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Showing posts with label 9/11. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 9/11. Show all posts

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Afghanistan

More violence in Afghanistan, more confusion, more endless circuitous debates by politicians, and the brave dead continue to return, their coffins draped in the Union Jack.

I wrote this, almost two years go in November 2009, and subsequently had my own three brushes with death. All that needs to be said has been said. Get out now.  

MORIDURA BLOG - Saturday, 7 November 2009  

Gordon Brown spoke for half an hour yesterday about his government's commitment to the futile Afghanistan conflict. He mustered as much passion and rhetoric as an innately dull man can in a bad cause.

There was nothing in it that spoke of the man himself, because only a leaden mass now exists where that man once was, a man whose true destiny was to be the minister in an undemanding rural kirk, or an accountant in an old-fashioned company, or a worthy lecturer in a redbrick university.     

He existed for ten years in the reflected glow of Tony Blair, longing for the day when he could radiate alone, unaware that he was a dead satellite, with no inner furnace to generate the his own light. Now he is polluted ground, contaminated by the nuclear waste of Blair's deadly polluted policies. He has only a half life, his power ebbing away at exponential speed. But he continues to play the old Blair and Bush tunes: his motor runs down, the tune becomes distorted, the lyric incomprehensible.     

And those who dance to that tune stumble and twist in confusion, trying to follow a music without rhythm and words without meaning.   

His entire case for remaining in Afghanistan rests on a lie - that we are there to prevent terrorism threatening Britain.      

We are there, as Obama is there, as the 43 countries of the coalition are there, because of a profoundly mistaken instinct by a right-wing group of American Republicans and their puppet, George W. Bush, to lash out at something after the tragedy of 9/11 and the appalling loss of life and blow to American prestige. We are there because enormous profits are yielded to armaments manufacturers, and to contractors of services to the military, and because a shadowy enemy, a perpetual threat, and inducing paranoia in the population have always been a prime recourse of failing regimes.     

Britain is there, and the coalition is there because Europe does not yet have the cohesion to stand up to a flawed American foreign policy on the Middle East and the Israel/Palestine question. We are there because Pakistan worries us deeply, because it is an unstable ally with a nuclear capacity, with a religion and a culture the West has never begun to understand, and it, together with Israel, forces us to recognise the weaknesses of the West's self-serving nuclear policy - committed to retaining its own weapons of mass destruction while engaged in a vain attempt to stop others from following the same route.      

The vacuum at the heart of Brown's position yesterday was starkly exposed by the threat to pull out if the Karzai regime did not root out corruption. Leaving aside the inconvenient fact that a significant proportion of the corruption is induced by the activities of foreign contractors, something made clear in an aside by a commentator from the region last night, what this says in effect is this -     

We are are here to prevent Afghanistan from being a seed bed for attacks on Britain, but if you - the 'democratic' puppet government that we have put in place - don't behave, we will abandon the whole misconceived enterprise and let the region revert to where it was before, thereby allowing the threat to Britain re-establish its potency.    

Brown - and Britain's - behaviour over Afghanistan reminds me of the behaviour of directors and senior managers in a private company or large public enterprise who have mistakenly committed themselves to a project or policy that is manifestly going to fail. A marked distaste for re-examining the fundamental premises of the enterprise emerges, and a growing hostility to critics however rational.      

The old accountant's motto, that sunk costs are irrelevant in reviewing a flawed project, is speedily abandoned, and the accrued costs to date are used as a justification for continuing.      

It's like the gambler's fallacy at roulette - that if you keep doubling your bets, you must win eventually, a fallacy that ignores the sum of what has already been lost, ignores the possibility to long runs of bad luck, and and ignores the exponential growth in losses of doubling up.     

Those opposed to the lunatic project are increasingly characterised as enemies, not as loyal employees trying to pull their company back from disaster.     

When the Emperor has no clothes, who will speak out, except the naive child?

 

Friday, 1 October 2010

UK defence policy, Trident, carriers and Afghanistan war – the incompetence of the MOD

I received a letter in Wednesday’s post (29th September) from Nick Harvey MP, Minister of Defence for the Armed Forces. It was dated 17th September. This is what presumably is known to the MOD as rapid response. If they base the UK’s defence response to threat on that, we may as well roll over and pee up our bellies right now.

In case you think I was specially privileged to get such a letter in reply to my email on the nuclear deterrent and the Strategic Defence and Security Review you would be mistaken. Several thousand people sent the same email, part of an organised protest against the manifest lunacies of the MOD, not to mention its gross and lethal incompetence.

In mitigation, I least was able to email a Minister of Government and get a response, something I guess would be unlikely or impossible in Iraq, in Iran, in North Korea, in Saudi Arabia, and so on. More likely, I would have got a knock on my door in the early hours – if they bothered to knock.

In Israel, the range of response might have ranged from deportation to assassination in my room by agents of Mossad – but they would probably have sent a letter beforehand to maintain the illusion of democratic freedom to criticise.

What does he say?

“…. the renewal of our nuclear deterrent, based on the Trident missile system, is clearly a controversial issue.”

You can say that again, Nick.

There are substantial risks to our security from emerging nuclear weapons states and state sponsored terrorism, which we can best protect ourselves against through the continued operation of a minimum nuclear deterrent.”

Stop there for a moment, Nick. I’m old enough to remember the pre-nuclear age: I remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki: I remember when the Soviet Union developed its first bomb.

I remember the arguments, and I understand the complexity of them. The Allies were fighting a war – two wars really – one against Germany, which had been won, and one against Japan, which was costing tens of thousands of lives.

Had Germany or Japan developed atomic weapons first, they would have faced exactly the same choice America faced – to threaten the enemy with a demonstration detonation of the terrifying new weapon, or actually use it on a civilian population. There can be no doubt that the moral – the ethical – choice (if there is such a thing in total war) was to threaten by a demonstration of the destructive capacity of the bomb.

America and President Truman chose the profoundly immoral option and fulfilled Oppenheimer’s despairing quote from the Bhagavad Gita - “I am become Death – the destroyer of worlds.”

After the war, the Soviet Union developed its own bomb because America already had one – and Britain was desperate to join the club so that it didn’t “go naked into the conference chamber”.

A new era commenced, and the politicians of the new age had to come to terms with a new destructive capacity, with only the accumulated experience of centuries of warfare, conflict and diplomacy - which had been rendered almost obsolete overnight - to guide them.

The nuclear weapon was a gift to the worst kind of simplistic, populist politician – it still is. Terrify the electorate with the prospect of imminent annihilation, feed and nurture their paranoia and crush all human feelings and all rational argument.



Perhaps the great nuclear Mexican standoff that lasted almost until 9/11 was the inevitable result of the fact that homo sapiens had not evolved at the same pace as its technology. They were forced back to the most atavistic instincts – kill or be killed, fear the Other, the Stranger.

What passed for foreign policy in the original nuclear states used to go something like this -

We already have the capacity to destroy millions of people and render huge areas of the planet uninhabitable for many generations.

This gives us credibility at international conference tables - “my destructive capacity is as big or bigger than yours, so listen to me …” – and we will retain it until all the nuclear states give it up, something that will be achieved by progressive reduction of capacity over generations. We will never it use it first, but only in response to credible threats from the other nuclear states. (That position has now slipped alarmingly towards unilateral first strike action.)

This was seen by the West as a moral position to take , in spite of the fact that the only nation to have launched a first strike attack without nuclear threat from another was the United States in 1945.

In point of fact, there were powerful voices in the United States at that time who argued for a pre-emptive massive nuclear strike against the Soviet bloc before they achieved nuclear capacity. There are powerful voices today who put the same argument about Iran, both in the United States and Israel.

This was the politics of rampant paranoia, with the nuclear club anxiously hovering their trembling fingers over the buttons, and ensuring that there were no new members of the club, the doctrine of non-proliferation.

When the United States became the first nuclear power and promptly used its weapon to destroy its non-nuclear enemies, the only viable response for other nations fearful of the US – at that time the Soviet bloc – was to get a nuclear bomb pretty damn quick. Americans, in the land of the National Rifle Association, understood that mindset, which at the same time both reinforced their worst fears and terrified them – the typical reaction of the paranoid.

If your neighbour, whom you already distrust, suddenly acquires a powerful handgun and promptly shoots somebody in the street, you had better hurry on down to your gun shop on Main Street and get tooled up.

The other fantasy spawned by this lunacy has been that the possession of nuclear deterrents has prevented war and kept the world at peace since 1945. It patently hasn’t – there have been numberless wars using conventional weapons, and no nation (or terrorist organisation) that wanted to impose its will on others has been in the least deterred by the nuclear threat.

Since 1945, the world has been in a state of more or less continuous conflict. There has not been another World War, of course, but that owes more to the European Union than the nuclear deterrent - the main instigator and theatre of 20th century world wars was Europe.

I used to offer a little illustration of the assessment and use of power capacity in negotiation, which ran as follows -

A gun crew are manning an old-fashioned cannon, fully primed and ready to fire. Three men rush out of the darkness at them carrying knives. Who has the greater power?

LESSON: The superior destructive power of the cannon cannot be brought to bear on the attackers and the gun crew are massacred. Power lies in the relevance of the weapon at a point in time, and how fast it can be deployed.

I wrote this before five men armed with box cutters and rudimentary flying skills hijacked three aircraft and brought down the twin towers and damaged the Pentagon. The third flight was only stopped by the bravery of the passengers at the cost of their own lives, using what conventional force they could muster.

Was the lesson of 9/11 learned? It was not. A reflex attack with massive force followed by an occupation and nine year war by the most powerful nations on Earth, with massive military resources at their disposal, has achieved nothing.

Indirectly, the perverted reasoning spawned by 9/11 and the Afghanistan war led to the Iraq war, an international war crime that ignited the Middle East and polarised relationships between the Islamic world and the Christian West.

Incredible as it may seem, the deep thinkers of nuclear deterrence seem to think that the Trident missile system somehow protects us against terrorism.

And now we have the UK financial crisis, and it looks as if hard times may ameliorate the nuclear lunacy in a way that logical argument failed to do.

Liam Fox is worried that his budgets will be cut, and tries a pre-emptive strike with a letter to his own Government. The letter is leaked, and our Liam, straight-faced, launches an investigation.

Who had the most powerful motivation to leak this letter, a letter designed to pressurise the Government? Cui bono? I know the answer, any thinking person knows the answer, and perhaps Liam Fox knows the answer.




Saturday, 11 September 2010

The consequences of 9/11 – Robert Fisk

9/11 - Robert Fisk - The Independent

A superb article today in The Independent by Robert Fisk.

It should be required reading for politicians and ministers of religion of all denominations. I hope The Independent will forgive me for one extended quote -

EXTRACT

“And yes, I know the arguments. We cannot compare the actions of evil terrorists with the courage of our young men and women, defending our lives – and sacrificing theirs – on the front lines of the 'war on terror". There can be no "equivalence". "They" kill innocents because "they" are evil. "We" kill innocents by mistake. But we know we are going to kill innocents – we willingly accept that we are going to kill innocents, that our actions are going to create mass graves of families, of the poor and the weak and the dispossessed.

This is why we created the obscene definition of "collateral damage". For if "collateral" means that these victims are innocent, then "collateral" also means that we are innocent of killing them. It was not our wish to kill them – even if we knew it was inevitable that we would. "Collateral" is our exoneration. This one word is the difference between "them" and "us", between our God-given right to kill and Bin Laden's God-given right to murder. The victims, hidden away as "collateral" corpses, don't count any more because they were slaughtered by us. Maybe it wasn't so painful. Maybe death by drone is a more gentle departure from this earth, evisceration by an AGM-114C Boeing-Lockheed air-to-ground missile less painful, than death by shards from a roadside bomb or a cruel suicider with an explosive belt.

That's why we know how many died on 9/11 – 2,966, although the figure may be higher – and why we don't "do body counts" on those whom we kill. Because they – "our" victims – must have no identities, no innocence, no personality, no cause or belief or feelings; and because we have killed far, far more human beings than Bin Laden and the Taliban and al-Qa'ida.”

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Conspiracy theories and experts

Some recent correspondence from people convinced that there was a great cover-up by the Scottish establishment, legal authorities and police on a child abuse case (I won’t give this particular story any more oxygen by naming it) and a discussion with a friend about climate change and man’s contribution to it led me to re-visit certain observations I made last July on this blog relevant to the 9/11 conspiracy theory, namely that Bush and the neocons masterminded the twin towers attack. I don’t intend to make my case against that particular piece of nonsense again. I am prepared to believe many things about Bush and his ilk, almost all of them bad, but not this one.

The whole Purcell Affair has all the makings of a conspiracy theory, and I am inclined to believe that there has been some suppression of facts and evidence on this one, if not a full-blown conspiracy.

Those who deny the contribution of man to climate change tend to cite the opinion of commentators described as experts. Some are experts, some are experts but not in the field of climate change - and some experts are patently grinding the axe of vested interests in the oil industry, and have sold themselves and their academic reputations for filthy lucre. The fact is, there is a massive near-consensus by internationally reputable scientific organisations on man’s contribution to climate change.

I quote below from an online analysis of the weight of this consensus.

THE CLIMATE CHANGE CONSENSUS

Specifically, the "consensus" about anthropogenic climate change entails the following:

  • the climate is undergoing a pronounced warming trend beyond the range of natural variability;
  • the major cause of most of the observed warming is rising levels of the greenhouse gas CO2;
  • the rise in CO2 is the result of burning fossil fuels;
  • if CO2 continues to rise over the next century, the warming will continue; and
  • a climate change of the projected magnitude over this time frame represents potential danger to human welfare and the environment.

While theories and viewpoints in conflict with the above do exist, their proponents constitute a very small minority. If we require unanimity before being confident, well, we can't be sure the earth isn't hollow either.

This consensus is represented in the IPCC Third Assessment Report, Working Group 1 (TAR WG1), the most comprehensive compilation and summary of current climate research ever attempted, and arguably the most thoroughly peer reviewed scientific document in history. While this review was sponsored by the UN, the research it compiled and reviewed was not, and the scientists involved were independent and came from all over the world.

The conclusions reached in this document have been explicitly endorsed by ...

  • Academia Brasiliera de Ciências (Bazil)
  • Royal Society of Canada
  • Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • Academié des Sciences (France)
  • Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina (Germany)
  • Indian National Science Academy
  • Accademia dei Lincei (Italy)
  • Science Council of Japan
  • Russian Academy of Sciences
  • Royal Society (United Kingdom)
  • National Academy of Sciences (United States of America)
  • Australian Academy of Sciences
  • Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and the Arts
  • Caribbean Academy of Sciences
  • Indonesian Academy of Sciences
  • Royal Irish Academy
  • Academy of Sciences Malaysia
  • Academy Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand
  • Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

In addition to these national academies, the following institutions specializing in climate, atmosphere, ocean, and/or earth sciences have endorsed or published the same conclusions as presented in the TAR report:

If this is not scientific consensus, what in the world would a consensus look like?

End  of quote

SOME IDEAS ON CONSPIRACIES AND EXPERTS

(Some of these observations are from the Moridura Blog July 2009)

Private Eye's phrase, used tongue in cheek by the magazine and by many contributors and letter writers - "I think we should be told ..." is the mantra of the conspiracy theorist.

I don't reject the possibility, or indeed the reality of establishment and government conspiracies, nor of the existence of agents provocateur.

However, I am unimpressed by the eminence of experts.

It was once observed that highly intelligent, eminent people become credulous just at the point ordinary people become sceptical. There were and are eminent scientists who believe, with Archbishop Ussher, that the world was created in 4004 BC and that the theory of evolution must therefore be wrong. There are those today who have not moved one iota beyond the Monkey Trial of the 1920s - the Scopes trial.

There was an excuse for Ussher and his chronology, and for his eminent contemporaries in the 17th century,(Kepler and Newton) who believed much the same. They lived in the very early scientific age, and Darwin had not yet been born.

There is no excuse for tiny number of eminent, well-qualified scientists today who believe in the Ussher chronology - they are in denial, locked in Orwell's doublethink, holding contradictory proposals in their mind at the same time. In Britain, in Blair's faith schools, we have science teachers who hold to this belief. We have entire schools endowed and financed by a rich entrepreneur who believes in the 4004 BC fiction.

Anyone can trot out a list of eminent persons to support their ideas, but a closer examination of the eminent persons themselves is usually necessary if they are in support of an idea that goes against the prevailing consensus. Nonetheless, throughout history, there were those who challenged the prevailing orthodoxy, who were bravely in the minority, and who regrettably often suffered from it. Galileo always pops up in such discussions.

But today, we have the Web, and the most outlandish theories flourish and conspiracy theories abound. The Web is now vital to democracy, to a free world, to the exposure of tyranny, oppression, greed and corruption, so we must tolerate this, and try to sort the wheat from the chaff, the considered arguments of the truth tellers from the ravings of the deluded.

I have no doubt that small to medium conspiracies to defeat the ends of justice and democracy happen every day in America - and in Britain. These have a good chance of success. Ask me to believe that the electorate of the great Western democracies are deceived and misled by their governments every day in many ways, and I will believe it.

But I use Occam's Razor, and tend to come down in favour of the fewest number of assumptions and pieces of evidence that fit the facts.

Of course, once in the conspiracy mindset - a closed logical loop - all evidence is examined selectively and all contrary evidence, including commonsense evidence is denied or ignored. Any loopholes are attributed to the conspiracy.

Arthur Conan Doyle, a doctor, a scientist, the inventor of the logical scientific detective, Sherlock Holmes, believed in the Cottingley Fairies, photographs of paper cutouts and a fantastic story concocted for a laugh by two little girls in the 1920s.

Any magician will tell you that the easiest people to fool are highly intelligent people, especially scientists. In my consultancy career, I dealt with some very highly qualified people indeed, including scientists, and had no difficulty baffling and confusing them with little exercises designed to illuminate particular learning points.

I had however great difficulty with classes of ordinary working men and women, notably shop stewards and union officials, who could spot the con a mile off.

I think a useful touchstone of belief is to ask if there are people whose political and social sympathies ought to be with the conspiracy theory, who nonetheless reject it.

For example, there are many in this category on the 9/11 tragedy.

Truth matters more to me than winning an argument. Faced with the baffling complexity of current affairs, politics and global events in this turbulent information age, how is one to sort the wheat from the chaff? Given that it takes formally constituted inquiries, staffed by experts and fully resourced by ancillary staff, to attempt to reach the truth on major issues how can an individual come to his or her own conclusions?

There has to be intelligent assessment of the available facts, but there also has to be a recognition of the limitations, of time, resources and expertise available to the individual. I could spend a large proportion of my time on any single contested issue, and if I engaged with every enthusiastic, and often dogmatic and intolerant proponent of every issue, I would sink beneath the mass of their totally confident assertions, aggressive parade of highly selective 'facts' and 'experts', and strident demands for responses to their view of an issue, or indeed of life in general.

I make no such demands of others, and I don't expect them to make such demands of me. I offer my opinions, supported by such facts and evidence as I can muster. No one is obliged to read them or take account of them, and since they didn't pay to consume them, they have no right to demand anything of me.

I will - and do - engage in civilised discussions of ideas with those who choose to initiate them, especially when it seems that they have an open inquiring mind. One does not have to seek far on the Web, in online debates, in online newspapers and forums, to find the other kind of debate. If that's what floats your boat, go to these sites.

My approach to controversy is to look around for those I trust, not just those I know personally, but those I know by reputation, by their deeds and by their utterances.

They are often people with ideas I am diametrically opposed to, and I number such people among my friends and intimates. I evaluate facts that I am equipped to evaluate, and look for experts or those with experience that I trust to help me in areas where I am not equipped to evaluate. I listen to advocacy and to honest devil's advocacy, and I engage in devil's advocacy with myself.

This process, developed over many decades, has led me to overturn beliefs that I held strongly for many years, often at some personal cost. I am capable of changing my mind in face of the facts. This is the only way I know. But when someone tries to browbeat me, I am instantly suspicious, as I am equally suspicious when someone tries to flatter me.

Ah didnae come up the Clyde oan a bike, Jimmy.