Saturday, May 05, 2007 

The new untermensch.

The findings of the Mental Health Advisory Team's survey of deployed American services serving in Iraq shouldn't come as anything like a surprise. It's also easy to blame the apparent contempt with which US servicemen hold Iraqis in general to their state of mind as result of long serving tours and deaths within their ranks, when this only tells half the story.

From the very beginning of the Iraq war, the American approach in particular to the citizens of the country has been telling. They promised shock and awe, knowing full well that there were few military targets that hadn't been hit over the previous decade of imposed no-fly zones, meaning that innocent civilians were going to be slaughtered so that it made for good television pictures. Within weeks of the overthrow of Saddam, trigger-happy soldiers were shooting dead unarmed protesters, one of the major factors in kicking off the insurgency. Then there was Abu Ghraib.

Reading the posts of those who have returned from Iraq is just as instructive. Iraqis are referred to as "hajis", for which read the way that the Vietnamese were called "gooks". We can bleat all we like about the dehumanising aspects of war, and true as it is, there's nothing like good old-fashioned colonial attitudes and the belief that some lives are worth less than others.

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Humbug, how we've missed you.

Shock horror! The Scum reports that "A SHOCK ITV1 programme reveals that increasing numbers of teenage girls are desperate to have boob jobs", along with a suitably revealing photograph of gorgeous pouting Leanne, who celebrated her 18th birthday by getting fake tits.

This would of course be the same Sun newspaper that fills its pages day after day with countless photographs of Jordan, Gemma Atkinson, and of course, Keeley Hazell, who despite having real breasts that look better covered over than out and the face of a 5-year-old is somehow considered the 2nd sexiest woman on the planet. Its page 3 idol contest, the lowest common denominator competition that a "newspaper" has ever run, encouraged thousands of women across the country to believe that their only real worth is their chests, and that only by flashing the flesh will they get anywhere in life. It's spent years trying to cater to male fantasies, whether they be lesbian sex, schoolgirls (the uniforms, especially) or school teachers, while hating and making fun of gay men, crusading against paedophiles and damning soft wet liberals for inculcating only political correctness, and now it wonders why teenage girls are dumb, ignorant and interested only in increasing their confidence through expanding their sacks of fat?

We can't just blame the Sun. The rise of the lads mag, especially the weeklies which compete to see how many nipples they can get in each week's depressing, soul-destroying bog read and how much semen they can get their teenage boy readership to expend on average, are just as culpable, as is reality television, especially Big Brother, where for the last few years the only women who have appeared have been either surgically enhanced or so desperate to show off their bodies that within a week of getting evicted they've appeared in the aforementioned magazines.

In fact, we're all to blame. We've allowed this culture to flourish, where instead of making fun of and destroying these sad, fucked up people, we've allowed them to become the centre of attention for the wrong reasons. Instead of reporting what Paris fucking Hilton was wearing when she attended her court hearing, we should be coruscating the worthless, oxygen-stealing cunt for drink driving and putting the lives of people actually worth something at risk. We should be mocking the women who are so completely lacking in self-esteem that they feel the need to increase the size of their bosoms until they're the size of the brains of their entire circle of friends put together and maybe even considering sectioning them, but instead we applaud and bay for more. We're more interested in what's up Britney Spears' skirt (a
scar and a gaping axe wound that could envelop a giant octopus, as it turns out) than whether we're on the road back to Tory government.

I'll admit, I'm being a little harsh. The women getting boob jobs out of confidence issues are probably on the same path as those who cut themselves, enjoying the self-destruction and temporary release from anguish that it brings. As for the rest of them, and this celebrity culture which smothers everything, I mean every word I say.

Related post: Rise and rise of the idiots.

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Friday, May 04, 2007 

The post election comedown.

No alarms and no surprises from my modern day rotten borough. The Labour candidate did slightly better than last time, if my memory serves me correctly - grabbing second place with a whopping 262 votes. The Tory got 1,218, while all his opponents combined managed only 488 between them.

For some reason known only to myself, I spent the best part of the night/morning watching the BBC coverage of the results as they came in. There's little more painful than witnessing in succession, John Reid, Hillary Armstrong, John Hutton and finally, Hazel Blears try and fail to put a gloss on the massive Labour losses. It wasn't the wipeout that had been predicted by some, but 485 lost seats is still impossible to put a positive spin on. This was Labour being cut down to its core vote that will always turnout, previous supporters staying at home or returning to the Tories, especially in the south. The party simply has no one to blame except itself; this isn't the fault of the individual councillors, it's down to the party being prepared to indulge Blair's vanity for far too long.

This couldn't have been more exemplified by Blears and her eternal loyalty to her master. As some of the poor results came in from Wales, she had the audacity to suggest that this was down to there not being enough public service reform, that Welsh Labour with its policy of "clear red water" between it and Westminster was part of the problem. In fact, as anyone apart from Blears could have pointed out, the only overall losses Labour have suffered were to Plaid Cymru, who had campaigned on a nakedly socialist platform, the exception being Cardiff North which fell to the Tories who had targeted it relentlessly. The reason that the losses weren't heavier was that Labour in Wales still maintains some of its principles which it has long since abandoned in England.

A similar story has emerged in Scotland. While England has moved to the right, Scotland and Wales have shifted back towards the left. The SNP victory is "historic", but they must be secretly disappointed that their major opinion poll leads were cut back to in the end a win of just a single seat more than Labour. The SNP profited in particular from the implosion of the Scottish Socialists, and despite the opposition of the Scottish Sun to independence, running scare stories, they have Murdoch to thank for destroying Tommy Sheridan, who failed to win a seat with his new party, Solidarity. Just how much the SNP mean what they say is open to question: their opposition to the renewal of Trident and to the Iraq war is not going to mean much when they can't do anything about either, while support for independence itself is probably more popular in England than it is north of the border.

Probably worthy of more comment than the actual SNP win is the monumental cock-up of trying to run different elections on the same day with little apparent input on how people were supposed to vote correctly. While it's unlikely that any results might have been different if the spoiled ballots had been counted, the actual disenfranchising of up to 100,000 voters is something we thought was more associated with stripping the rolls of black voters in Florida than in the Western Isles. It doesn't augur well for the SNP's attempt to ram through a referendum on independence only with "additional questions"; it seems plenty of people found it difficult enough to fill in ballots where you had to either mark an x or put your choice in order of 1, 2, 3.

Best news of all was the comprehensive failure of the fascists. This was meant to be their big year, with immigration high up the agenda, and with their largest field of candidates in years, yet they made a net gain of a single seat. Such a result is bound to lead to an implosion within the party, when discontent is at such a high but they can't make a breakthrough. The local activists and councillors across the country deserve major credit for their efforts in stopping them.

As for the biggest and most unexpected losers on the night, they were undoubtedly the Liberal Democrats. They made no progress whatsoever in Scotland or Wales, and lost over 240 council seats. Whether this is down to a poor campaign, the switching of voters back to the Tories after playing coyly with the Libs, the end of the bounce their opposition to Iraq gave them, or the blandness of Ming Campbell is hard to tell, with all probably playing a factor. The most punishing thing for Campbell may not be the losses, but the appearance of Charles Kennedy on Question Time, coming across as well as ever. It's still not beyond the imagination that Campbell could yet be deposed, although Kennedy is an unlikely candidate.

David Cameron's claim that the Tories showing was "stunning" is by the same measures a little hollow. They're still nowhere in Scotland and Wales and in the big cities in the North West, even if they've made slight progress in places like Sunderland. If Gordon Brown were to call a snap election, which he certainly isn't, there's nothing to suggest they'd grab a majority, with a minority government being the most likely outcome. In fact, this is possibly the best possible outcome. Such a result would mean either Labour or the Tories having to call on the Lib Dems to help them form a government, which might finally mean getting PR at Westminster, even if yesterday's ballot wasn't exactly the greatest advertisement for it. Wales and Scotland shows that the left or left policies can still get a result: it's just that Labour has abandoned it.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007 

The blogging counter-revolution.

It's World Press Freedom Day, and the Guardian, being the Guardian, thinks it's a great idea to get an expert to pronounce on how fantastic blogging is and how it's enriching our lives. The expert? Iain Dale.

Being a first class prick, it's not hard to pick some holes in his argument:
Blogs have liberated people who have things to say. There are 70m blogs in the world, and they have become a vital means of communication for people who live in parts of the world where the traditional media cannot remotely be said to be free. It's no coincidence that the highest ratio of bloggers to the population is to be found in Iran.

This is true, but it's also liberated people who have nothing to say, and those who say nothing of any worth. Of those 70m blogs, it's worth wondering just how many of them are devoted to politics, and not your cat, your sex life or your job. Again, millions of those blogs are set-up and then never posted to again, but they still count towards the figures. The amount of blogs that are updated every day with new content and still going after a year is minuscule. Blogging can be liberating, it can be enfranchising, it can be a breath of fresh air, but it's not the greatest thing that's ever happened to the world by a long shot.

Social communities like MySpace and Facebook allow people to interact with likeminded people in a way that the traditional press never can. The challenge for the mainstream media is to catch up with the opportunities to extend press freedom that the internet provides. They ought to be the drivers of opening up democracy on the internet; instead national newspapers and broadcasters seem to have their feet stuck in concrete as they struggle to come to terms with the new media world.

If this seems vaguely familiar, it's because it's much the same point put forward by... David Cameron. He seemed to miss the fact that MurdochSpace and YouTube are not in fact much used for making grand political statements, but by crap unsigned bands, for hosting user-generated videos of idiots being idiots and by the odd ordinary person to showcase their spectacularly exciting life. The politicians attempting to crash the party are the equivalent of the drunk dads and uncles at weddings embarrassing themselves and everyone else by dancing like a spider with no legs to Achy Breaky Heart. Dale has fallen into the same trap.

This is a huge opportunity, but also a threat - a threat to the press. Again, gone are the days when celebrated newspaper columnists would be able to pontificate on the great issues of the days and sit back and think "job well done". These days there are millions of columnists all around the world who can do the same thing - they're called bloggers. Newspaper columnists hate them because they've broken into their monopoly and democratised it. Newspaper journalists only blog because they think they ought to or their editors have told them to. They hate having to podcast, or, even worse, videocast. It's not what they do. They are the modern Luddites. And we all know what happened to them ...

This is rubbish. "Old media" organisations are falling over themselves to catch-up, as evidenced by pretty much every paper except the Independent having numerous blogs and podcasts available. Besides, does anyone really listen to news or politics podcasts? The most popular by far are those produced in order to let people catch up with radio programmes they've missed, and the others are independently produced that have nothing to do with freedom of the press or otherwise.

Some newspaper columnists do hate the interaction that blogging has introduced, but they're mostly the ones that made you want to scream at the newspaper long before they even started having comment sections online.

About the only part of Dale's post that is incontestable is that blogging is and has been a boon to those living under tyranny. The problem is that blogging itself can be used by those who imitate those tyrannies: shutting down debate, re-hashing propaganda and at times, downright lying. You only have to see the very worst offenders to see that this can and will be used at some stage to blacken the name of bloggers as a whole: Little Green Footballs and the like, and EU Referendum's smears and exaggerations of what when on Lebanon during last summer's war instantly come to mind.

Dale himself isn't clean in this area. His response to a mild ribbing from myself was to tell me to "piss off" and that I was a "first-class prick", which by the standards of internet discourse is very mild, but not very impressive from someone who stood for the Conservatives at the last election and who is regularly called upon to inform the wider public of blogging, whether he regards himself as a "blogging expert" or not. The recent blocking of certain blogs that are critical of Dale also doesn't exactly show up Dale to be much of a paragon when it comes to debate, the very thing that blogging thrives on.

In the comments on Dale's piece, Markson probably says it best:
However, it allows for the wildly successful spread of myth parading as fact and objectivity being drowned out by the sheer noise of the blogosphere. People flock to sites that confirm their own beliefs, further entrenching extremism.

There is only so much that other blogs can do to counter this, as there is when it comes to fact-checking the mainstream media as well. Just because blogs are personal and "independent" doesn't mean that they're not open to the exact same abuses and prejudices which the corporate media is. However welcome the rise in citizen journalism and comment is, pretending that all of it is fantastic and empowering is being willfully blind.

Related post:
Ministry of Truth - Freedom? What Freedom?

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So who the hell do I vote for? Labour it seems...

As I expected, I ended up biting my lip and voting for the local Labour candidate. Yes, I realise that I'm a horrible monster, a hypocrite and that I should be lined up against the wall and shot.

Somewhat related, there's a decent debate on CiF regarding the fortunes of the BNP, with posts by both Daniel Davies and Peter Tatchell.

My own view, somewhat predictably, is split between the two. Davies is right that we shouldn't overstate the BNP's success or otherwise today, but neither should we be complacent about it. Wherever the BNP are standing, they need to be challenged, even if they don't have any chance of winning. Tatchell is right in that the BNP are developing their own spin merchants, re-branding themselves as the acceptable face of the "indigenous" people of Britain, who are being downtrodden by political correctness and pandering to the "ethnics". Incidentally, this is almost the exact same message being preached on a daily basis by the right-wing tabloids, who scream and bleat when this is pointed out to them.

Davies is also correct though in pointing out that the BNP's real foot-soldiers, the hardcore, are weirdos, who believe that the Holocaust never happened, that Hitler and Jesus Christ are comparable and that 9/11 was an inside job. It's also true that the vast majority of them are absolutely hopeless councillors, who in some cases can't even work how to vote correctly.

Tatchell's point that low turnout helps the fascists though is the most apt. If the BNP are standing where you are, then for God's sake go and vote, even if it means plumping for a Tory and a kitten dies as a result. The slogan from the last French election summed it up best: better a crook than a fascist. The next step is to start countering the propaganda from the tabloids which is helping fuel the BNP, but that's for other posts...

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007 


There are times when apologies are not enough. In the Japanese manga and film Ichi the Killer, the yakuza Kakihara slices his tongue in half and offers it to his fellow gang-leaders in their syndicate to make restitution for torturing another yakuza, under the mistaken belief that he was responsible for the disappearance of his own boss.

While I can't quite advocate those responsible for the Iraq war carrying out a similar act of contrition and penance, it'd be nice to think that if they're not going to properly apologise and instead continue to only make more than clear why they fell into such a hideous mistake in the first place that they'd just shut up.

Take the interview in today's Grauniad with Geoff Hoon. Not only does he not tell us anything that even the most bone-idle political commentator could have worked out for himself, but he talks with such a self-regard and haughty attitude that you wonder why he even bothered taking part in a discussion where he was going to asked about Iraq. Instead, he just comes across as unutterably ignorant:

"Sometimes ... Tony had made his point with the president, and I'd made my point with Don [Rumsfeld] and Jack [Straw] had made his point with Colin [Powell] and the decision actually came out of a completely different place. And you think: what did we miss? I think we missed Cheney."

Well, at least we know that he and Rumsfeld were on first name terms, although why you'd want to be is a mystery in itself. After 4 years then, Hoon's conclusion is that they missed the vice-president, long regarded as being the real power behind the commander in chief. To give him a slight amount of credit, this may be more out of defending the special relationship than anything else, as the whole Iraq debacle and almost everything since then has only made one thing clear: we have absolutely no influence in Washington whatsoever. Blair was taken for a ride because he either couldn't see the real reasons behind the inexorable march to war, or he indeed did and was fully behind them, only for his "liberal intervention" to go horribly wrong.

Giving the most frank assessment of the postwar planning, Mr Hoon, admits that "we didn't plan for the right sort of aftermath".

Or rather, as we know, they didn't do any planning for any sort of aftermath. The State Department drew up a full plan for post-Saddam Iraq only for Rumsfeld to throw it out the window and leave Paul Bremer to install his shock therapy, both economically and socially.

"Maybe we were too optimistic about the idea of the streets being lined with cheering people. Although I have reconciled it in my own mind, we perhaps didn't do enough to see it through the Sunni perspective. Perhaps we should have done more to understand their position."

Oh, that's all right then. Geoff's came to terms with himself everyone! This is the type of vapid navel-gazing after the fact that you expect from a teenager, not a politician. Perhaps, maybe, should, it's all a little bit late.

Of the summary dismissal of Iraq's 350,000-strong army and police forces, Mr Hoon said the Americans were uncompromising: "We certainly argued against [the US]. I recall having discussions with Donald Rumsfeld, but I recognised that it was one of those judgment calls. I would have called it the other way. His argument was that the Iraqi army was so heavily politicised that we couldn't be sure that we would not retain within it large elements of Saddam's people."

The dismantling of several ministries and removal from office of all state employees with Ba'ath party membership was also an error, Mr Hoon says.

The decision is widely seen to have paralysed the country's infrastructure. "I think we probably saw it in a different way [to the US]. I think we felt that a lot of the Ba'ath people were first and foremost local government people, and first and foremost civil servants - they weren't fanatical supporters of Saddam."

The other huge error which isn't mentioned here is the reliance of the US on the Iraqi exiles who had both their own agendas, as well as some of them not having been in Iraq for decades. Their faulty information was at the forefront both of the intelligence which was dead wrong, and at the decisions which were then subsequently made. The imposition of the puppet Coalition Provisional Authority, over the head of any interim Iraqi authority which could have advised and helped avoid these monumental errors was of much the same problem: the complete failure of the British government to have almost any influence whatsoever.

Mr Hoon also expressed regret over the government's claim in the run-up to war that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, which, he now accepts, turned out to be false. He said he had "gradually come to the acceptance" the weapons did not exist. But he insisted the government had acted in good faith.

He still does not understand why the intelligence proved to be false. "I've been present at a number of meetings where the intelligence community was fixed, and looked in the eye and asked are you absolutely sure about this? And the answer came back 'Yes, absolutely sure'."

Mr Hoon added: "I saw intelligence from the first time I came into office, in May 1999 - week in, week out - that said Saddam had weapons of mass destruction ... I have real difficulty in understanding why it was, over such a long period of time, we were told this and, moreover, why we acted upon it."

We know through various memos that Sir Richard Dearlove had indicated that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" and that Blair would not budge "from his support for regime change". We know that the dossiers were sexed-up. As for Hoon's memories of the intelligence he say week in, week out, Robin Cook, who doubtless saw the exact same intelligence, made clear in his resignation speech that "Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term - namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target." As it turned out, even Cook's mentioning that Iraq probably had biological toxins and battlefield chemical munitions was wrong.

On the question of an apology, he says: "That's the whole thing about apologising, and saying we were wrong. - it's quite hard. You can say "it did not turn out as we expected" and "we made some bad calls", but at the end of the day I defy anyone to to go through what we went through and come to a different conclusion".

2 million on the streets of London came to a different conclusion, a majority on the UN security council came to a different conclusion, even the Liberal Democrats came to a different conclusion, and that was without 4 years of hindsight. If even now the ministers responsible for this catastrophe cannot think of any different outcome, then maybe they really do deserve having their tongues ripped out.

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Spread this number.

09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007 

Two cheeks of the same arse.

Polly's at it again. During 2005 she urged us all to wear nosepegs to stop the smell emanating from the corpses that Blair was standing aloft so that we'd be able to vote Labour anyway. Today she's telling us that voting for the Tories is not the answer, with even less success.

One of Toynbee's main arguments is always that the right-wing media distort the truth and attack Labour without any sense of restraint or principle. As with many of Toynbee's arguments, there's a decent amount of accuracy in it, as numerous posts on this blog have noted, but while she's saying that the right is always on Labour's back, she ignores the Faustian pact that Blair has long had with the whore of Fleet Street, the Sun.

Today's Sun is further proof that we can expect no real change in the relationship between the Murdoch media and Gordon Brown. As the latest Private Eye noted in passing, Brown has been increasingly seen dining with Rebekah Wade. He even shared a stage with the Dirty Digger himself a while back in Davos.

Some will hit back that the New Labour-Murdoch alliance has helped keep Labour in power for as long as it has, that constantly trying to both appease and please a newspaper proprietor who detests everything that Labour has traditionally stood for is a price worth paying for the government being perpetually at loggerheads with such a powerful foe. The reality is that Blair sold his soul and that of his party when he made the journey to Australia in order to court Murdoch. Ever since, the relationship between the Murdoch press and the government has been almost one that reflects the last days of the Wade-Kemp axis: one side keeps coming back even though it knows it's just going to eventually get hit again. It can be reasonably argued that if it hadn't been for Murdoch's unstinting support for the Iraq war, of the constant playing down of scandals such as the BAe corruption farce and loans for peerages that Blair himself, and maybe even his government would have been long gone. In return, Labour gets ever tougher on crime, but still not tough enough for the Sun, while it wages a war on both terrorism, which is counter-productive, and on civil liberties, which is irredeemable.

We shouldn't be that surprised then that Gordon has taken time out from his busy schedule campaigning for a lost cause to write a love letter to someone who he's never even fancied. Even more surprising are what he thinks Blair will be first and foremost remembered for. Not for what, in tandem with himself, he achieved with the minimum wage, independence for the Bank of England and economic success, but rather, err, the relationship with the US.

WHEN historians look back on Tony Blair’s ten years as Prime Minister, they will look back on some of the most memorable moments and achievements in our post-war history.

Gordon knows what you're thinking, I know what you're thinking. That single word is mentioned only once in this paean, and that's in passing. Unsurprising, really, that hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis aren't considered either a memorable moment or an achievement.

I think first of September 11, and how by immediately saying we stood shoulder to shoulder with America, Tony spoke not just for Britain but for every nation, and gave strength and courage to a world paralysed by shock and fear, as always on the side of freedom.

It's perhaps not best to mention here that within a year and six months the coalition that had emerged in the wake of 9/11 was irrevocably destroyed by the mania of Bush and Blair in attacking Iraq. Is something that any British prime minister would have done at the time really an achievement?

I think of July two years ago, when Tony returned from bringing the Olympics to London to persuade other world leaders at Gleneagles to take action on international poverty and climate change.

Which as the Guardian reported last week, has turned out fantastically well.

I think how quickly those triumphs — for which Tony had worked for years — turned to tragedy in the space of a few minutes on July 7, but how steadfastly he set the tone of Britain’s continuing and long-term response to terrorist extremists: Resolute, defiant and unyielding.

And how he destroyed the cross-party consensus which had emerged after the bombs by returning from holiday, scared shitless by the Sun demanding that something be done IMMEDIATELY, to claim the "rules of the game are changing", which only exacerbated the problem and gave the terrorists' the satisfaction of knowing that they could rely on the government to reduce freedom to provide "security".

I think of how he spoke for the country after the death of Princess Diana and then of the tireless determination he has shown for ten years — facing down every frustration and setback — in trying to bring lasting peace and prosperity to both communities in Northern Ireland, and to both communities in Israel and Palestine.

He only spoke for the part of the country that went mad for a couple of weeks over the tragic but ordinary death of a woman. To everyone else he sounded like an idiot. While Blair does deserve credit for the progress made in the peace process in Northern Ireland, he's done absolutely nothing to help Palestine, and made clear where his bread's really buttered by supporting Israel's brutal war on Lebanon-Hizbullah last summer, joining in with the United States in helping to scupper any chance of an early ceasefire.

And I think how the young Tony Blair, who never thought he would have to send our Armed Forces to war, has seen them serve with great valour in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Iraq.

There it is! The less said about this whole paragraph the better.

And when I think of the hours we spent sharing a Commons office in the 1980s, debating how the Labour Party might become New Labour and how we could fight for the great causes of our age, I look back on how in the years that followed he not only led our party to a unique triple of election victories but — the greater achievement for him — also made Britain first in the world for debt relief, action on Aids, a fair trade deal for the poorest countries, and tackling climate change.

The great causes of our age presumably being helping the filthy rich get even filthier, the abandonment of anything even resembling traditional Labour values, and a "liberal interventionist" foreign policy which is neither liberal (except in the classical, imperialist sense) nor about helping protect the citizens which intervention was meant to.

And he has been right to say that what binds Britain and America together is the shared beliefs in liberty, democracy and the dignity of every single individual that both our countries value.

Unless they're Iraqi or an alleged terrorist, in which case you'll either be bombed, or rendered to a black hole CIA prison where you'll be tortured until you either confess or go crazy, or preferably, both.

I am honoured to call Tony my oldest friend in politics, of course with the inevitable ups and downs along the way, but still the longest partnership between Prime Minister and Chancellor for 200 years.

Honoured to have worked with him to create a Britain that is stronger, fairer and more prosperous than that bright morning back in 1997 when Tony first walked up Downing Street — a Britain which can hold its head up high in the world.

Is Brown being facetious, or knowingly ironic? He surely can't be serious about being Tony's oldest friend, unless we're going by the old adage of keeping your friends close and your enemies even closer. As for Britain holding its head up high, we're now hated just slightly less than America, which is quite an achievement.

The Sun's leader is full of much the same, vomit-inducing sycophancy:

And, despite Iraq, he can claim moral victories abroad in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan.

As the still returning body bags from the poor, blighted latter country can attest to.

Brown then already has his balls in a Murdoch-branded vice. Here's to ten more years of New Murdoch.

Related post:
Bloggerheads - Celebrating 10 years of the Downing Street Echo

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War crime? Smore crime!

Images of the injuries sustained by Baha Mousa, lying dead after being beaten to death by British soldiers. Photographs taken from the Guardian.

Buried by the reporting on the fertiliser plot, the only soldier with the dignity to admit to taking part in the beatings which led to the death of the Iraqi hotel receptionist Baha Mousa, was yesterday sentenced to a year in prison and dismissed from the army.

Yep, you read that right. Even though Corporal Donald Payne was convicted of a war crime, as defined by the International Criminal Court Act of 2001, his punishment, apart from losing his pension, is a whole year of imprisonment for taking part in the abuse. He was cleared of manslaughter, as it was not proved that his blows had personally lead to Mousa dying. Payne was identified as one of the soldiers' who took it upon himself to conduct the Iraqi detainees like a choir, who had been mistakenly identified as potential insurgents and possibly the men that had killed a popular young captain, Di Jones, battering them one at a time, relishing the groans and pleas coming from the prisoners, while entertaining his fellow comrades who at no time did anything to stop the blatant breaking of rules on treatment of detainees that had been introduced over three decades previously.

In a way, it's hard not to feel sorry for Payne. He was honest enough to come forward and admit that he was in the vanguard of attacking the prisoners, even though by all accounts the evidence against him, unlike that against the others tried during the court martial, was damning. Rather than being protected by the other soldiers involved and by the higher-ups who authorised the re-introduction of conditioning in the first place, he's been left to hang out to dry, a sacrificial lamb designed to appease those who demanded justice for Baha Mousa and those who suffered with him. Instead, Payne's treatment is more than representative of the way both the government and the army have dealt with allegations of abuse by British soldiers: cover it up, deny anything really shameful happened, and move on.

If Payne hadn't admitted his guilt, then the army might have entirely got away with it. The closing of ranks which took place during the trial, the endless repetitions uttered by witnesses of "I don't remember" and the lack of interest in much of the media other than to damn the government for daring to bring the court martial in the first place has meant that much of the British public probably think that the only real abuses by British troops in Iraq were those photographs of Iraqis being forced to simulate sex for the cameras. The photographs above, and the diary of a soldier reproduced in the Grauniad at the weekend tell a far different story.

Payne is now considering whether to sing like a canary about what he knows. One can only hope that he does: the authorities who OK-ed the use of conditioning need to be exposed and brought to account, as do those soldiers that took part in the beating of four ordinary Iraqis who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. It all seems very different from the speech that Colonel Tim Collins gave on the eve of war:

It is a big step to take another human life. It is not to be done lightly. I know of men who have taken life needlessly in other conflicts, I can assure you they live with the Mark of Cain upon them. If someone surrenders to you then remember they have that right in international law and ensure that one day they go home to their family.

From there we go to "the fat bastard" who couldn't be revived, which was "what a shame".

It's therefore difficult to take seriously Sir Richard Dannatt's claim that they don't know who was responsible for the death of Baha Mousa. As Panorama pointed out, they know the regiments that were there, the know the soldiers who were in the base where they taken, and they know who took part in the conditioning. It's just that they haven't been brought to justice.

Finally, as you might expect, today's Sun has absolutely no mention of the sentencing of Payne. Then again, we shouldn't have expected one, for Payne's imprisonment is only for a so-called crime. For Mousa's family, the Sun is only a so-called newspaper.

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Monday, April 30, 2007 

Forever delayed.

They say that good things (or in this case, depressing but motivating things) come to those that wait, or at least that advertisement for a particularly foul beer does, but the news accompanied by the conviction of 5 men for plotting what would have been far more devastating explosions than 7/7, was that, as had been well rumoured, they had links to two of the bombers that killed themselves and murdered dozens of others on that day now known only as two numbers.

These links were not just passing acquaintances, that they'd both encountered some of the plotters on internet forums and had been flagged up as possible co-conspirators. These links were, as Peter Clarke or John Reid would not doubt tell us if they weren't horribly on the back foot, extensive, detailed and authoritative, or do those terms only apply to sexed up dossiers?

One of the revelations is genuinely astounding: Khyam, alleged to be the ringleader in the plot which never came to fruition, and where it's not even clear where they would have struck, drove Mohammad Siddique Khan, the alleged ringleader on 7/7, for hours on the motorway while MI5 listened in. Rather than being, as we were told, that these were "clean skins" and that it was a complete bolt from the blue, from the very minute that the bombers were positively identified MI5 have worked to at least keep this information from coming out, whether because it was "subjudice" or rather because it was an unpleasant fact that the public didn't need to know about.

Within a week of 7/7 there were allegations being made that MSK was known to the intelligence services, and indeed had been missed in the Crevice raid, or at least had links to that investigation, facts that have taken close to two full years to finally emerge. The desperation of the spinning by MI5 is quite mind-boggling to see. The Spook on First Post suggested a month ago that the security service was going to produce a document entitled 'Rumours and Realities', and lo and behold, there's a document on MI5's website entitled Rumours and reality.

As the newly installed head Jonathan Evans is at pains to point out, "The Security Service will never have the capacity to investigate everyone who appears on the periphery of every operation", which is quite true. The trouble with this statement is that MSK was considered such a peripheral player that he was put under surveillance, that it was known he had gone and trained in Pakistan, that everything about him now known suggests that he was a committed jihadist, and that even then it was clear he was considering killing himself and others for his perverse, wicked cause.

There is of course, as the cliché goes, nothing quite like hindsight, and as with most clichés, it has a ring of truth around it. Why though go to all the trouble of being at pains to show how deadly and enduring the threat we now face is, as the terrorists are complete unknowns, when they knew full well even then that it was nonsense?

This is exactly why there now needs to be a full, independent inquiry into what happened both on that day, before that day and then after that day. The government's tired, facile argument that this would take away vital resources from those who are so earnestly protecting our lives is exactly that; disingenuous and worthy of contempt. They treated us with contempt when they lied to us, when they continue to overstate the nature of the threat, when they relentlessly scaremonger moments after telling us to do exactly the opposite, and tell the leakers to stop leaking when the biggest leaks are often from them. Terrorism can be defeated, but only if our governments and protectors are honest with us will it encourage us to be honest with ourselves. They could do much to kick-start the beginning of such a culture by ordering the inquiry.

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The Daily Express: dead horses beaten daily.

Sometimes, I just completely and utterly despair. The Express pretends to be a newspaper. Its owner pretends to be a philanthropic, caring man who donates to hospitals, while paying himself £52 million a year from the profits of his hate-filled rags, celebrity magazines and softcore pornography television channels.

In case you couldn't guess, Muslims are not getting their own laws in Britain, and they're not getting them now, either. Inayat Bunglawala, in one of a rare as rocking horse excrement decent posts on CiF, thoroughly destroys the article. It's true, as some have pointed to, that a judge in a German court recently made a shocking, dismissal worthy decision that a Muslim woman could not have a divorce because her husband had been beating her, as the Koran states that the husband is allowed to beat his wife (a scripture which is predictably controversial and highly debated), but there's no evidence that the setting up of entirely voluntary courts is going to lead to anything as disgraceful as that happening here.

To add insult to injury, the Express illustrates the story online with that now infamous photograph of 3 Muslim women, all wearing the niqab, with one flashing a two-fingered salute at the man behind the camera. That this was taken during the "beheading" raids in Birmingham, when the community as a whole was more than entitled to feel under siege, isn't worthy of a mention.


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