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Showing posts with label Iraq. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Iraq. Show all posts

Monday, 2 February 2015

As we wait for the Chilcot Report …

Waiting for Chilcot is a bit like waiting for Godot. Idly checking back in my past ruminations on the war, I came across these comment of mine in the Guardian, circa 2008.

Guardian, comments 18 December 2008

I have been totally opposed to the Iraq war, from the lies, special pleading and moral cowardice that led up to it and throughout the horror, mendacity and ineptitude of its dreadful progress. But I am shocked at the unrealistic and superficial attitude of many of the comments on the role of the British armed forces, from armchair critics who have never been near a battlefield, have never placed themselves in harms way, and have never laid their life on the line for their country. To compare our soldiers, directly or by implication, to Nazis, is obscene and inaccurate.

The responsibility for the crimes against humanity in Iraq lies with the politicians who initiated it, to the members of Parliament who voted for it, and to the electors of Britain who continued to return them to power after the war started, and who continue to support them in government - and to the religious factions and tribal demagogues who manipulate the tortured people of Iraq, and naive - and always young - idealists from other nations, perverting their religious beliefs and the teachings of Islam to suit their evil and self-serving ends.

There have been atrocities - a minority of serving soldiers have behaved badly, and their superiors have failed by omission or commission to prevent this. But such aberrations occur in every war, and where possible, it has been exposed and punished.

But the prosecution of the war by British forces has been conducted in as principled a way as the exigencies of any war permit. An individual serving soldier may, at great personal risk, refuse to carry out an order in a specific instance that violates accepted codes of morality and international law, but to expect serving soldiers at any level to refuse to carry out their orders because of complex political argument at levels far above them is to expect the impossible. It is simplistic and brutally uncaring.

And what of the generals? Once our generals start to pursue their own agenda and their own political beliefs by confronting their political masters, we are headed for a junta. I hold no brief for Sir Jock Stirrup, and I think he should have thought, and thought again before committing his vapourings to print, but I do not believe he should have disobeyed his order.

I am a Scottish nationalist, and I fervently wish to be free of the Union that sacrifices the brave young men and women of Scotland to serve the vaunting ambition and vanity of despicable Scots like Blair and Brown, and permits them to send young men and women to their deaths, but I have never doubted the bravery and professionalism of the armed forces. In a very real sense, it is a greater sacrifice to do your job and die for your country in pursuit of a cause you do not believe in, because the majority of the people of your country have willed that act.

Place the blame where it squarely lies - with the politicians and the people who put them there. Leave our armed forces to mourn their dead and maimed comrades, and their families to cry out against those who sent them to their fate. 

Blair, Brown, Bush and Cheney attempt to justify their actions, but the verdict of history will damn them. The ancient Greeks recognised their type, and foresaw their fate.

The gods fail not to mark those who have killed many
The black Furies, stalking the man fortunate beyond all right
Wrench back again the set of his life and drop him to darkness.
There, among the ciphers, there is no more comfort in power
And the vaunt of high glory is bitterness.

AESCHYLUS - Agammenon

It is Britain's, and the Labour Party's abiding shame that two Labour Prime Ministers initiated, supported, and still defend the enormity of the Iraq conflict.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Labour and Iraq

Extract from my 2013 blog –

Blair, Brown and Mandelson created New Labour and it worked – Labour was elected and re-elected. The results, over 13 years, are now history.

Two wars, one illegal, the deaths of hundreds of thousands, terrorism brought to UK by the Iraq War, the gap between rich and poor widened, corruption of Parliamentary institutions, the prosecution and imprisonment of Labour MPs, the resignation of the Labour Speaker of the House of Commons in disgrace, the corruption of the Press and the Metropolitan Police, the banking and financial collapse, cash for access, etc.

Hardly a success, except in one key aspect – Blair, Mandelson, Brown, Labour defence secretaries, Labour ministers and many Labour MPs got very rich indeed, in the case of Blair and Mandelson, egregiously rich.

The revolving door between government ministers, civil servants and industry – especially the defence industry – spun ever faster and more profitably.

And the military/industrial complex rejoiced and celebrated New Labour’s achievements.

And now, in 2014?

We have the key figures in the Blair Government that led us to war – Gordon Brown, John Reid,  Alistair Darling, Jim Murphy, et al leading the war against Scotland’s independence.

Iraq has exploded into chaos and near-collapse of the Iraq‘democracy’ set up by the United States and the United Kingdom

What of the report of the Chilcot Enquiry? Delay in publication, talk of redaction of major conclusions and fact.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Cameron, North Korea, Iran, Scotland and WMD

I have to keep this simple – at the risk of seeming simplistic – because the nuclear argument is buried alive in technical complexity and sophistry.

David Cameron is repeating  his  Telegraph argument for retention of the UK nuclear deterrent and the nuclear presence in Scotland – they are one and the same thing – in the offices of a defence contractor in Scotland today (Herald).

This piece of blatant self-serving sophistry by Cameron is delivered in the full knowledge that the UK nuclear deterrent deters nobody, is entirely irrelevant strategically to any conceivable global threat the UK might face, and whose presence in Scotland and the UK is in itself the main threat to the UK, but principally and directly to Scotland.

The importance to Cameron of nuclear weapons - and to the contemptible nuclear trio of political parties known as the Better Together campaign – rests on the fact that the UK’s pretensions as a world power, its place on the UN Security Council, its grossly inflated defence budget relative to the size of the UK ( it is the fourth largest defence budget in the world) and its ability to use the defence-as-job-creation scheme as a political bribe and threat are all dependent on nuclear weapons.

Additionally, there is an enduring and insidious technical, scientific, political  and profit linkage between nuclear power generation, the nuclear power industry and nuclear weapons of mass destruction – they are in a symbiotic relationship. Champions and apologists for one almost always champion the other.


Cameron’s argument rests on the “highly unpredictable and aggressive regimes” argument, with the current villains being North Korea and Iran. This argument has been around since the early 1940s and was the driving force behind the Manhattan Project with Hitler’s Germany being the very real villain of the time.

The insanity of this line of thought – a paranoid fantasy based on a grim reality – made the United States the first country in the world to have nuclear weapons – and so far, the only country to use them (against a non-nuclear power, Japan). Since then, every country in the world that has nuclear weapons has acquired them because America had them. These countries then developed an uneasy, deeply unstable and to date, ineffective consensus called the non-proliferation agreement, i.e. “We’ve got them, but for God’s sake, let’s stop anybody else getting them!

It hasn’t stopped Iran allegedly New York Time Feb 2012 and North Korea undoubtedly trying to acquire them, using exactly the same rationale that Cameron uses, that the United States uses, that Israel uses – the other side are nutcases and might try to intimidate us - or actually use them - in a pre-emptive strike. So the lunatic closed circle of paranoid argument continues …

Let’s look at the highly aggressive and unpredictable regime argument, and start by saying that North Korea is a brutal, oppressive dictatorship, impoverishing its people by its militarism and its defence budget, run by a dynastic heir who is young and deeply immature. (I will resist the temptation to draw the current potential parallels in these attributes with UK and at times the US – they are not quite so far along the same lines, but they are getting there, especially the UK. )

Iran, undoubtedly unpredictable, is not quite so irrational, its nuclear weapons programme is embryo at best, and much of its posturing results from the grave instability caused in the Middle East by Blair, Bush and their misconceived illegal war.

The Cameron argument leaves us with this situation – we must have nuclear weapons for the foreseeable future – i.e. for ever – because one day there might be a nutcase regime in possession of them. But here we have a convenient example of one, maybe two nutcase regimes, North Korea and Iran – Q.E.D.!


Here are the options – the only options under the Cameron doctrine of nuclear deterrence-

1. Once a nutcase regime has been identified, nuke them instantly – a pre-emptive strike. This will regrettably kill millions of innocent civilians under the tyrant and pollute the planet, but hey, shit happens! Of course, such a course of action would mean that the UK would be instantly reclassified as a nutcase regime by other nuclear powers, and they would launch a pre-emptive strike against UK, just in case …

2. If the nutcase regime begins to sound belligerent, proceed as 1) above, etc., etc.

3. Try to reason with the nutcase regime by diplomacy, backed by economic sanctions. But, since they are nutcases, this won’t work, and delay creates risk, so proceed as 1) above – etc., etc.

4. Assume that the fact that the UK has a bigger nuclear deterrent will deter the nutcase regime. That, after all, is the ostensible rationale for the deterrent. But, since they are nutcases, by definition, it won’t, so best go back to 1) above ….


Don’t wait for multilateral disarmament – if it is possible at all, the time scale is too long, since the risks of unpredictable international incident creating a global nuclear war are too great, and in all probability, multilateral nuclear disarmament will never happen – either the world remains in a terrifying and unstable nuclear standoff for generations or we blow ourselves apart in the next few years – perhaps a very few…

Unilaterally announce nuclear disarmament, UK – if you don’t, an independent Scotland will, and most likely force virtue and morality upon you.

This now brings me logically and inevitably to a point in my argument that I don’t want to confront – but must.

The next logical step is to persuade the UN - and allies - to follow suit, but also persuade them to make it clear that unstable regimes who are -

undoubtedly and verifiably in possession of nuclear weapons and delivery systems


who make threats and are actively moving to a state of preparation to launch a nuclear strike

must face pre-emptive action by conventional forces acting under a UN mandate  to disable their nuclear capacity.


Does this turn me into Tony Blair and George W. Bush in 2003?

Wasn’t that exactly their argument?

Wasn’t that the argument that convinced at least some good people to feel that the invasion of Iraq was justified?

My answers to the above questions are NO, YES and YES.

It was their argument, and it was the argument that convinced some good people – and some honest, ethical politicians – to vote for the war.

But my conditions (above) were not met – there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein was undoubtedly and verifiably in possession of nuclear weapons, nor that he was actively moving to a state of preparation to launch a nuclear strike, nor, crucially, was there a UN mandate.

The Iraq War was launched on a false prospectus, false intelligence and false evidence. It was driven by oil, ambition, vanity and profit. The American and British electorates and their legislatures were deceived.

The nuclear insanity has been with us for about 70 years, as have the specious arguments that underpin it. Reject them absolutely, electors of Scotland and vote YES in 2014 for independence and a nuclear-free Scotland.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Two entirely reasonable men debate the Politicised Poppy

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

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

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Scottish Labour Leader–a new title needed? Gauleiter?

The Labour Party don’t have a Scottish leader – what they have is the Leader of the Labour group at Holyrood, whose only function has been to keep his MSPs on message and in line, on behalf of his London master, Ed Miliband, and the UK Labour Party.

But now Labour wants a Scottish Leader – a kind of gauleiter. (I will use a more apt and charitable name for the regional leader of a national party if there is one – suggestions welcome from Labour supporters.) Why do they want this? Because they lost the last two Scottish Parliamentary elections. 2007 could be dismissed as an aberration: 2011 was a rout.

It has been an ill wind, one that has blown little good for Labour, although it has provided a role - and presumably a nice little earner - for John McTernan, who has produced a seemingly endless series of articles telling Labour how they got it wrong and what they must do to put things right. More of the same today from John in The Scotsman. He looks south for inspiration, i.e. Westminster and a Labour MP.

Scottish Scots have been no bloody good – the ‘high-road-to-England’ version are what is needed. Of course, John McTernan has never submitted himself to the democratic process – to my knowledge - by running for Parliament. Instead he has been special adviser to just about everybody in the Labour Party. He is of that strange breed, a political strategist for a party whose political strategy has failed utterly in the UK and in Scotland. He blogs for The Daily Telegraph, exactly the right newspaper for a member of the Tory Lite Party, once known as the Labour Party.

John McTernan sniffs the wind carefully, and yesterday a breeze was blowing from Tom Harris MP, who on radio and on Newsnight Scotland threw his hat – well, sort of sneaked his hat – into the leadership ring, such as it is. I know all I need to know about Tom Harris, MP. He supported Blair, strongly supported the Iraq War, supports Trident – and, of course, he supports the UK.

Quote from today’s Herald: “I do not believe there is any great contradiction in looking after Scotland’s interests and the UK’s interests.” Tom Harris.

Tom Harris has already attracted the support of Louise Mensch, a Tory MP, and David Torrance, the Tory blogger and commentator and former Parliamentary Aide to the Tory Shadow Scottish Secretary David Mundell at Westminster. Louise Mensch was positively gushing in her delight at the prospect of Tom Harris’s candidacy. By their friends shall ye know them, as they say …

A seasoned politician, Tom Harris confessed to Gordon Brewer last night on Newsnight Scotland that he knew nothing of the mechanics  of electing a Scottish Labour Leader. Well, the Westminster village does that to a Scot – the state of his native land becomes a faint rumbling way up North – not to be taken seriously unless career is threatened or an opportunity presents itself. Tom, a man steeped in journalism, media and PR, scents both possibilities.

So Scottish Labour may have yet another Iraq apologist, Trident/WMD enthusiast and staunch Unionist as gauleiter. Well, they are all in the job specification. But we could have done worse – it could have been Jim Murphy

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Utoeya, Oslo and racial profiling

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

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

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

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

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



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

Edited extract

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

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

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

My profile:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Blair at the Chilcot Enquiry

Blair's evidence to the Chilcot Enquiry - if indeed responding to questions by a group of what George Galloway called "Establishment stooges" on the BBC's  Question Time last Thursday, a gaggle of the great and good who had already had their collective hamstrings cut by the restrictive terms of the Enquiry can be called giving evidence - took place in a fog of moral righteousness by the media, who focused on whether or not he would apologise for the Iraq folly and his pivotal role in it, and the question of his belated admissions that, far from 'not doing God',  he believed he had a hot line to the Almighty throughout.

This, of course, played into Blair's hands, and allowed him to slide away from any  difficulties over facts by expertly playing what he sees as his aces - personal sincerity, total moral conviction, and the belated, but carefully judged regrets over the death and suffering his vaulting ambition and cynical real-politicking have visited on an entire nation, Iraq, and  the brave members of the British Armed forces and other war coalition countries' military personnel who lost their lives or were maimed, physically and psychologically, by loyally doing their duty as defined by a misguided Parliament and nation.

Aided by the inabilty of the Enquiry to take evidence under oath, the denial to  Chilcot by the Cabinet Secretary of the right to use and quote from the key correspondence and transcriptions of the Bush/Blair dialogues, the absence of any legally qualified person to conduct the kind of forensic cross-examination necessary to extract  the truth from a man whose entire political legacy, not to mention his current international - and obscenely lucrative - business interests are threatened by the truth, he was able to duck and weave behind his various baffle walls from the feeble blasts of the Enquiry team.

So what he knew, and when he knew it, the critical commitments made by him to  his US master, and the real nature of the behind-the-scenes dialogue with the Attorney General remain as cloudy as before.

What we are left with is the messianic Blair, a Christian fundamentalist believer, who, like his superior, George W. Bush, was certain that he had God's hand on his shoulder, possessed by a burning belief in his own righteousness, who  did the right  thing  as he saw it at the time - even though his omniscient God seemed to have missed the inconvenient absence of WMDs - and had no regrets about removing the brutal dictator, Saddam Hussein, at whatever cost to Britain and Iraq, a calculated decision that immediately catapulted him into international superstardom and richness.

He will never appear before a war crimes tribunal at the Hague, and his position as icon to the American Right and the military/industrial complex is not only secure, but enhanced. Anthony Lynton Blair, peace envoy, is now a greater danger to world peace than he was before the Chilcot Enquiry started.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Happy tweeting time - Blair, Coulson and Johnson

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Alistair C. - can you offer me any advice on future media career, chat show possibilities, diaries, etc. Would bagpipes help? URGENT - AndyC

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

JOB WANTED: Experienced political PR man, good political and media connections, good with telephones and mailboxes. Refs: Cameron, Murdoch.

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Ed Miliband will have his balls - or will Ed Cojones have Miliband Minor's balls? Stop it, Peter - enough is enough!

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Ed Milband adds Ed Cojones to his shadow cabinet team - will it give Miliband Minor some balls?

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

What will the rich, privileged Home Counties clique surrounding Cameron that Coulson was a part of, living close to each other, say about it

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Glib David Cameron tries to skate smoothly over Andy Coulson resignation. "Quick, place a call to Rupert - he'll tell me who to hire next-"

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Poor English voters, forced to choose between Labour (Iraq & wrecked economy) and the ConLib Coalition. Scotland has a real choice - the SNP

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Rose Gentle, mother of Fusilier Gordon Gentle (RIP), a Scot who died in Iraq, cannot forgive the war criminal Blair after Chilcot today

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

What George Galloway called on QT "the Establishment stooges" of the Chilcot enquiry did rather better today in getting at the truth.

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Does John Rentoul, political editor of The Independent, profoundly regret his suport for the Iraq War and his unflagging support for Blair?

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

@NoSaltSugarfree Ah, loyalty - see my blog on loyalty and the abuse of the concept

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Blair's trapped in Iraq Groundhog day -"WMDs,45m, deeply regret, don't regret, Saddam Hussein, George Bush, sincere belief, God, Christian"

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Tony Blair belatedly "regrets deeply and profoundly the loss of life" He doesn't presumably regret that vast fortune he has amassed after it

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Blair to Bush on UK's fatal involvement in Iraq: "You can count on us, George ..." But another George has nailed you, Antony Lynton Blair.

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Andy Coulson resigns - Murdoch's man, Cameron's man. The wheels are coming off the ConLib Coalition. What about Tommy Sheridan's sentence?

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Poor Alan Johnson - echoes of John Le Mesurier/Hattie Jacques's drama on BBC4. Alan can't do sums - but Labour can't do morality or honesty.

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

@JamiePolitics It will take more than Miliband Minor to airbrush Iraq (and the economy) out of history. George Galloway on great form on QT!

Monday, 8 November 2010

Letter from America – the prescience of Alistair Cooke

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

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

Consider this excerpt -

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

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

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

Monday, 11 October 2010

Does UK behaviour contribute to terrorism?

(Iman and Imam – a slight variation in spelling but a vital distinction in meaning.  Iman means faith, Imam means leader, something not always recognised by Western journalists and commentators. Panellist Ajmal Masroor is an Imam and a politician.)

Does UK behaviour contribute to terrorism – are we partially responsible for home-grown terrorists?

My reflex response is Yes, with the rider that UK behaviour is one of the principle causes of home-grown terrorism, but since that is begging the question, let’s listen to some of the arguments.

The forum is Sunday Morning, the replacement for The Big Debate, which I criticised in its initial format and structuring, but which has since improved significantly.

The other significant contributor to home-grown terrorism and to conflict all over the globe, is of course, religion, a fact which is usually glossed over, even on a programme like Sunday Morning, which has a religious basis. What the major world religions have demonstrated, over the millennia, is an undoubted propensity for attacking and killing each other.

The main players in this endless blood feud are the Christians, the Muslims and the Jews, all three of which are derived from the same root traditions.

A departure from this unholy trinity was of course the conflict following the partition of the India into India and Pakistan in 1948. Buddhists, while regularly persecuted by others, rarely, if ever, have been the aggressors. We might of course add the behaviour of Japan under Hirohito and the Shinto religion, but this owes more to the militaristic, nationalistic, quasi-religious cult of the Bushido (dreamt up by a converted Japanese Quaker with an American wife and living in Philadephia) that exploited Shinto and Buddhist religions, and the emperor.

But let the participants in this little aspect of the great debate speak for themselves -

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Tobias Ellwood avoids every question on Defence Cuts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 1 October 2010

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

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

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

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

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

What does he say?

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

You can say that again, Nick.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Iraq, Scotland and Jim Murphy – yesterday’s man

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Iraq was a mistake: it was wrong. Ed Miliband as the new Leader of the Labour Party

At last – they have admitted to the crime of Iraq, and the frozen faces in Ed Miliband’s conference audience of those complicit in it said it all. Brother David, with a rictus smile on his face, is caught by the ever-vigilant BBC camera turning to Harriet Harman and saying “Why are you applauding – you voted for it” The ever-emollient and glib niece of the Countess of Longford smiles, and replied “I supported him …”)

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.”

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Baron Prescott and Iraq

John Prescott – now Baron Prescott of Kingston-upon-Hull – is the man who was supposed to represent true working class values in the money, celebrity and power-obsessed New Labour. He is now complacently ensconced on the benches of the House of Lords, oozing self-satisfaction from every pore, probably still nursing a self-image of himself as an honest, straight-talking working class boy.

The Chilcot Enquiry eventually got around to him, doubtless worried that his uncertain grasp of the syntax of his native language would pose some difficulties for them. But after all, he is now safely embedded in the British Establishment, and there is little chance that he will say anything to jeopardise that new status and incriminate himself, nor is he likely to shed any light on the criminal venture known as the Iraq War. If he does inadvertently give something away, it can be safely laughed off as “just John just being John”.

In spite of being at the centre of events – he was after all Deputy Prime Minister – his testimony reveals a man almost unaware of the fact that he was part of an unfolding tragedy of global proportions, one that would result in death and destruction for hundreds of thousands, perhaps over a million innocents, the polarisation of relationships between the Muslim World and the nominally Christian West, and destabilisation of the entire Middle East.

A few quotes -

On intelligence reports: “ --- a bit of tittle-tattle here and a bit more information there ---”

On his evaluation of the reports: “ --- they made me a little bit nervous ---“

On Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, former Head of MI5: “She was always on about the threat of terrorism. Along with it came ‘Give me some money.’”

On Tony Blair’s handling of the decision to go to war, and criticisms of his decision: “We have seen a few people gloss over their part in the history of what happened. I have learned that true leadership is not about having the benefit of hindsight. It is about having the gift of vision, courage and compassion, and I believe that Tony Blair had all three.”

Thank you, Baron Prescott of Kingston-upon-Hull, for that deep insight into a man that a large proportion of the world now considers a war criminal, who failed completely to display any vision about the appalling consequences of his actions, who failed utterly in courage in dealing with the Bush Regime, and who, while regularly engaging in displays of gross sentimentality, showed no compassion whatsoever for the lives ruined by his decision.

The multi-millionaire peace envoy to the Middle East, Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, will doubtless be grateful for your heartfelt endorsement. It vindicates his decision to keep you on board throughout his regime to sanitise his government’s actions in Iraq, in the safe and secure knowledge that you would never questions them, because you would never understand them.

Enjoy the ermine, the cosy benches of the Lords and the generous attendance allowance, Lord Prescott – it is small enough reward for loyalty such as yours. Greater love hath no man than he avert his eyes from the transgressions of his friend.

Some quotes on Lord Prescott’s testimony to the Iraq Enquiry -

Rose Gentle, mother of Gordon Gentle of the First battalion of the Royal Highland Fusiliers, an early casualty in Iraq. “I’m disgusted. This is my boy’s life they’re talking about. The smug look on that man’s face made it look as if it was just a joke to him”.

Michael Aston, father of Corporal Russell Aston, Killed in Iraq. “His remarks are absolutely disgraceful – there are 179 families who have lost their loved ones in this war.”

Angus Robertson, SNP Defence spokesman in Westminster.There can be few more serious decisions than taking a country to war, yet John Prescott has dismissed some of the key intelligence as mere tittle-tattle.

see also Fallujah's children - BBC

Friday, 26 March 2010

The poisoned, profitable fruits of war and death

Why did Blair go to war?

 Why did Bush go to war?

Why has war become the operating principle of the modern state again, after the revulsion at the slaughter of the Great War - the war to end all wars - and the exhaustion after what may have been the only just war of the 20th century – World War Two

Because it is hugely profitable to the warmongers - it enhances political reputations and increase the status of politicians and it enriches all sorts of companies and individuals. War is the route to incalculable wealth for some.

And wars are again like the old imperial wars of 19th century Britain - they can be fought away from home, with the native soil and commercial infrastructure virtually untouched. All the people have to bear is their impoverishment, and some must bear the deaths of their children, their fathers, their mothers, their brothers and sisters, their loved ones.

(The horror and profound shock of 9/11 for Americans was that this unspoken principle had been violated, and war had come to the heart of America. Even the long trauma of Vietnam had never touched American soil, despite the magnitude of the slaughter on foreign fields.)

The whole apparatus of modern PR and communications is now used to gain the public’s tacit acceptance of war - their dead loved ones are hailed as heroes, the acceptably injured are paraded for the cameras and the gruesomely maimed and disfigured are hidden away.

And the old men can turn out in their berets and medals for the sad, sad passage of the young dead through the streets, finding a false analogy with the just war they once fought, so long, long ago.

The BBC and the commercial television channels are shamefully complicit in this process, with only the occasional brave documentary revealing the true horror.

The priests, prelates and ministers of religion celebrate the lives and mourn the deaths in their ancient liturgies, yet all too rarely condemn unequivocally this ultimate crime against humanity. Some, in an obscene perversion of beliefs and creeds, actively advocate the crusade or the jihad. Religion and war continue to be the inseparable twins they have been throughout history, carried on the endless river of blood and drawing sustenance from it.

Maggie started the lethal process for Britain with the Falklands war, reaping huge political benefit, and her acolyte and admirer, Blair, catapulted himself on to the world stage through wars, and continues to profit obscenely from the poisoned fruits of the Four Horsemen.

Geoff Hoon and his ilk only scavenge the substantial crumbs from the feast of death – the real criminals are untouchable. In the last few days, some of them advocated turning Iran “into a sheet of glass” through nuclear strikes.

Scotland doesn’t have to be a part of this, and we will very shortly have our chance to demonstrate this at a general election, and later in a referendum. Vote for life – for humanity.

Monday, 8 March 2010

The wisdom and prescience of Robin Cook

Once the Labour Party had men and women of integrity and real stature. There are none left, or if there are, they are silent and invisible.

Last week Gordon Brown, the present Leader of the thing the Labour Party has become – a cynical political machine for holding on to power – displayed a highly selective memory for events in the lead-up to the Iraq War, as he evaded the questions of Sir Roderic Lyne. One of his lapses of memory related to his late colleague, Robin Cook.

Let us remind ourselves of the courage, wisdom and prescience displayed by Robin Cook in his resignation speech in 2003.

A few selected quotes -

The US can afford to go it alone, but Britain is not a superpower.

Our interests are best protected not by unilateral action but by multilateral agreement and a world order governed by rules.

The legal basis for our action in Kosovo was the need to respond to an urgent and compelling humanitarian crisis.

Our difficulty in getting support this time is that neither the international community nor the British public is persuaded that there is an urgent and compelling reason for this military action in Iraq.

The threshold for war should always be high.

It is entirely legitimate to support our troops while seeking an alternative to the conflict that will put those troops at risk.

Nor is it fair to accuse those of us who want longer for inspections of not having an alternative strategy.

For four years as foreign secretary I was partly responsible for the western strategy of containment.

Over the past decade that strategy destroyed more weapons than in the Gulf war, dismantled Iraq's nuclear weapons programme and halted Saddam's medium and long-range missiles programmes.

Ironically, it is only because Iraq's military forces are so weak that we can even contemplate its invasion. Some advocates of conflict claim that Saddam's forces are so weak, so demoralised and so badly equipped that the war will be over in a few days.

We cannot base our military strategy on the assumption that Saddam is weak and at the same time justify pre-emptive action on the claim that he is a threat.

Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term - namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target.

It probably still has biological toxins and battlefield chemical munitions, but it has had them since the 1980s when US companies sold Saddam anthrax agents and the then British Government approved chemical and munitions factories.

Why is it now so urgent that we should take military action to disarm a military capacity that has been there for 20 years, and which we helped to create?

Why is it necessary to resort to war this week, while Saddam's ambition to complete his weapons programme is blocked by the presence of UN inspectors?

Only a couple of weeks ago, Hans Blix told the Security Council that the key remaining disarmament tasks could be completed within months.

I have heard it said that Iraq has had not months but 12 years in which to complete disarmament, and that our patience is exhausted.

Yet it is more than 30 years since resolution 242 called on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.

We do not express the same impatience with the persistent refusal of Israel to comply.

I welcome the strong personal commitment that the prime minister has given to middle east peace, but Britain's positive role in the middle east does not redress the strong sense of injustice throughout the Muslim world at what it sees as one rule for the allies of the US and another rule for the rest.

Nor is our credibility helped by the appearance that our partners in Washington are less interested in disarmament than they are in regime change in Iraq.

That explains why any evidence that inspections may be showing progress is greeted in Washington not with satisfaction but with consternation: it reduces the case for war.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

The Chilcot Enquiry - criticisms

There has been a barrage of criticism directed at the Chilcot Enquiry, ranging from its terms of reference to its composition and its approach and style in interviewing witnesses. The background and objectivity of its members has come under merciless scrutiny, and it has been branded as an establishment stitch up and whitewash before it even started. The lack of someone with a legal and inquisitorial experience and qualifications among its members has repeatedly been advanced as a weakness.

Whatever the secret intent of those in Government who set it up - and we can hardly be surprised at their behaviour - it is what it is, and we must judge its performance against the constraints it operates under. It has no power to compel witnesses to attend, evidence is not given under oath, and there is no remit to place blame, only to "learn lessons", that most abused of phrases by those desperate to avoid accountability.

Within that context, I don't share the view expressed by many that it is doing a bad job, and I think that when the final report is published, Sir John and his team may surprise us all.

Like most commentators, I feel that Sir Roderic Lyne is the most effective member of the team, and no one should be misled by his polite, gentlemanly style into thinking that he has not secured vital admissions from some witnesses, and perhaps more importantly, nakedly exposed the evasions that perhaps said more than the answers given.

We'll just have to wait and see ...