Saturday, January 13, 2007 

The continuing last gasps of our very own messiah.

I was going to fisk Blair's utterly abysmal speech yesterday, but Tom on BlairWatch has already done the job and done it well, so here's a more slimmed down version.

Billed by the BBC as being the first in a series of "valedictory" speeches, it wasn't so much a farewell as yet another example of his inexorable retreat from reality. While on Question Time this week members of the audience, prompted by fucking Kelvin MacKenzie of all people, demanded that Lord Falconer tell his friend to apologise for the Iraq war, what's more apparent than ever is that Blair isn't just not sorry for what's happened, he still believes in his own righteousness. He then has the audacity to apparently demand the army and families accept that death and injury are consequences of armed conflict, as if they didn't both know that, but also accept it:

On the part of the military, they need to accept that in a volunteer armed force, conflict and therefore casualty may be part of what they are called upon to face.
This is where Blair just can't see the wood for the trees. He can't accept that the army, which wasn't keen on the war in the first place, is now concerned that they're fighting a losing battle in Iraq, while complaining about the inadequacies of both their equipment once at war and the facilities provided for them back home. Blair's hubris is that despite all his claims that he accepts his views on foreign policy are "controversial", both this speech and the way in which it was delivered shows that he considers his views as both the only sane policy, and as the only policy. The army's apparent dissent in recent months, fed up with a situation on the ground in Iraq which they can do little to solve except get shot at in the process, is in Blair's eyes almost mutiny. How dare they think that his war is a disaster and that they should get out very soon? That this war was justified on a tissue of lies doesn't matter to Blair; he still expects families and the army to fight and not bleat when their sons and comrades die for what is called by the moderate oppositionists "a flawed prospectus".

Then there's this:

"September 11 wasn’t the incredible action of an isolated group, a one-off strike masterminded by Osama Bin Laden. It was the product rather of a world-wide movement, with an ideology based on a misreading of Islam, whose roots were deep, which had been growing for years and with the ability to mount a radically different type of warfare requiring a radically different type of response. What we face is not a criminal conspiracy or even a fanatical but fringe terrorist organisation. We face something more akin to revolutionary Communism in its early and most militant phase. It is global. It has a narrative about the world and Islam’s place within it that has a reach into most Muslim societies and countries. "
On the contrary, September the 11th was indeed the incredible action of an isolated group, but it was masterminded by its own participants rather than OBL. Nothing in the past six years has come close to replicating it. To compare the threat faced by militant Islam, which has been vastly exaggerated, as Blair is doing in this very speech, to revolutionary Communism, which took control of numerous countries during the last century is pure nonsense. The Taliban have no chance of returning to Afghanistan, and even they had only a casual relationship with the Salafist jihadism of bin Laden. The only place where such a militant Islam could take hold is ironically in Iraq, thanks to our misjudged invasion, and even then it would only be in the Anbar region, where the temporary alliance between ex-Baathists and jihadists is already being questioned by both sides. That we have in fact only exacerbated the problems in the Middle East through the Iraq war, giving far more succour to the extremists both at home and abroad than any regime currently can or does is something that Blair is not willing to recognise: to do so would be the equivalent of saying the emperor has no clothes.

Still he goes on:

That, in turn, impacts on the feelings of our Armed Forces. They want public opinion not just behind them but behind their mission. They want the "people back home" to understand their value not just their courage.
Public opinion is very firmly behind them, and has been since the beginning of the war. The problem is that the army themselves believe that rather than fighting for the country, they are fighting for Blair, his failed foreign policy, and for American neo-con chicken hawks who avoided going to Vietnam. Not only this, but Blair would rather that the armed forces didn't think for themselves; they see that staying in Iraq is just making things worse, as does the majority of the public. How can the public support their mission when it has so obviously and horribly failed?

Blair though is more interested in blaming everyone other than himself. He attacks other European countries who rightly wanted no part in the Iraq war for only wanting to peace keep; he echoes John Reid when he suggests that the media is too sympathetic to the "propaganda of the enemy"; he demands the army put up with the resources it has; and most of all, he seems to still believe that somehow Britain will remain this "great" power, that continuing with the same arrogant policies that have been put down since the dissolution of empire will somehow maintain the very last vestiges of our fast evaporating global influence. It won't. Blair's belief that our unending alliance with America will eventually foster goodwill towards us is a pipe dream. As he faces his last days as prime minister, rather than evaluating his time in office, laying low and preparing the way for the next leader, he's still driven only by his desire to show that he has been right about everything. He still believes in his powers of persuasion, but he's the only one who does.

Labels: , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Friday, January 12, 2007 

Stop the fascist BNP, by err, shouting outside a theatre...

Sometimes anti-racist groups can be their own worst enemies. Continuing their campaign against Simone Clarke, their agenda is again presented in the Guardian, which also at times cuts off its nose to spite its face:

Around 100 campaigners are expected to mount a demonstration outside the Coliseum theatre in central London where Simone Clarke will take the lead in the English National Ballet's production of Giselle.

It is the 36-year-old's first performance since she was revealed as a member of the BNP last month as part of a Guardian investigation into the far right organisation.

Ms Clarke, whose partner Yat Sen-Chang is an acclaimed dancer of Chinese-Cuban extraction, went on to defend her membership in a detailed interview with the Mail on Sunday, saying the BNP was the only party "willing to take a stand" against immigration.

Yesterday campaigners said that she was using her position to promote the far right party's policies.

Weyman Bennett, of the group Unite Against Fascism, said: "We are calling on all who have an appreciation for the arts to demand that the promotion of racist and fascist politics is incompatible with an institution such as the English National Ballet."

The row is becoming increasingly difficult for the English National Ballet, which as a publicly funded organisation is obliged by the Race Relations Act of 2000 to promote good race relations.

Last night a spokeswoman said it was "not within the company's mandate to express any political view".

She added: "Any personal view expressed by one of our employees should not be considered as being endorsed by the company."

And this was the reality:

British far-right politics has changed a bit in recent years. Out have gone the bovver-booted bomber-jacketed skinheads. In have come the business suits and a ballerina.

And so, in the unlikeliest of turns, a dozen or so anti-racism protesters turned their foghorn vocal chords away from their familiar haunts to turn up on the steps of the Coliseum, the home of the English National Ballet in London's West End.

Bravo! This is the very worst kind of nonsense. No one knew that Clarke was a BNP member until the Guardian rightly exposed her, but to then claim she's using her position to promote the party is complete bullshit. All she's done is defend herself in a far from unsympathetic Mail article, and in the process proved that she isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer. In short, she's exactly the sort of person the BNP tries to appeal to.

The protesters may have had a point had she actually said something racist in the article, but she didn't. What she did make clear is that she thinks immigration is out of control, which is something a lot of ordinary people think. It's obvious that believing that isn't racist, neither is it particularly controversial. Believing that the BNP are the only ones talking about it, or that they're the only ones who could solve it, is something quite different. However, this is where the anti-racist groups behind today's protest have so often slipped up: they're more concerned with denying the party any air of publicity, rather than actually fighting their message. Shouting slogans outside buildings is a lot easier than arguing against them in debates. Going after a woman who's simply expressing her own, however misguided personal political beliefs, is not just counter-productive, it's cowardly.

For instance, look at the huge open goal that Richard Barnbrook has created simply by attending Clarke's performance. Could there be a better opportunity to point out just how hopeless the BNP are at actually being councillors once they're elected and how he's a leading member of a political party that is virulently homophobic, when he directed and starred in a film described as arty gay porn? Then there's Barnbrook's own comments about Clarke's relationship with her husband:

"I'm not opposed to mixed marriages but children [of these relationships] are washing out the identity of this country's indigenous people. That's my view. It's not the party's view."

Not true. That is exactly the party's view, as expanded at length here from their 2005 manifesto. You only have to read the views of actual members of the BNP here in a thread about Clarke from the Stormfront forum, to notice that she's regarded as a "race-mixer".

Instead, the protesters are probably still there, shouting "STOP THE FASCIST BNP!", while everyone around them rightly sees their presence as either daft or as someone remarks, pathetic. And the BNP? They're still winning.

Related post:
Doing the goose-step to Swan Lake, and other stories.

Labels: , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


What about my privacy, cries the hounded Ms Kelly....

Congratulations then to Ruth Kelly, who has somehow decided that taking the Mirror to the supine and servile Press Complaints Commission is a good idea:

Ruth Kelly, the communities secretary, is taking the Daily Mirror to the Press Complaints Commission for revealing that her son goes to a private school.

The Mail on Sunday broke the story, but did not use names.

"My sole concern throughout has been the welfare of my young son. I believe his right to privacy has been breached," she said in a statement.

Richard Wallace, the Mirror's editor, said: "We are confident that it was entirely right that we identify Miss Kelly so the public could decide whether her action was appropriate, given that they were clearly at odds with government policy."

She might have a case if her son had actually been identified, but he hasn't. All we know is that he has learning difficulties, that he used to attend a school in the Tower Hamlets borough of London, and that he is now going to attend a private school somewhere in Oxfordshire. It might be argued that he will have suffered as a result, even though he hasn't been identified, but the Mirror can also fight back, knowing that their revelation has resulted in a public debate, both about those who suffer from learning disabilities and the provision for them in standard state schools.

Ruth Kelly herself instead looks as if she's trying to close the door after the horse has bolted. We haven't had an explanation as to why 6 special schools rated either good or excellent by Ofsted with Tower Hamlets were rejected as not good enough for her son's needs. Instead she's trying to hide behind her decision by claiming that her son's privacy has been breached, ignoring the apparent double standards of being a piss-poor education secretary who did nothing to help those who have the same problems as her own son. Censorship, as ever, is the last resort of a scoundrel.

Labels: ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Thursday, January 11, 2007 

Another grim milestone.

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo Bay, where 9 British residents still languish, apparently now more or less abandoned by the government, with little to no hope of being set free any time soon.

The Guardian today reports that David Hicks, who the courts ordered be granted citizenship, had it stripped from him again within hours by John Reid, as he apparently err, poses a threat to national security, even though he's currently imprisoned in a prison camp described by numerous New Labour ministers as an "affront to justice" that should be closed down.

The only one of the 9 who might just be allowed back, Bisher al-Rawi, who was rewarded for keeping watch on Abu Qutada (himself now in prison awaiting deportation to Jordan, if it ever happens) by being rendered with the connivance of MI5 from Gambia, is according to his lawyer slipping into madness.

I'm not usually one for casually slipping into conspiracy theories, but the whole circus surrounding al-Rawi and Qutada utterly stinks. Qutada, as well as being accused of being one of Osama bin Laden's right hand men, and the spiritual leader of al-Qaida in Europe, was according to a 2004 Times article an MI5 double agent, who pledged to help MI5 stop attacks in return for them leaving him alone. A similar offer may well have been made to Abu Hamza. Qutada instead seemed to be setting up his own terrorist network. Apparently having al-Rawi also spying on Qutada, he became useless once Qutada himself was arrested in October 2002, having been on the run since the previous December. Upon leaving Britain to go to Gambia, al-Rawi and his friend Jamil El Banna were questioned by security officers about a battery charger that al-Rawi had modified. Concluding it was harmless, they let them go, only for MI5 to alert the CIA that al-Rawi was in fact carrying bomb parts. They swooped once they arrived in Gambia, and al-Rawi and Banna were rendered to Guantanamo.

I previously wondered whether al-Rawi might be the only one allowed back, in return for keeping quiet about his spying on Qutada. What seems apparent now is that Britain is only prepared to have al-Rawi back in no fit state to talk about anything.

Some can reasonably argue that Britain has no legal obligation to have those still held at Guantanamo returned. This might be true had Britain entirely washed its hands off them, yet it clearly hasn't. That ministers and others have time and again now condemned the prison camp, yet aren't willing to take back those who we have a responsibility to is also the height of double standards. The main problem is that now having spent years in a prison camp where conditions are according to Clive Stafford Smith the harshest he has experienced in twenty years of representing those on death row, there's little chance of trying them for any of the crimes they've been accused of. The injustice of holding men without charge, beyond the Geneva Conventions, at least up until the passing of the new laws earlier in the year by the Bush administration, means that there will now be little chance of justice for anyone. Hence the Catch-22 situation continues, for now and maybe evermore.

Labels: , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Scum-watch: Bring on the suicide girls!

I would have missed this one if it hadn't been for Tim over at Bloggerheads. The Scum, apparently informed of a "secret intelligence report", has this warning for our troops in Afghanistan: the suicide girls are coming for you. (Don't get too excited: they're not those suicide girls.)

FIFTEEN women suicide bombers have been sent to murder British troops in Afghanistan.

Taliban chiefs have ordered them to dress as beggars or teachers and hide devices under burkas, a secret intelligence report has warned.

It marks an alarming new tactic in the Afghan conflict, although women suicide bombers have been used in Iraq.

Army bosses say it is almost impossible to detect the killers covered from head to toe. Troops in war-torn Helmand province are also reluctant to search women as it offends local sensitivities.

The bombers are believed to be Pakistani, Arab or Chechen. Many fell under the influence of al-Qaeda after being widowed in recent conflicts.

A military source added: “We’re pretty good at detecting male suicide bombers. But women will be almost unstoppable. Because of their burkas, the first time you’ll know she’s a bomber is when she explodes.”

An MoD spokesman said last night UK troops were “the best in the world at spotting new and emerging threats”.

Firstly, the image used by the Sun of a woman in a veil isn't a burqa, it's a niqab. The burqa is a full face covering, involving a netted mesh where the holes for the eyes on niqabs are, so they've cocked that one up. Secondly, the Sun or the intelligence report is really hedging its bets on where the "bombers" are going to be from. They're either Pakistani, Chechen, or, err, Arab, so from anywhere then. The Christian Science Monitor reports that there have been five suicide bombings involving women in Iraq, and some of those were failures, or from outside the country, including the one by the Belgian convert to Islam Muriel Degauque. You also have to wonder about the one involving the two women shortly after the end of the war; trigger happy troops may well have succeeded in hitting the gas tank when the car failed to stop, rather than been killed by two women in a car bombing.

The majority of female suicide bombers have been either Chechen or Palestinian, in both cases fighting in their own internal struggles, although women have also taken part in bombings in both Sri Lanka and Lebanon, again in their own conflicts. None of them had fallen under the influence of al-Qaida, as the Sun states, although it's possible the ones from Iraq could have done, although again, there's such a disparate number of Islamist groupings there that it would be next to impossible to be certain. It seems odd that female fighters from Chechnya would go to fight with the Taliban, especially to carry out suicide bombings. Veterans of the conflict in Chechnya may have gone to fight with the Taliban, but for women to do so would be extraordinary, which is why this report is so likely rubbish. The only report I can find of any female suicide bombers from Pakistan is this one from the BBC, reporting the arrest of two sisters suspected to be in training, both the nieces of a known militant. With the madrasas and the whole situation on the border it wouldn't blow my mind (groan) if there were potentially willing female suicide bombers, but again it seems this is more based on concern rather than fact.

You also have to wonder about the potential impact such a report has back here at home. Right on queue, one of the commenters, as Bloggerheads notes, screams:


Because one minister with at least half-decent intentions questioned whether there was concern about the women wearing them were forced into doing so, and how other people then reacted. What happened was that the tabloid media then had a field day, turning it into a question about religion and security when the original comment had nothing to do with it. The report isn't suggesting that veiled women over here are going to carry out suicide attacks, but in the current climate, with police officers excusing themselves for failing to catch men like Mustaf Jamma by instead blaming it on them escaping wearing veils, whether there's any truth to the rumour or not, it would only take a major crime to be committed by someone wearing a veil now for the whole matter to explode into a frenzy of demands to ban the garment, and not just from the Express. The whole issue is incredibly sensitive, but you can trust the Scum to pounce no matter what.

Elsewhere, there's this huge piece of congratulatory back-slapping, provided by Jack Straw:

PAPARAZZI harassment of Prince William's girlfriend Kate Middleton was condemned as "appalling" by Commons Leader Jack Straw today.

Mr Straw praised News International - owners of the Sun - for a self-imposed ban on using paparazzi shots of Miss Middleton and urged other news groups to follow suit.

News International has confirmed it will not publish future paparazzi pictures of Miss Middleton - a decision which affects The Sun, the News of the World, The Times, The Sunday Times and free newspaper thelondonpaper.

All very noble. But what was the Scum's solution to all Ms Middleton's problems, as suggested yesterday?

Cough up Wills

KATE MIDDLETON is just another civilian who happens to be going out with a Prince.

But as a young woman who may one day become Queen, she needs protection.

Until she is engaged, the cost cannot come out of the public purse. Prince Charles got round this by paying out of his own pocket to guard Camilla Parker Bowles.

Prince William should take a leaf out of Dad’s book.

How kind! Photographers everywhere take notice: you can stand outside someone's house every morning, in effect stalking them wherever they go, and even then your newspaper will demand that their boyfriend stumps up the cash to protect them. One has to wonder how Ms Wade would respond to having the paps seated outside her door every morning, invading her privacy constantly. You'd have to think that she wouldn't much like it.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Wednesday, January 10, 2007 

Proving the raving lunatic right.

One thing we know for certain is that Ayman al-Zawahiri is a ranting demagogue, who like all religious extremists distorts and selectively quotes from his favoured text, justifying murder and violence along the way. One thing he isn't regarded as being is a soothsayer.

That though may be about to change. Last Friday, an audio-tape from everyone's favourite second-in-command of a terror "organisation" emerged from whichever cave it was recorded in, and he was quite clear on what's happening in Somalia:

While I am addressing you today, the Crusader invading Ethiopian forces are violating the Islamic land of dear Somalia. Moreover, the Security Council is plotting to approve this invasion by issuing its resolution to dispatch international forces to Somalia and by its failure to issue a resolution that calls for the withdrawal of the Ethiopian forces from Somalia. Here, I am urging the Islamic nation in Somalia to be steadfast in this new Crusader battlefield, which America, its allies, and the United Nations are waging against Islam and Muslims.


My Muslim brothers in Somalia: Do not be terrified by America's power as you have defeated it before, thanks to God and His grace.

Today, America is weaker than before as the mujahidin dealt a fatal blow to it in Afghanistan and Iraq. Hence, it sent its slaves to you. Therefore, do not be affected by the first shock, it is just worthless propaganda, arrogance, and haughtiness. The real battle will begin by launching your campaigns against the Ethiopian forces with God's help and might. The faithful groups-- in their pursuit of death for the sake of God-- will devour the Crusader invading Ethiopian Army, which has launched an aggression against the lands of Islam, God willing.

Just to prove that this is entirely an internal matter in Africa, with Ethiopia having first moved its forces into Somalia back in July of last year and the Islamic Court Union formally declaring war on the 21st of December, followed by a hasty retreat which has turned into an apparent rout, the United States on Sunday/Monday ordered air strikes and attacks by AC-130 gunships on Ras Kamboni, a town near the Kenya/Somalia border. The target is said to have been the "big three", three al-Qaida members alleged to have links both with the bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and with the attacks in Mombasa in 2002.

Reports continue to conflict as to whether any of the three were killed, whether the air strikes are on-going, despite an apparent denial by the US military, and what has actually been achieved by deciding to intervene in a conflict which has simmered in the region for decades, but one thing is undisputed: people died in the attacks. At least 27, according to the Guardian report. Other reports, notably one from Reuters, suggest another 22 to 27 died in an attack on Bankajirow, over 150 miles from Ras Kamboni, where the Islamic Courts fighters are reportedly sheltering.

Fazul Abdullah Mohammed may be dead, he may not. "Very senior Islamist court leaders", not the same thing as alleged al-Qaida militants, may have died, they may have not. Four civilians, including a four-year-old boy may have been killed, they may have not.

The deaths will rightly obscure the bigger picture, but it's one that needs to be contemplated. An Islamic court union that had brought apparent security and stability to a nation that had been in a form of chaos for over a decade, which appears to have had at least a decent level of support from the people for doing so, although not so much for its less enlightened strict interpretation of Sharia law, which led to comparisons with the Taliban, has been more or less destroyed in just over two weeks by the army of a bordering nation, one that had been inside Somali territory since last July. With the the courts union cornered, the United States launches air strikes against them, with the support of the Transitional Federal Government, that up until a few days ago had not even stepped foot in the capital of Mogadishu, while Ethiopian air strikes seem to be following up those attacks. How does this do anything other than prove Ayman al-Zawahiri right?

Of course, this isn't actually about him, or al-Qaida in general. This is just another outpost in the war on terror, which the Bush administration appears determined to step up, or rather, in today's less than honest parlance, "surge". That it coincides with tonight's expected announcement that another 20,000 troops are to be sent to Iraq is just one of those things. This is why we're fighting will be the message. Nowhere will be safe, something that unfortunately works both ways. Iraq is just a part of this. Can't you see?

To take realpolitik to its most extreme conclusions, you might also wonder whether this opening up another front in the war on terror, or in al-Qaida's eyes, a front in the war against the crusaders, is some kind of ploy meant to thin out the numbers that are fighting their holy war in Iraq. Which front does the young, idealistic jihadist choose to go for in 2007? Chechnya? Kashmir? Saudi Arabia? Afghanistan? How does the heat of Somalia sound? It's the newest addition to the world tour. That sources are alleging those killed in the strikes had UK passports, forged or not, will of course excite the tabloids. Was the niqab wearing police murderer Mustaf Jama among those slaughtered? Find out in tomorrow's super-soaraway Sun!

I may joke, but the latest developments in what has recently been rebranded as the "long war" highlight how there are two threads to it. From not wanting to be involved in "nation building", the United States has been sucked into two on-going conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, unable to bring peace to either. The other, more successful, but still horribly misjudged thread is the bombarding of "terrorists" with the apparent permission of the nation state in question. Last year's attempt to kill al-Zawahiri which instead blew apart civilians (Wikipedia claims some "terrorists" were also killed) was a previous instance. Sunday/Monday/Tuesday's strikes are of the same standard. While these attacks don't come close to the horror which Iraq suffers on a daily basis, they still have no regard for the nuances of the local populations they target, or the country's politics or make-up as a whole. Somalia has suffered from years of warlords imposing their own brand of terror. With them now likely to return to their previous stomping grounds, having been driven out by the Islamists, the country again descends into anarchy. Add to this that a call has now gone out for fighters to come and take part in the "jihad", even if the remnants of the ICU are eventually wiped out, and the country looks set to continue to bleed for a while yet.

This is without examining the world picture. The United States has again involved itself in a conflict in which it had no business in doing so. The Somalian transitional government and the Ethiopians may bleat that they needed the strikes because the area into which the ICU has retreated is a "no man's land" and "is forest", but it sounds less than compelling when the Ethiopian army has been more than capable of driving back the ICU from its previous strongholds, without major fighting or not. Their own aircraft also seem to be carrying out sorties. The world looks on, and the narrative is already written: US attacks Muslim fighters. Terrorists may be dead. Civilians killed.

Not that this affects one jot thinking back here at home from the usual quarters. If you can depend on one learned journal to always defend the latest foreign policy excursion from America, it's this one:


Freedom fight

THE world may be divided over Iraq, but every civilised nation should applaud America’s air strike against al-Qaeda in Somalia.

This is the failed state where Osama Bin Laden first declared war on the West in the 1990s.

He used it as a base for a sinister network of al-Qaeda dens across South Asia and North Africa.

Err, no it isn't. The Sun is mixing up Somalia with Sudan, where OBL was based for a number of years before going back to Afghanistan. The accusations of al-Qaida involvement in the Black Hawk Down disaster have never been proved. The only substantial link is that the US embassy bombings may have planned from where the US has now carried out air strikes.

Now for the first time since President Bill Clinton was humbled in the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” catastrophe, America has struck back.

Right. The cruise missile strikes in Sudan and Afghanistan after the embassy bombings, which famously destroyed a medicine factory, wasn't striking back. The war on Afghanistan wasn't striking back. Numerous other strikes weren't striking back.

Two US gunships killed dozens of Islamist fighters — including top al-Qaeda leaders.

Not proved, and they were far from "top" al-Qaida leaders even if they were.

But this will not stop the multi-headed monster continuing to threaten Western targets.

Security chiefs say Britain and America are near certain to face attacks in the coming months.

Like those attacks that were going to happen at Christmas? No, this is just the Sun reminding everyone of the threat here at home. Stay scared everyone.

But nobody in the West — even France — can expect to escape extremist outrages.

You don't say? Combating the extremist threat is through removing the genuine grievances, explaining and defusing the perceived injustices, and greater integration, not through killing Islamist fighters in internal conflicts we have no business involving ourselves in.

The bloodshed in Baghdad is shocking. But whether the blame-mongers like it or not, we are at war with fanatics.

Cynicism towards President George Bush must not blind us to the much bigger threat facing the world this century.

This is the Sun signing up entirely to this re-marketed "long war". That the invasion of Iraq has made this threat far worse, has provided somewhere for these "fanatics" to train where there was not one before and has in the process killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, not to mention coalition soldiers, isn't mentioned, and for a good reason. The Sun was the newspaper that provided the most blatant propaganda for the government's case for war, and has continued to ever since. One day it might have to take some responsibility, along with the rest of the Murdoch media, for the bloodshed it helped start. Until then, its editorials and praise for "precision" missile strikes on terrorists should continue to be ridiculed.

Labels: , , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Scum-watch: They're asking for it.

I'm not one to normally defend the Dear Leader, but the Sun have again ascribed views to him which he clearly does not hold. They last did this before Christmas, claiming that he had voiced support for their campaign against "killjoys", when he did nothing of the sort, instead questioning whether the stories were based in fact. Today they're claiming that Blair said Saddam "deserved to die", when he instead went off on a tangent, trying not to be too hard on the botched execution:

TONY Blair said last night that the way Saddam Hussein was executed was wrong — but that the tyrant deserved to die.

The Prime Minister reminded the world the former Iraqi dictator was a mass murderer responsible for millions of deaths.

He condemned the chaotic scenes around Saddam’s hanging — but urged everyone to remember he was to blame for his own downfall.

He said: “The manner of the execution of Saddam was completely wrong. But that should not blind us to the crimes he committed against his own people. That includes the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis.

“One million casualties of the Iran-Iraq war and the use of chemical weapons against his own people, wiping out entire villages.

“The crimes Saddam committed do not excuse the manner of his execution, but that does not excuse the crimes. We should bear in mind while saying ‘it’s wrong’ that we should not lurch into a position in forgetting the victims of Saddam.

“Of course any sensible, moderate person makes these points about the scenes we have seen.

“But it should not be then translated into some sort of excuse for the crimes he committed against his own people.”

What the Sun has done is edited together two separate answers to separate questions, and even then he still doesn't say anything that even comes close to supporting the death penalty or the execution, simply repeating the true enough but age old justification for the war which has now been taken up since the WMD excuse fell apart. Here are the two answers he gave in full, from the 10 Downing Street website:

In relation to the death penalty let me just say this. As you know the practice is different in the UK and Japan, but I don't think that is really the issue here. As has been very obvious from the comments of other Ministers and indeed from my own official spokesman, the manner of the execution of Saddam was completely wrong, but that should not blind us to the crimes he committed against his own people, including the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, one million casualties in the Iran-Iraq war, and the use of chemical weapons against his own people, wiping out entire villages of people. So the crimes that Saddam committed does not excuse the manner of his execution, and the manner of his execution does not excuse the crimes. Now I think that is a perfectly sensible position that most people would reasonably accept.

Well I can't add a great deal to what I said earlier. The fact is that as everybody saw, the manner of the execution is unacceptable and it is wrong, but we should bear in mind and not allow that, while saying it is wrong, then to lurch into a position of forgetting the victims of Saddam, the people that he killed deliberately as an act of policy, hundreds of thousands of them in Iraq, the villages and towns that were wiped out by the use of chemical weapons deliberately as an act of government policy. So of course any sensible moderate person makes those points about the scenes that we have seen about the execution, but it should not be then translated into some sort of excuse for the crimes that he committed against his own people, of which you have heard testimony again today.

Blair's bringing up of Saddam's crimes is of course not the point at all; the first images which were broadcast of Saddam's execution were of a dignified, low-key affair, which although brutal and with the hallmarks of a general lack of humanity, did not give the impression of victor's justice, or the sectarianism that emerged once the unofficial mobile phone videos were presented on the web. Even the most brutal of men, if condemned to death, deserve to be treated with something approaching respect as their life is taken from them. That Saddam was not says much about the contemporary Iraq that the US/UK invasion has helped to create.

Elsewhere, the Sun really is asking for it:

Send us web's sickest sites

THE Sun today launches a crackdown on the web's most disturbing websites - and you can help!

From today, if you're shocked by a site and reckon it should be shut down contact us.

Email with the details and our web team will get on the case.

We want you to shop sites that are doing anything illegal, just like the body parts website exposed in The Sun this week.

Our investigators revealed how Brits were selling organs over the net via a twisted site.

The story told how crime gangs and crooked doctors were among those cashing in on the organs black market.

And with your tips, we can track down and expose more horrifying sites just like that.

So if you want us to investigate a web page email Your email will be treated in strictest confidence.

I've since sent the following email:

I've been shocked by the horrifying exploitation of young women by one site in particular. Ladies as young as 18 are encouraged to send in photographs of themselves semi-naked, all for the puny prize of £5,000, while an elderly, leering gentleman profits from their ignorance, and a flame-haired woman fills the pages of her newspaper with their frontal lobes, without having to pay them for the privilege.

Can you possibly help close down (warning: nudity)?


I await their reply.

Related posts:
Scum-watch: Various bits and bobs.

Labels: , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Tuesday, January 09, 2007 

I see no bombers....

The first word that comes to mind regarding the revelation that the head of MI5, "Dame" Eliza Manningham-Buller told MPs on the 6th of July that there was no imminent terrorist threat to London, and that the security situation as a whole was under control, is farce. That may however may be less than fair to those whom the following day were blown apart as a result of this farce. Rachel, in two typically brilliant posts, uses another f-word: failure.

The reports in the immediate aftermath of the bombings, that those responsible were "cleanskins", that MI5 can't be everywhere at once and that there were no failures within the intelligence services are also looking increasingly hollow. Reporting restrictions regarding Operation Crevice, with the prosecution of those being tried coming towards a verdict, are soon to be lifted. Rumours are emerging that at least one of the July 7th bombers had a connection to those involved with that plot. We also now know that the surveillance of Mohammad Siddique Khan involved agents listening to him talking about waging jihad, yet he was apparently not identified, and he was eventually put down as a fraudster, at the lower levels of jihadist militancy, rather than a potential suicide bomber. Rachel also mentions how the surveillance of MSK was abandoned to instead focus on Dhiren Barot, who although a veteran jihadi had no funding, no material and only ridiculous ideas like trying to penetrate the tunnels of the London Underground, and producing a dirty bomb from setting fire to or planting explosives around smoke alarms.

Also worth wondering about is whether MI5 is hopeless in general or was genuinely taken by surprise by 7/7. For Manningham-Buller to apparently go from considering the security situation under control to there being around 30 plots, with "Sir" Ian Blair telling us, according to whichever report you believe, that the terror threat is now either worse than that posed by the Soviet Union or since WW2, within a year and six months seems suspect. We were told beforehand that it was a matter of if, not when Britain was targeted, while in reality they were playing down worries just before we actually were struck, yet now Ian Blair wants us to believe that the "sky is dark". The foiled "liquid bombs" plot, which as time passes looks to be even more shaky and exaggerated than it was when the arrests took place, doesn't really help when it comes to analysing the true threat. All we know for sure is that the Sun wants us to stay scared, that the police want at least 90 days detention without charge, and that ministers still don't want a full public inquiry into 7/7.

It may yet turn out that the revelations once the Crevice prosecutions have finished will make such an inquiry irresistible. If it does, then it will have taken the government close to two years to do something it should have done immediately in the aftermath of the horror on the tube. If it doesn't, then they will continue to be betraying those who expected far better, both from MI5 and ministers who have done everything possible to play down the full facts, of which we are still uncertain. Establishing a watchdog similar to the IPCC for the security services, something Gordon Brown is at least interested in, is also long overdue.

Labels: , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Humbug dressed as a 25-year-old birthday girl.

Christmas may have come and gone, but there's nothing like some humbug at the start of January to fill up the papers. Yesterday the Grauniad printed a decent leader arguing that Kate Middleton, Prince William's girlfriend, was being hounded by the paparazzi, and that if the behaviour of photographers didn't improve, calls for a privacy law would naturally increase as a result. One of its best lines was the following:

A degree of self-restraint by the press, avoiding using pictures of Ms Middleton on her own in her daily life, would reduce the enthusiasm of freelance photographers for taking them.

How then does the Grauniad decide to fill up 5 pages of the following day's G2? By commissioning a piss-poor sub-Daily Mail article by Kira Cochrane about err, the differences between Ms Middleton and a certain dead woman! Not only is there over 2000 words of this guff, there's 6 photographs of Ms Middleton used, including one from her time at university where she took part in a charity fashion show, wearing only underwear and a transparent negligee.

The BBC also isn't immune from this startlingly moronic and boring hypocrisy. The front page of a couple of hours ago, now changed after one of the more eagle-eyed staff noticed the stupidity, featured the following stories at the top, followed by this at the bottom:

News International, in one of their rare as rocking horse shite sensible moves, have also decided to ban all photographs of Middleton taken by paparazzi from the pages of their newspapers, although this got off to a less than auspicious start when the TheLondonPaper (sic), apparently not informed of the decision, used one in today's editions. How long the ban, similar to ones which were imposed after Diana's death and quickly forgotten about will last is also open to question.

As is so often with the Street of Shame, it's hard to know whether anyone outside of London's media circles could care less about Ms Middleton and her relationship with Prince William. Kira Cochrane tries desperately to justify her article in G2 with the following conclusion:

It turned out in the end that Diana was a much more complicated, exciting and interesting woman than that early coverage suggested. So it will likely prove with Kate.

No she wasn't. And no it won't. They'll only turn into "complicated, exciting and interesting" women if the press continues to splash constantly about them, believing that there's some kind of interest in their mundane, ordinary existence. Since Diana's death a myth has been built, and continues to be built, thanks to the efforts of countless biographers and conspiracy theorists that she was far more extraordinary than she in fact was. At the same time, there will always be Glenda and Glen Slaggs out there who will attack purely to fill space. This is how the media works: building up and kicking down.

The best way to deal with the monarchy is to entirely ignore it. Only when they prove what reactionary idiots they are (i.e. wearing Nazi uniforms, calling mild-mannered journalists "bloody awful" for simply asking questions at press conferences) should their activities be reported. The only other justification for mentioning their existence is when writing articles calling for their abolition. Once the supposed mystique which the media builds around them has been destroyed, it will be all the more easier to end this ridiculous and laughable anachronistic institution.

Labels: , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Monday, January 08, 2007 

The pros and cons of Ruth Kelly's privates.

On the surface, Ruth Kelly's decision to send her son to a private, fee-paying school should be an easy enough one to denounce. It's only been a few months since her own piss-poor reign as education secretary came to an end, where she tried and failed to convince her own party to support Blair's pet trust schools project. That a government minister, one who only recently was in charge of improving school standards nationwide, should decide that her local schools are so poor that she needs to send her own children to a private school, is a smack in the face to all those who pay their taxes to fund their own children's education, not to mention the children themselves who have to suffer the conditions that aren't good enough for a government minister's child.

The issue itself though may not have come to light if the Mirror hadn't made the decision to actually name the minister. The Grauniad this morning reported that a cabinet minister had sent their son to a fee-paying school, but didn't name who we now know to be Ruth Kelly as to "protect the identity of the child". One also has to wonder whether that with Ruth Kelly also being a former Grauniad hack if that came into the equation. Justifying their decision in a leader column for plastering Kelly's decision over the front page, the Mirror makes a pretty compelling case. It might be argued it was a private matter if Kelly hadn't previously occupied the education hot-seat, or if she hadn't made any public pronouncements on state schooling, but this was plainly not the case.

What the makes the issue more complicated, personal and more difficult to comment firmly on is that the child, has "substantial learning difficulties", to quoth the BBC. To say that the quality of teaching and general provision for those with learning difficulties in state schools is controversial would be an understatement on the scale of saying that Iraq is a bit of a blunder. Some continue to call for separate schools for those with special needs, claiming that the policy of one size fits all that occurs in the state sector fails them, while the Labour government has been at the forefront of promoting inclusiveness, partly out of the belief that such schools only promote difference and fail to prepare their pupils for "normal" life as adequately as comprehensive schooling does. Both sides of the argument have merit, and as it falls to local authorities and councils to provide school provision, central government generally keeps out of the decisions that are made.

Yet the decision by Kelly is still by no-means clear cut, whether the child has learning difficulties or not. Even going private on the basis of professional advice, it's still a vote of no confidence in the schooling which he has had up to know. This is remember a government that claimed its first three priorities were "education, education, education", yet only just more than half leave school at 16 with five A-C GCSE grades. Top-up fees were introduced, despite claiming that they would do no such thing. It has been effectively 9 years of meddling; we've had city academies, giving control over the curriculum to evangelical Christians and oleangenious businessmen who've also donated money to Labour, and now trust schools introduced, along with "specialisms", yet there's been few measurable achievements apart from driving down class sizes and increasing the pass-rate a little, but by nowhere near enough.

Kelly's justifications and the coincidences involving the picked school are also far from clean:

She said it was not uncommon for pupils with substantial learning difficulties to spend some time outside the state sector to help them progress.

"Sometimes this is paid for by the local authority. In my case, I have not and will not seek the help of the local authority in meeting these costs," Ms Kelly said.

As much as this is true, most who do spend time outside the state sector tend to rely on tutors, and this is outside of school hours. Her choosing of the following school will also raise questions about whether she's being truthful when she says she intends to send him to a state secondary:

The private school which Ms Kelly is believed to have chosen charges £15,000 a year, and grooms children with a particular, relatively common condition for entry into elite public schools such as Harrow and Winchester.

Even if we dismiss Labour tribalism for a second, listen to the likes of Guido when he says that state schooling is collapsing in the Tower Hamlets area, and recognise that the hypocrisy here doesn't come close to approaching the levels of Diane Abbot sending her son to a private school, the decision is still suspect. It shows the limitations of education under Labour, yet the solution which Kelly and other middle class families choose is doing nothing to help the situation, rather instead demoralising teachers who recognise that not even ministers believe their own rhetoric, damns the proles to schools which the more affluent can avoid, and perpetuates the cycle of defeatism. That there are seven special schools within Tower Hamlets, including one specialist centre, additionally makes her look using it more as an excuse rather than a necessity.

The response from her political opponents has been less than condemnatory. It's more than apparent that the muted reaction is down to the fact that her son has special needs, with David Cameron unlikely to capitalise on something that he may yet have to do himself, not to mention his own privileged education. Sarah Teather, finding time out from her search for sex to comment on her actual position (is this right? Ed.), took much the same approach.

Personally, it's just another stroke against Kelly and her far from dazzling ministerial career. Hopeless at education, moved into a position where she finds herself, a member of Opus Dei, supposedly having to defend outlawing discrimination against homosexuals, and apparently doing the exact opposite, she should do the decent thing and resign.

Labels: , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


  • This is septicisle



Powered by Blogger
and Blogger Templates