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Showing posts with label America. Show all posts
Showing posts with label America. Show all posts

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Scaremongering or legitimate points by NO Campaign–and questions of identity

The Unionist Tory/Labour/LibDem Coalition against the independence of Scotland when accused by the SNP of scaremongering and debasing the great debate, respond by saying they are raising legitimate points.

Here are some of them –

Claims by Lord Fraser, the former Tory Solicitor General, that England could have no choice but to bomb Scottish airports in order to defend itself from attack if Scotland became independent.

Claims by Tory Education Secretary Michael Gove that an independent Scotland would no longer have a National Health Service.

Claims by Home Secretary Theresa May that passport checks would be issued at Scotland’s border with England.

Questions published by the Westminster Scottish Affairs Committee querying if people could still buy wine from The Sunday Times Wine Club or whether the school curriculum would include ‘English’?

Claims that the Westminster Government would seize custody of the giant pandas at Edinburgh Zoo post-independence.

I hope that any Scottish voter listening to this nonsense gave a loud horselaugh. Only Iain Davidson’s Scottish Affairs Select Committee could have come up with the Sunday Times wine club one. (They’re currently considering Scotland’s defence, God help us all!)

Picking up on the last one – could someone on the NO Campaign “seize custody” of its spokespersons’ common sense before they debase this vital debate any further? It’s a difficult choice, but faced with either Alistair Darling boring us to death or the ********* who came up with the above rubbish making us laugh ourselves to death, I must, in the interest of the dignity of the great debate, resign myself to being bored to death.


I asked a question on Twitter yesterday – I ask it again here.

What do people of other countries think of prominent Scots who argue against the independence of their nation?

I also now ask the supplementary question -

What will Scotland think of them after independence is achieved?

If I turn the questions around, as in fairness I must, we must ask -

What do people of other countries think of prominent Scots who argue for the independence of their nation?

What will Scotland think of them if independence is not achieved?

I think I know the answers, but those in this great debate must find their own.

There is much talk again today of dual identity, i.e. “I’m Scottish and I’m British” (and they don’t mean geographically resident in the British Isles – they mean the UK.)

I have no problem with dual citizenship of two different, independent countries, nor with a shared sense of values and common purpose with other independent countries. But when it comes to country – and the independent state either achieved or aspired to across the globe, there can be only one identity.


We are not far away from the 4th of July, Independence Day in America. Remember what America secured its independence from – the British Empire, the rump of which is the present United Kingdom, clinging desperately to what it has left of that empire. I’m certain there were politicians – and ordinary people - in America before independence who claimed a dual identity, and who claimed to feel at ease as both Americans and subjects of the British Empire.

What I’m equally certain of is that no American would make such a claim today. They will happily celebrate their country of origin – as Scots, as English, as Welsh, as Irish, as indeed every country of the world that sent its people to the great melting pot – but their identity, their loyalty, and their heart is American.

I acknowledge and celebrate my Irish roots, I acknowledge and celebrate my shared history and cultural affinity with England and Wales, but my identity is  Scottish, my loyalty is to Scotland, and my heart is Scottish.  And when people talk of dual identity, the words of a great Englishman, Frances Bacon, in another context come to mind - “a heart that is double and cloven, and not entire

Saturday, 11 September 2010

The consequences of 9/11 – Robert Fisk

9/11 - Robert Fisk - The Independent

A superb article today in The Independent by Robert Fisk.

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


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

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

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

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Living with the Taliban – the Afghanistan conflict

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

There is no end in sight.

Combatants on both sides are dying daily.

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

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

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

The Karsai Government is deeply corrupt.

Opinion in Pakistan is deeply divided over the conflict.

The coalition forces are not winning this conflict.

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

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

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

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


Whose country is being occupied by a foreign invader?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Letter on terrorism to an American friend

Leaving aside the old saying that a terrorist is “a patriot without an army, navy or air force”, the 'rational' - but never justifiable - purposes of terror include, but are not limited to:

forcing the electorate of a state that is oppressing other less powerful states and their people to confront the fact that they cannot escape the consequences of the regime they voted for, or allow to remain in power:

terrorising the civilian population:

gaining publicity for their cause:

forcing the government of the state being attacked to resort to more and more repressive measures and the progressive removal of their own people's democratic rights and freedoms.

The irrational 'purpose' of terror is to give violent expression to feelings of impotence and frustration at perceived injustices perpetrated by a more powerful enemy.

Every state, every empire that has ever existed has used terror at one point or another in its history, and the bloody policy continues. If it is large-scale, it is called military intervention, pre-emptive strike or war – if it is small-scale, it is called covert intelligence operations.

If I revisit the objectives of terror I outlined above, I have to say that Al Quaeda has been successful beyond its wildest dreams - and they are wild and inhuman dreams - because they have produced exactly the effects desired by the terrorists. They have created a bogeyman, and we - the West - have swallowed the fantasy whole and entered into their paranoid nightmare, one from which the world may not emerge.

Unless sanity prevails, we are in a state of perpetual war against a shadowy enemy that cannot be defeated by violence. Only a systematic removal of the manifest injustices that exist in our world by patient, sustained action can eliminate terror, and a good place to start is the Israel/Palestine conflict that is eating like a cancer at our morality and our identity.

I am against violence as an instrument of political policy, however it is applied and on whatever scale. But I am not a pacifist - I believe that an individual or a state has the right to use violence to defend itself against an aggressor, and I believe in the concept of a just war.

Perhaps WW2 was the closest the world ever came to a just war - it was certainly America and Britain's finest hour, and Britain has a debt of gratitude to America than can never be adequately repaid.

But it cannot be repaid, even in part, by failing to speak out against the appalling injustices of both American and British foreign policy as they have existed for the last half century or more. The concept of defence, the concept of a just war, and any relics of the morality and statesmanship, not to say common humanity that existed between 1939 and 1945 have been debased almost beyond recognition.

America now has a man who I believe will prove to be, not only a great President, but a great world statesman, of a kind rarely seen more than once or twice in a century. Like many millions of Americans and non-Americans, I have placed my hope and trust in Barack Obama, because there is no politician in Britain of remotely comparable moral and intellectual stature. But his enemies are many, and highly vocal and powerful. In these dog days of the British Empire, I also place my faith in a small country – Scotland - that has no intrinsic power except the power of its intellect and its citizens' belief in a better world – and a non-nuclear world.