Padraig Colman

Rambling ruminations of an Irishman in Sri Lanka

Tag: David Cameron

The Mysterious Death of Daniel Morgan -Part Two

This article was published in Ceylon Today on June 25, 2021.

https://ceylontoday.lk/news/daniel-morgan-s-mysterious-death

the criminal/ media/political nexus – Gordon Brown

 

Daniel Morgan was found dead in the carpark of the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham at 9.40 pm on 10 March 1987 with an axe in his head. Morgan was a private investigator operating an agency called Southern Investigations based in Thornton Heath near Croydon in Surrey. Despite five police investigations, still no-one has been convicted of the murder. Morgan’s family have been waiting 34 years for some answers.  An independent inquiry, the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel (DMIP), chaired by Baroness Nuala O’Loan, into the Metropolitan Police’s investigation of the murder was set up eight years ago. The panel also investigated “the incidence of connections between private investigators, police officers and journalists at the former News of the World and other parts of the media, and alleged corruption involved in the linkages between them”. The report was published without redactions on June 15, 2021.

Rees at the time of the murder.

The main suspect in the case was Morgan’s business partner Jonathan Rees. Because of horrendous procedural failures by corrupt and/or monumentally incompetent Met policemen, Rees is still a free man, living with Margaret Harrison, the Thornton Heath estate agent whose affections he shared with Daniel Morgan back in 1987.

Rees and Margaret Harrison today

Rees was convicted in 2005 of planting drugs on an innocent woman. Rees had used email hacking to expose an undercover agent in Northern Ireland and Derek Haslam who had been penetrating Southern Investigations for nine years. On his release he was paid handsomely by Andy Coulson to do dirty work for the News of the World. In one year alone, the News of the World paid Rees £150,000. Andy Coulson was later paid handsomely to do dirty work for Tory leader David Cameron.

Andy Coulson

Andy Coulson was the editor of the News of the World from 2003 until 2007.  Coulson got on well with David Cameron (who became leader of the Conservative Party in 2005) and his former Bullingdon Club buddy George Osborne (who became Chancellor of the Exchequer when Cameron became prime minister in 2010) despite publishing stories about them taking drugs. A PR man had said that one of Coulson’s most useful attributes was his ability to “screw you over and make you feel good about it”.

When current prime minister, Boris Johnson, was running for mayor of London in 2007, Coulson helped with the campaign but still wrote about Johnson: “for a posh bloke who went to Eton, he has an uncanny popular touch. He also has an uncanny habit of cheating on his wife.” Coulson cheated on his own wife with Rebekah Wade (now Brooks) when she was his editor at the News of the World.

Coulson resigned the editorship following the conviction of one of the News of the World’s reporters for phone-hacking. Despite this, David Cameron saw fit to give Coulson a £140,000 a year job as his communications director. Coulson did eventually lose that job when he was sent to prison. In June 2014 at the Old Bailey, Coulson was found guilty of a charge of conspiracy to intercept voicemails (phone-hacking).  One of the phones hacked was that of Milly Dowler, the thirteen-year-old girl who was brutally raped and murdered by Levi Bellfield. Coulson was sentenced on 4 July 2014 to 18 months in prison. He only served five months.

Coulson copped

Rebekah Brooks

Brooks was born Rebekah Wade. She married actor Ross Kemp (who played the thuggish Grant Mitchell in the teledrama EastEnders) in June 2002 in Las Vegas, while she was editor of The Sun.

On 3 November 2005, it was reported that Brooks had been arrested following an alleged assault on Kemp. She was released without charge, and the police took no further action. The Sun had been running a campaign against domestic violence at the time. She married former racehorse trainer and author Charlie Brooks in 2009. The couple are key members of the so-called Chipping Norton set, which includes David Cameron.

Brooks has something in common with our beloved CBK – in her entry in Who’s Who, she claimed, to much amusement, that she had studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. Brooks joined the News of the World in 1989 as a secretary. She became a features writer and then deputy editor. In 2000, she became the UK’s youngest editor. She prepared for an interview with James Hewitt, a lover of Princess Diana, by bugging his hotel room.  She oversaw the News of the World’s campaign of “naming and shaming” suspected sex offenders launched in the wake of the murder of Sarah Payne. As part of the campaign the phone of Sarah’s mother was hacked. The campaign was described as “grossly irresponsible” journalism by the Chief Constable of Gloucestershire, Tony Butler. 

In March 2003, Rebekah Brooks, then editor of The Sun, and Andy Coulson, editor of News of the World testified together before the Commons media select committee. Brooks responded to a question about payments to the police saying that the organization paid the police for information in the past. Asked if she would do so again in the future, her answer was pre-empted by Coulson who stated that, if there is a clear public interest, they would continue with that practice. It was pointed out to Coulson that it was always illegal to pay police officers, regardless of public interest.

In September 2015, Brooks was confirmed as CEO of News UK, the renamed News International, re-establishing the working relationship with News Corp founder and chairman Rupert Murdoch. Brooks and Murdoch’s daughter, Elizabeth, were frequent guests at David Cameron’s Chipping Norton home.

Phone Hacking

By 2002, British newspapers were making frequent use of an organised trade in confidential personal information acquired by Illegal means. The tabloid press routinely used information illicitly gained from hacking private voicemail accounts on mobile phones and hacking computers.

Employees of the News of the World were accused of engaging in phone hacking, police bribery, and exercising improper influence in the pursuit of stories. It seems likely that reporters were engaging in illegal activities as long ago as 1987, when Daniel Morgan was killed, even though mobile phones as we know them did not exist then. (Morgan did have a car phone.) Between 1999 and 2003, several reporters were convicted for crimes including drug distribution, the theft of drugs, child pornography, planting evidence, corruption, and perverting the course of justice.

Press Intimidation

During the fourth investigation into Daniel Morgan’s death, the senior investigating officer, David Cook, told Rebekah Brooks, that he and his family were under surveillance by News of the World journalists.

Cook’s wife, also a police officer, alleged that there was a campaign of intimidation against them. The staff involved were promoted not reprimanded. The DMIP report says,  “the circumstantial evidence suggests very strongly that intrusive activity suffered by DCS Cook, his wife Jacqui Hames, and their family was arranged by former DS Sid Fillery and Alex Marunchak.”

Jacqui Hames on Crimewatch

 

Alex Marunchak was the star crime writer at the News of the World, who became an executive.

He was the main point of contact at the newspaper for Rees and Fillery. It was alleged that Marunchak commissioned surveillance by shady investigator Glen Mulcaire on Cook in order to “subvert” the detective’s investigation into Morgan’s murder.

Mulcaire was the lowlife who hacked Milly Dowler’s phone. He was jailed for hacking in 2007.

Millie Dowler

Cook has been described as the only policeman the Morgan family trusted and has been described as a scapegoat by many commentators on the Morgan case, but the DMIP report is harshly critical of his actions and say they have information which makes a strong case for him being prosecuted.

According to the Guardian, two executives at the News of the World set up a business registered at Southern Investigations’ address. Former senior Met officers were given jobs writing columns in Murdoch’s papers. Lord Stevens, the former Met commissioner, went on to write for the News of the World after his retirement in 2005.

A witness told detectives that Morgan was in discussions with the News of the World to sell a story about police corruption. News UK, the company that owns Murdoch’s British newspapers, including the august Times, as well as the gutter Sun, declined to comment.

The Death of Daniel Morgan Part One

 

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on June 18, 2021

https://ceylontoday.lk/news/daniel-morgan-s-unsolved-murder

Daniel Morgan was found dead in the carpark of the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham in 1987 with an axe in his head. Three blows had been delivered with the blade of the axe to the back of the head followed by a final blow to the side. The murder weapon was a £45 Chinese-manufacture Diamond Brand chopping axe.

Morgan’s family have been waiting 34 years for some answers.  An independent inquiry chaired by Baroness O’Loan was set up eight years ago. The panel started work formally on 17 September 2013 and expected to report within a year of “the documentation being made available”. The final documents were not received from the Metropolitan Police until March 2021. Publication of the panel’s report, which was due on May 25, 2021, was further delayed, because the current Home Secretary, Priti Patel, insisted that the report be handed to her for vetting before publication.

Southern Investigations

Daniel Morgan had an exceptional memory for small details, such as car registration numbers. In 1984, he set up a detective agency, Southern Investigations, in Thornton Heath, southern Greater London near Croydon and ran it with his business partner Jonathan Rees. Morgan had some police contacts, and his work was mainly low-level. 

At the time of his murder, Morgan was having an affair with a woman named Margaret Harrison, an estate agent with two teenage daughters, and had met her at 6:30pm at Regan’s Wine Bar on Brigstock Road, in Thornton Heath shortly before the murder.

 

Before his body was found at around 9.40, Morgan had been drinking in the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham with Jonathan Rees. At 8.00pm on the evening of 9 March, the day before his murder, Morgan met Rees in the Golden Lion, a pub he did not usually frequent, and was surprised to find to find Detective Sergeant Sid Fillery of Catford CID with Rees. Morgan got into an argument with the other two because he thought dealing with corrupt policemen was bad for business.

After Morgan’s body was found, the detective assigned to take the lead in the investigation was none other than Sid Fillery. Fillery failed to disclose that he was moonlighting for Southern Investigations or that he and Rees were close friends. A month later, Fillery and two other Catford officers were arrested and questioned on suspicion of perverting the course of justice.

Jonathan Rees

Rees was married to a divorcée called Sharon, with whom he had two children. Sharon Rees had two brothers called Garry and Glenn Vian, described in a Crown Prosecution Service document as “part of the criminal fraternity”. The Vian brothers were employed by Rees at Southern Investigations as “security guards”. Three weeks after the murder, Rees, Fillery, the Vian brothers, and two other CID officers were arrested on suspicion of murder, but all were later released without charge. Garry Vian was jailed for 14 years in 2005 for drugs smuggling. Former Met constable Dean Vian, nephew of Garry and Glenn, said on camera for a TV programme, “My mum told me that Glenn had killed him, and he was paid by Jonathan Rees to do that. … Jonathan Rees and Daniel Morgan had a falling out because they were both with the same woman.” Alastair Morgan, Daniel’s brother, told the programme he absolutely didn’t believe the “love triangle”, Morgan/Harrison/Rees, had anything to do with the murder.

Glenn Vian died in June 2020.

Police Corruption

It seems likely that Morgan was about to expose a case of extensive drug-related police corruption implicating Rees, Fillery and other South London Met officers. Understandably Morgan did not trust the police to investigate; he himself had influential press contacts (among them, at the Daily Mirror, Alastair Campbell, who later became Tony Blair’s press secretary) and might eventually have decided to sell his story.

Morgan was prepared to be “flexible” about the law while pursuing his routine trade of debt collection and snooping on errant spouses. However, Rees seems to have operated at a different level of sleaze. Morgan had a low opinion of the police. Rees loved to socialize with Met officers at Masonic gala events in Croydon.

Failed Investigations

In April 1987, Jonathan Rees was arrested on suspicion of the murder of Daniel Morgan but was released without charge. Between Morgan’s death in 1987 and 2008, five police inquiries were conducted. There were allegations of police corruption, drug trafficking and robbery. Later, police arrested Jonathan Rees and several others on suspicion of murder, along with a serving police officer suspected of leaking information. In 2009 the trial began at the Old Bailey. In March 2011, the Director of Public Prosecutions abandoned the case, and the three accused were acquitted, including Jonathan Rees. The case involved some of the longest legal arguments submitted in a trial in the English criminal courts. Nicholas Hilliard QC, for the prosecution, said that defence lawyers might not be able to examine all the documents in the case (750,000 pages dating back over 24 years) in order to ensure a fair trial.

In 2017, four men sued the Met in the high court alleging malicious prosecution. Among them were Rees and his brothers-in-law, Glenn and Garry Vian. They denied charges of murder. Those three lost their case against the Met but won an appeal in 2018 and were awarded £414,000 between them. Sid Fillery worked on the first murder investigation. He had close ties to Rees, and he went on to replace Morgan at Southern Investigations.  A report by the Metropolitan Police Authority, the body that used to oversee the Met, said: “In the following months there were rumours and allegations of high-level police corruption and masonic links surrounding the investigation, but no charges resulted.”

Corrupt Journalists

It seems likely that reporters were engaging in illegal activities as long ago as 1987, when Daniel Morgan was killed, even though smart phones did not exist then. Between 1999 and 2003, several reporters were convicted for crimes including drug distribution, the theft of drugs, child pornography, planting evidence, corruption, and perverting the course of justice. When he was editor of the News of the World, Andy Coulson hired Jonathan Rees after he was released from a five-year prison sentence in 2005 and paid him £150,00 a year for dubious services. Rees had been convicted of planting cocaine to incriminate an innocent woman. Andy Coulson later became David Cameron’s press secretary.

During the fourth investigation into Morgan’s death, the senior investigating officer, Dave Cook, told Rebekah Brooks, when she was editor of the News of the World, that he and his family were under surveillance by News of the World journalists. Cook’s wife, also a police officer, alleged that there was a campaign of intimidation against them. The staff involved were promoted not reprimanded. Brooks and her husband were frequent guests at prime minister David Cameron’s house.

David Cook

 

O’Loan Inquiry

An independent panel chaired by Baroness Nuala O’Loan was tasked to look at “police involvement in Daniel Morgan’s murder; the role played by police corruption in protecting those responsible for the murder … and the failure to confront that corruption”. The panel also investigated “the incidence of connections between private investigators, police officers and journalists at the former News of the World and other parts of the media, and alleged corruption involved in the linkages between them”. Morgan’s killing might be connected to his knowledge of extensive and high-level corruption within the Metropolitan Police and dirty dealings by Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World. Former prime minister Gordon Brown coined the term “criminal media nexus”. Rupert Murdoch acquired the News of the World way back in 1969. News UK, the company that owns Murdoch’s British newspapers, including the august Times, declined to comment.

Where Are They Now?

Current home secretary Priti Patel was a guest at Rupert Murdoch’s 2016 wedding in London to Jerry Hall, former wife of Mick Jagger. Fellow cabinet minister Michael Gove was also an honoured guest.

Sid Fillery was subsequently convicted of child porn offences and now helps to run a pub in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk; Jonathan Rees lives with his mistress Margaret Harrison, yes that Margaret Harrison, in Weybridge, Surrey.

More on the “criminal/ media/political nexus” next week.

Careless People Part Two

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on June 2, 2021.

https://ceylontoday.lk/category/print-edition/columns

“They were careless people … they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

Indolent, Shambling Greed

I am not the only writer to have used the phrase “careless people” in relation to Tory politicians. The philosopher John Gray wrote a scathing article in the New Statesman in which he said that the Greensill scandal illuminates a larger truth about David Cameron’s character: “It is not so much the spectacle of indolent, shambling greed that is remarkable; it was only to be expected that a life of mere affluence would fail to satisfy Cameron’s mammoth sense of entitlement. Instead, it is the credulity he displayed.” New Statesman editor, Jason Cowley, writes: “It was under Mr Cameron that the UK pursued destructive austerity, a doomed renegotiation with the EU, a botched reorganisation of the NHS, dysfunctional welfare reform, an unworkable net migration target and a delusionary ‘golden era’ with China. The bid to make Greensill Capital a virtual arm of the British state is but the latest fantasy that has unravelled.” Cameron was foolish enough to claim in a new foreword to the paperback edition of his memoirs that austerity left Britain better-prepared for the pandemic! As Cowley explains, “austerity enfeebled the state. Real-terms reserves for public health spending in England fell by 30 per cent from 2015 to 2019, while the prevalence of diabetes and obesity rose. Local authorities, which in less centralised countries were crucial to the pandemic response, lost an average of 60p in every pound of government grants from 2010 to 2020. Cuts to schools increased class sizes, making social distancing harder.”

Aditya Chakrabortty in the Guardian was also recently quoting the “careless people” passage from F Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece The Great Gatsby, but he was onto this theme eight years ago. “The top 1% of Britons were taking 15% of all income received in the country. This cash is then turned into houses, shares and other assets so that now the top 1% hold over 50% of all Britain’s marketable wealth. And so, inequality is passed down the generations. Today’s headlines offer endless examples. The average London house now costs over half a million, or more than 19 times what the average British worker makes in a year.” 

Cameron Family Money

Cameron’s grandfather Donald was a director at the stockbroking house Panmure Gordon. When he died in 1958, he left £57,000, which would be worth a million today. David Cameron’s father, Ian, also worked at Panmure Gordon and was reported to have trousered £2m when the company was sold to an American firm. He set up Blairmore Holdings Inc in 1982. In 2009, his personal fortune was estimated by the Sunday Times as £ ten million. There have been credible allegations that he had large amounts buried in tax havens.

Cameron is now pleading hard times. “There isn’t really a roadmap for an ex-prime minister…particularly a young one …”   

Bullingdon Bullies

George Osborne and Natalie Rowe 1994

 

The grand old days of Osborne and Cameron’s austerity.

 

Cameron, his Chancellor George Osborne and current prime minister Boris Johnson were all members of the exclusive Bullingdon Club at Oxford. The Wisden Cricketer reports that the Bullingdon is “ostensibly one of the two original Oxford University cricket teams but it actually used cricket merely as a respectable front for the mischievous, destructive or self-indulgent tendencies of its members”. On 12 May 1894, after dinner, Bullingdon members smashed almost all the glass of the lights and 468 windows in Peckwater Quad of Christ Church, along with the blinds and doors of the building, and again on 20 February 1927. Today, the club often books private dining rooms under an assumed name, as most restaurateurs are cautious of the Club’s reputation as being the cause of considerable drunken damage during the course of their dinners. Andrew Gimson, biographer of Boris Johnson, reported about the club in the 1980s: “I don’t think an evening would have ended without a restaurant being trashed and being paid for in full, very often in cash. […] A night in the cells would be regarded as being par for a Buller man and so would debagging anyone who really attracted the irritation of the Buller men.” In December 2005, Bullingdon Club members smashed 17 bottles of wine, “every piece of crockery,” and a window at the 15th-century White Hart pub in Fyfield near Oxford.

Chippings off the Old Block

In 2012, The Daily Telegraph identified a number of people as being part of a “Chipping Norton Set”. The set included the Camerons, Rupert Murdoch’s daughter Elizabeth and her husband Matthew Freud, Rebekah Brooks, former CEO of Murdoch’s News International and her husband, old-Etonian racehorse trainer and thriller writer Charlie Brooks. Stephen Glover, columnist with the Daily Mail, first coined the term ‘Chipping Norton set’ to describe a privileged bunch of residents and their elite habits. The main protagonists quickly became synonymous with the public view of an out-of-touch ruling class, pandering to their own whims while the nation suffered austerity. Scott Fitzgerald would have found much material here.

Elizabeth Murdoch and former husband Matthew Freud

Rebekah Brooks and Rupert Murdoch

 

Hackers

Former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and her husband Charlie Brooks arrive at the Old Bailey on March 3, 2014.She escaped jail and continues to flourish.

Brooks was involved in a phone hacking scandal for which News of the World editor Andy Coulson went to jail. These awful people hacked the phone of 13-year-old Milly Dowler who had been raped and brutally murdered.

In October 2013, it was revealed that Coulson had had an affair with Rebekah Brooks that lasted from 1998 to 2007. After David Cameron became Prime Minister in May 2010, he appointed Coulson as Director of Communications for the government at 10 Downing Street. His pay was £140,000, making him the highest paid special advisor. The judge hearing Coulson’s trial was critical of the prime minister, pondering whether the intervention was out of ignorance or deliberate, and demanded an explanation.

Private investigator Daniel Morgan was found dead in the car park of the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham in 1987 with an axe embedded in his head. His killing is thought to have been motivated by his knowledge of extensive and high-level corruption within the Metropolitan Police and dirty dealings by Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World. Former prime minister Gordon Brown coined the term “criminal media nexus”.

When he was editor of the News of the World, Andy Coulson hired Morgan’s business partner Jonathan Rees after he was released from a five-year prison sentence in 2005. He had been convicted of planting cocaine to incriminate an innocent woman. Rees was a suspect in the Morgan investigation.

Current home secretary Priti Patel is insisting that the independent panel, chaired by Baroness Nuala O’Loan, investigating the murder of Daniel Morgan, hand its report to her for vetting before publishing it.

 

Baroness O’Loan

Publication of the report, which was due on May 25, eight years after the inquiry was set up, will be further delayed. Patel was a guest at Rupert Murdoch’s 2016 wedding in London to Jerry Hall, former wife of Mick Jagger.

 

 

Priti Patel, the poison dwarf, at St. Bride’s Church on Fleet Street,  05 March 2016

More about the Daniel Morgan case next week.

Careless People Part One

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on May 25, 2021.

https://ceylontoday.lk/news/careless-people

David Cameron is under fire for his dealings with Lex Greensill

David Cameron was not the perfect guest when he visited Sri Lanka in November 2013. He tried to get the Commonwealth summit meeting to focus on human rights abuses and war crimes allegedly perpetrated by the Sri Lankan government in the closing stages of the successful campaign against the LTTE. He visited Jaffna and stirred up disaffected Tamils. I got the impression that his concern for the allegedly oppressed was not totally sincere.

Sincerity and a respect for truth are not notable elements of the Cameron character. Maverick Labour MP Dennis Skinner was expelled from the House of Commons for referring to him as Dodgy Dave. Recent events have proved the Beast of Bolsover to be accurate in his characterization.

Dodgy Dave Dodges Dodgy Questions

Cameron dodged questions throughout the hearings of two separate parliamentary committees (Treasury select committee and Public Accounts Committee) lasting a total of four hours on May 11, and May 13, 2021.The former prime minister was being grilled about his activities as a lobbyist for Greensill Capital, which involved him bombarding ministers and civil servants with needy pleas for favours for the dodgy company. Labour’s Angela Eagle said Cameron’s behaviour was “more like stalking than lobbying”. The opposition leader, Keir Starmer has had little to chuckle about recently, but he permitted himself a little joke at Cameron’s expense, describing him as “a former prime minister and now I suspect a former lobbyist”. Indeed, Cameron was not very good as a prime minister and pretty useless as a lobbyist, although he might have made money for himself. Dodgy Dave dodged questions about how much Greensill paid him for his efforts. He admitted it was more than his £150,000 salary as PM. He claimed that reports he stood to gain £60m were “absurd”. Labour’s Rushanara Ali told him, “It gives me no pleasure to say this, but your reputation is in tatters.”.

A Word in your Ear

In February 2010, Cameron promised to end the kind of corruption of which he is now accused. “We all know how it works. The lunches, the hospitality, the quiet word in your ear, the ex-ministers and ex-advisers for hire, helping big business find the right way to get its way. In this party, we believe in competition, not cronyism.” Eleven years on, how does that sound?

Honest Dave told the committee, “I have spent most of my adult life in public service. I believe in it deeply.” One can translate that to mean that he had never done a proper job in his life before he became the UK’s youngest prime minister since Lord Liverpool in 1812. Cameron became prime minister in at the age of 43 in 2010. He had been leader of the Conservative Party since 2005 when he was 39.

He enjoyed a gilded life. Born in London to an upper-middle-class family, he went to Eton and in 1988, got a first at Brasenose, Oxford (a source of bitterness to his former schoolmate Boris Johnson who only got 2.1 at Balliol).

He went straight from Oxford to the Conservative Research Department where he worked until 1993, at the later stages working for the Conservative prime minister, John Major. In 1994, before he became an MP, he went to work for Carlton Communications because believed a stint in the private sector would benefit his political career. He got the job through personal contacts such as Samantha Cameron’s mother who was married to William Waldorf Astor III, 4th Viscount Astor. Executives at Carlton Towers could eat gourmet meals in a private dining room, served by a butler summoned by pressing a button under the dining table. One senior business journalist who dealt with Cameron extensively describes him as “thoroughly unpleasant” and not a very efficient press officer. “Cameron’s affable demeanour is only skin-deep; he cultivated only those who could prove useful. “Cameron did this PR job until 2001 and this was the only work experience he had outside the cosy world of Westminster.

Human Rights

Although he made a show of distaste for the Sri Lankan government’s human rights record his own record is distasteful.

In 1989, while Nelson Mandela was still in prison under the apartheid regime, Cameron accepted a trip to South Africa paid for by an anti-sanctions lobby firm. A spokesperson for Cameron responded by saying that the Conservative Party was at that time opposed to sanctions against South Africa and that his trip was a fact-finding mission. However, the Independent reported that Cameron’s then superior at Conservative Research Department called the trip “jolly”, saying that “it was all terribly relaxed, just a little treat, a perk of the job. The Botha regime was attempting to make itself look less horrible, but I don’t regard it as having been of the faintest political consequence.” Cameron distanced himself from his party’s history of opposing sanctions against the regime.

It always seemed very odd that Saudi Arabia, a nation noted for a judicial system which included public beheadings and amputations and stoning of adulteresses, should be a member of the UNHRC which was condemning Sri Lanka for human rights abuses. According to WikiLeaks, Cameron initiated a secret deal with Saudi Arabia ensuring both countries were elected to the UNHRC. In 2015, Cameron’s government announced “firm political support” for the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen against the Shi’a Houthis, re-supplying the Saudi military with weapons and providing them with training.

Libya

The foreign affairs select committee, which had a majority of Conservative members, published a damning report in September 2016 on Britain’s disastrous intervention in Libya in 2011. Cameron refused to give evidence to the select committee. In one of his few reflections on the debacle, which turned Libya into a failed state exporting thousands of refugees, he blamed the Libyan people for failing to take their chance of democracy.

 

The result of Cameron’s decisions “was political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal warfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of Gaddafi regime weapons across the region and the growth of Isil [Islamic State] in north Africa”.

The committee concluded that the intervention was carried out with no proper intelligence analysis, drifted into an unannounced goal of regime change and shirked its moral responsibility to help reconstruct the country. Sir Alan Duncan, a Foreign Office minister, is quoted as describing the plans for postwar planning as fanciful rot and an unrealistic desktop exercise. The report concurs with Barack Obama’s assessment that Britain’s intervention was “a shitshow”, adding that Cameron stopped paying attention and became “distracted by a range of other things”..

Jonathan Freedland wrote in the Guardian, “It all adds yet more colour to the sketch history is likely to draw of Cameron. That he was hopelessly short-termist, too often acting for the moment, doing what he needed to get out of an immediate hole but failing to think things through. Sometimes, in the day-to-day tumble of domestic politics, that approach did little harm and served him well. It made him agile. But when blood and lives were at stake, it was a fatal flaw.”

The committee’s main charge was that Cameron allowed the original mission to creep into an undeclared pursuit of regime change in Libya. We in Sri Lanka are lucky that he did not get very with changing our regime.

More next week

A Tale of Two Armies Part Three

This article was published in Ceylon Today on April 30, 2021

https://ceylontoday.lk/news/part-three-a-tale-of-two-armies

The main purpose and outcome of war is injuring. Elaine Scarry

 

A man called Johnny Mercer was the subject of many headlines in the UK press recently. This is not the Johnny Mercer who brought us such wonderful songs as Moon River, Autumn Leaves and Come Rain or Come Shine. This Johnny Mercer is a Conservative MP and was a government minister. He made a bit of a splash and some might have seen him as a hero for saying that Boris Johnson’s government was a “cesspit”, adding it was the “most distrustful, awful environment I’ve ever worked in”. He was going to resign from his ministerial post on a point of principle but the man with no principles got his retaliation in first and sacked him. Man with no principles versus a man with principles. One might think that Mercer was the good guy but, hold on. Let us look at what Mercer’s point of principle was.

The Quality of Mercer

Mercer was keen to prevent British soldiers being prosecuted for war crimes. In previous articles, I have discussed a book which is extremely critical of the British army and its operations in Northern Ireland, Afghanistan and Iraq. Johnny Mercer gets a lot of attention in The Changing of the Guard by Simon Akam.

Mercer was an army man who completed three tours of Afghanistan and retired from service in December 2013 with the rank of captain. He was born in Dartford on 17 August 1981 and is the son of a banker and a nurse. Mercer worked briefly in the City of London before joining the Royal Artillery after graduating from the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. He became a Tory MP for Plymouth Moor View in May 2015. On 28 July 2019, Mercer was appointed as Minister for Defence People and Veterans. His responsibility included armed forces personnel and veterans’ welfare. In June 2017, Mercer published We Were Warriors: One Soldier’s Story of Brutal Combat, a memoir of his service and time in Afghanistan.

In a previous article I wrote about The Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) which investigated alleged war crimes committed by British troops during the occupation of Iraq starting in 2003. Simon Akam writes that Johnny Mercer was a key force in getting IHAT closed down. In his maiden speech in the House of Commons, he set his stall out to concentrate on two main areas, mental health and provision for veterans. The speech had an impact and Mercer started receiving letters complaining about IHAT. Mercer got the impression that junior ranks were being targeted as scapegoats while more senior, well-connected former officers were being ignored. As Nick Cohen put it in the London Observer, “In Johnny Mercer, the Conservatives had a political entrepreneur ready to turn legitimate complaint into political capital.” Mercer was among the majority who voted against a motion calling for the extension of free schools meals.

Another person who has been in the news lately is former prime minister David Cameron who has been accused of corruption. According to the London Observer: “The exposure of Cameron’s links to the fallen financier Lex Greensill have dragged a man once regarded as too privileged to think about earning serious money into the cesspit of financial sleaze which he had said he was determined to root out of public life.”

This is the David Cameron who visited Sri Lanka in November 2013 and told the Sri Lankan government he would join calls for an international inquiry into human rights abuses during the nation’s civil war. In January 2016, Cameron asked the National Security Council to produce a plan to stop “spurious claims” against British troops. Mercer was the chair of a select committee investigating solicitors who were pursuing cases against former soldiers. He was leaking material to the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail.

Vexation

On March 23, 2021, the House of Commons passed the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill by 345 votes to 260. This is designed to prevent soldiers accused of war crimes being brought to justice. In June, an independent British investigator looking into allegations of misconduct by British troops in Iraq said that all but one of thousands of complaints – which ranged from rape and torture to mock executions and other atrocities – had been dropped.

Mercer claimed that his point of principle was about treatment of soldiers who had served in Northern Ireland. Did he not notice the name of the bill referred to “Overseas Operations”? Northern Ireland is a part of the UK.

To be fair, the legislation got stuck in the Lords as every retired general, admiral and military judge you can name warned the Conservatives they risked bringing “the UK armed forces into disrepute”. Former chief of the defence staff, field marshal Lord Guthrie, said the bill “would increase the danger to British soldiers if Britain is perceived as reluctant to act in accordance with long-established international law”.

Different Rules for SLA

Much of the propaganda against the SLA stems from falsehoods propagated by Gordon Weiss. However, in his book The Cage, even Weiss has good things to say about the SLA. “It remains a credit to many of the front-line SLA soldiers that, despite odd cruel exceptions, they so often seem to have made the effort to draw civilians out from the morass of fighting ahead of them in an attempt to save lives. Soldiers yelled out to civilians, left gaps in their lines while they waved white flags to attract people forward and bodily plucked the wounded from foxholes and bunkers. Troops bravely waded into the lagoon under fire to rescue wounded people threading their way out of the battlefield or to help parents with their children and gave their rations to civilians as they lay in fields, exhausted in their first moments of safety after years of living under the roar and threat of gunfire”.

Killing for one’s Country

In her book The Body in Pain, Elaine Scarry writes, “the soldier’s primary goal is not, as is so often wrongly implied, the protection or ‘defense’ of his comrades (if it were this, he would have led those comrades to another geography): his primary purpose is the injuring of enemy soldiers; to preserve his own forces has the important but only secondary and ‘negative’ purpose of frustrating and exhausting the opponent’s achievement of his goal”. Bertrand Russell calls attention to the morally problematic statement, “I am going off to die for my country” rather than acknowledging that “I am going off to kill for my country.”

Scarry writes: “war is exceptional in human experience for sanctioning the act of killing, the act that all nations regard in peacetime as ‘criminal’”. She continues, “consenting to kill, he consents to perform (for the country) the act that would in peacetime expose his unpoliticalness and place him outside the moral space of the nation.”

“War kills; that is all it does,” writes Michael Walzer in the midst of a complex analysis of just and unjust wars.  Walzer reveals that Allied planes during World War II were incapable of targeting their bombs with any more precision than a five-mile radius, yet the misleading term “strategic bombing” was habitually used, and the massive, wide-of-the-mark damage was then designated “unintentional,” even though it was in all instances “foreseeable.” “Being shelled is the main work of the infantry soldier,” writes American poet Louis Simpson about his experience in World War II.

Led by Donkeys

A few from the lower ranks had their knuckles rapped for individual acts of brutality but no one who created the mess was punished in any way. Indeed, as Akam notes they were rewarded for their incompetence.  “All those who ran that blighted campaign continue to move up the promotional system unimpeded.” As a result of the Iraq and Afghan Wars, “Britain developed a globally unprecedented web of accountability measures for individual malfeasance on the battlefield. Yet it did so while establishing almost zero accountability for the high-level decision-making that led to the prosecution of two deeply troubled campaigns”.

Akam explains why he wrote his book. “I thought that perhaps this idea that there was glory in the profession of arms was not just an inevitability of adolescence, but a violent trick, the revenge of old men upon the young. There is little redemption through violence to be had in foreign fields, and legs blown off are gone for good. It was then that I knew I needed to write this”.

Brexit Part Two

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on Thursday July 14 2016

Colman's Column3

 

650

Grievance Vote against the Elites

When Mrs Thatcher came to office in 1979, manufacturing accounted for almost 30% of Britain’s national income and employed 6.8 million people; by 2010, it accounted for 11% and employed 2.5 million. In no other major economy was industrial collapse so drastic, speedy and long-lasting. There used to be a working class; there used to be a working class culture. Ian Jack writes about the life of the manufacturing towns: “much of the country’s former character was also owed to them – non-conformist chapels, brass bands, giant vegetable championships, self-improvement, association football. Surely nothing as significant to the nation’s economy, culture or politics would ever emerge from them again? And then it did: grievance.”

British politicians in the past had a hinterland: Macmillan and Attlee served with honour and were wounded in the First World War. They saw the poverty in the land and tried to do something about. Today’s politicians go straight from university to think tanks or to work for politicians. They have little contact with the real world. Johnson and Gove were journalists who wrote op eds not well-researched investigations.  Politicians like Cameron, Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith see it as a noble mission to dismantle the welfare state that Attlee and Macmillan built and privatise public good for the profit of their cronies. In his 1991 book The Rise and Decline of the English Working Class 1918-1990, Eric Hopkins shows how the affluence of the Macmillan years became the bleakness of the Thatcher years. Manufacturing industry was replaced by the service and financial industries and the working class lost its sense of community with unemployment and the emasculation of the trade unions. There is an unpleasant view on YouTube of Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party haranguing fellow MEPs, telling them they do not know about real life and have never done a proper job in their lives. The man sitting behind him was a cardiac surgeon who was born in a Gulag. Farage was a commodities broker.

Sunderland was the first to declare a result in the referendum and it was overwhelmingly for leaving as were many other areas devastated by Thatcherism and its aftermath – areas kept alive by massive EU subsidies. Wales as a whole voted to leave. Michael Sheen, the Welsh-born actor (who played the role of Tony Blair) from Port Talbot, tweeted: “Wales votes to trust a new and more rightwing Tory leadership to invest as much money into its poorer areas as EU has been doing.” Many people voted Leave as a way out of seemingly hopeless circumstances. Cornwall, which voted solidly for Leave, has already demanded British government “protection”.

Economic Consequences

Standard & Poor’s stripped Britain of its triple-A credit rating. The Conservative Party set great store by London’s position as the world’s leading financial centre. Banks are preparing to shift jobs out of London amid the uncertainty about whether the UK can keep its “passporting” rights allowing them to operate across the EU. Ironically, although the UK was proud of keeping out of the euro, leaving the EU could mean the City will have rules imposed upon it by eurozone countries.

There is no doubt that some financial services jobs will be relocated to Dublin, Frankfurt, and Paris. US bank JP Morgan has warned 4,000 jobs will go from the UK and HSBC has said 1,000 City jobs will move to France. An Irish friend long resident in France tells me that Paris estate agents are being swamped with enquiries from large financial institutions in London looking for apartments for their personnel. “Whatever Osborne might say, that is the reality”. Rumours are sweeping the City that alternative trading sites are being set up in a number of other financial centres, including Luxembourg.

A survey by the Institute of Directors (IoD), found that nearly two-thirds of those polled said the outcome of the referendum was negative for their business. A quarter of those polled were putting hiring plans on hold, while 5% said they were about to make workers redundant. One in five respondents, out of a poll of more than 1,000 business leaders, were considering moving some of their operations outside of the UK.

There will be an immediate, and downward, impact upon GDP as uncertainty about the UK’s terms of trade with the rest of the world will deter even British firms from investing. If businesses stop investing there will be less employment in the UK economy. This will have a bad effect on consumer spending.

Immigration, Stupid!

Many in Ebbw Vale, the constituency of those left-wing icons Nye Bevan and Michael Foot, voted UKIP in the last general election – a town with almost no immigrants that voted to get the immigrants out. A recent survey showed that 77% of UK citizens are concerned about immigration above any other political/economic topic – and concern is strongest and most widespread in constituencies with virtually no recent immigration.

One can, without wanting to join a fascist party, empathise with those white working class people who feel in their gut that decisions that they were powerless to influence were made by people who were cushioned from the consequences of those decisions. One can understand their sense of insecurity as they see familiar areas changing because of immigration. I was shocked to find that the part of my hometown, Gloucester, which had been the birthplace of the poet and composer, Ivor Gurney, was full of Muslims and mosques. However, in the early 50s it had been full of West Indians.

The austere and donnish classicist, Enoch Powell, had dockers marching through the streets in his support. In the sixties, he became the unlikely spokesman for the beleaguered white working class, even winning the endorsement of Eric Clapton. Because he was a contrarian and mischief-maker, it is likely that Powell took delight in raising issues that both parties shrouded in complicit silence. His “rivers of blood” speech raised matters of real concern. In particular, he was right to suggest that areas like Wolverhampton were experiencing acute problems in adjusting to the concentration of recent immigrants.

Whether or not people voting Leave had legitimate concerns about immigration, there is no doubt that the referendum result seems to be giving licence to racists. Many MPs received reports from their constituencies and communities of migrants being intimidated or “told they need to go home”.  Many people, whose parents or grandparents were born in the UK, now say they feel less secure.

Boris Johnson tells us in his Daily Telegraph column (for which he gets paid 5,000 pounds a week) that he wants a “balanced and humane points-based” immigration system, but that’s for the extremely indeterminate future – and everyone can meanwhile look forward to ‘intense and intensifying’ co-operation with Europe, and opportunities to live, travel, work and study on the continent just as they please. The only pledge the Leavites could honour is a points-based immigration system, which the UK has had since 2008.

A likely scenario is that many elderly people living abroad will have to return to the UK, thereby placing a burden on the NHS (which will not be getting the extra funding promised by the Leavites), while young people currently working and paying taxes will leave the UK.

Conclusion

I respect anybody’s right to vote the way they choose. I am angry at the hypocrisy of those who are dismantling the welfare state and the NHS for the profit of their cronies but pretending to be saving the nation from Brussels bureaucracy.

Many who voted to leave the EU blamed immigrants for their reduced circumstances. There are real problems in the areas that voted to leave. Those problems were not caused by the EU or by immigration. They were caused by the deliberate policies of successive UK governments.

It is distressing to watch the rancour generated by this referendum. George Szirtes is a distinguished poet who found a welcome in England when his family was displaced by the Hungarian uprising in 1956. George sees a very different country today and finds it hard to forgive the Leavites: “You have changed not only my life but a great many people’s lives, both here and elsewhere, for the worse. I am not going to shake your hand for that.”

 

 

 

Brexit Part One

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on Thursday July 7 2016.

Colman's Column3

George Bernard Shaw, an Irishman, once wrote: “Do not believe the laws of God were suspended for England because you were born here.”

david-cameron-487174

David Cameron has post-dated his resignation as prime minister of the UK until October. English football manager, Roy Hodgson, resigned immediately after his team put in an appalling performance in the European Championship against Iceland.  Iceland has a population of 330,000 and 100 professional players. Diehard England football fans always think that this time the World Cup or the Euros will be different – until they’re not.

 

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 03:  Roy Hodgson, manager of England looks on prior to the International friendly match between England and Norway at Wembley Stadium on September 3, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

Many in the EU will be grateful for the UK’s departure, breathing a sigh of relief that they will be spared British exceptionalism and superiority. They will be grateful that the fantasy that Britain is doing the EU a favour is at an end.

In the early 90s, I was talking to a EU insider who compared the behaviour of delegates from the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The Irish went to all the social events in Brussels and got to know everybody, and generally got what they wanted by way of charm and intelligence and working the system. The Brits complained a lot and went to bed early.

Cameron’s Legacy

David Cameron promised to have a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU in order to appease the Eurosceptics in the Conservative Party – those John Major called the “bastards”. This cynical ploy has not only led to the possible fragmentation of the EU, with far-right parties, which are strongly represented in the European Parliament, calling for similar exit referenda in their own nations, it certainly means the end of the UK.

Scotland, Northern Ireland and most major cities, including London, voted Remain. The referendum on Scottish independence in September 2014 resulted in a victory for those wanting to stay in the UK. I warned at the time that, although the victory could not be challenged, there could be serious consequences if the views of the 44% who wanted Scottish independence within the EU were not considered. In the general election of May 2015, the Scottish National Party won 56 of the 59 Scottish seats to become the third largest party in the Commons.

Cameron’s legacy on Ireland could be an end to the peace process. An important element of the Good Friday Agreement was that the terrorists’ goal of a united Ireland was subsumed  because the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland were both co-operating within the EU. Cameron’s legacy will be the re-erecting of the border between the six counties and the 26 counties – with all the tensions that will bring. Another scenario, however, is that Northern Ireland might join the Republic – Sinn Fein have already called for a referendum on removing the border. In a bizarre twist, Ian Paisley Jr, son of the fire-breathing pastor who bellowed “No surrender!” has advised his constituents to apply for Irish passports. Another border issue now looks rather different – in Gibraltar, 95% voted to Remain, so that outpost of doughty Englishness may become part of Spain to stay in the EU.

What Was the Plan?

Some of the more cogent arguments for remaining made by derided “experts” indicated that a divorce after 43 years of marriage was likely to be extremely complicated, messy and acrimonious. Disentangling trade agreements and establishing a host of new bi-lateral agreements with individual states will be a nightmarish task which will take decades and require the input of armies of experts and bureaucrats.

The foreign secretary, Philip Hammond warned that the Leavites needed to tell voters how they planned to reconcile “mutually incompatible” promises made during the referendum campaign over restricting immigration at the same time as continuing free trade.

That Is Not What We Meant at All

As soon as the result was known, the Leavites started backtracking. The 17 million or so who voted for Brexit were being told almost from the moment the polls closed that they weren’t going to get any of what they had voted for anyway. Michael Gove had been happy about leaving the single market and damn the economic costs. Others now concede the UK will have to stay in the single market. Daniel Hannan MEP admitted that free movement of labour might continue. While votes were still being counted, Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party confessed that it had been “a mistake” for Vote Leave to pretend that there would be an extra £350m a week for the NHS. Boris Johnson and Michael Gove’s promise to scrap VAT on energy bills were obviously fanciful with an economy slowing down and they are irrelevant when there is no government.

Take Me to your Leader

Who is in charge? Cameron quickly announced his resignation but he will be hanging on until October. Michael Gove and Theresa May have announced they will be running for the leadership of the Conservative Party but Boris Johnson has said he will not run – apart from running away from the mess he has created. The opposition Labour Party is in disarray with a majority of MPs calling on Jeremy Corbyn to resign from the leadership.

Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty


Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty sets out how an EU country might voluntarily leave the union. The UK will be the first full member state to invoke Article 50. The only precedent is Greenland leaving the EU in 1985 after two years of negotiation. It has a population of 55,000, and only one product: fish.

Failure to conclude new arrangements within two years results in the exiting state falling out of the EU with no new provisions in place. If negotiations are not concluded within two years, Britain risks having to leave the EU with no deal at all.

Leavites and Cameron seem reluctant to get the withdrawal moving. However, some EU bigwigs do not want to indulge their delaying tactics. Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU commission president, said: “It doesn’t make any sense to wait until October to try and negotiate the terms of their departure. I would like to get started immediately”. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi insisted there could be no formal or informal talks about Britain’s new relationship until the Article 50 had been activated.

The UK will have to renegotiate 80,000 pages of EU agreements, deciding those to be kept in UK law and those to jettison. This will keep parliament busy for decades. Successive governments have made swingeing cuts in the civil service supposedly in the interests of economy and efficiency. The Leavites have excoriated “Brussels bureaucracy” and it is a karmic irony that they have succeeded in unleashing a bureaucratic hell on Whitehall with too few people to deal with it.

Any Turning Back?

The result of the referendum was, legally, purely advisory. To put withdrawal into action it requires the endorsement of parliament. There is another irony in that. A major theme of the Leave campaign was bringing back sovereignty to the UK. The sovereign power of the UK is the monarch in parliament. Lord Heseltine has pointed out: “There is a majority of something like 350 in the House of Commons broadly in favour of the European relationship …There is no way you are going to get those people to say black is white and change their minds unless a) they know what the deal is and b) it has been supported either by an election or by another referendum”. Another estimate is that less than 200 of the 650 MPs supported leaving.

Geoffrey Robertson QC writes: “Before Brexit can be triggered, parliament must repeal the 1972 European Communities Act by which it voted to take us into the European Union – and MPs have every right, and indeed a duty if they think it best for Britain, to vote to stay.”

http://epaper.ceylontoday.lk/TodayEpaper.php?id=2016-07-07

 

More next week on why this happened.

An Australian Coup Part 2

Colman's Column3

This article was published in Ceylon Today on June 19 2015.

NAAGough

Rule by  Minority

Sri Lanka’s foreign minister voiced doubts about the value of this country’s long-standing commitment to the Non-Aligned Movement. The US Secretary of State is taking a strong interest in moving Sri Lanka away from China and into the US orbit. Perhaps we should remember what happened to Gough Whitlam, who, despite being democratically elected as prime minister of Australia, was deposed by the representative of the Queen of England with the connivance of the US government. Imagine if the Queen decided to sack David Cameron if he failed to get a bill through the House of Lords and replaced him with the leader of the opposition – whoever that might be.

Before Whitlam, the Australian people had been electing the “right people,” namely the Liberal-National Country Party Coalition headed for many years by Robert Menzies. Menzies was always happy to do the bidding of the US and the UK. He once said, “A sick feeling of repugnance grows in me as I near Australia.”

Three months after Whitlam’s election victory in December 1972, Senator Withers, the leader of the Liberals in the Senate warned: “the Senate may well be called upon to protect the national interest by exercising its undoubted constitutional power”. He said that the election mandate was ‘dishonest”, that Whitlam’s election was a “temporary electoral insanity” and that to claim that the Government was following the will of the people “would be a dangerous precedent for a democratic country”

Kerr’s Cur

After he was ousted, Whitlam made a speech: “Well may we say “God save the Queen”, because nothing will save the Governor-General! The Proclamation which you have just heard read by the Governor-General’s Official Secretary was countersigned Malcolm Fraser, who will undoubtedly go down in Australian history from Remembrance Day 1975 as Kerr’s cur. They won’t silence the outskirts of Parliament House, even if the inside has been silenced for a few weeks … Maintain your rage and enthusiasm for the campaign for the election now to be held and until polling day”. However, Fraser easily won the election  and remained prime minister.

Murdoch Misinformation

Whitlam wanted an independent, free and democratic government for the people of Australia  and he was elected on that manifesto. Collusion between vested interests and those who believed they were born to rule destroyed his plan. The Murdoch media ran a virulent anti Whitlam campaign because Whitlam would not do as Murdoch ordered.

murdoch

Former CIA deputy director of intelligence, Ray Cline, denies that there was any “formal” CIA covert action programme against the Whitlam government during Cline’s time in office (Cline left the CIA in 1973). The method as outlined by Cline would be for the CIA to supply damaging information which the Australian security services would leak to the media. A US diplomat stationed in Australia at the time tells how CIA station chief in Australia, John Walker would “blow in the ear” of National Country Party members, and not long afterwards, the Whitlam government would be asked embarrassing questions in Parliament. An ASIO officer said he believed that “some of the documents which helped discredit the Labour Government in the last year in office were forgeries planted by the CIA.” In 1981, a CIA contract employee, Joseph Flynn, claimed that he had been paid to forge some documents relating to the loans affair, and also to bug Whitlam’s hotel room.

CIA Involvement

Whitlam at one point complained openly about the CIA meddling in Australian domestic affairs and tried to close Pine Gap, the CIA’s surveillance centre. When Whitlam was re-elected for a second term, in 1974, the White House sent Marshall Green to Canberra as ambassador. Known as “the coupmaster”, he had played a central role in the 1965 coup against President Sukarno in Indonesia – which cost up to a million lives. One of his first speeches in Australia, to the Australian Institute of Directors, was described by an alarmed member of the audience as “an incitement to the country’s business leaders to rise against the government”.

marshallgreen

Victor Marchetti, the CIA officer who had helped set up Pine Gap, told John Pilger, “This threat to close Pine Gap caused apoplexy in the White House … a kind of Chile [coup] was set in motion.”

marchetti

Kerr had longstanding ties to Anglo-American intelligence. He was an enthusiastic member of the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom, a group exposed in Congress as being founded, funded and generally run by the CIA. The CIA “paid for Kerr’s travel, built his prestige … Kerr continued to go to the CIA for money”.

Pine Gap’s top-secret messages were decoded by a CIA contractor, TRW. One of the decoders was Christopher Boyce, who revealed that the CIA had infiltrated the Australian political and trade union elite and referred to the governor-general of Australia, Sir John Kerr, as “our man Kerr”. In 1977, Boyce was arrested in the US for selling secrets to the Soviet Union. Boyce was disillusioned by the state of America. One day, he discussing the Watergate scandal and the CIA inspired coup in Chile and  said, “You think that’s bad? You should hear what the CIA is doing to the Australians.”

kerr queen

Cline said, “I’m sure we never had a political action programme, although some people around the office were beginning to think we should.” He explains that the US and Australia had a very healthy relationship in the area of intelligence exchange. “But when the Whitlam government came to power, there was a period or turbulence to do with Alice Springs [Pine Gap].” He went on to say, “the whole Whitlam episode was very painful. He had a very hostile attitude.”

Cline outlined a scenario he saw as acceptable CIA behaviour. “You couldn’t possibly throw in a covert action programme to a country like Australia, but the CIA would go so far as to provide information to people who would bring it to the surface in Australia. For example, a Whitlam error “which they were willing to pump into the system so it might be to his damage.” Such actions do not, in Cline’s opinion, amount to a “political operation.”

Security Crisis

On 10 November 1975, Whitlam saw a top-secret telex message sourced to Theodore Shackley, the notorious head of the CIA’s East Asia division, who had helped run the coup against Salvador Allende in Chile two years earlier. The message said that the prime minister of Australia was a security risk in his own country. The day before, Kerr had visited the headquarters of the Defence Signals Directorate, Australia’s NSA, where he was briefed on the “security crisis”.

Also, in 1975, Whitlam discovered that Britain’s MI6, “were actually decoding secret messages coming into my foreign affairs office”. One of his ministers, Clyde Cameron, told Pilger: “We knew MI6 was bugging cabinet meetings for the Americans.” In the 1980s, senior CIA officers revealed that the “Whitlam problem” had been discussed “with urgency” by the CIA’s director, William Colby, and the head of MI6, Sir Maurice Oldfield. A deputy director of the CIA said: “Kerr did what he was told to do.”

Sir John Kerr, the man who sacked Whitlam succumbed to alcohol. After a drunken performance at the 1977 Melbourne Cup winner’s presentation, he was forced by public outrage to relinquish an appointment as Australian Ambassador to UNESCO. He lived in England for some years and died on 7 April 1991. Whitlam did become Ambassador to UNESCO. He died last October at the age of 98.

memorial

Malcolm Fraser became involved in international relief and humanitarian aid issues and, domestically, as a forthright liberal voice for human rights. He resigned from the Liberal Party because he found Tony Abbott too right wing. He died in March 2015 at the age of 84.

 

UK Parliamentary Election 2015

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on Tuesday 12 May 2015

 

Colman's Column3

Neil Kinnock in 1983: “I warn you not to fall ill. I warn you not to be young. I warn you not to be old.”

 

What if the UK had PR?

It used to be received wisdom that a proportional representation system for parliamentary elections led inevitably to coalition government. The first past the post system in the UK for a long time meant that either the Labour Party or the Conservative Party governed because of having a majority of seats in the House of Commons.

In the 2015 election, the Conservative Party won a clear majority. Under a proportional representation system they would have had 90 fewer seats would have been forced into another coalition.

UKIP

 

Under PR, UKIP (the United  Kingdom Independence Party) would have been the third largest party in parliament. The Lib-Dems with their caring philosophy failed to soften their coalition partner’s policies. There is evidence that the Conservatives moved rightward  because of a perception that  UKIP’s xenophobic policies on immigration were popular. What kind of policies would emerge if the two parties were in government together? There is already the promise of stricter immigration rules, more cuts and a referendum on leaving the EU.

Coalition in 2010

In the 2010 UK general election, no single party achieved the seats required for an overall majority. A total of 326  seats  are needed for  an absolute majority, but because Sinn Fein MPs do not take their seats and the Speaker’s team does not normally vote, the real number has been 323. The Conservatives had most seats and votes in 2010 but were 20 seats short of the magic number. A coalition government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats was established.

During the 2010 election campaign, Liberal-Democrat leader Nick Clegg was widely seen as a strong performer and his party achieved its largest popular vote since its foundation. Nevertheless, the nature of the electoral system meant they suffered a loss of five seats.

PR Voted Down

The Lib-Dems and their ancestor Liberal Party long fought for proportional representation in order to win seats in parliament that would more fairly match their votes. A referendum on proportional representation was a key feature of the coalition agreement. The 2011 referendum result was Yes 32.1% and No 67.9%.on a 41% turnout. Former Liberal leader Paddy Ashdown told the Guardian there been a “breach of faith”. He accused David Cameron of failing to disassociate himself from personal attacks by the No campaign on Lib-Dem leader Nick Clegg.

Poisoned Chalice

The coalition has contributed to the downfall of the Lib-Dem party and its leader. After the 2015 general election, Clegg was one of three party leaders to resign. Although the Lib-Dems in 2010 presented themselves as being to the left of New Labour, they could not sustain that illusion while being complicit in austerity measures that hurt the poor while allowing the rich to prosper. The Conservatives claimed credit for what economic recovery there was and diverted any blame to the Lib-Dems.

Old-fashioned liberals might have hoped that with a long-delayed place in government the party might have restored Beveridge’s ideals in health and social welfare. The ideology of Ian Duncan Smith prevailed. The Liberal Democrats failed to make themselves heard in the row over tax avoidance, despite having pushed consistently to tighten the lax rules that Labour left behind. They were not able to defend the weak, the vulnerable and minorities, or to stop the privatisation of the health service. In his resignation speech, Clegg said “fear and grievance” had won, while Liberalism had lost.

Another Strange Death of the Liberal Party

Lib-Dem ministers came across as ditherers. This undermined the will-to-live of constituency organisers who had once been notable for their enthusiasm. In 2010, Lib-Dems won 57 seats; in 2015, this fell dramatically to eight. Under a PR system, they would have got 51. They lost their deposit in seven constituencies. Several prominent figures lost their seats – ex-ministers Ed Davey, Jo Swinson, Norman Baker, Vince Cable, Danny Alexander (beaten by the youngest MP since the 17th century – a 20-year old student) , David Laws,  Simon Hughes (who had served his constituency for 30 years and won 50% of the vote in 2010) and former leader Charles Kennedy.

 

High Profile Losers

 

Conservative minister Esther McVey was the highest-profile Tory loser, defeated by Labour in Wirral West. For Labour, Gordon Brown’s hatchet man Ed Balls lost (by one percentage point) to a conservative in Morley and Outwood. UKIP leader Nigel Farage failed to win the seat at Thanet South (although UKIP won control of the local council). UKIP retained one seat; former Conservative Douglas Carswell was re-elected to represent Clacton but with a greatly reduced majority.  The Tory candidate at Rochester and Strood soundly beat another Tory defector to UKIP, Mark Reckless. The UKIP leader had increased his party’s share of the vote in Thanet South by 27%, and nationally UKIP’s vote share was up by ten percentage points to a total of 3.9 million. The Electoral Reform Society has modelled what would have happened under a proportional voting system that makes use of the D’Hondt method of converting votes to seats. UKIP would have been a force to be reckoned with in the Commons with 83 seats.

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett lost to Labour in Holborn St Pancras but Caroline Lucas retains the Brighton Pavilion constituency she won in 2010 giving the Greens one seat in the new parliament. Under PR, they would have got 24 seats.

Whither Scotland?

After the referendum on Scottish independence, I warned a smug unionist against crass triumphalism. I said that, although the vote for Scotland to stay in the UK was decisive, the fact that over 40% of Scots wanted to leave the Union should give pause for thought. The SNP might have lost the referendum vote but they convincingly won the general election vote, gaining 56 out of 59 seats in Scotland. Under a PR system, this would have been reduced to 31. Gordon Brown’s once-safe Labour seat of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath fell to the SNP. The pro-Union Conservative party now has one seat in Scotland and the pro-Union Labour party has just one. The Lib-Dems also retained  one seat. The referendum was about a positive Scottish identity, rejection of the austerity that Labour had supported. The general election has confirmed a separatist move to the left in Scotland. The referendum did not seal the future of the Union. Resentment from Scotland at a Westminster government dominated by English Tories can only grow, as will English resentment at any preferential treatment given to keep Scotland in the Union.

Social Justice in the Future?



Cameron’s choice of personnel for the  new all-Conservative cabinet makes it clear the way the next five years will go and I am glad I have emigrated. Iain Duncan Smith has been re-appointed to achieve to find a further £12 billion in welfare “savings” and the Lib-Dems will not be there to stop him. While I am fully aware of the deficiencies of the Labour Party, I cannot imagine any circumstances in which I could vote for a Conservative candidate. There is much despair among my friends in the UK. They fear for the future of the welfare state and the forcing of poor people, the precariat, into poorly paid jobs with little security. Under the coalition, food banks increased from 56 to 445. More will be needed. Public services will continue to be handed over to incompetent and irresponsible private firms like G4S. The NHS will continue to be auctioned off to private for-profit companies.

Even former Tory prime minister John Major said: “We need to acknowledge the fact we have a pretty substantial underclass and there are parts of our country where we have people who have not worked for two generations and whose children do not expect to work. How can it be that in a nation that is the fifth richest nation in the world, that in the United Kingdom we have four of the poorest areas in Europe?”

Britain Teaches the World to Torture

This article appeared on Page 10 of Ceylon Today on Wednesday January 28 2015

Colman's Column3

There was a time when the British army adopted a somewhat superior attitude to the US army’s conduct after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Much was made of Britain’s experience in conducting a war against insurgents in urban conditions in Northern Ireland. To boast about that suggests either supreme arrogance or selective memory. British tactics were not successful in Northern Ireland or Basra and certainly did not have the “moral authority” to which David Cameron referred in his statement about the US Senate report on torture.

 
Britain’s torture laboratory in Northern Ireland

In 1971, Operation Demetrius involved the mass arrest and imprisonment without trial of people suspected of connections with the Provisional IRA. Fourteen of those imprisoned were interrogated at a site formerly known as RAF Ballykelly, which was handed over to the British Army as Shackleton Barracks on 2 June 1971. On their way to the interrogation centre in 1971, the British army hooded the men and threw them to the ground from helicopters. The captors told the hooded men they were hundreds of feet in the air, but the helicopters were actually just a few feet from the ground. Granted, this was better behaviour than that of the Argentinian junta who threw prisoners to their death from helicopters at high altitude.

 
The British security forces during the Irish Troubles developed five techniques of “deep interrogation”: prolonged wall standing, hooding, subjection to noise, deprivation of sleep, and deprivation of food and drink. For seven days, when not being interrogated, the detainees were forced to wear hoods while handcuffed in a cold cell and were forced to stand in a stress position for many hours. There was a continuous loud hissing noise. They were repeatedly beaten, their heads banged against the wall. The interrogators kicked them in the genitals. The treatment caused long-term trauma.

 
In 1976, the European Commission of Human Rights ruled that the five techniques amounted to “torture”. However, in 1978, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the five techniques were “inhuman and degrading” and breached the European Convention on Human Rights, but did not amount to “torture”. The Court’s ruling, that the five techniques did not amount to torture, was later cited by the US and Israel to justify their own methods. Britain exported the techniques to the military dictators of Brazil.

 
Never again?

In 1972, prime minister Edward Heath promised to the House of Commons: “[The] Government, having reviewed the whole matter with great care and with reference to any future operations, have decided that the techniques … will not be used in future as an aid to interrogation… The statement that I have made covers all future circumstances.”

 
Despite Heath’s promise, the British Army used the five techniques in Iraq. As recently as December 2014, human rights lawyers sent a dossier of claims to the ICC (International Criminal Court) alleging that British soldiers abused and tortured Iraqi men, women and children, aged from 13 to 101. Defence secretary Geoff Hoon told MPs in 2005 that hooding had not been used in Iraq since May 2004. In reality, there were more than 70 cases of hooding between June 2004 and September 2008.

 
There were, the report alleges, dozens of mock executions; many described how dogs were used to attack or threaten detainees. There are also allegations of sexual assault or rape by British soldiers. One man who was “repeatedly beaten” and “electrocuted”, suffered “severe psychological injuries as a result of his treatment”. He set himself alight and killed himself a year after his release.
Phil Shiner, a solicitor with the law firm PIL (Public Interest Lawyers), which is handling the claims, said: “The UK mindset in Iraq appears to be one of savage brutality and a sadistic inhumanity, irrespective of whether it was women, children or old men being tortured, abused or callously subjected to lethal force. The systemic issues must now be dealt with in public.”

 
A long history of torture

Britain has an extensive and unlovely record of brutality in the “war on terrorism” that goes back at least as far as the Tudors. Henry VIII tried to bring all Ireland under his control to prevent its use as a base for a Catholic invasion of England or a haven for pretenders trying to depose him. His daughter Elizabeth had similar fears and thought the Jesuits might try to overthrow her. Some versions of the story of Edmund Campion (now a Catholic saint) have it that the Queen was actually present when Campion was tortured on the rack.

 
Obama tortured by British

Neil Ascherson wrote: “The myth that British colonialism guaranteed a minimum standard of behavior toward ‘natives’ cannot—or should not—survive the evidence of twentieth-century Kenya. In the field, the security forces behaved like Germans on an antipartisan sweep in occupied France. In the detention and work camps, and the resettlement villages, the British created a world no better than the universe of the Soviet Gulag.”

 
Hussein Onyango Obama, Barack Obama’s paternal grandfather, was arrested in 1949 by the British during the Mau-Mau uprising in Kenya and subjected to horrific violence, which left him permanently scarred and embittered against the British. “The African warders were instructed by the white soldiers to whip him every morning and evening till he confessed,” Sarah Onyango, 87, Hussein Onyango’s third wife, the woman President Obama refers to as “Granny Sarah” said. “He said they would sometimes squeeze his testicles with metallic rods. They also pierced his nails and buttocks with a sharp pin, with his hands and legs tied together with his head facing down.”

 
Mau-Mau militants killed 32 British civilians. The British killed 20,000 Mau-Mau fighters and persecuted large numbers of Kikuyu not directly involved in the rebellion. Lawyers acting for Kenyans suing for compensation documented 5,228 cases of abuses including fatal whippings, blindings, castrations and rapes.

 
In 2009, Kenyan victims filed a lawsuit, but the British government asked the judge to throw out the case, saying it had transferred all liability to Kenya when the country gained independence. The Kenya government denied responsibility and stood behind the victims. The three men, including one whom the British had castrated, who filed the original case made numerous trips to London to give their testimony. Britain could not deny the atrocities because there were immaculate records kept by the torturers themselves that revealed systemic human rights violations. The High Court ordered the Foreign Office to produce all relevant evidence, including hundreds of boxes of files, secretly smuggled out of Kenya ahead of independence in 1963. The British government’s defence until recently was that the statute of limitations had expired. Eventually, after four years of dogged resistance, Britain announced a £19.9 million settlement. Many of the beneficiaries, who are in their 80s, will not have long to enjoy the compensation.

 
Extraordinary rendition

In 1971, the British evicted all 2,000 inhabitants of the Chagos Islands from their homes in order to give Diego Garcia to the US as a military base. In his book Island of Shame, David Vine quotes military analyst John Pike telling him that the US military’s goal is “to run the planet from Guam and Diego Garcia by 2015, even if the entire Eastern Hemisphere has drop-kicked us from every other base.”

 
Stephen Grey, author of Ghost Plane disclosed the journeys of a Gulfstream aircraft, registered N379P, as part of a list of more than 3,000 flight logs. The logs show the same aircraft flew from Washington via Athens to Diego Garcia. Though there have been persistent reports in the US that detainees have been secretly held in Diego Garcia, the British government has always dismissed the claims. The then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw denied that the Diego Garcia base was used for rendition and torture. “There simply is no truth that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition, full stop.”

 
David Miliband war criminal?

When David Miliband became foreign secretary in June 2007, there were already allegations about possible British involvement in overseas torture. Sami al-Saadi claimed that, in 2004, MI6 handed him and his family over to authorities in Libya who tortured him. Documents show that MI5 gave Tripoli reports on Libyan dissidents living in Britain.

 
Gareth Pierce is a human rights lawyer who had defended Giuseppe Conlon against the flawed prosecution led by Sir Michael Havers. She is dishonoured by the ridiculous caricature of her by Emma Thompson in the film In the Name of the Father. She wrote in the London Review of Books about Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian given leave to reside in the UK. “British intelligence and the Americans and Moroccans for 18 months slashed the most intimate parts of his body with razors, burned him with boiling liquids, stretched his limbs causing unimaginable agony, and bombarded him with ferocious sound.” Techniques seem to have become more brutal since the days of St Edmund Campion. As David Miliband was personal advisor to Tony Blair while Labour was in opposition and played a major role in the election victory of 1997, it seems unlikely that he was unaware of what was happening before he became foreign secretary.

 
As human rights lawyer Philippe Sands, who represented Binyam Mohammed, writes, Miliband cannot avoid charges of complicity demonstrated by his actions as foreign secretary. Miliband personally approved some interrogations involving countries with poor human rights records. He was a senior member of a government that later actively resisted calls for an inquiry. “He put considerable energy into defending a number of claims relating to torture in the English courts against his department.”

 
While campaigning for the Labour leadership Miliband was forced to confront claims that he allowed the interrogation of three terror suspects who allege they were tortured in Bangladesh and Egypt. Faisal Mostafa, a chemistry lecturer from Manchester, who was twice cleared of terrorism offences in court, was detained in Bangladesh. He claims he was hung upside down and electrocuted while interrogators interrogated him about two Islamist groups.

Britain and the US Senate report

There is no reference at all in the Senate’s 500-page summary report to UK intelligence agencies or the British territory of Diego Garcia. There is no reference to Binyam Mohamed, or to the abductions and extraditions to Libya of Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Sami-al-Saadi. Heavy redactions to the executive summary encouraged speculation that references to US allies were deleted.

 
The British government commissioned an inquiry by retired judge Sir Peter Gibson to look at the UK’s treatment of detainees after 9/11. In his preliminary report, he raised 27 serious questions about the behaviour of the UK security services. The Gibson Inquiry was replaced by an investigation handled by the ISC (Intelligence and Security Committee). The ISC’s report will not, however, be completed before the 2015 general election, so it is unclear how many members of the nine-strong panel of MPs and peers will still be in parliament to complete the work. Release of the Chilcot Report into the Iraq war is also being delayed until after the election.

 
Gareth Pierce on the UK’s hypocrisy: “We inhabit the most secretive of democracies, which has developed the most comprehensive of structures for hiding its misdeeds, shielding them always from view behind the curtain of ‘national security’. From here on in we should be aware of the game of hide and seek in which the government hopes to ensure that we should never find out its true culpability.”

 

http://www.ceylontoday.lk/51-83338-news-detail-britains-torture-laboratory-in-northern-ireland-britain-teaches-the-world-to-torture.html

 

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