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Showing posts with label Liam Fox. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Liam Fox. Show all posts

Thursday, 7 February 2013

The Hippocratic oath - WMDs and alcohol – dilemmas for doctors

A blog from winter 2010 – still relevant to WMD and to the minimum pricing for alcohol debate

Friday, 12 November 2010

The Hippocratic oath – old and new

I have been aware of the existence of the Hippocratic Oath for most of my life, have probably glibly referred to it on occasion, but until last night, I have never actually read it or understood its exact place in modern medicine.

Events in the Scottish Parliament this week led me to find out a bit more about it, and I now realise that most of what I believed was based on various misconceptions.

1. I believed that it had existed in an unchanged form since Hippocrates – the father of modern medicine - first set it down several hundred years before the birth of Christ. It hasn’t,  and in fact Hippocrates may have had little to do with it …

2. I believed that every medical practitioner was obliged to take the Hippocratic oath. They are not, at least not in recent years …

In fact, the wording of the original Oath, in translation, astonished me. I had hoped to find something in it that would help me to understand what influence, if any, it might have on medical doctors who get involved in politics – say, Dr. Liam Fox, for example. (You may be able to think of others.)

Would anything in the Oath, in its original form or in the more modern principles favoured by the BMA, that try to hold on to some of the essential sense and principles of the original act as any guide to the ethical and moral behaviour of a doctor involved in the pragmatic and often dirty business of politics?

How, for example, could Liam Fox interpret his responsibilities under the oath when acting as a Defence Minister, commissioning weapons of death and mass destruction, and sending young men and women to kill other human beings, and perhaps to be killed or maimed themselves?

Would he take the ethical position that, since he was not practising medicine in this role, the oath was irrelevant? After all, doctors are not like priests, claiming to draw their authority from their god – they are high-level professionals, with high ethical standards, but ordinary mortals nonetheless.

No answer there – the question is beyond my philosophical and analytical abilities.

But how about, say for example, a doctor/politician who in his or her role is obliged to bring medical knowledge specifically to bear on decisions affecting the health of the population?

Say, over egregious abuse of alcohol in a society?

A thorny question also, but perhaps more amenable to Hippocratic analysis, but certainly not hypocritical consideration.

Doctors, like scientists, often reach different conclusions faced with the same facts, the same evidence: doctors debate, discuss, in fact in recent months, I’ve heard them doing it many times at the end of my beds in St. John’s and the RIE, and at the beds of other critically ill patients. It struck me as a vital dialogue - not always between equals, because the medical profession is hierarchical in the extreme - but one where every view is invited, heard and weighed.

Back to the Hippocratic Oath …

I’ll take the classic version rather than the original, which frankly sounds more than a little odd to a modern ear. (It’s also a little odd in the classic version.)

It’s hard to seize on anything relevant to a modern topic such as, say, dealing with the enormous harm to the health, wellbeing, safety and economic strength of an entire nation because of abuse of a legal and freely available dangerous drug – alcohol.

I will apply dietic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.”

I couldn’t find dietic in my Oxford dictionary, so I presume it means dietetic – relating to diet, i.e. the nature of food and drink ingested.

Alcohol, misused, clearly does harm, and undoubtedly causes injustice, in its supply to people who are by age, immaturity or predisposition to addiction and excess vulnerable to this drug, and to others, who are harmed by violence, by disturbance in public places, in the home, by the overstretching of the caring and public order services, by economic factors – the list is a long one.

Keeping them all from harm and injustice due to alcohol abuse seems to me an appropriate interpretation of the Hippocratic Oath.

“I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make suggestion to this effect.”

A difficult one to interpret in the context of a licensed drug and a licensed trade, especially when that drug forms a central part of the economy of my country. One might reasonably expect a doctor to recognise that the drug is only deadly under certain circumstances, and consumed in moderation may actually be beneficial, but to look long and hard at it becoming available too cheaply and too easily to vulnerable groups especially the young and immature.

But where there is a widespread consensus, in the society of which that doctor is a part, by virtually all doctors, the professional association that represents doctors, by the police force of that society, by the established Church of that society, by health workers, addiction workers, careworkers in that country, one might reasonably expect that a doctor/politician would tend to follow that consensus, a consensus of his or her peers and virtually every authoritative voice.

Of course, one must allow for the fact the majority are not always right; that lone voices, driven by burning personal conviction, must follow their consciences, and speak out against the majority if necessary. Such men and women have rendered invaluable service to their profession and to society at great personal cost on occasion.

It would of course be unthinkable that anyone would be influenced significantly or even totally by purely political considerations in going against that consensus, would it not? Let’s hope it never happens …

Well, I am not a doctor, but I owe my life to the medical profession in Scotland, not once, but several times over the last year, and I experienced their dedication,  professionalism and deep humanity at first hand. I also saw how the abuse of alcohol in Scottish society overstretched them, consumed an inappropriate amount of scarce resources, and exposed them personally to violence and intimidation.

So in that respect at least, I feel that I have a right – and a duty - to speak.

Friday, 20 January 2012

The UK’s nuclear panic - and devo max

To see oorsel’s as ithers see us - Al Jazeera - Breaking up Britain? 19th Jan 2012

Among the many perceptive insights in this article are these -

When independence comes “the UK will lose 90 per cent of its oil and gas reserves in the North Sea and almost half its land mass.”

Malcolm Rifkind (“who is himself a ScotAye, right) says "It would certainly open up the question of permanent membership of the Security Council in a way that would be quite awkward for the UK."

Professor Malcolm Chalmers, Research Director at the Royal United Strategic Institute, notes the central nature of the nuclear issue, and the desperation of the UK to force Scotland to retain the bases. The observation is made that if the bases go after independence, “it is a real possibility that the UK could be left with no operational nuclear deterrent because the submarines could not be safely berthed.”

The article also notes that “The ability to continue formulating its own policy is also a factor motivating Scotland's drive [towards] independence.”

And there you have it in a nutshell - defence, the nuclear bases and the UK’s status in world affairs hang on Scotland’s independence, and nothing else really matters as much to the Unionists.

I’ve said a lot about the nuclear and defence issues over the years, and you can find my views by looking down the right hand index of blog search terms.

But the essence is this, for me at least -

1. I want a nuclear-free Scotland, and the only way to achieve this is full independence. I am totally and utterly opposed to the concept of the nuclear deterrent and WMDs.

2. I do not want anyone other than the Scottish Government that I elected to commit my country to war and to foreign engagements.

3. I do not want anyone other than the Scottish Government that I elected to send our servicemen and women into harms way and to die.

4. I am not a pacifist, and believe in conventional defence forces, and in joining with other countries in international military operations, e.g. peacekeeping operations or strategic interventions that Scotland supports.

The only way to achieve these objectives is the full independence of Scotland as a nation, since all of the UK parties are committed to nuclear weapons and the ‘independent’ nuclear deterrent.

Independence delivers devo max, i.e full fiscal autonomy, by default. The price of devo max without independence exacted by the UK is -

1. Retention of Scottish nuclear bases.

2. Retention of the Trident weapons of mass destruction.

3. Retention of the concept of the nuclear deterrent.

4. Retention of the right of the Westminster Parliament to send Scottish servicemen and women to war, and to die.

If you want to retain the UK, by definition you are endorsing all of the above.

If you want devo max without independence, by definition you are endorsing all of the above.

If you want neither devo max nor independence, by definition you are endorsing all of the above.

The Labour Party, the Tory Party, the LibDems are committed to the UK, therefore they are committed to all of the above.

THAT IS THE STARK REALITY OF REJECTING SCOTLAND’S INDEPENDENCE - THERE IS NO OTHER POSSIBLE INTERPRETATION.

The media slide away from these issues whenever they can, and focus instead on the economy. The economy is important - defence issues are vital.

Unionist politicians slide away from these issues whenever they can, at least until they are driven into panic mode by being forced to face them, as  Jim Murphy has been today by  Alex Salmond’s position on Scotland defence forces and resources..

Last night on STV, a politician I have some respect for, Henry McLeish, slid away from these issues, because despite his realism on Scotland and Scottish politics, he is a Labour politician and shackled to nuclear weapons like the rest of them.



Until very recently, these issues, and therefore the lives of Scottish servicemen and women were in the hands of one Liam Fox, the then Defence Minister. The circumstances leading to his downfall - preceded by desperate attempts to defend him and prop him up by Tory politicians - told us all we need to know about the reality of defence matters, defence procurement and the M.O.D. when in such hands.

At the moment, more Scots seem to want devo max than want independence. If they reject independence, there is no guarantee they will get devo max, because it will then continue to be in the gift of the Westminster Parliament, and Scotland has no democratic way of securing it, nor any negotiating card to play.

If the Scottish voter in favour of independence cannot persuade those against it to change their minds, then we default to nuclear weapons, war and death.

It’s as simple as that, and nothing will ever compensate us for that fatal choice. Make it with care, Scottish voters.

Friday, 18 November 2011

FMQs, sketch writers, and hounding the Wee Lord of Islay

Most newspapers carry as part of their political coverage a political sketch column. These are intended as a lighter note to the portentously-titled analysis pieces, and usually try to strike a humorous or satirical note – often rather leaden humour – but they sometimes also serve as vehicles for the sketch writer and, who knows, the newspaper itself to give full rein to blatant bias under a cloak of jollity.

Since abandoning the Scotsman to its fate, a paper which is in decline into irrelevance as a serious newspaper, I have for the moment replaced it with the Times. This choice was dictated by the fact that its layout is impeccable, and it comes in a Scottish edition, whose Scottishness unfortunately does not extend to its Letters page.

It also comes with Angus Macleod, who rarely lets his unionism get in the way of facts, because he is a fine journalist.

But back to the sketch columns, which today in the Herald and the Times both cover yesterday’s FMQs at Holyrood. Holyrood FMQs, for all its vigour, is a model of good democratic theatre, as contrasted with the baying mobs on the green benches of Westminster, and in the last term, 2007-2011, it had four fine lead actors in the weekly mini-soap, expertly cast – the rumbustious hero/villain (dependent on your political orientation) Alex Salmond, the dour, humourless villain/hero Iain Gray, a feisty heroine in Annabel Goldie and a smoothly irrelevant nice guy in Tavish Scott.

These four principals, together with some interesting support actors, provided ready material for the sketch writers, as did the finely balanced plot of a minority government struggling to stay afloat in a boat where the three other parties were in a semi-permanent state of near-mutiny, conspiring against the Captain, who despite his vulnerability, kept lashing them unmercifully. Annabel seemed to like this, Tavish didn’t and Iain Gray took it with a sullen stoicism.

Alas, the soap is now based on a new ship, with the Captain firmly in charge, having decisively put down the mutineers and packed the vessel with his own loyal crew. Iain Gray has been told by his party that he has been written out of the script, and just has the residual role of dying in a suitable spectacular manner until a replacement is found. Annabel has been replaced by a Parliamentary newcomer, a young actress who made her name in kung-fu movies, but is otherwise inexperienced. Her fellow actors didn’t want her – the one they wanted is sullenly hiding at the back of the boat – and this leaves her expecting attack from the rear as well as the front.

In replacing Tavish, the casting director has gone for someone at least as ineffectual but also lacking in presence. The fact that he is named after a popular brand of antacid hasn’t helped, and he leads a tiny, shrunken, demoralised band. Not much for the sketch writers yet.

Magnus Linklater in the Times deals with this by pretending he has watched a different FMQs to the rest of us, which I suppose was the only coping strategy open to a unionist. In the episode he watched, which nobody else has seen, Iain Gray is the hero – serious, with an air of decency about him, he rise to the challenge, and delivers rejoinders with great passion and great effect. The First Minister of Scotland, the overwhelming choice of the electorate, in contrast, has weaknesses in his truculent arguments, is supported by a backbench clique – he bridles at criticism deliver by our hero Iain, he has standard Salmond lines, etc.

The only problem with your review of this episode of FMQs, Magnus, is that no one else has seen it, only you. It must have been a discarded pilot, run by mistake on a minority channel. Or perhaps it was a Dallas fantasy dream sequence, and you and Iain will now awaken to the Gray reality on November 2011. The electorate may view the real episode for themselves, in fact, I may link – later




Ian Bell does a more objective job in the Herald, and keeps his powder dry. Rather like Angus Macleod, he does not let his nostalgia for that old-time socialist religion get in the way of the facts. But Ian is unhappy about the way that Scotland is going – he just makes a better job of hiding it than Magnus Linklater.

LORD ROBERTSON OF PORT ELLEN

I am delighted to support the wee Lord of Islay’s claim that SNP critics hound him. Here I come Geordie, baying after your scent …

The noble Lord, whose life has been immeasurably enriched by his close association with the weapons of war and the merchants of death, especially the nuclear deterrent aka weapons of mass destruction, sees NATO as a job creation scheme for Scottish industry, rather than as a paranoid defence organisation. Why question the purpose of the armaments or their relationship to any real defence need, or the price in blood that must be paid for them when they are such an unfailing source of jobs to Scotland, not to mention lucrative directorships and consultancies to politicians? How else is a wee boy from Islay going to get to be a Lord? Ask John Reid, he knows – or ask Liam Fox, a wee boy from East Kilbride. No, on second thought, don’t ask Liam Fox – he never made it to the Lords, although he was well on his way. Shame, that …

So he warns Scotland of the terrible consequences of attempting to be a free nation, to have defence forces appropriate to its real defence needs, to be free of the intolerable financial and moral burdens of WMDs, to stop sending its young men and women to die in the foreign wars that are so necessary to the profit machine called the military/industrial complex.

Of course, they are not consequences, they are empty threats, designed to intimidate a free people and suppress their democratic instincts .

But then, that’s what British foreign policy is all about, isn’t it, Geordie?

Oh, my sweet Lord – with apologies to George Harrison.

EXTRACT FROM 24th September 2011 BLOG

But of course, the high road to England has been the glittering prize for ambitious Scottish Labour Party politicians, and indeed all Scottish politicians with the exception of the SNP – a route to Westminster, ministerial office and ultimately the Lords, the final escape from democracy and the tedious need to get elected to make money. They have the shining Labour examples from the past to inspire them – Lord George Foulkes, Lord Martin, the disgraced former Speaker, Lord McConnell, Lord Watson, convicted of fire-raising in a Scottish hotel, Baroness Adams, once distinguished as having the highest expenses of any member of the Lords, despite having spoken in the Upper chamber only once (2009), Lord Reid, Lord Robertson – the list goes on.

However, the last two are interesting, since they were both Scottish Labour MPs who became UK Secretaries of State for Defence, and in Lord Robertson’s case, grasped the even more glittering prize of Secretary General of NATO.

It is fair to say that no such exalted – and highly lucrative – posts would ever be open to a Scottish MP who decided to devote himself or herself solely to the interests of the people who elected them to Westminster, and are certainly not open to those who decided to become MSPS and serve the Scottish people in Scotland.

Now the most ambitious Labour MPs – and MSPs - grasp these essential facts very rapidly indeed, and at the earliest opportunity get the hell out of Scotland and as far away from the realities of the day-to-day lives of their constituents as possible. While Springburn crumbled into even greater dereliction and poverty than that which had been the legacy of decades as a Labour fiefdom, Michael Martin was sitting in the Speaker’s chair, acting as shop steward for the MPs who were ripping off the taxpayer through the expenses system.

George Islay MacNeill Robertson left Islay as fast as possible, and despite being elected six times as MP for either Hamilton or Hamilton South, moved swiftly to more exalted UK posts, and ultimately to NATO. He now bristles with directorships and consultancies.

John Reid, MP of Motherwell North and then Airdrie and Shotts soon saw the attractions of the classic route to power – Secretary of State for Scotland and Secretary of State for Defence, and held numerous other Cabinet posts besides. A former Communist and a product of a very rough realpolitik Labour environment, he once described the Labour Party in 1983 as "Leaderless, unpatriotic, dominated by demagogues, policies 15 years out of date". Twenty eight years on, his description still more or less fits. But he saw the light and the road to power, prestige, wealth and a Lordship very clearly indeed, and the rewards have been substantial indeed for the Baron of Cardowan.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The poppy and pro-war propaganda

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

PetieEddie

 
These are my uncles – Peter and Edward McCluskey.

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

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

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

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

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

OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO OUR SOLDIERS

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

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

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

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

THE CONFLICTS

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

THE POPPY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Extract from Sept. 2011 blog

WHY DEFENCE AND FOREIGN POLICY MATTERS TO UNIONIST POLITICIANS

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

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

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

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

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

THE MOD

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

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

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

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

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




R.I.P. Uncle Petie and Uncle Eddie

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The Defence of Liam Fox – a load of old Boles

Nick Boles MP offered a fatuous and increasingly irascible ‘defence’ of Liam Fox to Kirsty Wark, demonstrating just how thin the ice the Fox is skating on really is. But it also demonstrates the weakness – and the hypocrisy – of the Labour attack on Fox, with Labour snouts still dripping with their insatiable feeding at the trough for 13 years of M.O.D. incompetence accompanied by the enrichment of Labour ministers and their favoured squad of lobbyists, defence contractors, Middle Eastern dictators, et al.

Jim Murphy’s rather leaden attack on Fox in the Commons debate was also fatally flawed because of his party’s acceptance of cash from Cellcrypt, a company at the heart of the charges laid against Fox and Werrity.

There used to be a scatological version of the lyric of The Finger of Suspicion Points at You, a popular song of the 1950s, with the substituted line -

Someone crept into the Crypt, and crapped and crept away

the finger of suspicion points at You!



The defence discussion in the Commons that preceded Fox’s statement consisted of rampant self-interested questions about the distribution of defence spoils around the constituencies – the Defence as Job Creation Scheme concept of the defence of the realm. It was of course prudently interspersed with pious expressions of concern for our brave servicemen and women on the front line, who make all this profitable enterprise so rewarding for those who stay at home while they place their young lives and futures on the line, inadequately equipped, fighting for a cause for which no  coherent justification has ever been offered, although many contradictory and self-serving attempts are made at regular intervals.

In between all this inhuman cant, the brutal reality burst through occasionally, of death, injury, brain damage, psychological damage, broken-hearted relatives and ruined lives, in the form of interventions by the tiny number of MPs who really cared about our service personnel and were trying to alleviate their suffering and that of their families.

After this undignified, self-serving spectacle, Liam Fox and his chorus of loyal admirers defended - with straight faces, indeed faces set in a rictus of patriotic indignation – the series of astonishing coincidences, surprise meetings in dining rooms across the globe, family holidays that to everyone’s surprise happened just at the same time and in the same place as pivotal defence discussions, and diaries that miraculously synchronised, in a kind of unique serendipity, with the joint interests and undying friendship of Liam and Adam, a friendship that will surely go down in history along with David and Jonathan and other shining examples.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Jo Coburn demolishes a Grayling and buries a Fox




A superb, perfectly judged example of what a political interview should be. When BBC political interviewers challenge the powerful, they should always do it as effectively as this.

The choice of Chris Grayling to champion Liam Fox's cause was profoundly misconceived - his involvement with Atlantic Bridge should have been enough to ring the warning bells. He was probably selected for his emollient personality and style - another misjudgement, since this was his undoing - a champion with a lance made of putty.

With friends like this, Fox needs no enemies ...


Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Fox/Werrity affair

Liam Fox must be as lonely as a kitten in a wash-house copper with the lid on this weekend, perhaps reflecting that it is a melancholy truth that even great men have their poor relations. Or he might think that charity begins at home but justice begins next door.

What’s with the Dickensian quotations, you make ask? Well, no good reason other than the Werrity, a surname I’ve never come across before, sounds Pickwickian  to me – a Sam Weller pronunciation of verity, perhaps – and verity means a true statement, especially one of fundamental import.

I don’t like Liam Fox, for a variety of reasons, other than the fact that he’s a Tory (some of my best friends are Tories – I’ve even had relatives who were Tories) but certainly including the fact that he is a high-road-to-England Scot who followed the heat-seeking missile route to defence that ambitious Scots, often Labour politicians, have blazed the trail for, because of certain well-known advantages that it confers it those who wish to have a secure financial base to their political career, as I observed in recent blogs.



I don’t like him because he is a medical doctor by profession who is an enthusiast for weapons of mass destruction capable of killing and maiming millions and blighting the planet for centuries, maybe forever.

And I don’t like him because he loses no opportunity, and spurns no platform where he may profess his undying support for the Union, something that I wholly irrationally don’t like to hear from an East Kilbride boy and graduate of Glasgow University.

And I do not like him for the same reasons as an ancient Roman once set out -

Non amo te, Sabidi, nec possum dicere quare;

Hoc tantum possum dicere, non amo te

or in a late 17th century version, familiar to me as a child’s rhyme since primary school

I do not like thee, Doctor Fell,
The reason why - I cannot tell;
But this I know, and know full well,
I do not like thee, Doctor Fell.

My distaste for the man, however, does not make him guilty of anything, and we await the results of the enquiry.

The facts, as far as they are known, have been set out by the press, and despite being wary of trial by media, they seems pretty strange to me. Some of them, e.g. the trips, the access, the business cards, the two incarnations of a right-wing charity set up to celebrate the Thatcher-Reagan eraAtlantic Bridge - and which some interest groups seems to have been almost indecently enthusiastic about financing – seems to speak for themselves, and they don’t tell a tale I would like to be associated with, but who knows?

(Other speculations about the exact nature of the relationship between Doctor Fox and his friend I will leave to those who trawl in such waters.)

He has the full support of David Cameron, rather as Andy Coulson had, and that should be enough to send a chill down the good doctor’s spine. If in a few months the question is Doctor who? we may be assured that the post will be filled by yet another career politician, party immaterial, since politicians are not at all doctrinaire when it comes to the Great Honeypot and the military/industrial complex.

Perhaps the Coalition can make him a Lord – that path is well-blazed, and well-greased as well.

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.




Saturday, 26 June 2010

Armed Forces Day 26th June 2010

Today is Armed Forces Day. This is the second annual Armed Forces Day, an event set up by the last Labour Government to encourage the country to demonstrate its support for the military. It will centre on Cardiff, but there will be upwards of 350 other events throughout the UK.

The new Defence Secretary, Liam Fox is quoted as saying

"As a nation, we have a duty to support our Armed Forces for all they do for us. Members of the Armed Forces, both past and present, have made great sacrifices in the name of our country but these men and women do not ask for sympathy, they ask for your support."

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

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

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

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

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

Armed Forces Day must be a demonstration of support for all of the above objectives, but it must not be hijacked by politicians and the British establishment for other reasons. There are deeply worrying indicators that this is exactly what is happening.

Here is a quote from Sky News, and it is one of many expressing similar sentiments -

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

Major-General Gordon Messenger, the military spokesman on Afghanistan, hopes events like Armed Forces Day help to balance opinion.

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

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

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

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

This serves as a smokescreen to obscure to real failing of a failed state – the UK – to address the very real and fundamental needs of those on the frontline, and continuing to defend the massive drain on resources represented by Trident and weapons of mass destruction that are entirely irrelevant to the modern world and the defence challenges it presents. It serves as a PR exercise to attempt to validate the UK’s increasingly false claim to be a major player in the geopolitical great game, when in fact it is merely a convenient puppet for US foreign policy, draining its resources in an increasingly nonsensical claim to be a great power on the world stage.

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

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