Archive for the ‘Iraq’ Category

My Letter of Complaint about Anti-White Racism at the Left Labour Webinar ‘Why Socialists Are Anti-Imperialists’

June 8, 2021

Okay, it’s taken me several months to do it, but I also sent an email to the peeps at the Arise Festival of Left Labour Ideas about what I firmly see as anti-White racism. This was in a webinar ‘Why Socialists Are Anti-Imperialists’. As you can read from the email, I largely agreed wholeheartedly with what was being said, especially when some of the speakers, like Murad Qureshi of the Stop the War Coalition, warned against the return of the Neocons and their ideology of imperial conquest and the plundering of nations. It’s destroyed Iraq and its destroyed Libya, and the scumbags want to destroy Iran.

But I also have a few quibbles here. They saw the rise in Islamophobia as being a product of these interventions, but I think it predates them. It was on the rise in the west with the fatwa against Salman Rushdie and the murder in the Netherlands of Theo van Gogh, a film-maker, by a Moroccan who was offended at his film attacking traditional Islamic attitudes to women.

But what angered me was the speech by Barbara Barnaby, the head of the Black Liberation Movement. She was firmly anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist, but some of her attitudes themselves seem colonialist to me. She stated that Britain and Europe should take in migrants, ‘because you oppressed us under colonialism’. This might be putting it too strongly, but it does seem to be a form of Black and Asian colonisation in revenge for the European conquest of Africa. She holds Britain and the rest responsible for the return of slavery in Libya, which is reasonable, but has nothing to say about its return in Black Africa in Uganda. I know this is outside the subject, but it’s important. It suggests that she considers slavery and other atrocities acceptable if they’re done by Blacks, and that their discussion and criticism by Whites is somehow an assault on African dignity. Here’s my letter. Unfortunately, I call Barbara Barnaby Barbara Biti throughout, as I forgot her surname.

Dear Sir,

Thank you for inviting me to the various online events organised by the Labour Assembly Against Austerity as part of the Arise Festival of Left Labour ideas. I have found them extremely necessary and stimulating. This country needs real socialism and action for its working people of all colours and creeds, as well as real international solidarity and action against the multinational capitalism that is ruining our planet, despoiling the nations of the Developing World, and exploiting working people across the globe.

However, I have several very grave objections to some of the opinions presented at the webinar, ‘Why Socialists Are Anti-Imperialists’ presented on the 24th April of this year. I am sorry it has taken me so long to communicate them.

I should first say that I strongly agree that socialists should be anti-imperialists. I agree wholehearted with Murad Qureshi about the dangers of a renewed neo-Conservative right demanding further invasions. I am very much afraid that the warmongers in the government and international capitalism are preparing for an offensive war against Iran, and dread the consequences for the Iranian people and the Middle East.

But I also disagree that these attacks on the peoples of the Middle East alone are responsible for rising prejudice against Muslims in Britain and abroad. I believe a critical moment in this was the fatwa the Ayatollah Khomeini placed upon Salman Rushdie. This, in my experience, turned many western intellectuals, who may otherwise have had a positive view of Islam and Muslims, against the religion. Another was the murder in the first years of this century of the Dutch film-maker, Theo van Gogh. Van Gogh had offended Muslim sentiment through his film, ‘Submission’, criticising the traditional Islamic attitude towards women. In retaliation for this movie, shown on Dutch TV, he was attacked and beheaded in the street by a Moroccan immigrant. And I also believe that what is driving much anti-Muslim prejudice in this country is the continuing scandal of the Muslim grooming gangs. These gangs were covered up and allowed to operate unchecked and unpunished for 20 years because the authorities were afraid of creating race riots. But it has taught a large section of the British electorate that Whites have less protection against racial violence and sexual exploitation in their own country, and that Muslim criminality goes unpunished I realise that this is not the message the authorities mean to give, but it is nevertheless the one that is being received. And I do feel that this scandal has helped to win a section of the White working class electorate in the North to the Tories.

I am also concerned about the underlying anti-White tone of the talk given by Barbara Biti, the head of the Black Liberation Movement. I do not dispute that the global south is exploited and that Black people in Britain are marginalised and suffer from high unemployment, poor education and career opportunities. And I think that she is correct when she says we have a duty to take in the refugees caused by our imperialist wars.

However, she also betrays a set of double standards towards White and Black atrocities as well as what can be seen as a colonialist mentality herself. She stated that we should take in migrants from the south, because ‘you oppressed us under colonialism’. As an argument, this doesn’t work. The peoples of our former colonies were given their independence as they demanded, and this was supposed to solve some of the problems of colonialism. If it hasn’t, then the fault lies primarily with those states and peoples themselves. But they no longer wanted us, and so I believe our obligations in that direction ended at independence. If we are to take in refugees, then it should be for reasons of common humanity and the long-standing connections that were forged with these nations during colonialism.

I also noted that while she was quick to condemn the west for the resurgence of slavery in Libya and north Africa, she said nothing about its revival in sub-Saharan Africa, in countries such as Uganda. Slavery existed in Africa for centuries before the emergence of the transatlantic slave trade, and pirates from north Africa also carried off White slaves from Europe. But Biti seems to regard this as an embarrassment that should be hushed up. And while Africans certainly were exploited during colonialism, part of the rationale for the European invasion of the continent was to put an end to it. But Biti clearly feels that this should not be mentioned, let alone criticised. This seems to be part of a general campaign by Black activists to put the blame for slavery solely on White Europeans in contradiction to history.

This shows a further racist attitude in Biti’s speech. While I am sure she has White friends and supporters, her refusal to acknowledge any criticism or failing of the Developing World and its people, and her placing the blame firmly on the West, suggests that she sees White people as a terrible, exploitative other, in line with current far left theories of Whiteness like Critical Race Theory. While Black activists have made it very clear in this country that they do not promote racial violence, I am afraid that this attitude legitimises it. You may remember that 20 years ago, I report came out revealing that the majority of victims of racist crime in this country were White. This pattern seems to be recurring, as it has been claimed that recent government statistic by the Hate Crimes Unit show that 41 per cent of a reported hate crimes are against Whites.

Finally, Biti’s demand that Britain accept non-White immigration as a kind of reparation for colonialism sounds itself like a form of colonialism. Her hostile tone suggests that she has the attitude that just as we colonised the world, so we should accept being colonised in turn as non-White immigration. It looks very much like a form of ‘reverse colonialism’ I can remember the FT talking about in a review of a book on the British empire also nearly 20 years ago. Again, it’s another flawed argument, as the peoples of Africa and elsewhere fought against the European invasion and occupations of their countries and demanded their independence. But there is a set of double standards here in that Biti, and activists like her, deny White Europeans the right to protest or legislate against mass non-White immigration.

 I regret that these criticisms need to be made, as I do share the speakers’ concerns about the rise in imperialist ideologies. I also strongly believe that the White working class, Blacks and Asians need to unite to topple the Tories as well as combat the real structural racism that exists. But I am afraid that identity politics that see racism as solely something done by Whites and which does not recognise the complex reality is merely creating more alienation, division and racial hatred.

I would be very grateful for a response to this letter, as I intend to put it up on my blog.

Thank you and solidarity.

Yours faithfully,

I haven’t received a reply, but they’re still sending me material about future events so they obviously haven’t decided I’m an evil Fascist or White supremacist just yet.

No, Blair – Wokeness Didn’t Cost Labour the Elections, You Did

May 12, 2021

The recriminations from last week’s elections continue. Unindicted war criminal Tony Blair crawled out from whichever stone he’s been hiding under since leaving office to give his tuppence worth on the reasons Labour did so badly. The headline from one of the papers says that he blames ‘wokeness’ and warns that Labour could ‘cease to exist’. Well, many people are saying the latter. And one of the reasons for its poor performance and disengagement with the working class isn’t ‘wokeness’, the new term that’s overtaken ‘political correctness’ to describe anti-racism, feminism, and an attitude against forms of prejudice, but Blair himself.

Let’s start with an obvious issue that united people across the political spectrum. Blair launched an illegal war against Iraq as part of George W. Bush’s ‘War on Terror’. Saddam Hussein was supposed to have aided Osama bin Laden. He hadn’t, but Blair put pressure on the intelligence services and falsified evidence – he ‘sexed up’ the ‘dodgy dossier’ – to show that Hussein had. Hussein was a monster who butchered his own people, but he hadn’t moved out of Iraq since his failed invasion of Kuwait. Experts on the Middle East said that there he was regarded as a joke. The real reason for Bush and Blair’s invasion was partly to defend Israel, because Hussein occasionally funnelled aid to the Palestinians whenever he felt like it, but mostly to grab the Iraqi oil reserves. They’re the biggest in the Middle East outside Saudi Arabia. They also wanted to steal Iraqi state enterprises, while the Neocons were keen on turning the country into the low-tax, free trade state they wanted to create in America. The result has been chaos, sectarian bloodshed, war crimes, and the destruction of the Iraqi economy and secular society.

Despite the loud backing of hacks from the Groaniad, millions of ordinary Brits knew better. Two million people, including one of the priests at my local church, marched in protest. Blair shrugged it off and the invasion went ahead. It was contrary to international law, and there have been abortive efforts to have Blair and Bush arrested for their crimes and tried in the Hague. The Tory party opposed the war, as did the Spectator. I think in many cases this was just simple opportunism and opposition for the sake of being seen to oppose, as when they’re actually in power, there doesn’t seem to be a war the Tories don’t like. But some Tories, to be fair, were serious. The right-wing journalist Peter Hitchens honestly despises the ‘Blair creature’ for the way he sent our courageous young men and women to their deaths for no reason. People chanted ‘Blair lied, people died’. Absolutely. But somehow he’s being treated as some kind of respectable statesman.

And it was Blair who started the British working class’ disillusionment with Labour. He was far more interested in capturing Tory votes and those of swing voters. Under him, the party became pro-private enterprise, including the privatisation of the NHS, and continued Thatcher’s dismantlement of the welfare state. It was Blair who introduced the ‘work capability tests’ for the disabled and continued Thatcher’s programme of making the process of claiming unemployment benefit as humiliating and degrading as possible in order to deter people from signing on. But he retained the party’s commitment to anti-racism and feminism as some kind of vestige of the party’s liberalism. The result has been that large sections of the White working class felt that they were being deliberately ignored and abandoned in favour of Blacks and ethnic minorities. This is the constituency that then voted for UKIP, and which I dare say has now gone over to supporting Boris Johnson’s Tories.

As far as ‘wokeness’ goes, yes, the shrill, intolerant anti-racism and feminism is off-putting. I am definitely no fan of Black Lives Matter, but it has immense support amongst British Blacks and Asians because of the deprivation of certain parts of those communities. Labour BAME supporters also felt abandoned because of Starmer’s tepid, offhand support for it, and his protection of those credibly accused of racist bullying. They started leaving the party as well.

The Labour party did badly at the elections not because of the lingering influence of Jeremy Corbyn, but because of Blair’s abandonment of the White working class, and Starmer’s contemptuous attitude towards the party’s non-White supporters.

Labour may well be on the verge of ceasing to exist, but it won’t start winning in England again unless to rejects Blairism and returns to proper, traditional Labour values and policies.

The Quilliam Foundation, Set Up By the Spooks

April 16, 2021

Hat tip to Zelo Street for posting about this story. And it’s the type of stuff the conspiracy/ parapolitical magazine Lobster was set up to investigate and publicize: the covert shenanigans and dodgy activities of the British, American and western security services. Earlier this week the Quilliam Foundation, an organisation set up to counter Islamist religious extremism, went under. Its demise, as Zelo Street noted, raised the questions of why it had been wound up, considering all the millions had that been spent on it all these years, why its founder Maajid Nawaz had started deleting all his tweets about it, and what was the role of the security services in all of this. Ian Cobain, a former hack with the Groan knew, and told all.

Quilliam had been set up by the Home Office’s Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism. He knew this, as the OSCT had told him. The government initially planned to fund it covertly. It would ostensibly be funded by benefactors from the Middle East, but this would be a cover for its real source of income, MI6. However, the government then decided that it should be openly funded by the government, but that this would not publicised. This is now seen as a mistake. It should have been funded by the security agencies, who do it all the time apparently without anyone finding out.

Solomon Hughes also noted that its links to the security services seemed pretty open when it was founded, as early staff included Special Forces Captain Ed Jagger, and a ‘journalist’, who goes by the pseudonym ‘James Brandon’. Both of these men now work private security/ intelligence companies. This was all exposed six years ago by Nafeez Ahmed in an article in the Middle East Eye, ‘The Circus: How British Intelligence Primed Both Sides of the Terror War”. Ahmed revealed that the Quilliam Foundation was set up by Ed Husain and Nawaz with funding from the British government. And this, according to Ahmed, was why it failed, as neither of its founders were actually jihadis.

Perhaps the biggest problem with Husain’s and Nawaz’s claim to expertise on terrorism was that they were never jihadists. Hizb ut-Tahrir is a non-violent movement for the establishment of a global ‘caliphate’ through social struggle, focusing on the need for political activism in the Muslim world. Whatever the demerits of this rigid political ideology, it had no relationship to the phenomenon of al-Qaeda terrorism”.

Hizb-ut-Tahrir spawned a terrorist-supporting offshoot, al-Muhajiroun, which has also, like HuT, been banned in Britain as terrorist organisation. I think it was al-Muhajiroun, which was openly campaigning for donations to go to al-Qaeda from British Muslims at the time of the 9/11 terror attack. If I recall correctly, a couple of these jokers made the mistake of doing so in the street, and some other, ordinary stout Muslims lads showed them how strongly they disapproved of terrorism and mass murder. I think it was because of his role as a leading supporter and campaigner for al-Muhajiroun that Anjem Chowdhry, who never met an Islamist terrorist he didn’t like, apparently, ended up in the slammer. I thought Chowdry was behind the outfit, but it seems he wasn’t. It was founded instead by Omar Bakri. According to the US army intelligence officer and prosecutor for the US Justice Department, John Loftus, after Bakr left Hizb-ut-Tahrir he was recruited by MI6 facilitate Islamist activities in the Balkans. Ahmed concluded his piece by wishing that they could round up all the activists in the Quilliam Foundation and HuT and their handlers, and then put them in a boat on a journey to nowhere, so that everyone else could get some peace.

Zelo Street: Quilliam And The Spooks (zelo-street.blogspot.com)

It’s been Lobster’s contention since its foundation in the 1980s that the British security services are incompetent, out of control and very frequently working against the well-being of this country’s ordinary people. MI6’s recruitment of Bakri to assist in Islamist radicalisation and activities in the Balkans adds further evidence to this view. Years ago I found a book in the Central Library here in Bristol by a Muslim, which suggested that the 7/7 bombings had also been the result of a plot by the British security services. This was part of a wider scheme to keep western troops in the former Yugoslavia, ostensibly to keep the peace, but in reality to maintain control of yet another oil pipeline. I don’t know whether MI6 is so lawless that it was behind the 7/7 bombings – I sincerely hope not – but the revelation that it recruited Bakri to promote Islamism in that part of Europe suggests that there’s something to the idea that it’s all about oil politics. It was to get control of an oil pipeline that we invaded Afghanistan, not to overthrow al-Qaeda or the Taliban. And the Iraq invasion was to grab their oil industry as well as loot the country of its other, valuable state enterprises for the benefit of western multinationals.

And somehow the Quilliam Foundation fits in with this mess of Islamist surveillance and manipulation.

Private Eye on Johnson’s Appointment of Neocon as Anti-Extremism Chief

April 14, 2021

A few weeks ago the Labour left staged an event on Zoom in which a series of Labour MPs and activists, including the head of the Stop the War Coalition, explained why socialists needed to be anti-war. They stated that after going quiet following the debacles of the Iraq invasion, Libya and elsewhere, the Neocons were being rehabilitated. There was therefore a real danger that the ideology behind those wars was returning, and Britain and America would embark on further imperialist, colonialist wars. And now, according to this fortnight’s Private Eye, for 16th – 29th April, 2021, Boris Johnson has appointed Robin Simcox, a Neocon, as head of the government’s Commission on Countering Extremism. Simcox is a member of the extreme right-wing Henry Jackson Society, firmly backing the wars in the Middle East. He also supported the rendition of terrorists to countries, where they would be tortured, as well as drone strikes and detention without trial. And when he was in another right-wing American think tank, the Heritage Foundation, he objected to White supremacist organisations also being included in the American government’s efforts to counter violent extremism.

The Eye’s article about his appointment, ‘Brave Neo World’, on page 14, runs

Robin Simcox, appointed as the new head of the government’s Commission on Countering Extremism (CCE), has neoconservative view that will themselves seem pretty extreme to many observers. He replaces Sara Khan, the first head of the CCE, which Theresa May set up in 2017 as “a statutory body to help fight hatred and extremism”.

Simcox was researcher at the neoconservative think tank the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), before leaving for the US to become “Margaret Thatcher fellow” at the conservative Heritage Foundation. He was also a regular contributor to Tory website ConservativeHome, writing there in 2011 that David Cameron was wrong to criticise neoconservatives “what has been happening in the Middle East is proving the neocons right” (ie that invasions could build democracies.

In a 2013 study for the HJS, Simcox argued: “Rendition, drones, detention without trial, preventative arrests and deportations are the realities of the ongoing struggle against today’s form of terrorism; they are not going to disappear, because they have proved extremely effective.” Rendition meant the US and UK handing terror suspects over to nations such as Libya or Egypt so they could be tortured for information. He complained that politicians “failed to adequately explain to the public” why these methods were needed and were “failing to explain that the complexities of dealing with modern-day terrorism meant that not all roads lead to a court of law”.

Simcox spent many years looking at Islamist terrorism, but at the Heritage Foundation he argued that making “white supremacy” the subject of a “countering violent extremism policy” was mostly driven by “political correctness” and could be “overreach”, regardless of the terrorist acts by white racists in the UK, US and elsewhere.

Simcox has been appointed interim lead commissioner of the CCE, possibly because bring him in as a temp means his recruitment wasn’t subject to the same competition and inspection as a permanent appointment.

Johnson has therefore appointed as head of the commission an extreme right-winger, who supports unprovoked attacks on countries like Iraq and Libya. The argument that these invasions were intended to liberate these nations from their dictators was a lie. It was purely for western geopolitical purposes, and particularly to remove obstacles to western political hegemony and dominance of the oil industry in the region. In the case of Iraq, what followed was the wholesale looting of the country. Its oil industry was acquired by American-Saudi oil interests, American and western multinationals stole its privatised state industries. The country’s economy was wrecked by the lowering of protectionist trade tariffs and unemployment shot up to 60 per cent. The country was riven with sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia, American mercenaries ran drugs and prostitution rings and shot ordinary Iraqis for kicks. The relatively secular, welfare states in Iraq and Libya, which gave their citizens free education and healthcare vanished. As did a relatively liberal social environment, in which women were to be regarded as equals and were free to pursue careers outside the home. And western intervention in the Middle East created an environment leading to the further, massive growth in Islamist extremism in al-Qaeda and then Daesh. And this has led to the return of slavery. This was Islamist sex-slavery under Daesh in the parts of Iraq under their jackboot, while Black Africans are being enslaved and sold by Islamists in slave markets that have reappeared in Libya.

Domestically, Simcox’s appointment is also ominous. He clearly doesn’t believe in human rights and the protection of the law. Just as he doesn’t believe in tackling White supremacist extremism, even though at one point there were more outrages committed by White racists than Islamists.

His appointment is part of continuing trend towards real Fascism, identified by Mike over at Vox Political, of which the Tories proposed curtailment of the freedom to demonstrate and protest in public is a major part. At the same time, it also appears to bear out the Labour left’s statement that the warmongers responsible for atrocities like Iraq and Libya are coming back. And I fear very much that they will start more wars.

The people warning against this and organising to defend real freedom of speech is the Labour left, whatever the Tories might say about ill-thought out legislation designed to outlaw ‘hate speech’. We need to support left politicos like Richard Burgon, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Diana Abbott and Apsana Begum. The last three ladies, along with former head of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, held another Zoom event as part of the Arise festival of left Labour ideas, Our right to resist – the Tory attacks on our civil liberties & human rights, in March. We need to support the Stop the War Coalition, because I’m afraid the Tories and the Blairite right in the Labour party will start more wars.

Blair lied, people died. And Johnson lies as easily and as often as other people breathe. If not stopped, the Neocons will start more wars and more innocents will be massacred for the profit of big business.

Double Down News Video on the Media’s Propagandistic Support for the Gulf War

April 14, 2021

I found this video from the left-wing news service Double Down News on YouTube. It’s a short video of just under three minutes, whose title says it all: 18 yrs ago today the Iraq War began. Never Forget how the Media Sold, Enabled & Whitewashed the War. It’s basically an appeal by DDN for more support as the alternative to the lamestream broadcasters. Left-wing Greek politico Yanis Yaroufakis turns up at the end to urge people to support it on Patreon. But it does an excellent job of reminding us how the British media backed the War in Iraq. The video begins with clips of Andrew Marr raving about Tony Blair and his decision to go to war, defying the wishes of the British public. This is cut with shots of Bush and Blair entering a plane together, Blair taking a photo on his phone of explosion, and brutalised prisoners with bags over the heads being led away by American/ British troopers. It ends with Marr interviewing the awesome Noam Chomsky, in which Chomsky seeks to disabuse Marr of the notion that journalism is a crusading profession. Chomsky tells Marr he knows many highly respected journalists, who have a very different, very cynical view of it, who talk about playing it like a violin. Marr objects to Chomsky’s statement that journalists self-censor, saying that he doesn’t. Chomsky calmly replies: ‘No, I’m sure you believe every word. But if you had a different view, you wouldn’t be where you’re sitting’.

I leave it up to you whether you want to support DDN or not. I think news services like them – The Canary, The Skwawkbox, and Novara Media over here and their equivalents, like the Jimmy Dore Show in America, will become even more important as the media becomes increasingly propagandistic and uniformly right-wing.

And it seems that the Neocons responsible for the death and chaos of Iraq and Libya are coming back. This was the warning made by the Labour left when they presented an event on Zoom on why socialists should be anti-war, which included a talk by the head of the Stop the War Coalition. We need to remember: Blair lied, people died.

And the wretched, propagandistic British media praised this unindicted war criminal to the heights!

Hitler’s Propagandakompanien and the Media Support for the Iraq War

April 14, 2021

Postscript are a mail order company specialising in books. Leafing through their catalogue for December 2020, I found one on the propagandakompanien, the Nazi reporters, photojournalists and film crew, who were placed in the German armed forces to provide positive coverage of the War. The book’s entitled The Propagandakompanien: Preparation, Development, Training and the Beginning of the Conflict, by Nicholas Ferard, published by Histoire & Collections. The entry for it in the catalogue reads

Formed in 1938, the ‘Propagandakompanien’ (Pk) comprised motorized units of reporters, film cameramen and photographers, all with military training and attached to Wehrmacht, Waffen SS or Luftwaffe forces. Reproducing many of the unit’s wartime photographs, this volume gives a full account of the organisation of the Pk and describes their work in print, film and radio during campaigns in Poland, France and the Eastern Front.

This is chillingly relevant to contemporary media manipulation and particularly the methods used by the American military-industrial complex to ensure media support for the Iraq invasion. Because they’re almost exactly the same. In their book End Times – The Death of the Fourth Estate, Alexander Cochburn and Jeffrey St. Clair of the radical American magazine Counterpunch collect a series of articles describing the way the American media censored itself and produced biased, propagandistic reporting in order to whip up public support for the Iraq invasion and George Dubya’s wretched ‘War on Terror’. And this included embedding journos in military units so that they would develop a positive sense of fellowship with them and so produce favourable reports.

One of the documentaries about the Nazis shown on the History Channel years ago had the simple title The Nazis – A Warning from History. It’s a good title, and far more relevant than I think the series’ producers realised. Because more and more aspects of the Nazi and Fascists regimes are being adopted by the current right-wing and ‘centrist’ administrations in America and Britain. A few days ago Mike on his blog listed the number of features of Fascism that were in Johnson’s Conservative party. It was a long list, and showed very convincingly that Johnson and the Tories are definitely Fascistic, although obviously they’re not quite appearing in uniform and holding torchlight rallies. Well, not just yet. One of the left-wing, anti-racist YouTubers said in an interview that he noticed several years ago that the Tories were adopting policies previously advanced by the BNP as British politics moved rightward. This is true. We are heading towards a Fascist dictatorship, especially with the Tories’ wretched Crime and Policing Bill which seeks to ban any kind of public demonstration if someone thinks its a nuisance or offensive.

And they’re using the same techniques the Nazis’ used to manipulate the media. Except that in Tory Britain, the media is a willing partner.

Colonial Ties, Not Oppression, Is the Best Reason for Granting Asylum

April 9, 2021

This has been irritating me for some time now, and so I’m going to try to get it off my chest. A month or so ago I went to a Virtual meeting, organised by the left wing of the Labour party, on why socialists should be anti-war. It was part of the Arise Festival of ideas, and featured a variety of speakers all concerned with the real possibility that the war-mongering of Tony Blair, George W. Bush and so on would return. They made the point that all the interventions in Iraq, Libya and elsewhere were motivated purely by western geopolitical interests. Western nations and their multinationals had initiated them solely to plunder and dominate these nations and their industries and resources. One of the speakers was the Muslim head of the Stop War Coalition, who stated that many people from ethnic minorities had supported the Labour party because historically Labour had backed independence for their countries of origin. And obviously the Labour party was risking their support by betraying them through supporting these wars. After the failure of these wars – the continued occupation of Afghanistan, the chaos in Iraq and Libya – the calls for further military interventions had died down. But now these wars were being rehabilitated, and there is a real danger that the military-industrial complex will start demanding further invasions and occupations.

I absolutely agree totally with these points. Greg Palast’s book Armed Madhouse shows exactly how the Iraq invasion had absolutely nothing to do with liberating the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, but was all about stealing their oil reserves and state industries. The invasion of Afghanistan has precious little to do with combatting al-Qaeda, and far more to do with the construction of an oil pipeline that would benefit western oil interests at the expense of Russia and its allies. And the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafy in Libya was also about the removal of an obstacle to western neo-colonial domination. These wars have brought nothing but chaos and death to these countries. The welfare states of Iraq and Libya have been decimated, and the freedoms women enjoyed to pursue careers outside the home have been severely curtailed our removed. Both of these countries were relatively secular, but have since been plunged into sectarian violence.

Despite this, one of the speakers annoyed me. This was the head of the Black Liberation Association or whatever Black Lives Matter now calls itself. She was a young a woman with quite a thick African accent. It wasn’t quite what she said, but the tone in which she said it. This was one of angry, indignant and entitled demand, rather than calm, persuasive argument. She explained that the Black Liberation Association campaigned for the rights and self-government of all nations in the global south and their freedom from neo-colonial economic restrictions and domination. She attacked the ‘fortress Europe’ ideology intended to keep non-White immigrants out, especially the withdrawal of the Italian naval patrols in the Med. This had resulted in more migrant deaths as unseaworthy boats sank without their crews and passengers being rescued. This is all stuff the left has campaigned against for a long time. I remember learning in ‘A’ Level geography in school that Britain and Europe had erected tariff barriers to prevent their former colonies competing with them in the production of manufactured goods. This meant that the economies of the African nations, for example, were restricted to agriculture and mining. As for the withdrawal of the Italian navy and coastguard, and the consequent deaths of migrants, this was very much an issue a few years ago and I do remember signing internet petitions against it. But there was one argument she made regarding the issue of the granting of asylum that was weak and seriously annoyed me. She stated that we had to accept migrants because we had oppressed them under colonialism.

This actually doesn’t work as an argument for two reasons. I’m not disputing that we did oppress at least some of the indigenous peoples of our former colonies. The colour bar in White Rhodesia was notorious, and Black Africans in other countries, like Malawi, were treated as second class citizens quite apart from the horrific, genocidal atrocities committed against the Mao-Mao rebellion. The first problem with the argument from colonial oppression is that it raises the question why any self-respecting person from the Commonwealth would ever want to come to Britain, if we’re so racist and oppressive.

The other problem is that the British Empire is now, for the most part, a thing of the past. Former colonies across the globe formed nationalist movements and achieved their independence. They were supposed to benefit from the end of British rule. In some cases they have. But to return to Africa, since independence the continent has been dominated by a series of brutal dictators, who massacred and looted their people. There is an appalling level of corruption to the point where the FT said that many of them were kleptocracies, which were only called countries by the courtesy of the west. Western colonialism is responsible for many of the Developing World’s problems, but not all. I’ve heard from a couple of Brits, who have lived and worked in former colonies, that they have been asked by local people why we left. These were older people, but it shows that the end of British rule was not as beneficial as the nationalists claimed, and that some indigenous people continued to believe that things had been better under the Empire. But the culpability of the leaders of many developing nations for their brutal dictatorships and the poverty they helped to inflict on their people wasn’t mentioned by this angry young woman. And that’s a problem, because the counterargument to her is that the British Empire has vanished, and with the handover to indigenous rule British responsibility for these nations’ affairs ended. It is up to these countries to solve their problems, and we should be under no obligation to take in people fleeing oppression in these countries.

For me, a far better approach would be to stress old colonial ties and obligations with these nations. Part of the ideology of colonialism was that Britain held these countries in trust, and that these nations would only remain under British rule until they developed the ability to manage themselves. It was hypocritical, and I think there’s a quote from Lord Lugard, one of the architects of British rule in Africa, about how the British had only a few decades to despoil the country. Nevertheless, it was there, as was Kipling’s metaphor of the ‘White Man’s Burden’, in which Britain was to teach these nations proper self-government and civilisation. It’s patronising, because it assumes the superiority of western civilisation, but nevertheless it is one of paternal responsibility and guidance. And some British politicians and imperialists took this ideology very seriously. I was told by a friend of mine that before Enoch Powell became an avowed and implacable opponent of non-White immigration with his infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, he sincerely believed that Britain did have an obligation to its subject peoples. He worked for a number of organisations set up to help non-White immigrants to Britain from her colonies.

It therefore seems to me that supporters of non-White migrants and asylum seekers would be far better arguing that they should be granted asylum because of old colonial ties and kinship in the Commonwealth and continuing paternal obligations, rather than allowed in as some kind of reparation for the oppression of the colonial past.

The first argument offers reconciliation and common links. The other only angry division between oppressed and oppressor.

Boris Says There’s No Money to Pay Nurses, But Has Millions to Spend on Atomic Weapons

March 17, 2021

Mike’s put up an excellent and disturbing article today, which shows very clearly where Boris Johnson’s priority’s really are. He’s planning to reverse the proposed reduction of Britain’s nuclear arsenal to 180 warheads and increase it instead to 260. As the peeps on Twitter have pointed out, this is a 45 per cent increase. It’s supposed to be in preparation for a possible terrorist attack using chemical or nuclear weapons by 2030. ‘Russ’, one of the critics of this insane proposal, has asked what Boris intends to do in the event of an attack like 9/11, when the terrorists came from four different countries. Would he launch those missiles at four different capitals? He states ‘Not a chance. Idiotic, dangerous, flashy bullshit.’

The question about 9/11 is a very good one. The vast majority of the plotters came from Saudi Arabia, and there is very, very strong evidence that responsibility for the attack goes all the way to the very top, to country’s present king or his head of intelligence. But George Dubya and Blair didn’t order reprisals against Saudi Arabia. Instead, we invaded Afghanistan. The country was indeed hosting Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, the organisation responsible for it. But I’ve also heard that the Afghans denied all knowledge of the plot and offered to surrender bin Laden to the Americans, but were ignored. The American military were planning the possibility of invading Afghanistan several years before in order to control a planned oil pipeline passing through it.

Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was also accused of complicity with 9/11, and Blair was scaremongering about Hussein having weapons of mass destruction that could be launched within three quarters of an hour. This was also a lie. The real reason for the invasion was, once again, oil. The American and Saudi oil companies wanted Iraq’s reserves and its oil industry, while American multinationals also wanted to get their grubby mitts on the country’s state industries. The actual cost to the Iraqi people has been horrendous. The country’s tariff barriers were lowered as part of a plan to create the low tax, free market state the Neo-Cons dreamed about, with a result that every nation dumped their excess goods there, undermining its domestic businesses. The result was soaring bankruptcy and unemployment. The country’s welfare state was destroyed, as was the ability of women to pursue a career in safety outside the home. The country was riven by sectarian violence, and the mercenaries used as part of the invasion force ran amok, running drugs and prostitution rings. They also shot ordinary Iraqis for sport. The Allied forces also used depleted uranium and other highly toxic materials in their armaments, with the result that the country also has a horrendously high rate of birth defects.

And now Boris wants more nukes. Does he intend to use them on further victims of western imperialism, countries deliberately and wrongfully blamed for terrorist attacks just to further western geopolitical and commercial goals? Mike also suggests that it seems to him that Boris is planning to start some kind of war with a country on or near the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and would like to set off a few nukes to show how tough he is.

This is all too possible. The American radical magazine, Counterpunch, published an article a few years ago arguing that the American military was set on a policy of ‘full spectrum dominance’. This meant that it was to remain the world’s only superpower with the ability to destroy or conquer any other country that could threaten it. And it looked very, very much that Hillary Clinton, who claimed to be terribly offended by the treatment of Meghan Markle, was preparing for a war with China. Lobster has also published a very detailed article arguing that, despite the rhetoric and posturing about the Chinese threatening western security interests in the South China Sea, the Chinese actually aren’t any danger at all. But they do threaten the global American commercial power both in practice and at an ideological level. The Americans believe in deregulation and free trade, while in China capitalism is regulated and state-directed. The global struggle between America and China is partly about which model of capitalism should be dominant.

And then there’s the issue of whether you could ever use a nuclear bomb in the event of a terrorist attack. From the 1970s to historic Good Friday peace agreement in the ’90s, Northern Ireland and Britain suffered terrorist violence and bombings. In Ulster this was by Irish Nationalist and Loyalist paramilitaries, while in Britain the bombings were carried out by the IRA. Following 9/11, one of the critics of the invasion of Afghanistan or Iraq asked whether Britain would have used the same tactics of mass bombing and air strikes on Northern Ireland in response to the IRA’s terrorism. Of course we wouldn’t, although we did send troops there to suppress it. There’s a real possibility that, thanks to Brexit, the Good Friday Agreement could break down and Ulster could once again fall into violence and bloodshed. Which also raises the spectre of further terrorist bombings in Britain. Would Boris nuke Derry or Belfast in response? I doubt it. At the same time, many of the Islamist terrorists responsible for atrocities in Britain seem to be homegrown, Muslim Brits who come from ordinary, peaceful families, but who have been radicalised by Islamist propaganda on the Net or from some firebrand preacher in a British mosque. Obviously, Boris isn’t going to use it in Britain itself.

There’s also the danger that if Boris every uses them against a foreign enemy, it’ll pitch the world into a nuclear war that will end very quickly with the destruction of the planet. I can remember the late, great Irish comedian Dave Allen commenting on this in one of his shows on the Beeb during Reagan and Thatcher’s New Cold War of the 1980s. ‘Do you know,’ he said in his tobacco and whisky cured voice, ‘that there are enough nuclear weapons to blow up the world three times. Three times! Once is enough for me!’ It was a profound relief for millions around the world when Reagan and Gorbachev signed their arms limitation agreement in Iceland. That, and the collapse of Communism, promised the beginning of a better world, where we wouldn’t have to fear nuclear annihilation. Well, it was until India and Pakistan looked set to nuke each other later in the ’90s.

But now those dreams of a better, more peaceful world are fading as Boris once again wishes to send us all back to the days of Thatcher and the Cold War. Thatcher was vehemently in favour of keeping Britain’s nuclear deterrent. So much so that she falsified the results of an experiment to estimate the results of a nuclear war on Britain. The experiment showed that it would end with the country’s major cities reduced to nuclear cinders. This was too much for the leaderene, who had the parameters of the projection altered to give the results she wanted. But this still would have resulted in millions dead, and so she had the parameters altered again to show that Britain would have survived with minimal damage. By which time the whole exercise had to be scrapped as it was completely unreliable.

Michael Foot, the leader of the Labour party at the time, favoured unilateral nuclear disarmament. He was right, but the Tories and their puppet press viciously attacked him as some kind of fool or traitor, who would give in to the evil Commies. The complaint of many Tories was that he would give our nuclear weapons away. Unlike Maggie, the bargain basement Boadicea, as I think Roy Hattersley once called her.

It looks very much like Boris is playing the same game. He’s wrecking the economy, destroying the health service and welfare state, but he’ll have the right-leaning part of the British public praising him for standing up to those evil foreigners and protecting the country with nukes.

And all the while he’s claiming that there’s no money to give the nurses and other hardworking, front-line professionals anything more than what is in reality a derisory cut in wages. Which is clearly a lie. But it does remind me of what Goering once said:

‘Guns will make us powerful. Butter will make us fat.’

He’s following the Nazis in deliberately starving people while splashing the cash on arms.

For further information, see: Nuclear bomb announcement sends clear message: warmonger Johnson has cash to KILL, not heal | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

Real Boob Armour from the Middle Ages?

January 3, 2021

There was a bit of controversy a few months ago over an episode of the Star Wars spin-off TV show, The Mandalorian. The Mandalorians are a race of mercenaries, one of whom was the Star Wars film villain, Boba Fett. The show’s titular character roams the Galaxy with a baby clone of Yoda righting wrongs as law and order has broken down in the battle between the Empire and the Rebellion. Or I think that’s what the show’s about. The row erupted over an episode which showed female Mandalorians wearing fitted breastplates shaped for women’s breasts. Feminist critic of video games and the SF/Fantasy genre was not impressed, and posted a tweet expressing her disapproval.

She was then answered by the show’s fans, who certainly did not believe that such armour was sexualising or demeaning women. Many of those rebutting Sarkesian were women. One of them posted an interesting piece by a female veteran of the Iraq invasion, who described how uncomfortable the breastplates worn by American squaddies are, particularly for women. She wanted breastplates shaped for women’s breasts. Others pointed out that women boxers today wear breastplates to protect their boobs.

I found this picture of a set of armour from the later Middle Ages at Churburg in Frederick Wilkinson’s Arms and Armour (London: Hamlyn 1978) p. 66. As you can see, the breastplate really is only a strip across the upper torso, leaving the stomach, throat and shoulders protected by chain mail. I don’t doubt that the armour was made for a man. There are records of women fighting in armour during the Middle Ages, such as Joan of Arc, but they were very much exceptions to the rule. When they did fight, they wore men’s armour. However, looking at the Churburg armour, it does seem to me to be the kind of armour women may have worn if they were a regular part of medieval armies and it was made especially for them.

There’s an awful lot of SF and Fantasy in which the women warriors do indeed wear very little. But I don’t see the female breastplates on the Mandalorian as sexualising the women mercenaries. Indeed, from the above illustration – which is admittedly for a man – it does seem to be the kind of armour fighting women would wear in such a society.

A Trlingual Dictionary of an Ancient Arabic Language

December 11, 2020

A.F.L. Beeston, M.A. Ghul, W.W. Muller, J. Ryckmans, Sabaic Dictionary (English-French-Arabic)/ Dictionnaire Sabeen (anglais-francaise-arabe) (Beyrouth: Lbrairie du Liban; Louvain-la-Neuve: Editions Peeters; University of Sanaa, Yemen, 1982).

Sabaic is the ancient Arabic language of Sheba, whose present, Arabic name is, I believe, Marib. It’s located in what is now Yemen, and its Queen famously visited King Solomon. Fabulously wealthy, it flourished in the 10th century BC on the profits of the spice and perfume trades, and conquered Abyssinia, now Ethiopia. The Ethiopian languages Amharic, Tigray and Tigrina are Semitic languages descended from the South Arabic language spoken by these ancient settlers.

The book’s the product of a Colloquium on Yemeni Civilisation, which requested the four authors to compile this dictionary. It appears to be of the terms found on inscriptions in the Yemen, and possibly one or two other places. It is just a dictionary, and doesn’t include any texts or inscriptions although it does give the alphabet in which they were written. I picked it up really as a curiosity in one of the secondhand bookstalls in Bristol through my interest in archaeology and the Ancient Near East. The book’s really of use only to archaeologists, linguists and historians working in Yemen, and it’s another language that I haven’t learned. Nevertheless it’s a reminder of just how ancient and advanced civilisation has been in the Middle East. I don’t know if there are any books specifically on the archaeology of Yemen, but I found a book a few years ago on the archaeology of Arabia, which I think contained a chapter or two on Yemen.

And these nations’ antiquities are seriously threatened by the region’s wars. When I was doing the doctorate at Bristol Uni, one of the speakers at an archaeological seminar said that much of the archaeological heritage of Syria had been trashed by the fighting. We’ve seen ISIS destroy precious mosques, churches and other shrines, as well as an ancient sculptures from the ancient Mesopotamian civilisations like Babylon and Akkad. It therefore wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Yemen’s archaeological heritage, including that of an Sheba, isn’t also seriously endangered and damaged by the current war between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia. And I am afraid that Iran’s similarly ancient and precious archaeological heritage won’t also suffer catastrophic losses if Trump and the Neocons have their way and launch an invasion of that country.

We need to stop these wars, because the cost in human lives and to the nations’ cultural heritage has been immense. Hundreds of thousands have been killed, millions forced to flee and priceless objects and monuments destroyed. And so our knowledge of the past is diminished.

But books like this help preserve and stimulate an interest in the preservation and exploration of these ancient treasures, if only among those few scholars able to read the ancient languages.