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FRANCE has been knocked into shape by its Nato allies, joining Britain, the US and Germany in declaring Russia “culpable” for the nerve agent poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury.
President Emmanuel Macron has dropped his previous reasonable insistence that Theresa May’s government present “definitive conclusions” before any action was taken.
Media abuse of Macron has subsided now that he is on board, but there is no end to the pursuit of Jeremy Corbyn for his serious, balanced and level-headed response to May’s declaration of Moscow’s guilt.
The Labour leader didn’t say Moscow wasn’t responsible. Like the French president he thought it reasonable that allegations might be backed by a modicum of proof.
For that he was denounced by the Daily Mail as a “Kremlin stooge,” called a “Putin puppet” by the Sun and sneered at by Guardian sketch writer John Crace as someone who could be persuaded “the Skripals had deliberately managed to poison themselves purely to worsen relations between the two countries.”
Why did none of Britain’s mass media echo the scepticism of Irish Times former Moscow correspondent Seamus Martin, who documented his efforts 25 years ago to monitor possible illegal export of novichoks and other chemical and biological weapons from the wreckage of the Soviet Union?
He pointed out that double agent Skripal is in Britain as part of an official spy-swap deal with Russia and Moscow’s involvement in “such a vicious attack” would jeopardise future exchanges.
Former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray also questions government statements, suggesting novichoks can be “manufactured from common ingredients on any scientific bench,” that the programme was based in Uzbekistan not Russia and that its legacy was inherited by the US during its alliance with President Islam Karimov.
The Morning Star cannot evaluate Murray’s assertions, but, at the very least, they should give pause for thought rather blind acceptance of the official line.
Media abuse and sarcasm can create a spectacle, but they can’t hide the reality that our government did not offer concrete proof or send samples of the nerve agent to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons or even Moscow before May and her parliamentary supporters declared Russia guilty.
That is a possibility but not the only one and Corbyn adviser Seumas Milne was surely correct to refer to “a history in relation to weapons of mass destruction and intelligence which is problematic, to put it mildly.”
The Mail gasped in horror, claiming: “Spin doctor says our spies cannot be trusted,” perhaps forgetful that it also questioned the MI6 “dodgy dossier” spun to justify Britain joining the 2003 illegal US invasion of Iraq.
Milne suggested too that Corbyn “has proved to make the right call time and again over the last 15 to 20 years” on international crises when nameless others made wrong calls with “disastrous consequences.”
As if to make his case, New Labour’s walking dead, knee deep in the blood of a million Iraqis killed during the invasion they backed and subsequent conflict, offered unqualified backing to the Tories in the Commons and an early day motion.
No proof needed, the bugle has sounded, tin hats on and salute the flagpole.
This is the knee-jerk reaction on which Tory governments traditionally rely to pull their chestnuts from the fire when under the cosh politically, as this one is, for its failures to defend the NHS, promote economic investment and protect living standards.
Why are New Labourite backbenchers so determined to display their preference for May’s “back to the cold war” appeal over their own leader’s more statesmanlike stance?
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