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Marching for Freedom

I am off now to Glasgow for a rally for Independence – which might give some indication of how ready the movement are for renewing the struggle in earnest. You should be able to follow events live on Independence Live. I am speaking at Glasgow Green at 1.15, which is pretty early so don’t dawdle on the march.

My technique on demonstrations is to start at the front, nip in to the first pub, quick pint, work my way to the front again and repeat.

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Freedom No More

As I write, with over 75% of all yesterday’s English local election results in, Labour has a net gain of 55 councillors compared to the high water mark of the 2014 result in these wards, while the Tories have a net gain of one seat against a 2014 result which was regarded at the time as disastrous for them, and led the Daily Telegraph to editoralise “David Cameron Must Now Assuage the Voters’ Rage”.

Yet both the BBC and Sky News, have all night and this morning, treated these results, in which the Labour Party has increased by 3% an already record number of councillors in this election cycle, as a disaster. What is more, they have used that false analysis to plug again and again the “anti-Semitism in the Labour Party” witch-hunt. It was of course the continuous exacerbation of this mostly false accusation by Blairite MP’s which – deliberately on their part – stopped the Labour Party doing still better. The Blairites are all over the airwaves plugging this meme again today.

What is more this Labour result has been achieved despite the complete collapse of the UKIP vote, which collapse had been expected to boost the Tory Party. In fact the net loss of over 100 UKIP seats has not resulted in overall net gains for the Tory Party, even though those ex-UKIP voters demonstrably did mostly split to Tory. The very substantial UKIP voter reinforcements simply saved the Tories from doing still worse. The Liberal Democrats are showing some signs of life.

Yesterday was World Press Freedom Day, and the tendentious media misrepresentation of the election results reminds me why I could not get excited about it. A media with the extremely concentrated ownership we see in the UK can never be free, and certainly does not represent a wide spread of political opinions. Even the views of the official Leader of the Opposition are almost entirely deemed to be outside the Overton window. In Scotland the Scottish government is subject to unreasoning media attack, day in and day out, which contrasts strikingly with the treatment of Westminster ministers and issues.

There is a seriously worrying example from Leeds of the decline of free speech, where disgracefully a meeting discussing the bias of the corporate and state media has now been banned by Leeds City Council because of its content. We are not allowed even to get together to discuss media bias. Retired Ambassador Peter Ford, Professors Piers Robinson and Tim Hayward, Vanessa Beeley and Robert Stuart were to address the meeting at Leeds City Museum entitled “Media on Trial”. I cannot sufficiently express my outrage that Leeds City Council feels it is right to ban a meeting with very distinguished speakers, because it is questioning the government and establishment line on Syria. Freedom of speech really is dead.

British society truly has changed fundamentally if a former British Ambassador to Syria is banned from speaking in public premises on his area of expertise. What is still worse is the tone of this sneering report from Huffington Post, now firmly a part of corporate media, in which Chris York libels the speakers as “Assad supporters”, interviews none of the speakers and nobody to make the argument for free speech, but does manage to interview the “founder” of the jihadist “White Helmets.” In terms of banning dissent while simultaneously ramping up the official narrative, York has won himself top establishment brownie points. The man – and I use the term loosely – is unfit for polite company.

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Where They Tell You Not to Look

At the very beginning of the of the Skripal incident, the security services blocked by D(SMA) notice any media mention of Pablo Miller and told the media not to look at Orbis and the Steele dossier on Trump, acting immediately to get out their message via trusties in the BBC and Guardian. Gordon Corera, “BBC Security Correspondent”, did not name the source who told him to say this, but helpfully illustrated his tweet with a nice picture of MI6 Headquarters.

MI6’s most important media conduit (after Frank Gardner) is Luke Harding of the Guardian.

A number of people replied to Harding’s tweet to point out that this was demonstrably untrue, and Pablo Miller had listed his employment by Orbis Business Intelligence on his Linkedin profile. That profile had just been deleted, but a google search for “Pablo Miller” plus “Orbis Business Intelligence”, without Linkedin as a search term, brought up Miller’s Linkedin profile as the first result (although there are twelve other Pablo Millers on Linkedin and the search brought up none of them). Plus a 2017 forum discussed Pablo Miller’s Orbis connection and it both cited and linked to his Linkedin entry.

You might think that any journalist worth his salt would want to consider this interesting counter-evidence. But Harding merely tweeted again the blank denials of the security services, without question.

This is an important trait of Harding. Last year we both appeared, separately, at the Jaipur Literature Festival. Harding was promoting a book and putting the boot into Wikileaks and Snowden. After his talk, I approached him in an entirely friendly manner, and told him there were a couple of factual errors in his presentation on matters to which I was an eye-witness, and I should be very happy to brief him, off the record, but we could discuss which bits he might use. He said he would talk later, and dashed off. Later I saw him in the author’s lounge, and as I walked towards him he hurriedly got up and left, looking at me.

Of course, nobody is obliged to talk to me. But at that period I had journalists from every major news agency contacting me daily wishing to interview me about Wikileaks, all of whom I was turning down, and there was no doubt of my inside knowledge and direct involvement with a number of the matters of which Harding was writing and speaking. A journalist who positively avoids knowledge of his subject is an interesting phenomenon.

But then Harding is that. From a wealthy family background, privately educated at Atlantic College and then Oxford, Harding became the editor of Oxford University’s Cherwell magazine without showing any leftwing or rebel characteristics. It was not a surprise to those who knew him as a student when he was employed at the very right wing “Daily Mail”. From there he moved to the Guardian. In 2003 Harding was embedded with US forces in Iraq and filing breathless reports of US special forces operations.

Moving to Moscow in 2007 as the Guardian’s Moscow correspondent, others in the Moscow press corps and in the British expatriate community found him to be a man of strongly hawkish neo-con views, extremely pro-British establishment, and much closer to the British Embassy and to MI6 than anybody else in the press corps. It was for this reason Harding was the only resident British journalist, to my knowledge, whose visa the Russians under Putin have refused to renew. They suspected he is actually an MI6 officer, although he is not.

With this background, people who knew Harding were dumbfounded when Harding appeared to be the supporter and insider of first Assange and then Snowden. The reason for this dichotomy is that Harding was not – he wrote books on Wikileaks and on Snowden that claimed to be insider accounts, but in fact just carried on Harding’s long history of plagiarism, as Julian Assange makes clear. Harding’s books were just careful hatchet jobs pretending to be inside accounts. The Guardian’s historical reputation for radicalism was already a sham under the editorship of Rusbridger, and has completely vanished under Viner, in favour of hardcore Clinton identity politics failing to disguise unbending neo-conservatism. The Guardian smashed the hard drives containing the Snowden files under GCHQ supervision, having already undertaken “not to even look at” the information on Iraq and Afghanistan. The fact the hard drives were not the only copies in the world does not excuse their cravenness.

We know, of course, what MI6 have fed to Harding, because it is reflected every day in his output. What we do not know, but may surmise, is what Harding fed back to the security services that he gleaned from the Guardian’s association with Wikileaks and Snowden.

Harding has since made his living from peddling a stream of anti-Assange, anti-Snowden and above all, anti-Russian books, with great commercial success, puffed by the entire mainstream media. But when challenged by the non-mainstream media about the numerous fact free assertions on behalf of the security services to be found in his books, Harding is not altogether convincing. You can watch this video, in which Harding outlines how emoticons convinced him someone was a Russian agent, together with this fascinating analysis which really is a must-read study of anti-Russian paranoia. There is a similar analysis here.

Perhaps still more revealing is this 2014 interview with his old student newspaper Cherwell, where he obvously felt comfortable enough to let the full extent of his monstrous boggle-eyed Russophobia become plain:

His analogies span the bulk of the 20th century and his predictions for the future are equally far-reaching. “This is the biggest crisis in Europe since the Cold War. It’s not the break-up of Yugoslavia, but the strategic consensus since 1945 has been ripped up. We now have an authoritarian state, with armies on the march.” What next?

“It’s clear to me that Putin intends to dismember Ukraine and join it up with Transnistria, then perhaps he’ll go as far as Moldova in one way or another,” Harding says. This is part of what he deems Putin’s over-arching project: an expansionist attempt to gather Russo-phones together under one yoke, which he terms ‘scary and Eurasian-ist’, and which he notes is darkly reminiscent of “another dictator of short stature” who concocted “a similarly irredentist project in the 1930s”.

But actually I think you can garner everything you want to know about Harding from looking at his twitter feed over the last two months. He has obsessively retweeted scores of stories churning out the government’s increasingly strained propaganda line on what occurred in Salisbury. Not one time had Harding ever questioned, even in the mildest way, a single one of the multiple inconsistencies in the government account or referred to anybody who does. He has acted, purely and simply, as a conduit for government propaganda, while abandoning all notion of a journalistic duty to investigate.

We still have no idea of who attacked Sergei Skripal and why. But the fact that, right from the start, the government blocked the media from mentioning Pablo Miller, and put out denials that this has anything to do with Christopher Steele and Orbis, including lying that Miller had never been connected to Orbis, convinces me that this is the most promising direction in which to look.

It never seemed likely to me that the Russians had decided to assassinate an inactive spy who they let out of prison many years ago, over something that happened in Moscow over a decade ago. It seemed even less likely when Boris Johnson claimed intelligence showed this was the result of a decade long novichok programme involving training in secret assassination techniques. Why would they blow all that effort on old Skripal?

That the motive is the connection to the hottest issue in US politics today, and not something in Moscow a decade ago, always seemed to me much more probable. Having now reviewed matters and seen that the government actively tried to shut down this line of inquiry, makes it still more probable this is right.

This does not tell us who did it. Possibly the Russians did, annoyed that Skripal was feeding information to the Steele dossier, against the terms of his release.

Given that the Steele dossier is demonstrably in large degree nonsense, it seems to me more probable the idea was to silence Skripal to close the danger that he would reveal his part in the concoction of this fraud. Remember he had sold out Russian agents to the British for cash and was a man of elastic loyalties. It is also worth noting that Luke Harding has a bestselling book currently on sale, in large part predicated on the truth of the Steele Dossier.

Steele, MI6 and the elements of the CIA which are out to get Trump, all would have a powerful motive to have the Skripal loose end tied.

Rule number one of real investigative journalism: look where they tell you not to look.

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Probable Western Responsibility for Skripal Poisoning

UPDATE: Stupidly I had forgotten this vital confirmation from Channel 4 News (serial rebel Alex Thomson) of the D Notice in place on mention of Pablo Miller.

Back then I did not realise what I now know, that the person being protected was Pablo Miller, colleague in both MI6 then Orbis Intelligence of Christopher Steele, author of the fabrications of the Trump/Russia golden shower dossier. That the government’s very first act on the poisoning was to ban all media mention of Pablo Miller makes it extremely probable that this whole incident is related to the Trump dossier and that Skripal had worked on it, as I immediately suspected. The most probable cause is that Skripal – who you should remember had traded the names of Russian agents to Britain for cash – had worked on the dossier with Miller but was threatening to expose its lies for cash.

ORIGINAL POST: This comment from Clive Ponting, doyen of British whistleblowers, appeared on my website and he has now given me permission to republish it under his full name:

I have been reading the blogs for some time but this is my first post. Like Craig I was a senior civil servant but in the ministry of defence not the fco. I had plenty of dealings with all three intelligence agencies. It seems to me that the reason none of the MSM are doing any investigating/reporting of the Salisbury affair, apart from official handouts, is that the government have slapped a D-Notice over the whole incident and it is not possible to report that a notice has been issued.
Here is another theory as to what happened. The Russians pardoned Skripal and allowed him to leave (spy agencies have an understanding that agents will always be swapped after an interval – it’s the only protection they have and helps recruitment). In the UK Skripal would have been thoroughly debriefed by MI6 and MI5 (his ex-handler lives near Salisbury). If at some point they discovered that Skripal was giving them false information, perhaps he was told to do so by the FSB as a condition of his release, lives may have been endangered/lost. If he also was also involved in the ‘golden showers’ dossier then elements in the US would have a reason to act as well. The whole incident was an inside job not to kill him, hence the use of BZ, but to give him a warning and a punishment. The whole thing is being treated as though the authorities know exactly what went on but have to cover it up.

Addendum

I meant to add that the policeman who ‘just happened’ to be around was almost certainly the special branch ‘minder’ who was keeping Yulia under surveillance. The media are not allowed to mention the existence of a D notice.

Those of us who have been in the belly of the beast and have worked closely with the intelligence services, really do know what they and the British government are capable of. They are not “white knights”.

I would add it has been very plain from day one that there is a D notice on Pablo Miller.

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Funnily Enough, Mark Wadsworth Was Guilty of Bringing the Labour Party Into Disrepute – But Not of Anti-Semitism

Mark Wadsworth has not been found to be anti-semitic, but to have brought the Labour Party into disrepute. He was in fact guilty of that. At a sensitive press launch, showcasing a very important report the Party was introducing, Wadsworth thought it appropriate to take the microphone in front of a massive media presence and launch a verbal attack on a Labour MP. Nothing Wadsworth said was anti-semitic, and I quite accept his assurance he had no idea that Smeeth was Jewish. Here was my analysis of the incident written on the day, which I believe has held up well. But Wadsworth’s notion that he was at an appropriate place and time to attack a Labour MP was, at the very least, extremely misguided.

In short, Wadsworth should have saved his justified complaint about the right wing infiltrator Ruth Smeeth’s co-ordination with the Daily Telegraph and pursued it by a more suitable avenue.

Equally, expulsion from the Party is an over the top reaction to Wadsworth’s rashness, and plainly is being done to placate the witch-hunt of “anti-Semites” which is the Blairites’ lead effort to undermine Corbyn.

The impression Wadsworth is “expelled for anti-Semitism” will now be allowed to stand, in the hope it will placate the Israeli lobby who marched 50 parliamentarians strong in a lynch mob to intimidate Wadsworth’s hearing. Corbyn seems to me to have gone down entirely the wrong path. You cannot sate the bloodlust of a witch-hunt by burning a few people you know are not really witches, in the hope the witchfinders will then get bored and go away. Caroline Lucas on Question Time last night, in her assertion that we must not be cowed into failure to criticise Israel and that anti-zionism does not equal anti-semitism, showed more political courage than the entire Labour Party leadership.

Watching that hatchet-faced Friends of Israel mob bear down on the Wadsworth hearing reminded me of the secretly taped meeting between Shai Masot of the Israeli Embassy and Joan Ryan MP of Labour Friends of Israel, where he told her he had over £1 million to give her to influence the Labour Party in Israel’s favour.

So Mark Wadsworth did bring the Labour Party into disrepute, but not nearly as much as Joan Ryan MP, and in about the same measure as every member of the lynch mob whose equally unnecessary intrusion on a party disciplinary hearing gave the media plenty of occasion for knocking copy. But do not expect natural justice to prevail in the UK’s distorted, propaganda-led politics of 2018.

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Consenting to be Insulted, Abused, Degraded and Ignored

Scottish politics has been dominated these last few months by the attempt by Westminster to seize wide ranging powers in major policy areas shortly formerly held by Brussels, which under the Scotland Act would come to Holyrood as they are not “reserved matters”. The Tory plan is to use the EU exit legislation to override the Scotland Act and seize these powers initially for a period of seven years, after which rather arbitrary period the matter will be looked at again.

This ties in to a wider row that any changes affecting the powers of the Scottish parliament require a Consent Order of the Scottish parliament, again under the Scotland Act. The Tories have however a brilliant way around that one by redefining “consent”, which is this latest government amendment to the EU withdrawal Bill:

30 (4) For the purposes of subsection (3) a consent decision is—

(a) a decision to agree a motion consenting to the laying of the draft,

(b) a decision not to agree a motion consenting to the laying of the draft, or

(c) a decision to agree a motion refusing to consent to the laying of the draft;

Yes, honestly, I am not making this up. You can find it at the bottom of page 6 here.

The Welsh parliament under the spineless leadership of Carwyn Jones and his crew of Blairite lickspittles, has already happily agreed to Westminster’s power grab. The outrage of the move against the Scottish parliament is reported in the corporate and state media here in Scotland as “Sturgeon fails to secure brilliant deal agreed by Welsh”.

I am very much behind some brilliant fellow bloggers like Wings Over Scotland and Wee Ginger Dug in discussing these matters, which they do much better anyway. The reason for this is I do not really care.

I do not really care because it is axiomatic that so long as Scotland is in the Union, Scotland will be abused, degraded and ignored. There is no happy devolution settlement to be reached within the UK. I am not greatly exercised about who sets the amount of subsidy on a neep, when my taxes are wasted on massive nuclear WMD, when the nation to which I involuntarily belong is supplying bombs to kill children in Yemen, and when Scotland’s own young men and women can be sent to kill others and be killed themselves in yet another neo-colonial war.

The UK Parliament and Supreme Court have both made abundantly clear in the last year that any powers of the Scottish parliament may be overriden by Westminster at will. Having temporary powers, by Westminster’s grace and favour, in a glorified regional council at Holyrood does not interest me at all. It is time to move to real Independence.

Two things are very clear to me. The attitude to the Scottish parliament shown by the above amendment, makes it very plain that Westminster will not agree another referendum to be held on Scottish Independence. It is also the case that Independence is conferred not by Westminster but by recognition by the United Nations, and there is no requirement for a referendum. The majority of countries in the World today achieved independence without a referendum, including almost all of Africa, South America and Asia. More to the point, seven EU member states achieved Independence in my lifetime without a referendum.

The Scottish Parliament should simply declare Independence, just as it was the the corrupt Scottish Parliament that abnegated Independence in 1707. There was no referendum on joining the Union. An alternative to a vote in Parliament would be to call a National Assembly comprising all Scotland’s MP’s, MEP’s and MSP’s. The Independence decision should be effective immediately, but followed by a confirmatory referendum.

Scotland is going to be seeking its Independence shortly, in a situation akin to Catalonia and not to 2014. The argument over who controls neeps has played a useful role in making plain Westminster’s contempt for Scotland. It is now time to forget it, and move on to Independence. To do otherwise is to consent to permanent abuse.

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Blocked By Facebook and the Vulnerability of New Media

This site’s visitor numbers are currently around one third normal levels, stuck at around 20,000 unique visitors per day. The cause is not hard to find. Normally over half of our visitors arrive via Facebook. These last few days, virtually nothing has come from Facebook:

What is especially pernicious is that Facebook deliberately imposes this censorship in a secretive way. The primary mechanism when a block is imposed by Facebook is that my posts to Facebook are simply not sent into the timelines of the large majority of people who are friends or who follow. I am left to believe the post has been shared with them, but in fact it has only been shown to a tiny number. Then, if you are one of the few recipients and do see the post and share it, it will show to you on your timeline as shared, but in fact the vast majority of your own friends will also not receive it. Facebook is not doing what it is telling you it is doing – it shows you it is shared – and Facebook is deliberately concealing that fact from you.

Twitter have a similar system known as “shadow banning”. Again it is secretive and the victim is not informed. I do not appear to be shadow banned at the moment, but there has been an extremely sharp drop – by a factor of ten – in the impressions my tweets are generating.

I am among those who argue that the strength of the state and corporate media is being increasingly and happily undermined by our ability to communicate via social media. But social media has developed in such a way that the channels of communication are dominated by corporations – Facebook, Twitter and Google – which can in effect turn off the traffic to a citizen journalism site in a second. The site is not taken down, and the determined person can still navigate directly to it, but the vast bulk of the traffic is cut off. What is more this is done secretly, without your being informed, and in a manner deliberately hard to detect. The ability to simply block the avenues by which people get to see dissenting opinions, is terrifying.

Furthermore neither Facebook nor Twitter contact you when they block traffic to your site to tell you this is happening, let alone tell you why, and let alone give you a chance to counter whatever argument they make. I do not know if I am blocked by Facebook as an alleged Russian bot, or for any other reason. I do know that it appears to have happened shortly after I published the transcript of the Israeli general discussing the procedures for shooting children.

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Finally, a change of policy on this blog.

For thirteen years now it has operated with a policy of not accepting donations, except for occasional legal funds. It has now reached a size and cost, not least because of continual attacks, that make income essential. It is also the case that due to change in personal circumstance I am no longer in a position to devote my time to it without income – the need to earn a living caused the blog to go dark for almost five months last year, and the last six weeks this journalism has stopped me doing anything else to pay the rent. So, with a certain amount of pride swallowed, here is your chance to subscribe:

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Alfie Evans and the State

Individual cases of huge emotional impact are not something on which I generally feel qualified to comment, and seldom are a good basis for general policy. But the heartbreaking case of little Alfie Evans is so striking I wished to look at it.

The most valuable and complete of many court judgements of the case seems to be the High Court judgement of 20 February, the starting point for the many appeals since. Reading this very carefully, I feel quite certain that the state is taking too much power over individuals in denying the Evans’ family the right to take their son abroad for treatment.

It is worth saying at the start that everybody involved, including the judge, seems genuinely motivated to do the best for little Alfie. It is also fairly plain that there seems no reason to believe that there is ever any chance of recovery. The discussions of whether the little boy’s reactions to stimuli including the touch of his mother, are actual reactions or coincidental convulsions, is terribly, terribly sad.

But I do worry about the reasoning employed. All the medical evidence indicates it is unlikely that Alfie can experience pain or discomfort:

para 21 Prof Haas: a. the majority of Alfie’s reaction to external stimuli (i.e. touching, pain stimulation like pinching, etc., reaction to noise, parents voice etc.) is very likely not a purposeful reaction but very likely caused by seizures (as proven by repeat EEC monitoring)

para 25 Dr M: I believe that is it unlikely that Alfie feels pain or has sensation of discomfort but I cannot be completely certain of this since Alfie has no way of communicating if he is in pain or discomfort.

para 28 The thalami, which I have been told fire the pathways within the white matter which generate sensory perception is, Dr R points out, effectively invisible in the scan. In simple terms the thalami, basal ganglia, the vast majority of the white matter of the brain and a significant degree of the cortex have been wiped out by this remorseless degenerative condition.
29. Painful though it is for F to read Dr R’s observations of Alfie’s current condition, it is necessary for me to set them out:
“Alfie does not show any response other than seizures to tactile, visual or auditory stimulation. He does not show any spontaneous movements. His motor responses are either of an epileptic nature or are spinal reflexes. He is deeply comatose and for all intents and purposes therefore unaware of his surroundings. Although fluctuating, his pupillary responses are abnormal with now only the most subtle, very brief dilatation to exposure to light but no normal constriction. Exposure to loud noises does not elicit any response. There is no response to central painful stimuli other than the occasional seizure. There is no response to painful peripheral stimuli other than seizures or at times spinal reflexes with extension and internal rotation of his arms and less frequently now, of flexion of his legs.”

The judge concludes that, as Alfie is in a semi-vegetative state with a degenerative condition and probably cannot experience any benefit from life such as the touch of his mother, support should be withdrawn and he should be allowed to die with proper palliative care.

But here is the place where I radically disagree: though it is unlikely that Alfie can feel pain or discomfort, the possibility that he MIGHT be able to experience pain and discomfort is the reason the offer from the Vatican to ship him by air ambulance to a hospital there cannot be permitted.

60. Whilst I have, for the reasons stated, rejected the evidence of Dr Hubner, I do not exclude the possibility that travel by Air Ambulance may remain a theoretical option. It requires to be considered however in the context of the matters above and one further important consideration. All agree that it is unsafe to discount the possibility that Alfie continues to experience pain, particularly surrounding his convulsions. The evidence points to this being unlikely but certainly, it can not be excluded.

The judge concludes that the risks of pain in travel by air ambulance, from the “burdensome” air travel and the difficulty of maintaining his care regimen on the air ambulance, rule out his going to Italy.

I have a fundamental problem with this. Throughout the medical reports, the possibility of Alfie experiencing pain and discomfort is not represented as a more significant possibility than that he can experience joy from the touch of his mother – both are viewed as highly unlikely. The argument that he cannot receive further treatment in the UK because he is vegetative, yet cannot travel for it in case he is not, appears to me pernicious.

That is without the lesser point that the capabilities of air ambulances are perhaps here underestimated.

There is also one area where I think Justice Hayden is deplorable. Professor Haas, who is German, concluded his evidence with this powerful paragraph:

“Because of our history in Germany, we’ve learned that there are some things you just don’t do with severely handicapped children. A society must be prepared to look after these severely handicapped children and not decide that life support has to be withdrawn against the will of the parents if there is uncertainty of the feelings of the child, as in this case”.

Justice Hayden takes extreme exception to Professor Haas’ statement, which he refutes at length, concluding:

53. I regard the above as a comprehensive answer to the tendentious views expressed by Professor Haas. No further comment is required by me.

This is completely out of order from Hayden. He is entitled to disagree with Professor Haas, but he is not entitled to describe the good Professor’s honest and reasonable view as “tendentious”.

This case is overreach by the state. It is not a case of the parents demanding perpetual NHS support, it is a case of the parents wishing, at no cost to the state, to leave the country with their severely ill son. As the state’s view is that their son will very shortly die anyway, and it is unlikely it will occasion Alfie any significant discomfort he can feel, I can see no reason that the state should override the wishes of the parents to pursue their hope, however remote, that some span of life of some quality might yet be available to their son.

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Finally, a change of policy on this blog.

For thirteen years now it has operated with a policy of not accepting donations, except for occasional legal funds. It has now reached a size and cost, not least because of continual attacks, that make income essential. It is also the case that due to change in personal circumstance I am no longer in a position to devote my time to it without income – the need to earn a living caused the blog to go dark for almost five months last year, and the last six weeks this journalism has stopped me doing anything else to pay the rent. So, with a certain amount of pride swallowed, here is your chance to subscribe:

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The Noisy Frenchman

In the summer of 1975 I was sixteen years old and sitting on the edge of the fountain in the Aviemore Centre, waiting to fix a kiddie kart when it broke down or the coin mechanism jammed, and reading a Penguin edition of The Quiet American by Graham Greene. It detailed the origin of the US entry into the Vietnam conflict as the French colonial hold weakened, and of course the plot revolved around a false flag bombing incident designed to facilitate American intervention. The introduction to that edition made very clear that the novel was closely based on true events by Greene – who was there in Vietnam at the time – and in my memory across 43 years it actually named and discussed the real life false flag bomb incident on which the book was based. I do not think the existence of the real false flag bombing at the heart of the story has ever been seriously disputed. The novel was quite startling to a sixteen year old boy.

It was impossible not to recall The Quiet American while watching Trump and Macron give their presser at the White House yesterday. Reinstating the role of France, the former colonial power, in Syria though a continuing US/French military presence was the main theme, under the guise of “preventing hegemony” – clearly aimed at Iran. The haunting parallels to Indo-China are striking. So too is the fact that Graham Greene was a deservedly admired figure in British culture and society. The BBC and the Times never attacked him as a “conspiracy theorist” or a lunatic for writing passionately of a false flag attack. This was partly because everybody understood these things actually do happen, and partly because in the early part of my life political dissent was permitted without social ostracism. The latter is no longer the case and an orchestrated media is trying to eradicate the former knowledge.

My personal dislike of Harvey Weinstein dates from 2002, when he acted successfully to minimise the release and the publicity for the excellent film of The Quiet American starring Michael Caine. Weinstein thought the film was anti-American. It was perhaps Caine’s greatest performance and he was nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars, but Weinstein helped ensure he did not get it.

The reason that I know this is interesting. The film rights to my own memoir, Murder in Samarkand, have been continuously owned by a series of major producers for twelve years. In that time film scripts have been written of Murder in Samarkand by some very big names. There have been four finished scripts including one by Sir David Hare (which is still owned by Paramount) and one by Michael Winterbottom. But a film producer sat me down and explained to me that a film about the “War on Terror”, in which the Americans are the bad guys and the main protagonist is nowadays known as a pro-Palestinian campaigner, is never going to get financed. And he cited what happened to The Quiet American as an example.

Macron is frequently described as a French Tony Blair, but to me he seems more a French Margaret Thatcher, seeking to use a jingoistic military policy to distract from very unpopular neo-liberal destruction of worker protections at home. It is hard to believe his peculiar love-in with Trump is going down well in France. The danger is that he will feel obliged to commit to more military adventurism to live up to the hype. I know that those close to Merkel look on all this posing with dour disapproval.

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Finally, a change of policy on this blog.

For thirteen years now it has operated with a policy of not accepting donations, except for occasional legal funds. It has now reached a size and cost, not least because of continual attacks, that make income essential. It is also the case that due to change in personal circumstance I am no longer in a position to devote my time to it without income – the need to earn a living caused the blog to go dark for almost five months last year, and the last six weeks this journalism has stopped me doing anything else to pay the rent. So, with a certain amount of pride swallowed, here is your chance to subscribe:

Support This Website

Choose subscription amount from dropdown box:

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No Remorse For Hillary

I am hopeful that the commendable discovery process involved in US litigation will bring to light further details of the genesis of Christopher Steele’s ludicrous dossier on Trump/Russia, and may even give some clues as to whether Sergei Skripal and/or his handler Pablo Miller were involved in its contents.

The decision by the Democratic National Committee to sue the Russian Government, Wikileaks, Julian Assange personally and the Trump campaign is an act of colossal hubris. It is certain to reveal still more details of the deliberate fixing of the primary race against Bernie Sanders, over which five DNC members, including the Chair, were forced to resign. It will also lead to the defendants being able to forensically examine the DNC servers to prove they were not hacked – something which astonishingly the FBI refused to do, being instead content to take the word of the DNC’s own private cyber security firm, Crowdstrike. Unless those servers have been wiped completely (as Hillary did to her private email server) I know that is not going to go well for the DNC.

I cannot better Glenn Greenwald’s article on why it is a terrible idea to sue Wikileaks for publishing leaked documents – it sets a precedent which could be used to constrain media from ever publishing anything given them by whistleblowers. It is an astonishingly illiberal thing to undertake. Nor is it politically wise. The media has done its very best to ignore as far as possible the actual content of the leaks of DNC material, and rather to concentrate on the wild accusations of how they were obtained. But the fundamental crookedness revealed in the emails is bound to get some sort of airing, not least as the basis of a public interest defence.

I have often been asked if I regret my association with Wikileaks, given they are held responsible for the election of Donald Trump. My answer is that I feel no remorse at all.

Hillary Clinton lost because she was an appalling candidate. A multi-millionaire, neo-con warmonger with the warmth and empathy of a three week dead haddock and an eye for the interests of Wall Street, who regarded ordinary voters as “deplorables” (a term she used not just once, but frequently at fund-raisers with the mega-wealthy). Hillary Clinton conspired with the machine that was supposed to be neutrally running the primaries, to fix the primaries against Bernie Sanders. The opinion polls regularly showed that Sanders would beat Trump, and that the only Democratic candidate who Trump could beat was Clinton. Egomania and a massive sense of entitlement nevertheless led her not just to persist to get the candidacy, but persist to rig the candidacy. She then proceeded to ignore major urban working class battleground states in her campaign against Trump and focus on more glamorous places. In short, Hillary was corrupt rubbish. Full stop, and not remotely Wikileaks’ fault.

Wikileaks did not go out to get the evidence against Hillary. They were given it. Should they have withheld the knowledge of the rigging of the field against Bernie Sanders from the American people, to let Clinton benefit from the corruption? For me that is a no-brainer. It would have been a gross moral dereliction to have done so. It is also the case that Wikileaks can only publish what they are given. Had they been given dirt on Trump, they would have published. But they were not given any leaks on Trump.

I should put in an aside here which might surprise you. I like Anthony Weiner. I have never met him, but I watched the amazing 2016 fly on the wall documentary Weiner and he came across as a person of genuine goodwill, passion and commitment, undermined by what is very obviously a pathological illness. I realise that was not the general reaction, but it was mine.

But – and now I am going to really annoy people – I have to say that from an international perspective, rather than an American domestic perspective, I am also not in the slightest convinced that Trump has been worse for the World than Clinton would have been. Trump has not, to date, initiated any new military intervention or substantially increased any military conflict during his Presidency. In fact his current actions more closely match his words about non-intervention during his election campaign, than do his current words. Despite hawkish posturing, he has not substantially increased American military intervention in Syria.

My reading of the reported chemical weapon attack on Douma is this. Whether it was a false flag chemical attack, a pro-Assad chemical attack, or no chemical attack at all I do not know for sure. But whichever it is, it was used to attempt to get Trump to commit to a major escalation of American involvement in the war in Syria. So far, he has not done that. The American-led missile attack was illegal, but fortunately comparatively restrained, certainly in no way matching Trump’s rhetoric. All the evidence is, and there is a great deal of evidence from Libya and Afghanistan, that Clinton would have been far more aggressive.

That leaves the dichotomy between Trump’s rhetoric and his actions. Certainly there is every sign of a sharp tilt to the neo-cons, His apparent preference in his press conference with Macron today for an extended presence of France, the former colonial power, and US troops in Syria is deeply troubling. His sacking of the sensible Tillerson from the State Department, and his appointment of the odious John Bolton as National Security Adviser all appear to be terrible signs. But still, nothing has actually happened. There is a reading that Trump is placating the neo-cons with position and rhetoric while his actions – in Syria and in what a hating political class fails to acknowledge has all the makings of a diplomatic coup in North Korea – go in a very different direction.

It is beyond doubt that Hillary, who cannot open her mouth without denouncing Russia for causing her own entirely self-inflicted failure – would be taking the new Cold War to even worse extremes than it has already reached, to the delight of the military-industrial complex and her Wall Street friends. It is open to debate, but I would contend that it is very probable that President Hillary would have launched a major attack on Syria by now, just like she presided over as Secretary of State in Libya.

So my answer is this. Firstly, Clinton caused her own downfall by arrogance, and by failing to grasp the alienation of ordinary people from neo-liberal policies that impoverished them while the rich grew massively richer. Secondly, I strongly suspect that if Hillary were President, more people would be dead now in the Middle East.

So no, I have no regrets at all.

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Finally, a change of policy on this blog.

For thirteen years now it has operated with a policy of not accepting donations, except for occasional legal funds. It has now reached a size and cost, not least because of continual attacks, that make income essential. It is also the case that due to change in personal circumstance I am no longer in a position to devote my time to it without income – the need to earn a living caused the blog to go dark for almost five months last year, and the last six weeks this journalism has stopped me doing anything else to pay the rent. So, with a certain amount of pride swallowed, here is your chance to subscribe:

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Condemned By Their Own Words

This transcript of an Israeli General on an Israeli radio station (begins 6.52 in) defending the latest killing by Israeli army snipers of a 14 year old boy who posed no threat of any kind, is much more powerful if you just read it than any analysis I can give.

Brigadier-General (Res.) Zvika Fogel interviewed on the Yoman Hashevua program of Israel’s Kan radio, 21 April 2018.

Ron Nesiel: Greetings Brigadier General (Res.) Zvika Fogel. Should the IDF [Israeli army] rethink its use of snipers? There’s the impression that maybe someone lowered the bar for using live fire, and this may be the result?

Zvika Fogel: Ron, let’s maybe look at this matter on three levels. At the tactical level that we all love dealing with, the local one, also at the level of values, and with your permission, we will also rise up to the strategic level. At the tactical level, any person who gets close to the fence, anyone who could be a future threat to the border of the State of Israel and its residents, should bear a price for that violation. If this child or anyone else gets close to the fence in order to hide an explosive device or check if there are any dead zones there or to cut the fence so someone could infiltrate the territory of the State of Israel to kill us …

Nesiel: Then, then his punishment is death?

Fogel: His punishment is death. As far as I’m concerned then yes, if you can only shoot him to stop him, in the leg or arm – great. But if it’s more than that then, yes, you want to check with me whose blood is thicker, ours or theirs. It is clear to you that if one such person will manage to cross the fence or hide an explosive device there …

Nesiel: But we were taught that live fire is only used when the soldiers face immediate danger.

Fogel: Come, let’s move over to the level of values. Assuming that we understood the tactical level, as we cannot tolerate a crossing of our border or a violation of our border, let’s proceed to the level of values. I am not Ahmad Tibi, I am Zvika Fogel. I know how these orders are given. I know how a sniper does the shooting. I know how many authorizations he needs before he receives an authorization to open fire. It is not the whim of one or the other sniper who identifies the small body of a child now and decides he’ll shoot. Someone marks the target for him very well and tells him exactly why one has to shoot and what the threat is from that individual. And to my great sorrow, sometimes when you shoot at a small body and you intended to hit his arm or shoulder it goes even higher. The picture is not a pretty picture. But if that’s the price that we have to pay to preserve the safety and quality of life of the residents of the State of Israel, then that’s the price. But now, with your permission, let us go up one level and look at the overview. It is clear to you that Hamas is fighting for consciousness at the moment. It is clear to you and to me …

Nesiel: Is it hard for them to do? Aren’t we providing them with sufficient ammunition in this battle?

Fogel: We’re providing them but …

Nesiel: Because it does not do all that well for us, those pictures that are distributed around the world.

Fogel: Look, Ron, we’re even terrible at it. There’s nothing to be done, David always looks better against Goliath. And in this case, we are the Goliath. Not the David. That is entirely clear to me. But let’s look at it at the strategic level: you and I and a large part of the listeners are clear that this will not end up in demonstrations. It is clear to us that Hamas can’t continue to tolerate the fact that its rockets are not managing to hurt us, its tunnels are eroding …

Nesiel: Yes.

Fogel: And it doesn’t have too many suicide bombers who continue to believe the fairytale about the virgins waiting up there. It will drag us into a war. I do not want to be on the side that gets dragged. I want to be on the side that initiates things. I do not want to wait for the moment where it finds a weak spot and attacks me there. If tomorrow morning it gets into a military base or a kibbutz and kills people there and takes prisoners of war or hostages, call it as you like, we’re in a whole new script. I want the leaders of Hamas to wake up tomorrow morning and for the last time in their life see the smiling faces of the IDF. That’s what I want to have happen. But we are dragged along. So we’re putting snipers up because we want to preserve the values we were educated by. We can’t always take a single picture and put it before the whole world. We have soldiers there, our children, who were sent out and receive very accurate instructions about whom to shoot to protect us. Let’s back them up.

Nesiel: Brigadier-General (Res.) Zvika Fogel, formerly Head of the Southern Command Staff, thank you for your words.

Fogel: May you only hear good news. Thank you.

There is no room to doubt the evil nature of the expansionist apartheid state that Israel has now become. Nor the moral vacuity of its apologists in the western media.

Translation by Dena Shunra.

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Finally, a change of policy on this blog.

For thirteen years now it has operated with a policy of not accepting donations, except for occasional legal funds. It has now reached a size and cost, not least because of continual attacks, that make income essential. It is also the case that due to change in personal circumstance I am no longer in a position to devote my time to it without income – the need to earn a living caused the blog to go dark for almost five months last year, and the last six weeks this journalism has stopped me doing anything else to pay the rent. So, with a certain amount of pride swallowed, here is your chance to subscribe:

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A Hostile Environment for Yulia Skripal

An interesting facet of Theresa May’s “hostile environment” policy, aka institutionalised racism, is that Yulia Skripal will have to pay for her NHS emergency treatment because she was admitted to hospital. When the government announced its clampdown on use of the NHS by foreigners, including migrants and overseas students, it ended the provision of free emergency treatment for non-citizens in the UK, at the point of hospital admission – which in a real emergency is often required.

I could see the argument for charging “aliens” for attending A & E with a broken thumb, but not charging them for a massive heart attack. But the Tories do it the other way round. It is worth noting that in Scotland the Scottish government, which controls the Scottish NHS, has not implemented this Tory policy.

This policy was instituted in April 2015 directly as a considered part of the “hostile environment” for migrants. Reciprocal public healthcare agreeements with Russia and 16 other countries were cancelled unilaterally by the Tory government in 2016.

Of course, I do not doubt Yulia Skripal – whose whereabouts and freedom of action are unknown and who patently did not write the police statements issued in her name – will not be charged for her treatment, unlike others admitted in life-threatening situations. But think for a moment of the dreadful cases of heartache to other individuals and families that must have been caused by this cruel policy, all in the name of “discouraging” migrants. As with the case of the Windrush generation, I do not doubt there are scores of unheard stories of the effects of Tory callousness waiting to come to light. I am glad the Skripal case gave me the chance to highlight the issue.

Meanwhile in Salisbury we are going to have a great propaganda theatre of destruction, as places which people were allowed to frequent for weeks after the attack are demolished, to eradicate a strange liquid that is ten times more deadly than VX but at the same time ineffective, and is liquid but cannot be diluted, except its dilution was why it did not kill anybody, and which cannot be washed away, except if you got it on your clothes you are perfectly safe if you wash them, and which made hundreds of people sick except there were only three of them.

All of those contradictory statements are from the official government narrative on Salisbury as delivered over the last couple of months through the state and corporate media. It is beyond me how they expect anyone to believe their utterly incoherent nonsense.

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Finally, a change of policy on this blog.

For thirteen years now it has operated with a policy of not accepting donations, except for occasional legal funds. It has now reached a size and cost, not least because of continual attacks, that make income essential. It is also the case that due to change in personal circumstance I am no longer in a position to devote my time to it without income – the need to earn a living caused the blog to go dark for almost five months last year, and the last six weeks this journalism has stopped me doing anything else to pay the rent. So, with a certain amount of pride swallowed, here is your chance to subscribe:

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Index on Disgrace

The second half of my life has been a continual process of disillusionment with the institutions I used to respect. I suppose it started with the FCO, where I went from being Britain’s youngest ambassador to being sacked for opposing the use of intelligence from torture, at the same time having an insider view of the knowing lies about Iraqi WMD being used as a pretext for invasion and resource grab.

I still had some residual respect for the BBC, which respect disappeared during the Scottish independence referendum where BBC propaganda and disregard for the truth were truly shameless. My love of the universities was severely tested during my period as Rector of Dundee University, when I saw how far the corporate model had turned them from academic communities developing people and pursuing knowledge, to relentless churners out of unconsidered graduates and financially profitable research, with nearly all sense of community gone. My respect for charities vanished when I discovered Save the Children was paying its chief executive £370,000 and had become a haven for New Labour politicos on huge salaries, which was why it was so involved in pushing a pro-war narrative in Syria. When Justin Forsyth and Brendan Cox – both massively salaried employees who came into Save the Children from the revolving door of Gordon Brown’s office – were outed over sexual predation, that seemed a natural result of “charities” being headed by rich party hacks rather than by simple people trying to do good. As for respect for parliament, well the massive troughing expenses scandal and all those protected paedophiles…

It has become difficult to hang on to respect for any institution, and that is unsettling.

Which brings me to last week’s annual awards from Index on Censorship. The winners of the awards – from Cuba, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Honduras and Egypt – all seem worthy enough, and there is even some departure from the neo-con narrative in recognising a human rights problem in Egypt.

But the Chairman of Index on Censorship is, incredibly, Rupert Murdoch lead hack David Aaronovitch, and he presided over the awards, in the very week in which the newspaper for which he writes produced this appalling attack on freedom of expression:

Inside there was a further two page attack on named academics who have the temerity to ask for evidence of government claims over Syria, including distinguished Professors Tim Hayward, Paul McKeigue and Piers Robinson. The Times also attacked named journalists and bloggers and, to top it off, finished with a column alleging collusion between Scottish nationalists and the Russian state.

That the Chairman of “Index on Censorship” is associated with this kind of attack on freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom of research is sadly unsurprising. The guest list of the Index ceremony had a distinct right wing tinge including A C Grayling and Sara Khan, as well as a good smattering of the BBC, which was also represented on the judging panel. The irony of the state broadcaster being part of a panel on freedom of expression is plainly lost.

I realised something was very wrong with Index on Censorship when I contacted them over a decade ago, when Jack Straw attempted to ban the publication of my book Murder in Samarkand, after it had passed successfully through the exhaustive FCO clearance process over a time-consuming year. I tried to interest them again when my second book The Catholic Orangemen of Togo was dropped by my publisher following libel threats from mercenary commander Tim Spicer of Aegis/Executive Outcomes/Sandline. On both occasions I was told that then Chief Executive of Index, John Kampfner, did not regard these attempted book bannings as incidents of censorship. Presumably because they weren’t somewhere like Cuba or Zimbabwe…

The truly appalling Times attack on academics was part of a coordinated and government-led campaign to delegitimise anybody doubting the official narrative on Salisbury and Syria. The BBC weighed in with this horrible effort:

The government then issued a ridiculous press release branding decent people as “Russian bots” just for opposing British policy in Syria. In a piece of McCarthyism so macabre I cannot believe this is really happening, an apparently pleasant and normal man called Ian was grilled live on Murdoch’s Sky News, having been named by his own government as a Russian bot.

The Guardian uncritically published the government’s accusations in full, and astonishingly seemed proud that it had made no attempt to investigate their veracity but had merely published what the government wished them to publish:

The Guardian naturally was just as reliable as the BBC in driving home the message that anybody who doubted the government’s word on Syria was a flat-earth denier of the truth:

Mr Freedland is of course a perfect representation of an interesting fact. Those who are most active in telling us that we must attack Syria, and that anybody who questions the government’s pretexts is insane or evil, are precisely the same individuals who supported the war in Iraq and attacked those who doubted the existence of Iraqi WMD. indeed these people – Jonathan Freedland, David Aaronovitch, Oliver Kamm, Alan Mendoza, Andrew Rawnsley, John Rentoul, Nick Cohen – are the leaders of the tiny, insignificant number of people who still believe that the invasion of Iraq was both justified and beneficial in its result.

Yet these people of proven terrible judgement, they and others of their media class, are the arbiters who are allowed to dictate the terms of what is and what is not an acceptable public utterance on the situation in Syria.

When Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the opposition, one of two things had to happen. Either the Overton window had to shift to allow for the reflection of views held by the leader of the official opposition and his myriad supporters, or the leader of the opposition had to be castigated and humiliated as an unreasonable lunatic. Corbyn’s rational scepticism on British involvement in the conflict in Syria is a key moment in this process. Despite the fact Corbyn’s scepticism is supported by a wide swathe of diplomatic and military opinion within the UK, it has to be portrayed as fringe, extreme and irrational.

We thus have the extraordinary spectacle of a coordinated government and media onslaught on anybody who doubts their entirely fact free narratives. Those who were demonstrably completely wrong over Iraq are held up as infallible, and given full control of all state and corporate media platforms, where they deride those who were right over Iraq as crackpots and Russian bots.

Meanwhile public trust in the state and corporate media hits new lows, which is the happy part of this story.

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Finally, a change of policy on this blog.

For thirteen years now it has operated with a policy of not accepting donations, except for occasional legal funds. It has now reached a size and cost, not least because of continual attacks, that make income essential. It is also the case that due to change in personal circumstance I am no longer in a position to devote my time to it without income – the need to earn a living caused the blog to go dark for almost five months last year, and the last six weeks this journalism has stopped me doing anything else to pay the rent. So, with a certain amount of pride swallowed, here is your chance to subscribe:

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British Democracy is Dysfunctional

A significant proportion of Labour MPs are actively seeking to cause their own party to do badly in forthcoming local elections, with the aim of damaging the leader of that party. To that end they have attacked Jeremy Corbyn relentlessly in a six week crescendo, in parliament and in the entirely neo-liberal owned corporate media, over the Skripal case, over Syria, and over crazy allegations of anti-semitism, again and again and again.

I recall reporting on an Uzbek Presidential election where the “opposition” candidate advised voters to vote for President Karimov. When you have senior Labour MPs including John Woodcock, Jess Phillips, John Mann, Luciana Berger, Mike Gapes, Wes Streeting and Ruth Smeeth carrying on a barrage of attacks on their own leader during a campaign, and openly supporting Government positions, British democracy has become completely dysfunctional. No amount of posing with leaflets in their constituencies will disguise what they are doing, and every Labour activist and trade unionist knows it.

British democracy cannot become functional again until Labour voters have a chance to vote for candidates of their party who are not supporters of the neo-liberal establishment. This can only happen by the removal as Labour candidates of a very large number of Labour MPs.

That it is “undemocratic” for party members to select their candidates freely at each election, and it is “democratic” for MP’s to have the guaranteed candidacy for forty years irrespective of their behaviour, is a nonsensical argument, but one to which the neo-liberal media fiercely clings as axiomatic. Meanwhile in the SNP, all MPs have to put themselves forward to party members equally with other candidates for selection at every election. This seems perfectly normal. Indeed every serious democratic system elects people for a fixed term. Labour members do not elect their constituency chairman for life, so why should they elect their parliamentary candidate for life? Why do we keep having general elections rather than voters elect the MP for life?

Election of parliamentary candidates for life is in fact a perfectly ludicrous proposition, but as it is currently vital to attempts to retain undisputed neo-liberal hegemony, anybody who dissents from the idea that candidacy is for life is reviled in the corporate and state media as anti-democratic, whereas the truth is of course the precise opposite.

The election of Jeremy Corbyn to the Labour leadership was a fundamental change in the UK. Previously the choice offered to electors in England and Wales was between two parties with barely distinguishable neo-liberal domestic policies, and barely distinguishable neo-conservative foreign policies. Jeremy Corbyn then erupted onto centre stage from the deepest backbenches, and suddenly democracy appeared to offer people an actual choice. Except that at the centre of power Jeremy did not in fact command his own party, as its MPs were largely from the carefully vetted Progress camp and deeply wedded to neo-conservative foreign policy, including a deep-seated devotion to the interests of the state of Israel as defined by the Israeli settlers and nationalist wing, and almost as strongly wedded to the economic shibboleths of neo-liberalism.

These Labour MPs were, in general, prepared grudgingly to go along with a slightly more social democratic economic policy, but drew the line absolutely at abandoning the neo-conservative foreign policy of their hero Tony Blair. So pro-USA policy, support for bombings and missiles as “liberal intervention” in a Middle Eastern policy firmly aligned to the interests of Israel and against the Palestinians, and support for nuclear weapons and the promotion of arms industry interests through a new cold war against Russia, are the grounds on which they stand the most firmly against their own party leadership – and members. Over these issues, these Labour MPs will support, including with voting in parliament, the Tories any day.

I have never voted Labour. I come from a philosophical viewpoint of the liberal individualist rather than of working class solidarity. Labour support for nuclear weapons and other WMD, in the blinkered interest of the members of the General Municipal and Boilermakers’ Union, is one reason that I could not vote Labour. The other is of course that in many cases, if you vote Labour you are very likely to be sending to parliament an individual who will vote with the Tories to escalate the arms race and conduct dangerous and destructive proxy wars in the Middle East.

There is an excellent article on Another Angry Voice which lists the only 18 MPs who were brave enough to vote against Theresa May’s 2014 Immigration Act, which enshrined dogwhistle racism and the hostile environment policy.

Diane Abbott (Labour)
Jeremy Corbyn (Labour)
Jonathan Edwards (Plaid Cymru)
Mark Lazarowicz (Labour)
John Leech (Liberal Democrat)
Elfyn Llwyd (Plaid Cymru)
Caroline Lucas (Green)
Angus MacNeil (SNP)
Fiona Mactaggart (Labour)
John McDonnell (Labour)
Angus Robertson (SNP)
Dennis Skinner (Labour)
Sarah Teather (Liberal Democrat)
David Ward (Liberal Democrat)
Mike Weir (SNP)
Eilidh Whiteford (SNP)
Hywel Williams (Plaid Cymru)
Pete Wishart (SNP)

5 of the 6 SNP MPs stood against this racism (the sixth was absent) and the current leadership of the Labour Party stood alone against the Blairites and Tories in doing so. The Windrush shame should inspire Labour members to deselect every single one of the Red Tories who failed to vote against that Immigration Act. It is also a measure of the appalling shame of the Liberal Democrats, of whom only three of their sixty odd MPs opposed it, and who consigned themselves to the dustbin of history through Nick Clegg’s gross careerism and right wing principles.

There is more to say though. This vote is testament to the great deal in common which the SNP have with the current Labour leadership (who also personally consistently opposed Trident), as opposed to with the bulk of Labour MPs. Put another way, Corbyn, Abbot and McDonnell have more in common with the SNP than the Blairites. It is also a roll-call of those MPs who have most consistently stood against the appalling slow genocide of the Palestinians. It is astonishing how often that issue is a reliable touchstone of where people stand in modern British politics.

Corbyn’s supporters have slowly gained control of major institutions within the Labour Party. The essential next move is for compulsory re-selection of parliamentary candidates at every election and an organised purge of the Blairites. If the Labour Party does not take that step, I could not in conscience urge anyone to vote for it, even in England, but rather to look very carefully at the actual individual candidates standing and decide who deserves your support.

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Senior Civil Servants Still Deeply Sceptical of Russian Responsibility for Skripal Poisoning

Well-placed FCO sources tell me it remains the case that senior civil servants in both the FCO and Home Office remain very sceptical of Russian guilt in the Skripal case. It remains the case that Porton Down scientists have identified the chemical as a “novichok-style” nerve agent but still cannot tie its production to Russia – there are many other possibilities. The effort to identify the actual perpetrator is making no headway, with the police having eliminated by alibi the Russian air passenger on the same flight as Julia Skripal identified as suspicious by MI5 purely on grounds of the brevity of their stay.

That senior civil servants do not regard Russian responsibility as a fact is graphically revealed in this minute from head of the civil service, Sir Jeremy Heywood, sent to officials following the attack on Syria. Note the very careful use of language:

Their work was instrumental in ensuring widespread international support for the Government’s position on Russian responsibility for the Salisbury attack

This is very deliberate use of language by Sir Jeremy. Exactly as I explained with the phrase “of a type developed by Russia” about the nerve agent, you have to parse extremely carefully what is written by the senior civil service. They do not write extra phrases for no reason.

Sir Jeremy could have simply written of Russian responsibility as a fact, but he did not. His reference to “the government’s position on Russian responsibility” is very deliberate and an acknowledgement that other positions are possible. He deliberately refrains from asserting Russian responsibility as a fact. This is no accident and is tailored to the known views of responsible civil servants in the relevant departments, to whom he is writing.

This in no way detracts from the fact that Sir Jeremy takes it as read that it is the duty of civil servants to follow “the Government’s position”. But it is an acknowledgement that they do not have privately to believe it.

Allied missile strikes on Syria – a message from the Head of the Civil Service

In the early hours of 14 April, the armed forces of the United Kingdom, the United States and France launched a series of co-ordinated strikes on sites in Syria linked with the production and storage of chemical weapons. This was in response to the use of prohibited chemical weapons by the Syrian regime against the civilian population of Douma, whose horrific consequences were widely reported.

I want to thank civil servants in a number of departments, but especially in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence, Department for International Development, Department for Health and Social Care (and Public Health England), Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, and the Cabinet Office, for their work after the attack on Douma and throughout the allied operation. This response was designed to degrade the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability and as a deterrent to their future use.

Coming after the nerve agent attack in Salisbury just over a month ago, I also want to take this opportunity to renew my gratitude to the hundreds of public servants – at home and abroad – involved in the response to that attack and the ongoing investigation. Their work was instrumental in ensuring widespread international support for the Government’s position on Russian responsibility for the Salisbury attack and the participation of many nations in the diplomatic sanctions that followed.

We could wish it was in different circumstances. However, the response to the Salisbury incident and the chemical attack on Douma showed the public service at its best: collaborative, professional and quick to act in the national interest, even under the greatest pressure.

Jeremy Heywood
Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service

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Living in Goebbels Land

So a tiny independent radio station in Ireland managed to interview Robert Fisk on the ground in Douma, but none of the British mainstream broadcast media today has him on, despite the political fallout from our Syria bombing attacks being the main news story everywhere? Meantime MSM propagandists including Richard Hall (BBC), Dan Hodges (Mail) and Brian Whitaker (Guardian) and many more queue up to denounce Fisk on twitter from their cosy armchairs.

It bears repeating that the information on the alleged gas attacks – which raises great doubt but which Fisk himself does not claim as definitive – is not the most important part of Fisk’s article. The Hell of rule under the jihadists that we in the West are arming, funding, training, “military advising” and giving air support, alongside Saudi Arabia and Israel, is the indisputable and much more important element of Fisk’s report, as is the clear evidence he provides that the White Helmets are part of the jihadist factions.

To return to Scotland, I am sorry I shocked many of those who wish me well with the vehemence of my attack on Ian Blackford and the SNP for accepting MI6′ version of events, together with a renewed expression of my outrage at Nicola Sturgeon for having instantly supported Boris Johnson’s anti-Russian rhetoric over Salisbury without waiting for evidence.

My anger is not synthetic and there is a fundamental point here.

The question is this: whether Scotland wishes to become truly a different kind of state to the UK, or whether it is simply a case of a management buyout of the local NATO franchise. As the UK enters enthusiastically into a new cold war, that question is now a much sharper one.

The UK security services are Scotland’s enemy. The next effort at Independence is not going to look like 2014 – the British Establishment only allowed that because at the outset they did not believe there was a hope in Hell we could win. Now they are rattled. Our next effort at Independence will look much more like Catalonia. All the signs are that the current leadership of the SNP, who are so comfy having little chats with MI6 in their career break from investment banking, or who want to be an inclusive, unionist-friendly “Queen Mum” figure rather than campaign for Independence, do not have the stomach for the fight. What they do have is comfy, very highly paid, billets as a pocket of token opposition and diversity within the United Kingdom.

Nicola buying into the Johnson story of the new cold war is not a small thing. It is huge, momentous, epoch-defining in Scotland. And a fundamental betrayal of her voters.

A Fully Paid Up Member of the British Establishment

In the next street to where I am writing was born the great James Connolly. He wrote:

When it is said that we ought to unite to protect our shores against the ‘foreign enemy’, I confess to be unable to follow that line of reasoning, as I know of no foreign enemy of this country except the British Government

Note the British government are the enemy – not in any way the people of England. Anybody who cannot repeat Connolly’s statement with conviction is only pretending to be part of the Scottish Independence movement, and will falter as soon as Westminster says no.

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Robert Fisk Reports Head of Douma Clinic Denies Chemical Weapons Attack

Robert Fisk is one of the very few excellent investigative journalists still employed in the UK. He is twice winner of the British Press Awards‘ Journalist of the Year prize, and seven time winner of the British Press Awards’ Foreign Correspondent of the Year. He is extremely smart and knows the Middle East very well. He has just made his way – not accompanied by Russian or Syrian government officials – to Douma and this is what he reports.

If you care to search for Robert Fisk on twitter, the attacks on his reputation and integrity at this very moment from achieve nothing neo-con trolls and media lackeys are astonishing. He is in Douma – they are at their desks.

It also says a great deal about our media that one of the greatest living British journalists is employed only by The Independent, a newspaper which has become extremely marginal, while other genuine greats like Jon Pilger, with a fantastic pedigree, do not have access to UK mainstream media at all. 60,000 people on average are reading my journalism here every day, but no mainstream outlet will carry it.

UPDATE you can now read Fisk’s brilliant report from Douma here. Excellent journalism with appropriate scepticism of all sides, and vital information of the nature of the jihadists the UK/US/Saudi Arabia and Israel so desperately support.

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On Believing MI6

Ian Blackford MP, investment banker and now SNP Westminster parliamentary leader, has received an “intelligence briefing” from the security services and is satisfied with MI6 assurances that Assad attacked Douma with chemical weapons. The whirring sound you hear is Willie Macrae spinning in his grave.

The other whirling sound you hear is Charlie Kennedy spinning in his. Charlie – who was a friend since 1979 – once told me that the scariest walk he ever took was to get the security service briefing on the Iraq War. He was scared in case the intelligence was actually convincing on Iraqi WMD – what would he do then? Charlie said that when he saw the actual intelligence he was astonished by how weak it was, and left with a clear mind – and a lifelong distrust of MI6.

But Charlie Kennedy, though we disagreed on Scottish independence, was a very decent man of great principle. Not an Establishment hack like investment banker Ian Blackford MP.

The SNP is attempting to be all things to all men by attacking the government for not having a parliamentary vote on the attack on Syria, while accepting the British establishment narrative. I am not sure if Blackford is saying there should have been a vote because he missed the chance to vote for the war, or if he is going to accept that the attack was illegal in international law.

Nicola Sturgeon joined Boris Johnson on day one of the Salisbury attack in blaming Russia with no evidence and cheering for Britnat jingoism. Blackford promotes the entirely dodgy Douma narrative. The SNP leadership could not be more divorced from the views of its own grassroots membership.

This cannot last.

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The British Government’s Legal Justification for Bombing is Entirely False and Without Merit

UPDATE Perhaps you will forgive me for pointing out that the argument in the legal opinion by Professor Dapo Akande of Oxford University, published today by the Labour Party, is identical in every respect and in detail to the analysis I published yesterday. So for all the trolls who claimed I do not know international law…

I have published Prof Akande’s summary at the end of this post.

Theresa May has issued a long legal justification for UK participation in an attack on a sovereign state. This is so flawed as to be totally worthless. It specifically claims as customary international law practices which are rejected by a large majority of states and therefore cannot be customary international law. It is therefore secondary and of no consequence that the facts and interpretations the argument cites in this particular case are erroneous, but it so happens they are indeed absolutely erroneous.

Let me put before you the government’s legal case in full:

1.This is the Government’s position on the legality of UK military action to alleviate the extreme humanitarian suffering of the Syrian people by degrading the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability and deterring their further use, following the chemical weapons attack in Douma on 7 April 2018.

2.The Syrian regime has been killing its own people for seven years. Its use of chemical weapons, which has exacerbated the human suffering, is a serious crime of international concern, as a breach of the customary international law prohibition on the use of chemical weapons, and amounts to a war crime and a crime against humanity.

3.The UK is permitted under international law, on an exceptional basis, to take measures in order to alleviate overwhelming humanitarian suffering. The legal basis for the use of force is humanitarian intervention, which requires three conditions to be met:

(i) there is convincing evidence, generally accepted by the international community as a whole, of extreme humanitarian distress on a large scale, requiring immediate and urgent relief;

(ii) it must be objectively clear that there is no practicable alternative to the use of force if lives are to be saved; and

(iii) the proposed use of force must be necessary and proportionate to the aim of relief of humanitarian suffering and must be strictly limited in time and in scope to this aim (i.e. the minimum necessary to achieve that end and for no other purpose).

4.The UK considers that military action met the requirements of humanitarian intervention in the circumstances of the present case:

(i) The Syrian regime has been using chemical weapons since 2013. The attack in Eastern Damascus on 21 August 2013 left over 800 people dead. The Syrian regime failed to implement its commitment in 2013 to ensure the destruction of its chemical weapons capability. The chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017 killed approximately 80 people and left hundreds more injured. The recent attack in Douma has killed up to 75 people, and injured over 500 people. Over 400,000 people have now died over the course of the conflict in Syria, the vast majority civilians. Over half of the Syrian population has been displaced, with over 13 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. The repeated, lethal use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime constitutes a war crime and a crime against humanity. On the basis of what we know about the Syrian regime’s pattern of use of chemical weapons to date, it was highly likely that the regime would seek to use chemical weapons again, leading to further suffering and loss of civilian life as well as the continued displacement of the civilian population.

(ii) Actions by the UK and its international partners to alleviate the humanitarian suffering caused by the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime at the UN Security Council have been repeatedly blocked by the regime’s and its allies’ disregard for international norms, including the international law prohibition on the use of chemical weapons. This last week, Russia vetoed yet another resolution in the Security Council, thwarting the establishment of an impartial investigative mechanism. Since 2013, neither diplomatic action, tough sanctions, nor the US strikes against the Shayrat airbase in April 2017 have sufficiently degraded Syrian chemical weapons capability or deterred the Syrian regime from causing extreme humanitarian distress on a large scale through its persistent use of chemical weapons. There was no practicable alternative to the truly exceptional use of force to degrade the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability and deter their further use by the Syrian regime in order to alleviate humanitarian suffering.

(iii) In these circumstances, and as an exceptional measure on grounds of overwhelming humanitarian necessity, military intervention to strike carefully considered, specifically identified targets in order effectively to alleviate humanitarian distress by degrading the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability and deterring further chemical weapons attacks was necessary and proportionate and therefore legally justifiable. Such an intervention was directed exclusively to averting a humanitarian catastrophe caused by the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons, and the action was the minimum judged necessary for that purpose.

14 April 2018

The first thing to note is that this “legal argument” cites no authority. It does not quote the UN Charter, any Security Council Resolution or any international treaty or agreement of any kind which justifies this action. This is because there is absolutely nothing which can be quoted – all the relevant texts say that an attack on another state is illegal without authorisation of the UN Security Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

Nor does the government quote any judgement of the International Court of Justice, International Criminal Court or any other international legal authority. This is important because rather than any treatment, the government makes a specific claim its actions are justified by customary international law, which means accepted state practice. But the existence of such state practice is usually proven through existing court judgements, and there are no judgements that endorse the approach taken by the government in its argument.

The three “tests” set out under para 3 as to what is permitted under international law are not in fact a statement of anything other than the UK’s own position. These “tests” are specifically quoted by Ola Engdahl in Bailliet and Larsen (ed) “Promoting Peace Through International Law” (Oxford University Press 2015). Engdahl notes:

The UK position, that it is permitted to take coercive action under a doctrine of humanitarian intervention when certain conditions are met, is a minority view and does not reflect lex data on the prohibition of the use of force in international relations as expressed in article 2(4) of the UN Charter.

That is undeniably true, and as it is equally undeniably true that a minority view cannot be customary international law, the British government position is utterly devoid of merit.

The Government argument is a classic statement of the doctrine of “liberal intervention”, which is of course the mantra adopted by neo-conservatives over the last 30 years to justify resource grabs. It is not in any way accepted as customary international law. It is a doctrine opposed by a very large number of states, and certainly by the great majority of African, South American and Asian states. (African states have occasionally advocated the idea that UN Security Council authorisation may be replaced by the endorsement of a UN recognised regional authority such as ECOWAS or the African Union. This was the Nigerian position over Liberia 20 years ago. The Security Council authorised ECOWAS action anyway, so no discord arose. The current Nigerian government does not support intervention without security council authorisation).

The examples of “liberal intervention” most commonly used by its advocates are Sierra Leone and Libya. My book “The Catholic Orangemen of Togo” details my experiences as UK Representative at the Sierra Leone peace talks, and I hope will convince you that the accepted story of that war is a lie. Libya too has been a disaster, and it is not a precedent for the government’s legal argument as the western forces employed were operating under cover of a UN Security Council Resolution authorising force, albeit only to enforce a no fly zone.

In fact, if the British government were to offer examples of state practice to attempt to prove that the doctrine it outlines is indeed customary international law, the most appropriate recent examples are Russian military intervention in Ukraine and Georgia. I oppose those Russian interventions as I oppose the UK/US/French actions now. It is not a question of “sides” it is a question of the illegality of military action against other states.

The rest of the government’s argument is entirely hypothetical, because as the liberal intervention doctrine is not customary international law these arguments cannot justify intervention.

But the evidence that Assad used chemical weapons against Douma is non-existent, and the OPCW did not conclude that the Assad government was responsible for the attack on Khan Sheikhoun. There is no evidence whatsoever that military action was urgently required to avert another such “immediate” attack. Nor is it true that the UK’s analysis of the situation is “generally accepted” by the international community, as witness China and Russia voting together in the Security Council yesterday to condemn the attack.

So the British government sets up its own “three tests” which have no legal standing and are entirely a British concoction, yet still manages to fail them.

Dapo Akande, Professor of Public International Law, Oxford University, gave this opinion for the Labour Party…

In the opinion I reach the following conclusions:
1. Contrary to the position of the government, neither the UN charter nor customary international law permits military action on the basis of the doctrine of humanitarian intervention. There is very little support by states for such an exception to the prohibition of the use of force. The UK is one of very few states that advocates for such a legal principle but the vast majority of states have explicitly rejected it.
2. The legal position advanced by the government ignores the structure of the international law rules relating to the use of force, in particular, because a customary international law rule does not prevail over the rule in the United Nations charter prohibiting the use of force. To accept the position advocated by the government would be to undermine the supremacy of the UN charter.
3. Even if there was a doctrine of humanitarian intervention in international law, the strikes against Syria would not appear to meet the tests set out by the government. The action taken by the government was not directed at bringing “immediate and urgent relief” with regard to the specific evil it sought to prevent, and was taken before the inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons were able to reach the affected area.
4. If the position taken by the government were to be accepted by states globally, it would allow for individual assessments of when force was necessary to achieve humanitarian ends, with the risk of abuse. It is because of the humanitarian suffering that will ensue from such abusive uses of force, that other states and many scholars have been reluctant to endorse the doctrine of humanitarian action.

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Just Who’s Pulling the Strings?

March 4 2018 Sergei and Yulia Skripal are attacked with a nerve agent in Salisbury

March 6 2018 Boris Johnson blames Russia and calls Russia “a malign force”

March 7 2018 Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia arrives in London for an official visit

March 13 2018 Valeri Gerasimov, Russian Chief of General Staff, states that Russia has intelligence a fake chemical attack is planned against civilians in Syria as a pretext for US bombing of Damascus, and that Russia will respond militarily.

March 19 2018 Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia arrives in Washington for an official visit

April 8 2018 Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia arrives in Paris for an official visit

April 8 2018 Saudi funded jihadist groups Jaysh al Islam and Tahrir al-Sham and UK funded jihadist “rescue group” The White Helmets claim a chemical weapons attack occurred in their enclave of Douma the previous day – just before its agreed handover to the Syrian army – and blame the Syrian government.

April 11 2018 Saudi Arabia pledges support for attack on Syria

April 14 2018 US/UK/French attack on Syria begins.

I have always denied the UK’s claim that only Russia had a motive to attack the Skripals. To denigrate Russia internationally by a false flag attack pinning the blame on Russia, always seemed to me more likely than for the Russians to do that to themselves. And from the start I pointed to the conflict in Syria as a likely motive. That puts Saudi Arabia (and its client jihadists), Saudi Arabia’s close ally Israel, the UK and the USA all in the frame in having a powerful motive in inculcating anti-Russian sentiment prior to planned conflict with Russia in Syria. Any of them could have attacked the Skripals.

Today, Theresa May is claiming -astonishingly – that the UK attack on Syria is “to deter chemical weapons attacks in Syria and the UK”. I don’t think the motive for a Skripal false flag could be more starkly demonstrated.

We do not yet know how many children and other civilians have died so far in what the media always pretend are magically “pinpoint” attacks on Syria. Denying the “collateral damage” is part of the neo-con playbook. The danger is that they will not stop but continue to push, testing how far they can go in weakening Syrian government forces to promote their jihadist allies on the ground, before they spark a real Russian reaction. That way madness lies.

It is also worth noting that the most ardent supporters of this military action, outside Saudi Arabia and Israel, are the Blairites in the UK and the Clinton Democrats in the USA. The self-described “centrists” are actually the unhinged extremists in today’s politics.

This attack on Syria is, beyond doubt, a huge success for the machinations of Mohammed Bin Salman. Please do read my post of 8 March which sets out the background to his agenda, and I believe is essential to why we find our nations in military action again today. Despite the fact the vast majority of the people do not want this.

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