Accidental Anarchist: Life Without Government Storyville


Accidental Anarchist: Life Without Government

A Storyville documentary: Carne Ross was a career diplomat who resigned over the Iraq war. One man's epic journey from government insider to anarchist.


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Transcript


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300,000 people have made the dangerous journey

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to Europe this year.

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We face completely different circumstances in the 21st century

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from the 20th century.

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The rise of these global problems like climate change,

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economic instability.

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There's a really deep crisis mounting, I think,

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of people feeling we're not in control of things.

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These things are running out of control.

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It's almost like a despair.

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WAILING

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This is where I had the security vetting to join the Foreign Office,

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where I was interrogated and cross-examined on the details of

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my personal life, my sexual history,

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my political leanings,

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my proclivities for drinking and gambling,

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the origin of my Eastern European relations.

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All was discussed in great detail.

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I threw myself at the Foreign Office.

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They could have whatever part of me they wanted gladly.

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You give us your personal secrets

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and you belong to us and you become one of us.

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I started to think of the world

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through the prism of we rather than I.

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"What would Britain want in the circumstance?"

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rather than what I thought was right.

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I became a diplomat in 1989,

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when the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet empire collapsed.

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Western democracy and capitalism were victorious.

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We were the good guys, making the world a better place.

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It really felt like the dawn of a new era of peace and prosperity.

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My first job was up on that top floor up there,

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in the Western European department.

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Down there, that office there in the corner,

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that used to be my office when I was speech writer

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for the Foreign Secretary, whose office is in fact up there.

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At the end of 1997,

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I was posted to the British mission to the United Nations in New York.

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I was 31. My main responsibility was Iraq

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and its weapons of mass destruction.

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This was the diplomatic front line against dictatorship and aggression.

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As in World War II, Britain was standing against evil.

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We all believed it.

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This is where we passed resolutions on Iraq,

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on weapons inspections and sanctions

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on Iraq as a whole and, above all, on the Iraqi people.

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And, you know, I would be sitting behind my ambassador

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in one of those chairs where,

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you know, all of the ambassadors would raise their hands

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to get this resolution through.

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You know, you can see what this feels like.

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It's a very rarefied place.

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The reality of Iraqi people is definitely not here.

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What sanctions did to the Iraqi people was horrific.

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We knew they were suffering, and yet it wasn't real suffering to us,

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it was just paper suffering.

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We'd be in talks in Washington where people would say, you know,

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"I hear those reports too, but I'm sorry,

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"containment's the priority here."

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It was like literally ordering...

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our needs of security over the needs of ordinary people,

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and there was considerable suffering.

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I was a ferocious negotiator.

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I took pride in being ferocious.

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I took pride in how quickly I could articulate our arguments

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and put down any counterargument.

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You know, that was my job,

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and I was extremely effective at it and had a reputation for it.

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And you know, personally and on a professional level,

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that was something that was a cause of pride for me.

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And now I look back on that and think,

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"How on earth did I feel proud of that?"

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I do... I feel much more today, I feel shame.

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When I've met Iraqis who lived through that,

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I can hardly look them in the eye, I feel so ashamed.

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One Iraqi I met after all of this said,

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"So you were part of the genocide of my people."

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That's not an easy thing to hear.

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It's pretty... I was pretty upset by that, and there's some truth in it.

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My apartment looked downtown,

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so I had an extraordinary view of downtown Manhattan.

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I could see the Hudson on one side and the East River on the other.

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It was an amazing view.

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And my apartment looks directly down towards the World Trade Center.

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The two towers were in the middle of my view.

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These photos were taken from my window.

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For weeks afterwards, the smoke continued,

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and there was ash on my windowsill for weeks afterwards

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and I'd wake up every morning and see this column of smoke.

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Uh...

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Yeah.

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And you just felt the drums of war beating.

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You just felt this momentum, this train had started,

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and there was no way anybody was going to stop it.

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Good afternoon.

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On my orders,

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the United States military has begun strikes against Al-Qaeda

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terrorist training camps and military installations

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of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

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Three months after the American-British conquest of Afghanistan,

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I was sent to the British Embassy in Kabul.

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We were flown about in a C-130 Hercules. I loved it.

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We had bodyguards who themselves had an escort of Royal Marines

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because it was so dangerous.

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This guy was called Khalili.

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He's a leader of the Hazara in Afghanistan.

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Me with my little notebook, while Mr Khalili,

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"I'm here to relate to you what the British government

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"feels about Afghanistan.

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"Grateful if you could tell me what you think."

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I think that's me.

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Yeah, it is me.

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It's the perfect romantic image of the diplomat, isn't it?

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Sitting with the Afghan tribesmen, discussing the political future.

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They were like, "Don't claim to me you're going to be here

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"in perpetuity, help us build democracy.

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"We know exactly what that means."

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When I got home to New York,

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I was deeply troubled by everything I'd been through.

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I got married, which was wonderful,

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but I no longer believed in my work, in the cause I had signed up to.

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I had to stop.

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So I took a year off.

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I spent my days in the New York University library.

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I just read and read, often randomly picking books off the shelves

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around my desk.

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I was trying to rediscover my purpose.

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I was looking for political ideals that I could believe in.

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I was groping my way towards a better way of doing things.

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Meanwhile, just 30 or so blocks north at the United Nations,

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in my former workplace, my government was preparing for war.

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The Iraq War, and what my government said about it, would change my life.

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Saddam Hussein's intentions have never changed.

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He is not developing the missiles for self-defence.

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These are missiles that Iraq wants in order to project power,

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to threaten, and to deliver chemical, biological

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and, if we let him, nuclear warheads.

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Tonight, British servicemen and women are engaged

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from air, land and sea. Their mission -

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to remove Saddam Hussein from power and disarm Iraq

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of its weapons of mass destruction.

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But I knew that my government's real assessment of Iraq's alleged threat

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was very different from what our leaders were claiming in public.

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Although I was on sabbatical,

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I was in close touch with friends at the UN Security Council

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and the weapons inspection body which I had helped set up.

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And as the war played out,

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I came to this cafe to meet one of Britain's chief weapons inspectors,

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my colleague Dr David Kelly.

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David Kelly had just given a talk at The New School,

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where I was a fellow,

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and afterwards we had lunch here.

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We were talking about the claims that the Government made before

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the invasion that Iraq posed a threat.

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You know, we were just, I guess...

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..quizzical. I didn't really understand it and nor did he.

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BIG BEN CHIMES

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When David returned to London, he briefed a journalist

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off the record that the Government had exaggerated

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the capabilities of Saddam Hussein's WMD.

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He became the centre of a terrible and bitter political row

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about the lies the British government had told

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to justify the invasion of Iraq.

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NEWSREADER: Dr Kelly is a scientist with long experience

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of Iraq's weapons programmes.

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He came forward earlier this month and told his bosses he'd had

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an unauthorised meeting in a London hotel

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with BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan.

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David was revealed as the source of the story,

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and he was basically hounded by the Government.

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The MOD, his employer, basically hung him out to dry

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and eventually he testified in Parliament.

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My conversation with him was primarily about Iraq,

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about his experiences in Iraq, and the consequences of the war,

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which was the failure to use weapons of mass destruction during the war

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and the failure by May 22nd to find such weapons. That was...

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This quiet, decent man was kicked around like a political football.

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Why did you feel it was incumbent on you to go along with the requests

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that clearly had been made to you to be...

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thrown to the wolves,

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not only to the media but also to this committee?

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I think that's a line of questioning

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you'd have to ask the Ministry of Defence. Sorry.

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I reckon you're chaff, you're being thrown up to divert our probing.

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Have you ever felt like a fall guy?

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I mean, you've been set up, haven't you?

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That's not a question I can answer. But do you feel that?

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No, I accept the process that's going on...

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I'm sorry? I accept the process that's happening.

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I imagine he found the public attention unbearable.

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I wrote to him, you know, expressing my solidarity with him,

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but he didn't reply.

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NEWSREADER: Police are expected to confirm later today

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that a body found in Oxfordshire woodland is that of

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the Ministry of Defence weapons expert David Kelly.

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Dr Kelly's wife has told a friend that he'd become extremely stressed

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at being caught in the middle of the row between the BBC

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and the government over its use of intelligence...

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This inquiry will look at the circumstances

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surrounding Dr Kelly's death.

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It's expected to look at his questioning earlier this week...

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TONY BLAIR: It's an absolutely terrible tragedy.

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I am profoundly saddened for David Kelly and for his family.

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He was a fine public servant.

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David's suicide shocked me to the quick.

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The last time I was here was David's funeral.

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I came with several of my colleagues from the Foreign Office

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and the Ministry of Defence.

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We were all devastated.

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And I remember one of them just wept copiously,

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copiously throughout the service.

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But it was completely overwhelmed by the blaring media circus

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that David's death had become.

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And that was, of course, a breach, a moment...

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..of rupture, after which there was no going back.

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Trust, my trust...

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..in government, my political leaders,

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to an extent, I'm afraid to say my colleagues too,

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was destroyed...

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..once and for all.

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No-one really knows,

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but an estimated half a million Iraqis have died

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as a result of this unnecessary war.

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I resigned from the Foreign Office after sending evidence in secret

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to the first official enquiry into the war.

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I wanted to make my evidence public at the time,

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but I was warned that if I did I'd be prosecuted

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under the Official Secrets Act.

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And, to be honest, I was also scared of being hounded, like David.

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Eventually, an MP friend demanded my evidence in Parliament,

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and if Parliament asked for it, I couldn't be prosecuted.

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Well, today, evidence will be published that says the government

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did not really believe that...

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In his submission to it, Mr Ross said,

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"At no time did Her Majesty's government assess that

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"Iraq's WMD posed a threat to the UK."

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The more we learn about the beginning of the war,

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the more uncertain the rationale for it seems to be.

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There was a new enquiry.

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I was asked to testify again.

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Mr Ross, you were a first secretary

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in the UK mission at the United Nations in New York

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from late '97 to June 2002, I think.

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Yes. And we'll be asking Mr Ross

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for evidence based on his recollections and insights

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into the deliberations and actions at the United Nations

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on Iraq, which are relevant to our terms of reference,

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where Mr Ross's role gave him first-hand knowledge

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on which to draw in giving evidence to this inquiry.

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It was realistic, or wasn't it,

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that Iraq could soon have posed a threat to...a WMD-based threat?

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I found this claim absolutely extraordinary.

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I mean, we never believed that in the time I worked on it.

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We never argued it to allies or others.

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And nobody ever believed that these things actually existed.

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We thought there might be one or two dismantled devices

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left in some kind of warehouse somewhere,

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but there was no hard evidence of scuds being wheeled around

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in the desert, waiting to be fired.

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If there had been, we would have seen them.

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And the third part of the threat is the intention.

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Yep. And there was no evidence of that either.

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They had deliberately mislead the public by claiming that

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Iraq was a threat when it wasn't,

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and that there were no alternatives to war when there were.

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To lie to the public and to the servicemen and women

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you're sending to war, it's the gravest, gravest of disservices.

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Government is established to provide security for the people,

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and to lie about war, to make false decisions about war,

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that's the worst thing any government can possibly do.

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When I was at the UN, you could pretty much guarantee

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that the people most affected were never in the room.

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I set up an NGO to try to fix this, to make diplomacy fairer.

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We advised South Sudan before their independence,

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Western Sahara.

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What we try to do is advise our clients on how to

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manoeuvre diplomatically.

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Syria coalition - desperately difficult issue, of course.

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They are an external opposition movement fighting the Assad regime.

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Somaliland, where the overwhelming majority of the population

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want to be an independent country.

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Independent Diplomat, it's a diplomatic advisory group.

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It's a group of former diplomats and international lawyers

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who advise democratic governments, countries and political movements

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around the world on diplomatic strategy.

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Both the work of Independent Diplomat

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and my own personal philosophy is driven by the belief

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that people should be part of the decisions that affect them.

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Around this time, I was sitting awake at three in the morning

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with my young daughter, watching television.

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By chance, I heard about complexity theory.

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It changed the way I saw the world.

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I grew up believing that government and neo-classical economics

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is like a kind of machine.

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These systems are complicated, but once you've worked out

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how all the cogs turn and which way the levers go,

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it's a matter of cause and effect, input and output.

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But in fact, the world is not complicated, knowable,

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it's complex.

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Billions of actors in constant motion,

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acting and reacting to each other and reacting back again.

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A highly-connected, constantly fluid state between order and chaos.

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Top down authority doesn't work in a complex system

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because the state of system is fundamentally unknowable.

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We can never be sure what the consequence of any one action will be.

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I experienced this for myself working in government.

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And I'm not the only one.

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Modernity and the movement of money and the movement of ideas

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means that power is sucked out of local communities

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and ends up being located almost nowhere.

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We run around thinking maybe the power's in parliament,

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or maybe the power's with the bankers,

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or maybe the power's with the journalists.

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Politicians don't really, in many ways,

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have the kind of power that people imagine.

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In fact, most of the life of a politician

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is desperately trying to eke anything out.

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There isn't, really, any power here.

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You get here and it's like The Wizard Of Oz.

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But somebody has power, don't they?

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I mean, somebody has the power to make the great decisions of state,

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taxation, or whether to wage a war or not.

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These are real powers. You're completely right.

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Theoretically, the Secretary of State can wake up in the morning

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and make a huge decision.

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But if you look at Britain, the reality is,

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it's unbelievably difficult in practice to do almost anything.

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To wage a war? Is it so difficult to wage a war?

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It doesn't seem to have been too difficult in the last few years.

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Oddly, waging a war is, ironically,

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one of the things that is easier to do,

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because it's about other people's countries.

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THEY SING AND CHANT

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Complexity theory tells us that when a system reaches a critical state,

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only one tiny event can make the whole thing shift.

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When Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Tunisia,

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he tipped the whole region into a state of revolution and turmoil.

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The Arab Spring - the consequences are still playing out today.

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We think we need to be big to be powerful,

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but in fact, we can be small.

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In the US and the West,

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anger has been building for a long time

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as a tiny few grow immensely rich while everyone else gets poorer.

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In 2011, a small protest lead to

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an extraordinary spontaneous mass movement

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that spread to 1,000 towns and cities worldwide.

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It began just a few blocks from my own home.

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This is the home of Occupy Wall Street.

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This is where the movement began,

0:23:130:23:15

where people began staying in this park,

0:23:150:23:17

having meetings about the concerns of Occupy Wall Street.

0:23:170:23:21

Funnily enough, they had mass meetings called General Assemblies,

0:23:230:23:26

which is a bit like... Not exactly like the meeting

0:23:260:23:29

of the General Assembly in the UN, rather the opposite,

0:23:290:23:32

because these were mass meetings that anybody could participate in.

0:23:320:23:37

THEY CHANT

0:23:370:23:40

Occupy's great achievement was to make inequality a political issue.

0:23:470:23:50

Some meetings I attended were chaotic, frustrating, even boring,

0:23:500:23:55

but Occupy spawned groups and networks

0:23:550:23:57

that turned anger into action.

0:23:570:23:59

Occupy everything!

0:23:590:24:02

Everybody has the potential for leadership,

0:24:020:24:04

and that people are naturally collaborative,

0:24:040:24:06

and that given the opportunity,

0:24:060:24:08

people want to work together in community to solve mutual problems.

0:24:080:24:12

Because I think inherently we understand

0:24:120:24:14

that we have power together rather than that sort of like

0:24:140:24:17

what's taught to us, which is this dog-eat-dog notion of competition.

0:24:170:24:22

We need to be able to unlock our imagination and to be able to

0:24:220:24:26

even dream out of that paradigm. And how do you dream?

0:24:260:24:29

How do I dream? I dream by helping people take over the streets.

0:24:290:24:32

Then in October 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit New York City.

0:24:350:24:39

Over four million people have entered their fourth day

0:24:440:24:47

without power across 12 states,

0:24:470:24:50

following the devastating superstorm Sandy.

0:24:500:24:54

Concern is growing for people who lack food, water and heat.

0:24:540:24:58

The hallways are dark, the building is dark, the whole project is dark.

0:24:580:25:02

It's like a warzone out here.

0:25:020:25:04

The morning of the storm,

0:25:080:25:10

a couple of us started activating these networks

0:25:100:25:13

that had been sort of grown up around the Occupy movement

0:25:130:25:17

and solidified around Occupy Wall Street.

0:25:170:25:19

We were able to use networks to say,

0:25:230:25:25

actually, this is an incredibly effective way to organise.

0:25:250:25:27

Much more effective than the Red Cross and FEMA

0:25:270:25:30

and other institutions that are set up to do relief.

0:25:300:25:33

I was driving back soon after Sandy with a volunteer

0:25:360:25:39

who had not been a part of the Occupy Wall Street network,

0:25:390:25:42

and as we were driving back she said,

0:25:420:25:44

"You know, I always thought that government was going to be there

0:25:440:25:47

"to protect me and what I'm learning is that it's not,

0:25:470:25:49

"that that's a lie that I've been told."

0:25:490:25:51

And I think these moments like Sandy are moments where we expand

0:25:510:25:56

the perception of what's really going on.

0:25:560:25:58

These crises are only getting worse and worse.

0:26:020:26:04

There's these waves that are intensifying

0:26:040:26:06

and the crises themselves are going to keep

0:26:060:26:09

creating these cracks where more and more people come in.

0:26:090:26:12

So, in the most demanding crisis,

0:26:140:26:16

ground-up networks work better than top-down Government.

0:26:160:26:20

This was what I was looking for,

0:26:200:26:22

a politics where the people with most at stake were in control.

0:26:220:26:26

Self-organisation, no hierarchy.

0:26:260:26:28

This is a political philosophy with a long history,

0:26:310:26:34

a philosophy that most regard as radical and totally impractical -

0:26:340:26:38

anarchism.

0:26:380:26:40

Anarchism has a pretty broad sweep,

0:26:420:26:45

but the basic conception is that humans have a fundamental

0:26:450:26:51

need and right for free creative work

0:26:510:26:56

and life under their own control,

0:26:560:26:59

meaning any kind of hierarchy, domination,

0:26:590:27:04

master-servant relation,

0:27:040:27:07

boss-employee relation,

0:27:070:27:09

any such relation is going to have to justify itself.

0:27:090:27:12

But if it can't, it ought to be dismantled

0:27:120:27:15

and replaced by a more free, co-operative,

0:27:150:27:19

participatory society.

0:27:190:27:21

Don't you have an overly optimistic view of human nature?

0:27:210:27:25

Well, the other view also does.

0:27:250:27:28

It relies on the optimistic view that if we have leadership

0:27:280:27:32

it will be benign.

0:27:320:27:34

The evidence of history is overwhelmingly against that.

0:27:340:27:38

So, yes, we're not angels,

0:27:380:27:41

but is the solution to that to create structures and institutions

0:27:410:27:46

which bring out the worst in us?

0:27:460:27:49

What does an ideal anarchist society look like?

0:27:490:27:53

Probably the peak of modern anarchism was Spain in the 1930s.

0:27:530:27:58

I first learned about the anarchist revolution in Spain

0:28:080:28:11

from a book I love by the English writer George Orwell.

0:28:110:28:14

The anarchists were still in virtual control of Catalonia

0:28:200:28:23

and the revolution was still in full swing.

0:28:230:28:26

But when one came straight from England,

0:28:280:28:30

Barcelona was something startling and overwhelming.

0:28:300:28:33

It was when anarchism was actually happening.

0:28:400:28:43

Anarchism was actually put into practice as a political philosophy

0:28:440:28:47

and this is virtually the only time that it happened in recent years.

0:28:470:28:52

But Spain was in the midst of a terrible civil war.

0:28:550:28:58

SIREN WAILS

0:28:580:29:01

Orwell had gone to join the republicans

0:29:040:29:06

fighting General Franco's fascists.

0:29:060:29:08

But he realised that in Catalonia,

0:29:080:29:10

an extraordinary anarchist revolution was underway.

0:29:100:29:13

TRANSLATED FROM SPANISH:

0:29:160:29:19

That's extraordinary!

0:29:430:29:44

"It was the first time that I had ever been in a town

0:30:100:30:12

"when the working class was in the saddle.

0:30:120:30:15

"Waiters and shop workers looked you in the face

0:30:150:30:18

"and treated you as an equal.

0:30:180:30:19

"Above all, there was a belief in the revolution and the future.

0:30:210:30:24

"A feeling of having suddenly emerged

0:30:250:30:27

"into an era of equality and freedom.

0:30:270:30:29

"Human beings were trying to behave as human beings

0:30:310:30:34

"and not as cogs in the capitalist machine.

0:30:340:30:36

"There was much in it that I didn't understand.

0:30:380:30:40

"In some ways I didn't even like it, but I recognised it immediately

0:30:410:30:45

"as a state of affairs worth fighting for."

0:30:450:30:47

It was a remarkable and unprecedented attempt to create

0:30:520:30:55

a better and equal society without a state,

0:30:550:30:58

without religion, without capitalism,

0:30:580:31:01

where the people managed their own affairs,

0:31:010:31:04

workers ran their own factories,

0:31:040:31:05

peasants took over the land,

0:31:050:31:07

women fought alongside men.

0:31:070:31:09

But in 1937, Stalin, the republic's main backer,

0:31:110:31:16

decided that he could not allow

0:31:160:31:18

a genuine people's revolution to succeed.

0:31:180:31:20

HE BLOWS WHISTLE

0:31:370:31:39

GUNFIRE

0:31:390:31:41

This is where the communists attacked the anarchists.

0:31:590:32:03

The anarchist's revolution was brought to an end

0:32:030:32:06

and it happened right here at the telephone exchange.

0:32:060:32:10

Orwell witnessed the tragic end of the anarchists' revolution

0:32:120:32:15

on the streets of Barcelona.

0:32:150:32:17

Stalin's intervention undermined the republicans

0:32:200:32:23

and helped them lose the civil war.

0:32:230:32:25

The fascists won. It was a tragic moment.

0:32:250:32:28

Although fascist rule ended in 1975,

0:32:380:32:41

today Spain still suffers wide-spread economic depravation,

0:32:410:32:45

high unemployment and inequality.

0:32:450:32:47

But in a village in southern Spain,

0:32:490:32:51

the people took matters into their own hands.

0:32:510:32:53

Anarchist ideals live on.

0:32:540:32:55

It's a very interesting painting because it shows

0:33:000:33:02

the march of the villagers of Marinaleda towards El Humoso,

0:33:020:33:06

which is a farm that was owned by the local aristocrat, disused,

0:33:060:33:10

and the villagers occupied the farm.

0:33:100:33:12

You led the original occupation of this land.

0:33:160:33:20

In austerity-hit Spain, millions have lost their homes,

0:34:360:34:40

leaving some to commit suicide.

0:34:400:34:42

But in Marinaleda, the villagers are building houses for each other.

0:34:420:34:45

And how does that work?

0:34:460:34:48

People have two options, OK.

0:34:480:34:52

If they have their jobs and they cannot work here,

0:34:520:34:56

they have to pay monthly an amount of money.

0:34:560:34:58

Right. And the second option is working here

0:34:580:35:02

and you don't have to pay anything

0:35:020:35:04

because you are giving your job here. Right.

0:35:040:35:07

You are building your own house.

0:35:070:35:09

And people in the village participate in building the houses,

0:35:100:35:14

but they don't know which one they're going to live in.

0:35:140:35:16

Yes. So they devote equal effort to whichever house they're building.

0:35:160:35:21

Because they build all the houses. All the houses are the same.

0:35:210:35:25

Yeah. And then after they build,

0:35:250:35:28

there is a raffle and they choose...

0:35:280:35:33

OK. ..one of them.

0:35:330:35:35

If you win the raffle, you get the best house.

0:35:350:35:38

I hope! I hope so!

0:35:380:35:39

So you're hoping that you're going to live in one of these?

0:35:390:35:42

Yes. Oh, that's great. That's great.

0:35:420:35:44

I think this system should be in everywhere.

0:35:440:35:48

Yeah.

0:35:480:35:49

But people like me can't build anything.

0:35:490:35:52

You know, I'm useless with my hands.

0:35:520:35:55

If I built one of these houses it would be a disaster.

0:35:550:35:57

No, because you can make what you put between the bricks.

0:35:570:36:02

Oh, the cement. I could make the cement.

0:36:020:36:04

HE LAUGHS Cement. You can do that,

0:36:040:36:07

so you are participating. Yes.

0:36:070:36:09

You are working for your own house, so...

0:36:090:36:12

Yeah, I could mix the cement.

0:36:120:36:14

I could probably manage that.

0:36:140:36:16

IN SPANISH: Yes.

0:36:270:36:28

Yes.

0:36:340:36:35

Uh-huh.

0:37:190:37:20

HORN BEEPS

0:37:280:37:30

SIREN WAILS

0:37:320:37:34

I got back from Spain and went to the office.

0:37:400:37:42

I spend a lot of my time asking rich people for money to do our work.

0:37:440:37:49

I met the most extraordinary, brave woman

0:37:490:37:52

from the occupied Western Sahara -

0:37:520:37:54

which is illegally occupied by Morocco -

0:37:540:37:56

who is a human rights defender,

0:37:560:37:58

has been tortured, solitary confinement,

0:37:580:38:01

separated from her children for decades.

0:38:010:38:03

A wonderful, brave woman who I've met many times over the years.

0:38:050:38:08

She's an absolute inspiration.

0:38:080:38:11

And whenever I see her I feel really good and I feel really kind of...

0:38:110:38:14

my tank fills up. And, fairly recently this was,

0:38:140:38:18

I went back to my desk and I was about to send an e-mail to

0:38:180:38:21

Richard Branson's foundation to ask for money for one of our projects

0:38:210:38:26

and in my in-box was an e-mail telling me that

0:38:260:38:29

Branson's Virgin organisation has just organised

0:38:290:38:33

a kite-surfing festival in the occupied Western Sahara.

0:38:330:38:38

And it just came home to me that we are dependent on the very people

0:38:380:38:45

who are the status quo to change that status quo.

0:38:450:38:48

It doesn't make sense.

0:38:480:38:50

There is something wrong with this model.

0:38:500:38:52

And I'm really, really struggling with that right now.

0:38:530:38:56

Then I began to read about an extraordinary story,

0:39:000:39:03

about anarchism in action thousands of miles away.

0:39:030:39:07

And it all begins here.

0:39:070:39:08

This is the Turkish island of Imrali.

0:39:120:39:14

There's nothing on this island except a prison,

0:39:140:39:17

and for 20 years there was only one prisoner here,

0:39:170:39:20

serving a life sentence for treason.

0:39:200:39:23

HE SPEAKS OWN LANGUAGE

0:39:230:39:25

Abdullah Ocalan founded the PKK,

0:39:310:39:34

a militant organisation that fought Turkey

0:39:340:39:36

to protect the political rights of the Kurds.

0:39:360:39:38

While he was in solitary confinement,

0:39:440:39:46

Ocalan read a book that changed everything for him.

0:39:460:39:48

The Ecology Of Freedom by Murray Bookchin.

0:39:500:39:52

Bookchin was a political thinker who lived in the Lower East Side

0:39:580:40:01

of New York, where I live today.

0:40:010:40:03

He himself had been inspired by the Spanish anarchist revolution

0:40:030:40:07

in the 1930s.

0:40:070:40:08

Spanish anarchism created a political culture

0:40:100:40:14

that spoke to the deepest feelings of the culture

0:40:140:40:18

of the people themselves.

0:40:180:40:20

It was not a party, it was not only a movement,

0:40:200:40:24

it was above all a whole education, a whole way of life,

0:40:240:40:28

a way to live.

0:40:280:40:30

In this sense, it was a truly people's movement.

0:40:300:40:33

It was not invented in the British Museum, like socialism.

0:40:330:40:38

He explored, he went back to first principles.

0:40:380:40:41

What is it that works?

0:40:410:40:43

How do people really interact face-to-face?

0:40:430:40:46

How do people live richly?

0:40:460:40:48

And from that he developed, you know, what became Communalism,

0:40:480:40:52

but a theory of anarchism, basically,

0:40:520:40:54

of a democratic anarchism of people interacting,

0:40:540:40:58

making decisions face-to-face.

0:40:580:41:01

And he also blended that with ecology.

0:41:010:41:04

The thing that we have to recognise, in my opinion,

0:41:040:41:09

is that there are in the world today

0:41:090:41:12

millions of people who, under different names...

0:41:120:41:16

..are really anarchists.

0:41:170:41:18

Deep in the culture of the people is the desire to regain their power,

0:41:200:41:24

to create their own institutions,

0:41:240:41:27

to create their own life ways, to take control of their lives.

0:41:270:41:31

When Abdullah Ocalan read Bookchin, he decided this was the answer.

0:41:330:41:37

He adapted Bookchin's ideas for the Kurdish struggle.

0:41:370:41:40

This was self-government without a state for a people without a state.

0:41:400:41:44

And he persuaded his followers to adopt the philosophy.

0:41:450:41:47

And these ideas are coming to life in a country at war.

0:41:500:41:53

Syria.

0:41:540:41:55

So, this is a map of Syria.

0:41:570:41:58

And where I'm going to go is into Rojava,

0:41:590:42:04

which is basically this area here, under Kurdish control.

0:42:040:42:07

And they control a band of territory

0:42:080:42:10

sort of going along like this, all the way to about here.

0:42:100:42:13

But I'll be floating around here, visiting the various kind of towns.

0:42:150:42:19

ISIS are up here.

0:42:190:42:21

They come across here, basically, in a line up here, more or less,

0:42:210:42:25

including Mosul,

0:42:250:42:26

so I'll be keeping in this bit.

0:42:260:42:28

It's dangerous, a bit dicey, I'm more than a little bit nervous,

0:42:280:42:32

but it sounds like everything I've been thinking about

0:42:320:42:35

is happening here. Anarchism in practice.

0:42:350:42:37

I want to go and see it for myself.

0:42:370:42:39

I didn't know I was going to have to take body armour

0:42:410:42:43

and a bloody helmet. I didn't know that.

0:42:430:42:45

Over there, Rojava, our goal.

0:42:560:42:58

Lots of Kurds trying to get across.

0:43:000:43:02

In this corner of Syria, something extraordinary going on.

0:43:080:43:13

Whether it is replicable,

0:43:130:43:15

whether there are things that we can learn for the rest of the world,

0:43:150:43:19

is what we are crossing the river for.

0:43:190:43:22

In the United Nations, where the future of Syria is being negotiated,

0:43:240:43:28

Rojava doesn't even get discussed.

0:43:280:43:29

The Syrian Kurds don't have a place at the table.

0:43:310:43:33

But something is happening here.

0:43:350:43:36

I intend to find out what it is.

0:43:360:43:38

And here we are in Syria.

0:43:490:43:50

Hi, how are you?

0:43:580:44:00

I'm Carne, nice to meet you.

0:44:000:44:01

Hi. Spas. Spas.

0:44:010:44:03

We've been met by the YPG, which is the Kurdish militia,

0:44:070:44:11

the Kurdish People's Army,

0:44:110:44:13

which has been fighting ISIS here in Syria.

0:44:130:44:15

The democratic experiment in Rojava came to life in 2012,

0:44:260:44:29

when large parts of the Assad regime collapsed in Syria.

0:44:290:44:33

Can the principles of anarchism - no hierarchy,

0:44:350:44:38

decisions made by the people, no state -

0:44:380:44:40

really be operating here?

0:44:400:44:42

This is a communal assembly,

0:45:280:45:29

where the villagers meet to decide their local affairs.

0:45:290:45:32

All the villagers take part - men and women.

0:46:020:46:05

There are Arabs and Assyrians,

0:46:050:46:07

and they're allowed to speak first to make sure that

0:46:070:46:09

non-Kurdish minorities are given a voice.

0:46:090:46:11

So, this is self-government in action.

0:46:330:46:35

And here is the level that matters in Rojava -

0:46:350:46:38

decisions for here are taken for here.

0:46:380:46:41

Decisions that affect here, as much as possible, are made here.

0:46:410:46:45

And if decisions need to go to a higher level,

0:46:450:46:48

then they'll go up to the next level of the legislative assembly.

0:46:480:46:52

But as far as possible,

0:46:530:46:55

decisions about things that matter here

0:46:550:46:57

are made in that room right there.

0:46:570:47:00

Decisions that can't be made locally are made here,

0:47:120:47:15

at the regional assembly.

0:47:150:47:16

After watching a debate, I met some of the representatives.

0:47:500:47:53

Do you feel, as a young person,

0:48:260:48:29

that your ideas are taken seriously in the assembly?

0:48:290:48:32

The first time it was hard on us. Yeah.

0:48:320:48:35

It was the first time that we had this young age in the parliament,

0:48:350:48:39

and everybody was new here, especially as a young woman.

0:48:390:48:45

They see new ideas, they see how we work in the Parliament,

0:48:450:48:51

they take our ideas seriously, and then they believe in it.

0:48:510:48:55

Here we are trying to build a system for the whole world

0:48:550:48:58

to take ideas from us.

0:48:580:49:00

I've been in a lot of crappy chambers

0:49:020:49:05

where you see people sitting,

0:49:050:49:07

like the Security Council Parliament,

0:49:070:49:10

blah, blah, blah.

0:49:100:49:11

This one, although it's a bit shabby,

0:49:110:49:14

it's kind of the best.

0:49:140:49:15

You could almost make a kind of inverse paradigm,

0:49:240:49:28

that the shabbier the collective chamber,

0:49:280:49:32

the better the democracy.

0:49:320:49:34

The more ornate and gilded the more...

0:49:340:49:38

..the more jaded the democracy, the less representative.

0:49:390:49:43

There's a real sense of having arrived somewhere

0:49:510:49:55

that's very special for me.

0:49:550:49:58

HE HUMS A TUNE

0:49:580:49:59

Books...

0:49:590:50:01

It's like, you know, for anarchists, this is like Republican Spain

0:50:030:50:08

during the Civil War.

0:50:080:50:10

Socks.

0:50:170:50:18

We're 8km from the ISIS front lines.

0:50:280:50:30

Nobody has a rank in the YPG, they just have teams,

0:50:340:50:38

this being a non-hierarchical society

0:50:380:50:43

based on anarchist philosophy.

0:50:430:50:45

But for a non-hierarchical army, they seem to have done pretty well.

0:50:450:50:49

Totally flattened.

0:51:150:51:17

Shooting from up here, obviously.

0:51:170:51:19

I'm not surprised civilians haven't wanted to come back here.

0:51:210:51:24

The YPG is the most effective ground force in the war against ISIS.

0:51:260:51:29

It controls about 30,000 square kilometres of territory,

0:51:310:51:34

an area the size of Belgium...

0:51:340:51:36

..with some support from American air strikes.

0:51:370:51:40

I don't know, is it OK to shake hands? Yes.

0:51:430:51:45

Hi, greetings.

0:51:450:51:47

Nice to meet you.

0:51:540:51:55

So, this is the tip of the spear...

0:52:030:52:05

..of the fight against ISIS.

0:52:070:52:09

They're all so young.

0:52:150:52:16

So, is ISIS in those houses there?

0:52:230:52:25

HE SPEAKS OWN LANGUAGE

0:52:250:52:27

They come out in the evening?

0:52:270:52:29

Yes. Like rabbits.

0:52:290:52:30

So, are they on that hill over there as well?

0:52:300:52:33

Isn't it the same for us, though?

0:52:410:52:43

I mean, if you appear at the parapet here, don't they take a pot shot?

0:52:430:52:46

The fighters told me that ISIS don't like attacking

0:53:030:53:06

their part of the front line because they think they won't

0:53:060:53:09

go to paradise if they're killed by a woman.

0:53:090:53:11

I know what you're fighting against,

0:53:130:53:15

but what do you think you're fighting for?

0:53:150:53:17

Both the female and male fighting units have taken heavy losses.

0:54:010:54:05

In this cemetery, many of the graves are freshly dug.

0:54:070:54:10

Like Orwell in Spain in the 1930s,

0:54:280:54:31

I'm witnessing something extraordinary.

0:54:310:54:33

The anarchist ideals I believe in

0:54:340:54:36

are being put into practice here, and it works.

0:54:360:54:39

Rojava shows the world there is a better way of doing things.

0:54:420:54:44

These people have built democracy,

0:54:530:54:54

they have built the largest area of Syria that is stable and democratic.

0:54:540:54:59

It's an inclusive democracy where Assyrians,

0:54:590:55:02

Arabs and Kurds alike are given a fair crack of the whip.

0:55:020:55:06

You know, what's not to support?

0:55:060:55:07

They are fighting ISIS, they are sacrificing hundreds of lives.

0:55:070:55:11

They are the people fighting the world's war against these...

0:55:110:55:14

..this horror.

0:55:160:55:18

The problem is, nobody's listening to them,

0:55:180:55:21

and countries even like America, which is at war here,

0:55:210:55:25

is not talking to them at a political level.

0:55:250:55:27

It's a hell of a battle, and it's a battle, you know,

0:55:270:55:32

I'm glad to take on. I have rarely felt more...

0:55:320:55:36

..solidarity with a cause than I feel with these people here.

0:55:370:55:40

It sounds romantic. You know, I'm not Lawrence of Arabia,

0:55:420:55:47

but this is what I'd like to do.

0:55:470:55:50

This is, for me, you know, why I do what I do.

0:55:500:55:54

And I am really, really, really...

0:55:550:55:58

I'm really sad to leave, really sad.

0:56:020:56:04

It's like coming back out of the rabbit hole.

0:56:240:56:27

What did I see?

0:56:270:56:28

Was it real?

0:56:280:56:30

Can it happen here?

0:56:300:56:32

I'm greatly upset by it,

0:56:340:56:36

because I feel that they're fighting an epic fight.

0:56:360:56:42

And here, you know, we're talking about a new iPhone

0:56:420:56:47

and the fact that Apple have chosen to use a stylus on the iPad,

0:56:470:56:52

and Donald Trump, a racist and a misogynist and a billionaire,

0:56:520:56:58

is the centre of political attention.

0:56:580:57:00

So, the bile rises.

0:57:020:57:05

And we think we're better than them, you know,

0:57:050:57:08

we think we have a superior system.

0:57:080:57:10

I'm like, "Who's the idiot here?"

0:57:100:57:13

The basic claim of government is to provide order,

0:57:170:57:20

but the evidence suggests growing disorder.

0:57:200:57:24

BANGS AND SCREAMS

0:57:240:57:26

And as they lose control,

0:57:300:57:31

the response of governments will be more intrusion and more coercion.

0:57:310:57:35

This is the future, unless we act.

0:57:370:57:39

The opposite of government-imposed order is not chaos.

0:57:450:57:50

There's a deeper order, concealed within human society,

0:57:500:57:54

which relies not upon coercion, but cooperation and trust.

0:57:540:57:58

Built not by governments or politicians

0:58:070:58:10

but by people who realise at last their own true power.

0:58:100:58:13

But this won't happen on its own.

0:58:170:58:19

Occupy everything!

0:58:190:58:21

It's up to us.

0:58:210:58:22

# I love my baby... #

0:58:560:59:00

Carne Ross was a career diplomat who believed western democracy could save us all. But after the Iraq war he became disillusioned and resigned. This film traces Carne's worldwide quest to find a better way of doing things - from a farming collective in Spain, to Occupy Wall Street to Rojava in war-torn Syria - as he makes the epic journey from government insider to anarchist.


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