Thursday, August 31, 2006

We're all going on a Soma Holiday

So our great leader has decided it's time to move to the next stage. He's suggested that social exclusion should be tackled through pre-emptive government intervention at an early stage. Very early. Like pre-birth early.

Any guesses what his Fordship read by the pool this summer?
A squat grey building of only thirty-four storeys. Over the main entrance the words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and, in a shield, the World State's motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.
- Brave New World, Chapter 1
Looks like he's found a new instruction manual.

By the way, after waxing lyrical on the new solutions he wants to implement for eleven and a half minutes (full interview available from the Beeb's article), he says:
I know we are... intervening in an area that is very, very difficult. There are many really hard question about that. That's why we're at the stage, if you like, of having a debate about it but my own judgement is...
And then off he goes again. In other words, this is the debate we'll be having and this is the conclusion it will reach. Classic Blair in every way.

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Vote Republican or Die

Juan Cole has some thoughts on Bush's latest attempt to sell the continuing occupation of Iraq to the American people. Good stuff.

In the linked report, we see that Bush said:
The stakes are high. it's very important for the American people to understand that the security of the United States of America, the capacity of our children to grow up in a peaceful world, in large part depends on our willingness to help this young Iraq democracy succeed.
Really? The security of what is by far the most militarily secure country in the world depends in large part on what happens in Iraq?

I don't wish to sound insensitive but anyone who genuinely believes that ought to be refered to a mental health professional. They certainly shouldn't be allowed to command what is by far the most powerful military force in the world.

Earlier, commenting on this latest round of speeches designed to bolster support for the "war" on terror in the run up to the congressional elections, the self declared "War President" said:
"They are not political speeches... These are important times, and I would seriously hope people wouldn't politicize these issues that I'm going to talk about."
Satire is already dead Mr Bush, there's no need to kill it again. And again. And again...

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I only just noticed this important news from last week via a letter in my local newspaper. Apparently, Sir Cliff Richard feels sorry for Tony Blair. In an interview with the Guardian, the perennial young one has finally revealed why he first decided to let Blair stay at his home in Barbados:
The idea was to do a good deed for someone doing a terrible job.
See Tony, even your friends think you're shit! Why don't you do us all a favour and piss right off!

Sorry, sorry, couldn't resist. Carry on.

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Monday, August 28, 2006


Defence Secretary Des Browne is visiting Iraq to discuss security in the country. He's going to be talking...

Hang on. Defence Secretary Des Browne? Are we actually already living inside a satirical future dystopia? Defence Secretary Des Browne? The bottom of the barrel has been scraped so hard, it appears to have a bloody great hole in it. Defence Secretary Des Browne. Dear oh dear.

Anyway, he's going to be talking to Prime Minister Nouri Maliki about the handover of security to Iraqi forces in the south. These handovers are the cornerstone of the British government's exit strategy in Iraq. And a start has already been made:
BBC world affairs correspondent Mike Wooldridge, who is in Baghdad, said Britain handed over formal security control to the Iraqis in one of the most stable of the southern provinces, Muthana, in July.

The same step is expected soon in Dhi Qar province.

"Around a thousand British troops have just withdrawn from their base in another province, Maysan, but they'll continue long-range desert patrolling there particularly to watch for arms smuggling across the Iranian border," he said.
See, it's not so bad? There's definitely progress...

Hang on. Wasn't there something about a base in Maysan province in the news the other day? Ah, yes:
Looters Ransack Base After British Depart
Failure of Iraqi Soldiers to Prevent Assault Raises Worries About Security Transfers

BAGHDAD, Aug. 25 -- Armed looters ransacked an abandoned British base in southern Iraq on Friday as Iraqi soldiers guarding the camp stood by and watched, heightening concerns that Iraqi troops are still ill-equipped to take control of security from U.S.-led coalition forces.

A crowd of as many as 5,000 people, including hundreds armed with AK-47 assault rifles, attacked Camp Abu Naji and hauled away window and door frames, corrugated roofing and metal pipes, despite the presence of a 450-member Iraqi army brigade meant to guard the base.
That doesn't sound so good. What is the military saying?
Maj. Charlie Burbridge, a British military spokesman, said the Iraqi army maintained full control of the camp, even during the looting...
Try not to laugh, this is a serious business. The Major just has an unusual understanding of the meaning of "full control" (unless he means they aided the looters). He went on to say that "our confidence in the Iraqi security forces to maintain day-to-day order in Amarah remains unaffected". A career in politics surely beckons.

Major Burbridge also tried to downplay the political significance of the complete destruction of the base by highlighting the economic factors which might have been at work. But even if this was just down to poor people stealing stuff, shouldn't the Iraqi security forces have been able to stop it happening to a fortified military compound? Isn't that the sort of thing the British army has been training them to do for the last three years? Or has there been some sort of misunderstanding in translation?

Well, it's irrelevant in a sense because the Major isn't being entirely honest about the causes of the looting:
Residents said, however, that antipathy toward the British was strong. After Sadr declared Amarah the first city in Iraq to drive out U.S.-led coalition forces, jubilant residents congratulated one another and planned to take to the streets in celebration.

"We have already stopped our relations with British forces," said Abduljabbar Waheed, head of the provincial council of Maysan. "We always deal with them as occupiers. They have committed many crimes against our people during the last months, they don't care for the people, and they have their own agenda goes against our people's interests."
That doesn't sound like a successful transfer of power. Not unless the plan is to transfer power directly to militias like Sadr's Mahdi Army anyway.

For added context, it's worth pointing out that the night before the base was abandoned transferred to Iraqi control, 17 mortar rounds were fired at it. That report, presumably written on the Thursday of the pull out, looks rather silly with the benefit of hindsight:
The camp - including £292,000 worth of facilities such as catering, accommodation and watchtowers - will be occupied by the local forces.
Yeah, but no, it didn't quite work out like that. Major Burbridge thinks it went OK but people have noticed that the whole thing was a sham. The camp isn't being occupied by local forces because the camp isn't there anymore.

Still, the handover in Muthana last month, it went well. Government heads have been talking that up every since it happe...

Hang on. Wasn't there something in the news about that too? Ah yes:
Army base stripped bare days after handover

The first British camp to be handed to the Iraqis was looted almost bare within days of the Army's departure.

The transfer last month was widely heralded as a signal that Iraq would soon be ready to run itself.

A British soldier said that as the last men drove away, they saw pick-up trucks being filled with equipment worth tens of thousands of pounds.

Most items that could be removed were taken, including air conditioning units, water filtration systems, chairs, bedding and kitchen utensils. When the commander of British forces in south-east Iraq, Brig James Everard, discussed the matter with the province's governor he was told that the camp had "largely gone".

And still Blair seems to genuinely believe Iraq is on the right track. He probably also thinks Vietnamization is that trendy new restaurant in the West End.


The BBC page linked at the top has been re-written. It did say what I said it said earlier, honest it did. Wish they wouldn't do that.

On the plus side, they have gone to the trouble of mentioning the lootings in the updated version:
Last month, about 1,000 British troops were withdrawn from their base in Maysan. The base was looted immediately after it was handed over to Iraqi authorities.
Nearly. It was the one in Muthanna which was looted last month.

Just to be clear, the first base to be "transferred" was Camp Smitty which was near Samawah in Muthanna province. It was "tranferred" on July 30th and was looted "within days". The second base to be "transferred" was Camp Abu Naji which was near Amarah in Maysan province. It was transferred last week, on August 24th, and was looted the next day.

These are two seperate incidents, about one hundred miles apart, one in Mathanna province last month and one in Maysan province last week.

Also in the updated version is the unsurprising news that Des wants the pantomime to continue. The question is, is there actually anything to be gained by prolonging the hardly credible pretense of success in this way? Wouldn't it be better to stop putting our troops lives in danger in pursuit of a fictitious victory?

Have a think about it. The current approach has one advantage for one person. In essence, the British military in Iraq is now essentially an extension of the Downing Street spin machine. Bet that wasn't in the job description when they signed up.

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Friday, August 25, 2006


In the autumn of 2007, new Prime Minister John Reid introduced an array of tough new measures in order to win the War on Terror. We’ve long since accepted the necessity of defeating evil so it’s easy to forget that at the time, many of the measures were considered hugely controversial.

Perhaps the most controversial was the National Muslim Roulette. The idea that one random British Muslim would be killed every day (and two on Bank Holidays) until all Islamists surrendered seemed like a step too for many people. Not everyone had understood that moderate Muslims’ unwillingness to defeat Islamic extremism made them equally responsible for terrorism and that they could be punished accordingly.

When the license to operate the NMR and to broadcast the daily executions was first awarded to Killalot (of Muslims), some even attempted to take to the streets in protest. Their applications to protest were of course refused under the new Defence of Democracy Act 2007 but the intention was there. Looking back, it is remarkable to think that it took so long for the self-evident justice of the NMR to be fully absorbed into the national conscience.

Opinions are divided as to what finally won round the dissenters. Some believe it was the enormously entertaining live TV programmes. Initially presented by Lord Winton of Orange, a man of unrivalled charisma, viewing figures were impressive from day one. The popularity of the “It’s Your Death” segment, with its famous Wheel of Justice, has been particularly enduring.

Historians now tend to agree, however, that the turning point came in early 2008 when Osama bin Laden released one of his famous audio broadcasts. His description of the National Muslim Roulette as a great injustice combined with his demand that it be stopped changed British attitudes to the NMR forever. Those who had previously doubted the morality of the Roulette could set their minds at rest. Clearly, if bin Laden said it was wrong, it was right and if bin Laden said he wanted it stopped, it should continue. The logic was inescapable.

From that point on, those who continued to protest against the NMR could be seen for what they were; appeasers, apologists and traitors. We could not possibly allow bin Laden to dictate our decisions. The very idea was as outrageous then is it is today. The public rallied and refused to submit to the demands of the Islamists; the unquestionably morally righteous National Muslim Roulette would continue.

Bin Laden’s intervention also triggered an added twist, one which boosted the already high viewing figures to a remarkable degree. In the summer of 2008 the government decreed that the remaining objectors, now that they had been exposed as appeasers, apologists and traitors, would be added to the Roulette’s database.

The first programme featuring one of these traitorous leftists remains the most watched British TV show of all time. (For those who don’t know, contestants on the show are selected from the database randomly by ERIC the computer.) He wasn’t chosen for Ultimate Justice on that occasion, much to everyone’s disappointment, but he was killed some days later by an angry mob. A number of tabloid photographers and cameramen happened to be on the scene to record the incident so justice was ultimately seen to be done.

After that, nobody really objected to the NMR.

(Dedicated to various comments on this thread. And yes, I did watchTime Trumpet last night.)

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Safety warning: some people may experience an overwhelming sense of deva ju when exposed to the process described in this post. Please read in a well lit room and do not read while drowsy or fatigued.


The allegation that Iran is developing nuclear weapons is well on its way to morphing into an article of faith, a truth so obvious that only a fool or a traitor would question it.

The House Intelligence Committee has concluded that the US government lacks intelligence... leave it. *Ahem*

The House Intelligence Committee has concluded the US government lacks intelligence on Iranian nuclear, biological, and chemical programmes.

A lack of evidence? Not to worry, there'll be very little harm done. That's the great thing about articles of faith.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Doubting Dogma

This is a follow up to these two posts on the media coverage of Hezbollah attacks on Israel during the war. Essentially, the question was whether the Israeli reporting restrictions had the effect of giving greater credence to the claim that Hezbollah was deliberately trying to kill civilians than was actually supported by the facts.

Fran Unsworth has written about this over at the The Editors blog. Reading the comments there gives a good indication of the difficulties the BBC faces when covering such a controversial issue. The BBC is apparently the broadcast arm of the Hezbollah/Mossad propaganda unit (delete as appropriate). It can't be easy to have to constantly deal with these mutually exclusive pressures.

Anyway, some facts from Fran:
One of the forms that all journalists sign, to be accredited members of the press on arrival in Israel, is a promise that you will obey the rules of the military censor. In the context of the latest war in South Lebanon, those rules mean - we are not allowed to report any Hezbollah hits on military bases, not allowed to broadcast news of ministerial visits to the frontline until ministers are safely back out of Hezbollah’s range.
It's that inability to report on hits to military bases which is the issue.

It looks like Hezbollah were primarily using the 9K132 Grad-P variant launcher to fire their rockets. This isn't a particularly accurate (or powerful) weapon but they can be aimed in a general sense. The Israeli military rationale for the prohibition of live reporting of the location of rocket attacks confirms as much. As Fran reports, "if rockets land whilst we are live on air, we have to be vague as to where they fall (the theory being that Hezbollah may be watching BBC World or equivalent, and using our information to help them calibrate their rockets launchers)".

So, it appears that the Israeli military accepts that Hezbollah's rockets are not completely indiscriminate and can be calibrated and aimed at a given area in a viable way.

Fran goes on to say:
In practice, Israel finds these rules very hard to enforce. It is a small, talkative country and the media usually finds out about casualties quickly. The rolling news networks based outside the country are not bound by the censorship rules, so if they find out from other sources they will broadcast.

Here's another article on the Israeli military censor from AP (thanks to the anonymous commenter who pointed it out in a previous post). It says:
The rules include no real-time reports giving the exact locations of guerrilla missile hits; no reports of missile hits — or misses — on strategic targets...
In practice, it seems to me, the fact that journalists on the ground cannot report on rocket hits or misses on strategic targets is important enough to be worth pointing out. A rocket landing on or perhaps more significantly near a military installation is most often going to be reported simply as a rocket landing in Israel. The military target, if there was one, is unlikely to be publicised. Fran's article does not really address this.

So, did Hezbollah deliberately try to kill Israeli civilians in large numbers during the conflict as the Israeli government constantly claimed? It is difficult to be sure but there doesn't seem to be much in the way of evidence to support the claim. It seems more likely that Hezbollah were aiming at Israeli military targets to the best of their limited ability.

Just to restate the obvious, none of this is meant to suggest that I endorse Hezbollah's actions. I don't. Although on a vastly different scale, both Hezbollah and the Israeli military displayed a wanton disregard for the lives of civilians.

(Bizzarely, I was interupted while writing this post by the doorbell. It was a nice lady from MORI asking if she could ask a few questions so I said yes. The survey was about media impartiality particularly in relation to the BBC. Absolutely true. The human brain just isn't wired for that sort of coincidence.)

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Here are a couple of unrelated links.

Legofesto: Israel in Lebanon (via). Go see.

Rachel: Help defend free speech. Go do.

(I'd go to protest about the fact that the capital of our fair isle is too far away from us northerners but for the fact that the capital of our fair isle is too far away from us northerners. It looks like it'll be a lot of fun for those that make it.)

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Monday, August 21, 2006


I've got a full inbox but couldn't help clicking and reading the police statement on the alleged terrorist plot. I've so many other thing which need doing but it's just irresistible.

It was read out by Peter Clarke, the deputy Assistant Commissioner. It begins:
This is the first time we have been able to release information about the progress of the investigation, since the morning of the arrests on 10th August.
Not a good start then. DAC Clarke wants us to believe that all the leaks surrounding the investigation were delivered to the press by the magic leak fairy. Not sure I'm buying that.

Then, would you believe it, he goes on to confirm that the leaks were right on the money. The police now officially say they have found bomb making equipment and martyrdom videos. Lucky guesses perhaps?

Anyway, again, even though the chances of a potential jurist reading this are slim to none, let's stick to the principles of our society here.

I will say just say one thing in a general sense. I do not deny that there is a very real threat of terrorism in this country. Very few people do. But I also distrust this government intensely and for good reason. Remember that the culture of this government produced this email on the afternoon of September 11th 2001:
It's now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury. Councillors' expenses?
These people will use anything and everything for their own political advantage. My distrust of their every word and motive should not be mistaken for an attempt to deny that the threat is real.

Let's move on:
[T]he investigation is far from complete. The scale is immense. Enquiries will span the globe. The enormity of the alleged plot will be matched only by our determination to follow every lead and line of enquiry.

I shall try to give you an idea of the size and complexity of this investigation.

There have been 69 searches. These have been in houses, flats and business premises, vehicles and open spaces.

As well as the bomb making equipment, we have found more than 400 computers, 200 mobile telephones and 8,000 items of removable storage media such as memory sticks, CDs and DVDs. So far, from the computers alone, we have removed some 6,000 gigabytes of data. The meticulous investigation of all this material will take many months. All the data will be analysed.

There will be thousands of forensic examinations and comparisons. Fingerprints, DNA, electronic data, handwriting comparisons, chemical analysis, and indeed the full range of forensic disciplines will be used.
In other words, 90 DAYS! 90 DAYS! 90 DAYS!

If we just disbanded parliament, the police could take all these decisions for themselves without those interfering politicians getting in the way. It'd be far more efficient.

But wait, what's this?
I would like to reassure the public that we are doing everything we can to keep you safe, for you to live your lives without being in constant fear.
But, but, but, but that's remarkably sane and sensible. That's exactly the sort of thing our coppers should be saying, not all that hysterical stuff about "mass murder on an unimaginable scale". Much better... oh hang on, he's not finished:
However, we must be realistic. The threat from terrorism is real, it is here, it is deadly and it is enduring. As we all look for explanations, we cannot afford to be complacent and ignore the reality of what we face.
Normal service has been resumed. Can't have anyone feeling too secure, now can we?

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Yeah, but not "deliberately"

The most moral army in the world uses cluster bombs in urban areas. That'll be that well known form of morality which places a low value on the lives of the brown faced barbarians then.

Cluster bombs are particularly indiscriminate weapons. They kill indiscriminately over a large area when first used and the unexploded bomblets then continue to kill indiscriminately in that same area over a prolonged period of time. And young children are often the main victims of these unexploded bomblets.

By the way, isn't "bomblet" a lovely word for a weapon which mains and kills so many children? It's just a few harmless little bomblets. "Dud", that's another one. A cute little dudsy wudsy. Bless.

Anyway, do you know what we'd call someone who used weapons as indiscriminate and lethal as cluster bombs on civilian areas in our country? I'll give you a clue; it starts with a "T".

If you're stuck, think Hezbollah's ball bearing filled rockets after they'd been massively upgraded and customised by the guys at "Pimp my Rocket" so that they're effective over a much wider area and are many times more deadly. Now imagine that 10 - 20% of the ball bearings convert into anti-personnel mines on impact...

If you're still stuck, dial our special helpline number on 09000 TERRORIST for a final clue.

The IDF aren't the only one's, mind. Mr Bush, Mr Blair, step forward please.

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Is it a Monster?

Is it a monster?
Two men were taken off a flight bound for Manchester after some passengers became alarmed about what they regarded as suspicious behaviour. People on the Airbus 320 at Malaga alerted staff and demanded their removal, Monarch Airlines said. The pair were subsequently taken from flight ZB 613, carrying 150 passengers and seven crew, early on Wednesday. Two men, reported to be of Asian or Middle Eastern appearance, were questioned for several hours.

Authorities allowed them to fly back to the UK later in the week.
More details from the Mail on Sunday. Patrick Mercer, Conservative bod, said "these people on the flight have been terrorised into behaving irrationally".

Yes, but who's really doing the terrorising?

(Image from Beau Bo D'Or.)

Are Blair, Reid and co. proud of themselves now?

This sort of thing is the all too predictable consequence of their constant manipulation and exploitation of the threat of terrorism for their own political purposes. As a means to combat terrorism, their approach has been counter-productive from the start. Do they know and just not care or are they woefully ignorant of the dangerous game they're playing? Either way, they've long since proved themselves incapable of dealing with terrorism in a competant and intellegent manner.

I don't like to use fear myself but I am genuinely very worried about where this will lead us if these idiots remain in charge of our country. For the umpteenth time, the target government is not supposed to participate in or amplify the terrorist's fear campaign. How fucking hard is that to understand? For Blair, Reid and their acolytes, it's apparently too hard.

Well, there's already been too much damage done. This shit has got to stop.

(This post is a follow up to this one. Slightly but not entirely surprising that the opportunity presented itself so quickly. Worrying times.)


Blairwatch has more. Arson attacks on Mosques. Reid'll probably be delighted with those.

Also, from the comments to the Blairwatch post, here's something worth watching from across the pond:

I'd like to see a bit more of that sort of thing from our media. Does anyone doubt that a similar pattern would emerge?

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

War is Peace

Got a lot of stuff to catch up on, a full inbox, and some posts, comments and links to sort out, but I'm going to be busy for most of today so it'll all have to wait. Just a quickie for now then.

So, Steve Irwin. Strange man. I remember watching one of his programmes a while back and it went something like this:
"Oh, look at this, look at this. This is the Very Dangerous Snake, one of the most poisonous snakes in the world. One bite'll kill ya in ten seconds. You really don't wanna get this fella ticked off."

(Picks up stick and gives it a good poke. Then, lies down on his stomach with his face inches from the snake.)

"Don't bite me in the face fella, don't bite me in the face."
As I said, he's a very strange man.

This programme came to mind when I was watching the news this morning. When faced with a dangerous or fragile situation, most people will refrain from poking it with a stick.

Militarily, a raid like that is essentially worthless. Officially "the Israeli army said the raid was to prevent arms being delivered to Hezbollah by Iran and Syria." But, as Juan Cole pointed out the other day, the idea that Israel or indeed UNIFIL could seal off the Lebanon/Syria border and stop weapons being transfered across it is ridiculous. Have a look at his map halfway down that post to see what he's talking about. The Israeli government and military undoubtedly know this as well as anyone.

So what are they up to? Symbolic measures designed to prop up Olmert's standing at home? Or a deliberate provocation in an attempt to restart the conflict? You've got to wonder.

(It's worth pointing out that Olmert's position has come under intense pressure since the ceasefire with most Israelis believing that the ceasefire resolution was not good for Israel.)

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Threatening Democracy

Oh crap. Just noticed this from the Downing Street Echo:
Dangerous race

TONY BLAIR’s first act on returning from holiday must be to reopen his battle for 90-day detention orders.

More than two-out-of-three voters back his view that terror suspects should be held for up to three months while inquiries are under way.

The absurdity of the present 28-day limit is clear as police race against the clock to amass evidence on the Heathrow suspects.

Detectives have to shuttle between London and Lahore to unravel a complex web with links to al-Qaeda.

Computer wizards are sifting through a mountain of encrypted programmes. And two dozen contradictory statements must be checked and re-checked before charges can be laid.

Parliament’s perverse rejection of 90-day orders MUST be reversed.

And the sooner the better.
OK, it was hardly unexpected but FFS. Once a traitor, always a traitor. You don't defend something by voluntarily destroying it. How hard can that be to understand? Really?

Can you just take it as read that there's an angry foul mouthed tirade against Blair and his accomplices in the media in this paragraph please? I'm saving my energy for manning the barricades.

The Labour Party conference is being held in Manchester this year. It's still about 6 hours away by train but if I can scrape together the readies and the PLP haven't already done the decent thing by then, I might just go on down. Anyone know if there are co-ordinated anti-Blair protests planned?

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We're in the money, we're in the money...
Saudi Arabia has confirmed it is to buy 72 Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft from the UK, in a deal that could be worth more than £6bn. The contract, brokered between the Saudi government and the Ministry of Defence, will safeguard thousands of jobs at UK defence firm BAE Systems.

Let's have a quick recap of human rights issues in Saudi Arabia (from Wikipedia).
  • Saudi Arabia is one of a number of countries where courts continue to impose corporal punishment, including amputations of hands and feet for robbery, and lashings for lesser crimes such as "sexual deviance" and drunkenness. The number of lashes is not clearly prescribed by law and is varied according to the discretion of judges, and range from dozens of lashes to several thousand, usually applied over a period of weeks or months.
  • Saudi women face severe discrimination in many aspects of their lives, including education, employment, and the justice system. Women are not allowed to drive or ride bicycles on public roads in large cities.
  • All sexual activity outside of a traditional heterosexual marriage is illegal. Punishment for homosexuality, cross-dressing, or being involved with anything that hints at the existence of an organized gay community will range from imprisonment, deportation (for foreigners), lashes, and sometimes execution.
  • Freedom of speech and the press are restricted to forbid criticism of the government or endorsement of "un-Islamic" values. The government officially bans satellite television, but the rule is generally ignored. Trade unions and political organizations are banned. Public demonstrations are forbidden.
The universal love of money conquers all. How noble.

Why anyone think our government is run by disgusting hypocrites is a mystery to me...

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Sunny has some inside news on Inigo Wilson, Orange and the Lefty Lexicon.

That seems to make sense. The definition of "Consultation" he gave might or might not belong in a Lefty Lexicon (it's certainly well suited to this government that doesn't really say much about whether it applies to those on the left) but it surely belongs in the Big Business Lexicon. Can't imagine the people at Orange being too happy that the guy who's job it is to consult with local communities would express such a view.

And on the MPAC campaign, I agree with Nosemonkey. Their little campaign will just provide more ammunition and motivation for the "Islam is the enemy within" types. Calm down dears. Islamophobia is undoubtedly on the increase but that sort of witchhunt is not going to help at all. Own goals all round really.

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For those about to rock, we salute you!

Islington, eh? Isn't that down there in that London? Bah. Still, the beauty of air guitar is that you can do it anywhere.

*Searches through library*

*Turns up volume to 11*

*Presses play*



What's that coming over the hill?

Democracy can be a surprisingly fragile thing. When the general public are constantly being fed information which is misleading, manipulative, or just downright wrong, it can lead a democracy into all sorts of dark corners. The history of Europe in the 1930's is a stark demonstration of that process in action. We say we should never forget but it looks increasingly like we've done just that.

Today, the Spectator published a new opinion poll on the "war" on terror. The poll is available here (pdf). Some of the results are startling.

69% of those questioned believe that the police should be allowed to detain suspects for 90 days without charge. Yeah, and in order to save the village, we had to destroy the village.

On the global "war" on terror, the poll asked this question and got these responses:
Do you think that the West is in a global war against Islamic terrorists who threaten our way of life, or do you think that Islamic terrorism is a regional problem that poses no real threat to the West?
  • We are in a world war against Islamic terrorists who threaten the West's way of life - 73%
  • Islamic terrorism is a regional problem that holds no real threat to the West - 8%
  • Don’t know - 19%
Can you say leading question? Good grief. In truth, I couldn't supply an answer to that question because I can't agree with either of the two options offered. This is classic black and white thinking, exactly the sort of stuff which has already proved to be so useless when dealing with terrorism. Nuance is, it seems, dead.

Nevertheless, the fact that 73% of those questioned were prepared to agree with the prompt that we are in a "world war against Islamic terrorists" is troubling.

More troubling still is the response to the question on the direction of British foreign policy:
Should Britain change its foreign policy in response to the terrorist threat?
  • Yes – it should be softer/ more conciliatory - 12%
  • Yes – it should be tougher/ more aggressive - 53%
  • No, it should not change - 24%
  • Don’t know - 11%
That'll be another hideously leading question then. Who wants to be more conciliatory to terrorists? No-one, obviously, but the question misses the point entirely. Again, the public are herded, sheep like, into giving the "correct" response in large numbers. 53% believe our foreign policy should be more aggressive. Is that more aggressive than invading countries which had nothing to do with the "war" on terror? Yikes.

55% of those questioned would like to see 'passenger profiling' introduced at airports whereby passengers are selected based on their background or appearance. I was going to write a separate post on this, probably still will, but the key here is to understand that there's a difference between short term advantage and a long term strategy. Passenger profiling as a long term strategy is bullet/foot stuff. And there's very little, if any, evidence to suggest that it even offers a short term advantage. In counter-terrorism, as in so many things, it is better to do what is right than what is cheap and easy.

But the public don't care about any of that because they've been fed crap like this. What next? Separate check-in for Muslims, special travel permits, yellow badges, walled off Muslim ghettos?

And 28% of those questioned believe that most British Muslims are not moderate. Although not directly comparable, I'm sure I don't need to remind anyone that Blair's mandate to essentially rule by decree was delivered by 22% of the British electorate.

This government, as well as the Conservatives and the supporting cast in the media, appear determined to create a monster in order to fight their "war" on terror. The problem with monsters, of course, is that once created, they tend to have a mind of their own. If the Muslim demoniser slips its leash, it'll do a lot more damage to our society than a rag tag bunch of terrorist extremists ever could.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Bloggerheads: The Learning & Skills Council harbours paedo-scum

Just go read. Yuck.


Unimaginable Scale

The new extended 28 day limit on holding terrorist suspects without charge is now in effect. What chance the power that be will be looking to use that 28 day limit to the full for political reasons, irrespective of whether it's actually necessary? Hmm...

Time will tell but right now, I'm fairly confident that at least some of those arrested last week will be held for the full 28 days before being charged. The government and the police are still smarting over the defeat of the 90 day proposal. A crisis is also an opportunity, after all.

Given that the suspects are just that, suspects, it is difficult to comment on the alleged plot in a meaningful way while staying on the right side of moral integrity. It's clearly not something which bothers John Reid unduly but that's no reason for everyone else to forget that there are rules of acceptable behaviour when it comes to this sort of thing. Whether this alleged plot was real or not is something for the courts to decide.

What I will say is that the timing of these arrests, regardless of whether the plot was real or not, looks likely to have been politically motivated. Remember that Blair was facing signs of open revolt just before this all kicked off. A member of the government had resigned (a minor one admittedly but noises off were strongly suggesting there were more to follow) and a large number of Labour MPs were demanding the recall of parliament to discuss British policy with regard to the crisis in Lebanon. Those "evil terrorists" soon put paid to that sort of talk.

If you think Blair's government is above manipulating the timing of events like these in order to serve their own best interests, well, where have you been these last five years? Sending tanks to Heathrow in the run up to the Iraq war just a few days before the largest demonstration in British history is the most obvious example of this government's willingness to manipulate what is undoubtedly a very real threat of terrorism to further their own agenda. What use is a tank against a terrorist exactly? I mean, behave. Tanks do make for very theatrical images for the front pages of the newspapers though. And there have been plenty more examples of this sort of thing.

There might be political advantages attached to this behaviour, Blair clearly thinks there are, but as counter-terrorism, it's dangerously self-defeating. As I've said many times before, the terrorists are trying to frighten us. The government isn't supposed to help.

On the first day of the crisis, it was Paul Stephenson, the Metropolitan police deputy commissioner (apparently big Blair's new mouthpiece now that little Blair's reputation has been all but destroyed), who said "This was intended to be mass murder on an unimaginable scale." The report does not record whether he was foaming at the mouth as he made the statement.

In the meantime, in Iraq, people are now being killed at a rate of 110 per day (via). Woe betide anyone who tries to describe that as a crisis though. What are you, some sort of bin Laden sympathising, Iraqi hating, cowardly defeatist? Things down there are going splendidly. And it's only the sand and some working class cannon fodder who're being killed. This plot in Britain was about killing IMPORTANT people. Middle class people with frequent flyer cards and wireless laptops. Can't you tell the difference, you leftist freaks?

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Independent: Cameron accused of playing politics with terrorist threat
David Cameron was accused by ministers of "playing politics with the terrorist threat" after criticising the Government for failing to do enough to protect the public from home-grown Islamic extremists.
What's that now? Tony's wingmen accusing someone of "playing politics with the terrorist threat"? No, it's a report in a respectable newpaper but that surely can't be right. Anyone demonstrating that degree of shameless self-denial just wouldn't be able to function as a civilised human being; they wouldn't even be able to judge right from wrong... oh.

Why are these people still in government? Anyone?

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Just in case there's any confusion, I don't disagree that that's what the boy wonder was doing. He's just more of the same, I'm afraid. It's just that New Labour gave up the moral high ground on this a long, long time ago.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

This, you must watch.

Fair and balanced...

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Anyone switched to the new Blogger Beta yet? Can't decide if I'll do it now or wait till it's settled in a bit.

Looks fancy though. It's going to have category archives, RSS feeds for comments and an end to the infamous "Publishing" spinner. Apparently all of my main gripes with blogger are about to become history. Which would be nice.


Here's one I made earlier. You can't directly edit the HTML yet but it is coming. Can't find an RSS feed for all comments but it does have one for each post. It ll looks rather promising.

Update 2

Can't resist. It's like a new thing and stuff. Things might look a bit odd for a while while I get to grips with it. See you on the other side. I hope.

Update 3

Could not switch you to the new Blogger

Thanks for your interest in the new Blogger in beta! For now, we are only switching a limited number of users to this new version. We can't switch your account at this time, but hope to be able to do so soon. Please check back through your dashboard for when you'll be able to try switching again.
And bah again.

The only reason I'd even heard about it was because there's a whole new Blogger login doodah which specifically asks if you want to switch. Not impressed.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Messenger Shoot

The hysteria triggered by this letter is a worrying signal that bin Laden is succeeding.

The BBC's Have Your Say on the subject has been swamped by giyus subscribers but even so, reading through the comments is proper scary. Not as scary reading John Reid's response of course but we'll get back to that.

How many of those who've commented there bothered to read the letter, do you think? It looks like many didn't feel the need. Never mind, I'm sure they've got a perfectly satisfactory version of it in their head built out of nothing more than their own raw prejudices. Sigh.

That sort of thing is, of course, exactly what bin Laden is trying so hard to provoke. He wants us to be hostile to all Muslims. I'm going to write that again. Bin Laden wants us to be hostile to all Muslims. Tell your friends.

If you think bin Laden wants the Israelis to stop bombing Lebanon, you've got totally the wrong end of the stick. He sheds no tears for the Lebanese people. For the likes of him, this crisis has been a fantastic opportunity and he embraces it as such. On a similar note, bin Laden doesn't want us to withdraw from Iraq; he's got us right where he wants us blundering around down there. I'm going to write that again too. Bin Laden doesn't want us to withdraw from Iraq. When he says he does, he's bluffing. Tell your friends that too.

This is all about strategy. As I've said before, bin Laden is a callous long termist. He may genuinely believe that he's acting for the good of all Muslims in the long term, and I think he probably does, the moron, but he clearly doesn't give a toss about individual Muslim lives in the present day. He wants a create a clash of civilisations and he doesn't care how many Muslims have to die to bring it about. And he wants us to hate all Muslims because that'll divide "them" from "us" and provide an environment which is more conducive to the dissemination of his propaganda.

It is vital to understand this if we are actually serious about winning the "war" on terror. Terrorism, ultimately, is fought mostly inside people's heads, "ours" and "theirs". Bin Laden gets this; our leaders don't seem to.

As for the letter itself, note that it says this:
Attacking civilians is never justified. This message is a global one. We urge the Prime Minister to redouble his efforts to tackle terror and extremism and change our foreign policy to show the world that we value the lives of civilians wherever they live and whatever their religion.
That is as unequivocal a statement as you're ever likely to get. Try asking Blair, Bush or Olmert to say "attacking civilians is never justified" and see far you get.

(They'll add "deliberately" every time if you're wondering. As in "deliberately attacking civilians is never justified" . That's because sometimes their armies will "have no choice" but to attack civilians and they need to be able to justify this by saying they didn't kill anyone "deliberately".

This letter is not about support for terrorism. It is a warning but it is not a threat. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the real message will be heard above the howls of indignation amd outrage.

John Reid illustrates the point with some proper hardcore scariness:
No government worth its salt would stay in power in my view, and no government worth its salt, would be supported by the British people if our foreign policy or any other aspect of policy was being dictated by terrorists.
Yeah, John, I don't know if anyone told you but we're in the middle of this thing called the "war on terror. It's quite important apparently. In fact, it sort of dictates our whole foreign policy and has done for quite some time. I know you're at the Home Office these days but I'm surprised that no-one told you about it when you worked over at Defence. "War"on terror. Google it. I'm not making this up...

Tomorrow's headline should be
John Reid Says Terror Threat Best Ignored
I don't know about you but the fact that someone so idiotic could be in a position of power is the most frightening thing I've heard today.

As I'm not in full agreement with the authors of the letter, here's a final thought on the letter as a whole. I think they needed to separate this out into two distinct issues:
  1. Our foreign policy is ethically unsound and (more importantly for all you old school realists) isn't achieving the desired results
  2. Our foreign policy is creating new enemies
The second does not automatically mean we should change course. Sometimes, if you're doing the right thing, it may be worth it. The first, however, does. Understanding the consequences of the second is important but it should be clear that it is the first which means we need to change our approach.

(I've sort of used bin Laden as a simplified personification of al Qaida strategists generally here. Not sure how important he is personally to al Qaida anymore. Like white dog shit, you just don't see him about these days.)

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Double Double Effect

Following an interesting exchange in the comments to the previous post, here's a little bit more on the thinking behind it (this is essentially an expanded version of my comment there). Rest assured, I've not joined the "I love Hezbollah" club.

As an aside, here's something for those who are. This video contains scenes which some may find disturbing. It's called "Green Helmet acting as cynical movie director in Qana" and that's a fairly accurate description of what it shows. It does not in any way alleviate the moral responsibility of those who killed the innocent child shown. Clearly, this video is being used as part of a coordinated effort to distract and deflect attention from what Israel is actually doing to Lebanon. (I found it through giyus.)

It does, however, show how Hezbollah have cynically exploited these deaths for propaganda purposes. Keeping a sense of proportion, it is clear that killing children is in a different league morally to this sort of thing. Nevertheless, the use of a dead child as a prop is sickening. There is no "right" side to be on in this bloody mess.

Anyway, back to the point. In the previous post, I pointed out that Israel imposes reporting restrictions on all journalists covering the conflict. My intention was not to suggest that there are no valid military reasons for these restrictions. What I really wanted to highlight was that this policy also has other consequences and that journalists have a duty to make clear what these consequences are.

The key here is Israel's claim that Hezbollah are deliberately targeting civilians in an attempt to kill as many as possible. This, they say, makes what Hezbollah does different from what the IDF has been doing in Lebanon. The Israelis essentially rely on the theory of Double Effect (via) to absolve themselves of responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of Lebanese civilians. I'd recommend reading that post to get a good grasp on the concept but in essence, Double Effect relates to intentions.

Israel say they do not want to kill hundreds of Lebanese civilians, that it isn't their intention, but that it is been an unavoidable consequence of their war against Hezbollah. Intentions are an integral part of moral judgement and their lack of intent, they argue, means that their actions cannot be morally equivalent to Hezbollah's deliberate targeting and killing of civilians.

It seems to me, however, that the restrictions imposed on reporting make it very difficult to establish whether Hezbollah really is deliberately targeting civilians in the way that the Israeli government claims. When a rocket lands in northern Israel we're never told whether there was an obvious military target nearby. There might very well be genuine military reasons for this but it nevertheless distorts the accuracy of the information which is fed into our living room. We are left in the position where it is very dificult to assess Israeli claims regarding Hezbollah's intentions.

In fact, if you look at the Israeli civilian/soldier casualty ratio caused by Hezbollah's military activities, it strongly suggests that Hezbollah are primarily aiming for soldiers, not civilians. This means, in effect, that they too could use the Double Effect theory to justify Israeli civilian deaths. If they are aiming at military targets and the civilian deaths are a foreseen but unintended consequence, this makes a difference morally.

For this reason, journalists reporting from Israel should make clear that they are not able to divulge details of Israeli military postions which may have been the target of Hezbollah rocket attacks. The Israeli claim that Hezbollah is deliberately attempting to kill as many civilians as possible is given greater credibility by the reporting restrictions which they impose on reporters in the field. This might be an unintended consequence but journalists are surely under an obligation to inform their audience that they are unable to provide all of the facts necessary to make a judgement on Hezbollah's military intentions.

Having said all that, I do agree with the linked post above. Double Effect relies on the fact that there are a limited number of options. Neither Israel nor Hezbollah can realistically claim that to be the case here.

In fact, it seems to me to be highly unlikely that either side is deliberately attempting to kill large numbers of civilians. But, both have adopted indiscriminate tactics which reveal a callous disregard for the lives of civilians on the "other side".

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Did You Know?

Part 94 of an occassional series

Did you know that all reporters working in Israel operate under severe restrictions* imposed by the Israeli government? Let's take the example of a BBC reporter covering a specific Hezbollah rocket attack somewhere in northern Israel. If there was a large Israeli military presence or a weapons factory ten metres from where the rocket landed, the reporter is not allowed to reveal this fact.

This applies to every single reporter in Israel and yet you'll struggle to remember the last time you heard an anchor say "let's go over to Gavin Bloggs in northern Israel now. Gavin's reports are, of course, subject to the restrictions which are imposed on all reporters by the Israeli government. Gavin, what can you tell us?"

In fact, I don't think I've ever heard anyone say that on the news at any point since the conflict began. It wouldn't be that hard to mention it once in a while, would it?

* Please note that this link does not imply a blanket endorsement of every word of Jonathan Cook's article. But he is one of the very few people to dare to mention the fact that reports from Israel are subject to censorship.

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Thursday, August 10, 2006


Well, I suppose I'll have to do what every other blogger in the UK is doing today and comment on this:
Aberdeen has fought off its grey image to edge out Glasgow as the happiest place to live in the UK. A poll revealed that friends, family and plenty of green space made people in the Granite City happy.
One-nil to the Aberdeen,
One-nil to the Aberdeen,
One-nil to the Aberdeen,

Oh, and there's also some sort of fuss going on at British airports apparently. It's probably too early to be sure how serious or dangerous this plot really was but it does look pretty real at this stage. I'll await further details before I'm totally convinced though.

Interestingly, the three most recommended comments on Auntie's Have Your Say (as I write this at 9.30pm) are, er, somewhat cynical. That'll be another clear demonstration of what happens when a government constantly manipulates the terrorist threat for political purposes then. WOLF! WOLF! WOLF! WARGHHHH.... Not that the government will pay any attention, of course.

One other thing. This is from the BBC page but it's been well reported all day:
British police said it could have caused "mass murder on an unimaginable scale".
"Mass murder on an unimaginable scale"? Good grief. Since when did the British police start sounding like the voiceover guy from the trailer for a Hollywood blockbuster? They're supposed to be the police, for crying out loud. Is it really necessary for them to endulge in that sort of hyperbolic hysteria? It's not like there aren't an army of tabloid hacks about to give us that anyway.

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Going to be away from the interwebs for pretty much the whole day. Bah.

In the meantime, Tim is thinking what I'm thinking.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

If it keeps on raining, the levee's going to break

No, not Lord Levy (although I still think he's going to be in a spot of bother when the police are finished with their investigations).

It looks like there are signs that Blair's support within the Labour Party is finally starting to give way. Jim Sheridan has just resigned as a Parliamentary Private Secretary to the defence team over Blair's policy on the Middle East. If his voting record is anything to go by, he's certainly not one of the usual suspects. Well, he's obviously not if he had a position in government. Well done Jim for finally finding your conscience.

Let's hope this isn't just a one off. Is it too much to hope that the PLP have finally had enough?

Please excuse the language but with the callous uncaring messianic bastard on holiday, now would be the perfect time to fuck him over.


The BBC page has a little more now. Bah, he's soft-peddling it a bit.

Interesting that this came on the same day that 130 MPs demanded the recall of parliament though. Perhaps I'm reading too much into that. (Of course, the ethics of waiting for Blair to go on holiday before trying to stop the killings in Lebanon, if that is what's happened, are pretty repulsive too.)

The government reaction to that demand?
[F]oreign Office Minister Kim Howells said summoning MPs back to Westminster would do little to affect the situation in the region.
In other words, parliament can no longer affect the policies adopted by the British government. We all knew this but to read a government minister candidly admit that parliament is so pointless under Blair's rule is quite something. Excuse my language again but Blair's ruling cabal really are a bunch of despicable fucks.

Update 2

Breaking the "don't blog angry rule" quite blatantly now but here's the reality behind Blair's platitudes of an imminent ceasefire. A deeper offensive which will take at least another month according to one Israeli cabinet minister. And our government refuses to demand that they stop.

There is to be no condemnation of a government which fires missiles at funeral parties for the victims of its previous assaults. No halt to the use of British military airfields by the US as part of the supply route to deliver those missiles. No request to stop the collective punishment of the Lebanese people.

How wonderful to live under a compassionate Labour government. Things can only get better...

These people make me sick to my stomach.

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Fun and games with the definition of terrorism in UK law over at The Sharpener.

That reminds me that I still haven't written that post about why individual government's, never mind the member states of the UN, can't come up with a useful definition. It's going to my new "to do" list.

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The Supreme One

If you're wondering what's causing that uneasy feeeling on the back of your neck today, it might the fact that you're subconsciously aware that John Prescott is currently running the country.

Middle class snobbery? No, I think it's more to do with the fact that he's a hypocritical, philandering, incompetent buffoon. He's an embarrassment.

Anyway, James Lansdale interviewed Blair just before he went off to holiday with fellow Christian soldier Cliff Richards and he's blogged about it here. I left a comment there yesterday but it's either been eaten by the BBC's in-house post-Hutton self censor monster or everyone who knows how to use the software is on holiday. Givcn that no comments have been published to that post, I suspect the second is more likely.

Obviously I'm keen to share my words of wisdom (well I am a blogger) so here's the rehashed nub of my non-published gist.

James wrote:
Well, keen to ensure there's no vacuum at the heart of government, Mr Blair has as expected handed over the reins to John Prescott who's now "coordinating government policy" - civil service speak for sort of being in charge. But will the deputy prime minister have be dealing with the Middle East?

"I've always been in charge of this," Mr Blair said this morning. "I do that by telephone wherever I am." So, now we know.
Blair says he's "always been in charge" of our policy on the Middle East.

The fact that British policy has been so morally bankrupt means that we knew that already but it got me thinking. What is it that Maragret Beckett actually does? She's officially the Foreign Secretary after all and I seem to remember a time when the Foreign Secretary of this country actually had something to do with foreign policy. Not any more apparently. Perhaps Ms Beckett's job would be more accurately described as assistant to the Foreign Secretary.

On an unrelated note (ahem), I've always been fascinated by the way that de facto dictators end up aquiring all sorts of titles as they seek to exercise ever increasing powers over the political landscape. All hail the right honourable Executive President, Prime Minister, Commander-in-Chief, Foreign Secretary and Guardian of the Privies, Anthony Charles Lyn...

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Nazel Gazing Alert

Recently, for various reasons, I've not been doing a good job of responding to the comments which people leave here. I do obviously read them all with great interest.

I've always made it a rule not to respond immediately to comments but to have a good think first. Unfortunately, this, along with my endless ability to be distracted by the next thing, seems to have resulted a bit of a blockage. Bah. My 9th of August resolution is to do a better job. Thank you to everyone who expresses a view. It is much appreciated.

Normalish service will now resume.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Yesterday, I discovered that there are lots of Daily Show clips on YouTube. Joy! It's like a time sink. I'll just watch one more...

This one is ten minutes long and it's so worth watching all the way to the end.

The report from Rob Corddry, Vice-Presidential Firearms Mishap Analyst, is pure genius.


The End Game

As the war on Lebanon dominates the headlines, conflict in Iraq continues unabated. The scale of the violence continues to rise. This from a report last month:
United Nations officials said Tuesday that the number of violent deaths had climbed steadily since at least last summer. During the first six months of this year, the civilian death toll jumped more than 77 percent, from 1,778 in January to 3,149 in June, the organization said.

This sharp upward trend reflected the dire security situation in Iraq as sectarian violence has worsened and Iraqi and American government forces have been unable to stop it.

In its report, the United Nations said that 14,338 civilians had died violently in Iraq in the first six months of the year.
According to the report, 1,778 civilians were killed in January, 2,165 in February, 2,378 in March, 2,284 in April, 2,669 in May and 3,149 in June.
There is much talk as to whether Iraq will descend into civil war. Given that an average of 2,400 Iraqis have been violently killed every month since the start of this year, it's something of a moot point. For what it's worth, I believe that what is happening could be best described as a civil war waged by unconventional means. You could call it a low intensity civil war but for the fact that it's clearly very intense indeed.

In what appears to be a last throw of the dice and in a reversal of the Bush "as Iraqis stand up, we will stand down" mantra, the US military is deploying thousands of extra troops to Baghdad in an attempt to stabilise the situation.

But who are they going to be fighting? Are they there to fight Sunni insurgent or Shiite militias or both? I listened to a couple of spokesmen for the Sunnis and the Shiites on the radio yesterday and obviously, they expected the US military to do different things. The Sunni wanted the US military to take on the Shiite death squads while the Shiite wanted them to tackle the Sunni terrorists. Sending troops into the middle of that is going to be fraught with difficulties. There's every chance that they'll have to tackle both groups and therefore end up being up being targeted by both sides.

(One of the two, I can't remember which, also pointed out the shocking statistic that something like one million middle class Iraqis have fled to neighbouring countries to escape the violence. If you've been reading Iraqi bloggers recently, many of whom are no longer in Iraq, this might not surprise you greatly)

Given that the US military hasn't been able to stop the Sunni insurgents for three years, it's hard too see how anyone thinks they'll be able to do so now. But it is dealing with the Shiite militias which will be particularly troublesome. These militias genuinely do provide a level of security for Shiites, particularly in the poorer areas, and they are well supported by the local populations in which they operate. I think most people are starting to realise the difficulties involved in using conventional military forces to deal with this sort of group.

The Shiites have generally tolerated the US occupation as a necessary evil, something to be endured as a stepping stone on the road to their goal of dominant power status in Iraq. If US military action against the Shiite militias starts to turn Shiites against the coalition in large numbers, the excrement will really hit the air agitating device. And, of course, these same militias are well represented in the democratic government of Iraq, something which complicates the situation still further.

And, as regular readers might know, the US military is spectacularly ill-equipped to deal with this sort of mission. They have begun to conduct operations against the Mehdi Army, al Sadr's militia. Here's how Iraq's Prime Minister reacted to their effort:
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki sharply criticised a joint US-Iraqi operation in Sadr City, an area of Baghdad that is a stronghold of the Mehdi Army, a Shia militia.

US military officials said the raid, early on Monday, was aimed at "individuals involved in punishment and torture cell activities". Three people were captured in the raid, the US military said.

Iraqi police said three people, including a woman and child, were killed in the operation during which US aircraft were called in and carried out an air strike in a built-up area.

Mr Maliki said he was "very angered and pained" by the operation, warning that it could undermine his efforts toward national reconciliation.

"Reconciliation cannot go hand in hand with operations that violate the rights of citizens this way," Mr Maliki said in a statement on government television.

He apologised to the Iraqi people for the operation and said it such incidents would not happen again.
As you can imagine my surprise on reading that report was literally non-existent. An air strike in a built-up area is just the sort of counter-productive disaster which the US military specialises in when conducting unconventional warfare. Sending these guys into Baghdad is much more likely to to cause all hell to break loose than stabilise the situation. I'd get them out of there again asap.

So what could be done instead? Sadly, I fear the answer is nothing. The outgoing UK ambassador to Iraq said that although all out civil war is more likely than democracy, the situation is not hopeless. It doesn't take a genius to work out that this assessment was liberally dusted with diplomatic gloss.

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Monday, August 07, 2006

A couple of worthwhile links.

One from Osama Saeed on a great opportunity for Muslims. Heh!

And one from Sidney Blumenthal called the neocons' next war.
Inside the administration, neoconservatives on Vice President Dick Cheney's national security staff and Elliott Abrams, the neoconservative senior director for the Near East on the National Security Council, are prime movers behind sharing NSA intelligence with Israel, and they have discussed Syrian and Iranian supply activities as a potential pretext for Israeli bombing of both countries, the source privy to conversations about the program says. (Intelligence, including that gathered by the NSA, has been provided to Israel in the past for various purposes.) The neoconservatives are described as enthusiastic about the possibility of using NSA intelligence as a lever to widen the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah and Israel and Hamas into a four-front war.
Sane people wouldn't even consider another dangerous escalation of conflict in an already desperately volatile region. Sane people wouldn't even consider it. Clearly, that doesn't rule out the possibility that senior neo-cons are advocating it at this very moment. In fact, it probably makes it a certainty.

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The end of the world?

Watch, laugh, think, pause, run away screaming.

Btw, I'd have to say that not all American TV sucks. Jon Stewart is a case in point. I do sometimes wonder how the country which produces the Daily Show could have elected the Shrub as President. But then I also wonder how a country which produced Brass Eye ended up electing our Tone. It's a strange world alright.

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The Pro-Active Warriors

Before I say anything else, let me just stress that no-one really believes that Islamic extremism didn't exist before the start of the "war" on terror. It clearly did. That I've even felt the need to make this statement says something about the level of debate which exists around this "war". Anyway what I want to talk about is what's happened since it was launched.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the "war" on terror is its self-fulfilling nature. Actions which have been undertaken to "defeat this terrorism" are actually adding credibility to extremist claims that the West is indeed determined to wage war on Muslims. The British and American government's refusal to call a halt to the IDF's assault on Lebanese Muslims is the latest bloody example.

The growing perception that the West is waging a war on Muslims is causing increased hostility towards the US and UK government's and a corresponding increase in the number of people willing to participate in violent action which they perceive to be in defence of the Muslim world. As this wave of radicalisation becomes visible, it is then used as a further justification for the "war" on terror and so the circle of violence continues.

A new poll of Muslim opinion in the UK will further entrench support for the "war" on terror among its advocates. Their reaction to the poll and their increasingly hostile criticisms of Islam itself as the root cause of the problem, will then further entrench the perception that Islam is under attack. It's enough to make a person dizzy.

For many observers, me included, the self-fulfilling nature of the "war" on terror is so obvious that it raises questions concerning the real motives and goals of the leaders who advocate it. Are they in fact, in true Orwellian style, intentionally looking to perpetuate permanent conflict in order to maintain control over their populations?

Or, are they willing tools of the Military-Industrial Complex? (As usual, I'll point out that the first warning of the corrosive influence of the MIC was issued by Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower. It is certainly not a leftist conspiracy theory.) After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the MIC desperately needed a new global enemy in order to sustain their bloated Cold War budgets. The "war" on drugs turned out to be something of a damp squib in that regard. Is the self-fulfilling "war" on terror a cynical means to create a replacement for the Soviets? Is it a policy specifically designed to manufacture a new bogeyman which can then be used to justify and maintain the grotesque sums of money transferred from the taxpayer to the merchants of the machinery of death?

In the case of the actual leaders of the US and the UK, I tend to believe that they are not so deliberately cynical. As John Kampfner puts it "I tried to give the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt, until I realised... how simplistic and impressionable he was" (link via this excellent Bloggerheads post). It seems to me that Bush and Blair are simplistic and impressionable to the point where they actually do believe in the rhetoric of the "war" on terror. This is frightening in a slightly different way but it's frightening all the same.

It is frightening because I believe they are being manipulated. They are being manipulated by the sort of people who created The Project for a New American Century. The sort of people who wrote this in 2000 (Pdf, marked page 50):
Creating Tomorrow's Dominant Force

To preserve American military preeminence in the coming decades, the Department of Defense must move more aggressively to experiment with new technologies and operational concepts, and seek to exploit the emerging revolution in military affairs.
How exactly would you "move more aggressively to experiment with new technologies and operational concepts" in the absence of any real threat to US national security? Well, you could do it by launching aggressive wars of choice and by seeking to provoke new enemies in order to further the scope for experimentation.

Of course, any talk of the PNAC means that the following, from the same document, must also be raised (it's in the "How to be a Leftist Traitor" handbook y'see):
[T]he process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.
Ah, you can almost taste the longing.

There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding surrounding this infamous quotation. I blame Michael Moore. The opinion poll linked above suggests that nearly fifty percent of British Muslims believe that the 2001 attacks were "a conspiracy between the US and Israel". Given what has happened since, it is perhaps not altogether surprising that this should be the case but it is not a view I ascribe to at all. For the record, the above quotation in no way suggests to me that the US government was in any way complicit in the 9/11 attacks. Please step away from the tin foil hat...

What it does suggest is that influential figures in the US administration believed that a Pearl Harbour type attack on American interests could be used to manipulate US public opinion into supporting their policies and that it would be strategically beneficial to the US in the longer term. So when it came, it was like a birthday present. The neo-cons considered those attacks first and foremost as an opportunity to be exploited.

And exploiting the deaths of nearly 3,000 people in order to promote their own policy of perpetual, overwhelming, global US military dominance is what they've been doing ever since. To do that, they need an enemy. Bin Laden is not the only one who wants to provoke a clash of civilisations. Here are some others, all founding members of the PNAC:
Elliott Abrams, Jeb Bush, Dick Cheney, Francis Fukuyama, Frank Gaffney, Donald Kagan, Zalmay Khalilzad, I. Lewis Libby, Dan Quayle, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz.
These people, theoretically, should only be able to influence US policy but Blair's decision to allow the Bush administration to run UK foreign policy means that they are manipulating him too. And their vision for 21st Century, a vision in which American military preeminence must be preserved at all costs, is not so very different from Oceania's society of perpetual war.

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Saturday, August 05, 2006

Another "Ceasefire"

So Blair decided to postpone his holiday. The question has to be, why?

Given the "Yo Blair" conversation, it's not like anyone believes he's got any influence on the world stage. Surely he could have found someone else to take orders from Bush whilst he was away. I suppose it's possible that he was ordered to add another dollop of faux sincerity before his summer hols. No-one does faux sincerity like Tony after all.

But I suspect the delay was mostly about stabilising his slightly rocky position within the Labour Party. In his egomaniacal messianic head, he probably doesn't even consider that to be a selfish motive. "As this country's inspirational, influential and irreplaceable leader, it would be a great tragedy for the whole world if I, Anthony Lynton Blair, was forced to step down at this time" he's probably telling himself yet again.

The other day, I said Blair should resign. That was loose language. I meant that the Labour Party needs to force him out. He won't resign; he genuinely believes that there is no alternative. He needs to be pushed.

Anyway, today there was a large protest against Israel's war on Lebanon. Obsolete was there and has the photos to prove it. Tom at Blairwatch was also there and did the maths. It looks like there were easily 50,000 protestors. Wish I could have been there but geography, as usual, got in the way.

And now, there's talk of a draft resolution calling for "the immediate cessation by Hezbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military actions". The commitment to even-handedness has gone on holiday already it seems.

This draft, which would allow Israel to continue "defensive" military actions, might be useful if it wasn't for the fact that the Israeli government has consistently claimed that everything it has done in Lebanon has been defensive. The draft is likely to limit the scope for continued Israeli military action almost not at all.

And the Israeli's are to be allowed to continue to occupy areas of Southern Lebanon.

It looks like the US government has got the French to agree to draft which Hezbollah couldn't possibly accept. I'd much prefer to be optimistic, really I would, but it looks like this "ceasefire" is intended to be nothing of the sort.

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

So Simple

Bush and Blair's decision to apply their simplistic black and white ideology to the complex realities of Iraq was always likely to lead to disaster. Their "big picture" approach masks an inability to see and understand the significance of the many "little pictures". They clearly came to a view on the invasion of Iraq without bothering to understand the crucial details which would ultimately decide the success or failure of their policy. It was a recipe for disaster.

Many people in the UK made exactly that point in 2002/3 as Blair was attempting to win support for his war of choice. Blair and his supporters dismissed these warnings arguing that they were essentially misleading propaganda missives from Chamberlain loving appeasers and dangerously deluded ultra-pacifists.

So how has it played out? A leaked cable from William Patey, the outgoing British ambassador to Iraq, diplomatically outlines the situation more than three years on from the invasion:
The prospect of a low intensity civil war and a de facto division of Iraq is probably more likely at this stage than a successful and substantial transition to a stable democracy.

Even the lowered expectation of President Bush for Iraq - a government that can sustain itself, defend itself and govern itself and is an ally in the war on terror - must remain in doubt.
Don't make the mistake of believing I'm happy about this. The truth is, I'm extremely pissed off about it. Extremely pissed off. The real world is a more dangerous place today because of the idiotic ideology of over-simplification which led to the invasion of Iraq; I fail to see how anyone could be happy about that. At the moment, it is mostly the long suffering people of Iraq who are bearing the brunt of this disaster and this is bad enough but the wider repercussions of the war will reverberate around the world for years to come. Does anyone really think it is possible to gain pleasure by saying "I told you so" in such a circumstance? No.

You might think that the experience of Iraq might have had some impact on Blair himself. Surely, after what has happened, he must now finally understand that foreign policy must be based on an informed understanding of the complexities of the real world rather than a woolly headed "axis of evil" soundbite.

You might think that (if you were an incurable optimist anyway) but then we go back to his recent speech on the need to reappraise our strategy in the "war" on terror. Oliver Miles, retired British diplomat, sums up Blair's approach perfectly:
To lump together the Taliban, al-Qaida, Hizbullah and Hamas under the heading "reactionary Islam" is oversimplification to the point where it interferes with the facts. The description of what is happening in Iraq or Afghanistan as "battles between the majority of Muslims in either country who wanted democracy and the minority who realise that this rings the death knell of their ideology" might just pass in an army recruitment pamphlet, but not as serious conversation between consenting adults.
Nothing will change as long as Blair is the Prime Minister.

For the good of the Labour Party, the country and the world, He. Must. Resign.


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