the Disillusioned kid: June 2004
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Tuesday, June 29, 2004

I'm back! Did you miss me?

I've been out of the loop for a few days and I'm doing my best to get back into it. I append below a few thoughts on some of the major goings-on.

Interesting to see that they decided to move the so-called "handover of sovereignty" forward a few days. As I predicted the sovereignty we have so benevolently granted to the Iraqi people looks a bit strange.

The massive terrorist attacks in Iraq last week, which claimed the lives of 100 people, most of them Iraqis, were condemned by many sections of the Iraqi Resistance and their supporters. This highlights a distinction between the broadly popular armed groups such as al-Sadr's supporters and the Fallujan insurgents and groups such as al-Zarqawi's Ansar al-Islam, with little or no popular support and a virulently extremist ideology (Zarqawi denounced the Shia and Sadr as Kafir, infidels, at the height of the insurrection against American forces by Sadr's supporters). The best analysis of this distinction of which I am aware is that of Rahul Mahajan. Too many on the Left like to see those groups engaged in armed struggle against the occupation (which I stress again continues despite all the talk about the ""handover") as a homogeneous entity, when in truth there are many, often very important differences. Illusions about the reality of the situation on the ground will not help to end the occupation or safeguard the future of the Iraqi people.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Outta Here!

I'm going to be away for a few days, so no postings for a while. How will you cope? In the meantime I'd like to draw your attention to a few changes I've made to this thing. Hopefully these will facilitate your use of the site and increase your enjoyment of it. Or not.

Based on extensive research and feedback (i.e. one email) I've altered the colour scheme from black to grey to make reading easier on the eye.

I've added a comment function, so please feel free to express your opinions. As Tim Wise likes to note in footers to his articles, "Hate mail and death threats, while neither desired nor appreciated, will be graded for form, content, grammar, and originality."

I added the Darfur Information Centre to the list of links. This is the best source of information I've found on the situation in Darfur, described by UN officials as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Check it out.

You may also notice the icons at the bottom of the sidebar. These are for various blog-listing sites which list (or at least will list) this blog. Whether I recommend using any of them is another question.

Guerilla Warfare

I've just finished reading Che Guevara's Guerilla Warfare (Souvenir Press, London, 2004). The book was intended both as an account of the Cuban war against the Batista dictatorship and as a manual for other guerilla movements in Latin America. While its success with regard to the latter is questionable it remains a fascinating insight into the ideas, values and commitment of a man who has become the icon of resistance.

Che argues that the "Cuban revolution contributed three fundamental lessons to the conduct of revolutionary movements in America":
(1)Popular forces can win a war against the army.
(2) It is not necessary to wait until all conditions for making revolution exist; the insurrection can create them.
(3) In underdeveloped America the countryside is the basic area for armed fighting. (p. 7)
On this basis he believes that his book can serve as a guide to other revolutionaries. He imparts his experiences of guerilla warfare and the lessons that he and his comrades learnt during the 1956-9 war.

Fascinating as it is, there are serious questions as to how useful the book is as a guide to action, quite beyond debates about the merits and morality of political violence. The book discusses urban fighting only briefly, because he believed it could only be of limited effectiveness. The reason for this is that "the suburban guerilla must be considered as situated in exceptionally unfavorable ground, where the vigilance of the enemy will be much greater and the possibility of reprisals as well as of betrayal are increased enormously" (p. 36). Instead he focuses, as did the Cuban struggle until its last days, on efforts in the jungle and mountains. As such it is of limited use to those in the developed west, and more specifically the UK, who seek to transcend the status quo.

Additionally there are questions about its value as a guide given Che's escapades subsequent to the writing of the book. These saw him travel to the Congo and later to Bolivia to try and help burdgeoning revolutionary movements. Both of these missions ended without success, the latter ultimately claiming Che's life.

The real value of the book lies in its presentation of the ideas which drove Che and his fellow revolutionaries. The idealism, the faith in a better world, the anger against US imperialism and the determination. Che's image has become an icon borne by those seeking a better world, providing inspiration. His writings provide similar encouragement and remind us that the struggle for justice and human dignity does not and will not die.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Kilroy Takes The Anti-War Vote!

A lot of guff has been written about the elections which took place on June 10. The key factor in this, we are told by some commentators on the left, was the anti-war vote in protest against Blair's fiasco in Iraq. A cold, hard look at the facts suggests a less rosy picture. George Galloway's Respect Coalition are clearly very excited by having polled 252,216 votes in the European Parliamentary Elections, however the British National Party (BNP) polled 808,200, more than three times as many. Alongside this we must remember the huge vote (2,650,768) for the UK Independence Party (UKIP) - led by Robert Kilroy-Silk, whose TV show was axed after he made anti-Arab remarks - which forced the Lib-Dems, who were at least rhetorically opposed to the war, into fourth place. All of this seems a strange way to express one's opposition to the war.

Shortly after the elections I wrote a post in which I pondered whether talk of an anti-war vote was exaggerated, although I didn't really express a firm opinion on the matter. On reflection, what we appear to have seen is a vote against the establishment, a sentiment which expressed itself in various manifestations, some progressive, some not, some overtly reactionary. The best analysis of the election I have seen is this article by the ever incisive (if controversial) Red Action. Taking in the rise of the BNP, the emergence of UKIP as a major force, the collapse of the mainstream parties, the ideology underlying Respect and the victories achieved (in local rather than European elections) by the Independent Working Class Association (IWCA) they conclude that
Britain's political landscape is changing. The two parties that have alternately formed the government since the 1920's are visibly decomposing. The centre cannot hold. Appropriately it is the [BNP and the IWCA] who in their own small ways are helping change the landscape who are likely to be the beneficiaries of the collapse of the consensual centre. So for the first time in 80 years it is game on - with again literally everything to play for.
If they're right then the next few years are going to be interesting to say the least.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

The Clash of Barbarisms

The kidnapping and beheading of US engineer Paul Johnson was an horrific act of brutality by any standard. Reading the reports of the murder and the subsequent killing of Abd al-Aziz al-Muqrin, the apparent leader of Al-Qaeda and two suspected Islamic extremists, one thing struck me. Muqrin was apparently killed trying to dispose of Johnson's body, this suggests that he was directly involved in the killing. This brought to mind reports I read in the aftermath of the similarly brutal murder of Nicholas Berg in Iraq. Several of these had suggested that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of Ansar Al-Islam, an Iraq based group connected with Al-Qaeda had been directly involved in the killing. At the time I dismissed this as rhetoric. Clearly as his organisation apparently carried out the murder, no doubt on his orders, he should be held responsible but it seemed unlikely that as the group's leader would be involved in such a hands-on way. Perhaps I was wrong. Do high ranking Al-Qaeda personnel involve themselves directly in such killings? Is there a reason for this? Does it signify something? I don't know, but I'm surprised the questions don't seem to be being asked.
Am I the only person who thinks the hoo-hah about the agreement on the EU Constitution is all a bit pointless? No doubt our Glorious Leaders have found a text they find agreeable, but it must still face one major hurdle: the population of the Union. Eight countries have already declared that they will hold referenda and 14 remain undecided. I'm not sure about the likelihood of success in other European countries, but in the UK the chances of the constitution being ratified by the people of this country is virtually nill. Even if there's a second referendum when people make the "wrong" decision (as happened in Ireland with the Nice Treaty) I find it hard to believe that even Teflon Tony's going to get this through.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a regional body which brings together the Russian, Chinese, Kazakh, Uzbek, Tajik and Kyrgyz heads of state to coordinate on important issues, with particular focus on anti-terrorism. The body is currently seeking to formalise itself, in part in the hopes of acting as an effective counterweight to US influence in the region. To this end it is holding a summit this week in Tashkent, the Uzbek capital.

Fearing disruption by activists, concerned about the country's human rights record "the [Uzbek] regime has warned many of them that they will face imprisonment or other unspecified consequences if they demonstrate during the two-day session... which [began] on June 17" (IWPR, 15/6/04). Human Rights Watch reports,
In recent weeks, the Uzbek authorities have broken up peaceful demonstrations here, arbitrarily detained political activists and their children, and stopped picketers from reaching protest sites by preventing them from leaving their homes. Police have also conducted door-to-door "checks" at the homes of human rights defenders and activists, sometimes ordering them to the criminal investigation department for interrogation. In two cases, unidentified assailants have beaten activists in advance of planned protests; prior threats and pressure from the police suggest the attacks were politically motivated. This crackdown intensified as delegates to the summit began arriving in Tashkent last week. (HRW, 17/5/04)
They report that intimidation has even gone as far, in one case, as death threats against activist Bakhodir Choriev, his pregnant wife and children. It should be clear these are hardly trivial matters.

None of this should come as a surprise to who knows anything about Uzbek politics. The country is ruled by Islam Karimov a man who learnt his trade during the days of the USSR and who has maintained his grip on power through widely discredited elections. He has waged a brutal crusade against Islamic extremists which has seen police and intelligence officers torturing suspects, pulling out their fingernails, breaking their fingers, stabbing them with screwdrivers, leaving them standing for a fortnight in freezing water and even in one case boiling them to death. Despite this widespread brutality and flagrant contempt for democracy the country has received extensive western support. The US has given Karimov more than a billion dollars since the collapse of communism, half of it since September 11th. Britain has hardly been any better in this regard. In early 2003 Tony Blair extended an open licence to Karimov to import any weapons he wanted from the UK and when British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray spoke out against the abuses taking place in the country the Government went to great efforts to censure him, so far without success.

US supplementary aid to the Uzbek government is conditional on "substantial and continuing progress" in the field of human rights, and the Bush administration is required to certify that this criteria is being fulfilled every six months. There was talk earlier this year of this certification not being given, although it appears that in light of the terrorist attacks which rocked the country in April that it is likely to go through. Whatever the outcome, Karimov is clearly concerned about whether or not western support will continue. According to David Lewis, director of the International Crisis Group (ICG)
Uzbekistan has the tensest relationship with America, despite their strategic partnership agreement. He says that ties have been complicated by the former?s failure to improve its human rights record. Lewis reckons relations between the two could become even more strained if the Democrats triumph in the US presidential elections, which is why "Uzbekistan is turning to the east". (IWPR, 15/6/04)
This turn to the east lies behind the country's involvement in the SCO and suggests that a break with the west is not impossible. I would argue that western activists should seek to encourage this by putting pressure on their governments. There is no guarantee that such a break will bring an end to the human rights abuses or move the country substantially towards democracy, although it is to be hoped that such a break might cause elements of the Uzbek elite to reconsider what the government is doing. However, this is hardly the point. The question is a straightforward moral one: do we wish to support Karimov's crimes? I think the answer should be obvious.

Friday, June 18, 2004

I've just finished reading Staff Statement 15: Overview of the Enemy, which was presented to the 9/11 Commission, the US congressional body investigating the events surrounding September 11th. It's an interesting, if brief, history of the emergence and development of Al-Qaeda. It has some interesting information about the organisation's structure, funding and links to national governments. Of particular interest is its conclusion, "That there is no evidence that any government financially supported Al-Qaeda before 9/11 (other than limited support provided by the Taliban after Bin Ladin first arrived in Afghanistan)" (p. 10). This seems to fly in the face of the insinuations by various Bush Administration figures that Al-Qaeda received funding from "Rogue States".

The statement's comments on cooperation between Iraq and Al-Qaeda, much trumpeted as a justification for the invasion of Iraq, are also of interest:
Bin Ladin also explored possible cooperation with Iraq during his time in Sudan, despite his opposition to Hussein's secular regime. Bin Ladin had in fact at one time sponsored anti-Saddam Islamists in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Sudanese, to protect their own ties with Iraq, reportedly persuaded Bin Ladin to cease this support and arranged for contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda. A senior Iraqi intelligence officer reportedly made three visits to Sudan, finally meeting Bin Ladin in 1994. Bin Ladin is said to have requested space to establish training camps , as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded. There have been reports that contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda occurred after Bin Ladin had returned to Afghanistan, but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship. Two senior Bin Ladin associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between al Qaeda and Iraq. We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States. (p. 5, my emphasis)
That there is no link between Iraq and Al-Qaeda is hardly a great surprise. I've been saying much the same thing for over a year, but its nice to get some official recognition of the obvious. Despite this Blair and Bush continue to insist that such a link did in fact exist. The propaganda reasons for their making such an assertion should be obvious and I would expect nothing more from Bush, however Blair's insistence on the point is interesting. Downing Street made far less of the supposed connection in the build-up to the invasion of Iraq than did the White House. Perhaps he's simply grasping for straws as the various justifications for the war collapse around his ears.

To his credit, Blair's argument was more advanced than Bush's. The US President simply asserted, "The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al-Qaida is because there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida" (Guardian, 18/6/04). According to the Richard Norton-Taylor,
A Downing Street spokeswoman said the government was not claiming a direct link but that the prime minister "has always said Saddam created a permissive environment for terrorism and we know that the people affiliated to al-Qaida operated in Iraq during the regime".(Guardian, 18.6.04)
The reference to "the people affiliated to al-Qaida" presumably means Ansar Al-Islam, an Islamic extremist group led by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi which did have a presence in Iraq prior to the war. There is no doubt that this group engages in terrorism and it is widely accepted that it is associated with Al-Qaeda, nonetheless there are serious questions about whether it had any links to the Saddam regime. Norton Taylor notes that intelligence sources "said that Ansar al-Islam, a militant Islamist group with al-Qaida connections based on the Iranian border in north-eastern Iraq, was out of Saddam's control" (Guardian, 18/6/04). The mere fact that they "operate in Iraq during the regime" is hardly a credible basis for a link. Various anti-Saddam groups were also so engaged, but no-one suggests that they had any links with the Ba'ath Party (beyond counting former party members amongst their ranks). In addition since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Ansar Al-Islam have carried out at least 30 suicide bombings, the kidnapping and execution of American Nicholas Berg and possibly various other attacks, perhaps even some in Europe. Should we conclude from this that there is a link between the group and the US? I think not.

Returning to Statement 15, it should be noted that the document is not without errors and ommissions. Rahul Mahajan notes. "It misses a few elementary points, actually saying that al-Qaeda was created by bin Laden, not Abdullah Azzam, but that can probably be understood simply as an effect of trying to quickly gloss over a dozen years as background" (, 16/5/04). Some of the omissions are more telling. The statement refers to "the Afghan people's war against the Soviet Union" during the 1980s in which Muslims from around the world particpates. It quite correctly notes that it is in this conflict that the roots of Al-Qaeda lie (p. 1). However it makes no mention of Western support for the Afghan Mujahideen. This was extensive and consisted of money, training and weapons and continued despite extensive evidence of human rights abuses carried out by the "holy warriors". Similarly the document states, "By 1992, Bin Ladin was focused on attacking the United States" (p. 2). It makes no mention of the role that the First Gulf War played in this conversion from ally to enemy of the United States, although this seems to be widely accepted as the key event in his transition. The failure to acknowledge the roles our past mistakes have played in creating the problems we face today condemns us to repeat them.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Noam Chomsky is something of a personal hero and I am slowly working my way through everything he's written (yes, I'm aware I'm a lefty cliche). I've just finished his Peace in the Middle East: Reflections on Justice and Nationhood (Vintage, New York, 1974) which looks at the Israeli-Arab conflict and presents a possible solution. He argues that the best solution is "socialist binationalism", although he does not set out the details of how this would work.

One of the striking things about the book is its optimism. Chomsky's more recent works have been much more pessimistic. In the introduction to his latest book, Hegemony or Survival (Hamish Hamilton, London, 2003) he considers the work of biologist Ernst Mayr who was interested in the likelihood of intelligent life on other planets and looked at the evolutionary success of evolutionary species and concluded that the claim "it is better to be smart than stupid," is wrong, at least in biological terms. This leads Chomsky to comment,
We are entering a period of human history that may provide an answer to the question of whether it is better to be smart than stupid. The most hopeful prospect is that the question will not be answered: if it receives a definite answer, that answer can only be that humans were a kind of "biological error," using their allotted 100,000 years [the average life expectancy of a species] to destroy themselves and, in the process, much else. (Chomsky, 2003, pp. 1-2)
The bulk of the book consists of examples of situations where elites are risking continuing human existence in order to assert their domination. The picture he paints is a grim one indeed with the survival of the human race hanging in the balance. Movements working to ensure human survival, such as the massive opposition to the invasion of Iraq, receive only a cursory mention.

In Peace..., by contrast, he seems far more hopeful. Talking of widescale co-operation between Arabs and Jews in order to achieve a just solution, as if such a state of affairs was just around the corner. Tragically of course thirty years later this has yet to take place and if anything the conflict is more serious than ever. Certainly this is the case as regards civilian Israeli casualties with the emergence of suicide bombings. It is also worth noting that since writing Peace... Chomsky has changed his position and now supports the two-state solution which he describes as the "international consensus". He argues,
They had a chance to [establish a binational state], and that chance is gone. Maybe it will come back someday, but not now. The only feasible settlement now is through the international consensus: a two-state settlement or something like that, on or near the international border. (Safundi, April 04)
How far the failure of those involved to capitalise on the opportunities before them has influenced his apparent shift towards pessimism is unclear.

He stakes out a fiercely independent position in Peace..., noting that on their own terms the cases made by both Jews and Arabs are valid and so setting them against each other is a fruitless exercise, hence his emphasis on co-operation. He supports many of his arguments for a binational solution with quotes taking from leading Zionists such as David Ben-Gurion. He points out that contrary to typical assertions Zionism has not always been focused entirely on the idea of a Jewish state, indeed this only became official Zionist policy in 1942. Arthur Rupin for instance opined that "a Jewish state of one million or even five million (after fifty years!) will be nothing but a new Montenegro or Lithuania" (Chomsky, 1974, p. 33). Instead many leading Zionists argued for a solution broadly along the lines of that articulated by Chomsky in which Arabs and Jews live together in peace. It is tragic indeed that these hopes were never realised. The consequences, for both Jews and Arabs, have been serious.

It is terrible to think that a book written about a conflict taking place thirty years ago remains relevant today, but this does. I share Chomsky's dubiousness about the hopes for a single state solution at the present time. It is a nice idea to be sure, but probably not realistic. Nonetheless the historical background to the conflict and an alternative side to Zionism, one which both sides seek to underplay, is of considerable interest. His assertion that both sides have national rights which must be taken into consideration in any solution remains crucial and can easily be lost among the rhetoric about terrorism and imperialism.
I wrote on Tuesday about allegations of torture by British soldiers. Among the points I made was that evidence of such abuses had been around since at least May last year. This brings us to the quote of the moment from Alan Simpson MP:
The speed with which the Government was able to investigate the mocked-up photographs falsely sold to the Daily Mirror begs the question of why there has been such extensive delays on investigating allegations of abuse, brutality and humiliation in Iraq. (The Independent, 16/6/04)
No doubt the Iraqi victims will appreciate their introduction to western justice.
I went to see Fog of War by Errol Morris earlier and can heartily recommend it. The film is a fascinating documentary looking at the life of former US Secretary of State Robert Strange McNamara (yes, that really is his middle name!). It focuses particularly on his service in the US Air Force during World War 2, the Cuban Missile Crisis and his involvement in Vietnam.

The film is largely based on a one-to-one interview between McNamara and an unseen interviewer. We are presented with a personal account of these major historical events, arranged around eleven lessons McNamara has learnt along the way (among them "Empathize with your enemy" and "Rationality will not save us"). What emerges is a man still struggling with the morality of actions with which he was involved or even responsible for. He ruminates, for instance, on the morality of the massive bombing campaign targeted against urban populations in Japan which preceded the dropping of the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians which he participated in and perhaps inspired. At one point he notes that General Curtis LeMay opined that if they lost the war they would be tried as war criminals. This is a very different side to the "war for civilisation" from that with which we are often presented.

One thing which surprised me was McNamara's apparent opposition to nuclear weapons. He refers on a number of occasions how close the Cuban Missile Crisis came to nuclear armageddon and argues that in light of inevitable human fallibility they pose a serious threat to the continuing existence of the human race. It is a shame he has not expressed such views more prominently. A man with his background could bring a credibility to the disarmament movement which it would otherwise be unable to attain.

McNamara is perhaps most famous for his involvement in the Vietnam War, as the Secretary of State for Defense under Kennedy and Johnson. He makes some efforts to justify his role in this regard, but the story of the war is told largely through archive footage and recordings which demonstrate that he was a key spokesman for the war effort and one of its central planners. This section of the film is perhaps the only one with which I feel the need to take issue, specifically over its emphasis on American deaths. While these were considerable, McNamara puts the figure at 58,000, this pales into insignificance against the numbers of Vietnamese (not to mention Laosians and Cambodians) killed which is probably getting on for 4 million. The idea that the soldiers of an invading army are somehow the only victim of a conflict is a theme which has been returned to in Iraq today.

It is difficult not to feel sorry for McNamara. The film presents a human side to him even while detailing the consequences of the policies and actions he was responsible for. The epilogue at the end of the film seems to be a response to this. We see McNamara driving through Washington while his voice is played over the top attempting to explain why he has not spoken out against the actions of subsequent US Administrations. His ambiguous response about inciting controversy seems somehow inadequate and leave the viewer with serious unanswered questions.

I wholeheartedly recommend this film. It is a fascinating insight into the thinking of one of the key policy makers from one of the key periods in world history. Nonetheless it is crucial not to lose sight of the fact that people typically develop justifications for their actions, however horrible, in order to be able to sleep at night. Over time people typically come to believe these justifications. This is not to say that what McNamara has to say should be dismissed out of hand, on the contrary I think it is worthy of extensive consideration, but rather that it should not be accepted unquestioningly.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

I'm sure I'm not alone in finding the relentless stories of killing, oppression and destruction coming from the occupied territories, depressing and upsetting. The level of emotion which surrounds the issue making intelligent discussion difficult and at times impossible, does not make it any easier to deal with. In this context I have developed an interest in Israel's embattled peace movement, one of the few glimmers of light in the otherwise soul-destroying darkness.

Sharon's plans for a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and, more particularly, the plan's rejection by the Likud Party appear to have revitalised the Israeli peace camp. May 15 saw anything between 100-250,000 protesters, depending on who you ask, take to the streets of Tel Aviv. The development has also seen the emergence of various groups which have attracted considerable support from a public who overwhelmingly support Sharon's withdrawal plan.

Israeli liberal daily Haaretz (recommended for anyone interested in Israeli politics) has an interesting article looking at three of the leading groups in this movement: Mateh Ha'rov, the Coalition of the Majority; Yahad; and Shuvi, "Come Home". There is much the article misses out: the burdgeoning refusenik movement and the groups supporting it such as Yesh Gvul; the more radical peacenik groups like Gush Shalom; Arab-Jewish partnerships such as Ta'ayush; let alone the openly revolutionary anarchist groups and communist parties. It also does not deal much with Peace Now, probably the preeminent Israeli peace group, although they are mentioned as one of the members of the Mateh Ha'rov coalition. Nonetheless it is recommended for anyone who wants reassurance that sanity is not as limited a resource in the modern world as it sometimes seems.

There two points about the Israeli peace camp which explain much about it, but which might not be obvious.

Firstly, the unusual prominence within its ranks of soldiers. Americans For Peace Now note that Peace Now
was founded in March 1978 by 348 reserve commanders, officers, and combat soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces. Experience had taught these citizen soldiers that only a politically negotiated solution could end their nation's hundred-year war with its Arab and Palestinian neighbors.
One of the main reasons for this is that many on the right come from an ultra-orthodox background and do not serve for religious reasons.

Secondly is the influence wielded within the peace movement by the Labor Party. This is particularly clear with Peace Now, whose American support group was described by an American friend involved in campaigning around the issue of Israel-Palestine as the US wing of the Labor Party. This might seem strange given that, as Noam Chomsky points out,
Contrary to illusions fostered [in the US], the two major political groupings in Israel [Labor and Likud] do not differ in a fundamental way with regard to the occupied territories. (Fateful Triangle, Pluto Press, London, 1999, pp. 45-6)
This is of course hardly an unusual position when one considers the role of social democratic parties within their national peace movements. Even today Labour activists and even some MPs are prominent within the British anti-war movement despite their party's active support for and complicity in the invasion and occupation of Iraq, not to mention a long and bloody history of British imperialism.

None of the above should present the idea that the Israeli peace camp is without flaws, it has many, which it is to be hoped it can transcend. However, its continuing existence in a increasingly militaristic and right-wing society offers a glimmer of hope in a world where hope often seems hard to come by.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

According to today's Guardian four British soldiers are to face a court martial charged with abusing Iraqi prisoners:
The prosecution of the soldiers, from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, was disclosed yesterday by Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, as the Guardian learned that military police are investigating fresh allegations of ill treatment by British troops after complaints by the Red Cross.
There are apparently 75 such investigations, more than twice as many as had previously been admitted.

Tragically none of this is as a major surprise. While there has been an attempt to present torture and brutality as the sole preserve of the Americans, it has been clear for sometime that their British counterparts are also guilty of serious abuses and even war crimes. Kamil Mahdi, writing at the start of June noted that
apparently genuine photographs have been in the hands of police and the Ministry of Defence's special investigation branch since at least May 2003. At that time, an 18-year-old member of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, Gary Bartlam, was detained by Warwickshire police when the film he took to be developed revealed images of British soldiers engaged in torture that is remarkably similar to that practised by US troops and mercenaries at Abu Ghraib.
It is apparently these photos which form the basis of the court martial case.

There remains a concerted effort, as in the US to present these "abuses" (the term "torture" not being acceptable in polite conversation) as the actions of a few "bad apples". Paul Keetch, Liberal Democrat defence spokesman, said:
Those soldiers who besmirch the name of the British army should be dealt with quickly and transparently.

The people of Britain, and especially those of Iraq, need to see that we will deal vigorously with any bad apples in our military basket.
The problem of course is that "our military basket" is rotten. While each and every British soldier is ultimately responsible for their actions, they would not be torturing and abusing Iraqis if the UK had not participated in the illegal and immoral invasion of the country in the first place. A cursory consideration of occupations throughout history will show that they are typically accompanied by brutality on the part of the occupiers. The response then seems obvious.

While opposition to torture and abuse by the forces occupying Iraq is to be encouraged and fostered we should not lose sight of the bigger picture. Over the last eighteen months we have witnessed an overwhelming attack launched on a third world country, already devastated by years of war, sanctions and dictatorship, by the planet's leading military powers on concocted pretexts and in violation of international law. This has been followed by a brutal and incompetent occupation, which has unleashed various reactionary forces within the country, and the beginnings of a process of exploitation of the country by western multinationals. The torture carried out by US and UK soldiers does not tarnish our otherwise glorious achievements in Iraq as some would have us believe, it is instead simply another element to the collective punishment to which we have subjected the Iraqi people.

Monday, June 14, 2004

While most of the conservative Left did pretty awfully in last week's local elections, the Independent Working Class Association (IWCA) took three council seats in Oxford. This is a testament to their focus on issues of immediate concern to those in working class communities and their consistent levels of activity, rather than the occasional bursts around election time which are typical of most parties. The BBC tried to attribute their success to the 'anti-war vote', strange given that their manifesto says nothing about the war and their campaigning has focused almost entirely on local issues. They apparently intend "to now build a national organisation to properly build on the huge political potential the IWCA proved it has on June 10th." I for one will follow their progress with interest.
In case anyone's sufficiently boring to be interested the results of Thursday's European Parliament elections are available. The good news is that the BNP failed to win any seats. Additionally George Galloway's Respect Coalition, about which I was more than a little dubious given Galloway's history, the central role of the SWP and the focus on communalist politics, failed to make good on its rhetoric and secure a place in Strasbourg. The Green Party won two seats, less than they had hoped, but hardly a humiliation. While the parties positioning themselves on the "left" achieved only limited gains, the UK Independence Party now have 12 representatives in the European Parliament, which is unfortunate given their reactionary ideology which positions them somewhere to the right of the Tories.

Labour were routed, leading many commentators to conclude that the elections constituted a protest against the war, but my feeling is that while this is probably an oversimplification. The two parties who remained consistently anti-war, the Greens and Respect achieved only limited successes and it is difficult to see what a vote for UKIP (the party of Robert Kilroy-Silk fired from the BBC after anti-Arab remarks).

Of course, other factors could have served to reduce the impact of the anti-war parties. It is possible that the emergence of Respect took votes away from the Greens, however given the coalition's very limited vote, this is not clear. Additionally the Lib-Dems may have picked up some of the anti-war vote as hypocritical as their supposed opposition to the war was and remains. Dr Spencer Fitz-Gibbon the Green Party's media chief remarked, "Over-simplistic reporting of the LibDems' highly equivocal stance over the war has misled millions of people in Britain into thinking the LibDems are an anti-war party."
Charles Kennedy has been saying the LibDems 'strenuously opposed the war', but I don't recall him saying he 'strenuously opposed' it at the time. I recall him saying, and I quote directly: 'We are not the all-out anti-war party.' I recall him mumbling about the case for war 'not having been proven yet' and 'asking Tony Blair some tough questions' and saying he would find it 'difficult to support the war' but I don't remember a single instance of the LibDems saying 'we are opposed to this war for the following reasons' as the Green Party did.

And in the end, of course, the LibDems abandoned all their conditions and all their talk of the case not having been proven, and supported the government's policy on the pretext of 'supporting the troops.' It beats me how you can be opposed to a war yet pledge your 'genuine support' to the means of its execution. I think most people would agree with the Greens that the best way to support the troops would have been not to risk their lives in an illegal war. But because journalists never challenged the LibDems on their somewhat spotted 'anti-war' record, they've probably gained hundreds of thousands of votes, including thousands in London, under false pretences. This is probably the major factor in their having gained a seat.
A complete analysis of the local and Greater London Assembly (GLA) elections which took place on the same day would probably be needed to draw any serious conclusions about the influence of the war on people's voting patterns.

As a caveat to the above I should probably mention that I didn't vote. In part because of the effort needed to get and complete a postal ballot, but primarily because I consider the whole thing a bit pointless. I am something of a EU-sceptic. While I'm all for greater integration with our continental brothers and sisters I do not believe that the top-down, bureaucratic approach embodied by the EU is the way to go about it. Additionally the system is very undemocratic. While the most important body in the EU is the Council of Ministers, made up of ministers with portfolios relevant to the area under discussion from the various member states (ie agriculture ministers in a discussion about the Common Agricultural Policy), day to day decision making lies with the unelected commission. The Parliament has only very limited powers. Of course, there are real questions about the efficacy of voting even at the best of times, but that's a story for another post...

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Looks like the Iraqi fiasco is beginning to have an effect on the US's global deployments. This week saw announcements of the withdrawal of 12,500 troops from South Korea (a third of the 37,000 currently there) and the withdrawal of its two Army divisions in Germany (with plans to replace them with a smaller, more flexible presence). None of this is very surprising given the kicking they are being given in Iraq. It is important that when considering the difficulties faced by US imperialism, progressives do not make the mistake of focusing only on the overt forms, primarily troop deployments and wars, and thus conclude that it has been seriously curtailed.

Since the Vietnam War the standard form which US intervention takes is through proxies, the overt forms of intervention as in Iraq are in fact the exception. These indirect interventions continue apace. Recent months have seen various examples: the presence of over 100 Colombian paramilitaries in Venezuela apparently there to train the Venezuelan army in preparation for a coup to depose the country's president Hugo Chavez; the barely concealed US role in the coup which removed Haitian president Aristide and returned to power the paramilitary thugs who had ruled the country during the early 90s; in the Middle East the US has been a willing accomplice in Sharon's efforts to secure Israeli control over the West Bank by imposing an agreement on the Palestinians; there is also growing evidence of US involvement in the "Rose Revolution" in Georgia which removed President Eduard Shevardnadze.
Voices UK have produced a new briefing examining the "handover of sovereignty" which we are told will take place on June 30, "paying particular attention to the new Interim Government and the 8 June UN resolution endorsing the 'transfer'." This is an absolute must read for anyone interested in the future of Iraq.
It's that time again. Yet another major international football tournament has come around and those of us with no interest in football are supposed to get very excited and express our otherwise subdued patriotism openly. The mass hysteria that always accompanies such events is mildly interesting from a sociological perspective, but otherwise just plain irritating.

The proliferation of St George's flags is the most obvious and thus most irritating expression of this phenomenon. If they were any good, it wouldn't be so bad, but most of them, particularly those seemingly attached to every other car, are just tacky. A subconscious comment on the English nation perhaps? When I went to Denmark, most of the buses were adorned with small Danish flags, but they at least were good quality and looked kind of classy, we apparently can only stretch to bargain basement tack.

It could be worse I suppose. This is not depressing in the same way that the collective obsequiousness that accompanied the death of the Queen Mother and the Jubilee was. Additionally I do think that there is such a thing as an English nation (although I wouldn't care to try and define it), as opposed to the artificial creation that is Britishness. The latter in my opinion being little more than a justification for the ongoing domination of the other British nations by the English. Nonetheless acknowledging the existence of the English nation and thinking we should parade around glorying in St George's flags and our supposed national greatness are two very different things.

Perhaps I wouldn't be so bothered by the whole thing if it was around a genuinely exciting sport. The Rugby World Cup was genuinely entertaining and watching the final in the window of an electronics shop with a large crowd of shoppers was a real experience. Alternatively it's possible I'm just getting bitter in my old age...

Friday, June 11, 2004

There's an interesting article on the BBC website which suggests that the Gaza withdrawal plan (assuming it goes through) will exacerbate unemployment in Gaza (which already stands at 40-60%), beginning with the closure of the Erez Industrial Zone, an industrial park in northern Gaza which provides jobs for 4,000 Palestinians.

The closure is likely to exacerbate the chronic levels of poverty in the territory. Already 86% of households in Gaza receive some form of humanitarian assistance. Indeed, the move was described by Palestinian Minister for Labour, Ghassan Khatib as "collective punishment" and he argued that any move to close the zone should be co-ordinated with the Palestinian Authority and called for international help to set up new jobs in Gaza.

One section of the article merits particular attention:
The Erez zone had been a model of economic co-operation between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israeli businesses, mainly textile factories, had benefited from cheap labour while Palestinians had enjoyed stable employment.

The factories will be moved to southern Israel and owners compensated.
(Note that there is no compensation for the workers who will be condemned to live in poverty as a result of the closure.) With the move of the factories to Israel, the BBC report that Arie Aron, economics professor at Ben Gurion University "warned that while jobs would be created for poor Israelis the factories would struggle to adapt to paying higher wages." Translation: The Palestinians have served as an easily exploitable workforce, providing cheap labour and presumably reducing wages in Israel proper. A strange "model of economic co-operation" by most decent people's standards. This is hardly an unusual phenomenon. The same situation can be witnessed in the numerous Third World countries where the population are exploited by Western multinationals under the aegis of the phenomenon typically described as "globalisation".

Thursday, June 10, 2004

I've written previously about why Iyad Allawi is a dubious choice for the position of Iraqi PM. As Rahul Mahajan notes, "it's now official becuse it's in the [New York] Times" (you'll need to register to read the article, but it's free). The "Paper of Record" had a report which considers information from various intelligence sources who recall his Iraqi national Accord (INA) carrying out bombings and sabotage in Baghdad, although "whether the bombings actually killed any civilians could not be confirmed because, as a former C.I.A. official said, the United States had no significant intelligence sources in Iraq then." In War Plan Iraq, Milan Rai considers the attacks and concludes that they may have killed as many as 100 people.

The article comments that when appinted last week, Allawi claimed
his first priority would be to improve the security situation by stopping bombings and other insurgent attacks in Iraq — an idea several former officials familiar with his past said they found "ironic."

"Send a thief to catch a thief," said Kenneth Pollack, who was an Iran-Iraq military analyst for the C.I.A. during the early 1990's and recalled the sabotage campaign.
There is indeed an horrific irony to the whole thing.

The article also mentions suggestions that "while he was still a member of the ruling Baath Party in the early 1970's, [Allawi] may have spied on Iraqi students studying in London." Insinuating that his role within the party was far from passive, a conclusions which would raise serious questions about his fitness to lead post-Saddam Iraq.

The one thing it doesn't consider is the campaign apparently waged by the INA against the Iraqi National Congress (INC, the umbrella group of anti-Saddam organisations of which the INA was a member). This involved plans for the assasination of INC leader Ahmed Chalabi and an attack on the INC headquarters in Iraqi Kurdistan.

As I've said before, none of this inspires confidence that this man can foster peace, stability or self-determination in Iraq. His recent calls for the "Multinational Force" to support the Interim Government's efforts to rule the country, suggest that his appointment may be much more beneficial for the Americans than for his fellow Iraqis.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Sharon's Gaza withdrawal plan continues to fuel debate. Two rightwingers from the National Religious Party have resigned from the PM's cabinet in protest. On the Left discussion continues as to the motivations behind the move. Uri Averny former member of the Israeli Knesset and co-founder of the peace group Gush Shalom argues that Sharon does not in fact intend to leave Gaza at all. Even if he is wrong his convincing analysis of the likely consequences of a withdrawal from Gaza alongside an ongoing occupation of the West Bank does not make for encouraging reading.
The UN Security Council has unanimously voted for the fourth text of the US/UK resolution on the future of Iraq. I have nothing useful to offer on this myself, but recommend that people check out Rahul Mahajan's analysis of the resolution (which was in fact written before the Security Council vote, although the points remain valid). He concludes that in order to secure the fig-leaf of UN credibility the US has been forced to make various concessions to Iraqi self-determination, which seems at least for the time being a fair assesment.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

The Group of 8 Nations (G8) is made up of the leaders of the world's 7 leading industrial nations and Russia. They hold annual meetings at which they sketch out plans for how the world will be run. As you might expect these plans typically set out plans which serve the interests of the national elites which they represent, rather than the needs of the majority of the world's population. These meetings take place behind closed doors, but have attracted considerable resistance. After the riots which accompanied the G8 meeting in Genoa in 2000, they have gone out of their way to avoid protest. This year they are meeting on Sea Island, 80 miles south of Savannah, USA, which it is of course virtually impossible for protesters to get to. Instead decentralised protests have been called for around the world.

In Nottingham events kicked off with a critical mass around the city centre. This basically involved a load of people with bikes getting together and using their numbers to disrupt the traffic in order to make people aware of the G8 meeting and to protest about the hegemony of the car. The turnout at the event wasn't bad with numbers varying between 15-20 or so. We caused a fair amount of disruption, gave out some leaflets and succeeded, if nothing else, in pissing a few motorists off! While the pace was too slow for my liking it did give me something to do and probably constituted the best exercise I've had in ages. There was talk of more critical masses being held around the city in the future. I look forward to it.
More messing around with the style/design of this thing and I'm finally starting to be happy with it. All posts should now have permalinks, the archives listing is no longer an incomprehensible sea of numbers and I've tweaked the links on the side. Check it out. I'm almost getting good at this stuff...
Wow! The Fahrenheit 9/11 Trailer is now online. This is quite simply a must-see!

Monday, June 07, 2004

After a cabinet meeting described by Ha'aretz as "dramatic" the Israeli government passed Sharon's revised withdrawal plan by 14-7. The Israeli PM had been through various machinations in order to achieve support for the plan, including firing two ministers from the far right National Union, Benyamin Eilon and Avigdor Lieberman. This lead to an almost amusing situation with Elion responding by going into hiding in order to prevent his dismissal letter being delivered to him. As a result, officials had to be sent looking for him to deliver the document. Bizarrely even his dismissal did not prevent him participating in the vote as Israeli law requires 48 hours notice before ministerial dismissals become effective.

It is difficult to be sure how to respond to the decision. Clearly as the only thing on the table it should not be dismissed out of hand, but equally it is important not to get carried away about its significance. While
Appendix A states clearly that "the state of Israel will evacuate settlements in the Gaza Strip... and with the completion of the move by 2005 in the areas that are to be evacuated in the land area of the Gaza Strip there will be no permanent Israeli military presence." (Ha'aretz, 7/6/04)
The first clause of the decision states that "nothing in this decision involves the evacuation of settlements." Additionally Absorption Minister Tzippi Livni noted that "the decision we took does not include agreement to evacuate settlements. Another vote will be needed before evacuation, which will be examined on the basis of the progress of the Palestinians" (Ha'aretz, 7/6/04). It could in the end all amount to little more than hot air, an allegation leveled by some critics.

It seems to me that despite the qualifications inserted into the plan (largely to placate the hardliners) Sharon is quite genuine about his wish to withdraw from Gaza. This should not, however, be mistaken for a sudden attack of conscience, his reasons are strictly pragmatic. In the aftermath of the decision Sharon argued that it "would contribute to [Israel's] security, its political standing, its economy, and to the demographics of the Jewish people in the land of Israel" (Ha'aretz, 7/6/04). The reference to demographics brought to mind Jonathan Freedland's article in the Guardian last week where he argued that the withdrawal plan was driven by concerns about the growing Palestinian population within Israeli controlled territory. He interviewed Sharon's deputy, vice-PM Ehud Olmert who
was pretty explicit about the strategic thinking behind the Gaza plan. It is all about demographics. Within a few years, he explained, there will be an equal number of Arabs and Jews living between the Jordanriver and the Mediterranean Sea - the combined area of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, all currently under Israeli control. In 15 years, thanks to their faster birthrate, the Palestinians will be a majority. "I want to live in a Jewish state," Olmert told me. "I don't want to live in a non-Jewish state." (Guardian, 2/6/04)
The response to this not irrational fear is to attempt to impose a settlement on the Palestinians. Additionally
there would be a second benefit. The world would see what a "painful concession" Israel had made by giving up Gaza, and therefore would look kindly on its retention of key settlement blocs on the West Bank. Olmert told one rightwing Israeli newspaper last week that he saw his role as "trying to guard" those blocs: the implication being that Gaza is the necessary price. (Guardian, 2/6/04)
As ever in the calculations of the powerful the needs of the Palestinians are more or less irrelevant.
I have written about the ethnic cleanising taking place in Darfur, Western Sudan, previously. Check out this article for a good overview of the situation (also putting it into context with events elsewhere in Sudan) which has by all accounts deteriorated in the period since the article was written. US Agency for International Development (USAID) chief Andrew Natsios recently said, "We estimate right now if we get relief in, we'll lose a third of a million people, and if we don't the death rates could be dramatically higher, approaching a million people." There are no easy answers to the problems this situation raises, but the consequences of inaction seem stark.
So, Ronald Reagan's dead. What a shame. Roll on Thatcher.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Just to clarify a point of confusion. Iyad Allawi who I have written about previously is to be appointed as Iraq's new Prime Minister, however this does not mean that he is to run the country as I had assumed and may have mistakenly implied. Instead the big cheese is to be the new president, Sheikh Ghazi Al-Yawer, although even he will have only limited powers. My bad.

That said, the presence of an ex-Ba'athist, apparently implicated in terrorist attacks against fellow anti-Saddamists, with close links to the CIA and presumably MI6, at such an important position within the Interim Government does not bode well for Iraq's future.
The US and UK have presented a new draft of the resolution which will map the course of Iraq's future after the June 30 "handover of sovereignty" to the UN Security Council. I don't have time to read through it and/or write anything of value at the moment, but in the meantime check out Zeynep Toufe's incisive thoughts.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

The situation in Darfur in western Sudan is serious and deteriorating. Janjaweed Arab militia, financed by the Sudanese government in Khartoun have killed thousands of Darfur people, displaced 1 million within Sudan and forced 20,000 to flee to neighbouring Chad. Many of those who remain are stuck in settlements described by Nicholas D. Kristof as being "like concentration camps". He describes the conditions in one such camp in the town of Kailek:
Eighty percent of the children are malnourished, there are no toilets, and girls are taken away each night by the guards to be raped. As inmates starve, food aid is diverted by guards to feed their camels.
He continues, quoting a UN report on the situation:
The standard threshold for an "emergency" is one death per 10,000 people per day, but people in Kailek are dying at a staggering 41 per 10,000 per day - and for children under 5, the rate is 147 per 10,000 per day. "Children suffering from malnutrition, diarrhea, dehydration and other symptoms of the conditions under which they are being held live in filth, directly exposed to the sun," the report says.
He continues to detail the "strategy of systematic and deliberate starvation" enforced by the government and its proxies on the ground. Which will contribute to deaths from malnutrition in the region which the US Agency for International Development calculates will this year number anywhere between 10,000 and half a million.

Kristof argues that this policy, pursued so Arabs can take the land, constitutes genocide under the Genocide Convention which obliges nations to act to stop it. This of course has not happened. Our Glorious Leaders who only a year ago were so concerned about the suffering of the Iraqi people have said little on the matter and done less.

A cursory perusal of my thoughts on the Iraq war should make it clear that I am not a big fan of military intervention. It is typically pursued in the interests not of the supposed beneficiaries, but those carrying it out and often worsens the situation. This does not mean I reject it out of hand, I am not an absolute pacifist. Instead anyone professing to be engaging in "humanitarian intervention" must demonstrate that they have considered thoroughly the likely consequences of their actions. It must be likely that the situation in the aftermath of intervention will be substantially better (as opposed to superficially as in Iraq with the removal of Saddam, but the emergence of various new problems or the exacerbation of old ones) than would be the case if that action was not carried out. Furthermore all non-military options should be attempted before military force is resorted to.

Fortunately in Sudan there is chance that non-military intervention could go a long way to mitigating the situation. Kristof argues,
If Bush would step up to the cameras and denounce this genocide, if he would send Secretary of State Colin Powell to the Chad-Sudan border, if he would telephone Sudan's president again to demand humanitarian access to the concentration camps, he might save hundreds of thousands of lives.
Recent, and apparently successful, American intervention in peace talks in Sudan suggest this is not an unrealistic hope. While the Bush Administration has yet to take these elementary steps it has still gone further than just about any other government or the UN has done, which should give them pause. After all the rhetoric during the anniversary of the Rwandan genocide about ensuring it never happened again it would be tragic if that was exactly what occurred. History may not be so forgiving the second time...
The Independent Working Class Association (IWCA) were set up largely by lefties disillusioned with the Left which they considered (quite rightly in my opinion) had abandoned the working class, once its key constituency. I recommend this interview with their candidate for London Mayor Lorna Reid, which looks at some of their central policies and considers the organisation's relationship to the more traditional Left. While I remain dubious about the efficacy, and indeed wisdom, of engaging in electoral politics, much of what she has to say seems common sense and merits extensive consideration.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

In Web of Deceit, Mark Curtis details the history of British imperialism (although I don't think he uses that term) since the Second World War. He details a long list of brutality including the repression of the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya, the expulsion of the Ilois of Diego Garcia, military intervention in Oman and support for the US and repressive governments around the world. He argues that this is concealed in part by the propagandist assertion that Britain's role in the world is fundamentally benevolent. The UK might make mistakes and/or occasionally be misled, but its intentions are good. This flies in the face of the reality he documents, but is a powerful and important propaganda tool.

This can be seen in much of the coverage of the British role in Iraq. Stories about beret-wearing British soldiers befriending the Basra locals while their US counterparts cower within their bases, limiting their interaction with the Iraqi populace to violent exchanges, have been common currency in the mainstream media in this country for well-over a year. It is becoming increasingly clear that this is, of course, not true.

The photos published in the Daily Mirror have been dismissed as fakes. This has been used to insinuate that British soldiers do not and have not been engaging in torture. However Kamil Mahdi notes that
apparently genuine photographs have been in the hands of police and the Ministry of Defence's special investigation branch since at least May 2003. At that time, an 18-year-old member of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, Gary Bartlam, was detained by Warwickshire police when the film he took to be developed revealed images of British soldiers engaged in torture that is remarkably similar to that practised by US troops and mercenaries at Abu Ghraib.
This is only one report among many. Despite this there has been "no report equivalent to that of General Taguba of the US has been made available, and investigations are conducted in secrecy, if at all. There have been no hearings in which parliamentary or other committees question publicly and government and military officials." A strange form of benevolence and humanitarianism.

The refusal to face up to Britain's role in atrocities in Iraq is obvious not only among those who supported the invasion, but even among sections of the anti-war movement. It is easy to criticise George Bush and his henchmen, facing up to the crimes of your own government and fellow citizens is more difficult. As Jonathan Freedland noted a few weeks ago at the height of the torture scandal,
It is no defence to say we were only following George Bush's orders. We are in Iraq by the choice of our own democratic government. We have to face that fact - and face ourselves.
I referred to the same quote in a post a while back and commented that to do anything else would be moral cowardice. That still seems to me to be an essentially accurate assessment.
Messed around with the style of this thing a bit, doubtless it'll change again in a few months when I get bored with the new black, but until then... enjoy!
Found a very interesting article on the Iraqi National Accord (INA), of which Iyad Allawi the new Iraqi PM, is General Secretary and co-founder. It dates from January 2003, but what it has to say about the INA remains relevant, particularly with Allawi now assuming power. Found this courtesy of the Disinfopedia, which is also worth checking out.
Thought of the day (well yesterday, to be honest) by Rahul Mahajan:
I am sometimes asked, "Do you think there's any hope or is it already too late?" The person asking doesn't have to specify the end of oil, global warming, the battle of Gog and Magog, the building of the Third Temple -- again, it's taken as given that, as Barry McGuire sang in 1965, "we're on the eve of destruction."

Anyway, what I say, to them and to you, is this. It's the wrong question. Hope leaks out every day when we don't take steps to turn the world around. It's never completely gone, but the flip-side is this: you can never recover what was already lost. Whatever catastrophes the future holds for us -- and there are undoubtedly some -- they can be mitigated by a change of course, but it is not possible to start over ab initio, to make things as if we had never started wrecking the planet. Translation: the sooner we get off our asses the better.
Couldn't have put it better myself.

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