I’m not often right!

I never thought the war in Ukraine would happen, I was naive in thinking that wise heads would come together and a treaty would be signed between Ukraine and Russia (brokered by the European Union), that Ukraine would remain neutral and never join NATO (even if it did at some point join the EU) agreeing never to allow foreign bases to be built in their country. This and progress on the Minsk agreement were all the assurances that Russia wanted before the war commenced. A peace so easily gained – so quickly dismissed by NATO (America).

So where are we now, who are the winners and who are the losers?

Well, Ukraine of course is the big loser; this war will go on and on, next comes Europe,

Real GDP growth in both the EU and the euro area is now expected at 2.7% in 2022 and 2.3% in 2023, down from 4.0% and 2.8% (2.7% in the euro area), respectively, in the winter 2022 interim forecast (WiF) 16 May 2022

The euro area annual inflation rate was 8.1% in May 2022, up from 7.4% in April. A year earlier, the rate was 2.0%. European Union annual inflation was 8.8% in May 2022, up from 8.1% in April.17 Jun 2022

And this is whilst they are still able to buy gas and oil from Russia.

The UK now free from the EU (Brexit) still has an umbilical cord to America and Europe so will suffer as badly if not worse, for we no longer have a strong industrial base, the only thing that is keeping the UK afloat is a high oil price, oil revenue from Scottish waters flowing into Westminster coffers.

The UK Gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 0.3% in April 2022, after a decline of 0.1% in March 2022; UK GDP increased by 0.2% in the three months to April 2022.13 Jun 2022

And you do not have to have a degree in economics to work that one out, we all know how much it costs to fill a tank with petrol or buy food at the local supermarket. Inflation is going now where but up. In its report published alongside today’s Spring Statement, the OBR said it expected CPI inflation to peak at 8.7% in the fourth quarter of 2022. It also forecasted that UK inflation would remain above 7% in each quarter from the second quarter of 2022 until the first quarter of 2023.4 days ago. Changing the Tory leader will do nothing to improve a lot of the ordinary families in the UK.

This leaves America: Consumer prices up 8.6 per cent over year ended May 2022: The Economics Daily: U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics. The government means its official.

So bad is the situation in the west that Biden had to go cap in hand to the Saudi Princes asking them to open up the oil taps to stop runaway inflation? This war in Ukraine has caused more problems for the west than they thought possible. They expected the sanctions they placed on Russia, to kill Russia’s economy stone dead, but the complete opposite is true, as for the midterm elections in America in November, Biden is in real shit and he has not got the boots for it.

What stands out since the war in Ukraine is a seismic shift in power away from the west to the east.

Russia Economists pointed out that a rebound in oil production due to growing domestic demand and a shift to export buyers in Asia has been a big driver for the Russian economy. Gas output was another critical economic engine, fuelling revenue gains on spiking prices, (sorry about the pun).

According to Bloomberg, economists from JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and other big banks are slashing their outlooks for the drop in output this year to as little as 3.5%. Russian officials, some of whom foresaw a contraction of as much as 12%, are updating their forecasts to less than 6%. Look no further than the Russian ruble for a measure of investor confidence. The ruble, which has become the world’s best-performing currency this year, is driven by Russia’s high proceeds from commodity exports, a sharp drop in imports, and a ban on households withdrawing foreign currency savings.

Seasonally adjusted data from the Development Centre at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics showed industrial production in Russia was up 1.7% in May from the previous month. “The break in the contraction in May could be a sign that producers have initially adapted to the shock of anti-Russian sanctions,” the centre said.

What is driving the Russian economy? Countries like China and India now buying from Russia. India has an exploding population growth and they need economic growth to feed their growing population unlike Europe has a high percentage of young people, they were not going down the road of European leaders and cut off their noses to spite their faces and placing sanctions on Russia. 

India will likely reign as the world’s fastest-growing economy, India is expected to grow by 7.1-7.6 per cent in 2022-23 and 6-6.7 per cent in 2023-24. This will ensure that India reigns as the world’s fastest-growing economy over the next few years, driving world growth.

And what of China GDP 2022, Siu: China’s 2022 GDP Growth At 4.8%2 days ago Bloomberg.com

There has always been a split between west and east but this war, and these sanctions placed on Russia have only turned a split into a widening canyon and divided west and east more sharply than ever before.

All America has achieved with its failed foreign policies and economic empire building is to hand the mantel of economic power to the eastern hemisphere, and all the bombs and bullets they send to Ukraine will not change that.

The leaders in Europe must wake up to where this war is taking them, stop the hypocrisy – trade goods, not bullets with Russia – Stop the War.

Stay safe.  

Dream Potatoes

After many visits to France over the years, it had been my intention to take my boat into the canal system of France and try to find a small piece of land to berth it the boat would then become my live-on-board home. The land would be turned into a small allotment, and the surpluses food sold off the boat’s deck to passing boats. Not really a business but a way of life, sadly life got in my way.

Last spring before I left for Austria, I planted some potatoes in an unused corner of the garden, being outside the old kitchen, where all the drains run, it was an awkward site.

The drills were short but clearly formed potato drills, on my return, the contract maintenance gardeners had levelled the drills and the new shaws chopped off, even before they broke the surface. I raked down and found new shoots starting to sprout, so I raked up the drills again and fenced off the area with string making it clear it was being worked on.

I had little hope of potatoes from the shaws since no flowers came. Today I dug up a couple of shaws for my dinner, the potatoes were like new potatoes with little in the way of skin, the verity planted a French potato.

Dinner today was a bit special, with small boiled potatoes and cauliflower, garnished with butter. The waxy fleshed potatoes were just yummy, for the taste was so much that of the Loire River, flowing slow and majestic, under an intense summer sun that glinted and sparkled like stars upon its surface. Dinner does not come sweeter.  

Stay safe 

“Why are we always playing catch up?”

By the start of the 19th century, Edinburgh was already disparagingly referred to as Auld Reekie, from the Old Norse word reykr meaning smoke or steam (from where the Icelandic capital, Reykjavik, also gets its name). In 1805, Edinburgh’s newly-fledged Police Commissioners has responsibilities for controlling chimney fires in the city. But they were also keenly aware of the issues around air pollution from the smoke these chimneys produced. In 1822 new powers were introduced in Edinburgh to try and combat air pollution. Factory owners were given six months-notice to install methods for consuming internally the smoke they produced rather than emitting it through industrial chimneys. The penalty for noncompliance was set at £50, about £5000 in modern value.

I have written extensively over the years about the bad policy that the EU has adopted e.g. – exchanging the burning of coal in favour of wood. Large subsidies are paid out to the biomass companies. The vast forests, once part of the Soviet Union and now under EU member’s control, would no longer be managed but clear felled, for-profit and help, in the short term, massage government figures to show their green credentials, and not too save the planet from global warming. So what was once a carbon sink is now a desert. Of course, the plan was always that the owners of the land would replant, but once the forests had gone there was no real commitment to replant, why to spend money planting trees when it cannot possibly profit the landowner, trees take time to grow.  

Nowadays, whilst things have undoubtedly improved, air pollution remains a major killer. Specifically, there are concerns around the levels of the fine particular matter in our atmosphere. The smallest particles, less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter (usually abbreviated as PM2.5 pollution), are the most harmful and most concerning. PM2.5 pollution produces multiple adverse effects on the human body – heart attacks, strokes, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, depression and dementia. At present more than one-third of all UK local authority areas are recording PM2.5 levels above the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended safe upper limit. In 2018, 33,000 deaths in the UK were attributed to air pollution. Think of the cost to the NHS.

Worldwide air pollution accounts for 1 in 5 premature deaths and, in 2018, it is estimated that PM2.5 pollution killed almost 9 million people across the globe. Everyone is now aware of the impact of diesel engines on the production of PM2.5 pollution.

So was the EU right to change from coal to wood?

The growth in the sale and installation of wood-burning stoves accelerated over the two last decades. As such, they have now become a major source of PM2.5 air pollution both within our homes and in the external atmosphere. In New Zealand, despite the presence of the strictest wood stove standards in the world, it is estimated that. Wood burning stoves account for over half the health costs of all man-made air pollution.

In the UK, PM2.5 air pollution from stoves is thought to be responsible for 38% of lethal air pollution. Wood smoke contains a similar toxic and carcinogenic chemical cocktail to tobacco smoke and it is estimated that a wood-burning stove will increase internal air pollution in a home by as much as three times. All this led to a joint statement from the British Lung Foundation and Asthma UK in December 2020:

“To protect yourself and others, especially children, avoid buying a wood burning stove, or using an open fire.”

Today we see a change of heart –  Late Tuesday in Brussels, a committee of the European Parliament voted to make substantial changes to both how the union subsidizes biomass, and how it counts emissions from burning it — policies with major consequences if passed by the full Parliament. It’s part of a broad package of climate policies that would alter not only the way Europe generates electricity in coming years but also how the European Union meets its targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

“This vote is a historic breakthrough,” said Martin Pigeon, forests and climate campaigner with Fern, a nonprofit group focused on European forests.

“For the first time, a major E.U. regulatory body makes clear that one of the E.U.’s most climate-wrecking policies of the last decade, incentivizing the burning of forests in the name of renewable energy, has to stop.”

But my question to the lawmakers is this:

“Why are we always playing catch up? Why are we always trying to find cures for the symptoms and not for the disease?”

We know the causes of global warming and have done for at least a century, yet still today we spend billions trying to mitigate the symptoms and not eliminating the cause.

Stupid is what stupid does.

Stay safe.   

Stranger and Stranger

There is a lot of information coming together at this time that is disturbing for me.

This morning I was reading how one writer believes our parliament in Scotland is working, not unlike that in Stalin’s Russia, and he sets out very clearly why.

I received an e-mail today from Paul Lewis, Head of Investigations at the Guardian, who tells me they are investigating Uber’s astonishing rise, using material furnished by a whistleblower.

“The data showed the extraordinary lengths Emmanuel Macron went to in order to help Uber’s lobbyist in France. It showed how the company secretly hired a political operative linked to Russian oligarchs, despite concerns that paying the lobbyist risked bribes being paid to “grease the skids”. There were countless other revelations relating to the EU, UK, US, Canada, Germany, Spain, Finland, Hungary and India.”

Elsewhere I read: “Will the job skills we possess now have any relevance in a decade’s time?” scary stuff.   

Robert Watson – about American politics, writes:

“Public trust in government remains low, as it has for much of the 21st century. Only two-in-ten Americans say they trust the government in Washington to do what is right “just about always” (2%) or “most of the time” (19%). Trust in the government had declined somewhat since last year when 24% said they could trust the government at least most of the time.

The data clearly points to a disconnect between those who govern and the governed. If you wonder why those in political power were panicked by the January 6, 2021 ruckus. Our glorious leaders carry an omnipresent and rightful fear of “we the people.”

Robert, reminded me of a book I read, originally published in 1849, as “Resistance to Civil Government” by Henry David Thoreau, so I dug it out and the first lines tell us:

“I heartily accept the motto, – “That government is best which governs least;” …… The objections which have been brought against a standing army, may also at least be brought against a standing government. The standing army is only an arm of the standing government. The government itself, which is only the mode with which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it. Witness the present Mexican war, the work of comparatively a few individuals using the standing government as their tool; for, in the outset, the people would not have consented to this measure.”

Today in Britain the media is obsessed with the Tory party leadership contest, a contest that has little to do with the viewing public, for it is something they have no control over, so only gives the illusion that we live in a democracy.

Robert asked us: How does a very unpopular government stay in power?

Let me suggest sending checks to families. The federal government now pays monthly checks to about 88 per cent of children in America through the Child Tax Credit (CTC) program. Under the American Rescue Plan of 2021, advance payments of up to half the 2021 Child Tax Credit were sent to eligible taxpayers. 

Before the new CTC, only 28 per cent of the population lived in a household where the federal government paid monthly checks primarily to elderly and disabled people through the Social Security (SS) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. Now, it is 65 per cent.

What do we see here at home in Scotland the Green party bribed by bags of sweeties to prop up the council in Glasgow and even bigger bags of sweeties from Nicola Sturgeon to pass her government’s budgets?

Where does the voting public fit in?

Westminster, promising tax cuts, money off your next fuel bill, once more the Tory party have found the “horn of plenty” when:

“Our glorious leaders carry an omnipresent and rightful fear of “we the people.”

The Westminster governments (of whatever colour) still use these tried and tested tactics – like Margaret Thatcher, whom they hold in such high esteem, she gave us our council homes at give-away prices in her garage sale, as she, like a conjurer who diverts our attention from their sleight of hand, – stole the family silver.

Changing the leader of the Tory party in Britain is like changing the deckchairs on the Titanic, it will change nothing. The democracy we see in Braitain is only an illusion of democracy.

Stay safe.                                                                                                                           

A good time to bury bad news

When the media is looking the other way, they say, this is the best time for governments to push through legislation that would never be supported by the opposition parties. There seems to be a lot of looking the other way when it comes to what NATO is up to.

When President Trump announced that he was considering pulling out of NATO and the President of France called NATO ‘brain dead’ it must have set alarm bells ringing on the Hill. NATO is for all intent and purpose America’s instrument of control over world markets.

In Ian Martin’s book ‘All Necessary Measures? The United Nations and International Intervention in Libya show there was clear mission creep towards working for ‘regime change’ and that NATO’s arguments that its support for the rebels’ attacks on Tripoli, and after the fall, on Sirte and Bani Walid, were necessary to protect civilians are unconvincing. Later we had Declassified UK documents that told what Martin had always suspected that NATO members did have ‘Boots on the Ground’ – we still do not know what they were doing there – what we do know is that bilateral military operations, including deployment to Libya of covert special forces by Western and Gulf states, did take place.

The political establishment in London and Washington continue their propaganda the ideas of ‘Liberal Interventionism’ discredited after the 2003 war on Iraq, and then used to increase military spending into the coffers of a seemingly never-ending NATO expansion.  

It is also worth pointing out that the wars in Libya and Iraq were deeply unpopular here in Britain – but Blair (PM of the then Labour government) went ahead anyway, making a mockery to legitimise NATO expansion under the banners of defence and DEMOCRACY.  Libya is home to Africa’s largest oil reserves and the tenth-largest reserves in the world, yet decades after the war, Libya’s people live in misery. In May 2022 Al Jazeera carried the following headlines online about Libya – “Slavery, rape, torture”: Libya threatened by foreign fighters, “Could Libya return to civil war?”

The cold war divided former wartime allies, the US, Britain, the Soviet Union and China. Now Western US-led powers and Their Soviet counterparts. From Cold War to Hot War, in Korea, in Vietnam and across Indochina, America’s answer was to set up an Asian NATO, but obstacles lay in their path. Australia still was uneasy over linking up with Japan after WW2. Japan’s military was constrained by Article 9 of its constitution, and then we had so many South-East Asian states wishing to gain independence.

In 1997 Zbigniew Brzezinski (US national security advisor) warned against the emergence of a hostile coalition across Eurasia, involving Germany, Russia and China, this could challenge US primacy.

2011 saw the establishment of Obama’s ‘Asian pivot’ that introduced freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea. Following this, Trump declared China a strategic competitor, initiating the Quad which drew India into a new alliance-type network with Australia, Japan and the US.

In 2020 the links across Eurasia gathered momentum. China had consolidated its position as the economic heart of the continent with agreements on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership for East Asia, which included China, South Korea, Japan and ASEAN, and with the EU also about to sign a major investment deal, Brzezinski’s warning of 1997 was once more ringing loud and clear in Washington.

The hawks were ready to strike back. The then US Secretary of state, Mike Pompeo launched the New Cold War in the summer of 2020 followed by Biden’s declaration in September 2021 of AUKUS – NATO formed the union between Australia, the UK, and the US.

NATO has been expanding in Asia since 2012 with its “Partnerships for Peace” programme drawing in Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines and Mongolia.  Already parallels were being drawn by the US and West between Russian action in Ukraine and China’s in the South China Sea. At the 2019 NATO summit, Pompeo raised China ‘Threat’ and in 2021 the NATO 2030 document widened its remit to include the Indo-Pacific, promoting a strategy of “Russia first then China”

The US support for Ukraine is not just about Russia, or even the security of Europe, but much about the US global battle for global supremacy over trade. Three months into the Ukraine war and Anthony Blinken, (US Secretary of State) said, “We will remain focused on the most serious long-term challenge to the international order- and that’s posed by the People’s Republic of China”.

The war (instigated by the US) in Ukraine has taken a dying, past its sell-by date NATO and turned it into a global threat to world peace, as country after country sign up to pay into its coffers, allowing it to expand its tentacles of influence – not only over Europe – but the wider world. AUKUS is the core of a regional ‘hybrid warfare’ network, covering diplomacy, intelligence sharing, media narratives, supply chains and on and on. This will bring the region under US direction, (just as it has in Europe) a new level of cooperation in military technologies, quantum computing, and digital technologies.

All will be accompanied by arms sales and coordination on sanctions, AUKUS is designed to secure US dominance over East Asia’s future growth in the support of US competition at the cutting edge of new technologies.

I believe Europe is sleepwalking into a world war scenario by looking too close to home – the Ukrainian War.

Stay safe.    

NATO – Our Enemy

The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact should have ushered in a time of peace, but the debate at the time was about how to respond. Some were for closer relations with post-Soviet Russia, reduction in arms spending and the benefits of a peace dividend, however, this would create a problem for the US. The spin had always been that NATO had defended the West against the Soviet Union but in reality, NATO had been crucial in providing the US with a bridgehead to Europe and Asia and imposing US leadership of the Western alliance.

Zbigniew Brzezinski then advisor to US President Clinton summed up the US’s three priorities as:

“to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence amongst eh vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected and to keep the barbarians from coming together” by barbarians he meant Russia and China. It is clear that the US needed NATO to ensure US influence in Europe and to contain competitors.

The new thinking was spelt out in a Pentagon strategy document in 1992:

‘Our primary objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the old Soviet Union or elsewhere… the new strategy requires that we work to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would be sufficient, if tightly controlled, to generated global power.’

This was only a year after the Warsaw Pack fell apart and James Baker (US Secretary of State) assured Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not move East of Germany. ‘NATO will not extend by a single inch to the East’ he promised. Hollow words, as it turned out, NATO expanded to incorporate its first three former Warsaw Pack countries – Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, a month before its 1999 attack on Serbia.

In 2004, seven other Baltic states, including Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania followed, and by 2019, thirteen Eastern European and Balkan countries had joined NATO, even more, were candidates for membership and twelve new NATO  bases had been built east of Germany taking NATO  right up to the border of Russia.

In 1992 the European Union Maastricht Treaty enshrined the right of EU states to be part of NATO and defined NATO as the foundation of defence of the EU – in effect it tied the EU to the US and the further expansion of the Western military alliance and in the process, opened up Easter Europe to Western business, further alienated Russia.

The 2014 crisis in Ukraine was the fruit of NATO’s push eastward. With NATO’s influence in the region, Ukraine’s President, Kuchma signed a NATO-Ukraine Action Plan and committed to joining NATO in 2002. his successor President Yushchenko was invited to the Brussels NATO  summit in 2005 and the 2008 NATO  summit gave the green light to Ukraine’s entry into the NATO club. However, the plan was scuppered in 2010 when the newly elected president Yanukovych signalled he had no intention of joining the Alliance.  

NATO by this time had developed close links with parts of the Ukrainian military, (we know that the CIA and FBI were working in the country at that time) and when the anti-government demonstrations started in early 2014, used as a pretext for NATO  to reassert its influence.

In 2014 NATO increased pressure on Russia. At the summit in Wales, they announced the ‘Readiness Action Plan’ to respond quickly and firmly to any new challenges’ created by ‘military aggression of Russia against Ukraine’. From 2014-2018 the US spent ten billion dollars on increasing the US and NATO  firepower in the region. US forces were stationed permanently on Polish territory and massive military exercises were conducted in the Baltic states – Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine – which are now effectively integrated into NATO operations.

The day after my 80th birthday Russia crossed the border into Ukraine the ensuing war has caused massive suffering and destruction. There is in my mind no justification for ANY war, however, it is crucial to understand that NATO enlargement in Eastern Europe was one of the causes of the war.

What was Putin playing at?

In a statement made by President Putin, he said the initial aim was to ‘demilitarise and denazify’ Ukraine. He did not say that Ukraine should have no military capacity at all but removed any possibility of Ukraine posing a military threat to Russia, or allowing itself to be used by others with that in mind (joining NATO). Denazify, is more a propaganda word- yes there are indeed Nazis in Ukraine, some of them embedded within the state apparatus, but they hardly dominate political life.

There has been much speculation as to why Putin ordered the invasion when he did. Did he simply run out of patience with the failure of the Kyiv government to honour the Minsk agreement on resolving the Donbas crisis?  Certainly, Zelensky’s persecution of pro-Russian politicians and media was foreclosing his political options and making military action the only remaining means to secure his objectives. Putin had marched his army up the hill what was he to do with them, march them down again – was he to withdraw his forces from the border – withdraw with his demands unmet, no this would have been unthinkable – humiliating.  

Putin’s invasion was ‘worse than a crime it was a blunder’ whatever the final outcome on the field of battle the resolution of this war seems likely to be deeply damaging to Russia. The integration of Finland and Sweden into NATO is only the down–payment.

Russia could not tolerate Ukraine becoming another NATO base, a direct threat to its only warm water port and the Black Sea its only access to the Mediterranean Sea, much as the USA would not tolerate a hostile Mexico, or Mexico forming a military pact with China, it could be said, true. But if the US was then to invade its southern neighbour would we say ‘fair enough?

Unjustified, however, does not mean unprovoked.

Stay safe.

Ukraine another Groundhog Day

It was the day after my 80th birthday 24th February 2022 that the first Russian soldiers crossed the border into Ukraine.

So predictable so preventable,

Like every war before this one the euphoria of war was palpable, young and old, men and women, appeared before the cameras to tell the world how they would fight the invaders and free their country.

Figures ranging from 7.4 to 8 million people 17 per cent of the entire population of Ukraine have fled their homes into neighbouring countries, many now widowed, and children orphaned, now living off the charity of others, and handouts from food banks. They will see as we do the pictures of cities razed to the ground, cities that were once their home, their homeland in flames, they must now wonder if they will ever be able to return, would they want to? I’m sure so many of them must be asking themselves now WHY?

Do these people now look back to the American led coup of 2014, the stirring up by the CIA and FBI of far-right factions in the country, the civil war that raged in the east of Ukraine for 8 years, the fires of war stocked by American weapons pouring into the country?

Liberating Afghanistan

The people there are dead because we wanted them dead.

Pentagon spokesperson on the bombing of a village that killed 93 civilians.

Kabul today has contours of rubble rather than streets where people live in bombed-out buildings, and children play in the rubble of what remains of its once-famous art deco cinema. A poster warns of cluster bombs ‘yellow and from the USA’ are in the vicinity, yet people are still being disfigured, still suffering lost limbs having confused the cluster canisters for yellow relief packages that were dropped by American planes in October 2001, after the invading ‘Coalition’ had stopped relief convoys crossing from Pakistan. Why then is the poster is not heeded – the people can not read.

The number of civilians killed directly by the post-September 11 bombings and  invasion of Afghanistan is estimated at between thirteen hundred and eight thousand as many as twenty thousand Afghanis may have lost their lives as an indirect consequence, wrote Jonathan Steele in an investigation for the Guardian

‘The bombing caused massive dislocation by prompting hundreds of Afghans to flee their homes. It stopped aid supplies to drought victims who depended on emergency relief. It provoked an upsurge in fighting leading yet more people to flee, they, too, become the tally of the dead.’

Only the dead know an end to war.

The war in Afghanistan was well documented at the time, now it slips into history, and the lessons of the past have not been learned. The mujahedin, whose guerrilla army was effectively created by America in the 1980s as an instrument of the Cold War, As the Bush administration prepared to attack Afghanistan in the wake of the September Twin Towers to Saudi Arabians – CIA agents secretly met their old clients on the border with Pakistan and handed them millions of dollars in cash.

‘We were reaching out to every commander that we could’ a CIA official told the Wall Street Journal.

By reaching out, he meant bribing them to stop fighting each other and instead fight the Taliban. In his semi-official history, the Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward reports that the CIA spent $70 million in bribes. He describes a meeting between a CIA agent known as Gary and a warlord called Amniat-Melli:

Gary placed a bundle of cash on the table: $500,000 in ten one-foot stacks of $100 bills. He believed it would be more impressive than the usual $200,000, the best way to say we’re here, we’re serious, here’s money, we know you need it…. Gary would soon ask CIA headquarters for and receive $10 million in cash.

The problem with the PDPA government for Washington was it was supported by the Soviet Union. At Brzezinski’s urging and unknown to the American public and Congress, President Carter authorised $500 million to fund and arm the mujahedin: in effect, to set up what the Americans would now describe as a terrorist organisation. The aim was to overthrow the Afghan government and draw the Soviets into Afghanistan. In an interview in 1998, Brzezinski said:

According to the official view of history, CIA aid to the mujahedin began in 1980, that is, after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on 24 December 1979. but the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise. Indeed, it was on 3 July 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion, this aid was going to provoke a Soviet military intervention … We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.   

Brzezinski was asked if, having seen the consequences, he had any regrets. ‘Regret what?’ he replied.

The secret operation was an excellent idea. It has the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap …. The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: ‘We now have the opportunity to give the USSR its Vietnam War.’ Indeed, for almost ten years, Moscow has o carry on a conflict that brought about the demoralisation and finally the break-u of the Soviet empire.

For seventeen years, the US deliberately cultivated an extremist against which it would later proclaim a ‘war on terror. ‘Central to the US-sponsored operation’ wrote Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed in The War on Truth: 9/11, Disinformation and the Anatomy of Terrorism

Was the attempt to manufacture an extremist religious ideology by amalgamating local Afghan feudal traditions which Islamic rhetoric… The extremist religious ‘jihad’ ideology cultivated in CIA-sponsored training programs was interspersed with tribal norms, giving rise to a distinctly distorted system of war values garbed with ‘Islamic’ jargon … Amongst the myriad of polices designed to generate the desired level of extremism, the US-funded – to the tune of millions of dollars – the production and distribution in Afghanistan of School textbooks promoting murder and fanaticism.  

It is well documented what went on in Latin America at the hands of the United States of America in their attempt to control (by regime change) the governments therefore the rich resources of Latin American countries. It is well documented what went on in Afghanistan, at the hands of the United States of America, a proxy-war, to draw the then USSR into as it was put, their Vietnam. Later using the same people they had used to draw the USSR into a war they never wished to become involved in, and then utilising the same people (now terrorists) to justify America’s invasion of Afghanistan. (Their second Vietnam is it turned out).

Now here again we see America fighting a proxy-war in Ukraine, once more drawing

Into a war, not of their own choosing. A war that is leaving a trail of  destruction in their wake, displacing millions and turning them into refugees. Forcing hardship on neighbouring countries, and trashing economies across Europe.

I have to wonder if the people we saw on our television screens, still feel it was all worth it or if given the chance to rewind time, would now choose to trade goods and resources with Russia rather than bullets and bombs? (Supplied of course by their friends in the US)

Stay safe.

“WE BROKE ARMAGH, IT NEVER BROKE US” – IRISH REPUBLICAN WOMEN

This was the heading of a blog that popped into my inbox today. Manna, from heaven, since I had just written an antiwar piece about the struggles of Latin American countries to free themselves from a bullying neighbour, The United States of America.

I was privileged to attend a Christy Moor concert in Edinburgh, years ago now, it was a strange experience. I had listened to his recordings over the years, however, this would be the first time I would have the opportunity to hear him live in concert.

The warm-up artist was performing to a sparse audience and was not very well received. At the interval I felt that I had been instantly transported to Dublin, the hall quickly filled up with exuberant Irish men and women most were totting a large glass of a dark liquid drink reputed to be popular with the Irish.

It was the time of the Armagh Women and Christy sang a song about the injustices these women were suffering in prison,

“When women hold a naked woman face down on the floor without trial or jury, she is a prisoner of war.”

Well, the theatre erupted. War has many guises, for the struggle still goes on; even today here in this country, we are still trying to escape empires and our imperial masters. The injustices such empires (the UK, The United States, and an ever-growing empire of the EU) imposing their will on other nations and individuals (think Julian Assange, think Gauntanimo) the sanctions imposed on Russia, and today we hear of their failed attempt to impose sanctions on North Korea. Thank God for heroes – leaders in Russia, China, and Hungary that stand for democracy, not imperial threats.

Here is the blog that made me climb onto my soapbox.

“WE BROKE ARMAGH, IT NEVER BROKE US” – IRISH REPUBLICAN WOMEN

“When young women were imprisoned throughout the conflict, in this state, in Britain and in the six counties, they knew they were walking in the footsteps of the women of 1916. We were republicans in the mould of Markievicz. We were what we were. We are what we are. Unashamed, unrepentant republicans; to this day and forever on.”SÍLE DARRAGH

The experience of women during the Troubles has often been overlooked, especially those connected to Armagh Gaol
Now empty, it was the only female prison in Northern Ireland until it closed in 1986. The number of female political prisoners grew from 2 in 1971 to more than 100 by 1976; hundreds of women, most aged from mid-teens to mid-twenties,
were jailed in the 1970s and 1980s for political offences.

1 January 1973: – Elizabeth McKee (19) of Belfast became the first woman to be detained under the Detention of Terrorists (Northern Ireland) Act

No charge. No trial. Indefinite imprisonment.

32 other women including Teresa Holland, Margaret Shannon and Anne Walsh were soon to join Elizabeth.

Republican women prisoners endured horrific abuse and violence and yet acknowledgement of that experience has been marginalised as have the unbearable pain and tremendous courage of mothers who were imprisoned.
When the final key turned on history many will never forget the stories of these prisoners seemed destined to remain unheard and unseen.
In the Footsteps of Anne
fills the gap by describing how young girls, married women, pregnant women and even grandmothers withstood horrific abuse and stood up to the British system which aimed at breaking them for over 30 years. Eileen Hickey,
OC of the women prisoners from 1973-77, started compiling the inside stories from the women themselves over 10 years ago with the help of her sister Mary.
Many ex-prisoners were reluctant to collaborate some because they did not want to re-live bad memories, others because they had put the past behind them.
All the women who told their stories remembered some of the worst times, the inhumanity and petty vindictiveness and the incredibly strong bonds forged among the women in prison.


Mariea McClenaghan Williams (Armagh 1973) said “The comradeship between us all was fantastic. Many of us are still great friends, that bond we had will never leave us“


North Belfast republican Mary Doyle was first sent to Armagh women’s jail for republican activities in May 1974 when she was 18 years old.
“Armagh Jail was an old Victorian building. It was freezing. It wasn’t pleasant. The conditions when we were slopping out were grim and not something you thought you could ever get used to. But when your back is against the wall, you get the strength from somewhere. And republicans, we just get on with it. We always have.”


Many recalled where their cells had been, and who their cellmates were. They remembered the protests and they remembered the beatings at the hands of the screws.
Here’s why some women ended up in Armagh gaol
Anne Larkin McCay was arrested at Easter time in 1967 for selling
Easter lilies in Ardoyne (a staunchly Republican area in North Belfast).
In 1971 Margaret Boyd Gatt was sentenced to 6 months for wearing
a parka jacket and carrying a hurling stick – “conduct likely to lead to a breach of the peace”
32 women were interned without trial – no charge, no sentence, indefinite imprisonment
For example, Ann Walsh O’Neill was interned in March 1973, Ann Doherty in June of the same year and Anne-Marie Williams in August.
Here are memories of Armagh Gaol from one prison officer, two Open University tutors, one loyalist prisoner and three republican prisoners.

Marie Doherty went into prison as the protest by republican prisoners was escalating.
“I was arrested in February 1977 and when I went into jail the political status had gone at that stage,” she said.
“About six months after I was sentenced a shout went up one evening that there was chicken for dinner which was unusual because we never had chicken on a Tuesday. We all rushed down to the canteen and while we were there the screws moved in and penned us in and others went to search the cells. A riot broke out and we were all locked up for three days continuously with no access to toilet or washing facilities. That was the start of the no-wash protest.
Una Nellis says she went off the protest and felt really guilty and bad about leaving her comrades at that time in those conditions. She had a breakdown and ended up on so many different drugs, not realizing the damage they were doing to her.
“I still suffer from mental illness but it does not wreck my life. I do not think I would have suffered from this if it had not been for the conditions in Armagh gaol”
“I still have flashbacks as I am sure others do even though it is 30 years later. I’m still on heavy medication”
“There’s an awful lot of men and women suffering and they try to hide it as I do but our story should be told”.
Republican prisoners in Armagh had close links with the men in Long Kesh.
“There wasn’t a woman in Armagh who wasn’t writing to at least one man in Long Kesh. I shared a cell with the fiancee of Tom McElwee for three years and it was awful watching her, knowing that he was going on hunger strike.
“We knew the first four who were going on and she knew at that stage that Tom’s name was on the list. For her, it was not just being separated from him but she also knew what he was going through in Long Kesh”.
Thomas McElwee started his Hunger Strike in the H-Blocks on 8 June 1981. He died on 8 August 1981.
The 10 hunger strikers who died (clockwise from top left) – Raymond McCreesh, Thomas McElwee, Bobby Sands, Patsy O’Hara, Kevin Lynch, Joe McDonnell, Francis Hughes, Michael Devine, Martin Hurson and Kieran Doherty. (Photograph: Pat Langan: PA)
“I remember going to the funerals after they died. The thing that sticks out most in my mind was the funeral of Tom McElwee”.
“I remember seeing his sisters carrying his coffin. That was the first time I had ever seen a woman carrying a coffin, it just wasn’t done back then. That sticks out in my mind. It was his sisters telling the world that they were proud of their brother and what he had done. When I think of Tom McElwee that is what I think of,”
Jennifer McCann is a Sinn Fein politician who is a member of the Stormont Assembly.
She was sentenced to 20 years for terrorist offences.

In her time as a Republican prisoner, she and her colleagues refused to work which meant they were locked up in their cells for most of the day.
“We were let out for a short time to wash and to empty our chamber pots in the mornings. We ate in our cells and we got an hour’s exercise in the afternoons and we were allowed a small period of time for association in the evenings but not at the weekends. We lost a day’s remission for every day we wouldn’t work,”
Jennifer McCann clearly remembers hearing that Bobby Sands had died on hunger strike in the Maze in 1981.
“There used to be heating pipes which ran through the cells. We had smuggled in small crystallised radios”
“which were made on the outside and I passed on the news that he had died.”
Mary Mc Conville

In October 2009, a group of internees and sentenced prisoners began a journey to Armagh Gaol that some of them had only made once before, but which their families had made many times during their years of incarceration.
At the end of the visit, the women were in the courtyard. I pointed out an intact window to Pauline Derry.

“Be a shame to go without leaving your mark,” I said as I handed her a rock.
The other 20 women also intended to “leave their mark.” As the hail of rocks began to sail through the air I heard
“Ye couldn’t break us then and you’ll never break us now.”
“Here’s what we think of your strip searches.”
“We were political prisoners no matter what you all said.”
“Where’s Thatcher now?”
“Armagh thought it would break us – well we’ve broken Armagh.”

In the Footsteps of Anne
is published by Shanway Press, 1-5 Eia Belfast. info@shanway.com
The copyright belongs to the women ex-POWs who submitted their stories.
Eileen Hickey also started an independent museum which is housed in the Conway Mill, Belfast.

Her main hope was that the museum would provide visitors with an insight into “the Troubles” in Northern Ireland and an understanding of why so many young men and women joined the Republican movement.

I have not written much in the way of blogs since my return, but have been writing, It has been a strange time for me since my return from Europe, my adventure seems to have turned me into something of a hero amongst my neighbours, something akin to having won a gold medal at the Olympics. The garden has been my main source of entertainment over the past few weeks, a busy time for gardeners. Still, I have not neglected my cycling I go out each morning for a bit of exercise, but the big problem has been the wind; a struggle some days. Still, I’m feeling strong and thinking seriously about a trip to Holland for a few days.   

Lavender Blue Dilly Daily

Leeks, cabbage and cauliflower.

Stay safe

The War in Ukraine

I normally follow Iain Lawson’s blog “Yes for Scotland” but from time to time he has been beating his Russia Bad drum, about the war, and I felt I had to take issue with him over the war in Ukraine.

I have just returned from a four week trip across Europe and I can assure you that you are as wrong as you can be about the war in Ukraine being anything other than America wishing to save NATO and her arms industry. There is no solidarity across Europe for inflaming this situation by shipping in more and more arms, simply pouring petrol on a fire, and continuing America’s proxy war, a proxy war of America’s making, and even now considering sending warships into the Black Sea is a recipe for disaster. A war that was so predictable and so preventable

Yes, it is easy to get all patriotic about one side or the other in any conflict but no matter who is wrong and who is right, war is and always will be a crime against humanity, and anyone supporting war, to my mind, is a war criminal.

We need to stop this one-sided propaganda on our media and replace it with a much needed international diplomatic effort to stop this carnage, get around a table and sort this out not this constant spouting ‘Russia Bad’ that is being pumped out daily by the American and British media (one and the same).

I was born during the Second World War, throughout my life I had witnessed countless wars around the world and all have the same outcome, hundreds of thousands of men women and children killed, cities razed to the ground, economies trashed, and people thrown into poverty, and the growth of refugee camps, many the size of small cities, expanding across the world, there is no upside to war.

Since 1945 the United States has attempted to overthrow 50 governments, many of them democracies. In the process, 30 countries have been attacked and bombed.

In Latin America, Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Granada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

Then we had Suez, Yemen, the Falkland Islands, the war in Croatia, Egypt, Vietnam, Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Afghanistan, spilling over into Pakistan. Now we have a repeat performance in Yemen, and last but by no means least, Ukraine, and behind them all supplying the bullets, mostly for someone else to fire, the United States of America, 68 per cent of all armaments sold across the world comes from America.

Are the lives and dreams of the ordinary people of Chile, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Yemen, or the people of Vietnam or Palestine worth only a few lines on the news?  


Sorry Iain, but anyone that believes that fuelling, this war in Ukraine by pouring more and more deadly weapons into the country, sending warships into the Black Sea to provoke and challenge the Russian fleet, will do anything other than spreading this evil, out with Ukraine that could so easily escalate rapidly across the world, is blinkered.

There is great danger in your thinking, for that may well lead us into a third world war, (possibly nuclear war, and everyone knows where that will lead humanity), if they don’t, they have been dropped on their head as a baby.

Oh, it is very laudable to say “I don’t believe in war”

If you truly believe that then you should be working for peace not writing some blog on who you believe is the victim and who is the bully, War is a Crime against Humanity – full stop.

Think The National Stadium in Santiago, Chile, It has a special place in the struggle for freedom and democracy throughout Latin America today in America they still have secret sites the most notorious being Guantanamo.  

(George W Bush) told the world,

“America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling our goal instead is to help others to find their own voice attain their own freedom and make their own way” just so long as it goes along with the wants and needs of America.

Richard Nixon when the president said this of Latin America,

“People don’t give a shit about the place”

He was wrong, the grand design of the United States as a modern empire was drawn on the hope of an entire continent, known contemptuously as “The back yard” America saw it as useful or expendable, but the people fought back and reclaimed words like ‘Democracy’, ‘Freedom’, ‘Liberation, ‘Justice’ and in doing so, they defended the most basic human rights of all of us in a war waged against all of us.

History explains why we in the West know a lot about the crimes of others and almost nothing about our own. The missing word is Empire. The existence of an American empire is rarely acknowledged or it is hidden behind jingoism that celebrates war and an arrogance that says no country has the right to go its own way unless that way coincides with the interests of the United States.

Stay safe.

I think I may be Pregnant!

Wednesday and my first day out on the bike since my return, and oh, was it a joy. I have no idea where the other days have gone, just so much to catch up with.

First the garden, I had planted three drills of potatoes, could not have been mistaken for anything other, yet when I returned the ground had been flattened. I poked around and the potatoes were still there, but the young shaws were broken off. Thankfully there are enough eyes that they will come back and are now covered with flees.

My rhubarb root is nowhere to be seen and the wallflower have be dug up and lying in trays, looking very sad and near dead.

Are you going to Scarborough Fair – Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme? The herb garden was planted up before I went away (they would not have survived on my windowsills) and, covered with flees, they have been a big success most of the young plants have taken.

I prepared the ground in the little wooded area and planted up the woodland seeds, they are a mixed bag and as ever we travel hopefully that they come to something.

This afternoon I will try to save some of the wallflowers, this would have been their second summer and just coming into flower, for the first time, what a show they will make.

The daffodils have put on a fine display over the springtime, and now at the stage of deadheading, a gardener’s work is never-ending, and in there lies the pleasure.

I have had an almighty craving for food since my return, not food-food by mince and tatties, stovies, and I have been baking Soda Scones again.

(When I lived on board my boat or on long trips, I would bake soda bread, and I still like to bake it from time to time, but mostly it is in the form of scones that I cook in the frying pan.)

Lately, the house has been reeking of cauliflower, my favourite vegetable, covered in lashings of homemade cheese sauce; the craving is such that I’m sure I must be pregnant.

I have had little time to weary or plan future trips, but as the summer begs me outdoors, I’m sure there will be a trip waiting just around the corner.

Yesterday was History, tomorrow will be the Future, today is a gift – and why we call it The Present.

Stay safe.