www.lobster-magazine.co.uk Lobster 65 Summer 2013 . Tittle Tattle by Tom Easton . The View from the Bridge by Robin Ramsay . The political significance of the new Pope'? by Corinne Souza . The SIS and London-based foreign dissidents: some patterns of espionage by Corinne Souza . Estes, LBJ and Dallas by Robin Ramsay . Iraq and Intelligence by Robin Ramsay . Canada's spy agency gone rogue by Roderick Russell . David Miliband: working for the man by John Newsinger Book Reviews . The secret library of Georges Armoulian by Anthony Frewin . Destiny Betrayed by James DiEugenio . Classified: Secrecy and the state in modern Britain by Christopher Moran . Going South by Larry Elliott and Dan Atkinson . Six Moments of Crisis: inside British foreign policy by Gill Bennett . Conspiracy theory in America by Lance deHaven-Smith . Gangsterismo: The United States, Cuba and the Mafia: 1933 to 1966 by Jack Colhoun Tittle-tattle Tom Easton Conspiracies and cover-ups The past year has not been an easy one for those who view history as just one bumbling cock-up after another. The Hillsborough inquiry1 revealed a co-ordinated effort by a large number of public servants not only to deny justice to the families and friends of those who died in 1989, but one that blamed those deaths on the victims themselves. The newly launched Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign2 is seeking a public inquiry into a systematic effort by police and prosecutors to pervert the course of justice a few years earlier in the same part of the world. The apparent scale of stitch-up required to produce the LIBOR rate-rigging ‘scandal’ – the Prime Minister’s word – led him to set up a parliamentary inquiry headed by Andrew Tyrie, the chairman of the Treasury Select Committee.3 Though Sir Desmond de Silva’s review into the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane4 found no evidence of an ‘overarching state conspiracy’, he did find plenty of evidence of ‘shocking state collusion’. Quite where ‘collusion’ shades into ‘overarching conspiracy’ was not specified, but enough was revealed about the dirty war to cause the Prime Minister to offer a ‘complete, absolute and unconditional’ apology to the Finucane family. We’ve not had quite the same mea culpa from Her Majesty’s Government over the Mau Mau massacre cover-up revealed in all its ugly details in the High Court last year.5 But 1 2 3 4 5 contrast the approach of the late Barbara Castle, who long campaigned against British treatment of the Kenyans, with that of her protégé and successor as Blackburn MP, Jack Straw. He records nothing in his memoirs about Mau Mau treatment or the documented concoctions and cover-up of his Foreign Office officials.6 Lord Justice Leveson could have gone much deeper and wider in his inquiries, but his report showed plenty of nefarious results of the corrupt networks of influence in the worlds of press, police and politics extending over many years. Criminal trials may reveal yet more about Murdoch, the Met and the Chipping Norton set. Then perhaps Murdoch, the South Yorkshire Police and the Margaret Thatcher set followed by Murdoch, the ‘war on terror’ warriors and the Tony Blair set? The Birtists The demise of BBC director general, George Entwistle, was hastened by a lacklustre performance before the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.7 He was accompanied there by David Jordan, the BBC’s director of editorial standards and policy, who continued to defend the Newsnight decision not to run the Savile exposé with a version of events long shown to be untrue.8 Apart from gossipy little tales about Jordan’s relationship with Tory MP Tracey Crouch, the mainstream media offered little background on this important figure at the BBC for more than 20 years. In his broadcasting youth, Jordan, along with Peter Mandelson and David Aaronovitch, was part of the London Weekend Television team recruited by John Birt for his Weekend World current affairs show. This, according to Birt, was going to display a different kind of broadcast journalism, one he famously explained with its initial presenter, Peter Jay, the son-in-law of former prime minister Jim Callaghan, as 6 Jack Straw, Last Man Standing: memoirs of a political survivor (London: MacMillan 2011) 7 8 driven by a ‘mission to explain’. When Birt, now Lord Birt of Liverpool, became deputy director-general of the BBC in 1987, Jordan and Aaronovitch crossed the Thames with him, leaving their old friend Peter Mandelson, now Lord Mandelson of Foy and Hartlepool, in south London as the Labour Party’s director of communications. Aaronovitch, after executive positions at the BBC, left to become a columnist in turn for The Independent, The Guardian and now The Times and the Jewish Chronicle. Jordan, meanwhile, rose in the BBC first with Birt, who became director-general in 1992, and then his successors. In part the BBC ineptitude revealed by the Savile fiasco was a legacy of the Birt era, and the ‘Birtspeak’ language of shuffled responsibility and tick-box leadership was much in evidence as the saga unfolded. The huge payoff to Entwistle and the £670,000 the BBC gave to Caroline Thomson for not landing his job a few months earlier followed the pattern set by Birt when he became the first ‘self-employed consultant’ to head the BBC.9 In his train came huge earnings and tax-convenient forms of payment, layers of ‘managers’ and with many of the top dogs at the corporation enjoying private healthcare paid for by the licence fee of viewers and listeners.10 The Thomson network Thomson has been part of a cosy establishment network since working for Lord Jenkins of Hillhead in the early 1980s. She is already Lady Liddle on account of her husband, Roger Liddle, an old ally of Lord Mandelson, being Lord Liddle of Carlisle. (Lobsters passim) The former lobbyist, who survived exposure by The Observer while a Tony Blair adviser at No 10, enjoyed a spell as a Brussels eurocrat with Mandelson before both took ermine and Rothschild cash to fund the launch of their Policy Network ‘think tank’. Ms Thomson’s father was Knight of the Thistle Lord Thomson of Monifeith, a Lib Dem 9 10 spokesman in the Lords. Her brother-in-law is the Captain of the Yeoman of the Guard and Deputy Government Chief Whip in the Upper House, Lord [Richard] Newby of Rothwell, former chief executive of the Liberal-Democrat party. Oh, where is W. S. Gilbert when his country needs a new Iolanthe? Transparency? The spouse of another peer is Peter Kellner, who enjoyed a long relationship with the BBC long before he made lots of money from his polling organisation YouGov. Shouldn’t Radio 4 Today programme listeners have been told at least two things when Kellner was interviewed last autumn about the fortunes of UKIP by John Humphrys? One is that YouGov president Kellner is married to Baroness Ashton of Upholland, the vicepresident of the European Commission, an organisation with a close interest in the electoral success or failure of Nigel Farage’s party. The other is that Humphrys helped Kellner found YouGov, writes for the YouGov website and is reportedly a company shareholder.11 BAP Unlike two of his regular co-presenters, Jim Naughtie and Evan Davis, Humphrys is not part of the British American Project (BAP) network whose members occupy a fair few Today programme slots most weeks – Damian Green, Douglas Alexander, Matthew Taylor, Bob Stewart, Lords Mandelson, Adebowale, and Turner, Baronesses Amos and Scotland, Charles Moore, Geoff Mulgan, Olly Grender, Margaret Hodge, Julia Hobsbawm and Ed Miliband, to name but fifteen. Rarely in the public limelight during the Newsnight fun and games was the deputy chair of the BBC Trust, Diane Coyle, husband of BBC journalist Rory Cellan-Jones. Coyle – perhaps a future BBC chair? – was admitted to the BAP in the ‘Class of 1995’, along with the acting editor of The Sunday Times, Martin Ivens, son of Freedom Association and Aims of 11 Industry man Michael Ivens.12 The BAP fraternity does not guarantee all its ‘fellows’ total immunity from critical attention. In October, Ivens’ paper exposed a fellow Project member, former head of the Army Lord Dannatt, as one of the retired military top brass ‘willing to cash in on their contacts’ for private companies bidding for Ministry of Defence contracts.13 Living just around the corner from Wapping and guarded by beefeaters, ‘Lord Dannatt told reporters at his Tower of London home that a fee of £100,000 a year would be reasonable’. Didn’t Gilbert and Sullivan once write something about this? The BBC’s woeful performance in recent months has made it hard to defend public service broadcasting, especially when its public face has been that of pukka establishment figure Lord Patten. The Independent has managed to offer a little of that by getting the occasional column from a former chairman of the corporation, Sir Christopher Bland.14 The chairman of London Weekend Television when Birt ran Weekend World, he was on the BBC board when the man who became Tony Blair’s blue-skies thinker was director general. But why on earth should 76-year-old Sir Christopher, whose recreations according to Who’s Who are vintage aircraft, vintage sports cars and ‘tinkering with water mills’, bother to write for the loss-making Independent? Could it be because his 28-year-old son, James Franklin Archibald Bland (Winchester, Cambridge and Fulbright scholar at Columbia) is deputy editor? Did we need to know this? Immediately after Labour MP Denis MacShane resigned from Parliament for being caught forging expense claims, in young Archie’s paper appeared a rather bizarre piece from its veteran political commentator and former Jerusalem 12 13 14 correspondent Donald Macintyre.15 Headlined ‘I was Denis MacShane’s landlord’, Macintyre described how he’d been friends with MacShane since Oxford days and described the former Foreign Office minister as ‘a model tenant’. He went on: ‘The £1,450 a month (the same as for my previous tenant) rental agreement was fully approved by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, created in 2009 to make a “clean break” after Westminster was finally galvanised by the MPs’ expenses scandal, and which I knew was reimbursing him for the rent. Nor was there any secret about the fact that for at least part of the period he was also renting out his London home — it is a published fact in the Declaration of MPs’ Interests. ‘But in the aftermath of public outrage over MPs’ expenses I knew that it was impossible to defend the arrangement — however legal — by which MPs could not claim expenses for mortgage interest but could claim for renting a property while letting out their own. And to the extent that I was abetting such an arrangement I was open to justified criticism as well. ‘Back in July, unaware that the Parliamentary Commissioner had decided to resume the investigation after the police decision not to proceed, I warned him [MacShane] that I would be returning in the autumn and needed the flat back.’16 Readers may ponder why Macintyre felt the need to volunteer all this. What might usefully be added by way of context is that Macintyre wrote a friendly biography of a close political associate of MacShane and himself an Oxford man, Peter Mandelson. Its first edition was pulped by Rupert Murdoch’s Harper Collins imprint after a successful defamation action. Macintyre later had as editor at The Independent from 2008 to 2010 another Oxford friend of MacShane and Mandelson, Roger Alton, now a senior Murdoch executive on The Times. As 15 16 editor of The Observer in 2002, Alton vigourously supported the invasion of Iraq which was strongly backed by Mandelson and MacShane. When Alastair met Lance A Cambridge man himself, but grateful for their Iraq war support, was Alastair Campbell, who left his No 10 duties for Tony Blair and New Labour in 2003. One of his early freelance engagements – his first was to speak at a Friends of Israel gathering organised by Lord Levy – was to interview big sporting celebrities for Rupert Murdoch’s Times. One of his most impressive interviewees, he told us on his blog later, was the ‘open, funny and engaging’ American cyclist Lance Armstrong. Campbell’s glowing account of the man who had fought his way back to Tour of France success from cancer appeared in June 2004, exactly when a book taking a rather different view of Armstrong’s activities had been printed and distributed secretly in France because of the publisher's fear of the ‘open, funny and engaging’ cyclist's threat of an injunction. The book’s author, David Walsh,17was a writer who knew just a tad more about cycling and Armstrong than the newly retired spin doctor. Walsh was able to prove then what was last year confirmed by the US authorities and more recently by the disgraced and now much-sued cyclist himself, namely that Armstrong was a regular drugs user who cheated his way to the seven Tour titles of which he has now been stripped. According to Walsh, now chief sports writer at The Sunday Times, the ‘open, funny and engaging’ man was not above threatening anyone who blew the whistle on his drugtaking. That included Armstrong’s British former physical therapist, Emma O’Reilly, who had provided damning evidence long before Campbell’s 2004 admiring interview – and was rewarded by the ‘open, funny and engaging’ American by him 17 calling her an alcoholic and a prostitute. Since doing his best to polish the reputation of Armstrong after that of Blair and writing a few books, Campbell has moved into full-time commercial PR by joining his old No 10 spin doctor colleagues Tim Allan and David Bradshaw at Portland.18 A graphic accompanying The Independent’s coverage of the BAE/EADS merger controversy in October19 showed Campbell among many New Labour pals. Those linked to bid backer Morgan Stanley included current Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, ex-head of MI6 John Scarlett and ex-Blair chief of staff Jonathan Powell. Portland figures in addition to Campbell and Allan were Powell’s brother Chris; Martin Sheehan, a Gordon Brown PR man and Steve Morris, a one-time Blair adviser. The third Powell, Baron Powell of Bayswater, who was special envoy to Blair after long service to Margaret Thatcher, was shown as a former adviser to BAE. Exaro One of the few journalistic thorns in the side of New Labour governments and those of Tory ones before it was The Guardian’s veteran digger of dirt David Hencke. Squeezed out by unappreciative editor Alan Rusbridger in 2009, he has enjoyed a fresh lease of life working for Exaro News, the investigative online site,20 scooping the Press Gazette Political Journalist of the Year award in December.21 Recent Exaro revelations have led the Metropolitan Police to set up Operation Fairbank into an alleged paedophile network of prominent political figures using a guest house in Barnes, south-west London. Hencke is the loss-making Guardian’s loss – and that of its shrinking readership too. 18 19 20 21 Atlantic Bridge The decision of the Crown Prosecution Service not to prosecute Adam Werritty,22 the one-time adviser to Liam Fox, not only afforded relief to the former Secretary of State for Defence and his long-time friend and flatmate, but also to No 10 – and not just because David Cameron seems to have plenty of other difficulties on his hands at the moment. The reason is that the Prime Minister’s vivacious press secretary, Gabby Bertin – currently on maternity leave – used to work closely with Mr Werritty and Dr Fox as the researcher and sole employee of Atlantic Bridge. The controversial Atlanticist defence ‘think tank’ was shut down after the Charity Commissioners said in 2010 that its primary objective appeared to be ‘promoting a political policy [that] is closely associated with the Conservative party’. Ms Bertin, a former banker, had her £25,000 salary at Atlantic Bridge paid by Pfizer, the giant US pharmaceutical company. Founded in 1997 by North Somerset MP Dr Fox with Margaret Thatcher as its president, Atlantic Bridge had current Cabinet ministers Michael Gove, George Osborne, William Hague and Chris Grayling on its advisory panel. Dr Fox resigned in 2011 after being found guilty of breaching the ministerial code over his relationship with Mr Werritty, whom he met 40 times in the Ministry of Defence and on trips abroad. He left office prior to the publication of a report from the then Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O’Donnell, which exposed his mistakes. The report revealed that Fox had blocked civil servants from attending key meetings alongside Werritty, had failed to tell his permanent secretary that he had solicited funds to bankroll Werritty, and had ignored private office requests to distance himself from him. Speaking in an interview with BBC Radio Bristol after his resignation, Dr Fox said: ‘My mistake there was to effectively 22 allow someone to function as an independent adviser and that is not allowed under the Ministerial Code. I should have kept a better separation there – with hindsight, it seems easy.’ Perhaps Ms Bertin, and even Mr Cameron, might have been called to offer their own view of Dr Fox’s judgement had the CPS decided to prosecute Mr Werrity. Alex and Rupert do a deal There can be little surprise that the SNP, heavily reliant on the editorial support of Rupert Murdoch, has been steered by leader Alex Salmond through a U-turn over nuclear weapons and NATO membership.23 The idea that News Corp would tolerate a governing party wobbly on close relations with the United States and its NATO establishment is about as remote as believing that even one of Murdoch’s hundreds of titles and channels world-wide would fairly report opposition to the Iraq War. Two MSPs resigned from the SNP after the policy change. One of them, John Finnie, who joined the party 40 years ago, said: ‘I understand that there are those who wish to stay within the SNP and to continue to fight our corner in this essential debate, and I accept their reasons for doing so. However, I cannot continue to belong to a party that quite rightly does not wish to hold nuclear weapons on its soil, but wants to join a first strike nuclear alliance.’ His colleague, Jean Urquhart, added: ‘The issue of nuclear disarmament and removing Trident from Scotland’s waters is a red line issue for me. We believe in an independent Scotland, not a NATO-dependent Scotland.’ First Minister Alex Salmond was reported by STV as being ‘saddened’ by the announcement. Former NATO general secretary, former UK defence secretary, and founder member of the British American Project, Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, reacted by telling a special edition of Scottish Review: ‘The SNP and its leadership are 23 taking us for fools.’24 So no surprises there then from the man who a year after the Iraq invasion received from George Bush at the White House the Presidential Medal of Freedom.25 The then US ambassador to Nato, Nicholas Burns, said that his country’s highest decoration was rarely bestowed on foreigners: ‘In this case it’s being given to Lord Robertson for his brilliant and very decisive leadership of Nato and for his great friendship with the United States.’ The same Nicholas Burns now works alongside Lord Robertson and former US Defence Secretary William Cohen for the Cohen Group ‘strategic advice’ company based in Washington DC.26 Perhaps a future opening there for Mr Salmond if the referendum doesn’t go well? Nick Butler Lord Robertson’s very old friend and fellow founder of the British American Project way back in 1984 was Nick Butler, who, according to official BAP history, was the young Chathem House research fellow on secondment from BP who managed to find the $425,000 launch money to get the BAP off the ground. He is still busy in retirement from his day job as righthand man to Lord Browne, who resigned as chief executive of BP in 2007 after being found to have lied repeatedly to the High Court about his private life.27 Browne, in a continuing influential public life, subsequently wrote the report ushering in higher student fees.28 According to the 2013 Who’s Who, Butler still retains the treasureship of the Fabian Society he has held for over 30 years, and serves as vice-president of the Hay Festival and is on Yale University’s international advisory board. He is now 24 25 26 27 28 recorded as being chairman of the policy institute of King’s College London.29 There is no reference in Who’s Who to his first marriage – not unusual in its self-censoring entries – but more surprisingly, perhaps, no mention of his important role in helping set up the British American Project. A BAP coda Two small concluding footnotes on the BAP. The 1998 official history of the BAP, published soon after Lobster’s disclosure of the Project’s existence,30 paid tribute to the important role of banker and former British Steel chairman Sir Charles Villiers31 in easing its birth. His daughter, Diana, has served on the BAP’s US advisory board under her married name of Negroponte. Husband John ‘had a distinguished career in diplomacy and national security’, according to Yale University, 32 with which, like his wife’s old BAP friend Butler, he has a continuing connection. In 2004 when he was appointed US ambassador to post-invasion Iraq, his role in Honduras at the time of the BAP’s foundation was described by Counterpunch as that of ‘ambassador to death squads’.33 An early recruit to the BAP in 1991, Brendan Barber rose to be general secretary the TUC and talked a lot of Britain’s ‘stratospheric inequality’.34 After 37 years as Congress House bureaucrat Barber retired on New Year’s Eve with a £100,000 pay-off in addition to his pension.35 This is not likely to match the earnings of two of Barber’s other 1991 BAP ‘fellows’, Damon Buffini and Jonathan Powell. Multimillionaire Buffini, as chairman of Permira, became the apparently reluctant public 29 30 31 32 33 Noam Chomsky on the appointment of Villiers’s son-in-law to Baghdad can be read at . 34 35 face of private equity.36 Powell is now a senior managing director with Morgan Stanley37and one of the New Labour senior network doing quite nicely in Barber’s Britain of ‘stratospheric inequality’.38 Tom Easton is a freelance writer. 36 37 38 The View from the Bridge (a kind of blog) Robin Ramsay Big stuff or disinformation? The most interesting and important collection of new information that I have seen this year is at . The jancom bit of the URL refers to the Justice for Asil Nadir Committee and there is pretty convincing evidence there that he got screwed. But I was most struck by a document which claims to be pages from a CIA analysis of the so-called Supergun affair – that bizarre project to build for Iraq a ‘gun’ with a 750 kilometre range, which ended with the murder of the ‘gun’s’ designer, Gerald Bull. A declassified but redacted version of this report is on the Web.1 At jancom.org is what is said to be three pages of the redacted material from that report. And this is explosive stuff. In recounting the US-UK (but apparently mostly UK in this account) covert operations to arm Iraq and the subsequent events, it describes four assassinations – Bull, journalist Jonathan Moyle, Belgian politician André Cools, and one Lionel Jones2 – commissioned by the late Stephan Kock, allegedly of MI6, and carried out by British (SAS) personnel.3 This was followed by a vast judicialstate conspiracy to cover it up. But is the document genuine? We will probably never know: the CIA certainly won’t confirm it. My guess is that it isn’t, that it is disinformation; that someone spotted the redacted section in the original report and realised they could 1 At 2 His death is discussed by journalist David Hellier at . Hellier’s account there of researching some of this conveys a sense of the anxiety it generated. 3 They are named in the document but I have no idea if the IDs are correct and won’t publish the names here. use it. This is what makes me doubt it. * Would a CIA report name UK assassins? How would the CIA know who had done the killings? * The jancom sites says ‘All the expert evidence indicates that the CIA report is genuine. It matches the highly redacted copy released under the US Freedom of Information Act. (FOIA)’. But the front covers of the two documents, the official declassified version on the Web (see note 1) and the version offered by the jancom site are different. And even if they were identical, things can be copied. * In the opening paragraph the author – purportedly a CIA officer of some stripe, writing for other CIA officers – refers to the ‘Secret Intelligence Service (MI6)’. Would s/he need to put MI6 in brackets for a CIA audience? * Brian Crozier is described as a ‘UK Security Service (MI5) agent’. Not according to Crozier’s memoir, Free Agent, he wasn’t; and Crozier wasn’t shy about boasting of his connections to the intelligence world. On the Web4 is a 2012 account of these pages, in an English-language Turkish paper, which says the document was then in the hands of ‘an experienced intelligence expert [presumably Turkish], who spoke to Cumhuriyet and did not deny the fact that he/she had worked closely with the CIA for 20 years.’ So: in so far as we can trace the document’s origins at this stage, it goes back to someone in Turkish intelligence. Asil Nadir was a Turkish-Cypriot. But read it for yourself. Some of it will be familiar if you have read Gerald James’ 1995 In The Public Interest, and James is quoted on the site. Andrew Rosthorn has pointed out that some of it appeared in ‘Thatcher, Astra, Iraq & murder of Gerald Bull’ in Intelligence 81, 8 June 1998, p. 1. Bilderberg comes to Watford Watford? Strange choice of venue: close enough to London to 4 invite the demonstrators and the major media to turn up. Peter Mandelson – now a senior adviser to the bank Lazard; long way from Hartlepool, Peter! – said the abuse he received passing the demo was ‘terrible’. He should get out more. So hats off to those – in the UK notably Tony Gosling (Bilderberg.org) – who have been working for years to expose the Bilderbergers. Two recent events have encouraged Gosling in his belief that Bilderberg is some kind of central committee of globalisation. The first was reports in Italy about a book by Honorary President of the Supreme Court of Italy, Judge Ferdinando Imposimato. He was quoted thus: ‘In this document, which I have quoted literally, it is mentioned that the Bilderberg Group is one of the biggest promoters of the strategy of tension, and therefore also behind the massacres. Here’s what Bilderberg does: It rules the world and democracies in an invisible way, influencing the democratic development of these countries.’ The document, though not yet available in English, was written in 1967 by an Italian magistrate, Emilio Alessandrini, who was later murdered while investigating the Calvi affair. But since the ‘strategy of tension’ did not occur until the 1970s, whatever Alessandrini wrote in 1967 can hardly show that Bilderberg was ‘one of the biggest promoters of the strategy of tension’. The second event encouraging Gosling was information he received from HM Treasury when it refused his FOI request for material the Treasury holds on Bilderberg. The Treasury stated: ‘Some of the information in the readout from the Chancellor’s discussions also contains elements which are intended to inform future Government policy.......’ And in response to Gosling’s appeal against the refusal, the Information Commissioner: ‘.....has recognized that policy development needs a degree of freedom to enable the process to work effectively, and that there is public interest in protecting information where release would be likely to have a detrimental impact on the ongoing formulation of policy.’ Gosling comments: ‘Hold on a second. Doesn’t the Bilderberg official website (www.bilderbergmeetings.org) state: ‘…no detailed agenda, no resolutions are proposed, no votes are taken, and no policy statements are issued’? Gosling has interpreted the references to ‘future Government policy’ and ‘policy development’ as an admission that Bilderberg makes policy, when it is UK government policymaking which the Treasury official is invoking to refuse the information. The NSA/GCHQ flap Welcome though all the information was, I found it hard to get excited about it, mainly because we know in advance that there is zero chance of the politicians on either side of the Atlantic actually doing something about it. Personally, I have assumed for about twenty-five years that all electronic communications are, in effect, public. There were, however, two interesting little snippets in Foreign Secretary William Hague’s speech to the House of Commons. He didn’t actually deny the central allegations: he said they were ‘baseless’, which, to the legal mind – and clever lawyers will have been over his text – is not the same thing as ‘false’. It was a classic non-denial denial. Secondly, he said, ‘There is no danger of a deep state out of control in some way.’ Which must be the first time a British minister has used the expression ‘deep state’ in the House of Commons. War is peace Douglas Valentine5 e-mailed a long list of quotations from some of America’s senior spooks, generals, diplomats and policy-makers, all pointing out that the US policy of assassination by drones from the air and on the ground by secret military operations, was strengthening not weakening 5 its Jihadist opponents in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan and Somalia. His final rhetorical question was this: ‘Consider in particular the final statement: “A decade of disastrous US policy, which had strengthened the very threat it was intended to crush.” And ask, is that really so? Is it really intended to crush it?’ The answer, obviously, is ‘No, it isn’t.’ William Blum put this as succinctly as I could in a piece of his, ‘Another Peace Scare’: ‘We have to keep this in mind – America, like Israel, cherishes its enemies. Without enemies, the United States appears to be a nation without moral purpose and direction. The various managers of the National Security State need enemies to protect their jobs, to justify their swollen budgets, to aggrandize their work, to give themselves a mission, to send truckloads of taxpayer money to the corporations for whom the managers will go to work after leaving government service.’ 6 Surprised? Peter Doggett’s There’s A Riot Going On: revolutionaries, rock stars and the rise and fall of ‘60s counter-culture (Edinburgh: Cannongate, 2007/8) recounts how the Black Panthers received their first guns from a student radical, Richard Aoki. A few days after reading that I noticed in a review of Seth Rosenfeld’s Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power7 that Aoki had been working for the FBI at the time. What would the American left have looked like without the federal government’s involvement? Brain waves Three significant pieces warning us about the dangers of electromagnetic radiation emitted by mobile phones, their towers and wi-fi systems. ‘What the Cellphone Industry 6 7 Doesn’t Want You to Know About Radiation Concerns: A leading expert on health effects from cellphone radiation goes to battle against a multi-trillion-dollar industry’,8 is an interview with Dr. Devra Davis,9 and contains some fascinating and alarming material about the cellphone industry’s campaign to, as they put it in a memo, ‘game the science’. And they have a budget of $250 million with which to do it. (If there was no problem, they wouldn’t need the budget, would they?) As well as describing the science, Davis talks about the fate of various scientists who dared to question the mobile phone industry’s assurances about the safety of its products. In an earlier article Davis goes into more detail about the science.10 The third piece is Marko Markov and Yuri G. Grigoriev, ‘Wi-Fi technology – an uncontrolled global experiment on the health of mankind’, 11 whose content you can infer from the title. Plus ça change? Looking at Lobster’s website recently it struck me how far from the original conception of Lobster it has travelled. Yes, some themes remain from the early years: the interest in the elites, conspiracy theories and JFK’s assassination. But what has diminished enormously is the attention paid to the intelligence and security services; and what is relatively recent is the coverage of political economy. I have stopped reporting much on the spooks simply because it no longer interests me greatly (and, apart from Corinne Souza, no-one else has offered me any material on the subject). When this venture began in 1983 there was hardly any reporting on the British secret state and it seemed worthwhile to collect what fragments we could. Three things have changed. There are now mountains of information in the major media; there is no point in pushing this material at the Labour Party in the hope of getting political action because 8 9 10 11 they will do nothing;12 and the secret state no longer seems as important as it did in the 1980s. As for the recent interest in political economy, I was always interested in this but before 2008 didn’t feel it appropriate to use Lobster for it.13 But with the big crash my perception changed. The Labour left’s critique in the early 1980s of the malign influence on the British economy of the City, with which I agreed, suddenly became extremely relevant and I was glad that I still had, inter alia, my copy of the Labour Party’s 1982 publication, The City: A Socialist Approach.14 And so, on with the political economy. What do Osborne and Cameron think they are doing? When Cameron and Osborne took office I used to speculate with a couple of correspondents about what they thought they were doing. It was obvious that they had one eye on the first Thatcher government which raised interest rates (and so reduced demand in the economy) in 1981 while in a recession of their own making. This was the incident which provoked the letter signed by 364 economists, who wrote, inter alia: ‘There is no basis in economic theory or supporting evidence for the Government’s belief that by deflating demand they will bring inflation permanently under control and thereby induce an automatic recovery in output and employment … [P]resent politics will deepen the depression, erode the industrial base of our economy and threaten its social and political stability.’ It doesn’t take a whole lot of knowledge to recognise that the 12 In 1989 or 1990 a resolution of mine on making the intelligence and security services accountable went to the Labour Party conference and was passed without opposition. Formally, the absence of opposition meant that my resolution automatically became Labour Party policy. It has never been mentioned since. 13 It was present in my book Prawn Cocktail Party and booklet The Rise of New Labour. 14 The key article for me had been Frank Longstreth, ‘The City, Industry and the State’ in Colin Crouch (ed.) State and Economy in Contemporary Capitalism (London: Croom Helm, 1979) economists were right. Yes, inflation fell from a monthly average of 12% in 1981 to a monthly low of 3.7% in May 1983.15 But any fool can bring down inflation by causing mass unemployment. The free marketeers who are impressed by this fall in inflation ignore the fact that it rose again in the later 1980s and was averaging about 8% in 1989; and they ignore the fact that the Thatcher government’s economic policies did precisely ‘erode the industrial base of our economy and threaten its social and political stability’. Osborne and Cameron had also been much impressed by the experience of Canada where large cuts in state expenditure had been followed by economic revival. In 2010 The Telegraph ran a report, ‘Coalition government: the Canadian cuts model that the Tories wish to emulate’ on the Canadian government’s experience in the early 1990s of cutting state spending by 20% more or less across the board in response to a large state deficit.16 In his Mais Lecture in 2010 Osborne referred to Canada - and also to the experience of Sweden and said: ‘As Goran Persson, the Social Democrat Prime Minister of Sweden who eliminated a huge budget deficit following a financial crisis and a deep recession in the early 1990s, used to say, “a country in debt is not free”.’ He also gave prominence to the research by Rogoff and Reinhart and said of them: ‘The[ir] latest research suggests that once debt reaches more than about 90% of GDP the risks of a large negative impact on long term growth become highly significant.’ So in 2010 Osborne and Cameron believed the Rogoff and Reinhart research was true; and that Sweden and Canada in the 1990s showed that large scale government cuts were followed by economic growth in the wider economy. So no 15 Inflation figures from < http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/ datablog/2009/mar/09/inflation-economics > 16 wonder they are in deep shit! First, Rogoff and Reinhart’s conclusions have been shown to be false, based on errors by the authors.17 (And are, in any case, refuted by the experience of – for example – the UK economy after WW2, which, with debts of over 200% of GDP at war’s end, experienced low inflation and decent economic growth for the next 25 years.) And second, the Swedish and Canadian economies in the 1990s were not in a global recession and thus their experience then is not relevant now.18 What noone on the austerity side of the argument has offered is an example of an economy growing after large public sector cuts while in a global recession. Citythink I like many of Simon Jenkins’ columns in the Guardian and often agree with him. On 7 May 2013, he wrote this: ‘Meanwhile, Britain’s one world-class industry, financial services, is in the sights of every jealous EU regulator.’ 19 Is the City the UK’s only ‘world-class industry’? No, it’s not. And even if it was, at what cost to the rest of the British economy did it achieve this prominence? This is the bit of the story the City’s boosters never think about.20 One of those is Dan McCurry, author of ‘The case for the City’ in Labour Uncut.21 McCurry wrote: ‘The towers that I see when I look from my kitchen 17 See Paul Krugman on the failure of austerity < http://www. nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/jun/06/how-case-austerity-hascrumbled/? pagination=false> and . 18 The free marketeer Centre for Policy Studies published a pamphlet in January 2012, How to Cut Government Spending: lessons from Canada and even they noted that ‘Canada’s economic crisis happened when the gobal economy was reasonably healthy.’ 19 20 For a short introduction to this see Longstreth in note 14 above. 21 windows contain the industry that pays for our schools and hospitals. We should appreciate that industry not run it down. If we are to have an industrial policy then it should include financial services..... Although we do need to create space for other sectors to flourish, it doesn’t follow that we have to destroy finance in order to achieve that......’ Two obvious points: first, no-one is talking about ‘destroying finance’. Regulating it, yes; reducing its influence, yes. Second, while it is true that being highly paid the financial sector contributed significantly to the state’s tax income, at its peak that contribution was only 12%; and some of that, perhaps half, is the domestic financial sector, located on Britain’s high streets, not in the gleaming towers of Canary Wharf. That 12% didn’t ‘pay for our schools and hospitals’: it paid for some of them. And some of those paying that 12% also organised the tax evasion and avoidance of the global companies trading here which, I would guess, was significantly more than they paid in taxes. Eurobollocks? For Simon Jenkins, ‘financial services, is in the sights of every jealous EU regulator.’ Whatever the motivation of the EU’s regulators, it is clear that as the present UK government and any foreseeable future UK government is not going to get to grips with the City and its global gambling, the best bet for nailing the banksters’ feet to the floor lies with the EU. Which creates a curious dilemma for me. I think the EU is absurd, a menace in many ways, and I would vote for UK withdrawal – were it not for the fact that the threat posed by the banksters is greater than that posed by the Eurocrats’ delusory dreams. So, come on, Brussels! Bring on the regulations! It is perhaps not a coincidence that opposition to EU membership in this country appears to be rising in step with the threat to the City’s independence. Let me recommend Neil Barofsky’s Bailout: How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street (London: Simon and Shuster/Free Press, 2012). Barofsky was a prosecutor who was recruited to oversee the financial bailout in the TARP funds; and, as the subtitle suggests, discovered that while it was sold to Congress as a means of preventing mass defaulting on domestic mortgages, it was mostly grabbed by the banks. This is an entertaining and illuminating ‘outsider-joins-Washington’ tale. Barofsky, on the inside, shows the reader that it was just as bad as it looked from the outside. Two pieces of mine, on politicians’ ignorance of economics and Labour’s capitulation to the City of London – largely recycled from material in recent Lobsters – are at and . Clean hands? When Lobster began, back in the early 1980s, co-founder Steve Dorril and I we spent a lot of time collecting little snippets of information, especially about the intelligence and security services (little snippets was all there was then). One such snippet has appeared in a letter to the London Review of Books. In a response to a review by Bernard Porter of Calder Walton’s Empire of Secrets: British Intelligence, the Cold War and the Twilight of Empire 22 David Lea, former TUC official, now in the House of Lords, wrote in the next issue: ‘Referring to the controversy surrounding the death of Patrice Lumumba in 1960, Bernard Porter quotes Calder Walton’s conclusion: “The question remains whether British plots to assassinate Lumumba … ever amounted to anything. At present, we do not know” (LRB, 21 March). Actually, in this particular case, I can report that we do. It so happens that I was having a cup of tea with Daphne Park – we were colleagues from opposite sides of the Lords – a few months before she died in March 2010. She had been consul and first secretary in Leopoldville, now Kinshasa, from 1959 to 1961, which in 22 Vol. 35, No. 6, 21 March 2013. practice (this was subsequently acknowledged) meant head of MI6 there. I mentioned the uproar surrounding Lumumba’s abduction and murder, and recalled the theory that MI6 might have had something to do with it. “We did,” she replied, “I organised it.”’ The sources on my shelves and on the Net do not stand this up. Nonetheless, it is a noteworthy comment because if there has been a single theme running through commentary from MI6 and its media assets in the past 30 years it is that MI6 does not do assassination. Now, apparently, it is OK to boast that it certainly used to do so. DiEugenio on Parry Jim DiEugenio took slight umbrage at my review of his book on the Kennedy assassination in this issue. In that review I said that he was very good indeed; and if further evidence is needed to support that claim, it is supplied by his long review essay on Robert Parry’s new book, America’s Stolen Narrative.23 Parry’s book looks important. I will review it further down the road. Pass the tinfoil In 1989 I met Harlan Girard who gave me a pile of photocopied articles, among which were accounts of the dangers of electromagnetic radiation (EMR). He also told me a strange story about being monitored and directed by the CIA using microwaves. I now have an entire filing cabinet drawer of material on these subjects, which we might loosely call EMR and its uses. Which explains why I still do not have a mobile phone. (I should put an EMR-emitting device next to my brain?) The evidence is pretty clear that they are bad for us. But I do have a router. When I had a techie round to install a second Internet connection for my partner, I was talking about putting in a second landline to avoid the EMR from a router. My techie showed me that I was already in the 23 EMR fields of four of my immediate neighbours’ computers. In an urban environment it is impossible to avoid this stuff. So I went for a router. And the slow demise of the public landline system means that I will have to get a mobile phone any minute now. Happily I am not electrosensitive and do not have to go to the lengths of some of those described in Nicholas Blincoe’s sympathetic account of electrosensitives and the hazards of EMR in the Guardian Weekend at the end of March.24 Killing Olof Palme At you can download a 1000 plus PDF pages on the assassination of Olof Palme. I have only lightly skimmed through this so far and as far as I can see there is a lot of interesting information here – for example about the Swedish Masons – as well as a lot of speculation. His analysis of the shooting and its immediate aftermath is hard to follow and it made me realise how difficult the JFK assassination material must be for those coming to it for the first time. Another Met spook outed Mark Metcalf has written an interesting piece on his identification of the Metropolitan Police agent who infiltrated the Colin Roach Centre (CRC) in Hackney when Metcalf was working there.25 This is of particular significance to Lobster because this agent, Mark Jenner of the Met’s Special Demonstration Squad, was there while the CRC was helping Malcolm Kennedy, who was framed for murder by members of the Met, about whose case Jane Affleck has written at length 24 A recent interesting and intelligible account of the physiology of electrosensitivity is at . 25 in these columns.26 Undermining Chavez In issue 115 of his Anti-Empire Report, William Blum has a detailed account, from official documentation published by Wikileaks, of one of the American campaigns to destabilise the regime of the late Hugo Chavez.27 When Chavez died there was a deal of discussion of the proposition that maybe the US had induced Chavez’s cancer. Much derision was pored on the idea. Of course it is possible, not using chemicals or drugs, which were discussed, but electromagnetic radiation (EMR). (Was anyone monitoring EMR around Chavez?) The US embassy in Moscow was irradiated in the 1960s by the Soviet regime, resulting in the death of at least one member of the staff, and kicking-off the US military’s intensive study of the military applications of EMR.28 Stoned again The new 12 part revisionist history of America by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznik is being broadcast in the UK by Murdoch’s Sky Atlantic – a further demonstration (if one were needed) that Murdoch generally puts profit before ideology. The New York Review of Books got the Princeton historian Sean Wilentz to review it and he devoted almost all of his three page review to the Stone-Kuznik account of why vice president Henry Wallace was dumped by Roosevelt during WW2 – obviously the most important part of the series, right? For what it’s worth, I think Wilentz makes a pretty good case against Stone-Kuznik on this issue, but that hardly matters. The irony (to which he and his editors are oblivious) is that Wilentz accuses Stone-Kuznik of ‘cherry-picking’ ........29 26 In issues 39, 41 and 51, for example. An introduction to the Kennedy case is at . 27 28 See . 29 Inside Wall St Nick Chirls was a young Yale graduate who, like 40% of his Yale year (his figure), went into finance. He joined Lehman Brothers just before the crash – and hated it. Chirls has written a very interesting, short account of life at Lehman Brothers before it went down the pan.30 It contains a number of quotable sections. Here’s the most striking. ‘Unfortunately, what I eventually came to learn, and this took time, was that what was really happening was a simple transfer of wealth, more often than not from the less intelligent and informed to the more so. I worked in a highly opaque market. There was no price ticker scrolling across our screens telling us what these bonds and derivatives we traded were worth. In fact, no one really knew what any of this stuff was worth. Which, it turns out, is a trader’s field day. What this meant, in its simplest form, is that these traders (or salespeople) could buy bonds at the “market” price from intelligent hedge fund managers in NYC and sell this same crap at much higher levels to unsophisticated (but legally considered “sophisticated”) pension funds and insurance companies in middle America. What I discovered, quite starkly, is that the part of Wall Street that I worked in was simply transferring wealth from the less sophisticated investors, often teachers’ pension funds and factory workers’ retirement accounts, to the more sophisticated investors that call themselves proprietary trading desks and hedge funds. Of course, the traders had all sorts of excuses and jargon to deal with this truth. “Oh no,” they would say, “We are important providers of liquidity that create stable financial markets. We’re a crucial part of a system. And besides, if we don’t do it, someone else will.” These are the lies that people tell themselves so that they can buy larger homes.’ Iraq invasion: tenth anniversary 30 Monday 18 March was quite a day for those of us against the invasion of Iraq. On the BBC News Website, Peter Taylor conveyed the central gist of his programme later that night on Panorama about the intelligence failures which led the leadership of the US and UK to believe – or pretend to believe – that the Iraq regime had WMDs. Essentially: US politicians chose to believe fabricators and ignored intelligence which said there were no WMDs. In the case of the Americans, this is hardly surprising: they were bent on the invasion and nothing short of Saddam Hussein’s dismantling of his regime – and maybe not even that – would have prevented the assault. Apparently unable just to say publicly that ‘We have to to support the Americans’, it was Tony Blair who needed to persuade himself that the cause was justified by the ‘intelligence’ on WMDs. The 18th also saw striking quotations in an article in the Guardian31 from the heads of British armed forces at the time, condemning the invasion as incompetent, ill-thought out etc. Good to read, chaps, but I remember that nobody said anything when it might have mattered. And nobody resigned. Careers apparently come before the national interest – and the interests of the armed forces. Also reflecting on Iraq ten years on was erstwhile MI6 officer and now Conservative MP Rory Stewart, who took part in the invasion/occupation. Stewart concluded: ‘The question for Britain is what aspect of our culture, our government, and our national psychology, allowed us to get mired in such catastrophe? Everyone – including Cumbrians – should try to understand what happened. We need to reform the army, the Foreign Office, our intelligence agency, and the way parliament debates war, to make us more knowledgeable, more prudent, and more willing to speak truth to power. We must expose not only the politicians but also the generals and civil servants who failed to challenge the 31 Richard Norton-Taylor, ‘Iraq war planning wholly irresponsible, say senior UK military figures’, . system, emphasise the disaster, or press hard enough for withdrawal. We must recognise how easily we exaggerate our fears (‘terrorism’ and ‘weapons of mass destruction’) and how easily we hypnotise ourselves with theories (‘state-building’ and ‘counter-insurgency’). We must acknowledge the limits of our knowledge, power, and legitimacy.’32 Cold War origins In the previous issue of Lobster I referred to the US ‘faking’ the Cold War. That was glib and overstated. The US pursuit of armed confrontation with the Soviet Union arose from the interaction of several factors in a very complicated period in world history. The first was the plans of America’s ruling elite. Shoup and Minter’s study of US wartime planning for the post-WW2 world,33 shows that the dominant role in that planning was played by the Council on Foreign Relations, the CFR of a thousand conspiracy theories. Those plans were that, led by the East Coast internationalist elite – bankers and their banks’ lawyers for the most part – America would dominate much of the world when WW2 ended and open it up to American capital. Parallel to this the US government would lend dollars to the world – especially war-ravaged Europe – with which those countries could buy American goods. One of the key figures in the process wrote in 1942 that the problem for the US economy was: ‘how to create purchasing power outside of our country which could be converted into domestic purchasing power through exportation. In practical terms, this matter comes down to the problem of devising appropriate institutions to perform after the war the function that Lend-Lease is now performing.’ 34 The CFR people thought this could be achieved by economic 32 33 Laurence H. Shoup and William Minter, Imperial Brain Trust (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1977) 34 Shoup and Minter p. 165. muscle but underestimated the resistance the US would meet from other nation states (who recognised American imperialism when they saw it) and the resistance their faction would meet within domestic politics. Although the isolationists had been defeated during the early years of the war, isolationist sentiment had not been extinguished; the mass demobilisation of US forces at war’s end supplied millions of men and women who had no sympathy for continued foreign adventures; and there was a considerable body of fiscal conservatives in Congress who wanted to see the state shrunk back to its pre-war size. The second factor was the fear of a return to pre-war economic depression which was felt by everyone. The third factor was pork barrel politics: by war’s end there were many members of congress with military plant and bases or military-linked manufacturing in their districts, who made common cause with local business in seeking to maintain spending (and thus employment) in their areas. We might say that the war economy had created the militaryindustrial complex and it was keen to ensure its survival. For example, during the war the US aircraft industry had been transformed by the production of 300,000 military aircraft. At war’s end most of those orders stopped. Lockheed’s President, Robert Goss, was testifying before Congress a couple of months after the war finished that the aircraft industry had answered the nation’s call during the war and it now needed the state to provide it with new orders.35 A couple of years later the aircraft industry persuaded President Truman to create a commission to look at the problem. Which commission, after taking testimony from the aircraft industry and the US Air Force, duly recommended increased military spending to prepare the US for the next world war.36 All these interests needed a new ‘threat’ to continue with military spending; and all found it congenial to interpret 35 William D Hartung, Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the making of the military-industrial complex (New York: Nation Books, 2011) pp. 36 See Hartung (note 35) pp. 55/6. On the commission’s chief, Thomas Finletter, see . Soviet diplomatic behaviour after the war as threatening.37 A crusade against communism could be sold more easily than reshaping the world to benefit American capital. It was a familiar theme: at the end of the first World War the US had a domestic crusade against communism. Happily for all concerned, the US had a president, Harry Truman, who, as vice president had been excluded from the major war decisionmaking, and was a believer in the threat posed by international communism. The crusade against the communist threat was irresistible and those who opposed it were ignored or crushed as com-symps, fellow-travellers, naifs. George Kennan, deputy head of the U.S. mission in Moscow until April 1946, the author of the famous ‘long telegram’ from Moscow, had the galling experience of seeing his advice about ‘containing’ the Soviet Union by political and economic means, presented as advocacy of military confrontation. And so the Cold War began, driven by the domestic economic needs of America. Wag the dog 2 The basic mechanism of the American military-industrial complex is simple: find or create a threat then provide a defence against it. In the 1997 film satire Wag the Dog, a ‘threat’ from Albania is created. In the satire-proof America of 2013 the threat is North Korea. The Washington Post reported on 15 March: ‘The Pentagon announced Friday that it would strengthen the country’s defenses against a possible attack by nuclear-equipped North Korea, fielding additional missile systems to protect the West Coast at a time of growing concern about the Stalinist regime.’ 38 Even though North Korea does not have a missile which can 37 A recent interpretation of Soviet post-war behaviour as not threatening, and the Cold War as essentially bogus, is Andrew Alexander, America and the imperialism of ignorance (London: Biteback, 2011). Alexander is a columnist for the Daily Mail. 38 reach America, or a warhead to mount on it, it is a ‘threat’ nonetheless. Or, a more accurately, a potential threat. The article reported Under-secretary of Defense James Miller as saying: ‘Our policy is to stay ahead of the threat — and to continue to ensure that we are ahead of any potential future Iranian or North Korean ICBM capability.’ Tam and Cav There is a very interesting obituary by Tam Dalyell of Anthony Cavendish, the MI6 officer turned banker, friend of MI6 chief Maurice Oldfield.39 Dalyell reports in his usual guileless fashion that he and Cavendish were chums and Cavendish would give him material with which to ask parliamentary questions. He also tells us that Cavendish, though formally not with MI6 in the last 40 years, informally was. Would it be overstating it to say that Cavendish was running Dalyell? I’ll bet Cavendish saw it that way. ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ Mickey Huff, Andy Lee Roth and Project Censored’s Censored 2013: dispatches from the media revolution (New York: Seven Stories, 2012) contains an anthology of stories the American major media ‘censored’ in 2011/12. Except, not really: the stories written about here have all been reported by the American media somewhere. The book should have been called Neglected 2013, or Underreported 2013. But ‘neglected’ and ‘underreported’ don’t quite have the drama of ‘censored’, do they? No matter: our editors have found a way round this: they have changed the meaning of censored. They are using a 39 I met Dalyell a couple of times. At our first meeting, in the House of Commons, I think, Dalyell put his hand in his jacket pocket and took out some rather tired-looking lettuce and offered it to me. As you do.... Politely, I hope, I declined. ‘broader definition of censorship’: ‘...censorship includes stories that were never published, but also those that get such restricted distribution that few in the public are likely to know about them. In sum, censorship [is].....anything that interferes with the free flow of information in a society that purports to have a free press system.’ (p. 30) This strikes me as nonsense. We know what censored means: it means suppressed, deliberately spiked (these days, deleted). You can’t seriously claim that ‘censorship [is].....anything that interferes with the free flow of information in a society’, if only because it is impossible to define ‘the free flow of information in a society’. However it is not the first time those on the left have tried to modify the term ‘censored’ for their own ends. This item below appeared in ‘View from the Bridge’ in Lobster 36. Lost plot After Lobster 35 I received a long letter from John Pilger, followed by a revised version of it, complaining about my review of his recent book, Hidden Agendas in 35. With the second version came a note asking me to publish his letter without comment. I replied that I was happy to publish his 1500 word letter but not without comment. Back came the reply that my review ‘was not merely mean-minded in the extreme, it was a gross misrepresentation, and with an agenda’ (I confess that I am still in the dark about this ‘agenda’); that by refusing to publish his letter without comment ‘I was imposing a form of censorship’; and I was now forbidden to publish his letter. By agreeing to publish his letter uncut I am censoring him? Action this day (not) Boy, the headline was sexy: ‘Tax avoidance firms will be banned from major government contracts’. Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury, described the changes as ‘another significant tool which will provide a framework to enable government departments to say no to firms bidding for government contracts where they have been involved in failed tax avoidance’. 40 Was something serious actually being done by the coalition? Alas, no. The next day Professor Prem Sikka noted:41 ‘The proposed policy only applies to bidders for central government contracts. Thus tax avoiders can continue to make profits from local government, government agencies and other government-funded organisations – including universities, hospitals, schools and public bodies. Banks, railway companies, gas, electricity, water, steel, biotechnology, motor vehicle and arms companies receive taxpayer-funded loans, guarantees and subsidies, but their addiction to tax avoidance will not be touched by the proposed policy. The policy will apply to one bidder, or a company, at a time and not to all members of a group of companies even though they will share the profits. Thus, one subsidiary in a group can secure a government contract by claiming to be clean, while other affiliates and subsidiaries can continue to rob the public purse through tax avoidance. There is nothing to prevent a company from forming another subsidiary for the sole purpose of bidding for a contract while continuing with nefarious practices elsewhere.... The policy will not apply to the tax avoidance industry, consisting of accountants, lawyers and finance experts devising new dodges...... The proposed government policy will not work. It expects corporations who can construct opaque corporate structures and sham transactions to come 40 41 clean. That will not happen. In addition, a government loth to invest in public regulation will not have the sufficient manpower to police any self-certifications by big business.’ The old lady’s best guess Since NuLab began worshipping at the feet of the City of London in the mid 1990s, I have been collecting and publishing information on the City’s contribution to the UK economy. Except ‘information’ would be overstating it: I have been collecting guesses or estimates; there is no ‘information’. In the Bank of England Quarterly Review, Q3, 2011, there is an essay ‘Measuring of financial sector output and its contribution to UK GDP’, the first table of which gives us the Bank’s best guess: that at its peak the financial sector was about 9% of UK GDP.42 It is widely assumed that of the financial sector about half is domestic – our banks, building societies etc. – and thus that the international, ‘world financial hub’ financial sector was about 4.5% of GDP, at its peak. Which is not insignificant but does not compensate for the loss of about 15% of GDP which was manufacturing, which successive governments, starting in 1980, destroyed by pursuing the economic agenda of the financial sector – the single biggest mistake made by governments since WW2 and the major cause of our current economic predicament. The murder of Pat Finucane I wonder if anyone outside the state has actually read all 800 pages of The Report of the Patrick Finucane Review by the Rt Hon Sir Desmond de Silva QC.43 So far I have only read the summary, in which these seemed to me to be the key sections. ‘In my view, the running of effective agents in Northern 42 43 Ireland was such a fraught and difficult task that it manifestly required the support of a clear legal and policy framework. I have established, though, that there was no adequate framework in Northern Ireland in the late 1980s. Accordingly, each of the three agencies running agents – the RUC SB, the Army’s Force Research Unit (FRU) and the Security Service – operated under their own separate regimes. The result was that: the RUC SB had no workable guidelines; the FRU were subject to Directives and Instructions that were contradictory; and the Security Service received no effective external guidance to make clear the extent to which their agents could be permitted to engage in criminality in order to gather intelligence. It was apparent that successive Governments knew that agents were being run by the intelligence agencies in Northern Ireland without recourse to any effective guidance or a proper legal framework. (p. 11) In 1985 the Security Service assessed that 85% of the UDA’s “intelligence” originated from sources within the security forces. (p. 16) My Review of the evidence relating to Patrick Finucane’s case has left me in no doubt that agents of the State were involved in carrying out serious violations of human rights up to and including murder. However, despite the different strands of involvement by elements of the State, I am satisfied that they were not linked to an over-arching State conspiracy to murder Patrick Finucane. Nevertheless, each of the facets of the collusion that were manifest in his case – the passage of information from members of the security forces to the UDA, the failure to act on threat intelligence, the participation of State agents in the murder and the subsequent failure to investigate and arrest key members of the West Belfast UDA – can each be explained by the wider thematic issues which I have examined.’ (pp. 23/4) It was this summary which gave the major media the phrase ‘no over-arching State conspiracy’ used in most mainstream reporting. On the other hand, even those quotes I chose from his summary show that this was not a case of state ‘collusion’ with the Loyalist terrorists. If 85% of the UDA’s ‘intelligence’ came from the British state’s agencies, with a British agent (Brian Nelson) using it to target Republicans, the UDA was being run by the state. What is to be done? There is a very acute analysis of the Newsnight special ‘Iraq - 10 years on’ by Nafeez Ahmed44 which concluded thus: ‘Ten years on, we need to be thinking about how British democratic institutions were hijacked for a self-serving geopolitical strategy invented by a tiny group of American neoconservative politicians; and how, therefore, we might ensure that appropriate reforms of our political, parliamentary and intelligence processes can prevent such a situation from re-occurring.’ Ahmed has misread this, I think. It isn’t that our democratic institutions were ‘hi-jacked’. The House of Commons could have stopped the Blair government’s move to war; there were no structural obstacles. But doing so would have involved middle of the road Labour and Conservative MPs opposing the leadership of their parties (which is bad for careers); which would have led the Labour Party – the government – to be portrayed as ‘split’ by the major media and the Conservative opposition (which is universally believed to be electoral poison). To prevent this sort of thing happening again would involve two main things: electing MPs who are not afraid to challenge the defence-intelligence establishment in this country, and who are less concerned about their careers and their party’s fortunes than they are about the national interest (and good luck with that project!). Most importantly it would 44 involve changing the automatic support for America embedded in this country’s political system and major media. This would mean educating said system and media about the nature of American foreign policy since WW2, which thus far the Anglo- American left have failed to do. How difficult this would be is suggested by the comments of then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in 2005 when responding to the charge that the UK was involved in extraordinary rendition.45 ‘Unless we all start to believe in conspiracy theories and that the officials are lying, that I am lying, that behind this is some kind of secret state which is in league with some dark forces in the United States, and also, let me say, we believe that Secretary Rice is lying, there is simply no truth that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition, full stop.’ Is Straw a fool or a knave? I can’t tell. The ‘conspiracy theories’ in this instance – ‘some kind of secret state which is in league with some dark forces in the United States’, and ‘officials are lying’ – are true, of course. Is it possible that after a life in politics, in which Uncle Sam must have loomed large on many occasions, Straw simply doesn’t know this? Or, curiosity about those areas not being good for political careers, did he chose mostly to avert his eyes? Dealing with the bog-wogs46 On the Spinwatch site47 there is an interesting study of the British Army’s use of undercover military units in Northern Ireland in the first half of the 1970s: essentially Brigadier Frank Kitson’s attempt to use the methods developed in Kenya and Malaya – pseudogangs, assassination and false flag attacks – against the IRA. What comes through most 45 Straw’s comment was exhumed by Peter Oborne in a splendid attack on the ‘secret justice’ proposals. See 46 ‘Bog-wogs’ was the term used by one of Colin Wallace’s English CO’s in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. 47 strikingly in this account are: the sheer incompetence of it all – again and again these units shot the wrong people and the rest of the state had to cover-up the mess they’d made; and the almost complete absence of curiosity about these events shown by the major media in Britain at the time. Money, money, money It was always clear that the government/Bank of England’s policies since the great crash of 2008 in part entailed those who were not in debt (savers) paying the bills of those who were (borrowers). At its most obvious, interest rates paid on savers’ deposits being less than inflation means the effective devaluation of those deposits. As far as I can see this was done to prevent widespread mortgage defaults. In testimony to a committee of MPs, the director general of Saga48 – described the policies as a ‘monumental mistake’: ‘Quantitative easing and ultra-low interest rates have hampered the spending power of those in the economy who were not over-indebted and who would otherwise have spent money.’ What I had not grasped is that these policies have forced ‘companies to divert cash into pension funds rather than investing’. It works like this. Under Quantitative Easing (QE) the Bank of England has ‘bought’ £375bn of UK government bonds, or gilts, with newly created electronic money. It now owns almost a third of all gilts in the market. This huge expansion of demand has driven gilt prices higher but has enabled the government to reduce the interest rate paid on them to record low levels. ‘That has the unintended consequence of pummelling pension funds, which use gilt yields to calculate their future liabilities. When gilt yields plummet, pension fund deficits effectively balloon. The National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) estimated last year that QE had increased pension deficits by at least £90bn over the past three years. Current regulations mean companies 48 Social Amenities for the Golden Age, SAGA is a British company catering to those aged 50 and over (who have money). must plug those holes. Mark Hyde Harrison, the chairman of NAPF, said businesses are now having to contribute to their pension schemes instead of investing for the future, which negates any positive impact of QE.’49 Fluoridation Given that a section of the population in Western societies is concerned enough about what they are eating to support the ‘health food’ and organic sectors, it is curious that so little attention has been paid to the case against fluoride. That case is restated in a shortish but thoroughly documented account on the interesting Washington’s Blog.50 As Christopher Bryson did in his book The Fluoride Deception (New York: Seven Stories, 2004) the author there shows that a false consensus about the efficacy of fluoride has been created which survives because the evidence which refutes is never looked at by the public health officials and the dentistry industry which promote the use of fluoride. Compassionate Conservatism The always interesting William Clark has an analysis of socalled ‘progressive Conservatism’ on his site.51 ‘Progressive Conservatism, as a propaganda project, has two strands: the first is to capture the language of other parties to make the party seem progressive (this functions almost solely through repetition); secondly it seeks the obliteration of the distinction between elite direction and democratic initiative — to continue business as usual....The Progressive Conservatives (a very small group) have taken this on as some kind of further emulation of ‘New Labour’, using Demos and 49 50 51 < http://pinkindustry.wordpress.com/max-wind-cowie-progressiveconservatism/> other think tanks to fill the media with various vestedinterest- funded psychological adjustments.’ Clark’s site, Pink Industry, subtitled ‘’The Atlantic Semantic’, is a treasure trove of information on the political and parapolitical world we live in. He has done so much research, he makes me feel lazy. The banking crisis The splendid Matt Taibbi has another piece on the financial crisis, ‘Secrets and Lies of the Bailout’ in Rolling Stone 17 January 2013. Taibbi concludes: ‘So what exactly did the bailout accomplish? It built a banking system that discriminates against community banks, makes Too Big to Fail banks even Too Bigger to Failier, increases risk, discourages sound business lending and punishes savings by making it even easier and more profitable to chase high-yield investments than to compete for small depositors. The bailout has also made lying on behalf of our biggest and most corrupt banks the official policy of the United States government. And if any one of those banks fails, it will cause another financial crisis, meaning we’re essentially wedded to that policy for the rest of eternity – or at least until the markets call our bluff, which could happen any minute now. Other than that, the bailout was a smashing success. Although stated in quite different language, the Bank of England’s Andrew Haldane, Executive Director, Financial Stability, came to similar conclusions in a speech given in early 2013.52 Armen Victorian Victorian wrote a number of very good essays for Lobster; his first appeared in number 23 and the final one in 36. I lost 52 touch with him and have had no contact for well over a decade. I recently noticed a 1996 essay of his I hadn’t seen before, ‘United States, Canada, Britain: partners in mind control operations’,53 which reminded me of what good work he had done. Uncle Sam talent-spotting An interesting straw in the wind which I missed when it first appeared was Jon Kelly’s ‘How do you spot a future world leader’? on the BBC website in March 2011, in which Kelly discussed the International Visitor Leader Program (IVLP), the latest name for the sponsor of freebie trips to America for people identified as potential political allies of Uncle Sam. The article quotes Giles Scott-Smith, the leading researcher in this field (whose book on this subject was reviewed in Lobster 43), and me (though I am dubious about the words attributed to me: they don’t sound like mine). But no matter.54 The fact that this appeared anywhere on the BBC is, like the Charlie Skelton blogs on Bilderberg,55 a striking change of emphasis for the Corporation. Hail to The Slog The most consistently interesting blog I look at is The Slog (http://hat4uk.wordpress.com/). Tom Easton pointed me at this recent item on it. Who is Cristine Lagarde really working for? ‘Over many months during 2011-12, The Slog painstakingly put together a massive body of evidence pointing clearly to the fact that the US weren’t comfortable with Dominique Strauss-Kahn either as head of the IMF, or potential President of France. Equally, I spent many hours talking to those involved, and tracing career progressions, in a bid to establish that Christine 53 54 On Giles Scott-Smith see . 55 . For more recent accounts see and . Tom Easton reminded me that Michael Ledeen edited its journal for a while and former Gaitskell era US labor attaché in the UK, Joe Godson, operated from there with his European Working Group – Peter Shore MP, Eric Hammond, Peter Robinson (of the NUT), Ray Whitney MP et al. There is no obvious evidence that CSIS is, as The Slog has it, the think tank of the oil lobby. Ruling Class (London: Verso, 1984), written while he was at the University of Amsterdam. Over twenty five years later a distinctive piece of his, ‘State Capture and the Democratic Movement’, on the economic crisis, has appeared on the newleftproject website.57 Verso published a new edition of The Making of a Transatlantic Ruling Class in 2012. 57 . I also have a piece on that site – who could resist being asked to write for something called New Left? – . The latest global ‘celeb’: Pope Francis Corinne Souza I am always puzzled as to why UK/US journalists fail to cover global religions in terms of their actual or potential political impact, when religion is a huge political force. All clerics, Christian, Jewish, Muslim and so on, can and do influence their publics, many are politically active and some at the very top of their societies: e.g. bishops and the Chief Rabbi in Parliament; the Vatican’s one time refusal to recognise the state of Israel; the Ayatollahs of Iran; or allegations that Pope Francis may have had a nodding acquaintance with Argentina’s Junta. Whatever the truth of the last of these, it will have done Pope Francis’ reputation no harm in authoritarian nations such as China where he has Chinese Christians and bishops to protect. In particular, I am astonished by what appears to be an absence of coverage on the impact a South American pope could have on US politics. The Republicans are unlikely to welcome him: like the pope they are anti-gay and antiabortion. However, they are also anti-immigrant: Pope Francis empathises with immigrants. Republicans they deny climate change when the Vatican does not, its priests having seen it decimate parts of Africa. In addition, Pope Francis is a respecter of all faiths, a huge challenge to US neo-cons and Israel which depends on favouritism; and in a wonderful turn of tables, gives South America the ability to meddle in US politics because of Pope Francis’ ability to mobilise Hispanics. Surely a candidate for political assassination if ever there was one? Of course, if you listen to the Vatican’s spin machine, you would think that Pope Francis will do no more than concentrate on matters spiritual, pastoral, reputational, corrupt and administrative. This is true. But it is also a wonderful piece of Vatican Omission PR. It ignores the fact that the pope-as-figurehead has political significance in international relations terms and the Vatican has centuries experience of this; that Francis is a Jesuit, when the Jesuit Order is an organised global educator and therefore a highly politically active force world-wide. For example, it is very active in Africa, especially, as I say above, on climate change; is the only faith challenger to Islam in Africa; and by virtue of its influence as educators, a significant economic challenger to China which is heavily involved and invested in Africa. In addition, a South American pope strengthens South American prestige in global and economic politics – it's a brand thing. Overnight South America has gained a unifying global figurehead – Hugo Chavez was a figurehead who divided nations, Pope Francis does not – who is a ‘celeb’ as big as President Obama or, if you prefer, Tom Cruise, creating a viable economic and political challenger to India and the Far East who have no unifying global figureheads or celebrities: i.e. no recognisable brand. As importantly, backed by the rise of South America, it gives global Christianity an economic and political power base that challenges murder emanating from minute pockets of some Muslim communities – while accelerating and embracing dialogue with Islam in general whose only figureheads in the West happen to be terrorists or suspected terrorists...... The SIS and London-based foreign dissidents: some patterns of espionage Corinne Souza Over forty years separates the arrival of the Iraqi community in London and today’s Russian one. Some of the Iraqis making their home in the UK in the 1970s had substantial wealth, others were averagely well-to-do, and some had little more than the clothes in which they stood. For the most part they were fleeing for their lives and as a community, made up of many communities, kept a low profile. This holds true today. The low profile strategy, for all its divisions and tensions – now under more stress following the arrival of post invasion Iraqis – allowed the community, and its children in particular, to evolve quietly as more Iraqis rolled in. It was only in the intelligence sphere – which the majority of 1970s Iraqis were seeking to avoid – that it had high visibility. Some Iraqis were sought out by the SIS; but for the most part the spies interested in the community were not Brits but fellow Iraqis.1 In due course there were unexplained deaths, suicides, obvious murders and hellish other incidents. These came as one-offs or in waves. They stopped as quickly as they started, only to kick off again just as a semblance of peace of mind was being restored. Although largely invisible to mainstream Britain, the fear and hysteria this engendered within the Iraqi community and those associated with it was beyond belief. The children, desperate to fit in with their British schoolmates, absorbed it with insouciance. The Iraqi minority who were politically active and/or dissidents in contact with the SIS or other western intelligence agencies grew smaller and more hard core. 1 Espionage has always been selective and never a numbers game – the Brits were only interested in a small minority. Mass espionage, which is what the Iraqis were playing at, is designed to create fear. Protection Security became the norm. My Baghdad-born father was an agent with the SIS and my family was lucky in that when I was a schoolgirl and we were under actual Iraqi threat in London, we had the support of a beloved SIS case officer who moved in with us until full protection could be put in place. By the time he left, we had armed Special Branch officers inside our house and uniformed police outside. Many prominent Iraqis had the same level of cover. Those who did not, but had the means to pay for it, arranged it for themselves: when terrorising an entire community, one goal is to deplete its financial reserves, and forcing security provision upon it is one way of doing so. Inevitably a protection market developed – mostly stocked by moonlighters from Special Branch and the police – with Iraqi families complaining that their price could be one thing one moment and another the next. ‘Ordinary’ Iraqi families, meaning poorer ones, to begin with had the support of bewildered ‘bobbies-on-the-beat’. As costs escalated, they were withdrawn. Iraqi students, some of whom were politically active, had no protection at all; some relying on their British peers who organised rotas to sleep in their houses. In due course, the Iraqi community separated, the majority pursuing apolitical and deliberately invisible lives. A minority remained politically active; an even smaller number continuing to work with the SIS and/or other countries’ agencies in the hope of toppling Saddam Hussein. The very few wealthy enough to consult the major PR companies of the day in the hope of keeping their cause alive did so for a time. Courtship of Saddam Hussein The entire community coped as best it could when Britain and the West started courting Saddam Hussein – one of the UK’s provisos being that his henchmen leave London and do his dirty work in some other European capital. The London-based Iraqi community’s children, by now well integrated, grew to maturity with a sophisticated knowledge of government-to- government betrayal, many of them despising and eschewing politics to this day. Meantime, and in accordance with the British government’s new policy of courting Saddam Hussein, the SIS’s interest in Iraq was scaled down. Holistic knowledge of the country, at one time second to none, plummeted: what is taught in a dictator’s secondary schools defines the capabilities of his next generation, knowledge of which is as important as knowing his current crop of officials. The minimal British intelligence product that emerged was skewed towards commerce and military intelligence. When the wheel turned against Saddam Hussein once more, the SIS and other western intelligence agencies dusted off the shelf the original dissidents, no matter that after long years of exile they were decades out of date. Some of them threw their weight behind the illegal and immoral invasion. For all the reemployed PR companies’ efforts, the ‘nu-Iraq’ does not seem to have favoured them. London’s Russian community Flash forward forty years and look at London’s newly-arrived wealthy Russian community. There are three big differences between it and the 1970s Iraqis. First, for the most part those Russians who have made London their home have not done so because they fear for their lives. Second, the Russians are highly visible, not least because of the quite exceptional riches of some of them. Third, Russian children attending British schools are under the fierce spotlight of reputational disadvantage: Iraqi children attending British schools forty years ago were there as a result of circumstance, often tragic; Russian children, so the narrative goes, are there because their parents are money-launderers and tax evaders, their countrymen back home no more than criminal cyber-warriors intent on stealing our bank details. Two decades after the collapse of Soviet Communism some Russian money is likely to be innocent: the Russian people have an honourable history and criminals are not the preserve of one nation or another. Whatever the truth, the ferocity with which this Russian criminal story line has run in the media is suspicious. Singularity always is. For example, the astronomical wealth of the newly arriving Chinese community is not under similar media scrutiny when its money is likely to have been acquired in much the same way as the Russian. The increasing numbers of Chinese state-inspired cyber attacks against the UK are in the news – I assume this is not one way traffic – but this does not criminalise them. Russian cyber warriors are ‘criminals’; their Chinese equivalents are working for their country. The murder of a British businessman who worked in China and was associated with the now disgraced Bo Xilai, the former Communist Party chief of Chongqing who was once tipped for high office, was characterised by systematic British media undermining of the dead man’s character (presumably because it was the British state’s interest to do so.) As a result, Chinese children attending British schools are able to evolve quietly, their country and community not subject to the same reputational onslaught. Double standards: Russian wealth v Chinese One reason for the double standard is that, unlike China, Russia has not proven adept at creating alternative PR opportunities with which the Western media will run. For example, China was embarrassed in Britain by Ai Weiwei’s seeds exhibition at Tate Modern in 2010; and further embarrassed when Elton John dedicated a concert in Beijing to Ai Weiwei in 2012. Within months, 18 months in the planning, it loaned two pandas to Edinburgh Zoo, a knockout feel-good PR story dominating the headlines and still commanding attention.2 Another reason for the double standard is that unlike the Chinese, the overseas Russian community was not initially 2 China’s Panda PR: a foreign relations commercial juggernaut and state metaphor, the subliminal messaging being that like the peaceful bamboo-eating giant that is under threat, the Chinese people are also peaceful but similarly under threat. As Alexander Chancellor pointed out in The Spectator, 9 March 2013, many years ago Mao Tse-tung gave Edward Heath two pandas for London Zoo; and similarly to Richard Nixon. under instructions from its government to maintain a low profile. Both nations are empire-building but doing it in different ways: Russia originally going for high visibility ‘bling’ and, say, purchase of football clubs; China for massive but quiet investment, a quiet that it has maintained despite the astonishing wealth of some of its overseas or visiting nationals.3 As a result, the migratory habits of the Russian super rich, but not the Chinese, attracted the attention of the popular press. Those who move in a gaggle of private jets between Gstaad, New York, Paris and London have always been fair game and the exuberance of the Russians merely added further copy. Their lifestyle and the extent of their wealth was what made them remarkable, the origin of their riches not the issue (in the popular press) any more than is, say, the origin of Chinese riches. After all, much of these riches are invested in London, one of the safest moneylaundering capitals in the world, so Britain has benefited, the investment routinely celebrated in its financial pages. Which is to say: it is not in the British state’s commercial interests for its media to draw attention to investment/investors from overseas or the origins of their wealth. However unlike the Chinese, the Russian overseas community drew attention to itself. In the UK, this played into the hands of PR guru Lord Bell at a time when it was commercially – and therefore politically – expedient for Britain to favour Russian dissidents whether in Russia (and/or in Russian jails) or London-based. As a result, Lord Bell was able to build on an existing Russian community story and merge it with that of the London-based anti-Putin dissident campaign 3 See Lobster 52, Winter 2006/7, page 33: China’s Harmony PR bankrolled by his client, the late Boris Berezofksy.4 No matter how much Moscow by then wanted its overseas community to lower its profile, Lord Bell ensured this did not happen. ‘Good’ PR can hijack an existing story diverting attention elsewhere by adding to the narrative. Without a PR rebuttal, the new legend becomes impossible to throw off. Similarities between the Iraqi and Russian dissidents If there are differences between the majority of the Londonbased Russian community and the 1970s Iraqi one, there are also similarities. Like the Iraqis, all that many of the Russians want is for their family to evolve in situ and out of the spotlight; most are doing their best to stay away from politics; all know the whole community is being spied upon by its own. As with the Iraqis forty years ago, the London-based Russian dissident community has been terrorised and among it or its associates there have been questionable deaths, including those of some Britons, murder and suicide. However, and because of Lord Bell’s successful PR campaign, media attention has not been concentrated on those Russians who just want to get on with their lives and are living here by choice when not flitting backwards and forwards to Moscow. Instead, it has focussed on the minority unable to nip back to Russia because they are opposed to President-Prime Minister-President Putin. As with the 1970s Iraqis, the London-based anti-Putin dissidents were originally wildly courted and puffed up by Britain, their sentiments 4 For the best account of Lord Bell’s work, see Mark Hollingsworth, ‘Lord Bell: The PR consultants who campaign against Putin’, 20 January 2012 at . ‘Last month Vladimir Putin accused British and American public relations consultants and lobbyists of undermining the Russian state and disrupting the elections. In this issue we profile Lord Bell, the PR advisor who has been most active in campaigning against Putin....’ Declaration of interest: I worked closely with Mark Hollingsworth on lobbying issues in the 1980s/1990s; he edited my book Baghdad’s Spy in 2003. dovetailing with those of remaining Cold War warriors and, far more importantly, Britain’s then commercial interests. The latter, perhaps temporarily, ceased to be the case a while ago. In addition, foreign policy needs now demand that fences be mended. Which is to say: as with the SIS’s shelving of Iraqi dissidents once courtship of Saddam Hussein became the goal, promoting London-based Russian dissidents opposing the status quo in Moscow has been ‘out’ for some time; and until they become fashionable again, the SIS will be more interested in getting to know those who support it. Meantime diplomacy is once more a matter of preference and if the patterns of yesterday are repeated (which they usually are) Moscow-originated dubious deaths or outright murder on the streets of London are likely to subside. Britain’s policy change leaves the London-based anti- Putin dissidents high and dry – as it did the Iraqi ones all those years ago, the similarities in their treatment striking. The last remnants of media interest are due to coverage of the current inquest into the death of Alexander Litvinenko murdered in London in 2006 (see endnote); in the same way that the last remnants of media interest in the 1970s Iraqis followed the ‘sensational’ death of the owner of a London restaurant frequented almost exclusively by Arabs and especially Iraqis. (He was found dead with his mistress in the back of his Rolls Royce. At the time, it was said that every table in his restaurant was bugged.) Once the Litvinenko inquest completes, and unless another Berezofsky-type financial backer can be found, the London-based anti-Putin dissident PR campaign is likely to be over and media interest will evaporate.5 If it resurrects, as did the anti-Saddam 5 A significant difference between the 1970s London-based Iraqi dissidents and the London-based Russian ones is that the Iraqis were younger. This could make the Russian ones feel even more desperate: they will be aware that age alone could limit their political longevity. This mattered less when they could maintain their high media profile. It is of consequence now because Boris Berezovsky is no longer around to pay for it. If Boris Berezoksky is mentioned again, it will be because his heirs continue to be pursued by the Russian government for money Berezoksky owes the Russian state: pots and kettles come to mind, government is often selective in whom it chases. Hussein rhetoric, it will point to another British policy change – and changes, real or anticipated, in Russia too. Meantime, events in Russia, including the actions of its various opposition parties will continue to be followed closely in the media. It has a middle class which is leaving its exiles behind and ‘ridicules the division between a Kremlin-licensed opposition and an unlicensed one; craves fair elections, independent courts and public accountability – that craves, in short, civil society.’ 6 The London-based anti-Putin dissidents are outside this development if only because they are not in Russia. Further heartbreak awaits them when, as seems likely, in place of Lord Bell’s anti-Putin PR campaign, another takes its place: Russians living overseas through choice, no matter how distanced by privilege they and their children are from events on the ground back home, are sick of the stereotyping – dissidents ‘good’, non-dissidents ‘bad’. In due course, they will recruit a PR company to lead a rebuttal: whichever wins the Reputation PR account will make a lot of money indeed. President Putin, for all the good it will do him in the longer term, is likely to throw substantial funds its way too. As for the SIS’s now discarded London-based anti-Putin dissidents, with exceptions, long years of exile are no way to remain relevant. Even if meeting Muscovites passing through London, it is impossible to follow every nuance of Russian affairs from a distance. In addition, exiled dissidents date quickly when a dissident generation matures internally. Nevertheless, the London-based anti-Putin dissidents will hope that one day they will become the SIS’s flavour of the month again. Some of the London-based Iraqi dissidents certainly did. It did them and their country no good. If you are a dissident, exile and the patterns of espionage seldom change. Endnote: Litvinenko Inquest The inquest has allowed the public to catch a glimpse of the relatively modest payments made by the SIS to a contact: 6 ‘Putin’s Personal Vendetta’, Guardian, 2 April 2013. according to testimony given by Litvinenko’s widow and reported in the Sunday Times, the SIS made a lump sum payment of £18,000 into the couple’s bank account in late 2003 or early 2004.7 Mrs Litvinenko says she asked her husband about its tax status which could imply it was tax-free. From 2004 onwards the SIS paid a monthly retainer of £2000. The payments continued until March 2007, four months after Litvinenko’s death.8 The SIS is unlikely to be pleased that these amounts are now in the public domain. It gives others a baseline figure by which they may measure their own worth and whether they should be getting more; to note whether or not there is a gender, racial or regional bias to the SIS pay-rate; and, were they to die ‘in the field’, how long their family might expect the SIS payments to continue. Unless things have changed, some families are protected for life. 7 Sunday Times, 17 March 2013 8 Sunday Times, 17 March 2013 Estes, LBJ and Dallas Robin Ramsay Among the Kennedy assassination buffs there is little public interest in the thesis that the network of vice president Lyndon Baines Johnson did the dirty deed. Of the major researchers only Larry Hancock has done any work on it.1 The only critique I have seen so far is Vasilios Vazakas with Seamus Coogan and Phil Dragoo, ‘Evaluating the Case against Lyndon Johnson’.2 They point out that the handful books proposing the thesis are not very good (I’ve read two of them and I agree about one but not the other) and that the evidence in the shape of testimony comes mostly from unreliable witnesses: Loy Factor, Billie Sol Estes, Barr McClennan and Howard Hunt. And that’s true up to a point. Loy Factor was brain damaged during military service; Estes was a convicted fraudster; Hunt’s claims were those a dying CIA officer whose role within the CIA had included disinformation; and McClellan’s ‘evidence’ was merely the statement of a third party buried in a book mixing fact with faction. But many of the witnesses in other versions of the story can be portrayed as unreliable: intelligence officers of one stripe or another, for example, or the anti-Castro Cubans, and assorted military and right-wing activists, all of whom have axes to grind. If we are to wait for the people with white hats on to testify we will wait forever. The most important of these witnesses is Billie Sol Estes. The problem with Estes is that he has talked for years about tape recordings he made with some of the people he claims were in the plot, notably Cliff Carter, LBJ’s right-hand man, but has never let anyone hear them. We only have Estes’ word for the contents (or for the tapes’ existence; they may not exist at all). But even without the tapes, considering the 1 and Careful, methodical, excellent bits of research. 2 significance of his role in the politics of this period, both Texan and national (he made the cover of Time in 1962), it is odd that Estes’ claims are so widely dismissed because of his fraud conviction. Does this mean we should dismiss all statements made by people with criminal convictions? Gordon Liddy, for example? In this country, former Cabinet ministers Jonathan Aitken and Chris Huhne? Is a ‘disgraced politician’ per se unreliable? In practice, of course, we don’t do this. A criminal conviction is merely one factor in our assessment of a person’s reliability. Aitken was guilty of lying in court – yet his accounts of his political life will not be dismissed out of hand because of that. Estes seems to be treated harshly: because he has a conviction, nothing he says can be believed. Well, let’s not believe it; in practice there isn’t enough evidence to believe or disbelieve much of it; but let us consider it. The most complete account in English by Estes of the assassination conspiracy is in his 2005 book, Billie Sol Estes: a Texas Legend.3 This book appeared after a French book about Estes, Le Dernier Temoin (The Last Witness) and that book’s author, French journalist William Reymond, says of the Estes book: ‘The book is a first draft that Tom Bowden and myself wrote back in 2000. This draft was used by the publisher to shop the project around. It was a failure and one reason was that lot of BSE’s claims were not backed by fact and some of them were in direct conflict with other evidences.’4 In other words: Estes’ claims had no back-up evidence and his thesis differs from that of others. OK; but even so this is Estes’ version of events. Estes says that Kennedy was killed by Texas conspiracy, run by the senior member of LBJ’s network, Cliff Carter, who gave the job of organising the actual shooting to the network’s assassin, Malcolm Wallace. Estes knows this because Cliff Carter told him about it. It was believed by some 3 This can be read at . 4 in Texas at the time that the same network had been killing people in Texas since 1951 (when Wallace received a five year suspended sentence for a first degree murder). In Estes’ version the JFK killing is merely one element in the wider scandal, the core of which were his secret payments to politicians, notably vice president Johnson. This is a story about American politics and business and what happens when the hidden business funding is threatened with exposure. When the story of Estes’ business dealings began to surface nationally in 1962 after reports in a local Texas paper, two things happened. In Texas a cover-up took place and potential witnesses began dying, ‘committing suicide’. Although there was apparently little medical or police interest in these deaths in rural Texas, and there is nothing more than reports of their existence, it has been presumed, initially by some people in Texas, that these ‘suicides’ were murders done to cover-up the Johnson-Estes connection.5 The first of them, that of Department of Agriculture official Henry Marshall, certainly was a murder covered-up as ‘suicide’; and it is difficult to see a motive for the killing and the subsequent cover-up beyond stopping Marshall’s inquiry into Estes’ business.6 Estes says the murder was done at LBJ’s behest after Marshall refused to be bribed.7 Secondly, in Washington, Robert Kennedy, Attorney General and head of the US Justice Department, used the Department’s resources to investigate Estes.8 LBJ had become vice president by accident. The Kennedys offered it to him as a kind of courtesy, assuming he would turn it down. (Why would he give up being the boss of the Senate for a useless, ceremonial post?) But he accepted 5 This is heavily implied in J. Evetts Haley’s A Texan Looks At Lyndon (Canyon, Texas: Palo Duro Press, 1964). 6 Estes testified at a 1984 grand jury hearing on the death of Marshall. Texas Ranger Clint Peoples had not accepted the ‘suicide’ verdict on Marshall and persuaded Estes to testify when he came out of prison for the second time. These events are discussed on Estes’ own site at . 7 Estes says in his memoir that had he not taken the precaution of taping his calls, and letting the Johnson network know he had done so, he would have joined that list of the dead. 8 See < http://billiesolestes.com/houston_chronicle_july_23_1996> and they were stuck.9 Robert Kennedy and LBJ hated each other; and Robert Kennedy was collecting dirt on Johnson hoping to produce a scandal big enough to get him off the Democratic ‘ticket’ for the 1964 presidential elections. Estes in his memoir says, ‘Attorney General Robert Kennedy [was] doing everything in his power to tie Lyndon to me’ (p. 142); which seems undeniable: had Kennedy not wanted dirt on Estes and Johnson why dispatch a large Justice Department task force to Texas? The Justice Department was also leaking information on another Johnson-linked scandal, that involving LBJ’s former Senate aide Bobby Baker, to Life magazine. The Kennedys were using the power of the state in an attempt to destroy the political career of their own vice president. Life was about to publish a feature on LBJ and Baker when Kennedy was shot. The LBJ feature was replaced by Life’s account of the assassination.10 In Estes’ account the assassination was ‘just a country turkey shoot with some country boys doing the shooting’. He claims he was told about the details by Cliff Carter and it is as the buffs always presumed: frame Oswald, kill Oswald while arresting him, use local law enforcement – interestingly the Sheriff’s Department, not the Dallas Police Department – to control things. ‘The plan was to make the murder easy but surround it with illusions and false leads.....[Carlos] Marcello arranged for some of his people to be in Dallas and [Santos] Trafficante contributed some of his contacts in the French drug connection.’ (p. 147) Estes tells us: * Malcolm Wallace knew George de Mohrenschildt and through him Wallace met Oswald and his wife Marina. (p. 151). * Cliff Carter and Wallace knew Jack Ruby. Estes saw Wallace and Ruby together at the Carousel Club. (p. 151) * Malcolm Wallace knew Ruth and Michael Paine. (Estes adds 9 The best account of this is in Robert Caro’ s 2012 The Years of Lyndon Johnson:The Passage of Power, chapter 4. 10 that he doesn’t know what this means.) * The boarding house at Oak Cliff at which Lee Oswald lived for a while was a CIA safe-house. Most interesting of all, he claims that Carter arranged for a mortician, John Ligget,11 to obtain another body, one resembling JFK, which was then fixed so that it had wounds resembling the wounds being reported from Parkland Hospital to which the dying JFK had been taken. Estes says: ‘Cliff was very proud of this solution. He spent considerable time describing the operation to me.’ (p. 155) He also comments: ‘I do not know all the details except I know there were two bodies at Bethesda and at least ten pictures were taken of each body. The pictures were then mixed, creating the effect of a third body. The grand conspiracy theory of controlling the autopsy and making changes [to the body] at Bethesda Naval Hospital was not necessary. You simply needed the right mix of autopsy photographs.’ (p. 156) But the plan to get the second body to Bethesda almost came unstuck because of the Secret Service’s rush to get out of Dallas with JFK’s body. Hence, says Estes, the strange affair of LBJ insisting on being sworn-in as president, and by a particular local judge, before take-off for Washington: it was simply a stalling tactic. Some of this explains features in the assassination. The use of mafia and French drug network personnel as decoys may explain the presence of Jim Braden on Dealey Plaza, the accounts of a French criminal, Jean René Souêtre, being present; and the apparently widespread knowledge among the Mob that the assassination was going to happen in Dallas. The two bodies may explain the contradictions in the autopsy photographs and the second autopsy. There are other fragments of evidence supporting this thesis: Barr McClellan knew Wallace and confirms that he was 11 On Estes’ account a serial killer! part of the Johnson network.12 Loy Factor’s fragmented stories support the thesis of Wallace as one of the assassins in Dallas;13 the fact that Robert Caro has omitted Estes entirely from his most recent volume of LBJ’s biography which covers this period suggests that, for whatever reason, the subject is too hot for him to handle.14 And there is Wallace’s fingerprint apparently found on the 6th floor of the Book Depository on the day of the shooting. Two fingerprint analysts found a match between Wallace’s print and the previously unidentified print found on the 6th floor that day. But in a bulletin for fingerprint experts it has been argued that there is no match.15 If this bulletin is correct, we have a bizarre, even preposterous coincidence: a print, which isn’t Wallace’s, but is close enough to fool two print analysts, just happens to turn up on the 6th floor. But we need those Estes tapes. Without them this will 12 Larry Hancock has assembled other evidence documenting Wallace’s presence in LBJ’s circle. See . 13 The Loy Factor story, in The Men on the 6th Floor () is the more convincing to me because Factor remembered Wallace only as ‘Wallace’ – didn’t know his first name or who he was. The book, for which the Website is a come-on, is an account of the authors – who knew little about the case – finding out who ‘Wallace’ was and educating themselves en route. Vasilios Coogan and Dragoo (see note 2) disparage the Factor story, not least because it seems absurd to them that after the assassination, on Factor’s account, Wallace dropped Factor at a bus stop to make his way home. ‘The getaway is even more questionable: Factor was left at a bus stop to get out of town. But then Ruth Ann and Wallace thought better of it and picked him up. But yet, it was not exactly a great commando team escape. The car broke down in Oklahoma due to a bad clutch. And Factor, get this, had to hitchhike home.’ To me, however, this is one of those little details which rings true. In 1963 a poor Indian would take the bus. On my trips round America the only people I ever saw hitchhiking were Indians. Incidentally, few in the States seem to use ‘Native American’. The best Website on their affairs is . 14 I discussed this in issue 64 at 15 See . remain an interesting, pretty plausible theory, by some distance the best we have, but a theory nonetheless. PS Since I wrote this Billie Sol Estes died in Texas.16 16 There is a very good obituary by Michael Carlson at Iraq and intelligence Robin Ramsay I found this on my computer. It was obviously written around 2004 and, as far as I can see, was never used. Michael Moore’s film ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ is great propaganda but, like all propaganda, it isn’t about the truth. In a section mocking the so-called ‘coalition of the willing’ which supported the US invasion of Iraq, Moore listed several very small countries – but omitted Australia and the UK. For Australia and the UK the political decision to support the USA caused major ructions within their intelligence systems. As is now admitted, and was known by most independent analysts before the invasion, there was no threat from Iraq and they had no WMDs. As we now know, most of the intelligence analysts of those countries also knew that; and they, along with sections of their countries’ foreign and diplomatic services, resisted the drive to invasion and their political masters’ desire for ‘intelligence’ with which to justify it. This resistance manifested itself in an unprecedented series of leaks of official information, anonymous briefings to journalists, and public protest by retired diplomats and intelligence personnel. In the United States, the reluctance of the CIA to produce the required ‘intelligence’ led the neo-conservatives who were leading the push to attack Iraq to create the Office of Special Plans (OSP), a little unit within the Pentagon, which was conceived by Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense. OSP’s role was to find or manufacture intelligence which would provide the pretext for invasion. The OSP’s existence is a testimony to the resistance of the CIA’s intelligence analysts. In the UK the estimates from the two main agencies, the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS) and MI6 (or SIS) are fed into the Joint Intelligence Committee which produces the final version. That, at least, is the theory. In practice, in this instance, the cautious, heavily conditional estimates produced by the Joint Intelligence Committee were strengthened by the Prime Minister’s assistants in the Cabinet Office, Alastair Campbell and Jonathan Powell, who had the final editing rights on the notorious ‘dodgy dossier’. Hence the great row about ‘sexing-up’ which led to the upheaval at the BBC and the big fight with the government – a fight in which, as Lord Hutton showed us, the claim that the estimates had been ‘sexed-up’ was true. Above the intelligence analysts in the UK intelligence bureaucracy were the senior officers of the DIS and MI6, who had to take political factors into consideration: in this instance, were they willing to oppose the Prime Minister in his desire to support the Americans? In the USA, UK and Australia the senior intelligence personnel ultimately capitulated to the political pressure in different ways. The British and American systems’ senior intelligence personnel used last-minute information which purported to show that Iraq was a threat. In Britain, at the eleventh hour MI6 and the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS) used a human source who claimed – falsely, of course – that Iraq had been developing chemical and biological warfare capacities. But to use this new ‘source’s’ intelligence in this way, the expert in the field, the late Dr Brian Jones, of the Defence Intelligence Staff, was simply not told about the source or his ‘intelligence’.1 As Lord Butler commented dryly in his report : ‘It would have been more appropriate for senior managers in the DIS and SIS [MI6] to have made arrangements for the intelligence to be shown to DIS experts rather than making their own judgements on its significance’.2 1 On the late Brian Jones, see . 2 Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction, HC 898, July 2004, p. 137 In the USA the Director of the CIA and Secretary of State Colin Powell, used the now notorious ‘uranium from Niger’ scam – based on forged documents which had come via MI6 – to get support for the war from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and thus ensure that the President got a mandate from Congress for the attack on Iraq. In Australia a different system produced the same result. The Australians have two units producing intelligence estimates, one civilian, one military. It was the civilian version, the Office of National Assessments (ONA), which finally buckled under American pressure to come up with the goods: the military analysts in the Defence Intelligence Organisation, never did. The Australian ONA, attached to the Prime Minister’s office, changed its estimates of ‘the threat’ posed by Iraq shortly after President Bush, in an address to the United Nations, said that the UN could support the invasion or be ‘irrelevant’. In short, the USA was going to invade Iraq and, as it has done many times in its history, fabricated a pretext to justify the attack. The price of joining the ‘coalition of the willing’ was to swallow the pretext, eat shit and swear it was ice-cream. Intelligence analysts in Australia and the UK baulked at this; but the politicians and the senior intelligence bureaucrats, those who had the contact with the political system, managed to force it down. One of the Australian analysts said of his period: ‘We had strong reservations about the evidence that was being provided to us, but that was never carried forward because the deputy director at the time thought that the intelligence relationship [with the US] was more important.’ 3 (emphasis added) Our intelligence bureaucrats would say the same; and they always will. The unimaginable ‘If they could not find a case for war that would win a 3 majority in the House of Commons, and be (just about) acceptable in international law, Britain would face the unimaginable: leaving America in the lurch.’ 4 Thus Timothy Garton-Ash, a man never far from the line of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, showing the level of delusion still operating among some of our foreign policy intellectuals. They think the US cares about HMG’s views. You might have thought that the US invading Grenada, a member of the Commonwealth, against the wishes of HMG, would have been enough of a lesson. Apparently not. The reality is that Britain could leave the US ‘in the lurch’ the way a flea might leave an elephant in the lurch. And why is it ‘unimaginable’ not to support the US? It used not to be ‘unimaginable’. Edward Heath declined to support the US in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Harold Wilson refused to send troops to fight with the US in Vietnam. There are two major conclusions to be drawn from these events. The first is that the senior intelligence personnel of America’s junior allies, in this case most notably Australia and the UK (but also Spain) showed, yet again, that they are unwilling to oppose the US because of the threat of being cutoff from US intelligence sources. (Though what these countries can do with that intelligence is unclear to me.) The second conclusion, for students of the British political system, is that real political power in the UK rests with the Prime Minister. When I became interested in the relationship between the intelligence and security services and the British political system in the late 1970s, it was believed on the Labour left that the intelligence and security services were allpowerful and unaccountable. They are still unaccountable in any real sense (their accountability to Parliament is notional) but the events of the past two years show that it is ‘The Prime Minister wishes....’ which still commands absolute authority. 4 Timothy Garton-Ash, ‘We were duped’, the Guardian, 4 March 2004 Canada’s spy agency gone rogue: Prime Minister Harper couldn’t care less Roderick Russell Dr. Arthur Porter, the former chair of Canada’s spy watchdog, the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), is in prison in Panama awaiting extradition to Canada where he faces multiple charges that include allegations of bribe taking, money laundering and conspiracy. Two years ago I formally complained to the SIRC, which was then chaired by Dr. Porter. My complaint was about Canada’s spy agency’s (CSIS) illegal campaign of threats, intimidation, and harassment against my wife and I. I provided a significant body of evidence, yet Dr. Porter’s SIRC dismissed my complaint without any investigation. Dr. Porter and foreign aid money At that time, Dr. Porter was also operating as Ambassador Plenipotentiary for Sierra Leone – famed for blood diamonds, nasty civil wars and child soldiers. But this is not why Porter resigned from the SIRC just a few weeks after my complaint was so unjustly dismissed. There were also disclosures coming about foreign aid money that Porter was trying to get the Russians to provide for Sierra Leone. Then the story gets even more complicated. In November 2011 several Canadian papers reported that one of Porter’s confreres, a Mr. Ari Ben- Menashe,1 stated that the deal had been nixed after he became concerned that ‘the money would end up in private hands’.2 This was totally denied by Porter. CSIS has said that they did not vet Dr. Porter prior to his appointments to the SIRC and Privy Council – this is not credible. A strong-minded SIRC chair could be a check on CSIS. 1 2 Is it possible that CSIS wanted someone who wouldn’t rock the boat? CSIS’s occasional abuse of innocent citizens with Stasi-style tactics is not a new story in Canada. Nor, regrettably, is the SIRC’s propensity to whitewash CSIS. CSIS and its terror tactics Years ago a former CSIS officer, W. J. Baltruweit, wrote, ‘CSIS management willingly and deliberately coerced by intimidation (hence “terrorize”), and gained submission by inducing fear (hence “terrorism”).’3 Mr. Baltruweit is not the only former Canadian spook to refer to CSIS’s well-known illegal use of ‘counter intelligence tactics used for surveillance, intimidation and harassment’. In an article in Lobster 61, ‘CSIS and the Canadian Stasi’,4 Gareth Llewellyn, another former senior Canadian intelligence officer, describes his own persecution by CSIS. Indeed Wikileaks unearthed a US diplomatic cable which stated that the former CSIS Chief, Mr. Judd, admitted to a US State Department Official that CSIS has been (illegally) ‘vigorously harassing’ people in Canada. Vigorous harassment: that’s just the sort of Stasi-style behaviour that I and others have complained about? Call it what you want – Zersetzen,5 Cointelpro – it is all the same beast. CSIS even have their own name (‘D & D’) for the persecution programme that they and their tame review body, the SIRC, pretend doesn’t exist. It’s hard to believe that Dr. Porter and the SIRC Committee were not aware of this. But then the Canadian Prime Minister’s Office also seems to be subservient to CSIS, so perhaps it is not surprising that Porter’s SIRC was such a joke. Oversight of CSIS – a joke So, true to form, Dr. Porter’s SIRC dismissed my complaint without any investigation, on grounds that the types of 3 William Baltruweit, Down and Out In Canada's Intelligence Service , Commoners Publishing, Kindle edition (Kindle Locations 3832-3834). 4 5 activities I have complained about are not carried out by CSIS. Indeed Porter told CBC radio in an interview that CSIS wouldn’t do such things. Whether you credit my complaint or not, this absurd denial is contradicted not only by former intelligence operatives, but also by the Canadian press. For example, in May, 2006 the Globe and Mail published an article headlined ‘Lacking a case CSIS disrupted suspect’s life’ – the headline says it all. The SIRC made no attempt to investigate my case – it was a straight cover-up. Indeed the CSIS was so contemptuous of Porter’s SIRC that we were being intimidated to try and stop us from complaining to the SIRC about CSIS. This SIRC/CSIS related intimidation included: being gang stalked by Calgary police vehicles; weird telephone calls about our security; a computer annihilated by viruses; my cell phone completely stopped working and so did its new replacement phone (store assistants said they had never seen anything like this before); smearing: a hood shouting sexual slanders at me on the street and much more. This flippant dismissal of our complaint and the further threats is a serious violation of rule of law in Canada. Even the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, knows people who have witnessed our intimidation – and we still don’t have justice. Indeed all Mr. Harper would have to do to check my story is lean over his garden fence. PM Harper’s neighbours have seen intimidation My wife and I have been friends with the Prime Minister’s next door neighbours, at his private house in Calgary, for over 30 years. Not only have they met with several of our witnesses, but they have seen some of the (minor) intimidation for themselves. At one point when the woman tried to phone my wife she kept getting messages that said (wrongly) that our telephone was permanently discontinued. This is a likely CSIS trick to stop her communicating with us and has happened before. Subsequently she took my wife out to lunch and then drove her to the Crowfoot LRT Station so that my wife could get a train home. When they got to Crowfoot, the woman remarked that they were being openly watched (i.e. stalked), telling my wife not to get out of the car, but to stay in and lock her door until the stalker went away. We have had a car rammed into our house; vehicles driven at us; shots fired; threatening phone calls to our children; illegal surveillance; stalking; phone taps......the list goes on. We have made every attempt to resolve this through normal channels – police, politicians. Some years ago it become obvious to us that it was the Prime Minister’s Office/Privy Council Office that was stopping an investigation of our complaints. I met with Sandra Frass, Mr. Harper’s constituency office manager, explained the situation of cover-up to her, and she agreed to get a letter I had written on the subject to Mr. Harper personally. When later I queried why nothing was happening, I got a telephone message saying that the delay was because ‘Ottawa is so slow’. I never heard from her again. How ironic it is that a man with huge apparent conflicts of interest is entrusted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper with Canada’s intelligence secrets; whereas a decent family like ours can’t get even basic justice from Mr. Harper’s people. David Miliband: working for the man John Newsinger The news that David Miliband was giving up politics and going to work for a charity came as something of a shock for many people. Here was the archetypal Blairite, a man apparently only concerned with power, money and being of service to the American Empire, and he was giving it all up. Had we all got him wrong? This was the man who had famously been exposed as not having any idea of the level of JobSeekers Allowance at the hustings during the campaign for the Labour Party leadership! And once he had lost that election decided to devote himself to making money, lots of money. In 2011-2012, he earned a modest £446,000 on top of his paltry £65,000 MP’s salary. Oxford Analytica paid him £55,000 for eight days work and the venture capital outfit, Vantage Point, paid him £92,000 for four and a half days work. He seemed to be the classic Blair clone, busy enriching himself while supposedly representing a poor working class area, creating that interesting New Labour phenomenon whereby the local Labour MP is one of the richest people in the constituency. And now here he was, giving it all up. Admittedly, the salary at his new job, £300,000 a year, seemed a bit excessive for a charity, but after all many charities today seem to operate on the principle that charity begins at home. Still, as Miliband himself pointed out, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) had been ‘founded at the suggestion of Albert Einstein in the 1930s for those fleeing the Nazis’ and, as he went on, ‘given my own family history’ there was an obvious ‘personal motivation’ behind taking up the job. But all was not as it seemed. There is, in fact, an invaluable history of the IRC, Covert Network, written by Eric Thomas Chester and published as long ago as 1995. As this account reveals, what Miliband conveniently failed to mention was that while the IRC might well have been founded by various American socialists with Einstein’s support, after the Second World War, it was transformed into ‘a vital member of the CIA’s covert network’. The IRC, according to Chester routinely operates ‘in close conformity with the policy mandates of US foreign policy’. This, one suspects, was what appealed to Miliband. Einstein, a committed socialist, would never have touched what the IRC became, but for Miliband this was ‘working for the man’, a Blairite fantasy come true. In Vietnam, for example, the IRC certainly ran ‘purely humanitarian programs’, establishing refugee camps, providing shelter, food and healthcare. But other areas of its activity ‘were directly tied to the intelligence community’. The IRC ran the camps while the CIA trawled them for intelligence sources and for recruits for the various paramilitary outfits it ran. And, on top of that the IRC was also instrumental in establishing the American Friends of Vietnam, a pro-war pressure group that vigourously supported US intervention in the country. Even while the Vietnam War was only beginning to get underway, the IRC was also involved in providing assistance for refugees fleeing the Cuban Revolution. In April 1960, the IRC president, John Richardson, actually met with Allen Dulles, the CIA director ‘to discuss potential projects’. The funds for the IRC’s Cuban relief work were kindly donated by the US companies whose Cuban subsidiaries Castro had nationalised (Texaco, Standard Oil, United Fruit and others). Once again, while the IRC provided humanitarian assistance, the CIA trawled for recruits, recruits who were later to form part of the US sponsored invasion force at the Bay of Pigs in 1961. Richardson was to be appointed to a top job in the US State Department by Richard Nixon in 1969. And inevitably, when the Russians invaded Afghanistan at the end of 1979, the IRC was involved in establishing refugee camps across the border in Pakistan. According to Chester, while ‘the Agency recruited, trained and armed paramilitary units for guerrilla warfare…the IRC provided health care and basic education for the residents of these very same camps.’ The overlap in personnel is also quite remarkable with a number of American spooks showing a hitherto unknown interest in charitable work. William Donovan, the man who set up the forerunner to the CIA, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), was heavily involved with the IRC, as was William Casey, who went on to become CIA director under Ronald Reagan. Of particular interest is John Whitehead, a former cochair of Goldman Sachs, who was IRC treasurer from 1960 until 1979, when he became its president, a post he held until 1985. In 1989, Whitehead went on to become the number two man at the US State Department under George Bush, who was, of course, himself a former director of the CIA. And today, such well known humanitarians as Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright, best remembered for her throwaway remark that the death of 500,000 children due to sanctions was a price worth paying for the containment of Saddam Hussein, are on the IRC board. Miliband is in good company. The secret library of Georges Armoulian Anthony Frewin London: Ashgrove Publishing, 2012, £9.95, p/b This is a very funny book. Anthony Frewin is a regular Lobster contributor, novelist and screenwriter, and the book’s intentions are stated when Frewin’s preface is headed by a quotation allegedly from FBI taps on the phone of Chicago mobster Sam Giancana, in which he is discussing the new novel by Joan Didion. ‘Preface? What’s with these fucking prefaces? They’re all at it. You know I don’t like the fucking things. I say what I’m gonna say and that’s it. I don’t tell you what I’m gonna say before I say it, you know? That’s a fucking preface. Fuck them and fuck their prefaces.’ The idea of Giancana reading Didion made me laugh out loud. If it doesn’t even make you smile, then this probably isn’t for you. On the rear cover is a quotation apparently from a review in the New York Review of Books, which begins: ‘Exceptionally well researched and written, with all the unexpectedness of Joan Crawford having a heavy period.’ The book purports to be extracts from volumes in Armoulian’s library. Opening it at random for this review I found entries which begin thus: [3] Adibe, Supreme ‘Big Guns’ Commander Prince Virtuous. GENOCIDE; A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR MIDDLE RANKS OF THE NIGERIAN ARMY Lagos, Nigeria: The University of Lagos Genocide Faculty for the Army Officers’ Association, 1969. Duodecimo. 128pps. Publisher’s waterproof nylon (matte green), with matt blocking. A fine copy of an exceedingly rare genocide title only slightly marred by flecked blood stains on the front and back covers. Among the contents: FIRST STEPS IN GENOCIDE: WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM WHITEY...... [20] Bruce, Lenny WATCH OUT, WHITEY! JEWBOY’S GONNA SLIP IT TO YOUR SISTER! New York: Zit-Davis Books, 1961, Medium octavo. 134pps. Printed card cover. This is, I believe, the only volume of Bruce’s monologues to be printed during his lifetime...... [43] Erschatz, Maximillian ALSO SPRACH JOSEPH GOEBBELS: LEADERSHIP SECRETS FROM THE THIRD REICH FOR THE MODERN MANAGER New York: Simon and Syzergy, 1979. Oblong crown quarto. 272pps. ‘Bound in $500-a-suit material by Mr Tony of Trenton.’ [Limited edition] Erschatz was bitterly disappointed with the book’s hostile reception and fled New York for Bavaria shortly after publication....... [63] Ickleford, Lenny [pseudonym of Mickey Morrance] STEPHEN WARD BUGGERS A RANK STARLET IN DORSET SQUARE; THE BOOK OF THE STAG FILM WITH STILLS! London: Lenny’s Books, no date [1955]. Duodecimo. 48pps. Printed card covers. Dr. Stephen Ward was the sinister osteopath at the centre of the British Profumo sex scandal in 1963...... [82] Lovejoy, Bevis WHAT WAS YOUR WIFE, GIRLFRIEND (OR, COME TO THAT, MOTHER) DOING IN THE 1960S? DID SHE APPEAR IN A SLEAZY PORNO FILM? AND HOW WOULD YOU KNOW IF SHE DID? A COMPLETE CASTING LIST OF THOSE WHO DID. (AND WHO MAY YET LIVE TO REGRET IT) London: The Lovejoy Porno Database Research Agency, 1981. Imperial octavo. 228pps. Printed card covers. ‘The years 1961-1973 were the Golden Age of British porno films.......’ Which is say: Frewin has created a format – an imaginary library containing imaginary volumes – in which he has let loose his imagination, his detailed knowledge of politics and parapolitics and his opinions. It is those opinions that readers of a delicate PC disposition should be wary of. If you think Bea Campbell OBE is to be taken seriously, this isn’t for you. But I think it is a hoot. Of course not all the entries work completely (or maybe I just don’t know enough to get the jokes); but there are layers of jokes in the best of them. Robin Ramsay Destiny Betrayed JFK, Cuba, and the Garrison case James DiEugenio New York: Skyhorse, 2012, $16.95, paperback This is the second edition of DiEugenio’s book. The first edition is among the hundreds of JFK assassination books I have not read. DiEugenio is very good indeed, as a quick perusal of some of his writing at will show. However, this is not a book for a beginner: this is a book written for other JFK buffs. Nor is this an attempt at another grand synthesis of the material. DiEugenio is presenting the case suggested by his subtitle: JFK was killed by the CIA and its Cuban clients, and Jim Garrison was on the right track when he pursued David Ferrie and Clay Shaw. Thus, for example, while he does refer once to John Armstrong, he does not attempt to incorporate into his thesis Armstrong’s ‘two Oswalds’ material, nor, for that matter, the ‘LBJ-dunnit’ evidence. Nonetheless, this is full of fascinating material, on Garrison’s career, the inquiry his office conducted, and, of particular interest, on how it was penetrated and sabotaged by the CIA. For in his innocence Garrison opened his doors to volunteers and in came the CIA’s people. For what did the CIA do when Garrison began his inquiry? They formed a committee to decide how to nobble it. Well, they would, wouldn’t they? But in 1967, before much was known about the Agency and its methods, that this would happen did not seem to occur to Garrison and his staff. DiEugenio presents Garrison’s investigation in detail and I still cannot see that he had a case against Clay Shaw. He had some evidence that Shaw had a conversation about killing Kennedy (him and a thousand others) and - less certainly - some evidence that Shaw and Ferrie had advance knowledge of the events in Dallas. (Them and at least half a dozen others we know of.) There is nothing else. Yes, Shaw and Ferrie lied to Garrison and his investigators; but this means what? DiEugenio does not to seem willing to acknowledge that the fact that X lied, or that the CIA screwed the inquiry, might not imply involvement in the assassination. Shaw and Ferrie had all manner of connections to US intelligence that they did not want to discuss; and Garrison’s inquiry was heading off into areas the CIA did not want examined: to name the obvious two, their role in the anti-Castro Cuban groups and their illegal domestic activities. At that point there had been no independent investigations into the CIA’s activities; of course nobbling Garrison’s inquiry would be top of the Agency’s agenda. The general case against the Cubans/CIA is, of course, quite persuasive: yes, the Cubans were associated with Oswald and were involved in creating one of the Oswald personae, the gung-ho ex- Marine. But we don’t know what this meant. It may have had nothing to do with killing JFK. And as we get close to Dealey Plaza, there is nothing linking either the Cubans or the CIA to the events that day in Dallas. The only member of the cast of characters definitely identified around the assassination is Jack Ruby; and while in prison Ruby identified LBJ as the man behind the shooting. Although I disagree with DiEugenio’s thesis, this is a really good book, with much new and newish material. Highly recommended. Robin Ramsay Classified Secrecy and the state in modern Britain Christopher Moran Cambridge University Press, 2012, £22.00, hardback Most of this is a decently written and entertaining account of the British state’s attempts to enforce its ‘everything official is secret’ legislation – run through the House of Commons before WW1 during a panic about German espionage – and its subsequent modifications. Before WW2, in practice the state was willing to clobber little people – e.g. the novelist Compton MacKenzie who revealed a handful of secrets about MI6 in a book in the 1930s – but unwilling to do anything when prime minister Lloyd George took van loads of official (and thus secret) papers home while writing his memoirs. Later PMs, Eden, Churchill and Wilson followed this example. After the war we get accounts of the familiar controversies surrounding the publication of the diaries of Richard Crossman, Harold Wilson’s memoirs, the Philby ‘third man’ story and the ABC trial in the 1970s; a detailed account of the hassles generated by the trickle of books which began in the early 1960s about intelligence during WW2, notably the Bletchley Park ‘ultra’ story; and the farcical events around Peter Wright’s Spycatcher. If the theme and the major incidents are familiar, much of the detail was new to me. But within this is an 80 page section in which Moran tries to persuade us that in the 1950s and 60s the British press – essentially one man, the Express’s Chapman Pincher – was much less docile about official secrecy than most accounts have suggested. Though the author’s account of Pincher’s ‘scoops’ in the first decade post-war was new to me and rather interesting, of this thesis I am not entirely persuaded. As Moran acknowledges, having established itself as the paper willing to risk publishing official secrets, the Express, in the shape of Pincher, began to get lots of scoops as bits of the British state began to leak material which would serve its interests or damage that of its rivals. The author tries to persuade us that Pincher was a pioneering investigative journalist in the official secrecy field when Pincher simply wined and dined around Whitehall and was given the ‘scoops’. (Moran is aware of this but understates it.) The state knew it was going on but did nothing; too many state factions were using him. Moran then gives us an account of the ‘D-notice affair’ of 1967, in which Pincher played a part, which is inadequate: a large element in it, involving the America NSA, the real subject matter, is backgrounded; and he underplays the extent to which some of the participants in the drama, notably Pincher and D-notice Committee secretary Lohan, were motivated by hatred of the Labour government. Prime Minister Wilson knew this, which explains his (failed, disastrous) attempt to tackle them head-on. And it really wasn’t, as he has it, ‘the British Watergate’: that epithet must surely go to the anti-Labour operations of the 1970s, about which he says nothing. The 80 pages on Pincher and the D-notice Affair feel like they’re from another book. There is one striking error. In his section on the publication of The Quiet Canadian (1962) about William Stephenson, Moran describes the wartime organisation in New York, British Security Co-ordination (BSC), of which Stephenson was head, as ‘an umbrella organisation tasked with representing the interests of British secret services throughout North and South America’ (p. 299)’. Had Moran even consulted the Wikipedia entry on BSC he would know this wasn’t true. Actually tasked with destroying the American opposition to US entry into WW2, BSC was the biggest and, arguably, the most important covert operation mounted by the British state during WW2 and one of the biggest intelligence secrets. Robin Ramsay The future’s not ours to see...... Simon Matthews Going South why Britain will have a third world economy by 2014 Larry Elliott and Dan Atkinson London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2012, £14.99 The authors – Elliott of the Guardian and Atkinson until recently at the Mail on Sunday – present this work in 3 parts: an imagined description of the UK in 2014, a how and why of the journey to that position and a discussion of the alternatives that could have been adopted (and presumably might still be) to avoid the ghastly scenario they sketch out. Much of their material on our envisaged future – the UK in 2014 – is presented, with some relish, under the heading ‘Lagos-on-Sea’, a description that will appeal to Daily Mail readers (and UKIP supporters) everywhere. It’s entertaining, up to a point; but also curiously small-minded. Hosting the Olympic Games was a waste of money, apparently. (Why? Other countries do.) They also repeat the popular myth about the country ‘running out of money’ and ‘needing an IMF bailout’ in 1976, assertions long since shown to be false. In general terms, though, they give a largely accurate overview of the UK economy today; and, unsurprisingly, it doesn’t make happy reading. As to how this all came about, they write at length about the failure to set up a sovereign wealth fund to invest the income from North Sea Oil and remind us (p. 189) of the casual spite of the Thatcher years by quoting Nigel Lawson’s 1984 Mansion House speech in which he admitted that most jobs created in the future in the UK would be ‘no tech’. (Up until then the line had been that ‘low tech’ employment was a temporary tactical manoeuvre to recover competitiveness in the global economy.) This is all fine; but amidst this the authors also lurch off into weaker territory when they state that Britain ‘couldn’t afford’ its role in the world after 1945. Is this true? Take, for example, 1952, the year our current head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, ascended to the throne. Britain had full employment, an NHS with proportionally much lower prescription charges, a huge public transport network, a 100% government–funded housing programme that built 250,000 new homes per year (allocated as permanent tenancies and at a very low rent)1 and maintained much larger armed forces, together with a completely independent UK manufactured nuclear deterrent. Britain also had a huge ship building industry, a huge motor vehicle industry (much of it geared to producing valuable exports) and was, much more than the US, a world leader in aviation and jet technology. So was Britain ‘bankrupt’ in 1952? No. It simply lived with a higher national debt and paid for everything with higher (some might say normal) levels of personal taxes, as most European countries do today.2 Sweden or Freeport Discussing the alternatives to our current destination of Lagos-on-Sea, the authors propose two models: Sweden and Freeport. The Swedish option (high(er) taxes and excellent social provision – hardly unique to Sweden) gets a couple of pages before being smartly knocked to one side on the basis of a single statement made by BBC journalist Evan Davis: ‘Personally, I suspect that most of us would not be willing to pay a very high price for universal provision.’ Whether or not 1 Britain built 212,000 council houses and flats in 1952, rising to 262,000 in 1953, during the time Harold MacMillan was Minister for Housing in the Churchill/Eden government. 2 The standard rate of income tax was 47.5% in 1952 compared with 23% today. Between 1947 and 1955 National Debt was stable at £25bn-£26bn (twice GDP). The amount of National Debt fell below annual GDP during the Wilson period (1964-1970) and has been so ever since. Debt is not, in itself, a problem for the UK: the problems today are caused by borrowing to cover the mismatch between spending and an artificially low level of taxation. any government should volunteer a referendum asking if people would ‘like’ to pay higher taxes, or base important matters on the opinions of journalists is not considered. Nor is the acceptance of the philosophical approach that the state should only do what ‘people’ (meaning what, a majority? some?) are ‘willing’ to accept. The possibility that a responsible government would take a long term view, show leadership and get on with the job for the greater good is not broached. A little more time is spent ruminating over the Freeport option, the UK as a sort of giant version of Singapore or Hong Kong, a free trade paradise off the coast of a larger continental bloc. Eventually this is dismissed, too, with the lame conclusion: ‘Whichever model is chosen, the way ahead will be tough…..’ The book concludes its grim narrative of terminal national decline by taking swipes at an alleged huge expansion of the public sector in the UK in recent years, the amount of bureaucratic meddling that this creates and the delusional thinking of our politicians, while slowly burying the reader beneath an avalanche of facts and statistics. With some of this, one wonders if Elliott and Atkinson can see the wood for the trees; and much of their text reads rather like being stuck in a saloon bar after closing time with UKIP’s Nigel Farage. Two comments at this point: firstly, describing the UK of the near future as Lagos-on-Sea is clearly overegging the pudding. With endemic, grinding poverty and exploitation, an infrastructure that is rudimentary in many places and astonishing, commonplace levels of corruption, Nigeria is unlikely to be where we end up in the next 18 months. Secondly, their explanations of how we have arrived where they say we have arrived fail to discuss in any detail what the alternatives might have been in the last 60 odd years and what they still might be now. As noted, they also make some glib assertions (and repeat some myths) about the recent political past. So: although containing much of value, and being an interesting opinion piece, the authors have produced a sort of non-fiction alternative future. Alternative futures The alternative future literary genre – in our computerorientated era known as either steampunk or cyberpunk – was founded almost single-handedly by H.G. Wells, a writer and commentator of the left, whose works tended toward the utopian rather than the dystopian. Largely abandoned as a format by the ‘20s, when the world struggled with very real practical problems, the use of the ‘alternative future’ as a narrative device was revived from the ‘60s onwards by a diverse array of writers: Philip K Dick, Michael Moorcock, Philip Roth, Len Deighton, Christopher Priest, Robert Harris, Michael Chabon and C. J. Sansom. Today books of this type are now relatively mainstream and in their works the authors listed above explain in some detail why the future they represent is so different from the world we actually live in today. Elliott and Atkinson simply don’t do this. By presenting a narrative in which the last 70 years of British history becomes a kind of gigantic and mysterious exercise in wrongheaded muddling through, the authors do themselves and the reading public a disservice. It might have been more interesting – and topical – if, as well as going over the usual ground of strikes + inflation + Winter of Discontent + high taxes they had sketched out a few instances, or ‘tipping points’ (to use contemporary parlance), at which, had different counsel prevailed, the UK we live in today would be a very different place. People will have their own views about what such ‘tipping points’ might have been, but the four below spring to mind. In them I sketch alternative courses of action which were available to the actors at the time, and which would have changed British history had they been followed. The dollar loan (1946) Anxious to introduce a huge programme of social reforms that can be fully funded – and with bitter memories of Lloyd George’s abortive ‘Homes Fit for Heroes’ pledge of 1919 – Britain considers asking the US for a dollar loan. The cabinet takes advice from John Maynard Keynes who points out that their reasoning for this request is flawed.3 Unlike 1919, European and Japanese industry (in 1945) has been completely destroyed and therefore the UK will not face any competition in foreign markets for at least 10 years from these areas. As a result UK earnings from exports are expected to increase quickly and significantly, producing sufficient income for the extensive programme of social spending being rolled out by the Attlee government. In addition it soon becomes clear that the US terms are harsh: to get the loan the UK needs to allow US access to its protected markets within the Commonwealth (particularly Africa, the West Indies and the Far East) thus lowering UK manufacturing exports to those areas. The cabinet narrowly decides against the dollar loan and maintains instead the policy of Imperial preference adopted in 1932. The US are politely told that Britain has already paid the highest price proportionally of the Allies in winning the war and is declining to repay future ‘Lend Lease’ monies, writing off all such debts on the basis that the value of the radar, jet engine and nuclear technology freely shared with the US makes such payments unnecessary.4 Keynes advice turns out to be correct. UK exports recover very quickly in the absence of foreign competition. Full employment is maintained. Although the ‘40s are indeed an 3 On Keynes and the request that he seek a dollar loan see Scott Newton’s paper ‘A Visionary Hope Frustrated – JM Keynes and the Origins of the Post War International Monetary Order’ (2007). It remains unclear as to whether Keynes was instructed to pursue this by the government, or whether the initiative came directly from him. Newton concludes that Keynes followed instructions in the hope that the US would respond generously, and was on the verge of strongly opposing the deal when he died in April 1946. The loan was not approved until July 1946; would the required legislation have gone through Parliament had Keynes lived? In defence of those making the request to ask the US for a loan we should perhaps remember that after the huge level of assistance given to the UK by the US after 1940 few in UK political life could have imagined the US pursuing its own national interests quite so abruptly after 1945. 4 Proportionally the UK paid the highest cost of any of the Allies between 1939 and 1945: £150bn with a population of 48m against the US (population 140m) paying £288bn. A shorthand way of looking at the contribution of the various Allies would be that the UK paid the price of winning the war, the US provided the materiel and the USSR and China shed the blood. austere decade, an extensive Welfare State is created. Britain maintains a distinct identity in the world and is not anxiously gauging its financial relationship with the US when making future decisions. Because of the way their original request for the loan was dealt with by the US, it also avoids uncritical support for the US during that country’s ramping-up of the Cold War later in the decade. In the medium and longer term the UK economy does not experience the ‘stop-go’ features that characterised the ‘50s and ‘60s. Suez (1956) After Egypt nationalises the Suez Canal, Britain and France attack Egypt, with the aim of re-establishing a Suez Canal Zone (that they will control), taking the canal back into their ownership and, directly or indirectly, removing President Nasser from power. President Eisenhower, seeking re-election and angered at being seen by the US electorate to have no role to play in this, threatens Britain and France with the US withdrawal of financial support for the pound and the franc on the world money markets, unless they desist immediately. Britain and France ignore this, put an immediate block on US deposits and assets in their countries and continue their military action for the additional 48 hours needed to secure their position militarily. The Suez Canal is taken back into UK/French control and a pro-western government installed in Egypt by elements of the Egyptian opposition. Both Britain and France make it clear publicly that they regard Eisenhower’s attitude as an electoral device and are offended at the inconsistency between US rhetoric in the Middle East and US actions in Latin America (particularly with regard to the Panama Canal) and the Far East. Suez is popular with the public, Eden is vindicated and re-elected Prime Minister in 1959. Close co-operation with France continues and is strengthened and the UK/French axis emerges as a counter balance to both the US and USSR in world affairs. Britain retains its independent nuclear deterrent and does not conclude the 1958 agreement to ‘share’ this with the US. Britain maintains significant overseas interests for many years afterwards and domestically retains a highspending ‘Gaullist’ style economy. In time the verdict of history on the morality of the action against Nasser is softened as intervention in the Middle East becomes more common. In Place of Strife (1968) Dismayed at the lack of a legal and strategic framework within which UK industrial relations can take place, and annoyed at the ability of relatively minor disputes to escalate into national stoppages, the Wilson government puts forward modest proposals (In Place of Strife) to address this. They recommend a system of arbitration, statutory co-operation and legally binding agreements similar to that used in Germany and France. A considerable argument develops in the cabinet about these, led by James Callaghan who, by appealing to the trade union bloc vote and trade union-nominated MPs, sees taking an oppositionist stance as his opportunity to destroy the chances of Barbara Castle (who is promoting the proposals) succeeding Harold Wilson in any future leadership contest within the Labour Party. It soon becomes clear that Callaghan and the trade unions have mobilised a majority against Castle and Wilson. Although considering In Place of Strife to be much less comprehensive an approach than would be taken by a Conservative government, Edward Heath decides against a purely party political opposition to the scheme. An admirer of the West German industrial relations system,5 of which In Place of Strife was a pale imitation, he offers Wilson his support in a free vote in the Commons. In Place of Strife is duly voted through and becomes law. Although beset with many other difficulties, and unpopular for reasons other than its failure to establish a clear industrial relations strategy, Labour narrowly wins the 1970 general election, though with a substantially reduced. Exhausted by 25 years in front line politics and worried about his health, Harold Wilson resigns in early 1972. In the bitter contest that follows, Barbara Castle succeeds him, becoming the first woman to lead a UK political party and the first to 5 Which was created by a delegation from the British Trades Union Congress after WW2. serve as Prime Minister. Despite bringing the Conservatives much closer to office, Heath is quickly replaced by William Whitelaw. In a subsequent election in 1974 Barbara Castle – and Labour – are re-elected again. The election that never was (1978) With the economy recovering and Labour – at last – ahead in the opinion polls, James Callaghan ponders about whether to call an election in the autumn of 1978. After taking a wide range of advice he does so. Labour run a competent campaign and are returned to office with a small majority. Margaret Thatcher is discredited and removed as leader of the Conservative Party. Callaghan retires in the early ‘80s and is replaced as Prime Minister by Roy Hattersley. The schism that created the SDP does not take place. UK manufacturing avoids the deliberate hollowing-out of the Thatcher years. The 1981 defence cuts do not take place and there is no Falklands War. It is easy, of course, to engage in retrospective armchair politics. However none of the above episodes requires hindsight. In each case there were prominent and well informed public figures whose arguments were not heeded.6 Other examples of ‘tipping points’ could be given; and it is a pity that Going South isn’t a sufficiently comprehensive study to consider the alternatives that existed as well as highlighting the errors that have been made. APPENDIX Alternative future fiction Much of the recent alternative future genre concerns different outcomes emerging from World War Two. The pioneering work, in this respect, appears to have been Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle (1961) which has the Axis emerging 6 Lord Beaverbrook was the principal figure opposed to the dollar loan. Keynes may have been inclined against it too, but his early death makes it difficult to be precise about his view on the matter. The strangest and most difficult to justify of the four instances listed is Callaghan in 1978 – an entirely private decision made against all the advice tendered, by a man who was never called on to answer for the consequences. (Rather like Gordon Brown in 2007). triumphant on all fronts. In the US more recently other works of this type have included Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America (2004) which has a President Lindbergh introducing fascism and keeping the US neutral and Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union (2007) in which the Jewish population of Nazi-occupied eastern Europe and Russia have been settled as refugees in Alaska while the US, again, remained neutral in the wider conflict. In the UK the initial reappearance of alternative future fiction arose, as in the US, from authors working in the science fiction genre. Michael Moorcock, in The Warlord of the Air (1971) recast the plot of H.G. Wells’ The War in The Air (1908), interpreting it from a point of view that readers in the counter culture of the time (the early ‘70s) would be familiar with. Moorcock also edited two collections, Before Armageddon – An Anthology of Victorian and Edwardian Imaginative Fiction Published Before 1914 (1975) and England Invaded (1977), which republished works that appeared pre-1914 in which UK writers anxiously imagined a future in which the British Empire had been defeated and subjugated, usually by Germany. Christopher Priest in Fugue for a Darkening Isle (1972 – and a very prescient prototype for the Lagos-on-Sea option) had Europe and the UK being overwhelmed, at some point in the future, by a tidal wave of immigration from Africa, as that continent implodes due to environmental and political instability. Priest would later publish The Separation (2002) which has a plot where Rudolf Hess successfully brokers a peace treaty between Germany and the UK in 1941. Len Deighton’s SS-GB (1978), Robert Harris’s Fatherland (1992) and C. J. Sansom’s Dominion (2012) are all bleak and plausible stories in which Britain is either invaded and defeated after Dunkirk, or sues for peace, with the appeasers ousting Churchill from power. Hitler winning seems a particularly popular story line today; but a clear inference to be drawn from all of this, whether in the UK or the US, is that writers are now actively thinking about what type of future we might be living in, had events in the past turned out slightly differently. What if Roosevelt had lost the election in 1940? (Or had been assassinated by a fanatical neutralist?) Or the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour caused greater destruction? Suppose Halifax had succeeded Chamberlain, and not Churchill? Or Hitler had been very slightly more consistent in his commands and the German army had captured Moscow in November ’41? What would 2013 look like today? In contrast Elliott and Atkinson provide a grim destination for us all but little real consideration of alternatives. Farewell During the writing of this article Margaret Thatcher died. This produced a dominant media narrative of her career that contained much that was arguable or simply wrong. Claims that she was ‘inevitable’, that ‘she allowed people to buy their own houses’, that ‘she made Britain great again’ and that ‘she was a great war leader’ 7 all seem delusory and avoid some simple questions: (1) What if Callaghan had called the election in ’78? (2) Or a few more Argentine bombs had hit British ships in 1982? (3) Or the IRA bomb had been an inch nearer the rafter in the hotel in Brighton? Despite all the debate that followed Thatcher’s death no one put out a programme asking what type of country Britain might be today if she had never made it to No. 10. Is the British state deliberately propagating an imaginary past to stop people thinking about an alternative future? 7 Thatcher as a great war leader seems particularly odd. She committed 10,000 troops to take back control of a British dependency, but was prepared (with her cabinet) during the conflict to agree to a proposal for joint administration and lease back put forward by the US. Only Argentine intransigence stopped this being pursued. (See The Sunday Telegraph 21 April 2013.) By contrast in 1964-1966 the Wilson government committed 60,000 UK troops to preventing Indonesia taking control of large parts of Malaysia and at no time considered a territorial compromise. Harold Wilson was not considered a great war leader because of this and did not receive a state funeral. Six Moments of Crisis: inside British foreign policy Gill Bennett Oxford University Press, 2013, £20 Dan Atkinson The author is a former chief historian at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, holding that post from 1995 to 2005. I have always had rather a soft spot for the FCO’s support crew of non-diplomatic professionals ever since the Seventies, when my mother (a librarian and indexer) worked for some years from home indexing the India Office library, part of the Foreign Office. A pass was needed for her occasional visits to London and, on one occasion, she was stopped by a police roadblock in the part of rural Sussex in which we lived, driving whichever of our rather hopeless family cars we owned at the time. Unable to remember her number plate, she was asked for identification (rather less common then than now). Flustered, she fished in the depths of her handbag and, on production of her FCO pass, was rewarded with a smart salute from the PC in question. Gill Bennett’s moments of crisis are: the decision in July 1950 to send British forces into Korea; the decision in July 1956 to invade the Suez Canal area; the decision in July 1961 to apply for British membership of the European Community; the decision in January 1968 to withdraw British forces from ‘East of Suez’ (other than Hong Kong); the decision in September 1971 to expel 105 Soviet diplomats for alleged espionage and the decision in April 1982 to despatch a naval task force to the South Atlantic. Two things should be said at the start. First, this is a fascinating book, full of telling vignettes and illuminating sidelights. Second, I am not sure how many of the six events can be properly described as ‘moments of crisis’, as opposed to being simply important moments of policy choice, although the ‘crisis’ word makes for a more interesting title. Thus on Korea, this is her take on the attitude of both Clement Attlee and Ernest Bevin, respectively Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary: ‘It was almost unthinkable for Britain not to support the United States in a conflict affecting both their interests and, potentially, the interests of world peace.’ Korea in itself may have threatened a world crisis, but there seems little sense of crisis about Britain’s decision-making: we were going to row in alongside the Americans. At the opposite end of Gill Bennett’s timeline, the invasion of the Falkland Islands was undoubtedly a domestic political crisis of the first magnitude with a response to match, even if one believes that the ‘civilised’ course of action would have been to cut a deal with Argentina’s fascist junta (I don’t, as it happens, nor did I at the time). But between these two poles – crisis Falklands and noncrisis Korea – is something of a mixed bag, to say the least. Suez? Well, it turned into a crisis all right but largely one of Britain and France’s own making. The process leading up to the invasion, as the author makes clear, showed Prime Minister Anthony Eden veer away from a course of action that may have borne fruit – the forceful internationalisation of the canal as a vital global artery, with essential American support – towards a policy primarily concerned with unseating Egypt’s President Nasser. Other than the lack of American involvement, it rings a faint bell, doesn’t it? Less plausible still as a moment of crisis is the 1961 decision to apply to join the European Community. One could argue that it arose out of a long-running crisis of British confidence, but that is hardly a crisis moment, more a crisis longeur. Slightly more presentable as a crisis moment was the East of Suez decision, forced on a reluctant Cabinet by the need to make cuts after the November 1967 devaluation of sterling. Even in the pre-monetarist Sixties, it was thought necessary to counterbalance the inflationary impact of the lower pound with cuts to domestic demand, including public expenditure. Labour’s left would buy cuts in domestic spending only at the price of a drastic reduction in overseas defence commitments. Many resisted, but, as the author points out, by mid-1967: ‘There was no avoiding the conclusion that Britain’s global responsibilities were unsustainable.’ The ‘Soviet spy’ affair of 1971 certainly had potential to turn into a foreign-policy crisis. In the event, the Edward Heath government gambled that it would not and was proved correct. Rejigging the six ‘moments’ in ascending ‘crisis’ order, rather than chronologically, gives us, I suggest, Korea, EC membership application, the ‘spies’ affair, ‘East of Suez’, Suez proper and the Falklands. Another way of approaching these ‘moments’ is in terms of the response of our principal ally throughout this period, the United States. In ascending order, with the worst reaction first, I would suggest the sequence is Suez, then ‘East of Suez’, then the Falklands, then the ‘spies’ affair, then the EC membership application, then, at the apex, Korea. Bang in the middle of both sequences is the ‘spies’ affair, of which more later. The author’s technique is to take the reader through the political discussions about each event, outlining the positions and arguments of the main players, right up to the moment of decision. What Katie – or rather, Clem, Anthony, Harold and the rest – did next is for other books to cover, as indeed they have. The concentrated nature of the material yields some marvellous anecdotes and demolishes a few myths along the way. Thus those to whom the pre-Thatcher Tories were suave internationalist moderates may be surprised to learn that Selwyn Lloyd, Foreign Secretary at the time of Suez, ‘spoke no foreign languages, had never been abroad except in wartime and did not like foreigners’. By contrast, Eden was ‘an Arabic speaker with a deep knowledge of Middle Eastern history and politics, and had a long association with Egypt’. So Harold Wilson grovelled in front of American President Lyndon Johnson at every opportunity? As Washington huffed and puffed over ‘East of Suez’, insisting Britain ought to stay, the British Prime Minister told his Cabinet that ‘if the US tried to punish the British economically, the latter could reply in kind’. Later, according to the diaries of colleague Barbara Castle, quoted here, ‘he “cheerfully dismissed” the US threats... “After all, America was very good at looking after number one and would respect us for doing the same.”’ Still, a good thing Margaret Thatcher was about in 1982 to ignore those jellyfish from the Foreign Office and insist that she knew in her bones that the Falklands were ours, right? ‘Now Mrs Thatcher was fully focused. Were the Islands really British? Once Carrington [Lord Carrington, then Foreign Secretary] had assured her that the British claim was good (“because”, as she told him, “there is no earthly point in sweating blood over it if it’s not ours”) she had no doubts that the Falklands must be defended, by force if necessary.’ All wonderful stuff, of which there is much, much more. But along with querying the ‘crisis’ nature of most of these moments, I have two other niggles. One, the author – perhaps inevitably, in a work of this type – seems over-reliant on what may be called the official-unofficial record. Here is an example from the EC membership application chapter. We learn that: ‘The decision to apply for British membership of the EEC [European Economic Community] was taken at a meeting held in the Prime Minister’s room in the House of Commons at 3pm on Friday 21 July 1961.....A hot Friday afternoon is an unusual time to hold a Cabinet meeting except in times of crisis, particularly just before Parliament rises for the summer recess.’ She concludes: ‘It is hard to avoid the impression that the timing was a deliberate ploy on Macmillan’s part; he knew his colleagues would want to go home, not engage in lengthy discussion.’ Absolutely spot on, I should have thought. Later, however, she tells us that it would be an ‘oversimplification’ to say that Macmillan called the meeting having become committed to British membership, that ‘he also knew that a British application might not be successful’ and that he noted in his diary the following day that the chances were against an agreement, largely because of the French leader Charles De Gaulle. The French veto did come to pass, but it seems implausible that Macmillan would have gone to all the trouble of a carefully-staged meeting that could have been designed to curtail debate simply in order to prepare the way for something to which he was not committed and which he thought may well fail. Far more likely, I suggest, is that Macmillan was chivvying his fellow Tories from nostalgia for the empire that had been lost after the war to acceptance of a substantial shareholding in a new European power bloc. My second niggle relates to the 1971 ‘spies’ affair, that bizarre episode that, as we saw above, sits neatly in the middle of the crisis-America grid. In plain language, what was it all about? It seems ‘the numbers employed in Soviet missions in the UK had by the mid-1960s reached record levels, and though a ceiling was imposed on the size of the embassy in 1968 the Russians had side-stepped it by filling the Soviet Trade Delegation with intelligence officers and by making use of “working wives”.’ By 1971, MI5 estimated that of the near-1,000 Soviet officials (and wives) in the UK, a quarter were involved in ‘undiplomatic activities’. How had this been allowed to happen? Some had few doubts: ‘[T]he Prime Minister [Edward Heath] felt resentment towards his predecessor, Harold Wilson. Soviet espionage was, in Heath’s view, only one of many issues the Labour government had handled badly between 1964 and 1970. Wilson and his colleagues, though well aware of the problem caused by increasing numbers of Soviet spies, [my italics] had done little to tackle it, principally to avoid disrupting Anglo-Soviet relations.’ It’s that slander again! Thus the weirdly named operation FOOT (their capital letters, not mine), which remains, writes the author, ‘the single largest expulsion of intelligence officials by any country’. Heath later described it as ‘the most import security action ever taken by any Western government’. In which case, one wonders why the Soviet reaction was so muted, with little of the feared reprisals against British diplomats and other nationals on Soviet territory – ‘on the whole, there was more noise than action’. Doubtless FOOT gets plenty of analysis in other books, but I should have liked to read more in this one. In conclusion, this is a book full of solid information and intriguing sidelights. The author, as an insider, seems confident in handling the former material, but unaware of quite how much of the latter she has unearthed. Dan Atkinson Tel: 01342 300823 mobile: 07703 973006 http://atkinsonblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/ Conspiracy theory in America Lance deHaven-Smith Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013, $20, h/b In a 2006 essay, ‘When Political Crimes Are Inside Jobs: Detecting State Crimes Against Democracy’, Professor deHaven-Smith gave us the term SCAD, state crime against democracy. When I read his essay I didn’t think the term had much chance of becoming widely used – Peter Dale Scott’s deep politics and parapolitics had failed to make much headway – but I may be wrong. The term is getting quite a deal of traction as a Google search will show. There was a conference in London a couple of years about SCADs. Or so I remembered. But when I checked it was actually billed as SCCADs, State and Corporate Crimes Against Democracy, which indicates one of the problems with the SCAD concept, which I discuss below. In this book deHaven-Smith does two main things. He traces the current use of the expression ‘conspiracy theorist’ back to the notorious 1967 memo issued by the CIA to all its agents and assets, with advice on how to respond to critics of the Warren Commission’s verdict on the assassination of JFK: namely that those criticising Warren’s conclusion should be described as ‘conspiracy theorists’. The author notes that this turned out to be ‘one of the most successful propaganda initiatives of all time’; the ‘conspiracytheory label has become a powerful smear that, in the name of reason, civility, and democracy, pre-empts public discourse, reinforces rather than dissolves disagreements, and undermines popular vigilance against abuses of power.’ Second, he tries to show that the authors of the American constitution and its subsequent amendments were well aware of the possibility of political conspiracy and created a system of checks and balance in their political system in the hope of preventing it. Thus, he claims, ‘conspiracy beliefs about public officials constitute a separate and distinct category of political thought that has been part of American public discourse throughout its history’; and so ‘the post-WWII literature disparaging the popularity of “conspiracy theories” and linking them to nineteenth-century ethnocentrism and bigotry is an inaccurate and misleading account of American history’. Well, it’s a nice move but it won’t quite stand up to scrutiny. The founders of America did not have in their minds something like the John Birch Society and other nativist groups in the 1950s, let alone Alex Jones and David Icke; and Birch et al are not primarily concerned with ‘conspiracy beliefs about public officials’. The problem here is that deHaven-Smith is basically only interested in what have elsewhere been described as ‘event theories’, of which JFK’s assassination and 9/11 are the outstanding examples. The other kinds of conspiracy theories, what we might loosely call the mega or meta theories, those blaming our ills on some secret organisation or other, are simply ignored. DeHaven claims that conspiracy theories are essentially ‘faction theories’. This may be true of event theories but not of the mega or meta theories which contaminate event theorists with their nonsense. DeHaven’s move to rename event theories as SCADs doesn’t solve this problem; and as the addition of the extra C to SCADs in the title of the London conference in 2011 shows, even for the discussion of event theories, SCAD is too narrow. Robin Ramsay Gangsterismo The United States, Cuba and the Mafia: 1933 to 1966 Jack Colhoun London and New York: OR books, 2013, £17.00 (UK), p/b As academic historians are wont to say: this is not my field. Like other JFK assassination buffs, I have acquired most of what little I know about this subject while reading about the assassination. The big surprise about this book was: there was no surprise. This is the story we knew already; but done in great detail – 776 notes for 247 pages of text and 56 pages of notes and sources – and mostly sourced back to official archives. So this is something like the official version. But only from the US side. There is little from the Cuban state’s version of events, notably its intelligence services, which penetrated the anti-Castro groups in America.1 The Mob flits in and out of the story. Although they put millions up at the beginning of Castro’s regime for the anti- Castro Cubans, their involvement in the various Castro assassination plots was less than serious. The Mob weren’t dumb; they knew their involvement with the US state in these activities gave them a get-out-of-jail-free card. So they went through the motions, only to report back to their CIA handlers, ‘Gee, we failed again.’ Not only did the CIA fail to assassinate Castro, they failed to get reliable information on events and sentiment within Cuba; they failed to organise a plausible opposition, let alone a government-in-exile in America and wasted millions funding every raggedy outfit which could muster a plausible looking letterhead. Their invasion plan was a failure – and would have been a failure, even with the US air support denied them by JFK. One of the plan’s architects, the CIA’s Richard Bissell, is quoted here as saying that he knew the plan was flawed but didn’t tell JFK because he was afraid Kennedy would cancel it! The Agency failed to detect the Soviets delivering medium range missiles and nuclear warheads, even though it involved the Soviets using 150 ships under literal 1 On this penetration see, for example, false flags to deliver the material. This is also a case study of the US response to economic nationalism. Fidel was no communist when he arrived. Castro offered reasonable compensation for the US-owned assets he wanted to nationalise but the Americans refused to consider that. Instead they began economic sanctions and drove Cuba into the arms of the Soviets. Thus Castro became a ‘communist’ and the Americans could say, ‘See? We told you.’ All standard stuff. The American state has always preferred murderous psychopaths like Robert ‘Blowtorch Bob’ d’Aubuisson2 to social democrats. So: very good and nicely written. There are nits that could be picked, especially in the period between the Bay of Pigs and JFK’s death: when the Kennedys were simultaneously trying to appease the anti-Castro Cubans and the US military/intelligence who wanted action; wanted to manage the ‘Cuba problem’ politically with the 1964 presidential election in mind; and cool the Cold War with the Soviets. There is more that could be said and other emphases that could be made. (No doubt some of the more enthusiastic Kennedy fans among the buffs will take the author to task on this.) And writing as one of those buffs, it is a pity that so few of the Cuban trails into Dallas are explored and the Cuban view of things omitted. But including all that would have meant another, much longer, less authoritative book. Robin Ramsay 2