Alan Rusbridger is currently on holiday, but has said that it should have been covered in response to an email from Obsolete. Excuses apart, it's good to see that some editors will engage with us commoners.
It's Neo Year's Eve, so it's time once again for what we look forward to every year with baited breath: the new year's honours list. Or rather, for those of us who can't stand it, the yearly time to realise just how shit Britain and so many of its famous occupants are.
Heroes of the response to the July 7 London bombings, the victorious Ashes cricket team and the architects of the London Olympic bid dominate the new year's honours list, vividly reflecting the emotional lurches of a turbulent 12 months.
In the world of light entertainment there are knighthoods for veteran singer Tom Jones, for services to music, jazz musician Johnny Dankworth and a CBE for Bruce Forsyth, whose honour had been leaked to a national newspaper, with friends complaining he should have been knighted.
There will be a return to Buckingham Palace for Dame Vivienne Westwood, once the grande dame of anti-establishment fashion, who famously twirled for the cameras and revealed she was not wearing any knickers when she collected her OBE in 1992. Celebrity chefs Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal receive OBEs.
There is a gentlemen versus players divide in the England cricket team with OBEs for captain Michael Vaughan, coach Duncan Fletcher, and chairman of selectors David Graveney, while the 11 other players who helped regain the Ashes, including Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen, get MBEs.
Leading those honoured for the response to the bombings are Peter Hendy, the Transport for London managing director for buses, Tim O'Toole, managing director of London Underground and Julie Dent, chief executive at the South-west strategic health authority in London. They all receive CBEs.
MBEs go to David Boyce, the station supervisor who went into the tunnel at Russell Square tube station, John Boyle, first on the scene at London Aldgate and William Kilminster, a London Ambulance Service paramedic. "These people showed immense strength of spirit and courage in the face of terrorism on our transport system," said a Downing Street spokeswoman.
Lord Coe, the chairman of the London Olympic bid, is made a Knight Commander of the British Empire while knighthoods are given to Keith Mills, chief executive to the bid, and Craig Reedie, a member of the British Olympic Committee.
The inventor of the iPod and iMac, Jonathan Ive, the Newcastle-educated vice-president of industrial design at Apple, is given a CBE. In the field of the arts, the playwright Arnold Wesker is knighted while Robbie Coltrane, Imelda Staunton and Jeanette Winterson are all given OBEs.
Six other women are made dames - Julie Mellor, chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission; Liz Forgan, chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Guardian Media Group's Scott Trust; Daphne Sheldrick, the conservationist; Averil Cameron, Professor of Byzantine history at Oxford University; Suzi Leather, chair of the Human Fertilisation Authority; Anna Hassan, head of Millfields community school, in Hackney, east London.
So let's get this straight: Tom Jones gets a knighthood for singing, Bruce Forsyth complains he doesn't get one for hosting crappy game shows and variety performances for god knows how long, and Gordon Ramsay gets an OBE for cooking and swearing while being filmed. Other than that, a group of people get honours for doing their jobs on 7/7, as opposed to running away screaming. Sebastian Coe, a Tory cunt of the highest order gets knighted for bringing the Olympics to London (I'm sure the London people will thank him when they have to pay higher taxes to finance an event many in the country didn't want), and the England cricket team get honoured because they managed to win a series for a change.
I'm not completely opposed to the honours system. Many thousands of hard working men and women who have helped their communities and others all their lives undoubtedly deserve their moment in the spotlight. It is however the awards to the above that make the thing a laughing stock. Most of all, it is politically influenced, the whole thing is out of date (I mean for Christ sake, the only empire now is Pax Americana) and there have been numerous notable omissions over the years. David Jason was given a knighthood earlier this year, but the far superior actor and comedian Ronnie Barker only received the OBE before he sadly died in October.
What's next? We've already seen Alex Ferguson knighted, as has been Ian Blair, Jeremy Greenstock, Bob Geldof, Mick Jagger and Digby Jones. In 20 years will Alastair Campbell receive the same honour? How about Dame Jade Goody, for services to humanity (i.e. making people turn their televisions off)? Dame Kate Moss, for services to no one except drug dealers, or maybe Sir Pete Doherty, for proving you can be both talentless and a smackhead and yet somehow still be taken seriously? It's time to end this anachronism or conduct a root and branch reform of it before it loses its very last drop of credibility.
In case you were wondering what the two red-top tabloids were splashing on today, they both have remarkably similar claims on their front pages:
Yes, both apparently have EXCLUSIVE interviews with Wayne Rooney's girlfriend, Coleen. While I can't be bothered to find out whether they both actually did have seperate interviews or whether just one had it and the other subsequently stole the whole thing from the first edition of the rival or not, one's thing sure: it's not everyday that an otherwise completely unremarkable woman gets interviewed by the national papers simply because she's going out with an idiot who just happens to be able to kick a ball rather well. Oh wait, we've been putting up with Victoria Beckham for years.
A load more newspaper and media outlets have featured Murray and his documents today, although none I think have actually had the guts to print them in full:
Torygraph (which pulls a Grauniad and refers to Murray as "Mr Craig")
New York Times (requires registration)
Associated Press (via the Grauniad)
Which leaves the Guardian in the position of being the only serious national newspaper (not counting the FT or the Herald) in Britain not to have printed the story or bothered to get a staff writer to put a report up on the website. Pretty pathetic, guys.
At least 4 mainstream media outlets have now featured the mass-publishing by bloggers of the Murray documents on Uzbekistan:
The Times (which links to the documents)
Radio 4 has apparently also been featuring the papers. For the other mainstream outlets yet to publish, there's no way they can get at you without getting at us also. Publish and be damned. That means you, Guardian, as I've yet to see anything about this other than on your talkboards.
If you missed the documents, they can be downloaded as a text file by clicking here.
Thanks to Bloggerheads for bringing this to my attention.
The below are documents that the British government are trying to remove from circulation. 3 are letters from the former Uzbekistan ambassador, Craig Murray to the Foreign Commonwealth Office and other ministries and government departments. The other is a transcript of a fax sent from a Foreign Office legal adviser, who makes the point that he would expect any evidence known to have been obtained via torture to be inadmissible in a British court. Craig Murray has been ordered to return these documents to the FCO, and remove any reference to them from his upcoming book. You can expect him, if he hasn't already, to be threatened with the Official Secrets Act. You can download the documents as a text by clicking here.
Letter #1The main points then:
FM Tashkent (Ambassador Craig Murray)
TO FCO, Cabxinet Office, DFID, MODUK, OSCE Posts, Security Council Posts
16 September 02
SUBJECT: US/Uzbekistan: Promoting Terrorism
US plays down human rights situation in Uzbekistan. A dangerous policy: increasing repression combined with poverty will promote Islamic terrorism. Support to Karimov regime a bankrupt and cynical policy.
The Economist of 7 September states: "Uzbekistan, in particular, has jailed many thousands of moderate Islamists, an excellent way of converting their families and friends to extremism." The Economist also spoke of "the growing despotism of Mr Karimov" and judged that "the past year has seen a further deterioration of an already grim human rights record". I agree.
Between 7,000 and 10,000 political and religious prisoners are currently detained, many after trials before kangaroo courts with no representation. Terrible torture is commonplace: the EU is currently considering a demarche over the terrible case of two Muslims tortured to death in jail apparently with boiling water. Two leading dissidents, Elena Urlaeva and Larissa Vdovna, were two weeks ago committed to a lunatic asylum, where they are being drugged, for demonstrating on human rights. Opposition political parties remain banned. There is no doubt that September 11 gave the pretext to crack down still harder on dissent under the guise of counter-terrorism.
Yet on 8 September the US State Department certified that Uzbekistan was improving in both human rights and democracy, thus fulfilling a constitutional requirement and allowing the continuing disbursement of $140 million of US aid to Uzbekistan this year. Human Rights Watch immediately published a commendably sober and balanced rebuttal of the State Department claim.
Again we are back in the area of the US accepting sham reform [a reference to my previous telegram on the economy]. In August media censorship was abolished, and theoretically there are independent media outlets, but in practice there is absolutely no criticism of President Karimov or the central government in any Uzbek media. State Department call this self-censorship: I am not sure that is a fair way to describe an unwillingness to experience the brutal methods of the security services.
Similarly, following US pressure when Karimov visited Washington, a human rights NGO has been permitted to register. This is an advance, but they have little impact given that no media are prepared to cover any of their activities or carry any of their statements.
The final improvement State quote is that in one case of murder of a prisoner the police involved have been prosecuted. That is an improvement, but again related to the Karimov visit and does not appear to presage a general change of policy. On the latest cases of torture deaths the Uzbeks have given the OSCE an incredible explanation, given the nature of the injuries, that the victims died in a fight between prisoners.
But allowing a single NGO, a token prosecution of police officers and a fake press freedom cannot possibly outweigh the huge scale of detentions, the torture and the secret executions. President Karimov has admitted to 100 executions a year but human rights groups believe there are more. Added to this, all opposition parties remain banned (the President got a 98% vote) and the Internet is strictly controlled. All Internet providers must go through a single government server and access is barred to many sites including all dissident and opposition sites and much international media (including, ironically, waronterrorism.com). This is in essence still a totalitarian state: there is far less freedom than still prevails, for example, in Mugabe's Zimbabwe. A Movement for Democratic Change or any judicial independence would be impossible here.
Karimov is a dictator who is committed to neither political nor economic reform. The purpose of his regime is not the development of his country but the diversion of economic rent to his oligarchic supporters through government controls. As a senior Uzbek academic told me privately, there is more repression here now than in Brezhnev's time. The US are trying to prop up Karimov economically and to justify this support they need to claim that a process of economic and political reform is underway. That they do so claim is either cynicism or self-delusion.
This policy is doomed to failure. Karimov is driving this resource-rich country towards economic ruin like an Abacha. And the policy of increasing repression aimed indiscriminately at pious Muslims, combined with a deepening poverty, is the most certain way to ensure continuing support for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. They have certainly been decimated and disorganised in Afghanistan, and Karimov's repression may keep the lid on for years - but pressure is building and could ultimately explode.
I quite understand the interest of the US in strategic airbases and why they back Karimov, but I believe US policy is misconceived. In the short term it may help fight terrorism but in the medium term it will promote it, as the Economist points out. And it can never be right to lower our standards on human rights. There is a complex situation in Central Asia and it is wrong to look at it only through a prism picked up on September 12. Worst of all is what appears to be the philosophy underlying the current US view of Uzbekistan: that September 11 divided the World into two camps in the "War against Terrorism" and that Karimov is on "our" side.
If Karimov is on "our" side, then this war cannot be simply between the forces of good and evil. It must be about more complex things, like securing the long-term US military presence in Uzbekistan. I silently wept at the 11 September commemoration here. The right words on New York have all been said. But last week was also another anniversary - the US-led overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile. The subsequent dictatorship killed, dare I say it, rather more people than died on September 11. Should we not remember then also, and learn from that too? I fear that we are heading down the same path of US-sponsored dictatorship here. It is ironic that the beneficiary is perhaps the most unreformed of the World's old communist leaders.
We need to think much more deeply about Central Asia. It is easy to place Uzbekistan in the "too difficult" tray and let the US run with it, but I think they are running in the wrong direction. We should tell them of the dangers we see. Our policy is theoretically one of engagement, but in practice this has not meant much. Engagement makes sense, but it must mean grappling with the problems, not mute collaboration. We need to start actively to state a distinctive position on democracy and human rights, and press for a realistic view to be taken in the IMF. We should continue to resist pressures to start a bilateral DFID programme, unless channelled non-governmentally, and not restore ECGD cover despite the constant lobbying. We should not invite Karimov to the UK. We should step up our public diplomacy effort, stressing democratic values, including more resources from the British Council. We should increase support to human rights activists, and strive for contact with non-official Islamic groups.
Above all we need to care about the 22 million Uzbek people, suffering from poverty and lack of freedom. They are not just pawns in the new Great Game.
Fm Tashkent (Ambassador Craig Murray)
18 March 2003
SUBJECT: US FOREIGN POLICY
1. As seen from Tashkent, US policy is not much focussed on democracy or freedom. It is about oil, gas and hegemony. In Uzbekistan the US pursues those ends through supporting a ruthless dictatorship. We must not close our eyes to uncomfortable truth.
2. Last year the US gave half a billion dollars in aid to Uzbekistan, about a quarter of it military aid. Bush and Powell repeatedly hail Karimov as a friend and ally. Yet this regime has at least seven thousand prisoners of conscience; it is a one party state without freedom of speech, without freedom of media, without freedom of movement, without freedom of assembly, without freedom of religion. It practices, systematically, the most hideous tortures on thousands. Most of the population live in conditions precisely analogous with medieval serfdom.
3. Uzbekistan's geo-strategic position is crucial. It has half the population of the whole of Central Asia. It alone borders all the other states in a region which is important to future Western oil and gas supplies. It is the regional military power. That is why the US is here, and here to stay. Contractors at the US military bases are extending the design life of the buildings from ten to twenty five years.
4. Democracy and human rights are, despite their protestations to the contrary, in practice a long way down the US agenda here. Aid this year will be slightly less, but there is no intention to introduce any meaningful conditionality. Nobody can believe this level of aid - more than US aid to all of West Africa - is related to comparative developmental need as opposed to political support for Karimov. While the US makes token and low-level references to human rights to appease domestic opinion, they view Karimov's vicious regime as a bastion against fundamentalism. He - and they - are in fact creating fundamentalism. When the US gives this much support to a regime that tortures people to death for having a beard or praying five times a day, is it any surprise that Muslims come to hate the West?
5. I was stunned to hear that the US had pressured the EU to withdraw a motion on Human Rights in Uzbekistan which the EU was tabling at the UN Commission for Human Rights in Geneva. I was most unhappy to find that we are helping the US in what I can only call this cover-up. I am saddened when the US constantly quote fake improvements in human rights in Uzbekistan, such as the abolition of censorship and Internet freedom, which quite simply have not happened (I see these are quoted in the draft EBRD strategy for Uzbekistan, again I understand at American urging).
6. From Tashkent it is difficult to agree that we and the US are activated by shared values. Here we have a brutal US sponsored dictatorship reminiscent of Central and South American policy under previous US Republican administrations. I watched George Bush talk today of Iraq and "dismantling the apparatus of terrorâ€¦ removing the torture chambers and the rape rooms". Yet when it comes to the Karimov regime, systematic torture and rape appear to be treated as peccadilloes, not to affect the relationship and to be downplayed in international fora. Double standards? Yes.
7. I hope that once the present crisis is over we will make plain to the US, at senior level, our serious concern over their policy in Uzbekistan.
[Transcript of facsimile sent 25 March 2003 from the Foreign Office]
From: Michael Wood, Legal Advisor
Date: 13 March 2003
CC: PS/PUS; Matthew Kidd, WLD
UZBEKISTAN: INTELLIGENCE POSSIBLY OBTAINED UNDER TORTURE
1. Your record of our meeting with HMA Tashkent recorded that Craig had said that his understanding was that it was also an offence under the UN Convention on Torture to receive or possess information under torture. I said that I did not believe that this was the case, but undertook to re-read the Convention.
2. I have done so. There is nothing in the Convention to this effect. The nearest thing is article 15 which provides:
"Each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made."
3. This does not create any offence. I would expect that under UK law any statement established to have been made as a result of torture would not be admissible as evidence.
M C Wood
FM TASHKENT (Ambassador Craig Murray)
TO IMMEDIATE FCO
OF 220939 JULY 04
INFO IMMEDIATE DFID, ISLAMIC POSTS, MOD, OSCE POSTS UKDEL EBRD LONDON, UKMIS GENEVA, UKMIS MEW YORK
SUBJECT: RECEIPT OF INTELLIGENCE OBTAINED UNDER TORTURE
1. We receive intelligence obtained under torture from the Uzbek intelligence services, via the US. We should stop. It is bad information anyway. Tortured dupes are forced to sign up to confessions showing what the Uzbek government wants the US and UK to believe, that they and we are fighting the same war against terror.
2. I gather a recent London interdepartmental meeting considered the question and decided to continue to receive the material. This is morally, legally and practically wrong. It exposes as hypocritical our post Abu Ghraib pronouncements and fatally undermines our moral standing. It obviates my efforts to get the Uzbek government to stop torture they are fully aware our intelligence community laps up the results.
3. We should cease all co-operation with the Uzbek Security Services they are beyond the pale. We indeed need to establish an SIS presence here, but not as in a friendly state.
4. In the period December 2002 to March 2003 I raised several times the issue of intelligence material from the Uzbek security services which was obtained under torture and passed to us via the CIA. I queried the legality, efficacy and morality of the practice.
5. I was summoned to the UK for a meeting on 8 March 2003. Michael Wood gave his legal opinion that it was not illegal to obtain and to use intelligence acquired by torture. He said the only legal limitation on its use was that it could not be used in legal proceedings, under Article 15 of the UN Convention on Torture.
6. On behalf of the intelligence services, Matthew Kydd said that they found some of the material very useful indeed with a direct bearing on the war on terror. Linda Duffield said that she had been asked to assure me that my qualms of conscience were respected and understood.
7. Sir Michael Jay's circular of 26 May stated that there was a reporting obligation on us to report torture by allies (and I have been instructed to refer to Uzbekistan as such in the context of the war on terror). You, Sir, have made a number of striking, and I believe heartfelt, condemnations of torture in the last few weeks. I had in the light of this decided to return to this question and to highlight an apparent contradiction in our policy. I had intimated as much to the Head of Eastern Department.
8. I was therefore somewhat surprised to hear that without informing me of the meeting, or since informing me of the result of the meeting, a meeting was convened in the FCO at the level of Heads of Department and above, precisely to consider the question of the receipt of Uzbek intelligence material obtained under torture. As the office knew, I was in London at the time and perfectly able to attend the meeting. I still have only gleaned that it happened.
9. I understand that the meeting decided to continue to obtain the Uzbek torture material. I understand that the principal argument deployed was that the intelligence material disguises the precise source, ie it does not ordinarily reveal the name of the individual who is tortured. Indeed this is true - the material is marked with a euphemism such as "From detainee debriefing." The argument runs that if the individual is not named, we cannot prove that he was tortured.
10. I will not attempt to hide my utter contempt for such casuistry, nor my shame that I work in and organisation where colleagues would resort to it to justify torture. I have dealt with hundreds of individual cases of political or religious prisoners in Uzbekistan, and I have met with very few where torture, as defined in the UN convention, was not employed. When my then DHM raised the question with the CIA head of station 15 months ago, he readily acknowledged torture was deployed in obtaining intelligence. I do not think there is any doubt as to the fact
11. The torture record of the Uzbek security services could hardly be more widely known. Plainly there are, at the very least, reasonable grounds for believing the material is obtained under torture. There is helpful guidance at Article 3 of the UN Convention;
"The competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the state concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights."
While this article forbids extradition or deportation to Uzbekistan, it is the right test for the present question also.
12. On the usefulness of the material obtained, this is irrelevant. Article 2 of the Convention, to which we are a party, could not be plainer:
"No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."
13. Nonetheless, I repeat that this material is useless - we are selling our souls for dross. It is in fact positively harmful. It is designed to give the message the Uzbeks want the West to hear. It exaggerates the role, size, organisation and activity of the IMU and its links with Al Qaida. The aim is to convince the West that the Uzbeks are a vital cog against a common foe, that they should keep the assistance, especially military assistance, coming, and that they should mute the international criticism on human rights and economic reform.
14. I was taken aback when Matthew Kydd said this stuff was valuable. Sixteen months ago it was difficult to argue with SIS in the area of intelligence assessment. But post Butler we know, not only that they can get it wrong on even the most vital and high profile issues, but that they have a particular yen for highly coloured material which exaggerates the threat. That is precisely what the Uzbeks give them. Furthermore MI6 have no operative within a thousand miles of me and certainly no expertise that can come close to my own in making this assessment.
15. At the Khuderbegainov trial I met an old man from Andizhan. Two of his children had been tortured in front of him until he signed a confession on the family's links with Bin Laden. Tears were streaming down his face. I have no doubt they had as much connection with Bin Laden as I do. This is the standard of the Uzbek intelligence services.
16. I have been considering Michael Wood's legal view, which he kindly gave in writing. I cannot understand why Michael concentrated only on Article 15 of the Convention. This certainly bans the use of material obtained under torture as evidence in proceedings, but it does not state that this is the sole exclusion of the use of such material.
17. The relevant article seems to me Article 4, which talks of complicity in torture. Knowingly to receive its results appears to be at least arguable as complicity. It does not appear that being in a different country to the actual torture would preclude complicity. I talked this over in a hypothetical sense with my old friend Prof Francois Hampson, I believe an acknowledged World authority on the Convention, who said that the complicity argument and the spirit of the Convention would be likely to be winning points. I should be grateful to hear Michael's views on this.
18. It seems to me that there are degrees of complicity and guilt, but being at one or two removes does not make us blameless. There are other factors. Plainly it was a breach of Article 3 of the Convention for the coalition to deport detainees back here from Baghram, but it has been done. That seems plainly complicit.
19. This is a difficult and dangerous part of the World. Dire and increasing poverty and harsh repression are undoubtedly turning young people here towards radical Islam. The Uzbek government are thus creating this threat, and perceived US support for Karimov strengthens anti-Western feeling. SIS ought to establish a presence here, but not as partners of the Uzbek Security Services, whose sheer brutality puts them beyond the pale.
This is in essence still a totalitarian state: there is far less freedom than still prevails, for example, in Mugabe's Zimbabwe. A Movement for Democratic Change or any judicial independence would be impossible here.
Mugabe and his henchmen are banned from visiting Europe; Zimbabwe has become an international pariah, with its population starving and hundreds of thousands being displaced from their homes. While we denounced Zimbabwe, we gave tacit support to Uzebekistan, turned a blind eye to horrific torture, and even considered the information obtained under that torture as "useful".I quite understand the interest of the US in strategic airbases and why they back Karimov, but I believe US policy is misconceived. In the short term it may help fight terrorism but in the medium term it will promote it, as the Economist points out. And it can never be right to lower our standards on human rights. There is a complex situation in Central Asia and it is wrong to look at it only through a prism picked up on September 12. Worst of all is what appears to be the philosophy underlying the current US view of Uzbekistan: that September 11 divided the World into two camps in the "War against Terrorism" and that Karimov is on "our" side.
Murray here eloquently describes Bush's with us or with the terrorists jibe in geopolitical terms. The UK and US up until recently helped prop a totalitarian regime which has tortured and massacred its own people, just so that the US could use its airbases and take its resources.
1. As seen from Tashkent, US policy is not much focussed on democracy or freedom. It is about oil, gas and hegemony. In Uzbekistan the US pursues those ends through supporting a ruthless dictatorship. We must not close our eyes to uncomfortable truth.Does any more need to be added to that?
1. We receive intelligence obtained under torture from the Uzbek intelligence services, via the US. We should stop. It is bad information anyway. Tortured dupes are forced to sign up to confessions showing what the Uzbek government wants the US and UK to believe, that they and we are fighting the same war against terror.
2. I gather a recent London interdepartmental meeting considered the question and decided to continue to receive the material. This is morally, legally and practically wrong. It exposes as hypocritical our post Abu Ghraib pronouncements and fatally undermines our moral standing. It obviates my efforts to get the Uzbek government to stop torture they are fully aware our intelligence community laps up the results.Compare and contrast the above with a statement made by Tony Blair at a press conference on the 22nd of December:
Now I don't know whether you would define that as rendition or not, all I know is that we should keep within the law at all times, and the notion that I, or the Americans, or anybody else approve or condone torture, or ill treatment, or degrading treatment, that is completely and totally out of order in any set of circumstances.Craig Murray's letter was sent to the Foreign and Commonwealth office, as well as the Department of International Development. Blair can theoretically get away with saying he may not have seen the above. Jack Straw however, as foreign secretary, cannot. So, has he said anything similar to the prime minister on this matter?
Unless we all start to believe in conspiracy theories and that the officials are lying, that I am lying, that behind this there is some kind of secret state which is in league with some dark forces in the United States, and also let me say, we believe that Secretary Rice is lying, there simply is no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition full stop, because we have not been, and so what on earth a judicial inquiry would start to do I have no idea. I do not think it would be justified. While we are on this point, Chairman, can I say this? Some of the reports which are given credibility, including one this morning on the Today programme, are in the realms of the fantastic.While Straw was commenting on so-called "extraordinary rendition", is it really so outrageous and fantastic that Britain may be involved? After all, Straw wrote in a written answer on the 26th October 2004 on Uzbekistan and torture:
The UK abides by its commitments under international law, including the UN Convention Against Torture. The British Government, including the intelligence and security agencies, never use torture in order to obtain information. Nor would we instigate others to commit torture for that purpose. We are active in pressing other countries to live up to their human rights obligations and to deliver on human rights commitments they have made.No, perhaps they would not, but as Craig Murray's documents and letters make clear, they are more than happy to accept information obtained via torture and view it as valuable and valid intelligence.
Plain and simply, both Tony Blair and Jack Straw have repeatedly given comments and answers laced with sophistry. Whether either has actually lied or not is up to you personally to decide. What is certain though is that they are being economical with the actualite, to paraphrase Alan Clark. Britain has used and continues to use information obtained under torture, it knows much more about rendition than it is letting on, and it has propped up a totalitarian regime that has tortured and murdered its own people. Isn't that one of the reasons Blair gave for waging war on Iraq?
The ever excellent Juan Cole has written an superb expose on the top ten myths about Iraq in 2005. Click above for the full article, while the ten are summarised below:1. The guerrilla war is being waged only in four provinces.
2. Iraqi Sunnis voting in the December 15 election is a sign that they are being drawn into the political process and might give up the armed insurgency
3. The guerrillas are winning the war against US forces.
4. Iraqis are grateful for the US presence and want US forces there to help them build their country.
5. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, born in Iran in 1930, is close to the Iranian regime in Tehran
6. There is a silent majority of middle class, secular-minded Iraqis who reject religious fundamentalism.
7. The new Iraqi constitution is a victory for Western, liberal values in the Middle East.
8. Iraq is already in a civil war, so it does not matter if the US simply withdraws precipitately, since the situation is as bad as it can get.
9. The US can buy off the Iraqis now supporting guerrilla action against US troops.
10. The Bush administration wanted free elections in Iraq.
I didn't think that Ken would be so willing to pursue the agenda of those above him. The only explanation must be that he is being fed misinformation by an increasingly politically controlled and motivated police force:
Terrorists have tried to attack London 10 times in the four years since September 11, the mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, claimed yesterday, but he insisted the threat to the capital was disorganised and not part of an international conspiracy.
Mr Livingstone said eight attacks had been foiled between the attacks on New York in 2001 and the tube and bus bombings in London in July this year. Two attacks had been attempted since the July 7 deaths, he said, including the failed attempt to detonate bombs on the transport network two weeks later.
Mr Livingstone, speaking on BBC Radio 4, did not provide any further details about the attempted attacks, and his office referred further inquiries to the Metropolitan police.
The Met have been reluctant to disclose numbers and dates of foiled attacks for security reasons. Sir Ian Blair, the Met commissioner, did, however, disclose earlier this month that the authorities had thwarted several attacks since July 7, resulting in charges and some deportations.
President George Bush said two months ago that 10 al-Qaida plots had been foiled in the past four years, including three involving UK targets.
It has to be remembered of course that London as the capital of Britain has always faced threats from disaffected people of all political persuasions and beliefs, as Red Ken makes clear. Some of these supposed attacks could be real, and nothing to do with al-Qaida or any groups with a similar ideology. However, many of these are undoubtedly likely to be either non-existent, or plots such as the "ricin" one, where there was never any ricin and even if there had been, Kamel Bourgass had no idea how to actually use it.
What is the point of this scaremongering? Could it be that as the IPCC continues with the de Menezes inquiry, that the Met and its political masters are becoming increasingly concerned with what its findings may be? The constant reminders that London is under threat and that the police are our line of defence are made to make us remember that the real enemy is those who "hate our freedom" and not the police and parliament which continue to demand ever more draconian powers and the abolition of yet more civil liberties.