Monthly Archives: July 2019


The Removal of Humanity 370

Occasionally I post about my personal experience of butting up against the consequences of the removal of both common humanity and common sense from the administration of the systems which govern us. It is not that my experiences of this are worse, or more consequential, than those of anyone else. It is simply that I have a forum on which to rail against the contempt with which we all are treated.

Tomorrow we move home, within Edinburgh but about six miles away. Cameron has finished P5 at Royal Mile Primary School and will now be entering P6 at a new school. Hopefully. In Edinburgh there is no entitlement to a place in your local catchment area school if you move there after year 1.

About six months ago I phoned the primary school of our new catchment area to ask if they would have a place. They replied – in a rather brusque manner – that they could not give me any information and that I could not apply for a place until after we had moved. At that stage I had to send in a form direct to the school with a council tax demand plus utility bill as proof of address (making it impossible to apply until you have not only moved but received those bills).

As instructed, now we are moving I contacted the school again. It is closed for the school holidays. As Edinburgh schools restart on 14 August, I contacted Edinburgh Council. They reiterated that applications must be made straight to the school itself. They confirmed that applications cannot be made before moving and must be accompanied by a Council Tax bill and utility bill. They told me that school offices reopen on 12 August and I will then be able to apply for admission on 14 August. They told me that they hold no information on pupil numbers in schools beyond year 1 and that there is no entitlement to a place in the catchment area school after year 1.

So I have no idea where Cameron will go to school on 14 August – I suspect he will for a while end up not going anywhere – and no means of even beginning the process to find out before 12 August (which is the earliest I can submit the form, presuming I have somehow procured a utility bill after a fortnight). Doubtless there are people who do not worry about such things, and that may be admirable. But we, and I suspect many others put in this position, find it very worrying.

What is undoubtedly true is that this is a system formed around the convenience of bureaucrats which shows an utter contempt for the needs and feelings of parents and pupils. My small family problem is but an example of the deliberate hollowing out of normal human helpfulness from societal interaction which comes when you stop caring about people as individuals.

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Tanker Seizures and the Threat to the Global Economy from Resurgent Imperialism 332

The British seizure of the Iranian tanker off Gibraltar was illegal. There is no doubt of that whatsoever. The Iranian response to the seizure of its tanker in the Strait of Gibraltar, by the seizure of a British Tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, was also illegal, though more understandable as a reaction. The implications for the global economy of the collapse of the crucial international law on passage through straits would be devastating.

It may seem improbable that the UK and or France would ever seek to close the Dover Strait, but in the current crazed climate it is no longer quite impossible to imagine the UK seeking to mess up access to Rotterdam and Hamburg. It is still easier to imagine them seeking to close the Dover Strait against the Russian Navy. Yet the essential freedom of navigation through the Kerch strait, respected by Russia which controls it, is necessary to the survival of Ukraine as a country. For Turkey to close the Bosphorus would be catastrophic and is a historically recurring possibility. Malaysia and Indonesia would cause severe dislocation to Australia and China by disrupting the strait of Malacca and the Suharto government certainly viewed that as an advantage from which it should have the right to seek to benefit, and was a continued nuisance in UN Law of the Sea discussions. These are just a few examples. The US Navy frequently sails through the Taiwan Strait to assert the right of passage though straits.

Keeping the Strait of Hormuz open is perhaps the most crucial of all to the world economy, but I hope that the above examples are sufficient to convince you that the right of passage through straits, irrespective of territorial waters, is an absolutely essential pillar of international maritime law and international order. The Strait of Gibraltar is vital and Britain has absolutely no right to close it to Iran or Syria. If the obligation on coastal states to keep maritime straits open were lost, it would lead to economic dislocation and even armed conflict worldwide.

Part III of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea relates entirely to passage through straits.

Please note that the right of passage through straits is here absolute, in a UN Convention which is one of the base blocks of international law. It does not state that the right to transit through straits can be subject to any sanctions regime which the coastal state chooses to impose; indeed it is clearly worded to preclude such coastal state activity. Nor can it be overridden by any regional grouping of which the coastal state is a member.

Jeremy Hunt’s statement to parliament that the Iranian tanker had “freely navigated into UK territorial waters” was irrelevant in law and he must have known that. The whole point of passage through straits is that it is by definition through territorial waters, but the coastal state is not permitted to interfere with navigation.

It is therefore irrelevant whether, as claimed by the government of the UK and their puppets in Gibraltar, the tanker was intending to breach EU sanctions by delivering oil to Syria. There is a very strong argument that the EU sanctions are being wilfully misinterpreted by the UK, but ultimately that makes no difference.

Even if the EU does have sanctions seeking to preclude an Iranian ship from delivering Venezuelan oil to Syria, the EU or its member states have absolutely no right to impede the passage of an Iranian ship through the Strait of Gibraltar in enforcement of those sanctions. Anymore than Iran could declare sanctions against Saudi oil being delivered to Europe and close the Straits of Hormuz to such shipping, or Indonesia could declare sanctions on EU goods going to Australia and close the Malacca Strait, or Russia could declare sanctions on goods going to Ukraine and close the Strait of Kerch.

There are two circumstances in which the UK could intercept the Iranian ship in the Strait of Gibraltar legally. One would be in pursuance of a resolution by the UN Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. There is no such resolution in force. The second would be in the case of a war between the UK and Iran or Syria. No such state of war exists (and even then naval blockade must be limited by the humanitarian measures of the San Remo Convention).

What we are seeing from the UK is old fashioned Imperialism. The notion that Imperial powers can do what they want, and enforce their “sanctions” against Iran, Syria and Venezuela in defiance of international law, because they, the West, are a superior order of human being.

The hypocrisy of arresting the Iranian ship and then threatening war when Iran commits precisely the same illegal act in retaliation is absolutely sickening.

Finally, there will no doubt be the usual paid government trolls on social media linking to this article with claims that I am mad, a “conspiracy theorist”, alcoholic or pervert. It is therefore worth pointing out the following.

I was for three years the Head of the Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I was Alternate Head of the UK Delegation to the UN Preparatory Commission on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. I both negotiated, and drafted parts of, the Protocol that enabled the Convention to come into force. I was the Head of the FCO Section of the Embargo Surveillance Centre and responsible for giving real time political and legal clearance, 24 hours a day, for naval boarding operations in the Gulf to enforce a UN mandated embargo. There are very few people alive who combine both my practical experience and theoretical knowledge of precisely the subject here discussed.

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Johnson’s Westminster Cabinet is Far to the Right of Thatcher

I can only imagine that the media people who are saying this is the most right wing cabinet since the 1980’s were not sentient in the 80’s. Thatcher never had a Home Secretary remotely as illiberal as Pritti Patel, never had a Foreign Secretary remotely as xenophobic as Dominic Raab, never even had a Chancellor as anti-State intervention as Sajid Javid (though came closer there) and never had a Defence Secretary as bellicose as Ben Wallace.

Even Thatcher’s final and most right wing Cabinet contained figures like Ken Clarke, Chris Patten, John Major, Virginia Bottomley, Douglas Hurd and William Waldegrave. All Tories with whom I have fundamental disagreements, but every single one of them is far, far to the left of virtually all of Johnson’s appalling cronies.

Thatcher deliberately and cruelly wrecked the social democratic society in which I grew up, with the aim of destroying any ability for working people to be protected against the whims of the wealthy. But Thatcher never introduced privatisation into the NHS or state schools – that was her acolyte Blair. She maintained free university education in England and Wales. That was destroyed by Blair too. We should be more rigorous than to accept Thatcher as the definitive most right wing government possible. It is not only lazy, it obscures the fact we now have the most right wing British government since 1832.

Pritti Patel is a Home Secretary who admires the approach to law and order of Benjamin Netanyahu and voted against a measure to prevent pregnant asylum seekers being slammed into immigration detention pending hearing. Savid Javid is a Chancellor who materially caused the problems of British Steel by, as Business Secretary, vetoing in Brussels tariffs against dumped Chinese steel. Dominic Raab is a foreign secretary who negotiated a deal with the EU then resigned because it was so bad.

This is the biggest political shock to hit the UK in my lifetime and it is potentially worse than Thatcher. Here in Scotland, we need to move immediately for Independence. The time for talking really is behind us.

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The Darroch Affair

I am amused when I hear the resignation of Kim Darroch mooted as an attack on an apolitical civil service. Darroch’s rise to the top of the FCO was in fact a startling example of the politicisation of the civil service – there is no doubt that his enthusiastic support for the Iraq War, and for every neo-con war of aggression since, is what endeared him so strongly to the people who make the decisions on the top posts (and do not believe the fiction that ministers have no influence on them).


Kim Darroch and Tony Blair

I have annoyed quite a few people – including regular readers – for refusing to endorse any of the more baroque conspiracy theories involving Trump and Johnson conspiring to get rid of Darroch. These have the attraction of simplicity, with the evil Johnson and Trump on one side and the angelic Darroch on the other.

But many things do not easily make sense. The notion it is a plot to make Farage Ambassador to Washington is bizarre. If Johnson wishes to appoint Farage as Ambassador to Washington, after the summer break he could do it on Darroch’s retirement – which could have been if desired quietly brought forward two months with no fuss.

More to the point, the Brexit Party like UKIP is nothing without Farage. The idea that, at this crucial point, he would voluntarily lose his political leverage by going off to be a diplomat in Washington is a nonsense. And – crucially for Farage – there is just as much cash in being an MEP.

We do not know who leaked the telegrams and why. One overlooked possibility is the intention was to damage Trump himself, by releasing Darroch’s criticisms of him. As I pointed out, Darroch is an abrasive character with many disaffected people who have worked for him around, and I still think that is a likely source for the leak.

We just don’t know. But what I do know is that the idea that Darroch is an apolitical civil servant is a nonsense. I would remind you also that my objections to torture and extraordinary rendition were entirely in internal highly classified communications at the time the FCO first decided to try to move to sack me. I only leaked afterwards. So the idea that the FCO encourages honest and candid reporting is still more of the hypocritical nonsense being talked around Darroch’s resignation.

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Kim Darroch – the Simple Explanation

The media is full of over-complicated theories as to who might have leaked Kim Darroch’s diplomatic telegrams giving his candid view on the Trump administration. I should start by explaining the FCO telegram system. The communications are nowadays effectively encrypted emails, though still known as “telegrams”: to the Americans “cables”. They are widely distributed. These Darroch telegrams would be addressed formally to the Foreign Secretary but have hundreds of other recipients, in the FCO, No.10, Cabinet Office, MOD, DFID, other government departments, MI6, GCHQ, and in scores of other British Embassies abroad. The field of suspects is therefore immense.

It is very important to note that this is an old fashioned kind of leak which was given to the mainstream media without the documents being published online. It is therefore pretty useless in terms of public information. We haven’t seen the documents, we only know as much as Isabel Oakeshott and the Daily Mail chose to tell us. It is not possible to envision any more untrustworthy or agenda driven filter than that. We can therefore be certain this was not a wikileaks style disclosure in the interests of freedom of information about public servants and their doings, but the agenda was much more specific.

Darroch’s scathing assessment of Trump is no way out of line with the mainstream media narrative and it is interesting – but exactly what I would expect of him – that Darroch shares the neo-con assumption that Trump’s failure to start a war with Iran over the drone take-down was a weird aberration. The leaks neither tell us anything startling nor obviously benefit any political faction in the UK. So what was the motive?

I believe the most probable answer is much simpler than anything you will find in the vast amount of media guff printed on the subject these last two days by people with no knowledge.

Kim Darroch is a rude and aggressive person, who is not pleasant at all to his subordinates. He rose to prominence within the FCO under New Labour at a time when right wing, pro-Israel foreign policy views and support for the Iraq War were important assets to career progress, as was the adoption of a strange “laddish” culture led from No. 10 by Alastair Campbell, involving swearing, football shirts and pretending to be working class (Darroch was privately educated). Macho management was suddenly the thing.

At a time when news management was the be all and end all for the Blair administration, Darroch was in charge of the FCO’s Media Department. I remember being astonished when, down the telephone, he called me “fucking stupid” for disagreeing with him on some minor policy matter. I had simply never come across that kind of aggression in the FCO before. People who worked directly for him had to put up with this kind of thing all the time.

Most senior ambassadors used to have interests like Chinese literature and Shostakovitch. Darroch’s are squash and sailing. He is a bull of a man. In my view, the most likely source of the leaks is a former subordinate taking revenge for years of bullying, or a present one trying to get rid of an unpleasant boss.

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Bought Politicians

Between just 28 May and 10 June Boris Johnson received £235,500 in “private” donations, to himself personally, as he prepares to become the UK’s unelected Prime Minister.



The blatant corruption of the UK’s political system is part of the reason for popular alienation from the ruling classes. It was Blair who elevated British politics to US levels of shamelessness in the matter of politicians’ self enrichment, and Johnson looks set to follow the Blair example. While some may pretend to do so, I do not accept that there is anybody who is naive enough genuinely to believe that such donations do not influence politicians’ policy decisions.

Straight donations aside, the slightly disguised corruption of our political system should also be taken into account. The banks put politicians in their pockets not through direct payments, but through massive, often six figure, fees they pay them for “speaking at dinners”. That is how Hillary Clinton garnered much of her Wall Street funding. In the case of Boris Johnson, it is interesting that in the House of Commons Register of Members’ Interests, he frequently lists the name of the speaking agency who paid him, but not who the client was.

Another way to pay less obvious bribes – and one particularly pursued by New Labour – was the book deal, where publishers pay massive six figure advances to politicians which are, routinely, up to ten times the actual royalties earned for which they are an “advance”. This only makes sense when you realise that every single one of the major publishers is owned by a much bigger multinational – for example until recently Murdoch owned HarperCollins.

James Reuben, who gave two donations totaling £50,000 to Johnson, is the scion of the UK’s second wealthiest family, worth £18 billion. The Reubens made their money, like Roman Abramovich and Alisher Usmanov, in the pillaging of Russia’s massive metal producing assets, which were physically seized by gangsters, in the chaotic US organised Yeltsin privatisation process. The entire basis of their vast fortune was the exploitation of assets effectively stolen from the Russian state and people.

There is a fascinating link here to New Labour corruption that shows how entirely rotten Westminster is. Many will recall Peter Mandelson’s famous meeting with Oleg Deripaska and Nat Rothschild on the yacht in Corfu, at a house party where George Osborne was also around. The full story has never appeared in mainstream media, so far as I can judge.

Deripaska had been involved with the Reubens in Russia’s “privatised” aluminum market, and in 2008 was also involved in business with Nat Rothschild. Putin was determined to try to claw back some control of precious commodity markets from the oligarchs who had plundered them, and he started to lean on Deripaska, in ways which were quite threatening, to make some hefty repayment. Nat Rothschild had obligations to Deripaska which the oligarch was trying urgently to call in, and this process required the sale of shares in (if I remember correctly) Canadian or US aluminium companies. The big obstacle to this raising the needed money to get back to Putin was the high EU tariff on aluminium.

By one of those wonderful coincidences which make life so joyous, happily Peter Mandelson was, absolutely independent of the meeting on the yacht or his own relationship with Nat Rothschild, persuaded of the need for the EU to reduce aluminium tariffs and as UK Trade Minister and then EU Trade Commissioner was able to secure very large reductions in EU aluminium tariffs indeed. So they all lived happily ever after.

Isn’t that nice? And even nicer, Mandelson is now a paid adviser to Deripaska on climate change.

So Boris Johnson’s donations and Mandelson’s dealings all link in to the pillaging of Russia’s formerly state run metals industry, which legalised theft accounts for a dozen of the world’s wealthiest billionaires and a high proportion of its political corruption.

I want Scottish Independence to try to set up a smaller, more manageable national entity in which corruption can be better reduced, (and sadly it will never be eliminated). I find the insider knowledge I have from my days as a British Ambassador and from the connections I then made, weighs horribly heavy upon me. If I knew less, I guess I would be less sad and less cynical.

It has become my firm belief that the destruction of the UK state by the SNP and Plaid Cymru, and the purging of the financial cesspit that is London by Jeremy Corbyn, are both essential to human progress.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

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Help Steven Leelah

With a callousness that defies belief, the British government continues to pursue and persecute Chagossians in pursuit of the genocide they initiated on the community in 1971. This blog has been campaigning for the Chagossians for over ten years, but following the recent resounding condemnation of the British government at the International Court of Justice, and the massive vote at the UN General Assembly for Chagos to be returned to Mauritius, thankfully the issue is becoming better known. The SNP are to be congratulated for initiating and leading a debate at Westminster this week to demand that the UK respects the International Court of Justice decision (which the Tories are refusing to do).

You may be interested to know that, having spent some of your subscriptions for two years on paid promotion of the blog to targeted audiences on Facebook, it was my article analysing at length the disgraceful British political actions over Chagos, particularly by New Labour, which caused Facebook to ban me from all Facebook advertising. I am still banned.

When the British government forcibly deported every single Chagossian from their islands between 1967 and 1971 to make way for a US nuclear weapons base, a few of them eventually found their way to the UK, being at the time British subjects. The small British Chagossian community is very active. Steven Leelah’s grandfather was one of the original deportees and his mother is a UK citizen. Steven had his right to remain in the UK refused by the Home Office, and when he turned up to report as required pending his appeal, he was arrested and imprisoned in “immigration detention” pending deportation. Just where they intend to deport him is an interesting question – his father is Chagossian and his mother is British – certainly not to Chagos, where the islanders are still forbidden from their own homes.

This is yet another example of the vicious and callous brutality which was injected, deliberately, into the Home Office by Theresa May and her “hostile environment” policy, which is no more and no less than the institutionalisation of racism as government policy. It goes hand in hand with the deprofessionalisation of the “Border force” and the contracting out of most of its functions to for profit companies.

You may find it hard to believe, but I worked very closely with officers of the old “Immigration Service” when posted in Lagos, Warsaw and Accra and formed many good friendships with members. They were career civil servants and included individuals who were sensible, humane, erudite and even kind, and often took a real interest in understanding the cultures of the people with whom they were working abroad. All that has now gone and been replaced by minimum wage teens box checking applications, and Serco and Group 4 thugs “enforcing”, all for profit, and in pursuit of the objectives of racism.

That the UK should compound the world renowned disgrace of its Chagos brutality with this treatment of Steven Leelah is jaw dropping. I really am incandescent with rage over this. Please do help by contributing to his fundraiser here.

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How To Spot A Twitter Troll

UPDATE: GCHQ are currently advertising to recruit more trolls to carry out precisely the activity I outline here. As their advertisement puts it:

We are looking to recruit individuals who can contribute to a step change in the UK’s ability to project cyber power against our adversaries, in order to keep the UK safe. You will be at the forefront of the nation’s covert online capability. We want people who can help support and run operations that disrupt and degrade our adversaries’ ability to do us harm, and contest malign activity in cyber space.

I do hope this helps cut through the cognitive dissonance for those of you who found it difficult to come to terms with the truth of the below.

ORIGINAL POST

It is a matter of simple fact that the British government employs a very large number of people whose full time job is to influence the political narrative on social media. The 77th Brigade of the British Army, the Integrity Initiative, MI5 and MI6 and GCHQ all run major programmes of covert online propaganda. These information warriors operate on twitter, facebook, and in comments sections across the internet.

I have long been fascinated by the disconnect by which people, who do know and understand that the security services employ tens of thousands of people and have budgets of billions, nevertheless find it hard to accept that they may come personally into contact with their operations. Therefore when I state that the security services infiltrate groups including environmentalists and the SNP, and were involved in the Skripal story in ways not public, there is a peculiar desire among people to reject it as it is uncomfortable. Equally while people do know the security services are committing huge sums to social media influencing, to point out any of its instances brings derisive shouts of “conspiracy theory”.

It was when I was pointing out the many omissions and inconsistencies in the official version of events surrounding the Skripals, that I first came under sustained attack from accounts on twitter, often making short and very sarcastic comments. I confess for a while this did actually get me down. I have no difficulty with people disagreeing with me, but I find it depressing to encounter unreasonably closed minds.

But in quite short order I started to note a few defining characteristics of the scores of accounts from which I was being attacked. These are false accounts, but they are trolls not bots. There are people from the 77th Brigade, GCHQ or other agencies sitting behind a desk and running scores of fake accounts each. As there is a real human being behind them, unlike bots, these trolls can reply if challenged and attempt to promote a real identity. But there are a number of key giveaways:

1) Many times more “follows” than “followers”.

In establishing a fake identity, the first step they take is to follow other twitter accounts. This is because a percentage of twitter users will automatically follow you back, so if you quickly follow 500 people you will likely get 100 “followers” back immediately. That appears to establish a real identity with followers. There are some interesting consequences of this technique. These troll accounts remarkably often follow sports betting twitter accounts, for example – because those accounts automatically follow back.

2) A tweet record consisting almost entirely of retweets.

This is the most important single giveaway. If you select “tweets” under the account, these accounts have zero original content. Their timeline consists of retweets of pro-Establishment content, leavened with retweets of the single characteristic that was chosen to establish a “character” – eg “Everton supporter”, “gym fanatic”. They never initiate a topic or posit an original thought, but work entirely in “retweet” or “reply” mode.

3) Follow and troll

Accounts which had nothing in common with me in terms of interests or political views, would suddenly decide to post a brief highly disparaging or ridiculing comment, and always simultaneously would start following me. The motivation of somebody who opens with rudeness yet simultaneously starts following is plainly aggressive – and not usual behaviour.

4) No convincing tweet history

A great many of these accounts are very newly minted at the time of first propaganda use. Generally, even those routine retweets are few and far between. Occasionally the troll twitter account claims to be longstanding – dating from 2009 or 2010 – but there is no evidence of actual (re)tweets going back more than a couple of years. This either suggests wholesale sleeper accounts were established, or twitter is actively involved in helping produce fake ones.

5) Lack of a normal “cluster” of followers

On most real people you can look through their followers and spot a little cluster of family, friends or workmates. The trolls don’t have normal roots.

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How normal is this five point profile? Well, I looked through 200 entirely random twitter accounts and found 9 that would fit this profile – 4.5%. Yet surveying the threads from my own tweets, over 75% of the replies which I would characterise as hostile come from accounts that fit this profile. By which I mean meeting all five points. This analysis meets the scientific criterion of being replicable. You can test those figures for yourselves by looking through twitter. That is plain evidence these unusual profiles are being deliberately deployed – and highly probably deliberately created – for hostile intent.

I had spotted the giveaway profile of those attacking me a year ago, and had been mulling over posting on it. What determined me to do so was clicking on the “Mark Field” twitter trend following his physical attack on the female climate change activist. I was astonished by the sheer volume of tweets defending Mark Field. Clicking on them, I started to realise that what I was seeing was a massive deployment of twitter troll accounts all precisely following the profile I have outlined. They were putting out a unified message that the lady may have been an armed terrorist and that Field should be praised for his resolute, even heroic, action.

So here is the fun bit, some examples you can look at. I don’t claim these are all trolls. Some of these may be real identities who just happen to match the twitter troll profile. They may follow many times more people than they have followers simply because they have deeply repulsive personalities or nothing interesting to say. But remember we are talking about trolls not bots, so there is a human multiple account operative to all of the actual security service troll accounts, whose job it is to respond and attempt to portray a real existence. Unlike bots, if challenged, troll accounts will answer.

Look out yourself for troll accounts with these characteristics on twitter in future. Exposure is the simple way to nullify the vast state propaganda programmes on social media.

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Unlike our adversaries including the Integrity Initiative, the 77th Brigade, Bellingcat, the Atlantic Council and hundreds of other warmongering propaganda operations, this blog has no source of state, corporate or institutional finance whatsoever. It runs entirely on voluntary subscriptions from its readers – many of whom do not necessarily agree with the every article, but welcome the alternative voice, insider information and debate.

Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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