Archive for the ‘Saudi Arabia’ Category

Zelo Street Destroys Blair’s Latest Speech about Weapons of Mass Destruction

September 8, 2021

The former prime minister Peter Hitchens calls ‘the Blair creature’ crawled out from under whatever rock he and his millions hide under this morning to give a speech to the Royal United Services Institute. This warned that Islamism was still a threat, and that in the wake of the Covid pandemic there was a horrific possibility that such terrorists would use bioweapons against the west. He suggested that ‘boots on the ground’ may indeed be needed again to help countries overseas tackle the terrorists on their soil. Of the Islamist terrorists themselves, he said

This ideology – whether Shia, promulgated by the Islamic Republic of Iran or Sunni promoted by groups on a spectrum from the Muslim Brotherhood through to AQ, ISIS Boko Haram and many others – has been the principal cause of de-stabilisation across the Middle East, and beyond and today in Africa”.

To which Zelo Street asked rhetorically ‘Hasn’t he missed someone?’

Yes, yes, he had. Saudi Arabia. 17 of the 19 perps of 9/11 were Saudis. The Street reminds us

“The majority of the 9/11 terrorists were from Saudi Arabia, and if you were to select one country that practises strict, even militant, Islam, that would be it. But Saudi Arabia buys weapons from us. It’s got a lot of oil. So, despite its export of terrorism, brutalisation of its own people, and subjugation of women, we are invited to Look Over There.”

Quite. There is considerable evidence to suggest that elements within the Saudi secret services were responsible for it, and that responsibility for the attack goes to the very highest levels. Saudi Arabia was firmly behind al-Qaeda and its infiltration into Syria and Iraq and I don’t think they had any real problem with ISIS. Not until Daesh went and issued a call for the faithful to rise up and overthrow the Saudi monarchy. Then the Saudi regime changed its attitude.

The Street concludes

“This will not do. Tony Blair could have set out some kind of vision; instead, he showed that he hasn’t moved on from 2003. He brings us no credible solutions. No change there, then.”

I don’t believe Tory Tone has anything credible to say about the Middle East. He may well be right about bioweapons, though I’ve heard rumours that we used them against the Iraqis. The rumour goes that scientists have developed pathogens that are so lethal they burn themselves out within a short time so that they don’t infect anyone beyond the limited number they were launched against. And the South African security service, BOSS, was supposed to be developing gene-tailored germs that would only infect and kill Blacks. Bioweapons may well be a real threat, but I worried that it’s not only our enemies who may be developing and using them.

As for Blair, he lied about weapons of mass destruction as part of the whole tissue of lies he and his mate Dubya constructed to justify an illegal war of aggression against Iraq. This war was really about seizing the Iraqi oil fields for the American-Saudi oil industry and Iraqi state industries for multinationals like Haliburton. These malign clowns sent brave men and women to fight and die, not to give the country democracy and freedom from tyranny, but so the corporate elite could loot it.

A few days ago I drew this sketch setting down in pictorial form precisely what I think of Bush and Blair. It shows them and Saudi oil magnate clutching oil wells with the names Aramco and Haliburton behind them. Also behind them are my attempts to draw warplanes from underneath. In front of them are the bodies of a Middle Eastern family.

The caption is ‘New Labour, Old Imperialism’.

This is the leader of the Labour party Starmer wants to drag us all back to. He needs to go for the sake of Britain’s working people and the safety of millions in the Middle East.

Afghanistan Withdrawal – the Conspiracy Theories Start

September 2, 2021

For some the catastrophic departure of the western armed forces from Afghanistan has been almost unimaginable. This is not surprising, as successive governments have been telling us for years that the Taliban had been successfully contained and victory was only a few months away. They find it particularly incomprehensible that the US and western armed forces were so unprepared for the Taliban’s reconquest of the country, that President Biden has left 73 military planes and $80 billion worth of kit behind in the scramble to get out. One of these is the mad right-wing YouTuber and internet radio host, Alex Belfield. In the video below, Belfield wonders if all that military equipment has been deliberately left behind to be taken and used by the Taliban, in order to provide the pretext for more wars. He sees this as part of an overall strategy by out governments to keep us afraid. One of these ruses has been, so he argues, the Coronavirus. He seems to follow here the line of some of the sceptics that Covid doesn’t present a real threat, but has just been used by the government in order to justify a totalitarian seizure of power through the lockdown.

Belfield’s been sceptical about the Coronavirus and the lockdown almost from the beginning. His argument is usually that the lockdown is doing more harm than good to the economy and to the health, mental and physical, of the British people. He’s right in that clearly people’s businesses and wellbeing is suffering, but is completely and utterly wrong about lifting the lockdown and letting the disease take its course and carry off whoever it may.

But I can’t say that his paranoia about the US leaving behind so much military equipment is unwarranted. The American and British public were miss-sold the wars in the Middle East. We were told we were freeing Afghanistan from a brutal theocratic tyranny and defending America and ourselves from future terrorist attacks. We weren’t. The troops were sent in to secure the country so that an oil pipeline could be built, one which Bush’s administration had been in talks with the Taliban to build. The Taliban had pulled out, and so the NeoCons were looking for an excuse to invade. This came along in the shape of 9/11.

Ditto Iraq. We were informed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and that he was in league with Osama bin Laden. He wasn’t. Hussein had led a largely secular regime, which was cordially hated by bin Laden and his Islamist fanatics. We were told that the invasion would liberate the Iraqi people from Hussein, who really was a tyrant. But the invasion wasn’t about granting a grateful Iraqi people democracy. It was about Aramco, the joint Saudi-American oil company seizing the country’s oil reserves and the western oil companies grabbing its oil industry. Other multinationals, such as Haliburton, which employed various members of Bush’s family and cabinet colleagues, seized its state industries. Meanwhile the country descended into sectarian violence and chaos, the secular state and the feminism it promoted vanished, and the private military contractors – read: mercenaries – hired as part of the peacekeeping forces ran amok with drug and prostitution rings. They also amused themselves by shooting ordinary Iraqis for sport.

It’s been said that America is a ‘warfare state’. That is, its military-industrial complex is so pervasive and powerful that its entire economy is geared to and depends on war. It was suggested years ago in one of the publications of the old Left Book Club, as I recall, that this is deliberate. American political ideology rejects Keynsianism, the economic doctrine that maintains that the state should interfere in the economy through welfare spending, public works and so on to stimulate it. American political culture, on the other hand, rejects this in favour of laissez-faire. But the American economy still needs government intervention, and the only way the American state can do this is through war and military spending. Hence the continual need to find new wars to fight. First it was the Cold War, then the War on Terror.

I tend to believe in ‘cock-up’ rather than conspiracy – that the world is the way it is because of the incompetence of the authorities, rather than that there is some overwhelming and all-pervasive conspiracy against us. This does not rule out the fact that real conspiracies by the intelligence agencies, big business and various covert political groups really do occur. My guess is that the armaments left behind in Afghanistan are there as a result of incompetence rather than a deliberate plot to produce more war and international instability for the benefit of the war profiteers.

But after the lies that have sustained two decades and more of war and occupation in the Middle East, it wouldn’t surprise me if this was true.

Corrbyn Was Right About Afghanistan

August 25, 2021

A few days ago Mike was pointing out that, in contrast to Starmer and his current attitude towards Afghanistan, there was one Labour politico who was consistently right. This was Jeremy Corbyn. Back in 2001 when Blair and Bush were considering invading, Jeremy Corbyn was elected to the steering committee of the Stop the War Coalition. He said there was considerable disquiet and opposition to the deployment of troops in Afghanistan and the bombing of Iraq. An invasion would cost thousands of lives and not solve anything.

Totally correct.

In 2010 he spoke against the war, saying

“The issue of Afghanistan goes on. The deaths continue, the soldiers continue to die, the war is clearly unwinnable,” Corbyn said.

“The expense in moral terms, financial terms and loss of life of Afghan people gets worse and worse.”

He spoke again against the war in Afghanistan in 2017 when he was leader of the Labour party.

The war in Afghanistan has failed. After 16 years of bloodshed and destruction, the Taliban are undefeated and terrorism is no less of a threat at home. In fact it has spread.

“The British Government should make clear to Donald Trump that his strategy of more bombing and a new troop surge will continue this failure, not obediently applaud his latest policy U-turn.”

In July 2021, last month, when Johnson announced that he was pulling British troops out of Afghanistan, Corbyn dared to question why we had ever invaded the country in the first place.

“This has to be a day of reflection. We have spent billions of pounds in the war in Afghanistan, 450 British troops have lost their lives, thousands of Americans and other troops have lost their lives, many, many thousands of Afghan people have lost their lives and many more have been forced to be refugees in exile all around the region as well as in western Europe.

“While Britain is withdrawing, surely we need to recognise that when we make hasty foreign policy decisions to go to war, the consequences go on for a very long time. In this case, it is now the 20th anniversary of such a decision.”

Now Mr Corbyn has said

 “We must learn the lessons of a two-decade war which cost nearly a quarter of a million lives and failed to achieve security for the Afghan people or prevent the spread of terrorism.

“The War on Terror and its architects’ reckless use of force to deal with complex political issues has had profound, uncountable, and unacceptable human costs – whether to British and allied servicement and women or to the civilian populations of Afghanistan, Iraq, and beyond.

“Invasions and occupations are not only wrong and violate the right to sovereignty, they also do not deliver viable and sustainable political settlements. We cannot allow ourselves to be led down such a disastrous road again.”

He recognises that some critics see a refusal to take action as a sign of weakness, and pre-empts them with the statement

 “Too often rejecting military intervention is conflated with taking no action at all. As well as resettling refugees, I will be making the case in Parliament this week for the UK to play its part in a robust diplomatic effort that engages regional powers to ensure stability.

“This will need to cover humanitarian support, a response to rising extreme poverty, respect for human and civil rights especially those of women and girls, and real self-determination for Afghanistan.”

Mike contrasts this with Starmer, who says that his thoughts are with the Afghans but is only concerned with rescuing British support staff, not giving sanctuary to Afghan refugees.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2021/08/22/one-person-has-been-consistently-right-about-uk-involvement-in-afghanistan-guess-who/

The British and American peoples have been lied to about Afghanistan and Iraq. They were told the invasions and occupations were all about liberating these nations from vicious tyrants. They were told that the Taliban and Saddam Hussein were responsible for 9/11. Well, the Taliban did provide a safe haven for bin Laden, but I heard that they protested that they had no idea what the thug was doing and actually offered to give him up. And Hussein had nothing to do with the attack.

Both invasions were really all about oil and demonstrating American military superiority. Bush and the Neo-Cons were waiting for an opportunity to invade Afghanistan so they could build an oil pipeline after talks with the Taliban about its construction had broken down. Iraq was invaded because Aramco, the joint American-Saudi oil company wanted the country’s oil industry and oil reserves. American multinationals like Haliburton, to whom Bush and various members of his wretched cabinet had close ties, also coveted Iraq’s state industries. The Neo-Cons also had fantasies of turning the country into a low tariff, free trade state, the establishment of which wrecked domestic Iraqi industries, creating a surge of bankruptcies and an unemployment rate of 60 per cent.

And the succeeding regimes have had serious flaws. Hamid Karzai’s regime in Afghanistan was massively corrupt, with officials buying their positions and government contracts and connections, and using them to extort bribes and money from Mr and Mrs Ordinary Afghan. Under Karzai, the production of opium actually increased. Iraq descended into sectarian violence and civil war, while the mercenary companies brought in as peacekeepers ran amok, setting up prostitution and drug rings. They also shot ordinary Iraqis for fun.

Mike has pointed out in the above article that while Corbyn has been spot on, Boris’ predictions are so off target that he could have taken them from a box of Christmas crackers. Actually, I’d say that probably reflects the value of some of the decision makers. You can wonder if our intelligence agencies actually have any understanding of the Middle East. The CIA didn’t see the Islamic Revolution coming, for example. When it did become clear that the Shah’s regime would be toppled, they predicted that the Ayatollah Khomeini would lead a peaceful movement like Gandhi.

If only.

As for Iraq, one of the Neo-Cons critics is a female Pentagon Colonel, Kathryn W. She’s a woman of the right, a traditional Conservative who believes America has no right to interfere in the affairs of others. She is particularly scathing about the massive ignorance of Bush and his advisors of the practical realities of the Middle East. Not only that, but they were hostile to and dismissed American military staff, like General Zilli, the head of the Pentagon’s Middle East sector, who actually did. Because officers like Zilli told the Smirking Chimp what he didn’t want to hear: that it wouldn’t work, and the occupations would last a long time.

Two million people marched against the Iraq invasion. That’s two million people who knew far better than the grinning warmonger Tony Blair. Bush and Blair were not only wrong, but wilfully ignorant and greedy. And Johnson is so stupid he’s a walking insult to the intelligence.

Only one person has been consistently right about Afghanistan and Iraq – the man the media has vilified and smeared as a Communist, Trotskyite and Anti-Semite: Jeremy Corbyn.

Musical Satire: Bush and Blair Sing ‘Gay Bar’

August 24, 2021

Tony Blair crawled out from under whatever rock he’s been hiding himself under recently to give the world the benefit of his informed opinion on the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. He wasn’t in favour. In fact, he described it as ‘imbecile’. Zelo Street has put up an excellent demolition of Blair’s arguments over at https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2021/08/tony-blair-imbecile-yourself.html

It is massively hypocritical of Blair to present any kind of criticism of the efforts of contemporary politicos, such as President Joe Biden, to deal with the mess in Afghanistan. It was Tory Tone who, with his best mate George Dubya Bush, was responsible for the invasion and the following 20 years of occupation and nation building. Which really wasn’t about liberating the Afghan people from a viciously repressive Islamist regime and creating a stable society based on democracy and human rights. Bush and his backers in the New American Century wanted an opportunity to invade Afghanistan so they could build an oil pipeline that was being blocked by the Taliban. Yes, they were justified in attacking Afghanistan in reprisal for harbouring Osama bin Laden and 9/11, but that wasn’t the reason for the continuing occupation.

Just as the liberation of the Iraqi people from the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein also wasn’t the real reason Dubya and Tone invaded that country. The real reason was to enable Aramco, the joint American-Saudia Arabian oil company to seize Iraq’s oil industry and reserves, and for Haliburton and other multinationals to get their grubby mitts on the country’s state enterprises. The result was the destruction of what had once been one of the Middle East’s most secular states into political and religious anarchy and violence. Two hundred thousand people have been killed due to the invasion, and a further million or more forced into exile as refugees. For many people, Blair and Bush are war criminals who should be prosecuted, not indulged and fawned over by the media. They sent our highly trained, courageous and patriotic young men and women to their deaths, and murdered and mutilated a million or more innocent Iraqis.

Well, to mark the return of Blair to the media, I’m putting up this highly satirical piece I found on YouTube. About the same time Bush and Blair decided to invade Iraq, the Electric Six had a hit with their song, ‘Gay Bar’. Someone with a wicked sense of humour and master of video editing took footage of a joint press conference by Bush and Blair, and edited it so that the two appear to be singing the Six’s ditty. This was at a time when the momentum for gay marriage was building. In America an increasing number of American states were legalising it, and Blair had passed laws providing for civil partnerships, an alternative form of marriage that was mainly intended to cover gay couples. But the song’s also relevant to their invasion of Iraq and the other wars, containing as it does the line: ‘Let’s start a war. Let’s start a nuclear war. In a gay bar, gay bar.’

Well, I don’t know of any bars, gay or otherwise, that have nuclear weapons, although some have a reputation for violence. But Bush and Blair certainly started wars, the consequences of which are still plaguing us.

And Blair has absolutely nothing to tell present politicians about ending the debacle he started.

Daniel Haqiqatjou – The American Muslim Propagandist Who Wants to Kill Gays, Apostates and Bring Back Slavery

August 18, 2021

This is another piece from the anti-Islamic YouTuber, the Apostate Prophet. I said yesterday when I posted another piece up by his that I don’t share his atheism nor his wholesale dismissal of all of Islam, although it very definitely isn’t my religion. Not all Muslims are the same, and I got the impression that there is a wide variety of belief and practice within global Islam. It’s therefore wrong and dangerous to give the impression that all Muslims are somehow militant hardliners wishing to impose the sharia and subjugate the unbelievers.

But there certainly are some very unpleasant individuals in the western Islamic community, who would like to impose an extremely strict, repressive version of Islam and who have a bitter hatred of gays, non-Muslims and apostates from Islam. These people, like White Fascists, deserve to be exposed and condemned for their vile views. One of these is Daniel Haqiqatjou. Haqiqatjou is an American Muslim apologist of Iranian extraction. In this post from June last year, 2020, the Apostate Prophet discusses Haqiqatjou’s squalid views and his connections to the Yaqeen Institute, a hard-line Islamic organisation whose leader, Omar Suleiman, attended some kind of public gathering with Joe Biden.

Haqiqatjou would like the death penalty for homosexuality. On LGBTQ Remembrance Day last year, he joked about remembering them through Muslim base jumping. It’s a tasteless joke about the method used by some Muslim countries of executing gays by throwing them off tall buildings. When AP called him a vile piece of sh*t, Haqiqatjou made it clear that people like him wouldn’t be forgotten either. Which is a reference to the traditional Muslim penalty for apostasy, death. The video contains a clip of Haqiqatjou explaining this to one of his callers. He also wrote a piece for the website of Muslim Jurists of America hailing the Sultan of Brunei’s introduction of Islamic law against homosexuals and fornicators, and urged western Muslims to come to Brunei to watch a public caning to see Islamic law in action. Thanks, but I’d rather stay in Britain and watch Gardener’s World. He also whined about how the West looks down on child marriage, but western children are sexually active at 13, 14, 15. The Apostate Prophet points out that this is 14 year old kids having sex with other 14 year olds. It is not a case of thirty year old men marrying 13 year old girls.

Haqiqatjou did, however, have some criticism for his posts from the American Muslim community. This was from an American convert, Justin Parrott, who objected to them, not because he found them to be wrong or offensive, but because he and other Muslim authorities didn’t want him to make Islam look bad. Haqiqatjou dismissed this by saying it is exactly what Jews and Christians have done to their religion, and they won’t look well on Islam unless Muslims convert to their religions. And so he blithely carries on spreading his backward views.

The Apostate Prophet also makes point in this video that there is something wrong in western society. If a westerner expresses hatred of homosexuality, like the baker who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple, or if they express concerns about Islamic grooming gangs and immigration, then they are met with immediate howls of disapproval and cancellation. But the worst thing that happened to Haqiqatjou when he posted his obnoxious views online was that the post was taken down, something he found to be terribly tyrannical. Which is especially rich coming from him, as if left to him he’d end freedom of speech. All in the name of Islam, of course.

And in July last year, Apostate Prophet put up this video in which he questions Haqiqatjou on his attitude to slavery. Guess what! Haqiqatjou doesn’t condemn it. Indeed, he tries to defend it by saying that where it exists, the slaves may be better treated than free workers. He accuses AP of comparing slavery to an idealised form of freedom that has never existed, and may not make people happy. It seems to me to be very clear from this that Haqiqatjou would like to bring back slavery.

Now Haqiqatjou is correct when he says that in countries where slavery still persists, the slaves may be well treated. I can remember one book on modern slavery stating that the lot of slaves in those cultures that still practise traditional slavery is much better than modern from of enslavement, disguised as long-term work contracts, for example. I also suspect that Haqiqatjou has a very romanticised view of Islamic slavery. It could be different from western chattel slavery, in that slaves could serve as soldiers, scribes and arrange their masters’ business affairs. The Mamlukes, the Muslim warriors who ruled Egypt prior to Napoleon’s invasion, were originally such a corps of slave soldiers. Their name actually means ‘White slaves’. And ostensibly free labour, as we’ve seen, can be highly exploitative. The abolitionists’ opponents in the 19th century argued that it was hypocritical of William Wilberforce and the others to demand freedom for enslaved Blacks, when their White ‘factory slaves’ endured such grinding poverty and poor conditions. I suspect Haqiqatjou looks back on Islamic slavery as a time, that actually didn’t exist, when loyal slaves worked for caring, paternalistic masters. One of the British ambassadors to Zanzibar and Pemba in the later 19th century argued that the British government should not bother about demanding the abolition of slavery there because it was so benign and gradually dying out. But it didn’t, and the resentments of the enslaved Africans grew until there was a rebellion in the 1920s in which the ruling Arab class was massacred.

As for Haqiqatjou’s bizarre statement that ‘owning a person is better than renting a person’, this shows his ignorance about the issue. In free labour, the employer rents the worker’s labour. He does not rent the worker. It’s a fine, but important point.

Now I believe that genuine freedom comes with true democratic rights – the right to elect one’s rulers, serve on juries and negotiate with employers over wages and conditions. Which means the right to form trade unions and other professional associations, which Conservatives and Libertarians hate, because their interpretation of freedom is just freedom for the bosses, not the workers. But freedom begins with personal freedom – the freedom to do exactly as one wishes away from work, regardless of the views of one’s master, and not to be tied to one employer. Haqiqatjou, it seems, would like to end that, just as he would like to end secular law and government.

Now I think Haqiqatjou is almost certainly an extreme case. I doubt many western Muslims would want to see the return of slavery. Even the Saudis officially ended it in 1964 or so, although it still goes on in private and foreign workers are treated as slaves under the sponsorship system. I read somewhere that the Mullahs in Iran briefly considered bringing it back after the Islamic Revolution, but they decided against it. And there are certainly Muslims in the West who very strongly oppose views like his.

Unfortunately, liberal, modern Muslims are given no support in their struggles against the hardliners, and there certainly does seem to be a double standard amongst western liberals towards intolerant, repressive Islam. At the moment the west is going through paroxysms of guilt about its historic involvement in the slave trade. I realise that there are a few extremists out there, who would like to have it brought back. They are tiny minority who are rightly marginalised and attacked for their views. But it seems that their Muslim counterparts with deeply unpleasant views, like Haqiqatjou, are free to express similar views and no-one says anything against them.

This has to change. Fighting Islamic intolerance does not equal Islamophobia or fighting Islam. It is defending democracy and freedom, not all of whose enemies are White or somehow virtuous because they’re people of colour.

No Return Invasion of Afghanistan

August 15, 2021

According to mad right-wing internet radio host, Alex Belfield, parliament has been recalled to discuss the Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan. Belfield made it very clear that we should not go back there. This was a country whose culture and way of life we would never understand. Four hundred British squaddies have already died during the invasion and occupation, and besides, we’ve too much on our plate here at home with domestic crises like the Plymouth mass shooting, rampant knife crime in London and the surge of illegal immigrants trying to cross the Channel in dinghies and other flimsy craft. I agree with him, but partly for reasons that are very different from his.

Firstly, like the invasion of Iraq, the British and American public were deliberately deceived about the invasion of Afghanistan. Yes, the invasion was an appropriate response to al-Qaeda’s attack on America in 9/11, although it was planned and executed by the Saudis. And there is very strong evidence that the responsibility for the atrocity goes all the way up to the highest levels of the Saudi state. But the American neo-Cons had been planning the invasion years before. They’d been in talks with the Taliban over the construction of a new oil pipeline to run through the country, allowing them to get around the Russian affiliated pipelines in the region. These talks stalled and eventually failed. So George Dubya Bush and his friends in big business got together and planned an invasion, waiting for a suitable opportunity to arrive when they could launch it. The liberation of the local people from a deeply repressive, bloodthirsty Islamist regime was never the real, primary objective.

As for Afghan society, this is a deeply conservative, tribal culture. The Taliban have their roots in their traditional way of life and particularly the very traditional Daobandi movement in Islam that stretches across into Pakistan and India. Hence, although extreme, the Taliban will appear to many Afghans to be fighting for their traditional values and society against those imposed upon them by force by the western invader. They have also been given support, supposedly, by elements within the Pakistani military. The Pathan tribe, I believe, form the core supporters of the Taliban, and their tribal territory extends across the border into Pakistan. They thus receive cross-border support from their fellow tribesmen over there.

Besides which, I don’t believe that the western occupation has done much to win hearts and minds. Hamid Karzai’s government was massively corrupt, and this corruption extended all the way down to the local level, where the police and government officials tried to find every way they could extort more money out of the ordinary citizens. The drone operations in the region have also done much to generate discontent. I recall reading cases where wedding parties were slaughtered in anti-terrorist drone strikes. However, instead of only killing the terrorist targeted, they also killed innocent people who just happened to be present.

A second invasion of Afghanistan would also be extremely expensive. And as this is a Conservative government which is already protesting about the expenses of dealing with the Covid pandemic, the funding for it would be through further cuts in welfare spending and the privatisation of whatever’s left of the state infrastructure. Which means the NHS. This will mean more poverty, starvation and misery for Britain’s great working people, and poor health as more services are given to private healthcare providers. Who will start cutting their provision so they can make a profit.

The Taliban are a deeply unpleasant organisation and their attitude towards women is particularly misogynistic. There have been reports that wherever they have taken over an area, they have gone to the local mosques to compile lists of the unmarried girls. These are then forcibly married, even though they may be barely into their teens. They do, however, have an age limit of 12. When the Taliban were in power, women were not expected to leave their homes except when they had. If they were out of the house, they had to make themselves as inconspicuous as possible. This meant that they had to be silent. I’ve read reports in the papers of Afghan women, who’d lost limbs during previous fighting, being beaten because their artificial legs made a noise. And this is apart from the ban on art, music and television, the restrictions on non-Muslim religions, the closure of football stadiums and their conversion into arenas for mass public executions.

Our invasion and attempts at nation-building have failed, and there are dangers in this. Al-Qaeda were encouraged to launch their attack from Afghanistan on 9/11 because of the success the Mujahideen had achieved fighting the Soviet occupation, although much of that was due to covert funding from the West and Saudi Arabia. I am very much afraid that with the withdrawal of western troops and the fall of the democratic Afghan government, the Taliban or some other Islamist terror group will similarly feel empowered and that they can launch another attack to destroy the west.

But Afghanistan is the proverbial ‘graveyard of empires’. We found it impossible to occupy the country in the 19th century, as did the Russians a hundred years later. Any further invasion is likely to fail again. As repulsive and dangerous as the Taliban are, we should not go back. We would not be helping its people, only the oil industry and big business who seek to exploit it. And the costs of the occupation would be borne in the lives and limbs of the servicewomen and men sent out to fight, and by Britain’s working people as the government slashes more services.

We should not go back to invading countries simply to make massive multinational corporations even more obscenely rich.

Starmer Runs Away from Green New Deal Campaigners – Anyone Surprised?

August 13, 2021

Mike today posted a tweet containing a video from a young woman and man from the campaign group, Green New Deal Rising, On Wednesday, the pair had attempted to confront Starmer about his policies towards the Green New Deal and the climate crisis. According to them, Starmer ran away protesting that he was too busy to talk about it. So they tackled him today about his refusal to take an action and failure to back the Green New Deal. The video shows Starmer running away from them faster than Boris Johnson searching for a fridge to hide in. He does speak to the pair eventually from behind a line of railings, talking about tackling climate through international negotiations at the forthcoming conference. They’re not impressed with him, neither is Mike and frankly, I’m not either. The group end their tweet with “Words mean nothing Keir. We need urgent action. We need you to #BackTheBill” Mike notes that Starmer was right behind the bill when it was one of Corbyn’s policies, but now has utterly reversed his position. Noting that the Labour leader is actually avoiding campaigners against climate change, Mike asks ‘How does he think this is acceptable?’

I’m not remotely surprised by this. Starmer has broken every one of Corbyn’s policies, and has shown just how right-wing he is by writing his despicable piece in the Financial Times about how he wishes to return the party to the glory days, as he seems to see it, of Blair. This is the Tony Blair who accelerated and expanded the Tories’ privatisation of the NHS, the destruction of the welfare state, the wholesale implementation of the Private Finance Initiative as a general governmental principle and the further impoverishment of Britain’s great working people. And this is apart from his international crimes – the illegal invasion of Iraq and the bombing of Libya to overthrow Colonel Gaddafy. The result has been the descent of those relatively secular societies with welfare states into sectarian violence and chaos. Half of Libya has been overrun by Islamist fanatics, who have opened slave markets selling Black migrants travelling through the country in the hope of reaching Europe. The western occupation of Iraq and the neo-Cons attempts to turn the country into a low-tax, free trade capitalist utopia has utterly wrecked their economy. But western multinationals have done extremely well for themselves, looting and taking over the country’s state-owned enterprises as the spoils of war. And Aramco, the American-Saudi oil company, has stolen Iraq’s oil industry and its reserves. Indeed, they’ve actually written into the country’s new constitution a clause stating that the Iraqis may not renationalise it.

This was the real aim of the invasion all along.

As was the invasion of Afghanistan. Like Iraq, it had nothing to do with liberating the country from the murderous rule of a brutal regime. Quite the contrary. George Dubya Bush’s administration had been in talks with the Taliban about opening up an oil pipeline there. It was only when the Taliban started stalling and looked ready to turn down the proposal, that Bush’s bunch of bandits then drew up plans to invade the country if an opportunity presented itself. Which it did with 9/11.

For further information about this, read any of William Blum’s critiques of American imperialism and Greg Palast’s Armed Madhouse.

Blair himself was a corporatist. He gave positions in government to senior figures from private industry, often on the very bodies that were supposed to regulate those industries, in return for their generous donations. This included the NHS, where he took in various advisors from private healthcare companies. See George Monbiot’s Captive State. I’ve seen absolutely no evidence that Blair was ever worried about saving the planet. Not when he was determined to reward the same businesses that are wrecking it. One of the horrors left over from the Iraq invasion is the pollution from the armaments coated with depleted uranium, which have been responsible for a massive increase in birth defects among the Iraqi population.

I don’t see Starmer as being remotely different. He’s already shown his contempt for the Labour party’s rank and file, whom he’s ignoring in order to try to recruit prospective MPs and officials from outside the party. Just as Blair was far more welcoming to Tory politicos who had crossed the floor to join him, like Chris Patten, than his own party and particularly its left-wing. My guess Starmer is probably hoping for more corporate donations, including from the fracking companies wishing to start operating over here.

Right now, he looks exactly the same as David Cameron. Cameron boasted that his would be the greenest government ever. He even put a little windmill on his roof to show how serious he was. But when he finally slithered his way into No. 10, that windmill came down and it was full steam ahead for fracking and hang anyone worried about its damage to the environment and their drinking water.

Starmer’s going to be no different. Which is why he’s turned his back on the Green New Deal and run away from its campaigners. He doesn’t want to hear them, just as he doesn’t want to hear from ordinary working people and Labour supporters and members.

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.

My Proposed Article on Bristol’s Slavery Reparations – Ignored and Rejected by the Press?

April 14, 2021

Okay, I’ve blogged about it before when Bristol City council first passed the motion all those weeks ago. These were a couple of pieces about the motion, brought by Green councillor Cleo Lake, and seconded by Labour’s deputy mayor and head of equalities Asher Green, calling for the payment of reparations for slavery to all of Britain’s ‘Afrikan’ community. I criticised this because this motion effectively means the payment of reparations to the African peoples responsible for the raiding and enslavement, and their sale to outsiders. It wasn’t just European, who purchased and enslaved the continent’s peoples, but also Muslims, Arabs and Indians. The motion falsifies history by reducing a complex situation to simple Black and White – White Europeans versus Black Africans. I believe Lake and Craig are playing racial politics here by trying to create a unified Black British community by presenting all British Blacks as the victims of White, European, British slavery when this was not historically the case.

The motion also raises other issues by setting the precedent for formerly enslaved peoples to sue their former captors. Thus Black Africans could also demand reparations from Morocco, Algeria, Turkey and the successors to the great Arab caliphates of the Middle Ages – perhaps Saudi Arabia? – Oman and other states for their enslavement. As could Europeans. 2.5 million White Europeans were carried off into slavery by the Barbary pirates from Morocco and Algiers. Would the councillors, who supported and passed Lake’s and Craig’s slavery reparations motion also support similar motions for the payment of reparations to these people from their former masters?

I wrote to Lake and Craig raising these issues, and so far have received no reply. Perhaps they’re too busy. Craig has received 6,000 racially abusive messages, which I condemn, so perhaps she hasn’t looked at it because it’s been lost in all the other mail she’s received about it.

I tried to get the press interested in this issue, and so submitted an article about it. I first sent it to the Guardian, and then to a number of right-wing newspapers when I heard nothing from the Groan. I thought the right-wing press would be perhaps be more likely to publish it, and it contradicts some of the attitudes and assumptions of the pro-Black activists that newspapers like the I, Independent and Observer share and promote. Along with the article itself, I sent the following cover message.

Dear Sir,

I would be very grateful if you would consider the attached article laying out some of the problems with the motion passed a few weeks ago in Bristol calling for the payment of reparations for slavery to the Black community. There are a number of difficult and complex issues raised by this, which I do not believe have been adequately discussed in the press. One of these is that the motion calls for both Africans and Afro-Caribbean people to be granted reparations. While I’ve no doubt that Black African people are as disadvantaged as people of West Indian heritage, there is a problem here as historically it was African peoples who did the dirty business of slaving, selling them not just to Europeans, but also to Muslim, Arab and Indian slavers. It would therefore be unjust for people the British enslave or who actively collaborated in slaving to receive compensation for slavery.

Other problems with the motion are that it sets a precedent for other peoples to demand reparations for their enslavement. White Europeans would, following this logic, also be justified in demanding reparations for the enslavement of 2 1/2 million Europeans by the Barbary pirates. And Black Africans would also be entitled to ask Muslim and Arab nations for reparations for their enslavement of them.

I also consider the motion to be racially divisive, as it seeks to create a unified Black community, who are represented as equal victims, against Whites, who are considered slavers, thus simplifying a complex historical issue.

I hope you will consider the article suitable, and look forward to your reply.

Yours,

And here’s the article itself.

Slavery Reparations: Not All Blacks Were the Victims, Some Were the Slavers

A few weeks ago Bristol Council passed a motion calling for the payment of reparations to the Black British community for their enslavement. The motion was introduced by Cleo Lake, a former mayor and the Green Councillor for Cotham in the city, and seconded by Asher Craig, the city’s deputy mayor and head of equality. The reparations were to be both financial and cultural. It was moved that they should take the form of proper funding for projects to improve conditions for the Black community and raise them to the same, sustainable level of equality with the rest of British society. These projects were to be led and guided by Black organisations themselves. And the reparations should include all ‘Afrikans’, by which eccentric spelling Councillor Lake meant both Afro-Caribbean people and Black Africans. The motion was passed 47 to 11. It was supported by the Greens, Labour and the Lib Dems. Only the Tories opposed it. They said that while it came from ‘a good place’, the motion was ‘divisive’. In fact, there are a number of reasons why it should be opposed. The most important of these is that Black Africans were hardly innocent of slaving themselves.

Slavery existed in Africa long before the European invasion, and Britain wasn’t the only country that traded in enslaved Africans.  So did the Arabs, Ottoman Turks, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch. The first Black slaves in Europe were enslaved by Arabs and taken to al-Andalus, Muslim Spain. In addition to the transatlantic slave trade, there was also an Islamic slave trade to north Africa and Muslim nations in Asia. Although there were exceptions, Europeans did not directly enslave their African victims. Before the 19th century ‘Scramble for Africa’, powerful African states prevented Europeans from penetrating inland and seizing African territory. The European slave merchants were largely confined to specific quarters, rather like European ghettos, in these state’s main towns, from whom they purchased their human cargo. By the 19th century powerful African slaving nations, such as Dahomey, Whydah and Badagry had emerged in West Africa. In East Africa, the Yao, Marganja and Swahili peoples enslaved the people of other nations to sell to the Arabs. Some were purchased by the Imaum of Muscat, now Oman, for labour on his immensely profitable clove plantations in Zanzibar. It was to prevent Indian merchants from importing enslaved Africans into British India that the British government opened negotiations with the Imaum to halt the east African slave trade.

Part of the rationale for British imperialism was to stamp out the slave trade and slavery at its point of supply, and this was one of the causes of African resistance to British expansionism. The Mahdi’s rebellion in the Sudan, for example, was caused by the British attempting to abolish the Arab enslavement of Black Sudanese. It was to halt slaving by Dahomey that Britain fought a war against its king, Guezo. In some parts of Africa, slavery continued up to the 20th century because these countries had not been conquered by Europeans. The slave trade to Morocco continued to 1910 because the European powers had blocked the European invasion of that country. Slavery also persisted in Ethiopia, whose armies also preyed on the peoples of the surrounding African states, prompting a British punitive expedition in the 1880s.

This obviously presents problems for the payment of reparations to all sections of the Black British community, because some African nations weren’t the victims of White enslavement. They were the slavers. Someone once remarked on this situation that if reparations were to be paid, it should be by Africans compensating the Black peoples of the Caribbean and Americas.

And there are other problems with slavery reparations. If reparations were paid to Blacks for the enslavement of their ancestors, it would set a precedent for similar demands by other ethnicities. For example, up until the conquest of Algeria by France in the 19th century, White Europeans were captured and enslaved by Muslim pirates from Morocco and Algiers. About 2 ½ million people, including those from Bristol and the West Country, were carried off. The demand for reparations for the Black victims of slavery means that, by the same logic, White Europeans would also be justified in demanding reparations for the enslavement of their ancestors from those countries. At the same time, Black Africans would also be entirely justified in claiming reparations from the Muslim nations that enslaved them, such as perhaps Turkey or Saudi Arabia. But there have been no such demands, at least to my knowledge.

I don’t doubt that Black Africans in Bristol or elsewhere in the UK suffer the same problems of marginalisation, poverty, unemployment and discrimination as the rest of the Black population, nor that there should be official programmes to tackle these problems. And it is only fair and proper that they should be guided and informed by the Black community itself. But reparations cannot justly be paid to the Black community as a whole because of the deep involvement of some African peoples in slavery and the slave trade.

Furthermore, there’s a nasty, anti-White dimension to Lake’s motion. By claiming that all Blacks, both West Indian and African, were equally victims of the slave trade, she and her supporters seem to be trying to create a unified Black community by presenting all of them as the victims of White predation, simplifying a complex historical situation along racial lines.

I’ve written to councillors Lake and Craig about these issues, but so far have not received an answer. In Councillor Craig’s case, it may well be that my message to her got lost amongst the 6,000 abusive emails she is reported to have received. It is, of course, disgusting that she should suffer such abuse, and she has my sympathies in this. But this does not alter the fact that reparations for Black slavery raise a number of difficult issues which make it unsuitable as a means of improving conditions for Black Britons.

Well, I haven’t heard anything from any of the newspapers I submitted it to, not even an acknowledgement. It seems the news cycle has moved on and they’re not interested. But this doesn’t mean that the arguments against the motion are any less valid, and I thought people would like to read these arguments again for themselves, as well as about my efforts to raise them in the press.

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)