Telling us what anyone with half a brain already knew

A report today by Chatham House and the Economic and Social Research Council has reported that Britains involvement in Iraq has put us more at risk from terrorist attacks. It’s what those of us in the anti-war camp have been saying since before the war happened, and it’s been proved time and time again by the terror alerts, and now by the terrible bombing in London on July 7th.

But do the government come clean? Are you kidding? This is the new Labour spin machine at work here. So here’s John Reid to peddle the moronic party line,

“And the idea that somehow by running away from the school bully, then the bully will not come after you is a thesis that is known to be completely untrue by every kid in the playground and it is also refuted by every piece of historical evidence that we have.”

OK, what are the similarities between acts of terror and bullying. Are we talking about big kids attacking small kids for no reason? Er, no. Are we talking about people who want to take the equivalent of our dinner money, or assert their place in some kind of playground heirarchy? Er, no. So the bully analogy means nothing.

You can’t describe a group of people retaliating for a war waged on Arabs as bullies. Their methods are horrific – this isn’t any justification of bombings, suicidal or otherwise – but their motivation is not to grab the UK’s dinner money. It’s the actions of the voiceless. Those who feel for whatever reason, their point is not being heard. Mix that in with a load of crazy exteme fundementalist ranting that gives moral credence to the attacks, and you’ve got a potent cocktail. The answer is not to wage war, but to remove the reasons for war. Bully metaphors are just bollocks.

As usual, Jyoti got there before me, with another fine blog on the same story.

Also a must-read is this week’s cover story in The New Statesman, about the islamic tradition that has spawned the extremists – it’s on the cover story page, but I’ll try and find a more permanent link.

and if you want to read the whole report here’s a link to a PDF of it.

Soundtrack – Edgar Meyer/Bela Fleck, ‘Music For Two’.

Commentary on Live 8/MPH

here’s an excellent Blog-post from Barky’s blog – it’s a measured questioning of some of the fundementals of the Live 8/MPH aims and methods, whilst be largely supportive of the movement.

He highlights that the existence of the G8 is a big part of the problem, and also flags up the slightly worrying move within the MPH organisation to sideline the anti-war protestors at the march on Saturday, despite the rather obvious and catastrophic link between war and poverty.

What definitely needs exploring here is the distrust of the Stop the War Coalition of many anti-war protestors, myself included. I’m not a fan of either the Muslim Association of Great Britain or The Socialist Worker’s Party, whose muddled combined agenda seems to be driving the movement. Maybe it was the coalition who were sidelined, not anti-war sentiment per se.

Anyway, the blog post is food for thought.

SoundtrackKris Delmhorst, ‘Five Stories’.

Gotta hand it to George…

“I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims, did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11, 2001,

“Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong. And 100,000 people have paid with their lives — 1,600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies, 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever, on a pack of lies.”

“Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported.”

Now, I’m not really a member of the George Galloway fan club – I was all in favour of his militant anti-war stance, am still very confused by his ‘I salute your indefatiguability’ speech to Saddam, and don’t trust his new Respect part at all. That said, his speech to the US Senate committee investigating claims that Saddam gave him shedloads of oil to sell was fantastic – the quote above is just a small part of it, quoted from this article on CNN.com. I’d love to see the video footage…

Soundtrack – a minidisc of a gig I did at the Barbican back in 2003, with Orphy Robinson, Mano Ventura and Filomena Campus, that I’ve never listened to before – the disc was lost under a pile of stuff, so today’s bit of tidying unearthed it. Bits of it are fantastic. There’s easily 20 minutes of editable top notch stuff. I might have to have a go some time!

…and while I was watching SuperSize Me…

…the leaders of the three main parties were being interviewed over on Question Time – thank God for the BBC archiving such things, so we can all watch it online, and find out what was said…

The election is next Thursday, DON’T FORGET – the polling stations open early, and are open ’til late.

I’m a big supporter of exercising your democratic right to vote. Not least of all because low voter turnout helps the fascists, and we don’t even want the BNP to get their deposit back, let alone get any kind of political kudos for a good placing. (they aren’t actually going to get any MPs).

However, having read some of the stuff on notapathetic.com, I can see some great reasons for not voting. People who see it as an insult to their right to vote for them to have to choose between three flavours of dogshit, people who feel like a low voter turnout will show just how disillusioned we all are with UK politics (we could well be heading for the lowest voter turnout ever anyway). It’s an interesting site, and well worth a visit.

As it is, I’m going to vote – my approach is vote for the best you can find, and then hassle them to do a good job. It’s like the US election – Kerry was hardly the most glowing lefty on the political scene, but at least he could have been called on to instigate some policy decisions that were in keeping with the democratic tradition… Trying the same thing with Bush, you’d just have to suggest that he be a little less obvious about his military action abroad, and take the Reagan method of backing right wing paramilitary groups instead of sending in your own troups for anything other than training…

Anyway, I digress – please vote, keep the Tories out – they need to know that spreading racist lies is no way to run an election campaign – and let Blair know that illegal wars that lead to the deaths of over 100,000 civilians are not acceptable, and can’t be supported. I’d suggest checking out either Lib Dem, Green, SNP, Plaid Cymru or whoever else offers an anti-war alternative (I can’t bring myself to back Respect, the unlikely alliance of the Muslim Association of Great Britain and the Socialist Workers Party – I’ve never been a fan of the SWP, and don’t like political groups with a strict religous agenda – smells too much like the GOP in the States…)

Soundtrack – more of me and Cleveland.

the revelations from Iraq just keep on coming…

So the death toll of Iraqis who’ve died in US custody in Iraq now stands at 108 according to this BBC report – 25% are being investigated as possible abuse cases.

Here’s the breakdown –

“The AP found that of the 108 deaths in US custody:

  • At least 26 have been investigated as criminal homicide involving the abuse of prisoners
  • At least 29 are attributed to suspected natural causes or accidents
  • Twenty-two are blamed on an insurgent mortar attack on Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison in April 2004
  • At least 20 are attributed to “justifiable homicide”, where investigations found US troops used deadly force appropriately – primarily against rioting, escaping or threatening prisoners.

Those are pretty horrific statistics. 29/108 dying of ‘natural causes or accidents’ – what kind of set up are they running??? Accidents doing what? Natural causes? are they imprisoning sever asthmatics without access to medication? that’s a huge percentage to attribute to those two factors.

And the ‘justifiable homicide’ – justifiable in the way that the shooting of an Italian intellegence agent was ‘justifiable’??

It just goes on and on, the list of crimes being committed, the collapse of the rationale in the first place, the further information about the illegality of the British government’s case for war.

The biggest tragedy is that the next election won’t be a proper referendum on the war – Blair has taken us into this mess, but the alternative if we vote him out is so grim.

I just hope that between now and the election the Lib Dems come up with enough good stuff and media profile to dent both parties. They were the only ones that were anti-war all along, and do seem to have the most coherent policy set for this election. I just fear they don’t have the internal infrastructure for government.

Soundtrack – Pat Metheny/Charlie Haden, ‘Beyond The Missouri Sky’ (one of the most beautiful albums ever made); Alison Moyet, ‘Greatest Hits’.

four more years of winter…

Went to see Show Of Hands at the Bloomsbury this evening. They are, without a doubt, one of the finest live acts in the UK. They offer everything a great live music event should – they are moving, funny, exciting, energetic, soothing, virtuosic, inspiring and authentic. Just brilliant. On one song, called ‘I Promise You’, all about being in a bad patch but looking for promises of something better, Steve Knightly ad-libbed the line ‘I promise you… four more years of winter’. It refers to the line that follows all the good promises in the song – ‘but first we must face the winter’.

The feeling that we are facing four more years of winter is pretty strong right now. Last night’s election result has left us without hope of something better. I wasn’t a huge fan of, or believer in John Kerry and the Kerry message. Sadly he was no where near as ‘liberal’ as the Bushites were trying to paint him (if he had been, he’d have had my vote for sure), but he was new, and electing him would have got rid of the Chaney/Rumsfeld/Ashcroft axis of evil, and offered ‘the chance’ of something better. Kerry’s voting record didn’t fill me with confidence that he’d sort out the fuckup in the middle-east, but his domestic promises on taxing the rich and channeling the money into primary health care would have been a huge step forward in a country with the kind of deficit that Bush has run up.

All he would have offered would have been a glimmer of hope. The hope that he could have been lobbied and cajoled into acting at least partially in line with the democratic model he was inheriting as that party’s candidate. Clinton did a fair amount of damage to the Democratic principle, and throughout the latter half of the 20th century, democratic presidents in the US were pretty hawkish, but there was that hope. A hope that is now gone.

So what’s the best that can be hoped for now? What on earth is the future in Iraq? I’m neither a military strategist or an expert in middle eastern politics, so have no suggestions for whether a partial withdrawal, total withdrawal or a firm military approach would sort this out, but the man who started this utter fiasco that has lead to the deaths of more than 100,000 Iraqis (so much for Saddam’s record as butcher of his own people) has been re-elected, to carry on. He wasn’t promising a change of plan, wasn’t appologising for the balls-up thus far, just spouting shite about being ‘tough on terror’ – there is no war on terror. I’m hardly the first one to say it, but you can’t have a war on terror. It’s like having a war on bad stuff, or a war on attitudes. The word war is at the root of the problem, because it’s that kind of imperial behaviour that fosters terrorist motives. So the more you bomb, the more you turn moderates into radicals. If my family were living in faluja, I’d be feeling pretty extremist right now too.

That’s not to justify the behaviour of the ‘militants’ – al sadir and his ilk are evil murderous tyrants who need to be stopped. This is no time to go soft on psychopaths, but it is a time to acknowledge that the invasion has given motive and a localised legitimacy to some pretty messed up groups, who are no recruiting like mad to fight the aggressors.

Those that were opposing Saddam for all those years and are opposing the US invasion too are caught in a really really tricky situation. According to an arcticle by Nick Cohen in The New Statesman this week, they are largely trade unionists, who have been sidelined by well meaning anti-war protestors choosing to paint the ‘insurgents’ in Faluja as freedom fighters, rather than as yet another screwed up faction in a war of people who really shouldn’t be there.

So who knows what Kerry would have done? Maybe the same as Jnr, maybe worse, but there was hope. And now it’s gone.

The best we have is inertia. God Bless America.

It’s weird, I really like america. I’ve never met an American visiting the UK that I didn’t like (well, OK, there was one, but he was very odd). I have a great time every time I visit the country, and have no trouble at all separating the actions of Bush PLC from the love, warmth and positivity of the American people I know and love. But that’s the problem, I can’t find a connection at all. The US seems like the most divided country I’ve ever witnessed (at least since Thatcher’s britain in the mid-80s, anyway).

I guess it’s back to thinking global and acting local. Macro-politics are just to depressing to even consider. So buy low energy light-bulbs, drive the car less, eat organic, shop fair trade, smile at people on the bus, and wait to see what happens in the UK elections next May…

SoundtrackMiranda Sykes, ‘Don’t Look Down’ (Miranda was singing and playing double bass with Show Of Hands this evening – very talented, and her CDs damn fine too); Show Of Hands, ‘Dark Fields’.

Talking of Show Of Hands, they’re on tour at the moment – Click here for their upcoming dates – don’t miss them out tour if they come near you.