A Great British Injustice: The Maguire Story. BBC 2, BBCiPlayer, produced and directed by Eamonn Devlin and presented by Stephen Nolan.

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bs2v31/a-great-british-injustice-the-maguire-story?suggid=b0bs2v31

Fake news. Well, here’s a fake conviction that of the Maguire Seven: Anne Maguire, her husband Patrick, her teenage sons Vincent and Patrick, her brother Sean Smyth, her brother-in-law Guiseppe Conlon and a family friend, Patrick O’Neil. Prime minister Tony Blair was quoted on television and news media, on 10th February 2005, to apologise on behalf of the nation, for the wrongful imprisonment of the Maguire family. “They deserve to be completely and publicly exonerated”.  Along with the Guilford Four, also wrongly convicted of The Guilford bombing on the 5th October 1974, they were found guilty of the crime of being Irish.

There’s a series on telly, which I’ve not seen, called, Making A Murderer about Steve Avery. Yet I know by people talking about the twists and turns of the serial story that it contained the planting of forensic evidence, blood splatters, and that he was wrongly convicted.  The subtext is, fucking Americans, they’re all crazy, and it could never happen here.

Forensic evidence is the killer in any trial. I can vaguely remember a documentary questioning the nitroglycerine evidence in the Maguire Seven trial, the only physical prop the Crown Prosecution Service had for convicting them. Unlike the Guildford Four none of them had signed confessions. The documentary found the traces nitroglycerine found that convicted the Maguire Seven, could have been picked up by playing with an ordinary stack of playing cards.

“None of you broke,” says Nolan to Vincent Maguire. “We had nothing to break for,” he replies.

But in its own way that was also fake news. All of them broke, but in different ways.

Anne Marie, the youngest girl, aged seven was too young to be tagged an Irish bomb maker and terrorist. ‘Auntie Annie’s bomb-making factory’ was the kind of tabloid headlines which showed the media’s objectivity, an amplification of anti-Irish hatred. But the child was old enough for grown men in the streets to spit in her face. She was sent to live with her mother’s sister in Belfast and appeared on the programme and admitted to being a recovering alcoholic, her stories of loss alone were enough to make a man weep.

Vincent and Patrick, sixteen and fourteen, were sent down for four years and classified as Category A, prisoners in adult prison. Patrick, in particular, was broken, a boy that seemed disconnected from the world and at fourteen couldn’t tell the time, until he learned the hard way, by studying the clock face at his trial. Repeatedly beaten by the police, he said he gripped the desk while they were interrogating him and his tears made a puddle at his feet. In prison it was worse. He was classified as a suicide risk and locked up for twenty-three hours a day with a constant low light on, but he didn’t know what a suicide risk was until they told him and put that thought in his head. Every story here is of adults breaking because of their children and children broken on the wheel of injustice and separation.

The irony is Patrick Maguire had been a member of the British Army and he and his wife Ann Marie were members of the local Tory Party (such sins are forgivable) before being convicted of terrorist offences. Sir John May who was appointed by the government to investigate the miscarriage of justice, as expected, exonerated everyone involved from the judge who bemoaned the fact he could no longer hang Anne Maguire, and the Guilford Seven but satisfied the cry for justice by sentencing her to twenty-five years, of which she served nineteen and the lowest tariff of four years given to innocent children. Sir John exonerated police officers who battered women, men and children to gain a conviction based on lies and then covered it up, even when the Balcome Street Gang came clean and said they’d done the Guilford bombing. These ranking police officers were not held to account, nor was the Crown Prosecution Service that protected them by falsifying accounts, withholding evidence and lying in a way that if happened in open court would be classified as perjury.

The jailing of the Maguire Seven was portrayed as an unfortunate accident like a comet falling from the sky and striking their home. The forensic officer who conducted the initial examination and found traces of nitroglycerine appeared on this programme to re-iterate that the results were positive and there was no procedural error. Sir John May’s job was then to find a suitable scapegoat that would satisfy everyone but the innocent. And he found it, in all place, a tea-towel. Auntie Annie’s bomb-making factory had a tea-towel in it. And with the kind of logic, Terry Pratchett delighted in,  a flat planet balanced on the backs of four elephants which in turn stand on the back of a giant turtle, it was proved conclusively that Auntie Annie had handled a tea-towel, in fact, wiped her hand on it, as had her husband, children, brother, brother-in law, and a visitor. Here’s the rub, or smear, if you like, one of her visitors –not any of the Maguire Seven, who had been exonerated – but another Irish person, a terrorist had passed through the kitchen and wiped his or her hand on that dishtowel.  Auntie Annie had then handled the dishtowel and the nitroglycrine had jumped like a virus to contaminate anyone nearby. Tony Blair’s apology, stuff it, no smoke without fire. Guilty of being Irish. Therefore, guilty of knowing a terrorist that washed and dried the dishes for you. A good heart is hard to find as Feargal Sharkey used to belt out.

The truth was, of course, far more mundane. The Surrey laboratory where testing was conducted had its work surfaces polluted with the substances they were testing for. A false positive is still a positive if you’re telling stories about an Englshman, an Irishman and a Scotsman walking into a Surrey laboratory and coming out contaminated with prejudice. But not only was the methodology flawed, which can happen, larger questions of justice had to be asked about why no one was called to account for torturing and beating adults and the Maguire children. It makes you laugh, of course, when the government appoints another impartial Queens Counsel to look at the tragedy at Grenfell. I’m sure he’ll be totally impartial, as Sir John was towards another despised group. God help our impartial justice system.

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The Last Tommies, BBC 4, 9pm, BBCiPlayer, directed by Nick Maddocks

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Episode One: For King and Country

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0brjshr/wwi-the-last-tommies-series-1-1-for-king-and-country

This is the kind of documentary series that the BBC does so well using archive footage and interviewing those that remember The Great War. We are shown a Zeppelin, which could travel at eighty miles per hour and carry two tons of explosive and told about the raid on Hull. An eyewitness remembered how shocking it was, how families sheltered under the kitchen table, the horror of twenty people being killed and the morbid fascination of a house being blown apart and being able to see into somebody’s bedroom.

Inevitably, there’s the middle-class girl, with the pucker voice, unpaid volunteers for the WD, who lied about their age, said she was twenty, but was seventeen and was sent to war to assist (auxiliary) nurses to those nurses that had formal training and were paid. She tells us they got the dirty work. She didn’t much like carrying a leg in a bucket to be incinerated.

Then we had the other middle-class chap that thought it was his duty, everyone’s duty to repel those that were going to invade our country. All the water in the English Channel couldn’t cool his ardour.

We had the girl left behind, all four-foot eleven of her, a scrap of bones and hair, working as a house maid, when she gets that telegram. She’d wrote, of course, she had, that she’d wait forever for him. Forever came too soon.

We had the Scot from Glasgow, called Rabbie Burns, who heard the pipe music and joined up. A clerk, his boss, told him to be quick about it, or he’d miss the fun, home for Christmas.

The Battle of Loos, the Pals Battalion, mud up to the knees and lice feeding on every living body and rats feasting on the chest cavities of the dead. The pal that lost the pal, go forward go forward. Looks left and that man disappears. Looks right and that Tommy bites it.

At home, women take up the slack, twelve hour shifts in the munition factories, working day and night. I never thought I’d get through it, one woman worker tell us, but I did, and you get used to it.

The War to End All Wars. Here are those that did their bit and for what? The rich to get rich and the poor to get poorer.  Answers  not in the bank book but on the ballot box. Remember that old gag, Homes fit for heroes. How long did that last?

Goldstone BBC 4, BBCiPlayer, written and directed by Ivan Sen.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08x19x1/goldstone?suggid=b08x19x1

Mystery Road, BBC 4, BBCiPlayer, written by Michaeley O’Brien and directed by Rachel Perkins.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bl5l7q/mystery-road-series-1-1-gone

If there’s a drama series on BBC 4, usually, I’m watching it. After the medieval Spanish drama, The Plague, I watched Mystery Road. No subtitles needed for the latter. In many ways the six episodes of the Australian drama is condensed into one in Goldstone. Essentially, it’s the same story.

Outsider, Detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen), investigating the disappearance of two missing young men, one aboriginal, one white in Mystery Road, and a young Asian female in Goldstone finds himself locked into close-knit outback town controlled by a minority of white folk for white folk and having something to hide.

Jay is the black fellah, the black Swan among whites and as a federal agent he needs to team up with local cops. In Goldstone it’s the fresh-faced and white kid Josh Waters (Alex Russell). In Mystery Road it’s red head and cranky cop Emma James (Judy Davis) whose brother and her owns most of the land on which the town depends for employment.

Land value, of course, in such an arid continent is linked to the proximity to water. Think of the plot of Jack Nicholson’s Chinatown and you won’t be far off the mark in where Mystery Road leads.

In Goldstone, think of the title of the town, and mineral wealth locked up in the land.  In this stripped down version of Mystery Road, the black fellahs, the local aboriginal community have voting rights on what to do with the land. There reverence for the land, the sacred lands, stands in the way of corporate greed. The Mayor (Jacki Weaver) is brilliant as the fixer lining her own pockets and making sure everybody gets a share of the pie (she bakes pies and gives one to Swan and Waters) while the black fellahs get none.

And she and they would have got away with it if it wasn’t for those pesky kids, Swan and Waters, as they used to say in Scooby Doo.

Truth stranger than fiction? I think we need Detective Swan in Scotland, maybe he could explain why knighted billionaire who bought the old BP plant at Grangemouth, and like his fictional alter-ego in Goldstone, promised a Klondike of local jobs, which never happened, and led to mass sackings and industrial actions, but moved to Monaco for tax reasons, or non-tax reasons – he doesn’t want to pay tax – and had purchased what seemed like worthless bits of paper saying his company could drill for shale gas, when everybody knew that practice was outlawed in the United Kingdom – until this week. I’m quite willing to team up with Detective Swan. There’s certainly lots of corporate skulduggery and greed enough to be shared around.

McMafia BBC 1, iPlayer, written by Hossein Amini and James Watkins, directed by James Watkins.

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p05pkszd/mcmafia-series-1-episode-1

I watched the first two episodes of McMafia and it’s great. I’ll be watching the other six. It’s based on a novel by Misha Glenny. I’ve not read it so I don’t know how good an adaptation it is. Not only does the director get the kudos of being the director, he also gets to play writer and gets half the writer’s pay. That’s the kind of leverage Theresa May would love when she’s trying and failing to work out a Brexit deal.

McMafia reminds me of The Godfather in some ways. Remember when Michael Corleone starts off a war hero and ex-marine that is squeaky clean that wants to settle down with Kay his girlfriend and start a family, and all he needs is papa’s blessing? We all know how that went.

Here we have fresh-faced Alex Godman (James Norton) that is squeaky clean and wants to settle down in London and become a successful hedge-fund billionaire and not rely on his old papa the ex-Moscow mafia boss.

The backstory is a bit Bill Browderish. Bill Browder, of course, is on Putin’s hit list for exposing how the Russian state stole his fortune and killed his friends. Then, of course, we’ve got the problem with polonium. It’s meant to be as rare as decent Brotherhood of Man single, but real people, former ‘businessmen’ from Moscow seem to keel over dead from uranium poisoning. That’s no good propaganda for Russia or the McMafia.

Here American actor David Strathairn plays former Moscovite and Jewish member of the Knesset,  Semiyon Kleiman who aims to topple his former nemesis Vadim Kalyagin (Merab Ninidze, who looks a bit like the current Swansea manager, contact your local M16 agent). Kalyagin is the kind of guy that is not on Putin’s hit list, the kind of guy that is on Putin’s speed dial. The kind of man that Bill Browder would recognise as a state-sponsored assassin.

McMafia doesn’t mean there’s a Scottish branch. They’re not like the Masons. Well, maybe they are a bit. But it refers to a bit of advice Kleiman gives young Goldman, McDonalds is the number one for fast food because quite simply there are more of them and they are everywhere. McKleiman and McGoldman must multiple until McKalyagin is reduced to washing cars and not laundering money. Worth watching. Go along  for the ride.

The Vietnam War BBC 4, iPlayer, Directors Ken Burns and Kym Novik, Writer Geoffrey C Ward

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b096k8wz/the-vietnam-war-series-1-1-deja-vu-18581961

Déjà vu 1858-1961

The Vietnam War, in ten parts, is the best thing on television. Déjà vu seems quite apt, with the United States divided in a way not seen since those for and against the War and those that voted for the moron’s moron as President and those that hate everything he stands for. I’m not a citizen of the United States, but I’m in the latter camp. President Trump, like so many others, was a draft dodger. The metric used to measure military success against the North Vietnamese was body count. Poor and black Americans had the highest conscription and causality rate in Vietnam, but poor and white was next in line. Military hawks argued what was needed was more men and more resources and more firepower. Napalm, Agent Orange, and blowing everything up didn’t work because the American soldier was 8000 miles from home. Here the North Korean soldiers talk about their experiences and how the Ho Chin Min trail was repaired no matter how many times it was bombed, no matter how many lives were lost. It was their county. For all the talk of democracy South Korean was governed by one dictator after another and neither John F Kennedy nor successive Presidents believed in this war. Nor did they believe in the Cold War rhetoric of not allowing another country to fall into Communist hands, but to say so would make them unelectable. America paid the bills for De Gaulle’s French colonialists to take over their former colony after the second world war. Then they paid for a South Korean dictatorship that spiralled into internecine civil war between factions of Buddhists and the Catholic leadership.  Let’s just say we know how this ends – badly.

It’s perhaps also worth looking at Michael Herr’s Dispatches, described by John Le Carre as ‘The Best Book I Have Read on Men and War in our Time’.  This is how it is for the grunts. ‘Breathing In’:

Going out at night the medics gave you pills. Dexedrine breath the dead snakes kept too long in a jar. I never saw the need for them myself, a little contact or anything that even sounded like contact would give me more speed than I could bear. When-ever I heard something outside of our clenched little circle I’d practically flip, hoping to God I wasn’t the only one who’d noticed it.

Here we’ve got it first-hand interviews with who are drafted, press men, Pentagon staff, anti-war protesters and soldiers from the victorious North Korean army. Deakon W Crocker (Jnr) enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. His family remember him as being idealistic. Kennedy’s siren call ‘do not think what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,’ had him believing in a better world. One which he was prepared to die for. Only he wasn’t. He wanted to live. He was scared of dying. Wanted to go on leave. Wanted out of it. Wisdom came too late. Paul Hardcastle’s British pop number 1 hit, 19, showed the average age of those that died in Vietnam. Crocker was nineteen when he died in a pointless war. Spare a thought for the estimated one- million plus Vietnamese killed.

The draft-dodger President has the world gearing up for another war. One the hawks thing we can win. The North parallel in Korea has around 20 million people in it. All the commander in chief has to do is press a button. Problem solved. All the combined firepower of the second world war in one splinter of a warhead. He’s already boasted about using the biggest bunker-busting bomb. The moron moron’s President’s marshmallow problem.  There’ll be no return home. Only grunts.