2 Sep 2011

The lure of the 'very bad man'

So, Tony Blair‘s Head of M15 opposed the “war on terror”. Eliza Manningham-Buller also opposed the invasion of Iraq. I wonder whether she said so at the time. Her confession comes in a Reith lecture to be broadcast next week – but it is already in the can. One wonders whether by the time the Iraq Inquiry reports there will be anyone to be found beyond the former  Prime Minister and his old friend George W Bush, to defend either the “war on terror”, or the invasion.

And yet, beyond Robin Cook and a tiny handful of other political rebels, there were only two “officials” who put their beliefs on the line at the time. The redoubtable Elizabeth Wilmshurst – number two in the Foreign Office legal department – and Carne Ross, a senior UK diplomat at the UN – both paid the ultimate price in both nobility and pensions, in resigning over it all. Both were fast rising stars in their departments, none of their superiors saw fit to join them.

Carne Ross’s book, The Leaderless Revolution, is published this week. I have read it, and it is a remarkable call to arms. Ross believes the present domestic and international “system” cannot deliver the change the world urgently needs and calls on the individual citizen to play his and her part as never before.

The Iraq war is far from over. The killing continues apace – 250 civilians a month according to latest figures from Baghdad. A suicide bomber killed 29 in the capital’s biggest mosque last weekend alone. Just before the invasion, Tony Blair summoned four of the UK’s top Iraq analysts to Number 10 to advise him. All four counselled strongly against going ahead with it. As they left, after a solid one and a half hours of deliberation, Mr Blair is reported by one of the academics as saying: “But you do agree, don’t you, that Saddam is a very bad man?”

Another “very bad man” is still lurking about in Libya today. I first encountered Gaddafi in the 1970s. His was a Green Book-supported cult of personality – but a strangely egalitarian one. Libyans initially did rather well out of him – he spread the wealth about and spent on schooling and health. But as with all such cults, the green turned to brown, and eventually to black, tinged with the red blood of those who opposed his dictatorship.

Once again, the west allowed itself to become obsessed with another “very bad man” with oil. As our own Lindsey Hilsum has observed, the Libyan matter may not end easily or soon and could yet be messy. The rather nicer man, King-Al Kalifa of Bahrain, whom I found Tony Blair taking tea with in Sharmel Sheikh when I went to interview him there on the last day of 2005, has been left alone to bludgeon some of his country’s people and their doctors back into order. The US has this week rewarded him by extending the rental on Bahrain’s bunkering facilities for the US navy until 2016.

We are left with the son of another “very bad man” President Assad of Syria, who continues to kill his people unabated, and unfettered by any misgivings of the west. The nice erstwhile ophthalmologist from Willesden had been seen as infinitely nicer than the father who slaughtered 10,000 of his people in a go. Syria’s continuing bloodshed will bubble up to the top of the page if Libya does begin to settle. But with less oil, and the UK and others suffering defence cuts, the eye specialist is likely to benefit from the west’s blind eye for a time yet.

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54 reader comments

  1. Moonbeach says:

    I have just listened to Cameron on ‘Today'(or was it Blair?) banging on about “doing the right thing”!

    I know so many senior military and ex-military people who knew from the outset that Iraq was Illegal, that Afghanistan was a basket case and that Libya would end in disaster. But Blair knew better!

    What is it that the arch bull*****er, Cameron thinks he knows that we don’t.

    This non-achiever spouts on about democracy yet ignores us, his electorate. Where are all of his pre-election promises now?

    This poser is a danger to us all. These crumbling Middle Eastern States are ripe for Muslim Extremists to offer a stability of sorts.

    He should concentrate only on the UK’s National Interest and stop trying to become a legend in his own mind!

    1. sue_m says:

      If Cameron’s lack of ability or understanding of the world beyond his own out of touch bubble wasn’t so dangerous it would be comic. We are a decade into the 21st century yet are ‘led’ by someone who is doing his level best to take us back to medieval times when the peasants knew their place and those who complained were crushed.

      The blatant hypocrisy of pursuing this backward agenda in the country he is tasked with leading yet aiding those fighting for democracy in a country he is not tasked with leading is sickening. Helping those in need abroad does not cancel out that for the vast majority of British people, his government’s policies of supporting the very rich whilst ignoring the rights and needs of the poor, makes him a very bad man.

    2. adrian clarke says:

      sue-m i hold no torch for Cameron .I believe he is a ditherer and not a true tory.
      However your ridiculous comments re medieval practices are just poor rank political clap trap.
      If you believe adhering to legal rules and restraints are wrong, no wonder we have riots where youngsters believe in anarchy.
      What policies are specifically supporting the rich against the alleged poor?
      Surely not tackling the dangerous deficit left by Labour.If it is not tackled i believe you will need to shout because many like myself(a pensioner)will be truly poor.
      I believe the government ,this and any other need to crack down on law breakers and i include the bankers,rich and poor.
      Society needs rules and laws.It soesn’t need the ridiculous segregating laws of racism, equality, ethnicity or diversity.
      Cameron a “bad man” is way off the mark.
      Try Blair , Brown and Balls and there you have three bad men

    3. Saltaire Sam says:

      Adrian, you ask: What policies are specifically supporting the rich against the alleged poor?

      1 The cuts are hitting the poorest (especially women) but hardly touching the rich

      2 Nothing has been done about bankers’ pay and bonuses but ordinary working people have seen their wages frozen or decrease

      3 ‘Free’ schools funded by the state are almost solely in the hands of the better off and will do nothing for inner-city kids

      4 Privatisation of the NHS

      5 VAT increases which hit the poor proportionally more than the rich

      6 Feeble, token attempts at tax dodgers and exiles mean they pay less than you and I

      7 prison sentence for receiving a pair of shorts or stealing two bottles of water, nothing for defrauding the economy and hardly any MPs charged for stealing thousands from taxpayers

      8 Cutting housing allowance but not tackling the vast sums unearned by inflation of house prices and land values.

      9 increased student fees – a tax on graduates earning £25k while giving tax breaks to the super rich

      10 Pandering to Murdoch, employing Coulson, but decrying inner city kids en masse

      I’m running out of words but not of anger

    4. adrian clarke says:

      Saltaire the list you made are of course correct but not in the context i asked.They are not policies for the rich against the poor:-
      1. Government cuts what government spends
      2.Accepted but i noyed that myself
      3.Free schools should help education for all(the real ricc go private and are not affected.
      4.A ludicrous suggestion , if it stays free at the point of use.
      5.A tax (not of this government) that affects all
      6.More than any government has attempted before.
      7.Anybody who was caught was punished .It certainly is not an act in favour of the rich against the poor, and is a ludicrous suggestion
      8.House price increases do not make you rich.You just pay moor council tax.The same with land unless you sell.
      9.Get it right, the poor are exempt from most fees.
      10 Just a load of c**p
      Angry you may be Saltaire but not for legitimate reasons if the above are the best you can come up with.

    5. Saltaire Sam says:

      Adrian, I won’t get into an argument point by point with you because if you think VAT – in your words a tax that affects us all – doesn’t favour the rich over the poor, then there’s no help for you.

      And then there’s point 11 exposed in the Guardian today that while people are having their wages frozen or cut and others are losing their jobs, top directors have had an increase of more than £1m pa thanks to some dodgy accounting.


      And heads of bailed out banks are now earning more than they were before the crash.

      You may not like to admit it, but this government’s policy is benefitting the rich at the expense of the poor, and no amount of cheek puffing bluster will make it not so.

    6. adrian clarke says:

      Saltaire,i do not disagree with your points ,but my point is that it is not this government policies.Of course you are correct about VAT but it is a tax that has been in existance long before this government and through all the Labour years and beyond.
      All government policies under your arguments benefit the rich rather than the less well off.No matter who is in power.
      Top directors will always and have always increased their salaries and bonuses no matter what happens to the rest.It may be an abuse of their position,it may need tackling, but no government ever has.
      As for the bankers,yes they should have been prosecuted , their bonuses should be outlawed , but NO GOVERNMENT,has had the guts to take them on.You can blame this government, but it goes for all governments.
      So as i said you are correct that this government is not tackling the overall problem but no other government ever has either.
      I find your blame of this government rather churlish,as they are at least tackling the debt left by Labour.
      If you read the excerpts so far published of “Darling’s ” book we would been in a worse state than Greece, Ireland or any other basket case if GB had retained power

    7. adrian clarke says:

      Saltaire,as for your Guardian article, it is meaningless without the date legislation was introduced to permit the increases , but it reads as if it was pre this government.

    8. sue_m says:

      Adrian, my views may be ridiculous to you, your responses are pedantic to me.
      Sam has quite ably explained how government supports the rich over the poor and, although you may not like his arguments, trying to discredit them with your own political claptrap is indeed ridiculous.
      As for adhering to legal rules and restraints, where would society be now if many people through history from slaves to suffragettes hadn’t broken the rules and rebelled? Of course it is better if protest is non-violent and doesn’t involve trashing someone elses livelihood but life doesn’t always fit into the nice little boxes that you and David Cameron dream of whilst your heads are in the sand. History shows us that sometimes things only change when physical forces bring about that change- just as in Libya now. Would you have preferred the Libyan people to keep obeying their laws regardless of the suffering it brought upon them?
      As for Cameron not taking us backward – tell me is cutting legal aid and making it almost impossible for the poor to access their rights through the proper channels of the justice system not a regressive step? Certainly keeps the ‘peasants’ in their place.

    9. adrian clarke says:

      It is a pity your argument is all over the place.So we should now ignore legal rules and restraints.
      Are you trying to say that the riots were a protest? A protest against what?
      Are you trying to say that the burning of property with the threat to life was legitimate? That theft is ok “IF YOU ARE POOR”
      legal aid is abused by Solicitors and needs to be cut.That doesn’t mean the poor can not access their rights.If you consider yourself or others peasants,i feel sorry for you and for your assessment of your peers.
      Can you tell me any society where the so called rich are not in control.Perhaps you believe your peasants should be in charge.I wonder what the country would be run like then !!!!!

    10. P.B says:

      I would like to know if those who dislike the growing rich poor divide look at government, and even society as Left vs Right or from a top down perspective.

      I only wonder, because if it is Left Vs Right then people could pick apart each others perspectives whilst blaming it on parties all day long and never really get anywhere.

      But if its from a top down perspective, then both left and right are to blame and have been for years.

      A lot of people saw the crash coming, to the extent of saying when it would happen (to the year) and how/why it would happen and who would be to blame. To this day those people are still not listened to.

      Equally, things like aiming for 50% of school leavers to go to uni, playing a big part in overloading budgets, and then once we have that we slap increasingly growing loans on.

      Does it not seem a bit odd, to people? that nearly anything of importance in government has been to separate rich and poor, consolidate power further to the upper echelons of society?

    11. P.B says:

      That being said. From a top down perspective.

      Is anyone actually surprised that our governments may have been doing the dirty with a ‘very bad man’. And not just us either.

      I can’t blame Cameron for anything, without blaming years of global politics and the Mafioso way it works. Our country, at least in its foreign policy, do not lead by example and havent for a long time. We are just as dodgy as alot of the nations we look down on. We may not massacre our own people, but we are not averse to the idea of a police state.

      Even the US has gone from being some kind of shining light to a torturing, invading country with a president who now has legal power to literally declare a US citizen a terrorist and then assassinate them.

      Maybe the UK Govt. has just been better at hiding its dirty laundry from its own people, whilst dancing merrily with powerful special interests.

      Less and less can we separate Govt from Corporate interests. Even private police is becoming more popular in the UK.

      We won’t force our government to change its ways. We will help Libya and at a later date say its some kind of threat and go in again. (big business)

      It is how we have operated for a long time.

    12. Marverde says:

      “Top-down”, P.B. Definitely. The alliance of class and money. The UK has never left that perspective.

      But there was a time when right and left stood (& stood up), for top and down. Not now. Not for a long, long time. That’s why we have nobody to vote for anymore.

    13. sue_m says:

      Adrian, you miss the point. No, it is not ok to steal if you are poor (or rich!), nor is arson ok but protest is totally understandable and sometimes necessary as a method to communicate discontent by the powerless majority at policies imposed upon them by the powerful rich. And before you say they have the power of the ballot box, you know that little changes regardless of the party in power, although the current shower are more inclined to tip the economic balance in favour of the already rich. History shows that if peaceful protest fails, progressively more violence occurs. Ignored anger doesnt go away it just builds up.
      No need to feel sorry for me, i do not consider myself or my peers to be peasants (except with tongue in cheek) but i am sure that is how the current govt see us – you included. There to be milked to protect the lifestyles of them and their clique. The fact that the rich are in control doesnt make it right nor them competent – stop doffing your cap to them – a few more common sense ‘peasants’ in govt might do a far better job! The current lot have no sense of duty or responsibility to anyone but themselves.

  2. Saltaire Sam says:

    From what you say later in your piece, it wouldn’t matter what E M-B said to Blair, he would have still gone ahead, though her resignation at the time might have at least given him pause.

    What a strange nation we are. So broke we are making soldiers redundant but still thinking we can police the world and tell other nations how to run their affairs.

    Spending millions on attacking Libya and no doubt millions more on rebuilding what we have wrecked while not building enough homes for people in the UK.

    About to kick bank reform into the long grass on the back of millions of pounds of bank lobbying while imposing austerity on the poorest.

    Something wrong somewhere. Maybe it’s to do with the fact that those politicians who make these decisions are not negatively affected by them.

    Blair, particularly, continues to preach and to vaunt himself (while making millions) yet has never acknowledged that his decision resulted in the deaths of 100,000+ innocent Iraqis bombed by his command.

  3. Cameron (No Relation) says:

    I suppose with a little bit of digging the answer to that question becomes obvious. Iraq had 11.7 billion barrels of reserve oil which then refused to export to US, at that time, many high level delegates visited Saddam Hussain to no avail an dof course the rest is history.
    Libya is a completely different story , she is a country with no national debt and has the largest proven oil reserves in Africa with 42 billion barrels of oil and over 1.3 trillion cubic metres of gas. With only 25% of Libya’s surface territory explored to date there is every chance that actual reserves could see this figure dwarfed in coming years.
    Gulf states however are already subservient to west, their very cosy relationship allows them to do as they wish with their population and as their reward we choose to close our eyes to their atrocities.

    1. Evie Murray says:

      I can remember the rather quiet almost insignificant reports of the oil companies moving in to Iraq after the blood bath. Unbelievable, yet reported as a tiny artical at the end of the news as an irrelevant fact.

    2. Cameron (No Relation) says:

      Very true, I suppose this is the nature of the beast. but then again things like this shouldn’t be surprising when the very first visit to Egypt, after their revolution by a foreign leader was our very own Mr. Cameron accompanied by 8 arm dealers. no agricultural advisors, no infrastructural planners but 8 arms dealers.
      I believe whatever good or bad happens in this world is not the politician’s fault, after all they are a group of small men with very little or no morality and believe it or not with no allegiance to any country or people including their own just trying to further hidden agendas of their puppet masters… it is our fault for putting up with them, its our fault for being so attached to our preconceptions of how theoretically governments should behave and their roles as servants in societies, those days are long gone.

  4. Anthony Martin says:

    The double standards of the west beggars belief Jon.
    We are citizens of a country that not only selectively war mongers other countries for wealth control but, which controls the it’s own citizens in clever ways of criminalising as much as possible and, imprisoning more people than any other country in Europe while keeping most people in deliberate poverty while a clique of Millionaires orchestrate a reign of financial terror.
    The evil selectivity within UK governance is truly breathtaking. It’s small wonder so many other countries hate the UK.

    1. adrian clarke says:

      Anthony , your political arguments are spoiled by your obsession with being anti capatalist, anti tory or even anti labour.
      We do not jail political activists or opponents as in most communist and dicatatorial countries.We at least jail for wrong doing.If you suggest we should try and understand why people murder, rob,and generally commit crime, then blame it on capitalism , surely you are living in the wrong country.

    2. sue_m says:

      Quite right Anthony.
      Adrian – the point here is how selective the actions are. We do jail for wrong doing, but not in proportion to the crime. Certain sections of society are all but immune to the consequences of even serious wrong-doing whilst other sections of society that the ruling classes wish to keep in their place are locked up on the slightest excuse.
      If you are a well paid but greedy politician who systematically cheats the public of thousands of pounds in ‘expenses’ you can claim it was a mistake and pay some back. Bankers can bring the country to its knees and still carry on as if nothing has happened. If you are an angry student or unemployed youth and you break a window or engage in petty theft in the heat of the moment you get sent to jail.

    3. adrian clarke says:

      sue-mI agree about politicians and bankers.Many should have been charged and jailed.I have called for it many times.If you feel as strongly about it as i do , there are plenty of e petitions to sign on both subjects
      I see no problem with jailing rioters or so called “petty theft”The main problem the jails are not the deterrent they aught to be

    4. sue_m says:

      Well even you and i must agree on some things Adrian :-).
      But i have a problem with jailing the ‘petty’ criminals as i think it has as much chance of turning them into more serious criminals as it does of being a deterrent. Better that they do community service and help to right the wrongs they have committed. And as for the already serious offenders – perhaps jail is not a deterrent because their life outside offers so few opportunities other than a life of crime, that jail is a welcome break.

    5. sue_m says:

      As for e-petitions, yes there are plenty and plenty that get ignored. Indeed, my local MP (Tory) responded to one that i took part in saying he took no notice of email petitioning because “it is too easy to do” (yes really!) and that he generally would not respond to email only to letters addressed to him at the HoC. If he is typical of our MPs i truly worry what century they are still living in.
      IMHO we need to be out on the streets marching a bit more – much harder for them to ignore.

    6. adrian clarke says:

      It appears we also agree sue, that jail is not a deterrent,but our solutions are different.I have seen no suggestion that community service works either.If it stopped re offending i would agree that is the way forward,but unfortunately it doesn’t.
      Firstly,make jail an unpleasant place without the amenities of home.No phones , tv’s or gymnasiums.Just a cell, books and radio . Compulsory daily schooling,and an exercise yard.
      Retain community service for anyone not in employment and insist that to receive state payments individuals must attend daily , 5 days a week at least six hours a day.I am sure that many would prefer to take the jobs currently taken by immigrants,thus reducing employment, cutting down the time available for crime.Deterring crime as prison is not a pleasant place.
      No doubt the do-gooders will disagree.They do not like really punishing the poor souls.As you yourself suggest that petty crime is acceptable.God forbid that anyone should work to receive state handouts.

    7. P.B says:

      Sue_m, in total agreement with you there about the jailing ‘petty’ criminals.

      It does very little toward deterring crime or rehabilitation, well the latter is not even the point of UK prisons really. If anything it creates more animosity, not because they are being punished for committing crime, but rather the proportion of the punishment to the crime and the inevitable comparison to bankers and MP’s lack of punishment.

      We don’t put people in prison to learn what they have done wrong, what effect they have had on society, the physical, mental, financial or emotional damage they caused, to learn about the long term effects of their actions on themselves and others. We put them in to remove them from society because 1. It may be needed, especially in the event of violent crime, 2. Because it makes us feel better. At no point does our criminal system or our ‘Throw them in Jail’ attitude attempt to confront the reasons for crime. we look at symptoms and ignore the cause.

      Norway is a decent example of comparatively plush prisons, good treatment, low prison sentences, a Rehabilitation Focused prison system and very very low crime and re-offending rates.

  5. adrian clarke says:

    Bad men!!!!The world is full of them,and some countries are led by them.All seem to promise something to encourage their followers.Napolean and Hitler spring to mind.All seem to purge the countries of those they do not want and lead by terror and force.Yet to do that, what are their followers getting from the deal?
    Supposedly we English always try to correct the wrong,save the world, save a country.Yet are our armed forces any better?Slavishly following their leaders, obeying orders, even if those orders do not make sense.
    Do we just take action if we feel directly threatened or is there another reason?Is oil the reason for our interference in the ME and Africa.In Libya did we see the so called “Arab Spring” as a reason to help rid them of Ghadaffi? Why do we feel we have any right to interfere in a foreign country, even if we detest their politics , their leader or their actions.We are not the ordained leaders of the free or not so free world.We would be far better off dealing with our own bad men.The paedophile, the murderers, the thieves,the hate preachers,before we consider those further afield.We should even consider arresting TB and sending him to the Hague.

    1. e says:

      “Bad men!!!!The world is full of them,and some countries are led by them”

      Surely the point here is that the problem might be a little closer to home. The global economy: is the world being led by bad men? Perhaps fairer to say led systematically using a bad or degraded man made template (the West is democratic after all). Globally, growing numbers believe our system/philosophy is hurting more than it helps, and more to the point that it looks to many like ‘our’ use of pre-emptive military action is not defensive but is being used to bolster our system/philosophy’s appeal and resources.

      How often in the coming years will we (the voters) end up hiding behind a rogue leader argument if we don’t find a way of ensuring our common decency leads the way and not hamstrung politicians?

    2. adrian clarke says:

      e not sure what you are trying to say.The west is not the cause, and “bad men” are not the province of the West, though we have them .At least we have a form of democracy whereby they can be removed.
      I have long advocated true democracy whereby the will of the majority prevails , but i have only 19 votes on my petition which seeks to ensure politicians vote according to the majority of their electrate.So are we getting what we deserve ?

    3. e says:

      Adrian, sorry am I being obtuse? I’ll try and clarify what I feel current and recent western leaders can [and are] accused of: given a geo-political opportunity western leaders, acting as one, “promise something to encourage followers, purge countries of those they don’t want …and lead by force” – the purpose is said to be to maintain the western way of life and living standards, and or the power of some particularly big beasts.

      You ask what the followers of bad men get from deals like this one. I am saying that because the west is a democracy, we [western voters], come election times are obliged to consider what the nature and purpose of the politicians who would represent us is, and given the accusation that British geo-political policies are “bad” is out there (thought you perhaps don’t see this?) we’re obliged to address this view; and we should be able to do so explicitly.

      But, our current parliamentary system is moribund – it is unable to reflect the balance of views that British, or indeed English society embodies; and our media, on which we depend to inform our views, is too often shown to be well behind the curve on the full story, it can be [and is] accused of actively colluding to misinform.

      So it seems to me we [the voters] are unable to effectively address the view that Britain is following “bad” geo-political policies and we’re in any case increasingly unable to affect them [if we ever were]. As a consequence, I believe we’re in danger of finding ourselves blaming a future series of “bad” rouge leaders of our own, i.e. as we blame TB today.

    4. adrian clarke says:

      `e i follow what you are saying and in many ways i agree,though i find it too simplistic to blame.”bad geo politics.”Even the term geo politics is misleading in what is now a global economy and no longer one of empires.We and others have little say over the happenings in different states,except sanctions or force.In reality do we have the right to use either?If their use means we or others are led by “bad men” then you are correct.But “bad” has a whole range of levels.Each and everyone of us could i am sure be rated as bad but not evil.
      What is evil, is leading a nation to war ,even with consent,if that consent is gained knowingly on a lie.That is why i continually call for TB to be summoned to the Hague to answer for war crimes.Certainly over Iraq, and maybe even over Afghanistan.
      If the action was contemplated because of oil,the offence is even greater.If it comes to light that Britain and France did the same in Libya because of financial considerations and not humanitarian ones the same should apply to Cameron and Sarkozy.
      How we elect our politicians and maintain a democratic control is another story that i have frequently blogged on

    5. e says:

      Adrian we can agree that legitimately gained democratic consent is a must. Anything else is immoral if not unlawful. But I should declare I don’t buy the ‘lie excuse’ for Britain’s involvement in Iraq. Like many I was flabbergasted by the boldness with which evidently cobbled together arguments were being used to support the USA’s decision to invade; and I haven’t forgotten the Official Tory Opposition adverts in the daily press designed to bolster support for the venture. Despite the weak justification, support crossed party lines, just as anything that falls within the brackets of realpolitik always does. And as John’s blog would attest, the modern trend for British establishment figures to show support for naysayers after an event is all but a stampede on this one – but all too often it just looks like party political or party faction expedience, or worse just a lack of integrity.

      Realpolitik is a term that’s routinely relied on to defend foreign policy positions which would otherwise require a moral explanation and I could have used it in my earlier post, but here too what does it mean? For me it embodies the reality of conflicts of interests and the right to use force in defence of our security and our secular freedoms; but also, as a given it embodies something which is as vulnerable to abuse as any religion. And arguably it is being abused in so far as our current form of parliamentary democracy, upon which its legitimacy depends, can be seen to be failing. Parliament’s failure is defined by the lack of any serious response to the steadily growing numbers of people who stay away from the polls, and by doing so, indicate a belief that voting serves no purpose. Perhaps, along with a ‘none of the above box’, voting should be required. This would at least shake things up a bit and could prove to be a way of forcing parties to be more responsive to democratic control…..

    6. sue_m says:

      Bit of a turnaround there Adrian? One minute you are all for law and order and people following rules set by others – even when those rules may make their lives much harder – yet you question the morals of our armed forces for ‘slavishly following orders’. So do you want them to rebel and refuse to fight when it is for a cause you disagree with but expect them to be there to protect you should you need it?

    7. adrian clarke says:

      Sue-mwhere did you get the idea i question the morals of our armed forces?”slavishly following orders”?You are now making your own arguments up for me :)

  6. Joey Manic says:

    Its like doublespeak from ‘1984’ isn’t it? First Saddam was alright then suddenly he wasn’t, the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan were alright when they were fighting the Soviets then they weren’t. Gadaffi wasn’t then he was now he isn’t again!

  7. Jock Mctavish says:

    On his return from Washington, Blair was using the pronounciation ‘nook-yilur’ – the only Brit ever to have used that version of the word. A small sign of the extent of his seduction. I am surprised and disappointed that none of our army of commentators and satirists have picked up on this.

  8. e says:

    Fantastic blog and Carne Ross’s book, can’t afford it, but thanks to the internet I can read around it and be inspired nonetheless. I think, being British we need an alternative thought for the word revolution, essential renovations perhaps…

  9. Philip Edwards says:


    About time you summoned the courage to write something like this. Still, better late than never, even though it doesn’t probe nearly deep enough.

    Then we got this: “Once again, the west allowed itself to become obsessed with another “very bad man” with oil.”

    Allowed? ALLOWED?! The West, armed to the teeth, guilty of mass murder and invasion all over the planet, “allowed” itself to become obsessed? What utter, utter claptrap.

    Libya and all the other illegal invasions and mass killings are a matter of deliberate long term policy. The West’s leadership consists of war criminals with innocent blood on their hands and not an ounce of moral decency in their collective head. And you say they “allowed” all this to happen like some naive dupes?!

    I cannot believe you have ignored or not read the carefully-researched polemics of Noam Chomsky. They have been freely available now for over forty years. There are many other individuals who have made the same points.

    The fact is, Jon, the West is led by the worst kind of conscienceless criminals who AS A MATTER OF FACT don’t hesitate to use industrialised mass murder as a weapon. And you say they “allowed” this to happen? Words fail…

    1. Marverde says:

      Share your feelings, word for word.

  10. margaret brandreth-jones says:

    Lets all be superintellectual about this. In fact we can objectify these atrocities and aerially look down from Zeus’s thunderous and powerful position on the little ant-like colonies which inhabit the blue planet.

    Power is something which is endemic to humans. Whether one agrees with Foucault, Giddens. Machiavelli, Neitzche, Hobbes , Dowding or all the others trying to gain power by writing about it; remaining, is the need to exert influence on our own survival simulataneuosly having a Satre -like influence on our surroundings.

    The power for the good of all, the dominance of all or the destruction of all appears to be the 3 main boxes which one can allign a base motive to. Where does Gadaffi fit into all this. You say he started by gaining popularity and using his power/ influence for the betterment of the people. What changed? a fixed belief that ‘his people ‘will have his good works ‘ taken from them for the worse and he can see this through the eyes of past perceptions contrary to present mutability .
    I suppose these thoughts will not change the instincts and the sick joy which is apparent as the drive, in all its forms, for genetic ownership of the world continues.

  11. muggwhump says:

    It is amazing how events can be showing you one thing yet the politicians are allowed to create a ‘story’ that is arguable at best and down right lies at worst yet they manage to get away with it just as long as they rigidly stick to the ‘story’ no matter how ridiculous it seems or how many people can see through it.
    It is endemic. From the broad issues like the differing approaches to the various countries whose citizens make up the Arab Spring depending on how much we might gain/lose from their ‘freedom’ to the way that No Fly Zones and ‘protecting civilians’ suddenly turn into full blown wars.
    When the international community passes a resolution implementing an arms embargo one minute then sets about the wholesale arming of ‘our’ side of the conflict the next you have to ask what is going on.
    The justification will be the ‘very bad man’ argument, it will be used to cover and excuse anything…the real reasons will always be financial at the end of the day.
    After all we weren’t concerned that Gaddafi was a ‘very bad man’ when we sent terrorist suspects to be tortured in his prisons.

  12. Mudplugger says:

    Perhaps it’s time for a little honesty in Governmental structure.

    We have this strangely-named beast, the Ministry of Defence, which seems to spend almost all its time and vast resources conducting offensive actions around the world.

    I suggest it is now split into two units. The ‘Ministry of Defence’ should have a responsibility which stops at our borders, with a budget to suit. The new ‘Ministry of Offence’ would undertake all offensive operations outside our own borders, with a quite separate budget.

    By creating that separation, we would then have the benefit of knowing just how little is really spent on our necessary defences and how much is being speculated on alien adventures. Come election-time, those budgets could enjoy close scrutiny, with consequent government action constrained to our real needs.

    This Government claims to be committed to greater transparency, so that’s a wonderful chance for them to start proving it.

    1. Philip says:

      Why stop there? – the Department of Health could become the Department of Private Health (BUPA); Department of Work & pensions could be renamed Department of no/low paid work & lower pensions; the Treasury could be called The Department of cuts and rich bankers’ support, etc. And officials known as “Information Officers” could be entitled Misinformation officers” to reflect their true role.

  13. Evie Murray says:

    It makes for grim reading but Iraq since the invasion always has, hasn’t it? I mean you can’t just go about blowing people up in such mass numbers and expect that it goes unnoticed. I’d like to think that the motivation was not oil and that our leaders are noble. Although it is so obviously not the case. The West needs oil. I’ve always pondered…. what might I do about all this. I might start by purchasing Carne Ross’s book, The Leaderless Revolution.

  14. Philip says:

    I’m not going to comment on whether Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya for that matter were the right things for the UK to do. Everyone has their opinion on these, but it will probably be 10 to 20 years before we can really be sure whether the UK’s actions turned out well or made things worse. We spend too much of our time making instant judgements & expecting instant returns – hence our short termist political system, fed by a short-termist, inconsistent & frequently unhelpful media.
    As a relatively junior civil servant at the time of the Iraq invasion in 2003, but not in a relevant area of work, I was clear that the majority of the Whitehall hierarchy were opposed to the invasion. But, as you say, virtually no-one resigned. Now you could say that’s what civil servants are there for – to advise, but to carry out government policy even if they disagree with it. I’ve certainly done plenty of that. But I wasn’t ever in a situation when my ethics were so challenged that I felt resignation was the only option.

  15. Philip says:

    (In continuation) bBut what gets me is the number of senior people who assited the Government in the Iraq invasion but now are coming out saying they opposed it. Apart from demonstrating their cowardice and their ability to have their cake & eat it, they also risk the politicisation of the civil service. Will future Ministers trust civil servants not to blow the whistle subsequently on difficult policy decisions? Can they be confident that the supposedly trusted adviser who makes their point, but then goes along in implementing the policy, won’t subsequently announce to the world it was a bad idea? Won’t they decide to bring in their own people, people they know & trust, as every new US President does? Are we sure that the hew system that emerges will be better than what we have now or more likely to make bad decisions because like minded people in a small cabal tend to do that (cf Gordon Brown as seen by Alastair Darling). If Elizabeth manningham-Buller didn’t have the integrity to resign at the time, she could surely maintain it now and not divulge professional confidences which, to my mind, are against the professional ethics of the civil service.

  16. Veli says:

    Good article , Mr Snow is a Brave man . The point is whenever the west start to talk about democracy for east , hundred thousands of innocenet people of the corresponding country are killed . Meanwhile , all natural resources of the country are shared by civilized but heartless west companies !!!
    Actually, The west still is not able to survive without colonizing East, who unfortunately still considers itself as the master who must be served by east . However , there is a say in my country , “Naive horse kicks worse”

  17. Meg Howarth says:

    Excellent piece, Jon. Thanks, and for recent C4 interview with Carne Ross. Looking forward to reading the book.

    Given the blog title, which ‘bad man’ wrote the following (answers on later blog)?

    ‘How cruel human beings can be when they become a tyrannical mob, a torrent that has no mercy on those who stand in its way, that does not listen for cries of help. The tyranny of a single man is the most tolerable of tyrannies; after all, he is just one man and can be removed from power in a single blow. The tyranny of the mob is far worse, for who can stand in the face of the torrent’s overwhelming power?

    ‘I love the freedom of the masses; I adore those who have smashed their shackles after years of suffering. But I also feel apprehensive about them. Whey happy and content, the masses are full of compassion, and they put their chosen one on a pedestal: Hannibal, Pericles, Savonarola, Danton, Robespierre, Mussolini, Nixon. But how cruel the masses become when they are enraged: they hemlocked Hannibal, burned Savonaroloa at the stake, guillotined Danton, broke Robespierre’s jaw, draggedd Mussolini’s corpse through the streets, and spat in Nixon’s face when he left the White House.’

    1. Evie Murray says:

      I agree Meg Excellent peice.

      Its non other than Colonel Muammar Gaddafi himself. “Run away to hell”

    2. Meg Howarth says:

      First and only (correct) answer. Cheers, Evie.

  18. Medstudent says:

    As a medical student, the plight of the Bahraini healthcare professionals who were jailed for doing their duty shocked me. This petition needs 100,000 signatures for downing street to acknowledge it. Something needs to be done to make our government put pressure on Bahrain to release these innocent people at their retrial later this month. Please, please sign this petition


    Actively encourage the release and reinstatement of the recently jailed Bahraini doctors and nurses.

    1. Meg Howarth says:

      Think you’ll find that international pressure has led to release of medics pending trial in civilian court. Doesn’t mean we can relax re outcome, of course.

  19. Medstudent says:

    Exactly! Showing that pressure on the Bahraini government is working. Even more reason to sign the petition and encourage a good outcome at the retrial.

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