From Free Life, Issue 30, May 1999
ISSN: 0260 5112
Free Life, it seems, has now entered a period of flux as radical and as unconsidered as the British Constitution under Labour. On my holiday in Cornwall, I discussed with Mrs Gabb the possibility of making the journal into a monthly and shrinking it to eight pages. The first issue in the new series was twelve pages, but this I justified on the grounds of giving my readers some little bonus. In this issue, though, I have already reached page 12, and have not even started on the letters and reviews. If I can keep this issue within twenty pages, I shall think myself lucky.
One reason why it has expanded so far beyond my prediction is that, so far from abandoning me in disgust - as I expected, and as perhaps I deserve - my writers have almost buried me in copy.
Then again, as Nicholas Dykes told me last week, there is no other outlet in the country for the sort of thing that Free Life publishes. Thinking about his statement, I can see that it might have more than one meaning; but as he is one of my more persistent and capable writers, I am sure it was intended in the best spirit.
The next issue may reduce to eight pages. Or I may settle on twelve. Or I may stop worrying about the length of issues and just concern myself with getting something, of whatever size, out at the beginning of every month. As Mr Dykes would never say for fear of misinterpretation - though perhaps Danny Frederick might, just to see what Mr Dykes' reaction would be - regularity is more important than size.
Last August, an American cruise missile hit the al-Shifa medicine factory in Khartoum, killing one person and destroying buildings and equipment worth millions of pounds. The justifications for this repeat of Pearl Harbour were various. We were told that the factory was owned by Osama bin Laden, who was accused of responsibility for the American embassy bombings of the previous month. When this turned out not to be true, we were told that the factory was involved in producing poison gas. When this could not be proved, we were told that the factory was involved in producing the precursors of poison gas.
At the time, I was the Director of a body called the Sudan Foundation. This exists to promote better relations between the British and Sudanese peoples. I worked round the clock producing attacks on the American bombing. My favourite and perhaps most effective contribution was an Open Letter to Tony Blair, which took issue with his immediate and unreserved endorsement of the bombing. I sent this out to several thousand people, and released it on the Internet to great effect. It is available on the Sudan Foundation's Web Page at http://www.sufo.demon.co.uk/poli022.htm.
I sent a copy to Tony Benn, who ever since has been bursting into denunciations of the bombing whenever allowed on television. I sent a copy to William Hague, suggesting he should use it to embarrass Mr Blair. Of course, I received the usual five line reply from Mr Philps, his Correspondence Secretary, and Mr Hague continued his usual policy of Victory over Labour by Surrender to Labour.
Though I resigned as Director of the Sudan Foundation in January this year, I remain interested in Sudanese affairs. Imagine, then, my pleasure on reading The Independent last 7th May to find that the Americans had quietly given up on maintaining the lie that they had any evidence of wrong-doing at al-Shifa - not, I assert, that they had any business firing missiles at the place even if there had been anything there. The owner of the factory had his assets frozen in one of those arbitrary civil actions that characterise the Pax Americana. He sued in the English courts, demanding proof from the Americans. Last week, they decided not to file any defence in the action, unfroze his accounts, and invited him to start negotiating the terms of compensation for the bombing.
Bearing in mind the endless defamation hurled at me - plus the death threats from the Sudanese rebel movement - it is nice to know that I was right all along. The purpose of the bombing was simply to divert attention from an embarrassing twist in the Monica Lewinsky case.
Now the Americans have admitted defeat, however, it may be time for Mr Blair to reveal the "independent confirmation" his Government claimed to have had last August that the al-Shifa factory was indeed making chemical weapons. After all, he has spoken a lot recently about truth and justice. It would be terrible if he knew something the Americans did not.
One of the more alarming suggestions coming out of the war party in this country is that what used to be Yugoslavia should be made officially into a colony of the Western powers. The argument does make a degree of sense, as the people there seem quite unfitted for any approach of their own to liberal democracy. And no one can deny that the system of indirect rule used in place of the old formal colonialism has failed everywhere it has been tried. Being ruled by foreigners responsible to a NATO condominium would be by far the best solution for the poor Yugoslavs.
This being said, I am not so sure I like the idea from the English point of view. An empire - or whatever else it may be called in this sensitive age - needs a class of imperial administrators. Do not suppose these would be at all friendly to the ideals that Free Life exists to promote. Instead, they would be drawn from the same statist clerisy that has nearly destroyed Western civilisation this century.
It is bad enough to have these people running everything at home. Giving them an empire to run would raise up yet another great engine of corruption beyond democratic control. I look at the Polly Toynbee set, I think of Cicero's in Verrem speeches and the 1783 India Bill - and I shudder.
I see in The Daily Telegraph for the 19th last March that speeding police cars in this country kill 15 people a year and injure six people every day. I quote:
According to Home Office figures published in a parliamentary written answer, 15 people were killed in 1997/98 in accidents involving police cars responding to emergency calls or in pursuit.
Over the same period, 2,123 people were injured in the same way.
The Home Office has also admitted that 15 people were killed in accidents involving police cars in 1996/97 and that, in each of the previous two years, the figure was 21. In 1993, 34 people were killed, 30 in 1992 and 32 in 1991.If my arithmetic is correct, this makes at least 168 victims this decade of speeding policemen. Set this against about two dozen people killed with licensed firearms in the same period, and the answer is obvious. We must abolish the Police. They are a danger to the public that no civilised society can tolerate.
Some people think there would be inconveniences if this were done - though for myself, I think England would be a better place by far without PC Plod. But to these doubters I simply reply that if it saves the life of just one person, we have a duty to our community to remove this source of danger.
Perhaps Saint Anne Pearston - she who partly led the clamour against guns after Dunblane - might care to join this campaign against a still greater danger to life and property.