The political case of the murder of Litvenenko

This is the‚ Guardian’s‚ piece on the outcome of the inquiry into the murder of Russian spy and defector Litvenenko (he would be called a traitor rather than a hero of course if the roles and countries were reversed).

It is included here to highlight one aspect of the way the‚ Guardiangenerates propaganda. In this case we can see the British government doing the same.

Note that the inquiry‚ used secret material supplied by British intelligence and not heard in open court. Britain is currently a key player in an economic war being waged against Russia. It is the job of the intelligence services to support the strategic national objectives of the state through fair means or foul. Any material they supplied to this inquiry then cannot be understood as being free from the exigencies of their wider remit. Indeed the matter of the murder of Litvenenko had been dropped until it was brought back to life after Russia acted to counter the EU/US coup in Ukraine in February 2014. From the start then the ‘inquiry’ was a political act. The British state was using it as an opportunity to smear Russia – and provide a smokescreen for their own crimes in Ukraine.

We can also note that the inquiry chairman restricted his claims to one that it was “probable” and that there was “strong circumstantial evidence” that the Russian state ordered the killing of Litvenenko. There is a “strong possibility” that the assassins had been operating on orders issued by Russian intelligence. He accepts that there is another theory; namely that Litvenenko was murdered by Russian criminals – for exposing some of their networks, including alleged links to the Russian state.

So. Probably. Circumstantial evidence. Strong possibility. Yet the‚ Guardian‚ reports that “David Cameron will come under pressure to respond robustly to the state-sponsored assassination of a UK citizen on the streets of London.” The ‘probability’ has become a certainty. The British government pulls the same trick:

It is not the way for any state, let alone a permanent member of the UN Security Council, to behave. Regrettably, these findings confirm what we and previous governments already believed [1]

Again; a ‘probability’ has become a certainty. What is the point of holding an ‘inquiry’ if, at the end of it, you simply distort the findings and make political use of them? Quite apart from this inquiry any thinking person could have noticed that it was likely (but not a certainty) that the murder of Litvenenko had been authorized at some level in the Russian state. Why have an inquiry? The answer is – to make it look like your political case is objective, neutral, detached. Imperialism always behaves like this. It is about reifying their own power. Now they can bash the Russians not just with their view that the Russian state ordered the assassination of their ex-spy – but with the force of an ‘inquiry’.  The British establishment loves inquiries and lawerly opinions. They’ve used 3 inquiries (Hutton, Bulter and Chilcot) to try whitewash the obscenity of the illegal war on Iraq. However that is a stubborn stain – which they’ve yet to completely wash away.

In the same‚ Guardian‚ report Chris Bryant, a member of the Labour shadow cabinet, claims that “The one thing we know about the murderous kleptomaniac regime in Russia is that it walks all over the weak. Putin has no respect for those that let him do what he wants.”. Again note that ‘probably’ has become a certainty. But this is a case of political projection – which country has killed hundreds of thousands of people through illegal wars waged on forged evidence and by distorting UN resolutions in recent years? Which country (as part of the EU) destabalised Ukraine – then, after an elected President was disposed in violent street protests, signed the agreement which he had chosen not to sign with the new government‚ even before they partly legitimised themselves with elections? [2]‚ If you want ‘murderous’ and ‘kleptomaniac’ you don’t need to look beyond the British state.

Chris Byrant is not the only one. Members of Parliament are lining up to condemn Russia. We cannot talk to the Russians as civilized partners. They should be banned from holding the World Cup. Their permanent place on the UN Security Council should be called into doubt. And so on. Even if all of the claims are true what then? Russia assassinated one of their ex-spys. This is not on the same level as the countless thousands of innocent deaths that have resulted from the UK’s wars in the Middle-East. [3] Wars which no number of inquiries can make legal and justifiable after the event.

In passing; the line the press is promoting about Litvenenko’s work with MI6 – that it was to do with helping track Russian criminals – is almost certainly MI6 misinformation, put out, not to protect national security, but to manage public opinion. The likelihood that Litvenenko worked with MI6 only on issues of Russian criminals is unlikely. More likely he will have been betraying his former colleagues – possibly exposing them to considerable risk.

It is characteristic of imperialism that they can order the murder of 50,000 brown-skinned natives without batting an eyelid and then work themselves into a fit of righteous indignation over the execution of one traitor who happened to have become a British citizen.

Update: the establishment rallies round

This is a piece by Will Hutton, in the‚ Guardian.‚ He is one of many establishment figures who thinks that because an ‘upper-class’ (his words) British judge has pronounced a ‘judgement’ then that must be some kind of objective fact.

These people are delusional. But they really believe in the reality-creating power of their own incestuous lawyerly opinions.

It is all a matter of perception. Will Hutton describes Sir Robert Owen, who conducted the ‘inquiry’ into Litvenenko’s death thus: “Sir Robert Owen’s languid upper-class vowels and baggy London clubland suit don’t capture the indefatigable essence of the man. He represents the best of the British tradition of the rule of law”. To this writer he looked like a tired, badly dressed, establishment judge who, guess what, has produced a report with the conclusions that the people who commissioned the report wanted. Well; each to their own.

But Will Hutton also makes the mistake of converting Robert Owen’s “probably” and “circumstantial” into a definite fact. “Litvenenko was murdered by the Russian government”. This is a basic error in reporting.

Hutton carries on in ludricous fashion. The Russian government killed Litvenenko for making ‘libelous’ statements about Putin. Putin (he accepts at this point the qualifications of Sir Robert Owen) ‘probably’ approved it. In short Hutton claims that Putin ordered the killing of Litveneko because Litvenenko called him a paedophile. That is unlikely. Putin is called much worse every day by members of the liberal opposition in Russia. If the Russian state carried out the killing of Litvenenko it will likely have been because he was an ex-spy who was betraying his comrades. The liberal figures who are decrying this killing – based on a ‘probablity’ finding in a secret inquiry – simply don’t consider the most obvious reality. Litvenenko was a spy who’d gone over to the other side and was causing his own country harm.

Hutton is living in a phantasy world. He claims that a 2006 Russian law on countering Extremist Activity authorizes the state to kill people who make ‘libelous’ statements against the Russian government. (He appears to be referring to a law first promulgated in 2002 and amended in 2006). He appears once again to have made a basic ‚ – and absurd – error. Russian laws on countering extremism give the state the right, through the courts, to ‘liquidate’ organisations who publish extremist material in Russia – such as racist literature or literature of the Italian fascist party. One part of this legislation is that once an organisation has been banned under this law – as ISIS has been – when reporting on them the Russian media must always mention that the organisation is banned. (This is reminiscent of Mrs Thatcher’s attempts to stifle IRA publicity by persuading the media not to ‘give them the oxygen of publicity’) A European parliament report on this legislation makes it clear that an individual cannot be found guilty under this legislation (other than under existing Criminal laws). The legislation is aimed at organisations. [4] Organisations who promote extremism may be closed down. They may be given warnings first. But the campaign of Western liberals like Hutton proceeds on the basis of phantasy and what psychoanalysts called projection. It is mostly made up – albeit based on a few contact points with reality. Russia, does apparently, have a law which permits the state to carry out assassinations abroad; on “extremists and terrorists” in the BBC rendition. This is according to a BBC report. [5] Surprisingly this report is hard to corroborate. It may be the source for Will Hutton’s phantasies. We can point out that the US routinely does just this – with President Obama personally authorising the killings. – Killings which often cause incidental civilian deaths. What Mr Hutton has done is conflate various separate pieces of legislation, none of which is especially unusual by say Western standards, and present them to create a picture of an evil Russia which has legalised assassination for libel.

Sentences like the following are tabloid journalism. Made up and over-dramatic tales designed to stir up visceral emotions:

The FSB is Putin’s personalised security wing. Its job is to wreck the reputations and even kill all those who challenge the regime.

The FSB exists to serve ‘Putin’. No one in Russia can ‘challenge the regime’ and live. This is abject nonsense and manifestly untrue. Liberal opponents of the current Russian government can and do publish leaflets and web sites (some of which contain the most damning accusations against the Russian government), hold rallies and stand for election – all without being killed by ‘Putin’s’ personal death squad. The FSB apart from anything else is engaged in work tracking and defeating terrorists in the Caucuses who want to blow up unarmed civilians. There may well be a problem with corruption in the FSB. There‚ may be links between the FSB and organised crime. What police force in the world is free of the taint of corruption? The same Guardian edition which carries Will Hutton’s absurd piece also reports of a possible case of corruption in the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service.

Hutton’s article is based on phantasy and delusion. It is typical of much of what passes for a Western liberal criticism of Russia. He says that the authoritarian Russian state cannot produce a ‘Google or‚ a Siemens’. That may well be true. At this point we could have a serious political discussion about the merits of uncontrolled capitalism – where the government serves unelected corporations – versus a society which is under the direction of an (elected) state government. Hutton mentions ‘Google’ and Siemens – two rather benign examples of Western capitalism. (Though Siemens’ use of slave labour during the Nazi period perhaps does mean they can not be seen as entirely benign). Hutton doesn’t mention, for example, the excesses of the US pharmaceutical industry which, for example, promotes ADHD and toxic drugs to ‘manage’ the ‘condition’. Millions of young people suffer because of an absolute dedication to profit. The toxic drugs used to subdue young people in the West are banned in Russia. Or, again; one could compare Russian state media (and non state media which Western liberals usually accuse of ‘being close to the Kremlin’) and the ‘free’ press in the West. The latter‚ is typically full of smut and porn. (Even the Guardian which is unusual in the West in not relying on smut and porn to sell newspapers carries pornographic stories. Today’s edition carries a story about dildos. Normalization of hedonistic sex outside of relationships is part of the ‘freedom’ which Western liberals so cherish). This is because smut sells papers. The Russian press, at least that which is available online, is not full of smut. Is this breakdown in moral standards, this ‘anything goes’ so longs it makes money direction responsible for all this smut in print in the West? Of course. Is there a connection between Russia’s authoritarian style of government and the absence of smut in the papers? Almost certainly. It is beyond the scope of this article to weigh up the relative benefits and dis-benefits of the two different social-economc-political systems. But even a moment’s reflection can see that there is a discussion to be had.

Western liberals should look at getting their own house in order first before telling other countries how to get their’s in order. The Western liberals of today are the imperialists of yesterday in a new guise. Overseeing chaos, war and invasion abroad, and social breakdown and fragmentation at home they still find the time to criticise other nations who don’t live up to the standards they themselves profess but undermine on a daily basis.




3. Summarized here by Neil Clarke‚



Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer