Afghanistan


“Taliban Compounds” and the Great Gladstone

There is an article in the Sunday Times about yet more pressure being brought to bear on Wikileaks as they prepare to release another damning video of American massacre, this time in Afghanistan.

But what caught my eye was yet another example of the propaganda doublespeak with which our wars of occupation are justified.

American aircraft dropped 500lb and 1,000lb bombs on a suspected militant compound

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article7094234.ece

People in Central Asia live in traditional courtyard houses, with rooms opening onto a central yard and an enclosing wall. This is because of the extreme heat of summer, and livestock are sometimes brought in to the yard in winter. Their homes do not look like our homes. But they are not “Compounds”. They are HOUSES.

I have lost track of the number of times I have seen television footage of somebody’s home being sprayed with bullets that pierce the mud and straw walls as if they did not exist, or obliterated by a bomb, while that disgusting servile MI6 propagandist Frank Goebbels Gardner or another of his ilk tells us it was a “Militant compound”, with all the James Bond fantasies that evokes. It is not a compound you fascist bastard, I scream in rage at the TV. It is a family home.

Time for more of the great William Ewart Gladstone:

Remember the rights of the savage, as we call him. Remember that the happiness of his humble home, remember that the sanctity of life in the hill villages of Afghanistan, among the winter snows, is as inviolable in the eye of Almighty God as can be your own.

Those hill tribes had committed no real offence against us. We, in the pursuit of our political objects, chose to establish military positions in their country. If they resisted, would not you have done the same? … The meaning of the burning of the village is, that the women and the children were driven forth to perish in the snows of winter … Is that not a fact ?” for such, I fear, it must be reckoned to be ?” which does appeal to your hearts as women … which does rouse in you a sentiment of horror and grief, to think that the name of England, under no political necessity, but for a war as frivolous as ever was waged in the history of man, should be associated with consequences such as these?

For those of you who ask why I rejoined the Liberal Democrats, the answer is it is my political home. I stand in the tradition of Gladstone, John Bright and John Stuart Mill. It is my

earnest desire to remind the party of that great tradition.

Please let me know every time you see an incident of the “compound” propagande trick.

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Civil War Certain as “Afghan National Army” Now Over 60% Tajik

There are any number of “Big lies” put forward by the USA in Afghanistan and slavishly repeated by our politicians and media. Here are a few of the “Big lies”:

– The Karzai government is democratically elected

– The Afghan anti-occupation fighters are all Taliban supporters

– Most opium is produced in Taliban controlled areas

– Women’s rights are now respected in Afghanistan

But I want today to tackle this particular “Big lie”:

– The Afghan National Army is ethnically balanced.

There has been a consistent parroting by the Western media of the line that NATO troops operate “in support of” the Afghan National Army, and that this is a genuine force reflecting the whole nation. This propaganda has gone as far as releasing falsified figures of the ethnic composition of the Afghan National Army. These false figures have reflected the “Eikenberry Rule” set out by the Americans.

Under General Karl Eikenberry’s rule, the Afghan army should be 38 percent Pashtun, 25 percent Tajik, 19 percent Hazara and eight percent Uzbek. That would bring it much closer to reflecting the nation’s ethnic composition.

But a very concerned serving British officer of some seniority has just leaked to me that the truth is that the Afghan National Army is now over 60% Tajik, and that figure is increasing. The Pashtun figure is hovering below 20% and may have been overtaken by the Uzbeks.

In other words the “Afghan National Army” is just the Northern Alliance in very expensive NATO provided uniforms.

By carrying the northern alliance with our troops into the solid Pashtun tribal areas as an alien occupying force, we are stoking still further the ferocity of a future civil war. Karzai of course will be safe in Switzerland counting his looted cash by then.

Don’t expect to see this in the mainstream media any time soon. Instead you will hear the “Eikenberry rule” figures repeated as if they were reality rather than a spectacularly failed target.

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Billions of Dollars in Cash Leave Afghanistan

Plainly our occupation of Afghanistan is so succesful in promoting the country’s economy that there is too much money around. As the Washington Post reports, in a two month period 180 million dollars in cash was declared as it was carried out through Kabul airport, mostly to Dubai.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/24/AR2010022404914.html

What is strange is the Washington Post’s estimate of the outflow as “Over 1 billion dollars per year”. 180 milion dollars in two months is already a rate of over 2 billion dollars per year. As the Washington Post report does acknowledge, that is the tip of the iceberg. Much exported cash is undeclared or under-declared, and the regime insiders send out their cash unchecked and undeclared through the VIP lounge. The real figure is certainly much higher than 2 billion dollars.

That is not including money sent out through swiss banks or by wire transfer.

Nice to know that our soldiers are dying, and our taxes being spent, to protect such a thriving and active government.

UPDATE

A sensible comment from Strategist leads me to explain something. Very little of this money will be drug money. The idea that Afghanistan is awash in drugs money is a myth. The large drugs warlords – mostly Karzai government members or affiliates – export the heroin and are paid OFFSHORE.

Very little of the narcotics money ever enters Afghanistan – only the cash which is needed to pay local farmers and meet costs of conversion to heroin. I would estimate that only some 2 billion dollars per year from the heroin trade actually enters the Afghan economy, and that is widely dispersed.

If, as the American official quoted comments, they don’t really know what is going on, it is because they don’t want to know what is going on.

That is true in two senses – The USA is more than ever sheltering behind the figleaf of the puppet Karzai regime, so the extent of that regime’s looting must be kept quiet. Karzai won’t wait for the last US helicopter before leaving to spend more time with his money. But also the absence of any exchange controls is part of the neo-liberal economic policies inappropriately imposed on Afghanistan by the invading West.

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Gladstone Was Right

My MA thesis was entitled “Midlothian and Gladstone”. Here is an extract from one of Gladstone’s Midlothian campaign speeches, in Dalkeith, while the Second Afghan War was raging.

Those hill tribes had committed no real offence against us. We, in the pursuit of our political objects, chose to establish military positions in their country. If they resisted, would not you have done the same? … The meaning of the burning of the village is, that the women and the children were driven forth to perish in the snows of winter … Is that not a fact ?” for such, I fear, it must be reckoned to be ?” which does appeal to your hearts as women … which does rouse in you a sentiment of horror and grief, to think that the name of England, under no political necessity, but for a war as frivolous as ever was waged in the history of man, should be associated with consequences such as these?

There could be no clearer indication of how far we have diminished as a nation. Remember, Gladstone was campaigning in opposition to become PM again, for a third time. No senior politician would ever dare today to say:

If they resisted, would not you have done the same?

Anyone who suggested today that the Afghans have a right to resist foreign occupation would be drowned out in screams of “Wooton Basset” and the false, flatulent patriotism of newspaper proprietors and editors sat on their well-padded arses in comfortable offices,

Gladstone won both Midlothian and the general election. But there are no politicians of anything approaching his stature today. Charlie Kennedy actually understood what Liberalism is; Nick Clegg has neither courage nor prinicple.

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NATO Bomb Kills 21 Civilians In Afghanistan

Afghan civilians are being killed all the time by Nato; it only gets reported when they kill a lot at once, and even then it doesn’t exactly hit the front pages. In the latest incident 21 people have been wiped out from the air – families fleeing the NATO destruction of their homes

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE61L1A920100222

Those who have just heard Murder in Samarkand will be sickened to hear that the United States is yet again being complicit with the Uzbeks in faking evidence of al-Qaeda presence in Uzbekistan to justofy the US/Uzbek alliance:

Al Qaeda aims to infiltrate Central Asia to train militants and turn the ex-Soviet region into a zone of unrest, a U.S. envoy said on Saturday.

…In Uzbekistan, the region’s most populous and ethnically diverse nation, President Islam Karimov told Holbrooke he was eager to work closer with the United States over Afghanistan.

“The leader of our nation … expressed Uzbekistan’s firm determination to further develop U.S.-Uzbek relations in a constructive way in light of efforts to bring lasting peace and stability to Afghanistan,” the official UzA news agency said.

Relations between Uzbekistan, long under fire over human rights violations, and the United States have improved in recent years as Washington has shifted focus more to security issues in its contacts with Tashkent, diplomats say.

Uzbekistan is now part of the new NATO supply route and Western nations rarely criticise its rights record. Last year the European Union angered international human rights groups by lifting sanctions it imposed on Uzbekistan after a violent crackdown by Uzbek troops on protesters in 2005.

http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2010/02/20/world/international-uk-usa-centralasia.html?_r=2&scp=2&sq=uzbekistan&st=cse

The “violent crackdown” was the murder of at least 700 demonstrators in Andijan. There is no evidence of IMU fighters returning to Uzbekistan, but doubtless we will soon see another spate of flase flag “Bombings” like the ones I investigated in detail on the spot as British Ambassador and outline in Murder in Samarkand.

Hat tip to Mary

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Blood on the Comic Opera

At the Nuremberg trials, it was deliberately decided that those selected for the visible judgement on aggressive war would represent a cross section of the Nazi leadership, including each branch of the Armed services. It was thought very important to include a representative of the journalists who had whipped up the hatred.

I think that was wise. I do not suspect we will ever see a war crimes trial, despite Polanski’s best efforts. But there are so many arch propagandists for the war in Iraq that it would be hard to know who to pick. Aaronovitch, Cohen, Phillips?

But I think possibly the worst offender is our old friend Frank “Goebbels” Gardner. Yet again his grave but reassuring features have been delivering smooth propaganda, this time from the comic opera re-re-re-re-re-re-re-reinvasion of parts of Helmand – an operation which is costing the UK taxpayer £2 billion this month, and the US taxpayer very much more.

I rather like the comic opera Afghan General they have fronting the operation, to restore the “Legitimate authority” of electoral fraudster Karzai. The “Taliban” have of course sensibly melted away. There are however plenty of civilians still around for the Americans to blow up. Twelve at once is unusual, but they are being killed all the time.

One of Gardner’s favourite tricks is to call ordinary Afghan courtyard houses “Taliban compounds”. It is not a compound, it is a house. Perhaps Afghans don’t live in things we would recognise in Acacia Drive – but they are their homes.

Anyway, let’s all get out the bunting and celebrate a great national victory over some empty houses and cowering civilians. Let today be known forever as Frank Gardner day. Gentlemen of England now abed are really missing out on this one.

Meanwhile the Afghan resistance will avoid pitched battles and pick off our poor troops slowly and patiently, until the day we can’t afford it any more and leave. Karzai will leave too, to live in Geneva and count his cash. Alistair Campbell will tell us how much better life has become for the people of Afghanistan.

Sir Jock Stirrup (a real comic opera name) has just told us that the missile killing twelve civilians was a setback, be we would get over it.

The twelve won’t get over it, of course.

Probably some social misfit of unstable mind somewhere in England has been nudged towards a violent response. All for the good – that will help keep the whole ultra profitable security behemoth rumbling on.

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The “Threat” From Central Asia

The threat of Islamic fundamentalism rising up in and pouring out from Central Asia, is a popular theme of those who design Western security – or hydrocarbon – strategies. It is in order to exagerrate the threat from Central Asia that the US and UK use the Karimov regime to torture “Confessions” out of Central Asian “Al-Qaida” members.

Al-Jazeera has this week been running a feature documentary by Michael Andersen, a Danish journalist who really does know Central Asia, It should be required viewing for anyone with an interest in the “War on Terror”. You can still catch it on Al-Jazeera today and tomorrow, or throught this link.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zckWipmOxG8

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US and UK Troops Kill Muslims with Christian Inscribed Guns

US and UK soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq are killing Muslims using guns with optical sights marked with Christian Gospel references, manufactured by Trijicon, an avowedly Christian Evangelical company in the US, which in the past also supplied South African special forces in breach of the international anti-apartheid embargo. Trijicon’s website states:

We believe that America is great when its people are good. This goodness has been based on biblical standards throughout our history and we will strive to follow those morals.

http://www.trijicon.com/about.cfm

Peculiarly, having read the Gospels many times, I can’t recall Jesus advocating shooting people from a great distance.

Al Jazeera TV showed pictures today of Muslim Afghan commandos involved in fighting the Taliban in Kabul this week, carrying weapons inscribed with the Christian messages. This is highly reminiscent of the belief that bullet cartridges were greased with pig and cow grease, that was a major factor in leading British Indian troops to mutiny in 1857.

It is hard to imagine anything more calculated to upset Musim opinion, and is a vital reminder of exactly what kind of US nutters Blair allied us with.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/defence/7028238/Ministry-of-Defence-orders-Bible-guns-for-soldiers-in-Afghanistan.html

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The Case of Dr Al-Balawi

There is a very great deal that we can learn from the case of Dr Al-Balawi, the suicide bomber who took out seven CIA agents in Afghanistan.

The first relates to intelligence. Dr Al Balawi had become a trusted CIA informant, believed by the CIA to be helping them to target al-Qaida elements on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Except that we now know he was a dedicated al-Qaida all along.

Presumably much of the intelligence he had been providing was deliberately false and misleading. This yet again illustrates the point I have made repeatedly about the unreliability of “humint” – intelligence gained from informants.

As British Ambassador, I saw in Uzbekistan a continued stream of intelligence from the Uxbek torture chambers, accepted by the CIA and MI6 but which, in many cases, I knew to be false. The Uzbek government wished to retain Western support and subsidies by exaggerating their role in fighting al-Qaida; that was their purpose in providing the false intelligence. The Western security services and governments wished to exaggerate the threat of al-Qaida for domestic political purposes: that was their purpose in accepting it.

Torture is not the only source of unreliable “Humint”. Double agents like Dr Al-Balawi are another, A very high proportion of this intelligence is bought for cash, and that is the most unreliable of all. The dirty dossier on Iraqi WMD was full of tall stories for which you and I as taxpayers paid dodgy informants millions of dollars.

Yet we used unreliable humint as the basis for a war in Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands. We use it to take out wedding parties with bomb attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We use it to keep people detained without charge for years in Guantanamo, in Afghanistan, in Belmarsh, and we use it to deliver people up to torturers around the World.

We should know by now that the intelligence services and politicians no longer care if the intelligence is true: they want intelligence that justifies the actions they want to take anyway, and that keep on stream the mega profits that their friends are making from the War on Terror.

So Dr Al Balawi’s case gives us an invaluable insight into the world of intelligence.

But it does more than that. Why would a medical doctor, a happily married professional man with two children, become a “terrorist”. The answer is crystal clear.

Al-Balawi “started to change,” says his wife, after the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

http://www.newsweek.com/id/229792

The failed underpants bomber was said by eye-witnesses to be shouting about Afghanistan: Dr Al-Balawi was motivated by our illegal invasion of Iraq. Violence begets violence – it is a truth as old as man.

Our unconscionable attacks on weaker nations, and our increasing complicity in the slow genocide of the Palestinians, are bound to provoke reaction, however weak that reaction may be compared to our own ability to kill en masse. The notion peddled by politicians and mainstream media, that we invade countries abroad to keep us safe at home, should be met with the derision it deserves.

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Attack on Cartoonist is Indefensible

It is not pleasant to be deliberately offensive to anybody’s religious views. But the radical Christian right in the USA, and the whole history of the abuse of religous authority in all religions, shows why it is essential to maintain freedom of speech on religious subjects. So the cartoons about Mohammed should not be censored; the same is true of the films “The Last Temptation of Christ” and “The Life of Brian”. Muslim friends of mine who are outraged at the Danish cartoons, do not hesitate to make fun of Hindus and their perceived veneration of cows.

The values of free speech are crucial. To those who say there is no freedom to offend, I would say that is why they persecuted Gallileo,Copernicus – and Ulugbek. The freedom to offend is essential to human progress.

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The Year of The Exploding Underpants

The extraordinarily incompetent Nigerian underpant bomber somehow seems a fit conclusion to the year. The debate on my last post has garnered 235 comments already. What comes over most strongly is the absolute desperate, psychological need of the right for the “War on Terror” to be real.

Given the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the Israeli attacks on Lebanon and Gaza, of course there is huge resentment towards the West in much of the Islamic world, and a small fringe willing to carry that resentment into violence. That is an unavoidable consequence of the hundreds of thousands of deaths for which US, UK and Israel have been responsible.

But for the right, it is not enough that they have created a threat which is real; it must be not only real, but enormous. John Reid famously described the Islamic terrorist threat as being as great as the Second World War, whereas Tony Blair described it as an “existential threat”. Both are massive, incredible exaggerations.

The armaments, oil, and security industries, and the politicians they fund, of course make massive profits from the government policies, including wars, enacted in response to a massive exaggeration of the threat. But many on the right have a psychological rather than merely material need for an enemy, for an embodiment of evil, and for the idea of being involved in a gripping life or death battle.

This is difficult to sustain, as the actual battles involve merely our use of absolutely overwhelming power to devastate weak nations. Hence the disproportionately weak reactions must be hyped to sustain the narrative. The sad truth that a pathetic Nigerian wannabe terrorist singed his own gonads must be buried beneath a raft of stories that the explosive was powerful enough to blow a hole in an aeroplane.

The right are desperate to hear that the plane would have been destroyed, hundreds killed, and probably could have ploughed into a big building and killed thousands. In their fantasy world they are fighting off these disasters. In the real world, a Nigerian man singed his own gonads. That is not to excuse him. He planned to do harm and may be a very horrible person indeed. But he just singed his own gonads. It is also worth noting that, if he had destroyed the plane, he would have killed only one third of the innocent civilians who died on just day one of “Shock and Awe” in Iraq.

There is no existential threat to the Western world from Islam. Sorry.

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Silly Nigerian Man Sets Fire to Own Leg

Happy Christmas Everybody!!

I just saw an eyewitness on BBC TV News recount that the Nigerian man who set fire to his leg on a Delta flight was shouting “about Afghanistan”. Which proves yet again that by occupying Afghanistan we are provoking, not preventing, attempted terrorism.

Regular readers know that I fly out of Schiphol some thirty times a year. Security there is ultra tight – in fact a real pain in the neck – with intensive searches and x rays actually at gate. The non-explosive and non-dangerous (as it proved) substance he had might very well prove to be duty free alcohol – it is being described by the US authorities as “incendiary” rather than “explosive”. But the BBC is still referring to an “Explosive mixture”, even though it plainly was not “explosive” as it did not explode.

It seems to me most improbable that if Abdul Faroukh really was working for Al-Qaida, he would have been quite so open about it, as it is claimed he is being. But we will doubtless see this incident ramped up more and more to justify the occupation of Afghanistan. A BBC “security correspondent” is waffling on even now about “sophisticated explosive devices”. In fact it sounds as about as effective as a christmas cracker.

Don’t let it spoil your turkey sandwiches. How long before Brown is on screen explaining this is why we have to be in Afghanistan?

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Anglo Uzbek Democracy

Uzbek voters have the fun of going to the polls on December 29 to choose between candidates for parliament from four “political parties”, each one of which loudly supports President Islam Karimov. Even the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), so often ready to excuse authoritarian behaviour by its members, has concluded that the Uzbek elections do not offer a genuine choice to the Uzbek people.

Whereas here in the UK, we are to have our democracy “Reinvigorated” by live broadcast debates between the leaders of the three “major” political parties. Which explains why this post is titled Anglo Uzbek democracy. We are urged to applaud as a major breakthrough a TV event that is irrelevant to the key political choices in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and which further enhances the disastrous “Presidentialism” that enabled one man to take us to war in Iraq, by telling lies to overcome the real wishes of almost all his party.

Despite the most concerted and near unanimous campaign of media jingoism in UK history, a consistent majority of British voters are against the costly war to keep the fraudster Karzai in power in Afghanistan, and to maintain security for the drugs warlords who make up most of his government.

People simply do not buy the line that killing people in Afghanistan and Pakistan makes a terrorist reaction in the UK less likely.

The establishment response is to pack the airwaves with military figures on any excuse. Not only are the military, retired and serving, used to openly propagandise for the war, but they turn up to review the papers or choose Desert Island Discs. Doubtless Antiques Roadshow from Chelsea Barracks is being filmed. I should like to hear some soldiers singing a sentimental Christmas song about a mutilated Afghan girl who will never see her parents again after her village was bombed.

But there are very few signs the perpetual propaganda is working. The public remain deeply hostile to the Afghan War. Yet we are approaching a general election, and a “Leaders’ debate” in which all the “Major” parties will firmly support the war and the ludicrous line that it keeps us safe in our beds.

Where, then, is the “Genuine choice” for the UK electorate. There is none. The old joke that, whoever you vote for, the government gets in, has never been more apposite. There is no real choice for the British electorate. Will someone phone the OSCE?

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Obama – “Evil Does Exist In The World”

Thank you Mr President. Actually I knew that. In fact I am just watching its most high profile representative making a speech.

As Rector of the University of Dundee, I am entitled to put forward nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize. With Obama as an example of the kind of person the committee want, I am wondering who I might propose. Charles Taylor? Maybe Osama Bin Laden? Or perhaps George W Bush and Tony Blair jointly?

Wow, those pompous Scandinavians are fucking stupid.

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Obama Is Wrong On Both Counts

Obama loves his rhetoric, and his speech on the Afghan surge was topped by a rhetorical flourish:

“Our cause is just, our resolve unshaken”.

He is of course wrong on both counts.

The occupation of Afghanistan by the US and its allies is there to prop up the government of President Karzai. Karzai’s has always been an ultra-corrupt government of vicious warlords and drugs barons. I have been pointing this out for years,

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-469983/Britain-protecting-biggest-heroin-crop-time.html#ixzz0VS78HVR1

The CIA is up to its usual tricks again supporting the drug running of key warlords loyal to them. They are also setting up death squads on the Central American model, in cooperation with Blackwater.

Fortunately Karzai’s rigging of his re-election was so blatant that the scales have fallen from the eys of the public and even the mainstream media. Politicians no longer pretend we are promoting democracy in Afghanistan.

Karzai comes directly from the Bush camp and was put in place because of his role with Unocal in developing the Trans Afghanistan Gas Pipeline project. That remains a chief strategic goal. The Asian Development Bank has agreed finance to start construction in Spring 2011. It is of course a total coincidence that 30,000 extra US troops will arrive six months before, and that the US (as opposed to other NATO forces) deployment area corresponds with the pipeline route.

Obama’s claim that “Our cause is just” ultimately rests on the extraordinary claim that, eight years after the invasion, we are still there in self-defence. In both the UK and US, governments are relying on the mantra that the occupation of Afghanistan protects us from terrorism at home.

This is utter nonsense. The large majority of post 9/11 terror incidents have been by Western Muslims outraged by our invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. Put bluntly, if we keep invading Muslim countries, of course we will face a violent backlash. The idea that because we occupy Afghanistan a Muslim from Dewsbury or Detroit disenchanted with the West would not be able to manufacture a bomb is patent nonsense. It would be an infinitely better strategy to make out theoretical Muslim less disenchanted by not attacking and killing huge numbers of his civilian co-religionists.

Our cause is unjust.

We are responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and for the further of radicalisation of Muslim communities worldwide. That threatens a perpetual war – which is of course just what the military-industrial complex and the security industry want. They have captured Obama.

Fortunately, our resolve is shaken.

The ordinary people of the UK and US have begun in sufficient numbers to see through this perpetual war confidence trick; they realise there is nothing in it for them but dead youngsters and high taxes. That is why Obama made a very vague promise – which I believe in its vagueness and caveats to be deliberate deceit – that troops will start to leave in 2011.

Today’s promises of 5,000 additional NATO troops are, incidentally, empty rhetoric. I gather from friends in the FCO that firm pledges to date amount to 670.

A well-placed source close to the Taliban in Pakistan tells me that the Afghan Taliban and their tribal allies have a plan. As the US seeks massively to expand the Afghan forces, they are feeding in large numbers of volunteers. I suspect that while we may see the odd attack on their trainers, the vast majority will get trained, fed, paid and equipped and bide their time before turning en masse. This is nothing new; it is precisely the history of foreign occupations in the region and the purchase of tribal auxiliaries and alliances.

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That Gordon Brown Letter

Sometimes you feel compelled to write articles that you realise are going to make you wildly unpopular. I fear this is one of those times.

I don’t wish to fall back into the blogging trap of commenting on the news headlines, but as someone who has no time for New Labour or for the war in Afghanistan, I think the media furore over Gordon Brown and his misspelt letter is entirely unjustified and really very nasty indeed, even by UK media standards.

It is not news that Gordon Brown cannot spell. Given his intelligence, background and rigorous education, he can only have this basic spelling difficulty because of a fundamental problem. Labels don’t especially help, but whether you call him dyslexic or say he just does not have the ability to spell however hard he tries, it comes to the same thing.

That too is not news. This from the Daily Telegraph doctor on 20 April 2009:

It was a bit of a shock to learn the Prime Minister mis-spelt the word “knowledge” (omitting the “d”) in his handwritten apology for those “prank” emails, with their lurid allegations, sent from his office. But close reading of the letter (taking into account his poor handwriting) reveals he also omits the “r” from “understand” and has obvious difficulty with “embarrassment”. These errors could scarcely be attributed to poor teaching as Scottish schools are notorious sticklers for correct spelling, so he must, I presume, have some form of dyslexia.

It has only recently become clear that while spelling (or any other routinely acquired mental attribute ?” reading, talking, elementary maths and so on) might seem quite simple and straightforward, they all involve processes in the brain that defy all imagining. Thus in the twinkling of a second that it takes to hear a word, the brain fragments it into a myriad of its constituent parts with 22 separate areas being involved in the interpretation of sound ?” for example distinguishing between the consonants “p” and “b”.

It is, in short, astonishing we can talk, read, or spell as well as we can. Thus the likelihood that the process might be slightly less than perfect in some ?” with the effect as seen in the PM’s letter ?” is quite high.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthadvice/jameslefanu/5171761/Gordon-Browns-handwriting-reveals-a-common-condition.html

Brown has emotions like everyone else. His self-referencing is somewhat worrying. His genuine commitment to the casualties of Afghanistan is fuelled in part by an obsession with courage and overcoming adversity – on which he has terrible ghost-written books in his name and patronises awards – and it is obvious that this is because those are the qualities he believes he possesses personally. Equally his own awful loss of a child plainly has a role in his decision to write to the bereaved military families.

But it remains undeniably attractive in Brown, and a great kindness from an incredibly busy man, to write longhand letters to all the military bereaved families – something Blair nor Thatcher would have ever thought of, and which no other Prime Minister has done. Brown’s obvious difficulty in writing and spelling makes this more endearing, not less. If he had a secretary do it, or dashed them off on a word processor, the spelling would be perfect but surely it would mean much less than a note of real condolence from the Prime Minister direct to the bereaved, not intended for any other eyes?

Which brings me on to more delicate territory. Nothing can be worse than losing a child, and especially in a pointless war. The grief of Jacqui Janes must be dreadful, and convention restrains us from saying anything bad about anybody under the strain of bereavement. If my making unpleasant observations on Jacqui Janes would offend you, I am afraid you should stop reading.

But there was a calculation about her taping of her phone call with Gordon Brown, in cahoots with the Sun newspaper, which goes beyond the perfectly understandable emotional venting of feelings, or an intellectual desire to challege policy.

The fact that she chose to make this calculated move in collaboration with the newspaper which is the most important media propagandist for the war which claimed her son, raises further questions. I do not share the desire to elevate the woman as a hero (unlike for example Old Holborn).

http://bastardoldholborn.blogspot.com/2009/11/hissing-brown-and-s-word.html

Not everybody who has been bereaved was, is, or will be a saint or even a nice person.

I really am sorry I was forced to say that. But somebody had to.

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Another Old Etonian Wanker Calls Me a Liar

Rory Stewart is getting the hang of being a Conservative politician; he has plainly learned that the first requirement is to lie through your teeth. Form today’s Independent on Sunday:

Once tutor to Princes William and Harry, Rory Stewart, in his latest incarnation as Conservative prospective candidate for Penrith, has found himself the unlikely subject of intrigue. Craig Murray, renegade former ambassador to Uzbekistan, claims in his blog that Stewart worked as an MI6 officer in Afghanistan. While it’s true Stewart was educated at Eton, received training from the British armed forces, and has yet to marry, the comparisons with James Bond appear to end there. “I’ve never met Craig Murray and I have no idea why he is saying this,” he tells me when I call, “It’s not just false but extremely dangerous. I’ve been doing charity work in countries where people are already at risk and his claims will only endanger them further.” Stewart’s father is even more succinct: “It’s bollocks.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/matthew-bell-the-iiosi-diary-1816838.html

Let me be plain. Rory Stewart was an officer for Torturers’R’Us (formerly trading as MI6).

Now I know many MI6 officers personally and I know the identities of hundreds of them. But I have no intention of “Outing” them and, once retired, I am more than happy for them to tend their roses in Tonbridge Wells in all anonymity. But Stewart has entered politics and, in putting himself forward as a parliamentary candidate, he forfeits his right to conceal his history from the voters.

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