I think you can measure the death of democracy by the sheer audacity of the propaganda that government can get away with. Michael Fallon today on the Marr programme churned out the “70,000 moderate rebels” lie with a smooth bland face, and mentioned only the Free Syrian Army when pressed on who they were exactly. This is dishonesty on an epic scale.
But the really breathtaking one was to follow. Fallon claimed that the UK had killed hundreds of ISIL militants by bombing in Iraq and caused not one single civilian casualty. This risible claim had appeared in the Daily Mail last week, which is to be expected. But that a government minister can state such an absolutely ludicrous lie before a major BBC journalist without being seriously pushed on the matter, really does say a great deal about what kind of “democracy” the UK now is.
As does the fact that a substantial number of MPs of the official “opposition” have spent the weekend actively colluding with government ministers to forward the government’s militarist agenda.
I am proud to say that Scotland seems largely immune from the prevalent jingoism. The idea that bombing Raqqa will prevent terrorist attacks in Europe is plainly so nonsensical, that it is hard to know whether people like Fallon have actually managed to convince themselves of it or not. What this all will do, of course, is reinforce the military/security state that the UK has become.
I have no doubt that the Iraq War was one factor in making the people of Scotland realise that the UK is not an entity that matches their aspirations for the way a state should behave. Splitting the UK is a process. This incomprehensible Westminster bloodlust for bombing will drive the division wider. As will the whole ambience of the Etonian government and the peculiar social behaviour of its inner group, as even our coy media is hinting at in its coverage of the Shapps/Clarke group.
I can sense Independence coming close with every new morning.
Having been sat the last three hours in a lounge at Stansted, with a Sky News screen in front of me, it has been fascinating to watch them six times cover the Grant Shapps resignation and never mention the word sex. It was all apparently just about “office bullying.” There has also been some pontification about why, over Shapps and Coulson, Cameron is such a bad judge of people.
Two things from Cameron’s background explain it very simply – neither mentioned by Sky News.
The first is that Cameron went to the type of school where for senior males to bully, blackmail or otherwise coerce junior males into sex was not particularly abnormal behaviour.
The second is that he comes from a background where you can smash up a restaurant at a Bullingdon Club function and have daddy’s cheque book buy off the trouble, or you can stick your todger in a pig’s mouth. Because you are privileged and the normal rules of social behaviour do not apply to you. Nobody will ever query the cocaine at your Chipping Norton house parties. If you are one of the group, there is an expectation of impunity and the group is confident it can defend its Coulsons, Feldmans and Shapps.
It is confident because, in the scores of incidents we don’t get to hear about, it succeeds in doing so.
Supporting neo-con military attacks in the Middle East is one of two prime articles of faith of a Blairite. The second is not considering the massive increase in the wealth gap between rich and poor to be a problem. Both tenets of faith face a fundamental challenge from the beliefs of Jeremy Corbyn and the majority of Labour Party members.
As you know, I am not a Labour Party member, and indeed as a result of the Blair years my opinion of the Labour Party is that it is a force for genuine evil.
My personal experience brought me face to face with the deliberate waging of illegal and aggressive war on a false excuse, and the complicity in a systematic programme of torture. I openly confess that it is very personal with me, because my own career, health and reputation were ruined by New Labour attacks on me when I tried to challenge the pro-torture policy.
I regarded those decent people who stayed in the Labour Party despite all this, like Jeremy Corbyn, as misguided. Should Corbyn eventually win the current power struggle, I will have been wrong on that, but not on the evil that New Labour did.
Things are coming to a head in the Labour Party as the Blairites are incredulous that Corbyn should oppose the bombing of the 600,000 population of Raqqa, in the hope of hitting 8,000 ISIS personnel carefully dispersed among them. Despite the disasters of Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, the Blairites, with the full roar of the corporate media behind them, find it absolutely unacceptable that anybody should refuse to support more aggression in the Middle East.
Still more absurd is the attempt to deny the very plain truth spoken by Ken Livingstone, that the 7/7 bombers were motivated by our attack on Iraq. They plainly stated so themselves in suicide videos. I am quite genuinely astonished that we live in an atmosphere that enables denial of this very obvious causality. It really does worry me about the kind of society we have become.
This weekend, the arch-Blairites of Progress are actually colluding directly with the Tories, and I am informed from a Tory source that John Woodcock is in discussion with Michael Fallon. A number of Labour MPs who are actively colluding with the Tories are simultaneously refusing to talk to or meet with their own party members. It is my hope that they are wrong in thinking that the support of the corporate media and of the Westminster bubble is what really counts, and the wider world has no power to influence their future.
In Oldham, my man on the ground (or mostly in the pubs) tells me that it is UKIP, not Labour, who are struggling. The Blairites are hugely disappointed by this, as they were looking to the loss of Oldham as one of the excuses for a putsch. Their house journal, the Guardian, after weeks of pointless conjectures of what will happen to Corbyn if Labour lose, today hastily changes tack. Instead they are claiming that Labour is doing well only because Oldham residents know nothing of national politics and have never heard of Corbyn. The headline might as well be “Oldham People Too Ignorant to Despise Corbyn”. The Guardian is truly now beneath contempt.
The four USAF military drone operators who recently blew the whistle and exposed the callousness and complete lack of concern for civilian casualties of the US drone assassination programme, (and received very little mainstream media exposure), yesterday found their bank accounts and credit cards all blocked by the US government. The effects of that on daily life are devastating. My source is their lawyer, Jesselyn Radack, through the Sam Adams Associates (of which we are both members).
No criminal charges have been brought against any of the men, despite numerous written threats of prosecution. Their finances appear to have been frozen by executive action under anti-terrorist legislation. This is yet a further glaring example of the use of “anti-terror” powers against people who are not remotely terrorist.
More whistleblowers have been jailed under Obama than under all previous US Presidents combined. Even so, the US authorities seem wary of the publicity that might surround prosecution of these servicemen, who only spoke of the effect upon their own health of having repeatedly to carry out heartless and often untargeted killings.
So their lives are being destroyed in other ways. You will forgive me for recalling that I know how they feel because I have been through just the same thing myself.
When I blew the whistle on UK complicity in torture and extraordinary rendition, I received numerous written threats from the FCO under the Official Secrets Act, and for a while I lived in daily expectation of arrest. Still more hurtful were the constant denials from Jack Straw and his repeated assertion that the UK was never complicit in torture, that there was no such thing as extraordinary rendition, together with the frequent imputations to journalists and politicians that I was in poor mental health and an alcoholic. I never had my bank account suspended, but there were interventions with prospective employers that prevented my getting another job.
Still, I had it easy. Chelsea Manning will celebrate her birthday in jail on 17 December.
It is worth recalling what these drone operators told us:
Bryant said the killing of civilians by drone is exacerbating the problem of terrorism. “We kill four and create 10 [militants],” Bryant said. “If you kill someone’s father, uncle or brother who had nothing to do with anything, their families are going to want revenge.”
The Obama administration has gone to great lengths to keep details of the drone program secret, but in their statements today the former operators opened up about the culture that has developed among those responsible for carrying it out. Haas said operators become acculturated to denying the humanity of the people on their targeting screens. “There was a much more detached outlook about who these people were we were monitoring,” he said. “Shooting was something to be lauded and something we should strive for.”
The deaths of children and other non-combatants in strikes was rationalized by many drone operators, Haas said. As a flight instructor, Haas claimed to have been non-judicially reprimanded by his superiors for failing a student who had expressed “bloodlust,” an overwhelming eagerness to kill.
Haas also described widespread alcohol and drug abuse among drone pilots. Drone operators, he said, would frequently get intoxicated using bath salts and synthetic marijuana to avoid possible drug testing and in an effort to “bend that reality and try to picture yourself not being there.” Haas said that he knew at least a half-dozen people in his unit who were using bath salts and that drug use had “impaired” them during missions.
Cameron is in serious trouble at Westminster after overreaching himself by the claim that there are 70,000 “moderate rebels” willing to take up the ground war with Isis. Quite literally not one single MP believes him. There are those who believe the lie is justified. But even they know it is a lie.
There is a very interesting parallel here with the claims over Iraqi WMD. The 70,000 figure has again been approved by the Joint Intelligence Committee, with a strong push from MI6. But exactly as with Iraqi WMD, there were strong objections from the less “political” Defence Intelligence, and caveats inserted. As the Head of Defence Intelligence, Major-General Michael Laurie, told the Chilcot Inquiry:
“we could find no evidence of planes, missiles or equipment that related to weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It was clear to me that pressure was being applied to the Joint Intelligence Committee and its drafters. Every fact was managed to make the dossier as strong as possible. The final statements in the dossier reached beyond the conclusions intelligence assessments would normally draw from such facts.”
The truth is the military tends to be much more honest about these matters than the spooks. Rather than make the same mistake again, parliamentarians should be calling Laurie’s successor, Air Marshal Philip Osborn, to ask him the truth about the nature, composition and availability of the 70,000. I happen to know that signals of dissent from Osborn’s staff – quite probably with his blessing – are reaching not just me, but many Tory MPs.
Meantime we can ourselves deconstruct the 70,000 figure and work out the various civil service sleights of hand that produced it. We have Cameron’s written response to the Foreign Affairs Committee in which he sets out his case for war. This document is of course extremely carefully written.
The 70,000 figure is at page 18. It does then give the breakdown of who these 70,000 are.
The very first group listed are the Kurds, and they are indeed the best organised and most numerous group. But there is a trick here – the paper includes them in the 70,000, despite going on to accept that they are not available to fight in Isil territory because it is Arab not Kurdish land. So that already knocks the largest and best contingent out of the 70,000.
Why were the Kurds included in the total when the paper itself acknowledges they are not available?
After that, Cameron is really struggling and the paper becomes vague. The paper talks (p.19) of rebel forces who defended the Syrian-Turkish border near Aleppo from ISIL attack.
This is perfectly true, but their leading fighting component is Jabhat-al-Nusra, an open al-Qaida affiliate. They cannot conceivably be described as moderate, and are armed and equipped by Saudi Arabia. Their principle martial activity is looting and raping in Shia villages. There are in fact about two dozen rebel groups around Aleppo – here is a good snapshot – who often fight each other and for the last few months have been losing ground to Assad forces. They are also a primary target of the Russians. It is simply nonsense that they could march on ISIS in Raqqa.
Cameron’s paper then goes on to reference the southern front of the Free Syrian Army, and paints a rather rose-coloured picture of its military prowess. The Free Syrian army can legitimately be painted as less extremist than other groups, with some important reservations, but nobody has ever assessed the strength of its southern branch at over 10,000 fighters. It is completely pre-occupied with fighting Assad and Hezbollah.
After that, the paper is seriously stuck, and goes on to enumerate policemen, “white helmet” humanitarian workers and even local authority engineering workforces as part of the evidence of the existence of moderate forces. Whether any of these groups is included in that amazing 70,000 total is unclear.
What is clear is that the 70,000 figure does not stand up to thirty seconds scrutiny, and there is no coherent plan whatsoever for ground forces to follow up air attack.
The absence of ground forces was an obvious flaw in Cameron’s bombing plan. For him to try to allay concerns by such a huge and blatant lie may prove to be a very poor tactic. Indeed this is so shockingly bad that not only are many Tories privately saying it is difficult to vote for bombing, even some of the still more right wing Blairites are concerned too.
A Turkish jet shoots down a Russian jet. Parliament votes to send RAF jets into the mix. What could possibly go wrong?
Unfortunately, things do go wrong. Cameron’s 70,000 “moderate rebels” prove either non-existent or crazed pro-Saudi Wahabbists. Mostly they are the very jihadists Russia is attacking, but we are supporting. In the fog of war, another Russian plane is downed. A Russian pilot downs a British jet. With politicians on all sides afloat on the sea of militarist rhetoric, within 24 hours it has spiralled hopelessly out of control.
A nuclear button is pushed. Then another, then another. Life in the UK is wiped out – Stratchlyde first, of course, but eventually everyone. Alone in their Nuclear Biological Chemical bunker, the politicans and senior establishment figures are the last to die. With his final reserve of strength, Cameron crawls over to Corbyn. He does not notice Corbyn is already dead, and with his expiring breath Cameron wheezes out:
“I told you Trident was useful.”
Watching live, I too did not think that John McDonnell’s Chairman Mao joke was wise, because of the obvious misrepresentation to which it was open in the right wing press. But in fact while the openly right wing media all have a go, they all respect the basic tenets of journalism by fairly reflecting both the content and the context of what Corbyn said:
The Labour shadow chancellor mocked the Chancellor – who he dubbed “Comrade Osborne” – for encouraging China to invest in British infrastructure projects…
After joking about the sale of public assets to the Chinese government, Mr McDonnell said: “To assist Comrade Osborne about dealing with his new found comrades, I have brought him along Mao’s Little Red Book.”
Mr McDonnell accused his Tory rival of selling off Government assets to foreign nations such as China.
He said: “Nationalisation is ok for him as long as its by any other state but ours.
“To assist comrade Osborne in his dealings with his new-found comrades, I have brought him along Mao’s Little Red Book.”
The Shadow Chancellor, who could not be mistaken for Jimmy Tarbuck even on a good day, was essaying a satirical dig at Mr Osborne for becoming too chummy with Chinese investors. He argued that Mr Osborne was nationalising our economy – but turning it over to the Chinese state.
That is pretty plain, is it not? And actually fair journalism.
Yet astonishingly the Guardian ran three whole articles entirely about the McDonnell gaffe. You could read every single word of these three articles and not learn the basic information provided in each of the three Blue Tory papers above. The utterly disgraceful Jonathan Jones, John Crace and Tom Phillips all managed to produce articles which utterly omit what McDonnell actually said and why he said it, to contrive to give the impression that McDonnell was quoting Mao straight and with approval.
As a member of the NUJ myself, I cannot say how much it pains me to see colleagues renouncing every single tenet of professional, let alone ethical, journalism in order to produce a deliberate distortion of the truth. Even the Blue Tory newspapers did not here sink to anything like the depths plumbed by the Red Tories of the Guardian.
Crace, Jones and Phillips have crossed a line and are not journalists. What are they? Paid lying bastards.
The embittered has-been Blairites at the Guardian, by-passed by history and despised by the public, still resentfully nursing their support for the Iraq War and insistence it improved the world, have turned a once great newspaper into a journalistic abomination.
UPDATE: This is absolutely beyond parody. The Guardian have just published a FOURTH article on this subject, by Roy Greenslade, which still fails to say that McDonnell was referring to Osborne’s disposal of British assets to the Chinese state. Instead Greenslade cuts and pastes the most damning comments he can find in the Tory media. Not of course including any of the Tory media quotes given above which, unlike the Guardian, tell you what McDonnell was saying.
When do you think the fifth Guardian article is coming?
All those many of us who were deeply involved in the referendum campaign of 2014 will never forget the experience. It appeared a moment of new hope and new joy. Bliss it was on that dawn to be alive, but to be knocking on a bit was even better, because you had been waiting decades for something like this to happen, and realised just how rare it was to feel on the cusp of an egalitarian revolution.
I was dashing all over Scotland from one speech or campaigning venue to another, and helping out with stall, canvassing or leafleting wherever, I was before moving on to the next venue and the next hotel in the next town. I spent an awful lot of money on travel and accommodation, and made several donations to local campaigns, or just gave cash to get something that was needed for a stall or get more flyers printed up. Over 90 per cent of the time I did not ask or receive any expenses for turning up to speak.
I was however in odd moments pursuing my researches into Alexander Burnes and visited Forfar and Montrose to look at manuscripts. I am therefore trying at the moment to sort out my expenditure in the period for my income tax return, and identify what I spent on the campaign and the much smaller amount which is legitimately an expense against income from the book.
And it is very, very difficult. When you are dashing around campaigning like mad, living from hotel to hotel and firmly focused on the campaign, record keeping is not on the top of your mind. Receipts are stuffed into trousers, shirts, jackets, suitcases, laptop bags. A lot of hotels now don’t give you a physical receipt but promise to email one on. I am only able to piece together a very partial account of what I spent during the white hot period of campaigning.
It is of course my own money. This site does not accept donations and it was all simply my own cash. I am therefore under no obligation to account for it. The smaller sum that might be attributable to Burnes research, I shall not be claiming as a tax expense where I can’t find the receipt.
But I have enormous sympathy for the trouble in which Nathalie McGarry finds herself. Accounting is not the top of your list when you are attempting to alter the destination of your entire nation, and Women For Indy was everywhere, doing stuff all over Scotland. From my own experience I can sympathise with why it can, in all innocence, be very difficult to account for everything undertaken in that hectic, breathtaking time. People should remember that before rushing to judgement.
George Osborne claims that by doubling the housing budget to £2billion per year, 400,000 new homes can be built over the next five years.
That throws a rather lurid light on what could be done with the £175 billion admitted cost of Trident, if we lived in a society with less crazed values.
Lord Coe went to a great deal of trouble to make sure he turned up to the House of Lords to vote in favour of the tax credit cuts which would damage millions of ordinary people who struggle financially.
Coe was Chairman of the Organising Committee for the London Olympics. At a salary of £365,000pa. At the same time his sports promotions company – majority owned by Seb Coe and William Hague – made over £12 million from organising VIP hospitality packages, for which they were allocated the tickets by – the Organising Committee.
If that happened in Brazil or South Africa, the media would be screaming corruption. Remember the London Olympics were funded with £9 billion of taxpayer money. In Britain, it all passes with a nod and a wink. Normal business practice, old boy!
From 2011 Coe was on the board of Nike, one of the Olympics’ sponsors, and a brand ambassador for Nike, receiving a very substantial salary from them. He was vice-President and now President of the International Association of Athletics Associations and in that capacity met with executives of Nike – his employers – to discuss the award of the World Athletics Championships to Nike’s home town of Eugene. It stinks.
He managed to be Vive President of the IAAF for years without noticing that it was as corrupt and rotten through and through as FIFA, and the President, Diack – with whom he claimed to work closely and repeatedly praised – was taking vast bribes to cover up industrial scale doping. If Coe had no idea this was happening – of which I am deeply sceptical – it can only be because he has been far too concentrated on stuffing his own pockets to look.
It is quite extraordinary to me that the British media, who have led the charge on Blatter with a distinct undertone of “laugh at these comic corrupt foreigners”, cannot spot corrupt enrichment when it stares them in the face.
Coe may be a Tory Lord, but he is a disgrace not fit to lead international athletics. When will the British learn that corruption is not something that just happens abroad? If the standards of British public life were ever higher, we have the living breathing examples of Sebastian Coe and Tony Blair to show us what a sleazy entity Britain has now become.
This is the official Turkish radar track of the Russian aircraft they shot down, in red. It briefly transited a tiny neck of Turkish land – less than two miles across where the Russian jet passed – twice. I calculate that each “incursion” over Turkish territory would have lasted about 10 seconds, assuming the plane was flying slowly at 600mph. That Turkey shot down the plane for this is madness, and absolutely indefensible. It is fairly obvious from the track that the plane was operating against Turkish sponsored Turkmen rebels inside Syria, and that is why the Turks shot it down.
But the inescapable conclusion is that the true madness would be for the UK to get involved in Syria and make a complex and volatile situation still worse, and risk being dragged into wider conflict.
To bomb ISIS in Syria is now legal in international law, with authority granted by the Security Council. (I subscribe to the argument of my ex-boss Brian Barder on the interpretation of SCR 2249). Whether it is wise or not is a quite different question.
Even John Simpson on the BBC yesterday admitted that many innocent civilians had been killed in recent bombings of the ISIS occupied city of Raqqa. Though being the BBC, while reporting correctly that the United States, France and Russia are all bombing Raqqa, they contrived only to mention civilian deaths in a sentence about Russian bombing. That bombing creates terrorist blowback has been proven beyond any rational dispute. So if ending terrorism is truly the aim, it is a curiously counter-productive means of going about it.
There is also the question of mission creep. In Libya, the security council mandated nothing but the enforcement of a no-fly zone, to prevent the possibility of a massacre in Benghazi, which was precisely as genuine a danger as Iraqi WMD. Quite illegally, the UK participated in a massive western air to ground attack including on populated areas, under the pretext of disabling any possible threat to western aircraft enforcing the no fly zone. The aim, quite illegal, was regime change. This is how “the no-fly zone was enforced” by western bombing of Sirte.
The danger is that a bombing campaign will cause this kind of devastation of civilian areas, as indeed is now happening in Raqqa, but also as in Libya will be carried far beyond the authorised objective, and extended against the areas loyal to President Assad. This risks confrontation with Russia – a danger that has been starkly illustrated since I started sketching out this article by the downing of a Russian jet by Turkey.
Libya illustrates starkly the last and largest problem – that you cannot control what fills the vacuum. The governance of Libya is now a disaster. The ultimate irony was that the people of Benghazi demonstrated their gratitude at being saved from “massacre” by slaughtering the American Ambassador. The truth of the matter is that, despite the dreadful records of both Saddam and Gaddafi, the manner of their removal resulted in a situation where life was undoubtedly better for the vast majority of the population under the dictators. Which is a massive testament to Western incompetence.
David Cameron appears to have no idea whatsoever what will replace ISIS in the areas under its control. We know that he does not want the Syrian state under President Assad to take control. The area is not Kurdish, so they are not an option. Hezbollah is regarded as an Iranian proxy. The West’s attempts to create moderate pro-Western Sunni rebel forces have been a pathetic failure. The Saudis and other Gulf states have funded a variety of rebels, including much of ISIS and other groups which have an equally insane agenda. If any of the Wahabbi groups besides ISIS could be strengthened sufficiently to hold major territory, they would undoubtedly be found to be just as enthusiastic at persecuting Christians and other minorities and beheading people.
Someone has to control the physical territory, and Cameron has no viable alternative for this at all. Talk of funding and training moderate groups is whistling in the dark. The USA has already put far greater resources into this than the UK ever could, and the result has been complete failure.
Having delivered Sikunder Burnes to the publisher, I have started research on a life of Lord George Murray, working title The Man Who Terrified London. It is in fact true that some Scottish aristocratic families deliberately allocated members to each side in the 45, to ensure continued family control of the estates. But such instances are very rare, the Frasers of Lovat being the most notable. Most family splits, like among the Murrays of Atholl, were genuine and painful. My favourite example is the MacDonells, who were all Jacobite but decided that Glengarry himself, a hopeless alcoholic incompetent, would do more harm to the Hanoverians by remaining on their side. There is an excellent simile here to the Saudis, where numerous minor royals and all their business contractors are pumping money into ISIS and other extreme Wahabbi groups, while the King and Crown Prince pretend to be pro-Western and anti-ISIS. That is when they can spare a moment from their aerial massacre of the Houtha, or sentencing children and poets to death at home. The situation in all our Gulf “allies” is the same.
It is of course instructive that there is no sense at all in which Trident missiles are helpful in this dilemma. It is worth repeating out loud every time we consider a defence or foreign policy dilemma “Trident is useless in the particular situation”. We should say it all the time. We are spending an inconceivable sum on a system which is no earthly use.
But bombing is just as useless. It can achieve nothing whatsoever except pointless death. It will make Cameron look macho and win some jingo votes, enabling the corporate and state media to whip up a frenzy of hate against non-militarists. I suppose that is a useful purpose for the establishment. There is no other useful purpose.
Bombing ISIS in Syria may now be legal. That does not make it useful or wise.
I did not believe the official story of Hasna Ait Buolacehn the moment I saw it. The official line was that she was a suicide bomber who blew herself up when the police stormed the apartment in St Denis where the alleged terrorist ringleader was hiding out. But that story seemed to me completely incompatible with the recordings on which she could plainly be heard screaming “He is not my boyfriend! He is not my boyfriend” immediately before the explosion. She sounded like a terrified woman trying to disassociate herself from the alleged terrorist. It was a strange battle cry for someone who believed themselves on the verge of paradise.
Then yesterday the truth emerged from forensics that she was indeed not a suicide bomber. None of the mainstream media appeared to find this in any way troubling. And just in case anybody did, the BBC (and I assume all the French and major international media) then immediately did an interview with an anonymous member of the French Police attacking squad, who stated that Hasna was:
“trying to say she was not linked to the terrorists, that she had nothing to do with them and wanted to surrender”.
But he said that due to prior intelligence, “we knew that she was trying to manipulate us”.
Unfortunately this would have been a very great deal more convincing had it been stated 48 hours earlier, rather than only after the original reports that she was a suicide bomber had been corrected on forensic examination. As it is, it looks very much like a post facto justification, a new story to cover the new facts.
Besides, it is very difficult indeed to see what prior intelligence could explain if someone was genuinely trying to surrender or not. There appears to be no information available to the public that gives the slightest indication that Hasna was an extreme Islamist; what public information there is paints the opposite picture. The best the media have been able to dredge up are quotes from friends saying “if she was, then she must have been drugged or brainwashed”. Google it yourself.
But even were she an extreme Islamist, that does not mean she was not attempting to surrender. All of which is a bit nugatory if she were then killed by an explosion triggered by the terrorists themselves. But the changing story about Hasna makes me less than confident that is what actually happened.
I have no difficulty with the principle that the police should shoot people who are shooting at them. I outraged many friends on the left for example by not joining in the criticism of the police for killing Mr Duggan. People who choose to carry guns in my view run a legitimate risk of being shot by the police, it is as simple as that. Jean Charles De Menezes was a totally different case and his murder by police completely unjustifiable. In Paris it appears plain that the police were in a situation of confrontation with armed suspects.
There are severe intelligence disadvantages to killing people with profound knowledge of terrorist organisations. It also cheats the justice system. Nevertheless I can conceive of situations where simply taking out by an explosion a terrorist cell might be justified. But only if you are quite certain of the situation. The case of Hasna is to me troublingly reminiscent of the case of Jean Charles De Menezes, in that it became obvious in the days after his death that everything the police and establishment had leaked to the media about him (leaping over barriers, running through the tunnels, heavy jacket, wires protruding) was a complete, utter and quite deliberate lie.
The media could help if they were in any way rational and dispassionate, or ever questioned an official narrative. It is an urgent and irrepressible question as to why the BBC journalist did not ask the French policeman “and why did you not say this 48 hours ago when you were content to allow the story to run that she was a suicide bomber?”
Similar media manipulation is at use here by the Guardian in telling us the police stormed a “terrorist apartment”. What is a “terrorist apartment”? Are the walls made of semtex? The intent of course is to assure us everybody inside was a terrorist. It is not just the Guardian. The phrase is all over the media. Again, google it.
I am worried in case Hollande’s Rambo impersonation is steamrollering justice. It may well be that Hasna was a dreadful and bloodthirsty terrorist. I do not know. It may well be she was killed by the terrorists not the police. All we know at the moment is she was in an apartment with people who allegedly were terrorists, and died in the “battle”. But I do not trust the changing stories of the authorities.
Robert Webb might well have been the only person in the Labour Party well to the right of Liz Kendall. In 2005 He told the Guardian in an interview the person he most admired was Christopher Hitchens (at a time when Hitchens was the lead propagandist for the Iraq War) and Webb characterised opponents of the Iraq War as “suicide bombers and their apologists”. Today the Guardian gives him an enormous puff for resigning from the Labour Party in protest against Jeremy Corbyn.
A genuinely unpleasant person. I confess to a personal grudge against Webb, but it is a justified one. he was deeply involved in plagiarising my memoir, Murder in Samarkand for the BBC Comedy The Ambassador. The production company involved, Big Talk, had actually invited me to their offices for a meeting to ask me to sell them the rights to Murder in Samarkand. I attended the meeting but I refused to sell them the rights. They went ahead and made the series anyway.
Having been brought up in Norfolk I am a Norwich City supporter, as explained in Murder in Samarkand. Webb’s The Ambassadors featured a Norwich City supporting ambassador to Tazbekistan (which he claimed was unrelated to Uzbekistan) and made fun of the dopey Ambassador’s concern with human rights. Numerous incidents were very plainly taken from Murder in Samarkand as well as the entire scenario, but I could not afford to take the crooked plagiarising bastards to court.
Robert Webb. One of the nastiest men in Britain. If Corbyn as Labour leader achieves nothing more than getting shot of Webb, that is still progress.
The right to self-determination of the people of Scotland is not in dispute. That right is enshrined in Article 1.2 of the Charter of the United Nations. Which peoples qualify to benefit from that right is a frequent subject of dispute, but the case of Scotland has been conclusively conceded by the government of the UK in agreeing to the 2014 Independence referendum and agreeing to abide by the result.
The people of Scotland thus have multiple citizenships. They are citizens of Scotland, and of two over-arching bodies, of the United Kingdom and of the European Union. Both UK and EU citizenship are very real, with EU citizenship in particular conferring a wide range of individual rights to the citizen enshrined in numerous international treaties. This dual citizenship is reflected on your passport. On both the cover and the inside page, it says European Union above United Kingdom.
This raises the question of what happens if the people of Scotland, with their right of self determination, experience an unwilling conflict between the two superior citizenships. This will arise if the United Kingdom votes to leave the European Union while Scotland votes to remain in. The situation of conflict will be that a self-determining people will have voted in referenda to retain two overarching citizenships, but by force majeure be able to retain only one of them.
The position in international law given this outcome is absolutely clear. Being unable to follow both results of referenda of the Scottish people, Scotland through its government will have the right to determine which citizenship to retain. EU citizenship is arguably the superior citizenship, conferring much wider rights.
There is in any event no requirement in international law for a referendum on Independence before you declare Independence. In fact, the majority of nations in this world only became independent in my own lifetime, and over 90% of those became independent without a referendum.
In the event that Scotland votes Remain and the UK votes Leave, the SNP government which I hope and expect again to see at Holyrood should immediately make a Declaration of Independence to maintain the individual citizenry rights of Scots to EU citizenship. This is perfectly legal in international law and will, beyond any doubt, be welcomed by the large majority of states of the European Union who will welcome the decision of Scots to remain members.
As somebody who worked professionally for nearly four years on EU enlargement, it always scunners me that it is so little understood that the entire political mood and dynamic of the EU is expansionist. It seeks as a matter of principle to incorporate all Europeans. That is why Romania and Bulgaria were accepted with an analysis everyone knew to be farcical that they conformed to the acquis communitaire. The departure of any country, even the awkward England and Wales, will be seen as a tragedy and the adherence of Scotland will be a matter of rejoicing. Even Spain will be reconciled because the circumstance of the UK leaving the EU gives a plausible unique factor that is not a precedent for Catalonia.
Within the SNP, perhaps understandably the focus tends to be on the internal UK constitutional and political scene. This is actually an error. The Independence of any Nation is above all a matter of international law, and the test of Independence is recognition of the world’s other states and acceptance into international institutions, above all the United Nations. The success of a Declaration of Independence will rest in its acceptance in Brussels and New York, not its acceptance in Westminster.
Cameron will get nothing substantive from his EU renegotiation. He is not liked by other European leaders. Eastern Europeans, in particular, can recognise a snob who looks down his nose at them when they see one. I speak from certain knowledge – more than one Eastern European minister involved has told me so. It shows how low Cameron has sunk, that a minute circulating yesterday in the Cabinet Office described the atmosphere in the immediate aftermath of the Paris attacks as an “opportunity” to gain concessions on freedom of movement.
There is no gamechanger coming from Cameron’s “renegotiation” that will materially affect the dynamics of the EU referendum campaign, and opinion polls indicate that the UK leaving and Scotland voting to remain is a very probable outcome. The Scottish government should be starting now to make preparations for declaring Independence immediately in the event of such a result. Top priority in those preparations should be discussions in Brussels and EU capitals with all EU states to prepare them for such an event and garner discreet assurances. The Scottish Government is of course prohibited from such lobbying, but the SNP is not. I for one will offer my services without charge.
I just watched a recording of Westminster yesterday where Tory Minister Amber Rudd announced the government was rapidly dropping the subsidy for solar energy down to zero. Yet the government has just agreed to pay to the nuclear industry a subsidy that will dwarf, in real terms, all the subsidies ever given to the coal and renewable industries combined, and what is more will be paid to the Chinese and the French. I am lost for words.
Nor am I in any way pleased to be proved instantly correct, that Western governments view terrorist incidents like that in Paris primarily as a means to enhance their power and social control. The French government has immediately seized on the pretext to ban all demonstrations at the forthcoming climate change summit in Paris. Yet they have not banned gatherings of large crowds generically, for example at football matches.
Cameron’s announcement of 15% budget and staff increases for the security services was made immediately after the Paris attacks, but was plainly not something thought up in a few hours. The plans for mass surveillance had already been announced, and would have to be staffed. This kind of sickening political opportunism is the true disrespect to the innocent dead.
David Cameron relies on the complicity of mainstream media and the gullibility and disinterest of the British public to get away with an extraordinary switch. Two years ago he was strongly urging military action in Syria against the forces of President Assad. Now he urges military action against the enemies of President Assad. That includes against groups and individuals who were initially armed and financed by western intelligence agencies, and are still being financed by our Saudi “allies”.
Indeed one of the many extraordinary features of this fervid political period is that the neo-cons (be they Tory or Blairite) who are so actively beating the drum for war, are the ones who absolutely refuse to acknowledge that the source of the poison is Saudi Arabia. Cameron today told Westminster that the head of the snake is in Raqqa. That is plainly untrue. The head of the snake is in Riyadh. But if your God is Mammon, that is blasphemy.
It is also fascinating that the same people who triumphantly warned Putin he would get blowback from bombing the Islamists in Syria, deny that our invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan and bombing of Libya have any blowback effect or in any way cause terrorism in the West. The hypocrisy would be hilarious were it not so serious.
The French are pounding the city of Raqqa as I write and the truth is, whatever the propaganda, that they have already killed more entirely innocent civilians in their bombing than were killed in the horrible atrocity in Paris. The killing on both sides is mindless. The majority of those the French are bombing into oblivion in Raqqa are people horrified at being occupied by ISIL, just as the people killed by ISIL in Paris were ordinary people as powerless as the rest of us to affect the way the elite run our foreign policy. Those who believe that the random killing of bombing is the solution to random killing are crazy.
I was terribly, terribly sad for the victims of Paris and their loved ones. But I could not help but note that we did not fly flags at half mast or illuminate buildings in the rather lighter tones of red white and blue that could have marked Russia losing nearly twice as many dead in a related terrorist atrocity just a few weeks before.
For the terrorists themselves, I have no sympathy. To kill entirely innocent people is indefensible in any circumstances. To believe that religious kudos can be gained from killing the innocent is incredibly sick.
I have often argued that it is actually not difficult to commit a terrorist attack. If I wanted to kill people next week, did not care who I killed, and was prepared to die myself, I could most certainly do so successfully. The key point is of course that in reality there are very, very few people deranged enough to carry out such atrocious acts. Any rational analysis shows this is not an existential threat. Terrible as these attacks were, they killed 0.01% – that’s one in ten thousand – of the population of Paris. They increased the tiny chance of being murdered in France by only 20%. There are over 600 murders a year in France. Many more people die every year in traffic accidents in Paris than were killed in this atrocity.
I am not trying to mitigate the evil or atrocity, I am trying to put it in context. The drama of the incident is used vastly to exaggerate its impact and to justify those moves which the Establishment had up their sleeve anyway as the vast and growing disparity between rich and poor calls for more weapons of social control. These include massive surveillance of the population, larger and more intrusive security services, aggressive policing, an institutional system of informers in education, a new crime of “non-violent extremism”, and of course yet more wars in the Middle East –
The sad thing is of course that the terrorists are so stupid as to increase the powers of the very forces in society whose policies they purport to be fighting, while the only people they kill are also those getting the short straw of society’s gross inequality. I suspect the leadership knows this. Of course, if you are a Saudi prince, then right wing, highly authoritarian western governments hostile to economic equality are exactly what you want too. It makes your lifestyle in London, Paris and Monte Carlo so much easier.
Meanwhile David Cameron thrashes about. The only way he can see to look credible is to go and bomb someone, even if it is the opposite side he wanted to bomb last time. It won’t stop terrorism, but it will be good for the arms manufacturers and security industry. It will help stoke the jingoism that is so useful in enabling the wealthy to maintain their firm grip on political power.
Actually stopping terrorism would of course do none of those useful things for the Establishment. I do not claim that the Establishment deliberately employs a Middle Eastern policy that promotes and exacerbates terrorism. But their policy has that effect, and they use its consequence in their own interest in retaining a firm grip on political power. It helps further ensure that political power will not be employed to reorder society upon more egalitarian lines.
Dear President Ahtisaari,
I had the pleasure of meeting you on a number of occasions over the years, including when I was British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, and I recall your genuine concern for democracy and human rights in a region where they are sadly neglected.
Like a great many people in Scotland I was shocked that CMI is employing Jim Murphy. Of course, in a democracy there are always losers as well as winners in elections, and both are genuine and valid participants in public life. It is not the fact that CMI employs a politician who has been so recently, comprehensively and humiliatingly rejected by his national electorate that will do any damage to CMI. In a sense I think it does you credit.
What shocks many people here is that Mr Murphy is by any standards a dedicated warmonger. He was a major and important proponent of the invasion of Iraq, and is the strongest of supporters of the massive increase of Britain’s nuclear arsenal, in breach of the Non Proliferation Treaty.
Mr Murphy is a member of the Henry Jackson Society, which as you know is a body which exists to promote United States neo-conservative foreign policy in its most aggressive sense, and openly and actively supports and condones extraordinary rendition and the use of torture by the CIA. It has supported every single military action by the USA since its formation, and defends United States exceptionalism in international law, including US non-membership of the International Criminal Court.
Mr Murphy’s belief set is therefore fundamentally at odds with the stated aims of CMI. Indeed, his employment by you can only lead to the suspicion that CMI’s stated objectives are not its real objectives, and that like Mr Murphy and the Henry Jackson Society your overriding goal in the regions where you operate is to promote the interests of the United States.
As you are funded by charitable donations and by governments, I think some explanation of your employment of Mr Murphy is in order, particularly when you have employed him as a conflict resolution expert in the Caucasus and Central Asia when he has no relevant experience of conflict resolution at all, virtually none of the Caucasus, and absolutely none of Central Asia.
I was the Head of the UK Delegation that negotiated the Sierra Leone Peace Treaty, and certainly under no circumstances would I let Jim Murphy anywhere near that kind of negotiation.
With All Best Wishes,
Amb (rtd.) Craig Murray
…on the day that they expel every last war criminal from their ranks and write formally to the Hague to request the prosecution of Blair, Straw, Campbell, Dearlove and Scarlett – just to start the prosecutions.
Thank you for all the very kind enquiries following my last post and the subsequent silence. I came back from West Africa with a fever and absolutely exhausted, and have been recovering my strength. I can see why some of you guessed I was going to join the Labour Party from my last post, but no that is quite wrong. Scottish independence remains my overriding priority.