Search topics on this blog

Google+ Badge

Showing posts with label Afghanistan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Afghanistan. Show all posts

Friday, 16 March 2012

Afghanistan on Question Time - Humza Yousaf, Willie Rennie and audience comments

As is almost always the case on Question Time, the audience has the heart of the question. Janet Street Porter was irrelevant, Ruth Davidson was - well, a Tory - and Frank Field was stuck with the Blair/Brown/Labour legacy.

The insidious and contemptible argument that we should stay to justify the 404 British service death and 5000 injured was trotted out, as it always is. Kill more in an unwinnable 'war' to 'justify' the needless, criminal sacrifice of the past.

The wife of the serving officer said it all, lucidly and with calm dignity and deep regret - we are achieving nothing in Afghanistan.

And what exactly did Willie Rennie mean by  his "Even Humza agrees it was the right thing to do at the start" remark. Even Humza?



MY COMMENTS (incorporating material from a 2009 blog)

America and Britain’s original case for invading Afghanistan was to remove the Taliban and the training camps for terrorists. That was achieved in the first year.

Although most commentators and political parties supported the initial invasion and its rationale, I argued - and still do - that 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.

After that first year, the UK’s rationale for remaining rested on a lie - that we are there to prevent terrorism threatening Britain. It still rests on that lie. The Afghanistan war brought terrorism to Britain – it politicised a whole generation of young Asians. The locus of terror has long shifted to Pakistan.

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 the UK position 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.”

The UK’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, i.e. the tragic deaths and serious injuries, 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.

We are still there because of US and UK fear of loss of face when we withdraw, and both countries are prepared to let soldiers and civilian non-combatants to die to save their political faces.


Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The tragedy – and folly – of Afghanistan



The tragic deaths today point up the continuing folly of the UK’s presence in Afghanistan. I report these blogs from 2009 and 2010, and think with horror and sadness of the deaths that have followed.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

The evidence given to the Chilcot enquiry has shed new light on the twin follies of Afghanistan and Iraq,in spite of the lack of intensity and rigour in the questioning of the witnesses.
I reprint below my piece on Afghanistan from November 2009 in the hope that it has new relevance in the light of the subsequent witness testimony.

Saturday, 7 November 2009
Corruption in Afghanistan - and Brown's folly

Gordon Brown spoke for half an hour yesterday (6 November 2009) 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 as his motor runs down and the tune becomes more distorted and 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?
I

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Two entirely reasonable men debate the Politicised Poppy

Would that all television discussion could be conducted in such a civilised manner ...

But then, neither of them are politicians. The innate decency and humanity of both men shines through, despite their difference in age and opinion.


Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The poppy and pro-war propaganda

I have written on the poppy and the war before, and most of what I say below I have said before. But it needs to be said again.

PetieEddie

 
These are my uncles – Peter and Edward McCluskey.

They volunteered as teenagers for service in the Great War – they didn’t have to fight, they weren’t conscripted, there was no military tradition in their family, they were both born in Glasgow, and both of their parents – my grandparents – were Southern Irish, and had no love for England or the UK. They fought for Scotland, the country of their birth.

Both died before their time, indirectly as a result of their injuries in that appalling war - Eddie at the age of 28 and Peter well after World War Two. I never knew my Uncle Eddie, but my Uncle Petie was a familiar figure during my childhood. He rarely spoke of his experiences, but was horrified when WW2 broke out and he saw his younger cousins Gerard and Peter, whom he had taken into his home after they lost their father, conscripted into the Highland Light Infantry and the RAF respectively. He spent the war crouched at the radio, following every report, devastated at the casualties and praying for peace.

Peter McCluskey was moved to tears each Armistice Day, and maintained the two minutes silence, but he would not have been seen dead wearing a poppy – he felt that this potent symbol of life, rising from the blasted earth of the battlefields, amid the corpses of his comrades, had been debased by its association with Earl Haig and that it had been hijacked by militaristic politicians.

Hence my identical feelings about the poppy, reinforced by experiences in industry and commerce, where people who never had a thought for others, or the dead, or any injustice, who never contributed a penny to funds for wounded and disabled ex-servicemen, suddenly acquired a poppy in November, and accosted me, asking “Why aren’t you wearing your poppy, Peter?” They wore their poppy like they acquired their golf handicap – it was the career-wise move.

They got a dusty answer, plus, on more than one occasion the challenge from me to write a cheque there and then for an ex-serviceman's charity and I would match it. I never had an acceptance …

OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO OUR SOLDIERS

If we send young men and women, in the flower of the youth, to place themselves in harm’s way, risking death or serious injury in the service of the nation, we owe them a duty of support.

We have a bounden duty to properly equip them, to properly pay them, to support their families, and in the event of serious injury to offer speedy, effective medical care and long term support for both physical and psychological injuries.

We have a duty to rehabilitate them, return them to appropriate duties in their chosen profession if possible, and to offer comprehensive help to find employment outside of the armed forces if this is not possible. In the event of their death, we owe them and their families full and tangible recognition of the supreme sacrifice they have made, including adequate financial and support provisions for their dependants.

But above all, we owe them the right not be placed in harm’s way by politicians in conflicts that are irrelevant to the security and defence of the nation, especially where such conflicts are based on a fraudulent premise and are illegal under international law. One egregious example was the Iraq War.

THE CONFLICTS

Where our armed forces are deployed and engaged in a conflict that seemed justifiable at the outset, we have a duty to constantly review the rationale for such an engagement, to constantly question its continuing validity, and to speedily bring it to an end and withdraw from it when it ceases to be either winnable, or relevant, or both.  Such a conflict is the ‘war’ in Afghanistan, now of nine years duration – greater than the total length of WW1 and WW2 combined – and forecast to continue, in the words of our new Prime Minister, at least for another five years.

THE POPPY

The poppy is sold in a good cause – to raise funds for soldiers harmed by war - but it must not be hijacked by politicians and the British establishment for other reasons. There are deeply worrying indicators that this is exactly what is happening, especially in the behaviour of the Tory Party in the Commons, and over the FIFA poppy issue, including today at PMQs.

Politicians and military commanders are aware that the casualties and images from the weekly repatriation ceremonies influence public opinion.

Major-General Gordon Messenger, a military spokesman on Afghanistan, talked last year about “balancing opinion”.

"If I had a plea, I think it would be to better understand the reasons why they're there and the progress that's being made and to not simply view Afghanistan through the lens of the casualties," he told Sky News.

"I think it is incumbent on me and on everyone who has an understanding of the Afghan campaign to do all we can to better inform the public as to those reasons."

In other words, the Government, the MOD and some sectors of the military are worried that the public might be questioning the weekly escalating blood sacrifice that is being made by the flower of our young people in the name of a flawed, confused and increasingly irrelevant strategy in pursuit of confused and conflicting aims. Armed Forces Day has already been hijacked and converted to a PR propaganda exercise for a failing political and military strategy and the poppy has been heading the same way for some time now.

All the emblems, symbols and techniques that support the old lie will be deployed to this end – parades of military equipment and military might, the Union Jack, old men in berets and medals, flag-waving children, and a solid presence of members of the Royal Family, together with the insidious sub-text, that anyone who does not support the Afghanistan War is somehow unpatriotic and failing to support our servicemen.

This serves as a smokescreen to obscure to real failings of a failed state – the UK – to address the very real and fundamental needs of those on the frontline, and continuing to defend the massive drain on resources represented by Trident and weapons of mass destruction that are entirely irrelevant to the modern world and the defence challenges it presents.

It serves as a PR exercise to attempt to validate the UK’s increasingly false claim to be a major player in the geopolitical great game, when in fact it is merely a convenient puppet for US foreign policy, draining its resources in an increasingly nonsensical claim to be a great power on the world stage.

Meanwhile, the confused aims and contradictory strategy of the Afghanistan coalition will continue: generals will come and go, and little men like politician Liam Fox will strut and posture - and vanish - while young men die. Behind the scenes, cuts to budgets have been made that endanger our armed forces effectiveness, bribes will be paid to corrupt Afghani politicians, and secret talks will take place with the Taliban warlords, while innocent men, women and children will be killed by ‘friendly fire’.

I fear that Armed Forces Day, with all its parades and exaltation of military might, all its band and martial music, all its speeches about heroes and sacrifice, all its flag waving and cheering, was simply a colourful cabaret to conceal the ugly realpolitik that represents the real threat to our brave servicemen and women. I fear that the deaths and the maimings will continue - and will escalate - until the citizens of these isles see clearly the blood sacrifice of their children that is being made in their names, and in the name of Britishness.

Extract from Sept. 2011 blog

WHY DEFENCE AND FOREIGN POLICY MATTERS TO UNIONIST POLITICIANS

A sharp distinction must be made between why defence and foreign policy matter to Scottish unionist voters and why they matter to unionist politicians, including the Scottish variety.

Scottish unionist voters either have a vaguely romantic notion of Britain’s imperial glories, or they are afraid that Scotland could not defend its security against threat and its international interests independently of the UK. They are rarely, in my experience, clear about what such threats could be, and what Scotland’s international interests are. All they have to do to achieve clarity is to look at any small European or Scandinavian nations, something they rarely do, except to patronise or deride, e.g. the tired old ‘Arc of Prosperity’ jibes. From my perspective, Scottish unionist voters are the victims of 300 years of unionist propaganda and imperial myth, exactly the kind of paranoid, jingoistic narrow nationalism that they falsely accuse the SNP of displaying.

Unionist politicians believe that defence and foreign policy - especially the nuclear deterrence policy, nuclear weapons and nuclear bases - matter fundamentally, because they are the passport to global politics, international roles, power, prestige – and money, money, money

Tony Blair, a lawyer and subsequently an MP for an obscure North East of England constituency, Sedgefield, now has an estimated annual income of in excess of £15m, and a personal fortune variously estimated at £40/60m. Such wealth was not created by democratically representing the electors of Sedgefield or the interests of the electors of the UK as Prime Minister, it was built on the back of an international career involving death, destruction and war.

Peter Mandelson, an architect of New Labour, had to borrow money from a businessman to buy his first London house. He is now a Lord, an immensely rich man, and is in the process of purchasing an £8m house. Such a fortune did not come from his earnings as a Member of Parliament, nor from his modestly lucrative salary an perks as a European commissioner, not from his liberal daily expense allowance as a Lord – it came from international consultancies and directorships that relate directly or indirectly to defence and foreign policy.

THE MOD

Under Labour, the Ministry of Defence, the legendarily incompetent - but unfailingly lucrative - body that fails to adequately equip our young men and women in the armed forces, spent an average of £5.6m on entertaining each year under Labour and probably far in excess of that under the current regime. We don’t have to be told who they were entertaining, boozing and eating lavishly with while Scottish soldiers died – while Fusilier Gordon Gentle died because his vehicle was not fitted with an electronic bomb detector.

No defence minister has retired poor: no senior MOD official retires into poverty or even a modest pension. They slide effortlessly through a revolving door into lucrative directorships and consultancies with the merchants of death, or with brutal foreign dictatorships of the kind now being overthrown by the people of the Middle East in the Arab Spring.

Scottish MPs on the high road to Westminster head for the lucrative, blood-soaked pastures of defence like heat-seeking missiles – they know where the money and the power lie.

After all, the bloody trail has been blazed for them by their predecessors. Only a state with its operating principle as eternal war, fed by inducing eternal paranoia in the electorate, can satisfy the insatiable greed of the powerful, the privileged, the amoral bankers and the military/industrial complex that ultimately controls this sham democracy, bleeding the people dry in every sense of the word.

The unionist politicians are M.A.D. men in the acronymic sense – they are committing the reluctant component nations of their dying empire to mutually assured destruction.




R.I.P. Uncle Petie and Uncle Eddie

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?

 

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Utoeya, Oslo and racial profiling

When I replied to Hamira Khan’s defence of racial profiling of Asians at Glasgow Airport, both in the online Herald and in by blog, Racial profiling and Hamira Khan  on the 15th of July, I gave as the example, to highlight the logical contradiction of racial profiling, of a crime committed by a red-haired man. When the horrific news of the Utoeya massacre and the Oslo bomb broke, the usual anti-Muslim commentators immediately tried to lay it at Al Quaeda’s door, without a scrap of evidence, and then had to swallow some very sour grapes when the terrorist was revealed to be a tall, blonde, blue-eyed native of Norway with a far-right, anti-Muslim agenda.

My red-haired man had become a blonde, but we can safely assume that tall, blonde, blue-eyed men of Nordic appearance will not be subject to stop and search and general harassment by the authorities.

(Do I think Al Quaeda capable of such an atrocity? Of course, I do - the terrorist mindset crosses political, racial, national, religious and ideological boundaries.)

In the frenzy of analysis, recrimination and comment that followed, the sound of stable doors being shut after the horses had bolted were deafening. We have the same kind of thing after every outrage, with the same fruitless results, all avoiding the inevitable conclusion that there is no defence against random acts of terror, any more than there is against a lightning strike, that is to say, there is no defence that does not involve an attack on fundamental democratic freedoms that effectively increases the likelihood of terrorism. (For example, do we imprison people for what they might do, rather than what they actually do? The answer has notoriously been yes  in some instances.)

The increase in the number of terrorist attacks post 9/11 was a direct result of the invasion of Afghanistan, and subsequently the war crime of Iraq. We owe 7/7, the Glasgow airport incident, and other acts of terror, to the profoundly misconceived actions of Tony Blair and George W. Bush, among others.



 

THE EXPERIENCE OF ONE AMERICAN

After my blog, but before Utoeya and Oslo, I received an email from an American reader, and I now have his/her permission to reproduce it , which I have edited to protect his/her identity.

Edited extract

Thought you might be interested in an experience I had over profiling.  Was racial? I don’t know - mostly the motivation seemed to be to present a soft target to show the American taxpayer where their tax dollars were going I think.

I do a lot of international travelling mostly from (American city) in  (American state). For a period of time a few years back, the airport security lot had a great wheeze. After checking passports, they'd pull someone out ‘at random’ from the screening queue to go through special screening. That person was reduced to stocking soles, with pockets turned out (literally), carry-on bags completely emptied, stuff minutely checked, and laid out for the display to the other passengers arrayed in a semi-circular queue (easily up to 100 persons) around the hapless soul who was picked.

After five nabs on the trot at ‘random’ I opined that clearly I must fit the profile, to which the officer (in those days always very polite and affable) said with all sincerity that I was mistaken. I pointed out some basic maths to her and explained if the pick and choose was random then I should play the lottery that day 'cause the odds were shorter that I would win a chunk of change before being picked at ‘random’ that day - again.

My profile:

In those days I had a work visa (H1b) which could be rescinded at the stroke of a bureaucrat's pen. I am a citizen of a friendly (i.e. sycophantic) nation whose consulate was unlikely to do anything if I complained to them. I did not have a senator nor congressman to take my case on - in short, I was a foreigner.

I did point out, however, that I had an immigration lawyer, who was an American citizen, who did have both a congressman and a senator, and who would take my observation forward at my insistence. I asked the security lady to take note of my name and tell her supervisor what I had said. After that, I had no more random stop and searches. Funny that, I thought.

A question of de jure vs de facto? - if I've got my Latin tags right …

Anyway, all that said, don't get me wrong, USA's been very good to me and mine.

However, I do believe that all the searching and herding that goes on in airports really is more to do with trying to give folk the feeling that the authorities know what they are about and they are weeding out dangerous people from the traveling public.

(A commercial pilot of my acquaintance pointed out to me that they get even stricter screening when they turn up for work.  How dopey is that? )

The answer to all this is twofold: firstly, like the war on drugs, the airport security is now a big business industry and will never go away no matter how ineffective it is - just like the war on drugs.

Secondly, I'm sure the most effective screening is in intelligence gathering and analysis. I'd rather have the resources from the first diverted into the second but only if we want to be serious about safe travel.

MY COMMENT

My thanks to my anonymous correspondent. His/her account has the unmistakable ring of authenticity and real experience, and his/her analysis is spot on. I still entertain the probably vain hope that our intelligence services, police and politicians will learn something from these and similar experiences. We can certainly learn from them in Scotland, because we are not yet consumed by the blind paranoia and hatred of the other that characterises the war states of the US and the UK, and we have demonstrated our compassion, spectacularly and controversially, in the Megrahi release.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Afghanistan–the futile killing fields

The UK has the fourth largest defence budget in the world, even after the cuts.

WHY?

For this?
                
For Iraq?

To pretend that Britain is still a world power? 
                               
For the rump of an Empire?
 
For a bloodstained flag?



To allow an old Etonian rich boy and arms dealer - David Cameron - and a glib grammar school Yorkshireman - William Hague - who made his millions by giving talks to rich businessmen, to pretend that they are international statesmen, while demonstrating their ignorance, incompetence and impotence over the Libyan crisis?

Scotland! Free yourself of these people, and this poisoned union.

Saor Alba

Sunday, 14 November 2010

War, the monarchy, the poppy – blood, death and glory?

I had, in common with many others, a wonderful day in Edinburgh yesterday, courtesy of Political Innovation, Slugger O'Toole, Mick Fealty and Paul Evans. I hope to cover it in more detail shortly.

This morning, Andrew Marr interviewed the new Chief of Defence Staff UK Sir David Richards, in the news because of  a Telegraph headline today, Al Qaeda can't be beaten. Military chiefs make a rapid appearance on television after such press headlines to protest that they never really said it, or that it wasn’t quite what they meant. Sir David is no exception to this rule, as the interview shows.



(Just before this interview, we had heard from a Battle of Britain veteran, 90-year old Peter Ayerst, a former spitfire pilot, bright, alert, and looking no more than seventy to my eye. This fine, unpretentious man -who had fought in a just war, a war that was truly a war of defence of the nation against an undoubted evil, Nazism - clearly did not see himself as a hero in 1940, in spite of the fact that, if that much misused word has any meaning left in 2010, he was a true hero. When asked if he had anticipated the war when he joined the RAF as an enthusiastic amateur pilot, he said, light-heartedly, that if he had anticipated a war, he probably wouldn’t have joined … But when the challenge came, he rose to it, and placed his life on the line daily in defence of the nation.)

Sir David Richards, resplendent in khaki dress uniform, sprouting gleaming buttons, medal and insignias of rank everywhere about his person, nonetheless managed to look like a friendly bank manager, or headmaster. He slid quickly from Remembrance Day and just wars (WW2) into celebrating the monarchy’s role in militarism, then segued even more smoothly into Afghanistan, re-casting expertly his unfriendly Telegraph headlines, and managing to claim a link between the sexism and brutality of the Taliban, offering this as some kind of justification for the war.

Back to yesterday’s excellent event mounted by Political Innovation in Edinburgh. In the plenary discussion and two sub-group discussion I was involved in, among the key questions on the new media’s (blogging and Twitter) impact on politics and political awareness, we debated fruitfully the significance of hit counts, what made for high visibility, were we preaching to the converted, and was a low hit count to real opinion formers more important than high hit counts that could be meaningless in terms of political impact?

There was no mention of YouTube in any of the discussion I was part of (except by me), something that puzzled me in the light of the very active political sector of YouTube and video blogging. I freely admit that my blog hit counter often baffles me, and my YouTube hit counter (TAofMoridura channel on YouTube) even more. My current recent YouTube viewing figures range from low double figures (typical) to 8,438 for Living with the Taliban – Afghanistan Conflict and 5,817 for Douglas Murray and the delights of living in Gaza.

Among the possible explanations are of course the traditional techniques for increasing hit rate – catchy title, key words in title, good tags, etc.

A key choice, however, for any blogger or YouTube poster is how to handle comments, which sometime become threads – a topic that turns into a debate. Early on, I took the decision to pre-moderate, i.e. have the ability to review and approve comments before publishing, together with the necessary verification procedures for identity to deter the spammers and the frivolous or malicious. I had seen what post-moderation did to, for example, the Scotsman’s online postings – good comments buried alive by an abusive, superficial and sometimes incestuous rabble. As for no moderation …

(Some bloggers clearly love this kind of attention, because no moderation or post-moderation clearly increases the hit rate.)

But another problem – a conundrum – remains -

Why is it that post-moderation of my YouTube channel seems to permit a reasonable volume of comment and vigorous debate and post-moderation on my blog almost kills comment stone dead?

One possible explanation, which I will investigate, may be that my blog comments are not visible under the main blog – they have to be selected by clicking on a link. I may change this.

The other is that the YouTube audience is a very different audience from the blog audience. Based on yesterday’s debate, this seems plausible on the face of it. I know I have many blog readers who never view the YouTube videos on YouTube, but on my blog, where I also place them. (If you simply click play on the blog video, it will play on the blog – if you double click, it will take you to the YouTube channel.)

Whatever the explanation, here is an example of the contrast – my blog and YouTube video on

 Does the poppy glorify war? Has the poppy been hijacked?

The comments on the blog are two in number – one comment and my reply. But here, reproduced below, is the comment dialogue to date on the YouTube video. If you have any thoughts on the disparity, I would be delighted to hear them …

EXTRACTED FROM YouTube video comments -

rickelmonoggin

It's a good point- people say that we should remember soldiers fighting 'for our freedom', but it's a pretty big stretch to say that soldiers in Iraq are fighting for our freedom - obviously they aren't, they're just fighting because of a flawed government policy. Should we therefore not remember them, or not?

 

TAofMoridura

replying to @rickelmonoggin

Our illegal and immoral involvement in Iraq is over. The the soldiers who died or were maimed didn't start the war - they did their job. Of course we should remember them - the dead, and the survivors, whose lives have been affected by their injuries. We, the UK electorate, put the war criminal Blair in power, and returned him to power twice.

England, sadly, has three warmongering, nuclear-obsessed main parties to choose from. Scotland however has a choice in 2011 - the SNP

 

rickelmonoggin

replying to @TAofMoridura

I agree we should remember them. But we can't say that we are remembering them because 'they fought for our freedom', because they didn't. So why make a distinction between 'good' wars and 'bad' wars. Soldiers don't get much of a choice which ones to fight in.

Much better to say, let's remember soldiers, but without all the British imperialist window dressing.

 

TAofMoridura

replying to @rickelmonoggin

I am in full agreement (read my blog moridura.blogspot)

The soldiers died, not for Blair and the UK but for their regiment, for their comrades, for their duty as soldiers. We mustn't make their deaths meaningless - they died because the UK electorate betrayed them. I don't want any soldier or civilian anywhere in the world to die in vain, but I can't achieve that now by a UK vote. I want out of the UK. I can ensure that Scots don't die, by my vote for the SNP in May 2011.

 

boundlesslife12

Well done to Celtic for calling out the war machine.

Blood-stained Poppy.

I'll start wearing a Celtic jersey next poppy season.

 

kellystone84

The only way to stop war is not to have it!

 

69salford69 replying to @kellystone84

"The pioneers of a War-less world are the youth who refuse military service" - the current economic crisis means ARMED FORCES offers higher-than-average salaries and training opportunities that cost thousands in society. The fact that every job vacancy out there has 10x as many applicants is forcing Army recruitment up.

The Government has done EVERYTHING possible to ensure it has plenty of recruits for the future

 

TAofMoridura

replying to @69salford69

I am not a pacifist, and believe in defending my nation - Scotland - and in the concept of a just war. I have only seen one just war in my lifetime - WW2. It was truly a war of defence - the nation was under attack – and the attacker was the truly evil creed of fascism and racism. Such circumstance are relatively rare.

I do not support empire, foreign adventures, involvement in American imperialism nor do I support wars over resources, e.g. oil. I believe in defence forces.

  • 69salford69

    replying to @TAofMoridura

    "I do not support empire, foreign adventures, involvement in American imperialism nor do I support wars over resources, e.g. oil. I believe in defence forces."

    - Didn't Glasgow airport nearly go up in flames a few years ago after an ATTACK by Muslims?

    So defend your country. Your Scottish, I'm English - I understand why being English would make you want to stamp my head in but what about the Muzzies?

    Someone you know could have been killed in the Glasgow attack

  •  

    TAofMoridura 

    replying to @69salford69

    There were no such attacks in the UK before Afghanistan and the illegal war in Iraq. The UK's ill-conceived, and illegal wars led directly to terrorism in Britain.

    Secondly, aircraft carriers, WMDs, and nuclear submarines would not have made any difference to such attacks - they are a police and security services matter.

    I have no animosity whatsoever towards the English - I have friends and family who are English.

    Lastly, your use of the term 'Muzzies' points to a racist mindset.

    69salford69

    replying to @TAofMoridura

    So on one hand you are standing up for our country by speaking against those who are doing harm to it. But on the other hand every ex-service man who survived the War has been deeply offended.

    Yes I'm racist, I also don't like gays and my favourite colour is red.

     

    TAofMoridura

    replying to @69salford69

    Don't post here again - find a BNP site to express your views - bigots homophobes and racists aren't welcome here. Red is the colour of blood - and the Labour Party. It used to mean something different for Labour, but now they are steeped in it. For fascists, red and black have always been the colour choices - blood and death.

     

    Rochie2K8

    Blood Stained Poppy

     

    gregsyswilly

    deeds that would shame all the devils in hell, Iraq, Afghanistan, Ireland. Keep your blood-stained poppy off our hoops.

     

    TAofMoridura 

    replying to @gregsyswilly and Rochie2K8 and kellystone84

    The poppy once meant something to a generation that fought and died in a war - WW1 - that they came to see as meaningless. WW2 was a just war.

    The poppy has been hijacked by the UK establishment, and they have distorted its meaning, as they do with every thought of remembrance, of pity and of sadness, and of support for servicemen and women. But the Parkhead protest did no service to any cause - it was badly misjudged and harmed the cause of peace.



    rickelmonoggin

    replying to @TAofMoridura I couldn't care less about the British army or their regiments. I care about the people. The British state and its politicians have blood on their hands as far as I am concerned, but they have hijacked Remembrance day so that it's about paying tribute to them rather than to the people who died.

    TAofMoridura

    Replying to @rickelmonoggin

    Well, I do care about them, especially since there are a number of Scottish regiments serving the UK, as they have always done. Soldiers are people, and a very special kind of people - we need them, we will always need them. That's why we mustn't allow ambitious and greedy politicians to sacrifice them needlessly.
    I want out of the UK so that Scotland can concentrate on sensible defence forces and a sensible defence policy for its own independent nation, incl. EU deployment.


    rickelmonoggin
    Replying to @TAofMoridura

    I do care about the soldiers, I don't care about the military paraphernalia that goes with them.

    Tuesday, 9 November 2010

    The Poppy–a symbol that has lost its meaning?

    PetieEddie

    These are my uncles – Peter and Edward McCluskey.

    They volunteered as teenagers for service in the Great War – they didn’t have to fight, they weren’t conscripted, there was no military tradition in their family, they were both born in Glasgow, and both of their parents – my grandparents – were Southern Irish, and had no love for England or the UK. They fought for Scotland, the country of their birth.

    Both died before their time, indirectly as a result of their injuries in that appalling war - Eddie at the age of 28 and Peter well after World War Two. I never knew my Uncle Eddie, but my Uncle Petie was a familiar figure during my childhood. He rarely spoke of his experiences, but was horrified when WW2 broke out and he saw his younger cousins Gerard and Peter, whom he had taken into his home after they lost their father, conscripted into the Highland Light Infantry and the RAF respectively. He spent the war crouched at the radio, following every report, devastated at the casualties and praying for peace.

    Peter McCluskey was moved to tears each Armistice Day, and maintained the two minutes silence, but he would not have been seen dead wearing a poppy – he felt that this potent symbol of life, rising from the blasted earth of the battlefields, amid the corpses of his comrades, had been debased by its association with Earl Haig and that it had been hijacked by militaristic politicians.

    Hence my identical feelings about the poppy, reinforced by experiences in industry and commerce, where people who never had a thought for others, or the dead, or any injustice, who never contributed a penny to funds for wounded and disabled ex-servicemen, suddenly acquired a poppy in November, and accosted me, asking “Why aren’t you wearing your poppy, Peter?” They wore their poppy like they acquired their golf handicap – it was the career-wise move.

    They got a dusty answer, plus, on more than one occasion the challenge from me to write a cheque there and then for an ex-serviceman's charity and I would match it. I never had an acceptance …

    The demonstration at Parkhead was profoundly misconceived, and has damaged the anti-war movement. These people were misguided fools, and  I wish they hadn’t done it. But I do understand the sentiment, however wrongheaded.


    Monday, 8 November 2010

    Letter from America – the prescience of Alistair Cooke

    I grew up with radio in pre-television days, and one of my favourite programmes was Alistair Cooke’s Letter form America, the longest-running series in broadcasting history, from 1946 to 2004, the year of his death.

    Alistair Cooke could fairly be described as a liberal conservative commentator, and in his later years he moved further to the right, although some might dispute this. But he understood America in a way that few Europeans and even fewer Englishmen have done, before or since.

    Consider this excerpt -

    “Americans are not particularly good at sensing the real elements of another people’s culture. It helps them to approach foreigners with carefree warmth and an animated lack of misgiving. It also makes them, on the whole, poor administrators on foreign soil. They find it almost impossible to believe that poorer peoples, far from the Statue of Liberty, should not want in their heart of hearts to become Americans.

    “If it should happen that America, in its new period of world power, comes to do what every other world power has done: if Americans should have to govern large numbers of foreigners, you must expect that Americans will be well hated before they are admired for themselves.”

    This was written in the spring of 1946, just after the Second World War, when America was just beginning to understand itself as a world power. When we consider what America brought to the world in the sixty four years since that was written, the analysis was prescient indeed.

    Monday, 11 October 2010

    Linda Norgrove rescue attempt – operational judgments in question?

    Linda Norgrove's death touched us all - a young, idealistic woman from the island of Lewis, born in Altnaharra, Sutherland - a fellow Scot, intelligent, committed, with a bright future ahead of her - a future that now, tragically, will never be realised  We should also remember that at least two other women were killed in this rescue attempt, but because they were Afghan women, we will never know who they were, what they were, and what they could have become.

    Yesterday and this morning the media gave huge prominence to the initial version of events put out by the American forces. The tabloids could hardly conceal their delight, under a mask of grief, at the opportunity to run headlines like "murdered by the Taliban", "killed by Al Quaeda" etc. and The Herald, the one remaining Scottish quality newspaper, ran a front page story that accepted uncritically at face value the version of events provided to them by the ISAF task force. Any journalist worth their salt would at least have looked hard at the assertions about the hostage takers killing Linda, or detonating their suicide vests, on the old principle that the dominant force in a military engagement writes the narrative to serve their own ends.

    But it is worth recognising that our democracy still permitted the truth to emerge, and it is to General Petraeus’s credit that he went beyond the first, predictable version of events, and sought the truth, which is still emerging.

    That the Taliban are capable of such a brutal murder I do not doubt for a moment, nor that Linda's kidnapping was an act of utter cynicism by her captors, with no regard for the fact that this incredibly brave young woman was there to unselfishly serve the people of Afghanistan. They are therefore ultimately responsible for the events that led to her death.

    But questions must now be asked about the strategic and tactical judgments that led to the decision to mount an assault in darkness on Linda's captors instead of following the route of negotiation that had earlier led to the release of other hostages, after intervention by tribal elders. Such operations are fraught with risk, the primary danger being that the hostage or hostages will be inadvertently killed. The Iranian embassy siege and assault by the SAS in London many years ago was a model of how this can achieved the desired result. As the ex-SAS man on the programme sadly observed, one thing the rescuers don't do is throw grenades.

    The sight and sound of William Hague, our new Foreign Secretary, inflated with Churchillian pomposity, attempting to gloss over the clear inadequacies of the judgements that led to this tragic failure sicken me. Churchill, as a young man, saw active service, placed his life at risk in the Boer War, and was captured then escaped. William Hague is a precocious schoolboy grown into a right-wing Tory, who has made himself rich by his undoubted public speaking talents, but he has never seen any active military service as far as I know, has never been in harms way, and all his rhetoric seems hollow and, frankly, revolting in the present situation.

    We needs some answers, for Linda's sake, for her parents sake, and for all our sakes.


    Linda Norgrove almost certainly killed by IASF task force grenade



    There is nothing I can offer except my deepest sympathy to Linda's family.

    R.I.P. Linda Norgrove - brave, unselfish human being.

    Wednesday, 6 October 2010

    Tobias Ellwood avoids every question on Defence Cuts

    Tobias – there a name one doesn’t often come across. But hold on, isn’t Toby its diminutive? There are lots of Tobys, not counting the jugs. And there was Toby in the West Wing – a passionate man of liberal values. There’s Tobias Mead, of Britain’s Got Talent notoriety.

    Tobias comes from the Hebrew Biblical name טוביה which becomes in Greek Τοβίας  - it means Yahweh is good i.e. God is good. If God exists, and is good, then he or she has some explaining to do when contemplating the religious wars that ravage our little planet.

    In fact, if God is Yahweh and Allah and the Christian god – usually just called God or God the Father - not to mention a few hundred others, give or take a god or two, then He (or is it She) really must have a word with His most dedicated followers in Israel, in the Muslim world and in the West about settling their differences amicably, instead of massacring each other at regular intervals and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction and unspeakable horror to wreak further carnage, called – in the euphemism to end all euphemisms – the nuclear deterrent.

    However, I digress, and in the process offend many good people who prefer not to have to consider such fundamental questions.

    Let’s come down to earth and have a look at a more mundane Tobias, one Tobias Ellwood, Parliamentary aide to Liam Fox, UK supremo of WMDs, warship and all things designed to attack other nations - called Defence of the Realm – and custodian of the defence budget.

    Poor old Liam must at times wish he was a humble doctor again, ideally a country GP, handing out pills and comforting his patients in a quiet Scottish country village, instead of trying to balance the conflicting needs of sustaining Trident as the emblem of power in the remnants of the British Empire, aircraft carriers as a lynchpin of the Tory - and apparently all the other parties’ - job creation scheme, and the embarrassing requirement to stop starving our brave boys of critical equipment in the illegal, immoral wars they are sent to fight in foreign climes. Leaked letters may have been one little weapon in this struggle, even if it backfired a little.

    Who better to stonewall to the media on all this than a New Yorker with a European education in Vienna and Bonn, and a former British Army captain, one Tobias Ellwood? Tobias left the Army in 1995, and thus missed the killing fields of Iraq and Afghanistan by six years. (He may well have faced combat with the Green Jackets between 19991 and 1995 – I don’t know whether he saw combat in this period, but I’m sure he served honourably.)

    Today, Tobias faced the politician’s nightmare adversary, Andrew Ferguson Neill. (Paxman has long since become a caricature of his former incisive self.)

    Tobias turned out to be an exponent of the torrent of words technique to attempt to overwhelm interviewers, one used by Baroness Warsi, Chairman of the Tory Party, who doesn’t know how many members the Party has. The technique has not been working well for its practitioners of late, since under pressure, it descends into the frantic babbling defence. The Baroness has already failed spectacularly on the electoral fraud allegations debacle, and now today on whether or not Tory Party membership has declined under Cameron.

    Poor old Toby must think that God was not so good to him today, since he rapidly followed the same downward path in the face of Andrew Neill’s implacable questioning.




    The torrent of words technique fails the Baroness yet again - she doesn't know how many members the Tory Party has. Andrew Neil unkindly point out that she is Chairman of the Party.

    The Tories have now raised obfuscation to the status of an art, especially since the coalition - or to put it another way, disingenuousness now reigns supreme.

    A death in Afghanistan – Mark Evison

    Lieutenant Mark Evison died as a result of a misconceived mission by his superiors and failures of equipment and communications. He displayed outstanding courage in the face of fire, and during his needlessly long wait for an air ambulance. He was loved by his platoon, and his men exhibited bravery by carrying him over open ground under fire to the compound.

    This fine young man exhibited true heroism and professionalism, but was betrayed by the the politicians who sent him into this misconceived war, this benighted land, then failed to support him. He was a Welsh Guard, and a brother in arms - and death - to Fusilier Gordon Gentles, a Scot who was also betrayed by the UK government and the MOD.

    Get the troops out - now.

    This was one more tragic component of Blair, Brown and Labour's poisoned legacy to the UK.

    Mark Evison is a true hero, betrayed by his country - his was not to reason why - his was but to do or die.


    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.




    Wednesday, 29 September 2010

    Iraq, Scotland and Jim Murphy – yesterday’s man

    The new Leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband has publicly repudiated his party's stance on Iraq, to the cold fury of his Blairite, warmongering brother. But David is right. Harriet Harman voted for it, and so did almost all of the New Labour gang. Sitting behind David Miliband are Alistair Darling and Jim Murphy, the late and unlamented Scottish Secretary, a Blairite and Iraq war supporter and defender. Both men are stonefaced as they listen to their new leader.

    I follow that with some clips of Jim Murphy before the May 2010 general election in action when he had some clout and some say in Scottish affair.

    It’s safe to say, as one vocal critic alleged, that neither he, nor the previous Labour government, nor the Tories, nor the LibDems, nor the members of the House of Lords have let, or will let their privileged children anywhere near the killing grounds of Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Murphy tries to project a nice guy image, but he is in fact an old-style backroom Labour bruiser. I hope he never again has any significant say in the life and future of Scotland, and that he sinks back into political obscurity.


    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.”

    Wednesday, 4 August 2010

    Living with the Taliban – the Afghanistan conflict

    A Western journalist lives with a Taliban fighting group, documenting and filming their daily lives, risking his own freedom and his life in the process. A remarkable film, by any standards.

    I would guess that those watching this clip will polarise at two ends of the spectrum

    those who think it portrays the Taliban as brave, humble and deeply religious people fighting against a foreign invader for their country, their faith and their families

    and

    those who think it is an outrageous piece of propaganda by misguided and unpatriotic Western liberals to portray the Taliban in a sympathetic light, when in fact they are brutal religious zealots who persecute women and harbour Al Qaeda cells  plotting terrorist attacks against civilians in the West.

    There will also be many who find this a thought-provoking piece of courageous journalism, and who try to make up their own minds.

    Wherever you are on this spectrum, I ask you to reflect on the following facts and ask yourself the following questions -

    FACTS

    The United Kingdom has been involved in this military action and occupation for nine years.

    There is no end in sight.

    Combatants on both sides are dying daily.

    Innocent civilians – men, women and children are dying almost daily.

    Both sides are totally convinced that God is on their side.

    Opinions on the conflict are deeply divided in the UK, with probably a majority of the electorate being against the war being continued and in favour of withdrawal.

    The Karsai Government is deeply corrupt.

    Opinion in Pakistan is deeply divided over the conflict.

    The coalition forces are not winning this conflict.

    The original objectives of the invasion of Afghanistan have been repeatedly redefined and have become blurred and confused.

    The occupation of Afghanistan has created what is rapidly becoming an unbridgeable rift between the West and Islamic nations and cultures. It has also created serious tensions within the UK itself.

    The invasion of Afghanistan was launched by the now wholly discredited Bush/Cheney neocom regime in America.

    The coalition forces and the Karsai government will almost certainly do a deal with the Taliban to secure a diplomatic end to the conflict.

    QUESTIONS

    Whose country is being occupied by a foreign invader?

    Has any invader ever won a war in Afghanistan in the last few centuries?

    Is the persecution, torture and oppression of women by the Taliban unique in the Indian sub-continent?

    Is the denial of the rights of women to play an equal part in religious hierarchies unique to the Taliban or does it exist among the nations of the coalition?

    Are fundamentalist beliefs in war as an instrument of religion unique to the Taliban or do they exist among the nations of the coalition?

    Does Afghanistan provide the only place in the world where Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups can train, organise and plan terrorist attacks?

    Have the nations of the Western coalition considered invading any other country to protect the rights of women?

    Have the nations of the Western coalition considered invading any other country to root out and destroy terrorist bases?


    Friday, 30 July 2010

    Religious fundamentalism in the American military

    This video chills my blood. This is what our ‘senior partner’ in Afghanistan has among its military force. An F16 squadron called The Crusaders! We are supposed to be fighting religious fundamentalism among the Afghani population.

    As the commentator says laconically at the end of the video -

    It is not the constitution that is guiding us in the Middle East – it is the Book of Revelations. And the Book of Revelations does not end with everybody being happy …”

    It certainly doesn’t – and American fundamentalists don’t interpret this stuff allegorically, they believe it literally. 



    CLOSING VERSES OF THE BOOK OF REVELATIONS

    And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.

    And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.

    And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

    Thursday, 1 July 2010

    Armed Forces Day – Edinburgh 2011

    There have been signs that some individuals in government and the British establishment have been trying to hijack Armed Forces Day to justify and bolster waning public support for the failing Afghanistan political  fiasco.

    These comments, in the context of Edinburgh hosting the event in 2011, are a welcome antidote to that insidious perversion of the aims of Armed Forces Day.

    Support our armed forces but not the failed military adventures that are killing young men and women needlessly to protect the reputations of politicians.

    Support our armed forces by getting them out of harms way, and quickly - support the troops but not the war ...