the Disillusioned kid: September 2005
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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Trials and Tribulations, Part 2.

The trial of the 15 men accused by the Uzbek government of orchestrating violence in the eastern town of Andijan in May has entered its second week. As I've noted previously the defendants have "confessed" to all the charges, but not because they've been tortured. (Why would anybody even suggest such a thing?!) The trial has taken an intriguing turn, however, with two of the defendants implicating the US in the alleged "plot". This is particularly interesting because it has been suggested that Tavalbek Khozhiyev/Tavakalbek Hojiev, who claimed that the US had financially supported the uprising, isn't a real person, which would seem to detract from his credibility somewhat.

Credibility would have seemed to be something the trial lacked from day one, but inspite of this the Uzbek government have made much in official propaganda of the openess of the trial to journalists, diplomats, international organisations and human rights advocates. In reality they've been less than keen on allowing local human rights activist Surat Ikramov to attend the trial despite his name being on a list of monitors provided to authorities by Human Rights Watch. Further, an article on suggests that only handpicked journalists have been allowed into the trial. The article also alleges that an unspecified number of human rights advocates had been detained outside the Supreme Court, loaded onto buses and driven away. Their colleagues suggest that the detainees were either placed under house arrrest or confined in mental hospitals.

You have to wonder how much longer all this nonsense can go on for. Perhaps Karimov is trying to bore his people into submission? I'm probably giving him too much credit. I bet he actually believes this crap.

Tasers Safe After All

I thought I'd run out of things to say about tasers, but not only do the weapons carry a risk of long-term harm - perhaps even death - and facilitate police brutality, they may also be a fire hazard. Police in Florida (which reportedly leads the US in taser associated fatalities) used one of the devices against a suspect (used, apparently, not because he posed a threat to anybody but because he was running away), in the process causing his shirt to catch fire:
"I wish I knew more details," a Taser spokesman told the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post. The spokesman said a combustible such as gasoline or the alcohol in pepper spray may have sparked the fire.
Well that's alright then. The odds of tasers and pepper spray being present in the same location must be... Oh, not very high at all.

Monday, September 26, 2005

God is an Animal Liberationist

It turns out that all the religious wingnuts claiming that God or Allah caused Hurricane Katrina as punishment for the US's multitude sins are wrong. The Almighty is in fact an animal liberationist. Quite a claim you say (particularly coming from an atheist)? Well let me explain.

The US Navy has been training dolphins for military missions since Vietnam. More recently the focus of their training has been on anti-terrorist operations. The Fifth fleet, for instance, is protected by "the Mk 6 anti-swimmer dolphin system" (previously this role had been fulfilled by a similarly trained group of sealions). The use of dolphins for such operations and the training methods which the Navy is alleged to use (including withholding food, physical beatings and implanting electrodes) have been strongly criticised, which is perhaps why the Navy tends to keep quiet about the whole thing.

The relevance of Katrina in all this is the suspicion that the Hurricane may have liberated 36 dolphins armed with poisoned darts. It has been suggested that these escapees could pose a threat to divers, who resemble the trainers who have simulated terrorists in exercises, or surfers who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Although the darts are only meant to put the target to sleep in order to enable subsequent "interrogation", there are concerns about what would happen if a victim were shot and not found for several hours.

The Navy has refused to confirm that the dolphins are missing, but suspicions were aroused after the Navy helped recover eight dolphins who had been swept from the Marine Life Oceanarium. While the recovery itself is unremarkable, the fact that the dolphins were not returned until they had been examined by Navy scientists piqued the curiosity of a number of observers who believe that they wanted to ensure that the dolphins were not there's.

The story is not without precedent. In 2003 Takoma, one of the Navy's minesweeping dolphins which had been deployed to Iraq decided to go AWOL. There are suggestions, however, that the US has accounted for this eventuality. The beaching in France of 22 dolphins with holes in their necks has led to claims that military-trained dolphins may be fitted with remote-controlled explosive in case they "deserted".

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Bloggers = Real People, Anti-War = Marches

Since I've started blogging I've made a number of internet friends, many of them people I never expect to have the good fortune to meet. I was more than a little surprised then to be emailed by Pranjal Tiwari of In the Water fame who was coming over to the UK and wanted to meet up. Although somewhat short of time at the moment (I've got a new job) we arranged to rendevous at the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) organised demo in London yesterday.

I turned up early and while wandering around happened to run into the guys from Nottingham with the ever reliable white banner. It was nice to catch up with people who I haven't seen in a few months, although the low turnout from the city (they barely half filled a coach) was somewhat disappointing. Clearly they can't cope without me ;)As the assigned time approached, I headed off to meet up with Pranjal. With my frankly awful directions meeting turned out to be something of a challenge, but things did eventually work out. Pranjal was there with his brother and Erika (who incidentally happens to be the purveyor of The Shadow Gallery). Once we'd all got over the shock of discovering that we weren't a figure of each other's fevered imaginations we hit it off and amused ourselves at the expense of the assembled lefty sects (who were particularly hard to avoid in the confined space where the march was assembling). After a while the march moved off and we joined the throng.

I can't really think of much to say about the march itself which was singularly uneventful, although the new route (from Parliament to Hyde Park rather than the more usual Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square) did offer some excitement. (Hint: that's sarcasm.) One of the striking things was the prevalence of the crazies in the form of conspiracy theorists who continue to allege that 9/11 was "an inside job" (carried out by those inside the WTC?!) and now claim that 7/7 had "all the hallmarks of an MI6 operation". I'd always assumed that there were only a handful of such people making a nuisance of themselves on the internet, but apparently there are quite a few of them. Which is a shame. Frankly they were less irritating on the internet, at least then there wasn't much chance of me being associated with such nutjobs. (I can't be bothered to rehash my views on conspiracy theories here, but if you're interested try this for size.)

The other group of crazies in attendance weren't so obvious until we got to the rally at the end, when Hizb ut-Tahrir (HUT, the Party of Liberation) appeared in force. Facing a government crackdown in the aftermath of 7/7 HUT seem to have moved away from their confrontational position vis-a-vis the StWC. In the past they produced stickers proclaiming "Don't Stop the War Except with Islamic Politics," but now they seemed to be looking for support from the seccularists they had previously opposed so vociferously to help defend them against the government backlash. As I've said before, I oppose the proposed ban on the party, but this doesn't mean I support the politics of this religious fundamentalist party, nor that I feel particularly comfortable about finding myself marching with them.

At the rally we encountered the Dalek pictured with Pranjal below (the Dalek's the one on the left). There were also a number of other robots in attendance in the form of paper sellers and other apparatchiks. (Geekish parenthetical aside: Daleks are actually cyborgs, but I couldn't pass up such an easy sideswipe.) We sat around and listened to a few of the speakers, but the sound system wasn't great (despite having cost something in the order of £25,000!) making the speeches difficult to hear. In any case we got bored quickly and decided to go and get some food and a drink or two.

Organisers (and a certain blogger) claim that 100,000 people took part. Frankly this is bollocks. My own estimate was closer to 20,000. Even if I was massively out (hardly an unrealistic possibility) participation didn't even approach six figures. Whatever the actual figure I have little doubt that the demo was a fraction of the size of the last such event in March. The question of numbers on demonstrations has been a recurring disagreement I've had with the StWC. I don't think I've been on one of their marches and not felt that their estimates were an exaggeration, sometimes ridiculously so.

When I've raised this issue with StWC supporters (I should stress here that while living in Nottingham I was an active member of Nottingham StWC and as such my criticisms should not intended to be taken as a criticism of the Coalition and its supporters in toto) I typically received three responses. Some acknowledged the exaggeration, but felt powerless to do anything about it, which more or less reflects my own position. Some were sufficiently convinced believers that they actually accepted the numbers given by the movement's (largely self-appointed) leadership, which is not really something I was able to argue with. The third response was to suggest that an accurate count of participation was unimportant, indeed some people suggested that we should seek to put the best spin on numers we could regardless of our own personal assesment. It is this position with which I have the greatest problems.

One of the most important aspects (if not the most important aspect) of anti-war activity is attempting to convert the thus far unconvinced. This can be done in various ways, but crucial to any efforts in this regard is that those with whom we are engaging believe what we tell them. If we cannot even be honest with people about something as insignificant as numbers on a demo, why should we expect them to believe us when we tell them about the siutation in Iraq?

For what it's worth, I think that the StWC's self-deception (I don't think that they're lying to anyone but themselves) over the participation in its marches stems from an unhealthy fascination with numbers. They have come to believe that if they just put enough people on the streets the government will cave and Iraq will be liberated. The fact that the massive demonstration of February 15 (which may have numbered anywhere from 750,000-2 million) failed to prevent the invasion of Iraq hasn't impacted on this conviction. Their apparent decision to have one demo every six months or so (one in March marking the anniversary of the invasion and one in September to co-incide with the Labour Party Conference) is testament to this belief.

The truth, of course, is that marches in London, no matter how big, aren't going to be any more succesful at ending the occupation than they were at stopping the invasion. While they have a role to play they should be just one tactic in a gamut running from street stalls in local communities, through rallies in towns around the country and on to direct action against appropriate targets. I've discussed what such a strategy might entail before and no doubt I'll have to continue doing so for some time.

Update: Erika tells her side of the story here.

Trials and Tribulations

The trial of 15 men accused by the Uzbek government of orchestrating an armed uprising in the eastern town of Andijan began on Tuesday. The defendants stand accused of plotting an Islamic coup and are face charges of terrorism, possession of ilegal weapons, murder, hostage taking and freeing prisoners. Among the defendants are three citizens of Kyrgyzstan which neighbours Uzbekistan and is alleged by the Uzbek government to have provided at least implicit support to those involved in the "plot", a charge the Kyrgyz government reject vociferously. If found guilty the defendants face the death penalty or long prison sentences.

The trial follows violence in Andijan resulting from attempt to release a number of business men being held by authorities in the town. In response the government sent in the army. The Karimov regime claims that these forces killed a number of "terrorists", but outside of Uzbekistan this story is not widely taken seriously (although Dr Shirin Akiner has controversially drawn many of the same conclusions), more credence being given to the accounts of refugees from Andijan and other eyewitnesses such as reporter Galima Bukharbaeva (subsequently denounced by the regime and forced to leave the country) who allege that the army used massive force and massacred civillians, even when any chance of resistance had been crushed.

Critics of the Karimov regime suggest that the trial is following an established pattern and are unsurprised by the fact that all 15 defendants have pleaded guilty, noting that in terrorism trials defendants are always found guilty. Some have alleged that confessions have been coerced through torture, a claim that the defendants themselves deny for all that shows. Quite why this need last a month, as it apparently will, is unclear. I'd always assumed show trials need only be perfunctory affairs.

This trial is likely to be the first of a series. Investigators told a Parliamentary commission that they were "investigating" another 106 people alleged to have been involved in events in Andijan. The outcome in each and every trial is a foregone conclusion, which is why human rights organisations greeted the commencement of this first trial by calling for an international investigation into what happened at Andijan. Which is not, I would suggest, a bad idea.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Bad To Worse

As if torture, mass murder, police brutality and environmental devastation weren't bad enough, Uzbeks have had to deal with Boris Johnson as well. The politician-cum-celebrity has just returned from holidaying there.

Date For Your Diary

Nella would like you to know that there is a day of action against McDick's coming up in October. That is all.


Like free porn? Like killing people? Like revelling in the miseries of the people who's collective neck your boot is crushing? If so then, by a fortuitous coincidence, you can now satiate your desires on all three fronts thanks to a porn-site offering free access to its wares in exchange for US soldiers posting pictures of their handywork. (Check out the contents of Lenin's brown bag if you feel the need to see for yourself, but be warned they are *not* for the faint-hearted.) This is sick on so many levels I don't even know where to start...

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Debating Society

Has anyone else noticed the massive rhetorical shift which has taken place in the "debate" about race and racial integration in the UK? In the aftermath of 7/7 the in thing for the trendy opinion writer to do was hold up the US as a model which we should seek to emulate. Boris Johnson, for instance,claimed,
Americans all understand instinctively that they are equal citizens of the greatest country on earth, and they all have an equal chance of rising to the top of that country.
Now, however, with everyone jumping on the Trevor Phillips "ghetto" bandwagon (which should not, I stress, be dismissed out of hand) everyone's gone the other way. The BBC reports, for example, that Constitutional Affairs Minister Harriet
Harman told the Independent that some of Britain's black and poor communities were sinking into the same underclass exposed in the US by Hurricane Katrina.

"We don't want to get into a situation like America, but if you look at the figures we are already looking like America," she told The Independent.

The Sunday Times says Mr Phillips will voice his fears of a "New Orleans-style Britain of passively coexisting ethnic and religious communities, eyeing each other over the fences of our differences".
While I find the new interpretation of the US more realistic I'd be interested to see what the Johnson et al have to say for themselves. And I've never been interested in what they have to say before.

Here We Go Again...

A lawsuit filed in the US yesterday alleges (via) that police in Chicago beat and tasered a mentally retarded man:
On Aug. 25, 54-year-old Alfredo Lee Florez was stepping out of his neighbor's house when plainclothes policemen jumped out of their car, dragged him to the ground, shot him with three taser probes and beat him while a dozen community members shouted that he was retarded and couldn't understand them, witnesses say.

"It's an outrage that a mentally disabled man, one of the most vulnerable members of society, would be attacked, completely unprovoked, by the very people charged with serving and protecting him," said Blake Horwitz, the attorney for Mr. Florez and his mother, Luella Florez.

Around 1 p.m. that day Mr. Florez, who is visibly disabled, walked two doors down S. Aberdeen St. for a bag to bring groceries home from the church, as he did every Thursday since his mother is wheelchair-bound. When he saw the police he tried to go back inside his neighbor's house.

The police then jumped out of their car to apprehend Mr. Florez, who kept shouting, "What are you doing to me?" Alerted by his screams, Mr. Florez's neighbors gathered in the yard to plead with the police to stop. A reverend and family friend ran up to the porch while Mr. Florez's younger brother, also mentally retarded, begged them to quit hurting his brother.

They watched as police shot three taser wires into Mr. Florez’s back. After three to four minutes of electrical current going through his body, Mr. Florez crumpled, only to be beat further by uniformed police responding to a call for backup. He was cuffed, transported to the hospital and later released. The police filed no charges against him.

Florez's neighbors said the uniformed police who patrol the neighborhood know the man is harmless and leave him alone. Detectives are responsible for the beating, they say, leaving Mr. Florez too scared to go anywhere by himself. Mrs. Florez said she welcomed the filing of the lawsuit because she fears that if the police are not called to account, "he'll be dead soon."

"This is a clear case of excessive force," Mr. Horwitz said. "Tasers are supposed to be an alternative to deadly force, not a cattle prod."
Sounds like another one for the "non-lethal alternative" to firearms file.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

All's Well In Iraq, Part 2.

With all this talk about Iraqi security forces "handing over" the two Britons in their custody to "militias" it is worth pointing out that increasingly the the militias and the police are one and the same. This being the case, John Reid's positive assesment of the occupation seems perverse:
The defence secretary was upbeat about the state of Iraqi security forces generally, saying they now outnumbered multi-national troops in the country for the first time since the invasion.
At every stage the Anglo-American occupation of Iraq has been a disaster for the Iraqi people. Increasingly it's becoming a disaster for the occupying powers. Let's admit we were wrong and get the fuck out.

[Insert plug for September 24 demo here]

Monday, September 19, 2005

Touched By His Noodly Appendage

More on the Flying Spaghetti Monster from the Prophet Bobby Henderson:
GM: Do you feel that those who support Intelligent Design are merely copying your religion's theories or are their concerns legitimately similar to yours?

BH: There are a lot of similarities between ID and FSM, that is true. However, I think FSM does a better job of explaining what would motivate the creator to go to so much trouble to change our scientific results in order to make the universe appear older than it truly is. Tampering with our radioisotope measurements, geographic observations and, perhaps most impressive, placing individual photons enroute to earth, suitably redshifted, in an effort to mislead us is not only an act of an intelligent maker, but also an anarchistic, mischevious one. It is for this reason that we believe pirates must be His Chosen subjects, as their personality perfectly embodies the mischevious spirit of the FSM. Virtually no field of science goes untouched by His Noodly Appendage.
The Prophet's words can be read in their full glory here.

Yes Foreign Minister

Yes Minister famously asserted, "The first rule of politics: never believe anything until it's been officially denied." But that's only a sitcom, right? Right?

All's Well In Iraq

With the media coverage of the arrest of two British soldiers by Iraqi authorities focusing on the resulting violence, nobody seems interested in what Britain's apparent decision to dispatch tanks to "rescue" the pair from Iraqi security forces - who were holding them for firing on police - says about the regard in which Britain holds Iraqi sovereignty.

*hint hint*

In case you've forgotten, the documentary about Craig Murray's unsuccesful electoral campaign is on BBC2 this Wednesday at 7pm. To pique your interest, there's an interview of the man himself by the show's producer John Sweeney available over at Murray's blog. Read it, if only for the line, "Being a sexual pervert, a crook or a drunk has never been an impediment to a fine career in the Foreign Office."

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Geekery V2.0

I read lots of stuff on the internet, much of it rubbish, but some of it very good. Only a fraction of the good stuff actually makes it into a post on here. The rest of it is simply lost, both to me and my burdgeoning readership. This need continue no longer, however. I've started using a tool which allows me to bookmark links online. I've even spliced the feed so that those of you who subscribe to this blog via Feedburner will get a daily compilation of links. At least I think that's what I've done...

Tony Blair is a Bloodthirsty, Lying Bastard

OK, so I'm paraphrasing, but only slightly.

Men Are From Earth, Women Are From Earth

There's been an awful lot of guff written over the years about the supposed psychological differences between men and women. You know the kind of thing I'm talking about. Frankly I never understood why anybody bought into it, it turns out that my cynicism has been vindicated by a new study which
looked at 120 traits including personality, communication skills, thinking power and leadership potential and found that while there were some differences, they were mostly so small as to be statistically irrelevant.

The American study found significant differences in only 22% of traits. These included sexual behaviour, where men were less willing to show commitment, and in aggression — men were more prone to anger. Men were also, the psychologists found, better at skills involving co-ordination such as throwing.

Janet Shibley Hyde, professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, who led the study, said: "Popular media have portrayed men and women as psychologically different as two planets — Mars and Venus — but these differences are vastly overestimated. The two sexes are more similar in personality, communication cognitive ability and leadership than realised."

Hyde’s research, published today in the American Psychologist, collected the results of 46 so-called meta-analyses in which traits had been closely examined for sex differences. These studies themselves combine the results of many research projects. Such an approach has the advantage of bringing together huge amounts of data and can give a much better overall result, especially in areas such as psychology where traits are subtle and hard to measure.


Hyde analysed the studies by recalculating the data from them so they were comparable. In 30% of the traits analysed, she found almost no difference that was statistically significant between men and women, while there were only small differences in another 48%. "This means 78% of potential gender differences are small or close to zero," she said.
Hyde attributes many of the apparent differences to gender stereotyping which she suggested (quite correctly in my opinion) "permeated western culture and was damaging for society and individuals":
"According to these stereotypes boys, for example, are better at maths than girls," she said. "Research shows that because of this, mathematically talented girls may be overlooked by teachers and parents."
The journalists reporting on the story for the Sunday Times perhaps ironically felt the need to end the article with an idiotic comment from a male:
David Schmitt, professor of psychology at Bradley University, Illinois, who specialises in gender differences, said there were real psychological differences between the sexes but these were often exaggerated.

"Overinflated stereotypes are limiting, but there are still deep biological differences," said Schmitt. "Gender differences in childhood, such as boys playing with boys’ toys, demonstrate that gender differences do genuinely exist."
Got that? "Deep biological differences" can be ascertained by the toys children play with. The influence of gender stereotyping on the toys children are given has ansolutely nothing to do with it.

You Know Something's Wrong When...'re accused of being gung ho by the SAS.


I've been playing around with Google's new blog search and frankly I'm not impressed. Searching for "anarchism" turns up various relevant results, but most of them are from months ago. Ditto "Uzbekistan". Surely the point of blogs is that they are relevant and up to date? This is something Technorati and Blogpulse seem to understand much better with their chronological list of search results. If I was less tired I'd also comment on Google's efforts to take over the world, but it's getting late.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

We'll Always Have Parris

Matthew Parris is one of those columnists who has long periods of crushing medicority interspersed by occasional falshes of brilliance. His column in today's Times on proposed anti-terror legislation is one of those flashes. While I think he's too easy on Charles Clarke (focusing his ire on Tony Blair), the piece says just about everything I would've if I wasn't such a half-arsed writer.

The Chagossian Diaspora

The Blogheads amongst you will no doubt already be familiar with concept of a blog carnival, regular themed postings hosted on participating weblogs which link to the best (or occasionally worst) posts dealing with the Carnival's theme. There are a multitude of succesful examples including the Carnivals of the Uncapitalists and the Godless and probably at least as many failures. One of the latest attempts is J. Otto Pohl's Mini Carnival of the Diasporas. Helpfully he offers a succinct definition of the concept of diaspora, which is one of those terms that's used quite often, but which is probably quite difficult to tie down.
I consider a diaspora to be a culturally defined group of people living outside their historic homeland that have maintained a transgenerational connection to that homeland. These ties can be cultural, political or even just psychological. But, they do prevent total assimilation of these groups into their host populations and continue to mark them as being parts of larger communities across international boundries.
Pohl notes that "the prototypical diaspora group are the Jews," but other examples include the Armenians, Indians and the Palestinians.

I would like to suggest that the term could also be applied to the Chagossians (also known as the Ilois), expelled from their island homes on the Chagos Archipelago by the British Government in order to make way for a US military base. The Chagossian community is relatively small, probably numbering around 4,500 and is spread between Mauritius (where most of the islanders were taken), the Seychelles and the UK.

For many years the British Government sought to defend its policy vis-a-vis the Chagossians by suggesting that they by means of what historian Mark Curtis has described as “the giant lie at the heart of British policy... that the Chagossians were never permanent inhabitants of the islands but simply ‘contract labourers.’” In a secret note to Prime Minister Harold Wilson in 1969, Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart noted that it would be helpful “if we can present any move as a change of employment for contract workers rather than as a population resettlement.” This was a fiction maintained by successive governments until recently. In fact, as the government now admits, there was in fact a settled population and many of the Chagossians were fifth-generation islanders, descended from slaves brought to Diego Garcia, the largest island in the Archipelago, by the French colonists in 1776.

Over time the Chagossians had come to develop their own culture alongside their own distinctive Creole alnguage. Their social system was matriachal - presumably a legacy of the leper colony established on the island by the French, because women survive the diesease better than men. The islanders were largely Christian and broadly Catholic. There was a church on the island made from coral rock. Over time as the population grew it spread to other islands in the Archipelago, although visits between the islands were limited by the distances between them. Although there was a schoolhouse on Diego Garcia, there was little in the way of formal education and the islanders apparently had no understanding of a cash economy. This way of life continued largely undistrubed until the 1960s when the US decided it wanted a base on the island.

The removal of the islanders is something I've written about before and not really the focus of this post and so it will suffice to say that the Chagossians did not by any means leave voluntarily. Most of the Chagossians were dumped on the quaysude at Port Louis Mauritius. They were given no support and had to find what accomodation they could. Most ended up in slums, some even in animal huts. A handful of islanders who held a sit-in on the boat bringing them to Maurititus received some compensation, much to the chagrin of earlier exiles. Mauritius was already racked by overcrowding and high unemployment and unsurprisingly the newcomers were not exactly made to feel welcome. As a result of their situation, rates of alcoholism, drug use and even suicide were chronic. Many of the islanders died, whether at their own hand or from malnutrition.

Tragically the situation in which most Chagossian live has barely improved in the intervening period. Unemployment amongst Chagossians runs at around 60% compared to a national average in Mauritius of 4%, while Chagossian illiteracy is 45% and Mauritian 15%. Levels of drug abuse, alcoholism, prostitution and suicide are similarly high. John Pilger's recent (and recommended) documentary Stealing A Nation included a section where he visited a family who had been filmed in 1982 living in abject poverty with 25 sleeping in shifts in one room. Twenty-two years later he finds them in the same house, in much the same conditions. The Chagossians, however, have not resigned themselves to their plight and continue to struggle for their rights. Pilger expresses admiration for the elderly women who are at the forefront of the struggle, participating in protests outside the British High Commission. Their fight has not been entirely succesful, yielding some compensation (although in practice this did little to lessen the plight of most recipients) and a High Court victory, which declared their expulsion illegal.

Many of the islanders want to return to their island homes, something the British Government has used a series of machinations to prevent. Even organising a visit by a contingent of Chagossians to their relatives' graves, agreed by then Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell in November last year has proved difficult enough. In light of this, a number of Chagossians have made the decision to come to the UK in the hope of finding a better life. Despite having British citizenship the government refused to do anything for them and local councils were forced to fill their gap, something they only conceded after the issue was brought before the courts.

The plight of the Chagossians remains little-known and the size of their community means that they are considerably less politically influential than many other disaporic groups. Nevertheless, it is important that their experiences and their struggle not be airbrushed from history.

Charles Clarke is a Lying, Racist Bastard

The detention pending deportation of a number of Algerians accused of involvement in the "ricin plot" is interesting not only because of its convenient timing, but because - as some of you may recall - the aforementioned "plot" was bullshit.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Marvelling at the Beautiful Machine

Apparently UK Watch has reached its 1,000th article, which is quite an acheivement. Personally I think the site is an invaluable resource. Those running the site have also been kind (misguided?) enough to post a number of pieces by yours truly. Here's to the next 1,000!

Are They Just Tasing Us?

There are signs that the much needed public debate on the use of tasers by the police may be beginning. Although the issue has received limited coverage in the mainstream media, it seems to have been picked up by the local press (surveyed via Google News) and every article contains at least a sentence (and often much more) on the potential dangers. An article from the Liverpool Daily Post (about which I know precisely nought) even offers both sides the space to express their opinion on suggestions by Merseyside's Cheif Constable that the weapons be issued to every officer on Merseyside. There is some contextual background, an argument for such an introduction by Ian Leyland, secretary of the Merseyside Police Federation (essentailly a police trade union) and an argument against by Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK. You might be able to guess where my sympathies lie, but those of you interested in finding out more could do worse than starting here.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Terrorism Billing

There is atradition in this country that after major terrorist incidents the government passes a piece of anti-terrorist legislation which will we are told ensure that such attrocities do not happen again. Of course, they do and we then continue this game passing a new piece of legislation which will bide us over until the next attack. Each iteration of this process involves the loss of hard-fought for civil liberties. It was inevitable after the July 7 and 21 attacks (if the latter merits such a label) that we would see the latest installment in this game and the government have now released a draft of the latest piece of legislation imaginatively called the Terrorism Bill (pdf, via).

As is so often the case with legal draftsmanship, the Bill is hardly a gripping read. Nevertheless it does contain a number of provisions which merit close attention. As yet I've only skimmed it, but this sample seems particularly noteworthy (and falls at the very start of the act making it easy to find even for the lazy amongst us):
(1) A person commits an offence if
(a) he publishes a statement or causes another to publish a statement on his behalf;
(b) the statement glorifies, exalts or celebrates the commission, preparation or instigation (whether in the past, in the future or generally) of acts of terrorism; and
(c) the circumstances and manner of the statement's publication (taken together with its contents) are such that it would be reasonable for members of the public to whom it is published to assume that the statement expresses the views of that person or has his endorsement.
Got that? I can't find a definition of terrorism in the act, so presumably the new Bill will use the one set out in the Terrorism Act 2000. In case any of you have forgotten that reads thus:
1. - (1) In this Act "terrorism" means the use or threat of action where-
(a) the action falls within subsection (2),
(b) the use or threat is designed to influence the government or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and
(c) the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause.
(2) Action falls within this subsection if it-
(a) involves serious violence against a person,
(b) involves serious damage to property,
(c) endangers a person's life, other than that of the person committing the action,
(d) creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public, or
(e) is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system.
(3) The use or threat of action falling within subsection (2) which involves the use of firearms or explosives is terrorism whether or not subsection (1)(b) is satisfied.
A pretty wide defintion I'm sure you'll agree. Much wider, I suspect, than most people's personal definitions. Many critics have suggested that this definition would seem to encompass anti-GM activists tearing up crops. The action in which they engage probably constitutes "serious damage to property," the crops being the property of the farmer or perhaps the biotech company who created it and they clearly do it in order to "influence the government" and to advance a "political cause". If this is a correct reading of the TA2000 definition and the new Bill accepts this then are we to conclude that anybody "glorifies, exalts or celebrates the commission, preparation or instigation" of crop trashings could face prosecution under the new legislation?

To be sure, no anti-GM campaigners have been prosecuted under the TA2000 - yet. The role of "creep" within the law is hardly undheard of, however. Acts often get used in situations radically different from those for which they were intended. Witness the use of Asbos against suicidal depressives to prevent them trying to take their own lives. Indeed, section 44 of the TA2000 was used against anti-DSEi protesters in 2002 in order that the police could search people; a strange choice given that Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 gives them most of the same powers and would have rested on a much firmer legal base (i.e. nobody seriously believed that there was a terrorist threat to the arms fair, but the police could have argued that there was a risk of violence and the media and politicians would no doubt have believed them). Using the Act in this way seems to have been unusual and has attracted considerable flak when it has taken place, it does demonstrate, however, how legislation ostensibly limited in application to "terrorist" can be used against peaceful protesters.

Returning to the new Bill I doubt that the section sampled above will - at least in the short-term - be applied as widely as it could be given the government's definitions. Am I likely to be charged under the act for my support for militant protest or even in some case the use of political violence? Probably not. The reason why, apart from my irrelevance is that my skin happens to be the right colour. I'll put money on the fact that the fast majority, if not all, of those charged under the Act will be non-white, Asian, probably Muslim. This won't pass unoticed within Muslim communities and will only confirm the fears and concerns of many Muslims. Some may even be driven into the arms of extremists as a result. If, as seems horrifically possible, some of these new recruits decide to express their anger by blowing themselves up on the tube then you needn't worry, we'll just pass some more anti-terrorism legislation which will make everything better. You needn't worry yourselves.

On and on and... etc.

Dan (a different one to the usual) on the hegemony of non-violence.

Bombs and Shields on anarchist relief efforts in New Orleans.

Catherine Redfern on the "international labia blogathon".

Justin Raimondo on the Galloway vs. Hitchens debate.

Indymedia on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

True believers on the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Greg Palast on questioning Galloway.

Ed Vulliamy on Andijan refugees.

The IWCA on drugs policy.

The real Dan on DSEi.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Keep Counting

I'm usually pretty dubious about those sections of the anti-war movement who focus unduly on the cost of the war on British and American forces. I'd rather they weren't out there being killed and I feel sorry for those they leave behind, but I've always felt that the tragedy is far greater for ordinary Iraqis who have not chosen to be there and who have no hope of leaving at the end of a leave of duty. Further, the thinly-veiled racism which pervades the prioritisation of western deaths does no favours to those who practice it.

That said, I've always understood that, quite apart from moral considerations, highlighting the cost to the occupying power in human terms could serve to weaken the occupation and hasten its end. This is an insight which is not lost on those who consider themselves to be our leaders, a fact demonstrated by Bush's attempts to prevent news coverage of coffins returning from Iraq. This explains why the MoD have tried to keep the lid on British casualty figures, a task they have acheived with considerable success.

Friend suggests that UK forces in Iraq are likely to have suffered almost 1,000 casualties since the invasion of Iraq. He notes that the "Ministry of Defense, unlike their American counterparts, do not willingly issue any information on the large number of wounded UK perssonel. These hidden casualties include people who have lost limbs and had their lives permanently shattered but, because they survived, their loss receives no public recognition." Intrigued by this silence he was motivated, earlier this year, to write to the MoD asking for this information under the Freedom of Information Act. In response the MoD revealed that while 85 fatalities had occurred by that point, 790 other troops had been seriously wounded. This yields a ratio of 9.3 wounded to every fatality, similar to that of US forces. Assuming this ratio has remained constant, the eleven deaths amongst British forces since January when Friend's letter was current, suggest that 102 people have been wounded over the same period. Coupling this with the figures from March 2003 provides a total figure of 998.

Pie in the Eye

I found this (and other pictures of the same event) via Dan, who also has some background.

Monday, September 12, 2005


Last week, Nathan over at Registan was bemoaning the fact that critics of western alignment with the Karimov regime in Uzbekistan focus unduly on the US. Perhaps there is some truth to this and I have to concede that I've never said much about Germany's relationship with the dictator and maintenance of a military base in the country, the issue which he referred to specifically. (Parenthetical aside: in the linked article a member of the SPD claims, "We have to continue to train Uzbek military officers - not in using arms, but in democratic values." Those of you familiar with the infamous School of the Americas might be struck by the similarities to claims made by supporters of that institution that it is neccesary to "teach democracy".) There is nothing inherently worse about the US than any other liberal democracy, although it's economic and military pre-eminence does mean that it has the capacity to do that much more harm. I've also never said much about the EU's relations with the country, although this stems primarily from the fact I knew little about them.

According to UzReport (something of a regime mouthpiece, but interesting nonetheless) Karimov received the EU's special representative for Central Asia Jan Kubis last friday. Karimov said that in his former role as head of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) Kubis had done much to develop relations between Uzbekistan and the EU. The two "discussed the EU’s future prospects in Central Asia, including the prospects of future relations with Uzbekistan. They also exchanged views on some international problems." The report also attributes to Kubis an avowed intention "to make everything in his power to expand mutually advantageous cooperation."

On the same day, Kubis met with the speaker of Legislative Chamber of Oliy Majlis (the Uzbek parliament) Erkin Khalilov. They apparently "considered issues on current affairs and perspectives of relations between Uzbekistan and the European Union, as well as collaboration between parliaments. They also exchanged opinions on strengthening legal bases of ties between Uzbekistan and the EU. " Quite what any of this means in practice is unclear. One hopes that "collaboration" between the Uzbek parliament and its western counterparts is kept to an absolute minimum; otherwise there is a risk that the latter might serve to legitimise the democratic sham which passes for a parliament (or two as it's bicameral) in Uzbekistan.

As I've said before, he EU is an incredibly, mind-numbingly, soul-crushingly, stupendously dull this would seem to be a weakness, but does allow it to get away with things which governments would never be able to get away with because people can never be bothered to keep track of what it's up to. This seems to remain true (indeed it may be particulalrly so) amongst the institution's strongest opponents. For this reason it is unlikely that the EU's links with Uzbekistan will attract much attention. It is, however, an aspect which cannot be ignored by anybody serious about organising a campaign to put pressure on the karimov regime.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Four Years On...

It's hard to believe, but it's the fourth anniversary of the September 11th attacks. This probably merits comment, but I can't think of much to say beyond the obvious: terrorism is bad; war is also bad; lots of people have died over the last four years; we're not really much safer etc. For some interesting reflections check out what Nella and Juan Cole have to say.


Remember tasers? The lovely, fluffy, non-violent alternative to fire-arms which looks set to become a frequent sight on British streets has once again proved how invaluable it is for US law enforcement:
Cincinnati police subdued a 12-year-old girl with a Taser in an elementary school hallway after she refused to go to in-school detention and struggled with officers, officials said Thursday.


When officers arrived, they talked with the girl - who continued to refuse to stand up from her chair, police said. When an officer placed a hand on her arm she became combative and began to struggle with officers, according to a police report. Officers warned her that if she didn't follow the officers' demands, they would use a Taser on her. (via)
Imagine the consequences had the officers not been equipped with tasers. What chance would they and school staff have had against an angry twelve-year old girl?

Fatcat Fatwas

After a freak accident involving teleportation, skin oil and Rupert Murdoch, comedian and New Statesmen columnist Mark Thomas has been fused with Sun columnist and right-wing fuckwit Richard Littlejohn. The results are not pretty as this column on corporate manslaughter - which New labour has promised to introduce tougher laws on in all three of its election winning manifestos, but thus far failed to act on - shows:
Two thousand people killed at work since October 1997! When are we going to hear the wake-up call? We've been lenient with these boardroom merchants of hate and their twisted ideology of privatisation for too long. We all know that companies go for bigger profits by sacking staff, undermining unions and cutting costs and corners, which is a murderous recipe for destruction and mayhem.

So why do we put up with those who spout this ideology of evil? These so-called "bosses" have an option: shut up or get out! We won't put up with these preachers of hate spewing their extremist message from the pulpits of the Confederation of British Industry and the Institute of Directors. We've had enough of their fat-cat fatwas. We've been tolerant of these ideologues of insanity for far too long and now it's time to kick 'em out.
The rest here (via).

Viva Christiania!

Christiania is a hippy community in Copenhagen, Denmark. Until 1970, the area had been Ministry of Defence property, but local residents knocked the fence down in order to make use of the land. It would subsequently be taken over by hippies and squatters who set up the "Free State" of Christiania and sought to live an alternative lifestyle based on communal living and freedom. I visited Christiania during a Danish exchange trip and though it was an amazing place, although I wouldn't want to suggest that it is neccesarily a model of a utopia. Work, for instance, is apparently segregated on the basis of gender.

The community has, to a large extent, been autonomous and existed outside the influence of Danish law. This is most obvious in the availability of cannabis, openly sold from stalls along the side of streets. In recent times, however, the Danish state has sought to exert greater influence over what happens in the community. This reached new lows this week when Danish police raided part of Christiania, sealing of the "Meadow of Peace," where people live in caravans and arresting 100 people. This was apparently in order to implement new law L205, which Christianites and their supporters have been campaigning against for sometime.

I wrote last week about what I thought would be required in order to bring about fundamental social change (going beyond mere reforms). In that post I suggested that we should seek to build and defend alternative institutions. Christiania can be seen as such an institution. To be sure, as I noted above, it has its flaws and it doesn't seem to have ever been revolutionary (in the sense that its founders saw it as a step towards a post-capitalist society), nevertheless it represents a deviation from the state-dominated order, which is why it has attracted the attentions of the Danish state in this manner.

Getting Dicey

DSEi (colloquially known as "Dicey") proclaims itself to be "the world's largest international tri-service defence exhibition" and promises on its website that participants will be able to "see first-hand the latest land, air and sea capabilities of 1000+ defence & military aerospace companies from 26 countries" and "exchange experiences and knowledge". The event takes place every two years and since 1999 has been held in the ExCel Centre in London Docklands. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the event has attracted considerable criticism from activists who point to the role the arms trade plays in fueling conflicts, often perpetuating poverty in the process. The fact that representatives of some of the world's worst human rights abusers get invited along (China was there in 2002, for instance) doesn't go down well either. As such, the event has been the target of protests, much to the chagrin of the Old Bill who object to the cost and diversion of resources that policing the event entails. While the fair itself doesn't begin until Tuesday, protests are already underway and (some of you may have guessed where this is going already) I've already gone along to have my say.

I took part in the protests against the event in 2003, participating in what was supposed to have been a Reclaim the Streets party, but which in practice had consisted of little more than some walking and a lot of standing around looking at police officers. Yesterday's event was also billed as a street party and being something of a glutton for punishment (and more to the point, unable to make any of the events next week) I decided to saunter along and do my bit for the cause of global peace and partying.

The party was supposed to start at 1pm, but the combination of activist timekeeping and (apparently genuine) engineering work on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) meant that this was never going to happen. Instead a group of us formed outside the Royal Albert DLR station and enjoyed the pleasant weather. Various activist-types moved through the crowd (such as it was) distributing flyers about this and that campaign and a row of police stood guard over us, presumably in order to ensure we weren't attacked by irate arms dealers.

After a while we moved of to a nearby recreation ground where we found a sound system. The description on the Indymedia Timeline of this as a "bit surreal, police, horses and goalposts" pretty much sums up how me and the friend I was there with viewed the situation. Watching a police officer and a clown debate who was more of a cliche only deepened this feeling. We waited there for a while and gradually our numbers grew as more people arrived. While there were a number of faces I recognised, there wasn't anybody I really knew, which was a disappointment. The food which was distributed wasn't half-bad though.

After a while (the Indymedia Timeline suggests it was about 40 minutes, but I wonder if it wasn't longer), we decided to move off and formed up on the road. The police seemed happy for us to march along the pavement which we proceeded to do, accompanied by a smaba band, cyclists and a sizeable police escort (possibly on a 1:1 ration with ourselves). We walked for quite sometime, moving through a residential area and attracting the attention of many locals who seemed amused by our presence. Children seemed particularly fascinated. The cycle powered sound system was used to explain what we were doing and why to locals, although I can't help feeling that a denunciation of the "consensus reality" might well have been lost on many of the spectators.

I'm not really sure what route we took, but we eventually ended up outside Custom House DLR (which serves the ExCel Centre) which was protected by a phalanx of TSG (Territorial Support Group, riot cops, read: thugs in uniform), although they weren't kitted up. Our progress was slow and seemed to involve various inexplicable pauses, particularly irritating when it started to piss it down. We didn't spend all that long outside Custom House and carried on, apparently heading towards the convergence centre. At one point we walked past a house where a child was celebrating his birthday and proceeded to serenade him and his friends with a burst of "Happy Birthday" (particulalrly amusing given that nobody had though to ask his name before we began).

As we went on we began to find ourselves increasingly in disagreement with our escorts over the route we were to take. The police obviously wanted to minimise disruption and get us back to the centre ASAP, we weren't all that keen on playing ball. Things got interesting when we got to the dual carriageway near Canning Town Station. The sound system and other cyclists went round the roundabout a few times, with Limp Bizkit's "Rollin'" and System of a Down's "BYOB" blaring out. While that was happening, those of us on foot followed the pavement which ran parallel to the dual carriageway. As the cyclists and police followed us the road cleared and we all stepped off the pavement into the road itself. At this point police sirens started up and groups of police started running. This started us running and before you knew it we were all racing to get to the other end. The police tried to block our path, but I was moving sufficiently quickly to get through before they had formed an effective line. Most of the others weren't so lucky.

For some imexplicable reason the police decided that they wanted to pen people in and manhandled a number of the other people who had got through into the main crowd. Those trying to get over a low fence onto the side I was on were also forced back. They left me along, although I'm not sure why (perhaps because I "look innocent," as one of the cops in Scotland told me). I noticed that one protester was being held down on a central reservation by three or four cops. Friends and a legal observer who tried to see what was going on were forced back onto the pavement. Eventually he was brought over and searched. After being held in one van for a while he was moved into another and driven off.

Eventually the police decided to let the group they had been penning in go and we made our way towards the convergence centre. A brief attempt to get a game of catch going ended when it became obvious that we would very quickly end up losing the ball in the road (which the police were insistent we not step on; their concern for our wellbeing heartwarming as ever). When we arrived at the centre, which seemed to be a squatted community centre. We were greeted by police evidence gatherers who proceeded to snap away while we stood around outside. Having decided I'd done my bit I headed off at this point, although nothing much else appears to have happened after I left.

I heard a number of police moaning about the fact that they still had another week of this and indeed they do. There's a whole week of activity, actions and events to protest the fair. I'm not going to be able to get along to any of the other events, but hopefully others will and hopefully people will start to take notice.

Friday, September 09, 2005

More Lazy Picture Blogging


Off Message

Apparently somebody forgot to tell the Germans that Party Political Broadcasts are supposed to be boring . See for yourselves in glorious technicolour Quicktime here. (via)

As in Heathrow, so in the New Iraq?

According to the BBC Baghdad Airport was closed today after "the British company providing security suspended operations because of a dispute over payment with Iraq's Ministry of Transport." The Times (via) has more information:
The London-based Global Strategies Group has looked after security at the airport, Iraq's main link to the outside world, since June 2004, but the $4.5 million-a-month contract it agreed with the now defunct US Coalition Provision Authority has lapsed.

Global closed the airport this morning after lengthy negotiations on the contract failed to produce any payments. Its move infuriated the Government, which said it was sending in troops to take over the airport and get flights moving again.
Esmat Ahmer "the acting Transport Minister" (no idea why he's only "acting") claims that his forces have entered the airport and "are taking some technical measures now and will soon resume the flights, maybe in the next few hours... It is a matter of sovereignty for us" (emphasis added). Global spokesman Giles Morgan, however, insisted that Iraqi troops hadn't entered the airport and in any case wouldn't be qualified to do the job his company had been doing, screening passengers and baggage. This is where things get really interesting:
He said that the US military, which also uses the airport and works closely with Global, had put extra troops on the first checkpoint on the main road to the airport to head the Iraqis off.

"There was a statement by the Ministry of Transportation earlier that Iraqi troops were going in, but it is my understanding that the Americans put troops on Checkpoint One and insisted that the Iraqis are not going in," Mr Morgan said. He said the Iraqi order to enter the airport had been quickly countermanded.
This account seems to concur with a report in the Columbia Daily Tribune (via Google News) which describes Iraqi forces being "confronted [by] U.S. soldiers at a key checkpoint along the airport road," and quotes Amer as saying, "We ordered the forces to pull back after American forces were deployed at the first checkpoint on the road. We did not want to create a confrontation."

So let's recap: in an issue considered to be "a matter of sovereignty" by the Iraqis, the US decided to side with Global Securities against their ostensible "allies", in the process, preventing Iraqi forces from defending their own aiport. The incident says much about the reality of the US's relationship with the New Iraqi Government (such as it is).

Lenin suggests that the Baghdad airport pay dispute merits comparison to the recent strike at Heathrow Airport by workers sacked by Gate Gourmet. As should be clear from the foregoing, such comparions are baseless. The Heathrow struggle was an inspiring example of working class solidarity in the face of a flagrant attack by Gate Gourmet's management. By contrast the Baghdad pay dispute is merely the latest step in the corporate invasion of Iraq.

Death Squad Coffee

From here via SchNEWS. More on the Contras here.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Lazy Blogging

BBC 2 will be showing a documentary about former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray's campaign against Jack Straw in Blackburn. It'll be on shown on Wednesday September 21 at 7.00pm. Sounds like it might be interesting, particularly as the Beeb are apparently a little uneasy about showing it.

Elsewhere, Nella draws attention to the appeal for support made by domestic violence campaigners in Louisiana. An aspect of the disaster which you might not have considered.

It also emerges that Yahoo have been cosying up to the Chinese regime, even going so far as to provide them with information to help them identify and convict journalist Shi Tao. This poses some difficult questions for those of us with Yahoo email addresses.


Am I the only person who thinks that the John Humphrys controversy has less to do with the fact that he what he might have a bias than that he might have an anti-government bias?


From here via here.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The "Information War"

"Investigators" (the need for quotation marks will become obvious I hope) in Uzbekistan have completed their report on the government orchestrated massacre at Andijan in May and have presented it to a Parliamentary committee. What did they discover?:
The investigation has concluded that the acts in Andijan were a carefully planned action, organized by outside destructive forces and aimed against Uzbekistan’s independent policy and national interests, changing present constitutional order and creation of an Islamic state meeting their geopolitical demands.

The investigation has shown that starting from August 2004, the above-named destructive forces, with attraction of international terrorist and religious extremist organizations like Islamic Movement of Turkestan, Hizb-ut-Tahrir and one of its branches Akramiylar, planned organizing terrorist actions in Uzbekistan in May 2005 with the purpose of seizing power and overthrowing the constitutional order.
The reference to IMT, HUT and Akramiya is strange, particularly when you look closely at the wording. Nathan suggests that these groups are not being blamed directly, but "that the official position is that unnamed 'outside destructive forces' are the prime culprits and that the Islamist organizations in question merely provided support." This is certainly one possibility, although I wonder if there is a suggestion that those groups helped to create a climate in which the Andijan "terrorist acts" (to use the article's choice of terminology) could take place.

Anyway, the allegations continue...
The scenario and the detailed plan of terrorist acts were carefully planned, including forming armed groups, their military training, provision with arms and ammunition, determining and reconnaissance of objects of attack, including military units and law-enforcement subdivisions, their arms and ammunition depots, etc.

The investigation has proven that the “screenwriters” chose the territory of southern provinces of Kyrgyzstan as a foothold for preparation to terrorist acts. There, from January to April 2005 foreign instructors taught diversion and terrorist skills to some 70 religious extremists.
The choice of the term "screenwriters" is pretty inexplicable. Are we to believe that these are the Islamic extremist groups mentioned above? Foreign governments hostile to Uzbek interests? Whoever they were, they were clearly very busy in the run up to Andijan:
In order to ensure swift seizure of power in Andijan, up to 20 attack groups consisting of 9 to 22 people each were formed. The heads of these groups carefully studied the plans of the objects of attacks, and prepared the necessary arms, ammunition and explosives beforehand.

In the night of 12 May, more than 60 trained and armed militants (Kyrgyz citizens) intruded the territory of Uzbekistan and took an active part in the terrorist acts.
As Nathan notes, the next bit's where it really starts to get interesting:
Simultaneously with the terrorist aggression, information war against Uzbekistan was being prepared. False "peaceful" demonstrations of citizens were planned in parallel with terrorist acts. For this, organizers of the acts wanted to draw as many people as possible in the streets, to create conditions and opportunities for criminal elements, mainly freed dangerous criminals, to riot in the streets of Andijan, carrying out pogroms, arsons, destructions and robbing. To put it shortly, they planned creating an unrestrained Bacchanalia on the principle of "the more fire and smoke, the more visibility of mass unrest, demonstrations of the rebelling people".

The "screenwriters" of the above-named actions planned to create the visibility of a city seized by the rebelling "angry population", against which the government troops allegedly carry out military actions, so that the omnipresent so-called "humanitarian" "charity" international organizations demanded according their plan to stop, as they say, the "massacre of the peaceful population".

The main role to cover these events was assigned to mass media controlled by them.
The claim that large scale protests are manipulated by outside influences is hardly a new one for an authoritarian regime to make.

At this point the "screenwriters" were to unleash their piece de resistance and unleash the assembled ranks of human rights activists and journalists:
With this purpose, representatives of a number of foreign human rights organizations, media and foreign charity societies, which were informed beforehand, started gathering in the territories adjacent to Andijan – Osh, Aravan, Karasu and Jalalabad – before the events, starting from 9-10 May.

Being present in this region, they were waiting for the start of the action, in order to capture the explosion in Andijan and spread the slander about the actions of the organs of authority and law-enforcement.
Nathan argues that "considering who the mass media and nongovernmental organizations in question are, it is fairly evident that this report again is pointing fingers at Western governments–the US and UK in particular one suspects–as 'destructive forces' seeking to topple the Uzbek government." I'm not entirely sure I agree (nor for that matter that I entirely disagree). You could read the report were blaming the US and UK (who, in any case, were pretty mealy-mouthed in their statements on Andijan at the time) why do so so subtly? You could read the report as an attack on the various human rights organisations who have been consistently and vociferously critical of the Karimov regime and those journalists who have had the temerity to report their concerns. Maybe they really do believe that human rights organisations control the mass media.

The logical offshoot of a claim that the Andijan uprising was backed by the US and UK: that the West would like to see Karimov replaced by an Islamic regime also doesn't make a great deal of sense. Perhaps we can simply attribute this leap of illogic to the paranoia of an increasingly embattled dictatorship which sees threats and plots everywhere.

The various allegations levelled at Kyrgyzstan are also intriguing: the foreign militants were - we are told - "Kyrgyz citizens," while "the 'screenwriters' chose the territory of southern provinces of Kyrgyzstan as a foothold for preparation to terrorist acts." As you might expect, the Kyrgyz government dismissed the claims of a terrorist base as "nothing but a lie," and it remains to be seen if the prosecutors will produce any real evidence for the claims. The allegations are perhaps a consequence of the country's decision to shelter refugees from Andijan, a decision which has already resulted in Uzbekistan making moves to cut-off vital gas supplies to its neighbour. Alternatively the fact that the current Kyrgyz government came to power on the back of the "Tulip Revolution" earlier this year may worry the Karimov regime who fear a similar uprising in Uzbekistan.

On what might appear to be the plus side, the report does reveal that members of Uzbek forces will stand trial for their participation in Andijan:
At the same time, the fact that terrorists counted on the limpness and negligence of separate employees of the police and servicemen, which allowed violation of the statutes, proved correct in a certain sense. Unfortunately, as a result of this, terrorists managed to seize a large amount of firing arms and ammunition.

For negligent attitude to execute their official duties to protect the entrusted objects and failure to show proper resistance to bandits’ attacks, criminal cases were launched against 25 officials of the interior organs and the military.
Long story short: members of Uzbekistan's armed forces are to be prosecuted because their response to the Andijan uprising wasn't severe enough.


The EU is an incredibly, stupendously, mind-numbingly, soul-crushingly dull institution. For most people this would constitute a downside. For the British government desperate for a way to push through unpopular legislation at minimal cost it is something of a boon. The specific piece of legislation is the introduction of ID cards. Nosemonkey's picked up on this on Monday:
So, your own Treasury is reluctant and your own parliament can't be trusted to vote the way you want them to? Simple - pop over the Channel and try and get your plans imposed on the country from Brussels (or, in this case, Strasbourg). ID cards - even if not quite such hardcore ones as Blair's lot want to impose - have existed in several EU states for years. Most can't see the problem, and would likely not need to change much should some new EU legislation over ID come into force - in Germany, Italy and France, not to mention several other countries, ID cards are simply a fact of life. So French, German, Italian and God knows how many other MEPs would - the Blair government hopes - simply not understand the fuss, and vote through new legislation, to become binding on Britain, without even thinking about it.

Game, set and match Blair - ID cards get introduced without a vote in parliament, Gordon can't complain about the cost without getting into trouble with Brussels, and any public complaints about the new bits of intrusive plastic can be fobbed off with the old "it's the EU's fault - it's out of our hands" excuses which get trotted out pretty much any time European governments think they can get away with it.

Not good, folks. If you can track down reports of these meetings, or hear of any more, I reckon they'd be grateful of a tad more publicity - after all, the whole point of this scheme is to have more information, surely?
Nosemonkey wrote more earlier today before and after Charles Clarke's speech to the European Parliament. All far from reassuring. Dissapointingly there doesn't seem much - if anything - on this in the media, at least if Google News is anything to go by. Like the man says, it's all about information.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Forums Forever

Those of you interested in the campaign (such as it is) for sanctions on Uzbek cotton should probably take the time to read this discussion (via). It's from a Uzbek message forum and offers some perspectives from real Uzbeks (I have no idea how typical they are). Lot's of interest, although I think the Iraqi situation (which is raised a number of times) probably doesn't generalise as well as is suggested. That probably merits further comment and I'll try and expand it to a complete post at some point. For the timebeing, go and read what they've got to say.

In other discussion forum related news, there's now a forum for those supporting the rights of the Chagossians forced from their island home by the British government in order to make way for a US military base. There isn't a huge amount of activity there as yet, but hopefully as the community grows this could become an invaluable resource. I'd also like to point out that the creator of the site contacted me personally, using my real name and everything which was a little surprising, but very nice (clearly *somebody* thinks I'm important!).

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Rounded Up

Last week's "blogathon for Uzbekistan" has been deemed worthy of inclusion in the lastest BritBlog Roundup alongside the usual collection of the highpoints from the British blogosphere. Check it.

Charles Clarke's Big Brother

In an interview with Eastern Daily Press (via), Home Secretary Charles Clarke sought to defend the introduction of ID cards, arguing, "Big Brother society is already here and my job is to control it":
Most of us have dozens of cards in our wallets with our identities on. We already have a Big Brother society.

ID cards mean identity fraud can be dealt with and stopped.

ID cards are a means of controlling the Big Brother society rather than creating it. Big Brother society is already here.
There's no doubt that there our loyalty, credit and debit cards hold a huge amount of information about us, but there are some important distinctions between this and national ID cards. Firstly, those cards are optional, ID cards - if they are to be of any use at all - will have to be compulsory. Further, a friends who is doing his PhD on surveillance tells me that some political philosophers have argued that the current system can be seen as one in which we are monitored by a multitude of "little brothers" with only limited interaction between and government control over them. This is very much the case with the various cards we currently carry. ID cards, by contrast, will hold all the information contained on those cards (and more) centrally.

As is common in this debate, Clarke also seeks to distract attention from the biometric information which ID cards are to contain. The various cards we carry today may contain information on our names, addresses, gender etc, but ID cards are to carry an extensive amount of physiological information. The chip on the card will, I am told, be able to carry ten times the amount of information it will initially be required to hold. The introduction of such cards is not merely a consolidation of the current state of affairs. It is a major step towards the total surveillance state.

Clarke is, as you might expect, dismissive of concerns about civil liberties:
I think the civil liberties argument is ridiculous.

If we compare people's right not to be blown up with their right to civil liberties it is not difficult.

No measure can absolutely guarantee to stop a particular event. But I believe ID cards will help. Most countries in Europe have ID cards.
Therein lies, perhaps the strongest argument against the need for such cards. As David Winnick MP has noted, "If the emphasis is now on terrorism, the fact remains that in Spain identity cards are compulsory from the age of 14 onwards. In what way did that stop the massacre which occurred?" Most European countries do have ID cards, but they don't stop terrorism.

Furthermore, even David Blunkett was forced to concede that the cards would do little to prevent terrorism. Asked in July 2002 whether he would "confirm that the card will be little or no use in combating terrorism," Blunkett replied:
Yes, I accept that it is important that we do not pretend that an entitlement card would be an overwhelming factor in combating international terrorism. That is precisely what I said three times on the radio within a fortnight of 11 September, and I reiterated it this afternoon.
Is Clarke now suggesting that his predecessor was wrong? Or does he just think that we can now be scared into accepting any government policy, no matter how authoritarian, unneccessary and expensive, which claims to be a response to terrorism?

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Katrina Weirdness...

Fidel Castro has offered to provide medical care to those caught up in the disaster.

Stan Goodenough thinks the whole thing's the result of US support for the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. (via)

Rev. Bill Shanks disagrees. He thinks it's payback for the city's "sins". (via)

Update 4/9/05: Tamar Yonah points to the parallels between the situation in Israel and New Orleans. Katrina, Katif and Katyusha all mean more or less the same thing apparently. (via)

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