Not Saussure

April 24, 2007

Blair on the effects of the invasion

Filed under: Blair, Iraq, War on Terror — notsaussure @ 3:28 pm

The BBC, reporting Mr Blair’s warning that

that terrorism continues to be a “global” threat and needs to be fought whether it is in “Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere else”,

a view he concedes, with remarkable candour, is “not popular”:

Mr Blair acknowledged the situation in Iraq was “hugely difficult”.”It’s difficult because you have external elements – al-Qaeda up near Baghdad, and Iranian-backed elements down in Basra – who are deliberately creating the problem.”

He said it was not true that Saddam Hussein “was a kind of lid” on sectarian violence which “poured out” once the dictator was toppled.

“If you talk to ordinary Iraqis – whether they are Sunni or Shia – they want to live together. You have these outside terrorists coming in and linking up with internal extremists and causing this carnage.”

So isn’t he saying, in terms, that the carnage in Iraq wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for the invasion? That the invasion was, at least in part, the cause of the current sectarian strife?

Yes, yes, if you’re foolish enough to ignore warnings not to keep your PIN number in your wallet along with your cards and you then leave your wallet lying around in a pub, that doesn’t excuse someone making off with your wallet and emptying your accounts, but you couldn’t thus wholly absolve yourself of your responsibility for the misfortune, could you?

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April 22, 2007

Tony’s bacon saved! Saddam’s WMD discovered at last — by Melanie Phillips

Filed under: Iraq, Wingnuts — notsaussure @ 5:16 pm

Remember how we all laughed hollowly when, back in 2003, Tony Blair was assuring us that

I have absolutely no doubt at all that we will find evidence of weapons of mass destruction programmes

and his official spokesman was saying that Mr Blair

“is absolutely confident that we will find evidence not only of weapons of mass destruction programmes, but concrete evidence of the product of those programs as well,”?

Well, it seems that, in the final weeks (one hopes) before he leaves office, Mad Mel Phillips has found them for him.

In fact, she’s not only discovered Saddam’s missing WMD but she’s also uncovered a conspiracy to conceal their existence. The conspirators include, it would appear, both the Republicans and the Democrats in the higher reaches of the US government. These conspirators would, it seems, include President Bush, who, remember, told a White House press conference on August 21 of last year that

Now, look, part of the reason we went into Iraq was — the main reason we went into Iraq at the time was we thought he had weapons of mass destruction. It turns out he didn’t, but he had the capacity to make weapons of mass destruction.

The reason for this cover-up is that the weapons were, it seems, discovered but then lost through incompetence with the result that (more…)

April 14, 2007

More on Des Browne and the Navy media fiasco

Filed under: Iran, Iraq, UK, War on Terror — notsaussure @ 12:22 am

There’s a petition on the Number 10 Website,

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to name and sack the person responsible for declaring that members of the armed services can sell their stories to the media

In the further details section, its creator, Mike Critchley of Warship World magazine, writes

We the undersigned consider the statement to allow members of Her Majesty’s forces to sell their stories to the media to be a major government failure -and PR disaster for the Royal Navy – and “heads should roll” at the highest level.

It’s only been up a couple of days and already has over 3,700 signatures. St Tone has already replied to it (I don’t know if this is normal practice or not); the site tells us

The Prime Minister has already made it clear that he recognises that the Navy were trying to deal with a wholly exceptional situation. He has no intention of engaging in a witchhunt against people who acted honourably and in good faith in very difficult circumstances.

Nevertheless, it’s up there to sign, should you wish so to do. The Telegraph suggests that it’s a sign Downing Street is leaving the incompetent Mr Browne out to dry since it’s apparently unusual for it to accept petitions calling for people to be sacked (wholly exceptional circumstances, one might say). (more…)

April 11, 2007

No substitute for foresight

Filed under: Iran, Iraq, UK, War on Terror — notsaussure @ 9:46 pm

Tony Blair has said “in hindsight” the navy’s decision to allow sailors held captive in Iran to sell their stories to the media was not a “good idea”.The prime minister said he was not involved in the decision, which he said was taken in “good faith”

Hindsight… decision taken in good faith… Oh, yes, I remember. That’s why they were there in the first place, of course. Though, of course, he still hasn’t acknowledged that the invasion perhaps wasn’t a particularly good idea in the first place, despite the humanitarian catastrophe engulfing Iraq, on which the ICRC today reported. It’s not, it seems to me, a question of whose fault it is any more; the fact of the matter is that we and the US are, along with the Iraqi government, presiding over an horrendous situation without any clear plans for resolving it. (more…)

March 24, 2007

Looking forward to The Trap

Filed under: BBC, Iraq, Politics, Russia/USSR, UK — notsaussure @ 10:20 pm

Perhaps I should wait until I’ve seen tomorrow night’s programme, but I’ve been puzzling all week about this quote from the Blairwatch interview with Adam Curtis about The Trap.    In it he says, of tomorrow’s film,

The only problem, which is what the last film says, is that when they then try and do that, the only thing they can offer, whether it be the Russian people or the Afghani people or Iraqi people, is a narrow economic idea of freedom which has no meaning or purpose if you are a complicated society divided along nationalist religious and political religious lines.

The thing that I find fascinating about the whole Iraq venture, which is really what I look at in the last film, is the way that they went into Baghdad with an economic plan which basically said that you get rid of all the elitist institutions that have ruled this society and spontaneously then people will rise up as these individuals in the marketplace. That was the idea, they had no other idea, and that’s a very narrow idea of freedom. I see Blair’s tragedy as a man who wanted to try and change the world but the sort of freedom he then tried to bring with him was too narrow and limited to cope with the complexities.

If that’s all he’s saying, it seems to leave a great deal out of the account. Russia, of which I saw something first-hand during the late ’80s and early ’90s, never actually got rid of the ‘elite institutions,’ as he calls them; there wasn’t a sudden change, and it’s hard to see how there could have been. By and large, the old elites managed the privatisation process (so-called; looting might be a better term); there was hardly much market competition for the more desirable assets. Those were merely transferred from the ministries that used to run them to companies, owned and run by the same people who’d been running the companies and ministries, who were now raking in the profits for themselves.

Furthermore, the country completely lacked the fundamentals of an open, free market such as the rule of law and a banking system anyone could understand, and the notional state regulation was so impossible that everyone paid bribes to avoid it as a matter of course. You do not have a free market, in any normal meaning of the word, when contract disputes are settled not in the courts but with firearms.

As to Iraq, I would have said that the plan Mr Curtis describes — going in, telling the people they’re free and expecting everything to work — sounds too bizarre to possibly be true, but since going in without any coherent plan for the occupation was pretty bizarre, too, I suppose nothing should surprise me. But how a market is supposed to operate without any production, without laws, without courts for quite a while… obviously you’d have chaos.

And in a chaotic situation like that, people will naturally group round others who look as if they can protect their interests; these people will naturally be the chaps with the best guns and who’re prepared to be the most ruthless, and also the chaps who you feel you can trust to extent, because they’re from your clan or your area, or you feel you have some connection, even if it’s that you served in the army together and got on.

You cannot expect to have any sort of free society without the institutions to run it, and without people’s consent to those institutions — which will only come, if it comes at all, over time as people learn whether or not they can trust them.

I’d always assumed that the nonsense about the Coalition being greeted as liberators and Iraq becoming a free society almost overnight was just guff to feed the American public and that no one actually believed it. If Curtis is telling us that it was meant to be serious and makes out a convincing case that President Bush and Mr Blair actually believed their lies, then things are far worse than I thought.

I look forward to tomorrow night’s programme with great interest.

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March 13, 2007

Ill-treatment of Iraqi prisoners authorised — by whom?

Filed under: Iraq, Law, War on Terror — notsaussure @ 10:36 pm

Now this is very interesting. The BBC reports that the reasons judge advocate Mr Justice McKinnon dismissed the charges against Col Jorge Mendonca of negligently performing the duty of ensuring Iraqi detainees were not ill-treated by his men can now be published, following the dismissal of the remaining charges against the other defendants.

The evidence of Maj Antony Royce was key to the colonel’s acquittal. He told the hearing how the brigade’s most senior legal advisers had approved the “conditioning” of suspects before interrogation.The major also testified that Col Mendonca had asked him about the treatment of detainees.

Mr Justice McKinnon ruled in favour of Col Mendonca’s no case application, saying: “It may be said that Maj Royce’s evidence has greatly undermined the prosecution case.

“His evidence proved uncontroversial [in the legal sense] and credible and more than capable of belief.”

The judge said Maj Royce’s evidence showed that the brigade “sanctioned the conditioning process – the very thing the Crown sought to prove otherwise”.

Maj Royce’s evidence, the judge said, also “shows Col Mendonca sought to satisfy himself that the conditioning process was acceptable under the laws of armed combat and the Geneva Convention”.

“This case is remarkable for the fact that no witness has given any evidence to the effect that Col Mendonca did not do anything that he should have done, or that he did anything he should not have done.” (more…)

February 22, 2007

Blair’s Iraq interview

Filed under: Blair, Iraq — notsaussure @ 9:11 pm

What is there to say about today’s performance (broadcast here; detailed write-ups here and here)? Benedict White pretty much sums it up in his piece. Time and again, Blair insisted that

I don’t think we should be apologising because we’re not causing the terrorism.
It’s being caused by internal extremists who are linking up with external extremists.

and that

These forces that are operating in Iraq at the moment are not the fault of a lack of planning or administration. It is a deliberate attempt [by] external extremists, like al-Qaida [and] like elements connected to Iran, who are linking up with internal extremists to thwart the will of the majority.

I don’t know why I’m surprised; it’s on a footing with the usual excuses. It’s not, for example, the government’s fault ASBOs aren’t working; it’s the fault of the teenagers who aren’t taking any notice of them. Though, somehow, I don’t think it will have gone down too well at today’s meeting on gun crime if the assembled folks from the police and the Home Office said, ‘We don’t what you’re all looking at us for — it’s those bloody people with guns who’re causing the problems. If it wasn’t for them shooting each each other…’. (more…)

February 21, 2007

Anarchy in Iraq

Filed under: Iraq — notsaussure @ 10:01 pm

After a long absence, Riverbend, of Baghdad Burning, is back with an account of how a young Iraqi woman gave an harrowing interview on TV about how she had been raped by Iraqi security forces who’d arrested her.

Within 14 hours, Prime Minister Nouri al-Makiki had issued a statement exonerating the officers involved and announcing that they are to be rewarded.

Riverbend comments:

This is meant to discourage other prisoners, especially women, from coming forward and making claims against Iraqi and American forces. Maliki is the stupidest man alive (well, after Bush of course…) if he believes his arrogance and callous handling of the situation will work to dismiss it from the minds of Iraqis. By doing what he is doing, he’s making it more clear than ever that under his rule, under his government, vigilante justice is the only way to go. Why leave it to the security forces and police? Simply hire a militia or gang to get revenge. If he doesn’t get some justice for her, her tribe will be forced to… And the Janabat (the Al Janabis) are a force to be reckoned with.
Maliki could at least pretend the rape of a young Iraqi woman is still an outrage in todays Iraq…

This, of course, happened in Baghdad, but it gives a worrying ring to Blair’s words on the planned troop withdrawal:

“What all of this means is not that Basra is how we want it to be. But it does mean that the next chapter in Basra’s history can be written by Iraqis”.

It seems all too likely that it will be written in blood, or, rather, even more blood than at present.

I really don’t know what to make of it. On the one hand, I’m delighted that British soldiers are being withdrawn from a conflict into which they should never have been sent. On the other, it’s a terrible thing to walk away, knowing that the place will almost inevitably collapse into even worse chaos and civil war when we go. But, if that’s inevitable, then inevitable I suppose it is.

God alone knows what’ll happen when the Iranians get understandably fed up with a civil war and a massive humanitarian disaster going on next door.
Update:   I see Gracchus, who is looking after Imagined Community, shares my concerns about what happens next, though he expresses them far more fully and more eloquently than can I.     On balance, though, I think we should remember that the Turks, Iranians and Saudis aren’t complete idiots and that they’ve got even more incentive to avoid exacerbating the situation than have we, since it’s just next door to them.    I’m not saying Gracchus thinks they are idiots, of course; rather than we tend to forget that they’ve got a justifiable interest in what’s happening next door to their respective countries and can hardly make a worse fist of things than our American friends, with our assistance, have done.

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February 9, 2007

Helping al-Qa’eda?

Filed under: Australia, Iraq, War on Terror — notsaussure @ 9:15 pm

Running a temperature probably doesn’t help, but I’ve been trying all day to get my aching head round this, without much success:

Anti-American feeling in Europe is playing into the hands of al-Qa’eda and unwittingly encouraging terrorism, Australia’s foreign minister said today.
[…]

Mr Downer gave warning that criticism of America’s conduct in Iraq could – inadvertently – provide an incentive for terrorist attacks.

“People in the West, and not only in Europe, blame America for a suicide bomber in a market in Baghdad,” he said.

“That only encourages more horrific behaviour. Every time there is an atrocity committed, it is implicitly America’s fault, so why not commit some more atrocities and put even more pressure on America?”

Mr Downer added: “The al-Qa’eda leadership has said on many occasions that more than 50 per cent of the battle is a battle in the media. The more you can get media denigration of America, the more that the war against terrorism is seen to be an indictment of America, the better for those who started this war.”

The article’s accompanied by a picture, captioned France’s Jacques Chirac and Germany’s Gerhard Schroeder both opposed the US-led war in Iraq in 2003, which shows both men laughing like drains about something or other, though we’re not actually told whether it’s the news of the latest bombing in Baghdad that’s causing them so much much merriment, or the news that Margaret Beckett was to be our Foreign Secretary or Tony’s little problems with the Old Bill, or what. (more…)

January 21, 2007

Nick Cohen, anti-fascist

Filed under: Iraq, press, usa, War on Terror — notsaussure @ 7:30 pm

Nick Cohen has a two part article in today’s Observer in which, as the intro explains,

As a child of politicised parents, Observer columnist Nick Cohen followed in their tradition and became a trenchant voice on the liberal-left in the 1980s and 90s. But the Iraq War changed all that and forced him to rethink. In an exclusive extract from his incendiary new book about the failings of the modern left, he argues that anti-Americanism has left it blind to the evils of militant Islam.

He starts with an anecdote about his childhood, supposed, I imagine, to indicate various things about his parents’ leftist idealism and commitment to anti-fascism, carried perhaps to extreme lengths but essentially good hearted:

In the early Seventies, my mother searched the supermarkets for politically reputable citrus fruit. She couldn’t buy Seville oranges without indirectly subsidising General Francisco Franco, Spain’s fascist dictator. Algarve oranges were no good either, because the slightly less gruesome but equally right-wing dictatorship of Antonio Salazar ruled Portugal. She boycotted the piles of Outspan from South Africa as a protest against apartheid, and although neither America nor Israel was a dictatorship, she wouldn’t have Florida or Jaffa oranges in the house because she had no time for then President Richard Nixon or the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

My sisters and I did not know it, but when Franco fell ill in 1975, we were in a race to the death. Either he died of Parkinson’s disease or we died of scurvy. Luckily for us and the peoples of Spain, the dictator went first, although he took an unconscionably long time about it.

To me it actually indicates either Mr Cohen’s inability either to use a degree of common sense or to draw a simple inference — a moment’s thought should have told him, I would have hoped, that since he and his sisters were spared death from scurvy, his mother was doubtless feeding them a healthy diet, rich in vitamin c from rose hips, tomatoes, potatoes, strawberries and heaven knows what else — or his hope that his readers won’t pause to think too long about a superficially striking but completely fatuous point. Neither bodes well for his analysis. (more…)

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