Lies, propaganda, scapegoats and cover-ups

FMD

DURING a recent dinner party a couple of long-time friends asked why I ‘always blame’ the so-called Establishment for so many of our current problems.

“Surely, if the BBC report it as fact, we can believe the BBC,” one friend added.

That was the excuse I needed, and fuelled by a few glasses of wine I began to burble a list which started somewhere around the creation of Israel, took a detour to the murder of Princess Diana, the real terrorists behind the 9/11 atrocities and crudely ended with Margaret Thatcher’s deployment of nuclear weapons during the Falklands War.

Yes, I suppose I am a bit of conspiracy theorist… but only when that conspiracy has credibility, and that credibility is supported by cast iron facts.

As a journalist I have witnessed far too often the lies and dirty tricks that the Establishment will stoop to, to get their own way.

Murder, war and disease are the forerunners.

And as a journalist, I know the deadly propaganda that our mainstream media – including the BBC and Sky – will feed the population to give credence to those lies.

The distorted reporting surrounding the recent poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia are a case in point… but that would be another detour!

So to answer a few questions I have decided to dig out and reload one of my published investigations.

This one dates from early 2001, soon after Foot and Mouth Disease devastated British farming.

Conspiracy?

You bet!

THE British, Canadian, US and Mexican Governments were preparing for the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease FOUR months before it emerged on a Tyneside farm.

An investigation has discovered that all four countries were staging a co-ordinated Foot and Mouth simulation exercise in October 2000, despite the fact that Britain had not been struck by the disease for 34 years and the USA and Canada had not been affected since 1929.

And North timber merchants have confirmed that they were approached for urgent supplies to tackle the disease by Ministry of Agriculture officials as early as December.

Today scientists called for the Government to admit it knew that Foot and Mouth was present in the UK long before it was officially pinpointed at Bobby Waugh’s Heddon-on-the-Wall pig farm on 23rd February.

And Mr Waugh has called for a public apology from the Government after the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF) consistently blamed his farm as “the likely source of the outbreak”.

An investigation has discovered that last October the United States and Mexico began preparing for “a simulated outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease” in all three countries.

According to papers leaked from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the exercise – which took place between 6th and 9th November – was “for the purpose of emergency planning”.

It took place in Ontario, Alberta, Texas, USA, and Tamaulipas, Mexico.

The papers say: “This exercise is the first of its kind and provides all three countries with a unique opportunity to apply their emergency response plans in the event of a real disease outbreak.”

Yet neither Canada, the USA nor Mexico had been affected with Foot and Mouth Disease since 1929.

And the exercise – which is estimated to have cost over $1million – was the first US “Foreign Animal Disease Response Simulation” of any kind since 1993. At the same time the UK Government was preparing its own “contingency plans” for a Foot and Mouth outbreak.

Yet the last Foot and Mouth outbreak was in 1967.

We discovered that MAFF officials began telephoning timber merchants as early as December asking if they could supply wood for pyres, should Foot and Mouth strike.

Mike Littlehales, who ran a timber yard in Staffordshire said he received a phone call “out of the blue”.

He said: “I got this call from a lady who said ‘This is the Ministry of Agriculture. Would you be interested in supplying timber in case of foot-and-mouth?’ because she wanted to update her records.

“It surprised me, and I thought it was doubly strange when three weeks later the Government tell us we have an outbreak of the disease.”

Mr Littlehales said the last time his timber business had received a similar call was during the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 1967.

Fran Talbot, a timber merchant at Eccleshall, said she was approached in first week of February and asked about the availability of railway sleepers in the event of a FMD outbreak.

“The woman said ‘are you still in a position to supply timber for burning animals in case of an outbreak of Foot and Mouth’.

“It was a very odd thing to happen just three weeks before an outbreak.”

Mrs Talbot’s firm had supplied sleepers during the 1967 outbreak, but had not heard from MAFF since.

Tommy Norman, who runs a timber yard at Longtown, Cumbria – the centre of scores of cases of Foot and Mouth Disease – confirmed he had received a similar call from MAFF in January.

“It’s difficult for me to say any more,” he added. “I have provided masses of wood for MAFF pyres, but they still owe me a large amount of money.”

Top US scientist Dr Patricia Doyle, who has led a stateside campaign to discover the truth about the UK Foot and Mouth outbreak, said: “I am convinced that MAFF knew about the virus was on the loose long before this February.

“And the US Government was protecting its back because they weren’t sure how far the virus had leaked.”

Amble-based geneticist Bruce Jobson, added: “This confirms what we knew all along, that the Government was aware Foot and Mouth was on the loose long before they identified it at Bobby Waugh’s farm.

“The new Department of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) must now admit that MAFF had covered up the real cause of this outbreak”.

Newcastle-based microbiologist Dr Harash Narang added: “I firmly believe that the virus escaped from a MAFF experiment and had infected sheep as long ago as last October.

“This evidence now supports that belief.”

Mr Waugh said he felt vindicated that he was not responsible for the Foot and Mouth outbreak.

“Again, again and again I have been blamed for this disease, when I knew all along it wasn’t me.

“I now want the Government to admit they got it wrong and tell us all how this thing really started.”

Stuart Renton, a vet for almost 30 years, who works out of the Newcastle Foot and Mouth centre in Kenton Bar, Newcastle, launched a scathing attack on his MAFF employers.

He said he and many other vets working for MAFF believe Mr Waugh is innocent.

Dr Renton says he has seen enough evidence of ‘old’ Foot and Mouth sores on infected sheep to convince him the disease was present in the UK long before 15th February.

And he blasted the Government for adopting the wrong policies to deal with the outbreak. “They made our work extremely harrowing,” he said.

The 50-year-old North East vet’s contract with the MAFF may now be on the line for daring to tell what he believes is the truth.

Throughout the entire Foot and Mouth epidemic MAFF vets have not been allowed to speak about the crisis.

Instead any official comment has only come from MAFF press office in London, its chief scientist Professor David King or Agriculture Minister Nick Brown.

Dr Renton said: “Long standing Foot and Mouth lesions are being found in sheep nationally, indicating the disease was probably present long before the so-called initial outbreak in Heddon. We are still getting pockets of infection in sheep which we cannot trace back to Heddon.”

Dr Renton has been part of the MAFF team diagnosing and overseeing the destruction of animals since taking on a case at Black Callerton, Westerhope on 26th February.

He said: “Along with a number of the veterinary surgeons involved, I have serious doubts over the culling policies being adopted by the Government, which makes our work in this outbreak extremely harrowing,” he said.

“And from day one MAFF has been terribly under-resourced to cope. I knew when I took on case number 10 on 26th February that we were on the edge of a disaster and it’s been playing catch-up ever since.”

MAFF said it was ‘unfortunate’ one of its vets should choose to speak to the press. “We will investigate this immediately,” said a spokeswoman.

Although Dr Renton’s contract with MAFF could be terminated by his decision to speak out, we understand it is unlikely he will lose his job because of a shortage of replacement vets.

A spokesman for the Canadian Government said he was unable to comment on its Foot and Mouth simulation exercise due to agreements it had made with the British Government.

“Due to the sensitivity surrounding events which have occurred since February this year, we are unable to comment further on the reasons or results of the November exercise,” he added.

But a DEFRA spokesman denied that MAFF had tried to cover-up the outbreak.

He said: “We did not know of Foot and Mouth in this country at a time earlier than 21st February, when it was identified at the abattoir in Essex and then traced to Mr Waugh’s farm in Northumberland.

“There has never been any deliberate concealment.

“From time to time we do emergency planning exercises and the inquiries about wood may well have been of this nature.”

According to official records the last official UK Foot and Mouth contingency plan was in 1993.

  • NOTE: This investigation led directly to me receiving an honorary doctorate in written journalism from an US university.

Revealed for posterity: the real me

BLOG Nic

MUCH of my life has been a story of two distinct sides… personal and professional.

Childhood sexual abuse, two battles with cancer; the death of my best friend and later my father; more failed relationships than you care to shake a stick at; bankruptcy; the suicide of a family member; the loss of two of my children; the repossession of my home; discovering one wife was enjoying sex with another man; becoming a single parent, an unprovoked assault that almost took my life anyway; and finally a nervous breakdown in 2013.

Set against that backdrop there is a star-spangled career in journalism with a raft of awards and recognition at the highest level, the chance to meet many stellar people, an honorary doctorate in written journalism and an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons praising my investigative skills. And latterly the writing and editing of six diverse books of fact, fiction and poetry.

So while my personal life has been a rollercoaster of pain, my professional life as a writer, editor and publisher has been my rock.

But last week, my personal and professional personas collided in a metaphorical train wreck, just as a seven week pro-bono publishing venture reached its conclusion – ie the book was published!

I won’t bore readers with a blow-by-blow account, but in a nutshell:

I handed over the final manuscript of a book to a trusted friend for e-publication, then 36 hours after publication that same person took the book down from its publishing platform, blaming me for her actions.

I still find myself reeling from what happened.

Naturally, many knives were drawn against me as the responsible editor and publisher. But what really hurt is what then followed… a quite sinister campaign of lies, innuendo, disinformation and blame. And at the back of this an ongoing smear against my honesty and my character.

In the words of my great friend Sara Salyers:

“Whispered accusations behind the back of the accused, rather than a clear and evidenced case are a sure sign that a speculative and inauthentic profile is being constructed in the shadows from which it cannot be challenged because it is protected from the light of day.”

I have no intention of rallying against those whispers, but I do wish all my professional clients and colleagues to know who I really am.

My real friends and colleagues over the past 40 years know me well. This is what a few of them have written… this is the real me:

I first met Nic when we worked together for the YTS scheme in the mid-1980s; training teenagers to get employment. Nic had a teaching role. He was married and the loving father of a young family.

Over the years some may have assumed that Nic’s easy-going personality was a weakness, but this was not the case. Perhaps some were jealous of Nic’s character and may have felt inadequate. Perhaps because of this, they tried to make Nic look bad to make themselves look better.

Nic has admitted to faults but has always been a family man and wanted to be there as a father for his children. Everyone makes mistakes but many do not admit to them publicly in social media. Nic is a good and kind man.

JA (known Nic for 32 years)

 

I met Nic in the summer of 2016 through Momentum and his blogs. We went on to meet and become friends. Nic is a very decent, honest and genuine human being, which is very rare nowadays.

AA (known Nic for 18 months)

 

Nic is a great editor and it was one of my life pleasures to work with him. When I was having deep work-related problems, he was the first person I turned to. At work he was inspirational, and out-of-work he is a great family man who adores his children.

Nic and his wife Gill became close personal friends of my husband Alex and me and we have stayed at each other’s houses many times.

AB (known Nic for 7 years)

 

I’ve known Nic for five years, meeting him as the father of one of my son’s best friends, and now we are friends in our own right. Nic has many qualities that I admire, which include being thoughtful, caring, loving, and a very talented writer. Nic is a kind and loving father to Nathan, who in return is growing into a very polite and thoughtful young man.  I’d like to say not a day goes by without him thinking of all of his kids, but it’s probably more likely to be not an hour. 

CB (known Nic for 5 years)

 

I have known Nic first as a work colleague and then as a friend.

Nic is a compassionate and very fair man who has endured much in his life. What Nic has come through would have crippled most other people. The fact that he has come through it with such little resentment and such a sunny disposition says it all.

I am so proud that I am a friend of his and in my eyes he is a hero.

KB (known Nic for 9 years)

 

I have known Nic personally for many years through our common love of Brighton and Hove Albion FC. In short Nic is a fantastic guy, gentle and compassionate and extremely funny. I hope it all works out for him.

AB (known Nic for 14 years)

 

Nic and I met at college when we were both still teenagers and have kept in touch ever since. We both have great pride in swapping news about how our respective children have grown and developed.

Nic has always had a funny and quirky personality. I can still remember him reading his election speech at Poly with his pants on the outside of his trousers and a knotted hanky on his head. The memory of it still makes me laugh.

Nic does not suffer fools but neither does he exhibit any rash or violent temper.

Nic is now, as he was at 19, a caring, honest, considerate and sensitive man, passionately opposed to social injustice and whose deep and abiding love for his children is absolutely apparent.

I am proud to be his friend.

JB (known Nic for 42 years)

 

Nic gave me my first job in journalism in 2007. I can without hesitation say he is the best editor I could have wished for.

Over the years Nic and I became friends and I have found him to be someone I could rely on if I had a problem as he always made time for his friends and staff even when he was busy or in difficulty himself. 

As for Nathan, I just don’t know how Nic managed to bring up a child on his own while working full-time as a newspaper editor.

CB (known Nic for 11 years)

 

I worked alongside Nic for six months and he is one of the most earnest, helpful and trustworthy colleagues I have ever known. Gregarious, kind and immensely talented, he commands results using a fair and approachable management style. His sunny nature and sharp wit lit up the newsroom and it was both a pleasure and delight to work alongside him.

SC (known Nic for 6 years)

 

Nic is an outstanding editor, teacher and friend. I worked for him for two years between 2008 and 2010. I feel very privileged to have been part of his editorial team. His enthusiasm is infectious and it encouraged me to unearth some great stories and push myself to new limits. Nic will always be someone I continue to turn to for help and advice.

AF (known Nic for 10 years)

 

I met and worked for Nic between 1998 and 1999. I got to know him and his then partner Alvilde on a personal and friendly basis.

Nic is a unique editor who gave confidence and inspiration to many aspiring journalists. More than that, he is a lovely guy.

PF (known Nic for 20 years)

 

I have known Nic for around 13 years, via our mutual love of Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club. In all this time, I have seen his devotion to Nathan, often in the face of great difficulty, to be unswerving, with the soul of a man who loves his son dearly. He is a genuinely lovely man, full of wit, passion and care.

IH (known Nic for 14 years)

 

Nic is a wonderful mentor and teacher and an editor I would willingly move hundreds of miles to work for him again. He is also a warm and compassionate human being and an amazing father to his lovely son Nathan. In a nutshell: he is just amazing.

LH (known Nic for 8 years)

 

I have known Nic for 11 years. We met when he did pro bono PR work for my former band Tiny Tin Lady. I have stayed at Nic’s house many times over the ensuing years and he has become my soul-mate.

Nic is an awesome father to Nathan and a lovely human being. He is one of my best friends in the world.

HH (known Nic for 11 years)

 

I consider myself to be a very good judge of character. This opinion of myself has come about through many years of observing the consequences of my decisions based on the judgements I make. Mostly I have been right, and my awareness of other people has enabled me to almost instantly know if someone is going to be trouble, or enjoys harming other people, or is lying to me or trying to manipulate me in any way.

Nic is a sensitive, kind and intelligent man, who wants to live in a world that values peacefulness, equality and compassion.

AI (known Nic for 18 months)

 

I first met Nic while working for NWN Media. I think it was probably our passion for football that got us talking (he is B&HAFC and me it’s Chester).

It was always a pleasure to chat with him as a happy bloke who never seemed to have a problem with anyone or anything. He hid the agony of his family problems well.

Subsequently we have become good friends with a shared love of music and footy. He has always been kind even in his darkest hours and even appreciated my bad jokes.

Even though Nic lives some miles away I consider him a close friend and would happily welcome him to my home or holiday home in mid Wales, where I spend a lot of time with my wife and extended family of foster children and pets. I hope he finds the inner strength and peace that he deserves.

JL (known Nic for 12 years)

 

I first worked with Nic in 1993. I also met Dilla – this was before they had their two daughters. Our paths crossed again at The Scotsman in 1996. We became good friends and I socialised with both Nic and Dilla over the following year. I visited their home in Haddington and saw at first hand his wonderful parenting of Rhia and Shannon.

I can say in all honesty that Nic is a kind, funny and a very gentle man.

VM (known Nic for 25 years)

 

I need to thank Nic for his support over the last three years – he is a star! I’ve come to value his kindness, honesty, and integrity greatly.

SM (known Nic for 8 years)

 

Nic is my husband and the love of my life so maybe I’m biased! He’s thoughtful, a bit wacky sometimes, he talks in his sleep and when he’s not quoting from Dylan songs or talking at ghosts, he’s talking lovingly about his family, those that live with him and those that are absent. He’s kind, caring and hugs those he loves as often as he can. He’s intelligent, knows what is happening in the world and refuses to read the Daily Mail. So I think that makes him fairly awesome.

GO (known Nic for 6 years)

 

I have only known Nic a short time through our mutual socialist beliefs and membership of the local Momentum branch.

I have to say, I believe Nic to be a thoughtful, caring and gentle soul who wants a just, equal, and caring society.

ER (known Nic for 18 months)

 

Nic is insightful and generous. His passion for social issues and concern for his fellow man permeates every aspect of his work and personality. Nic is a breath of fresh air.

It is for these reasons that I consider him to be one of the best bosses I have ever had and also a very dear friend.

RR (known Nic for 6 years)

 

I first met Nic in 1996 when he was working for The Scotsman. We had a lot in common and quickly became friends.

I got to know him, Dilla and the girls, visiting them in Haddington and going to stay with them in Galloway a couple of times in 1999.

Nic was a proud and loving father and his girls obviously adored him. Everything about his politics and his core values and his behaviour as a dad was of a peace, committed, brave and loving.

No one is without faults and all of us hurt those we love as a result – all of us without exception.

And from bitter personal experience I can attest to the fact that whispered accusations behind the back of the accused, rather than a clear and evidenced case are a sure sign that a speculative and inauthentic profile is being constructed in the shadows from which it cannot be challenged because it is protected from the light of day.

Much love to a brave, brilliant and loving friend.

SS (known Nic for 22 years)

 

Meeting and working for Nic between 2008 and 2010 gave me a strength and inner-belief that few could ever manage. I will never forget his presence in the newsroom, his advice or guidance, all of which are worth more than gold.

He is a lovely man and I am a better person for having known him.

MT (known Nic for 10 years)

 

I worked for Nic for over five years, first as a trainee and then on to chief reporter. He taught me everything I know.

Not only a great journalist and editor Nic is the most compassionate manager I have ever worked for. After being diagnosed with cancer he was a massive support to me, treating me like a friend rather than an employee or a ‘number’.

I am very proud and grateful to have been a member of his team and to class him as a true friend.

NT (known Nic for 10 years)

 

I have come to know Nic through his writings and ultimately as a valued friend.    

It is impossible to read Nic’s accounts of his life and of his struggles to gain access to his children, without being deeply moved.   

Nic has a tremendous insight into self, probably more than anyone I know.  Unlike so many of us humans, he can reflect and admit to his weaknesses and imperfections.  

Nic is a valued friend and is a kind, caring and above all honest man. 

SW (known Nic for 3 years)

 

I have known Nic for over 30 years and met him at a particular difficult time for him, health wise. I was a nurse, working at an oncology hospital in Cardiff, and Nic was a patient receiving radiotherapy due to him having a malignant tumour removed from his shoulder area. I would redress his wound each day, and spend a long time talking and listening to a brave, intelligent man.

I gained great insight into a man who was determined to get well and restart his life and career. I saw how he worried about other patients and how one young girl became a great friend to him and he looked out for her throughout his time at the hospital. They remained friends up until her untimely death through cancer. Again this hit Nic hard as he loved her like a younger sister he has never forgotten her and has even made time to meet her family many years later.

I for one class Nic as a caring passionate friend and know our friendship will never be lost. When you meet Nic and talk to him you know him only as a gentleman who wants the best for other people before himself. A selfless man who deserves better than what has happened to him these past years.

AY (known Nic for 31 years)

 

Brief encounter – the murder of Diana

diana and dodi

IT was a wet February in 1997 and I was ensconced in a four star hotel in Islington, tasked with bringing home what could be the biggest newspaper story of the decade.

My job as Chief Investigative Reporter for the Scottish national daily The Scotsman was to gather information from Harrods owner, Mohamed Al Fayed, about an alleged conspiracy involving his business rival Tiny Rowland and a senior Conservative government minister.

It was an enjoyable and wholly productive three days of interviews with the gregarious and at times incomprehensible Mr Al Fayed, his PA Michael Cole and head of security John MacNamara – a former Scotland Yard senior detective.

The daily routine was purposeful: breakfast at my hotel, a taxi ride across London to Knightsbridge, an escalator to Mr Al Fayed’s office on the fifth floor of the Harrods department store, a coffee and croissant with Michael Cole and up to three hours of talking, questioning and sifting through reams of documents and photographs.

On Wednesday 12 February, I arrived as usual at 10am in the reception area outside the office and boardroom.

I was greeted cheerily as usual by Mr Cole. But on this morning he asked me if I minded waiting in an ante-room for half an hour as his boss was expecting a personal visit from Princess Diana.

I was shown into the room and given the usual coffee and croissant plus copies of the day’s national newspapers to browse at my leisure.

After 10 minutes waiting, I suddenly needed a quick loo break so quietly made my way to the now familiar private washroom.

Upon my return to my isolated coffee and partly eaten croissant, I stopped suddenly as the most recognisable woman in the world walked by, accompanied by Mr Cole and an as yet unknown young Middle Eastern man.

Diana turned briefly and smiled at me.

It was a memorable brief encounter.

But a tragic event some six and a half months later undoubtedly made it more memorable.

Later that day, I caught my return train to Edinburgh and The Scotsman offices at North Bridge.

Upon my arrival I was introduced to our new editor Martin Clarke, who had taken up his position while I was away in London.

My first meeting with him was also memorable, but for very different reasons.

I was brusquely told that our investigation into the conspiracy surrounding Tiny Rowland had been spiked for ‘political reasons’. I was also told I was ‘wasting my and the newspaper’s time’, not to ask any more questions and to ‘get on with some proper reporting’.

The months passed and on 31 August 1997, two events coincided: it was my final day working for The Scotsman and ironically Princess Diana, 36,  her lover (Mohamed Al Fayed’s son) Dodi Fayed, 42, and driver Henri Paul were killed in a horror car crash in the Pont de l’Alma road tunnel in Paris.

My reaction to the deaths at the time was the same as it is now: they were murdered.

But it was only 10 years later at a judicial inquest, following a three year inquiry into their deaths and possible murder, that my own brief encounter came back to haunt me.

The inquest, under Lord Justice Scott Baker, heard on at least six occasions that at the time of his romance with Diana in the summer of 1997, Dodi Fayed was engaged to an American model, Kelly Fisher. Dodi had bought a house in Malibu for Fisher and himself with money from his father.

The inquiry also heard heart surgeon Hasnat Khan give his first detailed account of his two-year relationship with Diana, during which he says he often stayed at Kensington Palace and met the princess’s sons.

He described how the princess broke up with him after she got back from a holiday with Mohammed Al Fayed and his family.

The inquest dismissed reports that Dodi and Diana were in a relationship prior to that summer and therefore any talk of an impending engagement in August 1997 – and possible motive for their murder – were subsequently rubbished.

Something I knew then and now to be untrue.

The Inquest jury returned a majority verdict that Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed were unlawfully killed due to the gross negligence of their driver, Henri Paul, and the paparazzi.

But I am still left with the haunting question: if that was the case, what were Diana and Dodi doing making a personal visit to Mohamed Al Fayed on 12 February 1997?

Mr Al Fayed later claimed that a plot to kill Diana was kicked into high gear as soon as British authorities found out from the CIA that Dodi had picked out a $215,000 star-shaped diamond ring for his future bride.

“The only reason my son and Diana were in Paris that night was so that he could personally collect the ring and propose to her,” he said.

“I spoke to Dodi and he was so excited and happy. Diana was too. They deserved a lifetime’s love together, and this beautiful ring was to put a seal on that,” he added.

“Diana believed all her married life that she was under surveillance by British and foreign intelligence agencies who reported back to her husband Prince Charles and the British establishment,” said Laurie Mayer, Mr Al Fayed’s press spokesman.

“She had every reason to think they intercepted her phone calls. The call she made to Lucia on the afternoon of her death could have alerted them she really was going to marry Dodi and that he, a practising Muslim and the son of a man who helped bring down the British government, would be stepfather to Prince William and Prince Harry.”

Mr Al Fayed also wanted – and got – files on two photographers, a Frenchman and a Dutchman.

“These men know what went on that evening,” said John McNamara.

“They filmed the motorbike we know was blocking the exit road, forcing the Mercedes to take the tunnel. That could show the license plate of that bike and another one we believe shot into the tunnel behind the white Fiat Uno.

“The Fiat Uno was waiting at the mouth of the tunnel. There was a collision and since then the bikes and the Fiat have vanished.

“Immediately after the crash, the photographers sent their pictures round the world. Some of those wired to an agency in North London had vital frames showing the vehicles we cannot now trace.

“The agency was broken into just hours after the crash and neither we, nor the police, believe it was an ordinary burglary.

“Many photographs show Diana lying in the rear seat of the Mercedes, one arm flung across Dodi and her legs buckled up under, have been seen across the world. Some have even been published in Europe. But none has shown the bikes or the car.”

Just one of far too many unanswered questions over the death of the People’s Princess.

 

Who is the Monster?

WHEN I was 19 and my late dad was 45 years old, he had an extra marital affair and left the family home to live with his mistress.

It was a devastating time for all of us, and none more so than my mum, who seemed to spend the next four months crying and starving herself, while somehow parenting my youngest sister, who was then only eight years old.

A week after my father left, my mother told me that this was the third or fourth affair that my dad had “enjoyed”, and she could not forgive him again.

She was hurting badly; and looking back, I am sure that in her pain, she told me this to drive me away from my father and maybe make me hate him.

But it had the reverse effect.

Instead, I saw my dad as a weak human being and I worried for him, and loved him even more – after all he was “my dad”.

As things turned out, six months later my father suffered a nervous breakdown and my mum took him back, nursed him back to health and once again, forgave him.

He never strayed again, and when he died in my mother’s arms in 2008, they loved each other more than ever before.

So why do I tell you this?

Well, fast forward to 2003.

This was the year I was denied all contact with my middle two daughters (Rhia and Shannon). You can read the full account and my battle for access here: Denial

The loss of my daughters was a major contributing factor in my own nervous breakdown in 2013.

This is fully explained here: When you gonna wake up and strengthen the things that remain?

Then some nine months after my breakdown, I discovered that my eldest son, Ben, had married in March 2014, without telling me. To add insult, he had invited my daughters’ stepfather to his wedding rather than me. Perhaps not surprisingly, I suffered another breakdown.

Some 18 months later, when his new wife gave birth to their daughter (my grand-daughter) he instructed members of the family NOT to show me any photographs of her.

Again, I was left reeling – where had all this hatred come from?

It seems that since 2010, he too had been dragged into this denial of access mess.

My last contact with Ben was a text message he sent me in May 2010, in which he said:

“I know your secret”.

When I asked what that “secret” was, he stopped all contact, blocked calls and emails and returned all my letters.

Read this for background about what was going on: The Gaslight Tapes

So I was left with my youngest son Nathan, who I had cared for single-handedly since just after his fourth birthday (he is now 15) and my eldest adult daughter Tan, who had stayed away from all the family problems, and whom I have not seen for a few years.

So time to bring things up to date: at October half-term 2016, Nathan asked if he could pop and see Tan at her office in Telford. I agreed and went with him.

We telephoned the office to find out if she was at work. She was, and she spoke briefly with Nathan, but made excuses why she could not see him personally.

Three days later, she emailed my ex-wife (Nathan’s mother and someone she had not seen in more than 10 years) to claim she was scared by the phone call. But the two page email was full of vitriol about me and how she did not want to see me again and had “nothing positive to say” about me.

Clearly upset, Nathan showed me this email last week.

I was choked by it… I have NEVER fallen out with Tan, never harmed her in any way and had no idea that she didn’t want contact with me.

I had given her space, believing she was being aloof, due to family problems with her uncle and the recent death of her grandfather.

So this email was completely out-of-the-blue and hit me very hard.

But, what became immediately clear was that a 14 year campaign of lies, innuendo, gaslighting and character assassination against me, was continuing.

This campaign was being driven by Alvilde, the mother of my middle daughters, and her wealthy husband John.

As explained in The Gaslight Tapes: “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.”

So what is my “secret”?

And what have I done to make me such a heinous father or such a monster, that my children hate me?

  • Am I a murderer?
  • Am I a rapist?
  • Am I a wife beater?
  • Am I a child abuser?
  • Am I a paedophile?

I am NONE of these things…. I have NEVER physically abused, sexually abused, mentally abused or harmed any of my children or past partners. I have rarely even raised my voice to my kids.

Plus, I am a pacifist.

The ONLY time I have ever hit anyone, is a drunken fight I had at a ceilidh in Scotland in 1992, when Alvilde and I drunkenly and publicly punched each other over my refusal to take part in a country dance. It was something we both regretted the next day and something I openly apologised for – this was long before our daughters were even born.

So has this one incident become the bedrock of the gaslighting?

I genuinely don’t know.

But, as my good friend Sara Salyers observes:

“From bitter personal experience I can attest to the fact that whispered accusations behind the back of the accused, rather than a clear and evidenced case are a sure sign that a speculative and inauthentic profile is being constructed in the shadows from which it cannot be challenged because it is protected from the light of day.

“Anyone accused of crimes serious enough to cost him the right to a relationship with his children has the right to hear the case against him. And his children have both the right and the duty to pull the whispers out of the shadows and subject them to the light of test and evidence.”

So I ask again, what have I done, to warrant such ongoing poison?

Now, after reading Tan’s email, I am not going to back down again and submit to life-ruining lies and innuendoes.

I believe I am a caring and gentle man, who loves his children deeply and should not be forced through this hell any longer.

If the perpetrators intended to break me, they did that a long time ago. The child sexual abuse, cancer, bankruptcy and bereavements ground me down over many years, but the cruel assassination of my character to my children finished me off.

In June 2015, I tried to take my own life, but was rescued by two passing strangers. The road to emotional and psychological recovery since that day has been strong, but draining.

I am now too tired and too old to fight any longer.

So this is my final battle, my final attempt to break this campaign of vilification, and beg that my older children (who are now all adults) see me as I really am.

Whatever the outcome, I will always love all of them.

My youngest son Nathan knows and loves me as a caring and loving dad, who would do anything for his children.

And my many friends know me too.

This is what a few of them so kindly volunteered to write.

I leave you, the reader, to judge, but this is the REAL ME:

I first met Nic when we worked together for the YTS scheme in the mid-1980s; training teenagers to get employment. Nic had a teaching role. He was married and the loving father of a young family.

Over the years some may have assumed that Nic’s easy-going personality was a weakness, but this was not the case. Perhaps some were jealous of Nic’s character and may have felt inadequate. Perhaps because of this, they tried to make Nic look bad to make themselves look better.

Nic has admitted to faults but has always been a family man and wanted to be there as a father for his children. Everyone makes mistakes but many do not admit to them publicly in social media. Nic is a good, kind man and father to his children. He loves them all very much even the ones he is not able to communicate with which I know rips him apart.

JA (known Nic for 30 years)

 

I met Nic last summer through Momentum and his blogs. We went on to meet and become friends. Nic is a very decent, honest and genuine human being, which is very rare nowadays.

AA (known Nic for 7 months)

 

Nic and I worked together for three years and he became a great pal and was always passionate about what he did.

The love of his family is obvious and I truly hope that his dream of having a relationship with his other children comes true.

SB (known Nic for 6 years)

 

Nic is a great editor and it was one of my life pleasures to work with him. When I was having deep work-related problems, he was the first person I turned to. At work he was inspirational, and out-of-work he is a great family man who adores his children.

Nic and his wife Gill became close personal friends of my husband Alex and me and we have stayed at each other’s houses many times.

AB (known Nic for 6 years)

 

I’ve known Nic for four years, meeting him as the father of one of my son’s best friends, and now we are friends in our own right. Nic has many qualities that I admire, which include being thoughtful, caring, loving, and a very talented writer. Nic is a kind and loving father to Nathan, who in return is growing into a very polite and thoughtful young man.  I’d like to say not a day goes by without him thinking of all of his kids, but it’s probably more likely to be not an hour. Nic deserves as much as any of us to see his family.

CB (known Nic for 4 years)

 

I have known Nic first as a work colleague and then as a friend.

Nic is a compassionate and very fair man who has endured much in his life. What Nic has come through would have crippled most other people. The fact that he has come through it with such little resentment and such a sunny disposition says it all.

I am so proud that I am a friend of his and in my eyes he is a hero.

KB (known Nic for 8 years)

 

I have known Nic personally for many years through our common love of Brighton and Hove Albion FC. In short Nic is a fantastic guy, gentle and compassionate and extremely funny. I hope it all works out for him.

AB (known Nic for 13 years)

 

Nic and I met at college when we were both still teenagers and have kept in touch ever since. We both have great pride in swapping news about how our respective children have grown and developed.

Nic has always had a funny and quirky personality. I can still remember him reading his election speech at Poly with his pants on the outside of his trousers and a knotted hanky on his head. The memory of it still makes me laugh.

Nic does not suffer fools but neither does he exhibit any rash or violent temper.

Nic is now, as he was at 19, a caring, honest, considerate and sensitive man, passionately opposed to social injustice and whose deep and abiding love for his children is absolutely apparent.

I am proud to be his friend.

JB (known Nic for 41 years)

 

Nic gave me my first job in journalism in 2007. I can without hesitation say he is the best editor I could have wished for.

Over the years Nic and I became friends and I have found him to be someone I could rely on if I had a problem as he always made time for his friends and staff even when he was busy or in difficulty himself. 

I was humbled when he and Gill asked me to be their wedding photographer. As for Nathan, I just don’t know how Nic has managed to bring up a child on his own while working full-time as a newspaper editor.

CB (known Nic for 9 years)

 

I worked alongside Nic for six months and he is one of the most earnest, helpful and trustworthy colleagues I have ever known. Gregarious, kind and immensely talented, he commands results using a fair and approachable management style. His sunny nature and sharp wit lit up the newsroom and it was both a pleasure and delight to work alongside him.

SC (known Nic for 5 years)

 

I have known Nic since 1999 and visited him and Ruth often at their home in Oldmeldrum. I met Rhia and Shannon on a number of occasions. I was also present at Nic and Ruth’s wedding in 2003. It was so lovely to see how beautiful Rhia and Shannon looked at the wedding, and how excited they were. It was obvious how much they loved their little brother, Nathan, constantly fussing over him, and how much they loved their dad.

Nic is, and always has been, loving and caring towards all of his children and a thoroughly decent man. It is time he had an even break.

LD (known Nic for 18 years)

 

Nic and I enjoyed a loving relationship for little over a year. We would spend alternate weekends at each other’s homes and spent Christmas and Easter together too. His son, Nathan became good friends with my teenage children. I also met and spent time with Nic’s lovely mum, Jackie.

Nic is a loving person and a wonderful father. He also put himself out of limb to get to know and befriend my children. I never saw Nic lose his temper or harm anyone. It is now sadly ironic that the reason we split up was due to his high personal morality and honesty – something to which I still aspire. He was a lovely part of my life.

NG (known Nic for 7 years)

 

Nic is an outstanding editor, teacher and friend. I worked for him for two years between 2008 and 2010. I feel very privileged to have been part of his editorial team. His enthusiasm is infectious and it encouraged me to unearth some great stories and push myself to new limits. Nic will always be someone I continue to turn to for help and advice.

AF (known Nic for 9 years)

 

I met and worked for Nic between 1998 and 1999. I got to know him and his then partner Alvilde on a personal and friendly basis. I never witnessed Nic lose his temper once and he always adored his two little daughters.

Nic is a unique editor who gave confidence and inspiration to many aspiring journalists. More than that, he is a lovely guy.

PF (known Nic for 19 years)

 

I have known Nic for around 13 years, via our mutual love of Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club. In all this time, I have seen his devotion to Nathan, often in the face of great difficulty, to be unswerving, with the soul of a man who loves his son dearly. I know Nic would welcome the chance to (re)build relationships with his other children. He is a genuinely lovely man, full of wit, passion and care.

IH (known Nic for 13 years)

 

Nic is a wonderful mentor and teacher and an editor I would willingly move hundreds of miles to work for him again. He is also a warm and compassionate human being and an amazing father to his lovely son Nathan. In a nutshell: he is just amazing.

LH (known Nic for 6 years)

 

I have known Nic for 10 years. We met when he did pro bono PR work for my former band Tiny Tin Lady. I have stayed at Nic’s house many times over the ensuing years and he has become my soul-mate.

Nic is an awesome father to Nathan and a lovely human being. He is one of my best friends in the world and I was honoured to be his witness at his marriage to Gill.

I would love to meet his estranged daughters and tell them to their faces what a beautiful man their father is.

HH (known Nic for 10 years)

 

I consider myself to be a very good judge of character. This opinion of myself has come about through many years of observing the consequences of my decisions based on the judgements I make. Mostly I have been right, and my awareness of other people has enabled me to almost instantly know if someone is going to be trouble, or enjoys harming other people, or is lying to me or trying to manipulate me in any way.

Nic is a sensitive, kind and intelligent man, who wants to live in a world that values peacefulness, equality and compassion.

AI (known Nic for 6 months)

 

I first met Nic while working for NWN Media. I think it was probably our passion for football that got us talking (he is B&HAFC and me it’s Chester).

It was always a pleasure to chat with him as a happy bloke who never seemed to have a problem with anyone or anything. He hid the agony of his family problems well.

Subsequently we have become good friends with a shared love of music and footy. He has always been kind even in his darkest hours and even appreciated my bad jokes.

Even though Nic lives some miles away I consider him a close friend and would happily welcome him to my home or holiday home in mid Wales, where I spend a lot of time with my wife and extended family of foster children and pets. I hope he finds the inner strength and peace that he deserves.

JL (known Nic for 11 years)

 

Nic and I met after our sons became close friends at school, when they were still just Infants.

Over the years our sons have played together, had many sleepovers and grown to be best buddy teenagers.

Nathan has excelled at school and is one of the brightest boys I have ever known. This is in no small measure due to Nic’s parenting of Nathan.

I make these observations as a fellow parent, a good friend and as a school teacher.

CL (known Nic for 11 years)

 

I first worked with Nic in 1993. I also met Dilla – this was before they had their two daughters. Our paths crossed again at The Scotsman in 1996. We became good friends and I socialised with both Nic and Dilla over the following year. I visited their home in Haddington and saw at first hand his wonderful parenting of Rhia and Shannon.

I can say in all honesty that Nic is a kind, funny and a very gentle man. It is a horrendous travesty that he has been denied the rights of any father to be a parent to his daughters.

VM (known Nic for 24 years)

 

I need to thank Nic for his support over the last three years – he is a star! I’ve come to value his kindness, honesty, and integrity greatly.

SM (known Nic for 7 years)

 

Nic and I met through our sons, who went to the same primary school.

Nic is friendly and approachable and very easy to talk to. I have never witnessed him being angry and always thought of him as very laid back and relaxed.

Nic is a loving parent who always wants the best for his son. Nathan is a lovely boy and that is credit to the upbringing that Nic has given him. Both my children have spent lots of time at Nic’s house and I have never had any reason to be concerned. Even with a house full of noisy children I have never seen or heard Nic raise his voice in anger. He genuinely enjoys seeing the children happy and having fun.

KM (known Nic for 8 years)

 

Dad is loving and caring, he spoils me rotten. He is kind and generous. He can be firm and sometimes raise his voice, but he never loses his temper with me. He is the best dad in the world ever!

NO (known Nic all my life)

 

I have only known Nic a short time through our mutual socialist beliefs and membership of the local Momentum branch.

I have to say, I believe Nic to be a thoughtful, caring and gentle soul who wants a just, equal, and caring society. I truly hope his fight to put the record straight is successful.

ER (known Nic for 6 months)

 

Nic is insightful and generous. His passion for social issues and concern for his fellow man permeates every aspect of his work and personality. Nic is a breath of fresh air.

It is for these reasons that I consider him to be one of the best bosses I have ever had and also a very dear friend.

RR (known Nic for 5 years)

 

I first met Nic in 1996 when he was working for The Scotsman. We had a lot in common and quickly became friends.

I got to know him, Dilla and the girls, visiting them in Haddington and going to stay with them in Galloway a couple of times in 1999.

Nic was a proud and loving father and his girls obviously adored him. Everything about his politics and his core values and his behaviour as a dad was of a peace, committed, brave and loving.

No one is without faults and all of us hurt those we love as a result – all of us without exception. But the kinds of fault that would justify alienating and excluding a father, the kinds of faults that would make the violent emotional damage inflicted by parental alienation preferable to maintaining a working relationship with a parent, are not part of his profile. I can state that with 100% certainty.

And from bitter personal experience I can attest to the fact that whispered accusations behind the back of the accused, rather than a clear and evidenced case are a sure sign that a speculative and inauthentic profile is being constructed in the shadows from which it cannot be challenged because it is protected from the light of day.

Anyone accused of crimes serious enough to cost him the right to a relationship with his children has the right to hear the case against him.

And his children have both the right and the duty to pull the whispers out of the shadows and subject them to the light of test and evidence.

Even if that means acknowledging the vengeful or venal or deceitful character of the other parent.

Much love to a brave, brilliant and loving friend.

SS (known Nic for 21 years)

 

Meeting and working for Nic between 2008 and 2010 gave me a strength and inner-belief that few could ever manage. I will never forget his presence in the newsroom, his advice or guidance, all of which are worth more than gold.

He is a lovely man and I am a better person for having known him.

MT (known Nic for 9 years)

 

I worked for Nic for over five years, first as a trainee and then on to chief reporter. He taught me everything I know.

Not only a great journalist and editor Nic is the most compassionate manager I have ever worked for. After being diagnosed with cancer he was a massive support to me, treating me like a friend rather than an employee or a ‘number’.

I am very proud and grateful to have been a member of his team and to class him as a true friend.

And to watch Nathan grow under his parenting has been amazing.

NT (known Nic for 9 years)

 

I have known Nic for a little over five years.

I think he, Gill and Nathan are fantastic loving people, educated and incredibly funny.

VT (known Nic for 7 years)

 

I have come to know Nic through his writings and ultimately as a valued friend.    

It is impossible to read Nic’s accounts of his life and of his struggles to gain access to his children, without being deeply moved.   

Nic has a tremendous insight into self, probably more than anyone I know.  Unlike so many of us humans, he can reflect and admit to his weaknesses and imperfections.  

Nic is a valued friend and is a kind, caring and above all honest man. 

SW (known Nic for 2 years)

 

I have known Nic for over 30 years and met him at a particular difficult time for him, health wise. I was a nurse, working at an oncology hospital in Cardiff, and Nic was a patient receiving radiotherapy due to him having a malignant tumour removed from his shoulder area. I would redress his wound each day, and spend a long time talking and listening to a brave, intelligent man.

I gained great insight into a man who was determined to get well and restart his life and career. I saw how he worried about other patients and how one young girl became a great friend to him and he looked out for her throughout his time at the hospital. They remained friends up until her untimely death through cancer. Again this hit Nic hard as he loved her like a younger sister he has never forgotten her and has even made time to meet her family many years later.

I for one class Nic as a caring passionate friend and know our friendship will never be lost. When you meet Nic and talk to him you know him only as a gentleman who wants the best for other people before himself. A selfless man who deserves better than what has happened to him these past years.

AY (known Nic for 30 years)

 

The political bloodshed of Poppy Day

white poppy

SO with most of those who fought in World War 2 now resting in their graves or in a nursing home for the over 90s, why are we again in such bloody state over Poppy Day?

Like World War 1, which is now 100 years ago, it is another tragic part of our inglorious military history, as much as the battles of Hastings, Agincourt, Crecy, Waterloo or Trafalgar.

Like a twisted Groundhog Day, it is a history which is repeating itself in the Falklands, Iraq, Afghanistan and now Syria.

And every November our collective conscience becomes blood-soaked with paper poppies festooning the lapels of our politicians, newsreaders and business leaders.

Why does our Establishment not do the same for those who have died from cancer, MS, Aids or heart failure?

It is because our leaders and the most fortunate in our society have turned the solemnity of remembrance for fallen soldiers in ancient wars into a justification for our most recent armed conflicts.

The American civil war’s General Sherman once said that “war is hell”, but unfortunately today’s politicians in Britain use past wars to bolster our flagging belief in national austerity or to compel us to surrender our rights as citizens, in the name of the public good.

Yesterday, football’s governing body, FIFA turned down requests from England and Scotland for players to wear armbands featuring poppies during their World Cup qualifiers on 11 November, because it breached a ban on “political” symbols.

FIFA bans “political, religious or commercial messages” from being used on national teams’ shirts.

The decision got the English and Scottish FAs in quite a lather, with both threatening to defy the ban, at the risk of heavy sanctions for doing so.

Lucy Noakes, a social and cultural historian at the University of Brighton, thinks it’s not accurate to depict the poppy as apolitical.

Despite the fact that it was introduced in 1921 for charitable purposes – to raise money that would help World War 1 veterans with employment and housing – it has “been politicised almost since its inception”, she says.

Among political objectors to the red poppies is West Bromwich Albion and Republic of Ireland midfielder James McClean, who refuses to wear a poppy, arguing that it represents all the conflicts the UK has taken part in.

He cites in particular “the history where I come from in Derry” – the Northern Irish city in which British paratroopers killed unarmed civilians on “Bloody Sunday” in January 1972.

In 2010, a group of Celtic supporters unfurled banners objecting to poppies on their team’s kit, citing British interventions in Afghanistan, Ireland and Iraq.

Among those today who also argue that the poppy is political is Harry Leslie Smith, a 93-year-old World War 2 RAF veteran, who has not worn a red poppy since 2013 because he believes “the spirit of my generation has been hijacked” by today’s politicians to “sell dubious wars” in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Three years ago, Harry explained his decision: “I will no longer allow my obligation as a veteran to remember those who died in the great wars to be co-opted by current or former politicians to justify our folly in Iraq, our morally dubious war on terror and our elimination of one’s right to privacy.

“We must remember that the historical past of this country is not like an episode of Downton Abbey where the rich are portrayed as thoughtful, benevolent masters to poor folk who need the guiding hand of the ruling classes to live a proper life.

“I can tell you it didn’t happen that way because I was born nine years after World War 1 began. I can attest that life for most people was spent in abject poverty where one laboured under brutal working conditions for little pay and lived in houses not fit to kennel a dog today.

“We must remember that the war was fought by the working classes who comprised 80% of Britain’s population in 1913.

“My uncle and many of my relatives died in that war and they weren’t officers or NCOs; they were simple Tommies. They were like the hundreds of thousands of other boys who were sent to their slaughter by a government that didn’t care to represent their citizens if they were working poor and under-educated.

“My family members took the king’s shilling because they had little choice, whereas many others from similar economic backgrounds were strong-armed into enlisting by war propaganda or press-ganged into military service by their employers.

“Today, we have allowed monolithic corporate institutions to set our national agenda. We have allowed vitriol to replace earnest debate and we have somehow deluded ourselves into thinking that wealth is wisdom.

“If we are to survive as a progressive nation we have to start tending to our living because the wounded: our poor, our underemployed youth, our hard-pressed middle class and our struggling seniors shouldn’t be left to die on the battleground of modern life.”

The power of the privileged Establishment is there for all to see as they move Heaven and Earth to keep Poppy Day as a sacred national institution.

Last year our right-wing press launched a scathing attack on Jeremy Corbyn, claiming a video from 2013 showed him calling WW1 commemorations “pointless”.

The papers (the usual suspects) the Daily Mail, Daily Express and The Telegraph – concentrated on one line from a speech in which the Labour leader says: “I’m not sure what there is to commemorate about the First World War.”

They then went on to claim Mr Corbyn “denounced” the money that was to be spent on – amongst other things – the huge display of ceramic poppies that filled the moat around the Tower of London in 2014.

But what Mr Corbyn said in 2013 was actually spot on: “Keir Hardie was a great opponent of the First World War… I’m not sure what there is to commemorate about the First World War other than the mass slaughter of millions of young men and women, mainly men, on the Western Front and all the other places.

“And it was a war of the declining empires and anyone who’s read or even dipped into Hobson’s great work of the early part of the 20th century, written post World War, presaged the whole First World War as a war between monopolies fighting between [inaudible] markets.

“The reason I say this is next year the government are planning this celebration and I think that’s an opportunity for us. It’s an opportunity to discuss war and discuss peace and to put up an alternative point of view.”

As a life-long pacifist I write each November about the farce and fallacy of the British Establishment’s Poppy Day.

Two years ago I stumbled upon a wonderful piece written by Guardian journalist Jonathan Jones, which not only underscores what Mr Corbyn said, but also many of my own beliefs.

I won’t reboot all that he writes but his salient points are:

“Recording only the British dead of World War 1 confirms the illusion that we are an island of heroes with no debt to anyone else, no fraternity for anyone else.

“In 1924, the German artist Otto Dix depicted a skull, lying on the ground, a home to worms. They crawl out of its eye sockets, nasal opening and mouth, and wriggle among patches of hair and a black moustache that still cling to the raw bone.

“Dix recorded his memories of fighting in the First World War. He was a machine gunner at the Somme, among other battles, and won the Iron Cross, second class. But he remembered it all as pure horror, as did other participants who happened to be artists or writers such as George Grosz, Siegfried Sassoon, Ernst Jünger and Robert Graves.

“We need to look harder, and keep looking, at the terrible truths of the war that smashed the modern world off the rails and started a cycle of murderous extremism that ended only in 1945. If it did end.”

I agree with every word and every sentiment, but sadly the ‘murderous extremism’ has sadly never ended, a glance in the direction of Israel, Iraq or Syria will confirm that.

But let’s go back to the root of this.

If we honour the fallen Allied soldiers of the 1914-18 conflict, why do we not do the same for the German soldiers or indeed the dead of the Crimean War, Waterloo, the Boer War, the battles of Bannockburn and Culloden or the dead from the English Civil War, Agincourt, Crecy or even the Battle of Hastings?

Where does logic and reality stop and politics and propaganda begin?

The reasons given for World War 1 commemoration that is we must remember our dead. “They died for us and our freedom. The cost of sacrifice. Remember Passchendaele. Never forget.”

Total balderdash!

As a child I remember sitting on my Great Uncle Jack’s knee as he told me tales of the Somme and the mud, horror and death. He showed me the 11 inch scar on his back where a German sniper had almost taken his life as he crawled back to his trench from no man’s land. And he also told me of his older brother Burnet who died from enteric fever in the trenches at the Somme, like many thousands of his compatriots.

There was no glory, no heroism, just as Harry Leslie Smith also observed: the mechanised slaughter of millions of young working class men.

As World War 1 poet Wilfred Owen wrote: ‘the poetry is in the pity’.

One example of the mindless killings occurred on the 24 and 25 September 1915 when the 4th Black Watch was decimated at Loos.

“Haig had ample warning that an unprepared attack by two untrained divisions was unlikely to succeed. And so the stage was set for a repetition of the charge at Balaclava.

“For the set-piece attack of the 11th Corps was as futile and foredoomed as that of the Light Brigade. There had been 12 battalions making the attack, a strength of just under ten thousand, and in the three and a half hours of the actual battle their casualties were 385 officers and 7,861 men. The Germans suffered no casualties at all.”

Little wonder the Germans called the battlefield “Leichenfeld (field of corpses) von Loos”.

Perhaps in war, it’s the names that count. Dead soldiers had no gravestones before the Great War, unless they were generals, admirals or emperors worthy of entombment in Saint Paul’s Cathedral or Les Invalides.

The soldiers were simply dumped into mass graves.

At Waterloo, the remains of the dead were shipped back to England to be used as manure on the fields of Lincolnshire – sometimes tilled by their unsuspecting farmer sons.

No posthumous glory for them.

It is perhaps easier to believe that the names will “live for evermore” even though hundreds of thousands of World War I British and French and Germans and Austrians and Irishmen in British uniform and Hungarians and Indians and Russians and Americans and Turks and even Portuguese have no graves at all.

Or as German comedian Henning Wehn recently observed about Poppy Day, the British have: “A highly selective remembrance.”

The last words of Nurse Edith Cavell, shot in Brussels by the Germans for rescuing Allied soldiers behind enemy lines, are inscribed on her monument beside the National Gallery: “Patriotism is not enough.”

In the four years of World War 1, Britain endured 658,700 fatalities, 2,032,150 wounded and 359,150 men missing in action. This adds up to total of over three million casualties from one side alone.

Add to this the four million fatalities from the German side and other civilian deaths, the total death toll was in excess of 16 million.

No glory, just death and suffering.

Historian Phillip Knightley wrote that during the war: “More deliberate lies were told than in any other period of history, and the whole apparatus of the state went into action to suppress the truth”.

When war broke out in 1914, it did so to flag waving and patriotism. Men were promised honour, glory and a conflict over by Christmas.

This was the Great War, to end all wars!

These were times of great social inequality and disenfranchised boys from the poorest communities could, for the first time, be useful. The army offered food, clothing, camaraderie and the respect of the nation.

Enlistment was a collective endeavour – many battalions were made up of men from the same villages. They joined together and died together.

There was no way out. Not to join was cowardice – a treacherous act which would bring shame upon their family and nation.

And they would be fighting against an identifiable evil.

The British propaganda painted German Kaiser Wilhelm as the devil incarnate. The Daily Mail of 22 September 1914 portrayed him in separate reports as a “lunatic”, “madman”, “barbarian”, “monster”, and “modern Judas”.

The German soldier raped, mutilated and tortured. Stories of Hun atrocities in Belgium were front page news despite there being little proof of their occurrence.

The Times of January 8, 1915, stated: “The stories of rape are so horrible in detail that their publication would seem almost impossible were it not for the necessity of showing to the fullest extent the nature of the wild beasts fighting under the German Flag.”

So when we read about the heroism of all those dead men, when we pause to consider their sacrifice we should remember also a propaganda system which romanticised and demonised, misled and obfuscated.

As Lloyd George, Prime Minister in 1916, said: “If the people really knew the truth the war would be stopped tomorrow. But of course they don’t know and can’t know.”

And what they don’t know, can’t hurt, can it?

This year, like many before, I will not wear a red poppy.

 

Zionist Lies and Suppression of the Truth

SO I have come to end of 14 days of almost continuous writing about the ongoing slaughter in the Middle East.

This small journey started two Fridays ago when I challenged the official statements and propaganda of the killing of so-called Jihadi John.

In my 1,500 word piece entitled Roll On John I pointed at CIA and Mossad dirty tricks and false flag attacks and how all is not as it seems.

Like the rest of the world I was stunned some eight hours later by the massacres in Paris.

So many more pieces followed, including I Cried for You – Now It’s Your Turn to Cry Awhile which looked at the double standards within Western media in grieving over the Paris killings while ignoring similar atrocities in Beirut and Nigeria and Beyond the Horizon o’er the Treacherous Sea which examined the US and Israeli funding and arming of ISIS.

There were many more articles, culminating in a look at how apartheid Israel is supported and allowed to thrive by Christian Zionism in the West.

Now almost 20,000 words later (not including the poems) I need to take stock before I decide how to move on, and whether what I am writing must now become a fully-fledged campaign.

But I cannot do this without doing two things.

First to thank the wonderful friends I have made over the past fortnight, fellow campaigners for a free Palestine and others for a more general peace in the Middle East.

So for the lovely Jane and Samantha in the USA, Nahida, Elleanne and Jackie here in the UK, the amazing warrior Anissa in Paris, Shirene in South Africa, the historian and compiler Hayat in Iran and my long-time friends in Pakistan and India, thank you all.

But before I take a weekend break, I need to pay homage to my one true living journalist hero: John Pilger.

John set me out on the path of investigative journalism when I first read his book Distant Voices way back in 1992.

Since that first reading it has been my journalist’s bible… never accept what you are told by the State, because often it is a pack of lies! So dig and keep digging until you find the truth.

What follows is a piece written by John in 2007 about the situation in Palestine and Israel. It is as relevant then as it is now:

 

Israel: An important marker has been passed

by John Pilger

FROM a limestone hill rising above Qalandia refugee camp you can see Jerusalem.

I watched a lone figure standing there in the rain, his son holding the tail of his long tattered coat.

He extended his hand and did not let go.

“I am Ahmed Hamzeh, street entertainer,” he said in measured English. “Over there, I played many musical instruments; I sang in Arabic, English and Hebrew, and because I was rather poor, my very small son would chew gum while the monkey did its tricks.

“When we lost our country, we lost respect. One day a rich Kuwaiti stopped his car in front of us. He shouted at my son, “Show me how a Palestinian picks up his food rations!”

“So I made the monkey appear to scavenge on the ground, in the gutter. And my son scavenged with him. The Kuwaiti threw coins and my son crawled on his knees to pick them up. This was not right; I was an artist, not a beggar . . . I am not even a peasant now.”

“How do you feel about all that?” I asked him.

“Do you expect me to feel hatred? What is that to a Palestinian? I never hated the Jews and their Israel . . . yes, I suppose I hate them now, or maybe I pity them for their stupidity. They can’t win. Because we Palestinians are the Jews now and, like the Jews, we will never allow them or the Arabs or you to forget. The youth will guarantee us that, and the youth after them . . .”

That was 40 years ago. On my last trip back to the West Bank, I recognised little of Qalandia, now announced by a vast Israeli checkpoint, a zigzag of sandbags, oil drums and breeze blocks, with conga lines of people, waiting, swatting flies with precious papers.

Inside the camp, the tents had been replaced by sturdy hovels, although the queues at single taps were as long, I was assured, and the dust still ran to caramel in the rain.

At the United Nations office I asked about Ahmed Hamzeh, the street entertainer. Records were consulted, heads shaken. Someone thought he had been “taken away . . . very ill”.

No one knew about his son, whose trachoma was surely blindness now. Outside, another generation kicked a punctured football in the dust. And yet, what Nelson Mandela has called “the greatest moral issue of the age” refuses to be buried in the dust.

For every BBC voice that strains to equate occupier with occupied, thief with victim, for every swarm of emails from the fanatics of Zion to those who invert the lies and describe the Israeli state’s commitment to the destruction of Palestine, the truth is more powerful now than ever.

Documentation of the violent expulsion of Palestinians in 1948 is voluminous. Re-examination of the historical record has put paid to the fable of heroic David in the Six Day War, when Ahmed Hamzeh and his family were driven from their home.

The alleged threat of Arab leaders to “throw the Jews into the sea”, used to justify the 1967 Israeli onslaught and since repeated relentlessly, is highly questionable.

In 2005, the spectacle of wailing Old Testament zealots leaving Gaza was a fraud.

The building of their “settlements” has accelerated on the West Bank, along with the illegal Berlin-style wall dividing farmers from their crops, children from their schools, families from each other.

We now know that Israel’s destruction of much of Lebanon was pre-planned.

As the former CIA analyst Kathleen Christison has written, the recent “civil war” in Gaza was actually a coup against the elected Hamas-led government, engineered by Elliott Abrams, the Zionist who runs US policy on Israel and a convicted felon from the Iran-Contra era.

The ethnic cleansing of Palestine is as much America’s crusade as Israel’s. On 16 August, the Bush administration announced an unprecedented $30billion military “aid package” for Israel, the world’s fourth biggest military power, an air power greater than Britain, a nuclear power greater than France.

No other country on earth enjoys such immunity, allowing it to act without sanction, as Israel. No other country has such a record of lawlessness: not one of the world’s tyrannies comes close.

International treaties, such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, ratified by Iran, are ignored by Israel.

There is nothing like it in UN history. But something is changing. Perhaps last summer’s panoramic horror beamed from Lebanon on to the world’s TV screens provided the catalyst.

Or perhaps cynicism of Bush and Blair – and latterly Obama and Cameron – and the incessant use of the inanity, “terror”, together with the day-by day dissemination of a fabricated insecurity in all our lives, has finally brought the attention of the international community outside the rogue states, Britain and the US, back to one of its principal sources, Israel.

I got a sense of this recently in the United States. A full-page advertisement in the New York Times had the distinct odour of panic. There have been many “friends of Israel” advertisements in the Times, demanding the usual favours, rationalising the usual outrages. This one was different. “Boycott a cure for cancer?” was its main headline, followed by “Stop drip irrigation in Africa? Prevent scientific co-operation between nations?” Who would want to do such things? “Some British academics want to boycott Israelis,” was the self-serving answer.

It referred to the University and College Union’s (UCU) inaugural conference motion in May, calling for discussion within its branches for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

As John Chalcraft of the London School of Economics pointed out, “the Israeli academy has long provided intellectual, linguistic, logistical, technical, scientific and human support for an occupation in direct violation of international law [against which] no Israeli academic institution has ever taken a public stand”.

The swell of a boycott is growing inexorably, as if an important marker has been passed, reminiscent of the boycotts that led to sanctions against apartheid South Africa.

Both Mandela and Desmond Tutu have drawn this parallel; so has South African cabinet minister Ronnie Kasrils and other illustrious Jewish members of the liberation struggle. In Britain, an often Jewish-led academic campaign against Israel’s “methodical destruction of [the Palestinian] education system” can be translated by those of us who have reported from the occupied territories into the arbitrary closure of Palestinian universities, the harassment and humiliation of students at checkpoints and the shooting and killing of Palestinian children on their way to school.

These initiatives have been backed by a British group, Independent Jewish Voices, whose 528 signatories include Stephen Fry, Harold Pinter, Mike Leigh and Eric Hobsbawm.

The country’s biggest union, Unison, has called for an “economic, cultural, academic and sporting boycott” and the right of return for Palestinian families expelled in 1948.

Remarkably, the Commons’ international development committee has made a similar stand.

In April, the membership of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) voted for a boycott only to see it hastily overturned by the national executive council.

In the Republic of Ireland, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has called for divestment from Israeli companies: a campaign aimed at the European Union, which accounts for two-thirds of Israel’s exports under an EU-Israel Association Agreement.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler, has said that human rights conditions in the agreement should be invoked and Israel’s trading preferences suspended.

This is unusual, for these were once distant voices. And that such grave discussion of a boycott has “gone global” was unforeseen in official Israel, long comforted by its seemingly untouchable myths and great power sponsorship, and confident that the mere threat of anti-Semitism would ensure silence.

When the British lecturers’ decision was announced, the US Congress passed an absurd resolution describing the UCU as “anti-Semitic”. (Eighty congressmen have gone on junkets to Israel this summer.)

This intimidation has worked in the past. The smearing of American academics has denied them promotion, even tenure. The late Edward Said kept an emergency button in his New York apartment connected to the local police station; his offices at Columbia University were once burned down.

Following my 2002 film, Palestine is Still the Issue, I received death threats and slanderous abuse, most of it coming from the US where the film was never shown.

When the BBC’s Independent Panel recently examined the corporation’s coverage of the Middle East, it was inundated with emails, “many from abroad, mostly from North America”, said its report. Some individuals “sent multiple missives, some were duplicates and there was clear evidence of pressure group mobilisation”.

The panel’s conclusion was that BBC reporting of the Palestinian struggle was not “full and fair” and “in important respects, presents an incomplete and in that sense misleading picture”. This was neutralised in BBC press releases.

The courageous Israeli historian, Ilan Pappé, believes a single democratic state, to which the Palestinian refugees are given the right of return, is the only feasible and just solution, and that a sanctions and boycott campaign is critical in achieving this.

Would the Israeli population be moved by a worldwide boycott? Although they would rarely admit it, South Africa’s whites were moved enough to support an historic change. A boycott of Israeli institutions, goods and services, says Pappé, “will not change the [Israeli] position in a day, but it will send a clear message that [the premises of Zionism] are racist and unacceptable in the 21st century . . . They would have to choose.”

And so would the rest of us.

 

Dirty Tricks, Murder and the Masters of War

Come you masters of war

You that build all the guns

You that build the death planes

You that build the big bombs

You that hide behind walls

You that hide behind desks

I just want you to know

I can see through your masks

 

You that never done nothin’

But build to destroy

You play with my world

Like it’s your little toy

You put a gun in my hand

And you hide from my eyes

And you turn and run farther

When the fast bullets fly

 

Like Judas of old

You lie and deceive

A world war can be won

You want me to believe

But I see through your eyes

And I see through your brain

Like I see through the water

That runs down my drain

 

You fasten the triggers

For the others to fire

Then you set back and watch

When the death count gets higher

You hide in your mansion

As young people’s blood

Flows out of their bodies

And is buried in the mud

 

Let me ask you one question

Is your money that good

Will it buy you forgiveness

Do you think that it could

I think you will find

When your death takes its toll

All the money you made

Will never buy back your soul

(Bob Dylan, 1963)

 

SIX days have now passed since the atrocities in Paris, and it seems that the Western governments’ strongest efforts to pin the blame on radical ISIS jihadists is not going to plan.

Increasing numbers of observers and journalists are now questioning the role that the USA’s CIA and Israel’s Mossad may or may not have had in the killing of at least 129 people.

I have already written about the dirty propaganda behind the supposed killing of ‘Jihadi John’ in Roll On John https://seagullnic.wordpress.com/2015/11/13/roll-on-john and the unanswered questions behind the Paris murders Beyond the Horizon Oer the Treacherous Sea https://seagullnic.wordpress.com/2015/11/16/beyond-the-horizon-oer-the-treacherous-sea but now we need to look in greater depth at the USA’s murky interference in the Middle East.

In one of the fiery oratories for which he was well-known, the late Hugo Chávez once stated that “the American empire is the greatest menace to our planet.”

Looking at the history of US engagement in Latin America, it is easy to see why Chávez made such a claim.

From overthrowing democratically elected leaders, operating death squads, and torturing civilians, the history of US involvement in the region helped create a widespread popular backlash that persists to this day.

Since the late 1980s the USA’s theatre of war has switched from Latin America to the Middle East, and many of the same tactics of that period were redeployed on the other side of the world.

Since the end of World War 2 the world’s biggest super power has:

  • Attempted to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, most of which were democratically-elected.

  • Dropped bombs on the people of more than 30 countries.

  • Attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders.

  • Attempted to suppress a populist or nationalist movement in 20 countries.

  • Interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries.

Investigations reveal that Pentagon officials at the highest levels oversaw torture facilities during the war in Iraq in 2003. The evidence includes: rooms used for interrogating detainees stained with blood; children tied into extreme stress positions with their bodies beaten to discoloration and others tortured with high voltage electricity and waterboarding.

Most chillingly, a veteran of the United States’ “dirty war” in El Salvador was reported to have been brought in to personally oversee the interrogation facilities.

As described by Iraqi officials this programme was condoned at the highest levels of the US military and utilized “all means of torture to make the detainee confess … using electricity, hanging him upside down, pulling out their nails”.

At the now infamous School of the Americas, thousands of Latin American “special forces” were explicitly trained in torture techniques by US handlers. Many of those SOA graduates took their new training home to El Salvador, where they waged a war that killed an estimated 80,000 Salvadoran civilians.

The creation and patronage of locally trained indigenous militias – such as we are seeing with ISIS – to wreak havoc among subject populations in pursuit of American military objectives is a tactic that seems to have been adapted to the present day with great effect.

The USA’s most prominent trained paramilitaries were the Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF), an elite counterterrorism force referred to as “the dirty brigade”.

Trained and guided by US military advisers at every level of its hierarchy, the ISOF was structured so as to place it outside the confines of normal oversight by international observers.

The use of torture, the patronage of sectarian proxy forces, and the facilitation of widespread human rights abuses all characterize US policy in the “war on terror”.

Evidence has emerged that ISIS and its military advances in northern Iraq and Syria has been shaped and controlled out of Langley, Virginia, and other CIA and Pentagon outposts as the next stage in spreading chaos in the world’s second-largest oil state, Iraq, as well as weakening Syrian stabilization efforts.

There is widely corroborated evidence that MI6 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.

So 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.

But all is not as it seems.

According to well-informed Iraqi journalists, ISIS overran the strategic Mosul region, site of some of the world’s most prolific oilfields, with barely a shot fired in resistance.

According to one report, residents of Tikrit reported remarkable displays of “soldiers handing over their weapons and uniforms peacefully to militants who ordinarily would have been expected to kill government soldiers on the spot.”

We are told that ISIS masked psychopaths captured “arms and ammunition from the fleeing security forces” – arms and ammunition supplied by the American government. The offensive coincides with a successful campaign by ISIS in eastern Syria.

According to Iraqi journalists, Sunni tribal chiefs in the region had been convinced to side with ISIS against the Shiite Al-Maliki government in Baghdad. They were promised a better deal under ISIS Sunni Sharia than with Baghdad anti-Sunni rule.

Key members of ISIS were trained by US CIA and Special Forces command at a secret camp in Jordan in 2012, according to informed Jordanian officials.

The US, Turkish and Jordanian intelligence ran a training base for the Syrian rebels in the Jordanian town of Safawi in the country’s northern desert region, conveniently near the borders to both Syria and Iraq.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the two Gulf monarchies most involved in funding the war against Syria’s Assad, financed the Jordan ISIS training.

Advertised publicly as training of ‘non-extremist’ Muslim jihadists to wage war against the Syrian Bashar Assad regime, the secret US training camps in Jordan and elsewhere trained perhaps several thousand Muslim fighters in techniques of irregular warfare, sabotage and general terror.

Former US State Department official Andrew Doran wrote in the conservative National Review magazine that some ISIS warriors also hold US passports!

Iranian journalist Sabah Zanganeh notes: “ISIS did not have the power to occupy and conquer Mosul by itself. What has happened is the result of security-intelligence collaborations of some regional countries with some extremist groups inside the Iraqi government.”

Very revealing is the fact that almost two weeks after the dramatic fall of Mosul and the ‘capture’ by ISIS forces of the huge weapons and military vehicle resources provided by the US to the Iraqi army.

Whatever the final details that emerge, what is clear in the days since the fall of Mosul is that some of the world’s largest oilfields in Iraq are suddenly held by Jihadists and no longer by an Iraqi government determined to increase the oil export significantly.

Of course this is not the story given to us by our Western media, most of which owned by the same billionaire big businessmen which in turn manipulate our governments.

War propaganda often demands the abandoning of ordinary reason and principle, and the USA’s Dirty War in the Middle East demonstrates this in abundance.

Normal ethical notions of avoiding conflicts of interest, searching for independent evidence and disqualifying self-serving claims from belligerent parties have been ignored in much of the western debate.

As in previous wars, the aim is to demonise the enemy, by use of repeated atrocity claims, and so mobilise popular support behind the war.

In the words of leading Nazi, Hermann Goering: “Why of course the people don’t want war… that is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along.

“Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”

Today those who finance and arm the sectarian groups have slaughtered hundreds of thousands of innocent people in the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

We now know is the air campaign against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has killed more than 450 innocent civilians, according to a new report, even though the US-led coalition has so far acknowledged just two non-combatant deaths.

More than 5,700 air strikes have been launched in the campaign, which had its first anniversary this week with its impact on civilians largely unknown.

Now Airwars, a project by a team of independent journalists, has published details of 52 strikes with what it believes are credible reports of at least 459 non-combatant deaths, including those of more than 100 children.

One of the attacks investigated was on Fadhiliya, Iraq, on 4 April where witnesses and local politicians said a family of five had died, including a pregnant woman and an eight-year-old girl.

These figures do not take into account any more civilian deaths caused by French and US airstrikes since last Friday’s Paris atrocities.

Finally to give some insight into the impact of US foreign policy in the Middle East, Wikileaks obtained and decrypted a previously unreleased video footage from a US Apache helicopter in 2007.

It shows Reuters journalist Namir Noor-Eldeen, driver Saeed Chmagh, and several others as the Apache shoots and kills them in a public square in Eastern Baghdad.

After the initial shooting, an unarmed group of adults and children in a minivan arrives on the scene and attempts to transport the wounded. They are fired upon as well.

The official statement on this incident initially listed all adults as insurgents and claimed the US military did not know how the deaths occurred.

Wikileaks released this video with transcripts and a package of supporting documents on http://collateralmurder.com

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rXPrfnU3G0&sns=fb

It is frightening in its content and a chilling sub text of the way the USA treats its friends and enemies.

It is also clear why the USA is so keen to bring Wikileaks founder and the director of the video into its custody.

As British Prime Minister Lloyd George said in 1916: “If the people really knew the truth the war would be stopped tomorrow. But of course they don’t know and can’t know.”