Light Relief, Laugh or Cry?

Via Obsidian Wings, the LA Times reports on the abrupt shelving of the latest wizard wheeze by which the Pentagon is ensuring the US defeat in Iraq:

Last week, after an investigation spurred by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, the Pentagon abruptly announced that it would not be delivering "freedom packages" to our soldiers in Iraq, as it had originally intended.

What were the packages to contain? Not body armor or home-baked cookies. Rather, they held Bibles, proselytizing material in English and Arabic and the apocalyptic computer game "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" (derived from the series of post-Rapture novels), in which "soldiers for Christ" hunt down enemies who look suspiciously like U.N. peacekeepers.

This was apparently linked to an evangelical tour called the 'Military Crusade'.  Try explaining that to the Mahdi Army.  What's most worrying is that the Pentagon *didn't realise* that this might be a little counter-productive and have several prior offences to be taken into consideration.  That's how you lose wars, having people like that in charge.  Basic competence has left the building - hey guys, the Turks are your allies and they just *love* fundamentalist Christianity and people bringing up the Crusades as a model for US action:

As the inspector general noted, a leading Turkish newspaper, Sabah, published an article on Air Force Maj. Gen. Peter Sutton, who is the U.S. liaison to the Turkish military -- and who appeared in the Christian Embassy video. The article described Christian Embassy as a "radical fundamentalist sect," perhaps irreparably damaging Sutton's primary job objective of building closer ties to the Turkish General Staff, which has expressed alarm at the influence of fundamentalist Christian groups inside the U.S. military.

The Turkish military is a modern, western, secular organisation.  The US Army, on this basis, isn't.  It's not like the Turkish Army are particular deserving of praise, for Darwin's sake.

Chindamo - The Revenge Of Reid?

It's taken two days for some semblence of sanity to emergence from the tediously predictable tabloid-driven outrage over the Chindamo case.  No points at all go to the Tories who, recovering from the self-inflicted ruins of the Ealing Southall and NHS cuts campaigns, sought relief in the comfortable, familiar, traditional Conservative position of calling for the scrapping of a key part of Sir Winston Churchill's legacy.  The best coverage comes from the Times and Guardian, and even they omit certain details (the Times is mostly idiocy and only gets a mention for having the full ruling online, allowing us to skip the crap and read the document [DOC], which I suggest downloading and keeping in case it vanishes).  I wonder why none of the gentlemen of the press are giving us the whole story here.  Could it be this section of the ruling?:

In particular he referred to the memo from Ms Radford, the Governor of HM Prison Ford, dated 25 April  2006, to be found at pages 63 and 64 of Mr Scannell’s bundle.  Among others things she referred to the fact that on day release in February  2006 the appellant had been pursued by members of the press and an article appeared in the Sun newspaper three days later.  There were further follow-up articles in the Sun, the  Daily Express and the Brighton Argus. Ms Radford expressed her deep concern that they were ‘managing offenders by media’ and spending more time playing down risk than explaining their offender management strategies and how those more effectively protected the public than hysterical misinformed articles in the gutter press.

Indeed, it turns out that the tabloids, far from representing the outrage of the Man in the Street to an aloof and out of touch judiciary, are at the heart of the legal argument.  The Home Office deportation letter of October 2006 (given the timings, this is the not-fit-for-purpose Reid Home Office in the months following the prisoner deportation scandal, so outlandish incompetence can be assumed) is based on the entirely ludicrous grounds that despite all the authorities agreeing that the chances of Chindamo re-offending are particularly low and that he's a model rehabilitation case, the assumption should be that the inevitable tabloid hounding will drive him back to committing crimes so serious that he will be a risk to public security.  Take a moment to drink that one in - the Government is essentially claiming the press are inevitable going to incite a man to commit a crime and there's nothing they can do.  No 'early intervention' for Murdoch and Wade's problem family, then.

This argument is quite bizarre, and it's not entirely surprising that the deportation was appealed.  What actually happened was quite interesting - the Tribunal accepted that the easiest possible test should be applied ('grounds of public policy, public security or public health'), and then concluded that the risk of being pursued into crime by tabloid rats didn't come close to satisfying this.  Also, although most sensible types have spotted the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006 as being key to this, there's an earlier Directive, No. 64/221, which is also relevant, as it states that the conduct of the appellant is what matters.  That's the appellant, not the media, and that's the key to the matter.

Good bloggage on this:
Chicken Yoghurt
Blood & Treasure
Ministry of Truth
Obsolete, pointing out how completely wrong all the early commentary was on this.
Tim Worstall, giving the Stupid Party a D-, Must Try Harder

Department Of Lunacy, West Wales

There's been a lot of railway politics recently - the sober, serious guys in charge in Westminster saying that electrification is silly, the sober, serious guys in charge in Edinburgh saying it's a great idea.  Devolution, dontchalove it.  John Redwood, on the other hand, wants to put rubber tyres on trains, while most of us think we should put John Redwood in a rubber room.  Meanwhile in Wales, the Veritas loony fringe have their own ideas - from the Aberystwyth Today site:

Madam, The proposed new rail link from Carmarthen to Aberystwyth gives Wales the chance to show the way to the rest of the UK. If the AMs were brave enough they would shelve the idea of a conventional two-rail system and build a Megalev mono rail which not only would be as much as one third the cost but would be virtually carbon free, faster, safer, and possibly the first phase of a linking line north to south, travelling at speeds up to 300mph and making highly-polluting local air travel obsolete. Not only would the above be true, but due to its narrow rail shadow it would be far less intrusive of land and the environment, running on renewable energy which Wales has in abundance. Councils and Assembly take note, this is your chance to show how serious you are about climate change. Let Wales show the way. Yours etc, I James Sheldon Veritas Wales Party.

Now, maglev is of course the ideologues favourite form of transport, and we know what that means - it's big, expensive, silly and not worth it.  Distrust anyone advocating it - TYR explains why:

It's a classic case of bad technology, for the same reasons the NHS NPfIT is, and for the same reasons Tony Blair fell for it. John Waclawsky said that there are two kinds of technology, the kind that provides a direct benefit to the end user, and the kind that's designed by people who think they can see the future. These, he said, are also known as success and failure.

Mr. Sheldon is apparently an aerospace engineer - the last time they got involved in railways was the San Francisco BART, which wasn't a spectacular advert for their talents.  In fact, it's a classic example of the second kind of technology.

Illegal Attacks - An Anti-war music video by Ian Brown with Sinead O'Connor


From the Stop The War Coalition...

It would be great if this made it to number 1.

Hat Tip to Peacewisher in the comments.

BAE And The Keys to The MoD


Once again the news has broken about the excessive number of passes given to BAE to wander the corridors of the Ministry of Defence.

I'm reminded of this quote by Robin Cook in his book Point of Departure

In my time I came to learn that the Chairman of British Aerospace appeared to have the key to the garden door to Number 10. Certainly I never once knew Number 10 to come to any decision incommoding to BAE, even when they came bitterly to regret the public consequences, as they did when they overruled me on the supply of Hawk spares to Zimbabwe

Legal Challenge to Government as Pressure Grows for Independent 7/7 Enquiry

Survivors and relatives of the people killed in the July 7 th London bomb attacks have warned the Government that they will seek a Judicial Review into its continued refusal to grant an independent enquiry into the attacks.

They will outline their legal case in a letter, which will be presented to the Home Office at noon on Wednesday 15th August 2007. Read the letter in full here

Graham Foulkes, whose son David Foulkes, 22, was murdered at Edgware Rd said:
"We were very disappointed that the Government rejected our call for an independent enquiry. We believe that our country can only benefit from an independent investigation into the largest ever terrorist attack on mainland Britain."

He continued:
"There have been reports into the bombings. None of these have been independent. And as time has gone on it has become obvious that much of what we were told was untrue. For instance, we have gone from being told that the bombers were unknown to the authorities ("clean skins", as Charles Clarke, the then Home Secretary said in the wake of the bombings) to finding out through the "Crevice" trial that at least two of the bombers were known prior to July 7 th 2005 and that one of them, Mohammed Siddique Khan (the Edgware Road bomber) had been followed home by the authorities."

This concern has been supported by the Greater London Assembly who, on May 28 th 2007, passed a motion calling for an independent inquiry following the conviction of the Crevice Defendants "given the conflicting accounts of what happened in the months leading up to 7th July 2005".

The legal case for an enquiry rests on Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This requires the state to protect life and to undertake an independent and effective investigation of the issue if the article is breached. Even if the requirement to protect life was not breached, the Article allows for an enquiry because of the obvious need for public protection.

Rob Webb, whose sister Laura Webb, 29 was murdered at Edgware Rd said:
"The drip feed of information since the attacks probably doesn't give the whole story. But it is now clear that the security services knew far more about the bombers and the possibility of an attack than we had originally been led to believe. So the state looks to have breached its duty to protect life. We all – Government, Security Services, survivors, bereaved and of course the public at large, who remain at risk of terrorist plots, need to learn all we can about the 7/7 attacks. We need to know what could have been done to help prevent them and so help prevent innocent people from suffering the fate of all those who were caught up in the awful events of that day in July 2005."

Should the Government once again turn down the request for an independent investigation, the signatories of the letter will seek a Judicial Review into the decision.

Rob concluded:
"We don't wish to take our Government to Court. But we need to ensure that everything is done to prevent further attacks. We believe that an Independent investigation will help do that, which is why we are prepared to go to Court to ensure that one happens."
Petition for an inquiry here

Read the letter in full here

Rove Goes Roving


Karl Rove has just announced that he's resigning, "I just think it's time". He's going to spend more time with his share options, sorry family. Could there be an opening for Alistair Campbell?

New Pro-War Blairwatch! Brought To You By Neil Clark

Via Blood and Treasure and the Yorkshire Ranter, scions of the Decent Left, both, apparently:

A group of pro-war bloggers is playing a prominent role in a campaign to grant asylum to Iraqis who have been working as translators for the British forces in Iraq. Not all who back the campaign were in favour of the war, but some of its most strident supporters are.
Neil Clark, Guardian 10/8/2007

We've run across Mr. Clark before, on rail issues.  Back  about 8 months, in fact, on 10th December 2006, in response to a brief spat between Tim Worstall and Clark on the subject of railway privatisation, where both were arguing from ideology rather than reality, I had this to say:

[Clark,] judging by the 9 posts he's blogged containing the word 'railway', knows two facts - the railway costs 'four times as much' in subsidy and '75% of the public' support renationalisation.

From just two facts he built up quite a head of steam about the state of UK railways, without ever coming close to an accurate position.  This time he starts off by picking out three bloggers from the Iraqi translators asylum campaign and using them to 'argue' that there's no threat to the Iraqi employees because pro-war bloggers pretend that everything's going swimmingly in Iraq.  As arguments go, this barely qualifies for the description 'asinine horseshit' and illustrates yet again the maddening nature of ideology - the issue for Mr. Clark isn't morality or the impulse to preserve life so much as a badly judged opportunity to score off some other ideological muppets elsewhere in the Left.  Any position taken by people who've ever disagreed with him is wrong, even if it makes him contradict himself, such as his conclusion that he, a Briton, is somehow part of a different Britain from the Britain that the British Army is part of.  Er, OK, mate, whatever.  A quick trip to ARRSE would, of course, enlighten him that the British Army are not wholehearted neocons these days, and it's them who are calling for an amnesty.

As for the idea that the threat comes from enraged locals angry and collaboration, B&T has it pretty much nailed here:

The people being murdered in Basra for their association with us are being killed by militias connected to parties elected to the government under our auspices: there is no-one involved in this who is not a “collaborator.”

Alternatively they're being threatened by religious fundamentalists allied with another foreign power, which scarcely makes a lot of difference if your position is based on the invalidity of foreign interference in Iraq.  Either way, Iraq-post-occupation will not look like Norway 1945 and it's foolish to pretend otherwise.  Basra is a fearsomely complex and dangerous place and unless you base your position on that fact you're likely to come a cropper.  It's also invalid to oppose asylum on the basis that it might encourage future British military excursions - there's no evidence that the planners of the Iraq invasion ever considered anything so nuanced as the fate of any Iraqis, let alone the minority who worked directly for the occupiers.  It's also rather jaw-dropping that anyone could seriously suggest that the fight against US imperialism is best served by acquiescing in the murder of more Iraqis.

Fundamentally this is another example of WW2 Syndrome, which usually affects the Right more than the Left, but more accurately affects ideologues who think they can reshape the world based on what they read on the back of their own eyelids.  The War Nerd has it down well:

[A]ll the lessons of WW II, everything it's supposed to teach us, is either dead wrong or as obvious as a ballpeen hammer in your face, so obvious that even Barney could teach it to his diaper demographic between commercial breaks.

And that is where we leave Mr. Clark, with a certain amount of relief.

Galloway Latest

Regular readers will know we're not overwhelming fans of George Galloway - his habit of not turning up in Parliament and apparently having no sense of humour aren't entirely outweighed by hugely enjoyable bouts of well-aimed invective at oxygen thieves like Norm Coleman.  However, when you see where he's standing in the next General Election, you can't help feeling that he's got to be a better bet than the current incumbent, Jim Fitzpatrick:

  • Voted very strongly for introducing ID cards. votes, speeches
  • Voted very strongly for introducing foundation hospitals. votes, speeches
  • Voted strongly for introducing student top-up fees. votes, speeches
  • Voted very strongly for Labour's anti-terrorism laws. votes, speeches
  • Voted very strongly for the Iraq war. votes, speeches
  • Voted very strongly against investigating the Iraq war. votes, speeches

Well, that's nothing unusual for an ambitious New Labour politician, of course.  The rather ironic thing about Galloway's choice of opponent is that the voters of Poplar and Canning Town will have the choice of a Scotsman who used to be in the SWP or a Scotsman whose party includes the SWP.

In other RESPECT news, Lenin's Tomb are cock-a-hoop that news of the Brown Bounce appears not to have reached the east London district of Shadwell, which unexpectedly elected the RESPECT candidate over the high-profile Labour man, apparently with housing being the main issue in the council election.  Anyone would think being associated with US policy and neo-liberal economics made you unpopular, or something - in London or the Lebanon, the man the neo-cons back does appear to start the electoral race with one hand tied behind his back.

Basra Blues


For several years the British have been proudly telling the world about how well their operation is going in Basra, showing their supposed superior methods, experience and tactics to those rough Yanks to the North. The UK press has picked up on this as part of a flag waving exercise, indeed we're still listening to this - only now in Afghanistan.

Make no mistake, we're going to get out of Basra as soon as we can. For several reasons, primarily because we've lost the battle. We have no control over the city, never mind the province - for details on the absolute chaos behind the scenes check out Occupational Hazards by Rory Stewart.

How bad is the situation, well here's a clue: The MoD have banned soldiers and reservists from blogging or writing on bulletin boards. The boys at ARRSE have a few thoughts on the matter.

The British troops are bunkered down outside the city in one of Saddams palaces with the usual tactical brilliance that our officer class is renowned for: 

The palace’s isolated location has also served the insurgents. Built by Saddam Hussein in 1990 at the southern end of the city, buttressing the Shatt al-Arab waterway, there are only three viable resupply routes for logistics convoys to reach the base from the main British camp at the airport on Basra’s outskirts. Hugely vulnerable, all three pass directly through the city.

The requirements of food, water, fuel, ammunition and spare vehicle parts ensure that these resupply convoys are vast — sometimes more than 100 vehicles. Some of the civilian lorry drivers involved in the operation get drunk to summon the courage to make the run. And al-Mahdi Army attacks the convoys from the moment they get into the city right up to the palace gates.

 So, we're losing men just to bring the bogrolls in. As one soldier said “We can debate it all we want but at the end of the day it’s about pride.”

And now comes the fall.

Iraqi Interpreters - A Change of Tune from Downing Street *UPDATED*


First it was the request for the five British residents held in the Guantanamo gulag to be returned home, now Gordon Brown might be about to reverse another of Tony Blair's ill-considered decisions.

Gordon Brown has ordered an urgent review into the plight of 91 Iraqi translators abandoned by Britain to persecution and death as a political campaign in favour of granting them asylum gathered pace.

The Prime Minister has demanded an explanation for a decision to deny them any special favours, which aides insist that he knew nothing about.

He will now consider whether to overturn Tony Blair’s decision, amid growing demands from leading military figures and politicians from all parties that the Government should meet a moral obligation to Iraqis who have served Britain.

It's too early to say for sure but it's looking like the campaign to get the Government to face up to at least some of its moral obligations might be starting to bear fruit. The decision to abandon the Iraqi interpreters working for the British armed forces to a tragic fate has seriously pissed off senior officers which isn't a clever thing to do in a war. And the campaign by bloggers to write to their MPs over the issue is adding to the pressure. So this could perhaps be a small victory. All the same, after ten years of Blair's duplicity we should know better than to ease up the pressure until we know for sure what kind of deal (if any) these Iraqi workers will be offered. If you haven't already, please write to your MP and sign the petition.

From the BBC:

No 10 said the issue would be kept under review, but previous decisions were unlikely to be overturned.

As Justin says, this isn't good enough. It's worth having a look at what is being posted on ARRSE to get an idea of the anger being felt in the armed forces (via Blood & Treasure).

Gordon Brown - Watching The Hands Update


Welcome news, and a bit more weight on the good side of the ledger when we try to work out if Gordon Brown's any different.  Watch the hands, we said, watch what he does, not what he says.  Well, here's another policy reversal:

The UK government has requested the release of five British residents from US custody at Guantanamo Bay.

The men are not British citizens but lived in the UK before they were arrested and detained.

The request is a change of policy for the government which had previously said it could not intercede for non-British citizens.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband formally wrote to his US counterpart Condoleezza Rice with the request.

The next thing to watch is the response to the response, which will tell us whether this was spin or substance.  If it's spin, the question is who it was aimed at, since the British press isn't exactly full of people ready to lay out the welcome mat for non-British Muslims with a suspicion of terrorism hanging over them.  The Sun won't like it, but the Mail might, it's been anti-Guantanamo for a while.  Could it be that Daily Mail Island is an *improvement* over Blair's Britain?  World Turns Upside Down Shock - See Page 4 For Full Story.  Mind you, they haven't changed that much - from today's Mail:

There are few sights so serene as a swan sailing majestically along the Grand Union Canal.

Except, that is, when it is being chased by a gang of hungry, knife-wielding Eastern Europeans.


Oh dear.

Arming The Insurgency


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.

AEI to Brown - 'Heel, Bitch'

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 Difference

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?