Saturday, December 16, 2006

Christmas message

The BBC may have the Queen and C4 a comedy turn but Too Early To Tell can exclusively (well, actually its lifted from the comments on a post on Pickled Politics in response to a lengthy slagging match) bring you an early Christmas Message from the geezer whose birthday we're supposed be celebrating.... remember him?


Jesus Christ on 12th December, 2006 at 7:19 pm

Oi!

Give it a rest!

Just enjoy yourselves. Even the Muslims. All of you just calm down. I bring peace and goodwill to all men and women.

Chill out.

Drink some wine.

Enjoy my birthday.

Shake hands with a Sikh.

Hug a Hindu.

Kiss your family members.

Say 'hosannah!' to a Muslim if you see them.

Pinch the bottom of a woman in a burqa, you know they probably just want a bit of saucy attention.

But please, stop fighting, for Nebuchadnezzar's sake!

Oy Vez, if it's not one thing it's another. What am I, chopped liver?

And if anyone has Mel Gibson's contact details, could you pass my e-mail onto him please? I have a bone to pick with him about something.

nazareth_gangster@yahoo.co.uk

Thanks. And, uhhh, peace and love to you all.

~JC~

Friday, December 15, 2006

Free from the Welsh jackboot?

So Flanders is not declaring independence after all. Watch the spoof news report that threw French Belgium into panic here.

Shame, as a region boasting Antwerp, Bruges and Ghent is unfairly tarred with the boring brush. More to the point I was wondering - when Scotland becomes independent, will England be able to win independence from Wales and Northern Ireland? And if the Scots woke up to what side their bread was really buttered on, as the Wallonians recognise theirs, wouldn't they be the ones to panic if the BBC screened a spoof on a snap move for English independence...?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Day Becomes Night

Bush and Blair may agree that, as they subtly put it, 'we are not winning' in Iraq, but unsurprisingly Iraqi President Jalal Talabani disagrees with their developing strategies.

In Bush' case this seems to be to let his successor organise a pullout while he talks big and serious, and, as even the odd correspondent, on Fox News' site is now allowed to suggest, sticks his head in the sand, see Susan Estrich: President Bush: State of Denial About Iraq.

Blair meanwhile is talking about regional stability again - and talking up our friends in the hijab and our friends in the Baath (Iran and Syria).

Still Jack Straw always argued that a bird in hijab was worth two in the baath but hey that's another country, I mean story...

More pertinently old cronies like Geoff Hoon appear on Radio 4 to remind us that the Brits were never in favour of disbanding Saddam's army - that was those crazy yanks with their failing Iraq policies which we have been so successful in mediating through our participation in them.

Remember how we were showing them the way in Basra - before the shit hit the fan and we got confined to barracks and handed the streets over to the militias. Jesser Greenstock has been making similar noises to Geoff's recently on this front, explaining how well it was all going before the Americans f**ked it up. As Tony's red-handed loyalists try to persuade us all that they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong rednecks - and that really this unfortunate (if bloody) mix-up should not, God forbid, constitute the legacy of their leader's poppy-red reign.

Oddly none of that early positive stuff ever matched what soldiers returning from Iraq would tell you even in the early days; when they wondered whom they should tell the real story to, the press or the politicians. 'Stay quiet' advised wise heads of military families, unwisely, though perhaps they knew that only individual careers would be at stake, since policy was, so as to speak, so embedded, at that point.

- Well so much for defeating fascism Geoffaroony, there was I thinking we were at least principled in our dementedly ignorant approach to the whole post-conflict[sic] situation. Never mind the pre-conflict choreography of lies and hysteria - never frankly a great basis for a principled liberation - heck sometimes even the liberated get the wrong end of the stick!

Then again it was Tony your mate who offered Saddam a last minute reprieve, so what the hell - after all, that kind of thing can really muddy the water

Meanwhile Mr Talabani rages at the coming of the night

Saddam prepares for his, as Riverbend discussed, appropriately enough one might say, on Guy Fawkes Night: http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/2006_11_01_riverbendblog_archive.html

And over at Iraq Body Count the figures keep climbing. Though as reporting deaths becomes ever more disorganised with increasing social breakdown, their methodology, while applaudable, looks to be reaching the limits of its usefulness.

And perhaps they should start adding Lebanese casualties too, not exactly, after all, the law of unintended consequences, when one talks of 're-making the middle east'...

Friday, December 08, 2006

Night becomes day

I actually agree with every word Tony Blair says. In particular I am pleased that the government appears to be finally making the link between Islamic facism and the home-grown kind.

Those whites who support the BNP's [British National party] policy of separate races and those Muslims who shun integration into British society both contradict the fundamental values that define Britain today: tolerance, solidarity across the racial and religious divide, equality for all and between all.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Thought for the Day - Is John Reid the Anti-War Candidate?

A couple of weeks back John Reid, Labour's weegie hardman par excellence, (by way of contrast for example to Ian McCartney - who is their whining lard-man par excellence) had some kind of cerebral aschemic attack and came over all reasonable on the Today Programme.

This was such a remarkable event that my half-dressed partner rushed out of the bedroom and into the bathroom where I was shaving to tell me. Her unusual speed (normally nothing can interrupt her leisurely progress toward 'readiness' of a morning) was fortuitous. Had she left it a few seconds longer we might have clashed at a high speed on the short flight of stairs between our bedroom and bathroom, as I was just about to launch into a similarly motivated race into the bedroom to relay very much the same expression of surprise; and it has to be said that in such instances my progress is rarely leisurely.

The Reid reasonable-ness was triggered, intriguingly, by an exchange with Jim Naughtie over whether Reid would back extending the time for which 'terrorist suspects' could be held without charge [I could start to mull whether in the interests of journalistic accuracy the term 'terrorist suspect' should in such instances be replaced with the far more accurate and easily understood term 'anyone' or 'you or your family' ..but now is clearly not the time for such argument over mere semantics...]

Naughtie was musing on whether evidence from opinion polls about 'support for jihad' among the UK population should lead us to conclude that millions of our muslim brothers were secretly plotting to destroy our way of life. In a sort of reverse attack word use of historical analogy he reminded the former Glaswegian Stalinist that he would surely remember a time when opinion polls taken in Western Scotland could have demonstarted similar levels of support for our last major bunch of (sort of) homegrown terrorists - the IRA.

Its unclear whether the analogy helped Reid get in touch with reality over the issue of what 'support' constitutes or whether he is simply becoming a cleverer politician since his last abortive re-positioning effort, when he attempted to persuade us that he was a sort of anti-war candidate for Governor of the Pashtun, went tits up in the face of a Taliban resurgence.

Or perhaps he just saw this as a rare opportunity to put some clear blue water between himself and Tony Blair or more intriguingly between himself and Gordon Brown - who had earlier indicated a desire to increase the period to 90 days like his putative pedecessor.

Brown wants to watch himself, as he backs 90 day detention, Trident replacement and every other Blairite sacred poisoned chalice he can wrap his blubbery lips around. Soon he will have nothing left (oh...forget it...) to reposition himself with except the possibility of re-launching Blair's war with his own party; perhaps coupled with a comedy caper in which he argues with his own chosen successor at the Treasury over how to pay for all this craziness.

Reid on the other hand came over all David Davis-like and said he'd not seen any convincing evidence for this yet - it could be nothing or it could just be his cunning plan to stuff one up Peter Hain, if he can't stuff it up Gordon himself.

Hain, like the rest of the Cabinet has been making very Blairite noises lately - not least about uniting behind the decision to take the most expensive option in Trident replacement. There is a sense in which all the bigger beasts are trying to play the same game so that they all have an equal claim to at least their current share of the cake when the new chief dinner lady turns up. This is also linked to an awareness of the almost suicidal level of damage done to government and party-alike by events around the succession earlier in the year.

So there is an attempt to even the keel, to stop as Hain (and others) earlier put it 'urging more open debate in the Labour Party on replacing Trident, and start talking about the responsibilities of global power '"we're a serious Government and a serious Cabinet ...in charge of one of the world's global powers" said Hain yesterday to the BBC's AM Programme, in a moment of self-delusion chillingly reminiscent of Dr David Owen.

But 'Dr' John Reid, as he was briefly known during his time at Health, is taking a more interesting path. A subtle piece of personal re-positioning may be in the offing as the former bully boy seeks the role of eminence gris, Willie Whitelaw style, in an effort, if not to decide the future of our nation, at least to have a long-term career in the cigar clubs of social democracy.

Reid is playing a long game and I suspect his revenge on those who have questioned his ability will be bitter indeed.

Or that, failing this, there will simply be a lot of bitterness, as Labour positions itself for an internal cold war over who backs which weapons systems and abuses of civil liberties while Reid looks wearily on and wonders how all these kids who havn't even had to make such decisions can possibly have the right to express an opinion.

Reid is distancing himself from his own opportunist past and those leaping into his discarded shoes may come to find themselves barred from the swimming club because of the verukas they catch in the process.

Reid has realised that these will be yesterday's positions and that tomorrow's victors will be those who appear to have moved on.

Maybe that is what is moving the normally admirable Max Stafford Clark to call for the ditching of 'dabblers' like Reid and other Cabinet 'amateurs' who he says endanger judicial principals and civil liberties in the pursuit of policies inspired by opinion polls then leave after only a few havoc-wreaking months in the job to find another department of government to confuse.

I can only hope his speech for the Longford Lecture has been under-reported however, since his notion of professional law-makers being a solution for political opportunism smacks even less of human rights than the former positions of Uncle Joe Reid.

Meanwhile back in politics...
If (sorry 'when', fate notwithstanding) Brown wins the Labour leadership, he would do well to exile Reid North of Hadrian's Wall - to Nato maybe - or more intriguingly perhaps back to his 2001 job in Northern Ireland - where, who knows, he might actually be able to make a real contribution to something substantive.

However it is more likely that the eternally disappointed members of the benighted British party of democratic socialism will find themselves feasting on the wormwood of John Reid as a defender of the left's traditions (if not its policies, a la Prescott) come 2009.

And of course those various final scenarios are not mutually exclusive.




Thursday, November 16, 2006

Generation Game, Countdown, or the Price is Right?

A couple of interesting passages from Michael Scheuer's latest bulletin for your soaraway Global Terrorism Analysis.

On the MI5's Dame Eliza's latest assessment on the threat to the UK:

A final note that will please al-Qaeda was the Dame Eliza-Prime Minister Blair refrain that it will take the UK a generation to defeat the threat. For al-Qaeda, this is a clear signal that British leaders still believe they face a limited threat that can be defeated over time, a conclusion which Islamist leaders—who know their forces are growing geometrically—will welcome as a self-defeating delusion.

On a potential "phased" withdrawl of US forces from Iraq:

Quite simply, that decision would allow bin Laden to score, in the perception of most Muslims, an unprecedented hat-trick of successes; U.S. withdrawal would: (1) Allow the redeployment of many Iraq-based foreign fighters to the Arabian Peninsula, Europe, the Levant and the Horn of Africa; (2) Dramatically increase bin Laden's stature as a leader—and almost a prophet—by disproving the Islamist leaders who damned him for bringing down the "unbeatable military wrath" of the United States on Muslims via the 9/11 attack and validating his contention that Washington lacked the will and ruthlessness to defeat Islamist forces; and, by far the most important, (3) Exponentially surpass the motivational power of the Afghan-Islamist defeat of the Soviet Union via the Arab-Islamist defeat of the United States, the world's second and last superpower.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

C2 or not C2...

I've never been a fan of Carling, obviously, but after a night of sticking to the 3.7 per cent Youngs for the morrow was a "school day" I like the look of their new lager.

According to the breweries it's perfect for a swift one-at-lunch pint, a cheeky on-the-way-home pint, a rewarding after-football-training pint or a responsible big-meeting-tomorrow pint.

Or indeed a Know Your Limits pint?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

8 November 2006 to...

Maybe it will be picked up more widely, but in the event that it is not, I think this is the most omninous development to come out of yesterday's Beit Hanoun attack.

"America is offering political, financial and logistic cover for the Zionist occupation crimes, and it is responsible for the Beit Hanoun massacre. Therefore, the people and the nation all over the globe are required to teach the American enemy tough lessons," Hamas said in a statement sent to The Associated Press.

While critical of the U.S., Hamas has always focused its violent campaign of suicide bombings and rocket attacks against Israeli targets. Wednesday's threat signaled that the group is identifying with global Islamic extremist movements, such as al-Qaida.


I wonder if future historians will consider this thus-far little-remarked upon announcement marks the moment when the War on Terror became the Third World War? Hamas, after all, is the government of the Palestinian state entity and as the article points out this effectively globalises the Palestinian/ Israeli conflict. I don't think their claims that the military and political wings are separate - pace IRA/ Sinn Fein - will cut much ice with the Americans.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Pickled

I know, I know... but it's not easy to keep opining. Well, actually it is, but not necessarily easy to find the time to actually blog...

Also, winter's coming on and you know sometimes I'm just too irritated to go on about another idiot politician, of whatever ideological hue.

Meanwhile, note an addition to the side bar - Pickled Politics - which I've recently been reading and enjoy.

So, enjoy!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Stoopid

Alan Johnson's "25 per cent" sop on religious schools does little to ameliorate a problem entirely of the goverment's own making. What non-Muslim parent of a girl would send them to a school where the second-class status of their daughter was institutionalised?

But perhaps I am being unreasonable...

Yesterday Leicester City Council said it did not believe the scarves would deter non-Muslim parents from sending children to the school.

Education spokesman Hussein Suleman, who is also a member of the school's temporary governing body, said: 'We have to find a balance.

'Governors have to take into account the fact that 10 per cent can be of a non-Muslim background and use discretion where appropriate.

'At the same time, parents have a right to send or not send their children to this school. I hope discretion will be used if there are any disagreements.'

The school, which is not expected to make boys cover their heads, was also backed by Suleman Nagdi, of the Federation of Muslim Organisations.

He said: 'All Islamic schools have certain criteria for school uniform. I can't see anything different about the criteria they are setting in this instance.'


How about a benchmark for the idiocy of any Labour policy being the extent to which it is supported by the Conservative Party?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Sticky wicket....

Britain's top general may know all about pincer movements but he could do with some brushing up on honey traps...

Friday, October 06, 2006

Can Your Bunny Do Hijab?

Hugh Hefner today defended his statements on women's dress at the Playboy Mansion (or 'bunny ranch' as it is often known).

Hef said that he only requested that all women dressed as Playboy bunnies at the Mansion and that this was a matter of choice and personal freedom.

It was also revealed today that female visitors were always asked to remove their blouses during audiences with the sex magnate.

"Its just the way that we communicate" argued Hef, "If I can't see a woman's breasts I don't feel like we're really making a connection".

He went on to state that it was a free country and that this sort of personal freedom was fundamental to American values, (which he would also be exporting to the rest of the world in his new club openings)

"These are my values," Hef said, "the Playboy Mansion is my society and I set the rules. Women don't have to come and live here, they choose to do so - and they can leave and 'go back home' whenever they want to."

Hef said that criticism from feminists wasn't Cramping his style but misquotes were the last Straw

In yer face

"Jack Straw can't tell me what to wear, I can wear what I like!" said a Muslim "sister" on the radio this morning. And quite right too - isn't that the kind of attitude decades of public policy has encouraged?

Which is why I believe multiculturalism is inherently racist. Not necessarily in principle but in practice - Jack Straw's objection to the full veil perfectly illustrates the point.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I suspect there was always an assumption by (invariably Christian secularist) policy makers that isn't it lovely for our rainbow society to have its curries and its carnivals - what a multiculti mix! - but difference is only acceptable to a point.

Naturally our New Britons would appreciate the obvious benefits of our society - democracy, liberty, freedom of speech and to have your belly hanging out - which we take so much for granted that we have rarely appreciated these "benefits" are actually hard VALUES. Cultural values that can be accepted (as we arrogantly presume) or rejected. It is our racist assumption that our values are so obviously superior that the other cultural values will simply bow down to them.

The fatal flaw of this assumption has literally been staring Jack in the face.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Get those oiks orf my Easy Jet!

Sorry Dave, going green doesn't make you any more cuddly to me. OF COURSE I'm concerned about the environment, but I might believe you were more of a friend of the working class (or heavens, even the asprirational lower middle class) if you weren't considering banning the oiks cheap flights.

Don't want them trappling all over Provence, do we.

The circle is now truly closed. The Guardian has long been the most elitist rag on Fleet Street with a higher quota of privately-educated staff than any other (sure, call a chip a chip) and I have always suspected while they publicly sneer at each other in the comment pages the City meet the Chatterati over dinner and in the bedroom. And you can bet THIS policy got a long approving ABSOLUDLEEEEE.... in the salons of Notting Hill.

One of the reasons I quit working for charidee was because it dawned that all these people were preaching poverty BECAUSE THEY COULD AFFORD TO and while I returned home in my hair shirt to my Haringey bedsit (well, almost) they were supping Chianti in their Clapham four-bedroom and looking forward to their ethical holiday building schools for gratifyingly DESERVING orphans in Africa when Alistair's bonus came through (the same applies to immigration by the way: assauge your guilt by championing it for the foreign poor while having nothing but contempt for your own, whose class consciousness has been fragmented to the extent that the "chavs" can only express solidarity through Pop Idol and the Death Of A Princess - well at least they're not asking why we're more unequal now than ever before, eh? And where DID you get your cleaner?).

But I digress... the environment has always been a fave of the aristocrats ever since they got pissed off the Industrial Revolution was drawing their peasants away from the Estate and, horrors, giving them ideas above their station.

Nothing changes. Except, actually, I think its getting worse.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Cherie Blair: just misunderstood (again)... OR: That's not what I meant when I said it was 'a lie' you idiots! - it wasn't THAT lie I meant...

Apparently Carolin Lotter, a TV producer with the American news agency Bloomberg said she heard the Prime Minister's wife say "Well, that's a lie" after Mr Brown told delegates: "It has been a privilege for me to work with and for the most successful ever Labour leader and Prime Minister".

Clearly what Cherie really meant was simply that Tony Blair is most certainly NOT 'the most successful ever Labour leader and Prime Minister' - Clement Attlee was!

Actually given the woman's notorious hair-splitting ability (for example over whether a given Aussie conman helped her buy some flats...) she could in fact have been troubled quite separately by the truthfulness of both subclauses of the statement. For example viewing Attlee as the former (most successful Labour Leader) and say Churchill, or indeed, maybe her husbands hero Mrs T, as the latter!

Then again maybe she thinks Tony IS the most successful ever leader of Labour and its just the 'most successful prime Minister' tag that she can't swallow.

Just Like the rest of us...

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Islam and violence

Enlightening essay in the Australian that examines the doctrinal relationship between Islam and violence. Not because it focuses on the usual suspects, but because it helps contextualise it both in relation to modern Islam and Christianity.

Cynics might claim that only the mad and bad choose to justify their behaviour on this basis, and in the UK they may have a point, but as there are plenty of examples of energised minorities playing decisive roles in history - from the Bolsheviks to bin Laden - that does not mean we should dismiss them, or the basis of their belief, out-of-hand.

In addition to the inherent difficulty of the sources, many secular Westerners rely on certain crippling preconceptions. One is the often-heard mantra that "all religions are the same". Another is the claim that "anyone can justify violence from any religious text". This idea stretches back at least to Rousseau, who considered any and all forms of religion to be pernicious.

Either of these views, if firmly held, would tend to sabotage anyone's ability to investigate the Koran's distinctive take on violence.

There is another obstacle, and that is Western culture's own sense of guilt and suspicion of what it regards as Christian hypocrisy.

Any attempt to critique some of Islam's teachings is likely to be met with loud and vociferous denunciations of the church's moral failings, such as its appalling track record of anti-Semitism. And did I mention the crusades? Finally, the reality is that Muslims adhere to widely varying beliefs and practices. Most people are understandably afraid to come to their own conclusions about violent passages in the Koran, lest they find themselves demonising Muslims.

But does the Koran incite violence, and how does its message compare with the Bible?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Scheuer thing?

Former Chief of the bin Laden Unit at the CIA's Counterterrorist Center Michael Scheuer always gives good copy and his latest is worth reading.

He said, "I tell them your leaders are concealing from you the true size of the disaster which will shock you. The days are pregnant and they will give birth to new events with God's permission and guidance. I tell them: You have provided us with all the legal and rational reasons to fight you and punish you. You have committed ugly crimes, breached treaties that you used to impose on others to abide by. For our part, we have repeatedly warned you and repeatedly offered you a truce. So now we have legal and rational justifications to continue fighting you until your power is destroyed or you surrender...We have repeatedly declared our political offer to the West, but the leaders of the West, especially Bush and Blair, are keen on causing confusion about that. Sheikh Osama bin Laden, may God protect him, offered a truce to America and the West. I have already told the West that the way to peace is the withdrawal from our countries, stopping the plunder of our resources and ending support for the corrupt governments in our lands."

In previous articles, Scheuer has explained that these are far more than empty threats - it is his belief that their purpose is to provide theological "cover" for a forthcoming attack. This is why he refers earlier in the article to this impassioned reminder to his Muslim audience that he, bin Laden and al-Qaeda had done all that is possible to find a peaceful settlement to Islam's war with the United States, but to no avail as ominous.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Yo Neville!

If you've got Realplayer or similar, and you share my curiosity about how the weaknesses of great men shape events more surely than their strengths, I really recommend this lecture by mine and Chris B's old tutor at Newcastle University, the inestimable Professor Hugh Berrington. He more or less invented this subject of The Psychology of Politics, and still after all these years, he's as sharp as a needle.

The parallels between Chamberlain and Blair are superb, even if there is a difference between kissing Hitler and high-fiving Dubya.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Post-Osama terrorism

It's been on sale a few days already, but if you can get hold of it, I really recommend this week's New Yorker. Excellent stuff on Hamas, Sudan and a funny, almost affectionate portrait of the USA's top al Qaeda informant Jamal Ahmed al-Fadl.

It's worth getting solely for this brilliant piece by Lawrence Wright on jihadism. It picks up some of the themes of Jason Burke and the flawed but unfairly maligned Power of Nightmares documentary to illustrate how Osama isn't some omnipotent master criminal, but in fact one current of a powerful, varied and deeply worrying ideology.

It set me to thinking: if the muscular liberal/neo-con nightmare of the Salafists establishing a Caliphate came true, would it be the launching pad for a war against the west, or an economic basket case with no international sponsors to take a begging bowl to? In one section, a blueprint to build a Caliphate from scratch in 20 years (now there's a Good Housekeeping cover line I'd like to see) involves the Islamists persuading the world to switch to gold as the international medium of exchange to undermine the dollar.

Hmm, I'm sure there's a reason we did away with this.Isn't the point with gold as a medium of exchange that it's pretty much useless as a commodity and only works if you can find someone to buy it at a higher price than you paid for it? Or simply, only if you can find a bigger idiot than yourself? Not a great model for a putative economic superpower.

Elsewhere the piece analyses the writings of the shadowy Abu Bakr Naji, one of the more rounded and shrewder jihad theorists, where he airily dismisses health, agriculture, economics and more or less all non-war/ coercive functions of government as the business of non-mujahid technocrats. ("As for the one who manages the techniques in each ministry, he can be a paid employee who has no interest in policy.") I would suggest he's riding for a fall by entrusting the health of his theocracy to secularised civil servants. None of which lessens the jihadists' ability to cause murder and mayhem on a horrific scale while in opposition, but it provides an interesting spin on their pretensions to power.

Anyway, there's plenty to talk about here. And it's a much more rewarding read than that bloody Martin Amis thing. (BTW if your local newsagent doesn't stock it, the New Yorker puts a stupidly generous amount of its excellent writing online gratis. All this and the God-like Anthony Lane , the greatest film critic in the World too!)

The Unwinnable War and the Enemy Within

As it is still September 11th (which is to say that it was when I started writing this), I feel obliged to post something on what is ludicrously known as the War on Terror. Mis-conjugation (as opposed to Miss Congeniality) apart, this is not a notion I am fond of, but, for all that, it is easy to get lost in semantics and neglect to mention that this 'war' has killed (and terrified) an awful lot of people. The vast majority of this war's casualties are neither British nor American. Though that does nothing for those who grieve, in New York and elsewhere around the world, today. Then again neither did invading Iraq. Or destroying Lebanon's infrastructure and de-legitimising its fledgling democracy.

I am partly motivated to post by a need to reprise a '7/7' article which I wrote on July 8th last year. Thus, having missed that anniversary, 11/9 calls...

I was asked to write a personal response to the 2005 London bombings for a Kurdish newspaper and I duly wrote a call for unity against terror (natch) and commented on the fact that I saw these acts not as a part of any ideological or tactical battle but as attacks on humanity and civilisation by murderous nihilists. In particular I saw them as attacks on the flourishing international city which London (like New York) is. I further commented that I saw this as having nothing to do with religion and that no religious person I knew in London had anything in common with the bombers. Perhaps over-comprehensively I also dismissed Iraq - this was not about Iraq, I airily claimed.

Now I might not be so comprehensive, though I am in no way suggesting that our disastrous campaign in Mesopotamia in any way justifies the actions of the Midlanders who chose to blow up so many of my fellow Londoners in the course of taking their own lives last July.

I suppose I was polemicising, and while I rejected the notion of an international conspiracy of terror, I was well-aware of the dangers of a backlash against people who had nothing in common with the bombers except OUR perception of them as 'islamic'.

As it happened, all it took for one distinctly un-islamic member of the Universal City's population, was for an armed and nervy copper to percieve him as looking a bit foreign (and maybe shifty). Eight bullets in the head later the Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes wasn't in a position to explain anything.

Meanwhile, Asian commentators start to claim that our foreign policy is 'fanning the flames of extremism', our civil liberties gradually erode, and endless words are written about the exact nature of this 'islamic extremism' and how to combat it. Three Labour Home Secretaries have ludicrously promised to vet imans and 'monitor mosques'.

MI5 have speculated that 'we' have 1,200 'home-grown' islamic extremists - as if they are daring the politicians to order them to 'bang 'em up'.

This was Osama's first real victory, we handed him hegemony over our notion of islam and, because we are the majority and the hegemonic group in society, Osama's Islam became our Islam - and we were very terrified, and Islam was very alienated - because it did not recognise the version of itself which it saw reflected in our media.

In this frankly deranged context it is perhaps pertinent to look at exactly how terrorism exists within society.

Attempting to prevent domestic terrorists blowing up tube trains by banning 'extremist imans' and attempting to 'intervene to prevent the radicalisation of young moslems', as one of the younger Millibands recently promised, is a bit like banning caves so that you can prevent Osama hiding in them. That's before we even get onto how you define a 'hideable-in-cave' - or indeed 'a dangerous degree of radicalisation'.

In this sort of style, further endless words have been written on the progenitor of the enemy within, attempting to dissect 'islamic extremist' ideology in order to purge it from 'mainstream mosques' (and no doubt from 'hardworking families' too).

And so, maybe, to Iraq, where we are now fighting the War on Terror. According to George and Tony.

And, indeed, to my reservations about that airy dismissal I made, in July 2005, of Iraq's place in a discourse on the explosive hatred stemming from our so-called enemy within....

I have not changed my view that terrorism is NOT principally caused by an unpopular foreign policy but such a policy CAN just make it more successful. Not principally because this makes the terrorist recruiting sergeants's job easier, though clearly it does; nor because it may marginally legitimise the terrorists dialogue, though clearly it does; but because it makes it easier for terrorists to hide.

If there is a lot of background noise about our terrible foreign policy etc, etc, then it is easier for the real terrorist to be missed. Annoyingly if you look harder (- i.e. try to bang up all the 'extremists') you are likely to simply inflame opposition and dissent - creating more noise (if not necessarily more terrorists) and offering your real terrorist further cover.

So lets all think a little before we assume, John Reid style, that what is needed is a symbolic show of force to unsettle the opposition.

Our best defence really is ignoring the bastards and getting on with our daily lives.

Talking up the threat really is aiding and abetting the enemy - both because our terror is their victory and because they need Tony Blair and George Bush to hide behind. WE don't need either.

What is more if we accept the big scary definition of brothers in arms messrs Blair, Bush and Bin Laden, we actually run the risk of persuading more no-marks from the fringes of our society that they have an important role to play in the future of the world.

This above all is the link between today - and all the other numerous psycho-numerary anniversaries - and the actual risks posed by domestic terror.

The world really didn't change on the 11th of September 2001. Allow that belief to flourish and we are entering Osama's world, a future made by Al-Qaeda. I don't buy that - no matter how hard Mr Blair tries to sell me Dubya's delusions.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The trouble with Martin

I was absorbed yesterday by reading the Martin Amis essay on Islamism in the Observer and desperately wanted to post something on it. Damnably the always provocative Graham at Harry's Place has beaten me to it (unfortunately the comments box debate has been taken up by the usual self-styled Hammers of Islam, but ho hum).

Like much of Amis' stuff, the writing is fabulously fluent and technically astonishing, but the grasp on reality is tenuous. His old buddy Hitch has lent him some Paul Berman, and from this he has constructed a monolithic Islamist Frankenstein that dominates the religion and holds the middle east in thrall. The different political situations in these countries; the doctrinal differences between different schools of Islam, the economic influences that have shaped the variants of political Islam over the last 30 years are absent.

There's a suggestion that the Middle East isn't ready for democracy, because they always vote for the wrong parties that smacks of Brecht's demand that the government should dissolve the people and elect a new one. Then he castigates Ken Livingstone for being too understanding of the root causes of suicide bombers, before dabbling in some inverse rationalism of his own by implying Islamist "horrorism" has somehow brutalised the West into creating Gitmos and Abu Ghraibs. But the thing that really rankles is the lack of politics at the heart of the essay. Amis lives in a stately bubble of big ideas, with little appreciation of the material actions and opposite reactions which birth an al Qaeda, a Hezbollah, or a second term Bush presidency.

In his recent short story about 9/11 ringleader Muhammad Atta, Amis ignores the real figure of Atta to impose his own vision of an atheistic nihilist motivated solely by a hatred of humanity and a disgust for his own flesh. In truth he was a far more complex character, arguably politicised to the apocalyptic creed of al Qaeda through his disgust at poor town planning in his native Egypt. The reality provides more blackly comic material for a writer, but it also calls for an engagement with the issues of real people, Amis seems reluctant to commit to.

Craig Brown, whose parody of Amis included here is one of the funniest things I've ever read, raised another chuckle recently when discussing the Betjeman forgeries which recently fooled his biographer AN Wilson.

"In fact, one might almost say that authors are their own worst forgers: most people are agreed that Martin Amis has been producing some pretty unconvincing Martin Amises over the course of the past decade."

Well maybe all too convincing as himself I fear, but convincing as a guide to the complex times we live in? Maybe if you believe that Bono's an economist.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Racism in football? Makelele and Gallas comments show us that Jose Mourinho is no more a fascist than Luis Aragones... but no less a disgrace

Football first.

Jose Mourinho has a particular approach to team motivation. It is an approach honed on his achievements with mediocre players at the highest level. It is about subjugation of personality to team ethos. Because a great team comprised of average players will (and indeed should) always be greater than the sum of its parts. It is also about leadership, about who is boss and following orders. But it is also about individual skill and motivation in the service of shared goals. In many ways this is an applaudable approach, which would be praised in areas of human endeavour far wider than sport; and not least in business and public service.

Every now and again this approach meets a rock in the road like William Gallas. This inevitably happens more often as your club's buying power grows.

Mourinho sticks to the book in such instances - unfortunately the book concerned is the Lord of The Flies, rather than the FIFA rulebook.

For Mourinho is a bully. And like the streetfighting gangster he pretends to be, he must first humiliate those who threaten his authority; before binding their loyalty to him with a kiss and the offer of a position in his family business.

Gallas however declined to kiss the ring, perhaps because he always felt a lingering loyalty to the very different Chelsea manager who brought him to the Club, the disarmingly emotionally open Claudio Ranieri. A man who not only wore his heart on his sleeve but garlanded it with his every human uncertainty.

Ranieri was among the first to express his personal horror and professional distaste for Chelsea's statement alleging that Gallas had threatened to sabotage the team if played against his will. But he was not short of company, whether from Gordon Taylor of the PFA or from the Manager of the French National Team, Raymond Domenech.

When all is said and done Mourinho is above all a cold-eyed tactician to Ranieri's emotionally uncertain Tinkerman. And, while Jose is undoubtedly personally slighted by Gallas' decision to turn his back on the somewhat Mansonian Chelsea 'family' he has created, his main aim in attempting to blacken (sic) Gallas name is to overshadow the victory Arsene Wenger has achieved over him with the acquisition of Gallas (and £5 million) from Chelsea in exchange for Ashley Cole.

Arsenal get a player who has won at the highest level and who can play in any defensive position, if admittedly one who wishes to be played consistently in one of them. Chelsea get a sulky one-trick pony who can play in only one, has won little and who had alienated the fans with his unseemly courtship of Roman Abramovitch's deposit account. Not only this, Arsenal had flourished without Cole last season during his long period of injury.

Mourinho had thought that his acquisition of Cole would be a psychological sucker-punch for Arsenal in a season also likely to see Thierry Henry head to Catalonia's cathedral of football the Camp Nou. But the best laid plans can come to naught and ironically it is Chelsea's discarded striker Eidur Gudjohnssen who now plies his trade for Barca, while Thierry earned himself immortality on the Holloway Road for his almost universally unexpected decision to grace the Emirates with his prescence this season.

Against this background Mourinho saw his best option in attempting to make Gallas appear as sullied a batch of goods to Arsenal as Cole undoubtedly is to Chelsea - for Cole's name is already pretty black among most football neutrals and Chelsea fans must wonder a little at the defensive limitations his prescence underlines.

Then of course there is the small matter of slavery. What? Yes, 'slavery', for that apparently, in Mourinho's manipulative little world, is what the relationship between Raymond Domenech's French national team and Chelsea midfielder Claude Makelele represents, when he is called to play for France after earlier announcing his international retirement.

But should I have read I the Sun yesterday it would have been Gallas I encountered first.

Bizarrely, as the British PM clung to power and UK troops suffered another of the grimmest days of casualties in combat since the 'end' of the (latest) war in Iraq, Sun readers woke to see a front page dominated by Gallas and the word 'Blackmail'.

Now I know (really) that the editor of the Sun is not as racist as this front page might lead you to believe. It is essentially a joke and a good way to fill the front page after Rupert and Tony fell foul of the international dateline and Mr Blair had to find another day to announce his likely departure from what one might call 'frontline' politics.

But with its ironic nod to all those infamous but utterly apocryhphal stories about 'loony lefty' councils banning 'Baa Baa Black Sheep' in the 80s and, more recently, 'political correctness gone mad', the Sun is, like Mourinho, sailing close to the wind and while Gallas might have a job pinning a charge of racism on them, he would certainly get them on what laughing boy Tony and his authoritarian cohorts might call 'a lack of respect'.

First witness for the prosection, Mr Lilian Thuram.

Friday, September 01, 2006

A very British neo-con?

Had a blast from the past this week when I read the obituary of proto-Thatcherite Sir Alfred Sherman. He's someone whom I confess to not having thought about in many years, but in the spicier political climes of the eighties he was a perfect folk devil. The brains behind Keith Joseph who was the brains behind Thatcher, he was responsible for introducing scorched-earth monetarist economics to our shores, as well as a few crazier stunts designed to raise the hackles of the eminently teasable eighties Left, such as inviting Jean Marie Le Pen to address a Tory conference fringe meeting.

It's tempting to dismiss him as an Eighties anachronism, but maybe he was the forerunner of the current crop of crazy American Trots who moved to the hard-right of the GOP without ever losing the desire to try to stick a saddle on a cow. Some selected highlights: he too began on the left: a Communist Party firebrand who jacked in his studies to fight for the goodies in the Spanish civil war; much later via an organisation called Western Goals (even the name summons up one of those slaps in the face for "relativism" neo-cons are always promising to deliver!) he espoused a neo-con's obsession with terrorism as a self-serving entity in itself, notoriously trying to demonise the ANC by linking it to the IRA. He finished up as a pioneer of "Eurabia", his curious attachment to Serbian nationalism rationalised by his fear of a muslim Bosnia. Some of his bizarre writing on the subject, here and here has more than a touch of Mark Steyn or Mad Mel, a sort of Silovitz Likudism if you will.
There's a cautionary tale here for the "Hitchensist" left.

The important thing is not where you start or where you finish but the progress of your ideological journey. Sherman's Guardian obituarist Dennis Kavanagh described him as a "political entrepreneur", a wonderful phrase I've had in my head all week. Among such characters there's often an addiction to the thrill of new ideas that makes old principles look staid and dull. The only constant is the urge to change the world, but to invert an aphorism from a wiser man than me, maybe the point is actually to understand it first.

He's a biggun

He's a one. Fascist's friend Ken Livingstone brands black chair of the CRE racist.

One can't help wondering if he's familiar with a technique pioneered by some other bogeymen he's fond of evoking.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The new race card?

Cameron criticises terror effort the BBC and everyone else tell us...

Apparently Conservative leader David Cameron has said that our fear-loving (or was that god-fearing, or indeed merely scared, or SCARY) government is not doing enough to fight Islamist extremism in the UK.

Ho hum.

You may recollect that I was musing only last week, in my post: Old LAG Sandy shows Little John that there's no such thing as a triangular race card ...on how Labour can never successfully triangulate the Tories on 'immigration fears', or dear reader in other words on race (for all that they have spent almost ten years and at least two Home Secretaries on trying to do so).

Well, in an almost equally fantastic attempt to stretch the rules of populist politics beyond their capacity to accomodate what Dave and Tony cutely call 'political cross-dressing', Dave the Chimera has decided to attack the government of the day, which has, we are led to believe just saved us from the globe's largest ever airborne terrorist media opportunity and mass murder plot, on... yes you got it, not being tough enough on terror...

Dave, DAVE... DAVE!!!!

Still once a Tory always a Tory eh? It really is about time you asked Tony for your natural territory back.

What will now be of slightly frightening interest will be the nature of Tony and his loyal attack-dog namesake, Sir Ian at the Met,'s responses.

After all they shot that poor Brazilian guy while the Tories were PRAISING them.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

I blame Tim

For anyone who has hoped and believed, as I have, that the British way of integrating Muslim citizens is more promising than the French one, the last year has been discouraging writes Tim Garton-Ash.

Not just "discouraging", shurly, given that in 2004 article Who was to blame? Tim graphically laid waste to the French capital in an imaginary nuclear attack perpetrated by a pair of sisters narked that they couldn't wear their hijab in class.

Who knows, by 2009 when Tim set his nightmare vision, things may have changed. By which time he will have no doubt performed yet another graceful back-flip.

Meanwhile: whatever the mix of causes for this alienation, we need to escape from seeing British Muslims only through the prism of two currently prevailing paradigms: the terrorism paradigm and the backwardness paradigm...

The idea that these young British Muslims might actually be putting their fingers on some things that are wrong with our modern, progressive, liberal, secular society; the idea that rational persons might freely choose to live in a different, outwardly more restricted way; these hardly feature in everyday progressive discourse. But they should.


So, while accepting that the more "muscular" attitude of the French may have garnered results (81% of British Muslims polled said they were Muslim first and a citizen of their country only second, compared to 46% of French Muslims) he then continues head-long over the same old precipice.

But who is to blame for our current difficulties? Well I'd suggest Tim and the policy-makers his views reflect could bear some of the responsibility - conjuring up imaginary horrors, their relativist fantasies have helped create real demons.

And in that same real world the French are beginning their vacances while we, grounded, turn upon ourselves.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Domino Effect? Lieberman is a casualty of war for the muscular liberals - but which one...

Senator Joe Lieberman the so-called 'muscular liberal' or pro-war left's poster boy on the Democratic side of Congress has lost his primary to an anti-war newcomer.

On Sunday the Washington Post was reporting that the Connecticut Race Could Be Democratic Watershed explaining, as the anti-war challenger Ned Lamont raced ten points ahead in the pollls, that:

"The passion and energy fueling the antiwar challenge to Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman in Connecticut's Senate primary signal a power shift inside the Democratic Party that could reshape the politics of national security and dramatically alter the battle for the party's 2008 presidential nomination, according to strategists in both political parties.

"A victory by businessman Ned Lamont on Tuesday would confirm the growing strength of the grass-roots and Internet activists who first emerged in Howard Dean's presidential campaign. Driven by intense anger at President Bush and fierce opposition to the Iraq war, they are on the brink of claiming their most significant political triumph, one that will reverberate far beyond the borders here if Lieberman loses.

"An upset by Lamont would affect the political calculations of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who like Lieberman supported giving Bush authority to wage the Iraq war, and could excite interest in a comeback by former vice president Al Gore, who warned in 2002 that the war could be a grave strategic error. For at least the next year, any Democrat hoping to play on the 2008 stage would need to reckon with the implications of Lieberman's repudiation."

Lamont's stunner of a result asks further question for Democrats debating the parties best stance in the next Presidential campaign, as the Post ponders.

Its not just about bringing the boys home from Baghdad for all that the reverse is currently happening with even regiments due for time back in the US sent straight back onto Baghdad operations, it is also about how much the current war in Lebanon is starting to influence the domestic US analysis of the last (and ongoing) one in Iraq.

Sure Lamont campaigned on opposition to the Iraq war, but the growth of his lead in the polls as Lebanon burned, the UN fiddled and the US supplied the bombs, suggests that it might juist be what Israel's government likes to portray as the new front in the War on Terror which actually cost Liberman the Senate nomination.

Lebanon, for people like me, who have Lebanese friends with relatives in Beirut now, is above all about Lebanon; but for the voters of Connecticut Lebanon is also about Iraq and about the War on Terror and above all about the nature of the US' engagement with the wider world. For them, perhaps, Lebanon is about the future, about whether US troops are once again in a peacekeeping role in the middle east and about which peace they will be trying to keep.

Old LAG Sandy shows Little John that there's no such thing as a triangular race card

When will New Labour's reactionary home secretaries learn that attempts to triangulate the right on immigration just leave you wrongfooted and astride a supposed central reservation which appears to be suspiciously, and indeed perilously, positioned right down the 'centre' of the right hand carriageway.

The Telegraph reports approvingly: Reid to set limit on immigration

The Guardian sucks in its cheeks and describes the Home Secretary, John Reid, saying yesterday that he wanted to see "an optimum level of immigration" set for Britain
as a 'major departure'


While, Reid: 'Talking about immigration is not racist' says the Daily Mail which isn't either...

While the uber-cautious FT.com has Reid merely 'hinting' at a limit

A story, to be fair to the local government press, first trailed on Monday, by Public Finance: http://www.publicfinance.co.uk/news_details.cfm?news_id=28439

Sandy Bruce-Lockhart is of course a Tory, Labour's longstanding control of the LGA having been a casualty of Blair's third term and the Second Gulf War. Still wor Sandy makes a change from the unremittingly tedious former LGA Chair Sir Jeremy Beecham a man who looks like Michael Howard's dark side but whose own has been so effectively laid to rest that Mr Healey's old dead sheep Geoffrey Howe analogy could be applied. That said, whatever the Daily Mail has to say about Little John Reid's (non)racist tendencies, I wouldn't be too sure about what Sandy is up to...

Monday, August 07, 2006

Forza il Herald Tribune!

Some brief observations from my all-too-brief holiday location, a sleepy seaside town in Southern Italy.

1. If there was a newspaper in Purgatory, it would be this one. The only English rag available, it made the Herald Tribune seem, well, jaunty.

As Lebanon and Israel burned, Castro keeled over and, heavens, there was another expulsion from the Big Brother House, it led on ...


















AARRRGGGGHHHH... I'd rather read the baseball results.

2. Italians like to round off their TV news reports with a "funny" that ivariably focuses on a slice of English eccentricity like this, yet their government can take decisions like this and still not win the top comedy slot.

3. While it may be true that "you will never eat badly in Puglia", even the greatest Spaghetti cazza (sha) can seem monotonous after day five.

Friday, August 04, 2006

An Abuse of Common Sense - or Winning the War on State Terror

It is a not inconsiderable irony that it is our staid and elitist judiciary who are once again found defending both human rights and logic.

It is no surprise that the democratic poseurs like John Reid who are manning Mr Blair's increasingly authoritarian last stand against the forces of history should once again be arguing from positions of populist fiction against both logic and principle.

Like Michael Howard before him - who similarly manned the Alamo of authoritarianism for another morally bankrupt and duplicitious Prime Minister, if arguably a marginally less dangerous one - John Reid is taking punches.

This is good. It also feels right, if only because Reid is a man for whom the term pugnacious was coined and if you take one 'pugnacious' scottish muscular liberal, shaven headed and proud of his stalinist past, trying once again, just as all those years ago in the CP, to shape the tide of time through the abuse of democracy and appeals to false logic and dubious theory, well... lets face it, he's gotta expect a battering, right? - I mean frankly he's LOOKING FOR IT. Probably quite literally.

~ Please note, legal eagles, that the term 'probably' now means that the subject of the sentence is extremely improbable. As in the sentence, "The prospect of a low intensity civil war and a de facto division of Iraq is probably more likely at this stage than a successful and substantial transition to a stable democracy" - which apparently means, that, while things in Iraq are a little tricky at present, we don't really have to worry because Colonel Tony has things in hand - and that in particular there is absolutely no need to worry about the division of Iraq, despite the fact that the Kurds (as evidenced below) are already pursuing an independent political and economic model called errr Free Market Kurdistan (or rather, if you see my point, South Kurdistan); while the former South of Iraq looks to Iran to defend it from the West and the Centre; and the Centre looks increasingly to little other than war and dreams of Sunni triumph on a pan-regional scale as the only logically positive dream option for a once-powerful and now hated minority which the rest of the country want to keep disempowered and in some cases would quite like to annihilate - if only in revenge for past blood debts.

Meanwhile... back to the former Defence Secretary, whom you'll recollect was so reassuring, during his brief stint as Commander of the Imperial Red (white & blue) Army, about our Afghan 'mission of reconstruction'....

Somewhere, whether literally in a basement club, or metaphorically in a semen-stained fantasy, a woman is wielding a birch over Little John's blue-pink ass and lordy it makes him feel good. I cannae lie aboot it - it gie's me the strength of purpoos tae gae oon. Ken, throo ma oon pain I can coom to undeystann the suffring of the peeple whoo we are actually fighting this whor wit.

Yeah right - well, whatever JR gets up to in private, at least the birch boys on the hard benches of her Majesty's judiciary are paying attention to satisfying his needs in public and giving him a regular beating - in our democratic interests (if admittedly at our financial expense) - in the highest courts of our fair democratic land .

Still its a small price to pay to see the b*stard getting his just desserts - I just wish I didn't get the feeling he enjoys it so much. Almost as if this bizarre team of unimaginative middle managers of capitalism see the judicial system which they and so many of their spouses and friends belong to, or have belonged to, as the only reliable mechanism for deciding what should properly be decided by the people and through the ballot box.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Own Your Own Bit of (what used to be) Iraq - Live Tax-Free in Kurdistan

The PR Week Global Newswire tell us that:

Kurdistan hopes promotional push will increase foreign interest
Ted McKenna 31-Jul-06
WASHINGTON: Kurdistan, part of northern Iraq that has been spared the violence roiling the south, is tapping a US agency to highlight its natural beauty, tax-free living, and 100%-foreign-ownership of businesses as reasons to visit and invest in the Kurdish-controlled province.

BrandRepublic - part of the same Haymarket family which produces PR Week, Campaign, Marketing, Revolution [no pun intended], etc., tells us a little more for free - though of course its the same report (check that article ID code in your browser after clicking the link):
"San Francisco-based Russo, Marsh & Rogers (RMR) has launched a PR and ad push on behalf of the Kurdistan regional government of Iraq, seeking to promote Kurdistan in the US as "the Other Iraq" - a relatively safe place for Western investment. Contrasting Kurdistan with war-torn central Iraq, the new Kurdistan campaign boasts on the www.theotheriraq.com Web site, for instance: "It's spectacular. It's peaceful. Welcome to Iraqi Kurdistan. Where democracy has been practiced for over a decade." "We were concerned a little bit that the violence in Lebanon was going to overshadow Middle East coverage," said RMR founder Sal Russo. "But on the other hand, while it..."

Ahhh, the other Iraq: http://www.theotheriraq.com/ Love the logo guys, it'd be funny if it wasn't so...unfunny - still every empire needs a buffer state and its always cool to have a free market one; and, remember, once Turkey joins the EU, Kurdistan is our buffer state with the terrorist playground of Central (and indeed southern) Iraq. That might just make you think twice about the embroidered hat business and the holiday home.

Monday, July 31, 2006

How many dead children does it take to make a Liberal Muscle flex?

At a sitting, (Titus Andronicus reference not wholly unintended), 34 apparently.

Colonel Blair was however quick to remind his supporters that, should the children killed be Iraqi children, rather than Lebanese, different multiples would apply...

Meanwhile, carrying a report from New York Times reporter Neil MacFarquhar in Damascus, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports on another of those apparently unintended consequences of this apparent attempt (or 'opportunity' in Condi-speak) to re-draw the map of the Middle East. MacFarquhar tells us that Arab leaders change tack as public supports Hezbollah - all bringing Mr Gingrich's Third World War that little bit closer [see references to Kurt Andersen's New York Magazine article in my posting last Friday, below]

Qana, as we all know, is famous for two things. It is supposedly the site of the miracle in which Jesus Christ turned water into wine (John 2:1-11) . It was also the site of a massacre of civilians sheltering in a UN Compound in 1996, during a previous war which Israel was fighting in Lebanon. It is unclear quite what miracle those who bombed Qana this weekend were trying to perpetrate, perhaps something to do with restoring the power of sight to the international community after the collective blindness of the last two weeks. George Bush and his Israeli friends may not be squinting in the new-found light but it appears that the muscular Mr Tony might just be about to blink.

Of course, as he talks NATO buffer forces, the families of military men across Britain will be pondering how many middle eastern wars we wish to be caught in the crossfire of at one time - and how many more of these we can start before they cease to be viewed as independent wars and become just one big war - not so much 'on Terror' as Of Terror.

In an article entitled Days of darkness Gideon Levey writing in the Israeli paper Haaretz states, "Lebanon, which has never fought Israel and has 40 daily newspapers, 42 colleges and universities and hundreds of different banks, is being destroyed by our planes and cannon and nobody is taking into account the amount of hatred we are sowing." He concludes, "Long before this war is decided, it can already be stated that its spiraling cost will include the moral blackout that is surrounding and covering us all, threatening our existence and image no less than Hezbollah's Katyushas."

Haaretz also reported, as early as the 23rd July, on an Anti-war Tel Aviv rally drawing a Jewish, [and] Israeli Arab crowd referring to this as 'the first cracks in the consensus', and reflecting that in the 1982 war with/in Lebanon such 'cracks' had taken ten days to emerge, against slightly less than a week in this case. The article also ponders the apparent start of an anti-American flavour in this incipient Israeli anti-war movement. That would indeed be a crack, or at any rate it might be if it ever amounted to more than the current coalition of the politically isolated.

It is disgusting to speculate about anything good coming out of Qana 2006 but it might just shine a bloodstained light into that crack.

Friday, July 28, 2006

And the beat goes on - on and on and on - It's all Just a little bit of History Repeating

Your choice: Jim Muir of the BBC in Tyre (title link), saying very much the same thing that I was two weeks back (below), or the Propellerheads and Miss Shirley Bassey

For other perspectives on the systematic destruction of one of the Middle East's emergent democracies, here's a piece from New York Magazine talking to people including Anthony Bourdain the media chef and author of Kitchen Confidential who was in Lebanon when, as he puts it, George Bush-style, "in a moment, it turned to shit." It also tells us that at this point a notice went up on the Time Out Beirut Website saying: "Beirut's favourite entertainment and listings magazine is now suspended. Lebanon is being, once again, used as a battleground for a war that neither its government nor its people want. They are killing our city."
Read the article: Life in Beirut Before Wartime -- New York Magazine

Also from New York Magazine, Kurt Andersen gives a slightly more nuanced take on the situation's 'insane duality' in What We Won't Talk About in the Israel-Lebanon Conflict including the following paragraph which manages both to accuse Newt Gingrich of being a Manichean dualist heretic (if subtly) and to point up the onanistic approach of Fox News to other people's war's as their newsreaders use Israel's incursions into Lebanon as a sort of Chris Morris-style psychic dildo, after such rhetorical fireworks Mr Andersen ends soberly by considering Austrian Archduke's in the Twentieth Century,

"So at this time of staggering new complexity comes a two-front Israeli war - which temporarily serves, like all wars, to make a complex situation seem simple. Some on the right are pleased because (like Islamist radicals) they are bloody-mindedly eager for a wider war. The Weekly Standard suggested last week that the U.S. should use "this act of Iranian aggression" - that is, Hezbollah's attacks on Israel - as a pretext for "a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Why wait?" "It's World War III," Newt Gingrich declared, a wishing-for-1914 mantra that half the Fox News stars masturbatorily repeated. And Gingrich, shrewd and frank, was clear about his rhetorical intentions in painting a stark, black-and-white, Manichaean picture. "The minute you use the language," he explained, the discussion becomes, "Okay, if we're in the Third World War, which side do you think should win?"

Andersen continues, "To insist wishfully that World War III has started - to try to recast a trope as a fact - is hideous. However, that such a proposition can be bandied about on network TV by a national politician (and former historian) gives even sober people the willies. Might the Israeli soldiers' capture turn out to be our century's assassination of an Austrian archduke...? "

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Price of Freedom from Syrian Occupation...

The rewards of freedom eh?

A few short months ago, many in the West, not least those camp authoritarians the self-styled 'muscular liberals', were celebrating an apparent popular uprising of the Lebanese people which led to the final withdrawal of Syrian troops from the country.

The country had been significantly rebuilt under former President Rafik Hariri, and the Syrians apparent assassination of 'Mr Lebanon' had been the final straw. Just as he stood poised to lead a return to power for the band of practical men and women with whom he had played such a key part in reinvigorating the Lebanese economy and creating a climate fit for inward investment. Hariri's achievements saw the country feted by publications as diverse as the Wall Street Journal and Wallpaper as the next big thing in investment terms. A colossal missed opportunity was once again open for business. Then someone blew him up.

But the Lebanese people stood firm, revolted by this act of barbarism - whether perpetrated in fact by Syria or by its increasingly unruly proxies in the South of Lebanon - or indeed by other factions altogether.

This was a process of re-birth. It was a case of tentative steps on the path toward a new democracy. Even the muscular liberals raised their T-Shirts in glee and gazed lecherously at this sexy new member of the progressive club, while talking fantastically, ar at any rate with forked tongues, about 'Region change'

After decades of civil war and occupation Lebanon was starting to rise again.

The link at the top of this post is to a Harry's Place comment on this period - it appears that the answer to the placard in the doctored photo asking 'Syria, Who's next?' is 'YOU ARE'

And the price of freedom from Syrian occupation is apparently Israel destroying your state infrastructure (and in particular your civilian transport infrastructure) just as you struggle toward becoming an independent state.

Lebanon never got the chance to control Hizbollah because Israel destroyed its authority first.

Yes it did not have the authority now, but it had only just thrown out a foreign occupier for the first time in over 20 years.

It was given no time to become a viable state.

Walid Jumblatt is a man of Lebanon no less bloody than some of the men of Israel with whom he has shared several decades of mutually destructive conflict, he is also no friend of Syria - in fact in 2005 US and muscular liberal critics were holding him up as middle eastern democracy's latest herald of change - see Jumblatt: Iraq is the start of a new Arab world

But this morning Jumblatt was drawing different parallels, between Israel's treatment of Lebanon vis Hizbollah and of the PLO and Fatah vis Hamas and then most recently of the Palestinian Authority vis Hamas. Jumblatt argued that Israel's key interest was to destroy any regional authority other than its own. The Palestinians must be kept from maturing toward responsible democracy, Lebanon must be stopped in its economic tracks, its EU-funded infrastructure destroyed, its reopening US investment banks scared off. What asked Jumblatt would anyone else in the region do except seek to make Israel pay a similar price?

Let us be clear, the bombing of Lebanon's ports, viaducts, highways and international airport are nothing to do with two captured soldiers. This was a plan that was ready to roll, awaiting a trigger, the most tenuous of justifications which could offer the hypocritical grandmasters of the Great Game a last shot at changing the balance of power in the middle east.

The key question now has once again become, what will Syria do? Is Syria strong enough to act or will it feel rather that its long-term power and viability as a state and regional power-broker is enhanced by staying its hand.

The logic says Syria will wait - sit back saying 'we told you so' as Israel writes a harsh message for Lebanon - 'without a powerful occupier, you are nothing'. But a shocked Arab and wider Moslem world is hearing that message too. The notion that Syrian inaction should be praised is a horrible folly, for all that Syrian action would ignite World War 3 - or at least Gulf War 2.5

To praise Syria inaction is to tell the Lebanese that they have no right to independence, to legitimise the failure of their state. It is neither accidental nor ironic that it is in Israel's interests to make Syria the arbiter, for by doing so Israel asks the question, of America and others, 'When will you deal with Syria?' or as George puts it 'get Syria to stop (Hizbollah) doing this shit'.

This is a high stakes game and it is by no means certain that Syria would not consider an attack on Israel were it not for internal dissent and a percieved lack of Arab League backing -motivated not least by self-interest - as noone wants Israel bombing their infrastructure and civilian population next. This is fine for the Grandmasters, this is fine for the despots - this is the brutalised realpolitik that keeps people's enslaved to despots and stifles democracy in the middle east. How ironic is it that Israel has just attacked the region's only two other peacefully elected democratic governments - for all that the Palestinians will correct us by pointing out their (mutual) state of war.

Tony and George's inadvertently overheard conversation tells us one thing only- that the people of the middle east don't matter and that the Great Game is still just that.

The Lebanese I have spoken to this week take a different view and are disgusted that the first reaction of the British government was not to call for a ceasefire and for Israel to stop killing innocent civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure but rather to talk of evacuating another generation of those who can leave Lebanon - so that Israel's morally repugnant promise to knock the country back 20 years can be allowed to come to pass.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Elephant

A friend was talking about a recent visit to Kenya and the tension there between Africans and Asians. Whatever the rights and wrongs, it struck me that much of the blame actually lay at the door of the colonial administration, which had "imported", for want of a better word, a ready-made middle class from its subcontinental possession. The colonial elephant may now have left the room, but it had certainly broken the crockery and someone was going to have to get a shovel.

I had a similar feeling on my recent visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The Christian NGO-working friends we were staying with were, rightfully, highly critical of the brutish Israeli treatment of the Palestinians and their church was busy organising a boycott of the company that produced the bulldozers destroying Arab property.

But although I could recognise the many wrongs perpetrated by the Israelis and reinforced by our stateless, Islamist taxi driver who despairingly pointed out the settlements encroaching on Palestinian land and the wall dividing families, I could not bring myself to condemn them. After all, they had been persecuted with even greater severity for 2000 years, culminating in an orgy of butchery which left 6 million dead. They had learned the hard way that might is right, brutalised for millennia by us, the Christians.

When the Christians wrested Jerusalem from the Muslims back in the 12th Century, they slaughtered every living thing in the city - Jews, Muslims and even their own kind. A few centuries later the Muslims took back the city and gave its Christian occupiers safe passage out. This was the end of meaningful Christian occupation of the Holy Land, but their brutal legacy remains the source of the suffering we see today.















They left their mark - Crusader crosses etched into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Gruesome Twosome Two?

A slightly perplexed Washington Post columnist reports that British Foreign Secretary Makes No Waves in Visit Across the Pond.

Where there were some clear differences, Beckett was almost apologetic. Asked about a U.S.-U.K. extradition treaty, which Britain has implemented but the Senate has failed to ratify, she said that she could "understand and accept" that it isn't an American priority. On the U.S. military prison, she asserted that "we would like to see Guantanamo Bay closed" before quickly adding: "My understanding is President Bush has said he would like to see Guantanamo Bay closed."

It was an impressive show of deference, even for a British government that has been famous for such behavior. Prime Minister Tony Blair followed Bush into Iraq so eagerly that he has been called Bush's "poodle" at home. Rice got so close to Beckett's predecessor, Jack Straw, that she gave him the bed in her cabin on a flight to Baghdad and slept on the floor in the aisle. The two visited each other's home towns, and Fleet Street hinted at romance.


Eeuuuwwww... well that last bit didn't get into the British media! Does Mrs Straw know? What Popbitch would call a "gruesome twosome" if ever there was one...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The elephant in the living room

What changed between the 2002 Government Energy Review - which nixed nukes on grounds ranging from vast cost, to vast risk, poor safety records and long (very very long) term waste problems...

AND

The new 2006 Government Energy Review, which backs nuclear as an answer to carbon emission targets we've been missing, capacity we'll be needing and something called 'security of supply' by 'back in black' government minister Alistair Darling this morning on the Today programme, (something which forward thinking Mr Blair was talking about in the United States as early as 2002 incidentally) ...now what was that thing that changed again?

WELL, I wonder...

....begins with an 'I' and ends in a 'War'; as Tony might say.

OUR................................... AFGHANISTAN

(July 3rd 2006) UK commander admits Afghan mission is 'changing' ...but denies mission creep and 'stressed that there had not been a request for extra troops.'

The next day Colonel Tony repeated the denial but admitted that the UK's
Afghanistan troops may need more resources and talked about sending 'engineers' and 'enablers' in the first instance, to make it clear that he hadn't earlier misled parliament,
among other things....

The defence minister (yet another unrelated brown Scot rather inappropriately called Des, which I'm pretty sure is neither an abbreviation completed by 'ert Fox' nor by 'ert Orchid') admitted that the Taliban had been "energised" by the British troops arrival in southern Afghanistan...

US Analysts and military officials, including the commander of NATO's Afghan force, 'merely' said that the international community's attention was diverted by Iraq, allowing power vacuums in Afghanistan that the Taliban have filled.

On Monday 10th July (Des) Browne announced 900 more troops for Afghanistan ...and some big helicopters...

Talking of helicopters in Afghanistan, these were, incidentally, recently described, with no hint of irony whatever, as 'lifesavers' by the Telegraph : "After years of suffering derision for being over budget and late into service, the Apache attack helicopter has become a vital asset on the Afghan battlefield as a life-saver for paratroopers on the ground.

For the first time the sleek gunships have been tested in a hostile environment and have performed beyond expectation, said the Army Air Corps pilots who fly it."

'Sleek gun ships', eh? ...remember those?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The great game

Speaking of football, I'm on a flying visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority at the moment and as we stopped at the Israeli checkpoint before crossing over into Jericho the soldier saw my girlfriend's Italian passport and said: "Ah, see the match? Forza Italia!".

When we arrived in Jericho, one of the first people to greet us (tourists being rare birds in these parts) was a young man who asked "where you from?" When I replied London, England, he said: "Ah, Arsenal! Football!".

Monday, June 19, 2006

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The young Tony

Tony Blair's youthful enthusiasm for radical socialism and his admiration for communism's founder Karl Marx are revealed in letter written in 1982.

In the 22-page letter, the 29-year-old Mr Blair tells then Labour leader Michael Foot how reading Marx had "irreversibly altered" his outlook.

He also praises Tony Benn, agreeing with the left-winger's analysis that Labour's right-wing was bankrupt...

"I actually did trouble to read Marx first hand. I found it illuminating in so many ways; in particular, my perception of the relationship between people and the society in which they live was irreversibly altered," he wrote.

"But ultimately it was stifling because it sought to embrace in its philosophy every facet of existence. That, of course, is its attraction to many."

Mr Blair signs off advising Mr Foot to make clear he would be leading Labour into the next election and that he would win it - Mr Foot would go on to lead Labour to defeat in the 1983 poll.


The Labour Party's 1983 manifesto was of course described as "the longest suicide note in history".

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

An Act of War in the Wasp Factory

Reuters tells us that the US rows back from Guantanamo suicide comments

Too late.

What more exposing statement can be made about this self-perpetuating and endless war against our own fears than that?

Meanwhile in Forest Gate fear clearly gets the better of an armed police officer on a darkened stairwell.This time a dark-skinned man survives to tell his tale after over a week in custody (and hospital).

But it is notable that as late as 48 hours before the two brothers arrested in the raid were released, the police were requesting a 14 day extension of the period for which they were allowed to hold them. This was pinned back to 24 hours by a judge after which they were released (had it not been be assured the brothers from Forest Gate would still be in Paddington Green).

Could it be that the police, at this late stage, as speculation mounted that the raid was a spectacular mistake yielding nothing, were attempting to buy time to kill the story a little using our great new liberal anti-terror legislation?

It could be.

This aside, however, what fear exactly got the better of the superiors of the officer on the stairwell, not to mention those at a JIC-level who authorised this game of fantasy fanatics?

The Police 'had no choice... they tell us. No choice but to send 200 officers by night. Call me a simpleton but didn't one just used to arrange an MI5/6 burglary team? Or use surveillance equipment? And doesn't a weapon of mass destruction necessitate an area evacuation?

Or is this just another manifestation of messrs Ian and Tony Blair's strategy of tension.

If it is, then it is working in Forest Gate, it's positively buzzing with tension.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Zarqawi's family: he was a good boy really who loved his mum

Members of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's family gathered Thursday to mourn the death of the notorious al Qaeda in Iraq leader.

"We hope that he will join other martyrs in heaven," said Zarqawi's brother Sayel al-Khalayleh.

He said Abu had always been a very good child who had loved his mother. His chief interests were biology and pyrotechnics - he would often be found pulling the legs off insects and once got into trouble for attaching a fire cracker to the tail of a neighbour's cat. But then there wasn't much to do in this out-of-the-way desert town. "I mean," said Sayel. "It's not as if we could go after girls."

"We're not sad, we're happy because he's a martyr and he's now in heaven," added Abu's uncle, who claimed he lost one of his legs fighting Russian forces in Afghanistan as part of the Islamic Mujahedeen, although local gossip went he had lost it falling drunk in front of a tram in Hamburg.

Abu Qudama was later arrested as he was giving a live interview to Al-Jazeera praising al-Zarqawi, the channel reported. Jordanian officials refused to comment on the arrest.

"I'm so sad about my uncle," said a boy, who identified himself as Omar. "I too want to grow up to cut off the heads of the infidel. Look." The boy pulled the severed heads of a handful of Action Men out of his pockets. He had scribbled in red felt tip around their neck.

As news of al-Zarqawi's death spread in his hometown, some 50 boys - aged 8 to 14 - took to the streets, hurling stones at reporters.

"These are lies, Zarqawi is still alive," said one the children, who identified himself as Mohammed.

However, speaking from Heaven in a break between fucking 7659 supermodel virgins, Zarqawi said:

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Iran could have barbers by 2010, intelligence chief warns

Calling Tehran "the principal state sponsor of bad hair", US Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte told BBC radio Iran seemed determined to introduce barbers by 2010.

"The estimate we have made is that some time between the beginning of the next decade and the middle of the next decade they might be in a position to get their hair cut, which is a cause of great concern," he said.

Western intelligence chiefs fear shaved mullahs may appear more plausible.

"People may start taking them seriously," said Negroponte. "If they start becoming more presentable, people might actually think they have a point."













The move has been prompted by new President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose recent move to ban Western music from Iranian airwaves was in part attributed to concern about the corrupting influence of Kenny Gee's long curly locks.

















Gee - corrupting influence


In the future all Iranian men will have to be clean-shaven and keep to a regulation short back and sides.

Although some men may suffer, the development is expected to come as huge relief to Iran's women who have been deprived of hair care since the Islamic Revolution. Most are so ashamed of their unkempt barnets they now keep their heads covered.












It has been a 30 year bad hair day for Iranian women


But the move is likely to come in for criticism from traditionalists like Iran's spiritual leader Ayatollha Khomeini who are concerned they won't look so scary without their beards.















Khomeini - less scary?