Thursday, June 30, 2005

Targeting Hospitals in Iraq. posted by Richard Seymour

I linked to some revelations from Dahr Jamail last week about atrocities being committed in Baquba, Haditha and al-Qaim. This week, he has revisited some of the ways in which ambulances and hospitals have been targeted under the occupation, particularly in Fallujah , where a hospital was bombed under the pretext that it was a "centre of propaganda" . Here is his article for Socialist Worker :

Iraqi doctors say they have been harassed, beaten, threatened and sometimes even attacked by US and US-backed Iraqi forces during recent military adventures in al-Qa’im and Haditha.

Their testimony bears witness to a horrific standard operating procedure of collective punishment against the Iraqi people.

Interference by the US military and outright hostility towards medical workers in Iraq appears to have become the norm.

This intrusion most often takes the form of soldiers entering hospitals to interrogate or detain alleged resistance fighters.

But during major assaults by US forces—such as the levelling of the city of Fallujah last November­—it becomes sharper and more deadly.

US forces entered Fallujah General Hospital, the city’s only healthcare facility for trauma victims, in November shortly after razing the nearby Nazzal Emergency Hospital to the ground.

There they detained employees and patients alike. Water and electricity supplies were cut off, ambulances confiscated, and surgeons—without exception—kept out of the besieged city, according to medics on the scene.

The US military occupied Fallujah General Hospital throughout the massacre of the city. Ambulances were deliberately targeted by US forces.

Burhan Fasa’a, a cameraman with the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation, witnessed the first eight days of the fighting.

“I entered Fallujah near the Julan Quarter, which is near the General Hospital,” he said during an interview in Baghdad. “There were American snipers on top of the hospital who were shooting everyone in sight.”

The Iraqi Red Crescent had to wait a full week before being permitted to dispatch three ambulances into the city.

Similar testimony emerged from hospitals in other cities during the same period. In Amiriyat al-Fallujah, a village some ten kilometres east of Fallujah, doctors say the main hospital was raided twice by US soldiers and members of the Iraqi National Guard.

“The first time was 29 November at 5.40am, and the second time was the following day,” said one doctor at the hospital, who did not want to give his real name for fear of US reprisals.

A second doctor, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said that all of the doors of the clinics inside the same hospital were kicked in.

“The Americans have snipers all along the road between here and Fallujah,” he added. “They shoot our ambulances if they try to go to Fallujah.”

Elsewhere, Dahr Jamail has comiled a lengthy report on the targetting of hospitals and ambulances in occupied Iraq. Apparently, Jamail laboured under the auspices of the World Tribunal on Iraq when he wrote this. In it, he describes an enormous waste of money for healthcare being drained by occupation corruption and crimes; filth in hospitals due to a lack of cleaners; water and electricity cut-offs hampering treatment; the deliberate military targeting of hospitals and ambulances; the straining of hospital staff, equipment and resources due to a lack of provision and unusually high occupancy; and a 'brain drain' as those doctors who can, escape to Europe or America.

Just another bloody, grimy pocket of reality under the occupation.

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Starbucks is Evil. posted by Richard Seymour

Their coffee sucks, the biscuits and cakes are stale and over-expensive, and they're in bed with mass murderers .

That is all.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

IFTU turning against the occupation? posted by Richard Seymour

Following the recent controversy over the IFTU's tour of the US, a joint statement has been issued by US Labour Against the War, the IFTU, FWCUI and GUOE:

The principal obstacle to peace, stability, and the reconstruction of Iraq is the occupation. The occupation is the problem, not the solution. Iraqi sovereignty and independence must be restored. The occupation must end in all its forms, including military bases and economic domination. The war was fought for oil and regional domination, in violation of international law, justified by lies and deception without consultation with the Iraqi people. The occupation has been a catastrophe for both our peoples. In Iraq, it has destroyed homes and industry, national institutions and infrastructure - water, sanitation, electric power and health services. It has killed many thousands, and left millions homeless and unemployed. It has poisoned the people, their land and water with the toxic residue of the war. In the United States, more than 1700 working families have suffered loss of loved ones and thousands more have been wounded, disabled or psychologically scarred in a war that serves no legitimate purpose. The cost of the war has led to slashing of social programs and public services. It has militarized our economy, undermined our own liberties and eroded our democratic rights. We believe it is the best interest of both our peoples for the war and occupation to end and for the Iraqi people to determine for themselves.

This is quite a crucial statement, coming as it does when President Bush has just insisted that the occupation is not about to end , and has defended the war with the usual string of lies and non sequiturs, gelled together by unadulterated bullshit.

However, call me a wily old trustless cynic if you will and if you really must, but I doubt that the IFTU is about to physically dissociate itself from the occupation which it has benefited so much from. They have always pretended to oppose the occupation, but have acted to prolong it. They have rarely had a word to say about coalition violence, while disingenuously denouncing the resistance as 'Ba'athists' and 'Taliban'. Their usual line on the occupation is that of course it must end, but only when the Americans have secured order - which, as Donald Rumsfeld has said, could take another twelve years.

I would be delighted to see the IFTU deploy its immense resources and its status as the sole legal union in Iraq against the occupation. I certainly wouldn't want to dismiss anyone for life simply on the basis of past disagreements. But I'll just posit a guess that the IFTU's co-signing of this statement has more to do with the pressure it has experienced to demonstrate its bona fides than a genuine change of heart. The criticisms of New York City Labor Against the War and others are likely to remain intact.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Repression, discrimination at SOAS. posted by Richard Seymour

Updating a previous post carrying an open letter to the director of SOAS from a member of its teaching staff, I've been forwarded this article about the student who has been maligned in the most hideous fashion and subject to disciplinary proceedings. On the 21st March this year, David Winnick MP raised the possibility in parliament of charging the student with incitement to racial hatred . The reason for this astonishing assault on Nasser Amin's reputation and academic freedom is that, as a Masters' student at SOAS he wrote an article defending the right of Palestinians to use violence - he does not discuss suicide bombing, but only the right to resist occupation through violence.

His views are not qualitatively distinct to those expressed by such philosophers as Ted Honderich and such political scientists as Richard Falk. Yet, he has been labelled an anti-Semite, a Muslim extremist and a supporter of terrorism:

Amin says he was "selectively misquoted and misused by the media for political purposes."

He argues that as one of their students, SOAS owed him a duty of care. But instead of protecting him against "Islamophobia, bullying, racism, harassment and slander" the university made him a scapegoat on their website.

Amin said: "SOAS issued a reprimand against me without even bothering to informme of it or why I was reprimanded. Director Bundy has done so to appease those who support Ariel Sharon. The Director has effectively assisted Sharon’s side of the Middle East conflict and is unrepentant about this.

"The article I wrote was a standard philosophical treatise on anti-colonial resistance and on Western hatred of Islam. Supporters of Zionism who wish to slander Muslims as evil launched a merciless media onslaught against me.

"The SOAS authorities have behaved shamefully. In their zeal to uphold SOAS’s image amongst supporters of Zionism they have persecuted a Muslim student, and sent a powerful message which has made Muslim students at the School terrified of criticising Israel."

Dr Mark Laffey, Lecturer in International Politics, and Amin’s tutor said:

"It is part of the job description of an academic institution that you are willing to give offense. Our job is to seek out the truth, no matter how uncomfortable or unpleasant for various groups or interests."

"Freedom of expression must include the right to air unpopular or unpleasant arguments."

This whole case has emerged as a result of a campaign by a professed Zionist in the college named Gavin Gross, who has dragged the college's reputation through the mud and publicly vilified Nasser Amin in an interview with the lunatic Front Page magazine ( This is a disgraceful, shameful attack on a student's freedom of speech at such a prestigious institution.

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Racism and the Law. posted by Richard Seymour

When Tony Martin, a white farmer in Norfolk with racist views about gypsies, shot dead a gypsy burglar who was fleeing from his home, the right-wing media was afire with homocidal rage. Radio stations carried calls from lunatics saying "I think they bloody well should be shot! And castrated! I'd have done it twice!" The Sun mounted a vile campaign in defense of Martin and the right to shoot burglars. Newspaper columnists constructed elaborate, but ill-informed defenses of Mr Martin, describing him as 'eccentric' and so forth.

My view about this has always been simple: Martin is a premeditated murderer who has expressed no remorse, a vile racist and a bit of a nutter to boot. I have no sympathy for him. If he had simply been reacting to a frightening situation, and had subsequently expressed remorse, I would probably feel differently about it. But my thumb is plainly not on the pulse of 'Middle England' or whatever they're calling it today. The punitive consensus among country-house dwellers is even more extreme than the pentateuche: not so much 'eye for an eye' as 'a life for a video recorder'.

By way of contrast , when Mr Farouq Kamara of Stubbington, a small village outside Portsmouth, tried to defend his family from racist thugs, he was arrested and convicted of 'making threats to kill'. It was June 2004 when his house was surrounded by 13 racist youths, who hurled bottles at the house and yelled Islamophobic slogans. Farouq was accused of threatening the youths with a baseball bat, charges which were later dropped, and arrested in front of the youths who were still yelling abuse. Two days later, he made a desperate call to the Commission for Racial Equality, threatening to kill himself and his tormentors. He was arrested for making threats to kill. In March of this year, his wife Amina and two sons were racially abused and threatened outside a takeaway. Amina called her husband, who pulled on his pyjamas and rushed out of his house - to find his son with a head-wound. His sons had previously had bones broken in the course of racist attacks, while his wife had suffered persistent verbal abuse. Later that day, Farouq was arrested, accused of threats to kill (again) and possession of an unlicensed firearm - all of these charges he denies.

The family have tried to move house, but the options supplied by the council and the housing society were rejected because it would have only placed "a few yards" between themselves and any racist thugs. Despite the support of neighbours who have testified to the racist abuse they have received, the family have had to turn over the keys to their house, and have now fled to Manchester - they are homeless, and the wife and children sleep in a temporary hostel. Farouq was served with 100 hours of community service for the charges, to which his perfectly reasonable response was: "A community service means I’m now going to have to serve the very same community that has been persecuting me."

So, if for some people it's okay to murder a burglar as he flees from your home, why does a Muslim family find itself subject to false charges, arrest and eventual homelessness for merely issuing the threat to defend itself? Where is the legion of petty, criminal-minded would-be middle class burglar assassins when it comes to defending something so simple as one's right to life without fear of harrassment? Why no campaign from The Sun and like-minded papers? I suppose we all know the answer to that.

Thanks to Dave for passing this story to me.

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Israel's various murders. posted by Richard Seymour

Some arithmetic for you:

1 British civilian murdered = 1 Israeli soldier jailed .

1,722 Palestinian civilians murdered = no Israeli soldiers jailed .

This is one reason why the Hurndalls' fight for justice does not end here:

[T]he Hurndalls had concluded from a bitter struggle to discover the truth about the shooting of their son that responsibility for his death runs much higher in a military that the family says encourages the shooting of civilians.

After Sergeant Idier Wahid Taysir was convicted yesterday of manslaughter and five other charges that carry up to 20 years in prison, Tom Hurndall's father, Anthony, said the trial had exposed a culture of impunity within the army.

"This brings out something that is only part of the culture that we are concerned with, a culture that contributed the lack of accountability and the freedom with which soldiers feel they can shoot civilians in the field, and our son was unfortunately a victim of that policy," he said.

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Monday, June 27, 2005

Making Politics History. posted by Richard Seymour

Or, why Richard Curtis should die a slow horrible death while being forced to watch repeats of Countdown.

If anything sums up the bleating hypocrisy and political stupidity of the organisers of Make Povery History, it is the unfortunate drama Girl in a Cafe, written by Richard Curtis, a close friend of Gordon Brown, and shown on BBC this weekend. It promised to weave one of his tedious little love stories around the important issues of the upcoming G8 summit. What it actually did was bore the shit out of viewers with a non-story about a couple of non-people engaged in a non-romance who engage in non-politics. Bill Nighy, a great actor, is reduced to some bumbling political servant of the Chancellor, who is lionised remorselessly as a fighter for a cause that is, in his words "as big as the end of slavery". Kelly McDonald plays a damp-eared sap who emotes about "aw they people that ur gaunnae die if you don't do something". Anti-G8 protesters are depicted as scary fence-rattlers, while the man who has bankrolled Britain's wars and continues to bankroll the avalanche of arms that we send to warring African countries every single year is given the Ken Stott treatment - tough but tender, humorous, intelligent, intense and slightly sexy behind pallid rolls of lard.

Richard Curtis should be forced to watch his drama, probably for the first time, then made to eat it, then sent to de-mine fields in the Congo.

A slightly more compelling reason for suspecting the Make Poverty History bunch, which Richard Curtis is one of the main driving forces behind, is the extraordinary lengths they have gone to to squeeze politics out of the G8 protests. Red Pepper reports on how MPH has conscripted the Scottish millionaire Tom Hunter to sell their white wrist-bands in his clothing shops, branded with the logos of clothing companies that violate workers rights. This follows revelations in the Sunday Telegraph that large numbers of these wrist-bands are being made in Chinese sweatshops, with the blessing of Oxfam - by far the biggest and most powerful group in the MPH coalition. In particular, the company owned by Tommy Hilfiger, mercileslly satirised in Spike Lee's Bamboozled, which exploits labour in Latin America. It would be interesting to see the reaction of the workers involved in the making of these wrist-bands once they understood, as most will, what the words meant.

The New Statesman recently carried a cutting article on the extent of Oxfam's political declension, its 'revolving door' relationship with Downing Street, and its lauding of Brown's International Finance Facility, a programme that is expertly demolished by the trained economist behind Dead Men Left .

This in itself is much more disturbing than the absence of African acts booked for Live 8, much derided by Andy Kershaw. But what about the almost total lack of involvement of African social movements? Kofi Maluwi Klu, a Ghanaian activist, notes that "We have a saying in the African liberation movement, 'nothing about us, without us'". Walden Bello's NGO Focus on the Global South has been scathing about Oxfam's political sell-outs and the absence of politics at the heart of the MPH campaign. They note the closeness of MPH's stated goals to those of the British government, and wonder why MPH is devoted to lobbying to G8 when the point is to undermine its legitimacy and act against it.

Many charities, trade unions and civil society groups would be happy enough to go along with this. The MPH campaign is extraordinarily lucrative and effective. It is sustaining a good many jobs for years, and it is gaining a lot of attention - charities and activist groups are receiving a surfeit of attention that they would otherwise never get. The MPH website receives thousands of hits per minute. Doubtless this is not to be sniffed at, even if much of what lies under it stinks.

However, what about the deliberate obstruction of political groups eager to involve themselves in this campaign? Twice, the MPH coordinating team has vetoed the application of the Stop the War Coalition to join, who argue that issues of trade justice and poverty are integrally linked to the persistence of war. One leaked e-mail from Milipedia, an events management company, to MPH advised on the desirability of removing people from the events, if they set up unauthorised stalls and sell newspapers - this was apparently prompted by a Socialist Party plan to involve themselves in the rallies and wear their red 'Make Capitalism History' t-shirts. MPH has purchased a market traders' license to enable them to move unauthorised 'traders' - which will include those foolish enough to sell books, pamphlets or newspapers - off the sites they have booked. Comic Relief, co-founded by Curtis, has threatened to act against 'misuse' or 'alleged misuse' of the MPH trademark. Anyone who has bothered to stay up for the crashingly dull Comic Relief salve-conscience-fests will have seen how the shows depict Africa in an inaccurate way - a succession of natural disasters and warring tribes, leaving innocent little skinny babies to disease and apparently endless flies. Nowhere is the role of corporations, the IMF, the World Bank, the overhang of colonialism, the persistence of imperial interventions, discussed. Meanwhile, the MPH website acknowledges none of the other events planned for the Gleneagles protest.

All of which is by no means intended to dissuade you from heeding Bob Geldof's call to join the protests in the millions. Just be clear about what you're up against. However cynical the operators behind MPH, however politically compromised by their circle-fuck relationship with New Labour, they have inadvertently provided a platform for forces well to the left of themselves. Trevor Ngwane, a South African socialist, sums it up brilliantly :

The launch of Make Poverty History is another example, showing how many, many people — beyond the ranks of the usual protesters — want to see action. There is a rising feeling inside the working class, even if it does not yet turn to action, about injustice and imperialism.

It cuts against the notions of individualism and competition that are pushed at us all the time.

Of course there will be attempts to divert this feeling. At the G8 let’s march together and seriously discuss the way forward. At the recent World Social Forum there was a beautiful intervention at one of the major rallies from Coumba Toure, a women’s rights and anti-poverty activist from Senegal.

She sang a freedom song and then told a story about how we should destroy the cage imprisoning all the birds rather than pay 50 cents to buy a single bird’s freedom, as people seeking luck do in the streets of Dakar.

This must be our vision — to destroy the capitalist cage which imprisons Africans and all of humanity’s social, economic, political and cultural development.
Any lesser vision will be a capitulation to the bird-seller, who sells us the birds’ freedom but is the one who imprisoned — and continues to imprison — the birds in the first place.

It is only when workers rise up in an organised way and refuse to make profits for the capitalists that we will be able to stop the world’s injustices.

I wholeheartedly endorse this, but would add one further stipulation. Let's form a new committee, a new campaigning group called Make Richard Curtis History. We should try and disrupt showings of his films at cinemas, and egg him when he appears in public. Next time some television executive unilaterally decides to bombard viewers with Love, Actually or some such sentimental horse-shit, let's phone up the channel concerned and make weird sexual suggestions. It's the only language these perverts understand.

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The war against Iran. posted by Richard Seymour

Israel is issuing warnings, having previously hinted that it may well launch a few strikes on Iran to frustrate its nuclear programme. As the United States' aggressive surrogate in the Middle East, Israel may very well do what the United States dare not attempt at the moment - expand the frontiers of the 'war on terror' into Persia.

The election of the hardline "headcase", (to borrow the rustic argot of the Foreign Office), Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been a severe blow to Israel, as some had nurtured hopes that the 'reformist' (modestly conservative) candidate would restore diplomatic ties with the neo-Biblical state in the Levant. This is especially problematic for Israel, since Iran's profile in the region has risen substantially since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Edward Said once noted that Iraq was potentially the most powerful country in the Middle East: oil-rich, wealthy and educated, it was easily a local hegemonic power in germination. Iran's stake in the New Iraq has been self-evident in the public mobilisations of Shi'ites, and in the associations between many Iraqi Shi'ite leaders and their cross-border co-religionists. Iran has supported the Badr Corps for years, helping Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir Al Hakim set up the resistance cells, develop intelligence networks - these were involved in the 1991 uprising against Hussein.

The new Iranian President's declarations about nuclear power have already sent oil prices soaring . And while the Iranian press is claiming that BP are interested in securing contracts in Iran , there are too many apple-carts upset by Iran's growing profile for there not to be some hostilities. The other aspect of this to bear in mind is that China, the rising counter-hegemon, is experiencing rapidly growing demand for oil: China's demand for oil in 2004 alone rose 15 percent to 6.7 million barrels a day . This makes control over and access to oil reserves all the more vital. And, as Iran has expressed a willingness to develop ties with the PRC (The Islamic Republic embraces communism!), this makes it all the more urgent for the US and Israel to act in some way to 'contain' the regime.

I wouldn't be surprised in the least to see a brief Israeli blitz on Iran shortly, and it would also be entirely undemanding on my credulity to see Bush defending it with reference to "Israel's legitimate security needs".

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Or does it explode?* posted by Richard Seymour

Donald Rumsfeld has been charming the American public again, this time informing them that the Iraqi insurgency could last 12 years . Well, so far this motherfucker has cost you $1 trillion , so how fat is the American taxpayer's wallet, exactly? Apparently, not that fat, and getting thinner daily .

Hence, the 'charm' offensive, the admission that US officials have been meeting resistance members (this conferring legitimacy on their foes), and that 'foreign troops' (that's the US) will not be able to win any war against the insurgents.

*What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

(A Dream Deferred, by Langston Hughes)

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Saturday, June 25, 2005

US admits torture. posted by Richard Seymour

The US has submitted a report to the UN's Committee against Torture acknowledging that torture has taken place in Guantanamo, Bagram and Iraq :

"They are no longer trying to duck this, and have respected their obligation to inform the UN," the Committee member told AFP, adding that the US described the incidents as "isolated acts" carried out by low-ranking members of the military who were being punished.

"They will have to explain themselves" to the committee, the member said. "Nothing should be kept in the dark."

UN sources said it was the first time the world body has received such a frank statement on torture from US authorities.

That it is a remarkable new departure for the US to "inform the UN" of its crimes is a fact to ponder and think on. The additional fact that this impresses a UN spokesperson so much should also force a little pause. They've tortured people, perhaps in the thousands, but they have "respected their obligation to inform the UN".

The only possible purpose of giving in to the hated UN is damage limitation. They'll tell the boys and girls that it was all a few rotten apples, spoiling the good all-American barrel. Or they'll say it was just some teasing with fake menstrual blood and harmless EST. Still, no longer can apologists for the War on Terror pretend to be cheering on "the armed wing of Amnesty International", as Nick Cohen described troops in Iraq. And the suspicions of those who said that even the tentative raising of the debate about 'justifiable' torture, with its exotic 'ticking clock' fabulations, was about creating the imaginary background in which actual torture would be justified in future, are vindicated.

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G8 Scare Story: Update. posted by Richard Seymour

After Justin Horton drew my attention to this story by the Barclay Brothers' newspaper Scotland on Sunday, I got in touch with the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service to see if the claims contained in it were true: namely, it claimed that the possibility of violence around the G8 summit had prompted a "blood supply crisis" and cited conversations with an SNBTS spokesperson to back up its claims.

I blogged the reply I received:

Contrary to the headline in the newspaper last weekend, SNBTS is not expecting a "blood crisis" to coincide with the G8 Summit and is not expecting a blood shortage as a result of G8.

Unfortunately, we believe there was a misrepresentation of the
conversation which our spokesperson had with the journalist. However, what we did actually say was that the demand for blood never stops and that we were more concerned about the blood stocks over the entire summer period. Summer is always a challenging time for SNBTS, as donations can drop by up to 10%. This is because blood donors can be busy during the holiday period with annual leave, outdoor activities and generally enjoying the nicer weather.

Having done so, I then wrote to the paper to ask for a retraction. Answer came there none: I sort of expect that someone filed it under 'nutter' and moved on. I gave it more than a week, then decided to contact the Press Complaints Commission. I explained the situation to them by e-mail and with the use of an online form. I got the reply this morning:

The PCC will normally consider complaints from people who are directly affected by the matters about which they are complaining. Occasionally, the Commission may at its discretion consider a complaint from somebody who is not directly involved - but only if it raises a matter of significant public interest. In this instance, therefore, before we investigate your case substantively, we would be grateful to receive the signed authorisation of SNBTS confirming that they are happy for you to complain on their behalf. We look forward to receiving that authorisation within the next ten days.

Piss take. Naturally, I have no such authorisation, principally because I wasn't complaining on behalf of the SNBTS, but on behalf of millions of likely demonstrators who don't deserve to be vilified by Scotland on Sunday, especially on the basis of lies (which is a fancy way of saying I did it Billy-No-Mates). I will not even attempt to seek such authorisation - why should I complain on behalf of the SNBTS? Have they not mouths, and pens? If they wished to complain, they would have done so.

Nevertheless, I've had enough of playing Disgusted of Lenin's Tomb. Fuck em. The PCC are there, one lazily assumes, to try to ensure fairness and accuracy in the media. I had always thought they were weak, lacking real authority, and packed with the wrong sorts of people - the letter says that the Members of the Commission include Roger Alton, editor of the Observer, and Paul Dacre of the Daily Mail. I hadn't expected to discover that they (their rules) were deliberately obstructive as well.

Still, worth noting that the PCC has very nice guidelines that would be endearing if they weren't so hollow. The first guideline, which I believe SoS broke, is as follows:

"i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures."

Far more enlightening, however, is this, from Marc Blitzstein's play The Cradle Will Rock :

Oh the press! the press! the freedom of the press!
They'll never take away the freedom of the press!
We must be free to say whatever's on our chest.
With a hey-diddle-dee and a ho-nonny-no
For which ever side will pay the best.

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Friday, June 24, 2005

One, two many Fallujahs... posted by Richard Seymour

Che Guevara's boast that international socialism could create "one, two, many Vietnams" for US imperialism is, as the anarcho-multitudist group Retort points out, pock-marked with grim irony. For the Vietnams in question of late have tended to mimic only the harshest aspects of that cataclysm: spectacular, sordid crimes carried out by a supernaturally dull American political class, covered (for) by an even duller class of journalists. Fortunately, there are a few real journalists operation in Iraq, and Dahr Jamail is one of them.

In his dispatches, he talks about censorship :

At long last, the culminating session of the World Tribunal on Iraq is upon us. As a witness providing testimony, like the other witnesses I’m being interviewed by many outlets. Today, one of them was by reporters for one of the larger newspapers in Turkey, the Yeni Safak Newspaper.

I’ll leave the reporters nameless, for reasons you’ll soon see.

The newspaper has been translating various articles of mine into Turkish and running them, particularly those concerning the most recent Fallujah massacre. The report who was interviewing me today told me that the former American consulate here, Eric Edelman, asked the Prime Minister of Turkey to pressure his paper to not run so many of my stories.

“Why did he do this,” I asked him.

“Edelman said it was the wrong news,” he told me with a smile.

Turns out Edelman also asked that articles by Robert Fisk and Naomi Klein not be run so often in Yeni Safak either.

He smiled at me while he watched the wheels turning in my head before I smiled back and said, “That makes me very happy, it means I’m doing my job as a journalist.”

The utterly predictable contempt of warmongers for press freedom is less interesting, however, than the stories which are not coming out:

People like Edelman don’t want people to know what one of my sources in Baquba just told me today.

His email reads:

“Near the city of Buhrez, 5 kilometers south of Baquba, two Humvess of American soldiers were destroyed recently. American and Iraqi soldiers came to the city afterwards and cut all the phones, cut the water, cut medicine from arriving in the city and told them that until the people of the city bring the “terrorists” to them, the embargo will continue.”

The embargo has been in place now for one week now, and he continued:

“The Americans still won’t anyone or any medicines and supplies into Buhrez, nor will they allow any people in or out. Even the Al-Sadr followers who organized some help for the people in the city (water, food, medicine) are not being allowed into the city. Even journalists cannot enter to publish the news, and the situation there is so bad. The Americans keep asking for the people in the city to bring them the persons who were in charge of destroying the two Humvees on the other side of the city, but of course the people in the city don’t know who carried out the attack.”

People like Edelman don’t want people to know about the recent US attacks in Al-Qa’im and Haditha either. Attacks that Iraqis are describing as just as bad as the massacre of Fallujah.

On Haditha and Al-Qa’im, an Iraqi doctor sent me this email yesterday:

“Listen…we witnessed crimes in the west area of the country of what the bastards did in Haditha and Al-Qa’im. It was a crime, a really big crime we have witnessed and filmed in those places and recently also in Fallujah. We need big help in the western area of the country. Our doctors need urgent help there. Please, this is an URGENT humanitarian request from the hospitals in the west of the country. We have big proof on how the American troops destroyed one of our hospitals, how they burned the whole store of medication of the west area of Iraq and how they killed a patient in the ward…how they prevented us from helping the people in al-Qa’im. This is an URGENT Humanitarian request. The hospitals in the west of Iraq ask for urgent help…we are in a big humanitarian medical disaster…”

Try to find out about Baqubah on the news, you get this . Try to read about Haditha, and you get this . Fallujah is being repeated, anonymously, several times over, without even the drumroll of a build-up, or the oleaginous fanfare of 'success'. The tried and tested method of surrounding a city, obliterating whatever moves and razing villages to the ground is producing replicas under the cover of silence. Only the World Tribunal on Iraq busies itself with such information.

Next week, I believe there is likely to be some new revelations on this matter. I'll keep you posted.

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

I just killed some protesters, can I be a Guardian columnist? posted by Richard Seymour

It was wierd enough when The Guardian carried a Bin Laden speech as a column, but having a collection of mindless ramblings from the corrupt and violent Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria grace the comments page really takes the piss. And for the sake of accuracy, shouldn't they have a rider at the bottom saying "This column was brought to you by Shell"?

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Hitchens is in the house: count the forks and spoons. posted by Richard Seymour

The "Downing Street palimpsests"; a tissue of lies. A conspiratorial thriller without thrill and, in the end, without proven conspiracy. A rag passed out among snotty internet nerds, to catch their effluviations. The Downing Street memo was noteworthy only for "its niggling mindlessness, its funereal parade of yawn-enforcing facts, the pseudo-light it threw upon non-problems". This is Hitchens' verdict on the Downing Street memo . To which you will say, 'so?' So this: a couple of years after Hitchens made his lamentable pact with the Dark Side, Stefan Collini wrote a very witty piece in which Hitchens was compared to a fox-hunter - cheeks red with English blood, eyes flashing as he gallops full-speed through Albion's fields and meadows, a blush of pleasure mantling his face as he goes in for the kill... On this evidence, however, Hitchens is unhorsed and the fox has long since got away.

Here, for the perplexed, is the key passage from the DSM:

C [Richard Dearlove] reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.
So, war was "inevitable", not a last resort . And the intelligence and facts were being "fixed around" this policy.

Hitchens' take:

Well, if that doesn't prove it, I don't know what does. We apparently have an administration that can, on the word of a British clerk, "fix" not just findings but also "facts." Never mind for now that the English employ the word "fix" in a slightly different way — a better term might have been "organized."
For Hitchens, the word 'fixed' is a "solecism", which is to say that it was written in error and constitutes an offense against etiquette (presumably for refusing the rustic argot of the Foreign Office). He doesn't like the meaning of what was written, so he must stipulate for anxious readers what the "junior note-taker" meant. Honey, please - he said fixed, he meant fixed. Extruding a bit of minute linguistic analysis from a reasonably straightforward paragraph is a tediously transparent way to divert the issue. Bush planned war, but told anyone who listened that it was a "last resort" and that no decision had been made to go to war. Indeed, we have been led to believe that the decision was made on account of French intransigence, or on account of Saddam's unwillingness even to smile prettily and bat his eyes at Bush - as Hitchens once put it, Saddam Hussein could have bought his regime a fresh lease on its ghastly life if he had been even slightly willing to "make nice" . This memo says that the Bush administration planned war, and was shaping/fixing/organising intelligence and facts to support that policy. All subsequent serenading of the UN and 'the international community' (whatever that is supposed to be) was therefore fraudulent.

The next step is a non-sequitur. If the memo doesn't prove that Bush had a war planned well in advance and was therefore lying when he claimed to hold it a "last resort", Hitchens is nevertheless bewildered:

Who is there who does not know that the Bush administration decided after September 2001 to change the balance of power in the region and to enforce the Iraq Liberation Act, passed unanimously by the Senate in 1998, which made it overt American policy to change the government of Iraq?
The decision to go to war may be arguably a logical corrolary of the Iraq Liberation Act, or at least congruent with it, but it had nothing to do with 9/11 or enforcing the ILA. I cite from the Act :

Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize or otherwise speak to the use of United States Armed Forces (except as provided in section 4(a)(2)) in carrying out this Act.
Now, go check section 4(a)(2) and see if invasion is mentioned. Hitchens then goes on to mention the reasons he felt legalistic objections to the war were wrong, and why he feels invading was right (Rwanda, Bosnia - but never Somalia, Vietnam or... well, you list them). This doesn't bear on the question of whether Bush lied the world into war, and Hitchens does not exactly riot in eloquence on the matter of his views, so I won't detain you with that.

Suffice to say, that's sort of it as far as argument about the DSM goes. There is certainly a great deal of rhetorical tricks, sleight-of-hand knock-off jobs that any fool could spot within five seconds. There's some giggling about the US left taking its cue from "the most reactionary institution of the British state" (and the Pentagon is the vanguard of progressive virtue?). There is what I suppose is intended to be the telling juxtaposition of different sorts of 'conspiracy theories', linked by the sort of anfractuous logic that informs Horowitz's "Discover the Network". There is the casual minimisation ("junior note-taker"), a ruse known to every political hoodlum and charlatan in the business (cf Perle trying to downplay the importance of government documents in debate with Chomsky, who enjoyed the noteworthy advantage of having read them - a trick Hitchens could learn next time he wants to cite some Act or other). There is the insinuation that the war had something to do with 9/11, although the relationship is painfully and poorly adumbrated. (Yes yes yes, 9/11 forced Bush to realise he had to democratise the Arab world, in alliance with his friends, Crown Prince Abdullah and President for Life Hosni Mubarak). And, once again, the tic that will never fade or die, the insistence that his opponents are subsumed into the establishment, while he, a contrarian loner fuelled by whisky and argument, represents an embattled position. He, with allies no more powerful than President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, is living "at a slight angle to society" as he explains to his Young Contrarian.

"Popinjay", did Galloway say? It would be hard to be so pestered with a popinjay. This one's a barfly, an obnoxious ex-fighter whose talent has subsided into a flabby mound of belligerence, a Barnie Gumble who found his calling too late in life, a creepy wastrel cheering on a creepy sub-Straussian sect. That's a closing statement.

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A new War Crimes Tribunal posted by Richard Seymour

As we're in the middle of a new wave of US imperial expansion, and given that this is causing enormous amounts of death and suffering, perhaps it's time to consider an updated Bertrand Russell Vietnam War Crimes Tribunal . Whatever one's views on 'international law', the proceedings would probably have to orient themselves around an interpretation of UN resolutions, of precedents and so on. But there would also be a certain amount of fact gathering, data-collection, and a rigorous assessment of the information presented so far. The statements of war leaders would have to be examined and set against their record. The complicity of apparently non-combatant countries would have to be looked at.

Western intellectuals are generally shifting to the left, certainly on these questions. But so far there has been little tendency to aggregate their skills, efforts and moral outrage. Bloggery has gone some way to accounting for what has happened, but it's a very isolated medium - there isn't a great deal of collaborative effort. Still, I do suggest that if the intellectuals can't get their act together, we bloggers ought to. We should work together by e-mail and in other ways too, to come up with a set of aims, and points of discussion. From there we should conduct what limited research we can and communicate information as we find it. Week by week, we should present our findings. Seriously. Get in touch. Actually, why not treat it like the Nuremberg trials? Not because Bush is a fascist, but because a) it will piss some of the right people off, and b) we could recommend hanging at the end of it.

Update: Turns out there is a World Tribunal on Iraq . Well worth a look.

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The Thinker-President posted by Richard Seymour

Bush: "I think about Iraq every day."

US public: "So do we, fucknut."

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Middle East priorities. posted by Richard Seymour

The excellent Israeli historian Avi Shlaim notes in The Guardian this morning that:

[T]he US effected regime change in Baghdad in three weeks but has failed to dismantle a single Jewish settlement in the occupied territories in 38 years.

It isn't as if the US would be obliged to invade Israel if it were interested in anything other than a rhetorical fashion in the rights of Palestinians. They fund Israel to the tune of $3bn a year, plus perks. That's leverage.

Of course it's in the nature of states to feign impotence when there's a problem they get more benefit out of perpetuating than solving. For instance, I watched Margaret Beckett last night, answering questions about climate-change on Channel Four news. There issued a remarkable sentence, which went totally without challenge: "It is not in my power or any one else in the government's power to tell privately owned companies what they can do." Er, yes it is, that's why you're the government. You're elected because you can do such things. Companies are legal entities, guaranteed by the state, assisted by the state, relying on the social regulation and construction provided by the state. If you want to force them to clean up their act, they can't do shit. (Okay, push it too far and they may kick up a stink, do a run on the currency, hide their profits overseas, engage in even more tax avoidance than usual, threaten to withdraw investment and so on).

Anyway, Shlaim continues:

[Sharon] presented his plan for disengagement from Gaza as a contribution to the road map; in fact it is almost the exact opposite. The road map calls for negotiations between the two sides, leading to a two-state solution. Sharon refuses to negotiate and acts to redraw unilaterally the borders of Greater Israel. As he told rightwing supporters: "My plan is difficult for the Palestinians, a fatal blow. There's no Palestinian state in a unilateral move." The real purpose of the move is to derail the road map and kill the comatose peace process. For Sharon, withdrawal from Gaza is the prelude not to a permanent settlement but to the annexation of substantial sections of the West Bank.

Now, what did I tell you ? And why didn't I mention Tibet ?

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Scientific realism: a fragment. posted by Richard Seymour

Just a thought, really. A while ago, I posted on the misrepresentation of the resistance in Iraq, and how this related to Baudrillard's notion of the simulacrum. For Baudrillard, in postmodernity, the reality principle had 'collapsed'. Wimp. It never existed.

I was in a discussion recently with someone who argued for a strong Scientific Realism. I've never been convinced by such arguments, although in this case it was put very adeptly. My objection usually begins by listing the problems with the 'correspondence' theory of truth - how do theories 'correspond' to truth? In what way do they 'represent' reality? Is there an isomorphic equivalence? Even a simple proposition such as “the cat is on the mat” does not necessarily 'reflect' the reality it designates (unfortunately my namesake was given to the thought that theory 'reflected' reality). There are two kinds of things – a cat and a mat – and a third thing which is different entirely – that is, the relationship between the cat and the mat. Does the statement really pictorially resemble the reality? And it may be the components do not match the number of objects in the state-of-affairs described – in a different language one morpheme (linguistic unit) may suffice to describe the same state-of-affairs. Austin tried to generate a different way in which such a 'correspondence' might work - he suggested that there were conventions regulating the relationship between the word and the world, and ‘demonstrative conventions’ regulating the relationship between the word and states of affairs. But his rule only works with indexical statements - different kinds of statements may also be true of the world, but would have nothing to do with Austin's conventions - "bats only come out at night", for instance. Similarly, e=mc2 may well describe a scientific law, but does it ‘resemble’ how that law works in reality?

Part of the problem I have always had with scientific-realism is the following simple thought: why should reality be as it appears to us? That word 'appears' is very interesting. For it privileges the visual, whereas reality strikes us on many sensuous surfaces. For instance, if I eat a blueberry muffin (and I just might eat three or four on a lazy Sunday lunchtime), I get a great deal of pleasure from the taste. But I don't kid myself that this is really how it tastes, that the taste tells me something essential about what I am eating. In fact, my guess is that the taste is a result of the reaction of taste-buds to some ingredients in the cake. Taste is a production.

Similarly, is not sight, hearing, smell, touch also a production? Why should the world be as it seems? Isn't reality also a production? And here is where I have a problem with Baudrillard's simulacrum - not with the idea itself, just with its ramifications. He suggests that the 'reality principle' - the distance between what we imagine happens and what really happens - has collapsed, and that the 'world' is a simulacrum. But I think it is necessary to preserve that distance - philosophical and scientific scepticism relies on this, whereas I think Baudrillard is inclined to stoically accept that we can never regain that gap.

Anyway, as the title says, this is a fragment - it's an open-ended thought process, and one which I'd be delighted to have you finish for me on account of me being a lazy, ale-guzzling, pie-munching fatso. Plus, there's a fight starting outside the pub opposite, and I want to go watch.

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Morning reading. posted by Richard Seymour

Here's a few bits and pieces well worth having a look at. First of all, Fascinating History lives up to its name with a short article about the genesis of Shakespeare's Globe.

John at Shot by Both Sides draws attention to a bit of schoolboy stupidity by some bigoted hack, which results in the poor sap getting his ass repeatedly kicked .

Charlotte Street, meanwhile, has X-Ray eyes . I hope you're wearing clean undies. K-Punk disinters Rod Liddle's fatuous columns for a forensic examination.

Finally, via Alphonse , the Commonplace Book has an excellent rumination on Oscar Wilde as a Nietzchean socialist .

As an elderly relative used to say, "break your fast children!"

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Monday, June 20, 2005

IFTU tours the US. posted by Richard Seymour

US Labour Against the War have invited the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions on a tour of antiwar meetings across the US. The presence of the IFTU has stoked up the old flames about their support for and collusion with the occupiers. I have written before about how the IFTU's Abdullah Muhsin collaborated with the Labour leadership at the party's conference in 2004 to subvert trade union policy and win backing for a resolution supporting the occupation . Muhsin comically tried to deny it, but this sort of gave the game away. In all of this, they were assisted by the egregious and dishonest Labour Friends of Iraq .

Now, because it is the US antiwar movement that is giving a platform to the IFTU in this case, Jennifer Horan of Boston United for Peace with Justice, wrote to the leadership of the UfPJ to point out that: the IFTU is controlled by the Iraqi Communist Party which had collaborated with Saddam Hussein and which was on Allawi's slate in the January elections; the IFTU claims to oppose the occupation, but says it must never end until the US have 'imposed order' [ie, not in this lifetime Charlie]; "The President of the IFTU is Rasim Alawadi, deputy premier of the INA, and second—-in-command to Allawi. The INA is composed of disaffected former leading members of Saddam’’s regime and military. It worked closely with British and US intelligence after its 1992 founding to overthrow Saddam"; the IFTU claims to be the "real democratic resistance" to the occupation, but rarely denounces coalition violence and always finds the time to denounce the armed resistance as Ba'athists and Talibanis (an outright lie on the part of the IFTU).

Abdullah Muhsin with Sabi Abdullah Mashadani.

Indeed, New York City Labor Against the War have issued a separate, copiously noted statement :

USLAW’s conveners describe the IFTU as “a legitimate force for a progressive democratic sovereign Iraq, “ that is “organizing strikes and other militant actions against U.S. plans to privatize the economy” and “fighting for a future free from occupation.”

These claims, however, are contradicted by widely-available evidence that the IFTU is a pro-occupation mouthpiece for the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) and Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Accord (INA), and supported by the same “AFL-CIA” alliance that has supported U.S. domination in Vietnam (1960s), Chile (1973), Nicaragua (1980s), Venezuela (2000s) and many other countries.


[T]he IFTU has become Iraq’s only officially-recognized labor body (thereby inheriting frozen assets of the defunct Saddamist union federation); receives State Department support through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) – a CIA-surrogate – and AFL-CIO Solidarity Center (with the direct involvement of its notorious former director, Harry Kamberis)


Although the ICP/IFTU claims to oppose privatization, it has not fought Bremer’s orders that permit foreign investment and slash workers’ salaries, or the current regime’s plans to sell-off the Iraqi economy.

The IFTU has sabotaged labor resistance to the occupation, including major strikes and protests by Basra oil workers in 2003. It appears that, with few exceptions, IFTU affiliates have struck only to demand that the occupation regime protect it from the resistance.
Iraqi trade unionists who have not had the benefit of the occupiers' largesse have been scornful. Hassan Juma’a Awad, General Secretary, Southern Oil Company Union said: “[The IFTU] “do[es] not organise workers on the ground. . . . They do not oppose the occupation but are linked to their stooge regime.”

Meanwhile, Houzan Mahmoud of the Federation of Workers’ Councils and Unions in Iraq remarks: “IFTU is this era’s version of state-made, anti-labour Ba’athist unions. . . . Any support or recognition offered to them will be a direct support for the government of Allawi and against the interests of the workers and people of Iraq.” (Emphasis added) Hani Lazim of Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation was even more forthright: “If you are part of a government that allows the US to bomb towns like Fallujah and the al-Sadr area of Baghdad, don’t tell me you oppose the occupation.”

So, what has been the effect of the IFTU's tour so far? One witness account, forwarded to me by Jennifer Horan, suggests:

Audience members think they're hearing an anti-war speech, but they leave the room knowing two things for sure: (1) the "resistance" are foreign Islamic and domestic Saddamist terrorists, and (2) the occupation should end now, which means the occupation should end as soon as Iraqis build the necessary political structures and security forces to and stabilize the country. That's supposed to be the anti-war position.
These people are not antiwar or opposed to the occupation. They are auxiliary to the US empire One can only marvel at their boldness in declaring themselves to be the 'real' resistance against the occupation when they are exerting themselves in every possible way to support it - for demonstrably mercenary reasons at that. Any fool who runs around telling you that the IFTU can be relied upon to defend Iraqi workers is a pure sap, or worse.

Lee Sustar has a good summary here .

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Permanent state of emergency II posted by Richard Seymour

The Permanent State of Emergency in liberal-democracies is the strategy of justification behind many authoritarian measures.

Israel has maintained a legal state of emergency since 1948 , and this has been used to derogate from international legal obligations. According to the United Nations, much 'emergency legislation' has simply become part of the day to day running of Israel.

In fact, Yuval Yoaz writes in Haaretz that although it is generally agreed among Israelis that this state of emergency should be terminated, it is problematic for the government because it would deprive them of the use of too many harsh laws they presently deploy with immunity. For instance, many of the colonial laws imposed under the British Mandate continue to be used by Israel: "laws upholding emergency regulations regarding traveling abroad, the law to prevent infiltration, the law enabling the army to commandeer private property, the seafaring vessels law, the emergency laws for arrests, searches and land confiscation, the law supervising goods and services and the law prohibiting baking at night."

The mass demolition of houses, the theft and destruction of Palestinian property, restrictions on their right to move - all are justified in legal terms through the use of Mandate legislation, legitimised by the 'permanent state of emergency'.

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Sunday, June 19, 2005

Bush: "Saddam done broke the twin towers". posted by Richard Seymour

Okay, he didn't say that, but he said this :

We went to war because we were attacked, and we are at war today because there are still people out there who want to harm our country and hurt our citizens.

Bush's popularity rating slid recently below the 50% mark, hitting a low of 41% last week, when a majority of Americans expressed a desire for troops to be withdrawn from Iraq. What Bush's advisers will have noticed is that among those who still supported the venture, most believed Saddam Hussein was involved in the conflagrations in Manhattan and Washington DC. Maximising the hold of that illusion is obviously the means settled on of restoring Bush's ratings.

Bush went on to say:

Some may disagree with my decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, but all of us can agree that the world's terrorists have now made Iraq a central front in the war on terror ...

These foreign terrorists violently oppose the rise of a free and democratic Iraq, because they know that when we replace despair and hatred with liberty and hope, they lose their recruiting grounds for terror.

I like that phrase "the world's terrorists". It suggests a shadowy community of evil-doers who congregate in some underground conference chamber, have votes on where to focus their efforts and delegate various responsibilities while nurturing oil-black beards between finger and thumb. The strategy of 'ex post facto' justification for an imperial misadventure is not new. When Nato sent the boys over to fry Serbia, the ensuing exacerbation of refugee expulsions was used as the justification for war. Now, because the war has had the consequence of drawing a number of Wahabbi fighters into Iraq simultaneously with the emergence of a national resistance movement, this is suddenly a good reason for having killed 100,000+ people. It's a beautiful cover, if anyone buys it. You can justify practically anything in this way, and indeed I intend to.

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Straw: UK policy is "indefensible" posted by Richard Seymour

Jack Straw has warned the Burmese junta that putting people under indefinite detention is "indefensible" .

Very well. Any chance the British government will stop doing the same ?

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Friday, June 17, 2005

Fragging in Iraq. posted by Richard Seymour

This story , about a US soldier killing two of his commanders in Iraq, has some suggesting that this represents a return to Vietnam. Fragging , the assassination of superior officers, was a relatively widespread practise during that sunny little war from 1969 onward. It was one of the various manifestations of mutiny that caused the collapse of the US army in Vietnam.

Two things, though. First of all, memories are short: this has happened before . A staff sergeant killed an officer, as well as wounding several others, in a grenade attack on a military command centre in Kuwait during the invasion. Secondly, the difference between Vietnam and Iraq in this context is that it was a drafted citizen's army fighting the former, while this is a professional army. One would expect discipline to hold much firmer in a professional army, and the tolerance for extreme brutality to be higher. It is interesting that in a war that has not yet exhibited the extremity of violence that the cataclysm in Indochina did, fragging has made its appearance much earlier. This suggests that many soldiers don't believe in the war they're fighting and don't accept the reasons for it that they have been given.

Anyway, the US officer class has less to worry about than your average Iraqi schoolteacher if this is anything to go by.

By the way, the Defence Minister Adam Ingram has suggested that he was lied to by the US over the use of napalm in Iraq. When they tell their own reporters horse shit like this , who can be surprised?

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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Scotland on Sunday fabricates G8 scare story. posted by Richard Seymour

Last Sunday I read a story in Scotland on Sunday , claiming that because of the G8 summit and fears of violence, the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service was asking for 20,000 extra pints of blood. Smelling a rat, I got in touch with the SNBTS and asked them very simply if this was true. Here is the response I got:

Dear Mr. ______,

Thank you for your enquiry regarding the article which appeared in the
Scotland on Sunday Newspaper.

Contrary to the headline in the newspaper last weekend, SNBTS is not
expecting a "blood crisis" to coincide with the G8 Summit and is not
expecting a blood shortage as a result of G8.

Unfortunately, we believe there was a misrepresentation of the
conversation which our spokesperson had with the journalist. However,
what we did actually say was that the demand for blood never stops and
that we were more concerned about the blood stocks over the entire
summer period. Summer is always a challenging time for SNBTS, as
donations can drop by up to 10%. This is because blood donors can be
busy during the holiday period with annual leave, outdoor activities and
generally enjoying the nicer weather. 1,000 units of blood per day are
needed to meet the Scottish hospital demand, therefore, a new target
has been set by SNBTS which will require a large number of new or
lapsed blood donors to come forward and help us to support Scottish

I do hope this clarifies the point you have raised and if I can be of
any further help, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Kind regards.

Lynne C. Kidd

Misrepresentation, eh? Who would have thought that?

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The religion of socialism is the language of priorities... posted by Richard Seymour

Charlotte Street explains:

For example, some will read (say) -

‘only extremists could endorse a global capitalist system which in 1992 is said to have paid Michael Jordan more in advertising Nike shoes than it paid to the entire South-East Asian industry which produced them’.

and fail to see anything wrong at all with Jordan’s remuneration, or think ‘bloody lefties’. Others reading it, or similar reports, will feel a rising cry for justice, a sense of outrage, of moral absurdity. In other words, it’s a question of what really gets you impassioned, instinctively.

Now, if what really gets you going, what sends you to your keyboard, hot under the collar, is not the arrogance of the powerful, needless poverty, overt exploitation, the fanatical pursuit of profit at any cost, the deliberate crushing of any attempts to build collective workers organisations, but instead, simply the carryings on of parts of the left, – if that is what really gets you worked up, then what are you, after all? A snitch, a nobody, a shit.

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Links & notes. posted by Richard Seymour

I think a standing ovation is due the new Aaronovitch Watch which has opened up for business with a series of prickly, satirical posts on the Hampstead bruschetta-boy.

Sonic has caught an untidy little Eric of the Decent Left out in a spot of McCarthyism. Eric wants to mimic Orwell's list of 'crypto-communists' and fellow travellers' (yes, Eric, that last syllable has an 'e'), asking: "So, in a modern list of crypto-Islamists & fellow-travellors, who would you list and why?" Has the Decent Left finally, at long last, no decency?

Still, while we're talking about frivolous matters of no consequence, now must be the time to mention that hunger kills 8,760,000 every year . That's not a news story, just a chronic ailment, the result of what Amartya Sen calls 'a failure of entitlements', or what we might describe in less circumspect language as 'most of the world being fucked over relentlessly for centuries by European imperialism and its progeny'.

Speaking of imperialism, remember when Basra was a haven of civil peace and harmony with the occupiers? Remember when we Brits knew how to do it better than the dumb, testosterone-charged Yanks? Not any more . Meanwhile, it seems that the Iraqi resistance is becoming more sophisticated. The article states that 'foreign fighters' make up 5% of the resistance, although it goes on to note that these are responsible for the most brutal suicide attacks etc. Their aim, it is said, is to spark a civil war between Sunni and Shi'ite. So, if their aim isn't to unite Iraqis against their occupiers and drive the troops out, in what sense are they part of the resistance? In the sense, presumably, that so classifying them makes it easier for a brutal occupying army to dismiss its opponents as terrorists.

In a tiny bit of good news the US Congress has voted to curb the PATRIOT Act so that old dears can borrow library books without having the FBI all over their asses.

Finally, Hugo Chavez has accused the US of being behind the crisis in Bolivia . That'll teach them to throw empty accusations around.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Microsoft: "Where do you want to go today? The gulag?" posted by Richard Seymour

Microsoft have made a deal with the People's Republic of China to censor bloggers :

Civil liberties groups have condemned an arrangement between Microsoft and Chinese authorities to censor the internet.
The American company is helping censors remove "freedom" and "democracy" from the net in China with a software package that prevents bloggers from using these and other politically sensitive words on their websites.

The restrictions, which also include an automated denial of "human rights", are built into MSN Spaces, a blog service launched in China last month by Shanghai MSN Network Communications Technology, a venture in which Microsoft holds a 50% stake.

Slavoj Zizek once remarked that the extraordinary, outsized monuments stuck on top of buildings in Stalinist Russia mirrored the oppression of the workers by an outsized bureacratic elite - but the irony was that if anyone had said so they would instantly be chucked in the slammer. In another pertinent remark, he noted how cultural relativism was always-already inscribed in the global capitalist order: capital can tolerate these different cultural and political formations, can accomodate practically anything that does not challenge capital's functioning itself. Indeed, if anything it benefits from the creation of new market niches. Well, the latest market niche is ruthless repression by a police state. The obvious answer for Chinese bloggers is to replace the word 'freedom' with 'French'.

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Waiting for the Upturn? posted by Richard Seymour

Last week, The Guardian shocked and awed its bruschetta-munchers by pointing out that strike days had shot up in 2004 - almost doubling the figure from the previous year. Naturally, it immediately set about calming the readers down:

The latest figures for this year appear to show that 2004 was an unusual year. Only 12,400 days have been lost through strikes between January and March this year from 18 stoppages involving more than 10,000 workers.

The 904,000 working days lost last year compared with 499,000 the previous year and the annual average of 560,000 for the decade up to 2003. But these figures are dwarfed by the 1970s, when 12.9m working days were lost annually on average, and even the 7.2m in the following decade.

Well, that may be so, but then the figures for the first quarter of this year are somewhat skewed by the fact that the PCS voted overwhelmingly to strike against the government's pensions proposals, and forced New Labour to back down. Had they not backed down, the strike would have involved hundreds of thousands of public sector workers, and lost perhaps over a million working days to strikes. Similarly, the recent victory of Rolls Royce workers who just beat their management hands down in unofficial strike action (and occupation) sends up a smokey whisper of future blazes. The tendency to see unofficial industrial action where union bosses go all rubbery is particularly telling - we saw the posties do it, during the General Election in 2001, and shortly after that with the much-maligned 'wild-cat' strikes. Meanwhile, even the bankers are getting rather Bolshy.

I spy a red flag.

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Lies and damned lies. posted by Richard Seymour

Time for another Rumsfeld classic :

Iraq is "statistically" no safer today than it was after Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was overthrown, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said.

Asked on BBC television whether Iraq was safer since the US-led invasion ended with the ouster of Saddam in April 2003, Rumsfeld replied: "Well, statistically no. But clearly it has been getting better as we've gone along."

"In other words, at the end of the war the army fled, was captured... and the country was defeated," Rumsfeld told veteran interviewer David Frost on BBC2's Newsnight.

"The insurgency then built over a period of time, and it has had its ups and downs," the US defense secretary said.

Rumsfeld added: "A lot of bad things that could have happened have not happened."

Leave aside the fact that the question is already loaded (asking the occupiers of Iraq whether it is safer than two years ago invites the supposition that the occupiers are not themselves a source of unsafety for Iraqis). Saying "statistically, no" is supposed to hint that the statistics may well be a fictitious construct, some idle confection of brainiacs and number-crunchers with little real referent. Adding that "it has been getting better as we've gone along" takes us beyond implication into an outright lie. On what basis does he say so? Well, we know that Rumsfeld has previously declared that his "metrics" and "indicators" were improving:

We have a room here, the Iraq Room where we track a whole series of metrics. Some of them are inputs and some of them are outputs, results, and obviously the inputs are easier to do and less important, and the outputs are vastly more important and more difficult to do.

We track, for example, the numbers of attacks by area. We track the types of attacks by area. And what we're seeing, for example, and one metric is presented graphically and it shows that we had spiked up during the sovereignty pass to the Iraqi people and spiked up again during the election, and are now back down to the pre-sovereignty levels which are considerably lower.

In other words, his case was based on precisely the sort of 'statistically, no' methods that he now abjures. To be fair, those comments were made at the end of March, before it became obvious that the war is not winding down , and before even US generals started to come out and say there is no military solution to the Iraqi resistance . But the question remains: how, now that Rumsfeld eschews the eggheads ways of old, is Iraq getting better? Mythopoeically? Perhaps some unknown knowns inform Rumsfeld's perspective. Teleologically? There may well be a hidden logic unfolding in the occupation of Iraq that is silently unfolding, with the soldiers mere puppets, subject to the cunning of reason. As unknown knowns are negated by known unknowns, Iraq is finally made peaceful in a total act of self-knowledge, in which all knowns are known and unknowns negated. Could be, but it sounds like bollocks. Ficitiously? Well, doesn't bear thinking about, does it?

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Anti-intellectualism. posted by Richard Seymour

Mark begat Harry who begat Mark . All of which led me to a passage from Julia Kristeva's Intimate Revolt, in which she discusses Roland Barthes:

I wanted to end by discussing the unforgettable essay "Poujade et les intellectuals." But is this necessary? You read specimens of poujadist discourse every day in the press, where you observe that the species is still alive. You know their favourite target: intellectuals. And you know of Barthes's disdain for poujadism of any era and of any political stripe. Philosophically, from the right to the left, the poujadist is essentially an anti-intellectual who attacks intellectuals relentlessly, sadistically. He finds them "empty." This anti-intellectualism is based on "suspicion of language, the reduction of all opposing speech to noise, in conformance with the constant process of petit-bourgeois polemics that consists of unmasking in others an infirmity which one does not see in oneself, charging the adversary with the effects of one's own flaws, calling one's own blindness obscurity, and one's own deafness verbal disordering". In the writings of Poujade, women and foreigners are compared to a pharisaic species in which the poujadist projects his own image and that he pursues in his vexed nationalism, for the poujadist fears that the intellectual will "eye him scornfully", he who is the ground, origin, root and earth, the guardian and the temple. An amalgam of constant suspicion, hate, provincial sentimentalism, "all anti-intellectualism ends in the death of language, that is, the destruction of sociality". By seeking the exception, the poujadist ends up destroying the social link he was supposed to restore. Society begins using it to "check" stirring intellectuals but is blocked and then thwarted by a zeal that was not on the agenda; it ends up ashamed of its poujadists, while at the same time cherishing them in case these intellectuals "eye them scornfully." Barthes was premonitory!

And how.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

US blocks probe into Uzbekistan massacre posted by Richard Seymour

Via Socialist Worker , I hear that the US blocked attempts to initiate an investigation into the massacre in Andijan committed by the security forces of Islam Karimov. The issue was raised during discussions at a Nato meeting in Brussels.

The Washington Post reports :

At the private general meeting later that day of all NATO alliance ministers, plus Ivanov, Rumsfeld's remarks on the issue emphasized the risks of provoking Uzbekistan, according to four sources familiar with his statements. Rumsfeld said the ministers needed to know that the Uzbekistan situation had direct implications on NATO operations in the region.

The policy reflects an increasing division between 'realists' and neoconservatives - among the former, allegedly, are Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice and the State Department; among the latter, Rumself and the Pentagon. The Post reports that Colin Powell had previously refused to confirm that Uzbekistan had met its human rights obligations (ie, don't do anything stupid and embarrass us), and this led to the cutting off of funds for training Uzbekistan's military forces. General Richard Myers, when he went to Tashkent, said that the decision had been extremely short-sighted and announced that the US was giving $21 million dollars to help Uzbekistan defend itself against "bioterrorism".

The Christian Science Monitor says that this "diplomatically costly" move is a blow-back from the strategy of placing "lily-pads" ('defense' bases) in Uzbekistan. The Council on Foreign Relations , a centrist New-York think-tank/establishment-grooming-parlour says that although US troops are supposed to be there to conduct 'relief' efforts and allow easy access for "search-and-rescue missions" in Afghanistan, the troops have in fact been involved in military missions and their day to day activities are "shrouded in secrecy".

Afghanistan has largely been absent from the news despite the fact that fighting continues apace , and a resurgent Taliban is mounting attacks with growing regularity. Britain has just agreed to send a further 5000 new troops to Afghanistan , which is more than a five-fold increase. This is part of a general move to shift operations to Nato forces , which is expected to take over the occupation in 2006, when the US intends to scale back operations there. Nato has controlled ISAF operations there since August 2003, but its forces have rarely strayed into the more hostile terrains.

Nato first strayed outside of its traditional territory in order to bomb the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999, and at the time much was made of a suggested need for it to expand beyond its usual zones of action. Its involvement in Central Asia is the first test of that expansionist aim. Presumably, there is an attempt by the US to off-load some of its imperial burden onto other states (which would probably be claimed as a success for multi-lateralism). However, the alacrity with which other Nato states have accepted this role suggests they think they have more to benefit from attaching themselves to the US vanguard than opposing it. That point was particularly obvious in the priority given to building Nato forces in the EU Constitutional Treaty.

In short, what we are seeing here is old-fashioned realpolitik. There's an ugly irony in this. Christopher Hitchens and others have claimed for a while now that neoconservatives were preferrable to their old realist counter-parts precisely because they were militant idealists, democratic revolutionaries and the like, unlike the Kissingerian cynics who played at being Bismarck. Instead, the neoconservatives are cosying up to dictatorships, while the realists remain cautious. It has served the interests of some who support the war to claim that they are ranged against a stale establishment of realists, Old Europe (even, Hitchens averred, Ariel Sharon). Now that it is obvious that there is little to choose from between them, that particular sleight of hand is even less impressive. Imperialism hasn't changed for the better; all that has happened is that some commentators who should bloody well know better have engaged in a collapse of moral nerve and analytical verve, preferring to leap aboard the bandwagon (or should I say tumbrel?) of received wisdom.

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"Victory for millions", part II. posted by Richard Seymour

George Monbiot takes on the mythology about the recent 'debt forgiveness':

To qualify for debt relief, developing countries must "tackle corruption, boost private-sector development" and eliminate "impediments to private investment, both domestic and foreign".


In truth, corruption has seldom been a barrier to foreign aid and loans: look at the money we have given, directly and through the World Bank and IMF, to Mobutu, Suharto, Marcos, Moi and every other premier-league crook. Robert Mugabe, the west's demon king, has deservedly been frozen out by the rich nations. But he has caused less suffering and is responsible for less corruption than Rwanda's Paul Kagame or Uganda's Yoweri Museveni, both of whom are repeatedly cited by the G8 countries as practitioners of "good governance". Their armies, as the UN has shown, are largely responsible for the meltdown in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which has so far claimed 4 million lives, and have walked off with billions of dollars' worth of natural resources. Yet Britain, which is hosting the G8 summit, remains their main bilateral funder. It has so far refused to make their withdrawal from the DRC a conditionality for foreign aid.


To qualify for World Bank funding, our model client Uganda was forced to privatise most of its state-owned companies before it had any means of regulating their sale. A sell-off that should have raised $500m for the Ugandan exchequer instead raised $2m. The rest was nicked by government officials. Unchastened, the World Bank insisted that - to qualify for the debt-relief programme the G8 has now extended - the Ugandan government sell off its water supplies, agricultural services and commercial bank, again with minimal regulation.


Let's stick for a moment with Uganda. In the late 80s, the IMF and World Bank forced it to impose "user fees" for basic healthcare and primary education. The purpose appears to have been to create new markets for private capital. School attendance, especially for girls, collapsed. So did health services, particularly for the rural poor. To stave off a possible revolution, Museveni reinstated free primary education in 1997 and free basic healthcare in 2001. Enrolment in primary school leapt from 2.5 million to 6 million, and the number of outpatients almost doubled. The World Bank and the IMF -which the G8 nations control - were furious. At the donors' meeting in April 2001, the head of the bank's delegation made it clear that, as a result of the change in policy, he now saw the health ministry as a "bad investment".

Cue mock outrage from obscure government minister.

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Monday, June 13, 2005

The Verdict posted by Richard Seymour

So, not guilty on all counts of child molestation, eh? Perhaps now we can try US soldiers accused of buggering little Iraqi boys and girls. That way we can have some real white guys behind the docks.

An innocent man.

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Rome before the fall. posted by Richard Seymour

Administrations in the US rarely feel they've matured until they're bloodied by at least one good war. Sure, they look fresh and innocent at first, but eventually the testes must descend, and the new President finds himself becoming curiously interested in other countries. It's a birds and bees thing, one that ma and pa may well try and prepare him for with awkward lectures and curious demonstrations using a banana and a hoover nozzle. But he has to figure it out for himself. He flatters, courts, cajoles and eventually, if he is lucky, conquers. But now Bush is "in blood/Stepp’d in so far that, should [he] wade no more,/Returning were as tedious as go o’er".

So, when 59% of Americans say US troops should be withdrawn from Iraq , the administration will be tempted to say silly things like 'it was "vital" for U.S. peace and security that "we complete the mission by training Iraqis to provide for their own security, and then our troops can return home with the honor they have earned."' No matter that miniature cataclysms strike Iraq almost daily now creating scenes that cause the gorge to rise; that the lies with which Bush wooed his first love are falling around his ears; that the torture rack fair creaks with overuse in Guantanamo ...

The occupiers will not give up their foolish, murderous crusade, will not close Guantanamo , and will not drop their stupid lies . They know, despite their disavowals, that the Iraqi resistance is not for turning. They know it is a legitimate national liberation struggle which doesn't target civilians . But, the goofy project for world domination speaks with a louder and finer voice in the ears of US policymakers than humility or good sense. Actually, if either of the latter were to take hold, Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney may well commit seppuku live on Fox television.

And to think, some American liberals wistfully dream that Kerry might be in the Whitehouse doing all the same things much more efficiently if only gays and abortionists hadn't crippled their campaign...

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Debt and corruption. posted by Richard Seymour

For Rousseau , the first man who declared himself an owner was an imposter. For Proudhon, "property is theft" . Meanwhile, Bertolt Brecht wanted to know what crime robbing a bank was compared to founding one. Seeing as how Brecht was given to gutting the plots and characters of other plays for his own, you would expect him to say that. (He even, apparently, had scribbled several notes in the margins of his copy of Waiting for Godot, outlining how he might change the play into his own - making Pozzo into a capitalist and Vladimir and Estragon into workers. He allegedly died of a heart attack while working on this, although I think it much more likely that he snuffed it from sheer boredom).

Anyway, what do you think of these crafty fuckers ? They've got some balls .

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Iraqi resistance can't be beaten. posted by Richard Seymour

Direland reports :

It's time for the U.S. to get out of Iraq -- because the insurgency cannot be defeated by the force of American arms. Who says so? Why, the U.S. military leaders on the ground in Iraq, who flat-out contradict Bush administration claims that the war against the insurgency is being won. Those are the findings in a stunning report in this morning's Philadelphia Inquirer. Here's what the Inquirer's Tom Lasseter found after talking to a raft of U.S. commanders:

"A growing number of senior American military officers in Iraq have concluded there is no long-term military solution to an insurgency that has killed thousands of Iraqis and more than 1,300 U.S. troops in the last two years. Instead, officers say, the only way to end the guerrilla war is through Iraqi politics - an arena that has been crippled by divisions between Shiite Muslims, whose coalition dominated January elections, and Sunni Muslims, who are a minority in Iraq and form the base of support for the insurgency.

"'I think the more accurate way to approach this right now is to concede that... this insurgency is not going to be settled, the terrorists and the terrorism in Iraq is not going to be settled, through military options or military operations,' Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said last week, echoing other senior officers. 'It's going to be settled in the political process.'

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