The Ubiquity of Evil 4215

My world view changed forever when, after 20 years in the Foreign Office, I saw colleagues I knew and liked go along with Britain’s complicity in the most terrible tortures, as detailed stunningly in the recent Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee Report. They also went along with keeping the policy secret, deliberately disregarding all normal record taking procedures, to the extent that the Committee noted:

131. We note that we have not seen the minutes of these meetings either: this causes us great concern. Policy discussions on such an important issue should have been minuted. We support Mr Murray’s own conclusion that were it not for his actions these matters may never have come to light.

The people doing these things were not ordinarily bad people; they were just trying to keep their jobs, comforting themselves with the thought that they were only civil servants obeying orders. Many were also actuated by the nasty “patriotism” that grips in time of war, as we invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. Almost nobody in the FCO stood up against the torture or against the illegal war – Elizabeth Wilmshurst, Carne Ross and I were the only ones to leave over it.

I then had the still more mortifying experience of the Foreign Office seeking to punish my dissent by bringing a series of accusations of gross misconduct – some of them criminal – against me. The people bringing the accusations knew full well they were false. The people investigating them knew they were false from about day 2. But I was put through a hellish six months of trial by media before being acquitted on all the original counts (found guilty of revealing the charges, whose existence was an official secret!). The people who did this to me were people I knew.

I had served as First Secretary in the British Embassy in Poland, and bumped up startlingly against the history of the Holocaust in that time, including through involvement with organising the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. What had struck me most forcibly was the sheer scale of the Holocaust operation, the tens of thousands of people who had been complicit in administering it. I could never understand how that could happen – until I saw ordinary, decent people in the FCO facilitate extraordinary rendition and torture. Then I understood, for the first time, the banality of evil or, perhaps more precisely, the ubiquity of evil. Of course, I am not comparing the scale of what happened to the Holocaust – but evil can operate on different scales.

I believe I see it again today. I do not believe that the majority of journalists in the BBC, who pump out a continual stream of “Corbyn is an anti-semite” propaganda, believe in their hearts that Corbyn is a racist at all. They are just doing their job, which is to help the BBC avert the prospect of a radical government in the UK threatening the massive wealth share of the global elite. They would argue that they are just reporting what others say; but it is of course the selection of what they report and how they report it which reflect their agenda.

The truth, of which I am certain, is this. If there genuinely was the claimed existential threat to Jews in Britain, of the type which engulfed Europe’s Jews in the 1930’s, Jeremy Corbyn, Billy Bragg, Roger Waters and I may humbly add myself would be among the few who would die alongside them on the barricades, resisting. Yet these are today loudly called “anti-semites” for supporting the right to oppose the oppression of the Palestinians. The journalists currently promoting those accusations, if it came to the crunch, would be polishing state propaganda and the civil servants writing railway dockets. That is how it works. I have seen it. Close up.

4,215 thoughts on “The Ubiquity of Evil

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  • Albert Neville

    Carne Ross
    There’s a name I recognise
    He’s now “reinvented” himself hasn’t he ?
    But actually supports the UK’s imperialist meddling in Syria. I would be grateful to know what Craig thinks of this character today.

  • Vivian O'Blivion

    While it is undoubtedly interesting and unsettling, the Milgram experiment surely scratches the surface. The experiment was conducted in a country where primary school children are required to stand and pledge allegiance to a flag every morning. Where entire stadiums full of adults stand to attention and sing the national anthem at everyday, domestic sporting events. America is three quarters way to a facist state before the starting gun is even fired.
    I was encouraged by my father to be very distrustful of authority. He fough in Korea under national service and this had a strong influence on his attitude towards authority. Even by the early 70’s teaching of history had moved on in Scotland from learning names of monarchs by rote. We were taught about peasants and stuff. Also, there is the ingrained trait of being thrawn.

  • Sharp Ears

    Thank you Craig and thank you for your ‘voice’.

    One can only weep for the Palestinians. Thanks be for Jeremy Corbyn too.

  • Blair Paterson

    The Labour Party was founded in Scotland its first manifesto was a bloodless revolution English people applied to join the party but ome in the party warned Keir Hardie not to let them in because they were only going to destroy it from within And that is what happened Halfe of the labour MPs should never have been in the party and if it splits no real labour person would vote for them and as for the bloodless revolution instead of trying to change the establishment they joined it becoming lords and dames a complete betrayal of their roots I was a. shop steward in the Clyde shipyards and never once voted labour I always pointed out their betrayal of the workers I voted for the SNP and I have been proved right they have done more or Scotland’s people than labour has ever done

    • Republicofscotland

      Well said Blair, lets not forget the great Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham.

      He was a Liberal Party Member of Parliament MP the first ever socialist member of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, a founder, and the first president, of the Scottish Labour Party, a founder of the National Party of Scotland in 1928, and the first president of the Scottish National Party in 1934.

  • Ishmael

    TBF a lot of people aran’t in the best position to see what’s going on. And as they see it have a lot more to loose than people with mostly nothing anyway.

    I hate to bring it back to the kind of economic system we have. But it only magnifies this tendency, “good’ or “bad”. And it’s used by people with a lot of money to control those with little. Yea, obedience really pays. & look what happens to people who don’t play along.

    No, everyone should be entitled to a basic standard of living “free” then we can’t be forced etc into these things. & How people call this freedom i’ll never know. It’s sytematized extreme brutality in a rigid class system.

    Have you seen what they demand just to get basic “benefits”? It really is process of abuse/degradation. But they all just go along, it’s just a job.

    And unlike those who enact this system many have worked in jobs, where people actually do stuff. with their muscles, Paid tax. & they end up reduced, forced to submit to anything basically.

    Is their any real sense of how we are treating other human being in this? Not really. “that’s life” etc. So why all the patriotism? give your life for this system? while other “countrymen” are forced onto zero hour contracts ? The Army must be a real messed up bunch.

  • Rick Fearn

    Thanks so very much for your historical perspective on this issue. The real question is the following: in society you have two camps, those that know the truth and those that are misled by the media. Of those who are misled by the media, what percentage would stand for principles if they new the truth?

    My own feeling is that the majority would be outraged if they knew what was really going on. Which is why I thank Craig for your efforts to expand the truth.

  • Ben

    Invoking WWII is apropos and Deja Vu all over again.

    Will Republicans in Congress go full ISOLATIONIST as they did under FDR? Will a call to NATO bring recalcitrant Trump to the World Table when Russian cards are displayed? Will Democracy prevail when obstructionist heathens populate the political landscape, denying aid and comfort as Republicans did to Winston Churchill and the British People?

    • Xavi

      They’ve got the best part of 1,000 overseas military bases to dismantle before they go full isolationist.

    • JCP

      Pretty sure FDR wasn’t an isolationist, but the population were, just like prior WW1. I believe he was waiting for his ‘Lusitania’ moment, which turned out to be ‘Pearl Harbour’.
      FDR came to power in 1932 and his Keynesian policies to resolve the stagnancy of the ‘Great Depression’ grew the economy through the 30’s, but the brakes were put on too soon and the economy dipped in 1939. It but bounced back the following year, which I suspect was due to a combination of domestic re-armament and sales of arms to European countries.

      • Ben

        I’m pretty sure FDR fought like Hell to persuade Congress to assist the unprepared deal with the Battle of Britain and even more sure Churchill was a temporary ally.

      • Paul Barbara

        @ JCP July 30, 2018 at 18:10
        And just like the ‘Lusitania’, it was an ‘arranged’ atrocity – read Robert B Stinnett’s ‘Day of Deceit’.

  • charming

    Thank you Craig for a very pertinent piece – which I suspect will have a greater resonance for the 60+ age group. Times are certainly dire for most younger people and in many ways. An example of this was seeing young staffers (a charity) going off to the toilets in tears following appraisals. In all other respects they appear cheerful and satisfied. What surprised me was the acceptance, lack of solidarity and push back that I expected. Fear casts a long shadow and despite the superficial appearance of happy days I suspect things are not well and getting worse right across society. Regrettably I believe that Harry Lime was right about Switzerland and it has been a long time now since the locomotive of history provided an existential event to rebuild our broken society. Of course that risky venture, for the ruling elites, has largely been negated by professional or proxy armies. Not being a believer in ‘free will’ (the idea that we could change our own) I can however see bipolar Brexit being a potential catalyst for change.

  • Paul Barbara

    I’m just reading Oliver Stone’s and Peter Kuznick’s ‘The Untold History of the United States’. I am not new to the history of the States, I’ve read this kind of book before. But I can assure you it had no part in history lessons for the three years odd I was in US high schools.
    People need to be aware that the wars and interventions since WWII are just following on from expansionist and raw material wars virtually from the inception of the US.
    Waterboarding was done by them in the so-called ‘Philippine-American War’, 1899–1902.
    They wanted the Phillipines as a base for Asian trade.
    And before (and after) that, they attacked the Spanish in Cuba, Mexico, and other Central/South American countries.
    The theft of Native Indian land, and their virtual genocide, the theft of large areas of land from Mexico – the US hasn’t changed, it’s just got more powerful and more brazen in it’s War Crimes.

  • Sharp Ears

    The removal vans have arrived at the Foreign Secretary’s official residence to remove Boris’s possessions.

    His successor, Jeremy Hunt, on his first official foreign visit is in China and made a gaffe when speaking to the Chinese Foreign Minister, by describing his wife as Japanese. Mrs Hunt is Chinese. Duh!

    Perhaps he should get out and concentrate on his expanding property portfolio.

  • David Hillstrom

    A very insightful addition to the times we live in. In the past I had generally remained optimistic about humankind’s future. I confess that I am progressively losing my optimism. Nonetheless, I will happily stand by Mr Murray in support of justice.

  • quasi_verbatim

    There’s a lot of “nasty patriotism” about at the moment, all of it associated with Brexit, against which Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and even the Falklands pale in comparison.

    Although usually dismissed as Brexit Derangement Syndrome, this affliction is I believe a more profound reversion to the mean, in which Brexiters appear to undergo archeopsychic regression to earlier, simpler states of being. Way beyond Cro-Magnon by now, they approach the cusp of Orang-Utan.

    • Loony

      Excellent comment – surely designed to motivate all sane people to flee the madness that is the current l”progressive” narrative,

      The deaths directly attributable to the Iraq war are a minimum of 460,000.

      Over 110,000 people have been killed in Afghanistan – this includes over 450 British soldiers. And their sacrifice has achieved what exactly?

      No-one has bothered even counting the dead in Libya – but probably a minimum of 25,000. Libya has been destroyed as a country – making it a handy breeding ground for Islamic extremists and a “safe space” for holding slave markets.

      There was no patriotism, whether nasty or otherwise, associated with these activities – only a sense of shame as to the depraved criminality of those who falsely claim to represent the people.

      Seeking to compare the wanton destruction and slaughter in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya with Brexit is one of the most inane and truly offensive things that can be imagined.

      The people do not want to destroy and kill the foreign man, and neither do they want to remain part of the EU. As you and your ilk spew ever more intellectual excrement over their heads so the resolve to exit the EU will be stiffened.

  • MichaelK

    Agree with what you’re saying, Craig. But perhaps there’s a more urgent and contemporary example of the existence of ‘evil’? I’m thinking about the treatment dished out to Julian Assange and the way the journalists and politicians and others in public life have gone along with it, uncritically, ready to destroy the life and reputation of an innocent man and trample most of our most dearly held and important legal and moral principles into the mud, repeatedly.

    It’s telling, depressing and remarkable that not a single journalist in our entire mainstream/state media, has the will or guts to stand up for Assange, or even present his case anywhere near fairly. This tells one so much about the degeneration of liberal values and principles; maybe they never really meant all that much in the first place.

      • SA

        The ‘freedom loving’ west seems to have developed a blind spot for neonazis in the Baltic republic and Ukraine. It is as if the former satellite nations of the former USSR can do no wrong as long as they are anti-Russian.

      • Paul Barbara

        @ Tatyana July 30, 2018 at 17:51
        As explained by some of the Nazis ‘adopted’ by the US, the US is the 4th Reich.

      • Herbie

        All of Europe seems to be going to the Right, and a bit nationalistic like. Tribalist.

        Even Britain.

        We’ve got a major Rightist martyr in Tommy Robinson now, celebrated around the world, and all over the telly and papers and interviews and stuff.

        This is big stuff, for Britain.

        But yeah, if we move to the right and stop all that human rights nonsense, then we can no longer point fingers at malefactors in what we used to used to call the rogue, or semi rogue states we humiliated for so long with our perfidy.

        I think this Rightist emergence, all over Europe, is in fact, the ejection of a tired old bureaucracy, and replacement with your more buccaneer kinda lad.

        It;s been going on for a while.

        Trump, Putin, Netanyahu, Xi, many others are going this direction.

        Can’t see any opposition other than media. And they’re dodos.

        I mean, Carney’s talking the end of days if Brexit paperwork isn’t presented in the correct folders.

    • Neil Murray

      Hi Michael, I agree with you that Assange has been treated very unfairly considering what he and others risked to bring to the greater Public/World. Too many of todays journalists are afraid to upset their Gravy Trains and their Pay Masters. Craig has done well to bring to light the discrepancies of the Salisbury nerve agent incidents. My….how that was reported.
      Anyway, not that you probably want some further reading into the depressing depths of the human psyche, but this shocked me… Lyall Watson’s “Dark Nature” A natural history of evil. 1995.
      It is quite disturbing, and mentions his visits to the Public Gallery during the James Bulger case and similar cases in the USA. He also discusses the Bosnian-Serbian War and gives examples of neighbours killing neighbour after decades of living together whilst being from different countries.

      • Paul Barbara

        @ Neil Murray July 30, 2018 at 20:59
        If any truthful (and there are some) journalists write anything the PTB don’t wan’t them to, it is censored and they are out on their ear.
        Evil is very real, and is becoming more and more ‘socially acceptable’. Things are going to get worse, before they get even more worse.

  • N_

    Britgov’s 70 “technical notices” describing what will they will do, and what people should do, in the event of “no deal” on Brexit will now apparently be released on a single day in August rather than spread out.

    Soon this whole area is going to get a name.


    It will be observed that even the army can’t transport food that doesn’t exist.

    • James

      Yes that made me laugh:

      They decided what they were going to do.

      They got the BBC to announce that everyone would get these weekly leaflets through the letter box.

      Then they had another meeting and canned the whole thing (probably because they realised it would let everyone see what a shambles their “plan” was).

      But as far as I know the BBC never got round to reporting this part of the story.

      I dunno…

  • Dave

    Given Christian forbearance its only fair to give your accuser the benefit of the doubt, at least initially, but when they repeatedly emit a neurotic wail, its only fair to assume you’re dealing with lunatics or scammers beyond redemption prepared to shame themselves for advantage.


    The need for secrecy in the ‘ business of the public’s affairs ‘ is as bogus, given the necessity for a limit to some secret matters to a temporary and limited time of publication prohibition in some certain matters.

    As for the public’s representative in Councils, Enquiries, Forums and Assemblies, including the Judiciary and the Parliaments neither can be a case for secrecy, after the matters under discussion and individual views recorded
    and the matter/ judgment has been disposed of.

    Indeed the removal of this currently massive labyrinth of secrecy can only improve most effectively an interest in how the public’s paid representative act for, and why, and the general illumination of the greater public awareness enhances the greater goal of a democracy.

    For example in the twin and tragically cases of poisoning in Salisbury, and more tragically mortal in Amesbury
    and the way in which all of the people’s agencies from Parliament to the local Coroner have encouraged the
    uncontrolled publication of libel and the potential slander of the few independent observers ?

    • bj

      Well said.

      Any democratic government that cannot transparently justify itself, needs to be dismantled.

      To paraphrase Chomsky.

  • Frank Thamm

    Hi Craig,
    as a German I have thought a lot about this topic (as you might expect); I think your conclusions on the nature of (this kind of) evil are spot on and I see it working in the anti Russian propaganda as well, of which there is plenty in Germany, too.
    I´ve watched the ´London Calling´ video and found it rather shocking, but not very surprising to me: I´ve lived in Scotland from 2001 to 2010, so I was there when the SNP won their first election, and I even voted for them. The reason I did so was because all the other parties wanted to deny the Scottish people a referendum on their independence, which I found outrageous. Although I didn´t really feel that as a German I should have a say in the matter I strongly felt that the Scots had a right to it. I can still remember the propaganda on the BBC then, so i don´t find it hard to believe that they shifted up a gear when the referendum came.
    Frank from Germany

  • Clive p

    Like Craig I found that it was not just the preservation of your job but the prevailing ethos of ‘the interests of the state’ that dominated Whitehall. It was enough to justify almost anything. My own experience was of torture of prisoners in Northern Ireland, murder, perversion of the course of justice, the Kincora scandal, framing someone for a murder they didn’t commit, dirty deals with Pinochet during the Falklands and many more. Occasionally a few of us would discuss what would happen if there was a military coup or a semi-fascist government took power. How many senior civil servants would resign? We could never think of anybody. They would, like their counterparts in 1930s Germany, have carried on administering the state.

  • Squeeth

    Befehl ist Befehl was rejected as a defence at Nuremberg but not in the Bliar Cabinet. Verily is he the heir of Clement Attlee, the SS importing, survivor excluding, guarantor that the NHS would never be socialist, mountebank.

  • JB

    Dear Craig, This is indeed a most fundamental human issue. As someone from the former Yugoslavia I have experience of the kind you describe. I also had the unique, incredible and profound experience at the ICTY of studying such matters: the masterminds, the instigators, the supporters, including the media, the silent majority abandoning reason at the alter of The Leader(s) and The Nation, the delusional Warriors, that is, killers, cut-throats, rapists, torturers, genocidaires, thieves…and the intellectuals (writers, poets, painters…) and priests singing their praises – to this day. Really nothing new; all the more disturbing. Some of them were just “doing their job” as you state, but most were in it with conviction and passion. Why? The fundamental question.
    In any case, we should not forget – people are NOT heroes. Only a handful. Most are looking to always just fit in, at all times and all costs.
    Is there more meaningful, important and fascinating study.
    I recommend highly to everyone a well known classic in the field:
    ‘Ordinary Men’, by Christopher. R. Browning (first published 1992)
    about Reserve police battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland.
    It is the most exemplary piece of research I know of, and the best study of how ordinary men become mass murderers.

    • SA

      There is also something fundamentally wrong with the way democracy is being implemented. A few people called leaders have too much power delegates with not much checks in between elections.

  • Willie McKenna

    I share your concerns, Mr Murray. There’s a saying something about a prophet in his own land. Can’t recall it but I’m sure it fits you. You are, like Corbyn, a good man, and you have paid a heavy price for it. When i read your thoughts, as I often do, my spirit is lifted just that tiny bit. If I am reading so are others. I’m nearer life’s exit than it’s entrance, but I have a grown family and grandchildren. I want them to inherit a decent world but I often lose hope. Please keep writing and inspiring others. Best wishes and thank you.

    • Jiusito

      “A prophet is not without honour except in his own country” – Mark 6:4 (Jesus talking to the people of his hometown, Nazareth).

  • Loftwork

    Interesting article. I think this is largely a matter of cultural anthropology. Societies which value compliance internally tend to be prone to lack of empathy/compassion/decency when dealing with “them”, whoever they are. Similar behaviour for Japanese soldiers in the Sino-Japanese war before WWII and, of course, for US soldiers in Vietnam and British colonial forces.

  • Dave

    “The truth, of which I am certain, is this. If there genuinely was the claimed existential threat to Jews in Britain, of the type which engulfed Europe’s Jews in the 1930’s, Jeremy Corbyn, Billy Bragg, Roger Waters and I may humbly add myself would be among the few who would die alongside them on the barricades, resisting.”

    Indeed – a point I’ve been making. Who was it who fought the Blackshirts at Cable Street? The irony is the very people who the Jewish establishment are slagging off are the ones who would put their lives on the line to save them.

    • Squeeth

      ~~~~~the very people who the Jewish establishment are slagging off are the ones who would put their lives on the line to save them.~~~~~

      The zionist antisemite establishment if you please; we shouldn’t associate Jews with these fascist mountebanks, they don’t deserve it.

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