BAE And The Keys to The MoD


Once again the news has broken about the excessive number of passes given to BAE to wander the corridors of the Ministry of Defence.

I'm reminded of this quote by Robin Cook in his book Point of Departure

In my time I came to learn that the Chairman of British Aerospace appeared to have the key to the garden door to Number 10. Certainly I never once knew Number 10 to come to any decision incommoding to BAE, even when they came bitterly to regret the public consequences, as they did when they overruled me on the supply of Hawk spares to Zimbabwe

Legal Challenge to Government as Pressure Grows for Independent 7/7 Enquiry

Survivors and relatives of the people killed in the July 7 th London bomb attacks have warned the Government that they will seek a Judicial Review into its continued refusal to grant an independent enquiry into the attacks.

They will outline their legal case in a letter, which will be presented to the Home Office at noon on Wednesday 15th August 2007. Read the letter in full here

Graham Foulkes, whose son David Foulkes, 22, was murdered at Edgware Rd said:
"We were very disappointed that the Government rejected our call for an independent enquiry. We believe that our country can only benefit from an independent investigation into the largest ever terrorist attack on mainland Britain."

He continued:
"There have been reports into the bombings. None of these have been independent. And as time has gone on it has become obvious that much of what we were told was untrue. For instance, we have gone from being told that the bombers were unknown to the authorities ("clean skins", as Charles Clarke, the then Home Secretary said in the wake of the bombings) to finding out through the "Crevice" trial that at least two of the bombers were known prior to July 7 th 2005 and that one of them, Mohammed Siddique Khan (the Edgware Road bomber) had been followed home by the authorities."

This concern has been supported by the Greater London Assembly who, on May 28 th 2007, passed a motion calling for an independent inquiry following the conviction of the Crevice Defendants "given the conflicting accounts of what happened in the months leading up to 7th July 2005".

The legal case for an enquiry rests on Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This requires the state to protect life and to undertake an independent and effective investigation of the issue if the article is breached. Even if the requirement to protect life was not breached, the Article allows for an enquiry because of the obvious need for public protection.

Rob Webb, whose sister Laura Webb, 29 was murdered at Edgware Rd said:
"The drip feed of information since the attacks probably doesn't give the whole story. But it is now clear that the security services knew far more about the bombers and the possibility of an attack than we had originally been led to believe. So the state looks to have breached its duty to protect life. We all – Government, Security Services, survivors, bereaved and of course the public at large, who remain at risk of terrorist plots, need to learn all we can about the 7/7 attacks. We need to know what could have been done to help prevent them and so help prevent innocent people from suffering the fate of all those who were caught up in the awful events of that day in July 2005."

Should the Government once again turn down the request for an independent investigation, the signatories of the letter will seek a Judicial Review into the decision.

Rob concluded:
"We don't wish to take our Government to Court. But we need to ensure that everything is done to prevent further attacks. We believe that an Independent investigation will help do that, which is why we are prepared to go to Court to ensure that one happens."
Petition for an inquiry here

Read the letter in full here

Rove Goes Roving


Karl Rove has just announced that he's resigning, "I just think it's time". He's going to spend more time with his share options, sorry family. Could there be an opening for Alistair Campbell?

New Pro-War Blairwatch! Brought To You By Neil Clark

Via Blood and Treasure and the Yorkshire Ranter, scions of the Decent Left, both, apparently:

A group of pro-war bloggers is playing a prominent role in a campaign to grant asylum to Iraqis who have been working as translators for the British forces in Iraq. Not all who back the campaign were in favour of the war, but some of its most strident supporters are.
Neil Clark, Guardian 10/8/2007

We've run across Mr. Clark before, on rail issues.  Back  about 8 months, in fact, on 10th December 2006, in response to a brief spat between Tim Worstall and Clark on the subject of railway privatisation, where both were arguing from ideology rather than reality, I had this to say:

[Clark,] judging by the 9 posts he's blogged containing the word 'railway', knows two facts - the railway costs 'four times as much' in subsidy and '75% of the public' support renationalisation.

From just two facts he built up quite a head of steam about the state of UK railways, without ever coming close to an accurate position.  This time he starts off by picking out three bloggers from the Iraqi translators asylum campaign and using them to 'argue' that there's no threat to the Iraqi employees because pro-war bloggers pretend that everything's going swimmingly in Iraq.  As arguments go, this barely qualifies for the description 'asinine horseshit' and illustrates yet again the maddening nature of ideology - the issue for Mr. Clark isn't morality or the impulse to preserve life so much as a badly judged opportunity to score off some other ideological muppets elsewhere in the Left.  Any position taken by people who've ever disagreed with him is wrong, even if it makes him contradict himself, such as his conclusion that he, a Briton, is somehow part of a different Britain from the Britain that the British Army is part of.  Er, OK, mate, whatever.  A quick trip to ARRSE would, of course, enlighten him that the British Army are not wholehearted neocons these days, and it's them who are calling for an amnesty.

As for the idea that the threat comes from enraged locals angry and collaboration, B&T has it pretty much nailed here:

The people being murdered in Basra for their association with us are being killed by militias connected to parties elected to the government under our auspices: there is no-one involved in this who is not a “collaborator.”

Alternatively they're being threatened by religious fundamentalists allied with another foreign power, which scarcely makes a lot of difference if your position is based on the invalidity of foreign interference in Iraq.  Either way, Iraq-post-occupation will not look like Norway 1945 and it's foolish to pretend otherwise.  Basra is a fearsomely complex and dangerous place and unless you base your position on that fact you're likely to come a cropper.  It's also invalid to oppose asylum on the basis that it might encourage future British military excursions - there's no evidence that the planners of the Iraq invasion ever considered anything so nuanced as the fate of any Iraqis, let alone the minority who worked directly for the occupiers.  It's also rather jaw-dropping that anyone could seriously suggest that the fight against US imperialism is best served by acquiescing in the murder of more Iraqis.

Fundamentally this is another example of WW2 Syndrome, which usually affects the Right more than the Left, but more accurately affects ideologues who think they can reshape the world based on what they read on the back of their own eyelids.  The War Nerd has it down well:

[A]ll the lessons of WW II, everything it's supposed to teach us, is either dead wrong or as obvious as a ballpeen hammer in your face, so obvious that even Barney could teach it to his diaper demographic between commercial breaks.

And that is where we leave Mr. Clark, with a certain amount of relief.

Galloway Latest

Regular readers will know we're not overwhelming fans of George Galloway - his habit of not turning up in Parliament and apparently having no sense of humour aren't entirely outweighed by hugely enjoyable bouts of well-aimed invective at oxygen thieves like Norm Coleman.  However, when you see where he's standing in the next General Election, you can't help feeling that he's got to be a better bet than the current incumbent, Jim Fitzpatrick:

  • Voted very strongly for introducing ID cards. votes, speeches
  • Voted very strongly for introducing foundation hospitals. votes, speeches
  • Voted strongly for introducing student top-up fees. votes, speeches
  • Voted very strongly for Labour's anti-terrorism laws. votes, speeches
  • Voted very strongly for the Iraq war. votes, speeches
  • Voted very strongly against investigating the Iraq war. votes, speeches

Well, that's nothing unusual for an ambitious New Labour politician, of course.  The rather ironic thing about Galloway's choice of opponent is that the voters of Poplar and Canning Town will have the choice of a Scotsman who used to be in the SWP or a Scotsman whose party includes the SWP.

In other RESPECT news, Lenin's Tomb are cock-a-hoop that news of the Brown Bounce appears not to have reached the east London district of Shadwell, which unexpectedly elected the RESPECT candidate over the high-profile Labour man, apparently with housing being the main issue in the council election.  Anyone would think being associated with US policy and neo-liberal economics made you unpopular, or something - in London or the Lebanon, the man the neo-cons back does appear to start the electoral race with one hand tied behind his back.

Basra Blues


For several years the British have been proudly telling the world about how well their operation is going in Basra, showing their supposed superior methods, experience and tactics to those rough Yanks to the North. The UK press has picked up on this as part of a flag waving exercise, indeed we're still listening to this - only now in Afghanistan.

Make no mistake, we're going to get out of Basra as soon as we can. For several reasons, primarily because we've lost the battle. We have no control over the city, never mind the province - for details on the absolute chaos behind the scenes check out Occupational Hazards by Rory Stewart.

How bad is the situation, well here's a clue: The MoD have banned soldiers and reservists from blogging or writing on bulletin boards. The boys at ARRSE have a few thoughts on the matter.

The British troops are bunkered down outside the city in one of Saddams palaces with the usual tactical brilliance that our officer class is renowned for: 

The palace’s isolated location has also served the insurgents. Built by Saddam Hussein in 1990 at the southern end of the city, buttressing the Shatt al-Arab waterway, there are only three viable resupply routes for logistics convoys to reach the base from the main British camp at the airport on Basra’s outskirts. Hugely vulnerable, all three pass directly through the city.

The requirements of food, water, fuel, ammunition and spare vehicle parts ensure that these resupply convoys are vast — sometimes more than 100 vehicles. Some of the civilian lorry drivers involved in the operation get drunk to summon the courage to make the run. And al-Mahdi Army attacks the convoys from the moment they get into the city right up to the palace gates.

 So, we're losing men just to bring the bogrolls in. As one soldier said “We can debate it all we want but at the end of the day it’s about pride.”

And now comes the fall.

Iraqi Interpreters - A Change of Tune from Downing Street *UPDATED*


First it was the request for the five British residents held in the Guantanamo gulag to be returned home, now Gordon Brown might be about to reverse another of Tony Blair's ill-considered decisions.

Gordon Brown has ordered an urgent review into the plight of 91 Iraqi translators abandoned by Britain to persecution and death as a political campaign in favour of granting them asylum gathered pace.

The Prime Minister has demanded an explanation for a decision to deny them any special favours, which aides insist that he knew nothing about.

He will now consider whether to overturn Tony Blair’s decision, amid growing demands from leading military figures and politicians from all parties that the Government should meet a moral obligation to Iraqis who have served Britain.

It's too early to say for sure but it's looking like the campaign to get the Government to face up to at least some of its moral obligations might be starting to bear fruit. The decision to abandon the Iraqi interpreters working for the British armed forces to a tragic fate has seriously pissed off senior officers which isn't a clever thing to do in a war. And the campaign by bloggers to write to their MPs over the issue is adding to the pressure. So this could perhaps be a small victory. All the same, after ten years of Blair's duplicity we should know better than to ease up the pressure until we know for sure what kind of deal (if any) these Iraqi workers will be offered. If you haven't already, please write to your MP and sign the petition.

From the BBC:

No 10 said the issue would be kept under review, but previous decisions were unlikely to be overturned.

As Justin says, this isn't good enough. It's worth having a look at what is being posted on ARRSE to get an idea of the anger being felt in the armed forces (via Blood & Treasure).

Gordon Brown - Watching The Hands Update


Welcome news, and a bit more weight on the good side of the ledger when we try to work out if Gordon Brown's any different.  Watch the hands, we said, watch what he does, not what he says.  Well, here's another policy reversal:

The UK government has requested the release of five British residents from US custody at Guantanamo Bay.

The men are not British citizens but lived in the UK before they were arrested and detained.

The request is a change of policy for the government which had previously said it could not intercede for non-British citizens.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband formally wrote to his US counterpart Condoleezza Rice with the request.

The next thing to watch is the response to the response, which will tell us whether this was spin or substance.  If it's spin, the question is who it was aimed at, since the British press isn't exactly full of people ready to lay out the welcome mat for non-British Muslims with a suspicion of terrorism hanging over them.  The Sun won't like it, but the Mail might, it's been anti-Guantanamo for a while.  Could it be that Daily Mail Island is an *improvement* over Blair's Britain?  World Turns Upside Down Shock - See Page 4 For Full Story.  Mind you, they haven't changed that much - from today's Mail:

There are few sights so serene as a swan sailing majestically along the Grand Union Canal.

Except, that is, when it is being chased by a gang of hungry, knife-wielding Eastern Europeans.


Oh dear.

Arming The Insurgency


Looks like we've finally found out just who is arming the Iraqi insurgents and it's not Iran, not Saudi Arabia but the Pentagon. 30% of weapons handed to Iraq's security services have gone missing.

AEI to Brown - 'Heel, Bitch'

Interesting article reaches my attention via LobeLog, a blog I've just discovered that's well worth a read for neo-con watchers wondering which way Gordon will jump.

Remember that the US administration doesn't speak with one voice any more - even the AEI is beginning to split into true believers and those for whom corporate profits are more important (all their backers, in fact).  It's long been obvious that neo-con policies aren't good for capitalism*, and if US business wakes up to this things become interesting.  I strongly suspect that Brown is much more in tune with US corporate interests than AEI neo-con true believers, which is why he's not going to drop the US, but he may drop the neocons.  Anyway, this illustrates that the true believers are worried about Brown - John Bolton wrote a piece for the FT ordering him to choose one out two between Europe and the USA.  Brown is going to keep both, of course, since that's what business wants, and thus Bolton will be rebuffed (the slightest hint of warmth towards anyone European will be taken as this).

Finally, there is Iran's nuclear weapons programme, which will prove in the long run more important for both countries than the current turmoil in Iraq. Here the US has followed the EU lead in a failed diplomatic effort to dissuade Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons. If Mr Bush decides that the only way to stop Iran is to use military force, where will Mr Brown come down? Supporting the US or allowing Iran to goose-step towards nuclear weapons?

I will wait for answers to these and other questions before I draw conclusions about "the special relationship" under Mr Brown. But not forever.


Note the shrill, hysterical tone, arrogance, lack of nuance and contradictory arguments.  Now imagine Brown reading it.  To Bolton everything is clear and black and white - USA good, EU bad.  Bolton is of course Cheney's mouthpiece, and can be taken to be the view of the true frothing neo-con.  What's he's really doing, of course, is trying to bully Brown into supporting an attack on Iran, which is their dearest wish.  That's the key issue now, and where we should watch Brown's hands.  My suggested canary here is Malloch Brown - if he gets a prominent role, it's up yours Cheney.  If he gets marginalised and quietly removed in a few months, it was all spin.

* this may seem counter-intuitive, but money-men of my acquaintance dislike Bush and co. intensely for risking US economic stability (and thus their profits) on wars that enrich a few chosen companies.  If you run a trucking firm, how do you view the people whose actions pushed up the price of diesel and left US roads crumbling?  Giving huge badly administered no-contest contracts to people like Halliburton is, of course, about as far away from free-market capitalism and small government as it's possible to get.  Apart from anything else, they're incompetent administrators.

Brown, the Subtle Difference

Whatever is said publicly, behind the scenes there is a real understanding of just how deep in the doo-doo Blair dropped Britain when he went all Messianic over Iraq. But how to convey that over to the Neo-Cons?

Seems like Brown is making a start on trying to restore spine and sanity to the special relationship. How far he is prepared to go is to be seen, mainly because this will depend on the next administration as the Bush years burn out to widespread derision.

The Swoop has the scoop: The US are saying that “It is clear that our relations have entered a new phase. In the future we are going to have to work harder to gain British support.” Well they didn't have to work too hard under Tony, did they?

Farewell Afghan Ron

Many years ago I lived in Leith and was proud and entertained by our local MP Ron Brown.

Sadly he died today.

Who is protecting us?

The findings of the Menezes report are deeply worrying, especially as the current head of Counter-Terrorism seems to be someone who 'chose to mislead' the public and his boss.

Before we hand over civil liberties to the police and security services, we should examine these organisations and their office holders very closely. It is clear that those charged with protecting the public are not 'fit for purpose'.

This report shows that Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman is not fit to hold any public office and that the structure of our counter terror force needs to be revised and more safeguards, checks and balances put into operation.

I note that Sir Ian made several remarks after publication, here's two of them


"If I had lied I would not be fit to hold this office. I did not lie," he said.

Of Mr Hayman, he said: "He retains my full support in the crucially important job he undertakes for this country."


Full support? Yeah, right.

Nuking Hayman While The Sun Shines

Listening to the IPCC press conference on the Met's handling of the aftermath of the shooting on 22/7/2005 as I type - Killer of the Yard is let off because he convinced the IPCC that he'd been kept in the dark by his own senior team.  This is hardly reassuring.  Andy 'Dodgy Dossier' Hayman, already on our shit list because of his involvement in the 90 days debacle, is given both barrels, in so far as the IPCC has any barrels.  Basically he seems to have lied and if he doesn't lose his job over this I'll eat my hat.  I've got the knife and fork ready, however - the history of holding the Senior Knackers to account isn't greatly encouraging.

There's a classic bit about the News of the World interview with Sir Ian Blair, which blatantly misquoted him.  The IPCC were rather critical of him taking time off to give interviews to tabloids, but it's so in character for the man.

Lenin On Messianic Frauds

While no hard-left ideological Communist myself, I do read Lenin's Tomb (Johann Hari doesn't like it, which is a good enough recommendation for me.  With the media full of people who thrive despite being proved wrong most of the time, we should stand up with people who are ignored and traduced for being right most of the time. Today he goes after US policy on Iran, which seems to be to pretend they're Stalinist Russia:

Still, as America attempts to freeze its particular colonial modernity in the Middle East and roll back Iranian insubordination through terror and crackdowns, it will never stop having the moxy to claim democracy as its own peculiar promise to the Middle East. In the same breath that Robert Gates or Condoleeza Rice threaten other states and encourage intensified repression, they will remember to add something about What America Stands For. Empirical rebuttal is futile: it is a messianic claim, and like all messiahs it will never come, except as fraud

The last sentence superbly crystallizes so much of what we've been saying about Blair (and of course the organ grinder in Pennsylvania Avenue), plus putting in their place some of the tag lines and sound bites produced at the Gordon/Dubya press conference. When people laugh at Blair for messianic tendencies, what they're actually laughing at are his fraudulent tendencies. This leads to two conclusions:

  1. Laughing helps expose the fact that the Emperor is naked
  2. Freedom to laugh is therefore essential

Laughter is the reaction to recognition of an absurd situation - most jokes work by setting up an absurd situation and then revealing it in the punch line.  Since authoritarianism is inherently absurd, laughter is a key weapon against authoritarianism, which is why it's often the first thing to be attacked as well as one of the key signs of underground dissent.  This also explains why authoritarians appear to have no sense of humour - being unable to conceive of a differing opinion to their own correct one renders them unable to construct the absurdity necessary for humour.  It occurs to me that the ability to absorb differing opinions is also a key requirement for being a successful administrator (see Ken Livingstone for a shining example, who has also come out against BAA's obscene pursuit of injunctions, to his great credit).  So who, among our party bigwigs, can provide the humour necessary to run Britain efficiently?  Charles Kennedy?