Thursday, December 18, 2008

Aaro, with a slight delay

Most of what needs to be said about Aaro's shitehouse of an article about the Menezes inquiry has been done in comments, but I do have one thing to add. The Menezes jury presumably had their own reasons for deciding who to believe on a number of crucial points of evidence, but I have to say that if I was on that jury, one thing which would motivate me to "choose not to believe the police" was the fact that they bloody well lied. The police misled their own Superintendent and allowed him to give a number of entirely false statements in public about Menezes being a terror suspect; they didn't actually admit he was an innocent man for a few days. The log book of the C19 team was falsified in all probability[1]. Menezes himself was smeared as a cokehead, a sex offender and an illegal immigrant, after his death. The Met published Photoshopped pictures of Menezes, cropped to make them look more like the terrorist they were hunting. And oddly enough, if you are repeatedly caught out in untruths about a subject, it tends to go badly for your reputation for honesty about that subject.

This is another example of Aaro's most obvious blind spot, memorialised in our sidebar as "That Bloody Prediction". Quite famously, he once said that if the British authorities were found to have been lying, "I, and everyone else, will never believe them again". Then it turned out that those weapons were not, in fact, there, and Aaro not only went on believing them, but turned really quite arsey in his assertions that they weren't really lying. It's the same thing at work here; Aaro works on the basis that the jury have a presumptive duty to trust the police, and the fact that the Met repeatedly betrayed that trust in the Menezes case doesn't seem to have any effect at all on his assessment of their credibility.

On the other hand, his economics piece is actually quite good, much better than Aaro's usual ventures onto the territory. Where's he been learning economics? I doubt it's from Kamm given the fairly orthodox Keynesianism and lack of neoliberal bollocks[2], but it might be. Bonus Times subeditor watch; in the same sentence where Aaro chides the NY Times for spelling "Steinbrueck" rather than using the umlaut, they manage to fuck it up.

[1] The CPS forensic experts couldn't agree on the actual charge of falsification to the required standard, but it was definitely altered.

[2] Bonus Kamm watch: "And a Tobin tax on securities or foreign exchange transactions is a near-certain way of driving trading off the exchanges and into OTC derivatives - which will increase systemic risk rather than control it" A Tobin tax might or might not be a good idea, but the global forex market is definitely an OTC market.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aaro's economics lessons may have come from his late dad, South Bank Poly economics prof; series editor of Macmillan's Radical Economics back in the day.

12/18/2008 11:21:00 AM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

Can't be; he was crap as recently as a year ago.

12/18/2008 11:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, I don't think so. Aaro senior was, his affiliation to the Communist Party notwithstanding, rather good on economics. Dave's generation of Eurocomms never showed all that much interest in the dismal science.

Then again, the crisis may have just inspired him to crib up on what he used to know...

12/18/2008 12:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A favourable cite for Galbraith surely doesn't indicate a Kamm influence. No, I think this is a more orthodox case of Aaro 'fitting the facts round the policy' of defending New Labour wherever possible, and accidentally coming up trumps.

12/18/2008 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...

That would certainly fit in with his one previous citation of Galbraith (same book, so we know he has genuinely been reading it), Watched here

12/18/2008 01:48:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

It's the same thing at work here; Aaro works on the basis that the jury have a presumptive duty to trust the police, and the fact that the Met repeatedly betrayed that trust in the Menezes case doesn't seem to have any effect at all on his assessment of their credibility.

There's something else as well, which the failure to have any understanding of the way in which that repeated experience of dishonesty might cause not only scepticism, but anger and distress. I'm sure many people who've followed the Menezes affair understand very well why the officers (if they were officers) pulled the trigger, whether or not they found themselves in that position as a result of the incompetence of their colleagues. What makes people mad with the police is less the killing itself than the lying and smearing that followed, from the day of the killing right up to the lies in the coroner's court.

Of course there's a similarity with the Iraq business - why lie so brazenly and often if your case is sound? - and as then, Aaro has no interest in understanding why this may induce repugnance in the general public.

It's hard to separate this from Aaro's status as Establishment Man, not just because he's the sort of person who speaks to the decision-makers and identifies strongly with them, but because he's the sort of man to whom such things would never happen. In the very good Independent leader on the subject, there's the line:

The disturbing reality is that he could have been any one of us.

It doesn't seem to occur to (or to interest) Aaro that as well as understanding full well that yes, this was a dangerous time and had there been a bomb set off more people would have died, people also think "well, that could have been me who the Met executed and subsequently slandered".

Nor is he interested in the idea that there is legitimate suspicion of officialdom that's of a different kind to the "all politicans are corrupt" saloon-bar variety. And if he can't see it when the Met do this - or over WMDs - then he'll never see it. Unless, of course, he can see it very well if he wants, but prefers not to.

12/18/2008 03:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are actually being rather charitable to Aaro with regards to TBP. He didn't even say "if the British authorities were found to have been lying", he just said "If nothing is eventually found..." which surely includes the possibility that the government was not lying but merely mistaken. And rightly so - after all for the Government to be acting in good faith but still be so totally and utterly mistaken and on such an important question indicates such a monumental level of incompetence that it would be entirely reasonable to mistrust any future assurances from them. Therefore he simply cannot get off the hook by claiming the Government wasn't technically lying - even if that were true it doesn't matter.

The same principle applies to the killing of de Menezes. Whilst I fully agree with ejh above, even if one adopts an Aaroesque level of credulity and accepts that every word the police spoke at the inquest was true that doesn't in any way get them off the hook. The operation was still a total shambles, the police still never made a positive identification (despite Aaro claiming they did), the communication between the surveillance team, the command centre and the firearms officers was still inadequate, ambiguous orders were still given. I am reminded of an excellent piece by Andrew Rawnsley (hardly a left wing firebrand) in the Observer after the health and safety conviction -

When the Met should have been performing at its very best, a series of the most horrendous blunders was perpetrated...There was failure at every level that there could be failure. The surveillance was inadequate, the intelligence was wrong, the armed officers were not deployed in time, orders were confused and the chain of command broke down. As for Sir Ian, he was so out of touch with what was going on within his own organisation that he was still bragging that his force was 'playing out of its socks' 24 hours after his officers had killed an innocent man.

Furthermore, the police still made blatantly untrue statements after the shooting and they are still on the one hand apologising for a "tragic mistake" and on the other claiming that none of their officers actually did anything wrong. Instead of admitting their failures and promising to rectify them they, unbelievably and quite frighteningly, said that in the same circumstances the same outcome would probably occur again. Still no one has taken any personal responsibility and the sheer shamelessness of the senior officers involved, especially the appalling Cressida Dick, is a disgrace.

All of the above stands even if one believes everything the police said at the inquest. That's not to say of course that it therefore doesn't matter if they lied, clearly that in itself would be a serious matter. But it's only one more addition to their shameful record in this case.

Finally, that piece by Rawnsley I mentioned beautifully torpedoes another one of Aaro's arguments - that the police's actions can be excused by the events earlier that month and that de Menezes was somehow "the 53rd victim of 7/7"

The context of the shooting was the suicide bombings in London 15 days earlier that had murdered 52 people and a failed attempt to unleash more atrocities in the capital 24 hours beforehand. A stretched police force was in the grip of an entirely reasonable fear that further attacks were imminent.

To my mind, though, it is precisely this context that makes what happened in Stockwell tube station even more shocking and even less excusable. It is at testing times that the true nature of organisations and their people is uncovered. It is at the moments of extreme emergency and great stress that we discover the real mettle of organisations and their leadership. On that febrile July day, we needed the capital's police force to be at its most level-headed, efficient, disciplined and professional.


12/18/2008 11:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On that febrile July day, we needed the capital's police force to be at its most level-headed, efficient, disciplined and professional.

Can't really add much to that. But I will try to add something anyway. The '53rd victim of 7/7' idea is simply bogus. Are murderers usually blamed for the police arresting and convicting someone innocent for their crimes? is - to use an example from today - Colin Stagg being called a victim of rape, or some such bollocks?

Why is this so different? Oh yes - those 'special circumstances'. I can't recall any other time in recent years when the police used the idea that they were a bit scared (and pressure isn't supposed to affect them in other instances, is it?) to justify the sheer volume of errors which occurred on the day JCDM was killed. And that's, again, if we take the police at face value. It took over 4 hours to scramble armed officers to a place where there was (or wasn't) a positive ID of a terror suspect getting on public transport. And he took two separate buses - bombed on 7/7 and targeted on the 21st - before they shot him. What was so different? Why were buses (very near where I live, too) ok but tubes not? Why has the decision by Ian Blair to not only stop the IPCC getting near the scene - with accompanying 'missing video footage' - but to allow officers to talk to each other before presenting evidence - not been more widely investigated? And how on earth did the story the officers invented manage to be so badly botched?

There are so many unanswered questions - and so many apparent cases of the police abusing their power on both the day and in the aftermath - that Aaro's (and he's not alone in this) implicit criticism of the jury simply doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

Am I alone in thinking, too, that the prominence of Respect banners on marches for JCDM might have had something to do with Nick Cohen and Aaro's eventual reactions to this?

12/19/2008 09:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our politicians are quite keen to give the Police additional powers. They are quite keen to allow the Police to play with guns and to lock people up for quite long periods without charge. Our politicians think that this makes them "serious" politicians. Politicians who are unwilling to give the Police these powers are seen as being "unserious".

However these extra powers will only work if there are procedures to ensure that the Police only use them on people who are highly likely to be villains or terrorists, and if there are procedures that allow us to see that these procedures are in place and are followed. That's accountability. People trust an institution if it is accountable, ie if they can see that it has proper procedures to carry out its work properly.

The de Menezes case shows why people distrust the Police and why we are right to be wary of giving them additional powers. The evidence at the trial and the inquest (and the IPCC report) show that the Police decided that de Menezes was "Nettle Tip" without going through any proper identification procedure. The Police were then quite happy for the press to publish stories saying that they had been following him because of his behaviour and because he was wearing heavy clothing in summer, trying to create a narrative that they actually had grounds for thinking that de Menezes might have been "Nettle Tip": none of this is backed up by anything at the trial or the inquest.

You would therefore think that our politicians or the press would say "This must never happen again". In the case of Baby P this is what they all said, though this is impossible unless social workers go and live in people's houses or take away the children of all their clients. In the case of the shooting of de Menezes we haven't heard that it mustn't happen again. Cressida Dick said that nothing wrong was done and it might happen again, and she has been defended by politicians. Aaro is saying that it might happen again. If that is the case, we should take all guns away from the Police because they are incapable of defending the public except by shooting the public.

The Decents normally don't like "root causes". If a million people have died in Iraq and 4 million have been displaced, they insist that we shouldn't say that it was the invasion that did it. They insist that we should say that it was the work of terrorists. In this case though Aaro is focusing on a "root cause" and saying that the 7/7/ bombers killed de Menezes. Clearly the fact that bombs had been going off is a contributory factor to the death of de Menezes, but the inquest and trial showed the complete incompetence of the Police. Some Police are allowed to be armed because of situations like that, so the procedures and rules of engagement have to be adequate to deal with this kind of situation. In this case they quite clearly weren't. So a major cause of the death of de Menezes is the incompetence of the Police, and the willingness of politicians to allow them to have guns without holding them accountable for their use.

Why this sudden interest by Aaro in root causes? He is an apologist for politicians who want to show how "serious" they are and who want to show that they're not afraid of hard power (as Blair said at Plymouth Dockyard). He got his break in journalism by the helping hand of a politician, and he's not going to tell truth to power: he's not going to tell politicians that they should take awy the Police's guns unless they learn to play with them properly.

Moussaka Man

12/19/2008 11:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, I don't think that this kind of column by Aaro is meant to convince anyone. It provides cover for those want to be convinced that there is no problem. It's a way of distributing talking points to the faithful. Anyone who's been following the inquest can see immediately the holes in the argument.

Moussaka Man

12/19/2008 12:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think that this kind of column by Aaro is meant to convince anyone. It provides cover for those want to be convinced that there is no problem. It's a way of distributing talking points to the faithful.

Hasn't this been the role of the modern Times, and now the Observer. They sign up "supposedly-left/liberal-but-actually-quite-right-wing" columnists to circulate slightly agonised confirm-your-prejudice views.

12/19/2008 12:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Sright. Although, to be fair, Jenkins, Hastings, and Chancellor perform the same function in the Guardian for the liberal left.

Chris Williams

12/19/2008 01:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually in the Observer it's more likely to be a confirm-your-prejudice view containing a tenuous link to and picture of Mick Jagger.

12/19/2008 01:58:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Right, it's Friday afternoon and I can therefore confess, on the cheap, that I accesssed you-know-where earlier this week (the Owen Hatherley thread).

12/19/2008 03:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

kerching... what did you make of it all?

12/19/2008 03:22:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Pretty much what I expected to.

12/19/2008 03:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



12/19/2008 04:02:00 PM  

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