Tuesday, November 30, 2004


Local People, Local Lebensraum

Yesterday AFP ran a well-below-the-fold item about the construction of Nof Hasharon, a 52-home settlement in the west bank. The substance of the piece was largely lifted from an article by Akiva Eldar in Ha'aretz two weeks ago ('After a while, the settlements will annexe the state', 18 November 2004), albeit fattened up with quotations from the Palestinians who happen to live there and local Israelis who oppose the expansion.

At first glance the story is not exactly news. 'Israelis build settlement in west bank'—big deal. But the administrative arrangement cooked up for Nof Hasharon is apparently the first example of what could be a new trend of intergrating settlements between the green line and the separation wall with settlements on the Israeli side the green line—in this case Nirit, "a small communal settlement" founded in 1981. Clear so far? According to Eldar,

"Residents of the new settlement will be hooked up to the water, sewage and electricity networks that Nirit residents built with their own money, and they will send their children to the kindergartens in Nirit. Except property tax will be paid to the Alfei Menashe local council, which is on the other side of both the Green Line and the separation fence. A plot of land in the new neighborhood will cost $50,000, the usual price for land in the territories, as opposed to $160,000, the going rate in Nirit."

How do the people in Nirit feel? According to poll of residents,

"70 percent of the families oppose the construction of the new neighborhood." (Dan Izenberg, 'Israeli community petitions against unwanted West Bank suburb', The Jerusalem Post, 8 November 2004; p. 4)

But it gets more complicated. Eldar quotes a letter from a Major Oded Langerman, an Israeli officer in the west bank, on a meeting with the Alfei Menashe security man thus:
"After most of the neighbourhood is populated, the two neighbourhoods (Nof Hasharon and Nirit) will be linked into a single security zone by taking down the fence that runs along the edge between the two neighborhoods"—
i.e., the border recognised by most of the rest of the world.

I needn't tell you the response of the US embassy in Tel Aviv, but I propose a challenge. See if you can battle your way through the following sub-cognitive fog and arrive at the far end in a fit state to be suitably surprised that the de facto revision of international borders and sabotage of a major diplomatic initiative can elicit no detectable concern:
"The government of Israel took decisions in the context of the road map, including a commitment to implement the road map that calls for a freeze on settlement. We are carrying on contacts with the government of Israel to define the meaning of this freeze on the ground. We have made clear to the highest echelons in Israel our expectations regarding implementation of these subjects, and discussions continue. We are tracking developments in regard to specific cases, but cannot relate to these cases."

Well, could you?


Monday, November 29, 2004


Part 2: The Tribunal of Reason

I'll get on to something that has actually happened recently in a little while (scroll down to find out what I'm on about). But first some more background. Earlier in the year The Observer got its hands on an e-mail sent to the press secretaries of Repulican congressmen in February, advising them that

"global warming has not been proved, air quality is 'getting better', the world's forests are 'spreading, not deadening', oil reserves are 'increasing, not decreasing', and the 'world's water is cleaner and reaching more people'."

The same story re-quoted a leaked memo from 2002 by Republican party stretegist Frank Luntz, which warned:

"'The scientific debate is closing (against us) but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science.'" (Antony Barnett, 'Secret email gives advice on denying climate change', The Observer, 4 April 2004; p. 22)

And yesterday The Observer reported on today's publication of the International Policy Network's apparently "long-awaited" report on climate change, which, true to form, says that it's a myth and continues the abuse of David King, who is now

"an embarrassment to himself and an embarrassment to his country."

Good to learn that one of the tastier fruits of our special relationship is constant public humiliation of one of our leading civil servants by obvious quacks. Stiff upper lip, David.


Part 1: A Window of Opportunity to Challenge the Science

Remember Kyoto? Remember all that stuff about healing the divisions in the free world? Both are now safely luxuriating in the footnotes.

Earlier in the month, barely a day after Bush's re-election, Myron Ebell, "director of global warming" at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, appeared on the "Today" programme, presumably feeling pretty flush with that fresh four-year mandate, to make a start on this painful but necessary process. Immediately he launched into a bitter attack on Sir David King, claiming his warnings on climate change were "ridiculous" and "alarmist", and dismissing their factual basis as "a tissue of improbabilities". Ebell continued:
"We have people who know nothing-about climate science like Sir David King, who are alarmist and continually promote this ridiculous claim". (Paul Waugh, Joe Murphy, 'Bush Aims to Make an Aggressive Start', The Evening Standard, 4 November 2004; p. B4)
Note that this was not so long since Downing Street had put pressure on the hapless King to
"limit his contact with the media after making criticisms of the US administration for failing to take global warming sufficiently seriously,"

after he had dared to write in Science ('Climate change science: adapt, mitigate, or ignore?', 9 January 2004; p.176):
"In my view, climate change is the most severe problem that we are facing today - more serious even than the threat of terrorism". (quoted in: Vanessa Houlder, 'Scientist denies 'muzzle' on media contacts', Financial Times, 10 March 2004; p. 5)

The attack continued into the week, with The Times running a piece by Philip Stott, Professor Emeritus of Biogeography in the University of London, who pilloried Blair for his "addiction" to the Kyoto Protocol, whatever he thinks that is, and claimed:
"It is an assault on different cultural values which have been honed by history and the wider horizons of geography" (Philip Stott, 'Kyoto will be rained on', The Times, Features, 5 November 2004; p. 17)

I don't relish the prospect of going head-to-head with a Professor Emeritus of anything, but if he's claiming that some science doesn't apply in the US because of "different cultural values", then I reckon I'm on fairly firm ground.

Evidence of Repulican hatred of the science on climate change and most other things is not hard to find. The problem, in fact, is trying to find the time to read it all. Take the report by the Union of Concerned Scientists from February, for instance. Entitled 'Scientific Integrity in Policymaking: An Investigation into the Bush Administration's Misuse of Science', its central claim, that
"The Bush administration has repeatedly intervened to distort or suppress climate change research findings"

was reported widely. Yet the link to the report itself came in right down the bottom of a Google search. This is a pity, because the report is ram-jammed with real shockers. To demonstrate that abstinence-only progammes were effective, for instance, the Bush Administration instructed the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to assess their efficacy by tracking only
"participants’ program attendance and attitudes"—

plainly irrelevant measures—rather than
"the birth rate of female program participants." (pp.10-11)

So, to re-cap: if you want to discover what a good idea attempting to enforce abstinence is, the best way is to ask the participants how they feel about it, not how many of the females in the programme have babies. But I'll leave that there for the time being, for fear of treading on the ape's toes.

Saturday, November 27, 2004


Macabre Nonsense

Tony Banks has always been deeply concerned about animal welfare. In 1996 he asked the Home Secretary
"what research he has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated in respect of experiments involving the transplantation of heads from one animal to another; and if he will make a statement."

The answer? None. To both.

Further to which, the world record for the longest surviving headless chicken is 18 months. The chicken was called Mike.

Thursday, November 25, 2004


North Korean punk

Does what it says on the tin. Here's a video of some anti-American North Korean punk propaganda that was picked up in South Korea.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


Dear And Glorious Reader

We have not forgotten you. But Fallujah is languishing in the business pages, Blair is preparing to reap that Baghdad bounce, the news is carrying nothing but Home Office press releases and I've not been at work. And besides, there've been other things to do.

Jane's, source of everything true but not beautiful, reports in the latest "Foreign Report" that in October China deployed 10,000 troops to its border with North Korea
"amid speculation that there was going to be a mass deflection [sic.] by North Korean soldiers."
The deployment

"has been taken as a sign that even Beijing is preparing for an end game in North Korea."

Perhaps China will adopt its own preventive doctrine before the warning comes in the shape of a mushroom cloud in Shanghai. Meanwhile, Reuters in Beijing reports an unnamed Western diplomat based in Pyongyang, as saying that (not direct quotation):
"while there were still many portraits (of Kim Jong-il) on display, some had been removed from public meeting halls."

Thursday, November 18, 2004


Poor, Poor Rush

John Cole makes a stirring defence of Rush Limbaugh, embattled as part of the war on drugs

Overweight, draft-evading, dishonest, twice divorced, drug-addict conservative hero Rush "say anything whatsoever to distort science, truth & understanding; polysterene decays faster than paper; oil is being replenished faster than we use it" Limbaugh should not be a victim of the wretched war-on-drugs. That's because there shouldn't be one.

However, it's Conservatives such as him who have designed and led this war to the point where it's a global calamity. An African-American, for example, pulled over and searched, found with cocaine and then thrown into prison for a savagely long period, will not tend to get shown the concern that is being afforded Rush by JC here.

Nevertheless, it's Liberals at the ACLU who are stumping for Rush, just as they do when a different cultural group gets harassed (so much more severely) over their choice.

People like AWOL and Cheney are drink drivers. This gets written down as a youthful indiscretion. They make up for it later.

At the same time, there are 2 million people in US prisons, 60 per cent. of whom on drugs charges, of whom more than 3/4 are black and Hispanic (although it is estimated that most illicit drug-users are white). They don't get the chance to atone—they are torn from their families at taxpayers' expense.

If the treatment of the repulsive Limbaugh gets more people outside these groups to have a visceral understanding of the evil and absurdity of this situation, then that would be the first good thing he's ever done. I have no pity for him.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


Tobacco Fumes Ban:

Thoughts on the Public Health White Paper, with some asides about asbestos; by a card-carrying non-smoker who doesn't want a ban. This paper.

So it's finally going to happen.

I'll have to wait till my mid-thirties, but I will be able to enjoy the services of the British hospitality industry without their insisting that I be immersed in poisonous fumes. Long ago, I noticed that other industries do not insist on any such process. I can buy a CD or a fish, travel anywhere, go to the cinema or purchase insurance with money only. There are no poisonous foul-smelling fumes or airborne carcinogens of any description involved in the contract. As they make a partial restriction on tobacco fumes, I am pleased to see that there is no corresponding loosening of the regulations elsewhere. I am exactly as unlikely to be encouraged to introduce particulate asbestos into my lungs as I have been since 1987.


On the other hand, tobacco fumes remain an exception. If the regulation of asbestos is a guide, with the first half-assed restrictions in 1931 (of a product that was reputed to kill since ancient times and known to do so by 1890) and a final ban in 1985 (although the lying murderers who carried out the killing are happily able to continue doing so elsewhere in the world where people count less), I should be able to do more or less anything without inhaling tobacco carcinogens in 2048, when I'll be 78. Of course, asbestos (3,500, but I've seen estimates of a rise to 10,000 by 2010) only kills about six times as many people per year as drink-driving (560) in the UK while tobacco kills 214 times as many(120,000), which makes its exceptional status all the more odd.

But I'm not in favour of this ban. You can chew asbestos if you want, or light it and inhale its wholesome vapours to 'ease your stress' or 'aid concentration' (as long as you do it in an airtight suit) and my attitude to the release of tobacco fumes is much the same: I just don't want to be nearby when it happens. I only want some pubs without fumes. Then I can go to them. There are currently about 10 in England. It happens that none of them are near my house or work. As a non-smoker, the hospitality industry has decided not to market its products to me and not to make them available without the strange insistence described above.

The hospitality industry doesn't like the White Paper either. If you read to the bottom of this article you'll find that the ban will cause 'inevitable commercial damage'. This point was made very forcibly by a publican on the radio today. He said that he ran the only pub in his village, and 85% of his customers were smokers. He wanted to know if the Government would buy his lease, as he was going out of business. A strong argument. No it's not. But at least a powerful business case. No it isn't. Only 20% of the UK population smokes. (26% of adults...under 15s & families are potential hospitality industry customers too!).

If it came down to a straight fight, leaving aside the kids and the pregnant, there are more ex-smokers than smokers and non-smoking adults out-number smokers three to one. The publican should consider that for every 85 smokers in his pub, there are 410 non-smokers who stay away (drinking wine at home, perhaps). So all our publican needs to do is market to non-smokers, offer products they want, and he's sorted, right?

Well, apparently not. There are a good number of reasons why not. One of the secret concerns of the pub trade is fruit machines. It's the same morons who put their money in them as smoke. More obviously, smokers drink more--and food isn't where the profits are. Pub staff are not trained enough and not paid near enough to deal with a drunk psychopathic tobacco addict. Of this generally low-income 20%, just under a third don't plan to give up. Real pro-smokers therefore make up about 6% of the population. These people might be expected to kick up a fuss. It should be considered that they spend a good deal of their life disabled and then die early. They are out-numbered and out-gunned.

So what are the non-smokers doing? Don't we want a pint? We have been completely defeated, leaving it to the Government, after so many decades of pussy-footing, to lurch to this curious food-related diktat of which the obvious result is pubs ceasing to sell food and restaurants becoming members clubs. And we'll pay for these fine distinctions to be enforced and ruled upon and whatever other unintended consequences. We should be ashamed of ourselves. We should have used our influence and insisted that we be given the product we want without this drastic step. When they sound the all-clear I don't want to turn up at that publican's bar and join the"85%".

The reason I'm staying away now is that I resent his business and want no part of it. I want it to die. I don't want the Government to interfere with the market to save it. They are coming between us and our vengeance.


Do you want to get your teeth knocked the fuck out?

Lots of people have been dying recently, including all-round musical good guys John Peel and Dave Godin, so it's perhaps inappropriate to make special mention of Ol' Dirty. But I will. He was great and the tone of his lyrics, as The Daily Telegraph reminds us, was "a little menacing."


The public services that people care about

Just picked up the following excerpt from an Iraq round-up on the BBC monitoring service that, again for subscription reasons, I can't link. Won't be in tonight to see whether this makes the news and have nothing against which to judge Al-Jazeera's veracity.

"Al-Fallujah health care "nonexistent" - hospital chief: The acting director of Al-Fallujah General Hospital, Dr Salih al-Isawi, said that health services in Al-Fallujah have been "totally nonexistent for more than 10 days". In an interview with Qatari Al-Jazeera on 16 November, he appealed the Health Ministry to put pressure on the government and the US Army to allow ambulances, doctors and rescue teams into the city. He said his staff was not allowed to leave the main Al-Fallujah Hospital outside the city, while the a small hospital they opened inside the city was completely destroyed on the second day of the military operations. He said he expected the bodies to decompose and illnesses spread and that the catastrophe in Al-Fallujah would be "more serious than what happened in Hiroshima or Nagasaki". (Al-Jazeera TV 1303 gmt 16 Nov 04)"

However, Radio 4’s “Today” programme did find time this morning to interview Dr. Ala Alwan, the interim Iraqi health minister. There’s no transcript of this up anywhere, but, from memory, I don’t think his assessment was similar to Dr Salih al-Isawi's.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


Thank you Murdoch

Just in case anyone was too dim to appreciate the import of the Bush-Blair summit and their pronouncements on the Palestinians' obligations towards democracy, the hard-right Jerusalem Post spells it all out:

"Bush and Blair have told the Palestinians that this is their chance to join the side of freedom and democracy, or be left behind."

So, it's official: the main reason why it's just fine to slaughter Palestinians and steal their land is because, well, they're savages who just don't measure up democracy-wise. Expect more riffing on this theme and its relative major; i.e., that we're so great and peaceful because we're democratic.


Monday, November 15, 2004


Kill them some more

The following vignette, tucked away in a report in The Boston Globe today, just caught my eye:
"A warplane dropped a 500-pound bomb on a house where a sniper was seen, followed by artillery rounds and tanks that pounded the rubble at close range."

Read it again. Parse it with care. House...sniper seen...500-pound bomb...artillerly rounds...tanks...pounded the rubble...at close range.

Saturday, November 13, 2004


No one reads us, we don't care

Despite the Pentagon's largely successful attempts to stem the flow of news from Iraq, there is a growing mass of apparently credible evidence of deliberate attacks on civilian infrastructure and collective punishment in Falluja. The following is a sample of what a few minutes on Google yielded.

Last week the BBC reported that US air strikes
"reduced the Nazzal hospital, run by a Saudi Arabian Islamic charity, to rubble."

This place is referred to in The Guardian on Wednesday as a "clinic", although the same piece reports that
"US bombardments hit a clinic inside the Sunni Muslim city, killing staff and patients, residents said. US military officials denied the claims."

On Monday Reuters quoted Dr. Ahmed Ghanem of the Central Clinic, which had replaced Falluja Hospital as the main treatment centre thus:
"Falluja Hospital and its medical team are now under American control. We cannot use their services. There is a health crisis in Falluja. We are only a few doctors with moderate means offering our services to casualties."

And The Guardian, quotes Sami al-Jumaili, "a doctor at the main Falluja hospital seized by US troops on Sunday night", telling Reuters:
"There is not a single surgeon in Falluja. We had one ambulance hit by US fire and a doctor wounded".

A report posted on the United Nations Intergrated Regional Information Networks website on Wednesday quotes the spokesman for the Iraq Red Crescent Society, Firdoos al-Abadi, on the carnage in Falluja:
"We have supplies and people who want to help. People are dying due to the shortage of medical materials and other needing food and water, but you have to watch them die because US troops do not let you go in".

The Guardian also quotes al-Abadi--to whom it refers as "head of the Red Crescent's emergency committee"--as follows:
"There is no water, no electricity, no food. They are forbidding doctors from helping the people."

No response that I can detect from Human Rights Watch or Amnesty yet, but if any of this reaches sufficient volume in the public arena, it will no doubt be angrily denied or blamed on the insurgents. Best to keep banging away though.


Not that I'm cynical or anything...

Reuters this evening reports Bush's stated conditions for what has variously been described as his bold "vision" of a Palestinian "state", "homeland", and so on. The Palestinians
"may decide to elect a real strong personality, but we'll hold their feet to the fire to make sure that democracy prevails".

Translation: Israel and the US intend to continue smashing Palestinians in the face until a properly submissive replacement for Arafat emerges. At which point a few squalid reservations will be christened a "state" and the court historians will recall Bush's bravery and generoristy in awed tones, just as they are surely doing right now.

Blair's apparently awesome ignorance and total submission to the Bush Administration put in strong showings at the press conference and accompanying interviews. Does he really think that the right not to live under foreign military occupation is conditional on satisfying the EU accession criteria? Best not to wonder too hard--he certainly doesn't.

Friday, November 12, 2004


Surprise me

Ha'aretz runs an op-ed by Aluf Benn today that concludes on the likely US response to Arafat's death:

"President George Bush is in no rush to change directions in the Middle East. He is rejecting Europe's urgings that he rush forward with negotiations and evict Israel from the territories in exchange for improved trans-Atlantic relations.

White House officials Elliott Abrams and Daniel Fried told European emissaries this weekend that 'there are no shortcuts.' America is unwilling to skip the first stage of the road map, which requires the Palestinians to halt terror, dismantle the terrorist organizations and enact governmental and security reforms. The Europeans and new Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas want to go straight to final-status negotiations on borders, refugees and Jerusalem. But Washington insists that the new leadership prove itself first. "

Nothing wrong with halting terror, but "dismantle the terrorist organizations and enact governmental and security reforms" just means carrying on with whatever Israel and the US have got planned and hope that the Palestinians will eventually accept whatever terms they are offered. Which might work. In any case, no departure should be expected from the policy that Pakistan's Daily Times quotes another unamed European "commentator" as describing thus:
“Bush wants Palestine to become Sweden before it can become Palestine.”

No other source for this, but it hardly seems controversial.

(As an aside, I've been using the same analogy for a few years now, only with Denmark rather than Sweden.)


Who we?

With Arafat's passing I'm becoming increasingly interested in Britain's role in the "peace process" (those quotation marks are intended to convey more than the usual scepticism--in fact, I'm quite surprised that I can even bring myself to type the PP word).

Last month The Guardian reported that during a recent visit to Britain the Palestinian Foreign Minister, Nabil Shaath, had pleaded with us to intervene—to do exactly what and in what capacity he did not say—while the US was distracted with electing and confirming a president. The article does not quote Straw, who I imagine either said nothing or merely ventilated our concerns and declared our commitment to the road map. In any case, we've done nothing, or at least nothing that we want anyone to know about.

Which makes me all the more intrigued by the following unattributed quotation, apparently from a private conversation with a British diplomat:
"Our job is to deliver the Palestinians to the Americans."
(Karma Nabulsi, 'The peace process and the Palestinians: a road map to Mars', International Affairs, 80, 2, 2004, pp. 221-231)

I know too little to decide where the grain of truth is or whether it's just Delphic tittle-tattle, but I'm curious all the same.

Thursday, November 11, 2004


Answers on the back of a stamp

At the end of October the Los Angeles Times ran a very long piece on Fallouja (I've decided to follow the spelling of whoever I'm writing about), which I'm afraid is probably subscription only by now (Alissa J. Rubin and Doyle McManus, ‘Why America Has Waged a Losing Battle on Fallouja’, Los Angeles Times, 24 October 2004; p. A1, for those of you with LexisNexis or a newspaper library). Haven't had time to read it all yet, but if anyone knows of a more frank description of terror bombing than the following passage I'd be interested to hear it:
"All through September and October, American warplanes bombed Fallouja in hope of killing Zarqawi and his followers, and in hope of forcing Fallouja's remaining residents to plead for peace."

Tuesday, November 09, 2004


Cheers mate

Adding more grist to our already sizeable mill, The Guardian today quotes from a Chatham House speech by Sir Stephen Wall, the former head of the Cabinet Office's European secretariat:
"I believe that, in Britain, we allowed our judgment of the dire consequences of inaction to override our judgment of the even more dire consequences of departing from the rule of law."

I'd go further than "allowed our judgment", but "even more dire" is the clincher. Downing Street issues standard dismissal. The BBC also carries this, although it describes Wall as "Mr Blair's former top foreign policy advisor". Does proof of the BBC's hatred of freedom and love of Islamo-fascism get much more decisive? *

* Sarcasm


Just war--and nothing else

The latest edition of the New York Review of Books has a review of Michael Walzer's Arguing About War that contains an interesting survey of just war theory and the tensions between right-wing US Catholics and the Vatican in the run-up to the war (see the Stanford Dictionary of Philsophy's entry on war for fuller treatment and bibliography). If you don't want to buy the book, I'll tell you the ending: this war is not just.
However, although we can easily dispense with the fiction that the successive pretexts for invading Iraq satisfy the requirements of jus ad bellum, the belief that the Bush doctrine of September 2002 is one of "pre-emptive" rather than "preventive" war persists, along with all the confusions it invites, especially among those whom one might expect to be able tell the difference. For instance, take the Liberal Democrat MP Michael Moore, who told Westminster Hall on Thursday that
"whether we are talking about self-defence, anticipatory self-defence and how that interleaves with the US pre-emption doctrine, or the grey area of humanitarian intervention, we must be careful in altering our ideas to reflect a changed world situation not to provide arguments that will justify a Chinese intervention in Taiwan or a North Korean strike against South Korea or some other part of the world. That will be a finely balanced set of arguments, and we in this country must be alive to it."

I suppose that some speech-writer might relish the intellectual challenge of "finely balancing" the unique right of the US and its allies to attack whomsoever they please with claims to be upholding international law and enforcing the will of the UN, but it's hard to see why anyone else should be taken in by any of this. The only argument that springs to mind is that the US is a special political formation and that its "proper authority" to wage war trumps that of other nation-states. Can't say I agree with that (to put it mildy) and I wouldn't like to defend that position, but I don't see how else it can be done.
More on jus in bellum and the destruction of Fallujah tomorrow.


Getting my facts straight

Warning: this isn't all that interesting.

As promised, the results of search on LexisNexis for mention of Iraqi interim President Ghazi al-Yawar's opposition to the attack on Fallujah. As well as the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Independent, the Belfast Telegraph and the New York Times ran it (Michael Howard, ‘Gunmen seize US and Arab hostages’, The Guardian, 2 November 2004,p. 15; Kim Sengupta, ‘Baghdad's deputy governor shot dead as voters register’, The Independent, 2 November 2004, p. 26 (same piece ran in the Belfast Telegraph); and Edward Wong, ‘American Is Among 4 Captives Seized in Baghdad Kidnapping’, New York Times, 2 November 2004, p. A1)

No evidence of malicious briefing, but surely a matter of time.


Pockets of resistance to incontrovertible fact

With Democrats still largely too stunned to respond properly or else drowned out in major outlets, the Bush Administration's victory is being portrayed, in the US as well here in Britain, as a vindication of their stand on supposedly moral issues and the irrelevance of foreign policy to the US electorate. Praise is therefore due to the Program on International Policy Attitudes, which last month released the results of a survey showing, among things, that:
72 per cent. of Bush supporters believe that Iraq under Hussein had either actual WMD or a "major program" for developing them;
57 per cent. of them think that Charles Duelfer's report to congress on Iraq's WMD
"concluded (that) Iraq had at least a major WMD program";

75 per cent. believe that
"Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda, and 63% believe that clear evidence of this support has been found";

and that only 31 per cent. of them

"recognize that the majority of people in the world oppose the US having gone to war with Iraq."

Monday, November 08, 2004


Endless war

Frank Gaffney, the most high-profile neo-con to have written since the election, has spelled out his foreign policy wish list in National Review Online (commentary by Jim Lobe, for Inter Press Service, here or here). Nothing really new from Gaffney, except for more open hostility towards China and Russia (see more Jane's for Chinese plans to secure supplies of African oil, which will surely create tensions with the US, whose domestic consumption has not relied on middle east oil as much as western Europe, contrary to a lot of careless blah).

People who have entertained the hope that any nation is in for healing any time soon would do well to read.

It's tempting to dismiss the neo-cons as irrelevant bogeymen or idiot dreamers in suits, especially since about September 2003, when most of them went to ground or denied that they'd ever heard of each other. However, what with Frum and Perle's fantasist An End to Evil earlier this year, they obviously haven't abandoned their ambitious antipathy towards reality.


Scroll down to learn more...

I'm getting busy tonight. Khatami is ineligible to stand for President again in 2005 and in any case would probably lose. Which, in the absence of a "liberal" base, leaves a choice of "conservatives". To quote Jane's once more:
"The battle for political control of Iran is no longer being fought between the 'moderate' reformers and the hardliners, but within the ranks of the conservatives."

How much better can things get?


Let's help the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp

According to Alex Vatanka of Jane's, the IRGC is using international tension over Iran's nuclear programme as
"a vehicle to encroach further into the political sphere"

and, despite its serving staff being barred from running for office,
"could field its own candidate for the 2005 presidential elections."

Wouldn't that be good?


Yes, Mr. President

It's been a long week and much has slipped through the cracks, but not too much. According to Tuesday's Financial Times, the interim Iraqi President, Ghazi al-Yawar, has told the Kuwaiti Al-Qabas:
"I absolutely disagree with those who believe a military attack [on Falluja] is necessary",

and that those who are ostensibly the target of the forthcoming assault
"want nothing but a military solution, and the continuation of bloodshed among Iraqis".

You probably need a subscription to get this on the FT, so I promise to ask LexisNexis tomorrow who else noticed it. I suppose that Ghazi al-Yawar has been the subject of constant defamatory briefing since, and probably before as well. Will check that too.


When will this become news?

Common Dreams is running a piece from AFP, parts of which appear variously in today's Sunday Herald, South Africa's News24 and possibly elsewhere, about the religious fervour of the marines who are due to bomb Fallujah back to the stone age. They listen to Christian rock and say things like "Sometimes, all you've got is God" and "Victory belongs to the Lord". As they are entitled to and as we might expect them to, but, to judge from the content of the report and what is known about reporting restrictions, these are the things that the Pentagon has judged most suitable for public consumption, not a few off-the-record remarks that a mischievous member of the fourth estate has tricked some squaddie into saying.


Who is fighting religious fundamentalists?

The following is a quotation from by Marine Lt. Col. Gareth Brandl, who heads the 1st Battalion of the 8th Marine Regiment, that appeared last week in the Los Angeles Times in a piece about the forthcoming and entirely predictable assault on Fallujah. Three things are worth noting: a.) He sees the conflict in pre-modern religious terms; b.) On the most reasonable interpretation, he's frankly announcing the US intention to destroy Fallujah in order to control it; and c.) Despite the other obvious news stories this week, no one seems to care less.

"The enemy has got a face — it's called Satan. He's in Fallouja. We're going to destroy it."

If you can't be bothered to register for the LAT, you can read the same piece in the Contra Costa Times.

Thursday, November 04, 2004


This one's not a joke

Human Rights Watch release report today on the destruction and loss of possible evidence in trials against Hussein and former members of the Administration.
"The extent of the negligence with which key documentary and forensic evidence has been treated to date is surprising, given that the U.S.-led coalition and Iraqi authorities alike knew that trials of Hussein and key Ba‘th government officials would be important landmarks in Iraq’s political recovery, that successful trials require solid evidence, and that, as international experience has shown, preserving such trial-ready evidence is a difficult task."


Hope and comfort at the Elephant

There's a huge poster for C4's series of "The Simpsons" at the Elephant and Castle, with Bart writing the lines: "Britain is not my war-bitch".


Sensible Policies

Jamie Groves of London dares to tell the truth that the powerful do not want you to hear. From a letter in today's print Metro, "the commuters' favourite":
"Whatever the outcome of this US election thing, I think the obvious answer has been staring us in the face for at least four years. The US is long overdue another civil war."

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


...Long live the king

Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the President of the UAE, has died. He had "about 500 falcons", "more than 21 sons" and "an undivulged number of daughters".

My flatmate is there now, and txted me last night about "much wailing" in the street. Said it like the Megson affair.

Strength 3


Erm no, Rush, I really haven't heard the Democrats say

Incredibly repulsive nonsense from Rush...

cf. the reasoned witty statement that Michael Moore put out (Drudge, to his credit, linked to both)

The Ape

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


Nothing good ever came of a Democrat

It's of course claimed, loudly and repeatedly, that terrorists and tyrants of various hues are pining for a Kerry victory tonight (scroll down for Bruce Anderson's interpretation of this tune). It's also, of course, not true (or at least not really true--please don't make me resort to pointing out that reality is complex). The following, from a piece by Adar Primor in today's Ha'aretz, is only the latest piece of counter-evidence:

"Even more surprising is the representative of the 'Axis of Evil,' Hassan Rowhani, the secretary of Iran's National Security Council, who expressed his objections to the candidacy of John Kerry ('Nothing good ever came of a Democrat'), and support for Bush, who 'in spite of his hardline and baseless rhetoric, has not taken any dangerous action against Iran.'"

Must get round to digging up those articles in The Guardian that quote various security analysts and a British diplomat on al Qaeda's preference for Bush before the US slides into civil war proper.

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