craig


Time Warp UK 282

The resignation of Savid Javid yesterday as Chancellor without even presenting a budget mirrors the resignation of Lord Randolph Churchill, Winston’s father – and in so doing says something extraordinary about lack of social progress in the UK in the intervening 130 years.

Chancellor Randolph Churchill disagreed with then Prime Minister Lord Salisbury over his first budget, and resigned. The whole spat was carried out in a splenetic and emotional fashion which was almost certainly influenced by Churchill’s mental deterioration from syphilis – which the Eton and Oxford educated Randolph had caught as a result of a Bullingdon Club jaunt.

(There is no evidence a pig was involved. There is also no evidence Winston had congenital syphilis, or that Jennie Churchill caught it from Randolph, the latter being slightly surprising).

It is to me quite incredible that the UK is still at the mercy of the whims and foibles of degenerates from not only the same class, but from within the same tiny social institutions which still confer a hereditary ability to govern a state of 60 million people now, in 2020. It makes a mockery of the UK’s claim to be a functional social polity and it makes a mockery of the very notion that “democracy” has any real existence in British society.

Johnson’s drive to centralise power is not especially different to that of Thatcher or Blair; there is a slight qualitative difference in the degree of Cummings’ policy influence, but to date I regard the claims that there is a real discontinuity in the form of UK government as overblown. Westminster has always been the seat of a massive, centralised abuse of power; perhaps it is a little bit more visible at the moment. What has enabled the continuation of oligarchic hegemony in the UK has been the destruction of the power to resist of organised labour. Thatcher quite deliberately undertook that as a massive project of social engineering, involving the deliberate destruction of all the UK’s major productive industries and replacement by a service based economy.

Blair continued the Thatcher revolution, in particular in removing government services to private providers where organised labour was weak or non-existent. The massive concentration of wealth into the hands of the rich and removal of wealth from ordinary people that ensued from the Thatcher/New Labour right wing revolution led to the reaction of Corbynism, but the roots of organised labour having been ruthlessly cut away, Corbyn found there was no longer a sufficient well of social solidarity which could support a counter narrative to the massively concentrated media propaganda.

Wealth inequality is fast heading back to levels Randolph Churchill would have recognised as he and his Bullingdon boys went whoring working class girls in Oxford. The gap between the top 1% and the 99% is shifting apart radically and is the key measure- not the gap between the 10% and 90% which the government points to disingenuously as not changing much.

Notions of social solidarity which made so much progress from 1800-1980 have gone backwards and their survival in isolated areas as a majority view is primarily as expression of national or cultural identity, notably of course in Scotland but also among immigrant groups and in cities with a strong sense of identity and civic pride. Outwith that, the UK has been engineered by unscrupulous politicians to revert to a society which delights in licking the shoes of the man from the Bullingdon Club.

Remind me, which century is this?

——————————————

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



 

Alternatively:

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.

View with comments

Mourning A Terrorist 445

The aim of this blog is to put forward reasonable points of view not easily found elsewhere, and it is important not to shy away from saying things because they run directly contrary to the popular mood. The stabbing of three people in Streatham was a tragedy, and while all are recovering, the mental and perhaps physical damage will be life-changing. But the death of the terrorist, Sudesh Amman, is also a human tragedy. The government’s populist response – to lock up those convicted of terrorist offences for ever longer and to seek to ban early release, even retrospectively – is crass and will make the situation worse, not better.

Sudesh Amman died aged only twenty. He had been jailed at eighteen for crimes committed when he was just seventeen. It is vital to state that those crimes were thought crimes – before he went to jail, Sudesh Amman had never been accused of attacking anyone. He was jailed for the terrorist fantasies he harboured as a child. Whether he would ever actually have attacked anybody had he never been sent to jail is a question it is impossible to answer. That he attacked people after being sent to jail is a simple fact.

That is not to downplay the idea he was a dangerous child. He had expressed the ambition to be a terrorist, posted violent fantasy online, downloaded posts on bomb-making and had acquired a combat knife and an air pistol. He may have gone on to carry out an attack. Or it may all have been just the bluster and rage of a frustrated child in a single parent family of five kids living in unpleasant circumstances.

It seems to me that intervention by the state was entirely reasonable in view of the seventeen year old’s state of mind. It is not at all obvious to me that branding a child, who had never attacked anybody, as a “terrorist”, thus destroying his prospects in life, convicting him of terrorist thought crime as soon as he turned eighteen, and sending him to prison to mix with hardened criminals and actual terrorists, was a sensible way for the state to intervene. By fueling his sense of alienation and injustice, that seems to me a course of action almost guaranteed to ensure that this child would emerge from prison as a twenty year old determined to commit an actual terrorist attack. Which is of course exactly what happened, and the death of young Sudesh Amman himself was the inevitable end of the tragedy.

SUDESH AMMAN

A seventeen year old harbouring fantasies of gross violence, but who has not carried those fantasies into action, should be a mental health issue not a criminal law issue. The state intervention should have been aimed at making Sudesh well and with future prospects in life. That may have involved a period of involuntary in-patient treatment, and we should have facilities that can provide that without branding young people terrorists before they have done anything violent.

It is of course worth noting also that with Sudesh as with so many others, if the UK had not invaded or attacked Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, his sense of injustice towards Muslims, which he fantasised about fighting to correct, would never have arisen in the first instance.

The idea that in future the answer is to lock away youngsters for life for thinking wrong, is at the moment extremely popular and helping the Tories surf still higher on their wave of xenophobic acclaim. That will simply stoke more grievance and create more terrorism. No matter how unpopular, those of us who try to think calmly and sensibly have a duty to oppose the baying of the mob.

——————————————

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



 

Alternatively:

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.

View with comments

Get Out and Vote Sinn Fein 147

A quick exhortation to my readers in Ireland to get out to the polling station and vote for Sinn Fein. Irish government has too long consisted of two centre right parties taking turns at the trough of public finance, and Varadkar’s slick disguise of his essential Thatcherism through social liberalism and identity politics is particularly nauseating. Martin’s platform of being a little bit less Thatcherite than Varadkar is scarcely appealing. In a country that is now significantly wealthier per capita than the UK, the levels of poverty and the growth of inequality are inexcusable.

But even more important than any of that is Irish unification. As Northern Ireland elects a majority of Nationalist MPs for the first time since partition, and as Brexit leads to support for reunification that reaches across communities, the traditional parties in Ireland are lukewarm and at best pay lip service to Irish unity, with no sign of any real intention to reach for it.

Those who oppose Irish unity lest it be expensive are a disgrace to their nation. People who will not take what their forbears were willing to die for, because it might cost them a little bit, are despicable. They are also missing the point entirely. Before Independence, Ireland was very impoverished compared to England. The free part of Ireland is now much richer than England. Once Northern Ireland escapes from the dead hand of UK economic centralism, it too will flourish and become much wealthier. Ireland will be a larger and more confident economic unit. Of course there will be initial dislocation effects, but Ireland is well placed to weather any short term pain – provided the rich take their fair share of the burden.

For all those reasons, do get out and vote Sinn Fein.

——————————————

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



 

Alternatively:

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.

View with comments

Quick Thoughts from the Cesspool of London 219

I have been in London all week and very busy, largely on the Julian Assange campaign/Wikileaks but also researching a couple of other things. Back to Edinburgh tonight I hope.

Against the background of the appalling behaviour revealed in the Wikileaks DNC leaks, I find it impossible to look at the Iowa caucus fiasco without entertaining the suspicion that the Democratic Party machine is trying to cheat Bernie out of the nomination yet again.

A similar straw in the wind on party “management”; I was told yesterday the SNP is cancelling its Spring Conference to avoid a membership revolt over the acceptance of the Westminster veto on Indyref2. Has anyone else picked this up?

Back home and hopefully posting something substantial tomorrow.

View with comments

Scottish Independence is Within our Grasp if We Heed the Lesson of Toom Tabard

There will never again be a route to Scottish Independence deemed legal by Westminster. 2014 will never be repeated. The UK will never willingly give up a third of its land, most of its fisheries, most of its mineral resources, its most marketable beef, soft fruit and whisky, most of its renewable energy potential, a vital part of its military including its primary nuclear base, its best universities in a number of key fields including life sciences, its ready pool of intellectual and professional talent. Johnson is for once honest when he says keeping the Union together is his top priority. It is the top priority of the entire British establishment.

David Cameron only agreed to the 2014 referendum because he thought the result would humiliate and kill off Scottish nationalism. Support for Independence was at 28% in the polls at the time he agreed. Westminster had the most enormous and horrible shock when support for Independence grew to 45% during the campaign as many people for the first time in their lives heard the real arguments. The Whitehall panic of the last week of the 2014 referendum campaign is not something the British Establishment ever intend to repeat.

There is a charmingly naive argument put forward by some that, if support for Independence can be grown to 60% in the opinion polls, Johnson and Westminster will have to “grant” a referendum. This is the opposite of the truth. If support for Independence is at 60%, the very last thing that the Tories will do is agree a referendum they will lose. Their resistance will be massively hardened. Remember, the Tories could have zero Tory MPs in Scotland and still have a majority of 73 in Westminster. There is no political damage for Johnson in unpopularity in Scotland. In England, his anti-Scots stance is very popular with their Cummings core support base of knuckle-dragging, ill-educated racists.

The “intellectual justification” for this stance was trailed by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on the Marr programme this morning. Irrespective of the wishes of the majority in Scotland, the UK has a duty to stop Scottish Independence, to prevent anarchic secessionist forces being unleashed across Europe; he named Italy, France and Spain.

Westminster will never agree another referendum, and the more we look like winning it, the less they will agree to it.

Nor is there a route to a “legal” referendum through the courts. If a court rules that a consultative referendum is legal under the current Scotland Act (which it might well be), then the Tories will simply pass new legislation at Westminster to make it illegal. They have already done this at Westminster to overturn Scottish parliament decisions, and the UK Supreme Court have already made clear that the Sovereignty of the Westminster Parliament cannot be challenged.

Scotland can become independent, but becoming independent is, without doubt, going to be illegal in terms of UK law – which is to say Westminster law. There will not be a route to Independence agreed with Westminster.

If you believe in Scottish Independence, you believe that the Scottish nation are a “people” within the meaning of the UN Charter, and thus have an inalienable right of self-determination. That means that Westminster has no right, by legislation or by any other means, to prevent the Scottish people from exercising their self-determination.

I am sorry, but this is the fact: If you believe Scotland should only move to Independence in a Westminster-approved process, you do not really believe in Scottish Independence at all.

Which brings us to Nicola Sturgeon. Her much-trumpeted speech on the way forward following Brexit was disgraceful in explicitly stating that any referendum must be held with Westminster agreement, and that any referendum held without Westminster agreement could be “illegal”. She used the words “illegal” and “wildcat” to denigrate the idea of Scotland acting without Westminster permission.

Even the most loyal to Sturgeon of all major Independence bloggers, like James Kelly and Paul Kavanagh, could not support Sturgeon on this point.

What Sturgeon said amounts to an explicit acknowledgement of UK sovereignty over the Scottish people as both legitimate and immutable. She is accepting that the Act of Union did permanently alienate the right of self-determination. Sturgeon should heed the tale of Toom Tabard as to what respect English rulers show to Scottish leaders who accept their authority. Her speech reinforced my view that she really is much too comfortable in her role of colonial governor.

And yet…

When Sturgeon started talking about calling a Constitutional Convention I first scoffed thinking she was merely fulfilling my prediction that her “plan” would be to start yet another talking shop. But then I was astonished when she outlined the potential membership – the elected representatives of Scotland sitting together, constituting MSPs, MPs, (former) MEPs and council leaders.

I have explained at length over the last two years my proposal for a route to Independence that would lead to recognition by the international community. Donald Tusk today confirmed all I have been saying about the enormous sympathy there will be in the EU towards welcoming Scotland back, now the UK has switched status to third country state. [I knew Donald Tusk reasonably well when I was First Secretary of the British Embassy in Warsaw in the 1990s and he was an out of office politician the same age as me. I should like to think I had an effect!]

But the heart of what I was proposing is this, as I put it in December 2018

The Scottish Parliament should then convene a National Assembly of all nationally elected Scottish representatives – MSPs, MPs and MEPs. That National Assembly should declare Independence, appeal to other countries for recognition, reach agreements with the rump UK and organise a confirmatory plebiscite. That is legal, democratic and consistent with normal international practice.

Or as I put it again two weeks ago:

We should assemble all of Scotland’s MEP’s, MP’s and MSP’s in a National Assembly and declare Independence on the 700th Anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, thus emphasising the historical continuity of the Scottish state. The views and laws of London now being irrelevant, we should organise, as an Independent state, our referendum to confirm Independence, to be held in September 2020.

Please do read the articles linked if you have not already done so. They explain how Scotland can legitimately become an Independent nation without regard to UK domestic law.

Now, until Sturgeon’s speech, I had never seen anybody else but me put forward the proposal that the way forward is via an assembly of all MPs, MSPs and MEPs, giving the triple legitimacy of democratic election. Sturgeon has enhanced this by adding council leaders.

There is a huge difference between an assembly – or convention – of elected representatives, and an appointed one of the great and the good. This new assembly proposed by Sturgeon is very different indeed in that respect from the Convention of the same name that helped formulate devolution.

Now I do not think for one moment that Sturgeon has convened this Convention to declare Independence. But an assembly of Scotland’s MPs, MSPs, MEPs and council leaders will have a clear Independence majority numerically and a massive Independence majority intellectually. It will have an extremely strong claim to be a properly representative assembly whose members each have a democratic mandate. The French Revolution was of course similarly precipitated by constitutional innovation convening a National Assembly combining the different Estates, and that Assembly was swept along by fervour to take proto-revolutionary measures which went far beyond the initial positions of any of its members.

The dynamic of a new constitutional body whose members feel they command legitimacy, should not be underestimated. The convening of this body will be a real constitutional innovation. We need to make sure, that like that French National Assembly, they can clearly hear a huge mob outside their windows, demanding radical and speedy change.

——————————————

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



 

Alternatively:

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.

View with comments

Non-Condemnatory International Reaction to Trump’s Bantustan Lite Palestine Plan Shows the “Two State” Solution Was Always a Lie

I have read through the entire 181 pages of Trump’s “peace deal” for Israel, and it is breathtaking. It is not just that the “solution” it proposes is ludicrously one-sided, it is the entire analysis of the problem to be solved which reads as pure, unadulterated zionist propaganda.

For example, the word “violence” is used repeatedly. But it only ever refers to violence by Arabs. There is not one single mention of violence by Israel against the Palestinians, even though the ratio of killing between Israelis and Palestinians over the last ten years is approximately 80:1 . The only mention of violence against Palestinians at all relates to Kuwaiti expulsion of Palestinian refugees after the first Gulf war.

The analysis of the refugee issue is the same. Nowhere can the paper bring itself to note the key historic fact, that the Palestinian refugees were expelled from Israel. The paper treats Palestinian refugees as if they had simply materialised as an inconvenient phenomenon, like a plague of locusts. This “othering” of Palestinian refugees permeates the entire paper:

It must be stressed that many Palestinian refugees in the Middle East come from war torn countries, such as Syria and Lebanon that are extremely hostile toward the State of Israel

No. Palestinian refugees were driven by violence from the land that is now Israel. Families who lived there two generations ago have been displaced in favour of families who claim the land because their ancestors lived there eighty generations ago. That is a matter of indisputable fact.

You can claim that displacement of the Palestinians from Israel was justifiable because of the urgent need for a state for Jewish people after the Holocaust. You can claim that the displacement of Palestinians from Israel is justifiable because it is divinely ordained. You can claim the displacement of Palestinians from Israel is regrettable but irreversible. Make what argument you wish, but to refuse to acknowledge the basic fact that the Palestinian refugees were driven from Israel is a pathetic act of cowardice that underlines the sheer intellectual shoddiness of the paper.

The “deal” makes a direct equivalence between Palestinian refugees and “the Jewish refugees who were forced to flee from Arab and Muslim countries”. The language here is extremely revealing. The Jewish refugees “were forced to flee”. There is no hesitation about this claim of victimhood. Whereas there is no acknowledgement at all that the Palestinian refugees “were forced to flee” by the Israelis.

It is undoubtedly a valid point that many Jews were disgracefully and involuntarily driven out by Arab nations, and their suffering is too often overlooked. However to claim the numbers are equivalent is to ignore the fact that a significant portion of the Jewish population of Arab states moved voluntarily to the new homeland, whereas none of the Palestinians expelled from Israel left voluntarily. But the more glaring fact ignored in the paper is that the majority of the Jewish refugees from Arab lands were given the property of Palestinian refugees in Israel. The claim that both sides are in equal need of compensation is therefore a nonsense.

The failure to admit the Palestinian refugees were driven out of Israel panders disgracefully to the most extreme zionist propaganda, which claims that the land was empty before the Israelis settled it in 1948. This is a classic colonist origin myth, used repeatedly by the British Empire, by white settlers in the USA, and of course by apartheid South Africa. When the Trump deal was first published, I was genuinely astonished to find twitter awash with thousands of tweets claiming the Palestinians do not exist as a people. This is an extraordinarily prevalent racist trope among zionists and appears to be not policed on the internet at all. I have read hundreds of articles about the hateful phenomenon of anti-semitism in the mainstream media. I don’t think I have ever seen this extreme zionist racism of “there is no such thing as Palestinians” ever mentioned in the MSM as a problem. But zionist racism is a huge problem, and it underlies the fundamental analysis of the Trump paper.

If you cannot bring yourself to acknowledge, even once in 181 pages, that the Palestinian inhabitants were driven out of Israel, there is no chance the proposals built on these fundamentally dishonest foundations will be solid.

The Trump paper has three fundamental “solutions” to the Palestinian refugee issue.

1) Only those originally displaced to be deemed refugees, not their families.
2) Not one single refugee to be allowed to return to Israel (yes, it does actually say that)
3) No compensation to be paid to refugees by Israel

I have often pointed out that the proposed “two state solution” for Palestine has always been no more and no less than the old apartheid policy of “Bantustans” in South Africa, where the indigenous population were herded into six self-governing and four supposedly “independent states”.

It is worth pointing out that the apotheosis of the apartheid system, the Bantu Self-Governing Act of 1959, was given Royal Assent by Queen Elizabeth II, a point now rather skated over by a false narrative that apartheid was a solely Afrikaaner project post-Independence.

The major similarity that I had been pointing out with Bantustans was revealed by the map: fractured lands, not forming any kind of economically viable unit. Trump proposes Israeli annexation of the whole of the Jordan Valley, of North Jerusalem and large areas of the West Bank, the remnant of which is to be shattered by 15 Israeli sovereign settlements connected by Israeli only roads. Trump’s “Palestine” is very plainly not viable.

But the Trump proposals for how “Palestine” will run, make the Bantustan comparison still more stark. Indeed, the restrictions on the so-called “state” of Palestine under the Trump plan from having its own military or security forces are even greater than those imposed on the Bantustans by apartheid South Africa. Trump also proposes that Israel should have the right to stop Palestinian refugees from the wider diaspora entering the new “state” of Palestine.

A “state” not permitted to define its own citizens is not a state.

It does not stop there. The “state” is to have no right to a territorial sea or exclusive economic zone, with its sea to be given to Israel in contravention of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. It is not to be allowed to conclude treaties without Israeli consent. It is not even to be allowed to open a port but to be forced to import and export goods through Israeli ports – in other words, the Israeli economic blockade is to continue on the new “state”. Plainly, even apart from the unviable fracturing and the shrunk territory, the administrative arrangements proposed make no attempt to reach the level of statehood.

Surely, then, the proponents of the “two state solution” must have reacted strongly to this betrayal of their proposal?

Well, no.

In many ways the most incredible thing about the Trump proposals is how welcoming the western powers were. The general reaction from all European governments was that these are serious proposals with which the Palestinians must engage. While the ridiculous assessment from Dominic Raab that “this is clearly a serious proposal” is perhaps what you would expect from a state looking to the US for economic crumbs, the Palestinians might legitimately have expected better from the EU than the official response, which welcomed Trump’s “commitment to a two state solution”, of France which “welcomes Donald Trump’s efforts”, and of Germany which “appreciates that the president is sticking to the two state solution”.

The Palestinians were probably less disappointed by the support of the traitorous dictatorships of the Saudi and other Gulf States for their close Israeli ally, which is par for the course. But the fact that the international community recognises as a proposed “two state solution” a paper which in no sense whatsoever establishes a Palestinian state within any normal definition of the word, should tell us something important.

As I have repeatedly stated, those who trumpeted the “two state solution” have always been con-artists who do not believe in a viable Palestinian state at all. The fact that Blair and Bush, two dedicated ultra-zionists, stood in the Rose Garden and promised a “two state solution” as part of their propaganda for the Iraq War and other Middle East invasions, really should have shown people of goodwill this was a blind alley. The Trump proposals are a betrayal of the Palestinians, of course. But they are not unique to Trump and they are exactly what Blair, Bush and all the zionist apologists intended all along.

The “two state solution” was always a con.

There is no viable two state solution. To create a viable Palestinian state alongside a viable Israeli state would now involve highly undesirable further forced movements of population. The only long term solution for Palestine/Israel is, as with South Africa, a single state in which everybody has a vote and everybody is treated equally, irrespective of ethnicity, creed or gender.

Trump may, peculiarly, have done one good thing with these ludicrously unfair proposals. He has exposed the hollowness of the “two state solution”, and the pretence that it offers any justice to the Palestinians of way forward towards peace.

——————————————

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



 

Alternatively:

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.

View with comments

The FBI Has Been Lying About Seth Rich

A persistent American lawyer has uncovered the undeniable fact that the FBI has been continuously lying, including giving false testimony in court, in response to Freedom of Information requests for its records on Seth Rich. The FBI has previously given affidavits that it has no records regarding Seth Rich.

A Freedom of Information request to the FBI which did not mention Seth Rich, but asked for all email correspondence between FBI Head of Counterterrorism Peter Strzok, who headed the investigation into the DNC leaks and Wikileaks, and FBI attorney Lisa Page, has revealed two pages of emails which do not merely mention Seth Rich but have “Seth Rich” as their heading. The emails were provided in, to say the least, heavily redacted form.

Before I analyse these particular emails, I should make plain that they are not the major point. The major point is that the FBI claimed it had no records mentioning Seth Rich, and these have come to light in response to a different FOIA request that was not about him. What other falsely denied documents does the FBI hold about Rich, that were not fortuitously picked up by a search for correspondence between two named individuals?

To look at the documents themselves, they have to be read from the bottom up, and they consist of a series of emails between members of the Washington Field Office of the FBI (WF in the telegrams) into which Strzok was copied in, and which he ultimately forwarded on to the lawyer Lisa Page.

The opening email, at the bottom, dated 10 August 2016 at 10.32am, precisely just one month after the murder of Seth Rich, is from the media handling department of the Washington Field Office. It references Wikileaks’ offer of a reward for information on the murder of Seth Rich, and that Assange seemed to imply Rich was the source of the DNC leaks. The media handlers are asking the operations side of the FBI field office for any information on the case. The unredacted part of the reply fits with the official narrative. The redacted individual officer is “not aware of any specific involvement” by the FBI in the Seth Rich case. But his next sentence is completely redacted. Why?

It appears that “adding” references a new person added in to the list. This appears to have not worked, and probably the same person (precisely same length of deleted name) then tries again, with “adding … for real” and blames the technology – “stupid Samsung”. The interesting point here is that the person added appears not to be in the FBI – a new redacted addressee does indeed appear, and unlike all the others does not have an FBI suffix after their deleted email address. So who are they?

(This section on “adding” was updated after commenters offered a better explanation than my original one. See first comments below).

The fourth email, at 1pm on Wednesday August 10, 2016, is much the most interesting. It is ostensibly also from the Washington Field Office, but it is from somebody using a different classified email system with a very different time and date format than the others. It is apparently from somebody more senior, as the reply to it is “will do”. And every single word of this instruction has been blanked. The final email, saying that “I squashed this with …..”, is from a new person again, with the shortest name. That phrase may only have meant I denied this to a journalist, or it may have been reporting an operational command given.

As the final act in this drama, Strzok then sent the whole thread on to the lawyer, which is why we now have it. Why?

It is perfectly possible to fill in the blanks with a conversation that completely fits the official narrative. The deletions could say this was a waste of time and the FBI was not looking at the Rich case. But in that case, the FBI would have been delighted to publish it unredacted. (The small numbers in the right hand margins supposedly detail the exception to the FOIA under which deletion was made. In almost every case they are one or other category of invasion of privacy).

And if it just all said “Assange is talking nonsense. Seth Rich is nothing to do with the FBI” then why would that have to be sent on by Strzok to the FBI lawyer?

It is of course fortunate that Strzok did forward this one email thread on to the lawyer, because that is the only reason we have seen it, as a result of an FOI(A) request for the correspondence between those two.

Finally, and perhaps this is the most important point, the FBI was at this time supposed to be in the early stages of an investigation into how the DNC emails were leaked to Wikileaks. The FBI here believed Wikileaks to be indicating the material had been leaked by Seth Rich who had then been murdered. Surely in any legitimate investigation, the investigators would have been absolutely compelled to check out the truth of this possibility, rather than treat it as a media issue?

We are asked to believe that not one of these emails says “well if the publisher of the emails says Seth Rich was the source, we had better check that out, especially as he was murdered with no sign of a suspect”. If the FBI really did not look at that, why on earth not? If the FBI genuinely, as they claim, did not even look at the murder of Seth Rich, that would surely be the most damning fact of all and reveal their “investigation” was entirely agenda driven from the start.

In June 2016 a vast cache of the DNC emails were leaked to Wikileaks. On 10 July 2016 an employee from the location of the leak was murdered without obvious motive, in an alleged street robbery in which nothing at all was stolen. Not to investigate the possibility of a link between the two incidents would be grossly negligent. It is worth adding that, contrary to a propaganda barrage, Bloomingdale where Rich was murdered is a very pleasant area of Washington DC and by no means a murder hotspot. It is also worth noting that not only is there no suspect in Seth Rich’s murder, there has never been any semblance of a serious effort to find the killer. Washington police appear perfectly happy simply to write this case off.

I anticipate two responses to this article in terms of irrelevant and illogical whataboutery:

Firstly, it is very often the case that family members are extremely resistant to the notion that the murder of a relative may have wider political implications. This is perfectly natural. The appalling grief of losing a loved one to murder is extraordinary; to reject the cognitive dissonance of having your political worldview shattered at the same time is very natural. In the case of David Kelly, of Seth Rich, and of Wille Macrae, we see families reacting with emotional hostility to the notion that the death raises wider questions. Occasionally the motive may be still more mixed, with the prior relationship between the family and the deceased subject to other strains (I am not referencing the Rich case here).

You do occasionally get particularly stout hearted family who take the opposite tack and are prepared to take on the authorities in the search for justice, of which Commander Robert Green, son of Hilda Murrell, is a worthy example.

(As an interesting aside, I just checked his name in the Wikipedia article on Hilda, which I discovered describes Tam Dalyell “hounding” Margaret Thatcher over the Belgrano and the fact that ship was steaming away from the Falklands when destroyed with massive loss of life as a “second conspiracy theory”, the first of course being the murder of Hilda Murrell. Wikipedia really has become a cesspool.)

We have powerful cultural taboos that reinforce the notion that if the family do not want the question of the death of their loved one disturbed, nobody else should bring it up. Seth Rich’s parents, David Kelly’s wife, Willie Macrae’s brother have all been deployed by the media and the powers behind them to this effect, among many other examples. This is an emotionally powerful but logically weak method of restricting enquiry.

Secondly, I do not know and I deliberately have not inquired what are the views on other subjects of either Mr Ty Clevenger, who brought his evidence and blog to my attention, or Judicial Watch, who made the FOIA request that revealed these documents. I am interested in the evidence presented both that the FBI lied, and in the documents themselves. Those who obtained the documents may, for all I know, be dedicated otter baiters or believe in stealing ice cream from children. I am referencing the evidence they have obtained in this particular case, not endorsing – or condemning – anything else in their lives or work. I really have had enough of illogical detraction by association as a way of avoiding logical argument by an absurd extension of ad hominem argument to third parties.

——————————————

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



 

Alternatively:

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.

View with comments

Of Coronavirus and Chartism 335

I am cheerfully optimistic that this Coronavirus, like asian swine flu and SARS before it, will prove not to be as deadly as may be prognosticated by journalists wanting to fill column inches. One day the human race will become extinct; but it is unlikely to be a virus that does it, as wiping out your host is not a clever survival policy for a virus. Even a disease as vicious as ebola proved not to be so potent against subjects who were not malnourished nor struggling with other health issues. So far this coronavirus seems to have a mortality rate of about 3%, which is probably an over high estimate as it is only a percentage of those who died after testing, whereas it appears there are large numbers with milder symptoms who are unlikely to have been tested in the first place. So coronavirus is not looking vastly different to ordinary influenza, which has a mortality rate of about 1%.

When you or I get flu we don’t normally panic as though we have a 1% chance of dying from it. That is again because we are well nourished, live in good conditions and have not been much weakened by other disease. Like this coronavirus, influenza generally carries off the old and frail. Whether the infamous Spanish flu after the First World War that killed so many was a particularly potent strain is open to doubt. A more powerful factor is probably that the population it wracked was suffering greatly from malnourishment, stress and disease already as a result of the war. But unlike this coronavirus, that one did attack children badly.

Which is not to say the current coronavirus might not yet mutate into something much more lethal, but as yet there is no sign of that happening.

I was educated both at school and university very much in the liberal tradition of history. At both levels, the curriculum featured a view of historic political development very much as “progress”. The “years of revolution”, 1830 and 1848, were landmarks in this, where liberal and national movements made some progress against monarchist autocracy across the whole of Europe. These political waves of convulsion on a continent wide basis undoubtedly happened, and in the UK resulted in the Great Reform Act and the Chartist Movement. They were taught in the Macaulay/Trevelyan historical tradition as very much the product of development in thought, as a product of political philosophy, as though the masses were moved by the elegantly turned phrases of a Benthamite pamphlet.

At university, I did add to this the knowledge that poor harvests had helped precipitate events, and indeed those had featured in my A level lists of “Causes of the French Revolution”. But it was only really a few years ago, when I was researching Sikunder Burnes, that I came to focus properly on the role of epidemiology in these human convulsions. Both the 1830 and 1848 European wave of revolutions coincided with the first and second ever cholera pandemics sweeping across Europe. The reason I came across this while studying Burnes is precisely that it was the opening up of Central Asia to trade in this period, largely through Russian exploration and expansion, that brought the disease into Europe. Burnes was in 1832 in a Bokhara ravaged for years by cholera. Its great canals – which are still there – were only being opened to fresh water once a month, and they served as both water supply and sewer, as Burnes documented in detail.

Without the misery inflicted by cholera, both directly and in economic impact, the desperate urban mobs may not have existed which enabled middle class liberals – and their own auto-didactic leadership – to start the establishment of western European democracy. It seems a very strange thing to suggest that cholera pandemics forwarded social progress. But there you are. I am now proceeding to an audacious discussion as to whether a lack of effective pandemics may retard social progress. Hang on to your hats.

[As a complete aside, I also discovered while researching Alexander Burnes that the great British liberal historical tradition was founded on a truly remarkable incestuous household menage a trois between Macaulay, his sister and Charles Trevelyan, father of the historian George who may well have been Macaulay’s son and nephew, rather than the official version of just nephew, and that Macaulay had also been having sex with his other sister. So much for Victorian respectability. Sikunder Burnes is a difficult book to describe because it presents an extremely detailed and painstaking account of the life of a 19th century British imperial functionary, and then from that framework sprout all kinds of exegeses on my wider intellectual interests. I hope it reads better than that sounds].

I do hope that I am right that coronavirus will prove, like SARS, not a great threat to us. The ability of modern nutrition, living conditions and medicine to ward off serious risk of epidemic and other illness has of course resulted in a very significant increase in human longevity. The relentless increase in longevity has slowed slightly as a result of the post 2008 economic crash, but I expect it to pick up again as it is a centuries old trend. In the UK, much has been written about the economic effects of this. In the UK, the concentration of wealth in the hands of old people who are not dying and passing it down, coincides with economic changes which have made it very difficult for young people to have good secure employment and to accumulate wealth, particularly property.

At the same time, the old people may own wealth but do not much generate it. With the increasingly aged demographic profile boosted by both people living longer and by historic falling birth rates, the percentage of the population in employment is in decline. The Office of National Statistics projects that while in 2007 there were 244 pensioners for every 1000 adults of working age, by 2041 there will be 419 per 1,000. This is a well understood economic problem to which, within the UK, the answer has lain in immigration.

It is not my purpose here to touch on these economic questions. I wish rather to look at the political effects. The UK has become a gerontocracy. The proportion of British adults eligible to vote who were aged over 55 in 2007 was approximately 37%. By 2041, that will be a majority of voters aged over 55. It is quite possible that a majority of those who do cast their vote in the UK are already over 55, as voter turnout is much higher among the elderly. So by 2040 it is perfectly possible that 60% or more of all votes actually cast will be cast by people aged 55 or over.

This is significant because it is a matter of indisputable fact that voting patterns are different between the old and the young. It was, to a truly remarkable degree, only the votes of the over 55s that stopped Scottish Independence, voted for Brexit, and elected Boris Johnson. Now any time I write on this subject I get offended older people saying “well I am old but I am not a Tory”. I know. I am not claiming every old person is a Tory. But Unionism, Brexitism and Toryism all are much more predominant among older voters. And while the issues may differ by 2040, I very much doubt there will cease to be differentials between the views of the old and the young.

The long term effects of western political systems which become increasingly dominated by geriatric voters are very unlikely to include a greater willingness to adopt progressive or innovative political approaches. I do not see how there can fail to be a stultifying effect on social progress. Again, I am 61 myself. Of course there are many radical older people. But there is overwhelming evidence that is not the norm.

Gaia has ways of restoring balance. It seems to me a fascinating speculation that, as the planet’s apex predator, mankind has succeeded in increasing individual longevity by increased nutrition and an ability to stave off pandemics which nature would use to keep down the numbers, and which normally would particularly kill older people. But the result of this may be a profound reduction in the adaptability and flexibility of mankind’s political hive mind as it becomes encrusted with geriatric thought, leading to seriously bad political decisions which ultimately will impact population anyway. Climate change is the most obvious example, but the process could have long term subtle effects in many ways.

Thomas Malthus was pilloried for centuries, but his critique of the dangers of human over-population now chimes with envronmentalist concerns. I have no desire to underestimate the suffering of those unfortunate enough to be affected by coronavirus. I do not actually wish to see elderly Tories and unionists carried off by flu. But I suspect you, like me, may very seldom get to read an article referencing the interrelationship of epidemiology, longevity and political systems. As the avowed purpose of this blog is to make people think, I thought readers and commenters may care to stretch their brains on this one.

Finally, as a restorative affirmation of the fact that older people can have very positive contributions to make to political thought, here is last week’s debate between George Galloway and myself on the subject of Scottish Independence. It has become unusual in British politics to see two people with fundamentally different views on a major political issue, discuss the matter with mutual respect and absolutely no rancour. It is a practice that appears to have deserted most professional politicians, as the last disintegrating days of the UK state become increasingly acrimonious.

——————————————

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



 

Alternatively:

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.

View with comments

The Troubling Decline of International Law

While it is true that rogue states – most notably the USA – have always posed a threat to the rule of international law, I see no serious room to dispute that the development of the corpus of international law, and of the institutions to implement it, was one of the great achievements of the twentieth century, and did a huge amount to reduce global conflict.

The International Court of Justice, the Law of the Sea Tribunal, the European Court of Justice, the World Trade Organisation, these are just some of the institutions which have played an extremely positive role, helping resolve hundreds of disputes during their existence and, still more importantly, helping establish rules that prevented thousands more disputes from arising. Regional Organisations, dozens of them including the EU, the African Union and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, have also flourished.

The judgement of the ICJ in the 160 cases it has heard has almost always been respected by the parties to the case. That has applied even when the dispute is radical, inflammatory and had already led to fighting and deaths, such as the settlement of the Nigeria/Cameroon border. The ICJ has been a massive success story.

The foundation of the International Criminal Court in 2002 was the high water mark in establishing the rule of law as the guiding principle of international affairs. As with all the major worldwide institutions of international law, the UK had played a leading role in the establishment of the ICC. I was in the FCO at the time, and I remember the quiet confidence that eventually the USA would join up, just as they had with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea after decades of havering. In fact, the ICC has been a major disappointment, of which more later. I refer to 2002 as the high water mark for the rule of international law, because subsequently the tide has turned decisively against it.

When Blair and Bush invaded Iraq, not only without the sanction of the UN Security Council but in the certain knowledge the Security Council was against it, and in Blair’s case against the unanimous opinion of the FCO’s entire cadre of Legal Advisers who stated that the war was illegal, they not only precipitated a crisis that has resulted in millions of deaths, they dealt a killing blow to the entire fabric of international law.

The results are now becoming every day more visible. We have just survived for now, thanks to Iran’s remarkable sense and restraint, a dangerous crisis in the Middle East following the illegal assassination of General Soleimani, who was travelling on a diplomatic mission at the time. The use on a massive scale of execution by drone – including execution of UK and US nationals – by the British and American governments, often without the permission of the government in whose territory the execution takes place, is an appalling breach of international law for which there appears to be no effective remedy.

The FCO Legal Advisers refused to advise that the killing of Soleimani was legal in international law. However the UK government no longer cares if something is legal in international law or not. The government line was originally that there was an “arguable case” that the assassination was legal, then after objections from legal advisers the line changed to “it is not for the UK to determine whether the drone strike is legal”.

The United Kingdom used to be a pillar, arguably the most important pillar, of international law. Thanks to a series of neo-con politicians, including Blair, Straw, Cameron, May and Johnson, the UK scarcely makes a pretence any more abut giving a fig about international law. It simply ignores the instruction of the United Nations and the International Court of Justice to decolonise the Chagos Islands. It refuses to implement the binding international arbitration on debt owed to Iran. It mocks the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. It refuses to allow the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women into asylum detention centres. I could go on. A direct consequence of this is sharply diminished UK influence in the world, and in particular for the first time in 71 years it does not have a seat on the International Court of Justice. As the UK has effectively spurned the authority of the ICJ, this is scarcely surprising.

It was the UK’s reputation as an upholder of international law that moderated outrage at the UN at the UK’s anachronistic permanent membership of the UN Security Council. That international respect no longer exists, and the British Government are deluded if they think that the UK’s privileged UN status will last forever, especially as it can no longer be represented as a proxy for EU foreign policy.

The UN itself is of course suffering a sustained threat to its authority. It is simply ignored on the dreadful Saudi led disaster in Yemen. By refusing the Iranian foreign minister a visa to attend a Security Council meeting on Soleimani, the USA struck at the very purpose of the UN. If the institution is to be held the hostage of its geographical host, what is its purpose? Ultimately, to regain relevance the UN would have both democratically to reform and to relocate, perhaps to South Africa. I do not see that happening in the near future.

As for the International Criminal Court, that has been a severe disappointment which in many ways symbolises the collapse of international law. Its failure to prosecute Bush and Blair for the war on Iraq set its direction from the beginning. Waging aggressive war is in itself a war crime and was indelibly established as such by the Nuremburg Tribunal. That it was not specifically mentioned in the Rome Statute was a flimsy pretext from judges not willing to take on power. The same judges have bottled out of investigation of US crimes in Afghanistan and appear to be in the same process over war crimes in Gaza, where astonishingly there has been no backing from states for the ICC against Netanyahu’s threat to institute sanctions against ICC staff if investigations continue. I used to defend the ICC robustly over accusations that it was simply a tool of neo-con policy. I now find it very hard to do so.

The UK is not the only country ignoring international law. Spain’s repudiation of the European Court of Justice decision that Junqueras must be released to take his seat in the European Parliament is a huge blow to the prestige and authority of that organisation. Spain’s vicious persecution of Catalonia is itself the most comprehensive challenge that “western values” have faced for decades in the European heartland, by a large measure worse than anything which Orban has done. Spain completely ignores its Council of Europe obligations.

The structure of international law is looking very shoogly indeed. It does matter, a very great deal. The world is becoming a significantly more dangerous place as a result.

——————————————

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



 

Alternatively:

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.

View with comments

Yes Minister Fan Fiction

I have been rather unwell this last week with atrial fibrillation, and at 5am last Sunday morning had the paramedics out and puzzling over the ECG results. This particularly severe episode was a result of being out in the cold and storm for hours on the AUOB march, and I felt so guilty at being a self-inflicted drain on the NHS that I declined their offer to take me into hospital and decided to recover at home.

I did however get to thinking about whether, had I indeed toddled off on my next great adventure, I would regret holding information which I had not imparted to you. Well, I couldn’t in those circumstances regret not having imparted it as I would be deid, but you know what I mean. As it happened the thing I found I was most worried about not being able to impart was not, at least on its surface, a case of world sweeping importance, but rather of individual injustice. Though the surface often hides a great deal.

Anyway, having recovered I was saddened by the death of Derek Fowlds, who to me was always Mr Derek of Basil Brush. In fact I remember my confusion when Mr Derek replaced Mr Rodney, who I only learnt this week was in fact Rodney Bewes, another great comic actor of whose wider work I was at primary school unaware. Derek Fowlds of course became most famous in his brilliant role as Bernard in Yes Minister. Lying in bed getting better, I decided to while away the time by writing some Yes Minister fan fiction in tribute.

As with the original series, although based on a realistic civil service scenario dealing with similar events to those the civil service actually deals with, this conversation between a Minister and Permanent Secretary is purely fictional. No real situation is alluded to and any resemblance between the people and situations portrayed here and anything that is happening in real life is entirely accidental. Please do not attempt in the comments section to relate this entirely fictional hommage to Yes Minister to any actual events involving any actual court cases. Because you might wander into contempt of court.

This is of course my first Yes Minister effort.

FIRST YES MINISTER

Perm Sec. You see Minister, all you have to do is destroy your predecessor’s reputation. In the modern “Me Too” atmosphere, you accuse someone of sexual offences and politically they are finished. In fact you can do what you like to him.
Minister Like Julian Assange?
Perm Sec Exactly, Minister. Like Julian Assange. We yelled “rape” at him and then had to do nothing else. The left themselves destroyed him, led by the feminists of course. You see Minister, we feminists can be useful sometimes. (Canned Laughter)
Minister Yes, by the time they had finished with him, the government could torture him to death in plain sight and nobody cared.
Perm Sec Precisely Minister, and the hilarious thing was that there never was any rape and we never had to produce any evidence in court.
Minister Yes, brilliant. But it’s not an exact parallel with Orpheus though, is it Permanent Secretary? We don’t have any extradition request for Orpheus once any sexual charges fall.
Perm Sec The charges won’t fall, Minister, they won’t fall. We will get him found guilty.
Minister But he isn’t actually a rapist, you know. Not one of these incidents looks anything like rape. In fact they are all very flimsy. There isn’t one single independent witness and I don’t think any of them could be proven in court.
Perm Sec Please don’t worry yourself. It doesn’t matter, Minister. All we need is the word “rape” in the newspaper headlines. “Attempted rape” will do. You just tell the prosecutor to get the word out there, spread it in the media and Orpheus is finished.
Minister Even if he is not guilty?
Perm Sec He will be guilty. Whether he is guilty is irrelevant, he will be found guilty. This is where we use “more of”.
Minister “More of”?
Perm Sec Yes, “More of”. It’s not an official legal term, but all the lawyers know it as the oldest trick in the prosecutor’s book.
Minister What do you mean, Permanent Secretary?
Perm Sec Well look, we have the canoodling episode, the kiss in the office and a couple of suggestive remarks about sexy clothes.
Minister The sexy remarks are hardly illegal, are they?
Perm Sec Good God, Minister, what century are you in? (Canned Laughter). Sexual harassment, Minister. Kiss someone at the office party and tell someone else their figure looks good in that blouse, and you have established a pattern of behaviour. “More of” you see, Minister. The “more of” this stuff you throw, the better chance some of it will stick.
Minister But we don’t have that many instances. We went through absolutely everything. We had a team of 24 policemen working on it for 10 months and this was all we can find.
Perm Sec It is time to get creative then, Minister. We need more women to make allegations. In these circumstances it is always best to keep things close. Activate the women you know, Minister, activate the women you know.
Minister I don’t have that many friends, Permanent Secretary. I spend all my time reading books. (Canned Laughter).
Perm Sec Oh really, Minister, think. You must have some women very close to you.
Minister Well, there is Miss Barclay, my own Private Secretary.
Perm Sec Perfect, Minister perfect! Miss Barclay should be good for at least four allegations! Get her to say he tried to kiss her. Often.
Minister But surely nobody will believe my own Private Secretary – and she was involved in putting the dossier together and in discussions on handling the case. Nobody is going to believe her. And (gasps in horror) it really leads straight back to me being behind it, doesn’t it?
Perm Sec It can’t be traced back to you, Minister.
Minister Phew, that’s a relief. It can’t be traced back to me you say. How does that work?
Perm Sec Accuser anonymity, Minister.
Minister Accuser anon… oh yes! Oh yes! I am beginning to see!! They are sexual allegations so…
Perm Sec The identities of the accusers can be kept hidden by the court under penalty of severe jail sentences for anybody who reveals them so…
Minister …the accusers can just be my closest political cronies and the public will never be aware of that! That’s brilliant, Perm Sec!
Perm Sec Thank you, Minister (Canned Laughter)
Minister And thank God for that, because if the party faithful thought that I was trying to stitch up my predecessor they would have my guts for garters (Canned Laughter).
Perm Sec Heaven forfend, Minister!
Minister What? Oh too right. I was just thinking, Permanent Secretary, you know I am starting to get the hang of this. What about old Marmalade? He is very keen to get back into parliament and sees himself as a potential successor.
Perm Sec Marmalade? Well I suppose if we start adding in gay allegations, it does give a slightly more exotic tinge for the tabloids.
Minister I was thinking more of his wife, Permanent Secretary. If the old Marmalade family want a nice safe seat in the capital, let them do something to earn it.
Perm Sec Indeed, Minister. And is the wife not a former Special Adviser?
Minister Yes, is that a problem?
Perm Sec On the contrary, Minister. You see it is very useful. A SPAD is of course only a particularly spotty political hack whom politicians have conned the taxpayer into paying, but technically a SPAD is still a form of civil servant.
Minister Yes, and what of it?
Perm Sec Well, the words “civil servant” convey integrity, honesty and trustworthiness. (Canned laughter). We can leak to the tabloids that one of the accusers is a civil servant, and people will believe it must be genuine and independent. Very cunning idea if I may say so, Minister.
Minister Was it? Oh yes, I am cunning, aren’t I. (Canned laughter). But I still worry that none of the accusations is going to be individually convincing.
Perm Sec Doesn’t matter, Minister, doesn’t matter. Remember “More of”. Quantity not quality, Minister, quantity not quality. They don’t have to be individually convincing, just to give the impression of no smoke without fire.
Minister Oh well, I understand that now. In that case I can think of three or four more women very close to us indeed who can make allegations, if independence or credibility are not important and nobody will ever know who they were.
Perm Sec Volume is important, Minister, volume. It does not have to be heavy stuff. Just get them to allege an attempted kiss here, a brush of the hand on the bum as they were going out the door there.
Minister To build a pattern of behaviour.
Perm Sec Precisely, Minister, precisely. To build a pattern of behaviour. I see you have got it.
Minister But isn’t there a problem here, Permanent Secretary? If this man was a sexual predator on a large scale, there would be whispers for years and people in political circles would surely know. But he doesn’t have that reputation at all.
Perm Sec Don’t worry, Minister, he soon will have that reputation. (Canned Laughter). The media will believe it because we will tell them to believe it. And once the media believe something, the population will believe it too. Every politician has enemies, Minister, Orpheus more than most.
Minister But isn’t there a potential danger here, Permanent Secretary? I mean all of this is nonsense, so won’t he be acquitted and emerge possibly stronger than before?
Perm Sec Don’t worry, Minister, he won’t be acquitted. We have a legally invincible alliance on our side. “More of” is powerful, but “more of” combined with “home” becomes an irresistible force.
Minister (puzzled) “More of” and “home”.
Perm Sec Yes Minister. Answer me this. What does a jury want more than anything?
Minister To do justice?
Perm Sec Wrong, Minister, wrong. Home. A jury wants to go home. (Canned Laughter) Jurors are ripped away from their homes, jobs and families for weeks. At the end of it they are locked in a stuffy room with other jurors they don’t like, and not allowed to go home until they have all reached a verdict. So what do they do to reach agreement?
Minister Aaah, I see now. They compromise.
Perm Sec Exactly, Minister. They will compromise. It’s a natural human instinct to avoid conflict. There will be some people who think him totally innocent as nothing was individually proven, but there will be others who will think he must have done something wrong or there could not possibly be so many accusations. The power of “more of”. Of course they will chuck out the “attempted rape” very quickly as obvious nonsense. In the end they will find him not guilty on nearly all counts, but as a compromise will convict him of stroking someone’s hair, patting their bum or saying they look sexy.
Minister But surely he will hardly be jailed for that?
Perm Sec Doesn’t matter, Minister. “Rapist” will already be firmly printed on the public mind, and so long as we have the magic word “guilty” it does not matter what he is guilty of. And it can’t fail. With so many charges, the jury is simply bound to find him guilty of something so they can compromise and all go home.
Minister Brilliant, Permanent Secretary, brilliant.
Perm Sec Thank you.
Minister So that’s finally going to put a stake through his heart. No more Frank Sinatra comebacks and no more Quixotic campaigns chasing unicorns.
Perm Sec Yes, Minister.

View with comments

Westminster Cannot Block Scottish Independence

Boris Johnson’s facetious, point-scoring reply to the formal request from the Scottish government for agreement to a second Independence referendum is an act of extreme arrogance. An off-the-cuff campaign remark from a single politician has no weight in weighing the will of a nation, and I presume Johnson is not arguing that every political statement Nicola Sturgeon or Alex Salmond has ever made has the force of law.

The “once in a generation” remark has no more force than “die in a ditch”. It is not contained in any official document, and appears in neither the Edinburgh Agreement nor the Smith Commission report. For Johnson to base his refusal of a vital democratic step on such a flimsy pretext is extremely arrogant. It is born of colossal self-confidence. He is perfectly confident the highly centralised Westminster system will allow him simply to ride roughshod over Scotland.

Johnson is of course right. You may be surprised to hear that I agree with the analysis of McHarg and McCorkindale published today that a legal challenge arguing the Scottish Government’s right to hold a referendum is a waste of time, not least because if such legal challenge looked like succeeding the Tories would simply pass Westminster legislation outlawing the referendum explicitly. There is no doubt whatsoever that such legislation would be upheld by the UK Supreme Court under the doctrine of the Sovereignty of (Westminster) Parliament.

I also have no doubt that a futile and time-wasting court action is going to be a key part of the Scottish Government’s approach in response to Johnson, of pretending to do something about Independence a few more years.

McHarg and McCorkindale are quite right on UK Constitutional Law, which is where their expertise lies. They know very little about public international law and still less about international politics.

The truth is that UK Constitutional Law is as irrelevant to Scottish Independence as Soviet Constitutional Law was to the question of Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian Independence. The UK is disintegrating and not the smirk of Johnson, the frippery of the UK Supreme Court nor the witterings of lawyers can hold it together.

Independence is not a matter of domestic law. It is a matter of international law alone. Independence is the existence of a state in relation to other states. It is gained not by any internal process- internal process is utterly irrelevant, and in 95% of cases does not involve a referendum – but by recognition of other states, formalised through the General Assembly of the United Nations.

I touched on these points in my brief statement at the AUOB press conference after the march on Saturday.

In its judgement on Kosovo, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) specifically confirmed that the agreement of the state being seceded from was not necessary for Independence. That is the position in law, whatever any UK court may say. Indeed it was the UK government itself that put this argument most clearly to the ICJ in the Kosovo case.

5.5 Consistent with this general approach, international law has not treated the legality of
the act of secession under the internal law of the predecessor State as determining the effect
of that act on the international plane. In most cases of secession, of course, the predecessor
State’s law will not have been complied with: that is true almost as a matter of definition.

5.6 Nor is compliance with the law of the predecessor State a condition for the declaration
of independence to be recognised by third States, if other conditions for recognition are
fulfilled. The conditions do not include compliance with the internal legal requirements of
the predecessor State. Otherwise the international legality of a secession would be
predetermined by the very system of internal law called in question by the circumstances in
which the secession is occurring.

5.7 For the same reason, the constitutional authority of the seceding entity to proclaim
independence within the predecessor State is not determinative as a matter of international
law. In most if not all cases, provincial or regional authorities will lack the constitutional
authority to secede. The act of secession is not thereby excluded. Moreover, representative
institutions may legitimately act, and seek to reflect the views of their constituents, beyond
the scope of already conferred power.

That is a commendably concise and accurate description of the legal position. It is the legal opinion of the Government of the United Kingdom, as submitted to the International Court of Justice in the Kosovo case. The International Court of Justice endorsed this view, so it is both established law and the opinion of the British Government that a state has the right to declare Independence without the agreement or permission of the original state and its political or legal authorities.

I have continually explained on this site that the legality of a Declaration of Independence is in no sense determined by the law of the metropolitan state, but is purely a matter of recognition by other countries and thus acceptance into the United Nations. The UK Government set this out plainly in response to a question from a judge in the Kosovo case:

2. As the United Kingdom stated in oral argument, international law contains no
prohibition against declarations of independence as such. Whether a declaration of
independence leads to the creation of a new State by separation or secession depends
not on the fact of the declaration but on subsequent developments, notably recognition
by other States. As a general matter, an act not prohibited by international law needs
no authorization. This position holds with respect to States. It holds also with respect
to acts of individuals or groups, for international law prohibits conduct of non-State
entities only exceptionally and where expressly indicated.

So the key question is, could Scotland get recognition from other states for a Declaration of Independence? The attitude of the EU will be crucial and here Catalonia is obviously a key precedent. But it is one that has been totally misunderstood.

The vast majority of the politicians and functionaries of the EU institutions viewed the actions of the Francoist government of Spain in assaulting the people of Catalonia who were trying to vote, with extreme distaste. But they held their noses and supported Spain. Because over 20 years experience as a diplomat taught me that the EU functions as a club of member states, who will support each other in almost any circumstance. So Spain was supported.

But the UK is shortly going to stop being a member. It is Scotland, as a potential member with a long history of valued membership and a firm intention to join, which will have the natural support of the EU, the more so as there will be a strong desire to get Scotland’s fishing, energy and mineral resources back within the bloc. The disintegration of the UK will also be encouraged as a salutary lesson to any other states that consider leaving the EU. The political forces within the EU are very, very strongly behind recognition of Scottish Independence.

Once the EU decides to recognise Scotland (and crucially it is not a decision that needs unanimity in the EU vote, an extremely important and overlooked fact) the rest will be easy. The UK is detested in much of the developing world for its continued refusal to decolonise Diego Garcia, for the Iraq War, and for the whole history of colonialism.

So how should Scotland proceed? My advice would be to declare Independence at the earliest possible opportunity. We should recall all Scottish MPs from Westminster immediately. We should assemble all of Scotland’s MEP’s, MP’s and MSP’s in a National Assembly and declare Independence on the 700th Anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath, thus emphasising the historical continuity of the Scottish state. The views and laws of London now being irrelevant, we should organise, as an Independent state, our referendum to confirm Independence, to be held in September 2020.

The key criterion which governments have traditionally used to recognise another state is control of the state’s internal territory. (They do not have to use that criterion, each state can recognise on whatever basis it wishes, but that is the usual one cited). This is where the Catalonian Declaration of Independence failed, the Catalan Government never managed to enforce it on its own ground.

There is going to be no process of Independence agreed with the British government. We have to take Independence, not beg for it. At some stage, there is always the danger that the British government may try to react by sending in the British Army to enforce Westminster’s will. If we believe we are an independent nation, we have to be prepared to defend ourselves as an independent state should the worst happen. Calling a confirmatory referendum as the first act of the Independent state would make it difficult for Johnson to justify sending in the British Army to try to prevent it, but we cannot rule it out. Hopefully that will not involve anyone getting killed, but we must be plain that Westminster will never voluntarily allow us to leave and may physically attack us if we try.

I appreciate this may all sound very unpleasant and confrontational.

We have two alternatives now – we stand up for ourselves and our inalienable right of self-determination in international law as defined in the UN Charter, or we grovel before Johnson’s smirk and try various “legal” and “constitutional” avenues in terms of the UK’s utterly irrelevant domestic legislation. Which will get us nowhere, slowly.

The time has come for Scottish Independence. With a referendum denied by no fault of ours, we must seize the moment and take the Independence for which they will not let us vote.

——————————————

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



 

Alternatively:

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.

been

View with comments

A Window for Peace 1332

There is this morning a chink of light to avoid yet more devastation in the Middle East. Iran’s missile strikes last night were calibrated to satisfy honour while avoiding damage that would trigger automatically the next round. The missiles appear to have been fitted out with very light warhead payloads indeed – their purpose was to look good in the dark going up into the night sky. There is every reason to believe the apparent lack of US casualties was deliberate.

Even more important was the Iraqi statement that “proportionate measures” had been “taken and concluded” and they did not seek “further escalation”.

I agree their response was proportionate and I would say that I regard the Iranian action so far, unlike the assassination of Soleimani by the US, legal in international law.

The entire world should congratulate Iran for its maturity in handling the illegal assassination of its General, who was on a peace mission, travelling as a civilian on a commercial flight, carrying a mediation message the US had been instrumental in instigating. If as seems possible the US actively manipulated the diplomatic process to assassinate someone on a diplomatic mission and traveling on a diplomatic passport, that is a dreadful outrage which will come back to haunt them. Life insurance rates for US diplomats no doubt just went up.

It is also worth noting the 2.8% rise in the Lockheed share price in the 24 hours immediately before the Soleimani assassination, outperforming the Dow about three times. That would bear investigation. Arms manufacturers and oil stocks have soared this last few days – and remember that nowadays the vast bulk of financial transactions are bets on the margins of movement, so vast fortunes will have been made out of all this.

The UK has been, as ever, complicit in US crimes. Our laughingly so-called “defence” industry – when were its products last used in self-defence and not colonial adventure? – is tied in to and dependent on the US military machine. The current build-up of US troops and hardware in the Gulf has Mildenhall as a major staging post. We do not have to do this. Whether officially or on a pretext, French airspace was closed to the US military build-up and the Americans have had to fly from the UK, skirting France, around the Atlantic.

In a huge Boris Johnson slap in the face to international law, extra US bombers to attack Iran have been flown into Diego Garcia, in the Chagos Islands. You will recall that is where the UK committed genocide against the population in the 1970s to clear the way for the US military base. Last year, the UK lost a hearing before the International Court of Justice and was subsequently instructed by the UN to decolonise the islands and give them back to Mauritius by last November. The UK simply persisted in its illegal occupation and now is threatening the use of the islands as the base for yet another illegal and destabilising war.

That the UK is a permanent member of the UN security council is a disgrace which surely cannot endure much longer. What the current crisis has shown us is that under Johnson the UK has no future except as a still more compliant servant of whoever occupies the White House.

Wars are easy to start but hard to stop. Trump appears to have calmed, but we cannot rule out a stupid “last word” attack by the USA. It is to be hoped that Iran now concentrates on using the immense political leverage it has gained to get western troops out of Iraq, which would be a tremendous result for all of us after 17 years. But we cannot rule out hotter heads in the Iranian government insisting on further attacks, or attacks from regional forces whose Tehran authorisation is uncertain. On either side this could yet blow up badly.

I am a sucker for hope, and the best outcome would be for the US and Iran to start talking directly again, and a deal to be made from this break in the logjam that is wider than, and Trump can portray as better than, “Obama’s” nuclear deal and would enable the lifting of sanctions. I am sure Trump will be tempted by the chance to go for this kind of diplomatic coup under the political cover provided him by Soleimani’s assassination. But the US is now so tied in to Saudi Arabia and Israel, and thus tied in to irrational hostility to Iran, that this must be extremely unlikely.

For those of us in Scotland, this is still more reason why Independence must be early. We cannot be tied in to a rogue state. As we march for Independence on Saturday, the potential for war in Iran gives the sharpest reminder why we must leave the UK and form our own, peaceful, law-abiding state.

——————————————

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



 

Alternatively:

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.

been

View with comments

Lies, the Bethlehem Doctrine, and the Illegal Murder of Soleimani

In one of the series of blatant lies the USA has told to justify the assassination of Soleimani, Mike Pompeo said that Soleimani was killed because he was planning “Imminent attacks” on US citizens. It is a careful choice of word. Pompeo is specifically referring to the Bethlehem Doctrine of Pre-Emptive Self Defence.

Developed by Daniel Bethlehem when Legal Adviser to first Netanyahu’s government and then Blair’s, the Bethlehem Doctrine is that states have a right of “pre-emptive self-defence” against “imminent” attack. That is something most people, and most international law experts and judges, would accept. Including me.

What very few people, and almost no international lawyers, accept is the key to the Bethlehem Doctrine – that here “Imminent” – the word used so carefully by Pompeo – does not need to have its normal meanings of either “soon” or “about to happen”. An attack may be deemed “imminent”, according to the Bethlehem Doctrine, even if you know no details of it or when it might occur. So you may be assassinated by a drone or bomb strike – and the doctrine was specifically developed to justify such strikes – because of “intelligence” you are engaged in a plot, when that intelligence neither says what the plot is nor when it might occur. Or even more tenuous, because there is intelligence you have engaged in a plot before, so it is reasonable to kill you in case you do so again.

I am not inventing the Bethlehem Doctrine. It has been the formal legal justification for drone strikes and targeted assassinations by the Israeli, US and UK governments for a decade. Here it is in academic paper form, published by Bethlehem after he left government service (the form in which it is adopted by the US, UK and Israeli Governments is classified information).

So when Pompeo says attacks by Soleimani were “imminent” he is not using the word in the normal sense in the English language. It is no use asking him what, where or when these “imminent” attacks were planned to be. He is referencing the Bethlehem Doctrine under which you can kill people on the basis of a feeling that they may have been about to do something.

The idea that killing an individual who you have received information is going to attack you, but you do not know when, where or how, can be justified as self-defence, has not gained widespread acceptance – or indeed virtually any acceptance – in legal circles outside the ranks of the most extreme devoted neo-conservatives and zionists. Daniel Bethlehem became the FCO’s Chief Legal Adviser, brought in by Jack Straw, precisely because every single one of the FCO’s existing Legal Advisers believed the Iraq War to be illegal. In 2004, when the House of Commons was considering the legality of the war on Iraq, Bethlehem produced a remarkable paper for consideration which said that it was legal because the courts and existing law were wrong, a defence which has seldom succeeded in court.

(b)
following this line, I am also of the view that the wider principles of the law on self-defence also require closer scrutiny. I am not persuaded that the approach of doctrinal purity reflected in the Judgments of the International Court of Justice in this area provide a helpful edifice on which a coherent legal regime, able to address the exigencies of contemporary international life and discourage resort to unilateral action, is easily crafted;

The key was that the concept of “imminent” was to change:

The concept of what constitutes an “imminent” armed attack will develop to meet new circumstances and new threats

In the absence of a respectable international lawyer willing to argue this kind of tosh, Blair brought in Bethlehem as Chief Legal Adviser, the man who advised Netanyahu on Israel’s security wall and who was willing to say that attacking Iraq was legal on the basis of Saddam’s “imminent threat” to the UK, which proved to be non-existent. It says everything about Bethlehem’s eagerness for killing that the formulation of the Bethlehem Doctrine on extrajudicial execution by drone came after the Iraq War, and he still gave not one second’s thought to the fact that the intelligence on the “imminent threat” can be wrong. Assassinating people on the basis of faulty intelligence is not addressed by Bethlehem in setting out his doctrine. The bloodlust is strong in this one.

There are literally scores of academic articles, in every respected journal of international law, taking down the Bethlehem Doctrine for its obvious absurdities and revolting special pleading. My favourite is this one by Bethlehem’s predecessor as the FCO Chief Legal Adviser, Sir Michael Wood and his ex-Deputy Elizabeth Wilmshurst.

I addressed the Bethlehem Doctrine as part of my contribution to a book reflecting on Chomsky‘s essay “On the Responsibility of Intellectuals”

In the UK recently, the Attorney
General gave a speech in defence of the UK’s drone policy, the assassination
of people – including British nationals – abroad. This execution
without a hearing is based on several criteria, he reassured us. His
speech was repeated slavishly in the British media. In fact, the Guardian
newspaper simply republished the government press release absolutely
verbatim, and stuck a reporter’s byline at the top.
The media have no interest in a critical appraisal of the process
by which the British government regularly executes without trial. Yet
in fact it is extremely interesting. The genesis of the policy lay in the
appointment of Daniel Bethlehem as the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office’s Chief Legal Adviser. Jack Straw made the appointment, and for
the first time ever it was external, and not from the Foreign Office’s own
large team of world-renowned international lawyers. The reason for that
is not in dispute. Every single one of the FCO’s legal advisers had advised
that the invasion of Iraq was illegal, and Straw wished to find a new head
of the department more in tune with the neo-conservative world view.
Straw went to extremes. He appointed Daniel Bethlehem, the legal
‘expert’ who provided the legal advice to Benjamin Netanyahu on the
‘legality’ of building the great wall hemming in the Palestinians away
from their land and water resources. Bethlehem was an enthusiastic
proponent of the invasion of Iraq. He was also the most enthusiastic
proponent in the world of drone strikes.
Bethlehem provided an opinion on the legality of drone strikes
which is, to say the least, controversial. To give one example, Bethlehem
accepts that established principles of international law dictate that
lethal force may be used only to prevent an attack which is ‘imminent’.
Bethlehem argues that for an attack to be ‘imminent’ does not require it
to be ‘soon’. Indeed you can kill to avert an ‘imminent attack’ even if you
have no information on when and where it will be. You can instead rely
on your target’s ‘pattern of behaviour’; that is, if he has attacked before,
it is reasonable to assume he will attack again and that such an attack is
‘imminent’.
There is a much deeper problem: that the evidence against the
target is often extremely dubious. Yet even allowing the evidence to
be perfect, it is beyond me that the state can kill in such circumstances
without it being considered a death penalty imposed without trial for
past crimes, rather than to frustrate another ‘imminent’ one.
You would think that background would make an interesting
story. Yet the entire ‘serious’ British media published the government
line, without a single journalist, not one, writing about the fact that
Bethlehem’s proposed definition of ‘imminent’ has been widely rejected
by the international law community. The public knows none of this. They
just ‘know’ that drone strikes are keeping us safe from deadly attack by
terrorists, because the government says so, and nobody has attempted to
give them other information

Remember, this is not just academic argument, the Bethlehem Doctrine is the formal policy position on assassination of Israel, the US and UK governments. So that is lie one. When Pompeo says Soleimani was planning “imminent” attacks, he is using the Bethlehem definition under which “imminent” is a “concept” which means neither “soon” nor “definitely going to happen”. To twist a word that far from its normal English usage is to lie. To do so to justify killing people is obscene. That is why, if I finish up in the bottom-most pit of hell, the worst thing about the experience will be the company of Daniel Bethlehem.

Let us now move on to the next lie, which is being widely repeated, this time originated by Donald Trump, that Soleimani was responsible for the “deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans”. This lie has been parroted by everybody, Republicans and Democrats alike.

Really? Who were they? When and where? While the Bethlehem Doctrine allows you to kill somebody because they might be going to attack someone, sometime, but you don’t know who or when, there is a reasonable expectation that if you are claiming people have already been killed you should be able to say who and when.

The truth of the matter is that if you take every American killed including and since 9/11, in the resultant Middle East related wars, conflicts and terrorist acts, well over 90% of them have been killed by Sunni Muslims financed and supported out of Saudi Arabia and its gulf satellites, and less than 10% of those Americans have been killed by Shia Muslims tied to Iran.

This is a horribly inconvenient fact for US administrations which, regardless of party, are beholden to Saudi Arabia and its money. It is, the USA affirms, the Sunnis who are the allies and the Shias who are the enemy. Yet every journalist or aid worker hostage who has been horribly beheaded or otherwise executed has been murdered by a Sunni, every jihadist terrorist attack in the USA itself, including 9/11, has been exclusively Sunni, the Benghazi attack was by Sunnis, Isil are Sunni, Al Nusra are Sunni, the Taliban are Sunni and the vast majority of US troops killed in the region are killed by Sunnis.

Precisely which are these hundreds of deaths for which the Shia forces of Soleimani were responsible? Is there a list? It is of course a simple lie. Its tenuous connection with truth relates to the Pentagon’s estimate – suspiciously upped repeatedly since Iran became the designated enemy – that back during the invasion of Iraq itself, 83% of US troop deaths were at the hands of Sunni resistance and 17% of of US troop deaths were at the hands of Shia resistance, that is 603 troops. All the latter are now lain at the door of Soleimani, remarkably.

Those were US troops killed in combat during an invasion. The Iraqi Shia militias – whether Iran backed or not – had every legal right to fight the US invasion. The idea that the killing of invading American troops was somehow illegal or illegitimate is risible. Plainly the US propaganda that Soleimani was “responsible for hundreds of American deaths” is intended, as part of the justification for his murder, to give the impression he was involved in terrorism, not legitimate combat against invading forces. The idea that the US has the right to execute those who fight it when it invades is an absolutely stinking abnegation of the laws of war.

As I understand it, there is very little evidence that Soleimani had active operational command of Shia militias during the invasion, and in any case to credit him personally with every American soldier killed is plainly a nonsense. But even if Soleimani had personally supervised every combat success, these were legitimate acts of war. You cannot simply assassinate opposing generals who fought you, years after you invade.

The final, and perhaps silliest lie, is Vice President Mike Pence’s attempt to link Soleimani to 9/11. There is absolutely no link between Soleimani and 9/11, and the most strenuous efforts by the Bush regime to find evidence that would link either Iran or Iraq to 9/11 (and thus take the heat off their pals the al-Saud who were actually responsible) failed. Yes, it is true that some of the hijackers at one point transited Iran to Afghanistan. But there is zero evidence, as the 9/11 report specifically stated, that the Iranians knew what they were planning, or that Soleimani personally was involved. This is total bullshit. 9/11 was Sunni and Saudi led, nothing to do with Iran.

Soleimani actually was involved in intelligence and logistical cooperation with the United States in Afghanistan post 9/11 (the Taliban were his enemies too, the shia Tajiks being a key part of the US aligned Northern Alliance). He was in Iraq to fight ISIL.

The final aggravating factor in the Soleimani murder is that he was an accredited combatant general of a foreign state which the world – including the USA – recognises. The Bethlehem Doctrine specifically applies to “non-state actors”. Unlike all of the foregoing, this next is speculation, but I suspect that the legal argument in the Pentagon ran that Soleimani is a non-state actor when in Iraq, where the Shia militias have a semi-official status.

But that does not wash. Soleimani is a high official in Iran who was present in Iraq as a guest of the Iraqi government, to which the US government is allied. This greatly exacerbates the illegality of his assassination still further.

The political world in the UK is so cowed by the power of the neo-conservative Establishment and media, that the assassination of Soleimani is not being called out for the act of blatant illegality that it is. It was an act of state terrorism by the USA, pure and simple.

——————————————

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



 

Alternatively:

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.

View with comments

The USA Doubles Down on its Saudi Allegiance

For the United States to abandon proxy warfare and directly kill one of Iran’s most senior political figures has changed international politics in a fundamental way. It is a massive error. Its ramifications are profound and complex.

There is also a lesson to be learned here in that this morning there will be excitement and satisfaction in the palaces of Washington, Tel Aviv, Riyadh and Tehran. All of the political elites will see prospects for gain from the new fluidity. While for ordinary people in all those countries there is only the certainty of more conflict, death and economic loss, for the political elite, the arms manufacturers, the military and security services and allied interests, the hedge funds, speculators and oil companies, there are the sweet smells of cash and power.

Tehran will be pleased because the USA has just definitively lost Iraq. Iraq has a Shia majority and so naturally tends to ally with Iran. The only thing preventing that was the Arab nationalism of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Socialist Party. Bush and Blair were certainly fully informed that by destroying the Ba’ath system they were creating an Iranian/Iraqi nexus, but they decided that was containable. The “containment” consisted of a deliberate and profound push across the Middle East to oppose Shia influence in proxy wars everywhere.

This is the root cause of the disastrous war in Yemen, where the Zaidi-Shia would have been victorious long ago but for the sustained brutal aerial warfare on civilians carried out by the Western powers through Saudi Arabia. This anti-Shia western policy included the unwavering support for the Sunni Bahraini autocracy in the brutal suppression of its overwhelmingly Shia population. And of course it included the sustained and disastrous attempt to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria and replace it with pro-Saudi Sunni jihadists.

This switch in US foreign policy was known in the White House of 2007 as “the redirection”. It meant that Sunni jihadists like Al-Qaida and later al-Nusra were able to switch back to being valued allies of the United States. It redoubled the slavish tying of US foreign policy to Saudi interests. The axis was completed once Mohammad Bin Salman took control of Saudi Arabia. His predecessors had been coy about their de facto alliance with Israel. MBS felt no shyness about openly promoting Israeli interests, under the cloak of mutual alliance against Iran, calculating quite correctly that Arab street hatred of the Shia outweighed any solidarity with the Palestinians. Common enemies were easy for the USA/Saudi/Israeli alliance to identify; Iran, the Houthi, Assad and of course the Shia Hezbollah, the only military force to have given the Israelis a bloody nose. The Palestinians themselves are predominantly Sunni and their own Hamas was left friendless and isolated.

The principal difficulty of this policy for the USA of course is Iraq. Having imposed a rough democracy on Iraq, the governments were always likely to be Shia dominated and highly susceptible to Iranian influence. The USA had a continuing handle through dwindling occupying forces and through control of the process which produced the government. They also provided financial resources to partially restore the physical infrastructure the US and its allies had themselves destroyed, and of course to fund a near infinite pool of corruption.

That US influence was balanced by strong Iranian aligned militia forces who were an alternative source of strength to the government of Baghdad, and of course by the fact that the centre of Sunni tribal strength, the city of Falluja, had itself been obliterated by the United States, three times, in an act of genocide of Iraqi Sunni population.

Through all this the Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi had until now tiptoed with great care. Pro-Iranian yet a long term American client, his government maintained a form of impartiality based on an open hand to accept massive bribes from anybody. That is now over. He is pro-Iranian now.

Such precarious balance as there ever was in Iraq was upset this last two months when the US and Israelis transported more of their ISIL Sunni jihadists into Iraq, to escape the pincer of the Turkish, Russian and Syrian government forces. The Iranians were naturally not going to stand for this and Iranian militias were successfully destroying the ISIL remnants, which is why General Qassem Suleimani was in Iraq, why a US mercenary assisting ISIL was killed in an Iranian militia rocket attack, and why Syrian military representatives were being welcomed at Baghdad airport.

It is five years since I was last in the Green Zone in Baghdad, but it is extraordinarily heavily fortified with military barriers and checks every hundred yards, and there is no way the crowd could have been allowed to attack the US Embassy without active Iraqi government collusion. That profound political movement will have been set in stone by the US assassination of Suleimani. Tehran will now have a grip on Iraq that could prove to be unshakable.

Nevertheless, Tel Aviv and Riyadh will also be celebrating today at the idea that their dream of the USA destroying their regional rival Iran, as Iraq and Libya were destroyed, is coming closer. The USA could do this. The impact of technology on modern warfare should not be underestimated. There is a great deal of wishful thinking that fantasises about US military defeat, but it is simply unrealistic if the USA actually opted for full scale invasion. Technology is a far greater factor in warfare than it was in the 1960s. The USA could destroy Iran, but the cost and the ramifications would be enormous, and not only the entire Middle East but much of South Asia would be destabilised, including of course Pakistan. My reading of Trump remains that he is not a crazed Clinton type war hawk and it will not happen. We all have to pray it does not.

There will also today be rejoicing in Washington. There is nothing like an apparently successful military attack in a US re-election campaign. The Benghazi Embassy disaster left a deep scar upon the psyche of Trump’s support base in particular, and the message that Trump knows how to show the foreigners not to attack America is going down extremely well where it counts, whatever wise people on CNN may say.

So what happens now? Consolidating power in Iraq and finishing the destruction of ISIL in Iraq will be the wise advance that Iranian statesman can practically gain from these events. But that is, of course, not enough to redeem national honour. Something quick and spectacular is required for that. It is hard not to believe there must be a very real chance of action being taken against shipping in the Straits of Hormuz, which Iran can do with little prior preparation. Missile attacks on Saudi Arabia or Israel are also well within Iran’s capability, but it seems more probable that Iran will wish to strike a US target rather than a proxy. An Ambassador may be assassinated. Further missile strikes against US outposts in Iraq are also possible. All of these scenarios could very quickly lead to disastrous escalation.

In the short term, Trump in this situation needs either to pull out troops from Iraq or massively to reinforce them. The UK does not have the latter option, having neither men nor money, and should remove its 1400 troops now. Whether the “triumph” of killing Suleimani gives Trump enough political cover for an early pullout – the wise move – I am unsure. 2020 is going to be a very dangerous year indeed.

——————————————

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



 

Alternatively:

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.

View with comments

The Terrifying Rise of the Zombie State Narrative

The ruling Establishment has learnt a profound lesson from the debacle over Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction. The lesson they have learnt is not that it is wrong to attack and destroy an entire country on the basis of lies. They have not learnt that lesson despite the fact the western powers are now busily attacking the Iraqi Shia majority government they themselves installed, for the crime of being a Shia majority government.

No, the lesson they have learnt is never to admit they lied, never to admit they were wrong. They see the ghost-like waxen visage of Tony Blair wandering around, stinking rich but less popular than an Epstein birthday party, and realise that being widely recognised as a lying mass murderer is not a good career choice. They have learnt that the mistake is for the Establishment ever to admit the lies.

The Establishment had to do a certain amount of collective self-flagellation over the non-existent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, over which they precipitated the death and maiming of millions of people. Only a very few outliers, like the strange Melanie Phillips, still claimed the WMD really did exist, and her motive was so obviously that she supported any excuse to kill Muslims that nobody paid any attention. Her permanent pass to appear on the BBC was upgraded. But by and large everyone accepted the Iraqi WMD had been a fiction. The mainstream media Blair/Bush acolytes like Cohen, Kamm and Aaronovitch switched to arguing that even if WMD did not exist, Iraq was in any case better off for having so many people killed and its infrastructure destroyed.

These situations are now avoided by the realisation of the security services that in future they just have to brazen it out. The simple truth of the matter – and it is a truth – is this. If the Iraq WMD situation occurred today, and the security services decided to brazen it out and claim that WMD had indeed been found, there is not a mainstream media outlet that would contradict them.

The security services outlet Bellingcat would publish some photos of big missiles planted in the sand. The Washington Post, Guardian, New York Times, BBC and CNN would republish and amplify these pictures and copy and paste the official statements from government spokesmen. Robert Fisk would get to the scene and interview a few eye witnesses who saw the missiles being planted, and he would be derided as a senile old has-been. Seymour Hersh and Peter Hitchens would interview whistleblowers and be shunned by their colleagues and left off the airwaves. Bloggers like myself would be derided as mad conspiracy theorists or paid Russian agents if we cast any doubt on the Bellingcat “evidence”. Wikipedia would ruthlessly expunge any alternative narrative as being from unreliable sources. The Integrity Initiative, 77th Brigade, GCHQ and their US equivalents would be pumping out the “Iraqi WMD found” narrative all over social media. Mad Ben Nimmo of the Atlantic Council would be banning dissenting accounts all over the place in his role as Facebook Witchfinder-General.

Does anybody seriously wish to dispute this is how the absence of Iraqi WMD would be handled today, 16 years on?

If you do wish to doubt this could happen, look at the obviously fake narrative of the Syrian government chemical weapons attacks on Douma. The pictures published on Bellingcat of improvised chlorine gas missiles were always obviously fake. Remember this missile was supposed to have smashed through ten inches of solid, steel rebar reinforced concrete.

As I reported back in May last year, that the expert engineers sent to investigate by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) did not buy into this is hardly surprising.

That their findings were deliberately omitted from the OPCW report is very worrying indeed. What became still more worrying was the undeniable evidence that started to emerge from whistleblowers in the OPCW that the toxicology experts had unanimously agreed that those killed had not died from chlorine gas attack. The minutes of the OPCW toxicology meeting really do need to be read in full.

actual_toxicology_meeting_redacted

The highlights are:

“No nerve agents had been detected in environmental or bio samples”
“The experts were conclusive in their statements that there was no correlation between symptoms and chlorine exposure”

I really do urge you to click on the above link and read the entire minute. In particular, it is impossible to read that minute and not understand that the toxicology experts believed that the corpses had been brought and placed in position.

“The experts were also of the opinion that the victims were highly unlikely to have gathered in piles at the centre of the respective apartments, at such a short distance from an escape from any toxic chlorine gas to much cleaner air”.

So the toxicology experts plainly believed the corpse piles had been staged, and the engineering experts plainly believed the cylinder bombs had been staged. Yet, against the direct evidence of its own experts, the OPCW published a report managing to convey the opposite impression – or at least capable of being portrayed by the media as giving the opposite impression.

How then did the OPCW come to do this? Rather unusually for an international organisation, the OPCW Secretariat is firmly captured by the Western states, largely because it covers an area of activity which is not of enormous interest to the political elites of developing world states, and many positions require a high level of technical qualification. It was also undergoing a change of Director General at the time of the Douma investigation, with the firmly Francoist Spanish diplomat Fernando Arias taking over as Director General and the French diplomat Sebastian Braha effectively running the operation as the Director-General’s chef de cabinet, working in close conjunction with the US security services. Braha simply ordered the excision of the expert opinions on engineering and toxicology, and his high-handedness worked, at least until whistleblowers started to reveal the truth about Braha as a slimy, corrupt, lying war hawk.

FFM here stands for Fact Finding Mission and ODG for Office of the Director General. After a great deal of personal experience dealing with French diplomats, I would say that the obnoxious arrogance revealed in Braha’s instructions here is precisely what you would expect. French diplomats as a class are a remarkably horrible and entitled bunch. Braha has no compunction about simply throwing around the weight of the Office of the Director General and attempting to browbeat Henderson.

We see now how the OPCW managed to produce a report which was the opposite of the truth. Ian Henderson, the OPCW engineer who had visited the site and concluded that the “cylinder bombs” were fakes, had suddenly become excluded from the “fact finding mission” when it had been whittled down to a “core group” – excluding any engineers (and presumably toxicologists) who would seek to insert inconvenient facts into the report.

France of course participated, alongside the US and UK, in missile strikes against Syrian government positions in response to the non-existent chlorine gas attacks on Douma. I was amongst those who had argued from day one that the western Douma narrative was inherently improbable. The Douma enclave held by extreme jihadist, western and Saudi backed forces allied to ISIL, was about to fall anyway. The Syrian government had no possible military advantage to gain by attacking it with two small improvised chemical weapons, and a great deal to lose in terms of provoking international retaliation.

That the consequences of the fake Douma incident were much less far-reaching than they might have been, is entirely due (and I am sorry if you dislike this but it is true) to the good sense of Donald Trump. Trump is inclined to isolationism and the fake “Russiagate” narrative promoted by senior echelons of his security services had led him to be heavily sceptical of them. He therefore refused, against the united persuasion of the hawks, to respond to the Douma “attack” by more than quick and limited missile strikes. I have no doubt that the object of the false flag was to push the US into a full regime change operation, by falsifying a demonstration that a declared red line on chemical weapon use had been crossed.

There is no doubt that Douma was a false flag. The documentary and whistleblower evidence from the OPCW is overwhelming and irrefutable. In addition to the two whistleblowers reported extensively by Wikileaks and the Courage Foundation, the redoubtable Peter Hitchens has his own whistleblowers inside OPCW who may well be different persons. It is also great entertainment as well as enlightening to read Hitchens’ takedown of Bellingcat on the issue.

But there are much deeper questions about the Douma false flag. Did the jihadists themselves kill the “chlorine victims” for display or were these just bodies from the general fighting? The White Helmets were co-located with the jihadist headquarters in Douma, and involved in producing and spreading the fake evidence. How far were the UK and US governments, instrumental in preparing the false flag? That western governments, including through the White Helmets and their men at the OPCW, were plainly seeking to propagate this false flag, to massively publicise and to and make war capital out of it, is beyond dispute. But were they involved in the actual creation of the fake scene? Did MI6 or the CIA initiate this false flag through the White Helmets or the Saudi backed jihadists? That is unproven but seems to me very probable. It is also worth noting the coincidence in time of the revelation of the proof of the Douma false flag and the death of James Le Mesurier.

Now let me return to where I started. None of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the BBC, the Guardian nor CNN – all of which reported the Douma chemical attack very extensively as a real Syrian government atrocity, and used it to editorialise for western military intervention in Syria – none of them has admitted they were wrong. None has issued any substantive retraction or correction. None has reported in detail and without bias on the overwhelming evidence of foul play within the OPCW.

Those sources who do publish the truth – including the few outliers in mainstream media such as Peter Hitchens and Robert Fisk – continue to be further marginalised, attacked as at best eccentric and at worse Russian agents. Others like Wikileaks and myself are pariahs excluded from any mainstream exposure. The official UK, US, French and Spanish government line, and the line of the billionaire and state owned media, continues to be that Douma was a Syrian government chemical weapons attack on civilians. They intend, aided and abetted by their vast online propaganda operations, to brazen out the lie.

What we are seeing is the terrifying rise of the zombie state narrative in Western culture. It does not matter how definitively we can prove that something is a lie, the full spectrum dominance of the Establishment in media resources is such that the lie is impossible to kill off, and the state manages to implant that lie as the truth in the minds of a sufficient majority of the populace to ride roughshod over objective truth with great success. It follows in the state narrative that anybody who challenges the state’s version of truth is themselves dishonest or mad, and the state manages also to implant that notion into a sufficient majority of the populace.

These are truly chilling times.

In the next instalment I shall consider how the Establishment is brazening out similar lies on the Russophobe agenda, and sticking to factually debunked narratives on the DNC and Podesta emails, on the Steele Dossier and on the Skripals.

——————————————

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



 

Alternatively:

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.

View with comments

My New Year Wishes

1) Scottish Independence
2) Freedom for Julian Assange
3) A genuine, public inquest into the murder of Dawn Sturgess
4) Recognition of the State of Palestine
5) Genuine moves towards a paradigm shift in wealth distribution here and across the globe
6) Radical action on climate change
7) The decolonisation of the Chagos Islands

I obviously do not claim that as a comprehensive analysis of the ills of the world; it contains both individual cases and aspects of the widest scale public policy. It is however an indication of the areas where I expect to be expending my own small budget of energy and activism in 2020. What are yours?

I do hope you are all enjoying family and friends in a refreshing festive season. I know it can be a stressful time; mine has not been. I think the implications of an unbridled right wing populist government in Westminster took us all a little time to process. I feel fully refreshed now, and ready for the fight.

View with comments

45 Years of Rebellion

Generally I manage to dig up some recent lecture or published work to post while I am on holiday, on a mission or indisposed. I have a video somewhere of a really stunning symposium on whistleblowing at the University of Newcastle, to which I made a minor contribution, which I intended to use for that purpose today. But out of the blue I received an email this morning which changed my plan.

So here is one I did earlier – 45 years ago.

Dear Craig

Many years ago, as a fellow schoolboy at Paston, I witnessed your remarkable stand against militarism when Gen Sir Ian Freedland (I think it was) came to inspect the CCF. I have vivid memories of you appearing on the top floor of the School House and shouting what seemed to us lesser mortals very daring anti-military views (“Troops Out of Ireland” was one) before your sudden and rapid transit backwards from our sight – due to unknown assailants – and the window being slammed shut. It’s only with the intervening years that I realised what an extraordinary event this was, years ahead of its time, and I have often wondered what became of you. A friend recommended your blog to me very recently and it was then I realised it was the same Craig Murray. I heartily agree with what I have read of your work since, and am very pleased to become a subscriber.

With kind regards, and every good wish for the success of your work in the New Year.

It is very hard to explain to a modern audience how very militarist our school was. The headmaster was referred to everywhere, in school and by wider society, as Colonel Marshall, even though I believe it was a rank he only held in the Cadet Force. My peculiar education was designed to teach you to strip down and reassemble a .303 rifle, whilst explaining the process in Latin.

Funnily enough, after I spoke at the recent St Pancras meeting for Julian Assange, a gentleman introduced himself to me who I did not at first recognise but was Merlin, my co-conspirator in that old school protest, who I was seeing for the second time in 45 years. That made me weep and I fear I looked rather silly.

But receiving that recollection of an event I had almost forgotten, is a reminder of how important it is to be true to your beliefs. Policy views may change with circumstance or experience, but I am delighted that my underlying principles remain constant after getting on for half a century of political activity.

It also made me realise how lucky I am. I have been a career diplomat, a British Ambassador, the Rector of Dundee University, a bestselling author and Chairman of a successful energy company. All that was possible on an entirely state education, including full maintenance grants. And it was possible without ever having dissembled or hidden my personal radical beliefs – including turning down three separate honours from the Queen on grounds of republicanism and Scottish nationalism.

I am not sure that would be possible now. In fact I am pretty sure it would not be possible now. The tolerance of dissent has radically decreased. It is worth saying that in 13 years of working as a civil servant for Tory governments I never had any problems, despite ministers like Malcolm Rifkind and Lynda Chalker knowing very well my personal opinions were very different from the official policy. I might give an example of Nicholas Soames, who when a junior defence minister attended a NATO exercise in Drawsko in Poland which I help to organise. I remember a very interesting conversation when I told him I believed that NATO had served its purpose, that there had never been any Russian intention to invade Western Europe anyway, and that the entire narrative was a device to bolster the profits of the arms industry and budget of the army.

Soames of course did not agree with me, but we had an extremely good and good natured discussion (alcohol was involved) and he did concede that the fall of the Iron Curtain had proven western intelligence estimates of Soviet military capability to have been vastly exaggerated, greatly boosting the interests of the western arms industry, the military and of course the institutional interests of the security services themselves.

But the important point is that while Soames did not agree at all with my broad points, he did not suggest – because he did not think – that it was wrong for anyone holding my personal views to be in an important position in the FCO, and he did not make any stupid jibes about me working for the Kremlin. I fear that kind of tolerance has disappeared from public life now – as indeed has the Tory party’s tolerance of the more broad-minded kind of Tory.

It was New Labour that was responsible for much of the change of culture. If you have read Murder in Samarkand, you will know that while Ambassador my dissent at the policy of obtaining intelligence through torture was entirely internal. I was trying to stop it through the correct Whitehall mechanisms, and all my communications on the subject were classified Top Secret. It was Blair and Straw who decided this internal dissent was unacceptable. I had neither leaked nor blown the whistle when they decided pre-emptively to fit me up with 18 major disciplinary charges.

By 2003 the Foreign and Commonwealth had transformed to a degree where it would not tolerate internal dissent. There is no serious civil service career open to a young radical today. The free education was destroyed long ago, also initiated by New Labour. Meantime, the last general election showed the horrifying unanimity of state and billionaire mainstream media in demonising even moderate social democratic thought.

I would be unlikely to become Rector of a University now either, as UK universities have moved from being centres of free speech to the precise opposite. I very seldom get to speak in universities at all nowadays. Student groups label me a “rape apologist” due to my support of Julian Assange, and University authorities label me an “anti-semite” due to my support of the Palestinians. I am excluded from the places I would most like to discuss my ideas.

I hope you will forgive the rather rambling thoughts that email inspired. It was not easy to dissent then. It is still harder now.

——————————————

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



 

Alternatively:

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.

View with comments

London Will Never Give Independence – We Must Take It

Yesterday the Scottish Government published “Scotland’s Right to Choose“, its long heralded paper on the path to a new Independence referendum. It is a document riven by a basic intellectual flaw. It sets out in detail, and with helpful annexes, that Scotland is a historic nation with the absolute and inalienable right of self-determination, and that sovereignty lies not in the Westminster parliament but with the Scottish people.

It then contradicts all of this truth by affirming, at length, in detail, and entirely without reservation, that Scotland can only hold a legitimate Independence referendum if the Westminster Parliament devolves the power to do so under Section 30.

Both propositions cannot be true. Scotland cannot be a nation with the right of self-determination, and at the same time require the permission of somebody else to exercise that self-determination.

I was trying to find the right words to discuss the document. One possibility was “schizophrenic”. The first half appears to be written by somebody with a fundamental belief in Scottish Independence, and contains this passage:

The United Kingdom is best understood as a voluntary association of nations, in keeping with the principles of democracy and self‑determination.

For the place of Scotland in the United Kingdom to be based on the people of Scotland’s consent, Scotland must be able to choose whether and when it should make a decision about its future.

The decision whether the time is right for the people who live in Scotland again to make a choice about their constitutional future is for the Scottish Parliament, as the democratic voice of Scotland, to make.

Yet the rest of the paper completely negates this proposition and instead argues that the necessary powers must be granted by the Westminster Parliament:

The Scottish Government is committed to agreeing a process for giving effect to its mandate for a further independence referendum. When they make a decision about their future, the people of Scotland must do so in the knowledge that their decision will be heard and respected and given effect to: not just by the government in Scotland, but also by the UK Government, by the European Union and by the international community.

For a referendum to have this legitimacy, it must have the confidence of all of those that it would effect. This means not just the UK Government acknowledging and respecting the Scottish Government’s mandate, but the Scottish Government and UK Government seeking to agree the proper lawful basis for the referendum to take place.

We call on the UK Government to enter discussions about the Scottish Government’s mandate for giving the people of Scotland a choice, and to agree legislation with the Scottish Government that would put beyond doubt the Scottish Parliament’s right to legislate for a referendum on independence.

I am frequently told that this paper is all just a cunning ploy, and that when the Tory Government rejects – as it will reject – this servile request to grant Scotland the powers to hold a referendum, the Scottish Government will go to court to say it has the right to a referendum.

If that really is the cunning plan, it is the most stupid cunning plan since Baldrick and his turnip. In what way does publishing an official Scottish Government paper which states explicitly that a referendum “must have” the agreement of the UK government to be legitimate, prepare the ground to go to court and argue the precise opposite? Plainly that is not the intent here.

Nicola Sturgeon’s speech presenting the paper made the acceptance of a veto from “the rest of the UK” on the holding of a second referendum even more explicit:

It is based on the solemn right of the people of Scotland to decide their own future.

The Scottish Government believes that right should be exercised free from the threat of legal challenge.

In line with our values, we acknowledge that a referendum must be legal and that it must be accepted as legitimate, here in Scotland and the rest of the UK as well as in the EU and the wider international community.

We are therefore today calling for the UK Government to negotiate and agree the transfer of power that would put beyond doubt the Scottish Parliament’s right to legislate for a referendum on independence.

And what does Ms Sturgeon plan to do when Boris Johnson just says no, as he assuredly will? To be fair to Nicola, she could not have been clearer about what she intends to do. Absolutely nothing different.

Of course, I anticipate that in the short term we will simply hear a restatement of the UK government’s opposition.

But they should be under no illusion that this will be an end of the matter.

We will continue to pursue the democratic case for Scotland’s right to choose.

We will do so in a reasonable and considered manner.

So this is the Sturgeon plan: in the short term, we accept Johnson can block Independence. Beyond the short term (how many years is that?) we do nothing except continue in democratic politics as the SNP already is, operating at Holyrood and putting before Scottish voters “the democratic case for Scotland’s right to choose”, while accepting Westminster’s veto. This will have the pleasant side effect of keeping Ms Sturgeon living very nicely indeed in Bute House, with her husband picking up a massive salary as CEO of the Party, and the SNP just like the last five years doing nothing whatsoever about Independence other than occasionally blether about it, “pursuing the democratic case”, while very explicitly accepting Westminster’s veto.

The truth is there is no route to a referendum by legal challenge in the UK courts. The UK Supreme Court has already ruled that Westminster, the “Crown in Parliament” is sovereign, that the Sewell Convention has no legal force and that any powers that the Scottish parliament has, and indeed the very existence of the Scottish Parliament, is entirely at the gift of Westminster. The clue is on the tin. It is the UK Supreme Court. To be fair the Scottish Government paper plainly does not anticipate any such pointless legal challenge, though it is not inconceivable that one may be futilely undertaken at some stage to keep the SNP’s pro-Independence activists happy, by pretending to do something and kicking Indy yet a few months further down the road.

Because the truth is, that is the purpose of the current Scottish Government paper. The reason it is schizophrenic is that it is a deeply dishonest document. All the stuff at the beginning, about Scotland’s ancient right as a nation and the sovereignty residing in the Scottish people, is no more and no less than window dressing to keep Scottish Independence activists happy. The actual meat of the paper, that Indyref2 “must have” Westminster agreement or it is not legitimate, sits there like a great steaming turd whose stink cannot be disguised no matter how much the SNP leadership has tried to conceal it under flowers.

I have to say, I am astonished how many very decent people in the SNP have fallen for the trick.

The Scottish Government position is fundamentally incorrect. The Independence of a nation is a matter of international law, not of domestic legislation. The UN Charter enshrines the right of self-determination of peoples, and nobody has argued that the Scots are not a people in the encapsulated sense.

It is perfectly normal for States to become Independent without the permission of the state from which they are seceding. The UK Government itself argued precisely this position before the International Court of Justice over Kosovo. I here repeat a post I wrote almost exactly one year ago setting out the legal position:

BEGINS

The London Supreme Court last week not only confirmed that the Westminster Parliament could overrule at will any Scottish Government legislation, irrespective of the Scotland Act and the Sewell Convention, but it also ruled that Westminster had already successfully done so, by retrospectively passing provisions in the EU (Withdrawal) Act that overruled the Bill on the same subject, within the competence of the Scottish Parliament, that had already been passed by Holyrood.

Not content with that, the London Supreme Court confirmed that London ministers may, by secondary legislation, under the Scotland Act decree laws for Scotland that are not even passed through the Westminster parliament.

Which leaves Scotland in this extraordinary situation. English MPs or English ministers in their London Parliament can, at any time, impose any legislation they choose on Scotland, overriding Scotland’s parliament and Scotland’s representation in the London parliament. Yet, under the English Votes for English Laws rules of the London Parliament introduced by the Tories in 2015, Scottish MPs cannot vote at all on matters solely affecting England.

That is plainly a situation of colonial subservience.

I am firmly of the view that the Scottish government should now move to withdraw from the Treaty of Union. Scotland’s right to self determination is inalienable. It cannot be signed away forever or restricted by past decisions.

The Independence of a country is not a matter of domestic law it is a matter of international law. The right of the Scottish Parliament to declare Independence may not be restricted by UK domestic law or by purported limitations on the powers of the Scottish Parliament. The legal position is set out very clearly here:

5.5 Consistent with this general approach, international law has not treated the legality of
the act of secession under the internal law of the predecessor State as determining the effect
of that act on the international plane. In most cases of secession, of course, the predecessor
State‟s law will not have been complied with: that is true almost as a matter of definition.

5.6 Nor is compliance with the law of the predecessor State a condition for the declaration
of independence to be recognised by third States, if other conditions for recognition are
fulfilled. The conditions do not include compliance with the internal legal requirements of
the predecessor State. Otherwise the international legality of a secession would be
predetermined by the very system of internal law called in question by the circumstances in
which the secession is occurring.

5.7 For the same reason, the constitutional authority of the seceding entity to proclaim
independence within the predecessor State is not determinative as a matter of international
law. In most if not all cases, provincial or regional authorities will lack the constitutional
authority to secede. The act of secession is not thereby excluded. Moreover, representative
institutions may legitimately act, and seek to reflect the views of their constituents, beyond
the scope of already conferred power.

That is a commendably concise and accurate description of the legal position. Of major relevance, it is the legal opinion of the Government of the United Kingdom, as submitted to the International Court of Justice in the Kosovo case. The International Court of Justice endorsed this view, so it is both established law and the opinion of the British Government that the Scottish Government has the right to declare Independence without the agreement or permission of London and completely irrespective of the London Supreme Court.

I have continually explained on this site that the legality of a Declaration of Independence is in no sense determined by the law of the metropolitan state, but is purely a matter of recognition by other countries and thus acceptance into the United Nations. The UK Government set this out plainly in response to a question from a judge in the Kosovo case:

2. As the United Kingdom stated in oral argument, international law contains no
prohibition against declarations of independence as such. 1 Whether a declaration of
independence leads to the creation of a new State by separation or secession depends
not on the fact of the declaration but on subsequent developments, notably recognition
by other States. As a general matter, an act not prohibited by international law needs
no authorization. This position holds with respect to States. It holds also with respect
to acts of individuals or groups, for international law prohibits conduct of non-State
entities only exceptionally and where expressly indicated.

As I have stressed, the SNP should now be making a massive effort to prepare other countries, especially in the EU and in the developing world, to recognise Scotland when the moment comes. There is no task more important. There is a worrying lack of activity in this area. It may currently not be possible to spend government money on sending out envoys for this task, but if personal envoys were endorsed by the First Minister they would get access and could easily be crowd funded by the Independence Movement. I am one of a number of former senior British diplomats who would happily undertake this work without pay. We should be lobbying not just the EU but every country in Africa, Asia and South America.

My preferred route to Independence is this. The Scottish Parliament should immediately legislate for a new Independence referendum. The London Government will attempt to block it. The Scottish Parliament should then convene a National Assembly of all nationally elected Scottish representatives – MSPs, MPs and MEPs. That National Assembly should declare Independence, appeal to other countries for recognition, reach agreements with the rump UK and organise a confirmatory plebiscite. That is legal, democratic and consistent with normal international practice.

There will never be a better time than now for Scotland to become an Independent, normal, nation once again. It is no time for faint hearts or haverers; we must seize the moment.

ENDS

Events since I wrote that have made the case still stronger. With the UK now leaving the European Union, EU states will be extremely eager to recognise Scottish Independence and get Scotland and its resources back inside the EU, while sending out a strong message that leaving the EU can have severe consequences. At the UN, the UK’s repudiation of the International Court of Justice ruling and overwhelming General Assembly mandate over the Chagos Islands has made the UK even more of a pariah state, while senior statesmen in the developing world see Scottish Independence as a wedge issue to open the question of the UK’s ridiculous permanent membership of the UN Security Council.

The claim that to proceed to Independence without Westminster consent is illegal and illegitimate lies at the heart of this truly disgraceful Scottish Government paper. That claim is wrong at every level.

You cannot both believe that the Scots are a people with the right of self-determination, and believe that Westminster has a right to veto that self-determination.

This paper by the Scottish Government is nothing more and nothing less than proof that the gradualists who sadly head the SNP are perfectly happy operating within the devolution system and have no intention of ever paying any more than lip service to Independence.

——————————————

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



 

Alternatively:

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.

View with comments

Indigenous Eurasian Islamic Populations

This blog was defending the human rights of the Uighurs a decade before the neo-conservatives for whom they are now a fashionable cause even knew of their existence. The Uighurs are the closest linguistic and cultural cousins of the Uzbeks, and the populations are contiguous. (China is not contiguous with Uzbekistan but Osh and the eastern Ferghana Valley in Kirghizstan are Uzbek majority areas).

The dynamic spread of Islam northwards and eastwards under the Abbasids, (much less commented that the expansion of its early centuries) and the temporary patronage of Islam by the Mongol Yuan conquerors of China, left very substantial Islamic populations throughout Eurasia, which later became subsumed into non-Muslim polities, including by the expansion of the Chinese and Russian empires. The persecution of the Uighurs is a historic continuation. For decades from the mid eighteenth century they were subjected to one of history’s most sustained and organised campaigns of mass rape of the female population by Chinese occupiers. In a historical perspective, it was the period of comparative tolerance that preceded the current massive attempt at cultural genocide which was the aberration.

I do despair of those on the left who excuse the mass imprisonment of hundreds of thousands and the extrajudicial killing of thousands, because it is China doing it and not a CIA aligned power.

The Uighurs are a people with the right of self-determination. They are not Chinese; their language, culture and religion are completely different. They have a clearly defined territory they have occupied continuously for many centuries. One of the problems with the British is that as an island, we tend to only think of colonies as places you sail to. Colonies you walk to is a concept we have not grasped. That is one of the reasons the left in the UK have such difficulty recognising that China is an Empire and Kashgar is a colony. The other reason is that whole “West Bad, Opponents Good” thing.

It is excellent to recognise that the Western powers have done a huge amount of evil in the world. It is a completely illogical step to assume from this revelation that they have a monopoly on evil. All major governments do evil.

Kashmir is the other pressing issue of a Hindu minority population under pressure. Six years ago I annoyed rather a lot of people when I warned that my personal experience of living among them for some months in India was that it was changing into an an “increasingly oppressive and rabidly conservative Hindu society”. I have viewed the rise of Modi and his Hindu nationalists with great concern, while Western governments have been much more concerned with seeking to benefit from India’s economic boom.

The revocation of the autonomous status of Kashmir and Jammu was a reckless and aggressive act of centralisation that was grossly insensitive to both the population and the history of the region – and I write in full awareness that there have been not only Muslim but also many Sikh victims of intercommunal violence over the years. The incorporation of Kashmir into India was a dreadful British error, semi-apologetically enshrined in its special constitutional position, now destroyed by Modi. It is only the statesmanship of Imran Khan which has averted a hideous war.

The Supreme Court of India’s firmly anti-Muslim ruling in the Ayodhya dispute, and the new immigrant citizenship law excluding Muslims (which has outraged the remnants of liberal India), are evidence of intercommunal policy which is all pushing in an anti-Muslim direction. Modi has been portrayed in the West as a moderniser. This is a fundamental error – he is just a populist in the Trump and Johnson mode who succeeds by stirring up feelings against the “other” in the population. The situation in India is destabilising and I fear more violence against the Muslim population is bound to ensue.

The Muslim populations of Central Asia now live in autonomous republics, none of which has transitioned to effective democracy, all of which have been more or less looted by oligarchs, all have continuing serious human rights problems, and all are increasingly under the economic sway of China (which is not, in itself, a bad thing). China remains something of an enigma. Its economic success continues to be staggering, if severely pollution creating. As I frequently assert, there has never been a power in the world of such economic dominance which has shown such a comparatively tiny appetite for military dominance. If you compare China to the USA in this regard the difference is striking. China has very few military bases outside China, the USA has eight hundred.

But the Central Asian “stans” only contain a minority of the Muslim colonies in Eurasia which Russia acquired in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, simultaneous with the expansion of the British Empire. Many of these colonies, with their overwhelmingly Muslim populations, remain part of the Russian Federation which – make no mistake about it – is still an Empire.

The Tatar are the most widespread of the colonial peoples within Russia. Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Cherkessa, Kabardino Balkaria and Karachai are all areas of Russia where I believe the original Muslim population, absorbed into the Russian Empire by conquest, will in the fulness of time achieve independence, in addition to the better-known Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia. The astonishing brutality of the Russian repression of the perfectly justified Independence movements of the latter countries cannot hold back the tide of decolonisation forever. Crimea, of course, should belong to the Tatars who were deported from their land by Stalin. Not Russia, not Ukraine, but Krim Tatar.

As I said earlier, even though Russia’s colonies were colonised contemporaneously with the British ones, and even though the indigenous populations are Muslim, we in the UK have difficulty perceiving them as colonies because they are contiguous with Russia by land and have been institutionally absorbed into the metropolitan. It is also worth noting that, largely but not entirely as a result of the Soviet period of running its Empire, Russia did a much better job of providing education, health and other public services to its colonies than the British ever did.

It is important to state that these colonised peoples are not Russians but separate peoples in the sense of the UN Charter, with very distinct cultures, histories, languages and religion, and thus they do have the right of self-determination. I do not deny that at present, outside the colonies of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia, there is little evidence of separatist desire. But I expect that to change over historic time.

It is of course a personal irony that I am very often accused of being a Russian agent because I debunk ludicrous anti-Russian scares like the fake Skripal narrative, or the totally unfounded narrative that Russia has any desire to attack Western Europe. These scare stories about Russia are of course essential to the profits of the western military-industrial-security complex, and I debunk them because they are nonsense, and because of their propaganda power in controlling western populations. But while I have a deep-seated love for Russia, its culture and people, I know of no other commentator who calls for the Russian Federation to be divorced of its internalised colonies, an opinion the Kremlin would find outrageous.

The Eurasian Muslim populations were overtaken by history from around the seventeenth century and, Islam having expanded itself in Eurasia by conquest, the Muslims were generally themselves absorbed into larger Empires by conquest. In Central Asia they have in the last thirty years regained a kind of independence, but are still dominated by foreign imposed institutions and the colonial subordinate administrative and political class. In China and India the conditions of Muslims are worsening markedly. In Russia the brutal crushing of Independence attempts in some areas has led to the current position where the colonial status of the Muslim sub-polities within the Russian Federation is shunned by the entire world as a Pandora’s Box.

This is of course not in any sense a comprehensive survey. But sometimes it is useful to step back and try to see current events in a broader perspective, both historically and geographically. I do hope this gives some food for your own thoughts. I do hope that some of those thoughts are more profound than the notion that Russia and China, as diplomatic opponents of the West, are beyond criticism.

——————————————

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



 

Alternatively:

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.

View with comments

The Difficulty of Gender Issues

It should go without saying that an important part of the approach to this debate should be not to hate anybody, on any side of the argument. Looking through the comments below I am very surprised that several people seem unable to do this.

I write as somebody who has spent virtually his whole life doing things other than think deeply about the rights of transgender people. The subject has however inserted itself centrally into Scottish political debate and particularly preoccupies sections of the leadership of the Independence movement. With the banning of the twitter account of Wings Over Scotland for what are judged by Twitter to be “transphobic” tweets, and the same day publication of the new Gender Recognition Reform Bill by the Scottish Government – and the coincidence of those two happenings worries me – I need to set down rather more coherent thoughts on the subject than I have previously.

To start from first principles, I believe that people should be treated as they wish to be treated. If somebody wishes to be treated as female I will treat them as female. That seems to me good manners. It seems the height of bad manners to do otherwise. If I meet someone who tells me they are a woman, I would not dream of querying them or demanding evidence. I would treat them as female. In my life so far, that is how I have always in practice dealt with people I have met whom I suspected might be transgender or what we used to call transvestite. I treat them as the gender they present themselves as. (I do not care in the slightest for the latest fashion in politically correct jargon for these things). The same also obviously applies to people who wish to be treated as male.

I therefore support the principle of self-declaration that appears to be the basis of the Scottish government’s new bill. People should be what they wish to be, not what a doctor or psychiatrist tells them they are. Please note possession of genitalia does not factor in my thinking at all, in normal social situations.

We then come to the difficult bits. It appears to me plainly daft for a man simply to be able to declare themselves a woman and then to compete in elite sport in women only events. Men have natural competitive advantages from the effects on physique of testosterone. That is simply true, although I do find it rather ironic that feminists are now so insistent upon the fact, as it is precisely to adopt the arguments of Bobby Riggs against those of Billie Jean King. In non-elite, mixed ability sport – which is 99% of all sport that actually happens – I can see no reason why people cannot participate as the gender of their choice, and indeed I do not know why non-elite sport is gender specific at all. I am yet to play the woman who cannot beat me at squash. I suspect our cat could beat me at squash.

The attitudes towards these things change over time. When I went to primary school we had a segregated playground. There are still plenty of old Victorian schools around Edinburgh where the marking for boys’ and girls’ entrances survive in the brickwork. Though while talking of schools, I would add that I think gender re- assignment of children under 16 should almost never be allowed, as they are over-susceptible to adult influence.

Having lived so much of my life abroad, I have never quite understood the British obsession with gender segregated toilets anyway.

When it comes to prison, I have no doubt that Chelsea Manning should be in a female prison and treated as a female. Equally, there was a case highlighted on Wings over Scotland some months ago of a man convicted of sexual offences who had obtained admittance to a women’s prison after claiming female gender, who proceeded to carry out sexual assaults there. Plainly a convicted male sexual assailant ought not to be put in a women’s prison, even if they now claim gender re-identity.

So I quite accept that the right of self-declaration cannot be absolute and there are situations – highly unusual situations like prisons for violent offenders – where authorities should decide on its applicability in gender segregated areas. There are two things to say here. The first is that the entire debate so far elevates dogma on both sides above commonsense. The second is that to make law from extreme examples is foolish. We don’t make building codes for the general population on the basis of specifying the banning of the methods of Fred and Rosemary West.

Personally, I quite accept the view that a woman who arrives at a beauty salon ought to be able to refuse to have her intimate parts waxed by somebody she does not feel comfortable is the same sex as her, without being accused of “hate crime”. Others might not object at all and trans people ought not to be banned from working in beauty salons. These problems seem to me best solved by societal interaction and minimal intrusion of the state.

I realise that both sides of a currently heated debate will find my folksy take on this, based on empathy and tolerance not on rigid application of first principles, to be entirely wrong. Some will object to my lack of the latest PC jargon. One side will insist that being male or female is a simple physical thing and choice does not come into it. Some argue that men are violent, dangerous creatures from whom women need loads of safe spaces into which they can securely retreat, without fear of infiltration by “pretend women”. Others argue that identity is an entirely personal matter that nobody else can decide, and that the law should compel society to accept self-declared identity in every circumstance, and to do otherwise is a hate crime.

My own view is that, irrespective of whether gender is a binary divide, the question of how we treat trans people ought not to be a binary divide. It is a question of complex social interactions at a time of changing mores, and different factors are crucial in different situations. The safety of women is a crucial factor in the case of the male sex offender declaring themselves into a women’s prison. But the safety of women is not in imminent danger in the large majority of social interactions. The large majority of people, including the large majority of trans people, are decent and kind. Let us order relations on that basis, with safeguards in place for the unusual.

For what it is worth, in general the Scottish Government’s proposals do not seem to me a bad stab at these difficult questions. Self declaration should be the basic rule, and then there should be specified rules to cover unusual situations where problems might arise from aberrant behaviour, which may be exhibited by either party.

Finally, less than one per cent of the population have prosthetic limbs. If I were writing about the subject I would not feel the need to refer to everyone who does not have a prosthetic limb as “organics” or some such antonym. The idea we have to refer to everyone who is not trans as cis deserves to be ridiculed. The truly pathetic intellectual level of what passes for academic or expert led debate on these questions is a matter of some concern. I blame deconstructionism as the root of much trivial thought.

This whole issue is one of those subjects where I am aware that I need to duck for cover after writing.

——————————————

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



 

Alternatively:

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.

View with comments