Monthly Archives: June 2020


Truly Shameful BBC Israeli Propaganda

In a genuinely outrageous piece of victim blaming, BBC News just blamed Palestinian intransigence in refusing to accept Israeli annexation of the West Bank for the deaths of Palestinian children caused by the Israeli blockade of medical supplies to Gaza.

This is a precise quote from the BBC TV News presenter headline at 10.30am:

“The lives of hundreds of sick Palestinian children are being put at risk because of the latest downturn in relations between their leaders and Israel last month. The Palestinian President said his government was giving up on past peace agreements because of Israeli plans to annex parts of the West Bank. That decision stopped co-operation on many security and civil matters including medical and travel permits.”

There followed a heart rending piece by BBC Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell featuring Palestinian children in Gaza dying of varous medical conditions and their distraught mothers.

The entire piece very plainly blamed Palestinian officials for the situation.

The BBC did not blame Israel for placing a blockade illegally preventing pharmaceuticals and medical supplies from entering Gaza – the basic reason the children cannot be treated at home.

The BBC did not blame Israel for blockading in illegally the civilian population of Gaza, so that these children cannot freely leave for treatment in Europe without Israeli clearance.

The BBC did not point out that the proposed annexation of the West Bank is illegal, has been condemned by the UN Secretary General and by 95% of the governments of the world, and will precipitate great violence.

No, the BBC blamed the Palestinians.

“Accept the illegal annexation of still more of your land, or small children will die and it will be your fault”.
That is a line the BBC are perfectly happy to push out on behalf of Israel. It is an astonishing moment for the UK state propagandist. It is important we do not ourselves become complacent at this absolutely unacceptable behaviour.

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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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Do Not Mourn the White Saviours of DfID

I never write to shock. But I do relish making people think, and consider arguments out of the comfort zone of a set of group shared opinions. I am very aware that many people find this intensely annoying.

A good example is that I believe that Russian actions in Syria have been legal, and helpful in preventing a still more massive conflagration in the Middle East. But I believe that the Russian occupations of Crimea and a section of Georgia are illegal, acts of military aggression. The accepted political view in mainstream western politics at the moment is that Russia is always wrong and the West is always right. Those who dissent form a smaller group, but find strength in the line that Russia is always right and the West is always wrong. Both opinions are nonsensical.

I expect that the vast majority of people who support my website identify as left wing and take the position that the Tory decision to abolish the Department for International Development and move it inside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is a bad thing. I do not however think the massive praise for DFID now being deployed in the media stands up to close inspection. DFID is in fact a toxic institution that dispenses astonishing sums of money, in a way that provides greater practical benefit to the wealthy members of the Aid Industry in the UK than it does to those it is supposed to help lift out of poverty abroad.

It does not have to be like that. I entirely support the giving of 0.7% of the UK’s gross national income to international development. But at the moment it is being sluiced away. The greatest concentration of economic benefit from British aid lies in the leafier parts of North London (and not, incidentally, in East Kilbride. It is not DFID staff who are milking the system).

It is a very good discipline to ask yourself how much cash those employees of charities campaigning to keep DFID make personally from DFID. It is an interesting paradox that if they appear not to be employed by DFID, they are almost certainly lining their own pockets with a very great deal more DFID cash than actual DFID employees.

When I travel around the rural areas of both Ghana and Nigeria, I frequently pass over rivers and streams on iron and concrete bridges built by DFID’s predecessor the Overseas Development Administration (ODA). Often the road itself was first built by ODA. I am sure academic papers have been written, but I cannot sufficiently convey to you the massive positive impact such infrastructure has had over decades on rural communities, transforming access to markets for agricultural and cottage industry products and helping social mobility.

You realise the importance of a bridge in rural Africa when you see the devastating social consequences when one disappears. This is an extract from my memoir The Catholic Orangemen of Togo. I had not recalled before looking for this passage on the bridge, what an extended discussion on DFID ensues. It was written ten years ago and describes the situation still further back in 2001, but the key points remain true and I will explain what has changed.

Travelling North West from the city of Sunyani, I visited the town of Tainano. (Footnote in book: I think it was Tainano but my notes are not quite clear which of a number of towns I visited that day it was. I intend to explore this region again…) This had been a renowned market gardening centre, but had gone into a dreadful economic decline some ten years earlier following the collapse of its bridge in a storm. I arrived at the fallen bridge, a simple concrete structure spilling down into a river, a major tributary of the Black Volta, some 40 metres across, its brown surge flowing fast enough for there to be little eddies flecked with flashes of white. We were only an hour’s drive from Sunyani, but I was told that the drive to the next bridge was some four hours on a very rough road. The alternative was to cross by canoe.

I walked down to where a jumble of four or five canoes was pulled onto the steeply sloping bank. The rare sight of a white man wanting to cross caused huge amusement and there followed some excited competition as to which canoe I should take. I eyed them dubiously – they were all of local dugout construction, hewed from a single trunk with rough pieces of wood nailed across as seats. Each already contained a fair amount of water slopping about in the bottom. I chose the largest looking one and we set off. One paddler in front and one at back. They were incredibly muscled; their torsos would have been the delight and envy of any Californian gym, and they were soon sheathed in gold as the sun reflected off a mixture of sweat and river water. I was continually wiping my glasses clear.

We set off more or less straight upstream, the men paddling like crazy with huge muscular strokes but still making very little headway, the force of their efforts rocking the canoe from side to side so that water poured in and I had to lift my feet clear of the floor while gripping the slimy canoe sides to try and retain my balance. That didn’t feel safe, so I reluctantly planted my feet again, the water in the well of the canoe now over my ankles. We had started straight upstream in order to come back to a point opposite our starting one in a graceful arc. As we were broadside to the current in the middle of this manoeuvre, the water flowed over the side and along my seat, thoroughly wetting my arse.

I was in danger of wetting myself anyway. I have a terrible and irrational fear of drowning – I can bath but get scared in a shower for example, and even get scared in very heavy rainfall. Unsurprisingly, I have never learnt to swim. There was one other passenger, an old lady who had hoisted up her brightly flowered dress and knotted it beneath her loins, while balancing an improbably large cloth bundle of goods on her knees. I told myself that if she could do it, I should not be pathetic, but she didn’t improve my mood by screwing up her eyes and yelling out “Lord have mercy” throughout the entire passage. This rather cancelled out my efforts to tell myself that the boatman must make this crossing scores of times a day and it must have been completely routine for the local villagers.

After turning at the top of the arc, we were racing down with the current on the other side of the stream at a quite alarming rate. As we sped past the road, the rear boatman threw a rope to someone on the bank who whipped it round a tree trunk, pulling the canoe up with a jolt that nearly pitched me into the water. I disembarked on shaky legs, deeply conscious of my wet trousers.

I had been vaguely aware of flashes of fluorescent orange in a large tree that was growing to the right of the collapsed bridge on the bank on which we had now arrived. After wiping my glasses again I could now see about a dozen life jackets, hung high in the tree. The effect was rather macabre.

I turned to the boatman and asked why they didn’t use the life-jackets.
He flashed me a wide grin.
“Oh,” he said, “We don’t use them since people drown in them.”

The poverty and squalor of the town were as bad as I had seen in Ghana. Unlike most rural towns, which smell earthy but clean, this one had a palpable smell of sewage and the buildings were visibly decaying; the orange blooms of rust on the corrugated tin roofs were spreading, and in places the ensuing holes had gone rampant, reducing the covering to a fragile latticework of fern-like iron oxide tendrils.

As usual, I chatted with the local schoolmaster, and he firmly alleged that the government’s failure to replace the bridge was because it was an opposition town which the government was happy to see dwindle. In his school I was impressed to find the electoral commission personnel with their cameras set up, quietly and methodically issuing photo ID cards to a queue of several hundred people. They had lost some film stock on the crossing but still had plenty.

I took a trip around the surrounding countryside in an old plum and orange coloured taxi, which had lost a door and whose bodywork was battered beyond recognition, but had a Peugeot badge on the steering wheel. The chrome front bumper was rather bafflingly tied across the roof, secured to the window struts either side with ties made from strips of old fertiliser sacks. The driver, Aaron, was a bright man who was going to vote NDC on the grounds that Rawlings’ willingness to hold a free election meant that he deserved support.

But my trip showed the surrounding farmers to be as impoverished by the loss of the bridge as the town, and I determined on return to try to persuade DFID to rebuild the bridge. It seemed to me that the resulting benefit to an area which had been effectively cut off from economic interaction with the rest of the country, would justify the expenditure.

In fact I was to get nowhere with this. DFID were in the throes of changing from project work to a doctrine which is now the basis of their philosophy, that of budget support. The idea is that no longer will the UK do something for the aid recipient, like building a bridge, a hospital or some schools, or providing inputs and training to farmers. Instead we help the government, together with its civil society, to plan its budget and its programmes to maximise poverty alleviation. We then pump money into its budget to help it to achieve these agreed aims.

This has several advantages. It is more democratic, with the African country pursuing its own objectives. The consultation structures included boost the role of civil society. It also builds up the capacity of the African administration and African professionals to deliver goods to the people.

Unfortunately, these happy ideas are hopelessly unrealistic. With the greatest will in the world, the capacity of African ministries to deliver anything to the people is in practice highly constrained – even in Ghana, which probably has the best civil service in Africa.

There are numerous factors behind this. There is a lack of middle management capability, and a lack of incentive for ordinary civil servants to deliver. African bureaucracies almost entirely lack any link between performance in the job and reward or discipline, with family and tribal linkages almost always being much more crucial to your career than ability or performance.

There is also the sadly unavoidable fact that African governments are corrupt – all of them, to a greater or lesser degree. Now that is not to say that Western governments are not corrupt – of course they are, all of them, to a greater or lesser degree. But African governments are more corrupt. Why they are more corrupt, and whose fault that is, opens up another range of very interesting questions touched on from time to time in this book. But the sad truth is that African governments are rather intensely corrupt, and so simply to hand them over in effect large wodges – amounting to billions of pounds – of the British public’s cash as “Budget support” is not a policy that is going to strike the man in the street as glaringly sensible.

DFID would argue, with some justice, that they then carefully monitor the spending of the African government and the achievement of the objectives of the programmes, to make sure the money is being well used.

There are two problems with this. The first is a wonderful DFID word, fungibility. It means the ability to switch around funds and I think the meaning is clear if you think of it as fudge-ability. Put simply, it means that you put the £100 million DFID gave you for education, into education. Meanwhile you put the £40 million of your own taxpayers’ money, that you had for education, into your own pocket. Nobody will notice amid the flood of resources coming from donors.

Fungibility – where would the Swiss banks and London property market be without it?

The second problem is that in its decade of re-orienting to budget support, DFID has vastly reduced the percentage of funds it devotes to monitoring and evaluation – so it doesn’t really know how much fungible leakage is occurring.

Anyway, Ian Stuart, the head of DFID’s Ghanaian operations, advised me that there was no way DFID would do something as old-fashioned as building a bridge, and though I continued to try for another year, he was right.

Despite what I have written, there is a role for budget support in aid policy – an element of it is essential to have a real effect on primary education, for example. And other approaches can also be fraught. In 1999 the British Council organised for DFID the delivery of basic textbooks to every single primary school in Ghana – a programme of which I was proud. Again I made a point of journeying to the most remote locations to make sure they had got through, and in almost every case they had.

But in a significant number of cases they were not being put to use. One headmaster proudly showed me that the books were “safe” in a locked steel container in a locked cupboard in his locked office. The packets had not been opened. Another teacher told me they read to the children from the books but did not let them see them as “They would get them dirty.”

But in deep rural districts the biggest problem in education I had found was teacher absenteeism. Talking to those teachers present, to local priests and others, I reckoned teacher absenteeism in rural areas ran at over 60%. Often schools would have no teacher present at all, or a single teacher holding the fort for all the others – I suspect they took turns. The simple truth was that educated teachers were not prepared to live in villages with no running water, little electricity and none of the delights of urban society.

I found DFID remarkably ignorant of the true state of affairs. The problem was that neither permanent nor visiting DFID staff nor consultants would dream of calling in to a village school ten hours drive from Accra, certainly not without first giving warning and almost certainly arranging the visit through, and being accompanied by, officials from the local regional office. That would give plenty of time for absent teachers to get there and everything to be in order. Whereas I would be driving through the bush and simply see a school and call in. DFID also credited official figures which, while acknowledging the problem, hid its true extent.

That describes the situation under New Labour, when unrealistic ideology dominated DFID’s approach. David Cameron then came in to power and made this situation still worse, by effectively applying Tory privatisation doctrine to aid. Cameron speeded up a process which was already under way, of spending the aid budget through what he called the “Third Sector” and you and I call charities. This was a part of his “Big Society” initiative.

The worst effect of this was to turn previously worthy charities into corporations devoted to making cash for the elite who run them. Rather than conduits for public philanthropy, major charities became primarily an arm of private sector provision for government, as motivated by altrusim as SERCO or G4 are. Those that were most favoured by DFID started to show the most alarming effects on their corporate ethos.

It would be an interesting study to discover at precisely what point it became generally accepted that the executive staff of charities had to be paid according to the market for executives of rapacious capitalist corporations, and that it was ludicrous to even consider that those who devote their lives to working for charities might do so in part for reasons of altruism that did not require them to become incredibly rich personally. Little old ladies who slave away as volunteers in charity shops or rattling tins at events might be expected to do it for little or nothing for charity, but executive staff – heaven forfend!

I think one of the most morally disgusting statements I have read in my life can be found today on the website of the Save the Children Fund, stating that it is for the good of the poorest children of the planet, racked by poverty and disease and dying in their hundreds of thousands, that the executives of the Save the Children fund need to be paid at levels that enable them to lead lifestyles of the fabulously wealthy. If this monstrously hypocritical sentence does not make you want to vomit, you are not a good person.

We are serious about being the best we can be for the world’s children. That means we place a premium on attracting the best people to work for us and to lead our organisation.

The best people to help starving and sick children are, by this definition, those who want to be paid the most money to do it. There is a more rational argument that those who want to be paid the most money are the worst people to help the world’s children.

So this is what Save the Children ladle out to their UK executives. REMEMBER, MUCH OF THEIR INCOME IS DFID MONEY.

That is whithout even considering the salary of the “Global Head” of such charities. Helle Thorning-Schmidt, wife of Stephen Kinnock, skimmed £284,000 a year plus expenses as global head of Save the Children. Her successor, Inge Asher, somehow scrapes by on £188,900 a year. The utterly shameless David Miliband, Chief Executive of the International Rescue Committee, gets an eye watering US $911,000 a year for his work for a “charity” that gets £100 million a year from DFID.

Compare Save the Children UK and Islamic Relief UK. Islamic Relief is the slightly larger charity by turnover, despite being unusual in UK development agencies in getting a scarcely significant part of its income from DFID. Islamic Relief’s Chief Executive gets a salary approximately 60% of that of his Save the Children UK counterpart, and would not be in the top 20 highest paid employees at Save the Children UK. This precisely because the Islamic Relief trustees feel that working for the charity should in itself contain an element of sadaqah, or charitable giving. Here the Muslim community has maintained a much greater sense of morality than the DFID bloated rest of the British development “charitable” sector. The UK large scale “charitable” sector is a scam on an epic scale. DFID is responsible for much of that development.

So when you hear the UK aid sector screaming at the threat to DFID, do not be shocked. Thousands of luxurious lifestyles across London are potentially at threat.

It astonishes me that there is complete denial about the link between the deliberate entrenchment of corporate macho management structures, with their vastly inflated financial reward systems, into the charity sector from the 1990s onwards, and the ensuing rash of incidents of appalling sexual abuse by charity executives and staff, of which the behaviour of Save the Children senior executives Justin Forsyth and Brendan Cox were among the worse. If you base your recruitment policy on the reward structures of large capitalist enterprises, you will get nasty people. Overpaid, over-entitled and arrogant jumped up arses are going to behave like overpaid, over-entitled and arrogant jumped up arses.

When Save the Children produced their report on why its senior male executives felt entitled to physically molest any female employee who crossed their path, understandably the current overpaid crew avoided blaming either over-payment or over-entitlement. But the truth of the matter is that the entire ethos of the charity sector has been ruined by the massive pump through of DFID cash. I genuinely can’t begin to understand the mindset of people who believe they should personally take these mind-boggling sums from a supposed charity to help the poorest. DFID have created the situation whereby the sector is full of highly paid individuals, in it for the money, who would rather sexually exploit the poor than help them.

This overpayment and excess of self-regard feeds directly into what is generally recognised in international development as “White Saviour Syndrome

When you have reached the stage where there needs to be a parliamentary report on “Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in the Aid Sector”, you know that things have gone very wrong indeed. The fault lies at base with DFID and their massive hosepipe of high pressure money. Charities have been allowed to argue that they need reward criteria the same as would be employed by the Wolf of Wall Street, because the money motive is what brings good staff. You cannot therefore be surprised they started to behave socially like the Wolf of Wall Street.

DFID’s own direct staff costs are comparatively modest, at around £212 million in 2018/9 including pension and other costs, which is a commendable 1.4% of its total budget. Its very top salaries are broadly the same as the very top salaries at Save the Children, although the DFID executives are managing a budget 50 times greater.

The salary of the four highest paid executives at DFID represents 0.03% of DFID’s turnover. The salary of the four highest paid executives at Save the Children UK represents 0.15% of Save the Children UK’s income.

This is even more acute in the field. When I worked alongside the Overseas Development Agency in the British High Commission in Nigeria, a portfolio of projects totalling hundreds of millions of pounds were managed by two ODA officers, of whom the most junior, who did most of the project management, would earn the equivalent in today’s salaries of about £25,000 a year. He would pay tax on that, pay for his own private vehicle, live in a small flat and have access to the High Commission Land Rover Defender pool when on official duty.

Today, the management of that portfolio of projects would no longer be undertaken directly by DFID. It would be split between a dozen different charities. Each would employ a minimum of one expat on a minimum of £50,000 a year tax free, plus their plush detached house, return holiday tickets and full time use of a $100,000 Toyota Land Cruiser. Sometimes the take home pay of an ultimately DFID funded charity aid worker in Africa, managing a single project, is higher than that of the tax paying British ambassador who is in charge of all UK interests in that country.

I want you to understand I am not pontificating from an armchair. I am speaking from four decades of direct involvement and experience in African development of this transformation, which I have witnessed up close and in detail.

You will scour in vain the 196 page DFID Annual Report and Accounts for a breakdown of what percentage of DFID aid is paid to UK charities. The accounts are scrupulous in detailing DFID’s direct salary and administrative costs for its aid, but then take all the money paid out to charities as effective aid to the intended final purpose and destination, without any accounting for the administrative costs of the charity.

The £50,000 salary, the Land Cruiser and the luxury house of the charity worker helping administer a DFID project in Malawi will count as aid to Malawi, even though Malawi gets no benefit. So will the fat fee, air fares and expenses of the British consultant who will fly out from time to time to evaluate the project. The White Saviour syndrome reaches its apogee in projects which consist entirely of sending out British experts for “advocacy”. There are entire tranches of “aid to Africa” which consist entirely of paying members of the UK Aid Industry large sums of money to go out and patronise Africans on the subject of human rights and women’s rights. I have witnessed this in Ghana where society is perfectly capable of tackling these subjects and the general position on both sets of rights is no worse than in the UK.

The DFID annual report is equally silent on what percentage of aid is provided as direct budget support. It details what sectors and geographical locations allegedly benefit, but has very little to say on the medium of provision.

There are entire DFID programmes that consist of nothing but paying particularly wealthy British people to go out and talk down to Africans. As though African countries do not contain extremely educated people concerned with gender and other rights. It is the modern, politically correct version of the Victorian Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge. It reflects the attitude of “Over the seas there are little brown children”, who we need to enlighten. Plan UK are one of many British charities who are main DFID conduits for this type of well paid activity. The DFID money given to the bank accounts of the wealthy British people who undertake this work all counts as “Aid to Africa”.

Ghana gave us Kofi Annan; sent us Afua Hirsch; it has a real human rights lawyer – and friend of mine – as its President. It does not need lectures on rights as “aid”. But it gets them.

Many people whose world view I broadly share will be horrified by my criticism of DFID. One of those is Owen Barder, whose work I generally admire and not only because his late father Brian was something of an intellectual mentor to me (and my boss in Nigeria). There is a fascinating discussion between Owen and Ian Birrell on the effectiveness of aid, centred on a report of the DFID £11 million backed Millennium Villages Project in Northern Ghana, which essentially said it was a waste of money. This evaluation report is truly unusual because normally the consultants evaluating projects are also employed managing other projects. It is all a part of the Aid Industry and they do not normally produce reports that rock the mutual gravy train. I am not sure that ITAD will get much more DFID work after this honesty.

Both Owen and Ian are genuinely knowledgeable, and they have entirely different conclusions on DFID and aid, as brought out in these twitter threads of Ian here and Owen here – each thread having lots of bifuractions and interjections that lead into interesting areas.

But still more enlightening is the perspective of President Nana Akuffo Addo:

Personally, I support the idea of 0.7% of Gross Domestic Income being given by the UK and other wealthy states in aid to developing countries. This is both morally correct and an exercise of enlightened self-interest. I believe that this aid should overwhelmingly be given in the form of delivered turnkey projects. That could take the form of building and furnishing complete factories to provide the processing and added value to African commodity exports which Nana Akuffo Addo outlines in the above speech. Building and handing over cocoa processing plants and gold refineries would be a good start.

I understand why project aid was discredited by disastrous dam projects in the 1980’s. But the provision now of solar energy power stations and the infrastructure to integrate them with the local grid, or indeed of rural roads and bridges, remains for me the most effective way to provide aid. It should be delivered turnkey. You identify what factory or infrastructure is needed and you build it and hand it over. Of course this should take account of long term project sustainability and include the ancillary materials, connections, training and technology transfer required. But at the end of the day, you will have given something concrete to the people of the country. This is certainly how I wish to see Scottish aid develop post Independence.

I am well aware that the current danger from the Tory move to disestablish DFID is that aid funds will be diverted to the military, security services, armaments industry and to boost the profits of Tory donor companies. My expectations of anything getting better in any sector under the current rulers of the last days of the United Kingdom are close to zero. But contriving a worse system for managing aid than DFID is going to be quite hard to achieve. There are excellent left wing arguments against DFID as it has developed institutionally under the ideologically driven right wing governments that dominate the UK.

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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.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

Recurring Donations



 

Paypal address for one-off donations: [email protected]

Alternatively by bank transfer or standing order:

Account name
MURRAY CJ
Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
Sort code 6 0 – 4 0 – 0 5
IBAN GB98NWBK60400532150962
BIC NWBKGB2L
Bank address Natwest, PO Box 414, 38 Strand, London, WC2H 5JB

Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

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Cynicism and Warmongering

The BBC plumbed the depths of hypocrisy in dressing up the final episode of the Salisbury Poisonings as a homage to Dawn Sturgess while systematically lying about the facts of her death, yet again to cover up the implausibility of the official narrative.

As I noted yesterday, the BBC drama appeared to show Charlie Rowley fishing the perfume bottle out of the charity bin at least two months ahead of when this really occurred, to make it more plausible that it had been dropped in there after the alleged attack on the Skripals. The question of how it had managed to sit in a charity bin for three months, when that bin was emptied regularly, was thus dodged.

The next alteration of a timeline by the BBC is just as crucial. The BBC had the discovery of the perfume bottle containing novichok happening before Sturgess’s death, whereas in fact the perfume bottle was not “discovered” until 11 July 2018, three days after Dawn’s death. The extraordinary thing about this is that the police had been searching Rowley’s flat intensively for “novichok” for over a week before coming across a perfume bottle sitting on the kitchen counter. As they were specifically looking for a phial of liquid, you would have thought that might have caught the eye somewhat sooner.

The final episode was more open in its attempts to provoke Russophobia than previous episodes, with images of Putin, Russia, and Boshirov and Petrov appearing. It is of course the case that the military, security service and arms manufacturing complex needs Russophobia to justify sucking away so much of our national wealth. So we should not be surprised this kind of propaganda is produced. We should also realise that those in the service of the elites that benefit from the political system will do everything they can to maintain the propaganda. It is possible to understand all of that, and still be very disappointed that so very many ordinary people fall for it. The sad fact is, propaganda works, and always has.

It is worth reminding ourselves that the Skripal incident was a propaganda initiative from day 1. The role of the Integrity Initiative and its Skripal group – in which the BBC was very much included – puts this BBC propaganda piece in its proper perspective.

I do not know what happened in Salisbury. I know that the British government story makes no sense whatsoever, and I know that the Russian government has not told us the truth about the identities of Boshirov and Petrov, otherwise their true identities would have been firmly documented and reported by now. What the Russians were doing remains a mystery, with possibilities ranging from assassination through liaison to extraction. What the British government was doing is equally murky, and whether the Skripals are willingly a part of MI6’s plans is by no means clear. Sergei’s continuing work for MI6 and his relationship with Pablo Miller are evidently key, while I suspect that Sergei’s role in Christopher Steele’s baroque, fabricated dossier on Donald Trump is probably the motive for the action.

The prosecutions of Julian Assange and Alex Salmond, and subsequently of myself, have stood in the way of my declared intention to make a documentary about the Skripal case, while the money you have so kindly contributed to my legal defence fund is almost as much as I needed to raise for the film. Attempting to counter the propaganda of the state while the state employs its legal mechanisms to drain your energy and resources is not easy. That is of course the standard lot of dissidents around the globe. It will not stop us.

——————————————

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.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

Recurring Donations



 

Paypal address for one-off donations: [email protected]

Alternatively by bank transfer or standing order:

Account name
MURRAY CJ
Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
Sort code 6 0 – 4 0 – 0 5
IBAN GB98NWBK60400532150962
BIC NWBKGB2L
Bank address Natwest, PO Box 414, 38 Strand, London, WC2H 5JB

Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

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The Miracle of Salisbury

It turns out that the BBC really does believe that God is an Englishman. When the simple impossibility of the official story on the Skripals finally overwhelmed the dramatists, they resorted to Divine Intervention for an explanation – as propagandists have done for millennia.

This particular piece of script from Episode 2 of The Salisbury Poisonings deserves an induction in the Propaganda Hall of Fame:

Porton Down Man: I’ve got the reports from the Bailey house
Public Health Woman: Tell me, how many hits?
Porton Down Man: It was found in almost every room of the house. Kitchen, bathroom, living room, bedrooms. It was even on the light switches. We found it in the family car too. But his wife and children haven’t been affected. I like to think of myself as a man of science, but the only word for that is a miracle.

Well, it certainly would be a miracle that the family lived for a week in the house without touching a light switch. But miracle is not really the “only word for that”. Nonsense is a good word. Bullshit is a ruder version. Lie is entirely appropriate in these circumstances.

Because that was not the only miracle on display. We were told specifically that the Skripals had trailed novichok all over Zizzis and the Bishops Mill pub, leaving multiple deadly deposits, dozens of them in total, which miraculously nobody had touched. We were told that Detective Bailey was found to have left multiple deadly deposits of novichok on everything he touched in a busy police station, but over several days before it was closed down nobody had touched any of them, which must be an even bigger miracle than the Baileys’ home.

Perhaps even more amazingly, as the Skripals spread novichok all over the restaurant and the pub, nobody who served them had been harmed, nobody who took their payment. The man who went through Sergei’s wallet to learn his identity from his credit cards was not poisoned. The people giving first aid were not poisoned. The ducks Sergei fed were not poisoned. The little boy he fed the ducks with was not poisoned. So many miracles. If God were not an Englishman, Salisbury would have been in real trouble, evidently.

The conclusion of episode two showed Charlie Rowley fishing out the perfume bottle from the charity bin at least two months in the timeline before this really happened, thus neatly sidestepping one of the most glaring impossibilities in the entire official story. I think we can forgive the BBC that lie – there are only so many instances of divine intervention in the story the public can be expected to buy in one episode.

It is fascinating to see that the construction of this edifice of lies was a joint venture between the BBC and the security services’ house journal, the Guardian. Not only is all round pro-war propagandist “Colonel” Hamish De Bretton Gordon credited as Military Advisor, but Guardian journalists Caroline Bannock and Steven Morris are credited as Script Consultants, which I presume means they fed in the raw lies for the scriptwriters to shape into miracles.

Now here is an interesting ethical point for readers of the Guardian. The Guardian published in the last fortnight two articles by Morris and Bannock that purported to be reporting on the production of the drama and its authenticity, without revealing to the readers that these full time Guardian journalists were in fact a part of the BBC project. That is unethical and unprofessional in a number of quite startling ways. But then it is the Guardian.

[Full disclosure. I shared a flat with Caroline at university. She was an honest person in those days.]

Again, rather than pepper this article with links, I urge you to read this comprehensive article, which contains plenty of links and remains entirely unanswered.

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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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“Putin’s Gonna Get Me”.

Shakespeare’s heirs at the BBC produced this deathless and entirely convincing line as the climax of the first episode of “The Salisbury Poisonings”, a three part piece of state propaganda on the Skripal saga, of which I watched Part 1 as it was broadcast last night. The other two parts are to be broadcast today and tomorrow, which unusual scheduling reflects the importance our masters place on this stirring tale of the resilience of the great British nation under attack by devilish foreigners. You can watch all three episodes now on BBC iPlayer, but personally I suffer from overactive antibodies to bullshit and need a break.

The line about Putin was delivered by salty, ex-British military Ross Cassidy, so of course was entirely convincing. It may have been more so had he ever said it in public before this week, but there you are.

To judge by social media, an extraordinary proportion of the public find the official narrative entirely convincing. I find myself unable to pretend that does not fill me with despair at the future of democracy. That anybody could listen to the following dialogue without doubling up in laughter is completely beyond me. I do not quite understand how the actors managed to speak it.

Porton Down Man: “And it’s one of the deadliest synthetic substances on earth. It’s so toxic that a spoonful, with the right delivery mechanism, could kill thousands”.
Heroic Public Health Lady: “But if it’s so toxic, how come the Skripals are still alive?”
Porton Down Man: “The paramedics assumed that they had overdosed on fentanyl so they gave them a shot of Naloxone, which happens to combat nerve agent toxicity. Plus, it was cold, further inhibiting the speed with which the substance took effect.”

Aah yes, it was cold. A factor those pesky Russians had overlooked, because of course it is never cold in Russia. And everybody knows it is minus 40 inside Zizzis and inside the Bishops Mill pub. Once the nerve agent has entered the body, only in the most extreme conditions could exterior temperature have any kind of effect at all. Neither Sergei nor Yulia was anyway outdoors for any significant period after supposedly being poisoned by their door handle.

Many wildly improbable stories have been produced by the security services over the last three years to explain why this ultra deadly nerve agent did not kill the Skripals. Interestingly enough, the BBC drama left out a detail which the Daily Mail alleged came from a security service briefing, that:

“Completely by chance, doctors with specialist chemical weapons training were on duty at the hospital when the victims were admitted. They treated Sergei and Yulia Skripal with an atropine (antidote) and other medicines approved by scientists from Porton Down, the government’s top secret scientific research laboratory”

Which is very believable, I suppose, because it is no more of a coincidence than the Chief Nurse of the British Army being right there when they first collapsed on a bench.

Yet in all the multiple attempts to explain the non-deadly deadly nerve agent, “it was cold” appears to be a new one. It must have official approval, because all purpose security service shill, warmonger and chemical weapons expert, Lt Col Hamish De Bretton Gordon was listed in the credits as “military advisor” to this BBC production.

Let me offer you this tiny smidgeon of wisdom, for nothing: when the state broadcaster starts to make propaganda videos that credit a “military advisor”, you are well on the way to fascism.

Perhaps wisely, Part One at least of the BBC Drama made no attempt at all to portray how the alleged poisoning happened. How the Skripals went out that morning, caught widely on CCTV, to the cemetery according to this version, and then returned home without being caught coming back. How while they were back in their house two Russian agents rocked up and, at midday in broad daylight on a very open estate, applied deadly nerve agent to the Skripals’ door handle, apparently without the benefit of personal protective equipment, and without being seen by anybody. How the Skripals then left again and contrived for both of them to touch the exterior door handle in closing the door. How, with this incredibly toxic nerve agent on them, they were out for three and a half hours, fed the ducks, went to the pub and went to Zizzis, eating heartily, before both collapsing on a park bench. How despite being different ages, sexes, body shapes and metabolisms they both collapsed, after this three hour plus delay, at exactly the same moment, so neither could call for help.

The BBC simply could not make a drama showing the purported actions that morning of the Skripals without it being blindingly obvious that the story is impossible. Luckily for them, we live in such a haze of British Nationalist fervor that much of the population, especially the mainstream media journalists and the Blairite warmongers, will simply overlook that. The omission of the actual “poisoning” from “The Salisbury Poisonings” is apparently just an artistic decision.

All those events happened before the timeline of this BBC Drama started. The BBC version started the moment people came to help the Skripals on the bench. However it omitted that the very first person to see them and come to help was, by an incredible coincidence, the Chief Nurse of the British Army. That the chief military nurse was on hand is such an amazing coincidence you would have thought the BBC would want to include it in their “drama”. Apparently not. Evidently another artistic decision.

The time from touching the door handle to the Skripals being attended by paramedics was about four hours. That Naloxone is effective four hours after contact with an ultra deadly nerve agent is remarkable.

I do not want to under-represent the personal suffering of policeman Nick Bailey nor his family. But he was shown in the drama as rubbing this “deadliest synthetic substance” directly into the soft tissues around his eye, but then not getting seriously ill for at least another 24 hours. Plainly all could not be what it seems.

The actual poisoning event, the specialist team coincidentally at the hospital and the Army Chief Nurse were not the only conspicuous omissions. Also missing was Skripal’s MI6 handler and Salisbury neighbour Pablo Miller, who did not rate so much as a mention. The other strange thing is that the drama constantly cut to newsreel coverage of actual events, but omitted the BBC’s own flagship news items on the Skripal event in those first three days, which were all presented by BBC Diplomatic Editor Mark Urban.

Now Mark Urban happens to have been in the Royal Tank Regiment with Skripal’s MI6 handler, Pablo Miller. Not distantly, but joining the regiment together at the same rank in the same officer intake on the same day. I do love a lot of good coincidences in a plot. Mark Urban had also met frequently with Sergei Skripal in the year before the alleged attack, to “research a book”. Yet when Urban fronted the BBC’s Skripal coverage those first few days, he kept both those highly pertinent facts hidden from the public. In fact he kept them hidden for four full months. I wonder why Mark Urban’s lead BBC coverage was not included in the newsreel footage of this BBC re-enactment?

There is much, much more that is wildly improbable about this gross propaganda product and I must save some scorn and some facts for the next two episodes. Do read this quick refresher in the meantime. How many of these ten questions has the BBC Drama addressed convincingly, and how many has it dodged or skated over?

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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.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

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Coronavirus: Only an Anecdote

Today’s shocking evidence by Prof. Neil Ferguson that, had lockdown been implemented a week earlier, the death toll would have been halved, has the ring of truth, although it must remain a surmise (and I am aware of his past record).

But I want to give you an anecdotal example from my own family of the extraordinary government laxness at the start of this pandemic.

Whilst I was in London during February covering the Assange hearing, Nadira attended the Berlin Film Festival. She has produced a feature film in Iran, currently in post production, which she was there to promote. She therefore spent almost the whole time in the company of people from Iran involved in the film.

In very early March, a week or more after her return, Nadira developed a bad fever and pneumonia like symptoms. I advised her to call 111. It is important to remember that at this time Iran was well known to be a major epicentre of Covid-19. Nadira was phoned back by a Covid-handler from 111, and she explained the situation to him. He said that she just had seasonal flu and that Germany was not a risk for Covid-19. She explained that she had been the whole time with people newly flown in from Tehran. He stated that unless they were showing symptoms, there was no risk of infection. He said Nadira did not need a test or to self-isolate.

When I got back from London, Nadira took to her bed and remained there for a week, which is simply unheard of – she never gets sick. Cameron developed a nasty cough and we kept him off school for over a week.

Two things are in retrospect striking. The first is that Nadira complained bitterly, and continued to do so for some weeks, that she had completely lost all sense of taste and of smell. We had been gifted a particularly good bottle of wine and I thoughtlessly opened it, rather than wait until she could enjoy the taste too. At that time loss of taste and smell was not a reported marker of covid-19.

The second striking fact is that we now know that the real reason that the 111 service was so adamant to Nadira that no testing was required, is that there was in fact no available testing capacity for anybody who was not Prince Charles. That does not explain why Nadira was told she did not have to isolate. Nor does it explain why in early March NHS Scotland could not grasp the difference between being in Berlin, and being in Berlin with a group flown in from Tehran.

It is worth noting that Nadira flew back in to Edinburgh, very likely carrying Covid 19, precisely two days before the controversial Nike conference. Nadira is just one person, and I am prompted to tell the story (with her permission) by Ferguson’s admission that the failure to do anything about the thousands of people returning from Italy had seeded the virus substantially. That is only a part of it. The refusal to take seriously and test members of the public who believed, with sensible reason, they may have contracted the virus abroad, plainly contributed to the UK’s higher death rate (let alone the failure to bring in airport screening).

Of course, until an antibody test is made available, we have no evidence it was not indeed just the flu which Nadira and Cameron had. To complete the family story, I did not develop pneumonia but did come down with a number of acute symptoms of which the most startling was sleep. About ten days after I returned to Nadira from London, I went through a period where I just could not wake up: for about five days I was sleeping 20 hours a day in a proper, deep sleep. I also found I could not type to blog. I could not control my fingers, while after ten minutes of typing my hands became extremely painful and I literally could not move my thumbs at all. I had all kinds of worries, from arthritis to Alzheimers. It was only later I discovered this arthritis like condition can be a coronavirus symptom too. It now seems to have thankfully cleared up.

At precisely the same time my daughter, who lives with us, came down with eye infections so bad she was off work for a fortnight while they were treated by the Edinburgh Eye Clinic. There is some evidence now this too can be a symptom of Covid-19, though the same can be said for a huge variety of symptoms.

The only member of my family to have been tested was my sister-in-law, who works in the NHS. She was extremely ill and hospitalised for a considerable period. She self-isolated and avoided admission perhaps overlong, not wanting to be a burden on her own hospital. In this self-isolation period my brother continued to look after her and to share a bed, and yet he has at no stage exhibited any symptoms.

This is all only anecdotal. Only one of the family ever was tested, even though Nadira very much ought to have been and wanted to be. It interests me that only Cameron ever developed a cough – even my sister-in-law who was hospitalised for weeks never coughed, even though both she and Nadira had breathing difficulties. My daughter and I had completely different symptoms again. The only common symptom to us all was fever. My brother, who cannot have avoided catching the disease, had no symptoms at all.

Anecdotal evidence is not without value. What the story of my family does show is that government negligence caused the most serious failure in diagnostic capacity compared to better organised countries, and thus the abdication of any possibility of effective track and trace right from the start. That seems to me a sufficient illustration of why the UK death rate has been so high.

I wish to thank all of those who tuned in for the first procedural hearing in my Contempt of Court trial. I realise it was not too gripping but please do not give up and do stay with me through the procedures as they get more dangerous. Julian Assange’s case has been marked by terrible abuse of procedure. I am severely constrained in what I can say, but I may perhaps say that today was a most happy contrast to the handling of Julian. I have no doubt your presence with me helps; and it is a massive emotional support.

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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.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

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Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
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Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

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Ultimately, All Monuments are Ozymandias

The great philosopher John Stuart Mill probably did more than anyone to map out the proper boundaries of the individual and the state in the western model of political democracy. Furthermore, he talked not just of the state but of societal behaviour as it impacts on individuals. Through the power of thought his influence on the development of the modern world has been enormous, even if many have never heard of him. He was four generations ahead of his time; but that is in part true because his own writings helped shape the future. This from the New Yorker is a fine example of the received view of Mill among the modern liberal intelligentsia:

Mill believed in complete equality between the sexes, not just women’s colleges and, someday, female suffrage but absolute parity; he believed in equal process for all, the end of slavery, votes for the working classes, and the right to birth control (he was arrested at seventeen for helping poor people obtain contraception), and in the common intelligence of all the races of mankind. He led the fight for due process for detainees accused of terrorism; argued for teaching Arabic, in order not to alienate potential native radicals; and opposed adulterating Anglo-American liberalism with too much systematic French theory—all this along with an intelligent acceptance of the free market as an engine of prosperity and a desire to see its excesses and inequalities curbed. He was right about nearly everything, even when contemplating what was wrong: open-minded and magnanimous to a fault, he saw through Thomas Carlyle’s reactionary politics to his genius, and his essay on Coleridge, a leading conservative of the previous generation, is a model appreciation of a writer whose views are all wrong but whose writing is still wonderful. Mill was an enemy of religious bigotry and superstition, and a friend of toleration and free thought, without overdoing either. (No one has ever been more eloquent about the ethical virtues of Jesus of Nazareth.)

Yet for a living John Stuart Mill was Secretary to the Political Committee of the East India Company, and actively involved in the rapacious colonisation of India and the enforced opening of China to opium sales. How do we cope with this? Mill has possibly influenced my thinking more than any other political writer. I would start any political education with a reading of Mill’s On Liberty and J A Hobson’s Imperialism: A Study. But how do we process Mill’s involvement with the East India Company? Should Mill’s statue be ripped from Victoria Embankment Gardens and dumped in the Thames?

I do not ask that as a rhetorical question. It is a dilemma. Historians of thought have tended to deal with it by ignoring Mill’s day job. I have read three biographies of Mill and I have a fourth, by Timothy Larsen, waiting to be started. Richard Reeves comes closest of Mill’s biographers to addressing Mill’s work for the East India Company but tells us almost nothing on the subject that is not from Mill’s own Autobiography. In his Autobiography, what Mill mostly tells us about his work for the EIC is that it did not take up too much of his time.

If Mill were a dentist, for biographers to ignore his day job and concentrate on his philosophy would make sense. But Mill’s day job was governing a very significant proportion of the world’s population. He did not just work at the East India Company, he was perhaps, as Secretary of the Political Committee, the most important civil servant there. Mill wrote and signed off detailed instructions to Governors General. He issued advice – which was expected to be followed – on trade and military affairs, and on governance. It is fascinating to me that in his Autobiography Mill systematically downplays his role in the East India Office, both in terms of his commitment and his importance within the organisation.

There has been much more written about Mill and the East India Company by Indian researchers than by western researchers, because it is of course an excellent illustration of the hypocrisies of western liberalism, that its figurehead was so enmired in the colonial project. Unfortunately, many of these studies lack nuance and tend to accuse Mill of being things he definitely was not, such as a racist. East India Company policies are ascribed to Mill which Mill was demonstrably and actively against, such as the anglicising project of Trevelyan and Macaulay. Mill did not view British culture as superior, and he was horrified by initiatives like the ending of communal land ownership in Bengal and the British creation of a Bengali landlord class there. I broadly recommend this article by Mark Tunick, though like almost everything published on the subject it suffers from the drawback of discussing what Mill wrote about governing India rather than the much harder task of discussing what he wrote in governing India. The subject needs solid analysis of Mill’s thousands of minutes and despatches in the East India Company records.

Mill worked with Burnes to try to avoid the First Afghan War, but like Burnes he did not resign over it, nor over the appalling war crimes committed by the British in its prosecution. Mill had been the guiding hand behind the long Governor Generalship of Lord Bentinck and its policy of avoiding war and expansion; but Mill was still there administering when that ended, through the annexations of Sindh and Nepal and Baluchistan and the most aggressive period of Imperial expansionism. Mill was there for the opium wars.

So how do we come to terms with our past? If slavery is the touchstone of good and bad, Mill is fine. He was a dedicated an effective lifetime opponent of slavery, including in EIC territories, and was highly influential in assuring the UK did not recognise the Confederacy in the US civil war. But if you look at the atrocious crimes of British imperialism, the financial and economic rape of whole continents, the killing, torture, terror and physical rape, why would slavery be the only criterion to judge people?

I have chosen Mill because he was a demonstrably good man, and yet I perfectly understand why a person of Indian or Chinese heritage might want to dump him in the Thames. There are others Imperialists, like Napier, Gordon or Wolseley, with statues all over the country, whose deeds are not admirable to a modern eye, particularly as our society is now a great deal less homogenous and contains descendants of those whose cities were pillaged and people raped and slaughtered by these military prodigies.

I don’t have all the answers. My life of Alexander Burnes tried to find a way to treat a remarkable man who lived by the mores of times not our own. The answer lies not in glorifying nor in destroying our past.

Monuments do not stand still. They are, ultimately, all of them Ozymandias. Destruction of historical artifacts is a bad thing; they are valuable tools for understanding the past, and of artistic and cultural value in themselves. But it is perfectly natural that in public spaces we wish to have public objects that reflect the mores of our own times. The important thing is to understand that the mores of the times do change; our great grandchildren will undoubtedly think we were quaint and had weird beliefs.

A thought on Edward Colston. His involvement in slavery was as a director of the Royal African Company. The Royal in that title is not meaningless; the company was set up specifically to make the monarch rich. A far more practical way to honour the memory of the slaves would be to abolish the monarchy. That would be a meaningful action.

A further thought. Living here in Edinburgh I find it absolutely infuriating that we have a major street named after the genocidal sadist the Duke of Cumberland. (Yes, Cumberland Street is specifically named after him). Respecting the past does not mean our society cannot move on. Street names and statues are signs of honour. There are plenty that should be removed from the street and placed in museums, where they can be explained and contextualised.

When Horatio Nelson helped to “free” the Kingdom of the Sicilies from Napoleon and restore its appalling autocratic monarchy, Neapolitan writers and intellectuals were shot and hung on Nelson’s flagship, anchored off Naples so the mob could not intervene to save them. Nelson watched some of the executions between bouts of shagging Lady Hamilton. I do not recommend toppling Nelson’s column; but I do advocate some real information about him in an education centre under the square.

UPDATE: I see that Liverpool University have just agreed to rename Gladstone Hall because Gladstone’s father was a slave owner. That is, I think, an appalling act of stupidity from what is supposed to be an institute of learning.

Very many thanks to the 700 people who have applied to follow virtually the criminal proceedings against me which start tomorrow. It is just a procedural court hearing tomorrow and I am worried that nothing much may happen. I do hope you will not get bored and give up on the rest of the case when it comes. In Julian Assange’s case, the behaviour of the judge has been outrageous even in the procedural hearings, but we should not take for granted that the same will happen here.

The court has been informing people they are not allowed to record, or to publish while the court is in session. That is true; but you can take notes, and you are allowed to publish factual accounts of what happened once the court closes.

——————————————

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.

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

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Paypal address for one-off donations: [email protected]

Alternatively by bank transfer or standing order:

Account name
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Account number 3 2 1 5 0 9 6 2
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Bank address Natwest, PO Box 414, 38 Strand, London, WC2H 5JB

Subscriptions are still preferred to donations as I can’t run the blog without some certainty of future income, but I understand why some people prefer not to commit to that.

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An Apology

I owe an apology to all those who are kind enough to subscribe to my blog. I was determined that I would not let my impending trial affect my output, but have been unable to see that through. It is partly because preparation does take up much more time than I had imagined. But it is mostly because I find it hard to put my mind to anything else and really concentrate.

I do not want to give you the impression that I am very worried, or depressed. I am rather angry; a deep, seething anger that keeps breaking into my thoughts. I am rather worried about this. I can with fairness claim to have devoted much of my life to fighting against injustice. I was prepared to sacrifice an extremely prestigious and lucrative career to take a stand against UK complicity in torture, driven largely by empathy for the victims. I have assisted with numerous individual human rights cases and particularly asylum claims, including representing people, without fee, before immigration courts. But I am nonetheless alarmed by how much more viscerally angry I am when the injustice is against myself than when it is against another. I am aware that is very unattractive. This fury at being personally mistreated is disproportionate and quite wrong, and ought not to stop me working. I feel guilty about it.

Among the results is a very annoying writers’ block. I have been intending this last five days to write an article on Barack Obama’s failure while President to tackle institutional racism and societal inequalities in the USA, and relate that to the remarkable fact he paid much less attention to aid to Africa than George W Bush. I enjoy writing most when I am running counter to the prevailing narrative and pointing to inconvenient fact. But the lines of logic refuse to flow, the fascinating asides do not pop up, and then I remember something else I must tell my lawyers.

Please do not worry. I am not sad, and my anger does not manifest itself by being horrible to others; on the contrary, for once I seem to be particularly considerate to my family and appreciative of how fortunate I am. The purpose of this post is to apologise to you, and thank you for your patience. It is not a signal of giving up – I do not intend to wait until after the trial before getting back to normal. Please bear with me.

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Please Sign the Open Letter

I should be grateful if you would join Noam Chomsky, Yanis Varoufakis, David Hare, Roger Waters, Robert Black, Kristinn Hrnafsson, Christine Assange and many others in signing the open letter against the politically motivated legal harassment of people including Mark Hirst and myself.

I am not asking you to endorse our political views; I am asking you to support free speech and oppose this rather startling authoritarianism and highly selective prosecution.

To the Lord Advocate

DEAR Mr Wolffe,

We are writing to you to express our growing concern over the actions of both the Crown Office and Police Scotland.

In recent weeks vocal independence supporters and backers of the former First Minister Alex Salmond, specifically the former UK diplomat, human rights campaigner and journalist Craig Murray along with fellow journalist Mark Hirst, have been arrested and charged in relation to comments they made publicly during and following the trial of Mr Salmond. Other supporters of Mr Salmond have also been contacted by police and warned over online comments they made in the wake of the trial.

We are particularly concerned to note that the investigating police officers are the same detectives who led the investigation against Mr Salmond over a period of two years and at considerable cost to the public purse.

As you know, the prosecution following from that investigation, pursued again at considerable cost to the public purse, resulted in the acquittal of Mr Salmond on all charges and now raises the most serious questions about why that investigation and that prosecution were pursued.

Whilst we appreciate that you cannot be involved in individual cases you will undoubtedly be aware that complaints of alleged Contempt of Court were made against six other individual journalists widely regarded as being hostile in their reporting of Mr Salmond. No action by the Crown Office or Police Scotland has been taken against any of those individuals. This leaves the distinct impression that Police Scotland, at the direction of the Crown Office, is acting in a manner that is both biased and disproportionate.

As you will be aware, for public confidence to be maintained in our independent legal system the law must be able to both demonstrate it is acting impartially and be seen to be doing so.

The actions taken so far risk establishing a public perception that both Police Scotland and the Crown Office are conducting themselves in a manner which is biased and is indeed political in nature.

Such perceptions risk seriously damaging confidence in the Scottish legal system.

We would welcome your fullest public response to the concerns raised in this letter and any meaningful public assurances you can offer that both Police Scotland and the Crown Office are complying with their obligations to act with complete impartiality and to apply the law fairly.

Professor Noam Chomsky (linguist and political scientist)
Yanis Varoufakis (Author, former Greek Finance Minister, philosopher, economist)
Professor Robert Black QC (Professor Emeritus of Scots Law, Edinburgh University)
Sir David Hare (Playwright, screenwriter and film director)
Kristinn Hrnaffson (Investigative journalist and Editor in Chief of Wikileaks)
Tariq Ali (human rights campaigner, journalist and historian)
Roger Waters (co-founder Pink Floyd, political activist)
Lawrence B. Wilkerson, (US Colonel, Ret, former Chief of Staff, US Department of State)
Paul Kavanagh (Columnist, The National newspaper)
George Kerevan (Journalist, Former SNP MP, former Associate Editor of The Scotsman)
Tommy Sheridan (Convenor, Solidarity and former MSP)
Ann Wright (US Colonel, Ret, and former US Ambassador)
Christine Assange (human rights campaigner and mother of Julian)
Gordon Dangerfield (Solicitor Advocate)
Hugh Kerr (Former Labour MEP, author and journalist)
John Kiriakou (CIA whistle-blower)
Coleen Rowley (Retired FBI Agent and former Minneapolis Division Legal Counsel, 2002 Time Magazine Person of the Year)
Ray McGovern (Former CIA Officer, Founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity)
Robert Tibbo (lawyer to Edward Snowden)
Annie Machon (former MI5 officer, author and journalist)
Katherine Gun (former GCHQ whistle-blower)
Clive Ponting (former MOD whistle-blower)
Stuart Campbell (Editor, Wings over Scotland)
James Kelly (Editor of SCOT goes POP! and columnist with The National)
Neil MacKay (Singer-songwriter, Scottish independence activist)
Liz Dangerfield (solicitor)
Campbell Martin (Broadcast journalist and former SNP MSP)
Elizabeth Murray (former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East & CIA political analyst)
Robin McAlpine (Political strategist)
Bogdan Dzakovic (9/11 aviation security whistle-blower, FAA Security, Ret.)
Robert Wing (former US Foreign Service Officer)
Marshall Carter-Tripp (Political science professor and former Division Director, State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research)

Details of charges against Mark Hirst are here. The indictment against me is here. You can sign the letter against this persecution here.


This hearing on 10 June is supposed to be public, but it will be virtual because of coronavirus. While it is a case management hearing, I shall nevertheless be grateful if you are able to “attend” virtually, as I am very keen indeed that I am not stitched up out of the public eye. Please send an email requesting access to the virtual hearing on 10 June to [email protected] I am very keen as many people do this as possible. Journalists please in addition copy in [email protected] for accreditation.

This is a procedural hearing before three appeal court judges. It is not the trial itself, but as with Julian Assange it is vital that the whole process is independently witnessed and that there is no potential for injustice to thrive in the dark. I am very grateful to the 700 people who have already registered.

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