Alexander Litvinenko: Just another pawn in their game
The sight of retired British judge, Sir Robert Owen, shuffling from a dark ante room into an international press conference in London to pronounce that Vladimir Putin ‘probably approved’ the murder of Alexander Litvinenko was pure comedy gold.
It was also a travesty of justice, given the seriousness of the crime and the implications of yet another barrage of anti-Russian and anti-Putin propaganda it has unleashed across the Western media. Yet further proof that for Western ideologues Russia under Putin’s leadership can never be forgiven for refusing to stay on its knees after the demise of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
Mr Litvinenko was an agent with Russia’s intelligence agency, the FSB, prior to transferring his loyalties to Britain’s MI6 in London in return for a fee. This is not to say that his murder was anything other than despicable or heinous - or that those responsible should not be brought to justice. It does, however, help to place the crime in its proper context. In the murky world of intelligence agencies and spies bad things happen. Mr Litvinenko was in about as deep as it gets and had to know there were people out there with an interest in ending his career. Whether some of those people were working for the Russian government remains a matter of conjecture - and now more than ever as a result of Sir Robert Owen’s findings and the deeply flawed legal process that preceded them.
A history of unexplained acts
The British legal and political establishment has form when it comes to ‘flawed’ official inquiries, cover-ups, and farcical legal proceedings. Among the most questionable of those concerns the unseemly suicide of Dr David Kelly in 2003. Kelly, a biological and chemical weapons expert with ties to British intelligence, found himself embroiled in controversy when he was revealed as the source of British journalist Andrew Gilligan’s explosive expose of the ‘sexed up’ dossier on WMD in Iraq, which the Blair government had instructed its Joint Intelligence Committee to draw up as part of its argument for the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Kelly revealed to Gilligan, then working at the BBC, that the dossier’s findings had been purposely exaggerated to suit a particular agenda – i.e. in favor of war – and was therefore tainted. This specifically relates to the claim in the dossier that Iraq would be able to prepare and launch a chemical weapons strike against the UK within 45 minutes. It was an assertion Kelly claimed had been added by the government to the dossier, rather than the product of the work of the Joint Intelligence Committee. In other words it was a fabrication.
When the story broke, Blair’s press secretary, Alastair Campbell - who was directly responsible for overseeing the dossier, as well as the man accused of adding the ’45 minutes’ claim to the final draft that was read out in the Commons by Blair prior to the vote on Britain’s participation in the war - went on the offensive, demanding to know the identity of Gilligan’s anonymous source inside the intelligence community.
Dr Kelly’s identify was subsequently revealed, leading to him being questioned by the police and hauled before a House of Commons Select Committee to be grilled by assorted MPs live on national television. A day later, after leaving his home to go for his regular walk in the countryside, he was found dead, reported to have opened up one of his wrists with a pocketknife and taken an overdose of painkillers.
The ensuing Hutton Inquiry into Dr David Kelly’s treatment and death was itself shrouded in controversy, concluding that there was nothing suspicious about the doctor’s death, or his treatment leading up to it, and that he did in fact take his own life. As with the Litvinenko Inquiry, the Hutton Inquiry’s proceedings were conducted in secret with its findings tantamount to a whitewash according to various experts and those who were close to the story, most notably various medical experts skeptical about the official cause of death.
Among them were the paramedics who found Kelly’s body and claimed that the official cause of death was not consistent with the amount of blood found at the scene. No matter, as per the Hutton Inquiry and a medical inquest afterwards, the case remains closed with the evidence involved in the case locked away in a government vault somewhere and marked off limits for the next 70 years.
The murky and inherently dirty world of intelligence
The point in relaying this event in such detail is not to deflect from the murder of Alexander Litvinenko. It is to understand the murky world of intelligence and how a British establishment that likes to present itself as clean and unimpeachable is up to its neck in subterfuge and a record of dodgy legal proceedings that have consistently failed to satisfy the ends of justice.
The murders of human rights lawyers Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson in 1989 and 1999, respectively, by loyalists during conflict in the North of Ireland have always carried the strong suspicion of British collusion about them, which subsequent inquests and investigations have failed to dampen. Meanwhile, the official cause of death concerning MI6 operative, Gareth Williams, in 2010 is so outlandish you wouldn’t find it in the pages of a bad spy novel.
Williams’ body was found in an MI6 safe house in London. His remains were in ‘advanced state of decay’ when they were found inside a duffel bag padlocked on the outside. Yet to this day we are still expected to believe there were no suspicious circumstances involved, that Williams somehow padlocked himself into the bag and took his own life as part of some lurid sexual activity posited by various media sources, much to the distress of his family.
Just another pawn in their game
Returning to Mr Litvinenko, the extent to which the British media has acted as an unquestioning echo chamber for Sir Robert Owen’s assertion that Putin ‘probably approved’ of Litvinenko’s murder has been staggering. It merely adds to the long list of crimes that the Russian President is alleged to have been responsible for over the past few years.
Indeed, if his depiction in the West is to be believed, Putin makes Don Corleone look like a petty bag snatcher by comparison, with Russia under his watch guilty of everything up to and including climate change, you could be forgiven for thinking.
It is silly and reckless, redolent of the Cold War mindset which remains entrenched among men and women for whom the only relationship Britain and the West can ever enjoy with the most populous country in Europe is either as a deadly foe or a vanquished one.
Alexander Litvinenko was just another pawn in their game.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.