The art of (cold) war
“By repetition, each lie becomes an irreversible fact upon which other lies are constructed.” ― John le Carré
This new Cold War is thrilling, isn’t it? The spy-games, the attacks of Russian double agents on British soil, the suspicion, the intrigue, the complete suspension of the rule of law, or any obligation toward critical thinking.
And anyone who disagrees with you can either be labelled a Kremlin stooge, or tool of the political establishment. The poisonings of former Russian intelligence officer and double agent, Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia on a park bench in the centre of Salisbury will almost certainly become the lynch pin that turns the Cold War 2.0 into a scolding hot mess. Though there is very little evidence as to the perpetrator/s or even the motive for the attacks, that has not prevented the Tories — and many Labour Party MPs — from concluding confidently that the Kremlin must be behind the attacks.
“The victims were Russian after all. So the Kremlin must be responsible,” is pretty much as far as the argument needs to go. To hell with facts, evidence or restraint.
Here’s what we know so far:
- UPDATE I: Former spy and double agent, Sergey Skripal and his daughter, Julia were allegedly poisoned.
- While initial reports claimed the culprit was a chemical which falls under the category of ‘novichoks’, a collection of nerve agents developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s, there has been no official medical or scientific confirmation of these claims. The doctor that was allegedly one of the first people on the scene of the Skripals’ poisoning asked to remain anonymous.
- No pictures or footage of the victims have been provided.
- Skripal’s daughter, Julia, is a member of the Russian Federation but has been denied consular access by the British government.
- The Russian Embassy officially requested the Foreign Office provide information on Sergey and Julia Skripal’s health and details of investigation the day after the poisonings occured on March 5th. Almost two weeks have passed and it still has received no confirmation from the UK government, nor granted access to the alleged victims.
- Skripal received at least $100,000 for sharing Russian state secrets with British intelligence.
- Skripal was feeding secrets to MI6 at the time Christopher Steele was an MI6 officer in Moscow.
- Skripal’s handler was British MI6 agent, Pablo Miller who was previously involved as a suspect in a criminal case against Skripal who in 2006 was sentenced to 13 years in prison for spying for Britain.
- Both Steele and Miller were members of Orbis Intelligence, the same firm that produced the sensational Steele Dossier which alleged Trump’s links with Russia, including a certain episode involving Russian prostitutes and golden showers.
- Miller had a Salisbury address, according to his LinkedIn account which has since been deactivated. He specialised in the former Soviet Union, Russia and Eastern Europe and his diplomatic postings included Tallinn, Estonia.
- Russia is not alone in the development of novichok nerve agents. Former British Ambassador Craig Murray revealed that similar nerve agents are manufactured by the British Government in Porton Down, just 8 miles from where Skripal was poisoned.
- The official British government story is that these nerve agents are only manufactured “To help develop effective medical countermeasures and to test systems”.
- Israel also has a chemical and biological weapons program that manufactures similar poisons. A 1983 CIA intelligence estimate revealed that US spy satellites had uncovered a chemical nerve agent production facility in the Negev Desert the year prior. This fact was censored by the CIA before a version was released to the National Archives in 2009. The information would likely not have come to light were it not for the discovery of the redacted document by a researcher at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
- Russia has never killed a swapped spy before.
That’s it. That is all we know at this stage.
But the aforementioned information has been considered more than enough to justify the deporting of 23 Russian ambassadors from Britain, declarations of war from the Tory Government (along with US Congressmen). And Labor MPs have abandoned their party leader, Jeremy Corbyn for his radical notion that we should wait for evidence before jumping to conclusions. Meanwhile, long before these attacks occured, 10,000 NATO troops were amassing on Russia’s border states, in lieu of a war that hasn’t happened yet.
Former British Ambassador, Charles Murray claims Skripal likely contributed to the Steele Dossier, a document he describes as ‘obvious nonsense, which anybody with a professional background can completely demolish.’ He says the dossier was trumped-up for huge wads of cash, telling the Democrats, desperate for anything that could turn the election outcome around, whatever they wanted to hear.
“Indeed, Skripal’s outdated knowledge might explain some of the dossier’s more glaring errors,” he says.
Update II: According to a letter to the editor published in The Times, allegedly written by emergency consultant at Salisbury NHS Trust, Stephen Davies, three patients presented to the hospital with poisoning symptoms. But there was no evidence that nerve agents were the culprit. However, there has been no confirmation these statements were made by Davies who has made no further comments to the press, either in writing or in person / on camera.
Acceptable conspiracy theories
In any case, Jeremy Corbyn has been publicly eviscerated for failing to attribute blame to Vladimir Putin. This despite the fact that he publicly condemned the Putin regime for its ‘conservative authoritarianism, abuse of human rights & political and economic corruption’ but emphasised that ‘we should not resign ourselves to a new cold war of escalating arms spending, proxy conflicts across the globe and a McCarthyite intolerance of dissent’. He called for Britain to uphold the rule of law and its values ‘without reservation’ and argued for a foreign policy ‘that uses every opportunity ro reduce tensions and conflict wherever possible’. For this he has been labelled a radical and a traitor with the help of the UK press and its foreign allies.
‘Stick a fork in him, he’s done’, seems to be the going consensus.
Critics have come down on Corbyn like a tonne of bricks for failing to attribute blame, even though we still have no evidence of any suspect, let alone one with links to the Kremlin.
The construction of these mainstream conspiracy theories has given the rest of the public and the Twitterati carte blanche to go after anyone whose version of events doesn’t gel with their own as also being in cahoots.
Never let the facts get in the way of a good story
Headlines such as the one below are being used as proof instead of opinion. (Just because Boris Johnson says so, doesn’t make it so, by the way). But at least for some people, the word of the foreign minister is considered trustworthy enough to be considered lore.
And in some cases, actual facts are being ignored in favour of a good headline. Like these articles below which claim that France is in agreement with the UK that Putin is responsible for the attacks when in fact, French President, Emmanuel Macron said it was too soon to prove Russian involvement. “We don’t do fantasy politics,” he said. “Once the elements are proven, then the time will come for decisions to be made.”
From this, somehow, news reports were generated claiming the exact opposite, that Macron and his government were in consensus with May that Russia must be responsible.
And for the sin of trying to highlight these very basic facts, I have similarly been accused of being a Kremlin troll and Putin sympathiser.
Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.
Occam’s Razor just won’t cut it
For his part, former British Ambassador, Charles Murray says there is very little motivation for the poisonings, particularly given the timing. Russia is about to host the World Cup.
“Just as diplomats, British and otherwise, are the most ardent upholders of the principle of diplomatic immunity, so security service personnel everywhere are the least likely to wish to destroy a system which can be a key aspect of their own personal security,” he writes. “Quite literally, spy swaps are their ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card. You don’t undermine that system — probably terminally — without very good reason.”
He also says he personally witnessed in Uzbekistan the willingness of the UK and US security services to accept and validate intelligence they knew to be false in order to pursue their policy objectives. It’s not as though this is a concept foreign to the public, given we have intelligence agencies’ false claims of weapons of mass destruction to blame for the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.
“We should be extremely sceptical of their current anti-Russian narrative. There are many possible suspects in this attack,” he says.
Calls for restraint should not be confused with allegiance to a foreign power. It shouldn’t take consistent and repetitive caveats for that to be obvious.
I have no doubt that the Kremlin is just as brutal and corrupt as the governments of the US & UK, even Australia. Western intelligence agencies have a long and sordid history of foreign interference and false flag campaigns, many of which are undisputed and on the public record, available for anyone and everyone to read should they so choose.
We already know, thanks to the revelations of Edward Snowden there were / are warehouses of people with high-level security clearance in the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada listening to our conversations and AI programs on top of that monitoring our every move, sucking up our data and sharing it with each other. And that’s just the formal intelligence sharing agreements. If Russia could allegedly setup troll farms to sow dissent, what makes anyone think that every single government isn’t doing the same?
As for spy games, everyone’s hands are dirty. Let’s not forget the infamous fake rock planted by British spies in Moscow to disguise electronic equipment used to exchange information.
And thanks to the privatisation of western intelligence services, the proliferation of private contractors means there is potential for factions within factions within intelligence agencies, to the extent that we might never know who is responsible. It’s the wild west out there, particularly now, particularly in the US where intelligence agencies are at war with each other, and the executive branch, and the public. It is too easy to rely on Occam’s Razor anymore.
It takes a whole lot of hubris and denial to assume any nation has moral authority. But there seems to be far less concern about foreign interference when it’s our governments and intelligence agencies that are involved.
I have no opinion as to the cause of these attacks which deserve a thorough investigation. But most of us have already formed a conclusion based on very little evidence. Regardless, I am not confident we’ll ever truly know what happened. People will fill in the blanks for themselves.
Thought police & crushing dissent
That calls for proper investigations before forming a conclusion is considered radical demonstrates how effective and easy it has become to crush dissent.
But there is no room for agnosticism in 2018. Apparently calling for calm while awaiting further evidence is the treasonous mark of a radical and a traitor.
Consensus is not evidence, and should always be treated with skepticism and concern. That Labor MPs have publicly turned against their leader is being viewed by some as evidence, rather than a sign of cowardice. Back in the ’50s it was the Democrats, Labourites and liberals that railed against blacklists and book-burning and the centralised control of information. In 2018 they and their loyalists have deployed tactics more often attributed to Tories, Republicans and conservatives: accusing those with opposing views as somehow colluding with a foreign power.
It is a very dangerous world indeed where the public is tacitly allowing their governments to act with impunity, without proper intelligence, and that opponents of military intervention calling for restraint are maligned as being in cahoots with old Vlad.
These are the same governments that threw us into another war in the Middle East based on false intelligence and baseless claims of the existence of weapons of mass destruction. The same governments whose lack of concern for their constituents led to the elevation of Trump as President and the overwhelming verdict of the Brexit referendum. The same governments that are negotiating behind closed doors for a trade deal that gives corporations legal grounds to sue the government for loss of profits. Why should we start trusting them now?
In 2018, anything less than full throated allegiance to government outrage over baseless allegations are considered treasonous. Just five minutes ago we wanted to rid ourselves of these neo-con ideologues. What is so special about Russia that it signifies a return to the status-quo?
How many times must history repeat itself? How many times must intelligence agencies be caught in a web of lies before we stop our repetitious insanity and allegiance to governments that have never had our interests at heart?