Sceptical about Skripal

Is the Novichok story just another Iraqi WMD scam?

Is anyone else sceptical about the latest John le Carré novel being played out on our nightly news?

I’m talking about the Skripal affair, of course, and the idea that a foreign power is attempting to murder people on the streets of our historic cities.

Strangely convenient that it took place in Salisbury: only 8 miles from Porton Down, Britain’s premier microbiological and chemical weapons research facility.

It was Craig Murray, ex British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, who first sounded the alarm on the fact that there was something suspicious about the way the affair was being reported.

In a piece entitled “The Novichok Story Is Indeed Another Iraqi WMD Scam” he pointed out a number of inconsistencies in the government line.

Until that point, he told us, Porton Down had acknowledged that it had never seen any Russian novichoks. Neither had the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

The only witness to the existence of this range of nerve agents was a guy called Mirzayanov, who had actually published the information in a book more than 20 years ago. In it he said that “the chemical components or precursors of… novichok-5 are ordinary organophosphates that can be made at commercial chemical companies that manufacture such products as fertilizers and pesticides.”

In other words Theresa May’s assertion, that it could only be made in certain military installations, was entirely false.

Finally, Murray tells us, the old Soviet chemical weapons plant, which had been doing the work on the novichoks, was actually situated in Uzbekistan, not in Russia, and it was the Americans, not the Russians, who had dismantled the site.

Later Murray pointed out the peculiar phrasing the government used in all its pronouncements about the alleged substance. It was always described as “of a type developed by Russia”.

Look back on all the official statements, including those by the European Union, and by the United States, Germany, France and the UK in their joint statement, and you will see the same set of words being used, over and over again.

“I have a bottle of vodka of a type developed by Russia,” he said in one interview. “It was actually made in Warrington.”

He said that the formula was agreed after pressure was put on Porton Down, who had refused to certify that it was definitely made in Russia. The phrase “of a type developed by Russia” was the diplomatic compromise.

Of course none of this is to say that the attack WASN’T carried out by Russia – and Russia certainly has form in this regard – just that we should really follow Corbyn’s sage advice and refrain from a rush to judgement in these dangerous times… for which lack of loyalty he was immediately condemned as a Kremlin stooge.

But it seems to me he is right, and that any rush to judgement is foolhardy, not to say, exceedingly dangerous.

Russia and the USA are facing off in Syria. Both are heavily armed and poised to defend their interests. Meanwhile the White House has a new national security advisor, in the form of John Bolton: a man renowned for his visceral hatred of Iran, Russia’s close ally and the main supplier of arms to Hezbollah. The dangers of a multi-state flashpoint in the region are urging ever closer.

Are we being prepared, I wonder, for an imminent conflict with Russia? Certainly, if you judge by the news, Putin is at least as bad as Saddam Hussein, if not worse. But no matter how bad you consider Saddam to have been, may I remind you: he never did have those WMDs.


From The Whitstable Gazette 29/03/18

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One comment

  1. Imagine the justifiable outcry by the UK media and government if a UK citizen were involved in an “incident” and hospitalised in Russia and UK relatives and UK consular officials were then denied access to that person


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