Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Skripal case: cause for doubt

Yesterday the British prime minister, Theresa May, provided a statement to parliament on the Skripal case. In this prepared statement, she simultaneously blamed Russia and tacitly confirmed that she does not know who poisoned Mr Skripal and his daughter. She gave the Russia government one day to provide a "credible answer" - that is, to effectively prove that Russia is not guilty - or face the consequences, which she said she will announce on Wednesday.

The statement was utterly absurd. One cannot simultaneously claim to know and not to know. Yet, it was perfectly clear from May's statement that the government claim to know almost nothing about this incident. The only "fact" that supposedly linked the poisonings to Russia is the claim that Skripal was poisoned by a nerve agent of "the type" developed by the Soviet Union. However, other than the Opposition Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, the members of the House of Commons seemed to be completely persuaded by this absurd lack of logic and evidence. Parliamentarian after parliamentarian called for action to be taken agains Russia. They characterised the poisonings as an act of war. They bayed for retaliation.

It was a deeply depressing scene. I can only wonder how it was received in Russia, and indeed by anyone who has not been infected by the toxic poison of Russophobia that the political media elite have been propagating so assiduously for so long.

The Skripal case is a mystery that makes no sense. Many of the facts of the case, as distinct from hysterical speculations masquerading as news in the corporate media, are puzzling, but do not point to Russia. Skripal was a colonel in the GRU. He was recruited by MI6, at the time when Christopher Steele was operating in Moscow. Skripal sold MI6 state secrets. His treachery was uncovered and he was put on trial, convicted and sentenced to imprisonment. He was later pardoned and released as part of a deal with the United States. Skripal came to the United Kingdom. Here he worked with Orbis, a company set up by Christopher Steele after he left MI6. These are facts in the public domain from which it is reasonable to assume that Skripal was a source from Steele's infamous Trump dossier, which the Clinton campaign and the DNC paid for and the FBI paid for and used to obtain FISA warrants to spy in the Trump campaign and has been used by Congress and Special Counsel Mueller to justify investigating President Trump. Notwithstanding all the feverish speculation, Skripal's connection to Christopher Steele is mysteriously hidden from view. The link to Steele isn't the only mysterious silence in this case of 'Russian' to judgement.

According to Theresa May, the nerve agent that poisoned Skripal and his daughter, and apparently infected Detective Sergeant Bailey, was weapons grade material. If this were the case, one has to wonder why these three people are still alive. One also has to wonder why the doctor who attended to Skripal and his daughter is still alive; indeed, did not even become ill. One also cannot help but wonder why the authorities first claimed that DS Bailey was infected when he attended Skripal and his daughter on the park bench, but subsequently claimed he was infected when he visited the Skripal's home as a potential crime scene. Indeed, one has to wonder about the authorities vague claims that a restaurant and a pub were also the crime scene. Surely it was only one of these locations. Moreover, a week after the poisonings, the authorities decided to advise people who had been at these locations to wash their clothes and clean objects. For a whole week the authorities had been unconcerned about a public health risk. Then, when they were concerned, the concern expressed was absurd: one does not conduct chemical weapons decontamination by advising people to wash their clothes.

There are other mysterious silences. For example, the park bench where Skripal and his daughter were found is only a few miles from Porton Down, which is where the British state keeps and develops its chemical and biological weapons. In Theresa May's prepared statement to the House of Commons, she made much of the "fact" that the nerve agent of was of a type developed by the Soviet Union. However, the notion that Porton Down does not have such nerve agents is hardly credible. For over a hundred years Porton Down has been a world leader in the development of such (illegal) weapons.

There are, of course, many other reasons to doubt the blame Russia narrative. The British state has a long and consistent history of asserting as facts narratives that are subsequently shown, not only to be false, but to have been known to be false at the time. Currently, the British government is supporting the White Helmets in Syria, supposedly on the ground that it is a humanitarian organisation, but the government is well aware that it is in fact a propaganda arm of the jihadists. Indeed, the organisation was created by a former MI6 officer and financed by the Foreign Office (and others). Indeed, Boris Johnson boasting publicly of the Foreign Office funding stated that it was from the non-humanitarian aid budget: his civil servants must have been apoplectic: years of careful propaganda undone at a stroke.

I do not know who poisoned Mr Skripal and his daughter, but neither does Theresa May and the rest of the baying political and media hacks.

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