In 1944 T.S. Eliot, then director of Faber & Faber, notoriously turned down George Orwell’s Animal Farm for fear of offending the Soviet Union, our vital ally against Nazi Germany. Faber & Faber did not repeat the howler with Peter Pomerantsev’s This is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War against Reality, a book which also has important things to say about oppression and tyranny. Currently a Senior Fellow at LSE, a Soviet-born Ukrainian, Pomerantsev has written an endearing and stimulating travelogue through the world of fake news and digital political control. Endearing because he runs this travelogue throughout the book in parallel with biographical sketches of his father’s life. Igor Pomerantsev’s courageous and creative struggle against communist oppression and lies, and their modern equivalent, those of Putin’s Russian Federation, make compelling reading. It is heartening to see such respect and admiration for a father from a son, when the bad father has become a biographical cliché.
Pomerantsev demonstrates how the communications revolution and social media have transformed political conflict, the struggle to gain and regain power. A 2013 Pentagon study, for example, described China’s theory of modern war as “twenty-first century warfare guided by a new and vital dimension: namely the belief that whose story wins may be more important than whose army wins”. We in Britain are now aware that during general elections and referendum campaigns political parties are able to disaggregate voters, into some eighty different group identities each targeted differently, but using unifying keywords which underpin a shared story being transmitted. States never stop projecting the story of them, the “non-people”, versus us “the people”, manufacturing a consensus around a simple theme such as Trump’s make America great again, Putin’s get Russia off its knees, and the Brexiteers’ take back control. Many people believe “the people” means themselves and suspend their critical judgement in favour of the reassurance of solidarity that belonging to “the people” brings.
The book contains some fascinating interviews and stories: the penetration by Lyudmilla Savchuk of the prolific Russian Internet Research Agency, a troll farm; the work of Srjda Popović who trains activists in counter-measure against the infrastructure of misinformation, and more generally on “how to overthrow dictators”. Then there is Maria Ressa, CEO of the news website Rappeler which reported President Duterte’s extra-judicial killings in the Philippines. As might be expected, Pomerantsev adds detail about Russia’s coordinated onslaught deploying both misinformation and covert militias, cyber and actual warfare on his country of birth, Ukraine. There is also a concise account of the massive April 2007 Russian cyberattack on Estonia which led temporarily to national paralysis. And you find out that for 348 roubles you can buy online Information and Psychological War operations: A Short Encyclopedia and Reference guide published by Hotline-Telecom, and learn how to disrupt a country.
This is Not Propaganda is stimulating reading, because Pomersantev throughout the book sometimes stops the storytelling to reflect and express his own puzzlement. How has it come to this? We readers share his sense that the Big Story, the full explanation, is beyond our reach. But Pomerantsev has some thoughtful suggestions. He draws a connection between Truth and Hope, a very Catholic linkage. Today’s Blitzkrieg on truth and the manufacture of false hopes around keywords create a vicious circle: if there is no hope what is the point of caring too much about whether something is true or not. Let us just reserve judgement, wallow in enforced relativism, or simply be entertained by the outrageousness of the falsehoods and claims made in the new “global theatre”. Robert Peston, the political correspondent of ITV News has already observed how Boris Johnson’s press conferences are “100 times more engaging” than Theresa May’s. But if there is no truth we are doomed to be manipulated into pursuing false hopes which lead to even greater disengagement and cynicism.
This is Not Propaganda an easy book to read. If you don’t know the difference between a bot, a cyborg and a troll factory – I didn’t – you will soon learn. If you didn’t know of Igor Pomerantsev’s remarkable life story you will be told it elegantly, with a touch of the romance of courageous resistance. Peter Pomerantsev illustrates that he has inherited his father’s creative gift for words – which is why he cares so much about them, though perhaps a ruthless edit on a few metaphors wouldn’t come amiss. Some are uniquely fresh and jump out at you. Others are contrived and clunky. But overall this is a learned book that does not bog you down in technical detail whilst moving from country to country.
So read these 256 pages and you will know who and what is attacking us, the contents of the Trump, Putin and Duterte playbook and how to sow division, discord and the seeds of institutional collapse. And you will meet some of the brave people who are making a good fist of combatting the partly new, often undetectable, and very dangerous form of oppression and manipulation of the public that is currently in operation globally today. Welcome to the 21st. century.
See TheArticle 04/09/2019
The language of politics is now so exaggerated it misleads. It is not true that those who denounce prorogation are “hysterical”; they are shocked, worried and angry. That would describe Tory grandee, Chris Patten, who wondered recently if many Leavers in the country might be “willing victims” of self-delusion and mendacity. Boris Johnson and those who dreamt up the proroguing strategy to thwart Parliament ruling out No Deal have not staged a “coup”, they have unacceptably, but skilfully, manipulated parliamentary procedure.
We in Britain are now being ruled by a coterie of clever rogues. Above the fray, the Queen was nonetheless bound by constitutional convention to take her Prime Minister’s advice and prorogue. The outcome, as a Daily Mirror headline told it, was clearly Pro-Rogue. Anti-Brexiteers are left with very few procedural devices to wrest control from a trickster Prime Minister and his advisers before the 31 October deadline.
Some say we are reliving the Weimar Republic. We are not, though, we are experiencing considerable erosion in the conduct of our political life. Were classes on curtailing parliamentary democracy taught at Eton, you wonder, in the late 1970s?
In Christian thinking the word used for a moment such as this is the Greek Kairos, a time when opportunity and danger are significantly intensified by contemporary events. A democratic culture thrives on civility and creative, participatory modes of decision-making, an informed electorate, not on a diet of misinformation and rule by an unaccountable clique. The Archbishop of Canterbury has reacted and taken the opportunity to chair a Citizens’ Assembly at the request of senior members of Parliament, a national consultation involving a hundred people with diverse viewpoints. He wishes to do something about the divisions and discord which have come to the surface and intensified during BREXIT negotiations. The hope is that some positive, consensual recommendations for a way forward will emerge. It is late in the day and a Citizen’s Assembly will struggle to make any impact.
25 Anglican diocesan bishops came together last week and defined the danger we are in. They spoke of the “ease with which lies can be told and misrepresentation encouraged” and asked that “leaders must be honest about the costs of political choices, especially for those most vulnerable”. They will doubtless be castigated in social media. All evidence indicates that the poor will disproportionately suffer from No Deal’s economic consequences. The British Churches have formerly been reluctant to enter a highly contested political arena in which the tired refrain of “meddling in politics” would rapidly become the dominant story.
The legacy of Tory leadership to date has been to further split the country, describing one side in highly emotive language as “the people”, 17.4 million voters who wanted some form of BREXIT, thereby turning the other side who voted REMAIN, just 3% fewer, into “non-people”. The will of the 12 million who didn’t use their vote in the Referendum, and the 18 million not on the electoral rolls is unknown. Thus it turns out “the people” are a remarkably small proportion of the people.
The public was misled and misinformed about the consequences of BREXIT prior to the referendum. Those primarily responsible for this misinformation are now in power, claiming that Parliament consented to a No Deal arrangement when they passed the Withdrawal Bill in early 2017 invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, and pretending that “the people” did the same in 2016. They did no such thing. Nor did government ever suggest No Deal was the likely result of BREXIT negotiations with the EU. Deception again, lack of accountability and untruth.
Throughout negotiations government has insisted that “keeping No Deal on the table” was/is a vital negotiating ploy. If the EU thought we would crash out, come the hour, they would abandon the fixed positions demanded by the European Union’s basic principles, the four freedoms, notably ensuring the protection of free movement across the British border in Ireland, and protecting an International Treaty lodged with the UN, the Good Friday Agreement.
The hour is not far off. The EU is showing no signs of blinking first. Why would they? Quite apart from wishing to discourage other member States from leaving the EU, the negotiators were/are not about to abandon the Republic of Ireland’s interests, a fellow member State, nor threaten the interests of whole island of Ireland. They have repeatedly said so. It is, and has been, implausible that they would, or will, blink at the last moment.
Do those clever tacticians in 10 Downing Street really believe that at the last minute, through fear of a No Deal, the EU will suddenly go back on three years of holding firm on its “red lines”, unanimously supported by 26 European countries? Do they believe that, like themselves, the EU and its negotiators are deceivers, playing games. Isn’t this like the proverbial threat to “shoot yourself in the foot” if the EU doesn’t back off, then accusing those who try to wrest control of the gun of being undemocratic, treachery and betraying their country? There can be no doubt that the damage to the UK of pulling the trigger is far, far greater than the consequences for the EU, though those are not negligible.
Finally, in the last few weeks, we have entered further into fantasy land with more fantastic claims. All this supposedly clever negotiating strategy is sold to the public through slogans, “let’s get it done”, “let’s get on with the people’s agenda”, by circumventing the parliamentary log-jam which, of course, they in large measure created. Clever because the focus groups and private polling will have shown just how sick people are of the issue. Farage is selling No Deal as “a clean break BREXIT”. But, in reality, No Deal will merely open up a lengthy new chapter of negotiations in trade and other talks with the EU, conducted in a far more negative environment. The Chancellor, Sajid Javid, has suffered the humiliation, of having a close adviser sacked without even being informed, by Boris Johnson’s de facto chief of staff, Dominic Cummings. The Chancellor described his relationship with the Prime Minister as “fantastic”. It is certainly based on the founding fantasy of this government: that the EU will give way at the last minute and, if it doesn’t, adequate preparations have been made and all will be well, in other words every reputable economic commentator and practitioner is wrong.
We are now in election mode. But what future for our politics if you can’t believe a word government says, ministers won’t appear on radio and television, and if they do, avoid answering questions while the rogues prorogue our established institutions of government accountability, the two Houses of Parliament, at a critical moment?
Words fail. Hysteria? No. Just a dull foreboding and anxiety about the future of children and grand-children as mendacity and self-delusion seem to be winning the day.
See also TheArticle 02/09/2019
You feel you know the North Sea. Noisy and exhilarating in a full-on easterly, gently lapping and restful with a westerly. Not the aquamarine of Ionian waters, more the camouflage colours of grey-green and sandy waves pounding the pebbles. In Summer, young children toddling down to collect water in their buckets for purposes known only to them scream on cue as waves break near them. Little groups of holiday-makers along the beach, Londoners lily-white, keeping an eye on the youngest, contemplating the beauty; only a few swimming. An impressionist painting come to life.
There’s life on the beach but not so much life in the water. Once in a while, the black doggy head of a patrolling solitary seal, checking you out before diving to periscope depth. Men line fishing early in the morning, escaping bored and fractious adolescents at home, are the first contemplatives on the beach, seem never to catch any fish larger than an inch or two. And only the soft, gelatinous bump of a Compass jellyfish by way of a brief encounter while you are swimming. That is the point; beneath the surface, even in the cradling, comforting vastness that is the sea, you sense something isn’t quite right.
Roger Hardy’s disturbing art installation at Snape Maltings in Suffolk, outside the concert hall, until 11 September, tells you what’s wrong. In these lovely surroundings, Hardy’s message is shocking. He has built a typical Suffolk fisherman’s hut but with little carved figures made from wood found on the beach, lined up inside, looking out like the families who gaze at the sea on a hot day. On and around the hut Hardy has ‘chalked up’ information about fish and the oceans. Not fish that for sale and is available – fish that soon won’t be available.
Some of the stark facts are reproduced below. They have been provided by the Siren Festival in Aldeburgh whose aim is to combine art and science to alert audiences to the perilous future facing our oceans. And they know what they are talking about. Let these alarming facts speak for themselves.
Oceans are home to nearly 95% of all life on earth. They cover 70% of the earth’s surface but only 5% of them have been explored.
50% of our oxygen comes from plankton. Every second breath we take is given by the oceans
One third of the world’s population lives near and on the coast.
1 in 3 fish caught around the world never makes it to plate. 32 million tonnes of fish caught annually go unreported (more than the weight of the entire US population). 38 million tonnes of sea creatures and 40% of the fish catch annually is unintentionally caught. [A tonne is a metric ton and equals c.2,205 pounds weight]
Over a period of 3 days, 2,466 whales, porpoises and dolphins die due to entanglement in nets and as by-catch.
Fish in the North Sea are moving North.
8 million metric tonnes of plastic are thrown into the oceans annually and 236,000 tonnes of this are the tiny particles of micro-plastics.
Plastic debris causes the death of 100,000 marine mammals and a million sea-birds annually.
Currently we are using more than 25% more natural resources than we can sustain.
Leaders of different religions share the sense of alarm and add another dimension to these facts. Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si, published in May 2015, quotes a canticle of St. Francis of Assisi which calls the Earth, our common home “a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us”. The Pope describes how in “tropical and subtropical seas, we find coral reefs comparable to the great forests on dry land, for they shelter approximately a million species, including fish, crabs, molluscs, sponges and algae. Many of the world’s coral reefs are already barren or in a state of constant decline”. “Who turned the wonderworld of the seas into underwater cemeteries bereft of colour and life?” the Pope asks, repeating a question posed as long ago as 1988 in a pastoral letter by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines. And he adds: “This phenomenon is due largely to pollution which reaches the sea as the result of deforestation, agricultural monocultures, industrial waste and destructive fishing methods, especially those using cyanide and dynamite. It is aggravated by the rise in temperature of the oceans”. You would have thought that turning our oceans into a warm toxic soup, with plastic added, ought to preoccupy our government more than escaping the EU’s regulatory Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
A final inconvenient truth for us in Britain, to quote the MEP, Richard Corbett, is that fish have “the unfortunate habit of swimming from one country’s waters to another”. 20% of fish caught by UK boats comes from outside our territorial waters. International law on fishing in the UN’s Convention on the Law of the Sea, designed to joint manage fishing fleets and conserve fish stocks, predates the EU. The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) essentially follows the Law of the Sea provisions. So if we do leave the EU, Britain will remain bound by international regulations. And if we are to continue fishing, Britain will both have to abide by existing conservation rules and collaborate in developing further regulations to preserve fish stocks. We will neither rule the waves nor take back control of the oceans.
Nor has the UK fared unjustly from the EU Common Fisheries policy: for example 84% of the haddock quota permitted in the total allowable catch per species (TAC) goes to the UK, worth 28,576 tonnes annually in 2015, alongside 34,066 tonnes of plaice, 28% of the TAC. We export 80% of the UK catch, mainly to Europe. The argument for BREXIT is, as usual, spurious. Leaving the CFP will change very little, and has the potential to undermine the recent stabilizing effect of the CPF on fish stocks in our European waters.
That is enough facts for one day. But reiterating the facts above and the tragic future they foretell is not enough. What is needed is urgent action to save our oceans.
From 1-27th October Roger Hardy’s installation will move to The Red House in Aldeburgh, Benjamin Britten’s House.
Most people if asked which country was placed third last year in the world ranking for terrorist activity would guess Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan. It’s Nigeria. The Global Terrorism Index (GBI) uses a broad definition of terrorism: “threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence” by non-state actors not only for religious or political ends but also for “economic or social goals”. Killings by Northern Fulani Muslim cattle herders in conflict over land use with non-Fulani growing crops who may be Christians, and the agriculturalists’ violent retaliation, can end up being reported as terrorism, “ethnic violence” or “religious conflict”. Such violent conflicts become lumped together with the very differently motivated killings of Boko Haram (western education forbidden) – incidentally mainly Kanuri and neighbouring groups not Fulani. This is confusing, a symptom of varying degrees of ignorance about Africa’s most populous country.
The BBC World Service website covered in Pidgin English the GBI 2018 Report; it “blame di “increase of ‘terrorist deaths’ (in Nigeria) unto Fulani extremists”. Note the BBC’s cautionary inverted commas and the use of that catch-all ‘extremist’. The Times on 10 August also cited GBI in a book review focussing on Christian persecution and Boko Haram (BH), condemning “ethnic Fulani cattle herders, who are linked to Islamists”. The Fulani had become “the fourth deadliest terrorist group in the world”. Inverted commas were notably missing as was detailed knowledge of Nigeria. Newspaper reports on Africa, even about such a potentially important country as Nigeria, rarely dig deep beneath stereotypes and into detail.
Nigeria is such a large country that very different political conditions exist in its different geographical areas. Violence in the disorderly world of Central-North Nigeria is a different story from that in the North-East. Through terror Boko Haram has dominated the life of the states in the north-east. It was so extreme BH split off a breakaway group in 2015-2016 which sought to prioritise recruitment rather than attacks on local Muslims. Both factions pledge allegiance to Daesh, but only the faction led by Umar al-Barnawi, known as ISIS-West Africa, is actually recognised by Daesh. BH’s other faction, led by the infamous Abubakar Shekau, is known for its capture of the Chibok girls, as well as its massacres. Its multiple abductions, mass killings, and house burnings over the last ten years have caused the displacement of some two million people. The religious motivation for the worst violence in Central Nigeria is negligible.
Another mistake when looking at Nigeria is only to see tensions between the north and south of the country in religious terms. Picturing a “Muslim North” distinct from a “Christian South”, with a mixed and ill defined “Middle Belt” in-between, is simplistic. In reality large Muslim Yoruba-speaking populations live in the south-west and, owing to the great third missionary wave of Pentecostals dating from the 1960s, significant numbers of Christians live in the northern states. In the Middle Belt, religion is not the principal cause of clashes. It is the population movement and age-old conflict between cattle-herders and farmers. So-called indigenous – settled - communities, mixed ethnically, compete with pastoralists and other settler incomers for scarce resources. The “indigenous” often have different religions - mainly Christian – to incoming pastoralists - mainly Muslim - but land-use is the big problem.
Nor do the two dominant religions in Nigeria form simple blocks. There is much intermarriage between Muslims and Christians in the south, where Islamic practice has a distinctly African flavour. The political dimension of Islam is still evident in the reformist North with emirates and important religious leaders, such as the Sultan of Sokoto, in the north-west, and the Shehu of Borno, a rival in the north-east. But BH’s terrorism has undermined such traditional figures’ leadership and sharpened the existing Christian-Muslim divide with growing distrust. The danger is that religious differences might, in some parts of the country, become coterminous with political ones. When this happens conflicts become non-negotiable.
BH is a recognisable relative of Daesh/ISIS but has its own Nigerian character and history. It grew from the bitter observation that both Muslim and Christian elites’ were utterly indifferent to people’s poverty. This social perception found explanation in conservative salafi thinking that importantly sees only its own cohorts as true Muslims and a takfiri approach – ( ‘excommunication’ and death for apostasy) - to all who do not pledge allegiance, bayat, to increasingly well - equipped war bands and their leaders. An Islamic account of injustice mutated into calls for jihad – though BH violence was in practice more akin to the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, and equally contrary to Muslim precepts for war. Extra-judicial killing of the BH founder, Imam Yusuf, in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri and associated killings of their members by armed police in 2009, accelerated descent into terrorism.
Nigeria’s military incompetence and corruption under former President Goodluck Jonathan allowed BH war bands led by Imam Abubakar Shekau to gain in strength and barbarity after 2012. In April 2014, the world woke up to the danger posed by Shekau and his followers after the Chibok abductions in Borno State. But girls and women had been abducted before and, indeed, continue to be captured. What is clear is that for young recruits whose poverty condemns them to a single life - because they cannot afford bride-price - the promise of wives is an important recruitment tool. So are a fighter’s pay, one meal a day and the power coming from the barrel of an AK-47.
President Muhammadu Buhari has tried to eradicate BH from the north-east. But the claim that Boko Haram is defeated is false. Christians and Muslims continue to live lives of frightening insecurity in the states bordering Cameroons to the East and Niger in the North-East. BH proclaimed itself as a caliphate and an affiliate of ISIS in March 2015; its spread into Chad, Cameroons and Niger, with raids in Nigeria beyond the north-east, provoked a more concerted and multi-national military counter-insurgency effort with as yet limited results.
When the high quality of reporting of the Middle East and Russia is considered, a post-colonial condescension at work in the way Africa is generally reported becomes detectable. Nigeria has a population of probably 185 million. Jihadists have taken note of its importance. Perhaps we should.
Where did these tensions, and array of potential and real conflicts, religious, ethnic, economic and political, all so easily misinterpreted, come from? There are many reasons. My on-line book Emirs, Evangelicals & Empire may shed some light. It is about the beginnings of British imperial rule in the North, the emirates, and the origins of the Christian community in Hausaland. Here are two ways of reading it: (1) On this Microsoft website. Go to Home or Blogs and click on online book (top right). Or: (2) You need an Apple laptop or i-phone then google https://apple.com/us/books/id473753122 It’s next to Ian Rankin…
See TheArticle “Terrorists have taken time to understand Nigeria. We should too”.
Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, the news broke that Stephen, a blind hedgehog, had been abducted. He was stolen in a White Vauxhall-Combo Van. The van and Stephen belonged to Frank Tett, 80, who runs Andrew’s Hedgehog Hospital (named after a prominent hedgehog in-patient called Andrew) at Appleby near Scunthorpe. Mr. Tett had left Stephen in the van, in a cat-carrier, for just a few minutes in Albion Place, Leeds, whilst he loaded goods from his market stall into his Vauxhall parked outside a Barclays bank . The thief got away with the van, the goods and Stephen into the bargain.
Frank was more worried about the fate of his blind hedgehog than anything else. “If he is dumped he could be in real trouble”, Mr. Tett said, adding, “he won’t have a clue what to do”. Mrs. Veronica Tett, 77, told The Independent “I don’t mind about the van, vans are replaceable, hedgehogs aren’t”. She has offered a reward for Stephen’s return. Time has passed and hopes are fading.
Stealing and not returning even a sighted hedgehog is a low crime, a blow against an already much-squidged treasure of our countryside. And all over Britain there has been concern for Stephen. For the record, blind hedgehogs are rare; they rely on smell to get around, so tend to walk with their noses in the air. The West Yorkshire police in pursuit should not interpret this as snootiness but redouble their efforts.
I retell this sad story in order to make a modest proposal to readers. I’ve never written an animated movie script, nor have the skill to do so, but I hope Mr. & Mrs. Tett will forgive me if I say Frank and Stephen’s story, much tweaked and in the right hands, may perhaps have the makings of another Wallace and Gromit. Nick Park and Aardman Animations please note. So I am sketching in below a possible “treatment”, a story line, so a reader might supplement their income by writing a script that is accepted. Given my choice of voices for the characters it will need to be sent to an animation company with deep pockets to turn this treatment into an animated movie.
We need to change Stephen to Stephanie: Judi Dench, originally from Yorkshire: The Thief, Ray Winstone: The Smart Policeman: Brendan Gleason. Frank Tett: Perhaps himself TBC
Plot Based on the True Story above:
BEGINS. Film starts in the Hedgehog Hospital. Frank has selected Stephanie for a cataract operation and, after his stall closes, is going to the Vet’s for this critical procedure. He hopes that is all that will be needed for Stephanie to regain her sight. But Frank is short of money and may have to close the hospital for lack of resources.
Meanwhile, The Thief, about to rob Barclays Bank – see true story above - recognises The Smart Policeman, an old adversary, going into the bank. He panics, steals the van and drives off.
Stephanie is a Strong Hedgehog and is outraged, indignant and insists that she must have her operation to restore her sight. “Who do you think I am, Mrs. Tiggy-winkle….etc”.The Thief threatens to throw her out.
Stephanie begs the thief to drive slower and behave responsibly but he accuses her of being spineless. A huge row ensues in which the thief meets his match. But after this, on the road, a Hedgehogian version of Stockholm Syndrome develops and Stephanie starts to like the thief. The thief in turn starts to like Stephanie, lets her out of a cat-carrier incarceration, feeds her, and begins to feel guilty.
All this takes place c. 20 minutes in a Road Movie format with The Smart Detective in hot pursuit until The Thief gives him the slip. The Thief sneaks home where he lives with his brother, a hard man. Against his brother’s wishes, The Thief decides to pay for Stephanie’s cataract operation.
RUN UP TO THE FINALE
Meanwhile The Smart Policeman tracks down The Thief, finds a big stash of cash in his home, rescues Stephanie, and takes her back to the hedgehog hospital. Big reunion scene with Frank. Stephanie picks out The Thief from a police identity line-up by smell, heading towards him and rolling up in a ball at his feet. To reward her for providing this decisive evidence, The Smart Detective removes a wad of cash from The Thief’s stash to give to Frank so he can keep the hospital open.
Stephanie has her cataract operation and can see again. The Thief, watched in court by Stephanie, gets 100 hours of community service in the Hedgehog Hospital, his care of Stephanie having been taken into account in the sentence. Freeze frame on Stephanie, nose up, as a smiling Thief walks by her out of court. END
Well, there you go. Improve this outline in any way you like. Before submitting it to an animation company the writer, I think, should first share the script with the Royal Institute for Blind People and seek any advice they might have. The last thing anyone would want in an animated movie is to cause offence inadvertently.
Who knows, the movie may become the avant-garde sensation of 2020. And with luck a film critic will declare that Stephanie is a metaphor for a global public becoming aware of the Climate Crisis, acting to bring about radical change. You couldn’t make it up. Or could you?
Does Boris Johnson give a damn about the impact of No Deal on anything other than his ability to stay in power? There is scant evidence that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet genuinely care about its damaging impact on our closest neighbours. Any concern about what current UK policy will do to the 21-year old Good Friday peace agreement appears purely rhetorical. A No Deal means a hard border overnight and an immediate impact on the Republic of Ireland and on Northern Ireland. Nothing could be further from the UK government’s mind than the damage No Deal would do to the economy of the Irish Republic; instead the Tory back benches now blame the absence of, failure of, BREXIT negotiations on the Irish government.
Here I had better declare an interest: a soft spot for the Republic of Ireland, particularly Connemara. One of my children is Irish. My first job was lecturing at University College, Galway. Our oldest daughter was born in the Calvary Hospital under the supervision of the Sisters of the Precious Blood. It doesn’t get more Catholic than that – short of a prior visit from the Archangel Gabriel. The big obstetric issue was whether you wanted labour induced, “brought on”, in time for the Galway races. We lived opposite Galway Cathedral known locally as the Taj Micheál (pronounced Mee-Hawl) after its autocratic Bishop Michael. Heavenly days.
To return to our hellish present dilemma. The Good Friday agreement contains two parts: one, an agreement between the Northern Ireland political parties, the other, between the governments of the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. Because they had been the main negotiators so knew the dynamics and detail, during the 2016 referendum campaign, Tony Blair, John Major and Bertie Ahern were the first to focus on the dangers posed by BREXIT to the Peace Agreement.
Most people would admit that the Irish and UK membership of the EU with its four fundamental freedoms, the movement of goods, people, services and capital across national borders, provided an essential context for the Good Friday agreement and its subsequent successful implementation. As Jonathan Powell, a key adviser to the UK negotiators recalled, the central issue of national identity was de facto “removed from the table by the soft border” which became a point of contact rather than a point of division. Take away the single market and the customs union, this EU scaffolding falls down and the border returns to being a critical identity issue, a dividing line rather than a point of contact. After a No Deal BREXIT, citizens of Northern Ireland claiming an Irish identity - guaranteed by the Good Friday agreement - would find themselves with different rights from citizens of the Republic of Ireland. These are the main reasons why Nancy Pelosi, Democrat Speaker of the US House of Representatives, told senior members of the Conservative Party earlier this year that the House would not endorse any trade deal if post-BREXIT Ireland was left with a hard border.
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK with a land border abutting the EU. A winding border, 499 kilometres long with 250 transport crossing points, it poses obvious, intractable difficulties at the basic material level of customs infrastructure. The (ERG) Economic Research Group’s magic technological fix might be implemented by the Irish hero, the Giant Finn McCool, but not by anyone else. Let’s imagine that say, in five years time, technology can transform physical border control to being electronic, invisible and immaterial, with regulation moving from checkpoints to company and farmers’ laptops. Still the new border would be problematic. The significance of a hard border is not only its visibility or material manifestation. It is symbolic and psychological. And, because of the new divisions between the two countries, five years hence we could well need real-world infrastructure to deal with the resurgence of extremist Republican violence. There are already threatening signs. Hence the need for an insurance policy, the contentious backstop, introduced by Theresa May and agreed by the EU.
BREXIT will hit the economy of the Republic of Ireland hard. The recurrent cost of a No Deal to the Republic’s citizens per capita per year has been calculated by the respected Bertelsheim Foundation as at least 720 Euros. This is not much below their calculation of the cost to the UK, 873 Euros per capita, (which makes an aggregate annual cost nationally to the UK of 57 Billion Euros). This cost will fall differentially on different regions and income groups with the poor suffering most. The USA is Ireland’s largest export partner but, including trade with Northern Ireland, the UK comes second just ahead Belgium. Calculations of No deal’s impact suggest a 5% drop in Irish GDP and the loss of 100,000 jobs (2.19 million were employed in 2018).
The Irish government rightly sees No Deal as a threat. The Taoiseach, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has said as much and concludes this will trigger new pressures for a United Ireland. Simon Coveney, the Tánaiste, deputy Prime Minister, has said that the British Government’s BREXIT tactics are putting the UK on “a collision course” with Ireland and the EU. In reaction to Johnson’ do-or-die sloganizing, on a recent BBC World Service Hardtalk, Neale Richmond, chair of the Irish Senate’s BREXIT Committee, repeatedly called for Britain to “meet the responsibilities they have as a departing member” of the EU: in other words to honour international commitments and the agreement on a backstop, pay their bills, and avoid disruption. Instead Ireland has the future economic damage, forced upon it by the UK government, used as leverage in negotiations.
The Good Friday agreement was achieved not just by subtle negotiation and mediation between nationalists and unionists in Northern Ireland but by a spirit of co-operation between the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The British government is now in the process of undermining this co-operation, and with it the future of our closest neighbour. Such tactics are entirely in keeping with Johnson’s politics of division which he has learnt from Trump: expand the definition of them, shrink the definition of us. Shrink the idea of us enough and the United Kingdom is no more.
We are accustomed in the UK to dealing with politicians who are ineffective, mistaken or lacking in judgement, but not with the clever and power-hungry who, without real convictions, will say anything that is convenient. We find our own judgement rendered uncertain by their false claims to patriotism and their lies. It’s called gaslighting. It’s calculated. So who is going to stop Alexander Boris De Pfeffel Johnson - and his side-kick Dominic Cummings? The Taoseach will need “St. Patrick’s Breastplate”. And we, the British, need to say mea culpa again.
See also TheArticle 12/08/2019
What does nationalism mean to Americans and for the United States? Does the State and the Constitution embody different values from a large number of its citizens? Are there two forms of nationalism in the USA destined for perennial conflict? Are there deeper reasons for an obsession with owning guns than the National Rifle Association (NRA)?
After the killings in El Paso White House advisers spotted that Trump had become vulnerable. The murders in an 80% Hispanic town after his “send them back” speech at a North Carolina rally suggested an obvious conclusion: Trump’s racist rhetoric and white supremacist ideology were condoning, encouraging, possibly inspiring, violence. The President’s own initial inclination was to attribute the mass murder to “gruesome video games” and “mentally ill monsters”, the latter a sub-set of the NRA’s refrain “the gun’s not the problem; it’s the person holding it”. Such was Trump’s close attention to the killings in Dayton, Ohio, which occurred a few hours after those in El Paso, he confused the town with Toledo. But he later delivered a well-crafted and presidential speech against hate-crime. Only Trump supporters were deceived. The Washington Post said his robotic delivery, eyes riveted on the autocue, was reminiscent of a “hostage video”.
Trump’s dissociation of the killings from any mind-set or motivating ideas rang a bell with me. When Martin Luther King was shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis is April 1968, I’d been living two years in the USA. The white-faced television’s announcer’s expression was unforgettable: deep shock and fear.
The next day my boss at the Rockefeller University called me into his office. The late Paul Weiss was a world famous scientist who had left Vienna in the 1920s, very much the old fashioned Professor. He wanted me to know that the killing of Reverend King was a matter of statistics. In a large population it was inevitable that someone prominent and contentious in public life would be at risk of assassination. America was not a racist society, he assured me, a breath-taking denial of evidence to the contrary. Looking back, I see his denial as an interesting variant on Trump’s blaming mental illness. In reality, only a small fraction of the prodigious number of gun-killings involving more than four persons, excluding the perpetrator, (nearly one a day during 2017 according to the Gun Violence Archive as reported by CBS) did the perpetrator have a recognisable or definable mental illness. When Martin Luther King told his wife after JFK’s assassination that America was “a sick society”, and that he too was at risk, he did not mean that its members were mentally ill or that the statistics were against him.
There are at least two reasons such extraordinary peacetime slaughter continues in the USA. The obvious, proximate cause is widespread gun ownership that the NRA has spent billions of dollars defending. Greg Abbott, the Republican Governor of Texas, financially supported by the NRA, has repeatedly used his veto against restrictive legislation. The last occasion was two months before the 22 El Paso killings and the wounding of many more.
The NRA itself was careful to deflect blame. It responded to the shocking death toll in El Paso and Dayton with a call to seek the “root causes” and control “those who have been adjudicated as a danger to themselves or others”, though they were too smart to use the words “mental illness”.
The second reason why mass slaughter continues is Americans’ belief that the Second Amendment of the Constitution which guarantees “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” based on the need for “a well regulated militia” necessary for a “free State”, ratifies all gun ownship. The context of a necessary militia is ignored. Neither James Earl Ray, who alone, shot Martin Luther King – a questionable assumption - nor Patrick Crusius suspected of the mass murder in El Paso, were part of a “militia”, least of all a well-regulated one.
The gun-loving NRA which opposes even the banning of semi-automatic and military-style assault rifles have never explained how their literalist reading of the constitution would permit more than a right to keep and bear a musket, sword and cannon. The Second Amendment is a red herring as well as an anachronism, its invocation a convenient distraction which paralyses debate about public safety.
Harvard Professor Jill Lepore, who writes for The New Yorker, digs much deeper for causes in her book This America: The Case for the Nation. She makes two illuminating distinctions between the “nation-state”, implying a State with some sort of ethnic and/or homogeneous culture and what she calls the “State-nation”, and between “Americans” and “citizens of the United States”. In the few State-nations, such as the multi-ethnic USA, nationality is detached from ethnicity and resides in sharing the values inherent in a constitution and in supporting the State’s adherence to the values of liberal democracy: notably to human dignity and equality. Tellingly, nowhere in the Constitution of the United States does the word nation appear. But as Joseph O’Neill puts it in his reflections on Lepore’s work (in the excellent 15 August 2019 edition of The New York Review of Books), the myth of a “Primordial America” lingers in the American imagination, a place where Americans are “white, Christian and English-speaking”, the contours of an alternative nationalism.
The distinction between Americans and citizens of the United States sounds like an academic affectation. But it is insightful. The Texan owner of the AK-47, with his Stetson for high days and holidays, is an American. He goes off each morning to his office, works hard, probably goes to church, and sees himself defending his wife and daughter with his gun/s from “the invader”, those other citizens of the USA that don’t look or sound like him. His sense of nationality, his fear of “the invader”, is nurtured by Trump; he knows that those whom he calls the “swamp dwellers” of Washington, a cosmopolitan elite, call his ideas “white supremacy”. Unfortunately, Lepore asserts, the swamp-dwellers are too bogged down to compellingly articulate their alternative form of nationalism. As we watch and listen to the Democrat contenders jockeying for nomination as Presidential candidate, who’s to disagree?
Americans don’t live in 1791 with muskets and marauding “Indians”, they are not political escapees from an overbearing State across the Atlantic. They do not need semi-automatic and automatic rifles, more guns in the hands of civilians than any other country in the world. They do not need the NRA. Security is the responsibility of the State. But above all they do not need Trump and his brand of nationalism, hostage to clever advisers, or free-range and his true racist self.
Americans do need to reclaim the values of their state-nation, and to do so fast before it is too late. And so do we British.
We seem to be living through a period of “foreordained doom”. We feel we have lost our bearings and are plodding on in ignorance through the dark. Such fatalism is dangerous, but it doesn’t have to be like this.
Every decade or so a helpful book, or books, appear which explain the big picture, what is happening and why. I remember being struck by the analysis in Spanish sociologist, Manuel Castell’s, trilogy, End of Millennium, The Power of Identity and Rise of the Network Society, published between 1996-1998, where he described the multiple correlates of the information economy that we were then entering. We are leaving the epoch of the industrial economy which, in turn, had emerged from an agricultural economy. Reminiscent of Marx, for Castells epochs were marked by radical changes in how we make a living, the mode of production, the nature of power and human experience. Each epoch is shaped by human decisions and shapes people making these decisions.
Twenty years later Shoshana Zuboff, a Harvard Business School Professor, picks up the story where Castells left off. Her The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the Frontier of Power, is a doorstep of a book but essential reading. She describes how the information economy was captured by Google first followed by Facebook and, later by Microsoft. The mass of information “clogging Google’s servers could be combined with its powerful analytic capabilities to produce prediction of user behaviour”, that is your and my behaviour. And this knowledge was destined to be worth tens of billions of dollars in revenue and profit through its commercial - advertising - application and effectiveness.
We all purchase things. And Google knows when, why and how this happens. The goal now is to create behavioural predictions that come closest to guaranteed outcomes in real-life behaviour. Google’s extraction of our personal information as data begins on-line but “the prediction imperative increases the momentum, driving extraction toward new sources in the real world”. Enter the “internet of things” where your fridge will soon be monitoring your preferred foods and passing the information on to what Zuboff calls ‘surveillance capitalists’, collecting this ‘surplus’ data to be sold on for profit.
The momentum behind this growth in technological capacity and its capture by the “puppet masters”, (Zuboff’s phrase), of Silicon Valley was increased by the American State’s interest in identifying potentially subversive behaviour patterns after 9/11. But the tech companies real purpose was cleverly hidden behind a rhetoric of their dominant story: bringing the world together, the promise of a new cyber-belonging and of expanding communications, as well as facilitating life in the consumer society – knowing what you want when you want it. Quite quickly we simply became habituated to our private details being hoovered up, numbed by the sheer complexity of the means used to invade our privacy. We simply can’t deal with change that is so unprecedented; we fall back on inappropriate former models of helplessness - such as living under totalitarianism. In Orwell’s bleak words we follow “the instinct to bow down before the conqueror of the moment, to accept the existing trend as irreversible”.
Zuboff, who is a psychologist, sees this capture of the information economy as being led by non-state actors (China is an interesting and frightening exception). She conceives the process in terms of lessons drawn from B.F. Skinner’s 1970s’ Behaviourism, in all its Clockwork Orange awfulness, being applied behind the scenes. She sketches in an “instrumentarian future” in which “the machine world and social world operate in harmony…as humans emulate superior learning processes of the smart machines”. In this dystopia individuals are a nuisance causing friction in the smooth running of the market, free will is an illusion. A distinctive State controlled version of this dystopia is to be found in China’s Orwellian total surveillance plan for its Uigher citizens. The demand is to “sacrifice our freedom to collective [machine] knowledge imposed by others and for the sake of their guaranteed outcomes [i.e. in this instance social harmony and no bombs in Beijing].
Zuboff does not hide behind an academic research mask or avoid expressing her indignation about the dynamics of our information economy which demean people’s human dignity – particularly young people’s. She is forthright: “effectiveness without autonomy is not effective, dependence-induced compliance is no social contract, a hive with no exit can never be a home, experience without sanctuary is but a shadow…and freedom from uncertainty is no freedom”. Throughout the book she pursues the surveillance capitalists with a passion that pulls the reader through the dense text with its special vocabulary and takes you on to her next theme. Zuboff, justifying her own passion, takes Hannah Arendt’s engaged writing on totalitarianism as her model. She quotes from her that “the natural reaction to such conditions is one of anger and indignation because these conditions are against the dignity of man. If I describe these conditions without permitting my indignation to interfere, then I have lifted this particular phenomenon out of its context in human society and have thereby robbed it of part of its nature, deprived it of one of its important inherent qualities”.
Reading The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is an experience which changes your view of the world. I have to admit to swallowing most of the surveillance capitalists’ sweet talk, getting accustomed to my personal details being acquired and used for someone else’s profit, thinking communicating with distant family and friends was a huge benefit and that this was all there was to it. Zuboff has stopped me in my tracks. I now share her indignation. After the effort of reading her 535 pages of text, with my jaw sagging, I can no longer plead ignorance and the loss of my bearings any more. Hello Mr. Zuckerberg. We have a problem.
See TheArticle “The Age of Surveillance is a must-read and it will leave you with a sagging jaw”
What a fortunate distraction the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s moon landing has been. Instead of contemplating the imminent crash-landing of Britain’s economy we could watch again the two first men walking on the moon, successfully ascending to the docking bay, and heroically returning to our wondrous blue planet.
In his first poem as poet laureate, Simon Armitage revives the spectacular festival of hubris that followed.
“But as Tricky Dicky clears his throat
to claim God’s estate
as man’s backyard
from the Oval Office,
and the gap narrows
to feet from inches,
suddenly stars recoil
to the next dimension
and heaven flinches”.
Less than five years later impeachment hearings against Richard Nixon began. The Furies had done their job.
The anniversary of the landings recalled a profound human experience that might have provided a new vision of human destiny and our place in the universe. Celebrating crowds across the world seemed to convey this hope. But, of course, the whole epic endeavor was not just a Columbus-like voyage of discovery, a moving display of human courage and technological prowess, launching humanity into the cosmos; NASA’s superhuman effort was also a bi-product of the Cold War.
President Kennedy, who committed the USA to a moon landing within a decade was spurred on by Russia’s launch of the Sputnik satellite. Immediately the US had achieved a manned moon landing the vast NASA budget was halved. There was a sense of “seen that, done that”. With the Russians eclipsed, impetus dissipated. Wernher Von Braun, NASA’s chief engineer, recruited in 1946, former member of Hitler’s Allgemeine (General) SS and designer of Nazi Germany’s V-2 Rocket, was the brains behind the Apollo launches from Cape Kennedy. In his mind the moon was to be the launching pad for future Mars missions. Nothing came of his vision for another fifty years.
Hoping that a major strand of Cold War rivalry would “bring humanity together” was inherently implausible, and that implausibility was made visible as the American flag was planted in the Sea of Tranquility. Competition between the two astronauts who would be the first men ever to put foot on the moon was no less visible. Buzz Aldrin’s father, a General, lobbied for his son to be ahead of Neil Armstrong. Aldrin himself followed up Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon’s desolate surface by attention grabbing, skipping and hopping in front of the camera in the moon’s meagre gravity.
The cost of this achievement was not negligible in either human or financial respects. Kennedy’s demand for a programme to land US astronauts on the moon within the decade had involved hundreds of thousands of people with an array of skills focused on one goal. Several lives were lost. The Soviet Union also lost lives but managed to keep their deaths quiet.
The extensive and excellent TV coverage during this July was largely new to me. In 1969 I was in Malawi reliant on the BBC World Service for news. As with Kennedy’s death, I remember exactly where I was when Neil Armstrong took his great step for mankind: in the middle of Malawi, Central Africa lying in a maize field looking up at the sky. I also remember thinking how can it be that we can put men on the moon but not manage to enable millions of Africans to feed themselves, to buy shoes, have running water and electricity, and somewhere decent to live. Better understanding the collective intellectual feat that was the successful voyage of Apollo only makes the question more insistent.
Fifty years later that thought remains pertinent. I went back to Malawi a few years ago. Just as the empty rhetoric about expanding humanity’s home to other planets has proved just that, rhetoric, so little had happened in Malawi to better the lot of the majority of its inhabitants. More people had shoes. Children possibly looked better fed but a difficult judgement call. There were more portable radios. In the middle of the capital Lilongwe there was a new, big, shiny bank, the modern equivalent of a mediaeval cathedral though more quickly built and ugly. But housing in rural areas was much the same. A roadside stall selling hub caps on one of the worst roads was still there, supply from the potholes exceeding demand. Coffin production was an expanding business thanks to the new tragedy of Malawi’s AIDS epidemic. And the country had a government whose major intention was to compete for power and enrich its leading Party’s members and clients.
By one of those mental jumps – nadir is after all an astronomical term - the timely distraction of those heart-lifting times on the moon was quickly gone. Back to our new Prime Minister and his Cabinet. No escape. “Heaven flinches” as Armitage has it. And so do half the population of these islands as we learn what the nadir of our political culture means.
Donald Trump is working away at undermining liberal democracy and its values more efficiently than his friend Vladimir Putin. You might think his telling four congresswomen of colour, three born in the USA, a pluralist, multi-racial federation created by immigration, to go back to the “crime-ridden” countries they came from, is as bad as it gets. Well, it’s not. Advocating the use of torture is worse.
In 2016 while campaigning for the Presidency Trump clearly advocated State use of torture. “Torture works, OK folks” he said. “And waterboarding is your minor form, but we should go much stronger than waterboarding”. He received applause from his audience.
Torture has been used in the past in, or by, the USA to extract information and as punishment: by soldiers in wars, by police, by secretive State agencies, and by criminal militias, in jails, “black sites”, barracks, and, associated with racism by lynch mobs. George W. Bush legitimated its use in his ‘war on terror’.
Like many people, I have always believed torture marks an ethical frontier. Torture is designed to dehumanize the victim, “break them”, take away every last vestige of freedom and human dignity, to inflict a spiritual death as well as physical pain and degradation through “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”. It is a fundamental denial of our shared humanity, the ultimate inhumanity, in some ways worse than capital punishment and summary execution. That is the damage to the victim. But what of the consequences for the State, and its representatives, that endorse its use against criminals and terrorists?
Extracting information from terrorists and the CIA’s failure to share critical intelligence with the FBI was the theme of BBC Two’s recent drama-doc television series The Looming Tower, which examines the antecedents of 9/11. The hero is a real-life Lebanese-American Muslim New York FBI agent, Ali Soufan. I travelled with him in Kosovo a few years ago. The real Ali was not your usual picture of an FBI agent. He suffered from car sickness, spoke fluent Arabic and resigned on moral grounds from the Federal Bureau in 2005. Because of the 1993 Al-Qaida attack on the North Tower of the World Trade Centre, the New York FBI became the first to hold the Al-Qaida (AQ) dossier. This was how Ali came to investigate the 12 October 2000 terrorist attack on the guided missile destroyer USS Cole refueling in Aden, killing 17 US sailors and wounding 39 more, and why he interrogated possible AQ operatives after 9/11. He tells his story in his much redacted The Black Banners: Inside the Hunt for Al-Qaida. Using conventional interrogation techniques, building up a relationship with captured suspect terrorists, and drawing on his knowledge of Islam, Ali Soufan and the FBI obtained much valuable intelligence.
The FBI’s more humane approach came abruptly to an end when the CIA took over, employing “enhanced interrogation techniques”, the favoured euphemism for torture. The then Attorney-General, Steven G. Bradbury, allowed waterboarding of “high value detainees”. The White House legal counsel, Alberto Gonzales, placed AQ detainees in the category of “unlawful combatants”, so Guantanamo Bay was outside the legal provisions of the Geneva Convention. Two key AQ operatives, Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were repeatedly waterboarded. They had been trained to withstand torture - but not kindness.
There was a laudable reaction in Washington. Despite repeated CIA claims to the contrary, the Senate sub-committee on Intelligence concluded that “enhanced interrogation” had yielded no critical information. Waterboarding has since been banned. Under torture the mind becomes confused, suggested events are imagined. The panic and pain produce false stories just to stop the choking and terror. The US Army Field Manual, in a quiet retreat, banned “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” in 2016.
So torture is all in the past then, all down to the trauma of 9/11 and George W. Bush? Maybe. But W. Fitzhugh Brundage in Civilizing Torture: An American Tradition, Harvard University, is far less sanguine. He presents water torture as being as American as motherhood and apple pie, practiced before, during and after the Civil War, in US occupied Philippines, in Chicago jails, in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. It is a difficult read. The excuses for torture have been remarkably consistent: a few bad apples, an urgent need to obtain life-saving information, torture defined narrowly as the infliction of extreme pain such as destruction of a major bodily organ, an inevitable retaliatory feature of warfare, and so on. Torture is, of course, inevitable, if no-one gets prosecuted because successful prosecution would be damaging to morale and would lose votes. It is never politic to tangle with the emotions aroused by American casualties in war. Obama backed off prosecuting members of the Bush government who tried to legitimate torture. Britain’s complicity in CIA rendition of suspects to “black sites” for torture means we cannot be complacent. As Montaigne wrote in the 16th century “each man calls barbarism whatever is not his own practice”. Despite the constraint of the law, torturers will expect the consistent excuses of the past to provide them with near impunity in the future.
The one redeeming feature of this sorry story is that within liberal democracies there have always been institutions and voices to combat the slide into barbarism, seeking to outlaw the use of torture and to seek prosecutions. Trump so far is being contained by the resilience of US institutions. His deceased arch-enemy Senator John McCain should have the last word on the use of torture – which he experienced while captured in North Vietnam. We are “obliged by history, by our nation’s highest ideals and the many terrible sacrifices made to protect them, by our respect for human dignity to make clear we need not risk our national honor to prevail in this or any war”. Senate Intelligence Report on CIA Interrogation Methods 9 December 2014.
Sadly Donald Trump seems to have no concept of national honour in his moral compass. Would that the Republicans had the courage to field someone of McCain’s stature to fill the moral vacuum that Trump is occupying.
See TheArticle “By Advocating Torture Trump fundamentally undermines Liberal Democracy” 18 July 2019