’s speech to the Sam Adams Award at the same venue. Yet not a single one of the students who demonstrated against Assange demonstrated against Bolton.

To take the issue of rape, which was ostensibly the subject of the protest, Bolton’s Iraq War directly caused innumerable rapes. Nobody can know the exact figure, but certainly tens of thousands of rapes, and very many of them were fatal or had the most devastating consequences for the women who suffered. Read this excellent article

Rape is a common weapon of any war; no one knows how many Iraqi women have been raped since the war began in 2003. Most crimes against women “are not reported because of stigma, fear of retaliation, or lack of confidence in the police,” MADRE, an international women’s rights group, wrote in its 2007 report about violence against women in Iraq. Some women, like Khalida, are raped by Iraqi security forces. A 2005 report published by the Iraqi National Association for Human Rights found that women held in Interior Ministry detention centers endure “systematic rape by the investigators.”

They did not demonstrate against Bolton because the mainstream media and establishment have whipped up no hysteria about him. But they were directed to outrage against Assange, a man who has done a great deal to expose war crimes and try to prevent war, because the mainstream media and establishment pushed the useful idiots in that direction with some extraordinarily unconvincing accusations.

I said most of this IN my owN speech to the Sam Adams awards. Strangely the Oxford Union have not posted that speech at all…..

UPDATE

With thanks to Herbie, there is a history of Bolton and false applause. Perhaps this is insisted upon by his minders – who presumably know he doesn’t get real applause outside the Republican Party!

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Arrested Development

The great horsemeat scandal appears the result of fraud perpetrated in the European meat processing insudtry, and it worked because the supermarkets really care very little about food quality: care little and test less. The media frenzy has spurred on the arrest of a handful of people from small British abattoirs which are in no way central to the main scandal, and I suspect those arrested may prove to have done very little wrong.

But compare this rapid arrest of “small men” with the LIBOR scandal, where banks indisputably rigged, deliberately and repeatedly rigged, the basis of many trillions of dollars worth of financial transactions. It was deliberate dishonesty, fines on the banks have added up to billions, but not one of the fraudulent bankers who did it has been arrested – even though it is known who they are and there is a ton of documentary evidence. Not one arrest. Not one. Just as nobody has been arrested in this country for the fraudulent sub-prime packages and interest rate swaps that led ordinary, and even very poor, people to have to pay out huge proportions of their income to “bailout” the bankers.

The bankers meanwhile have got the bonus fatcat schemes rolling again. The economy is based on institutionalised robbery. The perpetrators are untouchable. They don’t get dirty with guts and blood. Little men who do are expendable. They can be made examples of, to feed the lust of the tabloid fed masses.

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Celebrating Correa’s Re-election

I am going to an election party in the Ecuador Embassy on Sunday. I shall do so with no sense of guilt. Since Correa gave political asylum to Assange, many with no record of concern for human rights in Ecuador – and who still show absolutely no concern for human rights in Bahrain or Uzbekistan – are suddenly immensely critical of Correa’s human rights record. Many of the same people are suddenly concerned for the appalling plight of rape victims, despite no track record whatsoever of concern for women’s rights.

No country in the world has a perfect human rights record. I am sitting in a country which recently incarcerated people in Belmarsh jail in solitary confinement for six years without informing them what the accusations were against them. Which shot dead a Brazilian electrician on the tube for looking a bit like an Arab. Where police beat one of Babar Ahmad’s eyes to blindness. Where a woman was jailed for reading out the names of Iraqi war dead at the cenotaph.

Ecuador is not perfect either, and the use of (pre-existing) criminal defamation laws against journalists is unequivocally wrong. But some of the criticisms are a bit rich, for example that the government appoints judges. Who on earth do you think appoints them in the UK? And the study of the political complexion of the Supremem Court as vacancies occur under different Presidents is an industry itself in the United States. If Assange goes to Sweden, he will be tried without a jury by a panel of three, two of whom are straight and unqualified appointees by political parties.

Of course all human rights abuse, and particularly in Ecuador free speech restraint, should be, must be, eliminated. But I am very impressed indeed by Correa’s achievement in forcing the multinationals to pay up a fair share to the nation for their exploitation of mineral resources, and then in applying that money to the benefit of ordinary Ecuadoreans.

I see the opposite in Ghana, and its devastating effect on ordinary people. Ghana is the fastest growing economy in the world, at an annual rate of over 20%. But tragically little of that benefits ordinary Ghanaians. Newmont Mining of the USA make income of over 1.5 billion dollars a year from gold mining in Ghana, wreaking huge environmental destruction, and pay not one cent in corporation tax, and indeed very little tax of any kind. The total amount of the income from the huge Jubilee Field oil discovery which in any way will actually benefit Ghanaians will be a maximum of 15% – the rest is entirely offshore.

I hope that, throughout the developing world, peoples will force their governments to follow the Ecuadorean path. It has the potential fundamentally to change the world for billions of people. I shall be at the Ecuadorean Embassy on Sunday.

Without shame.

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The Appalling Sir Daniel Bethlehem

This is Sir Daniel Bethlehem, a man who is to me an embodiment of the appalling moral vacuum at the heart of the British establishment.

Sir Daniel in a public international lawyer who has specialised in Middle eastern issues, and has always found it to be his genuine and considered legal opinion that the law supports the neo-conservative agenda for the Middle east.

Bethlehem first came to the attention of the general public as the man who advised the Israeli government that it was legal to build their “security” wall slicing through the West Bank and disrupting Palestinian communications and access to fields and water resources. Bethlehem was then the counsel to the Israeli government at the resulting case before the International Court of Justice.

The International Court of Justice – along with the vast majority of reputable international lawyers – disagreed with Daniel Bethlehem, and Bethlehem and the Israeli government lost the case. The Israeli government however disregarded the court’s judgement and continued its illegal activity.

Nowhere can I find evidence that Bethlehem has condemned the Israeli government for flouting the authority of the court before which he appeared. His commitment to the institutions of public international law appears somewhat partial.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office has a department of Legal Advisers who are closely integrated and involved in virtually everything the FCO does; I must have consulted them at least 60 tims in my own career. They are extremely distinguished individuals and a major source of scholarly articles on all aspects of public international law. They include some of the most respected experts in international law in the world.

The FCO legal advisers – of whom there are approximately 20 – agreed unanimously that the proposed war in Iraq would constitute an illegal war of aggression. As Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw’s response was to push for the removal of the chief Legal Adviser, Sir Michael Wood (the No. 2, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, resigned in disgust). Straw then, against all precedent, recruited a chief Legal Adviser from outside the FCO corps, one of the few public international lawyers in the UK prepared to argue that the Iraq invasion was legal.

Who did Straw choose? The Israeli Government’s trusty adviser, Daniel Bethlehem. Forget that his arguments for the Wall of Terror had been dismissed by the ICJ, the important thing for Straw was that Bethlehem was On the Right Side. He was prepared to argue the Iraq War was legal; that made him better qualified than any internal candidate.

Inside the FCO Bethlehem continued to be On the Right Side. This fascinating document contains the following extract of a minute from Matthew Gould, Private Secretary to Straw and Adam Werritty and Mossad’s point man in the FCO, to Daniel Bethlehem. The intention is to bolster Bethlehem’s attempt to keep from the UK courts the details of the torture by the CIA of Binyam Mohammed, and British complicity therewith.

Discussions of 12 May 2009
[Email note of meeting by Matthew Gould, Principal Private Secretary to the Foreign
Secretary, addressed to Daniel Bethlehem dated 13 and 14 May 2009. The note of 14 May
responded to a request for clarification.]
Note of 13 May 2009
“1. On 12 May the Foreign Secretary raised the Binyam Mohamed legal case with Hillary
Clinton. Clinton was accompanied by Dan Fried (Assistant Secretary, State Department)
and Tobin Bradley (NSC); the Foreign Secretary by Nigel Sheinwald, Ian Bond and me.
2. The Foreign Secretary said that the Court had questioned the continuing non-release of
the US documents in the case given (1) the arrival of the Obama Administration, and (2) the
release of the 4 DoJ memos. The Court had said it could not see how, in the light of the
publication of these memos, anything in the US papers could be regarded as sensitive.
3. The Foreign Secretary said that the British Government would continue to make the case
that it continued to be an inviolable principle of intelligence co-operation that we did not give
away other peoples secrets, and that doing so would cause serious harm to the UK/US
intelligence relationship.
4. Clinton (who was clearly well aware of the case and the associated issues) said that the
US position had not changed, and that the protection of intelligence went beyond party or
politics. The US remained opposed to the UK releasing these papers. If it did so it would
– 4 –
affect intelligence sharing. This would cause damage to the national security of both the US
and UK.
5. Bradley said that this was also the position of the White House. They appreciated that this
left the British Government in a difficult position…

It is worth noting that yet again Bethlehem advised that the law supported the perpetrators of the most vile abuses of human rights, and yet again the most senior courts were to disagree with him.

It comes therefore as no great surprise that, having now left the FCO, Bethlehem is currently Legal Adviser to the vicious despotism of Bahrain. Sir Daniel Bethlehem – pillar of the British Establishment and a serial servant of evil. Sir Daniel Bethlehem advises that the invasion of Iraq was legal, the cover-up of complicity in the torture of Binyam Mohammed was legal, the Israeli Wall was legal, and the repression in Bahrain is legal.

Young lawyers take note; if you want to have a sword rested on your shoulder by an odd horsey woman, make sure your view of legal right never supports the oppressed, never defends the victim. There is a fat living in evil.

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The Iranians Are Coming – Aaaaargggh!

The undertow of anti-Iranian fearmongering becomes stronger. This is a tremendous bit of totally baseless fearmongering from an Obama administration official in the New York Times, positing nuclear bomb collaboration between Iran and North Korea:

The Iranians are also pursuing uranium enrichment, and one senior American official said two weeks ago that “it’s very possible that the North Koreans are testing for two countries.” Some believe that the country may have been planning two simultaneous tests, but it could take time to sort out the data.

This is on a par withthe Bush administration’s totally false claim of links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida. There is no linkage between the governments of Iran and North Korea; both regimes are highly unpleasant in many ways, but they have utterly conflicting ideologies and absolutely zero history of political collaboration. This is ludicrous scaremongering fantasy.

New CIA haed John Brennan put Iran and North Korea into the same sentence with nuclear weapons in his Senate confirmation hearing. This aspect was overlooked by the mainstream media, which focused on Brennans defence of drone killings (and ludicrous claims of absence of bystander deaths). But Ray McGovern rightfully picked up on this part of his opening statement:

“regimes in Tehran and Pyongyang remain bent on pursuing nuclear weapons”.

As Ray points out, the US intelligence services own assessment is that while Pyongyang plainly is developing nuclear weapons, the situation in Tehran is much more nuanced. There is no clear intention of Iran to develop nuclear weapons. That Brennan gives a position at variance with the actual analysis of the agency he is to head is worrying, to say the least.

We have the same seamless and completely unjustified linguistic waving together of North Korean and Iranian nuclear programmes from former Israeli Foreign Minister and Netanyahu prop Liebermann quoted here:

Former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman says North Korea’s nuclear test was an “obvious example” of diplomacy failing to curb a nuclear program. Lieberman told Army Radio on Wednesday that “anyone who thinks sanctions or negotiations will stop Iran is wrong.”

Iran remains the best justification for bloated military budgets and the next obvious target for war profiteers and hydrocarbon vultures. Expect a crescendo of this nonsense this summer/

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Now is the Winter of our Disinterment

The researchers had a hunch he was there. ATOS pass Richard III’s skeleton as fit to work.

Joking aside, the discovery of Richard III’s body is fascinating and wonderful. Aside from Shakespeare’s brilliant play (which is evidently not as physically inaccurate as we have been told for years), and the question of who killed the Princes in the Tower, there is a romance about lost dynasties which appeals to a deep human yearning for a golden age when things were somehow better, and for “lost futures”. What might have been, had those evil Stanleys not turned on Richard at Bosworth and put their miserable Welsh accountant on the throne?

Richard is described in today’s newspapers as the last English King. The Plantagenets were of course Angevin. The last English King – indeed the only English King of all England – was Harold Godwinson. Now there’s a lost dynasty for you.

We now know that Richard’s “Claim of Right” was almost certainly true and Edward IV a bastard, as his father was nowhere near his mother for months around the purported conception. But the so-called Royal line is, I am quite sure, sprinkled with bastards and no line at all. Not to mention that George I was 39th in line to the throne when given it 300 years ago, but the first Protestant.

Monarchy is bollocks, and something we should have outgrown a long time ago. Nice to see that today’s Prince Harry retains the tradition of remorseless homicide though.

Leicester University deserve congratulations on a genuine achievement. I hope Richard can now be reburied as soon as possible – as a Catholic, which is what he was. He was a human being. The degradation and display of his fresh corpse were horrible; but there is a danger of repeating it with a po face and feigned serious intent.

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