by Courtenay Barnett
Hear ye…hear ye…hear ye. Today’s sermon is the “Sermon of two blunders” in this, the second quarter of the year 2018 anno domini.
Be warned – I am a full time lawyer and a part time preacher. The lawyering is done in the name of justice; the preaching is done in the name of the almighty truth. Both pursuits are likely to be lifelong: for ‘justice’ is an illusive ideal and ‘truth’ can be both illusive and some say even ‘illusory’. Nevertheless, let us reason towards a ‘truth’ based on assumptions of facts and logic. Should we abandon both facts and logic then we are indeed left in that illusory world of thoughts and ideas devoid of any anchored expression and ultimately – any meaning. So, if we are seeking truth and meaning then advance we must with our sermon for words shall be used, thoughts shall be expressed and truth shall be pursued.
Imagine, if you will, being in a movie theatre. The projector just started rolling – but – you don’t know yet what the film will be. It could be a film based on fact or fiction – truth or lies – illusion or reality. Watch and listen and we shall see.
The projector starts to launch its early images on to the screen. You see there Prime Minister Theresa May and next to her is President Donald Trump. There the film starts. We now know that the movie is entitled, “Two blunders”. With sound reason we might then safely assume that we have just seen the image of the two blunderers who shall star in the movie.
And it came to pass that the United Kingdom declared several Russian diplomats, persona non grata. Washington gave support with expulsion of sixty Russian diplomats.
The United States of America, for its part, decided to inflict trade tariffs against China.
There are the two blunders which we shall examine closely in our sermon.
The simple question – is – why? Why blame the Russians; why impose trade tariffs? Those are easy questions for the sermon, while the really difficult task is to combine the two blunders into the whole picture of looming disaster. So, good people, be attentive.
United Kingdom and the Skripal affair
Who is Sergei Skripal?
He is a Russian military intelligence officer, a colonel, who was also a double agent working for the United Kingdom’s intelligence services ( MI6).
He was discovered by his homeland as a double-agent and in 2006 he was sentenced to prison in Russia for 13 years for treason.
He was subsequently exchanged in a spy swap and set free from Russia and his prison term. The Russian authorities estimated that the UK had paid Skripal a total of $100,000 or about $20,000 annually for five years. This latter point will be reverted to.
On the 4th March, 2018 along with his daughter, Yulia, he was poisoned in Salisbury, England.
Thereafter the story becomes an international news item and the Government of the UK, PM May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, loudly proclaimed that the Skripals were poisoned by Russia and a complicit President Putin.
The plot thickened and lead to blunder number one. But, before we consider why so, let us visit the background on blunder number two then revert to both for careful consideration in attempting a holistic approach in this our almighty sermon.
United States of America and China trade tariffs.
Karl von Clausewitz made this expression famous, “war is a continuation of politics by other means.”
Quite seriously, when one observes the leadership of Donald Trump, one has to wonder whether when applying von Clausewitz’s maxim a reversal to “ politics is a continuation of war”, might not be more appropriate for Trump’s actions, for the sheer belligerence of his audacious outbursts. Makes one wonder whether Trump’s politics, as practised, is not a steady push for and continual pursuit of the next war. Fabrications are the indicatory signs that the perpetrators of the fabrications, the lies, untruths and reasons ( casus belli – if you like) are directed along a trajectory which the military-industrial complex approves of. Let us divert a little:-
The architect of the ‘Cold War’ , George Kennan, said this:-
“Were the Soviet Union to sink tomorrow under the waters of the ocean, the American military-industrial establishment would have to go on, substantially unchanged, until some other adversary could be invented. Anything else would be an unacceptable shock to the American economy.”
And he also said this:-
“The United States cannot reshape other countries in its own image and that, with a few exceptions, its efforts to police the world are neither in its interests nor within the scope of its resources. This whole tendency to see ourselves as the center of political enlightenment and as teachers to a great part of the rest of the world strikes me as unthought-through, vainglorious and undesirable.”
There you have prescient commentaries from a US perspective which accurately saw US/Soviet relations within the context of a policy of containment; versus the inherently inane pursuit of US foreign policy projection of global power and militaristic adventurism. So, from a serious thinker to Donald Trump as President.
While this is a serious matter of a trade-war, with implications for US/China relations and implications for the wider world economy, then to demonstrate and, of engendered necessity, mock President Trump’s conduct, the trade tariff’s commencement and implementation might be summed up as follows.
The headlines announce:-
“Trump threatens China with $100bn more in tariffs as response to Beijing’s ‘unfair retaliation’”
So, in Trumpland, the sequence of events might be summarised as…
Mr. A slaps Mr. B.
Mr. B returns a slap to Mr. A.
Mr. A then says, “unfair retaliation”.
Oh – so B should just have absorbed the slap like a good little boy; or – did A for a moment, before delivering the first slap, think that maybe, just maybe, B might slap back.
Sorry my friends, for being trite – but – even in my court work a little humour can creep in. This version just rushed into the room…slam..wham…bam….ouch!
End game equals being hit with counters by China and ultimately compelled talks at the governmental level to address the trade imbalance between China/US and probably finally a rational outcome despite all of Trump’s ‘fire and fury’.
The wider picture
In the case of Trump’s trade-war, he clearly has not thought through the implications of what he is doing. What he is doing is playing, in a dangerous, stupid and irrational manner, to an approving local political audience of supporters. Events, however, will overtake him and the negotiating table will be forced to the front because the fallout for both the US and China does not auger well for long-term economic and financial sustainability.
There is a sort of crude analogy to be made between the China trade-war and BREXIT. Both involve a biting off of the economic nose to please the political face, only to find out as events unfold that the choice really does produce a rather undesirable and ugly outcome. Anyway, it is done and the game has to be played out as the fait accompli invites damage control as a natural and ultimate necessary reaction.
So far as the UK government’s claims of Russia’s culpability is concerned the facts can be examined to find the truth:-
- Skripal’s professional history is as stated above.
- Russia is not the only state with the ability to produce the nerve agent which poisoned the Skripals ( i.e the colonel and his daughter).
- PM Theresa May at a very early stage pronounced Russian culpability, yet had no evidence then or now to prove any case against Russia.
- There is and always was a framework, under international law, that was applicable to the Skripal case, which the UK simply sidelined and ignored compliance with.
- Boris Johnson, the UK’s Foreign Secretary, likewise professes Russian guilt.
- Why did the British Government lie and state that dozens of people had been affected by the alleged nerve agent? There is a letter from the Salisbury Hospital’s consultant, Dr Stephen Davies, who wrote to The Times newspaper saying:-
“no patients have experienced symptoms of nerve agent poisoning in Salisbury.”
- The British Government went further and embarked on an anti-Russia campaign by circulating a six-page document to 80 foreign embassies in Moscow which set out the UK’s “case” for blaming Russia.
- One hundred and ninety two states are members of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the applicable law under the Chemical Weapons Convention 1993. Thus, the UK and Russia are included and the starting point should be the applicable protocols of this organistaion and the applicable law. So, why would the UK refuse to provide a sample to the OPCW?
- The UK, contrary to that aforestated piece of international law, and again in relation to the other applicable piece of international law, has isolated the Skripals – yet it stands that the Vienna Convention 1963, does actually apply, in terms:-
“(1) (a) A consular officer shall be entitled within the consular district to communicate with, interview and advise a national of the sending state and it may render him every assistance including, where necessary, arranging for aid and advice in legal matters.
(b) No restriction shall be placed by the receiving state upon the access of a national of the sending state to the consulate or upon communication by him with the consulate.
So, the Russian consular staff do have a right of lawful access to the Skripals, unless the Skiprals both have said they don’t at all want any contact with any diplomatic representative of their native country.
- The OPCW having been endorsed by both the UK and Russian sides, find that PM May has been trying to avoid the OPCW participation, and rushed to judgment while an OPCW investigation with blood samples to determine the nerve agents with any traces of any chemical warfare records and/or identifiers to link to a culpable party were still pending. The British blood sampling would, to my legal mind, have to be associated with a verifiable chain of custody, failing which, what May by reference to the OPCW standards and established legal principles of evidence, really has yet to comply and stand up to the standard of proof I have had to deal with for over 30 years of practice in courts of law ( comply – at least up to the time of my writing this ‘sermon’). So, pardon my less than judicious language – but what a “right royal cock-up on the part of both May and Johnson.” A serpentine concoction of lies, might be a more elegant way of putting it. What is emerging from the relevant facts, as same trickles out into the public domain, is a really botched UK political and legal job. .
- In a case such as the Skripals’ poisoning, there is a duty on the part of the UK Government to give the OPCW a sample of the poison for examination. The UK, meanwhile dances outside the main ball room and shouts to the world that the Russians sent poison inside into the UK. So, what of OPCW findings being made, before proclaiming guilt of a President or country? We therefore have, in factual and sequential terms, a situation like that of the mad Queen in Alice in Wonderland; sentence before verdict: conviction without evidence.
- The Porton Down *experts have been unable to state exactly where the poison came from. So – how can or could PM May have accurately stated – Russia? Why did Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson lie that Porton Down stated categorically that it was Russia – when they never said any such thing?
- Porton Down: it is a site of the UK’s Ministry of Defence’s Science and Technology Laboratory, near Salisbury, Witshire, England. It is the most significant military research facility in the UK.
- The UK, it seems, by pushing this warfare with Russia agenda, then obviously if pursued to its logical end, it could lead to extremely destructive forces being unleashed into the world. What do I think? This is all happening within a BREXIT disengagement period. Thus the Skripal allegations are focused on both politically and economically deflecting UK public opinion focus on the disaster for the UK which BREXIT actually is. So – Britain post- BREXIT might become a basket case, but just divert public and international attention instead to a fabricated accusation against Russia ( so far it is working with the assistance of a complicit mainstream media which comes no where even near to commenting on or, heaven forbid, even asking the kind of questions this sermon raises). The UK as a vassal state of the US, is also assisting the US long-term agenda, of which President Eisenhower warned; so, the economic competitor EU has to be challenged/ distanced from/destroyed even – and because it is a main competitor of the UK’s ally, the US, then the US agenda and preservation of the petrodollar fits well into this scripting for the UK’s anti-Russia/Putin protestations *. Left to its own economic devices, Russia would simply develop and sell a lot more of its oil and gas via pipelines into Europe. A geographically and economically sound and sensible choice for Europe – but – not so if viewed from an American geopolitical perspective.
- Recall that Saddam Hussein had pledged to sell Iraqi oil in the Euro, after UN sanctions ended, and end the petrodollar purchases. Analysing recent historical events, one finds that it is far cheaper for Russia to run a pipeline into Europe and sell its gas and oil at much more competitive prices than the US could ever match by shipping mainly fracked US oil across the Atlantic ( and in what currency would Russia do this via the then intended ‘Southstream’ project into, initially, Bulgaria?) Sanctions were then implemented as targeted by the US and directed against the Russian energy sector and thereby set out to cripple Russian economic aspirations to have more EU countries as primary buyers of affordable Russian gas and oil; and the EU replicates the US sanctions. Ha…quite helpful to set out to shut off the most logical European oil and gas supply from existing pipelines from Russia, or prevent intended expansion of oil and gas and/or agri-business with Russia. Geopolitics in play and so the vassal, UK state, has its role to play in this Skripal unfolding development – which logically one can link from one set of events to another and then discern the geopolitical and economic underlay.
The controversy over Russia links to trillions of dollars in potential warfare earnings ( the kind of observation that General/President Dwight D. Eisenhower had warned of):-
So, that is what probably is presently afoot, with the demonisation of the Russian President and the accusation being made about Russian state culpability which leads to potential largesse to benefit the bureaucratic warfare-state parasites and defence contractors. Same lot who want war and would simply suck further the lifeblood out of the American people while bringing the world closer to global disaster. The UK plays its political part, while the US continues to push its global agenda of “full spectrum dominance”. Global hegemony as a central US foreign policy objective in play.
For anyone seriously interested in how the world really works and not so much listening to the journalistic echoes and misrepresentations – then watch this ( link below) and then read what I had to say in 2006:-
The Crisis of Civilization – Full Length Documentary Movie HD
Truth be told, both May and Trump have been lying. Both when pressed on the facts, can be seen to be comic figures for the ludicrous nature of their public behaviour. As the movie advances to its conclusion, the initial comedy may ultimately turn out to be a tragedy. Beyond that – then, just think and act as an informed individual.
So endeth my sermon for today.
PEACE AND AMEN!
Footnote: Clients should not lie to their lawyers; politicians should not lie to their citizenry. In both instances the mendacity can lead to disastrous and tragic results. Let’s then ask some pertinent questions and find out for ourselves via the answers:-
Credibility of the US and UK
- Was it the US via then Secretary of State, Colin Powel, who made a calculated fallacious presentation to the UN Security Council to justify an attack on Iraq?
- Was it then Prime Minister Tony Blair who willingly endorsed the US position on advancing the attack on Iraq?
- Did there exist a document called the “Downing Street Memorandum” which confirmed that the UK had signed on and fully committed to a US attack on Iraq a year before the illegal invasion of Iraq was launched?
- Did the then head of the United Nations monitoring, verification and inspection commission as Chief UN weapons inspector, Hans Blix, not indicate that no WMDs had been found; and did he, or did he not, actively seek to have a final extension of 6 weeks before any war was launched, first to ensure and assure that the reason being advanced by the main protractors for war did first fully and finally ascertain whether or not WMDs existed in Iraq – which offer the US and UK flatly rejected?
N.B. Hans Blix, being fully cognizant of the implications of a war being commenced against Iraq, quite rationally and reasonably, wanted the US and UK to see the angles concerning WMDs not intuitively, but in actual measured and verifiable terms. This analogy is here drawn, for the OPCW internationally and Porton Down, domestically, actually exist to provide that verifiability. The kind of verifiability ( any reasonable person would have expected the US and UK at the time to have obtained before attacking Iraq; or – for that matter PM Theresa May attacking and condemning Vladimir Putin and Russia). So, the common link if engaging in a complete process of verification before condemnation and then making pronouncements after the conclusion of such a process instead of before. In a logical way of proceeding – evidence first; condemnation after. What we really have in the Western MSM is condemnation first; evidence, if any, after.
- Did over a million human beings finally lose their lives after the US and UK proceeded along the trajectory, adumbrated and listed as 1 to 4 above, devoid of verification and evidence?
- Were the US and UK caught fabricating evidence of Syria using chemical weapons against the Syrian people?
- In light of 1 to 6 above and this ‘sermon’ – is it outlandish to conclude that the US and UK were complicit in advancing a war of aggression contrary to the provisions of international law, and more precisely, the provisions of the UN Charter, Article 1?
- What rational sense is there to be gleaned when a low level double-agent who was in Russian gaol was not then killed while in custody, is, at a time when Russia is to host the World Cup subsequently to be killed on British soil, when his ‘value of any significance’ to the UK was a paltry $20,000 per year? Does this attempted murder allegedly inflicted by the Russian state stand up to serious questioning, scrutiny and logic?
The logic of a trade-war
- Was it under then President Nixon and Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, that a rapprochement with China in the early 1970s was arrived at with concomitant economic and trade relations being established on a large scale which has inured to this day?
- Did US corporations not benefit for several decades from comparatively a more attractive production environment in China from:-
- Significantly lower labour costs;
- Virtual absence of environmental standards laws;
- Absence of constrictive labour laws as, from a US corporations perspective, exists in the US;
- Absence of pension benefits to workers;
- Much lower safety standards in the Chinese factory and work place;
- Consequentially – much more affordable end products on the shelves in the US at places such as Walmart?
So – who, if anyone, forced the US to enter into such economic relations with China?
- Is China in the same economic condition in the 1970s as it is now in 2018 – and – if not, then can the US effectively flex unilateral political muscle now as it could have back then in the early 1970s?
- If China has leverage over US Treasury Bills and other financial US instruments then can any assumption of US political demands and dictatorship over China be considered and viewed as either logical or realistic in the existing symbiotic economic relationship between China and the US?
Conclusion: If you want to start becoming aware of dubious US and UK conduct and very sceptical about the recent moves made by Prime Minister May and President Trump then answer the questions and draw your own factual and/or inferential conclusions without me preaching.
Courtenay Barnett is a graduate of London University. His areas of study were economics, political science and international law. He has been a practising lawyer for over thirty years, has been arrested for defending his views, and has argued public interest and human rights cases. He lives and works in the Caribbean.