craig


Russophobia Goes Comic 323

I am feeling particularly hostile to Donald Trump after his incendiary move on Jerusalem. But it remains the case that I have enough direct knowledge of events to be aware that the entire premise of the Russophobic “election-hacking” conspiracy theory is simple nonsense. I am therefore most amused that my friend Randy Credico, who stayed with Nadira and I in Edinburgh a few months ago, has now been subpoenaed by the Senate Inquiry on Russian meddling as the alleged go-between for Roger Stone and Julian Assange, on the brilliant grounds that he knows both of them.

I can tell you from certain knowledge this is absolute nonsense. While Randy is a delightful person who hides a shrewd political mind behind a deliberate crackpot façade, he is the most indiscreet person in the world. He is not anybody’s conveyor of secrets, he would tell it all impulsively on his next radio show! Where Russia fits into this mad conspiracy theory I have no idea. If I had any belief that it was the genuine intention of Senate or Special Counsel inquiries to discover the actual truth, I would be surprised they have never made any contact with me, as opposed to my fleeting houseguests. But as I am well aware the last thing they want to know is the truth, I am not surprised in the least.

On a personal note I have just emerged from a really harrowing period. I had to leave the High Court a month ago straight to Heathrow and fly out to Ghana. Here I have been battling for the last year to save Atholl Energy, a company I chair which had some US $50 million worth of debts. The reason for this was that it had built an extension to the power station it originally constructed for the Ghanaian government, and the Ghanaian government had failed to pay for the extension after Atholl pre-financed it. In line with company philosophy, Atholl had both completed and handed over the extension, despite the non-payment, as the aim is to supply power to the people of Ghana.

The massive debt of course threatened Atholl with going bust. That would mean redundancy for our staff, and potentially many scores of redundancies at local sub-contractors we had been unable to pay in full. The thought of inflicting that mass misery on families, many of whom I know, has stopped me sleeping for months.

The current government of Ghana took over in January and inherited a huge fiscal deficit due to – and there is no other way of saying it – wholesale looting by the last government on a scale which Ghana had never witnessed before. To give an example from our own sector, we install power plant using Siemens equipment at about 1.2 million dollars per MW for a turnkey plant including fuel supply and power evacuation infrastructure. The last government of Ghana were contracting large projects at three times the unit cost or more, using inferior equipment. For $150 million per project to be added corruptly was not unusual.

On top of this, despite having imposed some of the world’s highest electricity tariffs – higher than British tariffs, for example – the revenue collected was mysteriously vanishing. As a result, our $52 million owed was part of a US$2.5 billion energy sector debt the current government inherited.

In effect this has been rescheduled, by the launch of bonds to raise the money to pay off the debts. The bonds are serviced by a levy on petrol and diesel. As usual in Africa, the IMF and World Bank were extremely unhelpful, refusing to sanction a government guarantee on the bonds, which means the energy levy is now to be collected by a new corporate structure and the bond is a corporate one. This structure necessitated an increase in the bond interest rate to 19.5%, which will benefit the financial institutions who have bought them, to the detriment of the Ghanaian public. In my experience every IMF and World Bank policy intervention in Africa always, on analysis, benefits corporations to the disbenefit of the African public.

It is also a gross double standard – if the energy debt had been treated as government debt, Ghana’s “unacceptable” debt to GDP ratio would still have been substantially less that that of many developed countries, including the UK.

The government of Ghana is to be congratulated on its persistence and the brilliance of its financial engineering that enabled it to tackle a huge problem despite obstruction rather than help from the international agencies – the energy sector debt had been threatening to crash the Ghanaian Banking sector, to the benefit of the large international banks.

For our company, we had to take a haircut because the payment was made not in the cash dollars which were owed, but in a mixture of bonds and local currency. We owed banks and suppliers in dollars, so we have been structuring sales and taken the odd hit on discounting. But we have got through it, and as of yesterday have paid off all our creditors in full. There is not a single job loss caused by us, either in our company or at our suppliers and sub-contractors, and that has removed a fear which has been haunting me. I cannot express how tough this period has been – I did not receive a single penny from my major source of income for nearly four years, and as of this morning still haven’t. I am not going to be a millionaire, but I am now going to be OK.

2017 has personally been really difficult. But I can now look forward to the New Year with lightened shoulders, and pick up the rest of my life again.

I am truly sorry that for the last few months speaking invitations and book orders have gone by the wall. I have 21,253 unopened emails!! Not to mention over 5,000 donors to my legal defence fund I have not thanked yet. I promise I shall be less elusive in future.

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The End of the Affair

At the High Court today the following joint statement was agreed.

On 29 April 2016, Jake Wallis Simons and Craig Murray appeared together on Sky News to debate anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom. Following that debate, Dr Wallis Simons issued libel proceedings against Mr Murray. Dr Wallis Simons and Mr Murray have now settled these proceedings.

By this statement, Mr Murray accepts that Dr Wallis Simons is not a liar, and Dr Wallis Simons accepts that Mr Murray is not an anti-Semite. They are both pleased to have resolved this dispute amicably.

I am genuinely happy with this outcome, which would never have been remotely possible without the incredible 5,000 plus people who donated to my defence fund and enabled me to be represented by a top legal team. It continues to be my view that the libel laws are appalling – had I lost the case I was very definitely looking at a cost of £350,000 plus.

I am also very grateful to the band of readers of this blog who arrived to support me, and in the end saw very little. When invited to open the case the other side immediately asked for an adjournment to discuss a settlement. The hour of delay which followed was occupied on our side almost entirely by my agonising over whether it was morally acceptable for me to agree this statement and use the defence fund to pay my lawyers, or whether those who donated did so in the expectation I would fight the case whatever.

There were a number of supporters at hand who had donated, many of whom were personally previously unknown to me, and the opinions I could canvass were unanimously that this was a good result and a good use of their money.

Having agreed to settle in this way, I have arrived at this following decision. If anybody who donated feels they have been unduly sold out, please let me know through the contact button above and your donation will be refunded to you.

When we started the defence fund, our “realistic” projection was a total of £12,000. That we eventually raised over £100,000 is astonishing. Equally astonishing, but in a bad way, is that my own legal team’s cost almost amounts to that – I will publish full accounts in due course. After all is settled and refunds issued to those who wish, if anything is left over I propose to split it between Andy Wightman’s defence fund and Neil Clark’s case against Oliver Kamm. Again please do let me know if you object. It’s actually your money not mine.

I did not realise how this has been weighing me down, until the threat has been lifted today. I have never claimed to be entirely without fault, and I would ask you to refrain from any comment here which detracts from the amicable spirit of the joint statement. It is a time for celebration not recrimination, and please confine any rudeness to remarks about me.

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I Go to Stand My Trial

I leave Edinburgh this afternoon for London, to stand trial at the High Court for libel. To answer a question frequently asked, the reason I have accepted English jurisdiction is that the event was a Sky News broadcast, an English broadcaster. If it had been over my blog I would not have accepted jurisdiction as I do not accept the English claim to universal jurisdiction over internet content.

I do hope that this trial will help bring into further disrepute the immoral and draconian English libel laws. If I lose, the total costs and damages I would have to pay will potentially amount to some £350,000 – a ridiculously disproportionate result for the alleged civil offence. It would ruin me and blight the lives of my young family. Whether this can possibly be an appropriate reaction to something I said in response in a live debate, you might judge for yourselves by reading the court documents .

Thanks to the astonishing generosity of the readers of this blog, at least I am in a position to defend myself robustly. Over 5,000 readers of this blog have, with incredible generosity, contributed a total of £100,323 towards my defence to date. The libel laws are so oppressive because the sums of money involved are so astonishing. The entire massive English libel industry – courts, judges, barristers, solicitors – is taken together a major financial interest in itself, well represented in parliament. It is in all their collective financial interest that this system of oppression rolls on, which of course requires a good chance of people being found guilty to encourage more plaintiffs into the industry. I often feel this analysis from unconscious institutional self-interest is often neglected in favour of the equally valid and important argument that the libel laws are an essential tool of the wealthy and powerful to discourage free speech by the poor. Robert Maxwell, Alisher Usmanov and Jimmy Savile are three examples of people who kept their true nature hidden by constantly and aggressively threatening people with the disastrous consequences of an English libel suit.

Finally the trial starts on Tuesday 7 November at the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand, High Court Queen’s Bench. It will last probably two and up to three days. It is open to the public. I would very much welcome anyone with the capacity to report any of what happens on social media. I am not aware of any restrictions on this, but will try to publish them here if I learn of any.

This is probably my last blogpost until after the trial, as I must concentrate now. By the time I come back online the Tories will have appointed their next Disgraced Former Defence Secretary in Waiting.

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Blowback and the Manhattan Terror Attack

UPDATE: On 21 Jan 2010 I predicted exactly this wave of anti-Western violence from Uzbekistan, in this excellent Michael Andersen documentary for Al Jazeera:

“We are creating a timebomb of discontent in Central Asia; and because the West is seen to be backing the dictatorships, that discontent will take an anti-western turn.”

The latest Manhattan Terror Attack appears to have been conducted by an Uzbek, Sayfullo Saipov, and a worrying proportion of such attacks worldwide are being carried out by Uzbeks, including the ramming attack in Stockholm and the Istanbul airport bombing.

When I was British Ambassador in Uzbekistan I very explicitly warned that the support NATO countries were giving the appallingly repressive Uzbek regime – military, financial and political support – would cause hatred of the West among Uzbeks. I felt so strongly about this I was prepared to give up my career for it, and in Murder in Samarkand (Dirty Diplomacy in the USA) I published a 440 page account of how our policy was fundamentally wrong. It gives me no pleasure whatsoever to be vindicated in this way.

Newsweek today gets it spectacularly wrong, publishing:

The presence of radical Uzbeks around the world may seem damning, but Uzbekistan has been a U.S. partner in the war on terror. The U.S. operated an airbase in the country from 2001 to 2005, and continued to use Uzbekistan as a strategic location to bring goods and military equipment into Afghanistan even after the base closed. Former Secretary of State John Kerry visited the country in 2015.

The point they miss is that it is because of the Uzbek regime’s mutual cooperation with the USA in the War on Terror, and the use of that pretext by the dictatorship, aided and abetted by the CIA, to ramp up repression, that Uzbek terrorism is occurring.

There are two other points worth noting:

1) The rigid suppression of all religious belief, as in Uzbekistan, is equally as likely to promote radical religious extremism as the inculcation of a single religion in noxious form, as in Saudi Arabia.

2) I complain specifically in Murder in Samarkand that the successful and systematic attempts by Germany to prevent EU criticism of Uzbek regime human rights abuse, were motivated by Gerhard Schroder’s personal interest in Gazprom. I suffered some derision for this at the time, but his behaviour has now become notorious.

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The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

Only the Tories could produce a sex dossier like this one, in tremendous High Tory prose. They talk of “impregnation” and “fornication”. This provides some backing for its authenticity.

It is difficult to understand the provenance of this “sex list” of Tory MPs. What was the standing of the junior Tory researchers who allegedly compiled it, and at whose behest? Assuming this copy is genuine, we know that at least some of it is accurate because individuals like Mark Garnier have admitted the detail of the allegation. But I publish it as a matter of intense public interest at the moment, and I publish it as evidence that this is what is alleged. This list is already extremely widely available online. I am not in any sense endorsing or promoting as true any of the specific individual allegations, which may be groundless nonsense. I understand that in some cases these allegations are strongly denied.

Except for the Liam Fox and Adam Werritty bit, we all know that is true.

What is genuinely alarming about this list is the clear picture that emerges overall that the pool of MPs’ researchers, who are often young and are in a subservient position in this context, are viewed as fair game for MPs’ sexual predation. The list of 40 Tory MPs (NB Not 36) includes 23 who are accused of inappropriate behaviour towards researchers, secretaries and others in a dependent position. This is disgusting exploitation and may be justly compared to the Weinstein affair.

But some of the other allegations do not strike me as of genuine public interest. Personal sexual preferences between consenting adults are not my business, and I detect a definite whiff of homophobia in some of these details. If somebody likes to be peed on by three men, what has that got to do with his ability or integrity as an MP? Similarly the concern about extra-marital affairs seems to come from a bygone age. If the several citings of Kwesi Kwerteng are true, the man has truly appalling taste. Women appear to be dubiously targeted for mere promiscuity.

Tories are sleazebags. Who knew?

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The Intellectual Dishonesty of the Guardian

In an instance typical of the morally abhorrent neoliberal propaganda rag that the Guardian has become, it reports that the latest respectable opinion poll puts support for Catalan Independence at 48.7% – while failing to report that the same poll puts opposition to Catalan Independence at 43.6%. By excluding the don’t knows and failing to admit it has done so, the Guardian quite deliberately leads readers to presume that the 48.7% support for Independence means there is a majority against. In fact the true figures are roughly Yes 53%, No 47%, excluding don’t knows.

I don’t know either Stephen Burgen or Jennifer Rankin, the authors of the Guardian article, but I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and imagine that there was a period in their lives when they did not intend to become disgusting, stinking, lying worms churning out misleading crap on behalf of the Establishment. But then again, I could be wrong. Maybe they just do anything for money.

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On Being a Rebel

The Francoist ultras of the Spanish government have gone the whole hog, and are charging Puigdemont and his colleagues with sedition and rebellion. And before anyone can interject with any nonsense about prosecutorial independence, let me assure you that in no country, ever, in the history of the world, has anybody been tried for sedition or rebellion without the explicit approval of the political rulers.

Puigdemont is in excellent company. Gandhi was jailed for ten years for sedition in 1922 for seeking Indian independence from Britain. He served two years in dreadful conditions in jail. As Gandhi stated in his defence speech, he certainly was guilty under the law, and proud of it. Here is an extract from Gandhi’s speech:

Affection cannot be manufactured or regulated by law. If one has no affection for a person or system, one should be free to give the fullest expression to his disaffection, so long as he does not contemplate, promote, or incite to violence. But the section under which mere promotion of disaffection is a crime. I have studied some of the cases tried under it; I know that some of the most loved of India’s patriots have been convicted under it. I consider it a privilege, therefore, to be charged under that section. I have endeavored to give in their briefest outline the reasons for my disaffection. I have no personal ill-will against any single administrator, much less can I have any disaffection towards the King’s person. But I hold it to be a virtue to be disaffected towards a Government which in its totality has done more harm to India than any previous system. India is less manly under the British rule than she ever was before. Holding such a belief, I consider it to be a sin to have affection for the system. And it has been a precious privilege for me to be able to write what I have in the various articles tendered in evidence against me.

In fact, I believe that I have rendered a service to India and England by showing in non-co-operation the way out of the unnatural state in which both are living. In my opinion, non-co-operation with evil is as much a duty as is co-operation with good. But in the past, non-co-operation has been deliberately expressed in violence to the evil-doer. I am endeavoring to show to my countrymen that violent non-co-operation only multiples evil, and that as evil can only be sustained by violence, withdrawal of support of evil requires complete abstention from violence.

Exactly as I predicted, the Spanish governments imposition of elections is a ruse that was never in good faith, with the Catalan leaders exiled (and two of them imprisoned) and the main pro-Independence parties, and the act of seeking Independence itself, banned. The continued endorsement of all this by Western states, Western politicians and corporate and state media has become so self-evidently hypocritical that the tactic is now simply to relegate Catalonia right down the news bulletins and pretend it is all over and nothing much is happening, just as they ignored the violence and fascism around Sunday’s Spanish nationalist march.

But you would have to be extremely foolish to believe this extreme state repression has killed off the Catalan cause. It will backfire spectacularly, in due course.

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‘Twas on the Good Ship Venus

Submarines don’t have much rigging, which somewhat spoils the chorus, but I am delighted to hear that sailors on board Britain’s nuclear deterrent are heavily into sex and drugs. As the North Korean diplomatic standoff shows, nuclear weapons are utterly useless even within the context of the one situation in which they are supposed to be of use. Nobody has yet argued that the solution to nuclear proliferation is to start an atomic war, so what are the things for? The notion that Putin has a secret desire to send tanks rolling up the streets of Dumfries is obvious nonsense.

However, if we are going to wreck our economy by squandering US$250 billion on a redundant weapons system, it is good that at least some people are getting some fun out of it. Mind you, for $250 billion the entire nation could get high and shag like crazy for a very long time, which would be more equitable than confining the merriment to a couple of dozen people sitting on some big bombs. Michael Fallon is one of the few people in the world who would like to see nuclear weapons actually used. He is reportedly distressed that post-coital ennui or drug induced lack of coordination might reduce operational efficiency and delay the apocalypse. I sometimes suspect Fallon must have taken far too many drugs when he was young. Certainly large parts of his brain appear to have been altered to something way beyond the normal.

It is not only Major Tom who noticed there is nothing much else you can do whilst sitting in a tin can. The problem of drug-taking submariners is actually over a hundred years old. We can be fairly confident they have been shagging that long too: the new development being that they now have the choice of shagging members of the opposite sex (though I am amused to see that in the current scandal the distinction between officers and other ranks was properly observed when it came to penis insertion).

I was talking yesterday with a Tory journalist who was exultantly predicting that the emerging MP’s sexual abuse scandal would be much worse for the opposition than the Tories – purely on the grounds that “Tory girls” would be much less disposed to “make a fuss” about sexual advances from the MP’s they work for. I find that depressing on a great many levels, but have a nagging feeling it might prove true.

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When Project Fear Shoots its Bolt

Zero companies have left Catalonia. The BBC, Sky News, France24 and Deutsche Welt have all told me repeatedly today that 1500 companies have left Catalonia. Goodness knows what the Spanish media is like – El Pais, soon to be renamed The Ecstatic Francoist, has put me off looking any further. But despite the media bombardment of fake news, actually no companies have left Catalonia at all. What have left Catalonia are not 1500 companies, but 1500 emails and forms giving a change of Head Office address. The companies and the jobs are still exactly where they were. In Catalonia.

Actually, it was very helpful for the Madrid government to initiate this process, because all those companies will need Spanish offices now their main premises are no longer in Spain but in Catalonia. They can now in addition register their Catalan premises with the Catalan state company register..

We saw Project Fear in spades in Scotland in 2014, but while they threatened that no business would remain in Scotland, they were not stupid enough to claim they had actually already left. Project Fear is a lot less effective when its bluff is called. The Spanish government has managed to call its own bluff, to shoot its bolt prematurely, and it turns out to be not a real threat at all. Now what does that remind me of?

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Europe Fails a Fundamental Democratic Test

A snap analysis of social media across Europe in the major languages, excluding Spaniards and Catalans, shows about 75% of posts are broadly sympathetic to Catalan Independence – or at least sympathetic to the Catalan right to self-determination – and about 25% support the Rajoy position. It is not possible directly to extrapolate from social media users to the entire population, but at the very least we can say that the unanimous attack on the Catalans from European governments and the unequivocal support for Rajoy plainly does not reflect the views of their people.

There is every reason to suppose that, despite the massive efforts of corporate and state media, European public opinion is sympathetic to Catalonia. As it is the corporate media and political parties, rather than the general public, who commission snap opinion polls, such polls only tell you what they wish you to know. Do not therefore expect to see the evidence of the gap between European governments and their people to be “proven” any time soon. But it is there.

Which is apposite, as the success of the Catalan independence movement is in part enabled by that general discontent of those governed which is becoming more and more evident across the democratic world. That is not only predictable, it is inevitable in a world where just eight people have as much wealth as 50% of the population of the entire globe.

There are 1,500 billionaires in the world, and their total wealth of 6 trillion dollars amounts to three times the GDP of the whole of Spain plus Catalonia, totalling 46.5 million people. The situation is getting worse at an incredible rate. The wealth of the billionaires increased almost 20% last year, as a great many individual Europeans got poorer in real terms.

Ordinary people create all the wealth from which they do not benefit, and the desire for fundamental change will continue to find expression in a variety of symptoms of severe public unrest. Some of these, like Catalan Independence, are good aims in themselves. Others, like the scapegoating across Europe of immigrants for the depressed living standards caused by the massive wealth gap, are most undesirable.

But what is becoming very plain indeed is that the political and media establishments are simply the tools of the super wealthy, to maintain the state enforced economic regulation of society which has enabled them to monopolise so much wealth. That is why the people of Europe have a very different view of what is happening in Catalonia to European political elites. We are all coming slowly to perceive that the political elites are a common enemy.

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Misdirection and Catalonia

The Spanish Government’s refusal yesterday of the offer of a 20 December election in Catalonia vividly highlights that the thing they are most scared of is any kind of free and fair vote. They wish to take over all the Catalan institutions and media, and institute a judicial ban on pro-Independence campaigning, before they allow any election – that is why they prefer a six month delay. All of which yet again highlights the outrageous lie the western corporate and state media have been repeating and repeating for weeks, that only a minority in Catalonia support independence. At the last Catalan parliamentary election the explicitly pro-Independence parties gained 48% and explicitly anti-independence parties gained 39%, while the most recent recent poll, by GESOP, indicates that would not change in a new election.

Madrid prefers its elections rigged. Albert Rivera, leader of Rajoy’s coalition partners Ciudadanos, admitted it explicitly, saying that elections in Catalonia must only be held when the government can guarantee the result.

This is no surprise as Ciudadanos and Mr Rivera have only the most tenuous link to democracy. It is well known to everyone in senior diplomatic and intelligence circles of the major Western powers, that Ciudadanos originated as a highly successful astroturf operation, funded and organised by the German overseas security service, the BND. The rise of Podemos threatened the collapse of the Euro project, and Germany realised the loss of credibility of the established Spanish political parties would not enable them to counter Podemos. It was therefore decided to produce a “grassroots anti-establishment” movement, which in fact would help impose the harsh economic austerity on Spain the German interest in the Euro demanded.

When I served as Ambassador in Uzbekistan, Germany was undergoing profound foreign policy changes which finally set aside the extremely passive overseas stance Germany had adopted after World War II. This was absolutely a conscious process by the German Government. The airbase they opened at Termez in Uzbekistan, to operate into Afghanistan, was the first overseas military base Germany had opened anywhere since 1945, which they constantly told me. Side by side went a much more aggressive approach by the BND. Piggybacking on the Termez airbase, the BND created the “Islamic Jihad Union” as their first post World War II false flag operation, to provide political cover for their alliance with the Uzbek dictatorship. That precedent, re-establishing the BND role in active overseas operations, was followed by the creation of Ciudadanos, which is arguably one of the most successful intelligence operations of all time. So when you see Rivera calling for the election result in Catalonia to be “guaranteed”, that is Merkel speaking.

Franco died peacefully, still in power. 1975 is not that long ago. I was born in 1958, and by 1975 had already campaigned actively in two parliamentary elections and organised a couple of demonstrations against the American nuclear base at Mildenhall. There are plenty of prominent Spanish politicians older than me, so some of them must have a proud record of anti-dictator resistance pre-1975, right? Err, not so much.

There has never been any reckoning with the crimes of the dictator or the vast section of Spanish establishment that collaborated willingly with him. There is an unwillingness in the West to recognise the explicit Francoist DNA in Rajoy’s political party, which was founded by seven Franco ministers avowedly to continue the Franco legacy, and which Rajoy joined not long after Franco’s death, when to do so was an unabashed declaration of Francoist belief. Strangely enough, the best exposition of the current situation was given by Jake Wallis Simons on Sky News three days ago when he related what he himself had witnessed of the non-marginal prevalence of fascism in the Spanish nationalist demonstrations, and talked of the fascist salutes addressed to the Guardia Civil in their support, which the Guardia received as a compliment.

In their desire to prop up Spain and deny Catalonian rights, every single “liberal” western media outlet of note – the Guardian, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Economist, etc etc – has run an article on how Catalonian independence must be stopped or it will lead to a sweeping tide of secessionism for regions across Europe. These articles never consider that perhaps, if there really is a popular desire for smaller states, it might be good to respect it. They also vastly exaggerate the likelihood of some fringe movements making ground, and fail to distinguish between regions – which do not have the right of self determination under Article 2 of the UN Charter – and peoples, which do have that right.

But they are all an exercise in misdirection. Smaller states are not a great danger to anyone. The crushing of democracy in Catalonia, the fascist salutes on the streets and the unabashed return of Francoist doctrine, is the real danger. And it is a danger all across Europe. The far right is entering government in Austria. The AFD are returning Nazi doctrine to the German parliament. Anti-Semitic slogans are infecting Italian football support. In both Poland and Hungary, Eastern Europe’s own brand of nasty right wing authoritarianism is in power.

An independent Catalonia, or Scotland, or Wallonia, does not threaten Europe. The lack of respect for liberal democratic values threatens Europe. That threat is an extremely real one. It is epitomised by the fact that even extreme police violence against the Catalans and the suspension of their democracy draws nothing but approbation from European political establishments and the EU. These are dangerous times indeed.

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Edinburgh 2 November: A Day to Stretch the Intellect

There is a good double header of events in Edinburgh on 2 November, at venues 5 minutes walk from one another. At 2pm at the National Library of Scotland on George IV Bridge I shall be giving a talk on Alexander Burnes, followed by a book signing.

After retiring to Sandy Bell’s for a brief refreshment, at 6pm the W. M. Watt Annual Lecture is being delivered by Professor Nur Masalha at the Playfair Library, Old College, South Bridge. The Lecture is entitled Powerful Symbols and the British-Zionist Alliance: From Balfour to the Nakba . You need to book a place via the link.

This sounds very interesting and I hope gets a good turnout. It is excellent to see an official Edinburgh University function tackling this subject, when there have been so many attempts within other universities to repress free speech around it.

On a related note, I am delighted to say that I have received the first peer review of Sikunder Burnes, in Central Asian Survey, which is the accepted academic journal of note in this area. This is very important to me as, while Murder in Samarkand/Dirty Diplomacy is to my certain knowledge taught on university courses from Moscow to Rio De Janeiro and many points inbetween, it was shunned by British and US academia; an example of the systematic marginalisation of whistleblowers. Part of the plan of Sikunder Burnes was to produce such a volume of important original research it would be impossible for academia to ignore it.

Furthermore, Alexander Morrison of New College, Oxford is one of the few academics qualified in this precise area to pass judgement. Naturally his review is far from uncritical, but I would not have wished it to be. As stated in the preface, Alexander is one of the academics with whom I cooperated in the limited sense of swapping transcriptions, and I look forward to publishing a reply to some of the points in his review in a spirit of friendly discussion. I am sorry you can’t see the entire review unless you have access to academic library login credentials.

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Banning Democracy in Catalonia

There is a fundamental disconnect between the real Catalonia and the Catalonia the political Establishment and its lackey media want us to believe exists.

All of the major Western broadcasters, plus newspapers like The Guardian, Washington Post and New York Times, have repeatedly pumped out the mantra that it is only a minority in Catalonia that support Independence. They have never attempted to explain why therefore Carles Puigdemont is President, and why the pro-Independence parties got 48% at the last Catalan elections while the Spanish Nationalist parties got 39%.

There is a vital point here. The plan of the Spanish government to force new Catalan elections in January is not obviously going to give a different result. The national spirit aroused by the 2014 Scottish referendum resulted in a huge boost for the SNP at ensuing parliamentary elections. The same is likely to apply. Plus, there are indeed societies in which people en masse which will vote for you if you send armoured thugs to bludgeon their grannies. But I do not think that the Catalans are such a society. Catalans are not likely to have been convinced to abandon their hopes by the actions of the Guardia Civil.

So what happens if Rajoy calls new elections and the pro-Independence parties win again, which is highly likely? Social media shows that a great many Catalans believe that Rajoy’s answer will be to ban the pro-Independence political parties and not allow them to contest the election.

That is not as fantastic as it seems. Spanish ministers have been briefing the media that, if Independence is declared, Puigdemont will be arrested for sedition. Two major Catalan civic society leaders are already imprisoned for the same ludicrous offence, and the Head of the Catalan Police is on trial.

One commodity of which Spain is not in short supply is corrupt, Francoist judges. It will not be difficult at all to find a fascist judge who will rule that campaigning for Independence in itself constitutes “sedition”, and that pro-Independence political parties and pro-Independence campaigning should be banned as unconstitutional, an affront to the sovereign, traitorous and other such nonsense. In fact that seems to be the inescapable logic of the Rajoy position.

Indeed, the calling of a new election makes no sense at all unless the supporters of Independence are banned from contesting it. Many other measures – all an undeniable breach of human rights – are being undertaken to try to reduce the capacity of the Independence movement to campaign. TV and radio stations are being taken over by Madrid, websites and social media communication blocked. The banning of pro-Independence parties really is not a very large step further down the road. Meanwhile Rajoy has almost certainly concluded that there is no breach of human rights so blatant that other European governments will not back it as the “rule of law”.

There is no sense in which the current hardline moves of the extremist Spanish nationalists in power in Madrid will end the crisis in Catalonia. They will merely plunge it into a much more vicious phase.

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Spain is Operating Way Beyond Democratic Legitimacy

In imprisoning Catalan leaders for peaceful campaigning for Independence, and in choosing both in rhetoric and in court to treat support for Independence as “sedition”, the Spanish government is acting way beyond the limits of a democratic society. It is ignoring the basic human rights of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. It is also undertaking massive blocking of communication and censorship of the internet in a manner never seen before in a “Western” state.

To move now to suspend the democratically elected Catalan administration, which is explicitly offering dialogue as an alternative to UDI, is to escalate the crisis in an unreasonable fashion, in the true meaning of the word unreasonable. All of this is truly dreadful, without even mentioning the violence inflicted on voters taking part in the peaceful Independence referendum.

As regular readers know, the EU reaction to the peaceful movement for Catalan independence has caused me to rethink my entire position on that institution. The failure to condemn the violence and human rights abuse has been bad enough, but the EU has gone still further and offered unqualified support to Spain, with the Commission specifically declaring Spain has a right to use violence, and Juncker saying straight out that the EU opposes Catalan Independence.

What has become more clear to me is that the modern state is simply an engine to enable the elite to control and direct its economic resources to their own benefit, those economic resources including the people. Loss of resources to the ruling elite is therefore a catastrophe. A state is not a collaborative construct voluntarily formed for mutual convenience and protection by its people. If it were, then it would be a matter of indifference to the ruling elite which particular state units people choose to form, and how these morph and form.

The idea, endorsed by the EU, that a state is an economic construct of control, in which it is legitimate to constrain entire peoples by force against their will, is surely abhorrent. The EU is become simply a cartel of power, a club to promote the sectional interest of the controlling elites of European states.

Catalonia will have a few days to decide how to react to Spanish imposition of direct rule, as that has to go through legislative bodies in Madrid. Catalonia has very little capacity militarily to defend itself against Spain. But it is difficult to see how it can be serious about Independence if it makes no effort to that purpose. Some effort at physical, if non-lethal, resistance to Spanish takeover must surely be under discussion.

More importantly, however brief the lifespan of Independent Catalonia at this stage, it must during its existence delegitimise Spanish – by which I mean pre-Independence – institutions and specifically the courts. Within Catalonia, all officers of State, and particularly judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officers, must be suspended immediately from all duties. They should then be instantly administered an oath of loyalty to the Catalan state and a specific abjuring of loyalty to the Spanish state. Those who do not take the oath would remain suspended, and after a week become dismissed.

The alternative will be an undermining of the legitimacy of the Catalan state by its own courts, and the many corrupt pro-Madrid judges and prosecutors they contain. This will be used to counteract the Independence narrative internationally and domestically.

Spain and the EU are hiding behind “the rule of law”. The violence of the Guardia Civil was validated as enforcing the ruling of Francoist judges. The censorship of the internet, the imprisonment of dissidents, all is in accordance with the “rule of law” in Spain.

I dealt with imprisonment of political prisoners all round the world when I was in the FCO. Very few of them were extra-judicially detained. Uzbekistan’s 8,000 political prisoners have almost all been tried and condemned under Uzbek law. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Ken Saro Wiwa, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, all were imprisoned by judges. The “rule of law”, where it ignores human rights, is not enough. That is the line the EU, to its great shame, has crossed.

As a footnote, I am researching my biography of George Murray. In 1710, following the death of George’s eldest brother John with the British army at the Battle of Malplaquet, his next eldest brother William was summoned home from India. The first available vessel was bound for Barcelona. William spent some time there waiting for a ship in the middle of a war. The interesting point is that the family letters refer repeatedly to William being in Catalonia and events in Catalonia. The word Spain does not appear in the correspondence at all.

I mention this purely as illustrative – and one of many thousands of examples that might be given – that the Catalans are a people and have been acknowledged as such in Europe for centuries. The right of self-determination in Article 2 of the UN Charter is given not to geographic regions but exclusively to “Peoples”. The Catalans, like the Scots, undoubtedly qualify as a “People”, something the EU has still failed to address.

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Cocoa Thoughts

I attended a State Dinner in Accra a couple of nights ago in honour of President Ouatttara of Ivory Coast. Ghanaian President Nana Akuffo Addo made a speech which included the striking fact that Ghana and Ivory Coast produce between them 65% of the world’s cocoa, and yet receive only 5.5% of the income of the world chocolate industry.

This simple fact sums up much of the dilemma of Africa; stuck in primary commodity production and still, after decades of concentrated effort, unable to develop value added or to obtain a price for commodities – and particularly for farmers – that reflects their importance to the global value chain.

Cocoa has been one of the most successful areas of endeavour for the Fairtrade movement, but all of that has only resulted in that 5.5% figure, which without Fairtrade would be still lower. It is possible to buy Ghanaian made finished chocolate product in British supermarkets now, and excellent it is too, but it has a very small market share. Producing finished chocolate in Africa has its problems; chocolate is a much more delicate cargo than cocoa beans and reacts badly to either heat or refrigeration. Recipes which overcome this problem result in a certain harshness.

There has been some progress made in processing of the raw cocoa beans in Africa into butter and solids, but not on a scale which fundamentally affects the market.

The current Ghanaian government has made a major point of this issue. Here is Finance Minister Ken Ofori Atta addressing it at the G20 Summit for Africa earlier this year. There is however no desire by the political and corporate establishment of the developed world to assist in any way.

Cooperation with Ivory Coast is obviously key to progress, but the two countries lack the financial reserves that would be required to initiate effective cartelisation; while I have to admit, against my own inclinations, that a free market in sales by the cocoa farmers has provided a much better living to them than the decades of efforts at state monopoly or various forms of price intervention. In Ghana both the Minister of Trade and the Chairman of the Cocoa Board at the moment happen to be old friends of mine and I hope to discuss the possible ways forward with them over the next week or so.

The situation is even further complicated by the hypothecation of Ghana’s cocoa revenue some years ago to repay China for the Bui Hydroelectric dam project. This was always a very poor project in terms of design and available water in the Volta watershed, and has had a number of disastrous wildlife consequences. There has been a huge amount of trumpeting of Chinese “aid” projects in Africa, but my experience has been that they are even more designed to help the “donor” country than Western aid, and almost always turn out to be loan rather than grant. As with the Bui Dam project, this is usually disguised in a lack of transparency about the underlying financial arrangements, and the Chinese surge into Africa has ramped up levels of corruption still further.

All that is true throughout Africa. There has been a further development specific to Ghana. Chinese convict labour was imported to build the Bui Dam. Many of the workers absconded into the countryside, taking the earth moving equipment with them, and started illegal gold-mining. The result was the collapse of the rule of law in much of the Ghanaian countryside, and the Chinese criminal gangs introduced the widespread use of firearms to protect their illegal workings, know in Ghana as Galamsey. Word spread back to China and thousands of Chinese gang members started to arrive to join the illegal trade – of course facilitated by Ghanaian administrative corruption. The result has been a massive expansion in illegal working in Ghana with environmental consequences which include the complete devastation of several key watersheds and the wholesale pollution of community drinking water supplies.

I have known the Ankobra river for 20 years and I can assure you that, astonishing as it may be, the change is due not to seasonal factors but to illegal mining. The Pra was also until recently limpid.

As so often, Al Jazeera produces the best documentaries.

Western involvement in Africa has been a disastrous history of exploitation over six centuries, and still is. It is therefore very fashionable, particularly on the left in the West, but also in some African nationalist circles, to hail China’s surge into Africa as some sort of redress. It has always looked to me on the ground as the arrival of yet another group of rapacious neo-imperialists to exploit Africa, and every year of observation has confirmed my view, which like most of my views is not fashionable.

A recent study concluded that Chinese aid is as effective in African development as Western aid. All I can say is, that is an extraordinarily low bar.

I don’t eat much chocolate nowadays. My alarming girth is entirely the product of the drinks industry. But the other day little Cameron gave me one of his chocolate buttons, and I was absolutely shocked by the unpleasant oily texture that instantly developed, and the lack of cocoa flavour in the overly sweet taste. I have never been a chocolate snob and always enjoyed the Cadbury’s Dairy Milk flavour. But the concoction of sugar and palm oil that so quickly developed in my mouth bore no relation to Cadbury’s Dairy Milk before Kraft/Mondolez took it over. A quick google revealed they deny they have changed the recipe.

Despite all the problems, the emerging economies of Africa continue the trend of the last 20 years of growing at a faster rate than Europe or the United States. My rather unconventional suggestion is that the African states concerned should look to their improved capital formation and ability to borrow, to buy in to the major western chocolate manufacturers in a big way. Perhaps in collaboration with China, which is sitting on trillions of dollars. It will take that sort of radical shift in market conditions for the problem Nana Addo so rightly identified, to be addressed.

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Desensitised to Tragedy

Islamophobia has become so insidious, so all-pervasive, and so powerful in media culture that there is virtually no concern expressed at the probable killing in a US drone strike of a 12 year old British child, Jojo Jones, whose short life was so spectacularly horrid through absolutely no fault of his own. Child soldiers in conflict are a dreadful problem. I tried in The Catholic Orangemen of Togo to convey the extremely powerful emotions I experienced when faced very directly with those who had seen atrocities and themselves been forced to kill at primary school age.

But nobody in their right mind thinks that the answer to child soldiers is to kill them. If it is correct young Jojo is killed, I mourn him, the childhood he hardly knew and the potential for realising the dreams of normality such children always have.

But Jojo is one of many thousands of children killed by the US in its “war on terror”, including the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. It is only the dehumanising of Muslims that causes the near total lack of visible western empathy for the nine young kids under 13 killed this year in one US raid in Yemen alone.

All the indications are that it is US doctrine that in targeting terrorists their immediate family are “fair game”. When US citizen, 16 year old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, was killed by a drone in Yemen in 2011, the Obama administration claimed it was an accident. It as a peculiar “coincidence” that in another “accident” his eight year old sister Nawar was also killed by the Americans as one of the nine infants killed in the raid just referenced. To kill one young sibling may be a misfortune. To kill two begins to look like carelessness. It amazes me that anybody believes these actions in any way combat terrorism. Rather they inspire it.

The UK does not have the death penalty. We have now also become habituated to execution of citizens by drone with no judicial process. Sally Jones appears to have been a disturbed and deeply misguided individual, but that does not justify her planned and deliberate killing by the US government. There is no evidence she was when killed involved in an any act likely to cause the imminent death of others. But society has become so callous, there is almost no reaction to her death on human rights grounds.

Terrorism is not an existential threat to the UK. It remains the case that it is one of the least likely ways that you might die; far less probable than drowning in your own bath. Our perception of the threat is magnified by the horror of the act and the way the media portray it. Most certainly it is not a threat that justifies abandoning our respect for human rights and the process of law. The standards of society have slipped in terms of respect for the sanctity of life; or at least the sanctity of Muslim life.

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I continue urgently to need contributions to my defence in the libel action against me by Jake Wallis Simons, Associate Editor of Daily Mail online. You can see the court documents outlining the case here. I am threatened with bankruptcy and the end of this blog (not to mention a terrible effect on my young family). Support is greatly appreciated. An astonishing 4,000 people have now contributed a total of over £75,000. But that is still only halfway towards the £140,000 target. I realise it is astonishing that so much money can be needed, but that is the pernicious effect of England’s draconian libel laws, as explained here.





On a practical point, a number of people have said they are not members of Paypal so could not donate. After clicking on “Donate”, just below and left of the “Log In” button is a small “continue” link which enables you to donate by card without logging in.

For those who prefer not to pay online, you can send a cheque made out to me to Craig Murray, 89/14 Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, EH8 8BA. As regular readers know, it is a matter of pride to me that I never hide my address.

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Carles Puigdemont Turns the Tables on Rajoy

Before his speech on Independence to the Catalan parliament, Carles Puigdemont seemed to be in an impossible position. Declare Independence and he would be immediately arrested and direct rule imposed from Madrid. Rajoy appeared to have all the angles covered; the EU had already specifically greenlighted the use of armed force in Commissioner Timmermans’ disgraceful address to the EU Parliament. The intergovernmental side of the EU, the Council, had through its President Donald Tusk called on Puigdemont not not to declare Independence but rather to enter dialogue, in terms that accepted the Spanish insistence that the very notion of Independence was inadmissible.

So Puigdemont was placed by the right wing governments of Europe into a position where if he declared Independence he would be portrayed as an unreasonable fanatic refusing dialogue, and his imprisonment would be portrayed as justified. On the other hand, if he did not declare Independence he would appear a traitor to his own supporters, would be breaking the referendum law of his own Catalan parliament and the cause of Independence would be damaged by disillusion.

The entire World was wondering how Puigdemont would deal with this fix. His answer was peculiarly brilliant. He started off by speaking at length of the history of Catalonia’s attempts to enter dialogue on more devolution, and their constant rebuttal by Madrid. This was so reasonable and effective that the live blog of the rabidly Unionist Guardian plain refused to translate or summarise any of it (see 18.31 here).

Puigdemont effectively turned the tables on Rajoy by both declaring Independence and not declaring Independence. He proclaimed the result of the referendum and said as a consequence the parliament would declare Independence, but in the next breath announced they would seek dialogue on the way forward with Spain. All media sources are saying that he stated Independence would be declared but suspended for two weeks pending dialogue. Unless the Deutsche Welt interpreter missed it, this did not come across as I listened live and I wonder if there was a last minute change to the circulated text. But the effect of what he said was much the same.

It is Rajoy who is now in the impossible position. The World has seen a very mild and moderate Puigdemont positively pleading for dialogue and mediation. It is going to be very difficult for Rajoy to arrest him for that. More importantly, Puigdemont appears to have acceded to the request of Donald Tusk and the European Council. But he has done so safe in the knowledge that Rajoy will not enter dialogue and never had any intention of doing so.

There are only two possible outcomes of a dialogue or mediation. One is greatly enhanced powers for Catalonia in a new devolution settlement. The second is an an agreed and binding Independence referendum. But Rajoy has taken a line of absolutist opposition to either of these ways forward, which opposition is fundamental to his centralising, Francoist world view. Rajoy, having whipped up Spanish nationalism to violent fever pitch, cannot give any ground to Catalonia without substantially alienating his own Francoist core support.

Puigdemont, in short, has acceded to EU calls for dialogue and negotiation which he knows Rajoy will refuse. As it becomes ever more evident that Rajoy has no plan at all except violence, the popular revulsion across Europe against the Francoists will gather momentum.

Puigdemont appeared boxed in, but he has skipped past Rajoy and left him sitting on his arse in the mud.

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I continue urgently to need contributions to my defence in the libel action against me by Jake Wallis Simons, Associate Editor of Daily Mail online. You can see the court documents outlining the case here. I am threatened with bankruptcy and the end of this blog (not to mention a terrible effect on my young family). Support is greatly appreciated. An astonishing 4,000 people have now contributed a total of over £75,000. But that is still only halfway towards the £140,000 target. I realise it is astonishing that so much money can be needed, but that is the pernicious effect of England’s draconian libel laws, as explained here.





On a practical point, a number of people have said they are not members of Paypal so could not donate. After clicking on “Donate”, just below and left of the “Log In” button is a small “continue” link which enables you to donate by card without logging in.

For those who prefer not to pay online, you can send a cheque made out to me to Craig Murray, 89/14 Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, EH8 8BA. As regular readers know, it is a matter of pride to me that I never hide my address.

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Europe Hostage to the Ludicrous Hyperbole of the Spanish Constitution

Borders shift, over time, as the tides of human history and interaction ebb and flow. They always have and they always will. A Historic Atlas of Europe at 100 year intervals shows up the constant flux.

All within only the last 100 years, even a really major state like Poland has started by not existing at all, having been abolished 130 years previously, then come back into existence for two decades, then been abolished again, then been reinstated once more but entirely shifted a full two hundred miles westward from its previous incarnation.

There have been six truly major boundary and status changes to Germany in the last 150 years, the last only 27 years ago.

A glance at a historical atlas of Europe century by century shows a kaleidoscope of continuing shifts in states as they form and reform, move, merge and dissolve. It is the normal state of Europe. Nor is it in any sense slowing down; this is not a process which has stopped. Even in the short period since I left university, eight states currently members of the European Union have undergone truly drastic changes to their national boundaries or nation state status.

Even Hitler was only nuts enough to think his Reich would last for a thousand years. Spain (which incidentally was almost entirely Muslim a thousand years ago) tops Hitler for mad ambition. Spain believes its current borders will last forever. The Constitution specifies the “indissoluble unity” of Spain. This plainly mad claim is the entire basis of the “legalistic” stance of Rajoy. An excellent article today by Gerry Adams in the Guardian points out that Rajoy is making negotiation impossible by insisting on the precondition that it is illegal even to discuss Catalan independence.

I do not know how long the human race will last. I tend to the optimistic assumption that it will have a good few thousand more years to run. It is vaguely amusing that some people believe that, whatever the state of Europe and human societal organisation in 3017, there will still be an indissoluble Spanish nation with its existing frontiers. I suspect those people like to forget that in 1017 their ancestors were Muslims. They also, of course, do want to see a border change in having Gibraltar returned to Spain – something in which I always supported them unequivocally, until the Guardia Civil in Catalonia beating old women one Sunday, and the fascists marching down the street the next, gave me doubts.

I suppose if you are a right wing Catholic you are more inclined to a mystical view of indissoluble human unions that people whose life view is more grounded in reality. Nobody in their right mind believes any of Europe’s current political boundaries will last forever. The entire Western Establishment and media did not just recognise, but pushed for, their dissolution when it was Yugoslavia or Serbia in question. But they have now, for reasons of right wing solidarity, adopted Spain’s “indissoluble union” hyperbole. Even Establishment outlets like the Economist which once claimed intellectual credentials, proclaim this daft clause as though it were God’s writ.

The boundaries of Europe change, all the time. They have throughout human history. The pace of those natural shifts has not slowed. It is part of the ebb and flow of human societies on this wonderful, culturally rich continent. To attempt suddenly to freeze all national borders is not just gross hypocrisy, given the attitude of the same political leaders to other border changes and to Spain’s demand for Gibraltar. It is an effort that could only be sustained by ever-increasing use of violence.

Spain has decided to stand on the crazed idea that it is indissoluble. The logic of that is that, if 100% of Catalans or Basques were to seek Independence, it still should not be allowed. Is that really a position Europe’s politicians wish to adopt?

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