Wednesday, 25 April 2018

State sponsor of terrorism

Russophobia is now so rampant in the west's political media elite, it has become an absurd caricature. US Senator Cory Gardner has called for Russia to be labelled a state sponsor of terrorism. His argument (if such it can be called) is based on falsehoods, irrelevancies and blatantly absurd disinformation.

Gardner claims that the State Department should make the designation because Russia invaded Georgia and the Ukraine. (It didn't. And invading another country is not terrorism. However, a country much closer to Senator Gardner does have a history of invading other countries - care to hazard a guess?) Gardner also cites Russia's support for Syria. (This is true. But Russia is in Syria legally, fighting against terrorists - terrorists who are supported by the US, the United Kingdom, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Israel, France and others. Indeed, the US has thousands of troops in Syria illegally and has repeatedly bombed the country and killed Syrian civilians and soldiers.) Gardner continues by claiming that Russia is engaged in an information war against western democracies. (If this is true, it is a purely defensive response to the concerted disinformation campaigns orchestrated by the "western democracies" against Russia.) Gardner also specifies that Russia meddled in the US 2016 presidential election. (After years of investigations, there is still zero evidence to support this accusation. However, there is overwhelming evidence of the US meddling in the politics of other countries, including Russia.) Finally, Gardner asserts that Russia is supporting the jihadi terrorists in Syria. (He gets this absurd claim from Ukraine reporting, a country the US State Department has slammed for its human rights violations.)

The absurdity of Senator Gardner's position is clearly revealed by the fact that all the accusations he makes against Russia can be made, proved, against the US. By his logic, the US is a state sponsor of terrorism. And, of course, it is. The US has a long and consistent history of supporting terrorism. The contras in Nicaragua, the Stepan Bandera idolising neo-Nazis in the Ukraine, the jihadis in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, to mention but a few. The US has meddled in the domestic politics of countries across the globe. Iran, Ukraine, Italy, Russia, to mention but a few. The US has invaded countries across the world. Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, to mention but a few. And this is why the vast majority of the people of world fully recognise that the US is an outlaw nation, which constitutes the most serious threat to world peace.

Perhaps Senator Gardner will call on the State Department to place the US on its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Monday, 23 April 2018

Russian bots and disinformation

Russian bots are spreading disinformation, according to the government. The Guardian's Heather Stewart provides an analysis, which purportedly shows how Russian bots are spreading propaganda in the wake of the Skripal and Douma alleged chemical weapons attacks.

The report cites government claims regarding the alleged Russian disinformation campaign as though they are unchallengeable facts. According to her report, experts had identified a four thousand percent increase in Russian propaganda on social media following the Skripal poisonings. As is common with corporate media reports, she does not say what the actual figures are. It is therefore impossible to know (even if it were true) whether this increase is significant or not. A four thousand percent increase from next to nothing is still next to nothing, especially when, as with social media, one is dealing with numbers that are counted in the billions. This statistical illiteracy is far from accidental. It is common practice in the political media elite's propaganda.

However, Stewart does eventually cite some actual evidence. She cites two Russian bots. One is called Ian56 and the other is Partisangirl. These "Russian bots" are neither bots nor Russian. They are both real people, who just happen to express opinions that are critical of the official narratives. It seems that for the Guardian, being critical of the official political media elite narratives constitutes proof that one is a propagandist for Putin.

This attack on people for expressing a lack of credulity when it comes to the elite's narratives is clearly totalitarian. Heather Stewart's article is merely another example of the smearing of all criticism and dissent. Last year, the Washington Post published a piece that labelled two hundred news websites and bloggers as propagandists for Putin. The only thing they had in common was occasional criticism of US foreign policy positions, which given its constant violations of international law is perfectly understandable.

This dehumanisation (reducing people to the status of machines) and smearing (assertions of propagandising for a foreign power) of dissent has become normalised in the corporate media. The BBC's Annita McVeigh rebuked Admiral West for daring to cast doubt on the accusation that President Assad was responsible for a chemical weapons attack in Douma. She told him: "We are in an information war with Russia." The assertion is highly significant and revealing. It shows precisely who is engaged in disinformation and propaganda: the BBC and the rest of the political media elite. It is then ironic that they should choose to label anyone who questions their propaganda as a propagandist. But it is an irony they appear to be blissfully unaware of. As psychologists have long been aware, projection (the projecting on to others of one's own faults) is an unconscious process.

Heather Stewart's article has been criticised for its factual inaccuracies. Yet four days later, it has neither been corrected nor retracted. The fact that neither Ian56 nor Partisangirl are bots nor Russians does not seem to matter to the Guardian. Apparently, for the Guardian (and the rest) in the battle against so called fake news, it is more important to push the official line than publish accurate information.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

BBC asserts it is a propaganda organisation

Annita McVeigh revealed that the BBC sees itself as engaging in propaganda to support the British state. The astonishing admission came during an interview with Admiral West. He was making the point that the story that President Assad had conducted a chemical weapons attack was unlikely, when the BBC interviewer interrupted to rebuke the retired military officer. She said: "We're in an information war with Russia..."

McVeigh's assertion reveals that the BBC sees itself as a partisan in a war against Russia and is prepared to suppress the truth and propagate lies to win that war. In the particular context of the interview, this clearly indicates that McVeigh knows the British government's narrative is false - a narrative that was used as a justification for an act of aggression, the supreme war crime, as established by the Nuremberg Tribunal. The same tribunal also established, by its trial of Julius Streicher, that using the media to propagandise for war is a crime against humanity.

Even if knowing the history of the Nuremberg Tribunal is too esoteric for McVeigh, she must know that he BBC is required by its Charter, to "provide impartial news and information to help people to understand and engage with the world". This commitment to accuracy and impartiality is repeated throughout the charter, and the BBC constantly boasts of its commitment to accuracy and impartiality. The presentation of false news and information directly and clearly violates this purpose. Moreover, the BBC is funded by licence payers and the licence fee is a tax in all but name. It is outrageous that the British people are forced to fund an organisation that sees its role as lying to the British people. This adds injury to insult.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

No chemical weapons attack in Douma, says Fisk

The narrative of a chemical weapons attack in Douma on Saturday 4 March, which was used by the US, France and the United Kingdom to justify an attack on Syria, has been dealt a fatal blow. Robert Fisk, an award-winning journalist, with decades of experience of reporting on the Middle East, has visited Douma. There he sought evidence of the chemical weapons attack - and found none. He visited the hospital where the supposed victims were treated and interviewed the doctor, who informed him of what happened. The doctor told Fisk that the patients were suffering from a lack of oxygen, caused by dust. He said that White Helmets had arrived and shouted about a chemical weapons attack, causing panic, which they caught on video.

Fisk's debunking of the chemical weapons narrative has been independently corroborated by an American journalist, working for One America News, who went to the alleged crime scene and randomly interviewed residents. He was told that there was no chemical weapons attack and that it had been staged by the White Helmets, who have left for Idlib with Jaysh al Islam (aka, moderate rebels).

For over a week, the political media elite have been either ignoring Russia's claim that there was no chemical weapons attack or dismissing it as Russian propaganda and disinformation. They have repeatedly claimed (albeit inconsistently) to have proof that Assad ordered the chemical weapons attack. They have smeared anyone who was in any way sceptical of the official narrative as an apologist for Assad or a Russian bot or Putin's stooge, etc. However, these independent reports by western corporate media journalists will not be so easy to dismiss. And what they imply is even more sensational that the mere explicit refutation of the Douma chemical weapons attack narrative.

These reports show that the governments of the US, France and the United Kingdom did not have proof that a chemical weapons attack had occurred in Douma (it did not happen, so how could they have proof?). They show that they were lying when they claimed to have such proof. The reports also show the White Helmets as a propaganda arm of the jihadists (which these governments must know, as the organisation was created by a "former" MI6 officer and is funded by these three governments - amongst others). This shows that the "attack" was a staged event designed to provide these governments with propaganda cover for launching an illegal attack on Syria in order to assist their jihadist proxies, conducted as a part of their regime change operation.

These reports also support the accounts provided by the Russian and Syrian governments, which claimed there had not been a chemical weapons attack and that the incident was staged.

Nevertheless, the political media elite are still pushing their narrative. In the British parliament, which is currently debating this, members are all asserting that Assad used chemical weapons as though it were a proven fact. The corporate media are pushing the line that Russia has tampered with the evidence at the site, in order to pre-emptively explain away the assumed findings of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons inspection. They are also suggesting that doctors and residents in Douma are being threatened to force them to say that there was no chemical weapons attack. It is worth noting that the authors of these corporate media reports are not content with trying to salvage the official narrative. They are also busily using twitter to personally defame Robert Fisk.

Monday, 16 April 2018

An attack on international law

On Saturday, 14 April, the United States, France and the United Kingdom launched over a hundred missiles at Syria. This attack was a blatant violation of international law. And it was intended as such.

The United States, via its hyperbolic, moralising ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, had repeatedly informed the United Nations that the US will take any actions it sees fit, regardless of law or evidence or international support.

The attack on Syria supposedly targeted Syria's alleged chemical weapons facilities. The fact that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had overseen the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons programme and that the destruction of its existing chemical weapons was carried out by the US was simply ignored. Also ignored was the fact that bombing stocks of chemical weapons in residential areas would be incredibly reckless and dangerous. The perpetrators of, and cheerleaders for,  the attack also found it convenient to ignore the fact that after bombing these alleged stocks of chemical weapons, there were no chemical poisonings.

The attack on Syria was supposedly justified by the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma on the previous Saturday. The only "evidence" for such an attack was the jihadist propaganda produced by the White Helmets and the Syrian American Medical Society. Moreover, the Syrian Arab Army and their Russian ally had gained control over the alleged "crime scene" on the day after the attack and had found no evidence of a chemical weapons attack. They were unable to find any victims. They were unable to find any doctors who had treated anyone for chemical poisoning. They were unable to find any witnesses or even anyone who had heard of the alleged chemical weapons attack. They were, however, able to interview staff in the only functioning hospital in the area, who were clear that no one had been treated for chemical poisoning.

The claim that the attack on Syria was conducted as a retaliation for the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons is simply not credible. However, even if it were true, it would not provide a legal justification for the attack. There are only two legal justifications. The first is self defence, meaning that a country has a right to defend itself from a foreign attack (ironically, this defence would be open to Syria against the US, France and the United Kingdom, but it is not open to the US, France or the United Kingdom as Syria is not attacking them). The second is a resolution of the United Nations Security Council authorising the use of military force. The US, France and the United Kingdom, not only did not have such a resolution, they never even sought one.

The attack on Syria was, as the perpetrators have said, intended to send a message. But the message was not the one they publicly assert. The message was: "We are above the law." The military strike on Syria was a political statement, making it clear that the US and its allies will not be bound by the rules of international law. By this action (which is only the latest in a long list of violations), they have overthrown any plausible belief in the rule of international law and shown the United Nations to be impotent against such outlaw nations.

The only solution to this lawlessness is for the people of the US, France and the United Kingdom to hold their leaders, who were responsible for this violation, to account. All these countries are democracies, yet in none of them were the elected representatives of the people consulted. Here in England, Prime Minister Theresa May made it plain in a press briefing on Saturday that it was her decision to authorise the attack and to do so without parliamentary approval. In this context, Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Opposition, should, as a matter of conscience, table a motion of no confidence, as a means of bringing down May's government. This afternoon, he has an opportunity to do so. I hope he does, but I fear he won't.

Friday, 13 April 2018

How US and allies uphold international law

President Macron has stated that he has proof that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in Douma last Saturday. However, he did not present any evidence to support his claim. It is worth contrasting Macron's claim with the fact that the US Defence Secretary, General Mattis, informed Congress that the US does not have any evidence to support the allegation, and admitted that the US is relying on social media reports: a direct reference to the White Helmets' video. Similarly, the government of the United Kingdom is convinced, without any evidence, that the Syrian government is to blame. Regardless of their conflicting claims about the evidence, all three countries are agreed that the Syrian government must be punished for the war crime of using chemical weapons.

When the United Nations Security Council met to discuss the alleged chemical weapons attack, the US put forward a draft which would have enabled an "investigation" to be conducted remotely; presumably by looking at social media and accepting the claims of the White Helmets and the Syrian American Medical Society. The Russian Federation had an alternative draft. The Russian draft called for an on site investigation to be conducted by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. France, the US and the UK voted against the Russian call for a proper investigation. Russia voted against the US call for a faux investigation.

The same three countries, France, the US and the UK, are all certain that the Syrian government is guilty. They are so certain, they are opposed to a proper, forensic investigation being conducted by the appropriate body. (No one in the corporate media appears to be able see any contradiction here.)

The disregard for evidence and due process and international law is further seen by the dismissal out of hand of the fact that the Syrian Arab Army and the Russians secured the alleged crime scene on Sunday (the day after the alleged attack) and the Russian Ministry of Defence has clearly stated that there is no evidence of a chemical weapons attack. No people were treated for chemical poisoning. The residents of the area were unaware of anyone suffering from a chemical weapons attack. The Russian army chemical weapons experts were unable to find any traces of chemical substances.

Today, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, has stated that the alleged chemical weapons attack was staged with the assistance of an external intelligence service. He did not say which, and there are a number of countries this could refer to, but the United Kingdom would be high on the list of potential suspects, as the White Helmets was created by a "former" MI6 officer and is funded by the UK Foreign Office (amongst others). Another obvious suspect is, of course, the US as the Syrian American Medical Society is an oft cited source of the claim that a chemical weapons attack occurred. The Syrian American Medical Service is funded by USAID, and is part of its (that is the US government's) democracy promotion operations, which are more accurately described as US regime change operations. Macron's claimed proof also suggests that the French intelligence service might be involved. It is, of course, all of a piece that these three countries are the major suspects, as they are the three western countries that have been pursuing regime change in Syria since 2011, at least. They have been funding, arming, training, and providing military, diplomatic and propaganda support for the jihadists.

Using jihadists as fighters to bring about regime change is, of course, a tried and tested tactic for western regime change operations. It was under President Carter that the tactic was first deployed in Afghanistan, when the US supported the jihadists as way overthrowing the government and in order to weaken its ally, the Soviet Union. It was Brzezinski, the National Security Advisor, who devised the tactic, one which the US and its allies have used over and over again.

The fact that France, the US and the United Kingdom are all agreed that military action must be taken against the Syrian government in retaliation for the alleged use of chemical weapons should be of serious concern to everyone. These countries are behaving as outlaw nations. They are threatening aggression, which is a war crime. They are doing so, by their own rationale, for the purpose of retaliation, which is a war crime. They are doing so, not only without evidence to support their allegation, but whilst actively trying to prevent a proper, forensic, on site investigation, which is contrary to international law. And with straight faces, they claim they are doing so in order to uphold international law and protect civilians. These are the same people who have caused the deaths hundreds of thousands of people in Syria and the displacement of millions by their regime change operation (contrary to international law), and now we are supposed to believe that they are motivated by a desire to protect the people of Syria and uphold international law. And they propose to do this by killing more people in Syria.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Propagandising for war

The supposed chemical weapons attack in East Ghouta on Saturday is a blatant jihadist propaganda stunt. Yet the western politicians and the corporate media are all treating it as though it is an unquestionable fact. The war drums are beating.

The allegations are based on claims made by the jihadist groups, the White Helmets and Jaysh al Islam. The video released by the White Helmets, which allegedly shows the victims of the attack, is simply incredible on its face - and the politicians and corporate journalists who are jumping up and down with moral indignation must know this. It simply is not credible that they believe first responders and medical staff rescue and treat victims of a chemical weapons attack without protective clothing.

The staging of the "chemical weapons attack" does, however, make perfect sense from the point of view of the jihadists and their allies. The Syrian Arab Army and its allies have almost completely defeated the jihadists in East Ghouta. President Trump had publicly announced that he would be removing the US from Syria "very soon". The only hope for the jihadists in East Ghouta was to create an incident that resulted in western military intervention - and the west has repeatedly told the jihadists that if Assad uses chemical weapons, they will take action.

A year ago (4 April) the jihadists in Idlib were in danger of being defeated by the Syrian Arab Army. A "chemical weapons attack" was staged and the corporate media played the jihadi produced videos and demanded that something be done. Two days later, Donald Trump obliged and contrary to international law launched tomahawk cruise missiles on a Syrian Arab Army air base.

As the corporate media play the jihadi produced videos of the current "chemical weapons attack" Donald Trump claims we have all "witnessed" (if it is on television, it must be true) a terrible atrocity and promises (with John Bolton, an inveterate warmonger, as his National Security Advisor, at his side) to make Syria pay.

The west's political media elite are dangerously out of control. The failure of the electorates of western democracies to hold the lying warmongers, who illegally bombed Yugoslavia, invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, destroyed Libya, promoted a fascist coup d'etat in the Ukraine and have pursued a murderous regime change operation in Syria (to mention only the highlights) to account has endowed with them with the belief that they can act with complete impunity. That arrogance has resulted in them pursuing a course of action that potentially risks an armed conflict with a nuclear power.

Russia has informed the United Nations Security Council that the alleged chemical weapons attack in East Ghouta did not happen - and the Syrian Arab Army and Russia are in control of the alleged crime scene. They have interviewed residents and doctors. They have searched for evidence of chemicals. They have invited the UN to send investigators to the site to verify their assertions. Yet, the US and its allies are clearly not interested in evidence (vide the Skripal case, for example). Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, told the Security Council that the US is prepared to "slap" Russia. She told the Council that the US is prepared to act unilaterally. These assertions are effectively a renunciation of international law and an ultimatum: accept US hegemony or face the consequences.

Indeed, by its own words, the US has made it perfectly clear that it sees Russia as a threat because Russia sees the world in terms of sovereign nation states, bound by the rule of international law, working to promote their own interests. This is a threat because it challenges US global dominance and the very idea that the US is exceptional.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Skripal reporting descends to the surreal

The case of the poisonings of Sergei Skripal and his daughter has been a focus of constant attention in the corporate media. From the outset, the reporting has been reckless, irresponsible and hyperbolic. As the weeks have past, it has become increasingly absurd.

Last week, the head of Porton Down, the British state's biological and chemical weapons organisation, flatly contradicted Boris Johnson's assertion that Porton Down had confirmed that Russia was the source of the military grade nerve agent that was used to poison the Skripals. This immediately resulted in the media resorting to anonymous sources in an attempt to bolster the official narrative. The anonymous sources were able to prove that Johnson was right after all. The poison was produced in Russia, according to anonymous sources. How fortunate for Boris - no need to resign for lying.

Well, once the media has access to anonymous sources, it is open season. Anonymous sources suddenly had lots of stories. According to anonymous sources, Russia had a secret programme for the production of the military grade nerve agent and had practised using it for assassinations. They even have the manual where the Russians had written it all down. (No, you cannot see the manual: it's secret.)

The anonymous sources also revealed that the Skripals are still in serious danger from Russia, so MI6 and the CIA are going to provide them with new identities and move them to America for their safety. Conveniently away from any pesky questions; much as "Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey" has conveniently disappeared.

The anonymous sources further revealed that the British had intercepted a message from Syria to Moscow on 4 March, which said that "the package has been delivered" and added that two people had made their "egress". You can read this second rate spy fiction here.

The Skripal case never made any sense. But the longer it has gone on, the less sense it has made. It is a narrative that has no basic facts. It is full of lacunae. It is characterised by inconsistencies and contradictions. The alleged facts change by the day. And yet one is supposed to believe that every claim and representation, is fully consistent with every changing claim and representation. This surreal nonsense looks like nothing so much as a dramatisation of Orwell's Minitruth. We even had the Foreign Office delete its own tweet in order to hide its earlier lies and defend its deletion with new lies.

You're not supposed to be able to remember what they said yesterday. You're just supposed to accept what they say today.

Friday, 6 April 2018

The Skripal case and the government's thinking

There are two ways of thinking. The first is natural, unconscious, immediate and effortless. The second is a human invention. It is conscious, slow and painstaking. This is the type of thinking one has to use in order to solve mathematical problems, engage in cost-benefit analysis and conduct evidenced, criteria based decision making.

I have been paying close attention to the strange case of the Skripal poisonings and I am convinced that the British political media elite are relying upon the first type of thinking for their conclusion that Russia is culpable.

The first type of thinking relies of a few simple rules of thumb. This is why it can reach conclusions with lightning speed. One of those rules of thumb is based on the ease with which one can recall examples of something. According to this rule of thumb, the easier it is to recall an example, the more likely it is that that thing will happen. Another rule of thumb relies of how typical something is. According to this rule of thumb, the more typical something is, the more likely it is. Another rule of thumb is based on how emotive the issue is. This mental short cut means that the greater the emotional affect, the more something is feared, the greater the risk.

When Theresa May told parliament that it is "highly likely" that Russia is culpable, she was inadvertently revealing that she was employing these mental short cuts. For the British political media elite, it is very easy to recall examples of Russia doing bad things, so immediately it was obvious that Russia did it. This intuitive judgement was reinforced by the Russophobia of the political media elite which construes Russia and Russians as typically engaging in bad behaviour. This Russophobia also ensured that the judgement was further reinforced. To the political media elite, it was simply self evident that Russia was to blame. This is why, within hours of the Skripals being found slumped on a park bench, the political media elite could confidently assert that Russia was to blame.

Once the politicians and the media began telling each other, "Russia did it", confirmation bias kicked in and anything and everything was interpreted as "proof" that Russia did it. Thus, when the Russian government denied having anything to do with the poisonings, Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, immediately cited the denial as proof that Russia did it. Even asking for evidence was used to bolster the judgement. Anyone who asked for evidence was immediately accused of "playing Russia's game".

The leaked government powerpoint presentation that was used to persuade other countries to expel Russian diplomats clearly shows the government relying on the unconscious, effortless way of thinking. The powerpoint consists of six slides. They contain very little information. Some of the claims are demonstrably false, some are unsubstantiated, some of irrelevant. They certainly do not prove that Russia was responsible for the poisonings. Nevertheless, the British government (and a number of their allies) clearly found the presentation persuasive.

The first slide presents a timeline that actually says very little - indicating to a dispassionate judge that the British government knew very little. The slide implies that the government knew that poison was Russian, but this is supposed to be taken from the fact that Theresa May said so. Apparently, the British government were unable to see the problem with this logic - which indicates they were not relying on logic. Another problem (for the government's case) is that the timeline shows that the British government was not observing the procedures of the Chemical Weapons Convention. 

The second slide claims that Russia is guilty of violating the Chemical Weapons Convention. This completely ignores the fact that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had verified that the Russian Federation had destroyed all its chemical weapons. The slide also clearly indicates that the British government's case is not based on evidence and logic when it explicitly resorts to the logical fallacy of arguing from ignorance. The slide says: "There is no alternative plausible explanation."

The third slide has a diagram of a human body. It shows how nerve agents affect the body. It is clearly included merely to appeal to the emotions of the audience.

The fourth slide presents a number of examples of alleged Russian malign behaviour. These examples are included in order to appeal to idea that the poisonings in Salisbury are merely the latest example of typical Russian behaviour.

These are the slides that are supposed to present evidence to prove the British government's accusation. However, they do not present any evidence. What they are clearly designed to do is appeal to the natural, unconscious, immediate, effortless way of thinking. It is a blatant example of propaganda, which is ironic, given how loudly and often the political media elite accuse Russia of propaganda.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Yulia Skripal's incredible statement

The Metropolitan Police issued a Statement on behalf of Yulia Skripal this afternoon. You can read it here. Like many other aspects of this case, the statement stretches credulity.

There are a number of points of interest.

1. The statement demonstrates an excellent command of the English language. There is no rider to the statement, claiming that it is a translation. Indeed, she has previously worked in England and so one can reasonably assume she speaks English, and the BBC represented the statement as her own words. Nevertheless, the correctness of the use of English suggests a native English speaker, rather than someone who learnt the language later.

2. The actual content of the statement does not suggest someone who is recovering from an incapacitating illness in a foreign land, wishing to reassure her family and friends that she (and her father) is well. Indeed, the target audience appears to be the British public. The second, third and fourth sentences are clearly intended as thanks to British people, respectively, the general public, the people of Salisbury, specifically those who came to her aid (why are these people never interviewed by the media?) and the staff at the hospital (who also are never interviewed by the media).

3. The lack of facts about what happened in the statement suggests that whoever wrote it wished to reveal as little as possible.

4. The final sentence also appears to be addressed to the people of Britain, specifically the media. It requests respect for her privacy and that of her family. Why would Yulia make a request for respect for her family's privacy? Who could she have had in mind? Her father? Other members of her family are, after all, in Russia, and they are talking to the Russian media.

The statement looks more like a public relations press release than the words of someone who is recovering from a serious poisoning and only regained consciousness a week ago.

The statement's target audience is clearly the British public. This is very strange. Why would someone in Yulia Skripal's situation address her first public statement to the British public, rather than her friends and family - who live in Russia?

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Foreign Office lies and deletes evidence of its lying

Yesterday, in an interview with Sky, Gary Aitkenhead, the head of Porton Down, stated that the biological and chemical weapons organisation had not been able to identify the source of the substance that had poisoned Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. This flatly contradicted categorical assertions by Boris Johnson and the Foreign Office.

Today, the Foreign Office has denied that it claimed that Porton Down had confirmed that the substance was from Russia. A tweet from the Foreign Office making exactly that claim has been deleted. The Foreign Office has also denied that Boris Johnson said that Porton Down had categorically established that Russia was the source of the substance. With these denials, the government has descended to lying about its lying and destruction of evidence of its mendacity.

This behaviour is truly shocking. When government ministers and government departments engage in easily provable lying, they undermine the legitimacy and authority of the government and the state. When they engage in blatant and easily provably destruction of evidence of their mendacity, they undermine the legitimacy and authority of the government and the state even further. When such lies are committed in the pursuit of a course of action that could potentially result in war, they undermine the legitimacy and authority of the government and the state still further.

Boris Johnson, and the Foreign Office under his leadership, is clearly fatally compromised. Mr Johnson should acknowledge his lying, apologise and resign. It is the only honourable course of action open to him.

The replacement of Mr Johnson as Foreign Secretary should also be seen as an opportunity to reverse the dangerous deterioration in relations between Britain and Russia. Unfortunately, given the history of the British government, I cannot say I am optimistic.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

The Skripal syllogism

"There is no other plausible conclusion" Theresa May

This is how the government used evidence and logic to conclude that Russia is guilty.

1. WHEN did the Skripal poisoning occur? Don't know.

The Skripals were, according to Theresa May, poisoned by a military grade nerve agent. They were found slumped on a park bench after four in the afternoon on Sunday 4 March. There has been much speculation in the media, filling the vacuum left by the absence of facts. It has been suggested that they were poisoned at Mr Skripal's home, which they left at nine in the morning. If this is the case, they were infected by a military grade nerve agent, eight times more toxic than VX, which would have affected them virtually instantaneously and killed them in less than two minutes, and yet remained symptom-free for over seven hours. Other suggestions include the air conditioning unit in Mr Skripal's car, or on a city street, or in the pub they visited or in the restaurant where they had lunch. All of these share the problem of the delayed effect. Another suggestion is that they were poisoned at the park bench. This has the merit of getting rid of the miraculous delay, but it does not explain why they did not die, nor does it explain the fact that the doctor on the scene did not become ill. The simple fact is that Theresa May does not know when the Skripals were poisoned. It could have happened any time between before nine in the morning and four in the afternoon. That's a seven hour window.

2. WHERE were the Skripals poisoned? Don't know.

As the above discussion of the possible timing makes clear, it is currently not known where Sergei and Yulia Skripal were poisoned. The police investigation is currently focused on Mr Skripal's door; four weeks after the event. If it was the door, was it the inside of the door or the outside? If it was the outside, surely many other people would have been effected. If it was the inside, how did it get there? The simple fact is that Theresa May does not know where the Skripals were poisoned. It could have been any number of locations.

3. WHAT were the Skripals poisoned with? Don't know.

Theresa May has told parliament that the Skripals were poisoned by a military grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia (meaning the Soviet Union). This is, of course, a long way from saying that Russia produced the nerve agent. Indeed, the plant that produced the Soviet nerve agent she referred to was in Uzbekistan (not Russia) and it was decommissioned by the US (who therefore had access to it). The formula for the nerve agent was published years ago. And the nerve agent has been produced by Iran (under the supervision of the OPCW). However, there is reason to doubt Theresa May's claim that the Skripal's were in fact poisoned by a military grade nerve agent. There is the apparent ineffectiveness of the substance. But even more significantly, there is the British government's own evidence before the Court of Protection, where the government scientist could only identify the substance as "a nerve agent or closely related compound" - in plain English this means that Porton Down scientists are not even sure that it is a nerve agent, let alone a military grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia. The simple fact is Theresa May does not know what the Skripals were poisoned by.

4. HOW was the poison administered to the Skripals? Don't know.

By now it should be clear that given the lack of basic facts we simply do not know how the Skripals came to be poisoned. There is much speculation in the media, but that is all it is: speculation filling the vacuum created by the complete absence of facts.

5. WHO poisoned the Skripal's. Don't Know.

As the police assistant commissioner in charge of the case stated: the investigation has not identified any persons of interest, let alone suspects.

6. Russia is bad, specifically, Putin is bad.

This point requires no elaboration as it is a self evident fact (for the Establishment).

7. Therefore, Russia did it, specifically, Putin. As Theresa May said, "There is no other plausible conclusion."

And if you are buying that, I have a bridge...