Arming The InsurgencyPosted August 6th, 2007 by quarsan
Looks like we've finally found out just who is arming the Iraqi insurgents and it's not Iran, not Saudi Arabia but the Pentagon. 30% of weapons handed to Iraq's security services have gone missing.
Interesting article reaches my attention via LobeLog, a blog I've just discovered that's well worth a read for neo-con watchers wondering which way Gordon will jump.
Remember that the US administration doesn't speak with one voice any more - even the AEI is beginning to split into true believers and those for whom corporate profits are more important (all their backers, in fact). It's long been obvious that neo-con policies aren't good for capitalism*, and if US business wakes up to this things become interesting. I strongly suspect that Brown is much more in tune with US corporate interests than AEI neo-con true believers, which is why he's not going to drop the US, but he may drop the neocons. Anyway, this illustrates that the true believers are worried about Brown - John Bolton wrote a piece for the FT ordering him to choose one out two between Europe and the USA. Brown is going to keep both, of course, since that's what business wants, and thus Bolton will be rebuffed (the slightest hint of warmth towards anyone European will be taken as this).
Finally, there is Iran's nuclear weapons programme, which will prove in the long run more important for both countries than the current turmoil in Iraq. Here the US has followed the EU lead in a failed diplomatic effort to dissuade Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons. If Mr Bush decides that the only way to stop Iran is to use military force, where will Mr Brown come down? Supporting the US or allowing Iran to goose-step towards nuclear weapons?
I will wait for answers to these and other questions before I draw conclusions about "the special relationship" under Mr Brown. But not forever.
Note the shrill, hysterical tone, arrogance, lack of nuance and contradictory arguments. Now imagine Brown reading it. To Bolton everything is clear and black and white - USA good, EU bad. Bolton is of course Cheney's mouthpiece, and can be taken to be the view of the true frothing neo-con. What's he's really doing, of course, is trying to bully Brown into supporting an attack on Iran, which is their dearest wish. That's the key issue now, and where we should watch Brown's hands. My suggested canary here is Malloch Brown - if he gets a prominent role, it's up yours Cheney. If he gets marginalised and quietly removed in a few months, it was all spin.
* this may seem counter-intuitive, but money-men of my acquaintance dislike Bush and co. intensely for risking US economic stability (and thus their profits) on wars that enrich a few chosen companies. If you run a trucking firm, how do you view the people whose actions pushed up the price of diesel and left US roads crumbling? Giving huge badly administered no-contest contracts to people like Halliburton is, of course, about as far away from free-market capitalism and small government as it's possible to get. Apart from anything else, they're incompetent administrators.
Brown, the Subtle DifferencePosted August 5th, 2007 by quarsan
Whatever is said publicly, behind the scenes there is a real understanding of just how deep in the doo-doo Blair dropped Britain when he went all Messianic over Iraq. But how to convey that over to the Neo-Cons?
Seems like Brown is making a start on trying to restore spine and sanity to the special relationship. How far he is prepared to go is to be seen, mainly because this will depend on the next administration as the Bush years burn out to widespread derision.
The Swoop has the scoop: The US are saying that “It is clear that our relations have entered a new phase. In the future we are going to have to work harder to gain British support.” Well they didn't have to work too hard under Tony, did they?
Farewell Afghan RonPosted August 4th, 2007 by quarsan
Many years ago I lived in Leith and was proud and entertained by our local MP Ron Brown.
Who is protecting us?Posted August 3rd, 2007 by quarsan
The findings of the Menezes report are deeply worrying, especially as the current head of Counter-Terrorism seems to be someone who 'chose to mislead' the public and his boss.
Before we hand over civil liberties to the police and security services, we should examine these organisations and their office holders very closely. It is clear that those charged with protecting the public are not 'fit for purpose'.
This report shows that Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman is not fit to hold any public office and that the structure of our counter terror force needs to be revised and more safeguards, checks and balances put into operation.
I note that Sir Ian made several remarks after publication, here's two of them
"If I had lied I would not be fit to hold this office. I did not lie," he said.
Of Mr Hayman, he said: "He retains my full support in the crucially important job he undertakes for this country."
Full support? Yeah, right.
Listening to the IPCC press conference on the Met's handling of the aftermath of the shooting on 22/7/2005 as I type - Killer of the Yard is let off because he convinced the IPCC that he'd been kept in the dark by his own senior team. This is hardly reassuring. Andy 'Dodgy Dossier' Hayman, already on our shit list because of his involvement in the 90 days debacle, is given both barrels, in so far as the IPCC has any barrels. Basically he seems to have lied and if he doesn't lose his job over this I'll eat my hat. I've got the knife and fork ready, however - the history of holding the Senior Knackers to account isn't greatly encouraging.
There's a classic bit about the News of the World interview with Sir Ian Blair, which blatantly misquoted him. The IPCC were rather critical of him taking time off to give interviews to tabloids, but it's so in character for the man.
While no hard-left ideological Communist myself, I do read Lenin's Tomb (Johann Hari doesn't like it, which is a good enough recommendation for me. With the media full of people who thrive despite being proved wrong most of the time, we should stand up with people who are ignored and traduced for being right most of the time. Today he goes after US policy on Iran, which seems to be to pretend they're Stalinist Russia:
The last sentence superbly crystallizes so much of what we've been saying about Blair (and of course the organ grinder in Pennsylvania Avenue), plus putting in their place some of the tag lines and sound bites produced at the Gordon/Dubya press conference. When people laugh at Blair for messianic tendencies, what they're actually laughing at are his fraudulent tendencies. This leads to two conclusions:
- Laughing helps expose the fact that the Emperor is naked
- Freedom to laugh is therefore essential
Laughter is the reaction to recognition of an absurd situation - most jokes work by setting up an absurd situation and then revealing it in the punch line. Since authoritarianism is inherently absurd, laughter is a key weapon against authoritarianism, which is why it's often the first thing to be attacked as well as one of the key signs of underground dissent. This also explains why authoritarians appear to have no sense of humour - being unable to conceive of a differing opinion to their own correct one renders them unable to construct the absurdity necessary for humour. It occurs to me that the ability to absorb differing opinions is also a key requirement for being a successful administrator (see Ken Livingstone for a shining example, who has also come out against BAA's obscene pursuit of injunctions, to his great credit). So who, among our party bigwigs, can provide the humour necessary to run Britain efficiently? Charles Kennedy?
Burnley BNP Case - SentencingPosted July 31st, 2007 by Tom
From the Lancashire Telegraph:
A FORMER British National Party election candidate has been jailed for two-and-a-half years for possessing explosives.
Robert Cottage, 49, of Talbot Street, Colne, was sentenced at Manchester Crown Court this morning.
He had admitted possessing explosives for unlawful purpose. source
We are, of course Tough On Terrorism in this country, as can be seen by the recent sentences given to people who, whatever their intent (being on the other side to Mr. Cottage in the forthcoming race war, perhaps) hadn't actually got any explosives or, indeed, much of a clue:
Andrew Rowe, 36, a Muslim convert from west London, was found guilty in September 2005 of having instructions on firing a mortar and a secret code.
A 15-year term of imprisonment was reduced to 10 years.
Or this chap:
Mohammed Irfan Raja, 19, received two years' youth detention while Aitzaz Zafar, 20, and Awaab Iqbal, 20, received three years' detention.
Usman Ahmed Malik, 21, was sent to prison for three years and Akbar Butt, 20, was given 27 months' detention.
They had all been found guilty of possessing material for terrorist purposes.
Or even these chaps, who for the dubious accolade of supporting the arch-muppet 'al-Qaeda General' Dhiren Barot, got dealt with extremely harshly:
Yet none of these people had got further than planning. The only two recent cases where there has been a concerted attempt to possess explosives are the Operation Crevice attacks and the 21/7 failed bombings, in the latter case resulting in 40 year minimum sentences all round, and the Cottage case, where 2.5 years is apparently adequate.
Now, firstly the 21/7 and the Crevice cases (where they appeared to have enough of a clue to obtain something that might actually explode) are a lot more serious than one bloke with a load of chemicals in his shed, but the point is that we're constantly told that being Tough is the only way to go, and that we're always Not Tough Enough and Forcing The Police To Operate With One Hand Tied Behind Their Backs, and that we need to stop these people as early as possible, preferably just after they've thought of doing something bad. This is one of the 'justifications' for extended detention, in fact, that we're picking these guys up before there's actually enough evidence to charge them. Given that background, a suspect actually possessing explosives or precursors is an extremely rare arrest and generally leads to extremely long sentences and enormous coverage. The BBC have a bit more detail now of the circumstances surrounding sentencing:
His barrister, Alistair Webster QC, said his client accepted he had bought the chemicals but said they would only be used to create "thunder flash" style bangers to scare off intruders.
Sentencing Cottage, Mrs Justice Swift said Cottage's actions had been "criminal and potentially dangerous".
She added there was a low risk of him committing further offences.
"I am satisfied it was Cottage's views on how he put it 'the evils of uncontrolled immigration' would lead to civil war which would be imminent and inevitable.
"I accept the intention was to hold these chemicals until the outbreak of civil unrest. That was a criminal and potentially dangerous act.
"In letting off any such thunder flash mistakenly believing you were under threat you may have caused injury to some innocent person."
Why should a judge be 'satisfied' with the man's crackpot assertions about civil war? A judge saying something along the lines of 'I am satisfied Mr. Mustafa was convinced of the righteousness of smiting the unbeliever in defence of Islam but that he was going to be a good boy and not blow up Britain until he felt like it' would quite rightly be considered a disgrace. I'm frankly rather staggered. Why, for that matter, is a man who holds repellent views on race and the inevitability of violence and who is prepared to act violently considered 'a low risk'.
Anyway, no doubt this case will be debated at length across the nation.irony>
Listening to George and Gordon's double act is a painful reminder that nothing's changed. Gordon appears to be saying that we're building up the Iraqi security services in Basra to stop al-Qaeda (eh?). George is off his nut. Quite, quite mad. Neither of them appears to be remotely capable of forming an assessment of the situation based on reality.
The transcript of this one will be greatly appreciated, if anyone's got a copy. The concentration on an 'ideological struggle', for instance (Dubya). A 'generation long battle we can give no quarter' - Gordon Brown. It's all horribly familiar and all bollocks.
Freedom and justice as fundamentals of life - Dubya
Guantanamo Bay and Alberto Gonzalez - Me.
Steady As She Sinks!Posted July 25th, 2007 by Tom
There's been a bit of flooding, in case you hadn't noticed, and there's a degree of concern about the amount of money going into flood defences in the UK (Not Enough, is the general view, which is about right). With that in mind, it's nice to note the Government announcing billions of pounds is to be spent combating water-related problems by, er, building the two 65,000 ton aircraft carriers they've been looking at since about the time HMS Dreadnought was launched. Perhaps they can build them in Tewkesbury.
Today's announcement also paves the way for the purchase of two new aircraft carriers, a decision which will offer unprecedented capabilities for the UK's Armed Forces.
The settlement of the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) for defence breaks down into an annual budget of £34bn in 2008/9, £35.3bn in 2009/10 and £36.9bn in 2010/11.
Worth noting that Ruth Kelly's rail announcement yesterday cut £1.5bn from the government's rail budget over the next few years. BAE, Thales and VT don't make trains, of course.
Belgium NewsPosted July 23rd, 2007 by quarsan
You think you've got problems with your new Prime Minister.
Here in Belgium, we had elections on June 10th and, as we're all federal and proportional representational, the parties are still struggling to organise a coalition to form a government, but there is a probable Prime Minister, Yves Leterme, head of the Flemish Christian Democrats.
Saturday was our National Day celebrations and Yves was interviewed as he went to church as part of the celebrations. Firstly, he was asked what National Day commemorated and got it wrong, and then...
Then he was asked if he knew the Belgian national anthem. He said he did, and to prove it sang the first verse.
, better known as the FRENCH national anthem.
Iraq, Collaboration And Doing The Right Thing For OncePosted July 23rd, 2007 by Tom
There's a growing blog movement which you may have seen, starting at Dan Hardie's place, to pressure the Government into following Denmark's lead and give asylum to Iraqis who helped British troops and are therefore likely to get left to fend for themselves when we pull out. There are two ways to look at this - first, collaboration with an occupying power is generally not a good thing, particularly if it prolongs the occupation. On the other, the occupation is ending, the insurgency will win, which in British controlled areas will mean a nasty internecine fight for supremacy between various Shia mobs. In all this there will be no protection for people who, whatever they have done, are not neo-cons and don't deserve to die. The same is true, only more so, for their families. I have a rooted objection to the neo-con attitude that individuals don't count, and this campaign, in direct opposition to this attitude, is therefore worthy of support.
There's a third point, which is that British acknowledgment of the immense Iraqi refugee crisis has been entirely lacking under Blair, since it involves recognition of reality and consequence, which Tony didn't really do. If Brown really wants to be different, we can give him the opportunity with a campaign. This is, of course, only a step, and isn't as morally acceptable as, say, offering to help on the scale we're forcing Syria and Jordan to help, but it's a start on the road to acknowledging the debt of honour we have created for ourselves. We need to start paying back for Tony's mistake just as much as we need to make him pay. It's the right thing to do.
There is now a petition up on the Downing Street website which asks the PM to grant the right to asylum in the UK for Iraqi citizens employed by the UK armed forces. Please take a moment to sign it and, if you have a blog, link to it. Thanks.
Another House For TonyPosted July 22nd, 2007 by Davide Simonetti
And this time it's a palace! Apparently Blair wants to use the old residence of the British High Commissioner for Palestine as his base for his new role of Middle East envoy. Well, I suppose he has to stay somewhere and he can hardly be expected to rough it without essentials like a ballroom. And, of course, he'd want to be kept well clear of the Palestinians and as close as possible to his Israeli sponsors. Actually, the location of this palace is ideal for Tony:
The house, built of Jerusalem stone in 1931, was once the pride of British diplomacy and occupies a commanding position in West Jerusalem on the inauspiciously named Hill of Evil Counsel, where Judas is said to have negotiated his betrayal of Jesus. It has acres of lush gardens filled with delphiniums, roses and trees. After the British mandate ended in 1948, it was taken over by the United Nations. [My emphasis]
For someone who has dedicated the last ten years to betraying just about everybody except the Americans and Israelis (not least the Palestinians) the location seems entirely appropriate. Presumably the reward for his new job will be substantially more than thirty pieces of silver.
Collapse Of Not Very Stout PartyPosted July 22nd, 2007 by Tom
We had a housewarming party this weekend - in preparation for this we acquired two garden gazebos for a very reasonable price from Mr. Tesco. Unpacking one, we were impressed by the clear, simple instructions, ease of assembly and light weight, not to mention its uncomplicated, serviceable plain looks. With a feeling of a job well done, we moved it easily to the end of the garden to give some shade next to where the barbecue was going to be. This was on Wednesday evening.
On Thursday morning, there was a bit of rain, not to mention a bit of wind. The result of this on our uncomplicated, serviceable gazebo was, sadly, unfortunate. An hour after the storm broke over West London, it was blown up against the neighbour's fence, on its back, feebly waving its legs in the air. Its lightweight structure, fine in good weather, had buckled in several places at the first sign of adverse conditions.
Which brings us to Cameron's Conservatives, and their performance on the same day up the road in Ealing Southall. It wasn't a hard job taking over as Tory leader from Michael Howard - all you had to be was a) not Tony Blair and b) not Michael Howard, and electoral success courtesy of an electorate fed up with ten years of lies and unhinged messiah complex would fall into your lap. That, at least, was the theory. Somewhere along the lines, the Cameroonies appear to have gone off the rails, and Chairman Brown is sitting back and watching, no doubt chuckling quietly. Here's the first clue, from the ballot paper:
Chris Dillow ascribes the Tories' poor performance to the imposition of a top-down candidate over local knowledge, and that putting Cameron's name on the ballot paper exemplifies this. The fact that Lit didn't apparently live in the constituency (the Evening Standard reportedly ran an article, which I haven't read, by Andrew Gilligan saying he lives on the 'Chiswick/Isleworth borders', which is nonsensical as those suburbs don't adjoin. Lit lives and votes in Chiswick) and wasn't a member of the party are irrelevant details. Cameroon, the Heir To Blair, doesn't do detail any more than his role model, which is why when the sock of sand hit, they were so surprised. To recap for the three people who missed it:
Mr Lit, 34, a flamboyant Sikh businessman, and his wife Mandy even posed for a photograph with Tony Blair. At the time, Mr Lit was the managing director of Sunrise Radio, which paid £4,800 for a table at the exclusive function for Asian businessmen.
Some detail to miss, really. It's obvious that Cameron's been giving the finger to the Old Wing of the Conservative party and has apparently swallowed the hip, Cool Britannia modernising spiel of Blairism, ten years late and without apparently realising that it's a busted flush with the public. Is he stupid? Has he just looked at the last ten years in politics and concluded that 'Blair wins elections = Be like Blair = Win elections'. Logic straight out of the Underpants Gnomes school of political science.
* Appoint ex-tabloid rat (Coulson)
* Ditch all your principles
It does appear that this strategy has resulted, like my gazebo, in Cameron getting a gale in the face. Forgotten zombies from the past have dusted off the clay and risen from the grave:
Other voices from the attic rattle their chains and join in:
This mirrors Blair's continual battle with 'Old Labour', with the exception that Cameron isn't Blair, his party aren't leading in the polls and what he's putting on the menu is as fresh as the burgers from yesterday's barbecue. Next time I'm running a party, I'll make sure the structure can stand up to British conditions without buckling. If Cameron isn't going to continue the Tory tradition of here-today-gone-tomorrow leaders, I suggest he does the same.
When Sir Christopher Evans AttacksPosted July 22nd, 2007 by Tom
Lots of post-cash-for-peerages fallout in the Sundays. Sir Christopher Evans, the only donor/loaner to get arrested, isn't a happy man. Is he chiming in with Lord Levy and the Blairites in their onion-clutching denunciations of the 'Stasi' or 'Gestapo' Met Police investigation that was so 'traumatic'? Er, no.
"I have got to be honest, the police before, during and afterwards have treated me very courteously and professionally with the utmost respect, so I really cannot level any criticism to the way they handled me and treated me," he said.
Sir Christopher's wrath was reserved for the Labour Party and Blair machine which he said left him "dangling" as he faced the firestorm of the police inquiry and world's media. source
We saw this with Des Smith, too. Why, if they were so confident of their innocence and the above-board nature of the loans, did they drop Evans and Smith in the soup? This is another question with no good answer for the Blairite inner circle, along with 'if it was perfectly OK, why aren't the Labour Party still taking loans - it's not like they're rolling in cash?'. The public won't be remotely convinced of Blair's innocence any time soon and that goes for Levy and Mandelson too.