Green politics, philosophy, history, paganism and a lot of self righteous grandstanding.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

My Review of the Year 2016


In it was 2016 twenty years since the Newbury Bypass protests. A defeat that led to a famous victory, the snowy woods of Newbury were where it all began for me as an eco-warrior. The Guardian's John Vidal, who had been ignoring my press releases for the last three years, made amends by putting me in his Guardian article.

Back in the present day though I didn't feel much campaigning at all. 2015 had been about the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. It had been signed, but we knew that was only the beginning of the fight, not the end. That was why the Red Lines action in Paris took place the day after the conference ended, not the day before it started. But a year of campaigning, then travelling to Paris for a demonstration that had been declared illegal due to the state of emergency, had taken it out of me.

The first stop was Wigan, the home of those early eco-warriors, The Diggers. I say a few words, drink a few beers, and chat to some interesting people.

Back in the real world the cull of music greats, that started with Lemmy before New Year, continues with David Bowie. Having released Blackstar three days earlier he goes out with style. I never knew the man, but the artist was amazing. He was soon joined by Glenn Fry, co-founder of The Eagles, and Dale Griffin, the drummer from Mott the Hoople, in what looked already like it was going to be a grim year for music fans. 


February though started with some good news. The Great Bear Rainforest in Canada, named by campaigners in the 1990s, finally received the protection it deserves. The home of the mysterious spirit bear, I had been part if the battle to save the forest in the late 1990s, when I was part of the British branch of the Forest Action Network.

The Paris Agreement was already looked like another lame treaty. In the USA the conservative dominated Supreme Court voted 5:4 to block Obama's, very modest, Clean Power Act whilst a series of fossil fuel funded legal actions against it were heard. Then right wing judge Antonin Scalia died, giving hope the deal wouldn't be killed before its first birthday.

This year's campaigning began properly with the start of Cuadrilla's appeal against Lancashire County Council's decision to reject fracking at two sites.

It was at Blackpool Football ground and getting there was the first challenge, as the Glossop to Manchester trains are off and there was a giant sinkhole in the road at Broadbottom. I do make it though, and there is a sizable turnout. There is also a rare appearance by the opposition, a dozen or so middle age men, who stayed for exactly an hour, before looking at their watches and leaving, presumably to fill in their time sheets and collect the £120 they were (allegedly) paid for attending.

All the usual suspects are there except Tina Louise Rothery, who turned up in Parliament Square with Greenpeace's fake fracking rig.

Inside the appeal all appears to go well for the anti-frackers. However, as we know the final decision will be made in London, not Blackpool, we weren't confident.


Meanwhile the revolt against fracking across the regions continued, with my friend Ed Kelly of the local Labour Party successfully getting an anti-fracking motion passed by High Peak Borough Council.

The next evening I headed off on the train across the snow covered landscape to meet the fledgling Warrington group. I don't think we got much organised, but we drank a lot of beer and had a very good time.

Meanwhile the next musicians to join the supergroup that was forming in rock's Valhalla was keyboard maestro Keith Emerson. It was promising to be quite a gig up there.


April started with a camping trip with my boys, and a chance to visit one of my favourite trees, the King of Limbs in Savernak Forest.

The Greenpeace group had a bit of busy month. First Sami was out in about in Manchester, as we collected postcards to send to the Norwegian ambassador. We were asking him to make the, increasingly ice-free Barents Sea, a protected area.  We also delivered anti-fracking cupcakes to Manchester City Council.

The world was certainly an interesting place in 1916, but a hundred years ago it was even more so. April marked the centenary of the Easter Uprising, which was the start of Irish independence. I decided to reflect on some of the historic places I'd visited whilst living there twenty years ago.

This month I also got to hear Paul Mason speak, along with John McDonnell, who is now the Shadow Chancellor, but who I remember as being the only Labour MP willing to leave their fortified conference venue to speak to the People's Climate March we put on two years ago. As someone trying to make Marx relevant to the twentifirst century, Mason certainly got my grey matter working, leading to this blog on how we got into the mess we're in.

In April I met an Oscar winning actress, and she smelt of poo.

Greenpeace had sent Emma Thompson, and her sister, up to Blackpool for the Great Fracking Bake Off, to cakes which Tina Louise and the Lancashire Nanas judged. I popped up to join them. The farmer who'd sold his land to Cuadrilla was there too, and decided to cover Emma, and the cakes, in manure. The volunteers still ate the cakes though.

At the end of the month came some good news. Several months of stealing tins of tuna from the shelves of Tesco, and hiding them around the store, had paid off and the company agreed to drop John, unless they actually completed on their promise to become sustainable. 

This month's famous musician to join the great gig in the sky was Prince.

Also dying this month was Colin Gould, the husband of the Liz Gould, the stalwart coordinator of the Merseyside Greenpeace Group for many, many years. His funeral was one of those moments when you realise that Greenpeace is really just one big family.


May started with the Big Session in Buxton, and its accompanying beer festival. Seth Lakeman was fantastic as usual.

Going Backwards on Climate Change was a national campaign, and Manchester did its bit. I was there with Sami, and in May it was pretty hot work. Sami is out again a couple of weeks later as we have a token protest at the Etihad Stadium, as arch-frackers Eneos are sponsoring the Great North Run. The day started with Lori and I being greeted by armed police, but they are friendly enough.

The same day we start our new target for the tuna campaign, Sainsbury's. The big news on the oceans campaign though was that whilst we hadn't yet got the marine reserve we wanted, several major brands announced they would not be buying fish from the Barents Sea.


Not much campaigning this month, as I instead chose to spend my spare time enjoying the countryside as this was my favourite month of the year. The purple orchids were out in Cressbrook Dale, and the snow had finally melted on Kinder Scout.

Another distraction was that it was exactly 25 years since I graduated from Leicester University with a 'gentleman's pass' in astrophysics. To celebrate the Leicester physicists class of '91 returned to the city, and tried to find a bar that hadn't been gentrified since we left.

I did however get to run a stall for Greenpeace at this years Envirolution Festival in Manchester. It is bloomin' hot, and we have far too much gear, but at least we sell all our cupcakes.

There were more centenaries this month, including a hundred years since the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the bloodiest 24 hours in the history of the British Army. This was my view of why that was so.

Then Brexit happened. A victory for the tabloid press and their campaign of scapegoating. Suddenly moving forwards was no longer an option. We would need to campaign to defend the limited victories we already have.

Just to add to the gloom, this month's late, great musician was Dave Swarbrick. His last gig had been a benefit for refugees, an example of the sort of tolerance and humanity that threatened to be interred with his body.


July saw a fracking industry meeting at the Manchester Conference Centre. In the grand scheme of things it was a minor gathering of minor players in the industry, but on the principle that we go after them wherever they are, we held a demo outside. Tina Louise actually turns up this time. I made a speech linking fracking with the Paris Agreement, which now seems a very distant memory. Rather bizarrely we appeared on Cuban television. 

In a break from fracking the Manchester Greenpeace Network played its part in a day of action against Siemens, as the company was contracted to build a series of huge damns in the Amazon. We paid an undercover visit to one of their 'IQ Centres' in Altringham to re-brand some of their white goods. All went according to plan and all the activists escaped unscathed.

The 2016 Olympics open in Rio, with an environment themed ceremony. Interesting, but lacking in the humour and generaly zaniness of Danny Boyle's London 2012 show. I reflect here on how much meaner a society we seem compared to those happy days.


Holidays and family illness limit things a bit in August, but I still get to the Cropredy Festival.

It's a bit of a wake for Swarb, but still fun. The headliners are Madness, Steeleye Span, the Bootleg Beatles and, of course, Fairport, who are fifty next year and all live up to expectations, especially Madness, who are very much not just a band cranking out their old hits (although they do get played).

However it's the new discoveries that make the weekend. There was the very weird and infectious bluegrass/metal act Hayseed Dixie. Then Wille and the Bandits, who were a fantastic blues act that make up for me missing the Black Keys. Bet of all there was The Pierce Brothers, an Aussie band that turn up, weary from a long tour, and pining for home, but who play a stonking set, and end up having an even better time than us.


More interesting centenaries came and went, including 100 years since T.E. Lawrence left his desk in Cairo and went off to become 'of Arabia'.

I don't seem to have done much this month except climb a mountain in Cumbria (High Cup Nick, at the top of which is the best view in England).

However I did find time to medicate on why so many Working Class people (although certainly not all, or even the majority) continue to shaft us all, and themselves, by supporting Trump, or the insane Brexit crowd, and the remarkable degree to which those three pillars of the establishment; the City, the aristocracy and the Tory Party, continued to support peace with Hitler even after the Second World War had started and Churchill was PM. Then, I should point out for balance the Working Class were 100% behind the war effort.

Having failed to sign up for fully fledged Corbyn-mania (I remain a fully paid up Green) I also had some wry amusement about how a bewildered old Trot like Jeremy managed to beat of the 'Blairite opponents' and remain leader of Labour.


October starts with me getting drunk in the Greenpeace warehouse, something I haven't done for a while. At least this time I didn't then have to get on a coach for a twenty hour journey to eastern Germany.

On 4th October the European Union ratified the Paris Agreement. The next day the government announced it was overturning Lancashire's decision to reject Cuadrilla's plans for fracking at Little Plumpton. It was game on again.

As bands of activists had been turning up outside fracking conferences on a regular basis, Shale Gas World decided to hold its at a secret venue when they met in Manchester. Fortunately we were able to find out where it was and stage a little demonstration of our own.

Uniformed plod met us met us at Piccadilly station and plain clothes officers escorted us on the train, but we managed to find the Radisson Blu Hotel without the. A recommendation by the Police Liaison Officer that we hold our demo at the station - where nobody would be able to see us - was politely rejected and we plonked yourselves down outside for a morning of making noise.

On 25 October the government announced that they were going ahead with the Third Runway at Heathrow. By chance I was in London that day visiting the Royal Astronomical Society (not for any particularly clever reason, but because a friend from university works there) so I got the news of Zac Goldsmith's resignation live.


The month begins with the election of Trump as President of the AS of U. A man who makes George W Bush look principled and Dan Quail as talented, the only possible postive thing you can say is that at least the world's only superpower no longer wnats us to even pretend we take them seriously.

Campaigning continued despite this calamity. The 'Secret Shale' event was the starter, but the main course was the United Against Fracking rally in Manchester on 12th November, which Frack Free Greater Manchester has organised, at very short notice, for Frack Free Lancashire.

For once, I did my job as Press Officer right and we had TV, radio and print media. Of course, it helped that Frack Free Lancs had persuaded Bianca Jagger to lead it, as well as John Ashton, former climate change diplomat and founder of Third Generation Environmentalism. It was good to meet him again, and he didn't bear any ill feeling towards us for knackering his lungs by taking him to Davyhulme last time he was in Manchester.

The rally started in Piccadilly Gardens, where I do a brief comedy turn on the microphone. there appear to be almost as many people as attended the Barton Moss event we held two years ago, which allows us to claim we've achieved our objective of being the biggest anti-fracking gathering ever in the UK.  I then take my place at the very back and follow every to Castlefields.

There we have some rather more serious speeches, including by Andy Burnham, the man set to be Manchester's first mayor. Hacienda legend Dave Haslem does the DJing, and Bez turns up too. We are the lead regional news story, but don't even get a mention on the national news, which is about par for the course I'm afraid. Next year we'll have to up the ante with a bit of direct action, but for now it's a fun day out in town. The show ends with Peaceful Dan leading everyone in singing 'the people have the power', whilst I order a taxi for Bianca.

During November I also play my part in Salford TUC's Environment Day event. It's a low key affair, but a sign of the links we have between eco-activists and trade unionists that we have in Manchester, but not many other places.

However whilst the TUC seems to like us, Merseyside polcie decided that we were all 'domestic extremists', and listed anti-fracking groups amongst those people should be worried about as pasrt if its Prevent anti-terrorism startegy.

This months dead musical great was Leonard Cohen, who was at least pretty old. This was my vaguely relevant blog.


To round the year off I was asked by the Glossop Guild for Enquring Minds, our local, independent spin-off from the Workers Education Association, to be one half of a talk entitled the Case For And Against Fracking. It could have been a very ill-tempered event, but in the end m and my opposite number, Peter Webb got along fine, and agreed on most of the actual facts. My side of the argument is here. 

The year's events weren't over yet for Tina Louise Rothery though. After a busy year she had the minor matter of Contempt of Court charges to face after refusing to pay a fine levied against her by Cuadrilla Resources. She was up in court and facing two weeks in Styal Prison. She is invited into the back room of the court with opposing barrister, whilst the judge 'disrobed' (hopefully he at least kept his pants on). Cuadrilla blink first and Tina doesn't get sent down, which is a pity in some ways as the Manchester Greenpeace Group had baked her a cake.


So that was my 2016. We held the line and kept the countyr frack free, kept the issue of climate change in the news, and made some progress on Oceans and the Amazon.

Meanwhile, though, the rest of the world went mad. War and refugees, fake news and fake politicians, extremists and authortiarians; that was the story of 2016, and my prediction for 2017 as well. If I ended 2016 not recognising my own country, we may all end 2017 not recognising our own world.

Still, we'd be bored with nothing to fight, wouldn't we? Yes, we lost on most of the big issues, but then we lost the battle at Newbury too. But we weren't wrong, and in the end we won the war.

See you on the blockades in 2017.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Eight Decades of the Soviet Union

Twenty five years ago today the world lost a superpower. That sort of thing doesn't happen very often.

To those of us on this side of the Iron Curtain, the Soviet Union was usually presented as this grey monolith that never changed. Over here the Roaring Twenties became the Great Depression, the Atomic Age became the Space Age, but over there it was always the age of grey cabbage.

Not so.

The reality was that the Soviet Union never stood still. Instead it lurched from crisis to disaster, from oppression to invasion, and back again. When people looked back nostalgically from the grim years of Disaster Capitalism that followed, they remembered only a short, brief interlude in the seventies when things were dull, but stable; when life was grim, but tolerable.

1920s Civil War

The Russian Revolution was bloodless. More people were killed in the reenactment of the Storming of the Winter Palace for Evreniov's film than died in the real event. The civil war that followed though was anything but, as Red fought White, with almost every Imperialist nation lending a hand.

The Red Army, under the leadership of Leon Trotsky, was able to defeat the disparate and divided White forces, but in truth the Revolution was itself a very diverse affair. The urban proletariat of the Russian Empire had been tiny, and the use of a brutal War Communism had hardly made the Bolsheviks popular. So when the sailors on the island base of Kronstadt rebelled, it looked like it was all over. Had the Russian people been given a vote at this point, Lenin would have lost. Instead the Red Army, under the leadership one Leon Trotsky, was sent in to crush the revolt.

The next few years though were one of hope and a fair amount of freedom. Music and literature, Russia's great contribution to European culture, thrived. The country was ruined by war, but best economic minds were drafted in to devise the Five Year Plan. A planned economy would rise from the ruins of war.

In 1924, the man who had led this daring experiment, Vladamir Ilyrich Lenin, died. He was a difficult man to judge. Whilst genuinely committed to progressive ends, no means were too brutal to achieve them. A man who believed that history was inevitable, he'd done more than any person in the twentieth century to change it..

His death led to the rise of Joseph Stalin. An utterly charismatic man, he rose to power through the secret committees of the Communist Party, underestimated by everyone until it was too late. Trotsky was expelled from the party in 1927, and exiled from the Soviet Union two years later. Thousands of other party members followed him.

Then in 1928 their was a shortfall in grain production. Stalin threw the Five Year Plan out of the window and embarked on a massive program of collectivisation.

1930s Repression

Collectivisation failed.

Stalin blamed hoarding by kulaks - wealthy farmers - and so the process was speeded up. This turned failure into disaster, with up to 10 million people starving to death.

However starvation and counter-revolutionary 'kulaks' were not all that the people of the Soviet Union had to fear. In 1934 the popular mayor of Leningrad was assassinated, apparently by a 'fascist plot'. Over the next few years the Soviet people enjoyed the bizarre spectacle of dozens of senior communists, including every Old Bolshevik except Stalin and the exiled Trotsky, being paraded through court and confessing to being part of conspiracy to bring down the very revolution they had fought for.

These people though were just the tip of a very large iceberg of repression. Thousands of intellectuals, and hundreds of thousands of 'kulaks', Poles and others, were arrested by the Secret Police, and executed, tortured or exiled to the gulags in Siberia. In all, maybe a million people died. The final victim was the head of the Secret Police himself, Nikolai Yezhov.

The purge had also removed most of the senior military commander. When the Soviet Union went to war with Finland in 1939 the army suffered disaster after disaster.

If this wasn't enough dramatic change for a decade, in August the people learnt the world's only communist state had just entered into a pact with the world's only Nazi state. Within months the two strange bedfellows were carving up Poland between them.

1940s War

But the Nazi-Soviet pact failed to keep Hitler out. In 1941 he launched Operation Barbarossa. The result was the deadliest conflict in human history, with 30 million deaths. The Soviet Union survived - just - and eventually advanced into Germany and laid waste to Berlin, killing and raping as it went. Six million soldiers had died in battle and over three million had died after being taken prisoner.

The country was ruined by the war, but it also now occupied the whole of eastern Europe and part of Germany. The Iron Curtain came down across Europe and the Cold War began. The allies of the war years were now enemies.

1950s Thaw

Then in 1953 Stalin died. Disabled by a stroke, he was probably finished off by his doctor. By the end he admitted he didn't even trust himself. He was replaced by Nikita Khrushchev.

All the senior Soviet leaders were gangsters, but Khrushchev was a gangster who wanted to be a social scientist. Slowly he introduced reforms and reduced the oppression. Gradually intellectuals began to think again, and some people even began to dream.

It wasn't all peace and love though. In 1956 popular protests toppled the communist government of Hungary. Fears the country would leave the Warsaw Pact, and open a way for NATO to attack Russia, led Khrushchev to order in Soviet tanks to restore order. 200,000 Hungarians became refugees and 2500 died, as did 700 Soviet soldiers, many shot by their own officers for refusing to obey orders.

Russia had developed its own atomic bombs under Stalin, now under Khrushchev they built missiles to carry them. Along the way they also managed to launch the first artificial satellite into orbit. Sputnik One took off on 4 October 1957. It's signal could be picked up on an ordinary radio set, the beeping signal a dramatic statement of the potential of the Soviet Union.

Then in 1959 Khrushchev visited the United States of America. He was charming, he cracked jokes and he loved America. From it's hot dogs to its mass produced cars, this was a world he thought he could remake in the USSR. Stalin had been an aberration, the world of plenty promised by the communist revolution was still possible.

1960s Hope

Khrushchev's foreign policy missteps almost led to nuclear war with the USA over Cuba in 1962.
Disaster was averted, but things weren't much better on the home front.

Armed with the second best computers available (the best were working a missile defence system around Moscow) the Soviet planners were trying to finally make the planned economy work. A new system of prices was introduced, with the rates set by a complex algorithm. Logic would replace the market and the planned economy would deliver the workers paradise that had been promised for forty years.

The first result was that the cost of meat and butter shot up 25%. On top of other problems, this led to a minor revolt in Southern Russia. Twenty two people were killed, seven executed, and the authorities panicked. There were to be no more economic reforms.

Khrushchev had also tried, and failed, to improve agricultural production. Worse, he had started to take away the privileges of senior party members and talked about running multi-candidate elections. The party decided he had to go. In 1964 he was removed from power and exiled to his dacha. There he regaled passers by with his opinions of what had gone wrong, and wondered what sort of paradise this was that had to keep its people in chains.

He was replaced by Leonid Brezhnev, who brought back repression. In 1968 Czechoslovakia decided it wanted 'communism with a human face', but instead it received Soviet tanks.  Back at home the arts and the sciences had to follow the party line.

The economy, already stuttering, went into terminal decline. Instead of taking raw materials and turning them into useful things - adding value - the Soviet economy did exactly the opposite. It dug valuable natural resources out of the ground, and turned them into things nobody wanted.

The only reason the whole thing limped on into the seventies was that in 1961 they had struck oil in Siberia. The USSR used the money to buy computers from IBM = killing off their own research program - and an entire car factory from Italy. There they made their own version of an old Fiat design, the crude but tough car that they would export to the world as the Lada.

1970s Stagnation

Kept afloat on oil money the Soviet Union crawled through the one and only decade in its history in which nothing of any significance happened.

To western visitors there were attractions to the country. Moscow and Leningrad were beautiful cities, with streets free of traffic jams, advertising billboards and beggars. The opera and the ballet were cheap and first class.

However by 1979 there were problems on the eastern frontiers. Afghanistan was a friendly communist country. However the repressive regime was not popular and soon large parts of the country were in open rebellion, with the rebels receiving support from the CIA. A palace coup removed the Soviet Union's man and so Soviet paratroopers moved in to remove his replacement.

Initially all went well, and it seemed a re-run of Budapest in 1956 or Prague in '68. But this was deceptive. Afghanistan was to be very different.

1980s Chaos

The 1980s started with the flamboyance of the Moscow Olympic games. Brezhnev died in 1982 and his next two successors were both old, ill and dead within two years of taking office. The communist party leadership realised that a change was needed. The new leader was Mikael Gorbachev, the youngest member of the Politburo and the first Soviet leader to have been born after the revolution.

By this time the war in Afghanistan was going badly. Gorbachev wanted to pull the troops out, but rightly feared the forces that would be unleashed if he did so. Desperately he tried to negotiate with President Reagan to end the cold War, but instead the USA launched a new arms race, and supplied the Afghan insurgents with more and more advanced weaponry, some of which would later be turned on their own troops.

At home Gorbachev introduced restructuring - perestroika - and freedom - glasnost. To the West he was a hero, but to those who had to live through his reforms he was more like the Sorcerer's Apprentice, someone who could not control the forces he had unleashed. His aim of a more democratic communism, combined with a planned economy, was similar to Khrushchev's, and the outcome was similar too: economic chaos and food shortages. However whilst a high oil price had bailed the country out before, now a low one doomed it.

In eastern Europe the Brezhnev Doctrine, of military intervention in any communist country that turned capitalist, was replaced by the 'Sinatra Doctrine', meaning everyone was free to chose My Way. By 1989 the old, out-of-touch leadership of the Soviet satellite nations were facing open revolt on the streets. When Gorbachev made it clear Soviet tanks were not coming to help this time, the Berlin Wall came down, followed by the rest of the Iron Curtain.

1990s Collapse

Eastern Europe had now gone, but Gorbachev's problems hadn't.

The Soviet Union was actually a federation of 15 Republics, although a very centralised one. Many of these states were formed in territories added to the Czarist Empire only in the late nineteenth century. Most were artificial constructions based around the predominant ethnicity. With the economy in crisis, there were fears that many would try to ceded.

In the end it was actually Russia that started to break away first, passing a declaration of semi-independence from the Soviet Union. Hard liners saw the writing on the wall and launched a coup. Soviet coups had been in terminal decline for a while. Budapest and Prague had gone all write, but in Afghanistan it had taken four gos before they managed to bump of President Amin. This one was even worse, lasting barely two days.

After that the Soviet Republics didn't plan on hanging around to see if the hardliners would try again, and one by one they declared independence. Gorbachev was faced with a choice, send in the tanks or let them go. Once again he chose peace, and so on 21 December 1991 the Soviet Union was replaced by the Commonwealth of Independent States.

The world's first Soviet socialist republic had come to an end. There had been moments of hope, but most;y it had been a story of repression rather than freedom, of scarcity rather than plenty. The revolution had failed, and in the end the leadership accepted it had failed and let the Soviet Union die peacefully in its bed. To paraphrase Shakespeare, nothing it did in its life so became it as the leaving it.

It seems unlikely that the kleptocratic leaders of the fascistic gangster states that replaced the Soviet Union will leave power quite so gracefully.


I'm extremely grateful for the lectures given to the Glossop Guild by Chris Bins
Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives by Alan Bullock
Red Plenty by Francis Spufford

Monday, 12 December 2016

The Case Against Fracking

This is a presentation I gave as part of a debate at the Glossop Guild.

The case against fracking, in just over 40 minutes.



What is fracking? TalkFracking

Traffic Issues

In Texas, Traffic Deaths Climb Amid Fracking Boom Houston Public Media 12/10/2014 
AP IMPACT: Deadly side effect to fracking boom Associated Press 5/05/2014
Investigating the traffic-related environmental impacts of hydraulic-fracturing (fracking) operations Goodman, Galatioto, Thorpe, Namdeo, Davies, Bird 

Presentation to UKShale Gas Summit 11/10/2016 Dr Paul Goodman


Fracking triggers 90% of large quakes in B.C., Alberta oil and gas patch CBC News 29/03/2016

Air Pollution

Town's Effort To Link Fracking And Illness Falls Short npr 16/05/2012
Town of DISH, Texas, Ambient Air Monitoring Analysis Wolf Eagle Environmental
List of the Harmed PACWA

Water Contamination

Assessment of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas on Drinking Water Resources (External Review Draft) EPA
SAB Review of the EPA's draft Assessment of the Potential Impacts of Hydrolic Fracturing on Drinking Water Resources
Greenpeace Open Records Request from EPA

Health Effects

Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking Concerned Health Professionals of NY
Health & Fracking: The impact & opportunity costs Medact
Public Health England’s draft report on shale gas extraction British Medical Journal 17/04/2014


One Man's Mission to Curb Illegal Dumping of Texas Frack Waste Inside Climate News 1/07/2014
Forbidden Data: Wyoming just criminalized citizen science The Slate 11/05/2015
You must accept fracking for the good of the country, David Cameron tells southerners The Telegraph 11/08/2013
EU summit back shale gas 'revolution' euobserver 22/05/2013
UK defeats European bid for fracking regulation The Guardian 14/01/2014
UK backing bid by fossil fuel firms to kill new EU fracking controls, letters reveal The Guardian 10/09/2015
UK government's fracking definition 'could allow drilling without safeguards' The Guardian 13/04/2016
Fracking in Lancashire given go-ahead by government BBC 6/10/2016
UK government suppressed damaging fracking report until after crucial Lancashire vote Greenpeace EnergyDesk 25/11/2016

Expert Opinion

Shale gas regulation in the UK and health implications of fracking The Lancet 27/02/2015
The risk of hydraulic fracturing on public health in the UK and the UK’s fracking legislation Environmental Sciences Europe 30/10/2015

Climate Change

7 reasons America will fail on climate change Vox

America's natural gas system is leaky and in need of a fix, new study finds Stanford News 14/02/2014
U.S. Methane 'Hot Spot' Bigger than Expected NASA9/10/2014
Why is there a huge methane hotspot in the American Southwest? PBS NewsHour 3/06/2015

Shale Gas Boom Helps to Slash CO2 Emissions, As Well as Create Jobs and Save Consumers Billions
Professor Mark J. Perry's Blog for Economics and Finance 23/05/2012
Asia to drive US coal exports Marginal Evolution 13/05/2011

Peabody: Why the world’s largest private coal miner went bust — in one graph Greenpeace EnergyDesk 15/04/2016

Infrastructure Lock In 
Carbon Lock-In: Barriers To Deploying Climate Change Mitigation Technologies Brown, Chandler, Lapsa, Sovacool November 2007
Gas power stations given go-ahead BBC News 5/12/2012


Energy [r]evolution Greenpeace International
One Million Climate Jobs Campaign Against Climate Change
UK and Norway to build world's longest undersea energy interconnector The Guardian 26/03/2015
How 'smart fridges' could slash UK CO2 emissions and help renewables The Guardian 28/09/2014

Further Reading

Are we fit to frack? National Trust, RSPB, Angling Trust etc
To the ends of the earth Corporate Watc
One Million Climate Jobs Campaign Against Climate Change
Health & Fracking: The impact & opportunity costs Medact
Energy [r]evolution Greenpeace International


Since I recorded this the EPA has admitted it did find evidence of fracking causing water contamination. Details here:

Reversing Course, E.P.A. Says Fracking Can Contaminate Drinking Water NY Times 13/12/2016

Friday, 11 November 2016

Who inspired Suzanne by Leonard Cohen?

'Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river'


So it's RIP Leonard Cohen. Poet, song writer and performer even in his final years. He will be missed. But what about his most famous song, Suzanne?

A much covered tune, including by the early Fairport Convention, Suzanne has a melody that can properly be described as haunting.

The inspiration was one Suzanne Verdal, then the partner of sculptor Armand Vaillancourt, whose most famous work is a giant fountain in San Francisco dedicated to Quebecan independence. Cohen says that 'everyone was in love with Suzanne', including him, although, as the song says, he could only 'touch her perfect body' with his mind.

She was the one that pout the breaks on the relationship. She said in 2006 “Somehow, I didn’t want to spoil that preciousness, that infinite respect that I had for him… I felt that a sexual encounter might demean it somehow.”

Cohen met her in Montreal, and they would walk by the St Lawrence River before popping back to her place for 'tea and oranges'.

An early eco-activist, she was big into recycling, which is why  "she's wearing rags and feathers from Salvation Army counters" and "she shows you where to look among the garbage and the flowers". This wasn't terribly fashionable at the time and so probably explains the line ‘you know that she’s half crazy but that’s why you want to be there.’

Suzanne travelled the world as a dancer and by the late nineties she was living in a home made shack with her seven cats and working as a dance instructor and massage therapist. However a serious accident ended her dancing career and she ended up broke and homeless.

The song appears in the soundtrack of last year's Reeth Witherspoon film Wild, based on the book by Cheryl Strayed, as Verdal was a friend of the author's mother. It seems everyone really did love Suzanne.

So as Cohen humself shuffles off this mortal coil, his works remain, including this wonderful, bittersweet, hymn to a unrequitted, but still beautiful, deep and emotionally charged love affair.

Cohen missed Suzanne, and we now miss him.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Labour Party Occupied!

It's been rather strange to watch an election that I'm not allowed to vote in.

Despite being a member of an affiliated trade union myself, and despite my wife being a full member of the party, neither of us received ballot papers.

However that doesn't matter in the long run and the Jedi Obi One Corbynobi has been reelected as leader of the venerable old Labour Order. Hopefully this will now be The Force Awakens, not the Revenged of the Sithed Off.

But the strangest part of the contest is how Corbyn's opponents seem to have spent the entire campaign boxing at shadows. Talk of 'Trotskyite infiltrators', 'the new Militant tendancy' and a 'return to Syndicalism' just miss the point entirely.

Yes, there are all those types of people in the party, along with anti-semites, misogynists and abusive trolls, and they probably think all their Christmases have come at once right now, but they are not running this thing. We have not fallen back through some wormhole to the seventies, or even the thirties. Red Robbo is not driving this and Stalin has not risen from the grave and dispatched Comintern agents to bring down British democracy. Orwell, if he were alive, would be part of this movement, not against it.

Occupy Wall Street, with a good question
This is Occupy the Labour Party. This is the people who have been hacked off with party politics for
the last twenty years finally deciding take an interest in elections and get a candidate they can actually vote for. These are the people who marched against the Iraq War, who mobilise against fracking, who stood up to the Brexit racists, who rally for the climate and stood against the EDL.

These are people who think the Labour Party should not be supported by anonymous millionaires, should not seek endorsement from billionaire newspaper owners, should not try to do a deal with the City and should not be made up of MPs taking five and six figure 'consultancies' from unelected corporations.

Against them were the new old guard of New Labour who do not see how the ground has shifted under their feet. Kinnock, Brown and Miliband all lost general elections, so are in no position to call anyone 'unelectable'.

The socially liberal but economically conservative Cameron was far better Blair than even Blair himself, and the City were always going to prefer the real thing to a cheap Labour copy.

Owen Smith in Liverpool, with ice cream van.
There is no technocratic solution here. There is no playing at politics and being better Tories than the Tories. That game is over.

The New Labour strategy of funding from rising wealth cannot work since global capitalism tanked ten years ago. There is no room for manoeuvre any more on the economy. The City demands austerity for the poor and socialism for the rich. You may as well be a communist as a Keynsian right now, they will treat you exactly the same, as 'Red(ish) Ed' found out.

Nor can there be any meaningful comprise with an Establishment that sees itself as besieged on all sides. Whether in Greece, North Dakota or here there is no negotiation with an economically, environmentally and intellectually bankrupt ruling orthodoxy. They will lie, they will cheat and they will fight. They will not listen. They will not be reasonable.

This result is not be the end. Party leadership elections are not general elections. Our man has won, but Corbyn's supporters, especially those like me who aren't allowed back into the party, need to get out on the streets and get the message out. They need to campaign, to door knock and to reach the people who only read The Sun or the Daily Mail, who believe the UKIP lies, who voted Brexit, who do not live in the post-industrial north, who do not work in the public sector and who possibly share very few of our values, but who need change as much as everyone else.

Corbyn will need to decide what he wants to do. It's not clear they he knows what to do, or even if he understands the movement he is the figurehead for. Perhaps he should take a hint from Gandhi, a man he clearly admires, who when he realised he had started something he could no longer control said:

 "There go my people. I must follow them, as I am their leader."

Friday, 23 September 2016

Britain's Real 'Fifth Column'

James Fox as the fiction Lord Darlington in The Remains of the Day
June 1940, and Britain stands alone against fascism. The entire nation is united behind Winston Churchill as leads the nation in war against Hitler.

Or, almost the entire nation.

Until almost the end of the war Churchill had to watch his back against three groups of people who might at any time undermine the war effort and seek terms with Germany. These were the 'enemy within', who happily have done a deal that would have left Hitler with mastery over the Europe.

I am not talking about the British Unions of Fascists, all safely under lock-and-key by 1940, and who were never much rated by the real Nazis, but three groups of people at liberty to bide their time and strike if the Prime Minister showed weakness.

These are the people who Soviet ambassador to Britain Ivan Maisky - one of the unsung heroes of the war - called "the real 'Fifth Column' in England".

The City of London

Montagu Norman, the banker's banker
When Winston Churchill became Prime Minister in May 1940 there were no cheers in the City of
London. Here was one Tory who seemingly had no interest in the grubby business of making money, and who seemed to regard their entire trade as a little bit seedy.

General Raymond Lee, an American liaison officer in London, wrote in his diary on December 8 1940, after a conversation with a businessman "(He) was very interesting about the city ... he ... confirmed my belief that the City is ready for appeasement at any time, and is a little bit irritated because it has no hold at all on Churchill".

We don't know who this banker was, but he wasn't alone in his views. Sir Hugo Cunliffe-Owen, City grandee and former Director of British American Tobacco, was still hoping in autumn 1940 that "Neville Chamberlain would come back into his own" and make peace with Hitler.

The most powerful man in the City though was Montagu Norman, the Governor of the Bank of England, and he was a Nazi sympathiser. Norman was good friends with Hjalmar Schacht, Hitler's minister of economics, and admired them both. Schacht eventually turned against Hitler, and ended up in a concentration camp, but it's not clear if Norman ever did.

In 1939 Norman had helped the Nazis sell $735 million (in today's prices) of Czech gold, which the country had deposited with the Bank of England after Hitler's tanks rolled in, in the mistaken belief it would be safe there. The money went to help rearm Germany. We know this because the story partially broke in 1939. However the details of what else he got up to are still sealed in the Swiss vaults.

In 1942 Roosevelt was so concerned about Norman's activities he sent a report to Churchill. The PM launched an investigation but, frustratingly, the outcome is not known. In particular the file does not answer the specific allegation made by the Americans, that Norman met a German official in Switzerland in May 1941 to discuss a secret peace offer.

We should be grateful that the City in 1940 did not have the influence on government it has now. However the second group in Maisky's 'Fifth Column' had plenty of influence.

The Aristocracy

Hugh Grosvenor, 2nd Duke of Westminster
Oswold Mosley, the leader of the British Union of Fascists, was a baronet and very much a part of the British aristocracy.  When war broke out he was interned in Holloway prison, but he was far from the only posh fascist in the country, and the others were very much left at liberty.

There was, for example, Lord Brocket, “a fundamentally nice but stupid man”, who attended Hitler's 50th birthday party, and who was alleged to light fires on his Hertfrodshire estate to guide German bombers. Also at the party was the Duke of Baccleuch, who continued to sing Hitler's praises even as the bombs fell on London. Then there was Unity Mitford, who had adopt her father's pro-Nazi views, and her sister Diane, who married Oswald Moseley. The Duke of Westminster believed in a Jewish conspiracy to undermine the country and was still calling peace with Hitler in the autumn of 1940.

Out in Kenya the 22nd Earl of Erroll was promising to bring fascism to Africa, until he turned up dead in his car. Possibly MI6 did the decent thing. Also in Africa was Marquess of Graham, who would go on to serve in Ian Smith's racist government of Rhodesia and who went on to believe The Beatles were part of a world communist conspiracy.

Add in Churchill's cousin Lord Londonderry, who Winston regarded as a "half-wit", and the impression is of a bunch of idiots who couldn't organise a piss up in a brewery. However their power came from their birth, and not their brains, and it was very real. Many were prominent politicians in a House of Lords that still had real power.

What these people had in common was virulent anti-semitism, and a belief in a global conspiracy between Jews and communists that only fascism could stop. They also chaffed at their own declining power in the country and the rise of the Labour Party. 

Edward as Prince of Wales
Luckily for Churchill the head of the aristocracy, King George VI, was a staunch supporter of the
war. However had Churchill got his way in 1936, he might not have been.

One of the reasons most of country regarded Winston as a bit of a joke before he became Prime Minister was how he had acted during the Abdication Crisis of 1936. Churchill had encouraged the King Edward VIII to "Retire to Windsor Castle! Summon the Beefeaters! Raise the drawbridge! Close the gates! And dare Baldwin to drag you out!"

Four years later and, while Churchill was promising 'blood, sweat toil and tears', Edward was enjoying himself in neutral Spain and hanging out with Nazi sympathisers. It took a threat from Churchill to court martial the former king to get him to return to the UK, which fortunately thwarted a plan by German agents to kidnap him. Churchill then sent Edward to the Bahamas for the rest of the war where the FBI kept a close watch on him.

Had Britain lost in 1940 Hitler would have put Edward back on the throne. The new king would not have lacked in aristocratic sycophants for his court.

The Conservative and Unionist Party

Archibald Maule Ramsay
One of Churchill's more surprising acts of 1940 was in November when, on the death of Neville Chamberlain, he took the job of leader of the Conservative Party.

Throughout the war he portrayed himself as a man above party politics, who led a coalition government on behalf of the whole nation. What's more, most of the party didn't even like him. When Churchill first came to parliament as Prime Minister he was greeted by thunderous applause from the opposition benches, but silence from his own party.

Perhaps one of the events that influenced his decision was on the 20th May that year when the police raided the house of Tyler Kent, a cipher clerk at the US embassy. Kent had been stealing top secret documents, but in his house Special Branch found the 'Red Book,' a list of the 235 people who were members of something called the Right Club. Amongst the names were the 5th Duke of Wellington, the Lords Redesdale and Lymington, A K Chesterton, who would go on to form the National Front after the war, William Joyce, better known to history as Lord Haw-Haw, and several Conservative Party MPs. Worse, the club itself had been formed by the Scottish Unionist MP Archibald Maule Ramsay.

A minor Scottish aristocrat, Ramsay had been part of the January Club, formed by Oswald Moseley to allow his Blackshirts to mingle with figures from the establishment. Ramsay shared Moseley's anti-semitism. When he formed the Right Club he had said "Our first objective was to clear the Conservative Party of Jewish influence ". Ramsay, it seems, had been using Kent to get hold of secret correspondence between Churchill and Roosevelt. He intended to release selective telegrams with the purpose of stopping America entering the war. The Right Club had so far spent the war giving out leaflets and calling for a negotiated peace to end what they called "a Jew's war".

"Chips" Channon
The Right Club were on the extreme of the Conservative Party, but many more moderate Tories had been torn between admiration of Hitler for his authoritarianism, and fear of German expansionism. As most of them believed Britain had become decadent and was in decline, a large number believed Hitler would win the war anyway. Many simply detested Churchill who they regarded as a vulgar showman, and a traitor for crossing the floor to join the Liberals. Sir Henry "Chips" Channon, an old fashioned Tory in that he was stinking rich but thick as pigshit, reported at the height of Churchill's popularity with the people in 1940 that "Feeling in the Carlton Club is running high against him."

Ramsay was to spend most of the rest of the war in Brixton prison, but by 1944 Conservative MPs were campaigning to have him released. Churchill was acutely aware of the potential for the Tory right to ally with the defeatists, and those who simply thought he was doing a rubbish job of PM, creating a block of MPs who could vote him out of office. Becoming leader of the party was his way of controlling it.

And control it he did. With help of the Labour Party, the Liberals and the Trade Unions, Churchill commanded a national coalition like no other before or since. At a political level, Britain's war effort was run better than that of any other combatant on either side in the war.

We really were all in it together, but next time to you hear the Daily Mail, Daily Express or some right wing politician telling you that, just remember that some people weren't quite in it as much as everyone else.


Was Montagu Norman a Nazi Sympathiser? The Telegraph 31 July 2013
The Nazi's British bankers Independent 30 March 1997
Winston's War: Churchill, 1940-1945 by Max Hastings
Aristocrats: Power, Grace And Decadence by Lawrence James

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Five Things Lawrence Didn't Do In Arabia - And Five He Did

One hundred years ago this month, a young British Army intelligence officer in Cairo was getting ready for a mission that would change his life.

The war was not going well. On the Western Front the Battle of the Somme had dissolved into a bloody stalemate. In the Middle East things weren't much better. The previous year had seen the failed attack on the Turks at Gallipoli, whilst in April 1916 General Townshend and his army had surrendered at Kut, in modern Iraq. What the nation needed was a hero.

The man who decided he was going to be that hero was T.E. Lawrence. An above averagely talented novelist, he enjoyed an above averagely exciting First World War. Had he kept these talents separate he would now be largely forgotten as both writer and war hero, but by combining them he made himself a legend.

The myth has largely eclipsed the man, but as he mostly invented it himself he can't really complain. So what is the truth?

First, what didn't he do.

1. Lead the Revolt


Sirs not appearing in this film.
The Arab Revolt which broke out in June 1916 was nominally led by Ali ibn Hussein, who had been
appointed Emir of Mecca by the Ottomans.

However the actual fighting was done by his sons. Eldest Ali held the southern front around Mecca. Second son Abdullah fought in the east, against both the Ottomans and the rising power of the Saudis. Third son Feisal was in the west. That put him in the better position for getting British help, but his ambitions also made him the more pliable character, and hence the favourite son with His Majesty's government.

A host of British and French officers went to help the Arabs. Colonels Pierce C Joyce and Stewart Francis Newcombe were the vital links during the initial stages of the Revolt, which happened whilst Lawrence was still at his desk in Cairo. When he eventually arrived in Feisel's camp in October 1916 he joined a growing team of European advisers.

Lawrence only become associated with the Revolt in the public eye after the war, when American film maker Lowell Thomas opened his film With Allenby in Palestine in Covent Garden in 1919. The launch was accompanied by exotic dancing girls and the band of the Welsh Guards, whilst Lawrence posed for publicity shots in Arab costume. The image of the clean-cut hero in the desert created such a contrast to the bloody horrors of the Western Front that it was a huge hit and soon the film was soon being billed as With Allenby in Palestine and Lawrence in Arabia, giving the colonel (as he then was) equal billing with his general.

The Arabs themselves were now only so much colourful scenery. To the public Lawrence now was the Arab Revolt.

2. Pioneer attacks on the railway

Lawrence of Arabia was here
The tactics Lawrence is most associated with are the daring attacks on the Hejaz Railway. The initial stages of the Revolt involved fairly conventional warfare, but by 1917 the rebels were in a position to attack the Achilles Heal of the Ottoman forces, the slender rail link between Medina and Damascus. Attacking the railway tied up large numbers of Turkish soldiers and prevented the 12,000 troops in Medina from coming to the aid of the rest of the army fighting the decisive battles with Allenby in Palestine.

Initial attacks on the railway line were led by Colonel Newcombe, and then in February 1917 Lieutenant H Garland first blew up a moving train using a mine of his own devising. After that Colonel Joyce was kept busy supplying explosives to attack the line. Lawrence did eventually join in himself, but Newcombe, Garland and Joyce were the pioneers of the tactic. Still, better late than never.

3. Cross Sinai in two days

The real Lawrence
Amongst the heroics documented by Lawrence in his book The Seven Pillars of Wisdom is his crossing of the Sinai desert in two days, to bring news of the fall of Aqaba to Allenby's headquarters in Cairo. The adventurer Michael Asher tried and failed to emulate this feat, nearly killing himself and his camels in the process.

Having failed to live up to his hero, Asher took a look closer look at Lawrence's diary. He had scrupulously recorded where he pitched camp every night and this revealed, contrary what Lawrence himself actually wrote, that he crossed the Sinai in a more reasonable, if less remarkable, three days. This is still a pretty impressive adventure, especially in wartime, but it is not superhuman.

4. Lead a picked group of Arabs

Lawrence and his real friends
The theme of The Seven Pillars of Wisdom is how Lawrence inspires the Arabs but then in turn is dehumanised by the horrors of war. The trigger for this was apparently when he was captured whilst on a undercover reconnaissance in the town of Deraa. Like most of Lawrence's stories this is highly controversial, although there is no evidence it didn't happen either so we can give him the benefit of the doubt.

The result of this No More Mister Nice Guy approach and when he next went into battle it was at the head of a hand picked band of 200 cut-throats and brigands who had sworn personal loyalty to him, 60 of whom died in his service. The reality, as recorded by those who were there, is rather more ordinary. He had an entourage of about a dozen Arabs who fetched his water, looked after his camels and presumably did his laundry. None were brigands, and none appeared to have actually died in battle.

5. Massacre prisoners

Dramatic license
The culmination of the new hardcore approach by Lawrence was when he led an attack on a column of retreating Turks in which he ordered that no prisoners were to be taken.

The battle is real enough, and was greatest single success the Arab army had against the Turks, wiping out a column of 1000 men, including Germans and Austrians. Lawrence wasn't the only European present. As well as other British officers there was the Frenchman Capitaine Rosario Pisani, commanding a battery of mountain guns. He'd been on the Aqaba mission too, although without the guns, but someone didn't make it into the film.

What actually happened though is still disputed by historians. What is not in doubt is that the Turks massacred the entire village of Tafas, although whether this happened before or after the battle is disputed. Either way though the Arabs had it in for the Turks. Lawrence later wrote to his brother that he ordered 250 prisoners, including Austrians and Germans, to be machine gunned. Nasty stuff.

However second hand accounts from Arabs officers who were there said Lawrence, and other British officers, tried to stop the killing. Other accounts have Lawrence tell of how he found what he witnessed "sickening". Even his brother didn't believe the claim Lawrence had ordered the prisoners shot, which he confessed to in a letter, but which doesn't actually appear in Lawrence's own book.

Why Lawrence should portray himself as a war criminal if he wasn't is one of the mysteries of the man. Maybe it was just for dramatic effect or maybe, like many returning soldiers, he really did feel a sense of guilt for his involvement in a war that was nowhere near as clean and honourable as he portrayed it.

So if Lawrence was a minor figure in the Revolt, and a braggart to boot, should we still read his book, or even remember him at all?

Yes, because here are five things he did do:

1. Understand guerrilla warfare

When British soldiers back in the Middle East in 2001, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom was being taken down from the bookshelf and dusted off. The reason is that Lawrence, the academic in uniform, understood the nature of the guerrilla war he was engaged in better than the professional soldiers he served alongside.

He wrote of the Arab army being like a 'gas', aiming to avoid pitched battles whilst engaging in hit-and-run tactics that caused maximum disruption with minimum casualties.

'Most wars are wars of contact, both forces striving into touch to avoid tactical surprise. Ours should be a war of detachment. We were to contain the enemy by the silent threat of a vast unknown desert., not disclosing ourselves till we attacked. The attack might be nominal, not directed against him, but against his stuff.; so it would not seek either his strength or his weakness, but his most accessible material.'

The British Army thought it knew how to fight guerrillas, but only Lawrence, the outsider, was able to understand how to be one. Today American Generals read Lawrence so they can understand too. 

2. Capture Aqaba

Real photo of the attack on Aqaba
Not all Lawrence's heroics were made up His capture of Aqaba was real. The port threatened the flank of the British forces in Palestine. It was protected from attack from the landward side by the desert the Arabs called 'al-Houl' meaning 'the terror', and was defended by three battalions of Turkish infantry.

The film has Lawrence riding off into the desert to persuade Anthony Quinn's Auda to stop taking Turkish money and joint the Revolt. In reality, whilst Auda had accepted Turkish gold in the past, he was very much fighting for Arab independence by this time.  Auda was with Lawrence from the beginning of the Aqaba mission and on the way rounded up 6-700 Arabs from his Howeitat tribe for the attack. The operation was at least as much Auda's as Lawrence's.

Director David Lean exaggerates the naval defences of Aqaba, which were minimal, although still enough to keep the Royal Navy away, and misses out the Turkish infantry battalion that was camped round the last well before the port. These were dealt with using classic guerrilla tactics. The Turks were first harassed by snipers until, after a day in the sun being shot at, they were finished off by a charge from Auda. All were either killed or captured. The port then fell with the help of the Royal Navy without a shot being fired.

It was an amazing victory by an irregular force over numbers of superior soldiers, and completely changed the strategic situation. The Arabs were now in a position to threaten the entire length of the Hejaz railway, as well as to move on to Damascus. For this battle alone, Lawrence deserves to be famous.

3. Co-ordinate the Revolt with Allenby  


Lawrence and Allenby
Sir Edmund Allenby arrived in Egypt in June 1917 with a reputation as being General Melchett style bloodthirsty bungler. In the deserts of Palestine though he found he calling, and his imaginative strategy led to him becoming the only genuine hero of the war the British Top Brass produced.

He was a month into the job Lawrence when captured Aquaba. Allenby immediately realised the potential of this act. The idea of coordinating the Arab Revolt with the British advance was Allenby's, not Lawrence's, but it was Lawrence who carried it out.

The Bedouin first of all tied down the Turkish forces, then cut their railway links, and finally covered the right flank of Allenby's army as it advanced on Damascus.

Lawrence's operation were not just with Arab irregulars, and he also led missions that consisted solely of British armoured cars and infantry on camels.

Lawrence was lucky to have such a dynamic general to work with, but he deserves credit both for realising the potential of guerrillas as support for a conventional force, and for actually carrying out Allenby's strategy.

4. Understand the Arabs


 Lawrence's problems weren't just military, they were also cultural. He knew the strengths and the
weaknesses of his irregular army. His strategy had to not only take advantage of their mobility, but also cover up their lack of discipline. Lawrence avoided casualties were possible, and kept plans simple.

He also knew what motivated the men to fight. He spoke their language and dressed like them, not just for reasons of vanity, but also because he alone of the British Mission understood their cause and their character.

However Lawrence also knew that he was living a big lie. He told the Bedouin they were fighting for Arab freedom, but he knew that France and Britain were not going to allow this. He negotiated to ensure that the Arab troops led the victorious army into Damascus, but he knew that the locals were going to spot that they hadn't been liberated by his ragged force, but by the heavy artillery of Allenby's men following on behind.

In 1918 European Empires covered almost the entire globe. However Lawrence, at least, realised this might not always be the case. 

5. Support Arab independence


Lawrence with Feisel in Paris
But Arab freedom would not come in Lawrence's lifetime. He knew he had sold the Arabs a lie, but he tried to make amends when the fighting was over.

He accompanied Prince Feisel to the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, became an adviser to the Colonial Office and attended the Cairo Conference of 1921. By this time Lawrence was famous, and he tried to use his popularity to help the cause of his Arab friends. At one point he suggested to the French hero General Foch that if he led a French army into Syria, he would lead an Arab one against him.

That didn't happen, and instead the Middle East was carved up to make the failed states whose conflicts make up our nightly news. Peace in Arabia would not be one of Lawrence's legacies.

Instead he left an insightful journal of one of the twentieth century's first successful guerrilla insurgencies, created a new doctrine of desert warfare, that would later be adopted by the Long Range Desert Group and the original SAS in the next world war, and inspired one of the greatest films of all time.

That's quite a life by any standards.


The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence (1922)
Lawrence: The Uncrowned King of Arabia by Michael Asher (1999)
The Arab Revolt 1916-18 by David Murphy (2008)