Archive for the ‘North Korea’ Category

Economist Declares America ‘Not Full Democracy’

February 3, 2017

In this video, TYT Politic’s Jeff Waldorf discusses a recent report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which states that America is no longer a ‘full democracy’. The magazine annual scores countries around the world according to a system of five categories. These are electoral pluralism and democracy, civil liberties, the functioning of government, political participation and political culture. Nations are ranked according to a descending scale from full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid democracy and authoritarian. To be considered a full democracy, a country must have a score of 8.00 and over. America has slipped from 8.05 to 7.98, making it a ‘flawed democracy’ along with France, Italy and Japan for the first time in its history.

Waldorf argues that although it’s tempting to blame this on Donald Trump, he’s only been present for about a week, and the decline in American democracy has been going on for much longer. Trump is a symptom, not a cause. He argues that the real cause is the influence of the rich and powerful in politics. He notes that other studies have concluded, in his words, that America ‘is an oligarchy with elections’. He makes the point that not all rich people are necessarily bad, and that many support the same policies he supports, such as LGBT equality. However, the system works so that the rich are able to buy adverts promoting their policies at the expense of those that favour working and middle class people. A study has found that legislation benefiting these groups, rather than the corporate donor elite, is only passed 18 per cent of the time. Pro-LGBT legislation was passed members of the elite as well as the majority of ordinary Americans supported it. However, when the corporate rich are hostile to particular legislation, like the minimum wage, there is far more difficulty getting it passed. Most Americans, including half of the Republican party, believe the minimum wage should be higher. However, the corporate rich are largely opposed to this, as it will damage profits. And so in certain areas, it is actually illegal for the state authorities to pass legislation raising the minimum wage.

Waldorf also mentions the various countries that the report states comprise each particular category of its democratic index. North Korea, unsurprisingly, is an authoritarian regime, along with Syria. Morocco is one of the ‘hybrid’ regimes. The most democratic country, however, is Norway, followed by the other Scandinavian countries and Ireland. Britain is ranked the 16th most democratic country.

Waldorf notes that America is not alone in its slide towards authoritarianism. The report states that half of the 167 countries surveyed have seen a decline in the quality of their democracy. Waldorf states that this is due to neoliberalism. As more services are privatised, it sets up a vicious cycle which sees more right-wing politicians elected, who privatise more services in order to stop government from working.

Waldorf also suggests a number of ways in which American political culture and democracy could be restored. These include getting the money out of politics, more political parties, restoring section 5 of the voting rights act, making registration to vote compulsory and making voting easier. He also recommends ending the corporate nature of the media, where anchors sitting in a studio earn $20 million a year for reading the news, but have absolutely nothing in common with their lower or middle class viewers, and do not represent their interests.

This study and its analysis by the TYT’s man exactly describes the crisis in American democracy and its causes. A study a few years ago by, I think, Harvard political scientists concluded that America was an elected oligarchy, in which both parties served the corporate elite rather than the common man and woman. He’s also right about the way many ordinary people are alienated from political life, because the policies embraced by their elected representatives actively hurt them in favour of the corporate elite. The Harvard study noted that approval ratings of Congress really only polled a maximum of 25 per cent, and very often much less, down to the low teens, because Americans justifiably felt their politicians were ignoring them.

I am, however, surprised at Britain having a relatively high rating, even if we are only the 16th most democratic country according to the survey. Successive governments since Thatcher have followed America in legislating for the benefit of rich corporations. John Major’s administration was notorious for its corporate sleaze, while Blair did everything he could to increase the dominance of leaders of industry over the machinery of government, appointing managing directors like David Sainsbury to important government posts.

I also take issue with Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn being described as ‘populists’. Populism usually denotes right-wing demagogues, who offer their followers a false democracy, pretending to represent working class interests while at the same time standing for a range of policies, including racism, which harm their working class followers. The examples are Trump and the Republicans in the US, and the Tories and UKIP over here. Corbyn and Sanders aren’t populists, because they genuinely represent the working and lower middle classes hurt by neoliberalism. They also aren’t at all racist. In fact, both are quite definitely anti-racism and discrimination, despite the smears of the Israel lobby. What they do represent is a threat to the corporate domination of the established left-wing parties, such as the Clintonite Democrats in America and the Blairites in the Labour party over here. And thus Sanders and Corbyn are smeared as ‘populists’ by the neoliberal elite determined to misrepresent itself as occupying the moderate centre ground, when they are as responsible as the right-wing parties for establishing the power of the major corporations at the expense of the electorate.

On both sides of the Atlantic, people need to wake up to the decline in the quality of democracy caused by neoliberalism and corporate power, and fight back. We need to curb corporate donations and the appointment of managing directors to political office, so that our governments represent us, not big business.

Counterpart’s Ken Surin on the Arguments against South African and Israeli Apartheid

January 11, 2017

On Monday Counterpunch published an article by Ken Surin, one of its regular contributors, about a meeting of the Modern Language Association he attended in Philadelphia. This debated two resolutions, one for, the other against, the BDS movement. Surin discusses in his article the similarity between Israeli apartheid and that of South Africa. He was himself active in anti-apartheid politics as a student in the late 1960s and ’70s, and shows how the same arguments against sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa are still being trotted out today to defend Israel, and how the arguments for sanctions against South Africa still apply to Israel today.

The article as a whole deserves to be read. But there is one passage which is particularly interesting, where he makes the counterarguments against the attempts by South Africa and Israel to deflect criticism by pointing to other countries, which are equally guilty of human rights violations, but are much less criticised. He writes

The “Why pick on Israel, when there is also North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, and so forth?” plaint was also heard at this conference, and for me this resonated very closely with the similar complaint made by South African apartheid sympathizers: “Why pick on South Africa? What about those African cruel dictators– Mobutu, Idi Amin, the “Emperor” Bokassa—who treat their people as excrement?”.

The answer to this objection is fourfold:

1/ No African despot ever pretended to uphold “western values” (whatever these may be) in the way Israel does, and white South Africa did, at least symbolically.

2/ If the African tyrants were asked whether they respected “democracy”, their deep resounding laughter would have answered this question. Israel on the other hand….

3/ Israel is the largest recipient of US military aid, nearly all of which is used to subjugate the Palestinians. If the US turned off this tap, Israel would probably soon be motivated to mend some of its ways. So would Saudi Arabia, effectively an Israeli/US proxy in the Arab world along with Egypt. No such tap exists where North Korea is concerned. The simple lesson is that we fight battles where we can be effective.

4/ The logic of this argument is faulty. Consider the following analogy:

You own a house and the land it’s on. Some people come to your house, citing some holy book if it suits them, and they take it over by force of arms, perhaps invoking the holy book. You are told that from now on you must live in the tiny tool shed at the back of the property.

You protest, saying “but this is my house and land!”. “Tough”, they say, “from now on this is ours”.

The law (as international law does for the Palestinians), however, allows you to use all legal means, including justifiable force, to resist them and get them to end their seizure of your house and land.

As you are about to do this, someone comes along and says at the Philadelphia MLA conference: “No, you can’t take measures to get them to leave. In this town, there are several other houses that have been taken over by lawbreakers, who also tortured their owners, kidnapped their children, and so on. So, you can’t evict the illegal occupiers of your own house, until you go out and protest against these other illegalities, initiate boycotts of their perpetrators, and so on”.

The appropriate response: “If the law is on my side, I can resist the home invaders, so you can go *@#$ yourself”.

The complete article can be read at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/01/09/resolutions-advocating-a-boycott-of-israel/

Trump and Putin Revive Nuclear Arms Race

December 24, 2016

Yesterday, Mike put up another piece commenting on statements by the American president-elect and Vladimir Putin that they want to strengthen their countries’ nuclear arsenals. Trump had made a tweet on Thursday saying “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”

Trump did so the same day that Putin issued his own statement, declaring that “We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defence systems.”

Mike makes the point that the threat of nuclear Armageddon will not make the world more secure. It will not make rogue states like North Korea abandon their nuclear programmes. Instead, Mike urged us to listen to George Takei, whose family personally experienced the horror of the atomic bomb in Japan in World War II.

Star Trek’s Mr Sulu tweeted “Trump wants to expand our nuclear arsenal. I think of my aunt and baby cousin, found burnt in a ditch in Hiroshima. These weapons must go.”

Absolutely. I can remember the very large, and vocal demonstrations against nuclear weapons in Japan during the new Cold War of the 1980s. The Japanese had every good reason to demand the reduction and abandonment of the world’s nuclear arsenals: their country had experienced the terrible carnage produced by these horrific weapons.

Mike also reports that back in May, Trump also stated that he would support South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia acquiring nuclear weapons for their own protection.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/23/why-are-trump-and-putin-suddenly-keen-to-revive-the-cold-war/

Mike’s also reported that Trump has followed up his idiotic tweet by making his intentions clear in an interview with Mika Brzezinski, one of the presenters on MSNBC’s Morning Joe programme. He said, ‘Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all’.

Mike makes the point that his comments risk needlessly inflaming tensions with Russia, pointing out that what is currently repeated in the western media about eastern Europe and the Middle East is propaganda designed to manipulate public opinion. He also argues that Putin could adopt the opposite approach, and concentrate on saving precious money and resources through the same policy, that has been considered by Labour Jeremy Corbyn. This means killing or otherwise neutralising terrorists’ leaders through surgical strikes, leaving them without effective military direction.

He also points out that technological weapons are also increasingly susceptible to infiltration and sabotage.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/24/while-trump-spends-all-his-money-on-nuclear-weapons-what-will-the-russians-do/

Trump’s determination to ramp up America’s nuclear arsenal is bizarre, given his previous statements during his presidential campaign in which he deliberately gave the impression that he would be scaling down America’s military intervention around the globe. However, on examination this does seem very much in line with Trump’s determination to go back on every single one of his election promises, with the exception of repealing Obamacare.

Remember the noise he was making about going to Washington to ‘drain the swamp’, and would stop the corporate domination and corruption of Congress? That’s gone. After attacking Hillary for being a fully paid-up stooge for Wall Street, Trump has himself gone and appointed Wall Street bankers – including one from Goldman Sachs – to his cabinet. In fact, if anything, he’s increased the amount of corporate corruption. He’s allowed his daughter, Ivanka, to stay with him during negotiations with heads of government in either Japan or China, despite the fact that Ivanka Trump is also a businesswoman, who could use the information from these interviews to gain a clear economic advantage. And his sons have been raising money for their father by selling tickets to the extremely and not-quite-so filthy rich for them to attend dinners with him and go on hunting trips. All Trump’s talk about tackling corporate power has been a lie. Instead, it’s very much business as usual.

And it appears to be very much the same here. Counterpunch has published several articles over the past couple of months discussing how Barack Obama has been talking to senior military staff in Washington. He has already started to expand America’s stockpiles of nuclear weapons. He has also considered the possible use of low-megaton ‘battle field’ nukes in a limited nuclear war in Europe. The American comedian Jimmy Dore has several times ripped into Obama on his internet show, bitterly attacking the false image of the soon to be ex-president as some kind of dove and peacemaker. Far from stopping wars, Obama has carried on George Dubya’s brutal military policies in the Middle East, from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, as well as Libya and Somalia. And so this new policy, announced by Trump, really isn’t new at all. It is, as Max Headroom used to say, merely ‘more… of the same’. The difference here is that Max was a fictional character with a satirical edge talking about pop music. The pilot for his series, 20 Minutes into the Future, showed a decaying Britain with massive poverty and homelessness, dominated by ruthless and unscrupulous media corporations. It’s a dystopian vision that is still very relevant today, even if the human brain is far too complicated to be successfully mapped and modelled electronically to produce an AI like Max.

As for the reason behind this dangerous policy, Counterpunch also published a piece describing Hillary Clinton’s vision of America’s role in the world. She seemed to be intent on expanding America’s military power to the utmost. She and the rest of the hawks talked about ‘full spectrum domination’, which means that America is the superior, dominant military superpower with the ability to bomb everyone else back into submission. At the same time, her domestic policies were aimed at keeping the working class as poor and as desperate as possible, so that she could sell American products cheaply to the emerging east Asian market.

It’s also been argued that America spends so much on the military because it is the only way that the American state can stimulate the country’s economy. Leftwing commenters and political analysts have argued that the experience of the Second World War after the Great Depression taught the American industrial and political class that America needed state intervention to create prosperity. This is, however, the Keynsian economic position, which is vehemently rejected by the Republicans and Libertarians as ‘socialism’ or even ‘Communism’. The only way the American state can effectively intervene in the American economy in a manner that is ideologically acceptable, is by doing what the Nazis and Fascists did in Germany and Italy, and invest massively in a re-armament programme. And like the Fascist states, the state has to use its armed forces to maintain its investments and public support for the rearmament programme. This was part of the reason for the outbreak of the Second World War.

As for Trump’s statement that he is prepared to allow South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia to acquire nuclear weapons, this is grossly irresponsible. Especially in the case of Saudi Arabia. In the case of Japan, it unacceptable for the same reason that the country has difficulty launching its own spacecraft. In the 1980s Japan developed its own rocket launcher to carry its satellites and probes into space. One of these probes was amongst the small flotilla of spacecraft that met Halley’s Comet in 1986. From what I’ve read, the country has only used its launcher a few times because of fears that it would be taken as a missile attack by the Chinese. The same would be true of South Korea. Political scientists and foreign policy analysts have argued very strongly against threatening China, as they respond by passing on nuclear technology and armaments to other nations, such as Pakistan.

And I cannot imagine anything more stupid, more calculated to result a nuclear holocaust, than giving atomic weapons to Saudi Arabia. This is a militant theocracy that has sponsored horrific terror campaigns throughout the Middle East and against America itself. Elements within the Saudi aristocracy and political elite, including its intelligence minister and possibly, if I remember correctly, the current king, sponsored al-Qaeda and ISIS. Terrorist organisations like them, who use suicide bombers and deliberately target civilians, simply cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. But that is what would happen if Trump allowed Saudi Arabia to acquire them.

Trump’s renewal of the nuclear arms race is therefore simply a continuation of Bush’s, Obama’s and Hillary’s arms policies. And it’s insane. During the Cold War of the last century, there were at least three instances where NATO and the former Warsaw Pact were on the edge of full-scale nuclear war. We escaped some of these by the skin of our teeth. This time, we may not be so lucky.

Chunky Mark: Stop Trident

July 19, 2016

This is yet another rant from the Chunky, Taxi Driving Artist. It’s his considered thoughts on yesterday’s vote about Trident. I should have put it up then, but I’m just getting over a cold, and frankly, was just too drained of energy to do very much. So here it is today, one day late. My apologies.

He begins by quoting Caroline Lucas of the Green Party, who said that today Britain could join the multitude of other countries in rejecting Trident in favour of peace, or could spend hundreds of millions of pounds on a missile system that could never be used. He describes Trident as ‘a cold war relic’, and states that it sends a message to the world that security is only possible through the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction. MPs, he argues, should be making a stand against Trident, especially in view of austerity, and the destruction of our welfare infrastructure and communities. He notes that Jeremy Corbyn has said he’d vote against Trident, and in favour of unilateralism. He asks how it is that Britain can sign up to the non-proliferation agreements, and yet support Trident. This is, he says, an opportunity to show leadership in the world. He states that the Chicken Coup – Owen Smith, Angela Eagle, Hilary Benn, Chuka Ummunna and Liz Kendall will all be voting for Trident. It’s why the media, the Tories and New Labour are all out to get Jeremy Corbyn. But it’s not about him. It’s about his political ideology – anti-war, anti-Trident, anti-Armageddon. He notes that the guid folk of Scotland oppose Trident. 57 out of 59 Scottish Nationalist MSPs are against it. The Scots are against it because of the way nuclear vehicles were passing through Glasgow on their way to the base at Faslane at night. And Trident’s sheer cost is unjustifiable. He also goes off on a rant about our supposedly highly educated MPs voting in parliament today, and apparently seeing nothing wrong in giving the nuclear codes to Donald Trump, as required by law if that maniac wins the US election. He talks about the absolute destruction wreaked on both sides if nuclear missiles are used, and says that this is supposed to be a deterrent. It’s only a deterrent, because it hasn’t happened yet. But if it does happen, we won’t be around to know the argument was lost, as it only needs to happen once. He states that the movement against Trident is a real movement for change, and a progressive alliance between peoples, who believe that another world is possible.

There’s a lot that can be said about this piece, and again, the Chunky One is right. Trident’s cost in an age of austerity is unsupportable. It will be born, not by the rich, who are having their taxes cut, but by ordinary people, and especially the very poorest at the sharp end of the benefit cuts. Lobster has published a number of pieces of the years, one of which I blogged about, on the way the arms industry and Cold War is a massive scam to channel funds into the weapons manufacturers as a way of covert government spending to boost the economy. I say covert, because the government’s real intention is to boost the general economy. America is anti-Keynsian in it’s economics, and so this can’t be done through direct spending on infrastructure or welfare, as in other nations, but through Cold War expenditure on an already bloated armaments industry. One of the characters, Ostrander, accurately summed up the situation in an episode of the X-Files twenty years ago: ‘The business of America, Mr Mulder, isn’t business; it’s war.’

These missiles aren’t going to keep us safe, and by their presence are encouraging more countries to acquire nuclear weapons themselves. This is also partly because of the different fates of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and North Korea. Hussein didn’t have nuclear weapons, despite all the allegations and ‘dodgy dossier’. He was invaded and overthrown. North Korea does, and hasn’t.

Way back in the 1980s Margaret Thatcher ran a series of simulations to see what would happen if the country suffered a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union. The simulations showed that the country would be destroyed, especially its major cities. Thatcher didn’t want to hear that. She wanted the British public to be reassured that Blighty would still remain safe and sound, and so started interfering with the simulations to get the results she wanted. Eventually they were abandoned, as the amount of distortion they suffered in order to give the results Maggie wanted to sell increased nuclear spending to the British public made them useless.

And there have already been three times, when the world teetered on the edge of thermonuclear Armageddon. That’s three time too many. We need desperately to get rid of Trident, and take the first step in encouraging other nations to do the same. We need to stop this new arms race, before it’s too late.

Vox Political on the Questionable Effectiveness of Privacy Safeguards In the Government’s Snooper’s Charter

March 1, 2016

This is another very interesting and telling piece from Mike over at Vox Political. The government has promised to tighten up the provisions to safeguard privacy in its act giving the intelligence services greater powers to intercept and store personal information from the internet, according to BBC News. It’s been described, rightly, as a ‘snooper’s charter’. It’s been on the table for months, along with cosy reassurances from the government that everything will be fine and this is nothing to worry about. It’s rubbish. Clearly, this is a threat to the liberty and privacy of British subjects. Once upon a time the intelligence services had to take a warrant out from the British government in order to tap phones. This piece of legislation gives them free warrant – or freer warrant – as an increasing amount of legislation over the years has gradually extended their ability to tap just about everyone’s electronic communications. This is dangerous, as it effectively makes everyone automatically suspect, even if they have done nothing wrong.

A week or so ago I posted up a piece I found in William Blum’s Anti-Empire Report, about the way the EU a few years ago condemned Britain and the US for spying on EU citizens. The European authorities were, at least at that time, particularly concerned about the way the US was using intercepted information for corporate, industrial espionage, not to counter any terrorist threat. So there’s a real danger that the British authorities will do the same. A long time ago, in that brief, blissful gap between the Fall of Communism and the War and Terror, the spooks at MI5 and MI6 really didn’t know what to do. The old Soviet Communist threat had evaporated, dissident Republican groups were still around, but Sinn Fein was at the negotiating table and there was a cease fare. And Osama bin Laden had yet to destroy the World Trade Centre and try to kill the president. Prospects looked bleak for Britain’s spies. It looked like there might be cutbacks, job losses. George Smiley, James Bond and the others might be faced with going down the jobcentre. So the intelligence agencies announced that they were going into industrial espionage. Lobster covered this revolting development, with appropriate boastful quote from the agencies concerned. So, if you’re a struggling businessman somewhere in Britain and the EU, with little capital but some cracking ideas, be afraid. Be very afraid. Because this bill will result in the Americans stealing your idea. Blum gave the example of a couple of German and French firms, include a wind-power company, who found their secrets passed on to their American rivals.

Mike also adds an interesting piece comparing the supine attitude of our own legislature to that of South Korea. The opposition there has been engaged in a week-long filibuster to talk their electronic surveillance bill out of parliament, to deny it any votes and any validity whatsoever. Bravo to them! Now if there’s a country that has rather more need of such a bill, it’s South Korea. They are bordered on the north with a totalitarian state that has absolutely no respect for the lives of its people, and which makes terrible threats of military action backed by nuclear warfare. It is run by a bloodthirsty dictator, who has killed members of his own family with extreme overkill. Really. He shot one of his generals to pieces with an anti-aircraft gun.

I got the impression that South Korea is like Japan. It’s an extremely capitalist society with the Asian work ethic. And it is extremely anti-Communist. I can remember being told by an spokesman for the Unification Church, who came into speak to us in the RE course at College, that the anti-Communist parts of Sun Myung Moon’s creed were nothing special, and were part of the general anti-Communist culture of South Korea. I honestly don’t know whether this is true, or whether it was then – this was the 1980s – and isn’t now. But clearly, the South Korean have very good reasons to be suspicious of espionage for their northern neighbours.

But their equivalent of this law is too much for them. And it should also be for us, if we genuinely value our privacy and civil liberties. But I’m starting to ponder whether we truly do. John Kampfner in his book ‘Freedom for Sale’ describes in depth the way Tony Bliar and Broon massively expanded the intelligence gathering powers of the authorities in this country, transforming it into something very like Orwell’s 1984. I kid you not. One local authority affixed loudspeakers to the CCTV cameras on particular estates, so they could order you around as well as keep you under surveillance. Pretty much like the all-pervasive televisions in Orwell’s Oceania. Kampfner also called into question the supposed traditional British love of freedom. He argued that it was actually much less than we really wanted to believe. Blair and Broon made no secret of what they were doing, and the British public in general bought it. Partly spurred on by the hysterics of the populist press, with Paul Dacre, Murdoch and the like demanding greater and more intrusive police powers to fight crime and terrorism.

Even Niall Ferguson, the right-wing historian and columnist, was shocked at how far this process went. In the 1990s he went on a tour of China. When he came back, he was shocked by the ubiquitous presence of the CCTV cameras. Alan Moore, the creator of the classic dystopian comic and graphic novel, V for Vendetta, said in an interview that when he wrote the strip in the British anthology comic, Warrior, back in the 1980s, he put in CCTV cameras on street corners, thinking that it would really frighten people. Now, he observed, they were everywhere.

I’m very much afraid that everywhere we are losing our liberties, our rights to freedom of conscience and assembly. That they’re being stripped from by a corporatist elite in the name of protecting us from terrorism, but which is really a façade for a military-industrial complex determined to control, and control absolutely and minutely. And what makes the blood really run cold is the sheer apathy of the great British public to this process.

I’ve been mocking Alex Jones of the conspiracy internet site and programme, Infowars the past couple of days, putting up pieces of some of his weird and nonsensical ranting. Jones is wrong in so much of what he says. He’s a libertarian, looking in the wrong direction for the threat to freedom. But fundamentally, he has a point. There is a campaign from the corporate elite to strip us of our freedoms. And our leaders – in the parliament, the press and the media, seem quite content to do little about it.

The Young Turks on Republican Willingness to Kill Families of Terrorists

December 23, 2015

This is another fascinating piece from The Young Turks showing the brutality and thuggishness in the Republican candidates Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz. I’ve already put up a piece by the Turks on the Gallup poll that shows fewer Muslims in Muslim majority countries support the killing of civilians – 14% – than in Britain and America – 33% and 50% respectively. This section of the debate amongst the Republican candidates shows just how far we in the West are losing the moral high ground.

The Turks on commenting on the candidates’ answer to a question whether they would support the deliberate killing of the families of terrorists. If they did, would this not violate the international treaty demanding that civilians should not be targeted in war. Rather than take a decent, moral position that they would not target the terrorists’ families, Trump, Carson and Cruz nearly fall over each other stressing their willingness to murder non-combatants. Trump starts ranting about how we need to be ‘firm’ with them, and makes entirely spurious comments about how the mother of two Islamist killers in San Bernardino must have known what they were doing. Carson seems to believe killing civilians is a necessary evil, and compares it to removing a tumour from a child’s brain. At first the child is resentful about having his head opened up, but afterwards they’re grateful. And Cruz doesn’t seem to know the difference between targeted bombing and carpet bombing. Here’s the clip:

Now the Turks are exactly right when they state that this is the mentality of the mob, and Islamist butchers like al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS. They are also right when they state that it contradicts the teachings of Christ in the New Testament. They are absolutely right. Apart from the teachings of Christ, St. Paul himself states in his letters that Christians are not supposed to compete in evil with the wicked. So we are definitely not supposed to sink to their level. It was medieval theologians in the Roman Catholic West who formulated the modern rule of justice that the families of criminals should not be punished for the crimes of their relatives if the other family members themselves were innocent. The rule of collective guilt, that the families of criminals should be punished along with the criminals themselves, was revived by the non- and actively anti-Christian regimes of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. Hitler revived it on the grounds that it supposedly came from ancient Germanic law. And Stalin revived it because he was an amoral thug and butcher. In his case, it supposedly comes from the tribal and clan warfare practised in the Caucasus. Either way, it’s a step backwards. Trump, Carson and Cruz’s support for lumping the families of terrorists in with them put them on exactly the same level as the North Korean regime and its persecution of Christians. Under the latest Kim, not only are Christians themselves arrested and executed in North Korea, but also their parents and grandparents, even if they’re atheists. Trump, Carson and Cruz have got the same vicious totalitarian mindset.

As for the willingness to prosecute war ruthlessly, without concern over civilians deaths being somehow Churchillian, this neglects how controversial Britain’s carpet bombing of Germany is, particularly in the case of Dresden. Dresden was hit so hard that the whole city was just about razed in the fireball. Many of the victims died without a mark on their bodies, suffocated because the fireball consumed all the breathable oxygen. Kurt Vonnegut, the satirical writer, was so profoundly affected by his experience of it as a prisoner of war near the city at the time, that it coloured his entire worldview, inspiring such novels as Slaughterhouse 5. The novel’s title is a reference to the abbatoir in which he and the other American POWs were incarcerated. Ironically, it was this that saved them.

The bombing of Dresden has become a stain on the Alllied conduct of the War. And while modern Germans are pleased that Hitler and the Nazis defeated, and their country liberated to become one of the most prosperous and democratic in Europe, they aren’t pleased about the destruction of Dresden. Far from it. One German playwright in the 1960s wrote a play about it, arguing that it showed Churchill as a war criminal, because Dresden at the time was not a centre of military operations. The bombing took place apparently purely as an act of terror.

There was intense controversy under John Major’s government back in the 1990s when the Tories decided to put up a statue commemorating ‘Bomber’ Harris, the head of the British airforce, who launched the carpet bombing of Germany. Many liberals in Britain felt it was entirely inappropriate to celebrate a man, who had deliberately caused so many civilian deaths. And the carpet bombing of Germany, the deliberate bombing of civilian areas, was controversial at the time. One Anglican churchman, a bishop, if I recall properly, resigned in protest. It’s probably this action by a man of faith and conscience that provided the inspiration for a Christian priest in the 1980s Dr Who serial, ‘The Curse of Fenric’. Played by the veteran actor and panel show host, Nicholas Parsons, the priest is a man, who has lost his faith thanks to his nation deciding to kill civilians in bombing raids. It clearly seems to have been inspired by the example of the real clergyman.

Interestingly, this churchman remains an inspirational figure to at least one, highly independent member of the British Christian Right: Peter Hitchens. Hitchens has some bizarre and vile views. He believes – wrongly – that Britain shouldn’t have entered the Second World War. But he is also an opponent of the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. His reasoning here seems to be that these latter wars have sent good, brave men to die unnecessarily simply for the political advantage of the man he terms ‘the Blair creature’. So, contrary to Carson, Churchill’s bombing of civilians isn’t the action of a great war leader that Carson seems to think it is.

I differ with the Turks’ comments about the Repug candidates’ advocacy of killing terrorists’ families being part of the psyche of fundamentalist Christians. A little while ago a Jewish researcher published a book on theologically conservative Christians. He found that conservative religious views did not necessarily coincide with Conservative political views. In fact, he found that about half of Evangelical Christians were politically liberal, and tended to be more so than American Roman Catholics. See the book The Truth about Evangelical Christians. The Turks themselves have also noted that in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, people who make their religion the centre of their life, whether Christians, Muslims or whatever, tend to be far less in favour of attacking civilians. In the case of America, the willingness to kill civilians as well as terrorists seems to be due to other, shared cultural factors common to both people of faith and secular people.

What’s the Real Reason We’re Bombing Syria?

December 9, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political reported yesterday that Britain had bombed a Syrian army base, apparently in retaliation for criticism by Assad. See the article at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/08/cameron-orders-attack-on-syrian-army-retaliation-for-assad-statements-veterans-today/. This has provoked a storm of protest. Amongst those criticising the attacks are veteran broadcaster and naturalist, David Attenborough, (See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/09/david-attenborough-laments-dreadful-uk-bombing-campaign/). Most movingly, a group of British veterans have thrown their medals on the ground outside 10 Downing Street as their protest against the bombings. (See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/09/syria-air-strike-protest-ex-soldiers-throw-their-medals-away/). This must surely show how iniquitous many feel the bombs are, when some of Britain’s bravest and most gallant squaddies and ossifers feel that this act has disgraced them, so that they feel they cannot wear the medals they have won with the pride they deserve.

I’m left wondering why we really bombed the Syrian army, and whose side we’re really on. Criticism by the country’s dictator, but not actual military aggression, seems a flimsy excuse to start bombing his country and killing his armed forces. If we did that every time a foreign head of state criticised us, we’d have to start bombing just some of our closest allies and collaborators in the EU, like France, Germany and Spain, long before we got to the really verbally hostile nations, like Iran or North Korea.

So why did we do it?

It could just be that Dave Cameron has decided that he just wants to bomb Assad. He wanted to start bombing him after the Arab Spring broke out, and it looked like democracy was finally going to sweep away all the dictators, absolute monarchs, theocrats and other tyrants throughout the Middle East. That dream, unfortunately, went unrealised. Years later it looks very much like we were better off not toppling Assad, because if he had gone, it’s likely that Syria would be in the hands of ISIS or al-Qaeda by now.

And for all that Assad is a genuinely nasty piece of work, the Syrian Ba’ath regime is like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq – a secular state with some degree of genuine religious pluralism. Christians, for example, could serve in the Syrian government, in sharp distinction to the theocratic autocracy in Saudi Arabia and the other gulf states, which are absolute monarchies. These nations reserve power, and in the case of Saudi Arabia, refuse to tolerate, any other religions, including different Islamic sects. Only Wahhabi Islam is tolerated.

I blogged today about a piece in the New Eastern Outlook that argued that ISIS was really the Saudi army in disguise. Shorn of its religious trappings, ISIS was a tool by which the Saudis hope to annex and control the oil wealth of the other Middle Eastern nations. This seems to me to be exactly right. As I wrote before, Greg Palast points out in his book, Armed Madhouse, that the Saudis wanted Iraq invaded so that they and the Americans, their partners in Amerco, the Saudi oil combine, could seize that country’s vast oil reserves, the second largest in the Middle East after Saudi Arabia itself. And it was one of the reasons why the West invaded Iraq twenty five years ago, after George Bush snr told Saddam Hussein that there would be no opposition to his annexation of Kuwait.

The anti-War protesters shouting ‘Gosh, No! We won’t Go! We won’t die for Texaco!’ were right. Absolutely and unequivocally.

So what’s the reason we’re going into Syria now? Cui bono? Apart from the Saudis.

Years ago I read a book by an other with a very Islamic name, which claimed that the 7/7 bombings were another false flag operation. It claimed that they were set up by Britain’s intelligence forces in order to provide further spurious justification for Britain’s military involvement in the Middle East. This was part of a broader strategy of misinformation and staged enemy actions which included the war in Bosnia in the 1990s and the invasion of Afghanistan. The real reason for all these invasions was to permit NATO to seize control of the vital oil pipelines running from Afghanistan, across the Middle East, and into the Balkans. Interestingly for a book written by some of Islamic heritage, it argued that some of the atrocities committed by the Serbs in Bosnia, such as the mass murder of Bosnian civilians in a concentration camp, did not occur, but were manufactured by the Allies. I am extremely sceptical of this claim, as it sounds too close to Holocaust denial and the type of stories retailed by the anti-Islamic extreme Right.

The book sounds like a British version of the American ‘Troofer’ conspiracy theories, which allege that the American intelligence agencies, or in some of the nasty anti-Semitic versions going the round, Israel’s Mossad, were really responsible for the destruction of the Twin Towers back in 2001. I find that extremely unlikely. It’s part of the American Conspiracist fringe and its Islamic counterparts. Such theorising is very common in parts of the Islamic world. John Timpson in his book on Iran noted how common it was over there. It’s not hard to see why. Conspiracy theories, like those about 9/11, Jewish bankers or secret deals with alien beings, are created by the powerless and disenfranchised to explain bewildering and apparently inexplicable events. They flourish in states where government is closed and autocratic. Like the Middle East and other parts of the developing world, dominated by powerful factions, and where government may be absolute, secretive and extremely repressive.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t a kernel of truth in their somewhere, hidden amongst the paranoia. The invasion of Iraq did have nothing to do with combating al-Qaeda. It was mainly an attempt to seize their oil, as well as prevent Saddam Hussein supplying arms and aid to the Palestinians. As well as a giant experiment in free market economics and massive corporate pilfering by the Neo-Cons. Now it seems that the Saudis are also funding, supplying and controlling ISIS as a way to seize more nation’s oil industries. It looks very much like the War on Terror really is just a War for Oil, just as the Greens was back in the 1990s told us the first Gulf War was when they lambasted it as a ‘resource war.’

So, after bombing Assad’s army, is Cameron going to urge us, perhaps a few weeks, months or a year or so from now, that we now need to put ‘boots on the ground’ to join the 70,000 ‘moderates’ everyone else says isn’t there, in order to save the Syrian people from Islamist tyranny? Unfortunately, I can see that happening, just as I think that if he does, the real reason will be to seize, sorry, protect the Syrian oil wells, refineries and pipelines.

I may well be wrong, but this is the way I can see this war developing. And I’m already sick of it.

Yasmin Alibhai-Browne on the Saudi’s Empire of Terror

October 2, 2015

Okay, I’m sorry I haven’t been blogging much in the past few months. As I’ve explained before, the re-election of the Tories left me profoundly depressed and dispirited with the state of politics in this country, and the mindset of the British people. I’ve also been trying to write a book on the British Empire and slavery. That’s also taken up a lot of my time.

However, I’ve come across a few items, which I think really deserve to be blogged about. One of them is about Cameron supposedly performing a lewd act with the head of a dead pig. There’s so much going on with that story that I intend to devote a whole post about it. But first there’s this piece, by Yasmin Alibhai-Browne, on the evils of the Saudi Regime.

Alibhai-Brown’s one of the journos on the Independent. She’s of Ugandan Asian heritage, and is married to a White British man. She writes mostly, though not exclusively, about racial issues, as well as women, and, of course, Islam and the position of Muslims in modern British society. I’ve got a lot of respect for her, as she will tackle difficult issues that many others won’t touch. She has, for example, covered anti-White racism as well as the more familiar variety inflicted on ethnic minorities. This was in the first few years of this century, when the statistics showed that more Whites were the victims of race hate crime than Blacks or Asians. I admired her for that, as she showed that you can tackle that issue without having any sympathy with the Fascist Right or the racial reactionaries of the Tory party.

Last Sunday, the 27th September, she put up this article about the pernicious influence of the Saudis. She wrote:

Iran is seriously mistrusted by Israel and America. North Korea protects its nuclear secrets and is ruled by an erratic, vicious man. Vladimir Putin’s territorial ambitions alarm democratic nations. The newest peril, Isis, the wild child of Islamists, has shocked the whole world. But top of this list should be Saudi Arabia – degenerate, malignant, pitiless, powerful and as dangerous as any of those listed above.

The state systematically transmits its sick form of Islam across the globe, instigates and funds hatreds, while crushing human freedoms and aspiration. But the West genuflects to its rulers. Last week Saudi Arabia was appointed chair of the UN Human Rights Council, a choice welcomed by Washington. Mark Toner, a spokesperson for the State Department, said: “We talk about human rights concerns with them. As to this leadership role, we hope that it is an occasion for them to look into human rights around the world and also within their own borders.”

US ‘welcomes’ UN putting Saudi Arabia in charge of human rights panel

The jaw simply drops. Saudi Arabia executes one person every two days. Ali Mohammed al-Nimr is soon to be beheaded then crucified for taking part in pro-democracy protests during the Arab Spring. He was a teenager then. Raif Badawi, a blogger who dared to call for democracy, was sentenced to 10 years and 1,000 lashes. Last week, 769 faithful Muslim believers were killed in Mecca where they had gone on the Hajj. Initially, the rulers said it was “God’s will” and then they blamed the dead. Mecca was once a place of simplicity and spirituality. Today the avaricious Saudis have bulldozed historical sites and turned it into the Las Vegas of Islam – with hotels, skyscrapers and malls to spend, spend, spend. The poor can no longer afford to go there. Numbers should be controlled to ensure safety – but that would be ruinous for profits. Ziauddin Sardar’s poignant book Mecca: The Sacred City, describes the desecration of Islam’s holiest site.

Even more seriously, the pernicious Saudi influence is spreading fast and freely. King Salman has offered to build 200 mosques in Germany for recently arrived refugees, many of whom are Muslims. He offered no money for resettlement or basic needs, but Wahhabi mosques, the Trojan horses of the secret Saudi crusade. Several Islamic schools are also sites of Wahhabism, now a global brand. It makes hearts and minds small and suspicious, turns Muslim against Muslim, and undermines modernists.

She’s absolutely right about the destruction of historic Mecca, including the buildings, monuments and homes of Muhammad and his companions – the holiest figures in Islam. The Independent has published a number of pictures showing how the city has been effectively gutted in a frenzy of building and modernisation. This has been ostensibly to provide more accommodation and greater access for the millions, who go to the city every year on the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. But it also shows the Saudis’ deep lack of concern, even contempt, for their country’s ancient monuments. Much of the radical Islamism now threatening the world is Saudi in inspiration. considering the destruction the Saudis have inflicted on Islam’s holiest city, I’m not remotely surprised that ISIS have been so keen to destroy ancient monuments they consider to be ‘against Islam’. And that’s a highly elastic phrase, which also means genuinely Muslim monuments, but from a sect or interpretation of Islam they hate or mistrust.

As well as banning non-Muslim religions, other Islamic sects are also banned in Saudi Arabia. The Shi’a live in marginalised villages without gas, electricity or running water. They are not allowed to build or worship in their own mosques, and their religious literature, including their version of the Qu’ran, is illegal. When copies are found, they are confiscated and destroyed. A few years ago the Grand Mufti declared them heretics, who were worthy of death. Some of the destruction they have caused seems to be directed against the Shi’a. A few Saturdays ago the Independent’s sister paper, the ‘I’, carried a story about the Saudis’ bulldozing the homes occupied by Muhammad and his followers. While these are naturally of considerable veneration to Muslims generally, the Shi’a in particular venerate them and travel to them when making the pilgrimage.

As for the Saudi’s fixation with secular money-making, it’s pretty much been the case in that part of the Islamic world since the Middle Ages. Mecca became extremely rich on the money spent by the pilgrims flocking there, and much of the poetry written during the Middle Ages was extremely secular. It wasn’t about the delights of paradise, or the beatific vision of God’s face awaiting the faithful in paradise, or about religious devotion to Muhammad, his companions and the Qu’ran. No, it was about the delights of getting drunk on wine, and having a great time with the slave girls.

I’ve read accounts of interviews from moderate Muslims around the world, who have lamented how the religion in their countries has become increasingly intolerant and violent due to the influence of preachers, who have gone to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to study. And moderate Muslims over here have voiced the same concerns. There was also a piece published nearly a decade ago in the Saturday edition of the Financial Times by the imam, who received Salman Rushdie back into the faith after he emerged from hiding. I’m afraid I really can’t remember the imam’s name, except that his first name is Zakariya, if I remember correctly. This scholar has written extensively about Islam in Britain, as well as inscriptions in Arabic dating from the 17th century and found in churchyards in Yorkshire. This particular imam wanted the British government to invest in a British Islamic seminary. There was at the time a shortage of imams to serve in British mosques. This allowed some of the fire-breathing bigots from outside Britain to jump the queue at immigration, and spread their message of hate to Brits over here.

And I’m afraid the situation is only going to get worse. According to an article I read back in the ’90s in the Encyclopaedia of Islam, foreign governments sponsor and support mosques in the West to promote their own national influence. That means that the 200 mosques the Saudis intend to build in Germany will reflect the hard-line attitudes of Saudi Arabia, rather than a more liberal, Western form of Islam that the moderates look forward to. As it stands, there has already been friction and accusations of separatism in Germany directed against some of the Turkish Muslim organisations. In the ’80s or ’90s there was a controversy within the German labour unions against some of the Turkish labour organisations. The Germans alleged that despite their talk of integration, the Turkish groups were pursuing a separatist agenda. A German-Turkish writer has also described how, when he was a child, he had ethnic German, non-Muslim friends until one of the Turkish Muslim scholars told their community that they shouldn’t have anything to do with them. Politicians and activists across Europe are worried about the growth of parallel communities, which attempt to cut themselves off as far as possible from outsiders, whether, White, Black, Asian, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, secular or whatever. One Islamic community leader on a programme about racial problems in contemporary Britain, spoke about his fears for the development of Muslim communities, whose citizens would only know other Muslims. His views were echoed by the representatives from the other faiths – Judaism and Christianity, who also appeared on the programme. They were similarly worried that their peoples would also grow up in sealed communities interacting only with members of their own faith.

All this is likely to get worse if the Saudis are allowed to proceed unchecked. And, quite simply, I don’t think there is the political will to prevent it. Alibhai-Brown points out later in the article how close the royal family is personally to the Saudis. There’s also the awkward fact that they dominate the oil economy. They can throw their weight around now, because of the way they learnt they can wreck the global economy by raising or dropping the price of oil, as they did during the energy crisis of the 1970s. All they have to do is drop their prices, and the Texas oil industry – or Venezuelan, for that matter, is decimated. And the profits to be made from their oil company, Aramco, are just too massive to be resisted by Western industrialists and politicians. And so it seems that the Saudis can spread global terror and religious hatred with impunity.

The whole article can be read at: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/the-evil-empire-of-saudi-arabia-is-the-west-s-real-enemy-a6669531.html. Go and read it.

I don’t think what she said about there having been no coverage of the iniquities of the Saudi regime is completely accurate, however. A little while ago there was a documentary on Channel 4 about radical and extremist Islam, which included some of the viciously anti-Semitic and anti-Western teaching coming out of Saudi mosques and madrassas. That provoked a critical article about the Saudis in parts of the press. I think the Daily Mail ran a piece. But it shows how seriously that kind of journalism is taken in that it appeared on Channel 4, which was already set up as the alternative cultural channel to BBC 2, the Beeb’s alternative channel for more serious culture.

Despite the horror and violence of the situation in the Middle East at the moment, I believe that there are still opportunities awaiting us to bring about peace and tolerance. But these will be blocked if we allow the Saudis to continue preaching intolerance. The world’s peoples – Muslim and non-Muslim – deserve better.

Republican Senators Attempt to Scupper Peace Deal with Letter to Ayatollah of Iran

March 12, 2015

This is another piece from The Young Turks that I found on Youtube. I’ve blogged recently about how the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Republicans in America have been criticising Obama because of his negotiations with Iran in order to stop them developing nuclear weapons. Netanyahu and the Repugs have been attempting to scare the American public by lying to them about how the Iranians are on the verge of developing nuclear weapons that can be launched at Tel Aviv, New York or Los Angeles.

It’s all lies. According to the international atomic energy authorities, Iran is not developing nuclear arms. Their nuclear research programme is doing exactly what the Iranians claim: it’s purely for domestic power production.

This, however, has not been good enough for the Repugs. A few days ago a group of 47 Republican senators, under the leadership of Tom Cotton, wrote a letter to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, stating that they intended making sure that any treaty between their nation and the Iranians would have no congressional ratification. Without this, it would merely be a presidential agreement, which they were also determined to modify or disregard completely in subsequent administrations.

Here’s the video giving The Young Turks’ take on the letter.

The Turks’ anchor, Cenk Uyghur, is absolutely right on this. It is outrageous, and borderline treasonous for the Republican to undermine the leader of their own nation simply on behalf of another country, regardless of whether that nation is Israel, Canada, Germany or Siam. Worse, these people actually seem to be campaigning for another war.

And Uyghur here makes another good point: the Neo-Con Repug leadership are all chickenhawks. None of them have ever fought in a war, and in fact most of them actively dodged the draft. Dick Cheney is a case in point. He had it deferred seven or eight times because he ‘had better things to do.’ There’s a long list in the book, Confronting the New Conservatism, of Dubya and the other Repugs who similarly squirmed out of serving in Vietnam. The book quotes Conservative critics of the Neo-Cons, including high-ranking military personnel, to show that they don’t understand the Middle East and deeply resent the diplomats, generals and senior officers that do.

And these people won’t be sending their sons and daughters to die out in the desert. The people who’ll do the dying will be spouses and children of Mr and Mrs regular American.

A few years ago there may have been an argument for a pre-emptive strike on Iran. Ahmedinijad was a millennialist, who believed that the End Times were upon us. He was part of a group of Twelver Shi’ah, who believed that the return of the Mahdi, the ‘Rightly-Guided’ Twelfth Imam, was imminent. The Shi’ah differ from Sunni Muslims in that they believe that Mohammed’s son-in-law, Ali, was the true successor to the prophet. Ali’s descendants were the Imams, who were the true spiritual guides and rulers of the Muslim community. The precise number of Imams venerated differs from Shi’ah sect to sect. Some believe that there were only seven. The majority of Iranians are Twelver Shi’ah, who believe that there were twelve rightly guided imams. The last imam went into occultation – that is, vanished from the world, after going to a well in the ninth century. Twelver Shi’ah believe that he will reappear to fight the forces of evil just before the end of the world.

Ahmedinijad was one of those, who believed that the twelfth imam’s return was imminent. He renovated the well at which the imam is believed to have vanished. Before then it was quite neglected, although it was a site of pilgrimage for some Shi’ah. It’s now been extensively restored and is the centre of a complex of religious buildings devoted to spreading the faith. Even liberal papers over here, like the Independent, were afraid that Ahmedinijad’s religious convictions would lead him to start another war in the mistaken belief that he was hastening the way for the return of the imam.

Ahmedinijad is not the only political leader to have dangerous millennial beliefs. Similar concerns were expressed in the 1980s about Ronald Reagan because of the way he surrounded himself with extreme right-wing Christians, who also believed that the End Times were upon, following Hal Lindsey’s The Late, Great Planet Earth. They saw the millennial conflict as between America and the Soviet Union, representing the forces of Satan. And there was a similar fear that Reagan would start a nuclear war as part of a programme to hasten Armageddon and the return of Christ.

Ahmedinijad and Reagan are both gone, and the current elected Iranian leader rather more liberal. As I’ve also blogged, any attempt to avoid further war in the Middle East is well worth pursuing, given the bloody chaos that has resulted from the invasion of Iraq. Apart from the massive general bloodshed and loss of life that has resulted from the West’s invasion of Iraq, it has resulted in the religious cleansing and attempted extermination of Christians and other religious minorities, like the Yezidis, from their ancient homes by ISIS. Iran is already the eighth worse country in the world for its persecution of Christians. I don’t want it joining the North Korea, Somalia and Iraq as the very worst, just as I don’t want any more people, whether Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Zoroastrian, Yezidi, Buddhist or whatever, to die just to enrich the multinationals and boost Netanyahu’s election chances.

America and Iran have a real chance of making the Middle East just a little bit more stable, and pushing the forces of death and war back just that little bit. It’s monstrous that it’s being scuppered by Repugs and their attempt to join forces with the hardliners in the Islamic Republic.