The Koza Memo…ry Hole

From: Joe Sucksmith
Sent: 24 June 2013 23:30
To: Steve Knibbs
Subject: Katharine Gunn report – a query

Hi Steve,

I enjoyed your report this evening on Points West. One query though…

In your lead-in to the interview with Katharine Gunn, you stated that she (Gunn) “leaked details of an alleged plot to bug UN delegates before the Iraq war”.

Out of interest, why did you say “alleged plot”?

Given that we have the “Koza memo“, would it not have been more accurate to say that Gunn “leaked details of a plot to bug delegates before the Iraq war”?

Look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes,

Joe

—-

From: Steve Knibbs
To:
Subject: RE: Katharine Gunn report – a query
Date: Wed, 26 Jun 2013 10:51:36 +0000

Hi Joe

Thanks for getting in touch – appreciate it.

You make a good point and I can see both sides. However, as I never did the Gun story back in 2003/4, I always look back at how the BBC reported it and my reference material said “alleged plot”. It’s bit of a grey area considering the existence of the Koza memo as you say but I suspect (although I don’t know for sure without looking into it) that as the US/GCHQ perhaps never acknowledged the existence of the memo or its intentions then alleged would be the correct and legal way for us to report it.

I’m glad you enjoyed the report and I thought Katharine was very strong in what she said. This is a story that isn’t going away.

Regards

Steve

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“Terrorism” and moral truisms – an exchange with Jamie Bartlett

Further to an unconvincing response from Lord Carlile regarding the assumptions underpinning the government’s Prevent Strategy, I thought it would be interesting to get the views of an independent expert

Dear Jamie,

To what extent do you agree with the government’s premise that “terrorists… set out to destroy our values”?

When I asked Lord Carlile a similar question, he seemed to get rather confused and referred me to Hizb-ut-Tahrir…

Look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes,

Joe Sucksmith

—–

I think it depends on the terrorist group. It’s hard, for example, to deny that radical neo-Nazis, for example, do not want to destroy our values – they certainly do in my view. At the very least, by virtue of trying to change political decisions through acts of violence against innocent civilians, then they are certainly guilty of transgressing most fundamental basis of our values, yes.

Best wishes,

Jamie

—–

Thanks, Jamie.

What about attacks by Islamic radicals? Does the available evidence suggest these have been motivated by a desire to “destroy our values” or by a desire to alter the course of western foreign policy?

Regards “changing political decisions through acts of violence against innocent civilians”, isn’t this precsiey what WE do (Afghanistan, Iraq, drone strikes etc.)?

Kind regards,

Joe

—–

We do not intentionally target civilians with the express purpose of influencing their political decisions – if and where we do, then you could make a strong case that is an act of terror.

On Islamic radicals, it depends who you think ‘we’ are. Some Islamist radicals do wish to use terror to introduce Sharia Law and repressive religious theocracies in countries across the world, albeit mainly in countries historically part of the Muslim empires.

This of course is my view – and one that is not without it faults of course.

Best,

Jamie

—–

>We do not intentionally target civilians with the express purpose of influencing their political decisions – if and where we do, then you could make a strong case that is an act of terror.

So you don’t consider the invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan, drone strikes etc. to be consistent with the definition of terrorism then?

>On Islamic radicals, it depends who you think ‘we’ are. Some Islamist radicals do wish to use terror to introduce Sharia Law and repressive religious theocracies in countries across the world, albeit mainly in countries historically part of the Muslim empires.

But what about attacks that have occurred inside the UK – does the available evidence suggest these have been motivated by a desire to “destroy our values” or by a desire to alter the course of UK foreign policy?

Many thanks,

Joe

—–

I have nothing more to add to the first question – I think I answered that.

For the second, again, it depends. Some terrorists – neo-Nazis – do certainly want to change our way of life, yes. For the majority of Islamist terror attacks in the UK it is partly to change our foriegn policy, but that also includes reversing support for democratic change, Israel (they nearly all would like to see Sharia law in Pakistan for example) which I think does attack ‘our’ way of life, given I consider ‘our’ way to be democratic liberalism wherever it is found.

—–

Many thanks, Jamie.

>I have nothing more to add to the first question – I think I answered that.

Ok, so I take this to mean that you do not consider the invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan, drone strikes etc. to be consistent with the definition of terrorism. Right?

>For the majority of Islamist terror attacks in the UK it is partly to change our foriegn policy, but that also includes reversing support for democratic change, Israel (they nearly all would like to see Sharia law in Pakistan for example) which I think does attack ‘our’ way of life, given I consider ‘our’ way to be democratic liberalism wherever it is found.

I’m not sure I fully understand this paragraph. The phrase “but that also includes reversing support for democratic change” seems to suggest that you consider UK foreign policy to be about promoting democracy. Have I understood this correctly? In addition, the reference to Israel looks odd – could you clarify its significance please?

Many thanks,

Joe

—–

>Ok, so I take this to mean that you do not consider the invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan, drone strikes etc. to be consistent with the definition of terrorism. Right?

Correct.

>I’m not sure I fully understand this paragraph. The phrase “but that also includes reversing support for democratic change” seems to suggest that you consider UK foreign policy to be about promoting democracy. Have I understood this correctly? In addition, the reference to Israel looks odd – could you clarify its significance please?

Part of the aim of Islamist terrorist groups is to spread Sharia in the Islamic world, and fight against the spread of democracy there. I do believe that is an effort to attack ‘our’ (meaning those who believe in liberal democracy) way of life. I don’t believe it to be UK policy to help spread Sharia law by force around the world at present.

I’m not sure there is going to be anything more I can add to this discussion!

—–

Hi Jamie,

Some brief thoughts by way of closing…

1) One of the more succinct definitions of “terrorism” currently in use by the Home Office, that is faithful to section 1 of the UK Terrorism Act 2000, reads:

Terrorist activities are any act committed, or the threat of action, designed to influence a government or intimidate the public and made for the purposes of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause and that involves serious violence against a person; that may endanger another person’s life; creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public; involves serious damage to property; is designed to seriously disrupt or interfere with an electronic system.”

Is the invasion of Iraq consistent with this definition of terrorism? Let’s take a look…
act committed“? Check
designed to influence a government“? Well, “overthrow” is arguably more accurate, but Check
made for the purpose of advancing a political… or ideological causeCheck
involves serious violence against a person…” A very obvious Check (remember Shock and Awe?)

Conclusion? The Iraq invasion quite clearly meets the UK government’s own definition of terrorism. To acknowledge this is simply to accept the most basic of moral truisms: that we are subject to the standards we apply to others.

2) You haven’t explained the reference to Israel in your response, but I do agree that Israeli terrorism should be thrown into the mix, not least because the Islamists who have committed acts of terrorism in the UK explicitly stated that their actions were (at least in part) a response to the UK government’s support for Israeli terrorism.

3) You write: “I don’t believe it to be UK policy to help spread Sharia law by force around the world at present.” I appreciate this was intended to be sardonic, yet there’s an irony here isn’t there, since the world’s “leading” Sharia state, Saudi Arabia, is a close ally of the UK. How do you reconcile this with your view that UK foreign policy is about spreading democracy?

Many thanks for your engagement.

Joe

Syria, Israel and boycotts – a discussion with the BBC’s Jonathan Marcus

Hi Jonathan,

When Israel bombed Syria, the justification given by Israeli officials (implicitly endorsed by the British government) was that the Syrian government was in the process of transferring weapons to Hezbollah, which, so the argument went, might then be used against Israel.

Do you agree that, by the same logic, Syria would be “permitted” to bomb the UK in the event the British government passed weapons to the Syrian opposition?

Look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes,

Joe

I think you have probably answered that question for yourself. Your logic is a little questionable since the relationship between Israel and Syria is very different from the between the UK and Syria. not sure if you are equating hezbollah and the Syrian rebels – interesting.

I think as you well know there are huge divisions in the Cabinet and within the Conservative Party about arming the Syrian opposition. I suggest we wait and see how it turns out – my job is simply to try to explain why people do what they do.

Thanks
JM

But *is* the logic “questionable”? Under international law, Syria is a sovereign state afforded the same rights and responsibilities as other states, is it not? If Israel can take international law into its own hands, why can’t Syria?

Seems to me you should think more about the reality ie two countries Israel and Syria that remain at war- one of which is imploding – and which in the meantime has armed it’s proxy in Lebanon to the teeth.

Let me ask you a question ? Are you not saddened depressed (and since i see you are a bit of an activist) enraged by the human suffering inside Syria?

You seem obsessed by only one part of the region’s problems. You seem to like dialogue but appear – if my quick trawl on the web is anything to go by – to believe in boycotts which are the opposite of dialogue. I believe in talking and listening to all sides. Forgive me if I have muddled you with someone else. I am paid to have an open mind and to try to make as fair a judgement as possible. I would hope people working in academic institutions would have the same responsibility. Thanks now – it’s my weekend. I trust you find some parts of our coverage informative.

JM

Many thanks, Jonathan.

Regards my original enquiry and follow-up, I was trying to illustrate what is, sadly, standard practice at the BBC, namely the reflexive reporting of events without considering the oft problematic logical corollaries. In this case, the question – I believe – still stands: if Israel has the “right” to bomb Syria to prevent arms being passed to Hezbollah, then Syria will have the “right” to bomb the UK if and when the UK funnels arms to the Syrian opposition. You seemed a particularly appropriate person to direct this enquiry to in light of your coverage of the Israeli bombing of Syria, which – as you’ll recall – you described as “intriguing”. One wonders whether you would also find the bombing of the UK “intriguing”? I very much doubt it.

To the other issues you raise in your mail…

>Are you not saddened depressed (and since i see you are a bit of an activist) enraged by the human suffering inside Syria?

Yes, though I consider my primary responsibility to act on issues for which I bear the most responsibility. And since I live in a democracy that allows a degree of influence over those who governs us, and thus influence over government policy, this essentially means acting on issues where I perceive the UK government to be most complicit. This in mind, the focus on Israel, which receives massive support from the UK (mainly political/diplomatic, but also preferential trade arrangements, and – of course – arms), perhaps becomes comprehensible?

To be clear: this isn’t to say I’m oblivious to the suffering going on Syria. Indeed, insofar as the UK government has the *capacity* to intervene in Syria’s affairs, I *do* have an interest in the issues at hand, but I nonetheless judge my primary responsibility to act on issues where the UK government is manifestly complicit in grave crimes, as is the case regards its support for Israel.

>You seem obsessed by only one part of the region’s problems.

If I’m “obsessed” with anything, it’s the BBC’s terrible coverage and associated lack of accountability, which – if I’m being honest – I resent having to pay for. More specifically, I’m incensed, on a daily basis, with coverage that systematically supports UK government policy, and that, ipso facto, facilitates monumental crimes. The woeful coverage in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq is a case in point. Had the BBC (and the media more generally) done its job correctly, the UK government would have had a much more difficult time colluding in this war crime.

>You seem to like dialogue but appear – if my quick trawl on the web is anything to go by – to believe in boycotts which are the opposite of dialogue. I believe in talking and listening to all sides. Forgive me if I have muddled you with someone else.

No, you haven’t muddled me with someone else (this would be difficult with a name like Sucksmith don’t you think?!) – I *do* support a boycott of Israel. To be sure, boycott is an imperfect means, insofar as it catches Israelis who are broadly supportive of the ends (Israeli compliance with international law), but it *is* only a means, and a non-violent one at that. “Dialogue” sounds great, until you appreciate that this is the strategy that has been tried for over 40 years, and manifestly failed. Worse still, “dialogue” has repeatedly provided Israel with cover to simply appropriate ever more Palestinian territory (think the Oslo Accords, which were a catastrophe for the Palestinians). I’ve just searched for articles that sum up where I am on boycott, and this one, by Neve Gordon, seems to tick most of the boxes – I would urge you to read it (if you haven’t already).

Out of interest, do I presume correctly that you disagreed with the boycott of South Africa? This would seem to follow logically from what you say above…

>I am paid to have an open mind and to try to make as fair a judgement as possible. I would hope people working in academic institutions would have the same responsibility.

Gosh, you *have* been busy, haven’t you. While this comes across as slightly patronising, I recognise that this semi-rebuke follows from your belief that, in the case of Israel/Palestine, a “fair judgement” = boycott wrong and “dialogue” right. As already stated, I disagree with this “judgement”, as do a great many others, including the Israeli academics Neve Gordon and Ilan Pappe, and of course the renowned physicist Stephen Hawking.

>I trust you find some parts of our coverage informative.

Very little, sadly. But I am nonetheless grateful for your responses…

Best wishes,

Joe

Oh dear – you seem to have a rather dim view of our coverage though I am relieved to see it is not just me. You clearly are an activist and have made up your mind as to who is right and who is wrong (as you are perfectly at liberty to do). I think it is all a little less clear-cut , but then I see most things as being less clear cut. Thanks for your response anyway.

JM

You’re welcome, Jonathan. I note you haven’t responded regards the boycott of South Africa – another of those problematic corollaries?

All the best,
Joe

My personal views are not the point but as I noted your logic regarding Israel/ Syria and Syria/UK is flawed. I don’t for example think that Syria is supporting a significant proportion of the Israeli population in their struggle to overthrow the regime. You clearly get more excited about the Israelis than you do about he Syrian Govt – as I say you are at liberty to hold whatever views you want but you cannot expect me to share them.

Thanks now
JM

The Manchester (Il)liberal

Ok, so I’ve been having a little ding-dong with right-wing “economist”, John Phelan, who – at his blog – describes himself as a “small “l” liberal”. Now, I’ve just looked up “liberal” in my dictionary, and it says:

liberal
adjective
willing to respect or accept behaviour or opinions different from one’s own; open to new ideas

…which might lead one to believe that Mr Phelan operates a generous and open comments moderation policy at his blog, no? Alas, Mr Phelan does not operate such a policy, and opts instead both to edit comments AND to refuse contributions that reveal flaws in his reasoning.

Fortunately, over here at the blog-o-bot, I run a genuinely liberal ship. And with this in mind, here’s my exchange with John Phelan IN FULL, to include my most recent rejoinder.

Note for right-wing “economists”: if you’re going to chastise people for confusing economic terms such as “deficit” and “debt”, you’d better make darn sure you don’t go on to confuse these very terms yourself!

——

joesucksmith on May 30, 2013 at 11:43 PM said:

“The British government’s out of control spending is the central issue in British politics today…” (manchesterliberal)

No it’s not. The British government’s LACK of spending is the central issue in British politics today. The UK issues its own floating currency, so can and should spend up to the inflation barrier (= full employment). Monetary sovereigns retain control over interest rates, so there is no risk of suffering penal rates due to an increase in the debt. Japan is instructive in this regard.
Reply ↓

manchesterliberal on May 31, 2013 at 9:13 AM said:

Japan certainly is instructive, they’re turning the moneatry spigots and…bond yields are up.

http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21578701-volatile-bond-yields-may-spell-trouble-abenomics-shocking
Reply ↓

joesucksmith on June 2, 2013 at 12:03 AM said:

A terrifying spike indeed. Perhaps Japan is about to implode after a mere 20 years of defying neoliberal nostrums – what do you think?
Reply ↓

manchesterliberal on June 2, 2013 at 10:03 AM said:

It might be about to implode after one more stab at Keynesian stimulus after 20 years of failed Keynesian stimulus. Either way, right now Japan certainly does not show that “Monetary sovereigns retain control over interest rates” no matter what.
Reply ↓

joesucksmith on June 2, 2013 at 11:53 PM said:

“failed stimulus”? Dig deeper and you’ll find that the periods of (weak) stimulus map to (weak) growth in GDP, while periods of consolidation map to falls in GDP/recession. That there’s been a tiny spike in yields says nothing about the government’s monopoly control over rates. Bonds will ALWAYS be desired as they are risk-free, interest bearing assets. And in the highly implausible event there are no takers, BOJ steps in and, voila, government can spend!
Reply ↓

manchesterliberal on June 3, 2013 at 12:06 AM said:

In other words, as soon as the stimulus is withdrawn the economy tanks again. If it doesn’t stimulate it’s not much of a stimulus. Since 1992 Japanese government debt has risen from about 50% of GDP to about 230%. On Keynesian theory Japan should have boomed. In fact it’s flatlined.

You say this spike has been tiny, given Japan’s sovereign debt is 230% of GDP you can’t honestly say that. And besides, according to your thinking it shouldn’t be happening at all. Let’s look again at what you said, “Monetary sovereigns retain control over interest rates”. As we see that’s wrong, they don’t always. Sometimes they lose control. Japan might be proving that now. And you brought it up.
Reply ↓

joesucksmith on June 3, 2013 at 5:26 PM said:

There’s some truth in what you say – had the stimulus been big enough, things could have been different. Sadly, even states that are monetarily sovereign can’t resist austerity hawks entirely. But despite this, the reality is that Japan didn’t too bad: low inflation, respectable levels of employment, and low rates… a set of economic markers that persistently, but amusingly, baffles those without a grasp of monetary sovereignty.

And no, I wasn’t wrong about Japan retaining control over bond rates. Yield does not equate to (coupon) rate. Yes, yields can fluctuate in line with market demand, but the rate is ALWAYS at the discretion of the government. And since bonds cannot, by definition, fund the spending of a currency issuer, markets are in no position to start demanding higher rates.
Reply ↓

manchesterliberal on June 3, 2013 at 5:43 PM said:

“had the stimulus been big enough” So you don’t think increasing the deficit from 50% of GDP to 230% of GDP was “big enough”? This is the problem with Keynesianism, it never fails it’s just not tried enough. Or, as Sraffa wrote in his copy of The General Theory, “Head I win, tails you lose”

Your second paragraph is a rather hopeless confusion I’m afraid. The government, assuming it is also the money issuer (you seem to be ignoring central bank independence or that it might have other goals such as price stability), can guarantee that it will never pay more than a desired coupon but only if it promises to buy the bonds from itself if no one will buy those bonds at the cpoupon rate (and that is what the Japanese bond spike suggests is the case). In short, the governing arm issues bonds and the monetary arm prints the money to pay for them. One arm of government prints bonds and the other prints the cash to pay for them.

But what then? The money handed to the government by the monetary authority in exchange for bonds is spent by the government and generates inflation.

In other words, as I’ve put it elsewhere, the argument is that we don’t need to worry about turning into Greece because we always have the option of turning ourselves into Zimbabwe.

PS I have just one rule on this blog; no quoting of old, unfunny adverts.

joesucksmith on June 3, 2013 sometime in the evening [I don’t know precisely when as John refused to publish my comment. Fortunately, I kept a back-up :-)]

>So you don’t think increasing the deficit from 50% of GDP to 230% of GDP was “big enough”?”

Oh dear, someone’s confused their debts and deficits – how ironic! 😉 But seriously, the size of public debt is a complete red herring. What matters (for progressives) is that the government spends sufficiently to offset private sector saving, with a view to maintaining full employment. If this involves a ramping up of the debt, so be it. Look up Lerner’s “functional finance” – it’ll blow your mind.

>”The government, assuming it is also the money issuer (you seem to be ignoring central bank independence or that it might have other goals such as price stability), can guarantee that it will never pay more than a desired coupon but only if it promises to buy the bonds from itself if no one will buy those bonds at the cpoupon rate (and that is what the Japanese bond spike suggests is the case).”

Precisely – the central bank (a part of the GOVERNMENT!) can ALWAYS intervene in the bond market, thereby rendering the concept of “bond vigilantes” null and void. Markets need to tread carefully with savvy monetary sovereigns, since the bond gravy train could just be brought to an end at any time…!

“But what then? The money handed to the government by the monetary authority in exchange for bonds is spent by the government and generates inflation.”

Oh crikey. Just think this through for a minute. Irrespective of whether the CB or private sector purchases the bonds, the money gets spent into the wider economy. Does this, ipso facto, generate inflation? Of course not. For empirical validation, look no further than Japan, which, despite posting budget deficits for the last 20 years, racking up debt to GDP of 200% in the process, has had to battle DEflationary pressure! And to pre-empt: no, the fact that private sector purchase of debt debits reserves makes no difference whatsoever, as there is no direct relationship between the amount of bank reserves and the level of inflation (as should be clear from QE).

>”In other words, as I’ve put it elsewhere, the argument is that we don’t need to worry about turning into Greece because we always have the option of turning ourselves into Zimbabwe.”

The UK is on the edge of a depression (thanks to austerity) and you’re worried about hyperinflation? That’s funny.

>”PS I have just one rule on this blog; no quoting of old, unfunny adverts.”

I can’t believe you edited that out! 😉

[Editorial note: This was a reference to John’s editing out of the word “seemples” from my previous comment – a hilarious sign-off a-la those cheeky little meerkats…!]