Monthly archives: March 2011

At 16.00 Today I Was

Organising my air ticket back to London, via Turkey. Although I live in the UK, it is much cheaper to buy tickets as returns from the Ghanaian end. But because of the prevalence of fraud, you can’t buy a ticket over the internet starting from West Africa. So my long suffering Ghanaian PA has had a complex task working out from the airlines the best way to fly Accra/Izmir/London/Accra.

The answer turns out to be Lufthansa, and Accra/Frankfurt/Munich/Izmir/Munich/London/Accra, all of which in business class comes to a surprisingly cheap US $3,560. I know this arouses sceptical smiles, but I have to fly business class because of my episode of pulmonary emboli. The doctors say that I should in fact fly business class and with an oxygen mask, but it’s not a good look.

My itinerary in Turkey is being organised by IHH, the Turkish charity that sent the Mavi Marmara. I am donatiing all my royalties from the Turkish language edition of Murder in Samarkand to IHH. I am not receiving any payment at all for this lecture tour to Turkey and am paying my own travel expenses, staying with kind Turkish friends. I give this detail because, if I am going to do this 16.00 posting, I think you need to know how my life works to put it in context.

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Murder in Samarkand Nominated

If you scroll down, down, down on this link, far, far past Chris Evans and Nick Ferrari, you will see that serious radio still does exist, and that Murder in Samarkand, by David Hare, adapted from my memoir, has just been nominated for best radio drama at the Sony Radio Awards. I do hope it wins – the BBC may have to dust it down and make it available somewhere other than on this website.

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Who Planted The Jerusalem Bomb?

In these days of obsession with Breaking News, it is worth returning to a story sometimes to see what happened to it. The bomb in Jerusalem 8 days ago which killed a British lady at a bus stop is a good example. The Israeli government has announced – on no discernible evidence, that the bomb was the work of Palestinian extremists. The western media has accepted that narrative with no questioning that I can find. But was it?

News media have really given us nothing new since the day. The main development is that it has become plain that the bomb was not placed in a bin, but left in a bag at a busy bus stop. Not only is this not a known Palestinian modus operandi –

“It was nothing like the big suicide bombings of the past decade,” said one security official on the scene. “A small bomb, weighing less than two kilograms was left behind in a bag. There are no hallmarks here of the terror networks we faced then.”

But I should have thought it was a high risk operation for a Palestinian who was not a sucicde bomber to pull off. Anyone who has lived in London this last few years knows exactly how young Muslims with bags on the underground must feel. I expect that is worse on Jerusalem buses. And if this were a Palestinian terrorist, presumably they chose a bus stop frequented by Jewish people not by Palestinian people, in other words where a Palestinian would look conspicuous, and certainly might have difficulty in casually abandoning a bag at a bus stop?

Of course this might have been a Palestinian individual or group branching out with a different form of attack. But there is no reason to believe that it has to be that. It might have a motive unrelated to the Palestinian conflict at all, by some lone nutter. Or if it is related to Israel/Palestine, it does not follow that it was the Palestinians. There are plenty of extremist Jewish groups who must be very alarmed at the change of events in the Middle East, at the loss of their closest regional ally Mubarak, at the end of the nonsensical “only democracy in the Middle East” propaganda, at the sudden discovery by Western media that Arabs are human too. The mind of any terrorist is by definition twisted. It cannot be said to be impossible that this was an action perpetrated by extreme zionists anxious to reclaim world sympathy. There were Jewish victims in the King David Hotel too. The violent nutters are not all on one side.

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At 16.00 Today I Was

In a meeting with our lawyers to try and finalise our position on contract variations and delay payments to subcontractors. Pretty heavy going. The industry has a rather unpleasant culture of aggressive pursuit of unreasonable claims, with arbitration or court an early rather than a last option. For a naturally cooperative person like me I find this very wearing to deal with. It has been a very full and tiring day all in all.

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Completely Surreal Hague Press Stunt

William Hague just gave a press conference on the big Libya conflab in London at which he obviously thought it would look good to be flanked by an Arab. So he sat next to the Prime Minister of Qatar, who solemnly told us that the Libyan people have the right to choose their own leadership. Fucking QATAR! An absolute monarchy.

This is from the State Department’s annual Human Rights Report 2009:

The emir exercises full executive power. The 2005 constitution provides for continued hereditary rule by the emir’s male branch of the Al-Thani family. Shari’a (Islamic law) is the main source of legislation. The emir approves or rejects legislation after consultation with the appointed 35-member Advisory Council and cabinet. There are no elections for national leadership, and the law forbids political parties

Rather amusingly, but completely wrongly, the State Department call this unmitigated hereditary autocracy a “constitutional monarchy”. It is also worth noting that the State Department has listed Qatar as a Tier 3 – ie absolutely terrible – country for human trafficking in bonded domestic servants. Homosexuality is illegal as are Christian religious symbols, even in churches.

Of course the chief decision of the London conference was that Qatar will take over Libya’s oil resources. I am still astounded that anybody can still be taken in by all the bullshit about democracy and human rights, with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other human rights abusers in the thick of the politicking.

Finally, hours of broadcast coverage have been given to the poor woman who says she was raped by Gadaffi’s militia. I am inclinded to believe her, but it sticks in my throat that it is paraded everywhere as a justification for war. As detailed in Murder in Samarkand, rape by the security forces is a constant occurrence in our ally Karimov’s Uzbekistan, and neither these outraged western journalists nor western governments have ever said a single word about it.

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At 16.00 Today I Was

Juggling my itinerary for media appearances in Turkey next week to promote the Turkish edition of Murder in Samarkand, to enable me to get back to participate in an event on Saturday 9 April.

I have the Sri Lanka/New Zealand match on in the background. It looked a lot more hopeless for New Zealand at 16.00 than it does now. I still think Sri Lanka will make it, though.

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Reverse Visibility Engineering

There is a lot of money to be made from getting websites visible. Search engine optimisation, I believe it is called. It is a science in itself to get yourself up the top of page 1 of a google search, whether to help a website sell something or attract clicks for an advertising banner. Rumour has it that employing the dark arts of this trade for companies are how the great Tim Ireland keeps bread on the table.

Presumably you can work it backwards. I was working out links between corporate and NGO recipients of government and EU grants in Lancashire and New Labour – which would make a book in itself. There is a statutory duty on political parties to publish lists of party donors, but weirdly a google search will not help you find it.

Google search “New Labour Donors” and you will be overwhelmed by a mountain of journalistic sleaze revelations, but you will have to scroll through pages for months before finding a statutory published list. I am rather proud to say this blog comes top of page 2.

In fact the results give you an amusing and accurate caricature of the parties. From New Labour nothing, zilch, all anal and clammed up. Google search “Conservative Party Donors” and again nowhere will you find the list of Conservative Party donors, but the Tories understand search engine optimisation and right up at items 3 and 4 are Tory website links urging you to make a donation, credit cards accepted. Google “Liberal Democrat” donors and again you won’t find a list, but you will find on the first page two major Lib Dem blogs attacking their own party for corruption!

I presume I will find the lists on the electoral commission website. But it really ought to be easier. In a past age, certain notices had by law to be posted in the church porch or council noticeboard, because that was the easiest place for the public to find them in the technology of the day. You could not post them on the outhouse. But the lists of party donors are on the virtual equivalent of the back of the one-holer.

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At 16.00 Today I was…

in a really difficult situation having a testy conversation with a nice Ghanaian who was also in a difficult position.

Now we have completed the gas pipeline we are desperate to get the turbines switched from diesel fo gas. The fuel saving to the Ghana government amounts to US $3,000 an hour. We need the Siemens commissioning engineers to do this, and the Rotring engineers commissioning the gas treatment plant are already here, but stymied now until Siemens arrive. But the Siemens engineers I was expecting last night have been delayed because their passports are still in the Ghana High Commission, who seem to be much slower in issuing the visas than usual.

The Ghanaian government engineers are under a lot of stress and understandably fed up. So are we. It seems the best that can be done is for the High Commission to issue the visas tomorrow, but then the Siemens engineers won’t be able to travel until Wednesday and won’t start work until Thursday. Meanwhile the Rotring engineers have to leave on Wednesday night.

Did my efforts manage to solve or mitigate this? No. I did manage to calm people down and cheer them up a bit. I fear though I shall be doing the same thing at 16.00 tomorrow.

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Capitalism and the Big State

There is a very interesting post here from Stumbling and Mumbling about the mutual dependence of big capital and the big state, and by and large he is right. I think he understates the interlocking of big capital and the big state, and the extent to which the modern state is simpky a tool of large corporate interests. He also does not really consider the whole nexus of Eisenhower’s military-industrial-Congressional complex.

In fact, major coroporate interests are now above the nation state. They can effectively be exempt from the criminal law, like BAE Systems. Or avoid the jurisdiction of a nation state almost completely, like Vodafone.

A large state, like large concentrations of capital, produces an excessive concentration of power; to put that another way, both reduce the freedom of individuals. That is why I am not with the corporatist interests who were marching at the weekend, It is also why I am not with the Tories. I retain a quaint belief that the best economic model is one where the workers own the company, at the enterprise level rather than the state level, while natural monopolies and social services are provided directly and simply by the state.

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Illegal War

The attack on Libya is now illegal, a criminal war of aggression. While I always opposed the action as a matter of policy, I explained it was not illegal within the confines clearly established in UNSCR 1973.

It is now plain that NATO forces have wilfully breached those confines and are now guilty of a criminal war of aggression. They are bombing what are now the defenders as a deliberate act of aerial support to pave the way for the rebel forces’ ground assault. I suspended my judgement on calling this an illegal war because it is a huge accusation, and I take these matters very seriously. Two days ago I posted this:

Whether taking a side in the civil war can be justified in terms of UNSCR 1973 as “protecting civilians” seems to me a very dubous prospect indeed. It is certainly unwise, but the legality of current actions is arguable as it may not yet be definitely established that taking sides is what we are doing.

There is no longer any doubt. In bombing defensive emplacements ahead of the rebel assault on Gadaffi’s hometown of Sirte, a line has been definitively crossed. Attacking Sirte cannot possibly be justified as “Protection of civilians”. There was no threat to the civilians of Gadaffi’s hometown from Gadaffi’s forces. Indeed it is arguable that the citizenry of Sirte may be more in danger from the tribal antagonists we are assisting to conquer them.

The government has refused to release the full advice of the Attorney General on the legailty of the attack on Libya. What they have released is:

The Attorney General has been consulted and Her Majesty’s Government is satisfied that this Chapter VII authorisation to use all necessary measures provides a clear and unequivocal legal basis for deployment of UK forces and military assets to achieve the resolution’s objectives

My italics. Now I strongly suspect that the Attorney General’s unpublished advice discusses the objectives and the consequential scope of military action. The British Government is now plainly involved in military action that goes well beyond “the resolution’s objectives”. We need to discover what the Attorney General thinks of that.

A lesson not learned from the Iraq debacle is that we need to move beyond the position where legal advice on the legality of war is given by a politician and controlled, and withheld, by the executive, with no access for the opposition or the general public.

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At 16.00 today I was…

Every now and then I think up a new blog gimmick, then I forget it after a few days. My latest wheeze is to tell you every day what I was doing at 16.00 local time. Why on earth you should care I don’t know, but it will give a series of arbitrary snapshots, and at least at 16.00 I am likely to be reasonably respectable.

At 16.00 today I was at the desk in my Accra bedroom, reading The Extermination of A British Army by Terence Blackburn, taking notes from it, and listening to Death and Transfiguration by Richard Strauss.

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The Uses of Violence

I am not in general fond of violence, but very seldom get het up about political violence against things. As a young man I contributed my small bit to rather a lot of violence done to Torness nuclear power station in the early stages of its construction. But I really do not approve of hurting policemen, or of hijacking peaceful demonstrations and spoiling their effect for those who worked hard in organising them.

If those attacking shops yesterday want to attack a bank headquarters in the City, organising it themselves, using surprise to minimise opposition and violence, doing what damage they can until it reaches the stage where someone might get hurt, then qucikly getting out, good luck to them. But there is no point at all to attacking bank retail branches, and the influential have not frequented the Ritz for half a century. They much prefer the Wolseley just across St James, but the rioters seem to have walked right past it and not given it much attention. They need a social adviser.

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All Eyes on the Middle East

For weeks now, every Friday has been full of thrill and expectation, as we have waited to see what will transpire after Friday prayers. Plainly the Islamic religion is capable of being a motor for postive social change. First expectation centred on Tunisia, then on Egypt. Today among many key points, Syria and Yemen are particularly interesting.

In Yemen, the Americans are back in the position they were in over Egypt as it became plain that Mubarak could not survive, when they tried to foist in the arch Zionist Omar Suleyman. In Yemen they are still hoping to find a successor for Salih endorsed by the USA and propelled to power by the military, who will permit free operation by US forces in Yemen. It does not seem that anything will ever convince Obama that freedom and democracy in the Middle East would address most of the root causes of terrorism.

Syria is interesting, because while Assad is every bit as murderous as his father, he gives an example of what a younger and more media savvy generation of Middle Eastern dictators might look like. Instead of threatening to murder all opposition, he apologises for each and every massacre his troops carry out and sends flowers to their relatives. His wife does excellent PR in a Princess Diana style, pretending all kinds of concern for the poor. Assad spouts the language of reform with glib facility, meaning absolutely none of it. If is easy to see that Saif Gadaffi, charmer of Western politicians and institutions who craved the money stolen from his people, would have adoped that model if the Arab Spring had not emerged.

While the USA is not fond of Assad, stylistically he is a good example of the kind of media friendly dictator the CIA sees as the ideal medium term outcome of the Arab Spring.

It is peculiar that the Western media, and now international law, view Gadaffi’s assets as ill-gotten because he stole them after seizing power, whereas the money looted from his pople by the King of Bahrain, or the vast Saudi oil wealth treated as private property by the al-Saud, is viewed as highly respectable and desirable. At least Gadaffi seized it for himself. The ancestors of monarchs did precisely what Gadaffi has done, and then their descendants simply wallowed in the inheritance. There is no moral difference between Gadaffi’s sons and Saudi princes. I should like to see the back of the lot of them.

As predicted, the military action in Libya is going horribly wrong. The bombs and missiles are consolidating an undeserved nationalist support for Gadaffi and motivating more people to actually fight for him. The rebels are on the wrong end of ground battles and there is precious little evidence what majority opinion in Libya actually now wants. The western bombing forces are more and more involved in ground attack on pro-Gadaffi forces, and not only armour.

Whether taking a side in the civil war can be justified in terms of UNSCR 1973 as “protecting civilians” seems to me a very dubous prospect indeed. It is certainly unwise, but the legality of current actions is arguable as it may not yet be definitely established that taking sides is what we are doing.

However, it cannot be argued that taking out the command and control structure of the entire Libyan army, not just that related to air defence, is necessary to civilian protection and a no fly zone. And the pattern of ground attack in support not of civilians but of armed rebel forces is becoming plainly established.

If this goes on for more than another couple of days, it seems to me it will be beyond doubt that the action has gone outwith the aims of UNSCR 1973, are disproportionate, and the UK will be engaged in illegal war.

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Jerusalem Bombing

I pray that the bus stop bomb in Jerusalem today does not herald a return to this kind of terrorism in Israel. Terrorism is always a form of racism because it involves an indiscriminate attack upon a people. Killing and wounding innocent civilians is nothing to be proud of, whoever does it.

It is also the case that of recent years there has been a continuing and measurable shift, in European public opinion in particular, in favour of the Palestinians. There is not a simple cause and effect relationship, but the effective moratorium on this kind of terrorist attack has definitely helped people see beyond atrocity propaganda to a more profound understanding of the situation. International public opinion does ultimately matter. It was not terrorism or violent action or internal political or economic resistance that brought down apartheid. It was not even economic sanctions. It was moral collapse, the difficulty of living with the stigma with which white South Africans came to be viewed in the entire world. And it was the ANC’s de facto abandonment of armed struggle, long before officially renouncing it in 1990, that facilitated that. In short, Gandhi was right.

Of course we still do not know who planted the Jerusalem bomb, and it is disgraceful that Obama has already referred to “Israel’s right of self-defence”, when we have no idea if this was internal or external. Who is America going to exercise its right of self defence against in relation to events in Tucson and Spokane? Until we know something more definite – and unless someone credibly claims responsibility we won’t, as the Israeli authorities deserve no trust at all – the answer to the question cui bono does not point to the Palestinians. Nor does the modus operandi; not a suicide bomb but a bin bomb. I cannot recall Palestinians using that form of attack at any time in the recent past. Which is not to say it was not fanatic and stupid Palestinians, but Obama has no right to presume that. People prepared to plant bombs without injuring themselves are a very much wider field.

Of course, this bomb has received ten times the air time on Western broadcasters as the killing of Palestinian civilians in Gaza yesterday, In fact between the terrible murder of Israeli settlers three weeks ago and this bomb, the Israeli security services have killed nine Palestinian civilians just in the general course of things. But nobody bothers to report that at all. I have commended before The Prickly Pears of Palestine to you as a book which brought home to me the regular and routine nature of Israeli killings of young Palestinians.

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George Osborne – A Petty Man For A Great Task

The British economy is in dire straits, which look set to result in a permanent downward shift in our comparative position in the world. The five year growth forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility forecast that in the best year of the coming half decade, growth will peak at just under the average growth rate for the last two hundred years.

It is therefore worrying that we have a Chancellor who thinks that the appropriate response is a series of petty, peevish party political points. His attack on Gordon Brown for sellng off our gold reserve at a quarter of its current value, was perfectly true but absolutely irrelevant to the budget. And as for

“The principles of good taxation have been set out from Adam Smith to Nigel Lawson”

I can only observe:

“The prinicples of good batting have been set out from W G Grace to Craig Murray”.

The last fortnight has seen a series of disastrous economic statistics, as inflation, unemployment and the budget deficit all returned monthly figures substantially worse than forecast, The forecast budget defict this year is now £149 billion.

The extraordinary thing is, that nobody denies that this appalling financial situation was caused by the collapse of the banking sector. Nor does anyone appear to deny that the collapse of the banking sector was caused by a system which hugely rewarded individuals for short term gains on multiple high risk speculative transactions, in a way which made a “Bubble” inevitable.

While the perpetrators – a whole class of them – took massive rewards for the short term gains of the complex bubble scheme, they did not get punished by its collapse. Rather everybody paid up for them, resulting in there being a gross shortage of money to pay for anything else – hence the recession.

It has been argued that. in running this massive government deficit, we are in fact in the middle of the biggest Keynsian stimulus in history. The problem with that analysis is that, rather than be put into public spending which stimulates the demand, the money from this deficit has been put entirely into the banks, which use it to stimulate the appetite of their senior staff for cocaine.

But other than a token levy amounting to well less than 1% of the money that has been given, nothing whatsoever has been done to address the cause of the malaise, and the over-rewarded class who crashed the whole economy have been left free to crank up the next bubble and immediately to start over-rewarding themselves again. Politicians of all major parties then simply deal with the resulting damage to the economy by palliative measures as if the collapse were an earthquake and tsunami, which we had no choice but to accept will come, and no choice but to realise will come again. Indeed we have just had an entire budget speech which did not even mention the banking collapse as the cause of our troubles. The only mention of the banks was to repeat their own propaganda about freeing them up to enable them to compete on a global basis.

I am in fact entirely in favour of a small state, and am not against budget cuts per se. There are hundreds of thousands of people working for local authorities who are in office jobs which in fact do no good to anybody. Those who deny that local government in the UK is corrupt, overstaffed, overpaid and full of local political placemen, obviously have had very little contact with it. Sadly, the numerous “officers” and “managers” in local government are precisely those who will not get sacked in the spending cut round. The useful people who actually work will be cut instead.

The National Health Service is a prime example of how this government gets the public sector totally wrong. Public services should be delivered by the state simply, efficiently, directly and with the minimum administration. By seeking to introduce market forces into the equation, the simplicity and directness are both removed and the administration increased until it exceeds half of the total cost, as hordes of useless bureaucrats and accountants administer completely artificial market mechanisms and pass miliions of useless invoices and receipts for payment from one bit of government to another bit of government.

Cuts are a good thing. The cuts of this coalition are worse than useless. They have to be part of a fundamental restructuring of our economy, which ties financial transactions to actual payments for real goods and services, rather than speculation on the future value of goods and services. Most importanly, redistribution of capital to the workers in companies needs to be initiated. I favour economic competition, but capitalism as currently consitituted brings an escalating concentration of capital and consequent concentration of political power, and a quite unacceptable leap in the wealth gap between rich and poor.

Instead we have from Osborne a little adjustment here and there and the odd snide partisan quip. I have noticed an interesting phenomenon about Osborne. Every time he takes a measure to benefit the wealthy, his hair parting grows wider, and it is threatening now to take over the whole top of his head. His one big idea was that it is time to take the “historic step” of merging Income Tax and National Insurance. Actually that is precisely a hundred years overdue, ever since Lloyd George, with that twinkle in his dark eye. quipped “The secret is, there is no fund”. But then it turned out that Osborne’s “Historic step” was to launch a consultation over several years into the possibility of doing this.

An irrelevant budget from an irrelevant man in what increasingly seems an irrelevant government.

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Murdered Afghan Trophy Photos on Der Spiegel

The United States have killed so many innocent civilians in Afghanistan that nobody will ever know all their stories. There is a line running from genuine accident in the fog of war, to carelessness, through callous disregard of life to deliberate murder. There is a real sense in which it makes no difference to the dead civilian where their killing sits on the line. The six boys under 11 years old killed this month by an aerial attack when out gathering firewood are every bit as dead as the 13 year old boy in one of the trophy photos now released by Der Spiegel.

There is something very vile in the culture of the US military, of which this is but one symptom. I won’t say much, as I feel more grief than anger just at the moment. But I leave you these truths. It is more common for US soldiers to possess such trophy photos, than it is for those trophy photos to be exposed to an international magazine. And it is a great deal more common for US soldiers to murder from the enjoyment of their absolute power of life and death, than it is for them to incriminate themselves by recording the event.

This is but the tip of an iceberg of evil.

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Human Rights in the USA

The Obama administration has, rightly, been paying at least lip service to the primary of international law in the limitation of military action in Libya to conform with the provisions of SCR 1973.

Here is a still more fundamental piece of international law – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948. It is in itself a high point of human achievement, and it is worth reading from time to time. Consider this in particular:

Article 23.
(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

In directly contravenng Clause 4 of Article 23, the government of Wisconsin is not only attacking its own workforce, it is attacking the very essence of human dignity and the achievement of ordinary people in obtaining a right to it. There is no doubt that in the second half of the twentieth century labour unions grew into over-centralised, undemocratic and corrupt institutions. Those evils can be regulated away. But removing the right of individual workers to combine to negotiate the price of thier labour is a much greater evil.

It was possible for liberals to believe – I believed it – thirty years ago that capitalism as a system naturally ameliorates and moves everybody towards the middle class, reducing extremes of wealth and poverty as capitalism matured. But since then, the gap between the very wealthy and the ordinary working man has increased exponentially. Those providing financial and other middleman servies are disproportionately rewarded, and those who labour to manufacture or provide physical services are increasingly impoverished, abused and unprotected. The public services are one of the few areas where rapacious neo-liberal practices of exploiting, abusing and discarding labour still met any, though reducing, resistance. The propaganda against human rights in Wisconsin has, as as one of its more evil elements, an appeal to those already abased, to drag down those who can to some extent be portrayed as having to some extent escaped.

But it would be quite wrong to portray this attack as led just by the Republicans. Obama has notably refused to do anything to counter the wave of hatred towards employees, organised and financed by corporate America. Obama himself is notably failing in his duty to live up to the following paragraph of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

The degrading treatment of suspected whistleblower Bradley Manning is a further example of US contempt for human rights – as is what happens to those who seek to protest about it. I was struck to see this picture of my friend Dan Ellsberg flash up on Sky News.

A couple of weeks ago, while this blog was down for remont, another of my friends, Ray McGovern, was arrested for the new crime of wearing a Veterans for Peace T shirt at a Hillary Clinton meeting. She was talking at the time, with no apparent sense of irony, about the right to protest in the Middle East. Just before the camera cuts to Ray, you can see her smirk as she sees him manhandled.

The next time I share a platform with Ray and Dan, I shall feel that they have been paying their dues for freedom more than I. But I have an excuse for not getting arrested. I have been most of the time in Ghana, which respects human rights, whereas they are in the United States, which does not.

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On Civilian Casualties

During the initial phase of the war in Iraq, stray US missiles aimed at Iraq hit Kuwait, Turkey and Syria. Two missiles hit Syria which were specifically supposed to hit Baghdad. That is on top of the numerous instances of misidentification. You will also remember that we hit the Chinese Embassy when bombing Belgrade.

Two nights ago, 118 Tomahawk missiles were aimed at 20 targets. These things are extremely destructive. We know that some of the targets were radar installations and SAM missile sites. These are not extensive. Airfields would need more, but the fact that 118 extremely expensive missiles were fired at just 20 targets undoubtedly includes a large measure of redundancy, precisely because the military know very well that some of them will miss.

You cannot send hundreds of cruise missiles and numerous bombing raids into Libya without killing civilians. You do not have to accept anything the Gadaffi regime says to know that.

There are genuine questions arising now about proportionality and whether the allied action really is confined to carrying out the mandate of SCR1973. Taking out air defences can be justified as an essential precursor to setting up the no fly zone. But whether taking out the command and control structure of the entire Libyan armed forces is really necessary to the protection of civilians appears at best a dubious proposition.

The Guardian’s editor, disgraceful Blair catamite Alan Rusbridger is always up for military action to kill Muslims. The Guardian reports that

Critics claimed that the coalition of the willing may have been acting disproportionately and had come perilously close to making Gaddafi’s departure an explicit goal of UN policy

The last part of that quote is misleading nonsense. The “coalition of the willing” have failed miserably to make regime change explicit UN policy. That is extremely clear in SCR1973. What the coalition of the willing are extremely close to doing is acting illegally in making war beyond their UN mandate. That is a very different thing.

According to the Guardian report, the allies are now going on to attack Gadaffi’s artillery and armour. Whether there is still any threat to Benghazi remains unclear. But there seems to be a very real danger that the bombings will only serve to stoke patriotic support for Gadaffi among wide sectors of the population.

Plainly what compliance with SCR1973 would require now is a period of pause, during which the no fly zone is enforced, and whether any further ground attacks are in fact needed to enforce the very limited aims of SCR 1973 can be assessed. If instead we continue to see further intense attacks upon Libya, plainly the coalition is moving into illegality.

Actually, having seen the man in the flesh, I don’t object to the “Mad Dog” descriptions of Gadaffi. Britian has its own “Mad Dog” in Liam Fox, shooting his mouth off about assassinating Gadaffi and doing his best to alienate international support. I remenber Fox as a rumbustious bigot from the beer bar of Glasgow University Union. He was a leading light in the successful campaign to ban the Gay Society. He struck me then as a talentless zealot of deeply unpleasant views. It is deeply worrying that somebody like him can achieve high office.

Al Jazeera have excellent coverage today of the terror being visited upon the people of Bahrain now their democracy movement has been temporarily crushed. The US were complicit in this, and Qatar and the UAE – neither of them democracies, both of them involved in the brutality in Bahrain – are now providing the Arab military forces supposed to give political cover to the coalition.

The endgame may be the division of Libya into two parts – diesel and unleaded.

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Dancing To The Saudi Tune

As the British government carefully looks the other way while democracy movements are bloodily crushed in the Gulf, here is some good reading for anyone who doubts the influence wielded over the British government by Saudi oil money and by the armaments industry. This wikileaks cable catalogues one of the most shameful moments in the long history of the British state. I strongly recommend that you read the whole thing. Here is a taster.

reported that SFO and MOD Police investigators had expended more
than 2 million pounds sterling on the BAE investigations. She
said on December 14, SFO Director Robert Wardle had decided to
discontinue the joint SFO/MOD Police investigation based on his
personal, independent judgment. Garlick then described four
distinct parts of the BAE/Saudi Arabia investigation:

¶4. (C) First, the relationship between BAE plc and Prince Turki
Bin Nasir: evidence indicated payments had been made by two
subcontractors to Prince Turki, who, as Deputy Commander of the
Royal Saudi Air Force during the involved period, was in a
position to exert influence on the al-Yamamah contract.
Payments fell into three time periods: before the
implementation of the U.K.’s 2001 Act (effective February 14,
2002); during a transition period; and following full
implementation of the Act. Evidence indicated that payments of
up to 70 million pounds had been made to Prince Turki prior to
implementation of 2001 Act. SFO had evidence indicating BAE had
conspired to circumvent the 2001 Act and another 3 million
pounds were paid to Turki following implementation;

¶5. (C) Second, payments made to BAE’s overseas agents:
evidence indicated that substantial payments were made by BAE
through XXXXXX XXXXXX to marketing consultants employed at
the behest of the Saudi government after implementation of the
2001 act, but no documents were produced to substantiate the
provision of any genuine services by the consultants;

¶6. (C) Third, payments made under the al-Yamamah contract to an
unnamed senior Saudi official: Garlick advised that in October
2005, the SFO had demanded BAE produce documents including
payments related to the al-Yamamah contract. The company made
representations to the AG on public interest grounds (political
and economic considerations) as to why the investigation should

be halted. The AG undertook a Shawcross Exercise and sought
representations from various British officials regarding the
case. The SFO Director wanted to continue the investigation.
On January 25, 2006, the AG agreed that there was no impediment
to continuing the investigation. The SFO sought Swiss banking
records regarding agents of BAE. The SFO found reasonable
grounds that another very senior Saudi official was the
recipient of BAE payments. The SFO was poised to travel to
Switzerland in connection with its Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA)
request when the decision to discontinue the investigation was
made; and

¶7. (C) Fourth, potential fraud against the U.K.’s Export Credit
Guarantee Department: the SFO investigated potential fraud
against the EGCD and discovered false representations by BAE to
conceal the corrupt dealings, which would constitute conspiracy
to defraud under U.K. law.

¶8. (C) Garlick noted a number of difficult legal issues
involved in the case, which put into question the sustainability
of corruption charges for payments made prior to 2002. Under
U.K. law, the informed consent of the principal to the agent’s
actions may be offered as a defense, making possible an
exception to the prohibitions on foreign bribery where the
individual receiving the bribe acts with the consent of the
principal. Evidentiary problems were also presented in a case
involving the Saudi absolute monarchy. Garlick said information
was being shared within the British government with a view to
the wholesale reform of UK law on corruption. She expressed
concern that the BAE investigation had not concluded, but said
while the Saudi Arabia case had been discontinued due to
unusual/extraordinary circumstances, other investigations
involving BAE activities in South Africa, Tanzania, Romania,
Chile, and the Czech Republic continued.

¶9. (C) Jones cited public interest as the reason for
discontinuation of the investigation, based on risks to
international and national security and to the lives of U.K.
citizens. He said the U.K. was not seeking to avoid giving
offense to another State or harming diplomatic relations with
another State, and “still less” to avoid harming British
commercial interests. Jones said U.K. authorities do not
believe the Anti-bribery Convention requires parties to pursue
cases if doing so would compromise the fight against terrorism
or the safety of citizens. He said U.K.-Saudi cooperation was
critical and that Saudi Arabia was the source of unique strains
of intelligence on al-Qaida. If Saudi Arabia were to withdraw
such cooperation, the UK would be deprived of a key source of
information. Jones also cited UK-Saudi cooperation related to
the Middle East Peace Process.

As I have said in relation to so many other such lying claims by the British government, if there were really thirty active terrorist plots by genuine determined terrorists, is it not astonishing that between them they did not manage to kill a single person? Doubtless they included the “lyrical terrorist” and the deadly poems for which she was jailed (before thankfully being freed by the Court of Appeal, a fact the mainstream media missed). As for the Saudi contribution to the so-called Middle East Peace Process as the reason not to prosecute anybody, the concept is so far beyond rational as to be unanswerable.

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