Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Hypocrites

Well folks, the toadies and fools will have to wait but here are the worst of the hypocrites. These Labour MPs signed EDM 1088 but did not vote for it when offered the opportunity.
  1. Diane Abbott
  2. John Austin
  3. Lyn Brown
  4. Ronnie Campbell
  5. Martin Caton
  6. Colin Challen
  7. Michael Clapham
  8. Jim Cousins
  9. Ann Cryer
  10. Jim Devine
  11. Bill Etherington
  12. Paul Flynn
  13. Neil Gerrard
  14. Ian Gibson
  15. Kate Hoey
  16. Kelvin Hopkins
  17. Lynne Jones
  18. Peter Kilfoyle [see update]
  19. Jim McGovern
  20. Austin Mitchell
  21. Linda Riordan
  22. Jon Trickett
It remains to be seen whether any of these people actually voted against something they had previously explicitly supported or whether they merely abstained from voting for something they had previously explicitly supported. Either way, they all appear to be guilty of empty political posturing of the worst kind. Some on that list, I had actually thought could rightly be called honourable members. Apparently not.

Anyway, if your MP is on the list and you thought their signature on a motion calling for an inquiry meant that they actually supported an inquiry, why not write to them and ask them to explain why this wasn't the case (politely, need I add).

On a related note, I watched some of the debate and one of the standard lines regurgitated by the government's supporters was that this inquiry wasn't what the people of the country wanted, that Iraq wasn't an issue in the "constituencies". And yet, in a recent poll, 72% of respondents in British constituencies said they believe the Iraq war is "unwinnable". When 72% believe that we are involved in an unwinnable war, it clearly is an issue in the constituencies. How to square this circle? How, ultimately, can democracy function when the ruling party simply denies obviously uncontroversial truths?

My MP, Anne Begg, did not vote for the invasion in March 2003 but she is also not on the list of Labour rebels. If she's prepared to support the government now but wasn't then, I can only conclude that she believes things have gone better than expected in Iraq. Either that or she voted against the war only because she knew the government weren't going to be defeated that day. I'm going to (politely) write to her about that.

One other thing. What I said over at Blairwatch (give me a break, I've got the the devil's own cold here). For any other PM, this would be a very bad result indeed. 273 MPs voted against him on a matter his government proclaims to be absolutely vital. An honourable man would be considering his position. I won't be holding my breath.


Peter Kilfolye had a quadruple heart bypass operation in June and has not been back to the Commons since. That seems to be a reasonable explanation for his absence. For that reason, he should not have been included on the above list.

Here's the list of those who signed the EDM but actively voted against yesterday's motion (via). Almost unbelievably, twelve Labour MPs decided to vote against. To be fair, those twelve are clearly hypocrites, toadies and fools.

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Don't Mention the War

It's the moment of truth for Dave "Tony tricked me" Cameron and his gang. Is he as shallow and opportunistic as he appears or will he put his money where his mouth is? We'll know shortly.

In the meantime, the government is insisting that the "temporary" closure of the British consulate in Basra is not a bad sign. Because after three years and eight months, it is perfectly acceptable that British troops cannot properly protect one building in Basra. Why on earth would anyone think that was a bad sign?

Got a nasty shivery cold. On the plus side, this means I'll probably sit watching the debate on BBC parliament so I can spot the hypocrites, toadies and fools.

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Party Political Broadcasts

Wednesday 25th October 2006
Q You talk about the U.S. government and the Iraqi government working closely together on benchmarks. I'm wondering, sir, why was Prime Minister Maliki not at the news conference yesterday with General Casey and Ambassador Khalilzad? Would that not have sent a strong message about there being a very close level of cooperation between the two governments?

THE PRESIDENT: Elaine, I have no idea why he wasn't there.

Q Was he invited, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: I have no idea. I'm not the scheduler of news conferences. I do know they work very closely together, and they've got a very close working relationship, and that's important.
Friday 27th October 2006
After a tense week in Iraqi-U.S. relations over the way forward, the U.S. ambassador and Iraqi prime minister issued a rare joint statement Friday in which Iraq reaffirmed its commitment to a "good and strong" relationship with the United States.
Saturday 28th October 2006
President Bush has held talks by video link with Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki.

The link-up follows several days of public disagreement between US and Iraqi officials, who blamed each other for Iraq's deepening crisis.
In a joint statement issued after the 50-minute video conference, the two leaders said they were "committed to the partnership" and would work in every way possible for a stable, democratic Iraq.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said there were no strains in the US-Iraq relationship.
I wonder how Mr Maliki's arm feels today? A bit bruised perhaps? Maybe he's still not managed to get it untwisted?

I haven't actually seen either of the joint statements on the tellybox but I presume they both contained the caption:
Paid for by the Republican National Committee
© 2006 Republican National Committee
In their defence, they Republicans did say they were going to export democracy to Iraq. What better way than to very generously allow Mr Maliki to be part of their mid-term election campaign team?

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Blogger 1-0 BBC.

A rather delayed reaction from dear old Auntie there. Still, it's good that the BBC finally picked this up.

Also, this week's Scottish Blog Roundup is out.

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Innocent Until Smeared Guilty

Here's a genuine conversation I had yesterday evening.

Me: Remember the Forest Gate raid?

Not me: No, which one was that again?

Me: You know, the one where they shot that guy and it turned out that he wasn't a terrorist?

Not me: Ah yes. But he was charged with something else, wasn't he?

Me: No, he was not.
The Crown Prosecution Service has advised police not to bring child pornography charges against a man shot during a terror raid in Forest Gate.
Yes, I know. I'm a barrel of laughs to be around on a Friday evening. Oh, a Friday evening, the government's favourite time to release news they'd rather we didn't hear. How interesting.

The CPS is an independent organisation, of course. I'm sure it's just a coincidence that they decided to release this (potentially very embarrassing) information late on a Friday afternoon. Google News suggests that the first appearance of this news on the interwebs was the BBC report at 6.20pm. Yes, definitely a coincidence.

Anyway, what chance there'll be a proper investigation into the smear leak which caused the media to fatuously proclaim that this man was involved in child pornography?

By the way, this raid cost £2.2 million.

Also by the way, I wondered if there were any other stories brewing around the same time as the raid which the government would rather we didn't pay too much attention to. That same morning, 2nd June, the BBC released this report on a new video which appeared to confirm that U.S. soldiers had deliberately killed a number of Iraqi women and children. The video strongly supported the claim, made by the Iraqi authorities, that that the official U.S. military version of events contained a number of glaring inaccuracies.

The BBC would undoubtedly have given the government some advance warning of the fact that they were going to air with this story (as I understand it, this is S.O.P. for stories like these). And our government would undoubtedly have understood that substantial coverage of this new evidence in the British media would have been a problem for them and for the U.S. administration. By mid-afternoon, the Forest Gate raid was dominating the news to the exclusion of almost everything else. Handy.

That might be a genuine coincidence but I would put very little past the unscrupulous B'Stards who currently run this country. To be clear, I'm not suggesting that they made the whole thing up. I'm suggesting that the police had dubious intelligence from one source which suggested that these chaps might have had some involvement in terrorism. Rather than investigating this in a sensible manner, it is quite possible that political pressure on the police, pressure for a particular course of action within a particular time-scale, then turned that into the farcical, and almost fatal, raid which tool place that morning. Would you rule out the possibility that this government is capable of such things?

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Friday, October 27, 2006

If Iran or Syria detained an American, Cheney is saying that it would be perfectly fine for them to hold that American's head under water until he nearly drowns, if that's what they think they need to do to save Iranian or Syrian lives.
Dick "no-brainer" Cheney has spoken.

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New post from me over at The Sharpener.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki gave an interview to Reuters yesterday. Here are a couple of extracts.

On who controls Iraq's security forces:
They [the Americans] think building Iraqi forces will need 12 to 18 months for us to be in control of security. We agree our forces need work but think that if, as we are asking, the rebuilding of our forces was in our own hands, then it would take not 12-18 months but six might be enough.
If anyone is responsible for the poor security situation in Iraq it is the Coalition. I am now prime minister and overall commander of the armed forces yet I cannot move a single company without Coalition approval because of the U.N. mandate.
On the recent raid on Sadr city:
There is also the way they go after people. The first time they tried to get Abu Deraa they killed and wounded 17 people and demolished two houses (and) they did not arrest him in either operation. I said we agree on arresting wanted criminals and we do not care whether they are Sunnis or Shi'ites, but that was not an arrest operation. Do you send in planes to arrest one person? There is no problem with the principle of arresting criminals but you should not harm people in the way you go to arrest people, spreading horror and at the risk of sabotaging political actions we have worked on.
I wonder how the people of the U.S. would feel if "arrest operations" of that sort were carried out in their own communities? How would you feel?

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Guardian: CIA tried to silence EU on torture flights
The CIA tried to persuade Germany to silence EU protests about the human rights record of one of America's key allies in its clandestine torture flights programme, the Guardian can reveal.

According to a secret intelligence report, the CIA offered to let Germany have access to one of its citizens, an al-Qaida suspect being held in a Moroccan cell. But the US secret agents demanded that in return, Berlin should cooperate and "avert pressure from EU" over human rights abuses in the north African country. The report describes Morocco as a "valuable partner in the fight against terrorism".
These are the good guys apparently.

As usual, our government has issued a non-denial denial.
The Foreign Office said yesterday that the government had "not approved and will not approve a policy of facilitating transfer of individuals through the UK to places where there are substantial grounds to believe they face a real risk of torture".
That is clearly not the same as saying "this has not happened and will not happen". In fact, this comment, just like every other one they make on the subject, is entirely consistent with the sort of "no questions asked" attitude which would allow the government to maintain a degree of plausible deniability.

Of course, you can only take plausible deniability so far before you start to sound unhelpful and evasive.

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An outstanding, thought provoking article over at The Ministry of Truth. A trademark long post but so very worth the time it'll take to read. Even if you're thoroughly fed up of reading about Iraq, this one is worth it.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Change For Victory!

President Bush gave another press conference on Iraq today. It seems that I was right after all to predict that the congressional elections would force the Republicans to change course, just not in quite the way I was expecting. (Of course, Bush never actually said "stay the course". [Link Updated. Jon Stewart is the man. Via (due to my backlogged RSS reader).])

Before discussing the change, here a quick look at what hasn't changed. (Scroll down to The Change if you're after something new.)
If we do not defeat the terrorists or extremists in Iraq, they will gain access to vast oil reserves, and use Iraq as a base to overthrow moderate governments across the broader Middle East. They will launch new attacks on America from this new safe haven. They will pursue their goal of a radical Islamic empire that stretches from Spain to Indonesia.
The fear! The fear!

(As a side note, it is interesting that Bush believes that there are "moderate" government's in the broader Middle East. Wonder who he means?)

It is true that the consequences of failure in Iraq will probably be dire but certainly not in the way Bush suggests. His obssession with control of Iraq's oil is showing though.

Basically all of Iraq's oil is located in Shiite and Kurdish controlled areas. The Kurds pose potential problems for Iran and Turkey (beacaue these two countries have sizable Kurdish minorities who might want to join a new independent Kurdistan) but no-one else; Kurds certainly won't be looking to divert their oil revenues towards the construction of a new evil empire.

Would a U.S. withdrawal threaten that situation? The uncomplicated answer is no. The coalition doesn't provide security in Kurdish Iraq, the pershmerga does. A U.S. military withdrawal isn't going to leave them at the mercy of Sunni extremists because there are essentially no U.S. troops up there to withdraw. Kurdish oil isn't going to fall into the hands of radical extremists in the foreseeable future.

So what about the oil in the Shiite areas of Iraq? Well, Iraq's religious Shiites are mostly interested in consolidating their new power, not expansion outside Iraq's borders. And even the most fanatical, Khomeini loving Shiite knows that they wouldn't be able to use their oil wealth to create a radical Shiite empire stretching across the predominantly Sunni Muslim world. It's a non-starter.

That leaves the prospect of Shiites losing control of their oil reserves to Sunni extremists. In truth, it is ridiculous to suggest that al Qaeda linked extremists could gain control of Iraqi oil reserves in Shiite areas. Shiites have the advantage of overwhelming numbers and the rising tide of sectarian hatred precludes the possibility that an al Qaeda type group could use any Shiite dominated area as a "safe haven". At most, Sunni extremists could continue to disrupt oil production.

Sunni extremists may be able to operate in some Sunni areas if the U.S. withdraws but there's no oil in these places. It's all desert. Unless they discover some way to manufacture WMD out of sand, they won't have any useful resources at their disposal. They certainly won't "gain access to vast oil reserves".

At a push, they might just conceivably be able to gain access some of the oilfields up at the boundary with the Kurdish region. There are plenty of Sunni's up there so there is a faint possibility that Sunni extremists could operate openly enough to be able to establish and profit from oil production at some distant future point. But then, the Kurds, protected by their pershmerga, are pretty keen to keep control of those oilfields too. If it comes to a civil war over control of these areas (as it mat well do), the well organised and well equipped Kurds will almost certainly win.

None of this is a secret as far as I'm aware.

Bush's scaremongering is a fiction based on a ridiculous simplification It is a propaganda weapon employed against the American people by his party and their useful idiots. Unusually, reporters were allowed to question the President after he'd said his piece. Not one challenged his fatuous nightmare scenario.

To be fair to the press corp, they have at least started asking a few awkward questions recently. Shame it was about four years too late but better late than never.

The Change

It was when Bush was questioned by reporters that the change I talked about at the start was fully revealed. Here are some examples from the Q&A.
And my point to the American people is, is that we're constantly adjusting our tactics to achieve victory.

And so we've made changes throughout the war, we'll continue to make changes throughout the war. But the important thing is whether or not we have the right strategy and the tactics necessary to achieve that goal. And I believe we do.

What will work is a strategy that's constantly -- tactics that constantly change to meet the enemy. And that's what I was describing in my speech, we're constantly adjusting. As the enemy changes, we change. War is not a -- this war, and other wars, they're not static. They're dynamic events. And we must adjust to meet those events, and we are.

And that's important for the American people to know, that we're constantly changing tactics to meet the situation on the ground.
These all tell the same story. The backstory undoubtedly went something like this:
Rove: Mr President, we're in trouble with Iraq. Have a look at this.

Bush: Gee, we're really getting a kicking in the polls, huh?

Rove: Yes, we are. Look at these focus group results. People are losing faith in the whole "stay the course" thing. It's just adding to the impression of quagmire and lack of progress.

Bush: This is bad. We need a new strategy fast. Some of our rubber stamp guys could lose their seats. Imagine if we actually had to defend our policies in a real debate...

Rove: I know Mr President, I know.

Bush: So what are we gonna do?

Rove: Well, I've got an idea. All you need to do is tell the American people that we're constantly changing tactics to meet the situation on the ground. Keep stressing the importance of change and downplay the stuff about staying the course. That should take the sting out of this till we get past the mid-terms.

Bush. Ya think?

Rove: Sure. Change equals progress. As long as you keep on saying things are changing, that'll give the impression that things are, well, changing. It should be enough.

Bush. Yeah, I see it. I like it. Let's do it.


Bush: But Carl?

Rove: Yes, Mr President?

Bush: Won't the American people notice that things are not actually changing. Won't they realise that my words don't actually make things better in the real world?

(They both burst out laughing)

Rove: Good one, Mr President. You had me going there for a second. Won't they notice? Ha ha. That is good...

Bush: Hee hee hee hee! Gotcha!
As we've also got a leadership which treats us like idiots, I feel able to offer my heartfelt sympathies to those on the other side of the pond. Unfortunately, there appear to be enough actual idiots in both countries for this sort of thing to be reasonably effective.

That said, it does seem that things really are changing in the U.S. in ways that Bush and his spinmeister won't like at all. More and more Americans are starting to see through the spin and evasions. In fact, I'm starting to feel cautiously optimistic that the Republicons will finally get the trouncing they deserve on the November the 7th.

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Robert over at the Sharpener makes some very good points.

One of the key problems with revisionism is that when successful, it negates any possibility that lessons can be learned from past mistakes. In this case, certainly in the U.S., the Republicons are already well down the road to blaming the liberals for their failed policies just as they did after Vietnam. If they succeed, it'll only make yet another similar tragedy more likely in the future.

I'd also add that the point of saying "we told you so" is not to make us feel smug. It gives me no pleasure to say it (far from it, it actually makes me very angry indeed and I desperately wish we'd been wrong). But it must still be said. The point is that the leaders who got things so wrong must be held to account. The benefit of hindsight is not a vaild defence if you've ignored or ridiculed the huge number of people who had the foresight to correctly understand the consequences of this folly.


While we're on the subject of revisionism, here's a quick word for those who now argue that "everyone" believed Saddam had WMD and posed a significant threat.
Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term - namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target.
- Robin Cook, 18th March 2003
Perhaps Dave "Blair tricked me into supporting this war" Cameron wasn't in the House when Cook made that statement.

Today, we have a defence against revisionism which was not available to previous generations. Much of what has transpired over the last few years has been archived in a reasonably accessible form. It cannot be erased from the record, no matter how embarrassing the record might be to those in power. We, the little people, can still see the truth. That at least, provides a sense of hope for the future.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Common Ground

In a break from our normal schedule, here's something which happened in the real world.

I was out visiting family yesterday. When their six year old got home from school, he was in a very good mood indeed. Once he'd opened his school bag, the reasons for his happiness became obvious; he'd been given a party bag with sweeties in it to tkae home. Hmm, sweeties...

Inside the bag was a short note explaining a little about Ramadan and the custom of giving gifts to children to celebrate Eid. The note didn't say who had given the gifts. Trying to break through the excitement caused by the much anticipated eating of the sweeties, his dad asked who had brought them into school. We were informed that "Mavi" had brought one in for everyone in the class. His Dad, trying to put a face to the name, asked him if Mavi was a boy or a girl. "He's a boy daddy, just like me!" was the exasperated reply.

That really warmed the cockles of my cold cynical heart, I can tell you.

This almost to good to be true story is actually true. No liberties have been taken in the retelling.


Monday, October 23, 2006

Those evil Muslims, er, were not responsible for "Hounding Out our Brave Heroes" despite the Scum's outraged frothings.

That's Rupert Murdoch's Scum, determined disseminators of the sort of insidious propaganda which'd make Goebbels proud.

An unjustified comparison? No, I don't think so. Just replace "Muslim" with "Jew" in these fictitious hate stories and see how acceptable they are then.

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United States of Denial

Dubya has told another whopper.
Well, listen, we've never been "stay the course..."
Yes, he really did say that.

Another extraordinary segment:
BUSH: The fundamental question is: Are we on our way to achieving a goal, which is an Iraq that can defend itself, sustain itself and govern itself and be an ally in the war on terror in the heart of the Middle East?

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it seems like every month we're going farther from that.

BUSH: Well, I don't know why you would say that. I mean…

STEPHANOPOULOS: The casualties are going up.

BUSH: … if that's the definition of success or failure, the number of casualties, then you're right. But that's what the enemy knows. See, they try to define success or failure. I define success or failure as to whether or not the Iraqis will be able to defend themselves.
Even writing this seems entirely superfluous but wouldn't the casualty rate be a reasonable guide as to whether Iraqis are able to defend themselves? Not in Bush World apparently. Dead Iraqis are enemy propaganda, nothing more. I guess that's the way he and his cabal justify their continuing denial of the bloody consequences of the invasion of Iraq.

It's not just the Americans though. Major General Richard Shirreff, commander of UK forces in Basra, today said "there are signs we are beginning to see a tipping point where success breeds success".

It appears that the lunatics really are running our asylum.

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Unhappy with the lack of subservience in a section of your community? Are their complaints causing you embarrassment? We have the answer! Simply create a brand new community with New Labour's finest astroturf? Grassroots so real, you'll barely notice the difference!

Guaranteed to agree with every word you say (or you take your money back).

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Fear

The Republicans have launched a new campaign ad for the congressional elections.

Original ad can be viewed here.

Here are two questions so simple that even the Republicans should be able to answer them.
  1. Is the central method of terrorism based around spreading fear?
  2. Should we help?
Answers on a postcard to:
Yes, I Want to Help Bin Laden Scare the American People
The Whitehouse
The United States of America

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This week's Scottish Blog Roundup is out now. Written by me so slightly late and not quite as good as when doctorvee does it but still definitely worth a look for all the top posts of the week.

Here are two links which go rather well with the film linked in the previous post.

New York Times: FOR the past several months, I’ve been wrapping up lengthy interviews with Washington counterterrorism officials with a fundamental question: “Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?” (via)

BBC: A senior US state department official has said that the US has shown "arrogance and stupidity" in Iraq. Alberto Fernandez's made the remarks during an interview with Arabic television station al-Jazeera. The state department says Mr Fernandez was quoted incorrectly - but BBC Arabic language experts say Mr Fernandez did indeed use the words.

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

On Wednesday, Newsnight, in collaboration with the Guardian, showed a ten minute film from Iraq. From my time studying the U.S. military and particularly their approach to counter-insurgency (asymmetric warfare was what I mostly studied in my Honour year), this film is completely consistent with what I'm sure is happening all over Iraq. As pretty much any independent academic in this field will tell you, the U.S. military is particularly ill-suited to counter-insurgency operations. They simply are not trained to deal with the sort of situation they were always going to face in Iraq. The training they do receive concentrates almost exclusively on bringing overwhelming force to bear against a conventional military force. In many cases this means they are trained to act in ways which are in direct conflict with well accepted counter-insurgency doctrine.

An on the ground look at the activities of the 101st Division of the US army in Iraq, the film illustrates what's really going on out there as well as any report I've seen. It is now available to view on the Guardian website. I urge you to watch it and to encourage others to watch it too.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

For those who are worried about that'll happen to this country when the great leader finally goes, fear not.
Tony Blair is to chair a review of Labour party policy due to report next spring, indicating that the prime minister may not bow out from office until early next summer.

Mr Blair has secured cabinet backing for six committees to be established as part of the review, called "Pathways to the Future", which will set out the future challenges for the government and the country.
For people who are not living in a fantasy world however, the fact that the soon to step down PM is determined to exert as much influence as he possibly can on the future direction of the Labour Party and the country is just another sign of his unshakeable messianic belief in his own wisdom. His absolute conviction that he alone is capable of taking the "right" decisions is going to characterise his retirement just as much as it has characterised his time in office.

It'd be funny if it wasn't so pathetic.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

An excellent article in the Independent from the ever sensible Henry Porter.
The limits of liberty: We're all suspects now

Identity cards. Number-plate surveillance. CCTV. Control orders. The list of ways in which the Government has sought to manipulate and define the limits of our liberty grows ever longer. Ten years ago, the novelist and polemicist Henry Porter would have felt silly speaking out about human rights in Britain. But that was before the most fundamental assault on personal freedom ever undertaken. Now, he argues, it's time we woke up to reality
Read the rest.

No really. Do.

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An interim report on political party funding has been released, It offers a number of ways to bail the Labour Party out of enormous mess it has made of its own finances reform the process. The Labour Party's reaction:
Labour chairman Hazel Blears said the party was "absolutely committed to increased transparency and accountability in political party funding".
This is the party whose leader knowingly and deliberately took the decision to circumvent the very transparency rules he introduced. Absolute commitment, my arse.

Blear's statement is a perfect example of the way the Labour Party operates under Blair. They appear to believe that if they endlessly repeat the same words and phrases, those words and phrases will be the truth. And it doesn't seem to matter to them if these statements are utterly fatuous, ridiculous, hypocritical or downright wrong. All that matter is that repetition equals truth.

Yesterday, as well as repeating a completely inaccurate description of the results of the Iraqi elections, Blair yet again conflated a disparate series of problems into one all encompassing evil. He appears not to have any concerns about the fact that many informed observers are asking whether he's a simpleton who doesn't understand the realities of the world he lives in or a mendacious liar who deliberately attempts to mislead the British public. He cares not. All that matter is that the endless repetition of words and phrases equals truth.

The question is, how do you deal with this situation? Clearly, it isn't democracy in any meaningful sense when the Prime Minister and his party are allowed to mislead the electorate on a daily basis without being challenged. What do you call a society in which the ruling party is able to present their own propaganda as the truth and where any dissenters will be shown "no quarter"?

When General Dannatt spoke out about the Iraq war, there were those who rather laughably suggested that it was the beginnings of some sort of coup. For them, the military has a duty to follow orders and keep their mouths shut in all circumstances. The obvious problem with that attitude is summed up in one word: Nuremberg.

To be clear, I'm not suggesting that our action in Iraq is directly comparable to the Holocaust.
The point is that the Nuremberg trials established beyond question that members of the armed forces have moral responsibilities which stand above any orders they have been given by their commanders. In the case of Iraq, with the government adopting their "our words are the truth" policy while in the real world British soldiers risk their lives and hundreds of Iraqis die every week, senior civil servants and military personnel surely have a moral duty to speak out.

And that leads us back to the suggestion that General Dannatt was somehow trying to instigate a military coup. Not a credible suggestion, as I said, but an interesting idea nonetheless. I suspect I'm not the only one in this country who thought, perhaps just for a moment, that maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea. The army dismisses parliament, introduces a fair voting system (they could use the Labour Party's broken promise on holding a referendum on electoral reform as a further justification), organises and holds new elections and we'll finally have something resembling representative democracy in this country. The very fact that Blair's mandate to subject the U.K. to his semi-dictatorial rule comes from only 22% of voters says everything about the current system.

A military coup might be just what we need. And if Blair complains, we'll just get some squadies to endlessly repeat "we're acting on the express will of the British people" until he is forced to concede that it has become truth.

In reality, this idea is very much tongue in cheek; a military coup to dissolve the mother of parliaments isn't an option. But even though I'm a committed democrat, there's some part of my brain which did genuinely consider the possibility. I strongly suspect I'm not the only one either.

That itself is quite an achievement for the man who once promised to clean up politics.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Blair Tinted Spectacles

David Cameron got Blair's back up today by having the temerity to ask the Prime Minister about the situation in Iraq. Unlike last week, when Blair expressed his "sympathy and condolences to the families of those members of our armed forces who have lost their lives" during parliament's summer recess, the PM had no British deaths to hide behind this week. No condolences were offered to the families of the hundreds of Iraqis who have died in the last seven days. Obviously.

Cameron asked him if he agreed with General Dannatt that the original goal of establishing a liberal democracy in Iraq should be downgraded.
Our policy remains to make sure that Iraq continues as a democracy. We have a democracy in Iraq for the first time in that country's history. Seventy percent of the people came out and voted in the election... and what's more they voted for a non-sectarian government in which the Sunnis and the Shias and the Kurds all work together.
Yet again, the question must be asked. Is this a deliberate lie or the expression of the fantasy of a dangerously deluded idiot?

Here, not for the first time, are the indisputable facts. The top four parties in the December elections were:
  1. United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) - 5,021,137 votes, 41.2% of total, 128 seats
  2. Democratic Patriotic Alliance of Kurdistan (DPAK) - 2,642,172 votes, 21.7% of total, 53 seats
  3. Iraqi Accord Front (IAF) - 1,840,216 votes, 15.1% of total, 44 seat
  4. Iraqi National List (INL) - 977,325 votes, 8.0% of total, 25 seats.
One of those parties, the INL, is a non-sectarian party in which the Sunnis and Shia and Kurds all work together and the other three primarily represent the interests of specific sectarian groups. That's how they presented themselves at the election.

"They voted for a non-sectarian government in which the Sunnis and the Shias and the Kurds all work together." Well, eight percent of those who voted did so it's not a total fabrication but even a committed Blairite must surely concede that it wasn't a remotely truthful desciption of the situation.

So, was he deliberately lying or does he genuinely believe the fiction he's pedalling?

Blair's parting shot to Cameron on Iraq is also worth noting, not least for the visible anger with which it was delivered.
The policy of standing up and fighting these extremists abroad and at home is the right one and there will be no quarter given to those who oppose us.
All hail the Great Leader for he is wise beyond question. Those who would question the infallible wisdom of the Great Leader are despicable traitors and must be silenced immediately. No quarter will be shown to those who oppose Him.

His messianic complex is getting worse. How much more damage will this man be allowed to do while the Labour Party sit on their hands?

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Here's a not very difficult riddle.

When are dangerous terrorists not dangerous terrorists?

I don't mean when they're white. That's a whole other hypocrisy.

No, this is about the disappearance of two people subject to control orders. These two men are so very dangerous that the government wants to lock them up in Belmarsh high security prison indefinitely without charging them in a court of law. That's according to the government.

And yet, according to that same government - who have no idea where these two men are - they are now not a risk to the public.
In response to suggestions the two suspects could carry out an attack at any time, Mr McNulty said: "On balance, I don't think that's the case at all."
Yes, welcome to another edition of the Blair government's favourite game; "Ministerial Doublethink". McNulty has always been a master of this game but he really excelled himself on Newsnight yesterday.

So, are these two men so dangerous that it is necessary to discard a central tenet of our society, the right to a fair trial, in order to protect that same society? Well, it sort of depends...

There were two things which were clear from McNulty's interview.

Firstly, the government is going to blame the judges for this. To paraphrase Macnulty, if those pesky judges hadn't ruled that indefinite imprisonment without charge or trial was illegal, this would never have happened.

Because in Blair's Britain, an independent judiciary sworn to protect the fundamental principles of our society is an unwelcome hindrance to executive power. The notion that such a hindrance is vital in order to guard against the unchecked power of an elected dictatorship is just soooo Twentieth Century. Those who are concerned that the government is destroying our society in order to save it (to borrow a phrase) are relics from the past; they just don't get it. Today, we live in a brave new world. The rules of the game have changed.

The second thing McNulty made clear was that the government intends to use this episode of their own incompetence to make the case that they need even greater powers. Where would you even start to critique that? I think the one sentence says it so here it is again. The government intends to use this episode of their own incompetence to make the case that they need even greater powers. I'd say this was unbelievable but for the fact that it's par for the course for this lot.

The were only fifteen people subject to these control orders in the whole country. That the government has lost two is actually in some way a comfort. After all, if they were competent power hungry, self-serving authoritarians, that'd be an even greater worry.

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Guardian: Universities urged to spy on Muslims
Lecturers and university staff across Britain are to be asked to spy on "Asian-looking" and Muslim students they suspect of involvement in Islamic extremism and supporting terrorist violence, the Guardian has learned.
BBC: Kelly denies Muslims 'demonised'
Ruth Kelly has rejected claims that the government is "demonising" Muslims, after reports it is to ask universities to spy on student suspects.

The communities secretary said many groups understood the need to work in a new way to "face up to" the threat.
But there's nothing new about the path the government is leading us down.

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Saturday, October 14, 2006

This week's Scottish Blog Roundup is out. We're trying it on a Friday as an experiment. Forgot to link to it yesterday due to busyness and stuff.


Friday, October 13, 2006

Reality Rudely Intrudes

As you'll undoubtedly know, the head of the British Army has given an unprecedentedly candid interview on the situation in Iraq. He told the Daily Mail:
We are in a Muslim country and Muslims' views of foreigners in their country are quite clear.

As a foreigner, you can be welcomed by being invited in a country, but we weren’t invited certainly by those in Iraq at the time.

The military campaign we fought in 2003 effectively kicked the door in. Whatever consent we may have had in the first place, may have turned to tolerance and has largely turned to intolerance.

That is a fact. I don’t say that the difficulties we are experiencing round the world are caused by our presence in Iraq but undoubtedly our presence in Iraq exacerbates them.


I think history will show that the planning for what happened after the initial successful war fighting phase was poor, probably based more on optimism than sound planning.

There are those who feel that the General should not have spoken out publicly in this way. The fact that he has says everything about the futility of the government's attitude to the situation and their absolute unwillingness to face up to the mess they have created, Unlike Blair, it appears that General Dannatt cannot in good conscience continue to risk the lives of British soldiers for no other reason than to maintain a facade of fiction and denial for political purposes. The General's comments are a very public signal of the army's enormous frustration at having to play such a role.

And Blair now appears to be saying that he agrees with every word the General said. He agrees that the difficulties we are experiencing around the world are exacerbated by our presence in Iraq? That'd be progress if it were true but Blair's statements are actually about nothing more than spin and damage control. He has never admitted to that obvious truth and if a reporter asks him to publically admit it tomorrow, he won't.

To fully understand the extent to which Blair's statements are detached from reality, consider this:
[T]he prime minister said the reason the government had been able to so far give up two provinces to Iraqi control was "precisely because the job has been done there."
For those who missed it, here's a post I wrote on the aftermath of British withdrawal from the two provinces where "the job has been done". In both provinces, the bases which were "transfered" to the Iraqi security forces were actually stripped bare by looters in short order. There is no sign that Iraq's central government has any degree of control or authority over either of these provinces; they have effectively been handed over to religious Shiite factions.

And without British forces providing security, Western journalists are unlikely to venture into either of these provinces for any length of time to be able to accurately report what is actually happening there now. Violent enforcement of a fundamentalist interpretation of Sharia law? Probably, but we in the West will be none the wiser.

With that in mind, it is perhaps obvious why the General is having difficulty being enthusiastic about continuing to "do the job" asked of him by this government.

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Spreading Disinformation

Charlie over at Perfect has commented on Downing Street's reaction to the new research into the human cost of the invasion of Iraq. Blair’s official spokesman said:
The problem with this is that they are using an extrapolation technique from a relatively small sample, from an area of Iraq which isn’t representative of the country as a whole.
As Charlie notes, the suggestion that the survey was carried out in an area which is not representative of Iraq is simply wrong. This was a nationwide survey and the authors went to a great deal of trouble to ensure that it was representative.

At face value however, it might be possible to argue that whilst misleading, the claim made by the PMOS isn't strictly untrue. Due to problems with miscommunication, no samples were taken in the provinces of Duhuk and Muthanna so only 16 out of Iraq's 18 provinces were sampled. Duhuk in the the far north and Muthanna in the south are both relatively peaceful. Theoretically, you might think that the lack of data in these less violent provinces might cause the survey results to slightly overestimate the scale of the violence in the country as a whole (only slightly because they are the two least populated provinces in Iraq).

But even that would be wrong. From the report (pdf):
The miscommunication that resulted in no clusters being interviewed in Duhuk and Muthanna resulted in our assuming that no excess deaths occurred in those provinces (with 5% of the population), which probably resulted in an underestimate of total deaths.
At best, Blair's spokesman has made a statement which demonstrates total ignorance of the survey. At worst, he has deliberately sought to mislead the public with an outright lie. What chance anyone from the Lobby will bother to challenge him on this?

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Independent Criticisms

President Bush, intellectual heavyweight and master statistician, has said that the latest survey on the death toll caused by the Iraq war is not credible.

Unlike Bush, I'm not a master statistician myself so I can't honestly assess the accuracy of the results and conclusions of this survey but when digesting the many criticisms aimed at this report by those with a clear political interest in rubbishing it, here's something to bear in mind:
[T]he US researchers have the backing of four separate independent experts who reviewed the new paper for the Lancet. All urged publication. One spoke of the "powerful strength" of the research methods, which involved house-to-house surveys by teams of doctors across Iraq.
It's called peer review and it's something the scientific community does to try to distinguish credible research based on facts from unreliable research tainted by bias and opinion.

So here's what I'd like to see journalists tackling this story do. When giving airtime to obviously politically interested parties who question this report, I'd like them to ask these partisans whether their criticisms have the backing of four independent experts. That wouldn't be so difficult.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Deport the Foreign Secretary? Sounds like a fine idea to me.

Let's hope she's not treated as revoltingly as Ernesto Leal.
[Immigration judge] Mr Petherbridge said: "We have to express our revulsion at the manner in which the Secretary of State went about detaining the appellant.

"We were horrified as we heard the oral evidence as to the manner in which the appellant had been detained."
Even Beckett doesn't deserve that.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A rare post from me up at The Sharpener today. Readers of this blog will probably recognise the theme of the thing.

It's not often I've go anything good to say about the Daily Record but I have to admit that today's front page headline made me laugh out loud.
Bam with the Bomb

For anyone who doesn't know what a bam is, here we go. Can't believe you didn't know that. Ye bam!

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Bloggerheads: Prepare the sick-bags

You may seriously need to as Tim takes a look at the Mark Foley scandal and the reaction to it.

If you've not got time to check all the links, I particularly recommend you also watch this report from Keith Olbermann, the last link in the post. And remember, the President's job is, err...

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Monday, October 09, 2006

Welcome to our Club

The United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea. Hands up everyone who feels proud to be on that list.

Yes yes, I know, it's not comparing like for like. I mean, it's not like the US or the UK would launch an unprovoked attack on another country for entirely spurious reasons. The rest of the world are undoubtedly extremely happy that trusted, respected, peaceful nations like ourselves and our American masters allies have nuclear weapons. There's just no reason for people from other countries to think that British protestations are hypocritical.

It's like Margaret Beckett said.
Mrs Beckett rejected suggestions North Korea's actions had anything to do with military action against Iraq or that Britain's moral authority had been weakened by the Iraq war.

"I don't think that is the case," she said. "After all, it's quite a considerable time now since that happened and there are much more current United Nations statements, resolutions and so on."
No, I can't keep up the sarcasm any longer. What a stupid person Beckett is. It's quite a considerable time now since that happened? If there was a reward for "Asinine Comment of the Decade" that'd have to be right up there in the nominations.

Much as Blair and his minions may wish it otherwise, the fallout from the invasion of Iraq will continue to pollute international relations for a very long time indeed. In the real world, it can't be spun away, a line can't be drawn under it. Even when the war eventually makes it into the fabled pages of history (as a comma apparently), it'll continue to influence events around the world.

It is, in fact, impossible to be sure whether the invasion of Iraq, and the related matter of Bush's inclusion of North Korea in the "axis of evil", have contributed to Kim Jong-il's determination to aquire nuclear weapons. Clearly, North Korea's nuclear weapons programme must have been up and running for many years before the invasion. It is highly likely, however, that the Iraq war acted as a huge motivator and hurry up call to the North Korean dictator to fast track work on his "deterrent". Having seen what happened to Saddam, is it unsurprising that this is the route he'd choose to protect his regime?

Of course, none of that is an argument in support of North Korea having nuclear weapons. Kim Jong-il appears to be entirely unpredictable; if he's a proponent of the madman theory, he's very good at it indeed. A man who has a bouffant hairstyle in order to look taller is not the sort of man who should have his finger on the nuclear button.

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Sunday, October 08, 2006

This week's Scottish Blogging Roundup is out now, as written by, er, me. Click click.


Friday, October 06, 2006

The Long War

Last week, the US government released a translation of a letter sent to Zarqawi (pdf) by a senior al-Qaeda figure (initially spotted via a mention here). The letter was found in the bombed out remains of Zarqawi's safe house after his death in June this year. There doesn't seem to be a date on the letter but it was written sometime after November 2005 (it mentions the suicide bomb attacks in Jordan). It was a private letter not intended for public consumption and as such, it offers a rare opportunity to see underneath the propaganda which taints al-Qaeda's public pronouncements.

The letter is mostly concerned with explaining to Zarqawi the importance of the long term battle for hearts and minds. The author, a previously unknown person called Atiyah, warns Zarqawi that his actions must be consistent with this battle if they are to help assist in the jihad. It's a bit jumbled so the following quotations are not in the order they appear in the original.

First, it should be noted that the author confirms what has long been maintained about the what the invasion of Iraq did for al-Qaeda.
[W]e will persevere in the jihad and the struggle against the enemies of God until the last spark of life, and last drop of blood, God willing; whether we are successful in Iraq, or not, or if we reach something, or not. However, it is shameful for us to waste the opportunities that God has granted through our own negligence and carelessness and our not adopting the [shari’a] opinions.
The invasion created an an opportunity, one which did not exist before. Ultimately, that is all al-Qaeda can lose in Iraq, an opportunity. To then remove that opportunity would be a sort of defeat for them but self-evidently, a military action to remove an opportunity created by that same military action can never be a "decisive victory against this terrorism".

The substance of the letter, as I said, is mostly concerned with strategy.
My dear brother, you are achieving successes and striking the enemies of God and hitting and doing much, which is a good and great thing that we are not lowering at all and we ask God to bless and increase, but this isn’t everything. The path is long and difficult, and the enemy isn’t easy, for he is great and numerous and he can take quite a bit of punishment as well. However, true victory is the triumph of principles and values, the triumph of the call to Islam. True conquest is the conquest of the hearts of people, and the regard for seeing the Treaty of Hudaybiyah as a victory.
I will speak further about embracing the people and bringing them together and winning them over and placating them and so forth, for this, my brother, is a great way towards victory and triumph that is not lesser than military operations, but rather in truth is the foundation while military operations must be a servant that is complementary to it. Therefore, when you embrace the people and enjoin them through your morals, kind words, your conduct and upbringing, you will have gained a greater means of victory over your enemy, with God’s permission. If the people love you and are grand in their love of you and affection, and God brings their hearts to you, then that is more successful and helpful to your word, and more safeguarding of you against all harm that your enemy is planning.
Atiyah advises Zarqawi not to alienate the population, to show respect to religious scholars "no matter what", and to "educate our jihadi cohort in good conduct, by providing them with a good model in manners, respect, modesty, the giving of advice, accepting advice, admitting mistakes, respecting others, proficiency in dialogue, politeness with those who disagree, mercy, justice, kindness, et cetera".

This, for all the talk of the new and different nature of al-Qaeda, is essentially standard asymetric warfare doctrine. The strategies described here are pretty much identical to those adopted by Latin American revolutionaries and Vietcong cadres. This demonstrates the vacuous nature of the hyperbolic rhetoric which claims that "this new terrorism" kills without restraint. Senior al-Qaeda figures understand that to kill without restraint would be enormously counter-productive; this letter was an attempt to rein in Zarqawi for exactly that reason.

I believe this is also the reason why al-Qaeda did not attempt another attack on the scale of September 11th for many years afterwards. After that attack, there was an unprecedented degree of sympathy among Muslims for the American people and bin Laden's strategy could easily have backfired. That Bush's "war" on terror has destroyed so much of this sympathy is the greatest failure of his Presidency. It is only now, after five years of the "war" on terror and with anti-American sentiment running so high in much of the Muslim world as a result, that another strike on such a scale would be considered.

Perhaps most importantly though, Ayitah expresses his opinion on the best interests of the global jihad in relation to Iraq.
The most important thing is that you continue in your jihad in Iraq, and that you be patient and forbearing, even in weakness, and even with fewer operations; even if each day had half of the number of current daily operations, that is not a problem, or even less than that. So, do not be hasty. The most important thing is that the jihad continues with steadfastness and firm rooting, and that it grows in terms of supporters, strength, clarity of justification, and visible proof each day. Indeed, prolonging the war is in our interest, with God’s permission.
I'll repeat that; prolonging the war is in our interest.

If you're familiar with Zawahiri's letter to Zarqawi from July 2005, this might seem to be in contradiction to Zawahiri's position. He stated that the first goal should be to "expel the Americans from Iraq" and that "the Americans will exit soon, God willing".

To understand why it isn't a contradiction, Zawahiri's remarks need to be taken in context. This is a letter to a young, arrogant, egotistical firebrand from a wily old strategist who's trying to get him to see with big picture without pissing him off. Note the respectful tone; Zawahiri mentions that he is expressing his own "limited opinion" any number of times. This is a letter intended to persuade, not an order issued to a subordinate who's fully in on the loop.

Zawahiri explains the reason why Zarqawi's group was having success in Iraq. Again, this relates to popular support:
The Muslim masses-for many reasons, and this is not the place to discuss it-do not rally except against an outside occupying enemy, especially if the enemy is firstly Jewish, and secondly American. This, in my limited opinion, is the reason for the popular support that the mujahedeen enjoy in Iraq, by the grace of God. [...] In my opinion-which is limited and which is what I see far from the scene-the awakening of the Sunni people in Iraq against the Shia would not have had such strength and toughness were it not for the treason of the Shia and their collusion with the Americans, and their agreement with them to permit the Americans to occupy Iraq in exchange for the Shia assuming power.
This is Zawahiri confirming that he believes the occupation of Iraq by US troops has been an enormously effective recruiting agent for al-Qaeda and the jihad generally. He goes on to stress again the importance of avoiding taking action which would damage popular support and from there goes into discussing the implications of US withdrawal from Iraq.
The Americans will exit soon, God willing, and the establishment of a governing authority-as soon as the country is freed from the Americans-does not depend on force alone. Indeed, it's imperative that, in addition to force, there be an appeasement of Muslims and a sharing with them in governance and in the Shura council and in promulgating what is allowed and what is not allowed. In my view-which I continue to reiterate is limited and has a distant perspective upon the events-this must be achieved through the people of the Shura and who possess authority to determine issues and make them binding, and who are endowed with the qualifications for working in Sharia law. They would be elected by the people of the country to represent them and overlook the work of the authorities in accordance with the rules of the glorious Sharia.

And it doesn't appear that the Mujahedeen, much less the al-Qaida in the Land of Two Rivers, will lay claim to governance without the Iraqi people. Not to mention that that would be in contravention of the Shura methodology. That is not practical in my opinion.
This is the key to understanding the message he wants to send to Zarqawi.
This is the most vital part. This authority, or the Sharia amirate that is necessary [to allow al-Qaeda to claim governance of the Iraq people], requires fieldwork starting now, alongside the combat and war. It would be a political endeavor in which the mujahedeen would be a nucleus around which would gather the tribes and their elders, and the people in positions, and scientists, and merchants, and people of opinion, and all the distinguished ones who were not sullied by appeasing the occupation and those who defended Islam.
You and your brothers must strive to have around you circles of support, assistance, and cooperation, and through them, to advance until you become a consensus, entity, organization, or association that represents all the honorable people and the loyal folks in Iraq.
Essentially, Zawahiri is worried about what will happen when the US withdraws because he knows that without foreigh occupation, support for al-Qaeda in Iraq will quickly drain away. He urges Zarqawi to build up political support before the opportunity disappears. His implicit warning, although he dare not say it outright to the hotheaded Zarqawi, who is (now was of course) fighting so hard to defeat the occupation, is that it wouldn't actually be good if the US troops left too early. Zawahiri only wants the US out once the occupation has generated a critical mass of support which will allow al-Qaeda the opportunity to take control of the country. Without the foreign occupation, he knows it is an impossible task.

Zawahiri is almost certainly also considering the global implications of the US occupation and the anger it is generating among Muslims around the world. He's in no hurry to have the US withdraw.

It seems likely that Zarqawi must have come to understands this on some level by the time the second letter arrived as its author felt able to be more explicit.
Prolonging the war is in our interest.
That is the key truth which Bush and Blair still don't show any sign of grasping.

A marginally entertaining footnote to this is the reaction of Power Line (big US conservative semi-blog) to this letter. They highlight parts of the letter relating to operational difficulties al-Qaeda are experiencing as a result of the "war" on terror and suggest that this is an indication of success. Like the man said "we won every battle but we still lost the war.

That's not the entertaining part though. To their credit, they do quote the fact that a senior al-Qaeda figure believes that prolonging the war is in their interest. Their response?
That's right: there is an election in November.
Er, you what now?

It seems that they're suggesting that this private letter to Zarwaqi, only found because he was caught and killed, contains a sentence which was writen with the sole purpose of making Bush and the Republicans look bad in the run up to the mid-terms. I've thought about it and it is very difficult to think like a Bush supporter but I can't see any other possible meaning.

*scratches head in bemusement*


Scratching my head in bemusement must have triggered my "think like a Bush supporter" abilities because I've got it now; it's a cheap dig at the Democrats. Al-Qaeda want to prolong the war until the Republicans lose the election because we all know terrorists support the "cut and run" Democrats.

*shakes head despondently*

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Those Evil Muuuuslems

Andrew Bartlett: Leak and Spin (via)
The news sources are full of the story that a ‘Muslim’ officer was excused from guarding the Israeli embassy during the recent Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

I have two questions.

First, who leaked this story to the press, and what effect did they hope to produce?

Second, why are news sources concentrating on the fact that the officer was a Muslim?

It seems to me that the important feature of this officer’s identity was not that he was a Muslim, as did not ask to be excused from guarding the Israeli embassy prior to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and once the Israeli bombing of Lebanon ceased he returned to full duties. He was excused from guarding the Israeli embassy during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon because his wife is Lebanese.

Read the rest
Andrew also mentions the heckler who shouted down John "We hope we will leave Afghanistan without firing a single shot" Reid and I have to agree with him. How did Abu Izzadine, a known extremist, get within three metres of the Home Secretary?

Initially I thought of the quotation about not mistaking for conspiracy what can best be explained by stupidity and incompetence. But are those tasked with protecting the Home Secretary really so incompetent? I wasn't sure. One of the few things this government is good at is stage management and control of access.

Reid's speech to the Labour conference pretty much confirmed the truth. That incident was used to support a key part of his message, the hypocritical guff about standing up to bullies. Coincidence? Not likely. Izzadine was allowed to disrupt Reid's speech because Reid wanted him to.

Religious belief isn't the same as race. As I've said before, you can choose your religion but not the colour of your skin. But you should be free to choose your religion. Those who follow a particular religion should be able to follow that religion without being smeared, misrepresented, or persecuted for the crimes of the few. Reid and people like him have forgotten that the right to practice religious beliefs freely is what we're supposed to be defending.

The hostility generated towards Muslims by actions such as this leak and Reid's speech are a victory for bin Laden. As I've said before, he longs for a clash of civilisations. Unfortunately, there are plenty of bigots in this country who are only too happy to help.

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I wish the Gran would put Steve Bell's cartoons on individual linkable pages. But they don't so if you want to write about one, you pretty much need to do this:

He's not even had to make any significant alterations. The Tory logo really does look like a beserk green elephanst pissing on everything. Excellent spot. I saw the logo on the telly today and all I could think was "it's that elephant off Blue Peter". (Partly also caused by this post and the attached comments.)


He's done a couple more of on the theme and they are currently here. Not for long though.

And while we're on the subject of clever funny stuff, here's the new New Tory Labour flash vid.


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Conservative America

It would be a major mistake to think that the American right have learned the lessons of Iraq. Rush Limbaugh, the hugely popular US conservative radio talk show host, demonstates the point here as he offers his view on the solution to the problems of Iraq. (Link via Crooks and Liars who on this occasion are hopefully not correct in suggesting that Rush has essentially adopted the liberal American position. You'll see why shortly.)

I stress that Limbaugh is not from the crackpot fringe, he's very much mainstream. Have a scroll down to the graph in the "Where Hard News Consumers Go" section of this report and you'll see what I mean. He's the man.

So what does he say? First of all, you've got to understand why people like Rush think there's a problem in Iraq today. Here we go:
I mean, some people think that we are going about this in much too restrained a fashion. That if we had gone in there with legitimate "shock and awe" from the outset and leveled whatever is necessary, bammo! We'd have a far different situation today.
Bammo indeed.

While most competent observers have concluded that aggressive military actions by the occupying forces have been a major factor in spreading and perpetuating support for the insurgency, the US right is still of the view that the problem has been caused by too much restraint. Limbaugh wants more napalm MK 77 firebombs and white phosphorus , more cluster bombs, more Fallujahs, more shock and awe.

It is actually a myth to say that you can't beat an insurgency that way; you can. The problem is that it requires a level of indescriminate violence which would cause death, suffering and terror among the civilian population to an extent which should be unacceptable to any civilised human being. It's the sort of thing which only someone like Saddam Hussein would consider.

And people like Limbaugh.

You're probably not overly optimistic about his suggested solutions now. Sensible. So what does he propose the US does? He offers two possibilities.

Number One:
[W]e pull back out of Baghdad, and we position along the Syrian, Jordan and Iranian borders, and we say to the Iraqis:

"We're going to stop anybody coming across these borders. No more help from Iran. No more from Syria. No more from Jordan. Nobody's getting into this country. If we have to, we'll go 20 miles inland in each of these countries to make sure nobody gets through, but this is on you. We will make sure nobody else gets in. Now, you go in there (the Iraqis) and you clear out Baghdad. You do it once and for all, and then we're out."
Yes, he wants to secure Iraq's borders by occupying parts of three neighbouring countries. Not sure how strongly Jordan would react but it's fair to say that Syria and Iran aren't going to be too happy with that. Iran particularly could cause an emormous amount of trouble for the US in the region if it was so inclined and I'd be fairly certain they would be so inclined if the US occupied (very roughly) 20,000 square miles of Iranian territory. Even if US troops were all based on the Iraqi side of the borders rather than over them, the tensions caused would be enormous. How do you think the Iranian regime would interpret 100,000 US troops camped on Iran's borders?

Iraq's borders with these countries are (again very roughly) 1,500 miles long and notoriously porous. Sealing them off would be an extraordinarily difficult task. And how does he expect Iraqis to "clear out Baghdad" exactly? Which one's should be cleared and which one's should do the clearing? Should Shiite militias clear Sunni insurgents or vice versa? You don't need to be a scholar of asymetric warfare to understand that Limbaugh's first proposal would be a disaster.

But it is his second which really exposes how he thinks.
The second strategy is, "You don't want to go for that?" We say to the Iraqis, "All right, here's what we're going to do. We're going to take everybody we got and we're going to bring 'em into Baghdad and we're going to do search-and-destroy and we're going to take out anything that looks like an insurgent and we're going to take out anything that looks like a sympathizer, a terrorist or whatever, we're going to clean this place out -- and then it's up to you."
It's a textbook example of dehumanisation if ever there was one. Take out anything that looks like an insurgent? Take out anything that looks like a sympathizer? He can't even bring himself to use the word "anyone", that'd be to admit that he's talking about killing actual people. Anything that looks like an insurgent.

But he really means that the US military should be allowed to kill any Iraqi who looks at the troops in a funny way or any Iraqi who looks like they might sympathise with someone who looks at the troops in a funny way. He means indesciminate slaughter, turning Baghdad into a free fire zone for the US military. How many civilians would be killed, how many innocents executed? Limbaugh wouldn't know and wouldn't care either.

That's the lesson people like Limbaugh have learned from Iraq. The problems are all the fault of namby-pamby liberals who tied the hands of the US government and didn't allow them to butcher enough Iraqis to put the fear of god into the one's that survived.

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Just by statistical chance, not all of the Pentagon czar's decisions proved disastrous. Shortly after U.S. troops took Baghdad, Rumsfeld saw a draft of Bush's planned victory address from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln. "I took 'Mission Accomplished' out," Rumsfeld told Woodward. "I was in Baghdad and I was given a draft of the thing and I just died. And I said, it's too inclusive. And I fixed it and sent it back. They fixed the speech but not the sign." As Woodward points out -- with none of the equivocation that marred his earlier Bush books -- Rumsfeld's story proves that White House spokesmen were lying when they claimed that the "Mission Accomplished" banner had been devised by the sailors on the Lincoln.

- Salon review of "State of Denial" by Bob Woodward
A pathetic and utterly unconvincing lie is finally abandonded. It only took three years.

Mission Accomplished

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'S A Fair Cop

Has Boris Johnson offended yet another group of people? Nick Robinson suggests he's offended the Scots; a risky venture if ever there was one.

So what did Boris say?
Mr Johnson... called for Scottish politicians to be banned from voting on English matters.

"I have no wish to be disrespectful to the Scots. But it is outrageous that I as an English MP can be outvoted on issues such as Oxfordshire's NHS without corresponding powers the other way.

"The Scots should not get free university education subsidised by us in England. They shouldn't get free nursing care.

"As a Scot Gordon Brown will find it hard to convince people in England he should be prime minister."
Oh, how disappointing. I'm Scottish but I'm not offended at all.*

The problem is, he's basically right, isn't he? It is outrageous that Scottish MPs can vote on health issues in Boris' constituency but he can't vote on issues in theirs.

Theoretically, of course, Westminster is still ultimately sovereign and could take back the power it has devolved to the Scottish parliament at any time so Boris is not strictly correct in his assertion; English MPs at Westminster actually could vote on devolved matters (and they occassionally still do) and the Scottish parliament are obliged to abide by any such votes.

But practically, as things stand, there is an imbalance in the system; It's an imbalance caused by New Labour's devolution reforms, one they don't care about because of the MPs Scotland delivers to the Westminster parliament.
  • Labour Party: 39
  • Liberal Democrats: 12
  • Scottish National Party: 6
  • Conservative & Unionist Party: 1
  • The Speaker of UK Parliament: 1
Not much incentive there for Labour to sort this out. (As an aside, I wonder how keen the Tories would be to sort it out if they had 39 Scottish MPs in parliament rather than 1. Not very, I suspect.)

I do genuinely see why this irks many English people. The Foundation Hospitals Act, narrowly passed after Scottish and Welsh MPs voted for legislation which applied only to England, was a case in point. There is a real problem here and if a solution isn't found, it may well fester nastily.

Boris' solution however, is just silly. Here's why:
Say a Labour government were elected with a good UK majority but without a majority in England (as has happened in the past). Under the Tories’ ideas, that government would not be able to implement any of its health, crime, education, etc, proposals, as it would lack the necessary votes...

If you did want things done, then you would need two separate governments acting in parallel, with two different prime ministers depending on the subject in question (Labour for defence, pensions and welfare payment, Tory for health, education and crime). It would not be a continental-style coalition, but some curious new animal for which I can think of no precedent around the world. Prime Minister’s Questions would be interesting, with the two party leaders having to run from one side of the dispatch box to the other depending on what the subject matter was.

With the opinion polls the way they are now, the above scenario looks a realistic possibility at the next general election. English votes for English matters in such a parliament just wouldn't work, certainly not in the yaa boo environment of British politics.

Not sure what the solution is (one of the great luxuries of being a blogger) but it isn't the policy the Conservatives currently advocate. Still, at least they've got a policy on this, hopelessly confused though it is. That's definitely a step forward from where they are on most issues these days.

* Not sure about the "subsidised" part. The Barnett formula plus or minus oil tax revenues equals confusion. Amazingly, everyone who tries to answer this question discovers that the answer entirely supports their chosen political view. What are the chances, eh?

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