Hillary Responds To Calls To Release Her Goldman Sachs Speeches

Hillary’s Cat Out Of The Bag – Her Campaign Against Sanders Was A Lie

Courtesy of Wikileaks – and, if the Obama White House is to be believed, Vladimir Putin – those Wall Street speeches that Hillary Clinton refused to make public during her bitter primary battle with Bernie Sanders have now been released to the world. Or at least some of their contents have.

And what do they show? Well, no surprise there. Hillary is, as many have long suspected, a bought and paid for shill of Wall Street whose real, private stance on key economic matters is starkly at variance with the one she presented to the Democratic base during the primaries.

Her speeches show that, like her husband’s two terms in Washington, a Hillary Clinton White House is likely to be every bit as Wall Street friendly.

Meanwhile Donald Trump’s ‘groping’ is the issue that leads the New York Times today, as it does with most of the mainstream media. On the Times‘ webpage, the Hillary story ranks third, below two Trump pieces. It will be interesting to see how the Wikileaks story is treated elsewhere.

For myself, I rather think we all owe Putin and Wikileaks a vote of thanks.

Here is the New York Times’ version of the Hillary story. Enjoy:

Leaked Speech Excerpts Show a Hillary Clinton at Ease With Wall Street


OCT. 7, 2016

In lucrative paid speeches that Hillary Clinton delivered to elite financial firms but refused to disclose to the public, she displayed an easy comfort with titans of business, embraced unfettered international trade and praised a budget-balancing plan that would have required cuts to Social Security, according to documents posted online Friday by WikiLeaks.

The tone and language of the excerpts clash with the fiery liberal approach she used later in her bitter primary battle with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and could have undermined her candidacy had it become public.

Mrs. Clinton comes across less as a firebrand than as a technocrat at home with her powerful audience, willing to be critical of large financial institutions but more inclined to view them as partners in restoring the country’s economic health.

In the excerpts from her paid speeches to financial institutions and corporate audiences, Mrs. Clinton said she dreamed of “open trade and open borders” throughout the Western Hemisphere. Citing the back-room deal-making and arm-twisting used by Abraham Lincoln, she mused on the necessity of having “both a public and a private position” on politically contentious issues. Reflecting in 2014 on the rage against political and economic elites that swept the country after the 2008 financial crash, Mrs. Clinton acknowledged that her family’s rising wealth had made her “kind of far removed” from the struggles of the middle class.

The passages were contained in an internal review of Mrs. Clinton’s paid speeches undertaken by her campaign, which was identifying potential land mines should the speeches become public. They offer a glimpse at one of the most sought-after troves of information in the 2016 presidential race — and an explanation, perhaps, for why Mrs. Clinton has steadfastly refused demands by Mr. Sanders and Donald J. Trump, her Republican rival, to release them.

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign would not confirm the authenticity of the documents. They were released on Friday night by WikiLeaks, the hacker collective founded by the activist Julian Assange, saying that they had come from the email account of John D. Podesta, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman.

In a statement, a Clinton spokesman, Glen Caplin, suggested that the leak could have been engineered by Russian officials determined to help Mr. Trump and noted that a Twitter message from WikiLeaks promoting the documents had incorrectly identified Mr. Podesta as a co-owner of his brother’s lobbying firm.

But Clinton officials did not deny that the email containing the excerpts was real.

The leaked email, dated Jan. 25, does not contain Mrs. Clinton’s full speeches to the financial firms, leaving it unclear what her overall message was to these audiences.

But in the excerpts, Ms. Clinton demonstrates her long and warm ties to some of Wall Street’s most powerful figures. In a discussion in the fall of 2013 with Lloyd Blankfein, a friend who is the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, Mrs. Clinton said that the political climate had made it overly difficult for wealthy people to serve in government.

“There is such a bias against people who have led successful and/or complicated lives,” Mrs. Clinton said. The pressure on officials to sell or divest assets in order to serve, she added, had become “very onerous and unnecessary.”

In a separate speech to Goldman Sachs employees the same month, Mrs. Clinton said it was an “oversimplification” to blame the global financial crisis of 2008 on the U.S. banking system.

“It was conventional wisdom,” Mrs. Clinton said of the tendency to blame the banking system. “And I think that there’s a lot that could have been avoided in terms of both misunderstanding and really politicizing what happened.”

And she praised a deficit-reduction proposal from President Obama’s fiscal commission that called for raising the Social Security retirement age, saying that the commission’s leaders “had put forth the right framework.”

Such comments could have proven devastating to Mrs. Clinton during the Democratic primary fight, when Mr. Sanders promoted himself as the enemy of Wall Street and of a rigged economic system.

Several of the most eye-popping passages ultimately express more nuanced explanations of her views. When Mrs. Clinton describes herself as “far removed” from average Americans and their finances, she had just finished describing her growing appreciation for how “anxiety and even anger in the country over the feeling that the game is rigged.” And she reminds the audience that her father “loved to complain about big business and big government.”

The Clintons have made more than $120 million in speeches to Wall Street and special interests since Bill Clinton left the White House in 2001. Mrs. Clinton typically earned $225,000 for speeches, though she sometimes donated her fees to her family foundation.

“I kind of think if you’re going to be paid $225,000 for a speech, it must be a fantastic speech,” Mr. Sanders said during the primary, “a brilliant speech which you would want to share with the American people.”

As her race against Mr. Sanders — who now campaigns for Mrs. Clinton — grew unexpectedly contentious and close, Mrs. Clinton sought to portray herself as deeply skeptical of Wall Street and eager to punish its wayward leaders.

“I believe strongly that we need to make sure that Wall Street never wrecks Main Street again,” Mrs. Clinton said in January. “No bank is too big to fail, and no executive is too powerful to jail.”

As she sought to burnish her image as an advocate of working America, Mrs. Clinton declared her opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Mr. Obama’s 12-nation trade pact, and distanced herself from Nafta, which her husband signed into law.

But in a 2013 speech to a Brazilian bank, Mrs. Clinton took a far different approach. “My dream,” she said, “is a hemispheric common market, with open borders, sometime in the future.”

Some of her paid remarks embrace the view that the public can benefit when Wall Street partners with government. When it comes to writing effective financial regulations, Mrs. Clinton said, “The people that know the industry better than anybody are the people who work in the industry.”

Foreign hackers — authorized by Russian security agencies, according to national security officials — have successfully penetrated the operations of the Democratic Party and its candidates over the past year. They broke into the email servers of the Democratic National Committee, revealing embarrassing internal messages in which party leaders who were supposed to be neutral expressed their preference for Mrs. Clinton even as she was campaigning against Mr. Sanders. And Mr. Assange is an avowed critic of Mrs. Clinton who has made clear that he wishes to hurt her chances of winning the presidency.

Half of all registered voters said it bothered them “a lot” that Mrs. Clinton had given numerous paid speeches to Wall Street banks, according to a Bloomberg Politics poll in June.

Asked in an interview that month if the practice was self-defeating, given the anger over income inequality, Mrs. Clinton responded that her predecessors as secretary of state had given paid speeches, too.

“I actually think it makes sense,” she said. “Because a lot of people know you have a front-row seat in watching what’s going on in the world.”

Hillary Clinton’s Obama Problem

A great piece in The Guardian opinion section by one of my favourite commentators on American politics, Thomas Frank. Enjoy:

Barack Obama campaigns for Hillary Clinton
‘The immediate problem for Democrats this year is simple, really: it is hard to criticize power when your own leader is the most powerful person in the land.’ Photograph: MediaPunch/Rex/Shutterstock

Let us answer that burning pundit question of today by jumping to what will undoubtedly be the next great object of pundit ardor: the legacy of President Barack Obama. Two months from now, when all the TV wise men are playing historian and giving their estimation on where Obama ranks in the pantheon of the greats, they will probably neglect to mention that his legacy helped to determine Hillary’s fortunes in this election cycle. As a beloved figure among Democrats, for example, Obama was instrumental in securing the nomination for her. As a president who has accomplished little since 2011, however, Obama has pretty much undermined Clinton’s ability to sell us on another centrist Democratic presidency. His legacy has diluted her promise.

Let me put this slightly differently. Hillary Clinton has lots of good policy ideas. She promises many fine things. That these things do not attract more voters to her side is (as many have noted) partially due to her wonkish way of presenting them. But it is even more because of the glaring contradiction between the nice things she says she will do and the failure of Obama to advance the ball very far on those same issues.

I was pleased to learn, for example, that this year’s Democratic platform includes strong language on antitrust enforcement, and that Hillary Clinton has hinted she intends to take the matter up as president. Hooray! Taking on too-powerful corporations would be healthy, I thought when I first learned that, and also enormously popular. But then it dawned on me: antitrust enforcement is largely up to the president and his picked advisers. If Democrats really think it is so damned important, why has Clinton’s old boss Barack Obama done so very, very little with it?

Or take this headline from just a few days ago: “Clinton promises to hold Wells Fargo accountable”. Go get ‘em, Hillary! To see a president get tough with elite bankers and with CEOs in general – that’s something we can all cheer for. But then that nagging voice piped up again: if Democrats think it is so critical to get tough with crooked banksters, why oh why didn’t Barack Obama take the many, many opportunities he had to do so back in the days when it would have really mattered?

Where this contradiction gets particularly toxic is on the issue of trade. This is the locomotive of dissatisfaction that Trump means to ride into the White House, and Clinton has tried desperately to neutralize the issue by announcing that she, too, opposes the hated TPP and that she, too, deplores the unfortunate effects certain trade deals have had. And then you open the newspaper and find that her presidential patron and protector, Barack Obama, is still pushing the TPP in order to secure his legacy.

The reform impulse just keeps short-circuiting every time the Democrats try to switch it on. They talk about healthcare – and immediately have to say things like this about Obamacare: “It’s a heck of a lot better than starting from scratch.” They talk about getting college tuition under control – and everyone remembers that the problem is decades old and that the Dems have done virtually nothing about it all those years. What was without a doubt the worst moment of them all came at the Democratic convention back in July, when Senator Elizabeth Warren pronounced on the current state of middle America as follows:

Look around. Americans bust their tails, some working two or three jobs, but wages stay flat. Meanwhile, the basic costs of making it from month to month keep going up. Housing, healthcare, child care – costs are out of sight. Young people are getting crushed by student loans. Working people are in debt. Seniors can’t stretch a social security check to cover the basics.

It was a powerful indictment of what Warren called a “rigged” system – except for one thing: that system is presided over by Barack Obama, a man that same Democratic convention was determined to apotheosize as one of the greatest politicians of all times.

It doesn’t really help matters to claim, as the most ardent Obama defenders do, that the president was powerless before Congress, and that it was therefore impossible for Obama to do anything differently than he did during his eight years. Such fanciful talk may help us to feel better about the current occupant of the Oval, but it also negates his would-be successor’s promises more effectively than any lesser argument you might make against them. It transforms a vote for Hillary from mildly distasteful to almost totally futile.

The immediate problem for Democrats this year is simple, really: it is hard to criticize power when your own leader is the most powerful person in the land.

The larger problem facing them is the terminal irrelevance of their great, overarching campaign theme. Remember the “man from Hope”? “Hope is on the way”? “Keep hope alive”? Well, this year “hope” is most assuredly dead. Thanks to Obama’s flagrant hope-dealing in the dark days of 2008 – followed up by his failure to reverse the disintegration of the middle class – this favorite Democratic cliché has finally become just that: an empty phrase. Today as the Democrats go into battle against Trump, they find that their rallying cry has lost its magic. Hillary is discovering how difficult it is to win an election without hope.

How The End Of The 1981 Hunger Strike Was Reported In The Irish Times

The end of the 1981 hunger strikes in late October that year, which had resulted in ten deaths but arguably led indirectly to the peace process, was comprehensively covered by The Irish Times, a newspaper for which I then worked.

The anniversary of the end of the protest takes place later this month.

Below are three articles worthy of note which appeared around that time, two by myself as stand-in Northern Editor and one by the paper’s then political correspondent Dick Walsh. The articles were reproduced in today’s edition as part of the paper’s commemoration of the protest.

I would like to draw readers’ attention to the final paragraph of the last of the three articles – which is by myself – and place it in the context of Richard O’Rawe’s assertion that a solution to the protest was on offer before the death of the fifth hunger striker, Joe McDonnell, was accepted by the prisoners’ leaders inside the jail but ultimately rejected as a result of outside pressure from Gerry Adams and others in his leadership circle.

O’Rawe’s suspicion is that the settlement was sabotaged so that Owen Carron could stand unopposed by the SDLP in the forthcoming Fermanagh-South Tyrone by-election – caused by Bobby Sands’ death – thereby increasing both the chance that he would win and that the Sinn Fein grassroots would be more amenable to accepting an electoral strategy. If the hunger strike had ended before the by-election, the SDLP would almost certainly have stood a candidate and split the Nationalist vote.

I interviewed Gerry Adams in the SF press centre on the Falls Road the day after the hunger strike ended and tape-recorded his answers. A few weeks later Adams’ prediction became reality when SF at its ard-fheis endorsed what would become known as ‘the armalite and ballot box strategy’.

This is the relevant paragraph: ‘Provisional Sinn Fein would continue to participate more directly in political activity, a process which, he (Adams) said, had been “accelerated dramatically” by the hunger-strikes. He said that the “wouldn’t be at all surprised” if the Provisionals decided to field candidates if the new Secretary of State, Mr Prior, launched an initiative involving elections.’

How The Irish Times reported end of 1981 hunger strikes

From the archives: News reports and analysis by Ed Moloney and Dick Walsh from October 3rd and October 5th, 1981

Families unite to end Long Kesh hunger-strikes
Ed Moloney, October 3rd, 1981

AN END to the Long Kesh hunger-strikes appeared close last night when it became clear that the families of all six remaining hunger-strikers had given a commitment to seek medical intervention in the event of the prisoners falling into a coma or becoming incapable of making rational decisions.

The commitment was given, it was learned, at a secret meeting in a Belfast hotel last Sunday between five of the families and the Rev Denis Faul, a regular visitor to the Maze Prison who has been at the centre of efforts to end the prison protest since August. The sixth family was contacted later in the week and agreed to join the other relatives.

The Belfast meeting, at which Provisional Sinn Fein was not represented at Father Faul’s request, was held on the eve of a meeting between the prisoners’ families and the new Minister with responsibility for Prisons, Lord Gowrie, details of which only emerged some days later.

That meeting was followed the next day by a declaration from the Northern Ireland Secretary, Mr James Prior, that although the British Government was not prepared to negotiate with the hunger-strikers, prison reform was still on offer and that Lord Gowrie would be prepared to talk directly with the protestors once the fasts had ended. Mr Prior followed this up with talks with Cardinal Ó Fiaich and Father Faul.

It was also learned last night that the Northern Ireland Office has made it clear to those involved in attempts to end the prison protest that the terms allegedly agreed between the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace and the then Minister with responsibility for prisons, Mr Michael Alison, at the beginning of July are essentially still on offer.

These terms included: Prisoners to wear their own clothes at all times; increased opportunities for association between prisoners by allowing movement between the recreation rooms and the yards of adjacent H-Blocks during recreation periods; the range of work activities to be increased, including cultural, educative and craftwork activity, and work for charitable voluntary bodies.

 Talks between the Commission and the Government broke down with the death of IRA hunger-striker, Joe McDonnell, on July 8th amidst allegations from the Commission that the Government had reneged on an agreement to send in a representative to explain the terms.

Mr Alison denied at the time that a deal had been struck but Government sources have indicated privately since then that the bulk of these terms were indeed on offer.

An admission that the hunger-strikes were not having an effect on the British Government came yesterday from Provisional Sinn Fein director of publicity, Mr Danny Morrison, whose remarks fuelled speculation that the eight-month protest in which 10 prisoners died, could be drawing to a close.

Speaking on BBC Radio, Mr Morrison said: “The hunger-strike as a pressure on the British Government and as a weapon the prisoners have been able to use, is being actively subverted by people within the Irish establishment, by the SDLP but particular by the Irish Hierarchy who are working on the emotions and putting moral pressure on the understandably distressed relatives.”

He continued: “Now you have the situation where a number of relatives have given a commitment to the assistant prison chaplain in Long Kesh that they will immediately intervene if their sons lapse into unconsciousness.”

Provisional Sinn Fein and its paper, Republican News, refers to Father Faul as an “assistant prison chaplain” although no such post actually exists. Father Faul, who says Mass in the Maze every Sunday and has published numerous pamphlets alleging ill-treatment by the authorities in the prison, was unavailable for comment last night.

Mr Morrison went on to say that although his organisation would acquaint the hunger-strikers with the facts, the decision to end the protest would be up to the prisoners themselves. “At this point in time there is no indication that the hunger strike is ending,” he said.

Mr Hugh Logue, the SDLP’s economics spokesman and a member of the Irish Commission’s negotiating team, said last night that he hoped that the hunger-strikers would respond to Lord Gowrie’s meeting with their families by bringing the protest to an end. “I understand were the protest to come to an end, Lord Gowrie is likely to bring in reforms not a million miles away from those we had suggested,” he added.

It is understood that although no formal meetings have taken place this week between the families and the hunger-strikers as a group, the relatives have used their normal weekly visits to tell the prisoners of their decision to medically intervene.

Six IRA prisoners are on hunger-strike at the moment. The most seriously ill is Pat Sheehan, from the Falls Road, Belfast, who yesterday spent his 54th day without food. The others are Jackie McMullan, Andersonstown, Belfast, 46 days; Hugh Carville, Greencastle, Co Antrim, 33 days; John Pickering, Andersonstown, 26 days; Gerard Hodgins, Turf Lodge, Belfast, 19 days, and Jim Devine, Strabane, Co Tyrone, 12 days.

The intervention of families in the hunger-strikes started on July 31st when the mother of Paddy Quinn, an IRA prisoner from south Armagh, asked doctors to save his life. Quinn had gone 46 days without food at that stage.

Since then it has become increasingly apparent that the intervention of relatives offered the only way to end the prison protest. A further three families, those of Laurence McKeown, Pat McGeown and Matt Devlin, intervened and two more, those of Liam McCloskey and Bernard Fox, persuaded their sons that they would intervene unless they ended the protest voluntarily.

Protest seen as stability threat
Dick Walsh, October 3rd, 1981

AN END to the H-Block hunger-strike would be greeted with deep relief by the Government, whose members had viewed the crisis it provoked as a threat to the political stability, North and South.

 The crisis also led to a deterioration in Anglo-Irish relations during the summer and probably contributed to the long delay in arranging the first meeting between the Taoiseach, Dr FitzGerald, as head of the Government and the British Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher.

The meeting is now expected to take place in London next month in an atmosphere much improved since Dr FitzGerald’s sharp reminders to Mrs Thatcher of her responsibility to seek a solution in the Maze by a more flexible approach to prison conditions.

In the Republic H-Block candidates made a conservable impact on the general election, winning two seats and, arguably, robbing Fianna Fail of the possibility of narrowing still further the gap between the party and the Coalition partners.

Now much of the uncertainty which the candidature of the prisoners induced will have been removed from the Cavan Monaghan by-election to replace Mr Kieran Doherty, who died on hunger-strike at the beginning of August.

The writ for the by-election may well be moved shortly after the resumption of the Fail on October 20th. And the election could be held as early as the middle of November. The National H-Blocks/Armagh Committee has not yet decided whether or not it should enter a candidate.

Dr FitzGerald and his predecessor, Mr Haughey, have at all times stressed the humanitarian basis of their concern at the continuation of the hunger-strike.

Adams says hunger strike did not mean defeat
Ed Moloney, October 5th, 1981

A “reasonable, commonsense and low key” movement by the British Government towards settlement conditions outlined by the protesting Republican prisoners in July and August would permanently end the prison protest, the vice-president of Provisional Sinn Fein, Mr Gerry Adams, said at the weekend.

In an interview with The Irish Times, Mr Adams rejected the idea that the ending of the hunger-strike was a defeat for the prisoners and said that his reaction to the prisoners’ decision, given that the original protest was still going on, was one of “qualified relief.”

Asked what he thought should happen in the prison now, Mr Adams said that the situation was exactly the same as after last December’s fasts when the British Government had indicated that it would introduce changes in the prison.

“The British have now indicated again that they are going to make certain moves. The prisoners will respond to those moves in a principled and united way. The British know exactly what they have to do now, I’m sure that those in the British camp in December who wanted to move to meet the prisoners’ requirements will now be saying and probably have been saying for the last six or seven months, ‘we told you so,’ and they’ll be saying now ‘let’s not have this happen again,’”, he said.

Mr Adams said he would regard the immediate granting of the prisoners’ own clothes as a “worthwhile gesture” which would ease the prison situation but added: “What the British Government should do is to make a broad sweeping effort to make the hunger-strike weapon redundant, to make it unnecessary.”


He continued: “A very reasonable and commonsense movement towards the conditions outlined by the prisoners on July 4th and August 6th, a very reasonable, low-key movement towards those would permanently end the prison protest. I honestly see it totally being in the British Government’s interest to do it.”

In their July and August statements the prisoners denied that they were asking for an “elitist, or preferential” prison regime and listed their demands as follows: their own clothes at all times; work to be defined as self-education and the maintenance by prisoners of their own cells and wings; association within the wings during lock-up hours; segregation from Loyalist prisoners, and full restoration of lost remission.

 Mr Adams said that it was absurd to describe the end of the hunger-strike as a defeat. “The criminalisation policy was aimed directly at isolating the Republican movement from the people but, obviously, any observer of the situation must conclude that the Republican movement is now more integrated into its support groups destabilisation has become the order of the day in both parts of the partitioned State; national consciousness has been aroused; internationally, the prisoners are recognised as political and all that remains is the securing of conditions suitable to that status.”

Mr Adams admitted that the action of hunger-strikers’ families had “severely impaired” the ability of the prisoners to consider a third fast if the prison situation broke down again. This he blamed on those “who had subverted the hunger-strike for their own ends.”

Mr Adams also rejected the idea of the prison situation being monitored by bodies such as the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace or the Help the Prisoners’ Committee, headed by Cardinal Ó Fiaich. “It’s up to the prisoners but, essentially, there’s no need for any sort of monitoring committee – it merely requires the British to move.”

Provisional Sinn Fein would continue to participate more directly in political activity, a process which, he said, had been “accelerated dramatically” by the hunger-strikes. He said that the “wouldn’t be at all surprised” if the Provisionals decided to field candidates if the new Secretary of State, Mr Prior, launched an initiative involving elections.

Colombian Peace Deal Fails: A Setback For GFA-style Settlements And For SInn Fein?

The rejection of the peace deal between the Colombia government and the FARC rebels in a popular referendum this weekend is a blow not just to those who wished to bring FARC in from the cold and to disciples of the Good Friday Agreement-way of ending conflicts but to Sinn Fein itself, which invested considerable resources in helping to negotiate the deal in Havana, Cuba.

Here are two articles, which are recommended to followers of this blog. One is The New York Times report of this weekend’s rejection of the deal by Colombia’s voters. The Times reports that voters narrowly rejected the deal because it was seen as leaning too heavily towards FARC, a sentiment many Unionist critics of the Good Friday deal shared vis-a-vis the IRA.

The other is this piece in An Phoblacht-Republican News which rejoiced at the signing of the agreement in August between FARC and the Colombian government following lengthy negotiations, and credited a number of SF activists for playing a constructive role in the talks, including former IRA GHQ member and Northern Minister, Conor Murphy, Assembly Member Jennifer McCann and Dail Foreign Affairs spokesman Sean Crowe.

Martin McGuinness had this to say about the deal: “(I am) overjoyed to hear Colombian peace talks in Havana have resulted in agreement to end war and conflict”.

SInn Fein, via the IRA, has allegedly had a longstanding relationship with FARC. In 2001 three prominent republicans, James Monaghan, Niall Connolly and Martin McAuley were arrested at Bogota airport during what Colombian authorities would subsequently claim was a ‘drug-money-for-military-expertise’ deal in which the IRA was said to have tutored FARC rebels in the construction and use of home-made mortars in return for cash which FARC had earned through cocaine smuggling.

Here is the AP/RN article:

An Phoblacht

25 August 2016

Colombia peace deal success hailed by Sinn Féin contributors to talks in Cuba

THE peace agreement reached in Cuba between the Colombian Government and the left-wing guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, People’s Army (FARC-EP) to end the 52-year conflict in the South American country that has seen an estimated 220,000 deaths and millions more displaced has been welcomed by Sinn Féin, which has contributed to the talks.

“The Colombian Government and the FARC announce that we have reached a final, full and definitive accord,” Colombian Government and FARC negotiators said in a joint statement in the Cuban capital, Havana, that was broadcast live on Wednesday.

FARC’s chief negotiator, Ivan Marquez, said:

“We won the most beautiful of all battles – Peace.”

The final text of the peace agreement will now be put to a popular vote on 2 October.

Conor Murphy MP

Conor Murphy has met Colombia peace talks negotiators in Cuba

Martin McGuinness tweeted that he was “overjoyed to hear Colombian peace talks in Havana have resulted in agreement to end war and conflict”.

Conor Murphy MLA, one of a number of senior Sinn Féin personnel who had travelled to Cuba to meet with both sides “and share our experiences of building peace”, described the announcement as a further historic step in the process to end the longest-running conflict in the world.

Sinn Féin MLA Jennifer McCann was another elected representative who met the negotiators during peace talks in Havana.

Seán Crowe at GPO

The Dáil Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Seán Crowe TD (pictured above), said:

“I want to commend the extremely hard work that the Colombian Government and FARC negotiators have put in over the past four and a half years of talks. I also want to commend the Cuban and Norwegian governments for helping to facilitate and support the talks process.”

After decades of devastating war, he said that no one is in any doubt that huge difficulties and challenges lay ahead.

“All sides to the agreement prepare need to take risks to ensure a fair and equitable peace process is established and that this process is nurtured and built on,” Deputy Crowe said.

He said the Colombian Government needs to bring to an end “the continued brutal and violent actions of right-wing paramilitary groups”.

In the 30 days between 21 February and 18 March of this year, 30 political and community activists were murdered by these paramilitaries.

“Peace cannot grow in a climate of fear and repression,” Seán Crowe said. “The Colombian Government needs to ensure that the democratic process is open to all political groups without fear of attack or assassination.

“The issue of land distribution and the millions of internally displaced by this conflict will be a huge and immediate challenge.

“I hope that formal negotiations between the Colombian Government and the ELN can also reach a successful conclusion, and that the Colombian people can begin the arduous task of building a lasting and inclusive peace in their country.”

The Truth About The Libyan Adventure: It Was Based On Lies & ‘Erroneous Assumptions’

This will come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog but a British parliamentary inquiry has found that the invasion of Libya back in 2011 was based on what the inquiry members politely call ‘erroneous assumptions’, which is parliament-speak for saying that those behind the intervention either refused to see or lied about seeing what everyone else could see, which was that the threat to civilians which was the pretext for the invasion was over-stated and that the so-called rebels against Gaddafi’s tyranny included a disproportionate number of Islamic extremists.

The inquiry found that British prime minister David Cameron was ultimately responsible for the fiasco which has plunged Libya and much of North Africa into years of dangerous instability, death and destruction, but he was not alone.

Others with guilt and blood on their hands include French President Sarkozy and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton –‘We came, We saw, he died’ – (and not far behind her President Obama who was the first to raise the false spectre of Gaddafi slaughtering innocent civilians in Benghazi).

This, not the subsequent, later deaths of US diplomatic personnel in Benghazi, was Hillary Clinton’s real wrongdoing in Libya; the overthrow of Gaddafi and the subsequent rise of ISIS in Libya alongside the political instability which has destabilised the North African state were all made possible by the NATO-led assault on Libya.

So far Clinton’s role in this disaster has not figured in the US presidential campaign, thanks in no small way to the American media’s failure to put it under scrutiny.

Here is a summary of the Commons Select Committee report with links to the full report:

Libyan intervention based on erroneous assumptions; David Cameron ultimately responsible

14 September 2016

The Foreign Affairs Committee has published a report examining the intervention and subsequent collapse of Libya.

2011 intervention

In March 2011, the UK and France led the international community to support an intervention in Libya to protect civilians from forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.

The inquiry, which took evidence from key figures including Lord Hague, Dr Liam Fox, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, military chiefs and academics, concludes that decisions were not based on accurate intelligence. In particular, the Government failed to identify that the threat to civilians was overstated and that the rebels included a significant Islamist element.

A policy which had intended to protect civilians drifted towards regime change and was not underpinned by strategy to support and shape post-Gaddafi Libya. The consequence was political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal welfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations and the growth of ISIL in North Africa.

National Security Council

Libya was the first test of the National Security Council (NSC), a Cabinet Committee established by David Cameron to oversee national security, intelligence co-ordination and defence strategy and intended to provide a formal mechanism to shape foreign policy decision making. In contrast to the relatively informal process used during Tony Blair’s Premiership, since criticised by Sir John Chilcot’s Iraq Inquiry, every NSC meeting on Libya was minuted, documenting David Cameron’s decision-making process.

Chair’s comment

Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Crispin Blunt MP, commented:

“This report determines that UK policy in Libya before and since the intervention of March 2011 was founded on erroneous assumptions and an incomplete understanding of the country and the situation.

Other political options were available. Political engagement might have delivered civilian protection, regime change and reform at a lesser cost to the UK and Libya. The UK would have lost nothing by trying these instead of focusing exclusively on regime change by military means.

Having led the intervention with France, we had a responsibility to support Libyan economic and political reconstruction. But our lack of understanding of the institutional capacity of the country stymied Libya’s progress in establishing security on the ground and absorbing financial and other resources from the international community.

The UK’s actions in Libya were part of an ill-conceived intervention, the results of which are still playing out today. The United Nations has brokered an inclusive Government of National Accord. If it fails, the danger is that Libya will sink into a full scale civil war to control territory and oil resources. The GNA is the only game in town and the international community has a responsibility to unite behind it.”

Denis Donaldson: The Problem With Single, Anonymous Sources

More than one commentator has echoed Vincent Browne’s criticism of the BBC Spotlight special on the killing of IRA double-agent Denis Donaldson, that the story was over-dependent on a single, anonymous source who was not directly involved in the alleged assassination plan.

We don’t know yet what dealings the BBC and its lawyers had with the alleged IRA Special Branch mole known as ‘Martin’ that made the notoriously cautious Spotlight team and the BBC’s top brass confident enough about his story to air the programme.

And while I will believe Gerry Adams’ threat to sue the BBC only when I have heard that he has actually stepped into the witness box in his own defence, there’s no doubt that ‘Martin’ is the weak link in the BBC’s defence. Would he even risk giving evidence, knowing that he will have to reveal his true identity?

We shall see. But in the meantime if we are going to criticise journalists for the use of single, anonymous sources who were themselves not party to the incident under scrutiny, then let us at least be consistent,

In the last couple of days a story has appeared quoting a spokesman for the Real IRA re-iterating that organisation’s claim to have killed Denis Donaldson, and absolving Gerry Adams of any hand or part in the deed.

Maybe, but from what I could read the claim was made by a single, anonymous source who was not him- or herself involved in the killing.

But there hasn’t been the same skepticism expressed about this story’s reliance on a single source as there has been about Spotlight, and upon examination the reason for that is less than satisfactory.

It is that the person who spoke to Suzanne Breen was speaking on behalf of an organisation and that made it, well if not all right then more acceptable than if her source was speaking only for him- or herself.

And that’s because the media bestows more credibility on organisations because they are organisations than they do with someone like ‘Martin’ who has only himself and his memory to back him up (leaving his Special Branch handlers to one side pro tem).

But as the journalistic history of the Troubles shows, organisations are just as capable of lying, dissembling, misleading and being economical with the facts as any individual, and were able to get away with their dishonesty because the media accepted their anonymity.

Not only that, but the media during the Troubles continued to give credibility to organisations even after their anonymous spokespersons were found out lying or tailoring the truth. Just look back at the peace process, or the 1981 hunger strikes, and the boatloads of lies that were told by just about every participant, some more than others to be sure, but most of them told on behalf of organisations.

It has been my experience that individual sources, even when they insist on anonymity, are generally as truthful, if not more so, than organisations, not least because their motivation for speaking out is often more honest and what they do certainly requires considerable more bravery than that shown by anonymous spokespersons for the government, the police, the IRA or the DUP.

When someone takes a risk by speaking out, even anonymously, the reporter is entitled, even obliged to take them more seriously (especially since anonymity can never be guaranteed).

‘Martin’ may or may not be correct in what he says about Adams and Donaldson but I’d wager the mortgage that what he said he heard, he did hear, and what he said had happened to him, did happen.

I have been in the same place as Jennifer O’Leary and the Spotlight team are with ‘Martin’ more than once, when the chance to discover other sources was negligible, as was so often the case with Troubles’ stories, and each time the decision to write and publish was – after all the checking that could be done was  done – governed by two factors: judgement of the story and trust in the source.

As I have written elsewhere, I do not know whether the IRA, by itself or using a surrogate, killed Denis Donaldson but I’d be sure that the people in the BBC made what they believed to be the right judgement and had sufficient trust in their source.

In journalism, especially in a place like Northern Ireland, it is sometimes the best you can do.