The Guardian Rejoices in the Silencing of Assange

The Guardian has today published a whole series of attack piece articles on Julian Assange which plainly exult in the fact he has now been silenced by the cutting of his communication with the outside world. They also include outright lies such as this one by Dan Collyns:

In fact Julian Assange was questioned for two days solid in the Embassy by Swedish procurators and police in November 2016. The statement he gave to them at that time I published in full. Following that questioning it was plain that there was no hope of a successful prosecution, particularly as the only physical evidence Swedish Police had was a condom Anna Ardin claimed he had worn but which had no trace of his DNA – a physical impossibility.

Dan Collyns is a freelance based in Peru, but the Guardian’s editors certainly know it is blatantly untrue that the investigation into Assange was dropped because he could not be questioned. They have knowingly published a lie. “Facts are sacred” there, apparently.

The Guardian article gives another complete lie, this time in the Harding penned section, where it says that “sources” reveal that Assange had hacked into the Embassy’s communications. That is completely untrue as are the “facts” given about Julian’s relationship with the Embassy staff, whom I know well. It is plain that these “sources” are separate from the Ecuadorean security dossier published in Focus Ecuador by the CIA. I would bet any money that these anonymous “sources” are as always Harding’s mates in the UK security services. That the Guardian should allow itself to be used in a security service disinformation campaign designed to provoke distrust between Assange and Embassy staff, is appalling.

I had a front row seat in 2010 when the Guardian suddenly switched from championing Assange to attacking him, in a deeply unedifying row about the rights and money from a projected autobiography. But they have sunk to a new low today in a collaboration between long term MI6 mouthpiece Luke Harding and the CIA financed neo-con propagandists of Focus Ecuador.

The Guardian pieces are full of truly startling revelations. Would you ever have guessed, for example, that Julian Assange was visited by his Wikileaks colleague Sarah Harrison, his friends Vaughn Smith and, err, me, and his lawyer Gareth Peirce?! This great scandal, Harding states in an assertion as evidence-free as his entire “Russia hacked the elections” book, “will interest Mueller”. Despite the fact none of these visits was secret and mine was broadcast live to the world by Wikileaks on Brexit referendum night.

The aim of the “Guardian” piece is of course to help urge Ecuador to expel Julian from the Embassy. There is no doubt that the actions of Lenin Moreno, under extreme pressure from the USA, have been severely disappointing, though I am more inclined to praise Ecuador for its courageous defiance of the US than blame it for eventually caving in to the vast resources the CIA is spending on undermining it. It is also worth noting that, post the Francoist human rights abuses in Catalonia, it was Spain and the EU joining in US pressure which tipped the balance.

Julian’s principled refusal to abandon the Catalan cause, against direct Ecuadorean threats to do precisely what they have now done, has not received the credit it deserves.

The same Blairites who supported the latest Israeli massacre will this morning be revelling in the Guardian’s celebration of the silencing of a key dissident voice. I have no wish to try and understand these people.

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Not Forgetting the Rohingyas

The news cycle moves on, and having had their fifteen minutes of Western compassion, whole peoples are left to struggle on with the wreck of their lives. Today the media suddenly recall again the terrible dispossession and oppression of the Palestinian people. In a couple of weeks time, they will be back to claiming that anybody who recalls that is an anti-semite. The fashion for worrying about the Rohingyas has entirely passed; the TV crews have gone and the Hollywood celebrities moved on to their next fad. But the plight of the dispossessed has still worsened.

The British conquest and occupation of what they knew as Burma met with some of the stiffest national resistance – characterised by the British as “fanatic” – the British ever encountered, as the invaders advanced up the rivers in a series of 19th century wars and were resisted from behind multiple fortified bamboo stockades. It is a very little known episode in British history, largely because it was so inglorious. The Burmese never did become docile under Imperial rule, and for that reason a high proportion of the ancestors of the present day Rohingya were employed as Imperial functionaries (not only military and police), in a classic British move of exploiting ethnic and religious tensions, which policy was absolutely conscious and deliberate at the time. The Rohingyas had themselves in large part been driven out of an expansionist Burma in the 1780’s, and the British returned a great many from Bengal, exploiting a pre-existing conflict in classic fashion. This background, which in no way justifies the recent ethnic cleansing of the Rohingyas, is essential to understanding the root of recent events; it is a perspective almost entirely absent from media narrative.

Nadira’s next film venture as co-Producer is a documentary on the Rohingya situation which will endeavour to explain what is happening in much more depth than simply the recital of individual atrocity stories, terrible though these are. The Director will be our friend Shahida Tulaganova. They are currently attempting to raise funds towards the production costs, and here is their fundraising appeal. Help would be much appreciated. I should add that I have no input to this at all, other than making cups of tea, and any views expressed will very probably not concur with my own, with which I am very comfortable. As I have always said, the entire purpose of this blog is not to make people think like me, it is just to make people think.

You can make a contribution through kickstarter. That site works on the premise that if the full donation target of £15,000 is not reached, then the money is not given and returns to the donors. To date they have raised £4,526 and have eleven days left.

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The Stomach-Churning Victim Blaming by “Labour Friends of Israel”

The true face of the organisation calling itself “Labour Friends of Israel” has been revealed today, in truly disgusting victim-blaming tweets reacting to the massacre of over fifty Palestinians – including yet more children – by the Israeli Defence Force in Gaza.

No Israelis were injured and no “border communities” attacked. This amplification of the worst extreme right wing zionist propaganda by the Likud government shows beyond doubt that “Labour Friends of Israel” is nothing whatsoever to do with the professed values of the Labour Party, but rather a well-funded entryist front solely intended to promote the interests of a violent, expansionist and aggressive foreign state.

I am not a Labour Party member and I do not know what institutional ties the “Labour Friends of Israel” has to the Labour Party, but whatever they are they should be cut off immediately.

The “Labour Friends of Israel” featured very prominently on our TV screens after the recent English local elections, beating the drum for their widespread accusations of anti-semitism within the Labour Party. They have been driving that agenda for many months. One would like to think that the mainstream media would, after today, cease to accept them as a genuine and well-motivated group and understand them for the hate-filled fanatics they truly are. Of course that will not happen, and they will be back on television shortly accusing yet more lifelong anti-racism campaigners who have the temerity to criticise Israel.

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When Is a Massacre Not a Massacre?

On the day the Israeli Defence Force massacred dozens of unarmed Palestinians in Gaza and maimed over 400 more, our media has carefully avoided the use of the word massacre. Here is a Google search of News I did five minutes ago on the word “massacre”.

A massacre occurred today in which more people were killed than at Glencoe. All of them were unarmed and the majority were well over a hundred yards from the border fence. It says everything about the kind of nightmare fascist state Israel now is, that if you look through those news results for “massacre”, the only mention you get of Palestinians is a claim by the Israeli Defence Force that the Palestinian Defence Forces were planning a massacre of Israelis.

The Turkish government have now come out with a statement condemning the massacre, and in the UK the Daily Express and the Daily Star have both reported that; but both have chosen to put the word “massacre” in the Turkish statement into inverted commas, as though it were not true.

The Western media far prefers the word “clashes” to “massacre”. Because those terrible Palestinians insist upon demonstrating against the continuing theft of all their land and resources, and keep attacking innocent Israeli bullets with their heads and bodies. If you look through the Google search of News this time for “clashes”, you discover that the western and Israeli media peculiarly have precisely the same preference for this entirely inappropriate word. That, again, is fascinating.

The gross injustice of the apartheid state of Israel appears immutable. The overwhelming force of the political and financial Establishment is behind Israel in the West, in the Russian oligarchy and even in most of the horribly corrupt leadership of Arab states. But the situation is not as dire as it seems, because the hold of those Establishment elites on the people they exploit has never been more shaky. Israel remains a touchstone issue. In order to help redress the terrible agony of the Palestinians, we must first effect a change in our own system of elite exploitation of the people at home. That change is coming.

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The Incredible Bias of the BBC

The right wing bias of BBC Question Time tonight staggers belief, even for the BBC. One Francoist, two Tories, the still more right wing Chukka Umunna, all “balanced” by Akala, who thankfully has more brains, and certainly more compassion, than the rest put together.

Esther McVey, Tory. Champion of the rape clause, minister implementing benefit cuts and promoting privatised benefits assessments, lobbyist against regulating gambling machines. One of the very nastiest of Tories.

Chloe Westley Another Tory. Here representing the tiny far right fringe group the “Taxpayers Alliance”. Proponent of fierce benefit cuts. Studying the rampantly Islamophobic counter-terrorism course at St Andrews University. Her twitter handle is “LowTaxChloe” which is all you need to know.

Alejandro Agag Another Tory, invited by the BBC as a “businessman”. Former MEP for the Francoist Spanish Popular Party – the current government in Spain which is busy jailing as many political prisoners in Catalonia as they can get their hands on, and is happy sending in paramilitary thugs to club old Catalan ladies waiting to vote.

Chuka Umunna Full time taxpayer-funded right wing campaigner against Jeremy Corbyn.

Akala Very decent guy. Performing this year at our Doune the Rabbit Hole festival for which you should pull your finger out and get buying tickets now.

Why is the BBC permitted, day after day after day, to pump out programming which actively promotes a political programme far to the right of where the British population actually stand? With the continual over-representation of nutty right wing groups like the Taxpayers’ Alliance and the Henry Jackson Society, while left wing groups of much larger membership such as Stop the War are completely ignored. Why low tax campaigners but no invitation ever to groups like Black Triangle who represent claimants interests? Not to mention the routine ignoring of the SNP, parliament’s third largest party.

I strongly urge you not to pay your TV license to fund this barrage of right wing propaganda. I and thousands of others in Scotland have refused to pay since 2014, and other than lots of silly threatening letters nothing has happened. Just stop paying for this nonsense.

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Half a Million Pounds of Taxpayers’ Money Bails Out Criminals Jack Straw and Sir Mark Allen

So the Belhaj family have accepted an apology and half a million pounds of our tax money to drop their legal action against HMG and against Jack Straw personally over their extraordinary rendition to torture in Libya.

The British establishment, whichever party is in power, continues to do everything possible to cover up the shameful history of its complicity in torture and extraordinary rendition, and in particular to hide the authorisation by Jack Straw and Tony Blair and the involvement of senior MI6 officials like Sir Mark Allen and Sir Richard Dearlove.

A judicial inquiry by Judge Gibson into British government complicity i torture was cancelled when he showed signs of being an honest and independent man, and was replaced by an inquiry in secret by the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament. I gave evidence to that inquiry but no report has ever issued.

Most tellingly, a police investigation into the Belhaj case and other cases was dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service ensuring that Jack Straw never stood trial. Senior policemen in the investigation had told me they believed they had sufficient evidence to prosecute. That evidence included my own sworn witness statement, taken by the Metropolitan Police over two days of interviews.

This is the crux of my sworn evidence, where I testify that the decision to use intelligence from torture came from Jack Straw and Richard Dearlove.

You can see my full evidence and an account of the circumstances of the CPS dropping the case here.

On the same issue of complicity in torture, in the US Gina Haspel, like Straw, Dearlove, and Allen here, has got away with her crimes, to the extent she has now been appointed head of the CIA. My good friend Ray McGovern yesterday made a protest over her very close involvement in authorising torture, at her confirmation hearing. As a result Ray, who is 78 years old, was brutally assaulted by six policemen who kept yelling “stop resisting” at this unresisting 78 year old man, as they dragged him around the floor, dislocating his shoulder.

Nobody has gone to jail in the UK for a complicity in torture which everybody knows occurred. Everybody also knows precisely who ought to have gone to jail, including Blair and Straw. The government spent over £4 million in legal battles to try to keep the evidence in the Belhaj case secret, before they settled out of court to avoid a public trial and to save the Establishment being exposed.

Never was there a plainer example of the neo-cons sticking together than the Tory protection of Blair and Straw.

I am personally not happy at this waste of taxpayer resources to keep Jack Straw out of jail. Are you?

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Trump’s Act of American Hubris

The United States is so far doing virtually no trade with Iran anyway. In 2017 total US exports to Iran were just 138 million dollars, and total imports a mere 63 million dollars, figures entirely insignificant to the US economy. By contrast, for the EU as a whole imports and exports to Iran were each a very much more substantial 8 billion dollars in 2017 and projected to rise to over 10 billion dollars in 2018.

There is one very significant US deal in the pipeline, for sale of Boeing aircraft, worth $18 billion dollars. It will now be cancelled.

Which brings us to the crux of the argument. Can America make its will hold? Airbus also has orders from Iran of over US$20 billion, and it is assumed those orders will be stopped too, because Airbus planes contain parts and technology licensed from the US. It is possible, but unlikely, that the US could grant a waiver to Airbus – highly unlikely because Boeing would be furious.

Now even a $20 billion order is probably in itself not quite big enough for Airbus to redevelop aircraft to be built without the US parts or technology (which constitute about 8% of the cost of an airbus). But the loss of a $20 billion order on such capricious grounds is certainly big enough for Airbus to look to future long term R & D to develop aircraft not vulnerable to US content blocking. And if Iran were to dangle the Boeing order towards Airbus too, a $38 billion order is certainly big enough for Airbus to think about what adaptations may be possible on a timescale of years not decades.

Read across from aircraft to many other industries. In seeking to impose unilateral sanctions against the express wishes of its “old” European allies, the USA is betting that it has sufficient global economic power, in alliance with its “new” Israeli and Saudi allies, to force the Europeans to bend to its will. This is plainly a very rash act of global geopolitics. It is perhaps an even more rash economic gamble.

We are yet to see the detail, but by all precedent Trump’s Iran sanctions will also sanction third country companies which trade with Iran, at the least through attacking their transactions through US financial institutions and by sanctioning their US affiliates. But at a time when US share of the world economy and world trade is steadily shrinking, this encouragement to European and Asian companies to firewall and minimise contact with the US is most unlikely to be long term beneficial to the US. In particular, in a period where it is already obvious that the years of the US dollar’s undisputed dominance as the world currency of reference are drawing to a close, the incentive to employ non-US linked means of financial transaction will add to an already highly significant global trend.

In short, if the US fails to prevent Europe and Asia’s burgeoning trade with Iran – and I think they will fail – this moment will be seen by historians as a key marker in US decline as a world power.

I have chosen not to focus on the more startling short term dangers of war in the Middle East, and the folly of encouraging Saudi Arabia and Israel in their promotion of sustained violence against Iranian interests throughout the region, as I have very written extensively on that subject. But the feeling of empowerment Trump will have given to his fellow sociopaths Netanyahu and Mohammed Bin Salman bodes very ill indeed for the world at present.

I shall be most surprised if we do not see increased US/Israeli/Saudi sponsored jihadist attacks in Syria, and in Lebanon following Hezbollah’s new national electoral victory. Hezbollah’s democratic advance has stunned and infuriated the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia but been reported very sparsely in the MSM, as it very much goes against the neo-con narrative. It does not alter the positions of President or Prime Minister, constitutionally allocated by religion, but it does increase Hezbollah’s power in the Lebanese state, and thus Iranian influence.

Iran is a difficult country to predict. I hope they will stick to the agreement and wait to see how Europe is able to adapt, before taking any rash decisions. They face, however, not only the provocation of Trump but the probability of a renewed wave of anti-Shia violence from Pakistan to Lebanon, designed to provoke Iran into reaction. These will be a tense few weeks. I do not think even Netanyahu is crazy enough to launch an early air strike on Iran itself, but I would not willingly bet my life on it.

The problem is, with Russia committed to holding a military balance in the Middle East, all of us are betting our lives on it.

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The Right to Stand in First Class

For every one mile one passenger travels, the British taxpayer pays an average 8 pence subsidy to the train operating company. That is an average of 8p per mile subsidy for every single journey for every single passenger. That is, of course, in addition to your train fare.

The train fare system in the UK is ridiculously complicated, so much so that it makes comparison to other countries difficult in searching for like for like fares. The simple methodology adopted by this site linked to finds the UK has the second most expensive train fares in Europe. This further site linked to finds Britain has the most expensive commuter fares of eight expensive comparators. This Sky News investigation found some stunning examples of comparable British tickets being around three to four times more expensive than comparable fares in France and Germany.

Since privatisation, taxpayers have paid much more money in real terms to the rail network that they gave to British Rail, as shown by official government statistics.

Much of that taxpayer money has simply gone to the profits of the subsidised train operating companies – which peculiarly are for the most part foreign state-owned railway companies. As trains get ever more filthy and overcrowded, the promised privatisation benefits of passenger experience remain elusive.

I attended a family funeral in Norfolk just before Easter. as such events are necessarily unplanned, and I would have to come home on Good Friday when trains are very busy, I bought a first class ticket from Peterborough to Edinburgh at great expense, but ended up standing from Peterborough to Berwick. My ticket was, from memory, £210. On arrival at Edinburgh I went to Virgin customer services to ask if I might have some refund. I was told that as I had an open ticket and no reservation, I was not guaranteed a seat. I pointed out that I had received no food and no drink, as entitled by a first class ticket. The lady replied that these were “complimentary” and that meant they were a gift and not an entitlement with the ticket.

I replied that I had received no benefit from my first class ticket, neither a seat nor any refreshment, so I should at least be refunded the difference between a first and second class ticket. No, the lady replied, I had the right to stand in a first class carriage. She really did say that.

Today Britain’s train operating companies are launching a consultation on rail fares, which precludes from the start the notion that fares should be cheaper. It sounds like their motive is an attempt to remove their legal obligation to issue discounted season tickets to commuters, dressed up in guff about “flexibility” and new technology.

The urgent need is the renationalisation of the railways and for Britain to catch up with the more enlightened world in the rolling out of high speed rail. I view HS2 as a minor idea, compared to the need to provide high speed rail all the way to Aberdeen and Inverness, with a high speed network connecting all the UK cities of over 500,000 people, and involving multiple direct links to a variety of European cities. This is the kind of public project which can have a revitalising economic effect. If the Victorians could undertake economic projects on that scale with a much inferior construction technology, then so can we.

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Jeremy Corbyn and Mhairi Black

There are very few people who support Irish re-unification but oppose Scottish Independence. I do not know of any. I have always, from my knowledge of Jeremy Corbyn and his general political philosophy and way of thinking, and that of many of his close associates, believed him to be sympathetic to Scottish Independence.

I do not claim to know Jeremy well. I have shared a Stop the War platform with him a few times and exchanged a few emails. He assisted this blog by asking some parliamentary questions I suggested on Fox/Werritty, and he successfully intervened with then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith at my request to stop the imminent deportation of an Uzbek asylum seeker.

His behaviour in all of those contacts was absolutely admirable. I like and admire Jeremy, something which is not popular with my fellow Scottish nationalists. One thing Jeremy Corbyn could never be described as is a unionist – he comes from a totally different political place. I also sympathise with his extremely difficult position in wrenching the Labour Party away from the Blairites and the fact that he cannot fight every battle simultaneously.

I therefore have no doubt Mhairi Black is telling the truth today, that Corbyn revealed to her that he privately supports Scottish Independence. I am sure that, like me, Corbyn sees it as part of the decolonisation process of burying the British Empire.

I also have enormous admiration for Mhairi, with whom I too have shared a platform several times. Like many, I am impatient for Mhairi’s leadership of the SNP to begin. But I am not quite certain it was wise to reveal Jeremy’s confidential comment. It is unlikely the current state of the Labour Party will leave him able at this moment to take a more forward stance on Scottish Independence.

I do understand and sympathise with Mhairi’s impatience. But as with Independence so with Trident. I have no doubt that Jeremy Corbyn is 100% and fundamentally opposed to nuclear weapons, and is an unilateralist. I also have no doubt that in power he would act on that. But at this stage on his road to power he cannot take that stance in the struggle for control of the Labour Party. I do not regard this as “selling out”, I regard it as realpolitik and I am prepared to withhold judgement for a few more years as his plan is worked through.

There is an important element that should not be missed. The Blairite leadership of Scottish Labour is increasingly unrepresentative of Labour Party grassroots in Scotland. There has not – despite the constant media propaganda – been a great surge in Tory support in Scotland, which has an iron ceiling around 25%.

What has happened is that many Labour Party supporters who switched to the SNP around the 2014 referendum, have gone back to Labour. But they still retain their belief in Independence; opinion polls regularly show that a quarter or more of Scottish Labour Party voters support Independence, and that support is steadily growing.

I know personally several 2015 SNP voters who have reverted to Labour, including members of my own family. In every case the reason is the same. They like Jeremy Corbyn and, while they would prioritise Scottish Independence, the SNP leadership has been downplaying Independence. Sturgeon very openly campaigned at the Westminster election on the basis that she wanted unionists to feel comfortable voting SNP, and that a vote for the SNP was specifically not a vote for Independence. Some people took her at her word and decided they might as well vote Labour, if a vote for the SNP was not a vote for Independence anyway.

The upshot of all this is that I believe we are seeing a historical trend against hardline unionism among Scottish Labour members and voters. I strongly believe Jeremy Corbyn is not an enemy of the Scottish people in the way that the Tories and the Blairites are. It is healthy that Mhairi has provided us with an opportunity to get this discussion a bit more open; breaking down the tribalism of Scottish politics is a long haul.

I should add that my personal view is that we should stick with the SNP. We are stuck in what I would call the Sturgeon Paradox; falling support for the SNP has hit the confidence of the leadership to go for Independence, but the lack of campaigning for Independence leads to falling support for the SNP. My view remains that getting behind the SNP, and strongly urging the MSP’s to call Indyref2, is a much better route to Independence at this moment than working through the Labour Party or through fringe parties.

I was astounded at the size of the march in Glasgow on Saturday – the biggest pro-Independence demonstration I have ever addressed. This horrendous Tory government and its relentless media propaganda has only strengthened the resolve of masses of ordinary Scots. I was also very happy to see SNP MP’s and MSP’s actively participate, something missing from pro-Indy gatherings the last few years. This needs to be the start of a huge summer of full on campaigning.

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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:

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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:

Support This Website

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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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