Thursday, November 30, 2006

In a dreadful hurry but I just noticed that the Blog Digest 2007 is now available to order. Congratulations to Justin on an excellent read (I've already got my copy).

Expect a spot of navel on being included in the book in due course. Also, after resisting putting any ads on here for a good while,I've put up an Amazon link to the book. I'll probably write more on that too.


Crisis? What Crisis?

After a no show yesterday, President Bush met with Prime Minister al-Maliki today. This formally arranged meeting was not held it Iraq but in Jordan. Bush, like Blair, only ever makes "surprise visits to Iraq" for obvious reasons. The fact that neither Bush nor Blair can safely visit the country they "liberated" more than three years ago doesn't seem to get the media coverage it deserves. Perhaps it's just too far off the irony scale to qualify as proper news.

On the plus side, it is just possible that the Bush people have finally got him to understand how damaging it is for al-Maliki to have the President turn up unexpectedly in Iraq and then demand an audience with its PM. That simply reinforced the belief held by many Iraqis that the al-Maliki government is a puppet, a vassal to American interests.

Nevertheless, for al-Maliki, the mere fact that he attended this meeting has been a source of instability. Six of his Cabinet ministers and thirty MPs, all loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, have suspended their participation in parliament and the government in protest at the meeting.
A statement issued by the 30 lawmakers and six Cabinet ministers said their boycott was necessary because the meeting constituted a "provocation to the feelings of the Iraqi people and a violation of their constitutional rights.'' The statement did not explain that claim.

"This visit hijacked the will of the people during days when the sons of Iraq write their destiny with blood and not ink,'' said the statement, which referred to Bush as "cursed,'' the "world's biggest evil'' and a "criminal.''
Just to reiterate, six (possibly five according to some reports) of those who issued this statement are members of al-Maliki's government. When Chavez said something similar, it was headline news all over the world. When members of an "allied" government call Bush the "world's biggest evil" you'd think it'd be even more newsworthy. Apparently not.

Bush, meanwhile, continues to inhabit the fantasy world where U.S. troops will remain in Iraq "until the job is complete". As far as I can tell, he made no reference to the fact that members of the government he's so keen to support have said that this meeting was a "provocation to the feelings of the Iraqi people". In Bush's mind of course, statements such as these can only possibly have been made by "evildoers" who belong firmly in the "against us" category. These views can, therefore, safely be dismissed as irrelevant. Quite how he squares that with the fact that this sentiment is coming from inside the Iraqi government is something of a mystery.

On security, Bush said:
"We have agreed and we were clear on the need to speed up the transfer of security responsibilities to the Iraqi forces.

I believe that the Iraqi security forces are capable enough of protecting the country and its citizens against those who seek to undermine their safety."

Interestingly, Bush made a speech on this very day this time last year emphasising the need to transfer responsibilities for security to Iraqi forces. Here are some choice quotations.
"As the Iraqi forces grow in number, they're helping to keep a better hold on the cities taken from the enemy."

"The training of the Iraqi security forces is an enormous task, and it always hasn't gone smoothly. We all remember the reports of some Iraqi security forces running from the fight more than a year ago. Yet in the past year, Iraqi forces have made real progress."

"They're helping to turn the tide of this struggle in freedom's favor."

"Progress by the Iraqi security forces has come, in part, because we learned from our earlier experiences and made changes in the way we help train Iraqi troops."

"Over the past two and a half years, we've faced some setbacks in standing up a capable Iraqi security force -- and their performance is still uneven in some areas. Yet many of those forces have made real gains over the past year -- and Iraqi soldiers take pride in their progress."

"Our commanders on the ground see the gains the Iraqis are making. General Marty Dempsey is the commander of the Multinational Security Transition Command. Here's what he says about the transformation of the Iraqi security forces: "It's beyond description. They are far better equipped, far better trained" than they once were. The Iraqis, General Dempsey says, are "increasingly in control of their future and their own security _ the Iraqi security forces are regaining control of the country.""

"As the Iraqi security forces stand up, their confidence is growing and they are taking on tougher and more important missions on their own. As the Iraqi security forces stand up, the confidence of the Iraqi people is growing."
I wonder if there's anyone left in the real world who would argue that the security situation in Iraq has improved since he made those statements?

A large part of the problem is one of loyalty. There's no point training tens of thousands of people in counter-insurgency techniques and the like if they are not going to abide by a chain of command and instead answer to some other loyalty. Almost every day in Iraq, deaths squad attacks are carried out by people "wearing the uniforms of Iraqi security forces". There's a blindingly obvious reason for this. In fact, there are growing signs of professionalism in these attacks. Why, it's almost as if they've been receiving training in the use of armed force. It is idiocy of the highest order.

There appear to be mixed messages as to what the Iraq Study Group will recommend. A previous report suggested that they'd recommend increasing U.S. troops levels by around 20,000. Today, a new report suggests the opposite. It may be best to wait to see what they actually say before coming to any definite conclusions. One thing is for sure though; whatever they propose, it won't be a magic bullet. Iraq is far to far gone for that.

And Britain's influence in the decision making process?
"We typically ignore them and take no notice - it’s a sad business".
It's worse than sad; it's bloody tragic.

Tags: , , ,

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Guardian: MEPs condemn Britain's role in 'torture flights'
Britain's role in CIA "torture flights" was roundly condemned yesterday by the European parliament in a scathing report which for the first time named the site of a suspected secret US detention centre in the EU - at Stare Kiejkuty in Poland.

It says EU governments, including the British, knew about the practice known as extraordinary rendition - secret CIA flights transferring detainees to locations where they risked being tortured - but made a concerted attempt to obstruct investigations into it.

The MEPs singled out Geoff Hoon, the minister for Europe, saying they deplored his attitude to their special committee's inquiry into the CIA flights. They expressed outrage at what they said was the view of the chief legal adviser to the Foreign Office, Sir Michael Wood, that "receiving or possessing" information extracted under torture, if there was no direct participation in the torture, was not per se banned under international law. They said Sir Michael declined to give evidence to the committee.
Whiter than white (the odd blood, vomit, urine or excrement stains from an "interviewee"aside).

Tags: , , ,

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I seem to have been busy doing very little over the last few days. I've got emails to reply to and various other things I really need on be getting on with. It's getting to the stage where I'm procrastinating my procrastinations. Or at least I will be soon.

In the meantime, I wrote a post for The Sharpener (sorry Bill) about the belief that the U.S. government is deliberately fomenting violence in Iraq. Iran's Supreme Leader seems to buy it. I don't.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Des Browne, the defence secretary (are you sure that's right? - Ed.), says:
As we move towards handover, perversely, the number of attacks on us may increase.
Extraordinary. The government now appears to have become entirely Pythonesque.

Tags: , ,

In Defence of Something or Other

Police want power to crack down on offensive demo chants and slogans

Police are to demand new powers to arrest protesters for causing offence through the words they chant and the slogans on their placards and even headbands.

The country's biggest force, the Metropolitan police, is to lobby the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, because officers believe that large sections of the population have become increasingly politicised, and there is a growing sense that the current restrictions on demonstrations are too light.
Oh good grief!

This is probably the most worrying part:
The police want powers to tackle a "grey area" in the array of public order laws. At present, causing offence by itself is not a criminal offence.
The implication appears to be that the police are lobbying government to legislate to make "causing offence" a criminal activity. That's just wrong on so many levels.

And all this in the name of something or other. They tell us it's under attack. In that at least, they have a point.

Next week, the government is expected to launch a new anti-obesity campaign. The public information posters have a simple message:
Eat your way to a slimmer you with pies and cream buns!
What could possibly go wrong?

Tags: , , ,
Call me a cynic but when I saw that Berlusconi, who is currently on trial facing allegations of corruption, fainting on my telly screen and then heard that the Just For Men posterboy, currently on trial facing allegations of corruption, had been taken to hospital, my first reaction was "Oh, give the man currently on trial facing allegations of corruption an Oscar".

Does that make me a bad person?

What about this link to Earnest Sanders? Doctors should study that guy. As far as I know, he is the only person in the entire world ever to recover from Alzheimer's disease.

Tags: , , ,

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The ninth Scottish Blog Roundup, hideously late and therefore obviously my responsibility this week, is out now.


Friday, November 24, 2006

Here's a quick follow up to this post. Ta da!

Number one for Con Coughlin. Nice.

Thanks to Tim Worstall for plugging this and to Unity for participating so enthusiastically and to anyone else who helped.

A small victory but a satisfying one.

Tags: , , ,
Here are a couple or three good Murdoch/Scum links for you.

Obsolete - a splendid post which defies a one line summary.

Duck News - on drugs (not like that).

Peter Wilby
(on CiF) - on the capitalist who is opposed to competition.

Tags: , , ,
Bloody Christians.

You do everything you can to give them a chance at democracy but they're just not capable of it. They're only interested in killing and sectarianism. Violence is the only language they understand.


(This message was brought to you by Fallacious News - as Fair and Balanced as an unhinged brunette.)

Tags: , ,

Wrongs and Responsibilities

Conspiracy theories aside, it is clear that the attacks on Sadr City yesterday were not perpetrated by coalition troops (cui bono? - Bush and Blair may be fools but they both desperately need Iraq to work). The Shiites who died yesterday were killed by Sunni insurgents of one form or another.

Why then, do attacks like these generate such anger against Bush and Blair? On Question Time last night, Denis MacShane argued that this anger was unjustified and that our anger should be direct instead exclusively towards those who perpetrate these attacks. It would be easy to totally dismiss this for the diversionary "don't blame Tony" spin it so clearly is and I am sorely tempted to do so. But, despite the fact that MacShane has a particularly detestable motive for making this point, there is a kernel of truth contained within his spin. Reading the views of some on Comment is Free, for example, you'd think that Blair himself had killed every one of the estimated 650,000 Iraqis who have died since the start of the invasion (those who wish to dispute that figure can rebut it by presenting the official coalition death toll statistics. Oh wait, there aren't any). MacShane has a point in that some of those who opposed the war seem not to be able to recognise that the people who carried out these attacks also have a moral responsibility for their actions. Whatever the circumstances, there are some actions which are always morally unacceptable and yesterday's indiscriminate attacks on civilians fall squarely into that category.

The suggestion that this alleviates Blair and Bush from any responsibility for what is happening in Iraq is, however, ridiculous. There are many reasons; here is just one of them. I call George W.Bush to the stand:
We are fighting the terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan and in other parts of the world so we do not have to fight them on the streets of our own cities.
It's called the flypaper theory (in itself a monumentally stupid notion as the attacks in London last year demonstrated) and the imperialist hubris behind such an attitude is truly sickening. The idea that the entire world is Bush's battleground to do with as he will, that other countries must endure whatever privations the President of the United States deems necessary in the "war" on terror is beneath contempt.

Iraq was a country held together by a brutal dictator, one which would quite obviously face enormous challenges when that dictator was removed from power. Even in the most benign of circumstances, the period after Saddam's removal would have been beset by instability. And into that sea of troubles, George and Tony decided to export their "war" on Sunni fundamentalists, a war which had absolutely nothing to do with secular Iraq.

(And no, pointing out that Saddam's Iraq was secular does not mean I think Saddam was great. How often does it need to be said? Do you support the immediate military invasion of North Korea? If not, does that mean you are a supporter of Kim Jong-il and approve of the suffering he imposes on the people of North Korea? It's a facile argument and I'm long since sick of it. MacShane tried this one too and it's pathetic.)

Bush and Blair deliberately exported the "war" on terror to Iraq. Blair might not be so quick to admit it but that is what he signed up to when he agreed to stand "shoulder to shoulder" with Bush at their meeting in Crawford Texas more than four years ago. It was not their fight but Iraqis are now dying for it in their thousands. And yet these same people, the very people who have shown such callous disregard for the consequences of their actions for people in far away lands, now have the audacity to accuse those who wish to bring them to account of not caring about the future of the people of Iraq. They are, as I said, beneath contempt.

MacShane, like too many New Labour careerists, continues to insist that that sort of behaviour is not worth getting angry about. We've come a long way indeed since New Labour boldly proclaimed that they intended to apply an ethical dimension to British foreign policy.

Tags: , , , ,

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Bounce

Blair is, unsurprisingly, determined to have his way on the replacement of Trident, no matter what anyone else says.
One minister said last night: "The PM is determined to force this through and there is little we can do to stop him. It's a bounce. It's just a pity we couldn't debate the issue."
Oh, what a surprise!

It's almost tempting to be sympathetic towards the nameless minister, presumably either Beckett, Hain or Benn (from the article), but that won't do. For someone who has agreed, after all that has happened, to continue to work in Blair's Cabinet to now complain about his undemocratic attitude to decision making is rank hypocrisy of a particularly malodorous nature.

Resign from the Cabinet, speak out, demand his resignation but don't whisper to the press that you don't approve of his dictatorial attitude whilst simultaneously enabling him to stay in power. No, that will not fucking do, you spineless, pathetic, career obsessed lickspittles. If the current crop of New Labour ministers and junior ministers decided to work together to start a fire, I very much doubt they'd be able to find two principles to rub together.

As I write this, the petition calling for the government not to review Trident is the fourth most signed petition out of 550 on the Downing Street website. No doubt our nameless minister was shocked to discover that Blair couldn't give a fuck.

Tossers, the lot of them.

Tags: , , ,

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A new defence against allegations of Blair's sleaze has emerged. This one comes not from the government itself (for reasons which will become obvious) but from former minister Frank Fields (via).
A former Labour minister has criticised the police probe into the loans for peerages row as "absurd", saying the sale of honours has always gone on and always will.

Frank Field said although political parties selling peerages was a "nuisance", the public had tolerated it for 200 years and most would not consider Scotland Yard's investigations a "sensible deployment of police resources".
Frank can be a bit of a maverick at times so what he says can't always be assumed to have come from Downing Street and as he was not a member of the government during the period under investigation, this "admission" is probably not going to be used against Blair in a court of law. Handy that.

Anyway, Frank says quite explicitly that the government has broken the law. He then strongly implies that a prosecution would be a waste of time and not in the public interest. It's hard to avoid the impression that Frank might just be angling for a peerage himself. He's in his Sixties now and all that standing for election business must start to become tiresome after a while.

Inside the Westminster bubble, the strategy of admitting an uncomfortable truth in order to draw a line under it is apparently called "concede and move on". (See Nick Robinson for this strategy sort of in action in another area.) As far as I'm aware however, the CPS, judges and juries are unlikely to be impressed by the need to "move the debate on". In that arena, it's more a case of "concede and get a reduced sentence".

Tags: , , ,

The Long Goodbye

So Margaret Becket has confidence that security for Basra can be handed over to Iraqi security forces sometime next spring.

Why next spring, I wonder? It almost seems like there's a timetable at work here which has nothing to do with the worsening situation on the ground.

Tags: , , ,

Fantasies and Foreign Policies

I've been reading through some of Blair's speeches and statements from 2003 on the invasion of Iraq. Even now, it is striking to see just little he understood of the consequences of the action he had committed himself to. In an article printed in the Arab press just after the invasion began, he wrote:
[W]e are doing all that is humanly possible to minimise civilian casualties and finish this campaign quickly. Military conflict, sadly, always leads to the loss of civilian lives. Mistakes will be made. But the missile attacks on Baghdad witnessed on TV have shown the effort taken to target Saddam's regime and apparatus of power and oppression.As
As the fourth anniversary of the invasion looms into view, the idea that the coalition has managed to "finish this campaign quickly" is ludicrous indeed.

He went on:
I want all Iraqis - Arab, Assyrian, Kurd, Turkoman, Sunni, Shiite, Christian and all other groups - to share in the fruits of this new, prosperous Iraq, united within its current borders. An Iraq free from tyranny, fear and repression, where thousands each year are no longer forced from their homes or imprisoned, tortured or executed. A country Turkomanmen are not raped in front of their loved ones and where people can speak their mind without fear of having their tongues cut out.

It is this terror and poverty which has led to four million Iraqis fleeing their country. I know, having spoken to many Iraqi exiles, of their wish to return home. I share their dream of seeing an Iraq truly at peace with itself, with its neighbours, and the international community.
Iraq is a very long way from that utopian future today. The U.N. has just announced that there were more identified deaths in Iraq last month than in any other month since the invasion. Sectarian tensions threaten to rip the country apart. The coalition continues to imprison Iraqis for long periods without charge or any form of legal oversight. Women are being increasingly targeted by religious extremists and by kidnappings gangs who exploit them as sex slaves. Every day, corpses are found showing signs of torture and then execution; drilling holes in kneecaps and other body parts seems to be particularly prevalent. And a new exodus is under way, especially among the middle classes. As a consequence, Iraq is increasingly without the expertise it so desperately needs.

And it is getting worse. Even the heads of the CIA and the DIA do not deny it.

The other day, someone asked me if the misrepresentations and the exaggerations and the lies which led to this war would have somehow been more acceptable if post-invasion Iraq had turned out the way Blair imagined it would. Might I even, I was asked, have supported the way Blair manipulated us into the war if I'd thought it would result in a positive outcome?

It is an interesting question in its own way but it isn't one which ultimately needs an answer in context of this specific situation. For me, an average International Relations graduate who had studied the first Gulf war as well as terrorism and low intensity warfare, Blair's vision was always a spectacularly dangerous fantasy. The idea that the result he expected could have been created by this war led by these people from these countries was a non-starter from the very beginning. It simply was not credible. And the real experts were saying exactly the same. As such, the question, interesting though it is, has always been a moot point.

As I've said many times before, it gives me no pleasure to have been proved right. I make the point to emphasise that Blair's "judgement" was not only wrong but obviously and predictably wrong. That misjudgement, a fatal one for uncounted numbers of people, ought to have been enough to force him out of office in disgrace. And that's without even considering the misrepresentations and the exaggerations and the lies which he used to justify this folly.

And yet still he is Prime Minister. Future generations will, I fear, look back on this sorry state of affairs with considerable astonishment and more than a little condemnation. Some intelligent commentators already say that this is the worst foreign policy disaster since Suez. Perhaps they are overly mindful of the need to avoid hyperbole but they are mistaken; Suez was a cakewalk compared to this.

Tags: , , ,

Monday, November 20, 2006

Henry Kissinger,
How I'm missing yer,
You're the Doctor of my dreams,
With your crinkly hair and your glassy stare,
And your machiavellian schemes,
I know they say that you are very vain,
And short and fat and pushy but at least you're not insane
Henry Kissinger,
How I'm missing yer,
And wishing you were here.

(Lyrics by Monty Python)

Tags: , ,

Britain's MIC

The Serious Fraud Office has been investigating BAE Systems for quite a while now.

Blair's attitude towards BAE Systems was famously revealed when he enabled the company to sell an unnecessary £28m military air traffic control system to Tanzania, one of the poorest countries in Africa. This is one of the deals which the SFO is looking at. At the time, the World Bank's independent investigators said that the Tanzanians were paying about ten times more than they needed to and the International Civil Aviation Organisation said the system was "dated technology" and not suitable for civil air traffic control as had been claimed by BAE. The government, in the style we've come to know so well, simply denied all this and insisted that this was a good deal for Tanzania.

The SFO is also looking at the links between BAE Systems and the Saudi royal family.
[T]he attorney general in London has faced renewed political pressure from BAE to block the expanding SFO investigation.

The company has hired a City firm, Allen & Overy, to protect its position with the SFO. BAE denies wrongdoing and says it is co-operating with the inquiry. The attorney general Lord Goldsmith is reported to have refused to intervene, and MPs say any move by him to do so would provoke uproar at Westminster. The Saudis also deny any wrongdoing.

Saudi officials are reported to have met Tony Blair's chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, to discuss the fate of "Al Yamamah 3", the latest multi-billion pound installment of BAE's warplane sales to the Saudis, amid fears for the deal if the Swiss probe is not blocked.

The Powell family have intimate knowledge of the history of the deals. Mr Powell's brother, Charles - Lord Powell - has been on BAE's payroll as a consultant, and his son, Hugh, heads the Foreign Office's security policy department, which is concerned with BAE. But there is no reason to believe any threats would be met with other than an entirely proper response in Downing Street.
The Guargian is famous for it's typos but that last sentence is a classic even for them; the words "other than" are surely not supposed to be there.

To be fair, the article goes on to explain that any threats made by the Saudis would have little impact because they need cooperation from the British government in various matters. In that sense, Downing Street is unlikely to feel the need to respond to Saudi threats.

But that doesn't actually say very much about whether Downing Street will respond properly to an investigation into BAE Systems, Britain's biggest (and the world's fourth largest) defence contractor. I'm guessing that sentence owes a great deal to the Guardian's legal team.

Anyway remember kids, defence contractors absolutely never sell any weapons which are capable of mass destruction. All equipment manufactured by BAE Systems contains a high-tech chip which restricts use exclusively to the killing of really bad people who totally deserved it. Each defence tool also comes with a sticker of a cuddly teddy bear (now with real faux fur) and a lollipop. So that's OK then.

Tags: , , ,

Saturday, November 18, 2006

An Unexpected Outcome

So Blair has finally admitted that Iraq is a disaster. Sort of. Sir David Frost asked him whether western intervention in Iraq had "so far been pretty much of a disaster". He replied:
It has, but you see what I say to people is why is it difficult in Iraq? It's not difficult because of some accident in planning, it's difficult because there's a deliberate strategy - al-Qa'ida with Sunni insurgents on one hand, Iranian-backed elements with Shia militias on the other - to create a situation in which the will of the majority for peace is displaced by the will of the minority for war.
And he would know. After all, when it comes to creating a situation in which the will of the majority for peace is displaced by the will of the minority for war, he knows what he's talking about.

Those first two words are newsworthy in their way but they're not ultimately of any great significance. As a whole, his answer is really just another repetition of the line he's been selling for quite a while now. For example, at his monthly press conference a couple of weeks ago, he said:
And of course it is incredibly difficult today, but it is difficult because of those deliberately trying to visit terror on the people of Iraq rather than allowing them to decide their future democratically.

This new message was brought in to replace the previous line: things are improving in Iraq, you merchants of gloom just don't want to see it. Whatever happened to that one? Perhaps it was scrapped due to Blair's fetish with modernity. "The implementation of this new line is essential if we are to keep up with the ever changing complexities of the 21st Century" you can almost hear him instructing his Cabinet.

Anyway, this is his defence? It's a disaster because we started a war and some nasty men deliberately fought back? In a war? How unsporting! And entirely unexpected too. I now fully understand why he didn't bother to plan for that. I mean, who could possibly have thought that such a thing could happen?

Dig up satire's corpse again. This time, we're going to kill it deliberately.

Tags: , , ,

Friday, November 17, 2006

George was in Vietnam today. The welcome he has received from these former enemies of the free world has apparently further convinced him of the need for patience in Iraq.
"One lesson is, is that we tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraqis going to take a while," he said. "We'll succeed unless we quit."
We know he wasn't keen on serving in Vietnam but you'd think someone might have told him how it ended.

I almost didn't blog about this. I'm struggling to think what else we can do to satire's corpse. What about if we take it up in a Huey, ask it a few questions, throw it out onto the jungle from a great height when it refuses to answer and then drop some napalm on it?

Tags: , ,

Iraqi Devolution

Some quotations for you.
"No single narrative is sufficient to explain all the violence we see in Iraq today."

"Iraqi nationalists, ex-Baathists, former military, angry Sunni, Jihadists, foreign fighters and al-Qaeda,"... create an "overlapping, complex and multi-polar Sunni insurgent and terrorist environment."

"Shia militias and Shia militants, some Kurdish pesh merga, and extensive criminal activity further contribute to violence, instability and insecurity."

"Violence in Iraq continues to increase in scope, complexity, and lethality" despite operations by the Iraqi government and the U.S.-led coalition."

"[A]n atmosphere of fear and hardening sectarianism which is empowering militias and vigilante groups, hastening middle-class exodus, and shaking confidence in government and security forces."

"The longer this goes on, the less controlled the violence is, the more the violence devolves down to the neighborhood level. The center disappears, and normal people acting not irrationally end up acting like extremists."

"[The battlefield] is descending into smaller and smaller groups fighting over smaller and smaller issues over smaller and smaller pieces of territory."

"Militias often operate under protection or approval of Iraqi police [when they] attack suspected Sunni insurgents and Sunni civilians."
These are not the words of "leftist defeatists" like Simon Jenkins (yes, I know he's not a "leftist" but he seems to have been given that label by some for his habit of actually describing the situation in Iraq) or myself. No, these quotations come from the surprisingly honest evidence given to the Senate Armed Services Committee by Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the director of the CIA director and Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, the director of the DIA (via).

They also claimed that there are approximately 1,300 al-Qaeda and other foreign fighters in Iraq out of a total of around 20,000 to 30,000 insurgents and militiamen (who are enabled by "many more who supply support").

Just to reiterate something for the umpteenth time before I go on, it gives me no pleasure to relate these facts. The smear that all those who opposed the war are now enjoying the disaster it has provoked is a particularly loathsome piece of spin. Perhaps some on the extremes are but the vast majority, I'm sure, are very angry indeed that this is happening. My own motivation is to try to play some tiny part in ensuring that our leaders are not allowed to get away with continuing to avoid facing up to the consequences of their actions.

With that in mind, I'll use this frank assessment by the two leading U.S. intelligence directors to explain a little more about the rationale behind my belief that Iraq is well on the way to total anarchy. The crucial element to grasp in the statements above concerns the devolution of violence to neighbourhood level and the related weakening of the power of the centre. It is important to understand that this isn't just in relation to the central government. To give one example, there are increasing signs that Muqtada al-Sadr has lost control of much of the Mahdi army. All over Iraq (excluding the Kurdish area where Kurdish leaders maintain good command and control over the Peshmerga) a similar devolution of violence is taking place.

The implications of this process of devolution should not be underestimated. The notion that the central government or al-Sadr or the Iranians or the Syrians are capable of reining in the violence rests on the assumption that those committing violent acts are substantially under the control of these various groups. Increasingly, they are not.

For that reason, it is now almost impossible to see how Iraq can be reconstructed as a stable secure country through a negotiated settlement between the political representatives of the various sectarian groups. As things currently stand, it is unlikely that Iraq's politicians will be able to reach a suitable agreement; Maliki and his Sunni Higher Education Minister cannot even agree on the basic facts surrounding the recent kidnappings, for example. Even if they do manage it, however, they no longer have the authority or control to impose this agreement on the multitude of armed splinter groups which have formed throughout the country. In order to persuade these groups to lay down their arms and (as they see it) stop defending their neighbourhoods, they will first need to provide security. But to provide security, they will first need to persuade these same groups to lay down their arms. It's a Joseph Heller nightmare.

Iraq is, as Maples and Hayden admit, disintegrating into a patchwork of small warring fiefdoms in the model of Afghanistan before the very eyes of the coalition and this sort of disintegration is hugely difficult to stop. The various fiefdoms will increasingly fight each other for control of various areas and resources in an effort to maintain their own security and increase their power. If Iraq is to become reunified and centrally controlled again (again excluding the Kurdish area where a different situation exists) it is likely to be only after one of these fiefdoms succeeds in fighting its way into a position of dominance over the host of other groups now operating all over the country. This could take years or it may not happen at all. Either way, the years to come will be bloody indeed.

And the coalition? The addition of 20,000 extra U.S. troops, poorly trained in peacekeeping and counter-insurgency and increasingly unwelcome and distrusted, will certainly not help. It's time to go. The situation is lost. Nobody won.

Tags: , ,

"Information" Operations

Last night, I noticed that "journalist" Con Coughlin has a blog at the Telegraph. His latest post references the "Iran is taking over al-Qaeda - nuclear armageddon - we're all going to die!!" article which he wrote and which appeared on the front page of the Telegraph the other day.

Strangely, my comment didn't get past the moderators even though I went out of my way to be polite (not always an easy task for a gruff Scotsman but I'm pretty sure I managed on this occasion). Even more strangely, other comments, including one saying Con "sounds like an idiot", did make it past the censors so criticisms are obviously acceptable in some cases. And another comment has been accepted which was submitted after mine last night so it's not like it's stuck in a queue.

Perhaps I'm jumping the gun here but it seems that the Telegraph might not be overly keen on its readers knowing about Coughlin's long standing relationship with MI6 or the fact that he was taken to court after he participated (perhaps unintentionally) in one of their disinformation campaigns and (knowingly) falsely described his source as a "British banking official". It's not altogether beyond the bounds of possibilities.

Anyone else want to have a go at a comment? He apparently only writes one post a week so this one will be around for a few days yet.

On a similar vein, the article which reveals Coughlin's links to MI6 is currently result five in a "G" search for his name. I'm no expert but I'm wondering whether a few like minded bloggers might be able to improve even on that. Because it seems to me that more people really ought to know a bit more about Con Coughlin. Join me do if you're so inclined.

Tags: , ,

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The major developments in this inquiry are not in the public domain. He's such a tease, that Yates.

It looks like Blair's latest tactic, an extraordinarily hypocritical one given his government's attitude to due process over the last nine years, has just backfired spectacularly in his face.

Tags: , , ,

Ask Tony

My question didn't get asked. Unsurprising but bah all the same.

Blair was questioned about the National Identity Register scheme. He was asked to explain who will have access to the details on the register. He tried to dismiss the importance of this by saying that "the key for this thing is... the fact that you have the biometric data of your fingerprint and your iris scan. That's the data that matters and that data is peculiar to you."

Not for the first time, you have to ask whether he's being deliberately misleading or just a fool.

Your fingerprints and iris patterns are indeed peculiar to you but the identity that those biometric details are linked to on the database is determined by fallible, corruptible human beings. Human error will cause many problems but that isn't my main concern. As was reported not so long ago, a large part of the reason why drugs are so freely available in British prisons is because a small minority of prison officers have been corrupted by wealthy criminals. The idea that some of those who maintain the national identity register will not be similarly corrupted is fanciful in the extreme.

So what, says Blair, you're biometric identifiers are peculiar to you. The system is infallible.

Well, if I was a wealthy criminal with a sense of humour (which I'm obviously not) here's what I'd do. As soon as Blair's biometrics are added to the database, I'd have some fun. I'd pay an amenable NIR maintenance officer to take those biometric details, detach them from the identity "Tony Blair" and attach them instead to the identity "Osama bin Laden". Blair goes to demonstrate his shiny infallible new system for a press conference, puts his finger on the scanner, and the system says "You are Osama bin Laden. GUARDS! GUARDS! ARREST THIS MAN!!!!!!!".

Obviously, this would be illegal and I do not advocate such an activity. But I can't help but imagine the self-satisfied expression drain from the smug git's face as the alarms go off.

It's a silly example but this sort of thing will happen one way or another. Known criminals will manipulate the system so that their actual fingerprints and iris patterns are attached to the identities of clean individuals on the database. They get scanned and the system says "you are Mr Joe Goodcitizen, have a nice day".

And vice versa, of course. The criminal's identity on the database is going to need to have someone's biometrics attached to it. And if that happens to you, you're going to have to go through a world of pain trying to prove that you are not actually Pimp McBastard as the system says you are. Because your biometric data is peculiar to you, Mr McBastard. The system is infallible...

Tags: , , ,
The elections and Rumsfeld's resignation were a major event, but not the end of the world. The war on terror goes on without interruption.... [L]et's be on the lookout for any statements from the Iraq insurgents, who must be thrilled at the prospect of a Dem-controlled Congress.

The question of the day, and indeed for the rest of Bush's term, is: what is the Dem plan for Iraq?
A missive from Karl Rove outlining the Republican strategy for the next two years?

No, it's an internal memo from Fox News written by their Vice President of "news", John Moody.

Crooks and Liars has Olbermann's take on this and more.

Tags: , , ,

Onward Christain Soldiers

It looks like it's going to be a last big push.
President George Bush has told senior advisers that the US and its allies must make "a last big push" to win the war in Iraq and that instead of beginning a troop withdrawal next year, he may increase US forces by up to 20,000 soldiers, according to sources familiar with the administration's internal deliberations.

Mr Bush's refusal to give ground, coming in the teeth of growing calls in the US and Britain for a radical rethink or a swift exit, is having a decisive impact on the policy review being conducted by the Iraq Study Group chaired by Bush family loyalist James Baker, the sources said.
I suppose it was too much to expect that he wouldn't insist on the most ridiculous of all the available options.

Dubya has not after all managed to become reacquainted with reality. The advice coming from his Dad's friends at the Iraq Study Group will not influence his thinking any more than anyone else because George made up his mind four years ago and that was that. That is the always the problem with a crusade. If you're on a mission from God, you're going to believe that you cannot lose. It isn't a matter of the facts on the ground; it's a matter of faith.

I know some people question whether Bush is sincere in his Christian beliefs. For some, his past alcohol and drug problems make this unlikely but that is to misunderstand Evangelicalism. Many Evangelical Christians have surprising past lives. My family has a lot of connections to evangelicals and I've read and listened to a large number of "testimonials" over the years. These real life tales of being "born again" are remarkable in that so many of them are told be people who were "saved" from the deepest miseries of human existence. I've met a few of these converts, had dinner in their houses, and I can tell you that their sincerity is, almost universally, like granite. As you can probably tell, I'm firmly of the view that the evangelical concept of being "born again" has particular appeal for those who have lost their way in life. (Many Evangelicals are not like this, of course.)

In other words, I think he really does believe God wanted him to invade Iraq.

The Guardian quotes a former senior administration official:
He [Bush] is in a state of denial about Iraq. Nobody else is any more. But he is. But he knows he's got less than a year, maybe six months, to make it work. If it fails, I expect the withdrawal process to begin next fall.
As time runs out and "victory" remains elusive, he is likely to become even more erratic and dangerous in his judgements. Almost certainly, many more innocent Iraqis will be killed at the hands of U.S. troops operating under ever increasing pressure from the Whitehouse as George demands that they "make it work" in this one last futile push. Equally, the casualty rate among U.S. troops is also likely to increase significantly and this in turn will lead to even more aggressive military responses. I don't think you need to have studied insurgency and counter insurgency to understand this. It's just human nature.

The U.S. troops, unable to distinguish friend from foe, and under increasing pressure to defeat the insurgents, will err more and more on the side of caution (from their point of view) and will tend to kill many more "insurgents" who are nothing of the sort. These killings will appear barbaric, arbitrary and unjust to the families and friends of those killed for the very good reason that that is ultimately what they are. This will then stoke support for further actual attacks on the troops. As individual soldiers watch their friends die, again in ways which are essentially barbaric, arbitrary and unjust (war generally is*), and with the "enemy" as hard to identify as ever, the vicious circle takes another spin on its downward spiral.

[* The difference is, of course, that U.S. soldiers are there as volunteers who understand that their job means people may try to kill them. Iraqis have had this arbitrary brutality come into their own cities, towns, villages and homes. Unlike the troops, they are not in the middle of this carnage by choice. And yes, Saddam's Iraq was defined by arbitrary brutality. Iraqis were told that the invasion would end that. Instead, it has made it worse.]

If the above report is correct and the U.S. militarily really is about to be ordered to carry out one last big push, the result will be almost certainly be a significant increase in the viciousness of the circle.

Saudi Arabia's proximity to Iraq means that the Saudi government cannot afford to ignore the realities of the situation. When a disaster of the magnitude of Iraq is happening on your border, pragmatism is the order of the day. The Saudis have just announced that they intend to build a $12 billion barrier along their border with Iraq to try to isolate their country from the chaos unfolding next door. It is expected that this barrier will take five years to complete. It's impossible to tell whether they had been informed that Dubya favoured a last big push before they decided to build the wall but it's certainly possible. In any event, the close relationship between the Bush family and the Saudi government is well known. They know who they're dealing with and they have made their judgement.

Iraq's future is increasingly likely to reassemble John Carpenter's New York on a budget busting scale. Many Iraqis are already attempting to escape. Many, however, will be left behind when the last helicopter lifts off and the last brick is laid.

There is nothing we can do now to help the Iraqi people. It is hard to face but it is also impossible to ignore. The situation in Iraq and the situation in President Bush's head are both far beyond the ability of anyone in this country to control. All we can do is make sure that those responsible for creating this mess are held to account. And here, that means Blair. Martin Kettle recently said that Blair's decision to participate in this disaster was "a monumental piece of military/political miscalculation". The consequences of that miscalculation have also been monumental. Blair must be held to account for that.

It will be no comfort to Iraqis but it might just make future Prime Minister's think twice before so recklessly playing dice with other people's lives.

Tags: , , ,

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Downing Street has set up a new online petition system so Tony can pretend to listen to us plebs. Head on over to Chicken Yoghurt for further info.

Here are some petitions which might be of interest.
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to scrap the proposed introduction of ID cards.

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Stop using the threat of terror to pass laws that are illiberal and ineffective.

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Launch an independant public enquiry into the decision making process which lead to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to champion the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, by not replacing the Trident nuclear weapons system
That last one might be controversial for some but here's my view of it for anyone who's interested. When Blair calls for other nations to "abide by, not flout, their international obligations" he might have more clout if he applied the same principle at home.

I'm afraid I have to advise against signing the petition to replace the national anthem with 'Gold' by Spandau Ballet before the 2012 Olympics but I do have some sympathy for the idea. On your feet people - "Gold! Always believe in your soul, You've got the power to know, You're indestructable..." It might just work, you know.

Tags: , ,

The Fourth Estate

The Telegraph is notorious for its willingness to spout drivel on foreign policy matters but it's really excelling itself today (via).
Iran 'is training the next al-Qa'eda leaders'

Iran is seeking to take control of Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'eda terror network by encouraging it to promote officials known to be friendly to Teheran, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.

According to recent reports received by Western intelligence agencies, the Iranians are training senior al-Qa'eda operatives in Teheran to take over the organisation when bin Laden is no longer leader.

Sunni fundamentalist Al-Qaeda members do not consider Shiites to be "proper" Muslims. They may or may not occasionally cooperate in minor matters when it is in their joint interest (there is very little, if any, evidence that they do) but the idea that Shiite Iran could have that sort of influence over al Qaeda is palpably absurd. It'd be like Ian Paisley agreeing to allow Martin McGuinness to succeed him as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party only even more ridiculous.

So what's going on? Well, a google of Con Coughlin brings up this:
[In 1995], readers of the Sunday Telegraph were regaled with a dramatic story about the son of Col Gadafy of Libya and his alleged connection to a currency counterfeiting plan. The story was written by Con Coughlin, the paper’s then chief foreign correspondent, and it was falsely attributed to a “British banking official”. In fact, it had been given to him by officers of MI6, who, it transpired, had been supplying Coughlin with material for years.
It seems that Mr Coughlin has previous when it comes to disseminating unfounded government propaganda. This article appears to belong with the utterly fallacious yellow badges for Jews story instigated by neo-con stooge Amir Taheri.

This may simply be a matter of the government trying to pressure the Iranians into being more amenable to helping bail us out of Iraq. Or it may be an attempt to prepare the way for possible military action. Either way, it is a worrying state of affairs when such nonsense is being disseminated by "Western intelligence agencies".

Tags: , , ,
Tony wants you to send him a question. He'll be answering a select few on Thursday.

I was tempted to go with this:
Dear Tony,

Can you advise me of the current price for an honour as I am considering taking up this once in a lifetime opportunity before you leave office.
Somehow, however, I feel it is unlikely that it'd make it onto the short-list. (And I don't actually have a few thousand pounds going spare so it wouldn't be entirely honest.)

Instead, I went with this:
Would you consider extending "summary justice", the principle that a suspect is assumed to be guilty based only on the allegations of the police, to cases involving the selling of peerages?
I doubt that'll make it either but you never know.

Get your questions in to Tony via the Downing Street website.

Tags: , ,

Other People's Rights

The always worthwhile Not Saussure has picked out a particularly noteworthy quotation from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust report which was in the news the other day:
Tony Blair talks of ‘rebalancing between the rights of the suspect and the rights of the law-abiding majority’. John Reid declared to the Labour party conference, ‘It cannot be right that the rights of an individual suspected terrorist be placed above the rights, the life and limb of the rest of the British people. It cannot be right – it is wrong, no ifs, no buts, it’s just plain wrong.’ But these are false dichotomies: ‘suspects’ are members of the ‘majority’. They are innocent until proved guilty, their rights and those of the majority hang together. (It is a miserable fact, however, that thanks to its constant use, the word ‘suspect’ is now charged with the presumption of guilt – so much that the Guardian recently wrote of ‘alleged terrorist suspects’.) (p 42)
Authoritarians are hijacking the English language. Sorry, but that clearly calls for another Orwell reference. This is a "doubleplusungood" state of affairs. Some sort of campaign to try to restore the correct meaning and usage of the word "suspect" is perhaps in order.

The fallacious distinction between a "suspect" and "the majority" appears credible to many non-Muslims simply because they cannot imagine a situation in which they themselves might be wrongly accused of being a terrorist. Of course, the very politicians who deliberately exploit this situation in an attempt to remove certain rights from a specific section of the population are the same politicians who call for that same section to display greater social integration. Yes, "integrate better while we simultaneously treat you differently from everyone else" is the call of the stupid, morally bankrupt scumbags who currently run this country.

Unsurprisingly, as a means to tackle the problem it ostensibly purports to address, it is an approach which does not work well. It is, however, an approach which may well win votes and that, ultimately, is what government is all about in Blair's Britain.

Tags: , , ,

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

"What is happening in the Middle East today is not complex. It is simple."

- Tony Blair, 13th November 2006

"Wibble. Wibble."

- Tony Blair, 14th November 2006

And the really bad news is, I don't think he's pretending.

Tags: , ,

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Party Comes First

The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust has just produced a new report. They say:
The government's counter-terrorism campaign is often driven by party-political and electoral motives that are 'submerging' its own 'sensible' counter-terrorism strategy.

The actions of ministers, particularly Home Secretary John Reid, could have a 'boomerang effect' by alienating the Muslim communities whose trust and co-operation are vital.
Hear hear (apart from a query over their use of the word "sensible").

The Blair government has consistently prioritised party political and electoral motives above public safety, the national interest or any other concern. Blair and his acolytes are far more interested in "playing to the tabloid gallery" than they are in good governance.

Last week, Sir Ian Blair and Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller launched what is obviously another coordinated attempt "prepare public opinion" for yet another round of authoritarian tabloid pleasing measures. Neither of these people is an elected politician but our great leader has no qualms about destroying the barrier which has historically existed between politician and civil servant and co-opting them into participating in his political strategies. This dangerous dismantling of a crucial long standing distinction serves no-one but Blair and is likely to do long term damage to the British political process. He really is an unscrupulous self-serving git.

So, ninety days detention without charge will soon be back on the cards along with who knows what else. When it comes to destroying our freedoms, the terrorists have an awfully long way to go before they're even in the same league as Anthony Charles Lynton Blair.

This government is, to borrow a phrase, not fit for purpose.

Tags: , , ,

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sunday Times: British to quit Iraq ‘in a year’
THE Democrats’ clean sweep in last week’s American congressional elections has prepared the way for a British exit from Iraq, with troop numbers more than halved by next spring.

A staged withdrawal of all 7,500 British troops now in southern Iraq could come by the end of next year, defence sources said.
Senior sources have been suggesting for some time that the reason British troops remained in such numbers was that Blair was reluctant to embarrass Bush with any withdrawals before last week’s elections.
Is that worth dying for?

In April, Blair said "I yield to nobody in my support and admiration for the work that the soldiers do in Iraq". How does he sleep at night?

Tags: , , ,
This week's Scottish Blog Roundup is out now.


Saturday, November 11, 2006

His Master's Voice

Wasn't going to blog today but an open goal is an open goal. Blair will talk to George's buddies about Iraq but he refuses to discuss it in any meaningful way in the House of Commons. Sir Menzies has, quite understandably, pointed out that the British Prime Minister is supposed to be accountable to the British parliament.
Downing Street however accused Sir Menzies of being out of touch with the public.

"Most people in this country will welcome the fact that the Prime Minister is contributing to the deliberations of the Iraq Study Group. It is a shame that Sir Menzies is not one of them," a spokesman said.
Presumably, the reason you only ever read or hear what the PMOS has said and never actually see film of him saying anything is because his blush at having to read out these absurdities is of such a magnitude as to cause all cameras within a one mile radius to explode. Having learned from costly experience, film crews must now reverse scramble out of Downing Street as soon as they hear that he's going to make a statement. "Hurry man, this camera cost a hundred grand. It's getting warm, he must be starting. Quick, get in the van. GET IN THE VAN!"

While we're on the subject of shameless lickspittles, Buff was on the Question Time panel the other night. After a lengthy period of consideration, I've come to the surprising conclusion that he does actually have one use. His unwavering commitment to the official line coupled with his absolute inability to entertain even a hint of an independent thought mean that his statements demonstrate the government's "communication" strategies in painfully stark relief.

On Iraq, the government line has been obvious for a good while but in summary:
  1. What is important now is the future, not the past
  2. Those who dwell on the past are more interested in petty political point scoring than in the welfare of the Iraqi people.
This is the spin Blair is relying on to eke out just a few more months of that gloriously intoxicating power. Buff's QT responses were all basically reheated versions of those same two points (the first openly stated, the second strongly implied).

The second point is so outrageous, so obviously designed to stifle any attempt to examine this government's many failures, so, when it comes right down to it, undemocratic, as to be unworthy of any sort of serious response. This strategy can be clearly seen in the PMOS's response to Sir Menzies above. For "It is a shame that Sir Menzies is not one of them" read "he doesn't care about the future of Iraq". This is a reminder, as if one were needed, that Blair is ultimately a deeply unscrupulous bastard. He wouldn't recognise an honest debate if it was knee deep in oil.

The first point, much laboured by Buff on QT, is that we should now spend our time discussing how we should precede rather than endlessly going over the past. There are a number of problems with this. For a start, Buff himself spent the entire time telling people to "look to the future" without actually doing so himself. He had nothing to say on the future he so wanted us to look to. As a means to tackle the bloody chaos of Iraq, repeatedly and robotically telling people to "look to the future" is way down on my list of priorities.

And, of course, if you were trying to devise strategies for Iraq, what you wouldn't do is start from here. If you absolutely had too, the first thing you'd do is find out who it was who had got you here, locate that person and tell them to piss right off. Right off. I don't have any opinion polls to hand but I think I can say with some certainty that a majority of the British people have no faith in Blair's ability to deal with the aftermath of the mess he did so much to help create.

The main point however, is that as long as Blair is in charge, there is no British input into the future of Iraq. We can talk about new approaches all we want but our strategy will only change when U.S. strategy changes. End of. And Blair's contribution to the proposals put forward by the I.S.G. will be nil. Likewise, his influence on Bush's decision as to whether to adopt these proposals will be nil. He's been asked to take part out of a sense of politeness; he has to be seen to have been consulted. But how long will this consultation really last? An afternoon? Less maybe? It's window dressing. Under Blair, looking to the future of British foreign means looking to see what the Bush administration is going to do next.

So here's my suggestion for the future. Why don't we have a British government with its own independent foreign policy? I'm no historian but I'm pretty sure we've tried it before and it seemed to work out sort of alright. It might not have been perfect but at least it was ours.

Tags: , , ,

Friday, November 10, 2006

Can you spot the sore loser? Is they all picking on poor little Donny?

His resignation speech, by the way, was something else.
The great respect that I have for your leadership, Mr. President, in this little understood, unfamiliar war, the first war of the 21st century -- it is not well-known, it was not well-understood, it is complex for people to comprehend. And I know, with certainty, that over time the contributions you've made will be recorded by history.
Yes folks, it's not Donny or Dubya's fault. It's just that the American people and the rest of the world are too stupid to understand how splendidly things are going in Iraq. When, on February 7th 2003, he said the war "could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months," we foolishly believed that he was an ignorant, dogmatic ideologue who didn't understand the first thing about the actual consequences of the actions he was advocating. Now that this prediction can be tested against recorded history however...

Also, I can't imagine you don't already read Justin's outstanding Friday Thing contributions with a quasi-religious devotion but just in case you don't, you really should. This week, the fallout from the mid terms come under the excoriating spotlight.

Tags: , , ,

Ha ha! Another cowboy bites the dust.

Rarely, if ever, has a man been less qualified for his job.

Tags: , , ,

Tony, do you think they'll drop the bomb?

With Dubya's party getting a whipping in the elections over there and Blair struggling to maintain his authority here, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller's intervention today comes as no great surprise. The government clearly believes that we're not currently scared enough and that it's their job to put this right.

Not for the first time, I'm reminded of a song.
Tony's gonna make all of your nightmares come true.

Tony's gonna put all of his fears into you.

Tony's gonna keep you right here under his wing.

He won't let you fly, but he might let you sing.

Tony's gonna keep Baby cozy and warm.

Ooo Babe, of course Tony's gonna help build a wall.
It's the nanny state gone mad...

Anyway, as usual when Blair resorts to the politics of fear, he's now stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, he wants us to believe that the threat of terrorism is greater than ever. On this, unfortunately, I believe he's probably right. But he also wants us to believe that this increased threat has nothing to do with Iraq and that the very government which has presided over this dramatic increase can now be trusted to deal with it. Duh!?

Perhaps most worrying is the fact that he appears to seriously and genuinely believe that this is a convincing argument. Joking aside, it is increasingly clear that he is not a well man.

Tags: , , ,

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Lying For Votes

I'm sure you've already seen these snippets on the news but I just wanted to preserve them here for posterity. Here's Bush's reaction to the "thumping" his party got at the mid-terms.
I thought we were going to do fine yesterday. Shows what I know.
He really is one in a million.

And why did he lie last week when he said Rumsfeld would stay on as Defense Secretary?
Right. No, you and Hunt and Keil came in the Oval Office, and Hunt asked me the question one week before the campaign, and basically it was, are you going to do something about Rumsfeld and the Vice President? And my answer was, they're going to stay on. And the reason why is I didn't want to inject a major decision about this war in the final days of a campaign. And so the only way to answer that question and to get you on to another question was to give you that answer.
That's right, he lied to reporters and to the American people because there were elections on the way and he was worried that the truth might lose his party votes (you might have spotted that he almost certainly got that wrong too). This, from the free world's self appointed guardian of democracy. There comes a point when you just can't come up with any new ways to express the ironies which surround Bush and Blair. I may have to start using "You Couldn't Make It Up" as a sort of running slogan.

And now that the Republicans have lost both Houses, the most partisan President of the most partisan party in living memory has called for members of Congress to "rise above partisan differences" and said that his administration will do the same. This, while simultaneously issuing Congress with a series of instructions, the most obvious (and controversial) example being this:
Another important priority in the war on terror is for the Congress to pass the Terrorist Surveillance Act.
Yes, Bush wants the Democrats to put aside partisan differences and do what they're bloody well told.

You really couldn't. What else is there to say?

Tags: , , ,

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Fresh Perspective

Sorry to rain on the parade but Billmon thinks that Robert Gates - the man Bush has proposed as Rumseld's replacement - "should fit right in". Iran-Contra you say? Not good.

He's not just connected to the Iran-Contra scandal though. On 31 January 1995, former National Security Council official Howard Teicher gave a sworn statement to a Florida district court (via Gates' Wiki talk page). He said:
I personally attended meetings in which CIA Director Casey or CIA Deputy Director Gates [that's our guy] noted the need for Iraq to have certain weapons such as cluster bombs and anti-armor penetrators in order to stave off the Iranian attacks.

The CIA, including both CIA Director Casey and Deputy Director Gates, knew of, approved of, and assisted in the sale of non-U.S. origin military weapons, ammunition and vehicles to Iraq.

One of the reasons that the United States refused to license or sell U.S. origin weapons to Iraq was that the supply of non-U.S. origin weapons to Iraq was sufficient to meet Iraq's needs. Under CIA DIrector Casey and Deputy Director Gates, the CIA made sure that non-U.S. manufacturers manufactured and sold to Iraq the weapons needed by Iraq. [That's one especially for all those people who endlessly note that that Saddam had no U.S. weapons so that proves that Reagan didn't supply blah blah blah.]

Under CIA Director Casey and Deputy Director Gates, the CIA authorized, approved and assisted Cardoen [a Chilean arms supplier] in the manufacture and sale of cluster bombs and other munitions to Iraq. My NSC files will contain documents that show or tend to show the CIA's authorization, approval and assistance of Cardoen's manufacture and sale of cluster bombs and other muntions to Iraq.
This testimony was essentially suppressed by the Clinton administration. (There are many reasons why the Clinton administration would block knowledge of secret CIA activities instigated by a previous Republican administration. Rather than go into that here, let's just say that Bill was not the angel some people think he was.)

So Gates may well have authorised, approved and assisted in the manufacture and sale of cluster bombs to Saddam Hussein. And he's going to replace Rumsfeld and turn things around in Iraq with his "fresh eyes".

That concludes today's episode of "You Couldn't Make It Up!"


It gets worse (via a long chain but ultimately Michael. Good spot, that man).
The dust from Iran-Contra had settled sufficiently by 1991, when President George H. W. Bush nominated Gates to head the CIA. Then all hell broke loose... [A] former senior Soviet analyst and CIA division chief, Mel Goodman, stepped forward and gave the Senate intelligence committee chapter and verse on how Gates had shaped intelligence analysis to suit his masters and his career [my emphasis]. Goodman was joined at once by several other analysts who put their own careers at risk by testifying against Gates’ nomination. They were so many and so persuasive that, for a time, it appeared they had won the day. But the fix was in.

With a powerful assist from George Tenet, then staff director of the senate intelligence committee, members approved the nomination.
The article, written by ex-CIA analysis Ray McGovern, is worth reading in full. Gates was apparently the person "most responsible for institutionalizing political corruption of intelligence analysis". This institutionalised politicisation led directly to the point where the CIA (then headed by "slam dunk" Tenet) willingly produced the "faulty" intelligence used to justify Bush's war of choice.

And later today, we'll be interviewing the pigeon who's just been appointed head of Statue Cleansing Operations at Trafalgar Square. He's assured us that he'll be able to tell us what he plans to do without crapping on our hair. As we've no reason not to trust him, we won't be wearing hats...

Tags: , , ,
Huzzah! It really is a tipping point.

One grossly incompetent warmonger down, many still to go.

Unfortunately, it won't be a tipping point for Iraqis; it is impossible to see what the Democrats, or indeed a new Defense Secretary, could do to improve the situation in Iraq at this late stage.

Holding the architects of this bloody disaster to account, however, may at least make similar tragedies less likely in the future.

Tags: , ,
We've heard a lot about "tipping points" over the last three years or so. Last night, we reached one which actually exists in the real world, one which is completely independent of fevered imaginings of Bush and Blair.

It is strange to think that the Labour Prime Minister of this country will be deeply concerned that the Democrats have taken control of the House of Representatives from the Republicans (and may also gain the Senate) but that is undoubtedly the reality of the situation.

While Blair remains protected by fools, toadies and hypocrites, Bush no longer has that luxury. The Democrats will now launch a series of investigation into exactly how Bush and Blair managed to turn Iraq into the bloody quagmire it is today.

Accountability may be about to make a welcome reappearance and not before time. Thank you America.

Tags: , , ,
Davide has been GIYUSed.

Those brave cyber-soldiers never tire in their courageously effort to expose the blind, underdeveloped, disgusting, moronic useful idiots who question the morality of the IDF. They are, after all, the most moral army in the world. Dissent from that position is unacceptable.

In truth, the difference between the Israeli military and the terrorists is clear for all to see. After the Israeli military has perpetrated an act of indiscriminate collective punishment on the Palestinian people, the IDF, unlike the terrorists, apologises and orders an investigation (to be carried out by the same IDF of course). And then they do the same thing again. And again. And again...

These apologies would perhaps be of some value if they were an indication of a desire to ensure that similar events will be less likely in future. But even the people at GIYUS must know deep down that they are not.

Tags: , ,

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Don't worry, we still have the people's hearts and minds.


Tags: , , ,
I'll wait till I hear an undeniable official announcement on the subject before I fully believe it but on the face of it, it looks like the ace in the hole has turned into a busted flush. Read 'em and weep, Tony.

And that's where my knowledge of playing card based idioms runs out. Thankfully.

Tags: , , ,

Monday, November 06, 2006

Blair's Ficton

I've given up waiting for the transcript from Blair's press conference so I've transcribed some of his words of wisdom for your reading pleasure from the BBC News Player. (Via this page but you need to click through to the player then click again to view the full conference.)

As I've said before, Blair habitually misrepresents the results of the Iraqi elections. His claim that 70% of Iraqis "voted for a non-sectarian government in which the Sunnis and the Shias and the Kurds all work together" is just so much naive wishful thinking. It is, in fact, just the sort of naive wishful thinking which has contributed so much to the coalition's disastrous handling of the occupation. That description of the results is clearly not true in any meaningful sense.

Someone must have brought this fact to his attention (possibly the Guardian editorial team) because he tried a new version today.
The one thing you cannot dispute, after the turnout at the Iraqi elections, with people voting for what they knew was going to be a cross-party government, you can't dispute the majority of Iraqis want a different type of future.
What an utter git. I suppose I voted for the Blair government to be given absolute power on a 22% mandate and I fully support the FPTP system because I voted for the Liberal Democrats at the last general election... Actually, he probably does believe that. The git.

Something like 80% of Iraqis who voted, voted for parties which represent narrow sectarian interests. These are the clear facts. They might be spinnable in some pathetic clutching at straws exercise at a press conference but that won't change the reality of the situation where it matters. Yes, Iraqis want a different type of future but the problem is that they can't agree on what different type of future it should be. Shiites want one future, Sunnis another and Kurds another again. And that's leaving aside the factional disputes inside these three main groups or the views of Iraq's minority communities. This isn't actually hard to understand. Not unless you're an utter git anyway.

He also said something else which caught my attention. Here's a little bit of context.

Blair is again going through his mantra on why he believes Iraq has not caused an increase in support for Islamist terrorism. In short, Blair believes that the terrorists’ beliefs and ideology are wrong and it is therefore “utterly irrational” to suggest that Iraq is having the effect which pretty much every sensible observer says it is. Ironically, he doesn’t appear to appreciate that human beings are often rather susceptible to ideologies and beliefs which are wrong. He of all people should know better.

In fact, it is obviously quite possible to give added credibility to an ideology which is wrong. Invading Iraq on a false prospectus gave enormous added credibility to the belief that the American and British governments are intent on waging war on all Muslims. Like Blair, I don’t actually think they are* but that is beside the point. What matters is what potential terrorists believe and all the evidence suggest that the catastrophic invasion of Iraq has caused ever increasing numbers to believe that Bush and Blair really are on a crusade against Muslims. The effect is undoubtedly real even though the belief it is based on is false. Blair is apparently not able to understand this.

Anyway, here’s what Blair said when defending his decisions on Iraq.
We removed Saddam. Again, if Saddam’s party wanted to stand in the Iraqi election, they could have stood and been voted in.
And the two word reply to that claim is this; utter bollocks.

It simply isn’t true. Suspected ex-baathists were barred from standing at the elections as candidates for other parties. There was certainly no possibility that the Baath Party would be allowed to put forward candidates of its own.

So what is Blair on about? Why does he make these fatuous claims? And what point is there to this one?

If we look at all of these statements, the intelligence picture they paint is one accumulated over the past nine years. It is extensive, detailed and authoritative. It concludes that Blair has lied, that he has continued to produce lies, that he has existing and active plans for the use of lies, which could be activated within 45 minutes, including against his own population; and that he is actively trying to acquire new lies.

And that he's an utter git.

(By the way, if anyone wondered, the title isn't a typo. Ficton. Perfectly normal word round our way. Should be used more often.)

* I do believe that Bush and Blair have been criminally negligent in their failure to fulfil their responsibilities to the Iraqi people. These failures have been caused by their indifference, their carelessness, their incompetence, their unwillingness to listen to expert warnings and their lack of intelligence (no pun intended exactly). They did not want to preside over the slaughter now unfolding in Iraq but that is what they have done. Just as a reckless driver is held to account for unintentionally killing a pedestrian, Blair and Bush should be held to account for their lethally reckless attitude towards the people of Iraq.

Tags: , , ,