Saturday, September 30, 2006

Please Read This

In follow up from my previous post, I implore all to read this post. Many of the comments are worthy of reading as well.

Friday, September 29, 2006

America's Blackest Day Yet

September 18th 2006. This is the day that America chose to leave the civilised world and become one with all the totalitarian and terrorist states.

The country that has at its 'front door' the Statue of Liberty have turned their backs on that ideal. It has decided that the rule of law is meaningless and that the whim of the president is all that matters.

The senate has cravenly voted with the support of some 'Democrats' to allow Bush and his cronies to kidnap, hide, torture and generally deny any human rights to anyone they deam to be a 'threat' to the country, - including US citizens! It will allow Bush to demonise anyone who argues the opposite as being soft on terrorism. He has already said that Americans have a choice between 2 parties with differing attitudes to the 'war on terror'; "Republicans," he said, "understand the nature of the enemy," he said. "We know the enemy wants to attack us again," whereas Democrats "offer nothing but criticism and obstruction and endless second-guessing."

One of the reasons Americans were so against torture was because of the way the British treated American prisoners during the war of Independence. Now they clearly want the freedom to do just that to others.

I am not American, and although I live presently in Blair's Britain (hopefully, for not much longer - we've managed to get rid of the poodle!), I thank God that I don't live in America - once, one of the most enlightened and moral of the free world countries. I feel sick, disgusted and afraid that intelligent men and women could come to the conclusion that being like terrorists will defeat terrorism. If allowed to remain, what else will these craven and cowardly people give to the world's latest dictator.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Terrorism Is Good!

When one looks at what Bush, with the support of weak leaders elsewhere in the world, has done, particularly in terms of foreign policy, one's immediate though is one of incompetence.

However, I am starting to revise that view. Having read Nat Parry's article in my fear that all this actually being deliberately crafted and intentional has been shared.

But the downward spiral of the Iraq War and the worsening worldwide terrorism threat are negatives only if one assumes that creating a more peaceful and secure world was the original goal.

If the goal included changing the character of the United States as a free and open society and consolidating one-party Republican control over the federal budget, then the administration's policies would seem to be working like a charm.


If the U.S. does launch an attack, it seems clear that the terrorism threat faced by Americans at home and abroad will dramatically increase. For such reasons, many observers argue that an attack on Iran is unlikely.

But [retired Air Force Colonel Sam] Gardiner points out that not making sense won't limit what the Bush administration does. "The 'making sense' filter was not applied over the past four years for Iraq, and it is unlikely to be applied in evaluating whether to attack Iran," Gardiner writes.

It also could be that 'making sense' means something different for the Bush administration than it does for average Americans.


Those trends seem likely to continue, and even accelerate, as the "war on terror" remains a powerful excuse for transforming the United States from a historically free and open society to a frightened nation where citizens eagerly trade their constitutional rights for government promises of more security.

The worry is that those trends are gathering pace, with an elite GOP group benefiting from an increasingly compliant populace and opposition. It is fine that no more terrorist attacks take place in the USA, much better, surely, they are in places like London, Paris, Madrid, Rome, Melbourne, Johannasburg, etc.

With the dramatic increase in the number of terrorists as a direct result of American policy in Iraq, they are going to have to ply their murderous trade somewhere.

I don't see the activity that would have happened back in the fifties and sixties that brought about a lot of the freedoms and liberty that America is supposed to stand for. No mass rallies at the cenotaph. Where is the Democratic party? What are they doing about this? Maybe Americans enjoy the economic and political restrictions that are piling up on them, but as per usual, what America wants, the rest of us have to suffer!

Thanks America.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Who Wins This?

  • £561bn - What the world spends on arms.
  • £32bn - What the world gives in aid.
  • £275bn - Total debt of developing countries.

Something striking about those figures here in the 6th year of the 21st century.

The figures are published today by Oxfam, Amnesty International and the International Action Network on Small Arms who are calling on world leaders to tighten controlson the weapons trade.

The charities are launching their campaign as the UN gathers in New York. It will be considering a draft resolution on the treaty next month.

America and the Middle East are responsible for much of the rise in spending on arms, but some of Africa's poorest countries - the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, Botswana and Uganda - have all doubled their military spending in the past 20 years. Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan spent more on weapons than on health care between 2002 and 2003.

Clearly there is some money to be made in killing and destruction. I would have thought that by now we would have learnt better. My father used to say that "If you give a man some food, he has to put his gun down to eat it, and if the food is sufficient, then he won't want to pick it up". I know that can sound a bit 'kitchen sink' in its philosophy, but I think he nailed it with the idea that if all peoples were content in life, there wouldn't be the wars we have now.

Clearly, the only winners are those who pocket the profits and their friends.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Does He Have Any Idea What He's Saying?

In his address to the United Nations on the 19th September 2006, George Bush, President of the United States of America, framed his speech in the context of the 1949 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and declared that, "The words of the Universal Declaration are as true to day as they were when they were written".

After I had finished choking on my toast, I thought I'd better look up the Declaration just in case I had mis-understood it.

Among the 30 rights proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are these:

  • “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”
  • “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
  • “Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.”
  • “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.”
  • “Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.”
  • “Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.”
  • “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”
  • “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
  • “Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.”

Though Bush is arguably in violation of many if not all the above-cited human rights tenets, he unblushingly cites the Universal Declaration as the foundation for his international policies, from the invasion of Iraq to his handling of the “war on terror.”

Even as Bush criticizes the U.S. Supreme Court for stopping his planned kangaroo courts for terror suspects and as he battles members of Congress over his desire for harsh interrogation of detainees, he invokes principles that bar exactly what he seeks to do.

How does subjecting detainees to simulated drowning by “waterboarding” not violate the prohibition on torture? How does stripping suspects naked and soaking them with cold water in frigid rooms not go against the ban on “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment?”

How does imprisoning people without trial or even charges – and arranging “extraordinary renditions” of others to countries that torture – fit with the U.N. principle barring “arbitrary arrest, detention or exile?”

What about the U.N. mandate that a suspect must get a public trial before an independent tribunal and receive “all the guarantees necessary for his defence?” Instead, Bush wants U.S.-run military tribunals to convict and even execute defendants based on secret evidence that can be withheld from both the public and the defendants.

Bush also insists that his “plenary” – or unlimited – powers as Commander in Chief allow him to tap telephones and spy on Americans and non-Americans without obtaining any form of court warrant. Yet, the Universal Declaration objects to “arbitrary interference with [a person’s] privacy, family, home or correspondence.”

Bush’s hostility toward dissent – even declaring some thinking “unacceptable,” as he did at a press conference on Sept. 15 – and the eagerness of his supporters to smear anyone who opposes the President also don’t match with the principle that human rights include the “freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information.”

So, why would Bush invoke the Universal Declaration of Human Rights when he is flouting many of its core principles?

There would seem to be two possible explanations for Bush’s chutzpah: either he’s just reading a script without regard to the words or he’s confident that he can speak the opposite of the truth knowing that few people of consequence will call him on it.

Either way, Bush’s cavalier attitude in hailing human rights while simultaneously trashing human rights represents another classic case of Bush’s hubris, which is becoming the defining characteristic of his presidency.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Religion Of Hate

If you insult my religion by claiming it is not always a shining example of peace and love, I shall wage holy war on you. That, in a nutshell, was the reaction of the touchier end of Islam to Pope Benedict XVI's use of a quote by Emperor Manuel II when having been under siege at Constantinople by the loving and all forgiving Islamic and merciful Islamic leader, Ottoman Sultan Bayezid I for 5 years between 1394 and 1402.

But that's the trouble with history, It's either a closed book or unacceptable to somebody or other.

Manuel II's view that everything Mohammed did and said was evil and inhuman, "such as the command to spread by the sword, the faith he preached". In fact, Manuel's son, Constantine XI died on the walls of Constantinople when 7,000 defenders were overwhelmed by over 100,000 Ottomans in 1453. During 24 hours after the fall of the city, a large part of the 50,000 population was raped, bespoiled, killed or enslaved by these followers of a loving and merciful religion.

Of course, the main point of Pope Benedict's argument has been lost in the Pavlovian response by yet another lunatic fringe of another religion. His thesis was simply that violence can never be justified by any religion. One has only to see the rabid fringes of Christianity in action to see that this sort of thing does not just reside in the Islamic extremists.

However, there is some justification for anger in his selectivity of examples. This month sees the 508th anniversary of the death of Tomas de Torquemada. As Inquisitor General of the Spanish Inquisition, this holy, loving and merciful man has become a byword for cruelty in the service of the Catholic religion. The "hammer" of heretics rode around the Iberian peninsular with an entourage of 50 mounted armed guards and 250 armed men. They didn't exactly have "Peace is our Business" emblazoned on their tunics.

Torquemada's enthusiasm for the torture chamber, rack and the smell of burning flesh is legendary, but there was no mention of this enlightened person by the pontiff last week.

The truth is, that when the Vatican and the Imams go head to head over events in their shared history, it's the most glaring example of pots calling kettles black. A little more calmness and a little more acceptance of each others view of history should be the real order of the day.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

No Longer Soldiers!

Apparently, over the past few years the official US Army's "Soldier's Creed" has been changed, and those changes have meant, I believe, a change in the approach American soldiers and the military have applied to their "mission". The original creed was drawn up in the late sixties, early seventies to prevent anymore Viet Nam atrocities. That creed is as follows:

"I am am American soldier. I am a member of the United States Army - a protector of the greatest nation on earth. Because I am proud of the uniform I wear, I will always act in ways creditable to the military service and the nation that it is sworn to guard.... No matter what the situation I am in, I will never do anything for pleasure, profit or personal safety which will disgrace my uniform, my unit or my country. I will use every means I have, even beyond the line of duty, to restrain my Army comrades from actions, disgraceful to themselves and the uniform. I am proud of my country and its flag. I will try to make the people of this nation proud of the service I represent for I am an American soldier."

Now there is a new version called the "Warrior Ethos".

"I am an American soldier. I am a warrior and a member of a team. I serve the people of the United States and live with the Army values. I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade. I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills. I will always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself. I am an expert and I am a professional. I stand ready to deploy, engage and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat. I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life. I am an American soldier."

I can now start to understand why some of the atrocities of recent times. From Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo to Bagram to the "black" prisons of the CIA, humiliation and beatings, rape, anal rape and murder are becoming so common-place, that they no longer make front page news. The Warrior Creed allows for no end to any conflict accept total destruction of the "enemy". It allows no defeat and does not allow one ever to stop fighting, lending itself to the idea of the "long war". It says nothing about following orders, it says nothing about obeying laws or showing restraint. It says nothing about dishonourable actions.

When insurgents placed babies in the road in Fallujah in an attempt to stop the American advance, "...placing the mission first" allowed the Americans to just drive over them on their way to "destroy" rather than defeat the enemy. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the activities in American military prisons and the hundreds of reported incidents against civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere are part of what the US military is presently intended to be.

While I know that many other armies behave in a worse fashion than the US Army, none of those armies claim to be the "good guys", - shining examples of the best that America stands for.

George Bush sees winning the "war on terror" as harbouring into the world some 21st "shining age of human liberty". I'm not so sure. This shining age of human liberty is being bought in the dungeons of "black" prisons, under the fists of US Marines, on the exhaust pipes of Humvees. We are warriors, we are Samurai. We draw the sword, we will destroy.

And if you think about it, that is exactly what Osama bin Ladin said.

Monday, September 11, 2006

I Remember When...

Five years ago, I was on a training course in the middle of Manchester and had just broken for lunch. Sitting around, chewing over the morning's lectures and generally enjoying a relaxing moment, someone received a text message to say that a plane had flown into the World Trade Centre.

This was just unbelievable. It had to be a mistake, but if it wasn't, then a tragic accident. But then the news came through an hour later that a second plane had hit. My mind was in turmoil. I still couldn't believe it, but at the same time, the two reports seemed to confirm the truth. Confusion reigned in my mind, and seemed to be reflected by others I talked to. An American on the course said something which I am sure he has regretted ever since - "About time - bloody ugly buildings!" I'm sure that he, like all of us assumed it was some mistake.

I got home that evening and switched on the news - no mistake!

By that time, the 2 buildings were still standing, but very shortly, the first one fell. I was fascinated and horrified both at the same time. The apparent slow-motion of its fall was almost balletic and encapsulated a lot of beauty. My mind was refusing to accept that what I was watching was the horrific deaths of hundreds, if not thousands of people. That realisation only came to prominence when the second tower fell - and I knew then, the world will never be the same again.

Today, I refuse to make any comment of what has happened since. Today I remember all those caught up in this tragedy. Today, as I write this, a tear is in my eye and I refuse to wipe it away. Today, I, along with any other civilised person, stand to remember this event and my heart truely belongs to all those affected.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Why Bother About International Law

Recently, an increasingly desperate Bush & Co have been coming clean on some of the stuff they have been lying about for years. The latest being CIA run prisons around the world so that prisoners can be flown out of USA juristriction (with the active support of countries like Britain) to places where they can be tortured at length.

While thinking about that, a thought struck me. How would the right wing and the government react if this was happening in reverse?

Who would be the first to voice outrage and condemn some other country if they prosecute one of America's soldiers, the way Bush wants to prosecute his suspected terrorists? Will it be acceptable for Iraq or Afghanistan to violate the Geneva Conventions and hold trials without telling their soldiers what they are charged with or letting them see the evidence against them? Will it be considered fair for them to fly American soldiers to secret prisons and torture confessions out of them?

I am aware that these criminals (I do wish Bush and Blair would stop glorifying them by calling them terrorists) have captured soldiers and done terrible things, but it is imperative at this point in history, that we stand firm on the moral high ground. Dictators and tyrants around the world will be watching the 'greatest' democracy in the world and seeing how it behaves, and would feel justified in its repression by pointing to America as an example.

A major reason why we live by the rule of law is not so much that we protect the guilty, but to protect the innocent. If you want the 'other' side to treat prisoners well, then you had better make darn sure you treat your prisoners with respect and care. Guantanamo Bay has probably been the greatest recruiting sergeant for 'terrorists' ever.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Rage Continues

Further to my post of yesterday, I came across Keith Olbermann's blog, - Bloggerman. His latest post was a far more eloquent critique of what the Bush cabal are doing than I could ever achieve. The post in question can be found here and I feel is well worth reading.

The article finished with the question:- "Have you no decency, sir?".... Well we all know the answer to that, Keith... George, Karl, Dick, Don, and the rest of the gang have proven time and again that they have no discernible sense of decency, no morals, no honesty, and no real concern for either the United States, its people or anyone else!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

If You're Against The War, You're For Slavery

I know I'm an outsider, but being fully aware of the impact that America has on my life, I tend to follow what goes on over the pond, closely.

Secretary of State Rice compared the Iraq war with the American Civil War, telling a magazine that slavery might have lasted longer in this country if the North had decided to end the fight early.

"I'm sure there are people who thought it was a mistake to fight the Civil War to its end and to insist that the emancipation of slaves would hold," Rice said in the new issue of Essence magazine.

"I know there were people who said, 'Why don't we get out of this now, take a peace with the South, but leave the South with slaves?'" Rice said.

The rest of the report can be found here.

Is it me, or is the Republican Party starting to panic? We've now had most of the major players in Bush's cabal come out with increasingly extreme and inflammitory language. Do they have any idea how this is playing in the rest of the world. As each sector and interest group is singled out and publically pilloried and attacked, the impression of a government moving ever more desperately becomes apparant.

I truely pray that Americans get it right this time around.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Stop Telling Me What To Think

I am getting heartily sick of newspapers trying to determine what I should read, and more significantly, what I should feel about an issue or story. It seems that more and more, reporters often refuse to offer their judgment about matters of fact, but they do offer their judgment about the potential political effects of events and actions. An essay by Jamison Foser includes the following:

"This is completely backwards.

Consumers of news lack the time, expertise, and, in many cases, ability to determine which of two contradictory statements by competing political figures is true. They often lack the resources to determine if, for example, President Bush's claim to have "delivered" on the promises he made in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is true. That's where news organisations should -- but, with depressing frequency, have not -- come in. They have -- or should have -- the expertise and the time to assess those claims, and to report the facts. That's what readers, viewers, and listeners need. That's what journalism should be all about.

On the other hand, as consumers of news, we don't need journalists telling us what the "political impact" of something is going to be; how it will "play at the polls." It's our job to decide that. It's our job to decide who we'll vote for and why; how we'll assess the parties' competing agendas and approaches to the problems we face.

Instead of telling us how they think we'll react, we need journalists to give us the information upon which we can make an informed decision. To tell us the facts, and the truth, and the relevant context. Then we'll tell them the political impact."

The whole article is well worth a read.

For me, I want to be able to have all I need to make my own mind up. Report the facts, and let me decide. I think I'm adult enough to recognise fact from fiction.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

14 Points Of Fascism

Recently, American President George Bush alluded to the worsening situation throughout the Middle-East to the rise of 'muslim' extremism and likened it to the rise of Fascism in Europe during the first half of the 20th century. (He did fail, yet again, to mention the the situation was due in no small part to his lies and woeful and illegal actions in the region).

I thought it might be interesting to look at 14 indicators of a government on the verge, if not all ready, of becoming fascist.
In his article, "Fascism Anyone?", Lawerence Britt compared the regimes of Hitler, Franco, Suhato and Pinochet and identified 14 characteristics commont to those fascist regimes.

1.) Powerful and Continuing Nationalism: Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2.) Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights: Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3.) Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause: The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4.) Supremacy of the Military: Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamourised.

5.) Rampant Sexism: The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.

6.) Controlled Mass Media: Sometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7.) Obsession with National Security: Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8.) Religion and Government are Intertwined: Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.

9.) Corporate Power is Protected: The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10.) Labour Power is Suppressed: Because the organising power of labour is the only real threat to a fascist government, labour unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11.) Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts: Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.

12.) Obsession with Crime and Punishment: Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13.) Rampant Cronyism and Corruption: Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14.) Fraudulent Elections: Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

Does any of the above remind you of anyone?

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Language Of Criticism

It had to happen eventually! As the Bush administration's ratings plummet, the language used to defend their lies and actions get more extreme.

In a recent speech to the American Legion, he said: '"The war we fight today is more than a military conflict," the president said. "It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century. On one side are those who believe in the values of freedom and moderation ... and on the other side are those driven by the values of tyranny and extremism," the president said.

"As veterans, you have seen this kind of enemy before," he said. "They're successors to Fascists, to Nazis, to communists, and other totalitarians of the 20th century. And history shows what the outcome will be: This war will be difficult; this war will be long; and this war will end in the defeat of the terrorists and totalitarians, and a victory for the cause of freedom and liberty."'

Who said that he who uses Nazis and fascism in an argument, loses the argument! This has been a regular cry of the right wingnuts in an attempt to thwart criticism.

Moreover, to level criticism against Israel is to attract a charge of anti-semitism, yet I do not see much difference between what Israel does to its neighbours, and what Nazi Germany did in the 1930's. My argument is not with Judaism but with a sovereign country and its government, Israel. I think it is time for Israel to stop hiding behind the holocaust every time they are put under moral pressure and stand up and answer responsibly for their own actions.

We now have Donald Rumsfeld complaining that those who dare and are so unpatriotic to criticise the administration for their actions in the middle-east are similar to Nazi appeasers back in the 1930's. Do they have any idea how stupid and pathetic it all looks to those outside America.

With the support of a weak British Prime Minister - Tony Blair, America has made one of the biggest messes of the middle-east ever. They are NOT the ones, I believe, who can put it right. They are far too partisan for any of the major players to trust.