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There will be a screening of the documentary London Calling – How the BBC Stole the Independence Referendum – at the Steps Theatre, Dundee on 5 November at 1pm. It will be followed by a discussion including Mark McNaught and myself.
The event is ticketed, but tickets are free here.
The previous evening, 4 November at 7pm, there will be a screening of London Calling by Yes Kelty at the Moray Institute, Main Street, Kelty. I shall be speaking alongside the film’s director Alan Knight. I do not believe this is ticketed but look here for updates.
The evening before that, 3 November (I have no idea why I am strangely working backwards) I shall be speaking to the Yes Pentlands group. This is not a screening, rather one of my talks on Independence. UPDATE This will be in Tanners lounge bar, 459 Lanark Road, Edinburgh, EH14 5BA. Doors open 7pm for a 7.30pm start on 3 November.
I am available, free of charge, for such events, with or without a screening of London Calling. I may attempt to make a sneaky signed book sale or two on the side! Do not hesitate to contact me via the button at the top of this blog if you wish to invite me for your group.
I have always glazed over at any mention of Hillary Clinton’s emails. The USA is not my country, and it seemed like a rather boring argument about classifications and document security. I also had a natural resistance to anything that appeared to promote the interests of Donald Trump. I now realise that is how a complicit media was deliberately presenting it, and my lack of interest was the desired effect. They are still presenting the issues in a manner which I hope I will be able to prove to you is entirely tendentious. So this weekend I request you to grit your teeth, set aside your disinterest and read through this article. Please.
Those Hillary server emails are largely a separate thing to those which WikiLeaks has been releasing. What the WikiLeaks release of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary campaign chair Podesta emails has proved beyond any reasonable doubt, is the extent of Hillary’s corruption. Both in terms of the fixing of the primary election against Bernie Sanders by the people who were supposed to be organising it, and the vast sums of money the Clinton family were receiving personally through Clinton Foundation and consultancy activity linked to State Department access, decisions and activity.
Before Clinton handed over her private email server to the FBI investigation into her handling of classified material, she scrubbed over 30,000 emails and had drives physically treated to ensure permanent destruction. It is obviously very likely that many of those emails referred to the kind of nefarious activity we are now seeing from the DNC and Podesta leaks.
It is also of course a fact that those 30,000 emails all had recipients, as well as Hillary as a sender. We can be sure that a major effort will have been undertaken to make sure recipients deleted them too. But from time to time some are sure to turn up. That is what has just happened and prompted yesterday’s announcement of a renewed investigation. In the course of an unrelated investigation into alleged paedophile grooming, the FBI has come across some of Hillary’s deleted emails on the device of a close political aide.
The FBI has a plain duty, every time they come across emails that were sent from Hillary’s private server but deleted and not given to them, to look at this new material. The very fact it was deleted, makes it rather more probable that it is relevant, than the carefully selected harmless material that was given to them. This is going to go on for years, because undoubtedly from time to time copies of some of those deleted emails will turn up. That is going to be very interesting if, as I expect, Clinton is elected President. It will necessitate a Presidential pardon from Obama to clear it up. I am assured by a DC source that an outgoing President can pardon people for crimes they may have committed but haven’t been convicted of yet. I find that somewhat mind-boggling.
It is also very much worth noting that the fact that the received versions of deleted emails were found on a device of Huma Abedin, Clinton’s political aide, makes it very improbable that they were deleted because they were purely personal and family affairs. Clinton stated thaht the only emails she deleted were personal and family. Hmmm – so why to a political aide?
You will not get a clear analysis of these issues from the mainstream media. That is because they are of course part of the money/power nexus in which Clinton is intimately connected, and they expect Clinton to win. I think their fear of Trump is exaggerated. He and Clinton are two plutocrat candidates in a system laughingly labelled democracy. They move in the same social and financial circles.
My favourite fact of this election remains that Trump actually paid Clinton a large fee to attend his wedding. In slightly differing ways, that says a huge amount about how disgusting each of them are.
I reserve a special contempt for those journalists and politicians who support Clinton on the apparent grounds that a female corrupt plutocrat is better than a male corrupt plutocrat. Indeed, the entirely cynical exploitation of identity politics by the Clinton campaign, in terms both of its faux-feminism and its cynical manipulation of black and Hispanic voters, is one of the most chilling things about the leaked emails.
With two such appalling candidates, there is a major problem. Many people are voting Trump to stop Clinton, even though they don’t like Trump. Many others are voting Clinton to stop Trump, even though they don’t like Clinton. Both Republicans and Democrats fear that if they support a third party candidate, they will let the other in. This is a kind of lesser of two extremely evil evils approach.
Sam Husseini has come up with Vote Pact. It enables pairing – a Republican and Democrat who trust each other should agree both to vote for a third party candidate. Both Trump and Clinton have therefore lost one each, and you can vote third party with no fear of having contributed to letting the greater evil in. It is a neat concept. Of course it will not catch on and will have no overall effect. I note it as an aid for those struggling with their conscience.
I expect Hillary to win, but Trump to do a lot better than expected. There are many “shy Trump” voters out there.
The Daily Mail has published the first review of Sikunder Burnes, and I am happy to say it is extremely good. An extract:
By Peter Oborne
His latest book is a rollicking life of Alexander Burnes, the British adventurer, diplomat, warrior and spy, whose life was straight out of George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman novels.
A great-nephew of Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns, Alexander was only 16 when he signed up for the private army of the East India Company.
A brilliant linguist, he was soon dispatched on a series of secret missions through Persia, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, as well as the Punjab and Sindh in modern Pakistan. He often travelled in disguise, taking incredible risks.
Murray identifies with his subject, perhaps not least for the way that Burnes inveigled himself into the harems of the rulers he visited along the way.
However, there was a deadly serious purpose to his travels. The British were convinced the Russians planned to send an army across the Khyber Pass to conquer India. The aim of Burnes’s exploration was to survey the terrain and assess tribal alliances in order to combat the Russian menace.
Burnes argued that Britain should ally with Afghan ruler Dost Mohammad Khan, in order to create a barrier against Russia.
However, his bosses overruled him. They believed the only way of stopping a Russian invasion was by getting rid of Khan altogether and replacing him with a puppet ruler supposedly loyal to Britain.
In 1839, with many misgivings, Burnes agreed to play a leading role in a military expedition to overthrow Khan, a man he liked and admired.
At first, the British Army met with success. Kabul fell, and by the summer of 1840, British forces were in occupation of the Afghan capital and the puppet ruler was duly installed.
However, deposed Khan proved an astute enemy and his Afghan tribes combined to rise up against the invader.
The story of Burnes ends with him being hacked to death by a tribal mob in his home in Kabul — the prelude to a grisly period which saw the expulsion of all British soldiers from Afghanistan. He was only 36.
The parallel with Britain’s 21st-century overseas misfortunes are astonishing.
Murray shows how Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston, architect of the Afghan invasion, deliberately misrepresented Burnes’s advice to persuade MPs of the case for invasion.
The comparison with Tony Blair and Sir John Scarlett’s dodgy dossier ahead of the 2003 Iraq invasion is even more mind-boggling.
Like Blair and Scarlett, Palmerston paid no price for his deception, rising to become one of Britain’s most celebrated prime ministers.
It is also remarkable that nearly 170 years after Burnes’s death, British forces were once again dragged into Afghanistan.
Tony Blair’s calamitous decision to send British troops to Helmand Province in the south of the country led to a similar uprising to that by the very Afghan tribes which did for Burnes in 1841.
And today, just as in 1841, the British military and political establishments are convulsed by Russophobia.
Apart from its scholarly merits, Murray’s book is a terrific read. He has done full justice to the life of a remarkable British hero, without ignoring his faults.
M urray shows, for instance, how in Burnes’s final months he grew arrogant, aloof and brutal as his personality was warped by the fatal decision to invade Afghanistan.
Yet Murray challenges the established view, accepted by all modern historians, that Burnes inflamed Afghan opposition by taking liberties with the native women.
He certainly does not challenge the notion that Burnes was a womaniser, but he shows that, alive to the danger of alienating Afghan pride, Burnes brought with him to Kabul a harem of beautiful Kashmiri women to cater for his needs.
For all his failings, Burnes remains one of the great heroes of the British imperial adventure, and Murray has done him proud.
Apart from anything else, this splendid book contains all the ingredients for a truly magnificent movie.
‘Murray’s book is a terrific read. He has done full justice to the life of a remarkable British hero, without ignoring his faults’ — Peter Oborne, Daily Mail
‘An important re-evaluation of this most intriguing figure’ — William Dalrymple
‘This is a fascinating book … his research has been prodigious, both in libraries and on foot. He knows a huge amount about Burnes’s life and work’ —Allan Massie, The Scotsman
‘If you are a fan of the Flashman series of books, you will be gripped by the story of this British spy’ —Hannah Ferret, The Sun
This blog has been going for over ten years now and has never asked for money or taken advertising. In that time I have continually campaigned on a whole variety of issues, though chiefly human rights, Scottish independence, against war, and on the need for a profoundly more equal society. I have travelled the length and breadth of the UK and around the world to speak at literally hundreds of public meetings, and have appeared in numerous videos and documentaries. My primary purpose has always been as much to promote debate and the ability to think well outside the increasingly narrow box which society prescribes, as to convert to my own precise views.
And I have been paid for almost none of it. I do it entirely because I believe in it. I have never asked readers for cash to keep this blog going. I have never asked for a fee to speak in a good cause.
But I do ask you, now, to buy my book. I ask you to do this to get the book itself (and buy more for Christmas presents!) but also as a recompense to pay for any of my work you have enjoyed on this blog, or elsewhere, over the past decade. Sikunder Burnes is the result of eight years of unfunded hard work, and manuscript research in England, Scotland and India. It is, I believe, worth every penny it costs. I appreciate it is expensive, and I have no difficulty whatsoever if you prefer to buy the electronic version which is a great deal cheaper.
It is the story of the fascinating life of a man both caught up in, and attempting to shape, an astonishing period of Scottish, British, Indian, Pakistani, Kalati, Afghan, Uzbek, Iranian and Russian history. As I hope you would expect from me, it even bursts out from such a broad canvass into all kinds of unexpected intellectual directions, many of which surprised me too!
My preference would be for you to buy it from a bookshop if you can, because bookshops need support. Otherwise you can order it from thehive.co.uk (where it is currently cheaper) or from Amazon. Doubtless other online options are available. Unfortunately we live in a country where some people cannot afford a book, and in that case you would much oblige me by asking for it from your local library.
To tax your patience further, I should be most grateful if you could do a couple of other things. Firstly, once read leave a review of the book, on Amazon, Goodreads, or any other available forum. Please note that I am not asking you to puff the book – I should be very grateful if you could leave completely honest reviews.
Secondly, it would be very helpful if you could leave comments below on your experience of buying the book. If online, was it in stock, how quickly did it come and what did you pay? If in a bookshop, did they have it on a shelf, did they appear to have heard of it, did it have to be ordered in and how long did that take etc.? Library feedback is also most welcome. We will keep this page permanently available for comment on the blog, renamed The Sikunder Burnes Page. Your views on the book are also very welcome here.
Frankly, I do need the revenue from the book to keep going because at the moment finances are very tight. But it means more to me than that, in that it represents a step towards a new career direction where a shunned whistleblower might be permitted to work.
Please do buy, and enjoy, Sikunder Burnes.
UPDATE We are no longer selling signed editions from this blog, as we have run out. I have also finally given in and started accepting subscriptions to keep the blog going; its very success keeps making it more expensive to run.
This is going to annoy a good many traditionalists, but here goes…
Edinburgh is already the wealthiest and economically most successful city in Scotland. For the first time in 200 years it has overtaken Glasgow in population. Its housing is becoming prohibitively expensive for ordinary citizens. A two bedroom flat carved out of a converted house goes for £250,000 in a “normal” area. Three bed family homes are well over £350,000 in much of the city.
In any state, the capital sucks in economic resources from the rest of the country, because that is where the centre of government services lies. London currently absorbs an awful lot of Scottish taxpayers’ money, and the Treasury counts projects such as crossrail as a UK, not just English, benefit – a fact worth remembering when you look at GERS figures.
An independent Scotland will need new ministries of foreign affairs, defence, and immigration/security, and a much bigger ministry of finance. It will need a central bank. On top of which it will receive at least 60 foreign embassies and also, and often forgotten, about the same again in national offices of international institutions like the EU, World Bank, IMF, EBRD, etc. That also comes with an economic boom to supply all the needed accommodation and infrastructure.
But that is by no means all. Edinburgh is already a huge international finance sector. Insurance companies, fund managers and banks based in Edinburgh manage more assets than are held in the Paris, behind only London and Frankfurt in the EU. If the rest of the UK plunges out of the EU while Scotland stays in, where will be the obvious bolthole for financial institutions wishing to headquarter in a location which gives continued free access to EU markets, while minimising dislocation effects and need for new languages? Edinburgh.
That is not the only benefit which a Scotland still in the EU will gain from the new situation. The astonishing xenophobia south of the border is dictating a severe reduction in numbers of overseas students. If Scotland is independent and still in the EU, which English speaking destination with superb universities will those students go to instead? The continued expansion of the University and of student accommodation is already out of hand in Edinburgh city centre – this will get worse.
The truth is, post independence the economic boom which will hit Edinburgh will be more than the city can physically handle. It will be much more sensible to remove the public sector element – the functions and accretions of a capital city – to another destination.
This will shock traditionalists, but Edinburgh will always have its history and the tourists that come with it. There are older capitals available. Dunkeld of the Picts probably does not have enough available land. But Perth does, close to the ancient installation site of the rulers at Scone. Scone Palace would be a magnificent residence for Scotland’s President after Lizzie is given her marching orders.
Many countries have moved to brand new capitals. My own choice of capital would be Dundee. The railway, road and airport connections already exist and the Caird Hall could be converted to a magnificent parliament. The seat of Scottish government is currently Ruth Davidson’s constituency – surely it would be much better to move it to Yes City.
In general, I don’t like or dislike people for their politics. This is sometimes worrying. I was, rather strangely, on a Christian radio show with Zac Goldsmith once, and we chatted afterwards, and he seemed a really pleasant and genuine person. I was surprised by the stuff he allowed in his name during the London mayoral election.
Similarly I went out drinking with David Aaronovitch after a debate in Dublin and we got on famously. I seldom agree with him, and therefore attack him often on my blog, but I have to admit I like him in person.
But I am very happy to say, that the only time I ever met Toby Young, when I lived in Acton, I had to be physically restrained from a desire to attack him with a wine bottle. Even I have my limits.
1) A containerful of shoddy training shoes are produced in China, shipped to UK, sorted by lowly paid British zero hours workers and put on shelves of High Street sports shop.
2) While this is happening, sterling plunges 25%.
3) Coachload of Chinese tourists visit sports shop attracted by collapsed pound sterling. They exclaim “Wow Western trainers! And so cheap”. They buy them to take back to China as gifts for family members they don’t like that much.
4) Declare a Brexit sales boom!
The expert among you will have noted this economic model is not very sustainable.
It is disconcerting to be praised by a website whose next article warns of a “plague of sodomites”. Sometimes truth-telling is a difficult act because truth is a simple matter of fact; who might seek to exploit that truth is a different question. I almost certainly have little in common with the anti-gay people who chose to commend me.
It is however incumbent on those who know truth to reveal it to the best of their ability, particularly if it contradicts an untruth being put about widely. The lie that WikiLeaks is acting as an agent of the Russian state is one that needs to be countered. Wikileaks is much more important than a mere state propaganda organisation, and needs to be protected.
Political lying is a sad fact of modern life, but some lies are more dangerous than others. Hillary Clinton’s lies that the Podesta and Democratic National Congress email leaks are hacks by the Russian state, should be countered because they are untrue, and because their intention is to distract attention from her own corrupt abuse of power and money. But even more so because they recklessly feed in to a Russophobia which is starting to exceed Cold War levels in terms of open public abuse.
Clinton has made no secret of her view that Obama has not been forceful enough in his dealings in Syria, and within her immediate circle she has frequently referred to the Cuban missile crisis as the precedent for how she believes Russia must be faced down. It is her intention to restore US international prestige by such a confrontation with Putin in Syria early in her Presidency, and perhaps more to the point to restore the prestige of the office of POTUS and thus enhance her chances of getting her way with a probable Republican controlled senate and congress.
The problem with a game of nuclear armed chicken is we might all end up dead. The Americans do not read Putin well. As my readers know, I am in no way a fan of Putin. He believes he has a personal vocation to restore Russian greatness and has been ever more consumed by a religious devotion to the Orthodox Russian Church. It seems to me highly improbable Hillary can make him back down over Syria. I am no more a fan of Assad than I am a fan of Putin. Nevertheless to risk nuclear war over a desire to replace Assad with rival swarms of vicious disjointed Saudi and Al-Qaeda backed jihadist militias, scarcely seems sensible.
Is Trump any less dangerous? I don’t know. I simply fail to understand the cultural background from which he springs, and what I do understand, I dislike. Were I an American, I would have backed Bernie Sanders and I would now back Jill Stein.
It is worth noting that Hillary’s claim that 17 US Intelligence Agencies agree that Russia was the source of the leaks is plainly untrue. All they have said is that the leaks “are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed attacks.” Under extreme White House pressure to state that the Russians did it, that extremely weak statement was the only thing that the US Intelligence chiefs could cobble together. It is very plainly an admission there is no evidence that Russia did it, but the appalling corporate media have reported it as though it “proves” Hillary’s accusation of Russia is true.
Bill Binney is like myself a former recipient of the Sam Adams Award – the World’s foremost whistleblowing award. Bill was the senior NSA Director who actually oversaw the design of their current mass surveillance software, and Bill has been telling anybody who will listen exactly what I have been telling – that this material was not hacked from Russia. Bill believes – and nobody has better contacts or understanding of capability than Bill – that the material was leaked from within the US intelligence services.
I was in Washington last month to chair the presentation of the Sam Adams Award to heroic former ex-CIA agent and whistleblower John Kiriakou. There were on the platform with me a dozen or so former very senior and distinguished officers of the CIA, NSA, FBI and US Army. All now identify with the whistleblower community. There were speeches of tremendous power and insight about state abuse, from those who really know. But as usual, not one mainstream media outlet turned up to report an award whose previous winners and still active participants include Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning.
Similarly my statement of definite knowledge that Russia is not behind the Clinton leaks has caused enormous interest in the internet. One article alone about my visit to Assange has 174,000 Facebook likes. Across all internet media we calculate over 30 million people have read my information that Russia was not responsible for these leaks. There is no doubt whatsoever that I have direct access to the correct information.
Yet not one single mainstream media journalist has attempted to contact me.
Why do you think that might be?
I have just finished giving evidence to the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament on torture and extraordinary rendition. I am dashing off now and will give a fuller account later of what I said only. But I will just say that I was very happily surprised by how genuine the committee were, by the acuity of their questioning and by what was revealed of the general trend of their thinking. I perceived no hostility at all. I rather hope, and believe I have grounds to hope, that their eventual report will contain more of both truth and wisdom than is generally expected.
1) Go into the Foreign Office and read ten Top Secret documents about UK collaboration with torture to refresh my memory. Hand back documents and my notes in a double sealed envelope (have just done this bit).
2) Immediately after reading Top Secret documents, go to see Julian Assange for a whisky in the Ecuador Embassy (am on my way).
3) Tomorrow morning, arrive at Parliament Intelligence and Security Committee to give evidence in secret session. Get handed hopefully still double sealed envelope with my notes to use during evidence. Hand back notes for destruction when finished.
4) Immediately after very secret evidence session, go for (hopefully boozy) lunch with Peter Oborne.
Sometimes I quite enjoy my life. If you can’t annoy the arrogant bastards who run the world for the 1%, what point is there in living?
I left Julian after midnight. He is fit, well, sharp and in good spirits. WikiLeaks never reveals or comments upon its sources, but as I published before a fortnight ago, I can tell you with 100% certainty that it is not any Russian state actor or proxy that gave the Democratic National Committee and Podesta material to WikiLeaks. The claim is nonsense. Journalists are also publishing that these were obtained by “hacking” with no evidence that this was the method used to obtain them.
The control of the Democratic party machinery deliberately to unfairly ensure Clinton’s victory over Bernie Sanders is a matter of great public interest. The attempt by the establishment from Obama down to divert attention from this by a completely spurious claim against Russia, repeated without investigation by a servile media, is a disgrace.
The over-close relationship between the probable future President and Wall Street is also very important. WikiLeaks has done a great public service by making this plain.
The attempts by the mainstream media to portray WikiLeaks as supporters of Trump and Putin because they publish some of Clinton’s darker secrets is completely illogical and untrue in fact. The idea we must pretend Clinton is a saint is emetic.
But the key point is that WikiLeaks is a publisher. It is a vehicle for publishing leaks, and is much more of a vehicle for whistleblowers than for hackers. It does not originate the material. I have often seen comments such as “Why has WikiLeaks not published material on Israel/Putin/Trump?” The answer is that they have not been given any. They publish good, verifiable material that they are given by whistleblowers. They are not protecting Israel, Putin, or Trump. Nobody has given them viable material.
Ecuador is keen to make plain that they are not interfering in the US election and wish to make plain material on the Presidential candidates is not being published from their facilities. Julian has no problem with the statement put out by Ecuador yesterday. It is worth noting that WikiLeaks is established in several countries and nothing has ever been published by WikiLeaks from any facility situated in the Ecuadorean Embassy.
It is very hard to understand why The Spectator would wish to pay Nick Cohen substantial money to write a column defending Brian Spanner and Stephen Daisley, and claiming the SNP has destroyed free media in Scotland.
To start with the most astonishing, Nick Cohen vociferously denies that “Brian Spanner” is a misogynist. Yet his own article contains a series of appalling tweets from Spanner, sent to Cohen by John Nicolson MP in an effort to make Cohen see sense. They include these tweets:
Margaret Curran: is she a victim of FGM? She is a torn faced cunt.
Mhairi Black is a nasty little fuck.
Poor Roseanna Cunningham. The change really has made her a bitter shovelled old cunt.
Plainly Cohen’s repeated assertion that Spanner is not misogynist is simply a lie. Cohen’s argument – that Spanner could not be misogynist as he is a friend of J K Rowling – is nonsensical. For those who were not already aware of her appalling neo-con politics, Rowling’s friendship with whoever “Spanner” really is might give some worrying indication of Rowling’s character. But it can in no way be said to prove Spanner is not misogynist. I am not sure it is possible to imagine more misogynist material than the above.
Long term readers of this blog will know that Daisley and Cohen are old comrades in arms. Daisley, Cohen, Murdoch attack dog Oliver Kamm and the Guardian’s Hadley Freeman indulged together in a mainstream media anti-Craig Murray hate fest on twitter.
A year ago I published about Daisley:
It is amazing to me that a supposed “journalist” working for a broadcaster would be so completely open about their anti-SNP, unionist, anti-Corbyn and far right agenda. Daisley is only very small beer, a stinking, sweating foot-soldier of the forces of reaction. But if you can stand it, the way the unionist establishment interacts and thinks is revealed very clearly from a study of his twitter feed. Messages are exchanged with Aaronovitch of Murdoch, Nick Cohen of the Guardian, with John McTernan of the Blairites and with J K Rowling of the 1%, and a great many others. The SNP and Corbyn are smugly derided by all. These well-paid state supporters live in a cosy Panglossian paradise and have contempt for anyone who is not “in”.
Cohen’s fury that a member of his neo-con clique should be denigrated, leads him to deny the existence of the most extreme misogyny imaginable. It also leads him to make the laughable assertion that the SNP control the media in Scotland. In Scotland the BBC, STV and 80% of the newspapers are viciously anti-SNP. Plainly that is not enough for Cohen. He hates the SNP for providing an alternative to unionism, he hates Corbyn for providing an alternative to neo-liberalism, and he hates the idea of anybody criticising the neo-con cheerleaders. His pathology is simple enough. But why does the Spectator pay him for it?
Today, Swedish prosecutors were meant to question Julian Assange in the Ecuadorean Embassy, something for which the Assange legal team has been pressing for years. They believe that once this step has been taken, prosecutors will no longer be able to keep from the scrutiny of Swedish courts the fact that there is no viable evidence whatsoever to back up the ludicrous allegations which have been made.
Frustratingly, Swedish prosecutors cancelled the interview last week, with no explanation given. Anyone would think they do not wish the investigation to progress… Then this same day Assange’s internet access is cut, WikiLeaks say by a state actor. To add to this string of coincidence, at the same time Russia Today has its bank accounts frozen by the Royal Bank of Scotland, again without explanation
This series of events are all aimed at those who seek to counter the neo-con narrative pumped out by the state and corporate media. It could be coincidence, but it looks like co-ordinated clampdown to me.
I am very honoured that Alan Bennett wrote, and has now published, that he would have voted for me. From his 2005 diary
25 April Keep being rung by journalists asking how I intend to vote, information which I don’t divulge not because I’ve got any principled notions to do with the secret ballot but because I like disappointing newspapers. If I were a voter in the Blackburn constituency my vote would go to Craig Murray, the ex-ambassador to Uzbekistan, who resigned from the diplomatic service over the foreign secretary’s refusal to discount information obtained by torture in the prisons of Uzbekistan, a decision that means torture is likely to continue. If there is a market for the information why should it stop? Mr [Jack] Straw claims to have lost sleep over his decision. Some of the tortured will have lost sleep, too, but that’s because they will have lost fingernails first. I suppose I despise Straw more than Blair, thinking, perhaps wrongly, that he is capable of better.
8 July Shocked that after the initial horror my first reaction to the Tube and bus bombings should be “How convenient” and at how little of what we are told I now believe. As Blair lines up in front of his sombre colleagues at Gleneagles it’s hard not to think how useful this outrage is and how effectively it silences the critics. And as Bush and Blair trot out their vapid platitudes about “the War on Terror”, give or take a few score of dead it’s hard not to think things are well under control. No one as yet suggests or speculates that this new front in “the War on Terror” might have been avoided had the country not gone to war in the first place. Only yesterday the Guardian reprinted an LRB piece revealing how Iraq had been fleeced of billions of dollars via Paul Bremer’s so-called aid programme – the figures those of US auditors whose reports have passed without notice. Except that they’re maybe even now being read by some burning-eyed youth planning more and worse.
I have been extremely fortunate in enjoying the friendship of great playwrights. I had a late relationship with Harold Pinter which meant a great deal to me; he wrote a cover quote for Murder in Samarkand
on a restaurant menu when we were both pretty pissed. David Hare spent time with me and researching me before writing his radio play, and we still send occasional mutual encouragement. Robin Soans has been extremely supportive and great company, and now we have this from Alan Bennett. You can jeer at me now for pseudo-intellectual drivel, but I think playwrights enjoy people who are imperfect, and that is why we get on. Paragons can be so boring.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has agreed that I shall be able to review Top Secret and other classified documents which contain the evidence of UK complicity in torture and my attempts to stop it, before giving evidence to the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament. But under conditions which make plain the determination that the dirtiest of secrets will remain firmly shut away. Given that parliament actually defers to the FCO over what can and cannot be done, the entire pointlessness of the Intelligence and Security Committee Inquiry is starkly revealed.
Gareth Peirce as my counsel is not to be allowed in to any of my evidence where anything secret is being discussed – which is 100% of it. I think that really says everything about the “Inquiry” that you need to know.
Here is the communication from the FCO:
FCO policy is that access to documents by former officials when giving evidence to a Committee is subject to the discretion of the Director/ Minister. The documents in question include highly classified material, and Mr Murray does not currently hold any security clearance. However, as he is a former FCO employee who has already seen the specified documents, and as these documents have been shared with the ISC for its Inquiry, we are content to grant him access to these documents for the purposes of giving evidence to the ISC Detainee Inquiry. In line with FCO policy on information security, we must impose the following terms of access:
(a) Mr Murray will be allowed to view hard copies of the documents in the FCO for the purposes of preparing evidence. We will arrange a mutually convenient date and time for him to view the documents.
(b) While viewing the documents, Mr Murray will not have access to any electronic devices- in line with FCO policy for current staff- and will be accompanied by a member of the FCO Estates and Security Directorate.
(c) Once he is finished, Mr Murray will be asked to place any notes he has taken in a sealed envelope and to sign the seal. FCO officials will pass this envelope to the ISC, who will make it available to Mr Murray at his oral evidence session. The envelope will be kept in secure facilities in line with the FCO’s policy on handling classified material. The envelope will not be opened by anyone other than Mr Murray.
(d) When Mr Murray has completed his oral evidence, these notes will be destroyed.
(e) Mr Murray’s lawyer will not be permitted to see any classified documents or be present when classified evidence is being discussed, as she holds no security clearance.
This is consistent with the approach we have taken in similar cases where former officials have had to give evidence based on classified material. These terms are in line with standard FCO policy and ensure that we are able to continue cooperating fully with the ISC Detainee Inquiry.
The BBC spin on Nicola Sturgeon’s speech was that actually it was a move further back from Indyref2. It can be interpreted that way. In effect she was saying that leaving the EU is perhaps not a “material change” triggering Indyref2, only hard Brexit would be a “material change”. On this reading, as given by Brian Taylor of the BBC, the publishing of a draft Indyref bill is simply a sop to placate the SNP troops in the hall.
But I am satisfied that Nicola has in fact deliberately set conditions for Scotland to remain in the Union which she knows Theresa May will under no circumstances meet. Barring continued full access for Scotland to the single market, which simply cannot happen if England leaves it, then she insists that not only must the powers held by Brussels come to Scotland (eg fisheries) but that Scotland must control its own immigration policy and run its own foreign relations.
Now nobody is more fervent than me in wanting to get on with Independence and an early second referendum. But I am very happy with the criteria which Nicola has set out, which Theresa May is bound to attempt to sweep right over on the current wave of xenophobic jingoism prevailing in England. Not only will Sturgeon’s conditions not be met, it will be made very plain very quickly that they are not going to be met.
I think like all decent people, Nicola Sturgeon was quite genuinely appalled by celebration of open racism at the Tory party conference – her passage on this was very strong and very good. That has spurred her to abandon some of her usual caution and not really leave herself an out. We are going to see a second Independence referendum before the next Scottish parliamentary elections, and I am extremely happy about it.
The spectacular and continuing fall in the value of the pound will add over £50 billion to the cost of Trident. Yes, bits of steel are being welded together in the UK, but the steel is imported and so is the missile technology.
Similarly, Hinkley Point will be in trouble. The Chinese and French are to build it against guarantees of income from future energy prices fixed at double the cost of current wholesale electricity. But the hard currency value of that income has now been slashed. I do not know the precise details of the contracts, but the French and Chinese not being stupid, my guess is that their income from it is set in a proper stable currency not in sterling. Which means that electricity prices to the British consumer will have to not just double as planned, but go up 50% again, to cover the diminished value of sterling.
Of course, it would be wonderful if all this led to both Trident and Hinkley Point being cancelled, but sadly politicians are wed to nuclear projects, both civil and military, as both symbol and source of vast central power for them and their paymasters. But the implications of paying for them with Mickey Mouse currency are going to bite the Tory loons hard in coming months.
This is the result of NATO bombing of Sirte to “enforce the no-fly zone” in Libya.
When the neo-cons in the UK parliament and the serial warmonger Hillary Clinton call for a “no-fly zone” they actually mean the opposite. They mean that NATO should be given untrammelled access to the airspace to carry out mass bombings – but that nobody else should.
We saw it in Libya. The argument goes like this. NATO aircraft need to enforce the no-fly zone. To do this in safety, they need to attack and destroy any ground to air weapons capabilities on the ground. That does not just include surface to air missiles, both carriage mounted and hand held, but anything that can be pointed upwards and fired. They need to take out by more bombing any stores that may house such weapons. They need to take out any radar installations, including civilian ones, that may pinpoint NATO aircraft. They need to destroy any runways and hangars, including civilian ones. They need to destroy by bombing all military command and control centres, including those in built up areas. They need to destroy the infrastructure on which air defence relies, including electricity generation and water supply, including civilian assets.
I am not exaggerating. That really is the doctrine of NATO for enforcing a “no fly zone”, as previously witnessed in Iraq and Libya. It really was NATO aircraft which did to the beautiful Mediterranean town of Sirte the destruction which you see in that picture – in order to enforce a no-fly zone. Enforcement of the no-fly zone was the only authorisation NATO had for the massive bombing campaign on Libya which enabled regime change, which enabled rival jihadist militias to take over the country. They showed their gratitude by murdering the US Ambassador. The failure of central government led to Libya becoming the operating site from which a number now in the hundreds of thousands of boat refugees have crossed to Europe.
Now they wish to do precisely the same again. Make no mistake. Those calling for a “No-fly zone” do indeed want to stop the bombs falling on jihadist-held areas of Aleppo. But they want to replace this with NATO dropping a vastly greater weight of vastly more powerful weaponry on areas held by the Assad regime. They are relentless warmongering bastards, pretending to be motivated by humanitarian concern.
There are no easy answers in Syria. Without Russian and Syrian government air power, Syria might well already have fallen to disparate groups of murdering religious fanatics, who would then have redoubled their existing tendency to also kill each other. The pretence that there is any significant number of pro-western democratic rebels is ludicrous nonsense. But so equally is the pretence that the Assad regime is a decent regime. It is not and never has been. There is always this pathetic reductionism in the western media to conflict as between “good guys” and “bad guys”. They are all killing civilians. They are all bad guys.
If all bombing were to stop, the danger is that jihadists would again gain the upper hand. But in a situation where there are no good options, I think that is still better than the continued bombing of civilian areas held by jihadists. The fact that the West has repeatedly done this massively in Mosul or Fallujah does not make it right for the Russians or Assad to do it now. The moral balance now must be for a halt to all bombing and all military air operations – including by NATO.
A security council resolution could be tabled calling for the end of all military flights, by anybody, over Syrian airspace. The UK and US would oppose that, and so would all those Tories ad Blairites pretending to advocate a no-fly zone in the House of Commons. That would show up the bastards for the evil hypocrites they are.
I am genuinely stunned that, following the competitive racism-fest that was the Tory Party conference, the Tories have gone up in the opinion polls.
I quite admit my judgement was completely wrong. I was feeling happily that the Tories had finally overreached themselves, and the implications of employers drawing up lists of foreign employees, or primary schools writing to parents demanding birth certificates, would be met with popular revulsion from the inherently decent British people.
Well, I was wrong. Racism pays, at least in England. After their Conference the Tories are up to 43%. The Tories and UKIP combined are up to 54%. I am afraid it is intellectually dishonest to avoid the grim truth. At present, you cannot be too racist for popular English taste. The underlying theme of the Labour Party conference was Blairite calls for Labour to join in the mood of xenophobia. Of the existence of that mood there can now be no doubt.
That Scotland has an entirely different political culture to England is now undeniable. I think the map of the EU vote by voting district is crystal clear.
The problem is, “Devolution” does not protect Scotland from implementation of this tide of xenophobia. As immigration is a reserved matter, the refusal of visas to attend non-Russell Group universities will impact harshly on some Scottish universities, even though University policy is theoretically with Holyrood. Similarly Holyrood cannot stop Scottish employers being ordered to draw up lists of foreigners by the Home Office, nor Scottish primary schools carrying out new immigrant checks ordered by Amber Rudd.
Theresa May has already sought to rub Scottish subservience in our faces by making plain Scotland will have no place in Brexit negotiations and Holyrood no veto on any outcome. Now we see the true limitations of our defences against Tory rule.
In the Independence referendum campaign Gordon Brown vowed that, if Scotland voted No to Independence, it would within two years be “as close to a federal state as you can be”. Instead it is as close to a fascist state as you can be.
There is a huge gulf between what is happening in the UK and what a great many No voters in the Indyref, particularly Labour No voters, believed would happen. The political circumstances are now entirely different to those prevailing or promised in 2014.
It is therefore very legitimate, indeed necessary, now to call a second Independence referendum to sort out the mutually conflicting votes of Scots in the Independence and EU referenda. Scots voted, democratically, to be both in the Union and in the EU. But they cannot be in both. It is vital, now, to discover which they want as a matter of democratic legitimacy.
The SNP really must stop havering. Now is the time for Indyref2. we must break free from the toxic culture of jingoism that has swept much of the UK. It is both a political and a moral imperative.
I have been summoned to give evidence before Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee on 20 October, in a secret session. It ought not to be secret as my evidence goes to illegality at the heart of government and collusion in torture. It will be based around the evidence I gave to the Metropolitan Police, which you can read here.
We are now in the ludicrous position where the FCO is considering whether I can be allowed to see documents I actually wrote myself, communications which were sent to me and minutes of meetings I was at, or whether I should be asked to give evidence without any access to the written evidence. I am also waiting to hear whether I shall be allowed to be accompanied by my counsel, the great lawyer Gareth Peirce. I need help and support in preparing and organising my evidence, and I need moral support in appearing in a secret meeting where the large majority of the committee have been chosen specifically as security service “trusties” with an unquestioning neo-con world view. I expect to receive a very hostile reception.
I have just sent this email to the committee:
I have been considering my appearance before the Committee.
As you will know, there has been very substantial doubt in the human rights community about the good faith of your committee’s inquiry. I have been prepared to give the benefit of the doubt and offer to cooperate.
However if the committee really are genuine, they should wish me to be able to prepare and give the best evidence that I am able to do. There is no doubt that something went very wrong in terms of the UK government’s collusion with overseas torture programmes. The Feinstein report made plain that the CIA was very wrong in what it did, and your committee know very well that the CIA was sharing with SIS the intelligence obtained by torture. The British government has settled with large payments cases where the British government was involved more actively.
To the best of my knowledge, I am the only member of the senior civil service in the UK who attempted to raise a red flag and stop what was happening. My evidence is therefore of some weight. I will also testify there was a deliberate policy of not writing down the policy on accepting torture. I was told this directly and can point to documentary evidence of senior level unminuted policy meetings on the specific subject.
At the time I blew the whistle, Jack Straw denied the existence of the extraordinary rendition programme and I faced 18 trumped-up disciplinary charges, some of them criminal in nature, which resulted in the destruction of my career and my health. I attach a letter from the government to Lord Jones of Cheltenham which confirms I was cleared of all the original charges (but found guilty of revealing their existence). To the best of my knowledge this letter tells a direct untruth that the charges against me arose from formal complaints from members of my staff. I was never told this during the disciplinary process and no such formal complaint was ever put to me.
You will therefore understand that it is essential I am given every facility to give the best evidence to the committee. That means I must be allowed to see the paperwork I have requested already, to refresh my memory. It would make a farce of your inquiry were I not allowed to see communications which were sent to me, minutes of meetings I was at, and even correspondence I wrote myself.
I am not prepared to appear before the committee in a position where the members of the committee have the appropriate documents before them, and I do not. Still less when nobody has the relevant documents.
Similarly, I wish to prepare my evidence with my counsel, Gareth Peirce, and to have her alongside to support and advise me in giving my evidence. If the best evidence to get at the truth is the genuine desire of your committee, I am sure you will decide to allow this.
I should be grateful if you could pass this email and its attachment, which I am publishing, to all members of the committee.