And the Animals Looked from Communist to Capitalist, and From Capitalist to Communist…But it Was Impossible to Say Which was Which

Anyone seeking to understand World events a bit better, and how it is that the Western allies are constantly seeking to foment regime change in countries throughout the world ought to read this article, written by John Laughland nearly a decade ago. I came across it today, and I’m kicking myself that I didn’t see it years ago. It really is a big eye-opener and enormously helpful in explaining some of the more bizarre aspects of Western foreign policy.

Here are a couple of the best bits:

“It is often overlooked that George Orwell’s Animal Farm predicted not only the horrors of communism but also the end of the Cold War. At the end of the fable, the farmer, who symbolizes the capitalist West, returns to the farm and plays cards with the pigs, who symbolize communism. The shivering creatures outside, symbolizing ordinary people, “looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

“The image at the end of Animal Farm illustrates a profound anthropological truth, which is that when people become obsessed by an enemy, and define themselves by their struggle against him, they end up resembling him. Violence being imitative, they become a sort of mirror image of their combatant. Perhaps the Cold War, which defined American foreign policy for four decades, has so corrupted the United States of America that it has become just that: the mirror image of the Soviet enemy that it long ago defeated.”

Boris Nemtsov and Western Myopia

The murder of the Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov still hasn’t been solved. At least not by those who have been charged with solving it, that is the Moscow authorities. Of course we in the West do not suffer from the same problems that the investigators might have: uncovering the murder weapon, establishing possible motives, finding out why the 23-year-old Ukrainian “model and actress” that was walking with Mr Nemtsov was left alive. We already know who did it. Russian opposition politician + murder outside the Kremlin = Vlad did it.

Not that we necessarily openly state it like this. Some do, although others prefer to insinuate who was behind it with stuff like “Putin critic murdered,” or talk about how even if he didn’t personally order the killing he’s still responsible because he has apparently “fanned the flames of nationalism”. Then there is the likes of John Kerry with his urging the “Russian authorities to act expeditiously to investigate and bring to justice those responsible”.

Despite the fact that the “Putin did it” is one of the least likely of all the possible scenarios, for reasons discussed here, Western media and governments are really incapable of coming to any other conclusions than this for two very important of reasons. One is that they are clearly intent on seeing regime change in Russia, to the point that they actively milk this sort of thing in the hope that it might begin to bring about the sort of movement which will lead to a coup. And secondly, because regime change is their primary aim, they are incapable of seeing opposition figures as anything other than apostles of light, which makes it practically impossible for them to imagine that the likes of Boris Nemtsov might have been targeted by anyone other than the Russian state.

Looking at the second of these points first, are there any other possible motives:

1. There is Mr Nemtsov’s — shall we say — unusual arrangements with females. Officially, he was still married to his wife, but for the past 20 years he had had a string of “wives”, that is women who he had open relationships with, including it seems call-girls in the mix, and he has fathered at least four children by three different women (I say at least since there has been credible speculation that the woman he was with on the night of his murder, Anna Duritskaya, had recently returned from Switzerland, where she is rumoured to have had an abortion. So there may have been more). As an aside, those Western liberals who might want to make him into a martyr for their liberal cause should Google Boris Nemtsov and Bozhena Rynsky to find out what his attitude to women really was. It comes as no surprise to me, given the way he viewed his wife and marriage, but it may surprise liberals looking for a martyr.

2. Mr Nemtsov seems to have made himself a good deal of enemies whilst Deputy Prime Minister back in the Yeltsin era. For one thing, he had a few too many gushing words of praise to say about Yeltsin, the man who became hated by the vast majority of Russians for the way he allowed the country to be plundered and pillaged by the West and the oligarchs. In addition to this, the “anti-corruption” programme he brought in seems to not only have had the effect of making him enemies of some of the oligarchs, but it also had the opposite effect than the one apparently intended and only led to corruption on an even bigger scale. Which in turn explains why he was nowhere near the populist opposition figure that many in the West seem to be making out.

3. Then of course there was his support for the Ukrainian Maidan and the subsequent so-called “Anti-Terror Operation” campaign by the Kiev authorities, a campaign by the way so woefully misnamed that it ought to win some sort of award for “calling good evil and evil good.” This didn’t exactly endear him to the average Russian, witnessing as they did on their TV screens every night, the indiscriminate shelling of Russian speaking civilians in residential areas by the Kiev forces. But more than that, he will have enraged the more nationalistic elements amongst the population, many of whom are openly critical of President Putin for not intervening in the conflict and doing more to protect those Russian speakers  — a confusing position for the Western liberals to explain, that one.

None of which is to say that his death was necessarily in connection with any of these things. It could have been for an entirely different reason and motive. But it is simply to say that for the West to overlook all of these sorts of possibilities, and instead insinuate that the Russian state was behind it, is sloppy at best, insidious at worst.

What of the other point, which is that the Western governments and their toadying media are clamouring for regime change in Moscow, and are clearly using this incident for this end:

1. They are utterly deluded. The vast majority of Russians are behind their president, as they can clearly see that their country is under unprecedented attack from the West. Many of them will sooner suspect that this was a Western-backed provocation before they will believe that it was a Kremlin-ordered assassination.

2. Why do we need regime change in Moscow? What’s it got to do with us? The people that tend to support regime change in Moscow (and in other places) tend to be the ones that bleat the loudest about international law and respecting the territorial integrity of other countries. Yet they show by their actions and their words that they have no such respect for the sovereignty of other nations.

3. Have we not learned anything from recent history that encouraging regime change in other countries is just about the most dangerous thing we can do? We’ve done it in Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Ukraine, and have spent the last few years trying it on in Syria. In each of these cases, the country in question is now in an immeasurably worse situation than before we helped to topple their tyrants. One would almost begin to think that it was our aim to export chaos to the world (ahem, ahem!).

4. But whatever we have done in those countries mentioned above, attempting this in Russia would prove immeasurably worse. You just don’t foment opposition and “colour revolution” in the biggest country in the world, which also happens to have an army of over 1,000,000 men and which also possesses an enormous collection of nuclear missiles. Not unless you are really, really stupid. We had no idea what a catastrophic chain of events would be set off by our meddling in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Ukraine, and we have no more idea what a catastrophic chain of events could be set off if our attempts to undermine Russia are successful. Those most in favour of regime change in Moscow might also like to consider that the most popular opposition party in the country is not Nemtsov’s, which scored less than 1% at the last election, but rather the Communist Party.

5. Finally, doesn’t the West’s transparent and increasingly daring attempts to foment a popular uprising in that country, as they have now done in countless others, show just how shallow, hypocritical and shambolic their use of their favourite word –“democracy” — really is? They plotted and funded the overthrow of the democratically elected leader in Ukraine just over a year ago and that was clearly just a prelude to them trying the same in Russia. Yet they well know that if a free and fair election took place tomorrow in Russia, the present incumbent would be returned by a landslide. But they won’t accept it. And that ought to tell you more about their commitment to “democracy” than any number of gushing words they can utter on the subject.

The King’s Feast

A lover of money who sells himself to mammon. A lover of Jesus who gives herself to the King. He prepares Jesus for His death. She prepares Him for His burial. Both act as free agents. But Jesus is in control.

Find out more in the latest sermon from Christ Church Salisbury in our series on Mark’s Gospel, The King’s Feast.

Brief Thoughts on the Killing of Boris Nemtsov

It is of course too early to make much sense of the killing of the Russian opposition politician, Boris Nemtsov. This hasn’t of course stopped the insinuations of who was behind this flying around the Internet and media. A quick Google of the name Boris Nemtsov reveals pretty much uniform headlines across the mainstream media, with the words “Putin Critic” featuring heavily. But he was a Putin critic, you might say. Yes, but this term is clearly far more loaded than “Russian politician” or even “Russian opposition figure”. All of which means that you don’t have to even read the articles themselves to know who we are meant to think was behind it.

For what it’s worth, of all the possible explanations for this murder, the “Putin was behind it” narrative seems to me to be by far and away the most feeble. Why? For a number of reasons:

1. Despite (or rather because of) the Western sanctions and general demonisation of Russia and its president over the past year or so, most Russians are far more supportive of their president than they were before all this kicked off. The unparalleled western propaganda-fest against Russia and its president has had the effect of solidifying the nation behind him and recent polls have consistently shown 80-85% of the voting population supporting him. Why on earth would he need to kill an opposition politician when he is at the height of popularity?

2. Boris Nemtsov commanded negligible support across the nation, and frankly posed as much threat to the rule of Vladimir Putin as a member of the Green Party in the UK poses to David Cameron. Again I ask the question: why would Putin need to get rid of him? What purpose would it have served? None as far as I can see.

3. If the Russian president really had wanted to kill an opposition politician who posed no threat, would he really have arranged it to take place two days before a planned opposition protest, practically outside the front door of the Kremlin, and at a time when the West is looking for any and every excuse to paint him as Satan’s younger brother? Such an action at such a time and in such a way would be more like the work of an inept fool than that of the evil criminal KGB mastermind that we in the West are meant to think of him.

As I said at the start, it is too early to comment much on what happened, but what I find most interesting in the aftermath of this horrible crime is the reaction of various Western leaders. Several of them, in paying tribute to Mr Nemtsov, have wasted no opportunity to wag the finger at the Russian government in their usual condescending tone as the self-appointed policemen of the world. This from John Kerry:

“The United States urges the Russian authorities to act expeditiously to investigate and bring to justice those responsible.”

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper:

“On behalf of Canadians, I extend my profound condolences to Mr. Nemtsov’s family, friends and associates. Those responsible for this brazen crime must be held to account in a swift, transparent and independent investigation. In this shameful act of violence, the Russian people have lost an important voice in their country’s political debate.”

And President O’Bomber:

“The United States condemns the brutal murder of Boris Nemtsov, and we call upon the Russian government to conduct a prompt, impartial, and transparent investigation into the circumstances of his murder and ensure that those responsible for this vicious killing are brought to justice.”

Thanks guys. The Russian authorities sure needed those helpful hints. Of course it was all accompanied by the obligatory stuff about Mr Nemtsov being a shining apostle of freedom and liberty. Maybe he was — I don’t know enough about him to suggest one way or the other — but coming from the likes of Kerry and Obama, who head up a government that spies on the world, drops drone bombs on civilians, destabilises country after country because they can, and which “tortured some folks”, I take all that stuff about freedom, rights and democracy with the requisite bucket of salt. More salt is then required for Harper, who has supported every NATO and U.S.-led war over the last 20 years, each one of which has resulted in the deaths of countless thousands, not to mention the destabilisation of already unstable regions. Should anyone take lectures from these guys on democracy, liberty, freedom and the rule of law?

But isn’t it clear from their words that they aren’t just hoping for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. Had they sent their condolences and said that they hoped the killer(s) are found, that would be fine. But no, they are yet again taking another opportunity to sit on their high horse, wagging their righteous fingers at the Russians, and implying that without their pressure — possibly more sanctions at some point — the case will be covered up. Which in turn implies who they think was behind it.

What is wrong with that? Quite simply that they have no jurisdiction in Russia and therefore no right to lecture Russia or any other country about its internal affairs. They were elected to serve their own countries, not to police others. I can’t recall Russia lecturing the British, US or Canadian governments about their internal affairs. But then again, they are not trying to police the world and so I guess we wouldn’t expect them to.

Turn it around and you might see what this really looks like: If a member of a small opposition group in Britain was killed outside Downing Street two days before a planned protest against government policy, and I heard the likes of Lavrov or Putin saying things like, “Those responsible for this brazen crime must be held to account in a swift, transparent and independent investigation,” my reaction would be something like “What on earth has this to do with you? Mind your own business and get on with running your country”.

I do hope people will avoid jumping to conclusions which are unhelpful, and I hope that the perpetrators of this crime are brought to justice. I leave you with a video of Mr Putin back in 2012, warning quite pointedly of the possibility for the sort of thing that happened to Mr Nemtsov taking place. Interesting huh?

Celebrating Magna Carta by Ending the Liberties it Bequeathed

Last year the Lonely Planet Guide named my home town of Salisbury as one of the top 10 places on the planet to visit. Well we were chuffed that they chose us, even if we did think it a little over the top. Indeed, the city has much to commend itself to visitors, such as the magnificent 13th century Cathedral, with its uniform gothic architecture throughout, not to mention being just a short drive from one of the most famous heritage sites in the world, Stonehenge.

But none of these reasons, compelling as they are, constitute the real reason for the Lonely Planet’s seemingly odd choice. It is important to remember that they have only put Salisbury in the top 10 for the duration of 2015 and I somehow doubt that the city will get a mention in the 2016 guide.

So what’s the significance of Salisbury in 2015? Simply that the Chapter House in Salisbury Cathedral is home to one of four copies — and indeed the best preserved of the four — of the Magna Carta, which was signed in Runnymede 800 years ago. So this year is to be a year of celebrations of this hugely significant document, along with a massive influx of tourists coming along to see it.

The Great Charter began, but by no means completed, the process of establishing some of the most fundamental rights that people possess and its corollary, limits to the powers of the state. I say that it began, rather than completed this process, since a common criticism levelled at the document is that it didn’t apply to all people. No it didn’t and therefore it was by no means perfect. But we shouldn’t judge it by the later and better standards that were passed down to us as a result of a chain of events which that document started. Magna Carta is not perfect, but it was the precursor of other great charters of liberty, such as the Petition of Right (1628), Habeas Corpus Act (1679) and the Bill of Rights (1689).

Yet the tragic truth is that whilst Salisbury and the rest of Britain will be marking the signing of this great document, which formed the foundation for these other great documents and of the rights of the individual and the limitations of the state, the freedoms it began to establish are slowly but surely being eroded.

The Blair government was particularly zealous in its attacks on all that Magna Carta and the subsequent Acts of Liberty had established. Not only did they attack Habeas Corpus, by attempting to greatly increase the time a suspect could be held without trial, but they also got rid of the right to a trial by jury in certain complex cases, on the spurious grounds that juries simply could not be expected to understand the details of such cases. Well juries do generally understand when a case is proven and when it isn’t and I would sure prefer to be judged by 12 people who understand that they could be the ones in the dock, than I would by some Blairite judge.

But the attacks on liberty didn’t die with the end of the Blair or Brown era. Far from it, and the current government has repeatedly tried to introduce so-called “anti-terror” legislation, which is code word for “you’re about to lose some more of your liberties and you’re all under suspicion”. Here’s another couple of examples within the past few weeks:

The Ministry of Justice (you know, the one with the Orwellian name) recently put a guide up on its website for people with learning difficulties, giving details of how they should deal with a situation where they are accused of a crime for which they claim innocence. Here’s how their guide put it:

“If you say you did not do the crime, you may have to go back to the court on a different day, to show the court you did not do the crime.”

Get that? The onus is now on you to prove to the state that you are not guilty, rather than on them to prove that you are. Of course they took this advice down, but only it seems after a bit of a fuss was kicked up that they had overturned the presumption of innocence which has been a cornerstone of English law for centuries. Although this principle does not find its origins in the Magna Carta (I would argue that it stems from the Bible), that document not expressly stating the concept, it is undoubtedly implied in the phrase “no free man is to be arrested, or imprisoned… or in any other way ruined, nor will we go against him or send against him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.”

But they took it down. So why the fuss? Well the reason for the fuss is that any vaguely aware person ought to be able to see which way the wind is blowing. And it’s blowing upstream from the current established by Magna Carta. And in fact we don’t really need to do that in some kind of vague and general way, since a few weeks after this advice was taken down we were presented with a case in which the principle of innocent until proven guilty does appear to have been overturned.

Back in 2001, Barry George was convicted of killing the BBC television presenter, Jill Dando. He served nearly eight years in prison for the crime, before having his conviction quashed in 2008 after doubt was cast on the reliability of gunshot residue evidence.

So Mr George is innocent, right? Well apparently that is not quite how the Ministry of Justice sees it. Under the laws and liberties that have gone back over the centuries since Magna Carta, he would indeed be counted as innocent, the court having failed to prove his guilt. However, Mr George, who understandably feels that he is owed compensation for the eight lost years he spent in prison (if such a thing can be compensated), has failed in his latest attempt to get the Ministry of Justice to pay up.

What is their reasoning? Apparently they say that “only people who proved their innocence could get compensation.”

So it seems that even though they hastily took down the advice they put up on their website for people with learning disabilities (of whom Mr George is one, ironically), this is actually what they believe. Now I have no idea how Mr George is meant to prove his innocence to them, any more than I know how I could prove my innocence to them for the crime. But what I do know is this: In the midst of all the blathering praise that we will no doubt hear from various politicians over the coming year about the importance of Magna Carta, remember the Ministry of Justice website, remember Barry George, and remember all the anti-liberty laws that these people have passed over the past decade or so. Do that and you will no doubt come to the following conclusion: they don’t believe a word of what they are saying.