Chris Hedges – Craig Murray’s Campaign Against Empire

We wish Craig the best of luck tonight. Read why.

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of show The Chris Hedges Report

Cross-posted from Scheer Post

Craig Murray – by Mr. Fish

Blackburn, England: I am standing with Craig Murray who is running for Parliament in this gritty former mill town. We are on a narrow street with brick row houses that jaggedly descend down a hill. The sky is overcast. There is intermittent rain.

Craig, portly, his white hair unkempt and dressed in a clashing checkered shirt with a paisley tie, is handing out leaflets at the entrance of the Masjid e Tauheedul Islam, Blackburn’s largest mosque. He introduces himself politely to those leaving the midday prayers.

I speak with about half a dozen of the worshippers, who like most of the Muslim community in Blackburn, are of Indian and Pakistani origin. They curtly dismiss the leaders of the ruling Labour and Conservative parties as out of touch with their lives and concerns, including their outrage over the genocide in Gaza.

Craig’s central campaign issue, like that of George Galloway — who was recently elected as MP for Rochdale — is ending the genocide in Gaza, including the halting of all arms shipments to Israel. Craig is running on the ticket of Galloway’s socialist Workers Party of Britain, to counter what he says is the “appalling pro-genocide stance” of the opposition Labour Party, which looks set to win the British elections on July 4, ousting the Conservative Party government led by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

The Labour Party has won the parliamentary elections in Blackburn for the last 69 years. The socialist crusader, Barbara Castle — instrumental in exposing the British atrocities in Kenya, including the deaths of perhaps 300,000 Kikuyu people and the detention of up to 320,000 more in over 100 camps, where prisoners were tortured, murdered and died of disease — previously held this seat, as did the former foreign secretary Jack Straw. Straw was decidedly less progressive. He was one of the architects of the 2003 war in Iraq under former prime minister Tony Blair. Craig challenged Straw for the seat in 2005 on an anti-war platform. He received five percent of the vote.

The Labour MP for Blackburn, Kate Hollern, in the last election in 2019, won 64.9 percent of the vote. She deviates from the Labour Party line on Gaza, calling for an immediate ceasefire and a suspension of arms shipments to Israel. She was one of the few party members who remained loyal to Jeremy Corbyn when his campaign to run for prime minister was sabotaged by party apparatchiks close to Blair, who accused him of being an anti-Semite because of his defense of Palestinians.

“I have nothing bad to say about the woman really, except that if elected, she would be part of putting Keir Starmer into Number 10 and I have a very great deal against Keir Starmer,” Craig says of his Labour opponent.

Straw, although out of Parliament, casts an ominous shadow over Craig’s campaign. For, as in most of the constituencies where Labour is being challenged by candidates that oppose Labour’s support for Israel, a second well-funded independent, devoid of political experience or a public record on nearly all issues, is also running on an anti-genocide platform. In the case of Blackburn, this person is Adnan Hussain. While Hussain spends much of his campaign attacking Craig, Craig has held a series of meetings on Palestine, including one where he, Richard Medhurst and I spoke to a packed hall at Saint Paul’s Methodist church in Blackburn. Craig has also hosted campaign events with Professor David Miller, who was fired in 2021 from the University of Bristol for his criticisms of Israel, and Dr. Bob Gill, who has documented the defunding, outsourcing and marketization of Britain’s National Health Service by all ruling parties since Margaret Thatcher. Roger Waters is scheduled to hold a campaign rally in Blackburn for Craig on July 2.

The Muslim media site, 5Pillars, proposed that Craig and Hussain toss a coin to see who should run as an independent against the Labour Party. Craig agreed. Hussain, a 34-year-old lawyer, refused.

“The people behind Hussain’s campaign are Jack Straw’s people,” Craig says. “The people financing and organizing his campaign are Jack Straw’s people. The Labour Party is splitting the challenge. It’s not only here. It’s happening around the country.”

Craig’s cluttered second floor campaign office sits on a narrow street above the Mi Chaii cafe on Whalley Range. Covering the windows outside are huge posters and billboards with pictures of public figures, including George Galloway, Roger Waters and Stella Assange, with their brief endorsements supporting Craig’s candidacy.

Nearly half of Blackburn’s constituents are Muslim. The town is reputed to have more mosques than any town in Europe. British Muslims, like Muslims in the U.S. who have abandoned Joe Biden, have walked away from the Labour Party because of Starmer’s unequivocal support for Israel. In Blackburn’s local council elections in May, Labour suffered a significant decline in votes.

Craig, the former ambassador to Uzbekistan, was pushed out of the Foreign Office after leaking to The Financial Times, in 2004, a memorandum he authored that detailed the CIA torture and extraordinary rendition program in Uzbekistan. Craig says his internal protests to the Foreign Office were ignored.

He exposed practices in Uzbek black sites of sexual humiliation, genital mutilation, the rape of men and women, cutting and the dousing of prisoners with boiling liquid, including the death of a prisoner who was immersed in a vat of boiling water.

“The Uzbeks were doing it on behalf of the CIA,” he tells me one morning as we sit in his campaign office. “At first, the prisoners were mostly Uzbeks who had been captured in Afghanistan. But latterly, people were being brought in from all over the place.”

According to the Council of Europe report on extraordinary rendition, of all the CIA flights that stopped in Poland, 50 percent went to Uzbekistan.

Straw, at the time of Craig’s revelations, was the foreign secretary. He pushed for Craig’s prosecution, something the Foreign Office decided against. Caught in a “cash for access” sting, Straw was forced to retire from politics. But he remains a powerbroker in the Labour Party, especially in Blackburn.

“This is entirely prompted by the genocide in Gaza,” Craig says of his parliamentary campaign. “I wouldn’t have come back were it not for the genocide in Gaza. Starmer’s attitude to the genocide in Gaza reminds me of Straw’s attitude to torture, extraordinary rendition and the Iraq war. The Labour Party is corrupt. It doesn’t stand for any of the principles the Labour Party is supposed to stand for.”

“Gaza represents the dislocation of the political class from the people,” he says. “The people want to stop it, certainly here in the U.K., but they have no leverage. The political class is no longer connected to the people. It is connected to the arms industry, to the lobbyists, particularly the Zionist lobby. That’s where the interests of the political class lie. They don’t care about the people. That’s true of both of the main parties. They suffer no hardship because there’s nobody else likely to be elected. Western democracy has become meaningless. The political class is homogeneous. All of them could move from one of the main parties to the other main party without changing anything. If we’re going to save democracy, we have to offer an actual democratic alternative. Gaza brought that home to people.”

Craig, an ardent supporter of Julian Assange, who produced the most erudite reporting on Julian’s many court hearings, spent four months in prison in Edinburgh in the summer of 2022.

He was found in media contempt of court for his reporting on the trial of the Scottish independence leader Alex Salmond, who was accused of sexual assault.

“It was another example of the state using sexual allegations to undermine and wreck the reputation of an opponent,” he says of Salmond and Julian.

The group of women who brought the charges against Salmond were closely connected to the then first minister, Nicola Sturgeon. Craig was jailed for hinting at this fact in his court reports.

Salmond was found not guilty.

“Over 5,000 individuals wrote to me in jail,” he says. “I answered all those by hand, 50 or 60 letters a day.”

“There were quite a lot of illiterate prisoners,” he says. “If you want anything in jail you have to fill in a form. If you cut your foot and need a sticking plaster, you have to fill a form. If you want a family visit you have to fill in a form. Forms would appear under my cell door. Someone would shout through the door what they wanted filled in. A majority of prisoners are there because of poverty. Their crime is poverty. They’ve all been born into deprivation. They’ve had a very poor education. Most of them were born into addiction. The number who are not addicts is tiny. On my entire block, which would be 120 people, there were two people who weren’t addicts and one of them was me.”

“Most of them are in jail for very, very petty crimes,” he continues. “They shoplift or burgle or deal small amounts of drugs in order to feed their addiction. And then they get put in jail. They get no treatment for addiction in jail. They get prescribed drugs daily because the guards want to keep them dazed. Every morning they get their fix. They serve two years. They’re released back out again. They go and burgle someone else and get caught and then they’re back in again. Most of them have been in jail five or six times. The number of real criminals, as in violent people or people who have done large scale crime, is tiny. Most of them are very, very sad, incapable people who need help with their lives. They don’t need locking up.”

“I hadn’t realized so many people have abject, bleak lives, lives without hope,” he says softly. “Their whole life has been without hope from the day they were born. They never had a chance, never had direction. I thought I was socially aware. I realized I’m not. I didn’t know what it was like at the bottom of society.”

“The state has a monopoly on violence and uses it,” he says. “It used extreme violence against Julian Assange, which had a deleterious effect on his health, both mental and physical.”

On October 16, 2023, as he was returning from a WikiLeaks meeting in Reykjavik, where he also attended a pro-Palestine demonstration, Craig was detained and interrogated in Glasgow airport under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. He was questioned about his relationship with WikiLeaks and his support for the Palestinians. He later received a letter informing him that he was under investigation under the Terrorism Act and that his electronic devices, which had been confiscated at the airport, would not be returned.

The Terrorism Act 2000 is often used to detain and interrogate politically active individuals, members of “suspect communities” such as Muslims, Tamils and Kurds, and journalists, such as David Miranda, for carrying the Snowden files. Kit Klarenberg of The Grayzone was detained under the 2019 Counter-Terrorism and Border Act, after his report revealed journalist Paul Mason’s close ties to British intelligence.

“I’m a traitor in their eyes,” Craig says of the ruling class. “I was an insider, a member of the establishment who turned against the establishment.”

“It’s empathy,” he says when I ask him what drives him, “empathy for the people being tortured in Uzbekistan and for their families, for all those who suffer. I was driven by horror at what happened to the victims of the Iraq war. I am driven by horror at what I see happening to the children of Gaza. I hate human suffering. I do my best to alleviate it.”

Due to the Israeli war crimes in Gaza we have increased our coverage from five to six days a week. We do not have the funds to do this, but felt that it was the only right thing to do. So if you have not already donated for this year, please do so now. To donate please go HERE.

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