Politics

Act of War

Every once in a while, a town that is local to me will hit the national news. One of the most exciting events was back in the late 90s when a bunch of animal activists burst into a fur farm in Ringwood, releasing thousands of mink. Yay for the freed mink! Not such great news for the native wildlife that then came into contact with the mink. In 2011, Mrs P and I returned from the land of the narco, where grisly beheadings were the norm. Only for someone to behead a man across the road from our workplace. And just recently, a well off gentleman is an exclusive neighbourhood round the corner from mother was shot dead in a bungled burglary. The perps lived in a far less exclusive neighbourhood a few miles from our address. They now reside in secure accomodation, well away from all of us.

This week, another local-ish town hit the news headlines. Not just local headlines. Not just national. Salisbury made international headlines. It’s a lovely little town, with a fabulous cathedral and some delightful stately homes nearby. Mrs P is particularly a fan, because this is where her favourite Thai restaurant is located. Salisbury is home to plenty of political intrigue of the past, including the questions that have been asked of a now deceased resident – Ted Heath, former PM. It’s the home of the most pressing piece of current political intrigue. The chemical attack on a (former?) Russian spy. And the general population around him.

The facts aren’t in. We shouldn’t, in theory, jump to any conclusions. But heck, I’m going to any way. Putin and the cabal that surrounds him will, of course, issue plenty of denials. Some indignant, others sarcastic and with the occasional threat thrown in for good measure. He’ll give his hard luck story about (ficticious) broken promises about NATO expansion. He’ll promote conspiracy theories of persecution. Meanwhile, Tblisi still smoulders. Russian athletes are routinely doped. Families of passengers shot out of the sky still have no answers. Crimea remains annexed. Mysterious men in green still roam eastern Ukraine. Ceaseless conflict in Syria. Political interventions in the west continue. I’m going to stick my neck on the line and go so far as to suggest the Salisbury attack is simply the latest in a line of Kremlin sponsored assassinations. Both at home and on foreign soil.

Putin has a few cards up his sleeve to ‘keep the west in check’. European consumption of Russian gas is a big one. That works both ways, to a degree, when cash from the West flows into his coffers. He has a nuclear arsenal at his disposal. And he may well have a very special card up his sleeve. Some might even refer to it as his Trump card. He also instils a certain degree of fear in the West. His regime is scarcely distinguishable from an organised crime gang. And the West has seen where this can lead, with this sort of nationalist mob, with white supremacist policies, disregard for international law, persistent and blatant lies, habitual incursions over borders and claims of securing the ‘liberty’ of those who speak the same language living in other countries. Whilst Trump may well have fascist tendancies, there are checks and balances that act as a brake. To a degree. Putin has no such restraints.

But the point of my post is this. The ‘incident’ in Salisbury – if committed by Russian forces at the behest of the Kremlin – was not simply a targetted attack on an individual. Thus it was not a straightforward assassination. It was an attack, using chemical weapons, on a populated area in the UK, that left nearly two dozen people in need of medical treatment. That is, by most definitions, an act of war. Are we at war and where do we go from here? Is appeasement your policy of choice? Or confrontation? What concessions are you prepared to offer if the former? What action do you take if the latter? These are not interesting times. They are dangerous times.

 

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51 thoughts on “Act of War

  1. norm says:

    You and I have a friend in Guatemala who is having neighbor problems, real problems but do they mean he needs to buy a contract? The Russians are a pain in the behind but are they to the point of our going to war?
    There is a hard and fast rule in our world today, I call it the Pakistan rule, countries that have eggs are special, Russia has a whole truck load of eggs. Russia is real special. How far do we let them push, that is the 50 million dead question. Russia is not Germany of 1935, it has that truck load of eggs but it is really just a pissant country. It is pretty limited in its tool kit.

    Europe needs to develop its shale gas, the North European plain is lousy with shale deposits that match ours here in Ohio. A few pipelines to Africa would settle the Russians more than a month of huffing and puffing by our respective nations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You and I have a friend in Guatemala who is having neighbor problems, real problems but do they mean he needs to buy a contract?

      I’ve read of his troubles. He has my sympathy. I remember when the landlord of the flat at the top of our block in CDMX decided to rent it out to about 30 construction workers. A different sort of problem, for sure – but less easily resolved in that part of the world than this. He certainly doesn’t need to buy a contract. But I can see how he might be tempted…!

      There is a hard and fast rule in our world today, I call it the Pakistan rule, countries that have eggs are special, Russia has a whole truck load of eggs. Russia is real special.

      That’s the MAD rule. Russia is the most special case. And it’s worked well, to date. But…

      How far do we let them push, that is the 50 million dead question.

      And just how far do they intend to push? Much of my post is ‘wondering aloud’ rather than a prediction of impending doom, although I certainly note the possibility. And you’re right, Russia doesn’t have much of an economy. As an authoritarian state it could turn more of it to military use than we are likely to. But in any shooting war, Russia’s only hope is to make a quick grab and then hope we don’t respond. It’s probably not up to fighting a long war on foreign soil against mightier economic and military powers.

      Europe needs to develop its shale gas

      This is both a solution and a potential trigger. We need to wean ourselves on Russian gas. On the other hand, Russia’s economy has already been damaged by falling energy prices and sanctions. Plunging the country into economic turmoil would probably not be helpful. There are other potential triggers of course. The rise of populism. A global financial meltdown.

      We all hope none of this comes to pass. And the consequences are so catastophically terrible, that it’s hard to see how something so stupid could happen. But that’s the prevailing thought prior to most catastrophes, is it not? That complacency nags at me a little.

      Russia is not Germany of 1935

      It’s not, I agree. Only Germany of 1935 is entirely comparable to Germany of 1935. I had a conversation with someone recently about the continual breeching of Godwin’s Law. But it’s not really surprising. When we talk of potential disasters in football stadiums, we talk of ‘another Hillsborough’. How many political scandals have ‘-gate’ affixed to them? If the base characteristics are there, then then the appropriate symbol is used. And to be honest, I think we have cause to be concerned how many people in or near positions of power have the base characteristics of a tyrannical despot. Hillary Clinton, for all her flaws, did not.

      But we do have greater crises at hand to deal with. For starters, some heathen in Cornwall recently prepped a Cream Tea all wrong.

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    • The Russians are a pain in the behind but are they to the point of our going to war?

      Oh, and this. One certainly hopes not. I wonder how the history books will read on this. I suspect that the finger will be pointed at the Russians, but without concrete proof any reaction will be diplomatic. Although even with concrete proof, the same probably applies. But still, launching a chemical attack within the borders of a major western power is a big step.

      My most sincere hope is that the England team is withdrawn from the World Cup in Russia this year. If only to save us from our ritual humiliation of an embarrassing exit. But imagine if the rest of the EU followed suit, in solidarity with a ‘member state’. I think Twitter will trend with #thisisveryfuckingawkward…

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    • Good news! The UK Defence Secretary has just informed the Russians that they should “Shut up and go away.” One imagines that such a stern instruction will resolve matters. However, if the Ruskies fail to oblige, we still have “I know you are, but what am I” and “I’m going to get my dad on you” still in the locker. Of course, given that there is a World Cup in the summer, there is the risk that the Russians will play their strongest card and pick their ball up and walk away so no one can play.

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  2. Kris says:

    I think that the Salisbury assassination was a double statement. It would have been easy to simply kill the spy, but the message is; I can kill anyone, anytime, anonymously, and I don’t care if there are innocent victims. Of course, he already showed that by shooting down the airliner.
    Trump idolizes the dictators of the world because they have the absolute power he craves. Putin seems to have a Trump card, so far there hasn’t been a word in response to any of his actions.

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    • Technically, at present, it was an attempted assassination. That may change, I guess.

      I’m sure Putin is trying to send ‘messages’. But they come with additional signals – he can’t be trusted.

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  3. This was a fairly sloppy assassination by Russian standards. Historically they’ve done much better at targeting only the intended victims.

    As for whether the Russians actually did it, yes, they had the motive, and yes they had the means. It remains to be seen whether there’s any real evidence, though. Until such evidence may be found, I think Theresa May is painting herself into a corner. Without any hard evidence, it makes no sense to accuse Russia, especially without going through the proper procedure. If we in the Western Democracies truly believe in due process, then we should execute due process. Right? Simply throwing out charges based on unfounded beliefs is how the Russians operate. We should hold ourselves to higher standards.

    For May, these premature accusations hold only international downside. Lobbing unbacked accusations doesn’t make her look statesmanlike at all.That said, I will aver that if the public mood in the UK is as anti-Russian as in the USA, then there are political points to be scored. And May is likely desperate to score what she can.

    All that said, the guy was a double-agent who has surely been a marked man for years. Is this really worth risking some kind of war over? If innocent British lives were lost or harmed by the murder, then you could easily multiply that damage by 100 for even the most minor military skirmish. And to what end? It would change nothing.

    The best course at this point is for May and the British Establishment to huff and puff, make some threatening noises, and then move on. Maybe with the Americans chiming in. But any response beyond that would be simply stupid.

    Yes, Putin is a thug. But there’s really nothing to be done about that. Meanwhile, it’s of utmost importance to keep in mind what’s really important and what’s not.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Redding, CA
    Where we are tired of the over-fixation on Russia.

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  4. This was a fairly sloppy assassination by Russian standards. Historically they’ve done much better at targeting only the intended victims.

    As for whether the Russians actually did it, yes, they had the motive, and yes they had the means. It remains to be seen whether there’s any real evidence, though.

    If we take the assessment by British security and intelligence services at face value, it’s a tougher call to suspect anyone other than the Russians, when a nerve agent exclusive to the Russian military is used. Due process becomes, to a certain extent, complete at that point. It has been suggested that this was deliberately ‘sloppy’. A calling card, so to speak. The UK has particularly tricky relations with the Russians, more so that the US and rest of EU I would say.

    I think Theresa May is painting herself into a corner.

    Theresa May, or more pointedly the Leave campaign and voters, painted themselves into a bit of a corner nearly 2 years ago when they declared that we’d take on the world by ourselves, thanks very much. It’s always going to be tough to convince other EU members to show solidarity when they rely on Russia for about a third of their gas supplies. Having recently given them all the finger, it’s tougher still.

    Is this really worth risking some kind of war over?…The best course at this point is for May and the British Establishment to huff and puff, make some threatening noises, and then move on.

    Absolutely not. And I’m sure that there’ll be a round of diplomatic expulsions, a few sanctions and some strong but meaningless words. My post headline was to draw attention to the gravity of the act, rather than the likely response. But, there is still the question, to be answered by the historian (if any are left alive) if things go belly up, what part will be assigned to this act? Wars, especially major wars, rarely come about due to an isolated event.

    Yes, Putin is a thug. But there’s really nothing to be done about that. Meanwhile, it’s of utmost importance to keep in mind what’s really important and what’s not.

    I disagree with you here. To do absolutely nothing is as dangerous as to overreact. Putin is operating beyond his borders with increasing boldness and, thus far, relative personal impunity. As I’ve mentioned, gangsters don’t tend to know where and when to stop.

    With any democracy, you’d simply wait out this nutter and hope the next guy, or gal, is more amenable to de-escalation and co-operation. But Russia isn’t a democracy and the chap could be there for an awfully long time to come.

    A lot of Russians miss the old days of communism. I’m beginning to miss them too, a little bit.

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    • What exactly can one do about Putin’s being a thug? And we shouldn’t overlook the fact that it’s the West that’s constantly provoking Russia. As part of the treaty allowing the reunification of Germany, the USA and NATO promised that it wouldn’t expand NATO eastward. Yet what have we done? Pushed, and pushed, and pushed NATO ever farther east. Now Ukraine is in the process of joining NATO.

      Whenever discussing Ukraine here in the USA, I ask people whether they’d feel comfortable with Mexico joining the Warsaw Pact. I ask whether the Russians fomenting a coup in Mexico wouldn’t provoke the USA. Because that’s as close as we can come to a perfect analogy to what the USA and NATO are doing in Ukraine.

      Look, I’m no fan of Putin’s, nor of the Russian system/kleptocracy. But I think I’m realistic about each side’s crimes, and more so realistic about what can and can’t reasonably be done.

      The Neocons in the USA are increasingly talking about winning a nuclear war with Russia. To me, such thinking is beyond terrifying. And it would seem that the USA is on some kind of course to have a hot war with Russia, another disaster in the making.

      So I’m sorry to have to say this, but the British overreacting to the murder of a double-agent is a big danger to world peace.

      At least that’s how I view it.

      Saludos,

      Kim

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      • A last point. Regardless of any differences of opinion, this is all pretty depressing stuff. But it’s easy to allow the ghastly potential consequences of war with Russia to rather drive the conversation beyond the severity of the current situation. I think we’re an awfully long way from a nuclear holocaust. One hopes that the Russians do their round of expulsions, and everyone pauses to allows things to settle.

        I’d rate the current situation as Slightly Concerned, up from last week’s Calm and Collected. One hopes we don’t have to ratchet things up to Stockpile Tea. The most severe status however, Run Away To Mexico, does have some personal appeal.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. What exactly can one do about Putin’s being a thug?

    Isolate him. Gradually cut off his source of wealth. Carrot and stick. But yes, moderation and diplomacy are essential requirements.

    As part of the treaty allowing the reunification of Germany, the USA and NATO promised that it wouldn’t expand NATO eastward. Yet what have we done? Pushed, and pushed, and pushed NATO ever farther east.

    That’s a myth originating in post Soviet Russia, and promoted by conspiracy theorists. Nato expansion east wasn’t discussed. The topic at hand was only regards East Germany. Gorbachev, though unimpressed by the expansion, has confirmed this himself. On video.

    Now Ukraine is in the process of joining NATO.

    I suspect that that, in the present climate, is beyond unlikely.

    So I’m sorry to have to say this, but the British overreacting to the murder of a double-agent is a big danger to world peace.

    If you view this as an isolated incident, that is a valid opinion. But it’s most definitely not an isolated incident. There is a clear pattern of hostility towards western (and other) nations of an increasingly serious nature. For once in her life as PM, I think May has gotten her response about right.

    I’m reasonably convinced that to do nothing would almost certainly encourage Putin to push further and push harder. And why not? The west would have proven its inclination to buckle. That would lead to potentially more dangerous confrontations in my opinion.

    He’s of a certain nature, is Putin. History is full of them. It seems it rarely ends well. I hope we can ride him out. I am sure that we can both agree that we don’t particularly want a shooting war to break out.

    But I think I’m realistic about each side’s crimes

    I’m not going to argue that there’s a great degree of innocence on our side, by the by. We’ve been far too generous to Russian oligarchs, both pro and anti Putin, looking to bring their families and Russian loot to London for the good life. There was a BBC drama recently, McMafia. It’s fiction. But it was a good watch if you have the time, and access to the Beebs iPlayer. There’s also a Panorama on tonight or tomorrow investigating within Russia that looks interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Gary,

    I stand corrected on the German Reunification treaty. Thanks for pointing this out. Here’s a link to a very interesting article in the Oriental Review which points out a number of inconvenient facts (at least for Theresa May) about the attempted (so far) murder of the Skripals.

    https://orientalreview.org/2018/03/15/the-uk-government-is-manufacturing-its-nerve-agent-case-for-action-on-russia/

    I’m highly skeptical of the establishment view of this crime, at least insofar as I think there’s no way they can know what they think they know so quickly.

    Saludos,

    Kim

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    • Thanks for the link Kim. I have read it, but I have a few problems with this article. Fairly substantial problems. Most notably, it fails entirely to mention the lax security that existed around much of the former Soviet Unions chemical and biological weapons facilities when the Soviet Union collapsed, for up to a decade afterwards. I don’t think this issue is controversial – more a record of fact. Instead the article focuses on details of the destruction of the weapons stockpiles, asserting this as the key piece of evidence to suggest Russia is not behind this attack. Do you know just how much nerve agent the Soviets made? Tens of thousands of tons. Has it all been destroyed? What has voluntarily been declared and accounted for, yes. Completion was last year. We can take this on face value, I guess. I would have certain reservations though. I suspect you would, too – and it doesn’t matter much if we’re talking about Russia, the UK, the US or any other country.

      The article also supports fully the OPCW regards the destruction of Russian weapons, and also mentions their role in Syria, going on to question the West’s discrepancy in which reports it believes and disputes. The writer, however, fails to deal with the obvious contradiction in his own article that this brings about. Further, the OPCW declared Syria’s chemical weapons to have been fully destroyed, only for some to later come out of the woodwork.

      I’m also going to have a bit of a problem when a Moscow based blogger essentially says ‘not us!’ and points the finger at MI6, the CIA and Mossad. It’s always Mossad. No good conspiracy theorist can resist pointing a finger at the Jews! Who have the least to win or lose from any of this. And any blogger article, written in the style of an authoritative journal, which states that something has been ‘discredited’ as a headline – that always has a red flag waving for me. Especially when it becomes clear that it is this article that is supposed to be doing to discrediting. I would categorise this article as a conspiracy theory.

      I do so, because whilst there are certain things I have to take at face value, there are certain established facts I can use to help lead me to what I think is most likely. It’s not controversial to state that Putin likes to kills his opponents, be they spies or otherwise. It’s not controversial to state that that Putin will have them killed wherever they may be. Within Russia, or on foreign soil. It’s not controversial to state that Putin had Litvinenko killed in London using Polonium 210. The main suspect, currently running for parliament in Russia in Putin’s party, left traces of Polonium on seats he sat in as he made his escape. It’s not controversial to state that Putin would like spies to be poisoned – he’s said that quite openly in interviews.

      Given this, I’m more inclined to suspect Russia when a former spy and his daughter turn up on a bench in a sleepy English town dosed up with military nerve agents, than I am to suspect the Jews. There’s another point I’d like to make. Given that there is the very genuine possibility that nerve agents ‘escaped’ from Soviet installations in the 90s, Theresa May asked the right questions. She asked if Putin was responsible? Or have their stocks failed into the wrong hands? She gave him a ‘get out of jail free’ card. Even though everyone was clearly convinced that the former was the correct answer, the door was left open for Putin to walk through.

      He just had to say that this is possible. Frankly, his responses in the circumstances sound much like a confession to me.

      https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-russia-stockpiles/secret-trial-shows-risks-of-nerve-agent-theft-in-post-soviet-chaos-experts-idUSKCN1GQ2RH

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      • Good points all. I’ll just fall back on my default position, which is that due process with an open, transparent investigation is the best way, consistent with Western Democratic Values, to get to the bottom of this. Even though I agree with much of the above, Theresa May’s gov’t has the duty to proceed according to protocol before inflaming an already-tense situation. Remember, we in the West are different than the Russians precisely because we believe in democracy, transparency, and due process of law regardless of how suspicious circumstances may look. So far May’s gov’t has not released a shred of evidence supporting her assertions. Also, I’ve since read that the supposed novichock agents are not even certain to have ever been manufactured (according to Porton Downs), and the British never received any samples of them. So I’d love to know how they are so certain now.

        Again, the Russians could have done exactly what’s alleged. However, that doesn’t mean that mere assertions of gov’t bodies shouldn’t be vigorously questioned.

        It may well be that the Russians did it, but that it can never be proven. Under Western jurisprudence that means they go free. We may not like that, but that’s part of the price of liberty, something I don’t want to give up.

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        • I’ll just fall back on my default position, which is that due process with an open, transparent investigation is the best way, consistent with Western Democratic Values, to get to the bottom of this.

          That’s tough to argue against! I guess the best I could do, if playing Devil’s advocate, would be to question just how democratic we actually are, and do we have any values left to hold on to…

          But that is a philosophical argument that is not entirely related to the topic at hand!

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        • I’m mulling over in my mind that the ideals embodied in the US Constitution’s bill of rights are dying in practise. Much of Europe no longer has freedom of the press. People are being arrested and fined across Europe for what they say, and in many places in Europe have informally erected anti-blasphemy laws that protect Islam. A sad state of affairs indeed!

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        • The concept of freedom of the press has me banging my head on the wall. It’s vital that we, as a society, have a press than can investigate and report on important issues without fear of prosecution or persecution, and that any infringement on that right is to the detriment of the nation. We have some newspapers and television programs that perform this vital public service with aplomb. And then some.

          On the other hand, the most popular tabloids spew out spiteful, hypocritical and hateful nonsense on an industrial scale and are literally infecting the minds of large swathes of the country with prejudicial crap. Further, you have small orgs that utilise modern media to pump out racist, homophobic, xenophobic, everythingphobic crap to huge audiences.

          In an ideal world, you’d let it all be said, and let the people decide for themselves. Right? The truth will win out, or so you hope. But what do you do when it becomes clear that stupid is winning? And that stupid is self destructive not only for the individual but for society as a whole?

          I’m all for freedom of the press. But I fail to see why there should be no consequence for wrong doing.

          I’m not convinced by arguments suggesting that Islam gets any different protections than other religions. The law has been enforced in other religious arenas – there’s still a fair bit of protestant/catholicism antagonism here. But most instances of incitement of hatred is toward muslims, so…

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        • The problem with restricting the press is that it is truly a slippery slope. As a gay man, I’ve certainly been the victim of hate speech. But I totally oppose any attempts to make it illegal, though incitement to violence or direct threats do have a rational, legal basis for restriction and punishment. But I’d much rather live in a free society where I have to put up with some hate speech than a society where I’m being “protected” by people who want to restrict the flow of ideas.

          Wasn’t it Churchill who said something to the effect that Democracy was the worst possible system of government, except for all the others? I feel the same about free speech, warts and all.

          As for press freedoms being actively repressed by Continental Gov’ts, here’s a chilling article:

          https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/12051/france-islam-free-speech

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        • It is a slippery slope. I can see that. Which is why I bang my head on the wall.

          Hate speech is fine for as long as it remains just speech I guess. Problem is, it usually spills over into something else.

          Did you know that those close to Churchill were genuinely concerned at one stage that he were about to convert to Islam?

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        • I rather doubt your last paragraph given that Churchill was (by today’s standards) an “Islamaphobe,” or at least that’s what I take from various of his quotes on the subject.

          By the way, here’s a story about someone in the UK who’s been tried and found guilty of hate speech, which while extremely distasteful, does not appear to have been genuine hate speech. Yet it proves there’s encroachments on free speech in the UK too.
          https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/man-convicted-dog-nazi-salute-12220187

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        • By the way, here’s a story about someone in the UK who’s been tried and found guilty of hate speech, which while extremely distasteful, does not appear to have been genuine hate speech.

          Now, I thought you said anti-blasphemy laws were protecting just Islam…! They’re not, and this is just one example.

          As for this case, I’ve read a little more into it. And whilst I have some reservations about the case, there is clearly more to it than what initially meets the eye.

          You and I are going to have different points of view on this subject. While I’d consider myself pretty liberal, I’m not a believer in absolute freedoms of any kind, speech included.

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        • Blasphemy is a term that means an act of speaking or acting irreverently or disrespectfully concerning God or sacred things. It has nothing to do with Hitler jokes. And all of the stuff I’m reading about Europe and punishing people for being disrespectful of God or sacred things is coming in the context of those who are disrepectful of Islam. Christianity remains fair game in Europe. Personally, I think all religions should be fair game for satire, mockery, and any disrespect an author wishes to serve up. But that’s not the attitude in Europe these days when it comes to Islam. That should disturb you, at least if you wish to live in a secular society.

          I’m personally 100% in favor of freedom of religion, but I’m also 100% in favor of being able to say anything I want, short of incitement to violence. Perhaps we disagree on that. In any case, thanks for a wonderfully civil debate. They are so hard to come by these days. Cheers!

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        • I’m personally 100% in favor of freedom of religion, but I’m also 100% in favor of being able to say anything I want, short of incitement to violence.

          I think the only area we disagree on is what exactly incites violence. Which had me thinking (sometimes a good thing, other times not so good!) is there a cultural difference here too? Do we Europeans go off the handle a little bit easier than our American cousins? As I mentioned in my last reply, we do have different histories.

          We have had incidences here of Northern Irish politicians doing nothing more than reading out a list of names, with dead bodies turning up in the morning.

          In any case, thanks for a wonderfully civil debate. And thank you – it’s important that it happens from time to time!

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        • Thanks Gary. I wish more people on the internet could have this kind of civil debate. I’ve certainly learned something, and I’ll look a bit deeper into some of your points. Cheers!

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    • PS. If there is one question that I don’t feel has been properly asked/answered, it is this: why aren’t the Skripal’s dead? This stuff is super lethal, right?

      There could be a rational explanation, I guess. Maybe the agent used had been poorly stored or mixed or was just of a terrible quality. I don’t know.

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    • I rambled a bit. I’ve been up since 4.30 – a long day. Here’s a twitter thread that is reasonably interesting. The Murray chap is typical…

      (I linked to the wrong tweet first time)

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      • Well, I’m no chemist, but Clyde Davis is essentially trying to rebut not Craig Murry, the historian, etc., but Robin Black, a UK gov’t chemist too. I don’t have the training to determing who’s right, but it’s clear that even chemists can disagree on this subject. However, if Davis is right, the UK gov’t did itself (nor the public) any favors by not presenting an argument like Davis’.

        One also wonders why the Russians didn’t kill Yulia Skripal in Russia. Would have sent the message just as well without all the geopolitical blowback.

        As a final note, I think we’d all have better government if we were all more skeptical about gov’t claims in general.

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        • but Clyde Davis is essentially trying to rebut not Craig Murry, the historian, etc., but Robin Black

          Well, he’s rebutting Craig Murray’s article, its representation of a small chunk of text by Black and the conclusions that have thus been drawn. I would question both the context of that use and the conclusions. And I don’t actually see any disagreement between chemists – Black essentially says that the UK doesn’t have a sample donated by the Russians to analyse and that the existence of the agent has been confirmed by just the one person. There’s nothing there to suggest that the Russians don’t have any Novichok and nothing to suggest that the UK couldn’t identify the substance if provided with a sample. The Russian source appears to be credible too. And the UK does now have a sample…

          One also wonders why the Russians didn’t kill Yulia Skripal in Russia.

          I imagine she probably just chose a bad time to visit.

          As a final note, I think we’d all have better government if we were all more skeptical about gov’t claims in general.

          I agree. And there are certainly a lot of questions that remain to be answered. And I’m well aware that the past history of govts leaves much to be desired and rather hampers their current efforts to be convincing.

          But there’s another problem. There’s a burgeoning conspiracy theory industry, a pretty profitable one at that, that springs into action every time anything of consequence happens. The promise of the internet creating a new type of citizen journalism has sadly been largely lost, and sorting the wheat from the chaff has become harder, not easier.

          But still, I do believe that the official position that Russian is ‘highly likely’ to be behind the murder is not unreasonable.

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        • I agree with your last sentence, “highly likely” is indeed not unreasonable. But that’s far from any kind of proof, and I’d argue that waiting a few more weeks for a complete investigation before expelling diplomats, etc, is probably not a wildly crazy thing to do. Certainly it seems more reasonable than shooting from the hip.

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        • I agree with your last sentence, “highly likely” is indeed not unreasonable. But that’s far from any kind of proof, and I’d argue that waiting a few more weeks for a complete investigation before expelling diplomats, etc, is probably not a wildly crazy thing to do. Certainly it seems more reasonable than shooting from the hip.

          By the way, isn’t the British Gov’t’s explanation of the Skripal poisonings a “conspiracy theory?” How does it differ from any other “conspiracy theories?” Since there’s not been any actual evidence put forth, shouldn’t we consider it a “conspiracy theory” until there’s some actual evidence?

          The term “conspiracy theory” tends to generate immediate dismissal, e.g., it’s a potent psychological weapon used to turn off people’s brains. How are unproven gov’t theses not also “conspiracy theories?”

          Like

  7. Ironically enough, Paul Joseph Watson just posted this video about “Broken Britain” a week ago. Yes, you may consider him an extreme far-right winger, though I’d beg to differ. However, you should look at the facts he cites. The UK seems to have a very misplaced sense of what “crimes” should be pursued and punished vs others. Hint: they are going after offensive tweets and other speech-related “offenses” far more than they are going after violent terrorists. Though I’m not a British citizen, I’m rather disturbed about what Watson is saying.

    And yes, the seeds of anti-blasphemy laws are being sown in Britain, though only to protect everyone’s least-favorite religion.

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    • Yes, you may consider him an extreme far-right winger

      Yes, I definitely would.

      However, you should look at the facts he cites.

      And I also noticed the complete lack of balance, the misrepresentations and his clear agenda – this is designed for a very specific audience.

      Hint: they are going after offensive tweets and other speech-related “offenses” far more than they are going after violent terrorists.

      That is demonstrable nonsense. Indeed, it is a ridiculous assertment to make. But it is what happens when a vlogger cherry picks data and info, ignores entirely what is not convenient (for example, the huge ongoing operation by law and intelligence services to monitor, disrupt and bring to justice those intending to cause us real harm) and then produce a conclusion which is supported by their limited and corrupted data and not by reality.

      Though I’m not a British citizen, I’m rather disturbed about what Watson is saying.

      Well, I guess I am a British citizen. The only thing that truly disturbs me – and it really does – is that anybody gives Watson the time of day.

      I could write about what I see in everyday British life. Muslims, whom I work with and / or call friends or otherwise meet, going about their lives in the normal fashion. They’re decent people. They are actually human beings, despite the rumour mill suggesting otherwise. And I also hear the racist stuff said when they’re not around. I hear the hateful tripe spewed because they are ‘different’. There is a growing assumption that everyone ‘sees what a danger all Muslims are’.

      I see the stuff shared on Facebook. I unfriend anyone who posts Tommy Robinson or British First stuff thesedays. It kinda tells me who they are. The most recent meme rather followed in the spirit of your video. Picture of a white man and a muslim man. Both drove vans into people. White man got life. The muslim guy just a couple of years. The meme decried the disparity. The comments were disgusting. At no point did the meme or a commenter mention that the white man drove his van deliberately into a group of muslims outside a mosque with the intent to kill. It was planned and he did succeed in killing one person. The muslim guy was drunk and no one was seriously hurt. Gee, I wonder if that explains the disparity in the sentences?

      But people suck this up. The content is designed for a purpose, and it will succeed for as long as people suck it up. I’d put the video you shared into the same category. But it’s far worse than the meme.

      And I remain truly disturbed that people give the Watsons of the world any credence.

      Like

      • Did you watch the video? You haven’t really addressed any of his points. Unless he’s totally making up stuff, the UK did keep out a bunch of peaceable right-wingers while letting in a bunch of people who would appear to be clearly dangerous.

        I can’t speak to the van example above, except to say that, yes, there are a lot of bigots out there pushing a bigoted agenda. However, I’m not one of them. And being concerned about free speech and civil rights doesn’t make one a bigot.

        Like

        • I did watch the video and I did address it. But he’s really not worthy of anyone’s time. I could produce a video of similar quality on arrange of topics using similar tactics and producing similarly misleading implications and conclusions. I’m not disputing facts. I’m disputing the presentation of facts, the incredibly important omission of inconvenient facts. If you cover half the story with a fraction of the detail them the result isn’t likely to stand up to examination.

          Please don’t think I was suggesting that you are a bigot. My reference was to persons on Facebook, of which you’re not a member. Sorry for any confusion. Replying on an iPhone isn’t always easy!

          Having said that, I do believe that you are exposing yourself to prejudiced points of view without questioning them sufficiently. We are all guilty of that though, I guess.

          If it’s any consolation, I do agree with u you on the subject of free speech. My view point there is wrong. Yet I still, begrudgingly and reluctantly, stand by it. Such are the levels of conflict in this world, I no longer seem to need a second person in order to get involved in one!

          Like

        • Hola Gary,
          I never thought you called me a bigot, and I haven’t taken any offense at anything in our discussion. Civil disgareement (which is what we’re having) is what the world needs, rather than the name-calling and misdirection which passes as “debate” these days.

          As for PJW, we can amicably disagree there too. Does he have an agenda? You bet. Does the BBC have an agenda? Just as certainly. And both try to arrange things to support their agendas as much as possible. That’s why I try to look at both sides and see if I can detect some kind of truth in the middle.
          I do think PJW raises a lot of good points in his video, even if it’s unbalanced. And his viewpoint is valid, even if we don’t agree with it. But more importantly, folks like him are pushing back on the rampant deception peddled by the increasingly ideological mainstream “misledia” which propagates tons of its own conspiracy theories, vis Saddam’s weapons of mass distruction; Russians elected Trump; there’s such a thing as Syrian “moderates,” false flag attacks never occur, etc., etc.

          As for addressing PJW’s video, yes you said the UK spends a lot on anti-terrorism. But you didn’t address his main point, which is that the UK gov’t spends a lot of time hassling seemingly-harmless right-wingers while admitting a lot of very dodgy people to the country, while excluding others who seemingly pose only an ideological threat. And if this is indeed true, then my original contention, that there’s no free speech in Europe or the UK, is correct.

          Cheers!

          Like

        • As for addressing PJW’s video, yes you said the UK spends a lot on anti-terrorism. But you didn’t address his main point, which is that the UK gov’t spends a lot of time hassling seemingly-harmless right-wingers while admitting a lot of very dodgy people to the country, while excluding others who seemingly pose only an ideological threat.

          The Parsons Green bomber arrived in the UK as a child on a truck as an asylum seeker. We were obliged to hear his case, and as far as I can tell he was a genuine case. Due process of law applies to him as well as Russia, no? The London Bridge attackers. One was British, the other two had legal residency through EU passports./Irish residency. If you look into the other cases, you’ll find similar stories. Watson entirely fails to mention legal obligation, but focuses on a ‘red carpet for Islamic terrorists’ narrative.

          With the three right wingers refused entry to come and chat with Tommy Robinson, you’ll find that there was a choice over whether to allow them in. This choice was exercised. And quite frankly, exercised properly. Tommy Robinson is a nasty little thug of the worst kind who most definitely does incite racial hatred as his means of earning a living. I’m very familiar with him. And as for the assertion that American organisations were allowed to send people over to interview him – I seriously effing doubt that! Did they report on one or more of his protests, using crews already here, where he managed to get some attention? That is rather more likely.

          The line about police being unable to monitor 23,000 jihadis? That’s quoting tabloid hysteria. The reality is that the police are unable to monitor all 23,000 persons of potential interest 24/7. But those who have been flagged as the likliest candidates are. Other programs are in place to keep tabs on the rest as much as possible. But Watson introduces an and/or situation that doesn’t exist. Security services break up terrorist cells. And they respond to other reported crimes.

          There’s also the problem of Watson taking samples from the extremes and failing to account for the other 99.9% of data. How do you draw a proper conclusion from that? Well, you don’t. I could go on, but I’ll stop here. Or this will take me all day! I feel that I’ve pretty much responded to the main points here and shown that Watson is, essentially, bullshitting his audience. Yes, everyone has an agenda, Some organisations tell the one side of the story, or a variant of the truth. Watson, however, goes one further. He just bullshits. But this is an effective sort of bullshit, because I hear it repeated in the offices, restaurants and other spaces that I live in.

          As for free speech. We live in very different countries with very different histories. In the 80s and early 90s, a UK political party was banned from speaking on television. The TV organisations got around that by filming the person speaking, and then having an actor mime over the top. It was ridiculous.

          Like

        • Good rebuttal. I’m not sure I agree, but I respect your view. However, I still think that the resources that the UK gov’t puts into monitoring offensive comments on twitter, and the real police resources utilized there should be better spent on anti-terror. As for choices for who they are letting it, that’s clear. My point (and PJW’s) is that the choices are wrong. But we can disagree on that. Cheers!

          Liked by 1 person

        • Well. See, I still think you’ve got this all a bit back to front…

          However, I still think that the resources that the UK gov’t puts into monitoring offensive comments on twitter

          What resources do they actively put in to monitoring for offensive Twitter comments. I’d suggest something close to zero. I think if I suggested that 99.9% of police resources into online crime went towards fraud and terror prevention, I think I could be fairly accused of suggesting too low a percentage.

          As for choices for who they are letting it, that’s clear. My point (and PJW’s) is that the choices are wrong.

          Ugh! Choices? When someone smuggles themselves on a lorry into the country, no one has ‘made a choice’ to let them in. Yet in they are. What’s PJW’s opinion on burglaries? Does he rail against home owners for letting burglars in the house, never mind the fact that they smashed their way in through the back door? Does he try and link burglaries to home owners refusing to invite Jehovah’s witnesses into the house for a cup of tea, never mind that these have nothing to do with each other?

          Yes, we will continue to have to disagree on this! But I feel the facts are on my side on this one.

          Now, about this Trump fellow of yours! Given that your three biggest priorities, as I remember them, were fiscal responsibility, swamp draining and bringing the world away from the brink of WW3, it seems to me that you must be pretty disappointed so far. A $1.3 trillion spending bill when the economy is at the top of the cycle, and John Bolton in the White House – looks to me to be pretty much the opposite of fiscal responsibility and peace making. As for the swamp, it looks to me that the Pantanal has some competition…!

          Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, I’m extremely disapointed in Trump. Ran on one thing and then did another. Just like I was extremely disappointed by Obama. This underscores my thesis that we don’t really have democracy here, just some rather elaborate electoral Kabuki theater. And before you judge that to be some “conspiracy theory” to be dismissed without refutation, you should know that the Pew Research Center has done a lot of polling work which actually demonstrates that even though the general public can overwhelmingly support any given policy, the policies that are actually enacted are those favored by the 1% and the corporations.

          So yes. I’m disappointed in Trump and in our pathetic excuse for a government in general.

          Liked by 1 person

        • And before you judge that to be some “conspiracy theory” to be dismissed without refutation, you should know that the Pew Research Center has done a lot of polling work which actually demonstrates that even though the general public can overwhelmingly support any given policy, the policies that are actually enacted are those favored by the 1% and the corporations.

          I can totally believe that. It is a source of constant frustration that the odd honest/decent politician that you find here and there is the exception and not the rule. One of the (many!) problems with Trump though – in my opinion at least – is that he favours policies that benefit the 1. No percentage symbol needed.

          A question though. Was the Affordable Care Act, flawed as it was, not a great help to the 99%? I know Mrs P’s relatives NOB managed to get decent health insurance, some of them for the first time ever.

          There’s a big part of me that is tired of blaming politicians though. And the media. You mentioned a while back that the media promoted a conspiracy theory on WMD that enabled the second Gulf War. Without doubt, much of the media took a war mongering stance. Yet, all sides of the debate were thoroughly covered by the press. We, the people, were well informed of the facts of the matter prior to Shock and Awe. And many people took to the streets to protest.

          There is still plenty of superb journalism to be read. But ‘we the people’ seem to be largely unable to absorb information and demonstrate sufficient intellect to separate the wheat from the chaff and draw a rational conclusion ourselves. Which means, in effect, that the media continue to tell people what to think. They continue to sell papers and/or get the online hits they need to sell their ads. It’s a two way street here. Shit media will only work for as long as people are heppy to keep listening to shit.

          The same applies to politicians. They might well be corrupt, self interested blaggards. But they are corrupt, self interested blaggards that keep getting re-elected. There are always options at the ballot box. Always.

          Liked by 2 people

  8. You really should read Craig Murray’s blog. He pretty much shreds the UK government’s position on the Salisbury poisonings. No, he doesn’t know who did it. Nor does he have a leading theory. But it’s pretty clear that neither do Theresa May, Boris Johnson, nor anyone else in gov’t.

    But what is clear is that : a) the OPCW certified the end of the Russian chemical weapons program; b) other countries could well have manufactured one of these so-called novichocks; c) the blowback the Russians are getting seems hardly worth the trouble for having offed a single spy and his daughter.

    Now before you accuse me of peddling conspiracy theories, note that the British Government’s entire case for blaming the Russians is one big conspiracy theory which hangs on only the merest shred of evidence, mainly being that they had a motive (possibly) to want to kill Skripal. Though why they didn’t do so when they had him in prison is a non-trivial question.

    While I’m open to blaming the Russians if real evidence can be mustered, we should not overlook the very real potential consequences of falsely accusing them. Not to mention that having a government make false accusations (which they know to be unprovable) is the very antithesis of the so-called “values” that we supposedly stand for.

    I, for one, am not simply going to swallow gov’t lies any more. I may be powerless to do no more than simply not believe, but I shall exercise that right.

    https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/

    Liked by 1 person

    • You really should read Craig Murray’s blog. He pretty much shreds the UK government’s position on the Salisbury poisonings.

      I have read it. We did discuss the guy earlier in the thread. The more I read his blog, the more obvious to me that he is a conspiracy theorist with very poorly thought out conclusions given the ‘evidence’ he has produced. For a start, he does not see any motive for the Russians carrying out this attack. Ok, so let’s look at the factual evidence available.

      Putin is on the record (video/audio/written word) repeatedly stating – very bluntly – that traitors (which includes spies) will come to a sticky end.
      Enemies of Putin (including spies) keep coming to a sticky end.
      This includes Litvinenko, assassinated in London by a Russian agent using Polonium 210. The facts of this matter have been pretty well established. The assassin in now a politician working for Putin.

      I see not only the motive, but I can also clearly see that motive in action. Yet Craig Murray cannot. And as far as I’m concerned, at this point his credibility has a big question mark on it.

      A more recent post declares Boris Johnson to be a categorical liar. I actually agree with this, but due to unrelated matters. Craig Murray declares this on the basis of Johnson stating that he’d been told by Porton Down Novichok was used, yet a High Court document states ‘The samples
      tested positive for the presence of a Novichok class nerve agent OR CLOSELY RELATED AGENT.’ The emphasis is Murray’s. At best, you’d ask the question, what do you mean by closely related agent? But Murray draws a conclusion which is not factually supported by his own evidence. I’d call it childish wordplay of the sort not even used by the worst tabloids.

      There are other examples. But I’ve stopped taking anything he says seriously, because the only thing that his blog has proven to me is that he is untrustworthy.

      a) the OPCW certified the end of the Russian chemical weapons program

      No, they didn’t. They certified that the stocks of chemical weapons that were officially declared by the Russians were destroyed. There is a massive difference between what actually happened and what Murray claims happened. Didn’t he also point out that stocks of agents were kept under very lax security and that the possibility exists that some has ‘gone missing’? He’s contradicting himself, no? Besides, if you accept his account then you are effectively stating that you explicitly trust the Russian government. And that takes a really big jump of faith…

      other countries could well have manufactured one of these so-called novichocks

      All things are possible. My understanding is that there is no scientifically proven link between HIV and Aids. But we go where the evidence most likely leads. In this case, that is to Putin’s doorstep.

      the blowback the Russians are getting seems hardly worth the trouble for having offed a single spy and his daughter.

      If you look into Putin, I think you’ll find that the characteristics of his regime more closely resemble that of an organised crime cartel, rather than a government. The money laundering program is pretty epic. Which, incidentally, is where Trump will most likely find himself coming unstuck.

      note that the British Government’s entire case for blaming the Russians is one big conspiracy theory which hangs on only the merest shred of evidence, mainly being that they had a motive (possibly) to want to kill Skripal.

      As I’ve said above, the motive is the most firmly established fact here. Putin basically told us. Really bluntly! Then there is the type of agent used – yes, we have to take this on face value.

      Though why they didn’t do so when they had him in prison is a non-trivial question.

      This is easy to answer. The West had ten of Putin’s spies. It makes an exchange much, much easier if the spies you capture are kept alive.

      I, for one, am not simply going to swallow gov’t lies any more. I may be powerless to do no more than simply not believe, but I shall exercise that right.

      That’s fair enough! And perfectly understandable. But I don’t think Craig Murray is any better.

      Liked by 1 person

      • So how is Craig Murray’s thesis (we don’t know who did it) less of a conspiracy theory than the govt’s (we don’t know who else could have done it so it’s the Russians)? That’s the key question you haven’t really addressed. And that goes to the root of my point which is there’s insufficient evidence to support any definitive conclusion.

        Liked by 1 person

        • So how is Craig Murray’s thesis (we don’t know who did it) less of a conspiracy theory than the govt’s (we don’t know who else could have done it so it’s the Russians)? That’s the key question you haven’t really addressed.

          Well, Craig Murray is blatantly misrepresenting cherry picked date. Murray is also feeding a clearly (and, as I’ve shown, demonstrably false) narrative. I’ve given examples of him drawing conclusions which are, to be generous to him, dishonest. He is adding more chaff to the story, making the wheat harder to find. His narrative is also on key points implausible.

          The government’s account doesn’t thus far suffer from the same flaws. And whilst I agree that we have to take some of their statements on face value (and thus we keep asking the questions until they are either proven or disproven), such as that the chemical used is indeed Novichok, their account is plausible and fits with an established pattern of Russian activity beyond its borders. I know your views on government,( and I do agree that we should be extremely wary of what comes out of political circles, that doesn’t mean that everything is a lie. (Perhaps just most of it!!)

          And that goes to the root of my point which is there’s insufficient evidence to support any definitive conclusion.

          You earlier pointed out that we may never know the full story here. I think you’re probably right. And I’d agree that the evidence thus far might not hold up in a court of law. But this is not a typical legal case.It’s also worth noting that whilst the Kremlin denies any wrong doing, Russian state media has used this to both mock the west and to point out that this is what happens to Russian traitors. They left a very explicit message – hiding in the UK does not offer any guarantees of safety. Given that Putin controls the media rather tightly, you can make of this what you will.

          We both agreed earlier that the UK govt’s statement that Russian involvement was ‘highly likely’. We possibly (as in, almost definitely!) disagree on what burden of proof is required. For me, retaliatory action should take into account the degree of certainty. I would say that ‘highly likely’ is probably the absolute minimum for any action. And the expulsion of diplomats/intelligence officers is both moderate and reasonable.

          And it seems that events keep overtaking our conversation – another 100 or so diplomats expelled worldwide. With any further escalation, one does wonder whether there will be a World Cup is three months time…

          (PS. Whilst Murray’s accusation of Boris Johnson being a ‘categorical liar’ was a ridiculous conclusion to come on this occasion, Boris is an absolute idiot. Breaching Godwin’s Law is a job for us keyboard warriors. Not a foreign secretary. His only mitigating argument is that he at least did not call a press conference to say that the Russians should ‘shut up and go away’.)

          (PPS. Hordes of ‘green men’, uniformed but without any insignia and toting Russian weapons turned up in Crimea. The Kremlin denied that they were Russian. The ‘green men’ turned up again in Ukraine. The Kremlin again denied that they were Russian. We have since determined (and Russia acknowledged) that these were Russians after all, operating on Kremlin’s orders.

          My question is this, if ‘green men’ again turn up in one of the Baltic states, or in Poland, or elsewhere, what do we do? When the Kremlin denies that they are Russian, do we take Putin’s word for it and withdraw?)

          Liked by 1 person

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