Depression and the angry thief

BLOG Depression

I HAVE been depressed most of my adult life.

Depression impacts on every aspect of life and well-being. It is much more than feeling sad. It is a mood disorder that can interfere with everything.

Having untreated depression can put your life on hold for months, if not years… it can also lead to thoughts of suicide or self-harm.

My own depression festered inside me as a reaction to many things: the sexual abuse I suffered as a young teenager, a major life crisis in my late 20s, battling cancer in my early 30s, relationship breakdowns, the loss of two of my children, bankruptcy, assault, the loss of my home and the deaths of my soul-mate Andrea, my life-long friend Jayne and my amazing father.

Any of these things could have triggered the condition, and for me they did as a matter of course.

The depression manifested itself in feelings of deep lows or worthlessness – especially in a relationship or at work – but also in many other less obvious ways such as anger and irritability, frustration, OCD behaviour, tiredness, insomnia, forgetfulness, clumsiness and the inability to concentrate on one thing for long periods.

In my case, it was all of these, plus for many years, an over-dependence on alcohol.

But, there is a limit to how long you can lock things inside while appearing to function normally on the outside.

And my “normal” exterior collapsed in a complete nervous breakdown on 12 June 2013… a day when I simply could not hold it all in any more.

It is now five years since that collapse.

Those years have been an important period of professional counselling, the love and support of family and close friends and the catharsis of writing and unburdening my mind, memories and fears.

In the months soon after the breakdown I was struggling to get back to a life of any sort and was fighting my way out of the corner.

Now, I am so far out of the corner you won’t find me… I have at last found my way home.

But the Black Dog never leaves and the depression can still manifest itself abruptly… often when I feel I am being dragged back into that corner.

And without control I snap.

Irritability is a symptom of depression, and it makes total sense; depression usually plays havoc with our sleep patterns.

Lack of sleep causes irritability, and makes us less able to cope with day-to-day challenges.

With depression often comes aches and pains, and our digestive system can be affected, causing us discomfort. Pain makes us irritable and frustrated.

Moreover, depression can be overwhelming. Getting through each day often requires Herculean stamina.

So much energy is directed towards trying to cope that, if anything goes wrong, or something else is added to the pile, we snap.

We just can’t handle any more.

Sadly, our irritability is often directed at others, who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

This isn’t acceptable, but it is understandable.

It’s good to wait until you feel calmer, then apologise, and explain how you felt at the time – it can be helpful for others to understand your perspective and give them a chance to help.

More tears and genuine remorse is a bi-product of depression.

The classic symptoms of depression – disinterest, lethargy, sadness, detachment, and sleep problems – can make our lives so difficult.

Suddenly, we’re don’t care about the things that we used to enjoy. We can’t concentrate on our favourite books, or TV shows. We don’t have the energy to get up, get dressed, and go out to meet friends.

So, we stop doing things.

Soon, we might not recognise the person we’ve become. We feel as though we’ve lost ourselves to depression. This also inevitably leads to anger; we become angry at depression, we might blame ourselves, and feel incredibly angry at our circumstances… why me, why has this happened?

Depression is an illness, yet we very often blame ourselves for having depression.

It feels like a personal failing.

Because depression is also a thief.

If we’ve been living with depression for a while, it can feel like it has been stealing from us.

It can feel like we have lost an aspect of ourselves, of our identity; we are forced to come to terms with a new ‘us’. We may wish we could go back to how we were before.

Depression can force us to give up work, or our studies, putting a stop to our life, for months or years. It’s common to feel that depression has stolen time from us, and to feel angry about what could have been. Depression can also make us lose touch with friends, or push away our loved ones.

We might feel angry – both with the depression, but also with them. It’s very easy to get lost in thoughts of what could have been.

It can help to try and look towards the future, rather than ruminate in the past.

We can’t change what’s happened, but we can set new goals that interest us, as we are now. We can reflect on the things that depression has taught us about ourselves, and what makes us happy – and make plans based on this.

We can even try reaching out to the people that we previously pushed away, and explain what was going on for us at the time. They may have been hoping from afar to hear from us again.

Looking forward, and achieving new goals, can ease the anger we feel at depression’s thievery.

If you feel depressed, talk to someone… be brave and confide, you will be amazed how many other people out there feel similar things and will let you unburden.

And how many will also forgive and help you to rediscover the real you.

There is light on the other side of that dark door… just have faith in yourself.

  • With thanks to the Blurt Foundation for the practical aspects in the second half of this blog:
  • Thanks also to MIND, who have always been there:

The real enemies within the Parliamentary Labour Party

Memory, ecstasy, tyranny, hypocrisy

Betrayed by a kiss on a cool night of bliss

In the valley of the missing link

And you have no time to think


TEN days have passed since I was expelled from the Labour Party as part of Iain McNicol’s “rigged purge” of Jeremy Corbyn supporters.

I was expelled for publishing a blog piece entitled Hanging from Traitors’ Gate – Progress: Labour’s right wing Militant  some 10 weeks earlier. In my piece, in which I use the proscribed word “Traitor” I listed the MPs who displayed treachery to Jeremy Corbyn, and to us the membership of the Labour Party.

You can read my appeal against the expulsion here.

Yesterday a close lawyer friend of some 24 years standing, described my appeal thus:

“You’ve done exactly the right thing from a legal point of view and you should carry on to the bitter end to exhaust your remedies and keep all your options open.

“And, as you’re well aware yourself of course, you’ve done exactly the right thing from an activist’s point of view by standing up for yourself so eloquently and movingly and by sharing what you’ve done to encourage and strengthen the resolve of others.

“I have no doubt there will be legal action here, and you may well be a good candidate for one of the test cases.”

Anyway, on with the show…

There is some personal irony that just 24 hours after I emailed my appeal letter to Iain McNicol, a member of Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign team leaked a list singling out 14 Labour MPs, including deputy leader Tom Watson, who it claims have abused the leader and his allies.

In the release, Owen Smith, the challenger for the Labour leadership, was accused of being the “real disunity candidate”, who has failed to tackle abuse meted out by his own supporters.

The list, obtained by Press Association, highlighted the behaviour of a number of Labour MPs, including Jess Phillips for telling Corbyn’s ally Diane Abbott to “fuck off”, John Woodcock for dismissing the party leader as a “fucking disaster” and Tristram Hunt for describing Labour as “in the shit”.

Watson was highlighted for calling the grassroots Corbyn campaign Momentum a “rabble”.

The list emerged just hours before the final Labour leadership hustings between Mr Smith and Mr Corbyn, who is the overwhelming favourite to win the contest.

At the Sky News debate, Smith branded it a “deselection list” that would be used by some activists to target MPs considered hostile to Corbyn.

Mr Corbyn responded by defending the accuracy of the release and urging Smith to focus on policies.

“There was information put out there, which is statements made by colleagues on the record and is all out there in the public domain,” the leader said.

He went on to say he would rather Watson had not referred to activists from the Momentum group of Corbyn supporters as a “rabble”.

The others identified on the list were Ian Austin, Neil Coyle, Ben Bradshaw, Frank Field, Anna Turley, Jamie Reed, Karl Turner, Stephen Kinnock and Tom Blenkinsop.

Coyle, the MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, who was among those criticised, said he was “fuming”, while long time vocal critic of Mr Corbyn, Woodcock was similarly angry.

Now the list of names – and offences – is out in the public domain, all the claims can be checked and verified and appropriate action taken.

One wonders, as the information was in the public domain already, why the Labour Party’s Compliance Unit had not taken the requisite steps on its own initiative.

It is welcome to see Owen Smith criticised – after all the times Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of allowing abuse to continue – of failing to tackle his own supporters’ inappropriate behaviour.

As for those who were named – the MPs who have already complained haven’t got a leg to stand on and I’m surprised the list isn’t much, much longer. I would certainly add Luke Akehurst and John McTernan to that list.


Neil Coyle, for example, abused Jeremy Corbyn by claiming he had presided over the “Farage-ification” of the Labour Party. Now he is complaining about “trial by troll”. Forget it, Mr Coyle. It isn’t trolling if you did what is claimed.

John Woodcock tweeted that Jeremy Corbyn was a “fucking disaster at PMQs” back in March and quickly deleted the message – but it was caught by the mainstream media nonetheless and members of his own electorate launched a petition calling for his deselection – months before that became an issue in the leadership election.

Now he’s saying a list pointing out this abusive behaviour is “shabby” and is complaining that it “targets colleagues for more abuse”.

Isn’t that exactly what he was doing when he wrote about Mr Corbyn, all those months ago – inviting others to abuse the Labour leader alongside him?

As for the claim that the MPs mentioned are on a “deselection list”: Their future is not a matter for Mr Corbyn or his team. It is for Labour Party members in each constituency to decide whether their sitting MP is representing them in a sufficiently courteous manner.

In Mr Woodcock’s case, alas, considering his constituents are already petitioning for his removal, an apology may be too little, too late.

Of course it is not the first time a list of disloyal and potentially treacherous Labour MPs has been released.

Back in January my blog The Enemy Within – the 28 Labour MPs who Oppose Mr Corbyn listed those MPs who were most likely ready to oust their democratically elected leader.

And of course on 23 March there was the now infamous list of the 36 MPs “most hostile to Mr Corbyn”.

So let’s look more closely at a few of the names on the most recent list of Labour MPs who have gone beyond the call of duty in their hostility.

  • Ian Austin – On my original list of MPs who oppose Jeremy Corbyn. Also on the 23 March list of 36 most hostile MPs. Originally a Brownite. Among a hard core of 14 right wing Labour MPs that refused to vote against the Tories on austerity, voted TO BOMB Syria AND for the renewal of Trident.
  • Ben Bradshaw – Member of Progress. On my original list of MPs who oppose Jeremy Corbyn. A Blairite and vocal right winger. Among a hard core of 14 right wing Labour MPs that refused to vote against the Tories on austerity, voted TO BOMB Syria AND for the renewal of Trident.
  • Frank Field – Member of Progress. On my original list of MPs who oppose Jeremy Corbyn. A Blairite and among a hard core of 14 right wing Labour MPs that refused to vote against the Tories on austerity, voted TO BOMB Syria AND for the renewal of Trident. A long-time vocal critic of Mr Corbyn.
  • Tristram Hunt – Member of Progress. On my original list of MPs who oppose Jeremy Corbyn. Also on the 23 March list of 36 most hostile MPs. Blairite. Former chair of the Progress group. Among a hard core of 14 right wing Labour MPs that refused to vote against the Tories on austerity, voted TO BOMB Syria AND for the renewal of Trident. Has previously openly mocked Mr Corbyn. He is infamous for tweeting that Labour under Mr Corbyn was “in the shit”.
  • Stephen Kinnock – Member of Progress. Two months ago Kinnock was talking openly about a right wing breakaway from the Labour Party – working title: Continuity Labour if Jeremy Corbyn is re-elected as leader.
  • Jess Phillips – Backed by Progress. Mouthy MP who is infamous for telling Diane Abbott to “fuck off”. She also threatened to “knife” Mr Corbyn in the front and suggested she would leave the Labour Party if he was re-elected leader.
  • Jamie Reed – On my original list of MPs who oppose Jeremy Corbyn. Also on the 23 March list of 36 most hostile MPs. Blairite. Among a hard core of 14 right wing Labour MPs that refused to vote against the Tories on austerity, voted TO BOMB Syria AND for the renewal of Trident.
  • Tom Watson – Originally viewed as a mediator until engineering a motion at the forthcoming party conference to replace the current one member one vote system with an electoral college to elect the leader and for MPs to choose the shadow cabinet. Has been highlighted for calling Momentum a “rabble”. He had previously called shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry a “traitor” in the House of Commons voting lobby.
  • John Woodcock – Member of Progress. On my original list of MPs who oppose Jeremy Corbyn. Also on the 23 March list of 36 most hostile MPs. Blairite. Former chair of the Progress group. Voted for bombing Syria. Resigned from the shadow cabinet in January in protest at Jeremy Corbyn’s so called ‘purge’ of right wing MPs from his front bench team. Has previously openly mocked Mr Corbyn and is infamous for dismissing the party leader as a “fucking disaster”.

These are some of the most treacherous… it is now make your mind up time.



The twisted power of loaded language in the Labour Party

YESTERDAY, Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson claimed that Trotskyists (sic) were seeking to influence the result of the party’s leadership election.

In an article in The Guardian Mr Watson said that members of the Socialist Party (formerly Militant), the Alliance for Workers Liberty and the Socialist Workers Party had infiltrated Labour as part of the surge of support for Jeremy Corbyn.

He claimed that these “Trots” did not have the party’s “best interests at heart”, but saw it as a “vehicle for revolutionary socialism” and were “not remotely interested in winning elections” and they were “twisting young arms in this leadership process”.

Mr Watson’s “Trotsky Twist” claim is interesting for many reasons, primarily because he has introduced the word Trot or Trotsykist (it is Trotskyite, Mr Watson) as terms of abuse against the followers of Mr Corbyn.

This word Trot can be added to a growing dictionary of abuse used by the anti Corbyn camp vis: Hard Left, Loony Left, Commies, Infiltrators, Extremists, Momentum Thugs, Entryists, Dogs, Mob, Brick-Lobbers, Cyber Bullies, Trolls, Anti Semites, Sexists, Vandals and many more.

Remarkable double standards when less than two weeks ago Labour’s NEC decided to ban Labour Party members from using the word Blairite under threat of being barred from voting in the leadership election.

The word Blairite has been added to a list of proscribed words – which also includes Scab, Scum and Red Tory – provided by Labour HQ.

Interestingly the edict didn’t ban Labour right-wingers from using the slanderous, misleading and abusive terms defined above, to describe the 300,000+ new members from all ages, areas and demographic groups attracted to the Labour Party since last summer.

As far as the NEC is concerned it’s perfectly fine for Labour right-wingers to damage the reputation of the Party by referring to hundreds of thousands of their own members with vicious and inaccurate slurs, yet anyone who refers to Tony Blair acolytes as Blairites has committed such a severe crime that they could be stripped of their right to vote in the leadership election.

Yet, it’s obvious to anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of British politics that the Blairites are the entryists who took over a left-wing political party and switched it to the promotion of Rupert Murdoch approved Thatcherism (driving away 5 million Labour voters between 1997 and 2010 in the process).

It’s remarkable how so many of the terms of abuse that the Labour right-wingers hurl at Jeremy Corbyn supporters (bullies, infiltrators, cultists, entryists) are so much more applicable to themselves than the victims of their slurs.

But that is how psychological bullies operate.

They project their own character traits onto their victims, and then continually blame their victims for the abuse they subject them to.

Loaded language is their stock in trade, learned assiduously from their Tory friends and their pals in the print media.

Last December, then Prime Minister David Cameron was repeatedly asked to apologise for labelling MPs who might vote against bombing in Syria as “Terrorist Sympathisers”.

It was a failed but oblique attempt to score points against Jeremy Corbyn for his historical support for Hamas and Sinn Fein.

Biased use of language, with a nakedly political motive, is clearly poisonous.

UK tabloids like the Murdoch-owned Sun that has compared immigrants to cockroaches recall the dark days of the Nazi media attacking those they sought to eliminate, says the UN’s human rights chief.

“The Nazi media described people their masters wanted to eliminate as rats and cockroaches,” said UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

He singled out an article by far right media columnist Katie Hopkins, published by the Sun, in which she wrote: “Make no mistake, these migrants are like cockroaches.”

The use of language to load news reporting and political rhetoric is used regularly in domestic situations.

The British press regularly use the adjectives Far Left, Hard Left and Loony Left to describe Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters in the Labour Party, while referring to more right wing MPs as being Moderates.

Never do they seek to define what the word Moderate means or ever refer to David Cameron or Theresa May as being Far Right or Hard Right.

What we are observing is an adjectival degradation.

Every report, coming from inside governments or institutions outside is, if it contains some form of criticism, therefore “damning”, “devastating” or “scathing”.

Warnings, which most of the time were not heeded anyhow, are “stark”, differences of opinion between politicians of the same party are “dramatic splits“, developments are “alarming” – the consumer of the media is confronted with a permanent linguistic overkill.

Remember how Tony Blair and his spin doctors rebranded the Labour Party as New Labour and Blair’s Labour as he courted Rupert Murdoch and the so-called Middle England vote in the 1990s.

For marketing and propaganda purposes he even banned the use of the word socialist or socialism among his MPs.

The final irony is that now almost 20 years later the word Blairite is considered a term of abuse by the Labour Party.

Is that the final abuse?


Broken Man Blues

The day you held my dick in your hand

Abused so hard I could not stand

A broken man

The day I made my great mistake

A blight from which I cannot awake

A broken man


The day the scalpel cut so deep

Nightmares have filled my deepest sleep

A broken man

The day you stole sweet Andrea’s life

And left behind pain, chaos and strife

A broken man


Meet me at the bottom, don’t lag behind

Bring me my boots and shoes

I sit blindly in your doorway

Playing my guitar slowly

And sing for you these broken man blues


The day you swallowed pills of disdain

And your stepfather shot out his own brain

A broken man

The day you cheated in our marriage bed

Then denied everything I had ever said

A broken man


The day you stole our daughters away

My life it faded to a deeper grey

A broken man

The day you lied with a poison tongue

More years of agony had just begun

A broken man


Meet me at the bottom, don’t lag behind

Bring me my boots and shoes

I sit blindly in your doorway

Playing my guitar slowly

And sing for you these broken man blues



The day you ran off with a married man

And left me homeless without a plan

A broken man

The day the plate cracked open my skull

The grey in my life then all turned dull

A broken man


The day the nervous breakdown came

Nothing would ever be the same

A broken man

The day I lost a lifetime career

I drowned the shame in wine and beer

A broken man


Meet me at the bottom, don’t lag behind

Bring me my boots and shoes

I sit blindly in your doorway

Playing my guitar slowly

And sing for you these broken man blues


The day my eldest wed his bride

It left me with no place to hide

A broken man

The day I collapsed in a forgotten heap

The drugs numbed me in a zombie sleep

A broken man


The day my last child went far away

Nothing in life was left to betray

A broken man

The day I left the town of lost souls

I stumbled into a welcome of city scrolls

A broken man


Meet me at the bottom, don’t lag behind

Bring me my boots and shoes

I sit blindly in your doorway

Playing my guitar slowly

And sing for you these broken man blues


The day you told me to go away and die

No-one was left to hear me cry

A broken man

The day I walked into the swirling sea

I hoped in vain you would hear my plea

A broken man


The day my sweet granddaughter was born

My life was then fully ripped and torn

A broken man

So I tremble shaking to hold onto a dream

That nothing is quite as it may seem

A broken man


Meet me at the bottom, don’t lag behind

Bring me my boots and shoes

I sit blindly in your doorway

Playing my guitar slowly

And sing for you these broken man blues

Beyond the Horizon O’er the Treacherous Sea

SINCE the atrocities in Paris on Friday evening I have been surprised just how many of my friends have believed without question the explanation of events as described by our own Government.

This is the same Government which covered up the Hillsborough disaster, lied over MI6 dirty tricks during the miners’ strike, lied over MPs’ expenses and shifted Heaven and Earth to blanket a 50 year VIP paedophile network, involving at least one former PM.

It is a truism that “all you believe are your eyes, but your eyes they just tell you lies”.

For me, as a so-called investigative journalist for more than 20 years of my working life, I am naturally more sceptical, having many times seen, at first hand, the depths to which our own British Establishment will stoop to distort the truth, cover-up malpractice and quite simply lie.

Within half an hour of the tragic events of Friday night being relayed to our TV screens I was informed by former journalist friends that the official spin was the attack was the work of ISIS.

And within 12 hours the official press office lines from Paris, London and Washington corroborated that, with the sound knowledge that the terror group numbered eight – including suicide bombers – and they were of Syrian and Egyptian origin.

But sixty hours later, their hall of smoke and mirrors is starting to crumble.

Eyewitnesses now say they saw white professional killers at the Bataclan Concert Hall and at one of the restaurant shootings in Paris.

And by my own reckoning (it is quite easy to count between the official reports) there were at least 10 and possibly 12 people involved in the terror attacks.

French police have now confirmed that at least three separate teams perpetrated the attacks which left 129 people dead and hundreds injured in the capital city.

One survivor told Sky News that he was in the Bataclan Concert Hall and saw the attackers who murdered hostages.

He said that one of the gunmen had white skin and blonde hair.

Elsewhere an eyewitness has told how 20 people were executed in a calculated attack on a busy restaurant in the heart of the French capital as they ate at tables on the pavement.

Mahoud Admo said: “The gunman showed no emotion at all as he began spraying bullets into the diners. He just kept reloading his machine gun and firing, without saying a thing.”

Mr Admo, 26, who was staying at the Salvation Army hostel in Rue de Charonne opposite the Le Belle Equipe, recalled how the massacre unfolded, he said: “I was just in my room and had the window open on to the street below.

“I could see lots people sat outside the bar eating dinner and enjoying a drink. The place was full of people just enjoying themselves.

“At about 9.30pm a new looking black Mercedes pulled up outside with dark tinted windows at the back and the passenger and driver windows down. I could clearly see the passenger’s face as he was not wearing a hat or mask.

“As soon as the car stopped he quietly opened the door and got out in front of the restaurant.

“That is when I saw he was holding a machine gun that was resting on his hip.

“People outside spotted the shooter approaching with his gun and tried to run inside but he shot them down in the doorway.

“Then people inside moved forward to see what was happening and he sprayed more bullets into them. I was trying to catch them on my camera phone but the gunman saw the light on my mobile and I ducked down behind the wall as they fired at my hotel.

“The gunman calmly reloaded his weapon several times. He then shot up at the windows in the street to make sure nobody was filming anything or taking photographs. It lasted over six minutes.

“He fired lots of bullets. He was white, clean shaven and had dark hair neatly trimmed. He was dressed all in black accept for a red scarf.

“The shooter was aged about 35 and had an extremely muscular build, which you could tell from the size of his arms. He looked like a weightlifter.

“He was not wearing gloves and his face was expressionless as he walked towards the bar.

“The driver had opened his door shortly before the shooting began and stood up with his arm and a machine gun rested on the roof of the car. He stood there with his foot up in the door acting as a lookout.

“I would describe him as tall, with dark hair and also quite muscular.

“They looked like soldiers and carried the whole thing out like a military operation. It was clear that they were both very heavily armed and the gunman was carrying several magazines on him.”

These killers, like the ones in the Charlie Hebdo attack in January, are professionals for all intents and purposes.

The true facts are buried in a murkiness few can possibly imagine.

The West’s endless War on Terror, launched 14 years ago by George Bush, is tying itself up in ever more grotesque contortions.

In June this year, the trial in London of a Swedish man, Bherlin Gildo, accused of terrorism in Syria, collapsed after it became clear British intelligence had been arming the same rebel groups the defendant was charged with supporting.

The prosecution abandoned the case to avoid embarrassing the intelligence services.

The defence argued that going ahead with the trial would have been an “affront to justice” when there was plenty of evidence the British state was itself providing “extensive support” to the armed Syrian opposition.

That didn’t only include the “non-lethal assistance” boasted of by the government (including body armour and military vehicles), but training, logistical support and the secret supply of “arms on a massive scale”. Reports were cited that MI6 had cooperated with the CIA on a “rat line” of arms transfers from Libyan stockpiles to the Syrian rebels in 2012 after the fall of the Gaddafi regime.

Clearly, the absurdity of sending someone to prison for doing what ministers and their security officials were up to themselves became too much.

But it’s only the latest of a string of such cases.

Less fortunate was a London cab driver Anis Sardar, who was given a life sentence a fortnight earlier for taking part in 2007 in resistance to the occupation of Iraq by US and British forces. Armed opposition to illegal invasion and occupation clearly doesn’t constitute terrorism or murder on most definitions, including the Geneva Convention.

But terrorism is now in the eye of the beholder.

And nowhere is that more so than in the Middle East, where today’s terrorists are tomorrow’s fighters against tyranny, a place where allies suddenly become enemies.

For the past year, US, British and other Western forces have been back in Iraq, supposedly in the cause of destroying ISIS. This was after ISIS overran huge chunks of Iraqi and Syrian territory and proclaimed a self-styled Islamic caliphate.

The campaign isn’t going well. Last month, ISIS rolled into the Iraqi city of Ramadi, while on the other side of the now non-existent border its forces conquered the Syrian town of Palmyra.

Al-Qaida’s official Nusra Front, has also been making gains in Syria.

Some Iraqis complain that the US sat on its hands while all this was going on. The Americans insist they are trying to avoid civilian casualties, and claim significant successes.

Privately, officials say they don’t want to be seen hammering Sunni strongholds in a sectarian war and risk upsetting their Wahhabi Sunni Muslim allies in the Gulf – particularly Saudi Arabia.

A revealing light on how we got into this crazy mess has been shone by a recently declassified secret US intelligence report, written in August 2012, which predicts – and effectively welcomes – the prospect of a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria and an al-Qaida-controlled Islamic state in Syria and Iraq.

In stark contrast to Western claims at the time, the Defense Intelligence Agency document identifies al-Qaida in Iraq (which became ISIS) and fellow Salafists as the “major forces driving the insurgency in Syria” – and states that “Western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey” were supporting the opposition’s efforts to take control of eastern Syria.

Raising the “possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality”, the Pentagon report goes on, “this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion.”

So American forces bomb one set of rebels while backing another in Syria

Which is pretty well exactly what happened two years later.

A year into the Syrian rebellion, the US and its allies weren’t only supporting and arming an opposition they knew to be dominated by extreme sectarian groups; they were prepared to countenance the creation of some sort of “Islamic state” – despite the “grave danger” to Iraq’s unity – as a Sunni buffer to weaken Syria.

That doesn’t mean the US created ISIS, though some of its Gulf allies certainly played a role in it – as the US vice-president, Joe Biden, acknowledged last year.

In August 2014, The Times of Israel reported that a Free Syrian Army commander, arrested by the Al-Nusra Front, told his captors he collaborated with Israel in return for medical and military support.

Sharif As-Safouri, the commander of the Free Syrian Army’s Al-Haramein Battalion, admitted to having entered Israel five times to meet with Israeli officers who later provided him with Soviet anti-tank weapons and light arms.

Safouri was abducted by the al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front in the Quneitra area, near the Israeli border, in the summer of 2014.

“The opposition factions would receive support and send the injured in to Israel on condition that the Israeli fence area is secured.” Safouri said.

“No person was allowed to come near the fence without prior coordination with Israel authorities.”

Safouri says that at first he met with an Israeli officer named Ashraf at the border and was given an Israeli cellular phone. He later met with another officer named Younis and with the two men’s commander, Abu Daoud.

In total, Safouri said he entered Israel five times for meetings that took place in Tiberias.

Following the meetings, Israel began providing Safouri and his men with “basic medical support and clothes” as well as weapons, which included 30 Russian rifles, 10 RPG launchers with 47 rockets, and 48,000 5.56mm bullets.

Late last year the Jewish Telegraphic Agency – a 97-year old Jewish wire service – reported: A senior employee of the Dutch Justice Ministry said ISIS was created by Zionists seeking to give Islam a bad reputation.

Yasmina Haifi, a project leader at the ministry’s National Cyber Security Center, stated: “ISIS has nothing to do with Islam. It’s part of a plan by Zionists who are deliberately trying to blacken Islam’s name.”

In March, Haaretz reported: “The Syrian opposition is willing to give up claims to the Golan Heights in return for cash and Israeli military aid against President Bashar Assad.”

And to add a further twist, a former high-level al Qaida commander has repeatedly alleged that ISIS works for the CIA. Investment adviser Jim Willie alleged: “The ISIS troops that are working there in Syria and Iraq are Langley (CIA) troops. They’re trained, funded, and armed by Langley.

While we don’t know which of the above-described allegations are true, two things are certain:

  • The US armed Islamic jihadis in Syria, and their weapons ended up in the hands of ISIS

  • Close allies of the US have supported and trained the ISIS terrorists

And the US has certainly exploited the existence of ISIS against other forces in the region as part of a wider drive to maintain western control.

The calculus changed when ISIS started beheading westerners and posting atrocities online, and the Gulf States are now backing other groups in the Syrian war, such as the Nusra Front.

But this is a US and western habit of playing with jihadi groups, which then come back to bite them.

In reality, US and western policy in the conflagration that is now the Middle East is in the classic mould of imperial divide-and-rule.

American forces bomb one set of rebels while backing another in Syria, and mount what are effectively joint military operations with Iran against ISIS in Iraq while supporting Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against Iranian-backed Houthi forces in Yemen.

However confused US policy may often be, a weak, partitioned Iraq and Syria fit such an approach perfectly.

What’s clear is that ISIS and its monstrosities won’t be defeated by the same powers that brought it to Iraq and Syria in the first place, or whose open and covert war-making has fostered it in the years since.

Endless western military interventions in the Middle East have brought only destruction and division.

Unless we want to see more atrocities like Paris on Friday we must force our governments to leave the Middle East alone.

Stop creating more failed states.

Stop throwing away our freedoms at home on falsehoods.

Stop disenfranchising the Muslims who live with us.

Start with those things and see, even if you won’t give it 14 years to succeed, if things improve. Other than the death tolls scaling up further, I can’t imagine we could be doing anything worse.

I will finish with some words by a journalist hero of mine, John Pilger (his book Distant Voices is a must read): “By most scholarly measure, Bush and Blair’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to the deaths of some 700,000 people – in a country that had no history of jihadism.

“The Kurds had done territorial and political deals; Sunni and Shia had class and sectarian differences, but they were at peace; intermarriage was common.

“Three years before the invasion, I drove the length of Iraq without fear. On the way I met people proud, above all, to be Iraqis, the heirs of a civilization that seemed, for them, a presence.

“Bush and Blair blew all this to bits.

“Iraq is now a nest of jihadism.

“Al-Qaeda – like Pol Pot’s “jihadists” – seized the opportunity provided by the onslaught of Shock and Awe and the civil war that followed.

“Rebel Syria offered even greater rewards, with CIA and Gulf state ratlines of weapons, logistics and money running through Turkey. The arrival of foreign recruits was inevitable.”

A former British ambassador, Oliver Miles, wrote recently: “The Cameron Government seems to be following the example of Tony Blair, who ignored consistent advice from the Foreign Office, MI5 and MI6 that our Middle East policy – and in particular our Middle East wars – had been a principal driver in the recruitment of Muslims in Britain for terrorism.”

Acknowledgment: Saumas Milne

Former newspaper editor to release second book following unexpected success of debut title

A FORMER newspaper editor, who left journalism to start his own publishing company, is preparing to publish his second book of songs and poems.

Multi award winning writer and editor Nic Outterside quit his job as editor of North Wales’ flagship weekly The Denbighshire Free Press following a nervous breakdown in June 2013.

Nic – who now lives in Wolverhampton – launched his own publishing and company and began the slow road to recovery under the watchful eyes of his doctor and the support of his family. Part of the suggested therapy was for him to begin writing and talking about the life experiences which had led to his breakdown.

Nic started a blog two years ago and began to chronicle his life in a series of long and often harrowing stories.

From childhood sexual abuse, through cancer, bereavement, bankruptcy, divorce, repossession of my home, the loss of two of my children and an assault which almost took my life, I guess there was a lot to write about,” says Nic. “And in hindsight I had held the breakdown at bay for far too long.”

“I also used the blog as a conduit for my own creative writing, current affairs opinion pieces and the odd bits of poetry,” he explains. “Then after about 20,000 blog hits and 100 regular followers I was amazed to find that the poetry was receiving all the positive feedback. Family members, random friends and complete strangers suggested I should publish the poems “properly” as a book.

“But from my own experience in publishing I knew that most book publishers will not touch new poets with a cattle prod! So I decided to publish the book myself.

“My first book The Hill- Songs and Poems of Darkness and Light was a huge success, and last winter started work on the follow-up.

“Now, Just Another Hill is almost finished and I plan publication in November. Like the first book, it will be 100 more pages of angst, joy, reflection and opinion, warts and all.”

The Hill: Songs and Poems of Darkness and Light in paperback, is still available priced at just £3.99 with £1.80 for UK post and packing. To obtain a copy go to

Notes to Editors:

  1. Nic is an award-winning editor and writer who has worked with top sportspeople, politicians, musicians, business leaders and small businesses. Among more than a dozen awards to his name are North of England Daily Journalist of the Year, Scottish Daily Journalist of the Year, Scottish Weekly Journalist of the Year and a special national award for investigative journalism. He was twice editor of Weekly Newspaper of the Year.
  2. For further information about writeahead or Nic’s books please contact: 077 83183102 or email:

The Gaslight tapes

I HAVE been the victim of gaslighting.

And I didn’t even know it!

To understand anything which now follows, you probably will need to read my recent autobiographical blog piece entitled Denial. The posting tells the story of my denial of access and loss of my two middle daughters.

Following the publication of Denial on Sunday 9 March, I suddenly discovered by cruel irony that the perpetrators had poisoned other members of my family.

It was a sinister and unexpected shock and left me asking “Why?”

Then last weekend things became a lot clearer.

I had my best friend to stay. She wanted to help me come to terms with the most recent turn of events. She is my soul mate, my trustee and by chance a psychologist. She has known me for many years and knows most of my life. She had read my blog posting and was concerned. So during Saturday afternoon sat on our sofa, I filled in a few gaps and we chatted.

Then she turned to me and said suddenly: “You have been gaslighted.”

“It is a cruel and cunning and devious abuse tactic,” she added.

I gasped for an explanation.

So here it is: Gaslighting is a sophisticated manipulation tactic which is used to control and create doubt in the mind of the victim.

In a 1930s movie thriller entitled “Gas Light”,  a conniving husband tries to make the wife he wishes to get rid of think she is losing her mind by making subtle changes in her environment, including slowly and steadily dimming the flame on a gas lamp.

In recent years, the term “gaslighting” has come to be applied to attempts by certain kinds of people to create so much doubt and fear in the minds of their targets of exploitation that the victim no longer trusts their own judgment about things, thus coming under their power and control.

Sometimes, a person can assert something with such an apparent intensity of conviction that the other person begins to doubt their own perspective.

Bringing up historical facts that seem largely accurate but contain minute, hard-to-prove distortions and using them to “prove” the correctness of one’s position is another method.

Gaslighting is particularly effective when coupled with other tactics such as shaming and guilting. Anything that aids in getting another person to doubt their judgment and back down will work.

Deception is often the key ingredient in manipulation. Deception can be accomplished by outright denial, distortion of key aspects of events, and a variety of other methods, especially the more sophisticated lying techniques.

A really accomplished liar can deceive another person by merely reciting a litany of absolutely true things — while deliberately and cleverly leaving out one or two crucial elements that would change the entire character of what they’re trying to make you believe.

But a common element among all the tactics manipulators use is that they cause the person being targeted to doubt their gut instincts about what’s going on. Their gut tells them they’re under attack or that someone is trying to get the better of them, and they intuitively go on the defensive. But because they often can’t find any clear, direct, objective evidence that the other person is merely trying to disadvantage them, they start doubting and questioning themselves.

This is the real secret of effective manipulation. If the “target” were solidly convinced they were in the process of being done in, they’d more likely put up more resistance instead of capitulating.

Manipulators know this. They win by getting the other person to back down or give in.”

My friend then added: “The way I see it is that the person behind this is like a poison seed. That seed poisons those around to believe them and demonise you.”

So things began to become clearer:

  • The perpetrator could cite three of four instances in my life when I had lost my temper… therefore I had an “anger management problem”. Failing each time to mention the circumstances which led to the rational outburst of anger.
  • The perpetrator could prove that on a few occasions in my life I was treated for depression… therefore I was “mentally ill” and “must be dangerous”. Failing to point out that these occasions were separated by many years and were a natural reaction to overpowering life events, such as bereavement, cancer and loss of a job.
  • The perpetrator could point out that I had a criminal conviction… therefore I was “a criminal with an interest in young girls”. Failing to point out that the conviction was 30 years ago, had been fully spent since 1991, and was due to me immediately handing myself in to the police when I discovered the girl’s age.
  • The perpetrator could point out that I had moved 300 miles away and not seen my daughters for years… therefore I had “abandoned them”. Failing to point out that their mother had moved away and had prevented me from seeing my daughters.

And so on. Until those around them – mainly my daughters – believed all the blackening lies and half truths about me.

My friend said that I had been specifically a victim of gaslighting by proxy, which is described: “If all else fails, the abuser recruits friends, colleagues, family members, the authorities, institutions, neighbours, the media, teachers – in short, third parties – to do his bidding. Even the victim’s relatives, friends, and colleagues are amenable to the considerable charm, persuasiveness, and manipulativeness of the abuser. The abuser offers a plausible rendition of the events and interprets them to his favour.

“Others rarely have a chance to witness an abusive exchange first hand and at close quarters. In contrast, the victims are often on the verge of a nervous breakdown and are angry.

“Confronted with this contrast between a polished, self-controlled, and suave abuser and his harried casualties – it is easy to reach the conclusion that the real victim is the abuser, or that both parties abuse each other equally.

“The abuser perverts the system – therapists, counsellors, mediators, court-appointed guardians, police officers, and judges.

He uses them to pathologise the victim and separate him/her from their sources of emotional sustenance – notably, from their children.”

Dr Richard Gardner sums it up: “The purpose of the alienation is usually to gain or retain custody without the involvement of the father. The alienation usually extends to the father’s family and friends as well.

“Many of these children proudly state that their decision to reject their fathers is their own. They deny any contribution from their mothers. And the mothers often support this vehemently. In fact, the mothers will often state that they want the child to visit with the father and recognise the importance of such involvement, yet such a mother’s every act indicates otherwise.

“Such children appreciate that, by stating the decision is their own, they assuage mother’s guilt and protect her from criticism. Such professions of independent thinking are supported by the mother who will often praise these children for being the kind of people who have minds of their own and are forthright and brave enough to express overtly their opinions. Frequently, such mothers will exhort their children to tell them the truth regarding whether or not they really want to see their fathers.

“The child will usually appreciate that “the truth” is the profession that they hate the father and do not want to see him ever again. They thereby provide that answer – couched as “the truth” – which will protect them from their mother’s anger if they were to state what they really wanted to do, which is to see their fathers.

“After a period of programming the child may not know what is the truth anymore and come to actually believe that the father deserves the vilification being directed against him. The end point of the brainwashing process has then been achieved.”

So I turned to my friend exhausted. She hugged me and said: “Now you know what has happened to you. You are not alone, you are a beautiful person and those that love you and know you well are still with you and we all support you.”

My first lesson in human psychology was over!


Poem: No More War

From Cannae to the Afghan hills my battles have been fought
The centuries fall beside me and I am left with nought
In the darkness of the forest the English archers lay in wait
And abused my youthful hope at Crecy’s fallen gate
Saladin’s beautiful velvet army crushed my men at Damietta
Left me reeling for 30 years inside the silk veil of a leper
At the Battle of Watling Street Boudica’s chariot roared like thunder
Left bodies scarred and scared as her followers they did plunder
On Flodden’s muddy fields madmen shed the blood of tears
Left the dead unburied and my corpse to rot for years
The Blitz rained bombs and rockets on our shaking ruined city
Whisky fuelled the fight each night for a soldier’s dying pity
The Civil War was a wretched time and tore families asunder
It bankrupted dwindling coffers as I felt my life go under
And so a final battle was fought on the Verdun grass
The dead of friend and foe knew the warfare could not last
So lay down your weapons now we have had enough of war
Let matters pass between us and battles become no more

I met the sons of darkness and the sons of light


IT is almost 2am on a warm summer’s evening and I am sitting on a cracked stone grave in our local churchyard, crying my heart out… again!

I am pissed… and in reality I am unaware of the time or the place.

In the real world, I am a successful journalist, but at home my family and domestic life has been a ripped rag for 30 years. My crutch of alcohol has crippled me as a human being… a host of failed relationships, two estranged kids, personal bankruptcy, lost career opportunities, repossession of my home and a succession of regrets.

Casting a huge shadow over every move I have ever made, every tear, every relationship, every job, is the sexual abuse I suffered as a young teenager. (Read the earlier blog post When You Gonna Wake Up and Strengthen the Things That Remain for the background to this).

So I drink to forget and numb the pain.

Anyway, before I lose time or place I take you back to the churchyard.

I sit there on the cold gravestone feeling empty and completely alone.

Suddenly I am blinded by a pair of car headlights.

A voice shouts from the darkness… “Hey Nic, you there?”

It is the voice of my wife.

I stand unsurely and walk towards the voice and the headlights. My wife walks towards me, leaving the car engine running. She grabs hold of my arm and leads me unsteadily back to the car and drives us quickly to the safety and privacy of our home.

This is the latest incident she has had to cope with and I begin to wonder how many more before she breaks and realises I am not the man she thought I was when we married.

Most of the time I function… I cook, I do DIY tasks, I work and earn money and I keep up a visage of clean and tidy. But that is just functioning. I left living behind. So I drink.

I sleep like a bedevilled drunk till mid-morning.

But something happens. For the first time in my adult life I am hit by a different blinding light… a light of conscience and maybe realisation. Without any reason I feel an overpowering need to do something to halt my drinking and the further ruination of my life.

To this day I don’t know why that morning on that day was so different, but something happened psychologically to make me do something. Maybe I had at last realised I could not address the child abuse, but I could address my drinking.

Experts and clinicians say that some alcoholics are born with the addiction, while others acquire the taste for booze and the crippling need to have just one more drink. So we drink when something happens and we drink when it doesn’t.

Whatever way it happens, it is an illness.

I guess my path to alcoholism was a mixture of many things and most were conceived in my early teens. It was a rocky and progressive road.

I remember as a 17 year-old, flush with the cash of a summer holiday job, going to a friend’s summer party. While most kids turned up with the obligatory can of cider or beer, I arrived with a half bottle of vodka and another of whisky. I vaguely recall chatting up a pretty girl and sharing the vodka with her before hitting the whisky myself. Similar vague memories of asking her to dance, before waking sometime around midnight on someone’s front lawn, with pools of my own vomit around me … and yes I was just 17!

Two years later at a university, far from home, I was threatened with being sent down at least twice and evicted from my halls of residence for being constantly drunk – usually on a mixture of beer and whisky. Luckily by the third year and with the help of friends I cut down the drinking. But a star student destined for a 1st class honours degree was lucky to come away with a 2/2 degree.

By 21, I was hooked on booze, but the addiction was still fresh and I usually managed to handle the amount I drank and to confine it to the evenings when home from work.

But as many life crises developed so my need for a crutch increased. At 27, I lost my first job as a result of my own indiscretions and hit the bottle as I searched for another career.

Within three years my first marriage failed as my wife could no longer cope with my excesses. My need to cope with a battle against cancer and my failed marriage encouraged me to drink more.

I was never an abusive drunk, but a drunk all the same.

It was a pattern which followed me throughout my 30s and 40s as I drank a bottle of wine and a half bottle of whisky each weekday night fortified by more wine and at least a litre of spirits every weekend… and watched as partners ditched me in despair.

So I return again to the morning after the night on the grave.

I was now 48 years old and something new inside me stirred – it was my life and I had a choice.

The house was empty as I made a cup of tea and opened the telephone book to look up the number for Alcoholics Anonymous. I had written articles about the organisation in the past and I hoped they could help me.

I gingerly dialled the number and, after a couple of rings, a woman with a broad, but gentle, Glaswegian accent answered. With tears again streaming down my face – not drunken tears but ones of regret and realisation – I began to tell her my story. She listened for more than 25 minutes, chipping in with the odd word of encouragement before offering the chance of hope I had always wanted… a chance to live a proper life without the need for alcohol.

Her analogy about alcoholism stays with me…“It is like buying a train ticket from London to Newcastle,” she said. “You can get off the train at Peterborough, Leeds, York or even Durham. Or you can stay on the train until Newcastle or even go right on to Edinburgh.

“All alcoholics are somewhere on that journey and the longer you stay on that train, the more difficult it is to get off and the more it is going to cost.”

I thanked her and took note of my nearest AA branch.

I sort of celebrated by telephoning my mother and my wife to tell them the truth that I was an alcoholic but I was seeking help. I can’t explain the feeling of elation those words gave me.  But I was at last facing one of my most painful demons.

Sometime later on a Tuesday evening, I walked slowly to our local church hall, knocked twice on the door and was welcomed by a smiling older man.  He led me inside and I was introduced to others.

There I met some of the most wonderful people in my life:

Cheryl, a 46 year-old NHS manager who, after years of hiding bottles of vodka in the dirty laundry basket – where her husband would not look – and drinking up to two of them each night, had not had a drink for seven years.

Alex, a 70-something retired merchant seaman, who had been in and out of detox for most of his life but had not touched a drop in 19 years and preached abstinence.

And Vanessa, a 29 year-old social worker who had finally kicked the booze after drinking steadily since she was 14.

Then there was a sad younger girl called Karen who was facing a court case and a likely jail sentence and the loss of her two young children. Desperate to halt her drinking, her father had circulated her photo to every off-licence and supermarket with an instruction not to serve her. So in desperation she bought a toy gun and tried to hold up a local branch of Threshers… all for a bottle of vodka. She had turned to AA as she reached the end of the line and was eventually led from a meeting after smuggling booze in a coke can. She had failed the first test… to stay sober you have to be honest.

My heart bled for her.

This was Alcoholics Anonymous and together we shared sobriety and spent each evening giving support to each other with our ruined but rediscovered lives. It kept me dry for more than eight months and gave me a chance to grab hold of life.

That was nine years ago and although I have wavered from the path of sobriety in that time, I have only been drunk once and I never want to go there again.

Now the need for the crutch has diminished and I can at last enjoy a drink without it ruining everything.

  • Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.

The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. National AA Helpline: 0845 769 7555

  • Peoples’ names have been changed to preserve their identities.