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.

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).

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.

Iraq, Collaboration And Doing The Right Thing For Once


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.

*Davide adds*

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.

Gordon Brown's Foreign Policy Balancing Act


Gordon Brown is finally getting to grips with Britain's foreign policy. As with his domestic policies, it's a mixed bag. There are some improvements over Tony Blair's approach (he could hardly do a worse job) but they don't go nearly far enough. On the positive side, Brown has done something that Blair refused to do - he has criticised American foreign policy albeit in the most gentle way possible and through a close ally rather than personally.

The first clear signs that Gordon Brown will reorder Britain's foreign policy emerged last night when one of his closest cabinet allies urged the US to change its priorities and said a country's strength should no longer be measured by its destructive military power.

Douglas Alexander, the trade and development secretary, made his remarks in a speech in America, the first by a cabinet minister abroad since Mr Brown took power a fortnight ago.

The speech represents a call for the US to rethink its foreign policy, and recognise the virtues of so-called "soft power" and acting through international institutions including the United Nations.

In what will be seen as an assertion of the importance of multilateralism in Mr Brown's foreign policy, Mr Alexander said: "In the 20th century a country's might was too often measured in what they could destroy. In the 21st century strength should be measured by what we can build together. And so we must form new alliances, based on common values, ones not just to protect us from the world, but ones which reach out to the world." He described this as "a new alliance of opportunity".

Downing Street, of course, denies that the statement was a criticism of US foreign policy, and while that message won't go down too well with the neocons there are signs that an increasing number of Republicans will be more receptive to it as more and more of them acknowledge the hopelessness of the situation in Iraq and try to distance themselves from the mess. Brown has also told the UN secretary General, Ban Ki-moon that he wants to work more closely with the UN in future.

Gordon Brown has promised the UN that Britain would try to secure a multilateral solution if the world faces a repeat of the Iraq crisis of 2003.

In another break with Tony Blair, Mr Brown assured Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, that he would seek the widest possible international support and agreement through the UN before intervening in another country.

After talks with Mr Brown at Downing Street, Mr Ban was asked whether he could envisage the Prime Minister sidestepping the UN in the way Mr Blair and George Bush did before the Iraq war. He replied: "Different circumstances will require different leadership. I am sure the new administration in the UK will have a new leadership under new circumstances." Mr Ban added: "The situation is different from three or four years ago when the international community was divided over this Iraqi situation. Now I am seeing more recognition of multilateralism and I am quite confident of the continuing strong support of the new administration of the UK."

While this is, of course, to be welcomed, we all know that Blair did try to get UN support for the Iraq war and then carried on regardless when he failed in that attempt. In the desperate effort to get a second resolution so that he could legitimise the invasion, the world was lied to; countries were bribed or bullied and ambassadors were spied on. Merely trying to secure a multilateral solution simply isn't good enough, what is needed is a commitment to abide by whatever decision is reached even if it goes against Britain and the USA. Just as worrying is the implication that Britain may seek further interventions. Foreign Secretary, David Miliband hasn't ruled out an attack on Iran, although with the current state of Britain's overstretched military and Brown's lack of a mandate I think participation in such an attack seems unlikely at present. The last thing anybody needs is a repeat of the Iraq crisis - with or without UN backing. Surely it would be far better to focus on ensuring that such a catastrophe isn't repeated instead of working on getting a consensus for a future disaster. This, for the moment at least, seems to be a step too far for Gordon.

Both Gordon and the more intelligent members of the Bush administration realise that Brown needs to distance himself from Bush and Douglas Alexander's speech will be viewed in that light. When Gordon goes to Washington to meet Bush he will play down any weakening of the 'special relationship'. In fact he already has even before the trip.

"I think people have got to remember that the relationship between Britain and America and between a British prime minister and an American president is built on the things that we share, the same enduring values about the importance of liberty, opportunity, the dignity of the individual," he told BBC Radio 5 Live. [My links added]

"I will continue to work, as Tony Blair did, very closely with the American administration," he added.

Marvellous! That doesn't exactly correspond with the "Let the work of change begin" speech he made when he became Prime Minister. As was predicted, Gordon's foreign policy changes look like being largely cosmetic. Once again Gordon has thrown a sop to anti-war left while placating the neocon faction. This ambiguity seems to be Gordon's trade mark. However, as his premiership progresses he's going to have to be a bit more straightforward than he has so far.

Did Somebody Say "Oil"?


There is a bit of a row brewing in Australia. It seems the Australian Defence Minister, Brendan Nelson, has had the bad taste to admit that his country's involvement in the Iraq war is to secure oil supplies.

"The Middle East itself not only Iraq is an important supplier of energy, oil in particular, to the rest of the world, and Australians ... need to think what would happen if there were a premature withdrawal from Iraq," Dr Nelson said.

"We need to ensure, notwithstanding the significant natural resources that our country has been blessed with, that we are able to access the energy requirements in our region and throughout the world," he said.

So it wasn't about WMD then. Prime Minister John Howard is staying firmly on message and denying that oil had anything to do with the illegal invasion.

"I had a look at what Brendan said and I think in fairness to him he didn't quite say that," Mr Howard said on Macquarie Radio.

"I haven't said in my speech that the reason we went to Iraq is oil or the reason we're staying there is oil.

"We are not there because of oil and we didn't go there because of oil. We don't remain there because of oil. Oil is not the reason."

Got that? Nothing at all to do with oil. So what was it all about then? Well Dubya is now linking it to the American War of Independence, in some twisted way, to mark the July 4 anniversary.

President Bush equated the war in Iraq on Wednesday with the U.S. war for independence. Like those revolutionaries who "dropped their pitchforks and picked up their muskets to fight for liberty," Bush said U.S. soldiers were fighting "a new and unprecedented war" to protect U.S. freedom.

This is just bizarre even for Bush. If anything is reminiscent of the War of Independence it's the insurgency - throwing out an imperial power and establishing self-determination as indeed General Sir Michael Rose has suggested. And Bush couldn't resist another attempt at linking his war with September 11 2001.

"a major enemy in Iraq is the same enemy that dared attack the United States on that fateful day."

Anyway, nothing at all to do with oil. So one has to wonder then why Bush would phone his puppet, Nouri al-Maliki to thank him personally for approving the draft oil law in Iraq.

Al-Maliki said Tuesday his cabinet had unanimously approved a draft of the law, raising hopes that major progress had been made. U.S. President George W. Bush phoned the prime minister to thank him.

This is, of course, the oil law which, when passed, will mean huge profits for American petro-chemical companies, notably, Exxon Mobile and Chevron. The problem however, is that Al-Maliki has a different interpretation of the word "unanimously" and is trying to push this law through without proper consultation with the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said it had not seen nor approved the draft.

"We hope the cabinet is not approving a text with which the KRG disagrees because this would violate the constitutional rights of the Kurdistan region," the KRG said in a statement.

The Sunni politicians are unhappy with this law as well and are boycotting the parliament. Even Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has rejected the draft. The delay in passing the law is causing headaches for General David Petraeus, the U.S. military commander in Iraq who, along with Ambassador Ryan Crocker, has to present a report to Washington in September to show some sort of progress. It's likely to be a very short report.

Blair's 'anxiety' over US post-war plans


I'm going to be out of the country when Blair goes - that's timing for you.  At least I'll miss the tearful eulogies and dimwitted Labour activists saying 'never mind the thousands of dead, at least we got the minimum wage' as if there was any serious Labour leader in 1994 who wouldn't have brought it in.  I consider myself well out of it.

Today there's a fine example of the 'if it wasn't for Iraq, he'd have been perfect' school of post-Blair commentary, from Andrew Rawnsley  The essence is that Blair signed up for Iraq a year ahead (yes, anything new?), gave Chirac the finger when he (correctly) warned what happens if you try any of that post-imperialist shit in the Arab world (again, nothing new there) and then found that his best friend George was listening fine, but the levers were being pulled by Cheney and Rumsfeld (ya don't say?).  Result: incompetence, corruption, loss of control and the inevitable slide into chaos in Iraq and, worst of all (if you're a Grauniad journo) Blair's halo slips permanently out of sight.

This sequence of events does raise the interesting question of what Blair's relationship with the two main war criminals was - we know that the catastrophic error was made of assuming that Prescott should talk to Cheney and Buff Hoon to Rumsfeld, the inevitable result being that those two bumpkins were treated with the contempt they deserve.  Did they come back and warn Blair that they and he were being ignored by the brains behind Bush?  Was Blair listening?  Was he too busy pretending to Parliament and the country that everything was going swimmingly, even when the defence that he needed to keep loyal to Dubya in public to have any hope of influencing him in private was untenable even in his own mind?

Blair invested a huge amount of his faith in his capacity to influence the President. He discovered too late that Bush was only nominally the Commander-in-Chief of the Iraq enterprise. A stark picture emerges of Bush making promises and giving assurances to Blair which were not delivered because Iraq was being run by Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, neither of whom was very interested in listening to their junior British ally.

Anyway, Rawnsley's teasers for his C4 TV extravaganza are an interesting collection of rats swimming back to the sinking ship to bite the Captain in the leg while he lies ranting on the poop.  Lest us forget, the people he's interviewed are among the worst of the loyal Blairites, so what the hell were they doing back then when they now assure us that it was obvious that poor Tony had been led astray by his trusting instincts.  Ah, yes - September 2004, Peter Mandelson addresses the Progress group:

Mr Mandelson said: "The battle against international terrorism in Iraq has become a metaphor for this government's strength and will and its staying power."
He said people around the country were seeing the issue this way.
And he added: "This government can and must and will hold up under this pressure" because that was what "Britain expected us to do". source

Why should we listen to a word he says?

John Bolton Is A Lunatic Who Should Be Locked Up


Not much more you can add to that, really.

Anti-War Protests and Jury Trial


Having got extremely annoyed with the Guardian earlier, they've crawled back into my favour, like a whipped dog, with a couple of comment pieces and this rather welcome story, dating back to the initial invasion of Iraq:

Two anti-war campaigners who broke into an airbase to sabotage US bombers at the outbreak of the Iraq war have been cleared of all charges.

Protesters Toby Olditch, 38, and Philip Pritchard, 36, used bolt cutters to enter RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire. They had intended to clog the planes' engines with nuts and bolts when they were arrested by Ministry of Defence police.


[also here]

There's no doubt about it - the jury must have decided, as indeed they can, that sabotaging US aircraft in the name of peace is, at a fundamental level, compatible with British justice (in particular our rather attractive notions of 'reasonableness'), if not on the face of it British law.  Remarkable, and rather uplifting after the Official Secrets debacle the other week.

Oh, and Chris Eubank won't be prosecuted under the ludicrous SOCPA for his fairly ludicrous stunt of driving his truck up and down Whitehall plastered in anti-war slogans.  One wonders why it was felt not to be in the public interest to have a high-profile prosecution under this doubtless important and necessary Act...

WTF is going on at the Guardian?


This is unwelcome.  See if you can spot the tell-tale signs of a bullshit story here:

US officials say....a senior US official in Baghdad warned.....The official said...the official said....the official said....US officials now say they have firm evidence...the senior official in Baghdad said...the official said....a senior administration official in Washington said....The administration official also claimed...the senior official in Baghdad said....the senior administration official said

That's the whole attribution for >95% of the article - there are 22 paragraphs (from a total 23) of unattributed US propaganda about how those nasty Iranians and Syrians are teaming up with al-Qaeda to force the weak-willed (Democratic) US out of Iraq and provoke a '"colossal humanitarian disaster" and possible regional war'.  Well, excuse me, isn't that exactly what's happening since the robust will of the (Republican) US went in in the first place?  Everything's going just swell there, eh?

Now, the Iranians are clearly interested in Iraq - it's their neighbour, they have cultural ties.  They also wouldn't work with al-Qaeda in a million years, owing to the rather obvious fact that true Sunni jihadists seem to see Shia Iran as a mortal enemy and wouldn't work with them.  It's possible, but still unlikely, that ex-Baathists (who after all invaded Iran in 1980) might see the point in burying the hatchet, but that possibility isn't discussed - to the US information machine insurgent=al Qaeda, a lie that's useful when trying to prop up support for a failed policy.  That's obvious to you and me, who've made a study of such things (or just read Juan Cole every morning), but not, it seems, to Simon Tisdall, Deputy Editor of the Guardian, who sees fit not to mention it, or indulge in any critical journalistic thinking.  Merely repeating what unnamed US sources say, however outlandish, is what I'd expect from the Sun, not a proper newspaper.  Shame on you - at this time more than ever we need journalists willing to fight the culture of spin and lies, before Brown turns into Blair Two (no, I don't believe in the 'change tack on Iraq' idea, either).

Iran won this one years ago, and helping the US in pretending they need to stay in Iraq to stop them winning it won't work, however many aircraft carriers they park off the coast.  Iran knows as well as anyone else that the US can't invade - the army's broken and all the Navy and USAF jets in theatre aren't enough to do the job - surgical airstrikes don't work any more, if they ever did.  Sabre rattling when you haven't even got a scabard, let alone a functional sabre, isn't going to impress anyone.

Boom Shake Shake Shake The Room


Tony has now given up all pretence of being a Prime Minister and is off on a permanent flag-waving jolly to see like-minded right-wingers (Sarko, Bush) and visit warzones.  This is apparently preferable to staying in London and doing, like, y'know, some actual governing (cf. running up to Sedgefield to announce that he was 'resigning', sorta).  Still, be thankful for small mercies, he can do less harm out there and there's always the possibility that he'll get in the way of something sharp.

Anyway, having turned up in Iraq and talked rubbish, repeatedly, about how wonderful the invasion was, security is improving and how swimmingly it's all going (of which more later) he rocked up in Basra to talk to Our Boys and inevitably the base was mortared.  The key point here is that they weren't even aiming at Blair, almost certainly, this is the usual shit that happens every day at the moment.  Basra is bandit country, a smugglers paradise, with the police in the pockets of militia and John Bull sitting in the middle of it with his thumb up his arse being patronised by the warmongers and shot at by everyone else.  Everyone knows we're leaving, everyone's just eyeing the main chance when we do.  What a godawful legacy, Tony.

The rest I'll leave to ARRSE:

Blair's True Legacy - "Lest we forget..."

In the midst of all the spin and kerfuffle, we should remember that our dear leader is not departing at a time of his chosing, or in a manner of his chosing.
The desperate and sickening stage managed performance yesterday was the mark of a man who could no longer hang on.  Loathed and detested in ways Thatcher could only aspire too, he has failed to serve the full 3rd term he wanted, and leaves with one word ringing in his ears:

And no matter how much he should try to disown it, it is the word that should be ringing in Gordon Brown's ears as he eventually hauls his carcass across the threshold of Number 10.

A Message From The Stop The War Coalition


If anyone in London is at a loose end tomorrow the Stop The War Coalition has an idea...

Thursday 10 May Downing Street
3.30 to 5.00 pm: Symbolic protest when Tony Blair resigns

(Please note time change)

Tony Blair is resigning early and in disgrace due to his support for the Bush wars. He will announce his resignation on Thursday 10 May. We are asking for as many people as possible to come to Downing Street from 3.30 to 5.00 pm for a symbolic protest in memory of the thousands who have died as a result of his war policies. Please bring old shoes to lay at Downing Street. Local Stop the War groups are asked to bring their banners.



A recent Pentagon study on the ethics of soldiers in Iraq and mental health is disturbing. One major factor seems to be the long tours of duty and the lack of good old R&R.

Only 47 percent of the soldiers and 38 percent of Marines said noncombatants should be treated with dignity and respect.

-About a third of troops said they had insulted or cursed at civilians in their presence.

-About 10 percent of soldiers and Marines reported mistreating civilians or damaging property when it was not necessary. Mistreatment includes hitting or kicking a civilian.

The real message is that we have brutalised these people as an outcome of political dogma, poor planning and a complete lack of understanding of the situation. And these people are coming home.

What state will they be in?