#Skripal Time to Invite Russian Diplomats Back with an Apology

Time to Invite Russian Diplomats Back with an Apology

1187688

By James ONeill – New Eastern Outlook – 16.07.2018

On 4th of March 2018 former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were discovered on a park bench in Salisbury England in a distressed state. They were treated by passers-by, including a doctor, before being taken to Salisbury General Hospital.

The hospital initially treated the Skripals for a suspected drug overdose as the symptoms they exhibited were consistent with poisoning by fentanyl, a substance 10 times stronger than heroin, and with which the hospital had prior experience. The hospital’s initial diagnosis was confirmed in an article that appeared in the Clinical Services Journal on 27 April 2018. After the journal’s online article was publicized on social media, references to “fentanyl” were changed to “a substance.”

It was not the first or last time that the official story about what happened to the Skripals was changed.

Three days after the Skripals were found, the British government issued a “D” Notice. The ‘Notice”, officially a “request” but in effect a demand, forbade mention of Mr Skripal’s friend Pablo Miller. Why publicity about Mr Miller was to be suppressed is one of the features of this case, and apart from the initial report in the UK newspaper the Daily Telegraph, which led to the ‘D’ Notice, he has not been referred to again in the mainstream media.

On 12 March 2018 the British Prime Minister Theresa May made her first statement to the House of Commons in which she alleged that the Skripals had been poisoned with a nerve agent of a type developed by Russia,” and that it was “highly likely” Russia was responsible.

The British government subsequently circulated a memorandum and power point presentation to 80 embassies setting out the argument that Russia was responsible for what happened to the Skripals, and seeking support for their intention to expel Russian diplomats as a punishment. The various allegations made in the PowerPoint presentation were at best contentious and some were demonstrably untrue. It is suffice for present purposes however to focus only on the claims of alleged Russian responsibility for the Skripal attacks.

A number of countries, including Australia, acceded to the British demand and expelled diplomats. The statement made by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announcing that two Russian diplomats would be expelled made no attempt to establish the truth of the matter or indicate any desire to do so. His statement simply echoed the allegations made in the British document.

Turnbull said that the use of a chemical weapon to try to murder Sergei and Yulia Skripal reflected a “pattern of recklessness and aggression” by the Russian government that had to be stopped. Russia, he said was threatening no less than “the democratic world” in deliberately undermining the international rules based order. He went on to list a series of other alleged transgressions that echoed the claims made by the United Kingdom government.

One of the interesting features of this case is that not only was it a rush to judgement before the evidence could possibly have been gathered and analysed, but that the mainstream media and the politicians have not deviated from their initial claims, despite the wealth of evidence that has subsequently emerged.

Like the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland, they demanded the sentence before the evidence had been presented, and also like Alice in the eponymous story, asked us to believe six impossible things before breakfast.

The diligent reader is able to readily ascertain just how lengthy that list of impossible things is. It is suffice for present purposes to mention only a few to demonstrate that the United Kingdom’s entire story is a fabrication that would be funny were its potential consequences not so serious.

The United Kingdom government claimed that the Skripals had been poisoned by “a military grade nerve agent” that they see it was a Novichok “of a type of developed by Russia.” From that combination of alleged facts, we were expected to infer that only the Russians could have been responsible.

”Novichok” is a sufficiently Russian sounding nomenclature to give superficial credence to at least part of the claim. The first difficulty however is that there is no “Novichok” nerve agent. The term simply refers to a class of organophosphate chemical weapons. It is true that this class of chemical weapon was developed in the former Soviet Union, as described in a book published by a former employee of the chemical centre, readily available on Amazon.

That manufacturing and research development centre was demolished pursuant to the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1999, as was described as the time in an article in the New York Times. Material from the demolition process was taken back to the United States. All of this information is readily available and politicians and journalists prior to their making claims about nerve agents “of a type developed by Russia” should have known it

The Novichok class of nerve agents may or may not have been initially developed by the Soviet Union, but that is a far cry from linking the substance allegedly used in Salisbury with that original program. A number of European governments have acknowledged that they possess the Novichok class of nerve agents.

A search of the United States Patent Office records however, reveals that between 2002 and November 2017 81 patents were applied for using the name “Novichok”. A patent filed in April 2013 includes a description of a delivery method, including bullet like projectiles that can target a single person.

Secondly, the former United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told the Russian ambassador to the United Kingdom on 12 March 2018 that the nerve agent used on the Skripals was an A234. You are a number of problems with this claim quite apart from Mr Johnson’s general difficulty with the truth. The consulting surgeon at Salisbury Hospital, Dr Steven Davies had a letter to The Times newspaper published on 14 March 2018 in which he stated that “no patients have experienced symptoms of nerve agent poisoning in Salisbury.” In contradistinction to unsubstantiated claims that as many as 40 people had been affected, Dr Davies referred to only three patients receiving treatment in this context. This was presumably a reference to the two Skripals and a police officer.

A234 is a highly toxic substance, 8 to 10 times more powerful then VX (of a type developed by the UK) that had been used to kill a relative of North Korean leader Kim at the Kuala Lumpur airport. VX will kill within a few minutes, yet the A234 allegedly used on the Skripals failed to kill or even severely disable them or the third alleged victim, detective Sergeant Bailey.

A further and likely conclusive reason to reject A234 as the substance used, was that the report by the OPCW based on samples collected from Salisbury 17 to 18 days after the incident said that the substance in the samples was of “high purity”.

The scientific evidence, again readily ascertainable by a reasonably diligent journalist is that A234 and similar substances degrade rapidly. It is literally impossible for samples collected 17 to 18 days after the event to be of “high purity.” The purity also makes it impossible to identify the specific source of the manufacture, and furthermore guarantees that it originated in a properly equipped laboratory. That OPCW report effectively destroyed the last shreds of the UK government’s claims.

Given that Bailey and the Skripals have both made complete recoveries, it could not have been a “military grade” nerve agent that caused their plight. There is also the indisputable fact that whatever was used on the Skripals could not have come from Yulia’s suitcase, the air vents of their motor vehicle, or the front door knob of Mr Skripal’s house, or any of the other fantastical claims made at various times by the UK government for the simple reason that they were alive and well approximately six hours after leaving the house.

During that time the Skripals visited the cemetery, had a meal at Zizzi’s restaurant, and had an untroubled walk through the centre of Salisbury, captured by the CCTV camera. The fact that they both took ill, at the same time and in the same specific location, leads to the almost irresistible inference that they were attacked at or near the park bench where they were found in a distressed state.

For these various reasons, and a great deal of the others in the now considerable body of literature on this topic, we do not know with what they were attacked, nor by whom. At best we know approximately where and at approximately what time. A proper inquiry, as opposed to the wild and unjustified accusations and premature conclusions constantly reiterated in the mainstream media, would approach this question with an open mind. It has been abundantly clear that a proper enquiry is the furthest thing from the minds of the British government or their acolytes such as Australia.

A proper inquiry would also consider the relevance of motive. There has been no plausible suggestion, much less evidence, as to why the Russian government would wish to do the Skripals harm, and some solid reasons why the Russian government would be the least likely candidate to wish ill upon the Skripals.

This brings us back to Sergei Skripal, his history and the aforementioned D notices. One of those D notices inhibited publication of the details relating to Pablo Miller. That raises the obvious question, not pursued by the mainstream media unfettered by the D notice, as to why the British government would wish to protect Mr Miller’s identity and his links to Mr Skripal.

Miller and Skripal are friends, both living in Salisbury and known to socialize together. Their history goes rather deeper. Miller is a former MI6 officer and during the time that Skripal was a double agent in the employ of the Russian GRU Agency and selling Russian secrets to the British, Miller was his ‘handler.’

Miller worked in Moscow in conjunction with Christopher Steele, the assumed author of the infamous Trump dossier that collected together various allegations about Trump’s Russian activities, both business and personal.

That dossier was commissioned by the Democratic National Committee on behalf of Trump’s opponent in the 2016 presidential election, Hilary Clinton. The DNC commissioned Fusion GPS who in turn contracted with Orbis Business Intelligence. Christopher Steele was the principal of Orbis and Miller was one of his associates.

The American outlet Buzzfeed released the complete dossier on 10 January 2017 and on the same day the May government issued a D notice prohibiting the British press from revealing Steele to be the author. The Wall Street Journal however, published his name the following day.

According to the Czech magazine Respekt, Skripal had recent links to Czech intelligence and he travelled to both the Czech Republic and Estonia in 2016 and had met with intelligence officers from both countries.

This evidence strongly supports the inference that Skripal was still an active agent on behalf of the British who were known to be strongly opposed to the election of Donald Trump. Given Skripal’s knowledge of Russian intelligence, his links with the intelligence community in at least four countries, his close ties to both Miller and Steele going back to his GRU days, and at least according to one textual analysis of the dossier, it is entirely possible that Skripal was in fact one of the authors of the dossier.

These facts are now well established. At the very least it raises serious questions about who else might have a motive to give Mr Skripal a “message.” Whoever was responsible, the incident was certainly used by the UK government as part of a wider campaign to discredit the Russian government in general and President Putin in particular. In this endeavour, they have been willingly aided and abetted by the Australian government and mainstream media.

The failure of either to acknowledge the manifold flaws in the original allegations and to accept that the UK government’s version has been comprehensively discredited is an enduring disgrace.

At the very least the Russian government is owed an apology. That would go at least some way to acknowledging that the premature judgement and intemperate response has damaged Australia’s international image and its foreign relations

Advertisements

Time to apologise to Russia over Novichok accusations? #skripal

Amesbury poisoning: Source of novichok found in bottle in victim’s house

Introduction — July 13, 2018

Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess. Click to enlarge

Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess. Click to enlarge

Charlie Rowley, the sole survivor of the latest novichok poisoning was a registered heroin addict. We can’t help wondering if Rowley’s addiction didn’t play a part in his poisoning?
Did British intelligence single him out as a likely fall guy? Someone with few if any reputable connections? Someone who could be killed without too many questions being asked as to precisely how or why?
A potential victim to target in their efforts to blame Russia in a staged killing?
If novichok is as deadly as claimed what was it doing in a bottle in a registered heroin addict’s flat? Was it presented to him concealed in the various pharmaceuticals used to treat his addiction?
Or was it placed there by search teams AFTER he was poisoned? After all, novichok is purportedly more lethal than Sarin. So what the hell was a deadly nerve agent doing in the flat of a registered drug addict? Like the original Skripal’s poisoning this doesn’t make sense — unless one factors in the involvement of British intelligence.

Amesbury poisoning: Source of novichok found in bottle in victim’s house

David Mercer — Sky News July 13, 2018

The nerve agent that killed a woman in Wiltshire and left her boyfriend critically ill has been found in his house, police say.

Officers recovered a small bottle on Wednesday from the Amesbury home of Charlie Rowley, who is in a serious condition in hospital.

Tests at Porton Down have confirmed that the substance in the bottle is novichok, Scotland Yard said.

An investigation is now underway to establish whether it is from the same batch that poisoned Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury in March.

Mr Rowley’s partner Dawn Sturgess, 44, died on Sunday after falling ill on 30 June following exposure to the nerve agent.

Continues …

The Stain of Britain’s Part in Torture and Rendition Will Never Wash Away

Written by Sam Raphael & Ruth Blakeley

In more than 70 cases British intelligence knew of, suggested, planned, agreed to, or paid for others to conduct rendition operations

Jack Straw David Manning Jonathan Sinclair 031113 D 9880W 020

“As we have argued for years now – and as we told the ISC – British complicity in torture was deep, wide and sustained. Government ministers have always denied this – the former foreign secretary, Jack Straw famously stated that only conspiracy theorists should believe the UK was involved in rendition. That position is now more untenable than ever.”


The long-awaited reports of the investigation by the UK Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) into Detainee Mistreatment and Rendition between 2001 and 2010 have finally been published. We ourselves have been researching the UK’s part in rendition and torture for years and gave evidence to the committee – and these reports are much harder hitting than we had expected.

Chaired by MP and QC Dominic Grieve, the ISC’s investigation has revealed that the extent of UK involvement in prisoner abuse was even greater than we had previously documented. The reports also highlight serious weaknesses relating to the training of security personnel, and governance and oversight of their conduct. Many of the ISC’s conclusions corroborate our own research findings, and we were pleased to see a number of issues we raised when we gave evidence to the ISC in January 2017.

As we have argued for years now – and as we told the ISC – British complicity in torture was deep, wide and sustained. Government ministers have always denied this – the former foreign secretary, Jack Straw famously stated that only conspiracy theorists should believe the UK was involved in rendition. That position is now more untenable than ever. It is clear from the ISC reports that UK officials knew about the US programme immediately after 9/11 and worked to support their allies in ways which enabled continued “plausible deniability”.

The report’s findings are unambiguous. In more than 70 cases – far more than have ever been identified before now – British intelligence knew of, suggested, planned, agreed to, or paid for others to conduct rendition operations. Some of the details are excruciating – one MI6 officer was present while a prisoner was transferred in a coffin-sized box. In literally hundreds of further cases, UK officials were aware of detainees being mistreated by their allies, continued to supply questions to be asked of detainees under torture, and received intelligence from those who had been tortured.

While names and locations have been redacted in these reports, our own years of investigation enable us to fit new facts into our broader picture of post-9/11 torture. It is likely that we will be able to identify some of the important detail left out by the reports. In many cases, these omissions resulted from the government refusing to allow the ISC to interview intelligence officers with knowledge of British involvement. In the absence of a full judge-led inquiry, our fact-finding work remains crucial, and we are committed to doing what we can.

We also know enough from the victims themselves, in their own words, about the human toll of this form of state violence. If you are being beaten up, electrocuted, raped, or subjected to mock execution, you tend to say whatever it takes to make it stop. Small wonder that intelligence received under torture is notoriously of limited value.

The fact that the UK attempted to keep its hands clean by involvement from afar makes the situation no better. When the reports were released, Theresa May stated that “intelligence and Armed Forces personnel are now much better placed” to deal with detainee-related work and that the necessary lessons have been learned. But in our evidence to the ISC, we also raised a number of concerns about the adequacy of today’s training and the strength of current guidance, which ostensibly prevents a return to the early years of the “War on Terror” – and we are not convinced.

No stone unturned

In our testimony to the ISC, we pointed to flaws in the so-called “Consolidated Guidance” issued to all security agencies and the military from 2010. The ISC has taken this seriously. In their conclusions, it concludes that the guidance is by no means “consolidated”, and that “it is misleading to present it as such”. The ISC points to “dangerous ambiguities in the guidance”, noting that “individual ministers have entirely different understandings of what they can and cannot, and would and would not, authorise”.

We encouraged the ISC to examine how frequently agency or Ministry of Defence personnel had followed the guidance, and to establish how frequently concerns about prisoner abuse were reported up the chain of command. This the ISC has done. Frustratingly, corresponding data is redacted from the final release. Nevertheless, the ISC’s conclusions indicate that record keeping on these matters is weak, and that there are considerable risks that cases which should be reported upwards are not.

This is exacerbated by the fact that “there is no clear policy and not even agreement as to who has responsibility for preventing UK complicity in unlawful rendition”. And as the ISC reports, the government “has failed to introduce any policy or process that will ensure that allies will not use UK territory for rendition purposes”.

We have long argued that the Consolidated Guidance does little more than provide a rhetorical, legal and policy scaffold, enabling the UK government to demonstrate a minimum procedural adherence to human rights commitments. As the ISC quite rightly concludes, there is an urgent need for review and fundamental reform of the Consolidated Guidance. The government must also establish much more robust oversight, training and accountability mechanisms.

We would also argue, in the strongest possible terms, that only a judge-led inquiry with full powers of subpoena will enable the public to know what was done in their name. Without this it will be even harder to achieve full accountability and to identify current forms of UK complicity in human rights abuses. With the anti-torture norm being eroded at the very top of the US government once again, these risks are very present and real.

Source: The Conversation

The Salisbury Poisoning: A Plausible Explanation: #Skripal

The Salisbury Poisoning: A Plausible Explanation

by John Bull, England for The Saker Blog

I’m an ordinary member of the British public concerned about the consequences of the Salisbury poisoning. My contribution to the debate is modest and mainly in the public domain, but I do have some personal snippets which may be relevant. Where I have indulged in conjecture, I have made this obvious.

I am not a ‘conspiracy theorist’ nor a Kremlin stooge. I have no axe to grind, politically or personally, against any state, organisation or individual. Initially, I accepted the Government’s view that it was ‘highly likely’ the attack on the Skripals was the responsibility of the Russian Federation. This conclusion was based on the facts available to the public at the time, at a very early stage of the investigation.

Nearly four months have passed since the incident, and while we have been told almost nothing about the on-going investigation (for ‘security reasons’), much information has come to light.

And it is in the light of this new information that I now believe the probability of Russian involvement is significantly lower. There are now more ‘plausible explanations’ which need to be considered.

While this article focuses on just one of them, this does not mean I believe it the correct one, or even the most likely one; just one that needs to be looked at.

Theresa May Statement to the House of Commons, 12th March 2018

The Prime Minister said there are only two plausible explanations for the poisoning: either it was a direct act by the Russian state against the UK; or the Russian Government lost control of their potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others. She based this judgement on two assumptions:-

That the poison was Novichok.

That it could only have come from Russia.

We now know that the second assumption is incorrect. There are several labs in the world – including Porton Down – where the substance could have been synthesised. Indeed it is within their remit to do so in order to research antidotes, and Porton Down should certainly have done this if Russia has been secretly manufacturing the deadly stuff over the last ten years, as claimed by Boris Johnson. To identify it, as Porton Down did a few days after the incident, one must either have the formula or a sample.

Novichok

Theresa May’s first assumption was based on early sample testing, all of which must have been carried out at Porton Down. Yet there is much evidence to suggest that Novichok was not the poison used:-

  1. Passers-by saw the pair slouched on the bench, slipping in and out of consciousness. One of them, a female doctor, put Yulia in the recovery position. I have seen a film of a goat being killed by a nerve agent. The body convulses and goes rigid as all the muscles tighten before death occurs. If Yulia and her father had been poisoned by a nerve agent, they would not be slouched on a bench. And nobody could have put Yulia’s body in the recovery position.
  2. Stephen Davies, Consultant in Emergency Medicine, wrote to The Times on 16th March as follows:- “Sir, Further to your report (“Poison Exposure Leaves Almost 40 Needing Treatment”, Mar 14), may I clarify that no patients have experienced symptoms of nerve-agent poisoning in Salisbury and there have only ever been three patients with significant poisoning. Several people have attended the emergency department concerned that they may have been exposed. None had symptoms of poisoning and none has needed treatment. Any blood tests performed have shown no abnormality. No member of the public has been contaminated by the agent involved.” He seems to be saying that no patients – including the Skripals – had experienced symptoms of nerve agent poisoning. Perhaps he lied to reduce alarm among The Times readers living in and around Salisbury, but I doubt it.
  3. The targets survived, despite the extreme lethality of the agent and there being no antidote, as explained by the CEO of Porton Down; and despite the training Russian assassins receive in its use – another claim by Boris Johnson.
    Perhaps the poison failed because the dose was too small, in which case one must wonder why they fell ill at the same time, some three hours after they left the house where the alleged Novichok had been smeared on the front door handle. And if there was insufficient Novichok on the door handle to do the job, how did they have enough on their hands to distribute it around Salisbury, and how was there was enough left on the door handle to poison Nick Bailey?
  4. According to the hospital consultant, no member of the public had symptoms or needed treatment. Yet apparently traces of Novichok were found in a number places in the city, including a pub and a restaurant which would have been busy on a Sunday afternoon. Furthermore, it must have taken the police some time to establish the movements of the Skripals after leaving the house and before arriving on the park bench.
    It would be interesting to know when the public was barred from the pub and the restaurant and how many people visited those establishments following the Skripals visit and before the police cordons were established. Surely some customers and staff would have been affected if Novichok had been present. And traces of Novichok were subsequently found in both places.
    (It was also be interesting to know how the police found out where the Skripals had been, as they were in no fit state to provide that information themselves. Were they with someone? Did they have a minder? Was it by any chance Detective Sergeant Bailey?)
  5. Novichok acts within a few minutes, yet the Skripals were able to drive to the town centre, park, walk to the pub and have drinks, then walk to the restaurant and have lunch before it took any effect at all.
  6. When the Skripals survived – contrary to the early assessments of the medical staff treating them – we were told they would probably need to remain on life support for the rest of their lives. After they were taken off life support – thanks to the brilliant specialised treatment they received – we were told they may suffer permanent brain damage. Yulia’s video statement read out by her on 23rd May showed her to be in radiant health, apart from the tracheotomy scar.
  7. We are told Russia continued to develop Novichok in the last ten years as an assassin’s weapon, an attribute of which one would assume to be non-detectability. This would require the substance to break down rapidly in the target’s body after use. It therefore seems strange that the OPCW were able to confirm the presence of Novichok from blood samples taken from the victims so long after the attack (nearly three weeks), particularly as the dose was sub-lethal.
  8. OPCW’s unclassified report on the poisoning did not name the substance they found.

Perpetrators

If the poison wasn’t Novichok, the case against the Russian Federation would be significantly weakened. Anyone could have carried out the attack: the Russian state, the Russian Mafia, aggrieved colleagues, paid assassins or the CIA/MI6/MI5/Mossad, The probability of one or more of those intelligence services bungling what should have been a straightforward wet-job is low, not just because the attempt failed, but also because the operation was so badly planned and its aftermath amateurishly handled.

An anonymous comment:-

“The entire mess wouldn’t have been penned even by the laziest of Hollywood screen writers. It is so bad that it could only come from the minds of politicians. At least even lazy Hollywood screen writers can keep a plot together, this is just embarrassing in its stupidity. Deadly nerve agent where everyone recovers, and only three people exposed.”

Motive

Although it’s possible to dream up all sorts of motives for a hit against Mr. Skripal, one that includes killing his daughter makes little sense. Perhaps the perpetrators did not wish to kill the couple; the job wasn’t bungled after all.

Perhaps it achieved its aim which could have been simply to sour relations between the UK and Russia and rally international support against Putin. Or was there a cunning plan to induce the Government to accuse Russia of a war-like act on British soil, then discredit them six months later by showing the world the Brits had got it all wrong? Or rather the British government, which would lead to their defeat in a no-confidence vote and possibly the end of Brexit.

Means of Delivery

If the door handle wasn’t the means of delivery, the poison could have been put in their car, their drinks or more likely their restaurant meal. A possibility is that it was in their food and was put there by nature, i.e. they suffered food poisoning. I understand the onset time can vary from as little as 30 minutes up to days, depending on the type of poison of which there are many. So it could have been in their Sunday lunch at Zizzi’s, or in their meal the evening before, following the arrival from Moscow of the daughter. I am no expert on the subject, but I do have some memorable experiences of food poisoning.

The first was when I was six years old. I was on holiday in France with my parents. My mother ate a bad mussel and was very ill. I remember her propped up on a sloping sea wall, rocking her head from side to side and groaning, slipping in and out of consciousness. It was frightening. I can’t remember if she went to hospital, but she did survive with no lasting effects (except an intolerance of shell-fish). She was 33 at the time. I guess we all ate the mussels, but my mother just happened to eat a bad one.

My second experience happened a few months ago. Following a dinner party, I was struck down by a suspect scallop. I had all the usual symptoms of food poisoning, and in addition a loss of balance and shivering. I am fortunate in being healthy and able to cope with such things, so I did not seek medical advice. I remained ill for over a week until I finally took antibiotics. I was the only diner affected, which suggests to me that in a restaurant like Zizzi’s it’s possible, despite the bulk cooking, for some unlucky individuals to be poisoned and others not.

Poison in their food would account for it taking effect at the same time, despite the difference in their body weight, as women tend to eat less.

An Alternative ‘Plausible Explanation’

Perhaps Sergei and Yulia were just unlucky (about 20,000 people per year in the UK are hospitalised because of food poisoning and about 500 die). Perhaps there are no assassins to be hunted down and brought to justice: no perpetrators, no motives. All three victims have now recovered, so this particular ‘plausible explanation’ has a happy ending.

Or at least it would have done, had it not been for the possibility that someone, somewhere, succumbed to the temptation of using the incident for political purposes when they found out the victims happened to be an ex-Russian spy and his daughter.

Perhaps it was too good to miss. An opportunity to turn us, and our allies, against the enemy: the evil Putin, who continues to grow in popularity in his own country and is well on the way to making Russia a superpower again, reclaiming the Crimea without firing a single shot and thwarting the West’s attempt at regime change in Syria (see Timber Sycamore). And winning – by hook or more likely by crook – its bid to host the football World Cup.

And why not use a bit of trickery ourselves? Isn’t that how foreign policy works and always has done? The great game? In this case, such a strategy would have significant risks. The obvious one is harming the relations between the West and Russia and taking us all one step nearer to WWIII.

Next is the possibility of our government and our nation becoming the laughing stock of the world if the truth were ever revealed. In that case, our allies would realised we had cried wolf and would no longer trust us.

Finally, there would be the damage done to the reputation of our own intelligence services, police force and policy-making machinery – so soon after the dodgy dossier which took us into Iraq with such dreadful consequences.

While the investigation of this alternative ‘plausible explanation’ might not lead to a prosecution for attempted murder, other crimes may have been committed such as abduction and assault (for example, the ‘invasive and painful’ treatment inflicted on Yulia, no doubt under the instructions of the experts from Porton Down). On the political side, there could be a case of malfeasance, or grounds for impeachment for misleading Parliament.

A good starting point is the session in the House of Commons on 12th March. The PM stressed not only her two plausible options but also the need to “proceed in the right way, led not by speculation but by the evidence”. In the highly charged session, most members who spoke ignored her second explanation and also her words of caution, accusing the Russian Federation for the attack.

Who can blame those MPs? On the face of it, the crime was horrific with potentially appalling consequences, and Russia does has a dreadful record of such deeds. And to make matters worse, party politics played its part.

Jeremy Corbyn’s contribution was interesting for two reasons. Firstly, he was the only person apart from the PM urging caution – which encouraged many Tory MPs to do the opposite and abandon caution and demand direct, decisive action; predictably, the word ‘appeasement’ was mentioned. Secondly, Corbyn referred to a meeting that morning of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, stating that the chairman, Tom Tugendhat, said he would be “surprised” if the Prime Minister “did not point the finger at the Kremlin”.

Tom Tugendhat’s own contribution to the debate ignored the PM’s second plausible explanation completely, and flouted her plea for caution, He did not even speculate but did what he had thought his leader would do. He ‘pointed the finger’. He said the attack:-

“… was certainly a warlike act by the Russian Federation, and it is not the first that we have seen. Some in this House have stayed silent or decided to join the information warfare that that state is conducting against us and our allies, but we have seen it invade countries in the east, attack allies and attempt to kill Prime Ministers. Even now, it is backing the murderous Assad regime which thinks nothing of gassing its own people, yet the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition stays silent. Does my right hon. Friend agree that now is the time for us to call on our allies—the European Union, which has worked with us so well on sanctions, NATO and particularly the United States—and ask what they will do to assist us in this moment when we are in need?”

There was no question of him waiting for the Russian response to the PM’s two plausible explanations. He had already rejected the second one, and he was certain about the first.

Following Russia’s negative response the following evening, the PM updated the House on 14th March with a further statement in which she declared:-

“There is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian state was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter, and for threatening the lives of other British citizens in Salisbury, including Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey. This represents an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom.”

While she chose her words carefully, she had clearly dropped her second plausible explanation. There was no logical reason for her to do that. She’d changed her mind. Why?

During the weeks following, Boris Johnson said on German TV that the CEO of Porton Down had assured him the Novichok was from Russia. Then we found out the CEO had said nothing of the sort. The denial from Porton Down was quickly followed by the deleting of the FCO tweet which read:-

“Analysis by world-leading experts at the Defence Science and Technology laboratory at Porton Down made clear that this was a military grade nerve agent produced in Russia.”

Der Spiegel came up with an interesting observation:-

“The Foreign Office had ignored a fundamental rule of the digital battlefield: Only amateurs delete problematic tweets,”

The German TV interviewer also asked Boris several times if Porton Down held any Novichok samples. He ducked the question, over and over again. I wanted to know the answer too, so I wrote to my MP, who happens to be Tom Tugendhat. I asked him if he could find out for me. He replied with what appeared to be a standard letter, ignoring my question and saying, amongst other things:-

“This was an attack on British soil by Russia, as confirmed by the OPCW.”

The OPCW had not confirmed this. When I pointed this out to him, he replied:-

“You are of course quite right but I think it fair for me to draw the implication I did…”

Thus both Boris Johnson and Tom Tugendhat had lied. Perhaps they both felt the need to beef up the Government narrative. If so, was it because they both knew it was fabricated? If this were the case, did either of them, or both, play a part in its fabrication?

Being chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Tom Tugendhat is in a very powerful position. His committee holds the Foreign Office to account, so in some ways Boris Johnson answers to him and his committee. On the other hand, Boris outranks him. Could the two of them together have exploited the poisoning incident to bring to bear some much needed pressure on Putin?

The pair of them had the means, in that the Director of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service answers directly to the Foreign Secretary. ‘C’ would have done what he was told, perhaps using the facilities and expertise of his I-Ops and ‘Jolly Fun Tricks’ departments. Despite the rush, that organisation has the ability to handle the theatre, press releases, sleight of hand and all the other shenanigans required to pull off such a scam – and the willingness to do so if they were persuaded, perhaps by their ultimate boss the Foreign Secretary, that it were in the best interests of the Nation.

No doubt elements within Porton Down could have likewise been persuaded to co-operate, perhaps by their overall boss, our new Secretary of State for Defence. In a speech he gave on 12th March 2018, eight days after the poisoning, he said:-

“And today I can announce we are building on our world class expertise at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory in Porton Down. We are investing £48 million in a new Chemical Weapons Defence Centre to maintain our cutting edge in chemical analysis and defence.”

I guess that no hand-held detector has yet been developed and produced which detects Novichok in the field, so I assume the thousands of swabs taken around Salisbury, and the blood samples from the victims, would have gone the labs at Porton for testing. It would not have been difficult, once they were there, to lace them with Novichok before testing, or fiddle the results, or provide the testers with a comparator which wasn’t Novichok, or simply file a false report. No Novichok would have left the buildings and no-one would have been hurt.

When the CEO of Porton Down was interviewed for Sky TV, following Boris’s gaff on German TV, he was asked if the Novichok allegedly used in the attack could have come from his establishment. He could have simply said ‘we don’t have any’, but instead he explained in some detail and with conviction that there was no way a substance like that could have left the buildings. Perhaps it didn’t need to.

The culture at Porton Down is of interest. They unlawfully killed a serviceman with nerve agent in 1953, and during the early 70s they did call for service volunteers to help find ‘a cure for the common cold’, when they really wanted them for NBC research. This is no myth. I saw the appeals myself. They probably thought it acceptable to take risks and be deceitful, if it were in the interests of the Nation. It was strange that the CEO emphasised at the end of his Sky interview that the Novichok was ‘military grade’. Surely that’s true of any Novichok. I can’t imagine there is a civilian grade.

Having worked at a similar UK research establishment, I have some knowledge of security procedures. The Official Secrets Act and the ‘need to know’ culture does a good job in keeping our secrets secret, and not only from our enemies. Operation Grapple in the 1950s provides a fine example of how a government establishment was allegedly able keep from the Nation and our allies – and from most of their staff – the dark secret of Britain’s non-H-bomb (Hansard 4 Dec 2002 : Column 252WH).

Was Boris Johnson impetuous enough to initiate such a hoax? Was this some Machiavellian plan made in haste by inexperienced politicians with little thought about how it might develop? Probably not. But to both him and Tugendhat, such a plan would have had great attraction. Not only would it give their leader a big stick to hit Putin with, but it would also distract from the debacle of Brexit, enhance the standing of the PM and the Conservative party, secure the support of our allies, and provide an opportunity to skewer Corbyn, allegedly one of Putin’s useful idiots. And nobody would be killed, so the Intelligence Services Act of 1994 would not be breached. But would those involved have risked their political careers with such a harebrained scheme?

Or did they brainwash themselves – or each other – into believing the Putin was definitely the culprit, and they felt the Government needed to take swift and decisive action against the Nation’s arch-enemy, rather than wait for confirmatory evidence which would – they wrongly assumed – soon come to light? In other words, did they start out having any plan at all? Had they any idea of what they were getting into? Were they driven by arrogance, patriotism, ambition or plain stupidity?

It’s worth noting their outspoken loathing of Russian media – RT and Sputnik in particular. They accuse them of pumping out nothing but propaganda and conspiracy theories to manipulate the minds of the Great British public; they cry out for their broadcasting licences to be revoked; and they urge their parliamentary colleagues not to take part in any of those Russian programmes as it would give credibility to their lies.

These TV stations have been offering alternative theories about the poisoning, but if Britain had been accused – in the absence of any credible evidence – of attacking a British double agent and his daughter in Moscow, would not the BBC be doing the same? The situation is made far worse, because we, the British public, are being told absolutely nothing. The media are eerily quiet. RT and others are filling the vacuum.

Perhaps Tugendhat thought the OPCW would confirm the attack was by Russia. Perhaps Johnson assumed the CEO of Porton Down would back up his claim that the Novichok used came from that state. When the evidence to support their accusations did not materialise, did Johnson seek help from within that secret organisation of which he is the ultimate boss, MI6?

It is strange that Tugendhat should be such a champion of English Common Law (see his address to the RUSI, 29th May 2018), yet in this case he abandoned the concept of a presumption of innocence, leaping to a verdict of guilty and demanding a heavy sentence before the crime had been properly investigated.

Conclusion

If indeed there are no Russian assassins to hunt down, a quiet word with Tugendhat and Johnson might be appropriate, if only to eliminate this particular ‘plausible explanation’. But if it was food poisoning, or another explanation which lets Russia off the hook, someone will have to decide on how we get out of the mess. The options would be:-

  1. Come clean and confess we got it wrong.
    .
  2. Stick to the story, make sure the police investigation takes ages and hope the whole thing gets forgotten about.
  3. Find a couple of patsies and stage a shoot-out in a Swindon suburb as a result of a tip-off (can’t reveal sources). Russian passports found at the scene along with two pairs of Marigolds and a handbook on how to smear Novichok on doorknobs. Usual stuff.

The trouble with 2 and 3 is that they would rely on the continued silence of the many parties involved. My fear is that what might have started out as a fairly straightforward but hastily planned psy-ops operation ends up with the premature demise of some innocent people. Cover-ups are usually more drastic than the actions they try to hide.

The economist John Maynard Keynes was once challenged for altering his position on some economic issue. His alleged reply was:-

“When my information changes, I change my mind. What do you do?”

Having made the accusations and found Putin to be guilty and passed sentence, Tugendhat, Johnson and certain other MPs don’t have the luxury of changing their minds without consequence. Unless the early conclusion they jumped to is the correct one, they and the government are in a very, very difficult position.

The world is watching

Joining Some Dots on the #Skripal Case: Part 6 – Tying up the Loose Ends

Joining Some Dots on the Skripal Case: Part 6 – Tying up the Loose Ends

Over the last five pieces (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5) I have, slowly but surely, advanced a theory of what happened in the Skripal case. I must confess to having done so with a fair amount of unease. I don’t want to believe that my Government has been stating a case that is false. I don’t want to believe that the public have been lied to. I don’t want to have to think that there has been a lot of effort made to present an explanation that hides the truth.

And yet, given the fact that the Government story contains self-evident fallacies, and cannot be made to add up, I don’t think that there’s much alternative than to be hugely sceptical about their claims. I stated the two main fallacies in Part 1, which are the claims that three people were poisoned by the nerve agent A-234, which is 5-8 times more toxic than VX, and that because A-234 was developed in the Soviet Union, the Russian State is responsible for what happened. The first claim cannot be true, because the three people are alive and well and have suffered no irreparable damage. The second claim is palpably untrue, because A-234 has been synthesised in a number of countries.

Yet this is only the tip of the iceberg of the absurdities and anomalies. I don’t intend to go through all of them, but would simply point anyone who does believe the official story to concentrate on three words: The Door Handle. This was apparently where the poison was poured, so allow me to pose five questions about this claim to those who believe it to be true:

  1. During the “clean-up” operation, there were lots of military chaps wearing HazMat suits, which are designed to protect against exposure to toxic chemicals. How, then, did the assassin apparently manage to pour this same lethal, military grade nerve agent on a door handle, without wearing a HazMat suit?
  2. On the other hand, if he or she was wearing a HazMat suit when performing the operation, wouldn’t someone in Christie Miller Road have noticed and found it – shall we say – a bit odd?
  3. If the poison was administered to the door handle, how exactly did both Sergei and Yulia Skripal manage to touch it (people don’t normally both touch the door handle if they go in the house together), and how did they manage to get exactly the right quantities on their skin so that they collapsed at exactly the same time, some four hours later?
  4. The door handle theory only reared its head some three weeks after the poisoning, at which point the substance was said to have been still present in a “highly pure” form. During this three weeks, many people went in and out of Mr Skripal’s house using the front door. How did they manage to do so without using the door handle, or if they did, how did they manage not to succumb to poisoning?
  5. Part of the Government’s alleged evidence pointing at the high likelihood of Russian involvement in the case, is an FSB instruction manual showing – amongst other things – how to assassinate someone by pouring Novichok on a door handle. Suspending our disbelief on this claim for a moment (and admittedly that is hard), did the Government have the manual when they made their accusations against the Russian Government on 12th and 14th March, and if so, why did the door handle theory not surface for more than a week after this?

Of course, a few moments consideration about the door handle theory will show that – like the rest of the official story – it is simply wrong. And because it is so plainly wrong, that is why we can safely say that the real explanation lies elsewhere.

Nevertheless, I am aware that in advancing another explanation, there are likely to be many holes in it too. Whilst much of what I have said throughout this series has been based on facts and eyewitness statements, the theory I have advanced from those facts and witness statements remains unproven. And so I would ask that where I have got things wrong, you would forgive me, and where things don’t make sense, you would point them out.

Having said that, what I want to do in this final piece it to tie up a few loose ends and – most particularly – attempt to demonstrate how the theory I have advanced explains some of the other anomalies in the case in a far more cogent and rational way than does the official story. So here goes.

The Deafening Silence of Sergei Skripal

One of the least talked about points in the official story, yet one that really is very important, is that if it were a true account, Mr Skripal would almost certainly have no more clue about who poisoned him than the average person in the street. If it were true that an unknown assassin, appointed by the Russian Government, poured military-grade nerve agent onto his front door on 4th March, before fleeing back to the Motherland, Mr Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, would be as much in the dark as to who did it than you or I.

Now, if that were the case, two things would naturally follow. The first is that Mr Skripal would almost certainly be inclined to believe the version of events given to him by the Metropolitan Police. Think about it. He wakes up one morning in a strange hospital bed, and has absolutely no clue why he is there or what happened to him. Then a kindly policeman comes and explains that he was the target of an assassination attempt using a lethal nerve agent, and that the British Government believes that it was ordered by the Russian Government. What is he going to believe? Fairly obvious I would think. At least he would have no reason to disbelieve them.

The second thing that would naturally follow is that, as soon as he was able, he would want to release a statement, either on paper, or in an interview, where he not only pledges his support for the Metropolitan Police and their ongoing investigation, and no doubt hints at involvement of the Russian State, but also – and this is crucial – where he also gives the public some information about what actually happened to him on 4th March: where he went, when he first started to feel ill, and what he last remembers.

Again, think about it. If you were in his shoes, wouldn’t you want to catch the people who did it? And wouldn’t you assume that the more information you could give to the public, perhaps even clearing up some of the anomalies (such as the reason for the agitation in Zizzis), the more chance there would be that someone’s memory might be jogged and vital information given to the police?

Of course you would. And yet so far, Mr Skripal has released no such statement. Why?

It isn’t that he is physically or mentally incapacitated. We know from Yulia Skripal’s brief call to her cousin on April 5th (which almost certainly wasn’t “meant” to happen), that Sergei was by that time fine. In response to Viktoria’s question about her father, she said this:

“Everything is ok. He is resting now, having a nap. Everyone’s health is fine, there are no irreparable things. I will be discharged soon. Everything is ok.”

That was nearly three months ago, and yet the Sergei Skripal who was fine on 5th April, having suffered no irreparable damage from apparently being poisoned by the world’s most deadly nerve agent, and who was discharged on 18th May, still has not spoken.

I put it that the theory I have advanced (see Part 5 in particular), suggests an obvious reason for his silence. Were he in the dark about the identity of those who poisoned him, as the official story implies, his silence would be inexplicable. Don’t you want to catch the perpetrators of this crime upon you and your daughter, Sergei?

Yet, if we assume that actually he knows exactly who poisoned him and why they poisoned him – as would be the case according to the theory I have advanced – then his silence is very easily explained. He cannot be allowed to be interviewed about what happened, because he would blow the whole wretched business clean out of the water. He cannot be allowed to make an open statement, with the press there to ask free questions, because it would come out that he had been meeting someone at the bench in The Maltings, and that this someone whom he met was the person who poisoned him.

In addition, his (highly likely) authorship of the Trump Dossier would be revealed. And if this were to happen, not only would it be seen that the foundations upon which the whole Trump/Russia collusion hoax was based was made of straw, but it would become clear that the interference in the 2016 US Presidential election was never really about Russian interference to get Trump elected; but rather about British interference to stop Trump getting elected.

The deafening silence of Mr Skripal is therefore strong evidence of a number of things:

  • That the Government story, in which he was the unsuspecting victim of a Kremlin plot, is without foundation.
  • That he well knows who his poisoners were and why they poisoned him.
  • That he cannot be allowed to speak freely because if he was, a scandal of monumental proportions would be revealed.

The Deafening Silence of Yulia Skripal

Deafening silence of Yulia? What am I talking about? She has released a number of statements through the Metropolitan Police, and in the statement (not interview) she made to Reuters. So what do I mean?

Many have pointed out a number of remarkable things about her Reuters statement. For one, she herself looked remarkably well. For another, the language of the statement she read was highly suggestive that it was first written in English – not by her – and then translated into Russian (statements like “I do not wish to avail myself of their services” don’t normally trip off the tongue of native English speakers, let alone those who speak it as a second language).

But for me the most remarkable thing about all of these statements are not what they do say, but rather what they don’t say. As with Sergei’s silence, Yulia has nothing whatsoever to say about the day of the poisoning. She notes that she and her father survived an “attempted assassination”. She notes that a nerve agent was used to do it. But she says nothing about her and her father’s movements that day. Nothing about what they did and where they went. Nothing about when they first succumbed to the effects of the poisoning. Nothing to suggest that her father’s agitation in Zizzis may have been caused by poisoning.

In short, she says nothing whatsoever about the poisoning itself. Zero. Diddly squat. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. Why?

As with Sergei’s non-statements, this doesn’t compute. If you happened to wake up in a hospital to be told that you had been the victim of a nerve agent poisoning, you would almost certainly want to tell people as much as possible about your movements up to the point of the poisoning. Wouldn’t you? Of course. Especially if they had not only poisoned you, but your dad too. You’d at least want to sound a bit more interested in actually catching the perpetrators than Yulia, who didn’t so much as mention it, and instead sounded like she just wanted to move on and forget it ever happened.

Once again, this total silence on something so crucial just doesn’t fit at all with the official story. That narrative suggests that Sergei and Yulia were innocent victims of a Kremlin-hired assassin. That narrative suggests they don’t know who that Kremlin-hired assassin was. But it also suggests that they of all people have a huge interest in giving details of what happened to them that day. And yet there is silence.

Does it fit better with the theory I have proposed? You bet it does. If what I have suggested is anywhere close to the truth, just like Sergei, Yulia cannot be allowed the freedom to give a proper interview where any question is allowed. She cannot be given consular access by the Russian Embassy. Why not? Because she knows what her dad was up to; she knows why he was meeting people at a park bench on Sunday 4th March; and she knows that the two of them were poisoned by the people who they were meeting.

Why did she agree to an interview? No doubt she realises what a difficult and vulnerable position she is in. Despite claims to the contrary, she clearly has no contact with her family back in Russia, or indeed any contact with the outside world. She was almost certainly pressured into making a statement, and yet — as Tony Kevin convincingly argues here — it has many signs of being a compromise statement. And so she agreed to making a fairly nebulous statement — one which is almost inconceivable from the point of view of the official narrative, but which fits perfectly with the narrative I have advanced.

The Deafening Silence of Nick Bailey

One final deafening silence that doesn’t exactly do wonders for the official narrative, is the silence of Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey. He has always been a big puzzle in this case, for a number of reasons. It was first said that he was poisoned at The Maltings. However, the problem with this explanation is that there was absolutely no reason for him to have been there. The case was treated by Salisbury District Hospital as a case of Fentanyl poisoning. Why would a member of the Criminal Intelligence Department (CID) be called to a bench to an apparent opioid overdose?

It was then said by none other than Lord Ian Blair that DS Bailey was actually poisoned at Mr Skripal’s house. But again, the same question arises. Why would a member of CID be sent to the home of a person in a what looked like a case of opioid poisoning?

The story then swung backwards and forwards a number of times between a poisoning at the Maltings and a poisoning at Mr Skripal’s house. These anomalies are very important, but even more important is that they could have been put straight by DS Bailey himself. If the official story was correct, not only would it have been super easy to have verified where DS Bailey was poisoned, but he himself could have testified to it. And yet like the Skripals, there has been nothing!

Given the absurd changes to this particular part of the story – and it is perhaps the easiest of all parts to verify – my assumption is that he was poisoned at neither The Maltings or Mr Skripal’s house. Instead, just as I wrote in Part 5 that I believe it likely the Skripals were poisoned by an incapacitating nerve agent in the red bag that was then seen next to the bench, I think it highly likely that DS Bailey was poisoned from the same source.

But where? The red bag was removed from the scene by a police officer and placed in an evidence bag. Why would this have been done? Because the pair on the bench were suspected of overdosing on an opioid, and the bag would naturally be removed by police so that its contents could be examined. And whereas I think it unlikely that someone from CID would be called to the scene of a drug overdose, it seems quite likely that they might receive and handle evidence taken from such a scene. Therefore my guess – and I stress that it is only a guess – is that DS Bailey was the man who received the bag, and whilst looking inside to see its contents, was poisoned by the same incapacitating agent as the Skripals (possibly something like 3-Quinuclidinyl Benzilate (BZ), but definitely not A-234).

Again, if the official story were true, what would prevent DS Bailey from giving a brief statement or interview, confirming exactly what happened to him? But if the red bag theory is close to the mark, then it becomes plainly obvious why this hasn’t yet happened.

Smokes and Mirrors

Which actually brings me on to the penultimate point I want to make in this piece, and indeed in this 6-part series. Everything in the official story, no matter how absurd, seems designed to point our attention away from the most probable source, place and type of poisoning: The red bag, at the bench, and an incapacitating nerve agent. And it does so because if those our attention is focused on them, then a very different story begins to emerge. Which cannot be allowed to happen.

As stated above, claims about A-234 being used just don’t add up. Neither the time delay, nor the symptoms, nor the recovery of the Skripals with no irreparable damage match up to what this deadly, military grade, high purity, lethal nerve agent that is so much more toxic than VX, is meant to do. What the claim does, however, is points our attention away from what is far more likely – an incapacitating agent administered to the Skripals between 3:45 and 4:00pm on 4th March.

As stated above, claims about the door handle just don’t add up. Neither the fact that both Sergei and Yulia were poisoned, not the fact that others went in and out of the house before the door handle theory was put forward and didn’t succumb, nor the fact that the substance on it apparently remained of “high purity” weeks later – none of these things make any sense. What the claim does, however, is directs our thoughts away from what is far more likely – that the substance used to poison the Skripals was administered at the bench, and probably via the red bag.

The apparent motive put forward in the official narrative doesn’t add up either. There is a general agreement among countries that you do not target spies who have been part of a swap. Why? Because if you do, you can kiss goodbye to ever getting any other spies swapped in the future. It’s called shooting yourself in the foot big time! But what this frankly risible explanation for the apparent motive behind the poisoning does, however, is to point our attention away from what Mr Skripal was really up to. And as I set out in Part 4, this was very likely something to do with authoring the Trump Dossier.

Nothing about the official story makes sense. None of it adds up. It is riddled with holes. But I would submit that the only thing that does make sense about it, is that the parts that go to make up the sum are all desperate attempts to divert attention. They are smokes and mirrors, designed to stop us from considering some of the more obvious aspects of the case, and some of the more startling aspects of the case – Mr Skripal’s involvement with MI6; his likely involvement in or authorship of the Trump Dossier; the likelihood that he was due to meet people at the bench in The Maltings; the probability that this is why he was agitated and in a hurry in Zizzis; the likelihood that he knows who poisoned him and why.

And of course the reason that these things are not supposed to be considered is that if – and I acknowledge it is a big if – the alternative explanation I have advanced is true, and if it became generally known, then it would cause just about the biggest political crisis in British political history.

And Finally…

Having said that, I have to say that I don’t believe it at all likely that the British Government knew about any of this before it occurred. I get the impression that the intelligence agencies on both sides of the Atlantic are a law unto themselves, and I think it likely that some of their number wanted to send Mr Skripal a message, one which would look like an opioid overdose, one which he would recover from reasonably quickly, and one which would be forgotten very soon.

However, I don’t think that the poisoning of DS Bailey was meant to happen, but when it did, it set off a series of events that quickly got out of control. I don’t think the identity of Sergei Skripal as a Russian involved in a spy swap was ever meant to make it into the press, but it did and very soon what looked like some kind of opioid poisoning quickly became an international spy saga.

The British Government’s reckless and extraordinarily quick reaction to the case was, apart from being a travesty of the rule of law, one of the big clues that the official narrative was not true. If it were true, they could have took their time, acted calmly, and let the investigation run its course. Instead, what we got was a lawless, irrational and absurd response. It all smacked of a panicked reaction, and whilst it made no sense in terms of the story they sold us, it makes perfect sense if the truth was that they were desperate to prevent news getting out about who Skripal really was, what he had been up to, and how the poisoning might well be connected with that work. And indeed the D-notices they slapped on the reporting of that stuff, and of Mr Skripal’s connections to Christopher Steele and Pablo Miller, are further evidence that it is so.

And so they very quickly decided to turn attention away from the big clues of the case, by invoking the scary sounding “Novichok” and pinning the blame – without any evidence – on the Russian State. To this date, they have given us no evidence to back up their claim, much less a suspect, but have unwittingly given us a bunch of absurdities that can be blown out of the water through the use of simple reason and logic.

They should have remembered this:

“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7)

But I have a feeling they don’t believe it applies to them. I have a feeling that it does.

And so there’s my case. As I say, there are bound to be a good many holes and no doubt many errors and inconsistencies in it. Please do forgive me for those. As for the rest of it — Make of it what you will.

I hope to leave this case for now and write about other stuff. But I will of course return to it if there are any new and interesting developments. Many thanks for your patience whilst I have written these pieces, and for the many thought-provoking comments under each piece

The Parallel Universe of BBC Panorama @BBCPanorama

The Parallel Universe of BBC Panorama

By Kit | OffGuardian | June 21, 2018

The BBC flag-ship documentary series “Panorama” has long been a stalwart of state-funded television propaganda. They can always be relied upon to tell us what we’re supposed to think. In 2013, just days before the Commons vote on military intervention in Syria, BBC aired “Panorama: Saving Syria’s Children”, a shambolic piece of fiction designed to outrage the public into war.

Robert Stuart has done truly exceptional work in deconstructing the fakery and propaganda on which the BBC sees fit to spend taxpayer’s money.

In just the last year they’ve had two documentaries about North Korea being evil (“North Korea’s Secret Slave Camps” and “North Korea’s Nuclear Trump Card”).

And it’s not just foreign “enemies” that end up in Panorama’s crosshairs either – it’s also domestic ones.

In 2015, just a few days before Jeremy Corbyn’s first Labour leadership victory, the BBC aired “Panorama: Jeremy Corbyn – Labour’s Earthquake”, a documentary which prompted Corbyn’s team to file an official complaint, labelling it a “hatchet job”.

Then in 2016, on the eve of Corbyns second (larger) Labour leadership victory, the BBC aired “Panorama: Labour – Is the Party over?”, a documentary full of doom and gloom, featuring anecdotes about abuse, and various (predictable) Blairite MPs bemoaning the “unelectability” of their leader.

In the 2017 General Election, Jeremy Corbyn’s resurgent Labour defied the polls, the pundits and the BBC to knock-off the Tory majority and come within 2% of winning. Could the BBC’s, and Panorama’s, relentlessly negative slanted coverage be responsible for keeping Corbyn out of No.10? It would be foolish to deny the possibility.

And there, neatly demonstrated in those three paragraphs, you see the value and purpose of state-sponsored propaganda. Panorama is the spirit of the BBC, a pretense of faux objectivity, shrouded in cuddly familiarity, employed exclusively and decisively against anything the establishment sees as a threat.

*

Enter Vladimir Putin

The folks at Panorama LOVE Putin, or at least love to hate him. In the last two years there have been no less than five (five!) episodes devoted to the man, and indeed the myth.

January 2016 brought us “Putin’s Secret Riches”, January 2017 “Trump: The Kremlin Candidate”, March of this year brought us two inside a week, “Putin: The New Tsar” and “Taking On Putin!”. As the titles suggest, none of them were especially objective or open-minded. That’s not in the BBC’s remit.

The most recent Putin-hit piece aired just last week – in the run up to the World Cup – its rather more mundane title simply: “Putin’s Russia with David Dimbleby”. The documentary, for want of a better word, opens on David Dimbleby wandering through a Moscow market looking at sigh Russian nesting dolls, and it doesn’t get less predictable from there on in.

A long time ago, I was taught you construct an argument in three steps – “Statement, Evidence, Conclusion”. Instead Panorama opted to go for the unorthodox “Conclusion, Anecdote, Stock Footage of Nesting Dolls” approach.

The first problem, and perhaps the biggest, is David’s hat… but it never really goes up-hill from there.

The second problem, is the smugness. Forget the factual inaccuracies re: the Russian economy, forget the totally evidence-free assertions, and just focus on the smugness.

The smugness of an English man who went to Charterhouse School, and then on to Oxford, is possibly one of the most toxic things in the world. So much evil has been done by men who are taught their own effortless superiority. Blood has been spilled by such men, oceans of it, evils done beyond imagining, all with a soft chuckle and clear conscience, because they come from a system that tells them their very existence MAKES them RIGHT. They do the “right thing” as a matter of course because of who they are and what they think. They are right, and the vast swamps of Other are wrong, and that’s just the way it is.

These are the people who spread the British Empire over a quarter of the globe, all the time telling themselves that they were doing the savages a favour by giving them civilisation. The same men, the same minds, in suits that change with time and with methods that shift with the ages, have run the country for centuries… and run the BBC since its inception. Men who believe morality is a function of their very existence. A path that rises up to meet their feet.

This is the British version of what the Americans call “exceptionalism”. It’s less brash, and less obvious, but no less poisonous for that.

The worst actions of mankind flow from minds who never question their own moral position, and this documentary can be counted as small, septic, addition to that list.

And so we begin…

I’ve come to see how Putin has managed to hold on to power for so long, and what the Russians see in the Putin that We, in the West, don’t.

Dimbleby’s introduction is immediately partisan and dishonest – referring to “we” in the West as if there is a consensus, when clearly that is not the case, is a variation on the argumentum ad populum, the argument to common knowledge. “Everybody knows that”, or “We all agree on this”. It is deceptive language, being used to paint a false picture.

Likewise, saying Putin “held on” to power for so long, makes it seem like his Presidency was an act of force, when all the evidence is to the contrary. Dimbleby says so himself just a few minutes later.

(SIDEBAR: When Dimbleby says “so long”, he means 18 years. The classic mainstream media trick of ignoring Medvedev’s term as president is employed here. As is every other, long discredited, anti-Putin rhetorical device.)

In a democracy if you failed to deliver on your economic promises, if you surrounded yourself with cronies, and if you used the law to oppress opposition, well you’d be thrown out on your ear… but this is Russia, and they do things differently here.

Dimbleby lays out, in one broad stroke, that Russia is backwards, and silly, and he’s going to come along and point out to us sensible Westerners just how they went wrong.

Leaving aside the hypocrisy (this is, let’s be honest, a pretty accurate summary of what every single British government has done since Margaret Thatcher), it’s also simply insulting. I find it insulting, and I’m British. If I was Russian and heard that? I would vomit blood.

It’s sickening… and we’re only 2 minutes in.

*

David on… the Russian Birthrate

Our first port of call on David’s whistle-stop tour of everything that’s shit about Russia is the birth rate. He tells us that it fell sharply in the years following the collapse of the USSR, and this is true, he doesn’t say WHY this happened. As a matter of policy this programme avoids, at all costs, mentioning what Russia was like in the 1990s.

Anyway, when Putin came to power the birth rate was declining, and what did he do about this? Well, in a masterstroke, decided to encourage people to have babies.

Mrs Cherenkova’s medals

How? Well by increasing state benefits to mothers with more than 2 children, and further increasing them for families with more than 3 children. Families with multiple children are also entitled to free school meals, tax breaks and get discounts on family holidays. Medvedev also introduced a medal in 2008 – “The Order of Glorious Motherhood” – for mothers with 7 or more children, based on the “Mother Heroine” medal from World War 2.

(SIDEBAR: It’s worth noting here that we, in lovely hugs-and-flowers Britain with our nice fluffy democracy, DON’T have free school meals… for anyone. At all. Ever. The government that proposed this bill was not “thrown out on their ear”, but DID have to spend £1.4 BILLION pounds bribing a minority party to vote it through.)

The measures worked, and under Putin/Medvedev the birthrate has increased almost every year since 2000. In 2011 the birthrate moved ahead of the death rate for the first time since 1992, and Russia’s population started growing.

Now, if this is all sounding very sensible and not at all bad to you, then well done for paying attention.

It’s here the film reaches its first hurdle… and goes into it face first. Russia is supposed to be backwards and Putin is supposed to be a brutal corrupt dictator with no concern for the country he runs… but the facts on the ground don’t jive with this at all, at least in the birthrate example. Not only did he try to improve his country, but he did via perfectly reasonable methods, and they worked.

The film makers decide to simply leave an ellipsis on this one, just a long pause that’s obviously designed to make us ruminate on how bad Russia is, but it doesn’t really work. Partly because it doesn’t make any sense, but mostly because – for some reason – David thinks the best way to hammer this point home is show us the Cherenkovas. A very happy family with lots of healthy children. He refers to them as “Putin’s ideal family”, as if the term itself is insulting.

Mrs Cherenkova proudly displays her medals for motherhood in a leather case, explaining she wears them on public holidays. The family sing as they sit down for dinner, talk about the Church and how life has improved under Putin compared to the 1990s. (David, staying true to his brief, doesn’t ask how bad things were in the 1990s. In 58 minutes it’s not mentioned once.)

*

David on… the Russian Orthodox Church

The Cherenkovas praying as they sit down to dinner provides a neat segue for David to discuss something really terrible – the growing influence of the Russian Orthodox Church.

You see, the ROC was suppressed under Communism, which was bad, and now it’s not… which is apparently, also bad. I don’t fully understand the point David is trying to make, but that’s OK since I’m pretty sure he doesn’t either.

We are presented with a Bishop, who tells us that it’s now easier for the Church to interface with the state than it was during the 1990s. We don’t know what he means by that, because he’s cut off and David never asks.

The implication, backed by stock footage of Putin lighting candles in a church and David’s narration about “conservative values”, is that Russia is becoming a kind of quasi-theocracy. It’s never stated out-loud, because the position is so ridiculous as to be indefensible, but it is quite clearly the implication.

*

David on… Russian Opinion Polls

Curious to see “how widely [the Cherenkovas’] views are shared”, David goes in search of a broad opinion, but meets an apparent problem:

It’s all very well to say “I’ve come to Russia to find out what the Russians really think”, but it’s not actually that easy in a country where the press, radio and television are all strictly controlled by an authoritarian government.

1) He hasn’t gone there to find out what Russians think. He knows what Russians “really think”. He’s there to tell US why THEY are wrong. He’s there, at our expense, to make sure we hate who we’re told to hate.

2) The press, radio and television are not all “strictly controlled”, that’s a lie, and he knows it’s a lie because he proves it himself less than 10 minutes later.

But that’s beside the point. How does David get around the problem of finding out what Russian’s “really think” under such an authoritarian regime? Well, he goes to the one of the biggest public opinion polling companies in Russia, the Levada Centre.

The irony of rambling on about Russia’s repressive controlling government as you take a gentle stroll down to the partly-American funded NGO, just minutes from Red Square, is apparently lost on David.

Imagine, if you can, a Russian-funded “polling centre” operating within walking distance of Westminster or Pennsylvania Avenue. That not only calls the government-run polls inaccurate, but claims that the CIA forces people to vote and that the President is corrupt.

It would never be allowed to happen, but in “authoritarian” Russia, with its “strictly controlled” media, this is the current reality.

In the Levada Centre (Russia’s only “independent” polling centre), David finds out that around 80% of Russian’s support Putin as President. Which everyone in the world already knew.

The fact the “independent” Levada’s centre polls almost perfectly align with the apparently unreliable government polls doesn’t cause anyone to question their assertions about corruption or dishonesty. It’s one of the many inconvenient truths the Panorama team feel the need to brush over as quickly as possible.

When the head of the Levada Centre claims a President with an 80% approval rating had to “force” people to vote, David doesn’t ask why, or state that it doesn’t make any sense. No, he just makes concerned faces at the camera.

They discuss the “annexation” of Crimea as Russia “taking back” what is theirs, with no reference to the polls that show huge Crimean support for the move, going all the way back to 1992, including those done by both the American and German governments.

*

David on… Propaganda

From Crimea it’s a steady flow to “propaganda” – theirs, not ours – Dimbleby narrates in solemn tones:

For most Russians, state-run television remains the main source of television news.”

… blithely passing over that this statement is being made on a state-run television station, that is the main source of television news for most people in Britain.

He goes from Russian domestic television to RT, saying they are “accused of spreading conspiracy theories”, he doesn’t say who accuses them, or ask his audience to consider the possible reason behind such accusations. He doesn’t even throw the weight of conviction behind it enough to make a declarative statement. No, just sends out the little accusation, evidence free and with no reply or counter, and hopes the implication does its job.

He interviews a British anchor for RT, who says that they aren’t told what to say, and he’s “answerable to no one but his own conscience”. To which David replies, “And that’s clear is it?” The anchor explains the structure of RT, but David isn’t listening. He’s too busy making a documentary demonising a designated “enemy” for a state-funded broadcaster.

He doesn’t pose the same questions about his own conscience.

It’s always worth remembering that the BBC, formerly the British Broadcasting Corporation, is not “independent”, even though they’ve spent decades pretending otherwise. We’re encouraged to think of the BBC as a friendly presence, our shared “Auntie Beeb”, cosy and reassuring and honest. It’s none of those things, it’s a state backed broadcaster with a history of launching pro-government, pro-war propaganda, for which it never faces censure or punishment. It’s a much a less “friendly auntie”, more a threatening “big brother”.

With truly Orwellian posters intimidating us into paying for it.

Imagine this poster was in cyrillic and about RT.

That Dimbleby can stand under the banner of one of the biggest state-funded media organizations in the world, and pontificate about “media control” from an “authoritarian government” demands levels of cognitive dissonance few would think possible. It’s marvelously without irony.

*

Next David seeks out a human rights lawyer to discuss Russia’s legal system. David tells us that Russian judges convict in 99% of cases. This is apparently shockingly high. It does sound high, but deliberately left without context to make it seem worse than it is.

Firstly, the 99% refers only to Judge cases. Jury trials are relatively new to Russian law – in fact Putin, in one of his desperate power grabs, introduced them nationwide in 2003 – and they have a conviction rate of roughly 80%, right in line with the UK’s own courts.

A high conviction rate is not unheard of, especially in systems that run “special procedure court hearings”, a slightly complex system of what amounts to plea bargaining.

Japan runs a similar system and has a conviction rate of nearly 100%, as does Israel. The US federal courts had a conviction rate of 93% in 2012. Will we be seeing documentaries about that? No.

I’m not a lawyer, I’m in no position to launch a full defense of the Russian legal system – for all I know it is corrupt and/or unfair. But there’s no evidence in this film that shows it to be the case, outside of some anecdotal evidence from one lawyer.

Then they move on to Putin’s “online crackdown”.

Apparently Russia is starting to try to censor the internet. How? We don’t know, they don’t tell us. They cite no laws and name no Acts. It is just anecdote after anecdote. There’s no body to any part of it. We’re told Putin wants more control of the internet, as if this is shockingly tyrannical and when Dimbleby says there is…

… a crackdown on what the security services call “online extremism”.

He thinks his scare quotes show some desperately dystopian alternative universe, but doesn’t seem to know, or at least acknowledge, that WE call it that too, or that our very own dear Theresa May called for a “crackdown in online extremism” in a speech just last year.

Or that she put having an entirely government controlled internet in her manifesto last year.

Or that she passed an act in 2016 which Edward Snowden described as:

The most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy.

Is Panorama asking questions about that? Of course not.

Does the BBC call our government authoritarian? Not once.

Instead they offer just a talking-head, making a scary statement that “thousands” of innocent Russians could be in prison, with again no evidence to back it up at all.

When you actually dig into the numbers they tell a completely different story.

The New York Post, not known for its pro-Russia bias, reported that 233 Russians were convicted of “hate speech” in 2015, “most of them for online activity.”

Meanwhile, in happy bunny funland Britain, 2015 saw 857 people arrested for “offensive” tweets or Facebook posts… in London alone.

It sounds like we’re more “authoritarian” than the Russians on the internet front at least. A fact which takes maybe 30 seconds of research to find.

*

David on… Russia’s Controlled Media

Next David goes to Echo of Moscow Radio to talk to one of the completely non-existent members of the independent media in Russia. She claims that the entire country is actually run by the KGB. As per usual, she produces no evidence for this statement, she just says it. But that’s good enough for David who asks her to “explain how the KGB dominates society”, underlining that the KGB and MI6 are not at all similar:

Explain to our UK viewers, who might think of the KGB as just like our MI5 or MI6… how the KGB dominates society?”

Got that everyone? There’s their spies, and our spies, and they are completely different. This attitude was ridiculous enough to be used as satire in Blackadder, but now is being seriously repeated by one the BBC’s most respected personalities.

Her “explanation” involves simply repeating the same sentiment she already expressed, only in slightly different words, and David is too polite to press for more, or too lazy to be bothered, or too smug to notice. It’s really getting hard to say at this point.

(SIDEBAR: Of course one of the most prominent ways that MI6 and the KGB differ is that the KGB doesn’t exist anymore, whereas MI6 are very much still going.)

It’s at this point the documentary seems to realise the rather confusing contradiction of its own existence. They are there to talk about how autocratic and terrible Russia is, and yet they seem to talk to human rights lawyers, anti-government television hosts and the head of anti-Putin radio stations. If Putin has all dissidents and protestors locked up and/or murdered… how do these people exist?

They get around this in one, short sentence:

By allowing a few independent outlets, a few dissident voices, Putin can claim freedom of expression.

Brilliant logic. Unfailing reason. Yes there’s SOME freedom of speech, but only so Putin can say there’s freedom of speech, it’s not REAL freedom of expression.

It just looks like it.

Much like that old expression:

“If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s not really a duck because Putin doesn’t allow ducks. He’s just letting that duck exist so he can pretend he’s got a duck.”

*

The Russian Orthodox Church seems to be a real bugbear of David’s, because fresh from announcing that “there IS free-speech in Russia, it just doesn’t count”, David goes back to talk to a member of the Church… and asks him if he approves of the lack of free speech in Russia. David narrates:

When it comes to political repression, the one place not to look for support is the Orthodox Church.”

This sentence implies we’re about to hear a Church spokesman defending political repression… which is not the case. Instead we see the same bemused Bishop as before, being asked:

You know there’s a lot of criticism of Putin’s encroachment on human rights: People in prison for speaking out against the state, internet communications closed down, the state spying on people’s communications, do you approve of all that?”

Note he’s asking “do you approve of…”, not “is this the case…”. Leading questions predicated upon unproven assumptions have no place in honest discourse… but if you took them out the documentary there would only be 3 or 4 minutes of stock footage of nesting dolls and onion domes.

The bishop, who seems slightly perturbed by the rudeness of the question, evidently wasn’t provided with a script because he doesn’t launch into a fascistic diatribe about values, or verbal attacks on traitors and dissidents… he simply says:

This is your point of view, and we do not always agree. With all due respect.

You can see his Russian politeness straining, but not breaking. And that’s it.

So much for Russia the conservative theocracy.

*

David on… Russians’ Right to Protest

The documentary just gets less coherent and more confusing from here on in. The facts they present never align with the spin they try to put on them. They point out eminently reasonable realities of Russian life, with a weight of sinister implication that defies all reason. (In the trade, we refer to this maneuver as “The Harding”).

The perfect example is the story of a women’s rights campaigner Alena Popova, protesting about the allegations of sexual harassment made against the Russian MP Leonid Slutsky.

We see her standing outside the State Duma with cardboard cut-out of Slutsky. I don’t read Russian, but I can’t imagine the slogans on the cut-out are especially complimentary. She is briefly detained by the police who ask her who she is and what she’s doing… she explains and is released. Then she returns to the Duma, and does her protest unmolested.

All this seems perfectly fine, despite David’s chuntering narration.

This is just one example of brutal oppression of dissent, ever present in Putin’s Russia.

Alena is standing literally right outside the door of the parliament building, with a cut-out of Slutsky covered in protest slogans. She requires no permit to do this under Russian law, which states that solo protests are allowed anywhere at any time without a permit. You do need permission to hold group protests.

By way of comparison, let’s imagine Alena were British, not Russian: If she attempted the same exact protest in the UK… she would not be allowed to. At all. Ever.

Firstly, you would never get to stand within inches of the doors of Parliament without getting halted by armed police. Secondly, you’re not allowed to protest in Parliament Square – even alone – without getting prior permission. This law was passed by Blair’s government in 2006, in order to shift anti-war protester Brian Haw.

At one point a young man approaches David and Alena and asks what’s going on, David’s voice-over claims the young man works for state security, and intones the words with foreboding. We have no way of knowing if this is true, if it even matters. I’m fairly sure a Russian camera crew standing outside the Houses of Parliament would attract the attention of special branch. He asks them two questions and then leaves.

Later, there’s a counter-protest. Four people appear with signs in support of Slutsky. David claims they’re there to cause trouble for Alena, and even implies they are working for the state. A claim which is rather shot-down when the counter-protest group – who support the government – are escorted away by the police because they don’t have permission for their group protest.

The pro-government protesters are gone, the anti-government protester remains. David doesn’t see this as, in any way, challenging his position on government oppression of dissent. He asks Alena:

If they control protest, if they’re against protest, why do they let it happen at all?”

A fantastic question, the only really cogent thing he’s said for the last half an hour. She replies:

Because we have a constitution.”

(SIDEBAR: Britain, of course, has no written constitution at all.)

*

David on… Russian Paranoia

The next episode in this bizarre saga opens with the director of the Levada Centre claiming the Kremlin is “paranoid” about a revolution, referencing the 2012 protests (the aborted “Snow Revolution”). To which David adds some rather incongruous narration:

Putin prepares to go to almost any lengths to prevent a popular uprising against him.”

He never says what these “lengths” are. In fact, we have no idea what the Russian government has done to prevent a Revolution. If anything. But breaking away from the specific facts, which the documentary forces us to do, maybe we should ask a simple question.

Why would the Russian government be paranoid about revolution?

Maybe we should look at other countries that have had “revolutions” recently for an answer to this question.

Ukraine is a disaster. Libya is possibly the only country in the world worse off than Ukraine and the only reason Syria isn’t just as bad those two is that Russia stepped in to help. David talks about revolutions as if they are organic, almost accidental, occurrences. But we all know that’s not true, we’ve all seen “Colour Revolutions” be fomented by the Western powers to overthrow governments that the USA has deemed to not have “American interests” at heart.

“Revolutions”, in recent years, are Imperial acts of aggression carried out by proxy armies with the aim of removing an “enemy” of the West. And they have left nothing in their wake but blood and destruction. The Kremlin has every right to be concerned about possible Western attempts at a coup against their government. Such a move could destroy everything they have built.

Do you think a Western-backed coup government will keep up free school meals and medals for motherhood? Do they have a constitutional right to protest in Libya right now? How about the birthrate vs death rate in Syria, is that going up?

Shouldn’t all governments fear revolution and hope for stability?

How would David feel about a revolution in Britain? Would it be welcomed? Would Theresa May like seeing violent unrest in the streets of London? Or being replaced by a Russian-backed, unelected leader?

Despite the chaos that has been left in the wake of “revolutions” the world over in recent years, the documentary gives no credence to Russian fears. Russia is never “afraid”, and always “paranoid”.

David talks to an Sergei Markov, a “political consultant who has worked with Putin”. We have no way of knowing if this is true, and this being Panorama taking it in faith is an unearned act of trust, but let’s assume that they’re telling the truth.

Markov highlights that Russia has good reason to fear Western aggression. Pointing out, reasonably enough, that no Russian soldier has ever set foot on British soil in the name of conquest, whereas Britain has invaded Russia every several times since the 19th Century:

Now, you are preparing to invade Russian territory again, to establish your control of Russian political, social and economic constitution, for us it is absolutely clear.”

We are encouraged to see Markov as a crazy-eyed lunatic, and David’s response is to laugh in his face:

You don’t seriously think an invasion of Russia is planned by the West? I mean, you’ll have me laughing in a moment.”

A rather patronising rebuttal, that would hold more water if Russia weren’t practically encircled by NATO airbases. Or if the US hadn’t unilaterally withdrawn from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002. Or if they hadn’t positioned their missile defense shield in Eastern Europe under clearly false pretences, granting them theoretical first-strike capability.

David doesn’t mention these facts.

Just as he doesn’t go into any recent history of Western military interventions. How America has, in the last 20 years alone, carried out coups in Venezuela, Ukraine and Honduras. Or how, when covert means did not work, they simply declared all out war in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

Any impartial viewing of world history – especially recent history – would explain every country in the world having a fear of falling into NATO’s crosshairs.

Rather than acknowledging this, the documentary remains resolutely in its own little world. Insisting, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that Russia has nothing to fear from the West.

*

David on… Russia’s “Orchestrated” Democracy

Fresh from telling us that Putin’s Russia is a “paranoid place”, where the leader with 80% approval is constantly worried about revolution and is prepared to go any lengths to stop it – even so far as having laws regulating protests that are almost identical to our own – David goes to talk to all the young people about their views on Putin.

They all like him, apparently:

One of the most fascinating aspects of today’s Russia, is that the under 25s, who might be expected to rebel, are Putin’s strongest supporters.

He’s talking to a group called Set (Russian for Network), a collection of “young artists, writers and designers” who consider Putin a role-model. David asks them a series of questions.

What do you like about Putin?

One of the young men says that before Putin it was “uncomfortable”, even “shameful”, to be associated with Russia. David doesn’t ask a follow-up question, putting paid to his earlier claims about wanting to know what Russians “really think” and staying true to the programme’s aim of never, ever mentioning the 1990s. Instead he skips back to leading questions based on false assumptions:

You feel happy with one person controlling the whole country?

We don’t know what they say to that, because it cuts off before anyone answers.

Do you agree that he’s quite ruthless when it comes to opposition?

They say they don’t agree. In fact they say quite the opposite. Which cues in a snide narration:

This generation of Russians are internet savvy, globally connected, but they prefer Putin’s authoritarian rule to democracy.

None of the people on camera ever express this opinion. Which makes this one of the most egregious lies in the whole 58 minutes. To appreciate what a statement that is, you really need to watch the film.

None of these young people “prefer authoritarianism to democracy”, they make it quite clear – in their opinion, they live in a democracy. Is there an effort to understand their position? None whatsoever. Instead we get treated to the head of the Levada Centre (again), this time dismissing all the young people who like Putin as being either stupid or brainwashed:

They are very different to Western youth, their minds were formed at the same time Putin’s regime was established, and for them the rhetoric of a great power is a very important part of their collective identity.

This is, as far as we know, another unsupported statement. Not one of the half-dozen young people David talked to said anything about Russia being a great power. Not one thing. They talked about Putin personally being relatable and they talked about improving conditions from the Yeltsin era.

When confronted with Dimbleby asking yet another offensively phrased question…

People in Britain look at Russia and say “this is a powerful autocrat who stops opposition, prevents anyone, if necessary puts them in jail to stop them opposing him” is that not how you see it?

… one young man, far from claiming to “prefer authoritarian rule” or praising the “rhetoric of a great power”, launches into a defense of Russian democracy. Pointing out the sheer number of different political parties (48), and that they had 8 different Presidential candidates running against Putin.

David isn’t listening. He’s nailed his colours to the mast on this one, Russia isn’t a democracy. It doesn’t matter how popular the leader is. It doesn’t matter how many elections they have, how many candidates are on the ballots, or how much public support they have. Russia is NOT a democracy, because David says so.

The film even references Navalny as “Putin’s biggest political opponent”, without mentioning that his party has ZERO seats in the Duma, and that he polls at less than 2% public support. Dimbleby doesn’t know these numbers, because his “researchers” either didn’t look them up, or pretended not to know them. Instead David solemnly declares:

Putin had him convicted of fraud.

Not “he was found guilty”, no, “Putin HAD him convicted”. Is there evidence produced that shows Navalny was framed? Nope. Is there evidence produced that shows any corruption on behalf of the judiciary? None. Is there any mention of Navalny being a right-wing ultra-nationalist who referred to Caucasians as “cockroaches”? Not even a little.

“Russia isn’t a democracy”, and “Putin’s main political opponent” is an unpopular convicted criminal with a history of racism, who was forbidden by the constitution from running in a Presidential election in which he would have come ninth.

Cut to:- Skyline of Moscow. Night. Synthy music plays, and the David lets fly with this beauty:

As many autocrats have shown, just holding an election doesn’t make a democracy.”

Boom. Just as a free press doesn’t mean Russia has freedom of expression, elections don’t mean they are a democracy. The documentary is slowly becoming less an attack on Putin and Russia, than an attack on the English language, and indeed logic itself.

David doesn’t tell us what DOES make a democracy, but it certainly isn’t elections. Following this logic, of course, you could have a democracy without elections. And if that sounds absurd, then remember that Margaret Thatcher praised Pinochet for bringing “democratic order” to Chile.

Elections that return the “wrong” result? They aren’t democratic. Rounding up dissidents in soccer stadiums and gunning them down? That is democratic.

“Democracy” means whatever the establishment wants it to mean.

Putin uses carefully orchestrated elections to legitimise his rule.”

Who “orchestrates” the elections? How do they do it? How does David know this? We’re not told. We’re now 40 minutes in, and we’ve yet to have any single accusation or anecdote backed up with anything even approaching evidence. We’re not even provided basic logical reason.

Perhaps more pressing is: Why would a President with 80% popularity NEED to “orchestrate” elections?

They never explain.

*

David on… Russia’s “small” economy

David’s next port-of-call on his tour of Bizzarro World is the Russian economy. Having been told that the Russian economy is “struggling” we get some more stock footage – this time of factories and oil wells – with David narrating:

Russia is one of the largest countries on Earth, with a population of 144 million, but its economy is much smaller – not even two-thirds the size of Britain, and even smaller than Italy.”

There’s a lot to unpack here.

First, it’s absolutely hilarious that dear little David can’t even bring himself to acknowledge the simple fact that Russia is not “one of the largest countries on Earth”, it is the largest. It’s nearly double the size of China. It’s European portion is the largest country in Europe, its Asian portion is the largest country in Asia and if you cut it evenly in half the two new countries would still be 4th and 5th largest countries in the world.

Russia is very big.

Nobody would ever dispute that, so why not just say it? It goes to show the pettiness of the mindset behind this programme. They simply cannot give Russia any credit, even so far as acknowledging its size.

Second, the language is again very deceptive. When he says “much smaller than Britain” and “EVEN smaller than Italy”, he’s painting a picture of small economy. He doesn’t mention that the UK has the 4th largest economy in the world, and Italy the 7th. Russia is 10th, just behind Canada. He also doesn’t mention that those figures don’t include the economy of Crimea, which the World Bank refuses to count as Russian.

Nobody would seriously claim that the 10th biggest economy in the world is “small”.

David sits down with Russia’s former deputy-Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich who says, when asked about the size of Russia’s economy:

If you look at other European economies, they have a long tradition of private entrepreneurship, we started this tradition only in the 1990s and need to accumulate experience.”

It’s a fair point, considering they’ve only been capitalist for 28 years or so, the 10th biggest economy in the world isn’t bad at all. David is unmoved. We don’t see his answer to that point, I would suggest because he couldn’t make one.

Instead he changes the subject, in voice-over, to corruption. Calling it a “tradition” in Russia.

He talks to Vladimir Pozner, a member of the allegedly “strictly controlled” Russian media, who apparently feels free to say corruption is endemic, giving yet more anecdotal evidence. This time about entirely hypothetical traffic policeman being bribed. A (strictly controlled?) anti-corruption campaigner points at a flat and says a politician lives there and shouldn’t be able to afford it. And David mentions an (unnamed) survey which ranks Russia 135th in the world in terms of corruption.

Thus is it established that Russia has a terrible corruption problem.

At this point the documentary devolves into a series of complete lies. Not mistakes, not exaggerations, lies. Lies so simple and so easy to refute with only a few google searches, that we’ll just go ahead and work through them one at a time:

Corruption is widespread, according to one survey it’s one of the worst countries in the world – it ranks 135 out of 180.”

He’s almost certainly referring to the famous “corruption perception index”, which is NOT a measure of corruption, but a measure of how corrupt some (unnamed) people THINK something MIGHT BE. It is a nonsense stat, discussed in more detail here.

“Russia has one of the most unequal economies in the world…. 20 million people live in poverty.”

This is technically true, there are 20 million people living under the poverty line in Russia, or 13.8% of the population. Before the sanctions it was less than 12%.

In the US, there are 45 million people living under the poverty line, or 13.8% of the population.

In the UK, there are 14 million people living under the poverty line, or 20.6% of the population.

Of course, where these numbers differ is that Russia’s number is coming down from 35%, and ours is going up. The makers of this programme know this, because the numbers were published on the BBC’s own website.

Putin’s failure to diversify the economy means that half the Russian budget comes from oil and gas, so when the price of oil fell after the annexation of Crimea, Russia was plunged into crisis.”

The price of oil did not “fall”, it was deliberately sabotaged by the gulf monarchies flooding the market. This was done to try to hurt the Russian economy, we can tell David knows this because he references the “annexation of Crimea” as the cause, he just doesn’t explain the details.

Putin’s aggressive foreign policy, along with the West’s sanctions, made the situation worse.”

Putin’s foreign policy – “aggressive” or otherwise – has no bearing on the Russian economy. This is all about the sanctions. Sanctions imposed by the West are not any reflection on the economic competence of the Russian government, especially when they are put in place over entirely false accusations, such as the Skripal poisoning or “hacking” the US Presidential election.

It is one of the oldest tricks in the US Imperial playbook, create a pretext for action against a country which they see as an “enemy”. Use this pretext to sanction a country with the aim of crippling their economy, and then use the fact the economy is struggling to criticise the government of the target country. The US has been doing it to Cuba and North Korea for decades, to Venezuela for years and Russia since 2014.

The deliberate destruction of their economy by powers beyond their control has no bearing on the competence or corruption of the Russian government.

In fact, by any standards, the Russian government under both Putin and Medvedev has been exceptionally competent.

… this list could go on and on.

Russian GDP under Yeltsin, Putin and Medvedev

Russia’s economy – under both Putin and Medvedev – has gone largely in the right direction.Of course, part of that is that there was only one direction to go.

All of this comes back to the 1990s. When Russia, as a country, was possibly within only months of ceasing to exist, collapsing into Balkanisation and chaos.

Average salary in Russia since 1998

Putin’s government prevented that, and turned things around for ordinary Russians in a quasi-miraculous fashion. That is why 80% of Russians support the man.

It’s the most basic rule of governance, but its one we in the West are encouraged to ignore – the first priority of government is to make the country better. Do that, and the people will support you.

To discuss the Russian economy, or the living standards of Russian people, or popularity of Putin, without acknowledging these facts, is just incredibly dishonest. Sickeningly so.

*

Conclusion

This is a bad documentary. It’s not simply ethically bankrupt, it’s also badly made. It’s badly paced, badly edited and incoherent. It’s so dedicated to its agenda that it sacrifices all else.

There is a relentless war being waged here, not just at the BBC and not just against Russia, but throughout the Western world… and against reality itself.

Consider the implications of this situation: One of the largest media organizations in the world spent license fee-payers money to send a man half-way around the globe, to convince their captive audience of tax-payers that elections don’t equal democracy, that independent media doesn’t equal free speech and that a $15bn trade surplus means your economy is struggling.

It recycles lies that have become terribly dull to refute, so must be simply exhausting to repeat. It routinely accidentally steps on its own argument, realises it has done so, and then performs logical gymnastics to try to prove it knows what it’s talking about. It makes no sense, and you can tell that they know it.

The list of contradictions and unanswered questions goes on and on, creating a world that cannot exist under the laws of reason. We’re told that Putin is popular, but that people are forced to vote for him. We’re told by Russian independent media organizations, critical of the government, that Russia has no independent media organizations critical of the government, and we’re told by a protester standing right outside the Russian parliament, that protests are practically illegal.

All of this irrationality combines to put together a patchwork-Picasso portrait of “Vladimir Putin”, the corrupt communist idealist, KGB hardliner and devout christian ideologue, who forces all the devoted members of his cult of personality to vote for him in elections he rigs anyway. A man who stole all the money he also spent on rebuilding Russia’s military, schools and hospitals, is best-buddies with all the oligarchs he sent to jail for tax evasion, and who – despite the size of the country – has “only” got the 10th biggest economy in the world.

It’s a documentary made by people at war with themselves, unable to understand that their delusions are absurd and incomprehensible to those of us struggling to live a reality-based life.

There’s desperation in this film, a hysterical repetition of proven lies and shrill fake news, screamed out by people who feel they’re losing control of the narrative.

They don’t know what they think except that Russia is bad and Putin is worse, they don’t know why they think it except that they’ve got to because they were told to, and they’re aghast. Unable to understand why no one’s listening when they’re making so much sense!

This documentary, like so much of the MSM’s recent output, is a wail of outrage at a world that refuses to listen to their nonsense. As well-reasoned as a toddler’s tantrum, as well sourced as “Trevor from the pub” and as well researched as toilet stall graffiti. A limping, heaving, slime-ridden pile of self-defeating, self-contradictory garbage that has no place in people’s hearts, minds or homes.

And I watched it five times to write this.

I need a shower.

One Year On – The Truth About The Manchester Bombing Scorpion

C:\Users\user\Desktop\assad truth.png

The Saker

May 22, 2018

 

by Nick for The Saker Blog

“Terrorism is like a scorpion; it can unexpectedly sting you at any time”. Among the Western nations to discover the bitter truth of Bashar al Assad’s 2013 warning was Britain, when a Libyan suicide bomber killed 22 people attending a pop concert in Manchester. But while the UK media covered the May 22nd first anniversary of the massacre, not a single mainstream outlet so much as hinted at the fact that the attack was intimately linked to the attempt by the Cameron regime to use Jihadi terror as a weapon of foreign policy.

The truth emerged during the trial last December of Mohammed Abdullah, a Libyan national living in Manchester who was jailed for ten years for belonging to ISIS/Daesh.

Press coverage of the trial confirmed that Abdullah and his friends joined the terror group after fighting in Libya in 2011. But the same mainstream media carefully avoided the fact that the Manchester terror cell to which Abdullah, and his close friend Manchester bomber Salman Abedi, belonged was formed as a direct result of the British government and security services trying to use radical Muslims as weapons to achieve ‘regime change’ in Libya.

The Daily Mail was among the media outlets that reported on the conviction of Mohammed Abdallah:

“Footage has emerged of the jihadi linked to the Manchester Arena bomber fighting with militants in Libya before he tried to become an ISIS sniper.

“Mohammed Abdallah and his brother Abdalraouf were at the centre of a Manchester-based terror network which included Salman Abedi, who killed 22 at the Ariana Grande concert earlier this year.

“As unemployed former drug dealer Abdallah was jailed for 10 years today, footage showed him and his brother during a spell they spent in Libya fighting along militants in the country’s civil war.

“The brothers, who grew up in Manchester had dual Libyan nationality, joined the ‘Tripoli Brigade’ when the North African country fell apart in 2011.”

http://knightstemplarinternational.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/tripoli-265x300.png

Hold it right there! Because the Tripoli Brigade was not some random bunch of Jihadi crazies. It was a part of the so-called National Liberation Army, the umbrella force organised to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi. The NLA was the ground-force backed by none other than David Cameron, who turned the RAF into the air arm of the Islamist rebellion.

It was founded, organised and led by Mahdi al-Harati, a Libyan-Irish citizen. It was armed by the CIA, through the American puppet regime in Qatar. The brigade included officers who had lived most of their lives in English speaking countries including Ireland, Canada, UK and the US.

An article in Ireland’s Sunday World drew attention to relations between Mahdi al-Harati and an unnamed US intelligence agency.

According to the article on November 6, 2011, €200,000 in cash was stolen from al-Harati’s Dublin house a month previously.

The Sunday World reported that a criminal gang working the area found two envelopes stuffed with €500 notes during a raid on the al-Harati’s family home, October 6.

The article, apparently relying on police sources, stated that al-Harati, who has been a Dublin resident employed as an Arabic teacher for 20 years, claimed, when contacted by police, that the stolen cash was “given to him by an American intelligence agency.”

Image result for mahdi al harati cia

The article continued, “Astonished officers made contact with Mahdi al-Harati who told them that he had travelled to France, the United States and Qatar the previous month and that representatives of an American intelligence agency had given him a significant amount of money to help in the efforts to defeat Gaddafi. He said he left two envelopes with his wife in case he was killed and took the rest of the cash with him when he went back to Libya.”

When Abdallah’s brother was shot and paralysed from the waist down, he was flown back to Britain to get NHS treatment. But the UK’s aid for the rebels went far beyond the ‘health tourism’ we’ve all come to expect in Soft Touch Britain.

Middle Eastern Eye blew the whistle on what really happened on 25th May 2017, in a major investigation entitled ‘Sorted’ by MI5: How UK government sent British-Libyans to fight Gadaffi. This included the following revelations:

“One British citizen with a Libyan background who was placed on a control order – effectively house arrest – because of fears that he would join militant groups in Iraq said he was “shocked” that he was able to travel to Libya in 2011 shortly after his control order was lifted.

“‘I was allowed to go, no questions asked,’ said the source, who wished to remain anonymous.

“He said he had met several other British-Libyans in London who also had control orders lifted in 2011 as the war against Gaddafi intensified, with the UK, France and the US carrying out air strikes and deploying special forces soldiers in support of the rebels.

“‘They didn’t have passports, they were looking for fakes or a way to smuggle themselves across,’ said the source.

“But within days of their control orders being lifted, British authorities returned their passports, he said.

“‘These were old school LIFG guys, they [the British authorities] knew what they were doing,’ he said, referring to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, an anti-Gaddafi Islamist militant group formed in 1990 by Libyan veterans of the fight against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

“Belal Younis, another British citizen who went to Libya, described how he was stopped under ‘Schedule 7’ counter-terrorism powers on his return to the UK after a visit to the country in early 2011. Schedule 7 allows police and immigration officials to detain and question any person passing through border controls at ports and airports to determine whether they are involved in terrorism.He said he was subsequently asked by an intelligence officer from MI5, the UK’s domestic security agency: “Are you willing to go into battle?

“‘While I took time to find an answer he turned and told me the British government have no problem with people fighting against Gaddafi,’ he told MEE.

As he was travelling back to Libya in May 2011 he was approached by two counter-terrorism police officers in the departure lounge who told him that if he was going to fight he would be committing a crime.

But after providing them with the name and phone number of the MI5 officer he had spoken to previously, and following a quick phone call to him, he was waved through.

“As he waited to board the plane, he said the same MI5 officer called him to tell him that he had ‘sorted it out’.”

Image result for manchester bombing victims

The victims of David Cameron’s scorpion nest in Manchester

The Manchester Bomber’s own father first came to Britain with the help of the security services as a leading member of the LIFG. And the December 2017 trial confirmed that his close friend Mohammed Abdallah was a fighter with the Tripoli Brigade – David Cameron’s allies and “boots on the ground” in the war on Libya.

So we see that the terrorist cell which murdered 22 innocent people in Manchester were not a group who slipped in and out of Britain to wage terrorist war without anyone noticing. Rather, they were part of a terror gang deliberately encouraged and aided and abetted by the British political elite and intelligence services.

They were yet another example of the way in which Britain and key allies, including the USA, Israel and France, have continually treated Wahhabi-inspired terrorists as pet scorpions which they can drop down other people’s shirts in the hope that they will do their dirty work for them.

The Manchester bombing was a terrible and classic example of the accuracy of President Assad’s warning against this wickedly cynical policy. One year on, with defeated Daesh fighters using every possible route to try to escape final annihilation by the Syrian Army by slipping into Western Europe, the resulting danger is now worse than ever.

The West no longer even knows where its scorpions are. Its short-sighted political and media elites need to check their own boots!

 

%d bloggers like this: