Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Iraqi resistance dossier. posted by Richard Seymour

In no particular order, here is a compilation of Tomb discussions of Iraq and the resistance to the American-led occupation.

Iraqi Resistance dossier (2005): they don't target civilians.

Iraqi resistance dossier (2006): they still don't target civilians.

Iraqi resistance dossier (2007): they still don't target civilians.

Iraqi resistance is "winning".

Nationalist resistance fights Zarqawi

Freelance freedom fighters: the resistance fighters who do contract work

Interview with a resistance consultant: "we quite like Sadr".

Not a command and control operation: why the Americans don't understand the Iraqi resistance.

"Iraqi resistance packs it in": debunking one of the earlier myths about the resistance.

Resistance and representation: the Gulf War did not take place.

"The people of Fallujah love Cindy Sheehan".

A successful three-year psy-op: bigging up Zarqawi.

Iraqis support resistance attacks.

Terrorism and the Lonely Hearts Column: backing the Iraqi resistance since 2003.

Ethnic cleansing in the new Iraq: occupiers try to stir up sectarian tension.

News of US negotiations with resistance fighters.

Culture of genocide: how US ideologists legitimise slaughter.

US fights resistance in Tal Afar, slaughters innocents.

IFTU and the occupation: Iraq's pro-occupation union federation tours America.

"A tiny handful of evildoers": tearing up the PR script.

More to follow.

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Spot the difference posted by bat020

Courtesy of cian in the comments boxes...

Exhibit A is a newswire photo from New Orleans:

Caption: "A young man walks through chest deep flood water after looting a grocery store in New Orleans on Tuesday."

Exhibit B is another newswire photo from New Orleans:

Caption: "Two residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store after Hurricane Katrina came through the area in New Orleans, Louisiana."

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Sunni moves to unite with Shi'ites. posted by Richard Seymour

A commenter in the thread below draws my attention to this:

Iraq's disenchanted Sunni Arabs have reached out across the sectarian divide to seek alliances with any ethnic or religious groups opposed to the newly drafted constitution.

After staging demonstrations on Monday, Sunni leaders said they were opening talks with the movement of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and preparing a national conference to generate public support for defeating the charter at a mid-October referendum.

"We would like to cooperate with Muqtada al-Sadr and very soon we will start negotiations with him," said Salih al-Mutlaq, a top Sunni negotiator.

Smart move. There has already been Sunni-Shi'ite unity on the ground in both the armed and unarmed resistance. In the former, Shi'ites helped Sunnis fight occupation forces and Kurdish peshmergas in Tal Afar. In the latter, Sunnis and Shi'ites joined together in Firdos Square against the occupation, two years after Saddam's statue was felled as part of a US psy-op.

One thing the article, from Al Jazeera, doesn't make clear is that there is substantial hostility to federalism among many Shi'ites as evidenced in this mass demonstration. Indeed, the first whisper I heard that any significant Shi'ite group might back a federalist constitution was when Abdul Aziz al-Hakim of the sectarian Shi'ite group, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), an Iran-backed organisation with a secret service developed under Iranian tutelage and a militia known as the Badr Corps which has been killing its opponents, both religious and political. A twist of historical irony is that the Badr Corps were suspected by the occupiers of being potential trouble-makers for them, whereas they immediately declared after the invasion that they would not fight the new government - indeed they may have fought for them in death squads.

It is long past time that pan-Iraqi unity was made official. These nuptials are just the beginning.

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Collective punishment in the New Iraq. posted by Richard Seymour

Ssssh. Sssssh. Forget 56 civilians killed in a US air strike on Iraqi houses. That shit is collateral damage. The real news, the real headline, is that seven 'insurgents' were killed - yippee!

It gets better. They aren't even insurgents: they're Al Qaeda Fighters. The great thing about this latter report is that the reporters seem confused about what their reports are actually saying. First, "At least 50 people died in the raids, Agence France-Presse reported." Then, " At least 56 people died, Agence France-Presse said". A sub-editor, a fact-checker, anyone?

They even repeat this in the second update. So much for third time lucky.

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Monday, August 29, 2005

Terrorism & Western States. posted by Richard Seymour

Where we have been encouraged to believe that we are dealing with a pure antagonism between the West and this nebulous thing called 'terrorism', what we are actually dealing with in most cases is a marriage made in hell. The word 'terrorism' itself, Christopher Hitchens used to muse, is an abuse. Just he would not have called the Vietnamese resistance 'terrorist', I won't call the Iraqi resistance 'terrorist'. However, as we're stuck with the term, I'll just have to make best use I can of it.

America, fuck yeah...
Terrorism has frequently formed a cornerstone of US foreign policy, most often through aggressive policies of counter-insurgency. From 1961 onward, initiatives described as Unconventional Warfare (UW) became part of the range of policies officially mandated by the US government. Just ten days after Kennedy's inauguration, the National Security Council started to work on a series of proposals for an "expanded guerilla programme", enhancing Special Forces numbers to 4,000, and an immediate budget allocation of $19 million to set it in motion. (See National Security Action Memorandum 2, most of which remains classified).

There had been some military concerns over some of the guerilla tactics used by Special Forces, who were increasingly insulated from the regular army. This remained the case as the new administration took power. (See Office of the Chief of Psychological Warfare, Record Group 319 of the National Security Archives). Kennedy justified these policies in public by referring to the threat of "the free world" being "nibbled away at the periphery ... by forces of subversion, infiltration, intimidation, indirect or nonovert aggression, internal revolution, diplomatic blackmail, guerilla warfare, or a series of limited wars." (Quoted here). But the uses of terror were much broader. In 1962, a memorandum was drafted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff outlining a terrorist campaign that the US could conduct against its own citizens in order to justify war with Cuba:

"We could develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington. The terror campaign could be pointed at Cuban refugees seeking haven in the United States. We could sink a boatload of Cubans enroute [sic] to Florida (real or simulated). We could foster attempts on lives of Cuban refugees in the United States even to the extent of wounding in instances to be widely publicized."

This was known as Operation Northwoods. It was rejected at the time, and instead a series of attacks focused on Cuba was initiated, known as Operation Mongoose. Since then, a number of attacks orchestrated by the United States have been carried out on Cuban soil, and I don't know that it is altogether coincidental that a number of Cuban nationals being harboured in the US are responsible for some such attacks: explosions in Hotels, airline hi-jackings, the kinds of things that terrorists get up to. (Check out the biography of Luis Posada Carriles).

Luis Posada Carriles

Counterinsurgency terror campaigns were also organised in Vietnam and the Phillipines by the US. "Selected Vietnamese troops were organised into terror squads ... Within a short time, Viet Cong leaders ... began to die mysteriously and violently in their beds." (Human Factors Considerations of Undergrounds in Insurgencies). Similar tactics had been used to suppress the Huk rebellion in the Phillipines from 1946 to 1954, while a US-directed counter-insurgency terror campaign in Guatemala killed 8,000 people in two provinces alone in the six months from October 1966. (Michael McClintock, The American Connection: State Terror and Popular Resistance in El Salvador, vol 2, 1984).

There are scores of other well-known examples: the support for right-wing death squads in Colombia, Angola, Nicaragua, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic is well-documented, particularly in William Blum's Killing Hope: U. S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, 1995). And I've talked a bit about the use of death squads by the UK and Spanish governments here and here. (Note, in particular, the linked article in the latter post which outlines a Special Branch connection to the explosion in Omagh in 1998).

Victims of Salvadoran death squads.

A couple of other examples, then. Here we come to the use of terrorism by states with the intention of justifying war & repression and discrediting opposition movements. Operation Gladio is correctly pointed to as an instance of just such practise. But where all of the above can be subsumed into a Cold War narrative (or, in the case of Northern Ireland, the closing chapters of the British Empire), the last two examples bear directly on the 'war on terror': and if they don't involve Western states, they at least involve regimes strongly supported by the West.

Russian roulette
Russia has been conducting a war on Chechnya since 1999, following the failure of its first war to recapture the break-away republic between 1994 and 1996 - a war which killed 100,000 people and wounded some 240,000 others. Planning began for a new assault six months before a number of explosions rocked Moscow (in August and September 1999) and Chechnya mounted an invasion of Dagestan. When the explosions hit, a number of apartment buildings were destroyed and 300 people killed. A number of fingers pointed at the FSB, and one whistleblower who claims the FSB were behind the attacks has been evading Russian prosecution ever since. Extraordinary investigations by the Observer and a Channel Four Dispatches programme (both summarised neatly here, also see John Sweeney in The Observer), found that following the first two apartment block explosions, a third building was targeted 100 miles south of Moscow. A bomb was uncovered there by Russian police after a tip-off, and three men arrested. The three men were not Chechens but Russian. And they were not guerilla operatives but FSB agents - and all three were released. The FSB subsequently claimed that it was not a bomb at all, but a reporter for the Novaya Gazeta, a newspaper known for its criticism of Putin's government, uncovered evidence from soldiers guarding the suspected device at a nearby military base that it was in fact a bomb. One soldier "took a sample to a military commander schooled in explosives who said it was hexagen". (Cited here). Of course, this could all be a confection for the overheated imagination, since, as one contribution on wikipedia points out: "As well as the conspiracy thejries about the Zionist Oppressive Government polt to destroy the World Trade Center during the 9/11, this theories have a lot of fans."

After a truck bomb in Volgodonsk.

Not to stop at that pithy judgment, however, it is worth pointing out that there is evidence that the Russian state has a long history of involvement with (and presumably, manipulation of) the Islamist wing of the Chechen resistance. As Patrick Cockburn wrote in The Independent:

Cooperation between Mr Basayev and the Russian army is not so surprising as it sounds. In 1992-93 he is widely believed to have received assistance from the GRU when he and his brother Shirvani fought in Abkhazia, a breakaway part of Georgia. Russia did not want to act overtly against Georgia but covertly supported a battalion of volunteers led by Mr Basayev.

It is now alleged that the cooperation between the GRU and Shirvani Basayev went further. The invasion of Dagestan might be resented in Russia, but it was insufficient to mobilise Russian public opinion. This only occurred when four massive bombs exploded in Russia in September. The first, at a military housing complex at Buinaksk in Dagestan, blew up on 4 September killing 83 people. The next two were targeted at ordinary Russian civilians. On 8 and 13 September explosives demolished two working-class apartment blocks in south Moscow leaving 228 men, women and children dead. Three days later a truck exploded in Volgodonsk.

It was the wave of anger and hatred among Russians against Chechens, universally blamed for the attacks, that gave Mr Putin the backing he needed to invade Chechnya. An unknown figure when appointed, with just 2 per cent support in the polls, he was soon the leading candidate to win the presidency.

The Russian anti-Stalinist left-winger Boris Kagarlitsky claims in the same article that Russian intelligence used their connections with Basayev not only to plant the bombs but also to prompt a quasi-comical invasion of Dagestan - when Basayev's forces were easily beaten off, Russian helicopters had to escort them back to the front line. Incidentally, it bears mention that Basayev's forces are widely believed to be linked to and funded by Osama bin Laden. Russian intelligence in bed with Al Qaeda - whatever next?

The Second Battle of Algiers
This. The story is a relatively simple one: an Islamist party won a democratic election in November 1991, and the ruling class decided that it preferred the bullet to the ballot box. The military nullified the elections and forced President Chadli Benjedid to resign. The story goes that a splinter of the FIS named the GIA broke away and began to start a splodin' shit everywhere, and thus a civil war ensued. That civil war was brought to the Metro system in Paris through several nightmarish explosions. Luckily, the bad guys were mostly caught or killed, and peace was restored for free elections - even if some extremists inexplicably keep wading in blood.

The civil war was certainly bloody. Amnesty International reported in 1997 that:

Men, women and children have been slaughtered, decapitated, mutilated and burned to death in massacres. The large scale of the massacres of civilians of the past year have taken place against a background of increasingly widespread human rights abuses by government security forces, state-armed militias and armed opposition groups. Arbitrary and secret detention, unfair trial, torture and ill-treatment, including rape, ‘disappearances’, extrajudicial executions, deliberate and arbitrary killings of civilians, hostage-taking and death threats have become routine. As the toll of victims continues to rise, the climate of fear has spread through all sectors of civilian society(Amnesty International, November 1997. Algeria: Civilian Population Caught in a Spiral of Violence).

Algerian grave following massacre.

Indeed, where GIA operatives have been accused of violent attacks - it is beyond doubt that they have committed many - it is also worth noting that the government used this as a handy excuse to commit its own atrocities. Amnesty reported: "[M]ost of the massacres took place near the capital, Algiers, and in the Bilder and Medea regions, in the most heavily militarised part of the country. Often, massacres were committed in villages situated close to army barracks and security forces posts, and in some cases survivors reported that army security forces were stationed nearby". (Cited here). Dr Amirouche, a former FLN fighter (and by no means a friend of the Islamists), wrote in 1998 of how "the military regime is perpetuating itself by fabricating and nourishing a mysterious monster to fight, but it is demonstrating daily its failure to perform its most elementary duty: providing security for the population. In October 1997, troubling reports 73 suggested that a faction of the army, dubbed the "land mafia," might actually be responsible for some of last summer’s massacres, which occured in Islamist strongholds and continued even after the Islamic Salvation Army, the armed wing of the FIS, called for a truce, in effect as of October 1, 1997." (The story about the "land mafia" cleansing land for subsequent privatisation came from the French magazine Paris-Match).

Robert Fisk wrote of "evidence that [massacred villagers] were themselves Islamists", while the Sunday Times noted that a particularly gruesome massacre of over 1,000 villagers in early 1998 took place "within 500 yards of an army base that did not deploy a single soldier, despite the fact that the gunfire and screams would have been clearly audible". (Cited here). Meanwhile, John Sweeney wrote for the Observer of an Algerian military officer who had informed Le Monde that not only were the government's secret services responsible for some of the most grotesque attacks, but the GIA itself was a creature of the government. The officer who blew the whistle on this died shortly afterwards in a helicopter crash.

This had come after an exposé by John Sweeney and Leonard Doyle in The Guardian, in which they were informed by a former career agent in Algeria's secret services that not only was the GIA a product of Algerian intelligence, but that this intelligence service had "organised 'at least' two of the bombs in Paris in the summer of 1995, in which several people were killed. The operation was run by Colonel Souames Mahmoud, alias Habib, head of the secret service at the Algerian embassy in Paris." Similar claims were later made by the former Prime Minister of Algeria, Dr Abdel Hameed al-Ibrahimi. (Cited here).

Terrorism is often described as a weapon of the weak, and this is true to the extent that the tactic is frequently used by groups that are the weakest in a particular confrontation: the IRA, Palestinians, Farc, Tamil Tigers etc. But it may also be a weapon of the weak in another sense. States which know that they cannot rule through persuasion - ie, are not hegemonic - often resort to such tactics. Penny Green and Tony Ward, authors of State Crimes: Governments, Violence, and Corruption, (Pluto Press, 2003), write that the decision to resort to death squads and other forms of repression directed at civilians is related to their relative ability to fulfil their goals as states and also meet the demands of citizens in other ways. They note that in Latin American countries where it was much more difficult to satisfy peasant demands, the recourse to terror was much more severe. On the other hand, the use of terror by powerful and relatively stable states - the UK, United States, Russia & Spain to name a few - indicates that the tactic of terrorism is an all too familiar tool for the powerful.

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Hitchens to bin Laden: 'Thanks' posted by Richard Seymour

Well, well. Here's a charming vignette from Hitchens' latest torrent of half-informed drivel for the Weekly Standard:

I am one of those who believe, uncynically, that Osama bin Laden did us all a service (and holy war a great disservice) by his mad decision to assault the American homeland four years ago. Had he not made this world-historical mistake, we would have been able to add a Talibanized and nuclear-armed Pakistan to our list of the threats we failed to recognize in time. (This threat still exists, but it is no longer so casually overlooked.)

Quite. The US is forever overlooking threats to its interests. It overlooks here , it overlooks there, it's overlooking everywhere. That's why it needed a helpful nudge from Osama bin Laden and his crack suicide squad. Thanks Osama.

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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Arise Sir Iqbal posted by levi9909

I first became aware of some rumblings on the part of Muslims over an edition of BBC's Panarama about the Muslim Council of Britain a couple of weeks ago when the Observer ran a story on its front page (and editorial) on 14/8/2005. It worried me when the editorial said:

It is not right that the Muslim Council of Britain, a group that boycotts a ceremony to honour the multi-faith victims. of the Holocaust and often supports hardline views that are far from universally accepted by all Muslims, should monopolise that function [of community representation].

"Multi-faith victims?" That's interesting. Zionist propaganda has it that the only holocaust victims worthy of note were the Jewish victims. Ask most people to define the holocaust and I am sure they would say something like it being when the nazis killed 6 million Jews. I don't think most people see the holocaust, or its commemoration, as being "multi-faith". Are there any Hollywood movies dealing with Roma, gay, communist or slav experiences during the holocaust? At a zionist demonstration back in 2002, Peter Mandelson told the Trafalgar Square faithful that Israel exists because of the holocaust. No Roma or Jehovah's Witness state exists because of the holocaust. And if Israel exists because of the holocaust and the holocaust is "multi-faith" why is Israel a Jewish state and not a "multi-faith" state? It's particularly annoying that when Israel reopened its holocaust museum, the Guardian reported that

The exhibition for the first time also acknowledges other victims of the Nazis, such as Gypsies and homosexuals, who were ignored in the old museum, established in 1957.

But in spite of that "painful concession"

The Nobel prize laureate and Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, told those assembled that the Holocaust was not about man's inhumanity to man, but man's inhumanity to Jews.

And just in case anyone thought that even the zionists would never stoop so low as to use the holocaust for propaganda purposes

Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, said the museum was a testament to the need for Israel to exist.

Now since the Guardian is the sister paper of the Observer, how did an Observer leader writer not notice, in just one fairly recent article, that the zionists clearly see the holocaust as a purely Jewish affair? Bizarre isn't it?

Now to Sir Iqbal Sacranie, the head of the Muslim Council of Britain and the MCB's media secretary, Inayat Bunglawala. I was going to avoid a post on this because it was covered quite ably at the Tomb, here and here. But then I bought Friday's Jewish Chronicle and I am still shocked at the shrill expressions of delight appearing in this zionist rag at the discomfiture of Sir Iqbal Sacranie over the kind of disrespectful grilling to which the known liar, the Chief Rabbi Jonothan Sacks, will never be subjected in our zionist controlled media. First up was a page 2 opinion piece by Jenni Frazer headed MCB Chief wilts under grilling
By turns looking sick and slick Sacranie writhed and wriggled on Ware's hook

Then there was Alex Brummer, the City Editor of the formerly nazi, now zionist (see if you can spot the difference), Daily Mail. His article is headed The BBC has done the country a favour. Maybe, but which country? This article is truly absurd. Brummer denounces the MCB's boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day and emulates the Observer editorial thus
All the victims of the Holocaust, including gypsies, homosexuals, the disabled, Catholic priests - and no doubt some Muslims - were properly memorialised, and not just Jews.

But then he went and put his foot in it by lauding Rod Liddle's denunciation of Sacranie's "anti-semitism".
Liddle notes that critics of Israel's policies are usually at pains to point out they are not being anti-Semitic, merely anti-Zionist. It is not the Jews they are against, just the Zionists.

If that is the case, Liddle argues, why on earth would they be uncomfortable spending a few moments remembering the six million people murdered by the Nazis?
"Six million people"? Didn't Brummer say that "gypsies, homosexuals, the disabled, Catholic priests - and no doubt some Muslims - were properly memorialised, and not just Jews." But the six million figure is only ever used to state the approximate number of Jews. The fact is that the MCB sees, as so many of us do, the memorialisation of the holocaust as being a specifically Jewish affair because the zionists have promoted and used it as such, and that for the purpose of zionist propaganda.

Anyway, unfortunately there's more. Next we have the editorial headed, simply, Panoramic view which concluded that
This Panorama should be compulsory viewing for the bright sparks at the Home Office who chose to appoint Mr Bunglawala to a task force to tackle extremism among young Muslims - a move as sadly laughable as accusing the BBC of a pro-Israel bias

It's still not over, there's still a letter that begins
Thank heavens for last week's Panorama [enough said]

Well, almost enough because finally we have Daniel Finkelstein (no relation of Norman I hope) on the MCB's boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day and their suggestion of zionist control of the media

It's astonishing that they still can't see that that attendance would have been a matter of simple human decency. It wasn't about Israel....I think this incident, while small in itself, is terribly revealing. The MCB, which is regarded by most non-Muslims as the community's leadership, has put its name to an absurd conspiracy theory alleging Zionist control of the media.

So there we have it. The holocaust is always promoted (even by zionists) as a multi-faith affair and to suggest that decades of zionist propaganda emanating from the mainstream media amounts to zionist control is an insane conspiracy theory that only a, well, Muslim would believe.

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Saturday, August 27, 2005

Johann Hari in Venezuela. posted by Richard Seymour

It is hard to believe, but Johann Hari has been blowing the horn for revolutionary socialism down in Venezuela, where Hugo Chavez has been transferring wealth and power to the workers, arming the peasants, thumbing his nose at the US and selling cheap oil to their geopolitical enemies.

Here he defends what he chooses to describe as a "Salsa revolution", and even goes so far as to fight for Hugo Chavez's honour. Chavez? The Venezuelan George Galloway (use your imagination)? The friend and ally of Fidel Castro? Why, yes, the very same...

Here he talks some more about the mountainous inequalities in Venezuela, contextualising them in relation to US imperialism, and also satirises the pretensions of a couple of upper class pillocks he meets while there.

Of course, it is all framed within the purview of European social democracy: the Venezuelans are only fighting for what we Europeans take for granted. Still, as Lenin said "one must always try to be as radical as reality itself.” Reality itself, it would seem, has been biting Johann hard in the ass while he has been visiting downtown Caracas.

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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Iraq: sending them back. posted by Richard Seymour

You remember when Jack Straw was a Saddam apologist? Well now there's a follow-up album out, this time entitled: When this government deported refugees to war zones.

From the Refugee Council:

Iraqi failed asylum seekers are currently being detained in preparation for the first programme of forced removals, the Home Office said on 15 August. The Home Office would not confirm the numbers who have been detained pending their removal. However, the Refugee Council believe that 43 Iraqis had been arrested by the end of last week and the Times has reported that they were told by officials said that the figure had grown to over 100.

There are currently up to 7,000 failed Iraqi asylum seekers in Britain living in Britain. Their removal until now has been on a voluntary basis because of the problems of ensuring their safety on return.

Despite refugee groups and the UNHCR warning that the volatile situation in Iraq means that no-one should be forced home, the Home Office are insisting that some parts of Iraq are not as affected by insurgent action and are therefore safer. This goes against Foreign Office advice which has discouraged non- essential travel to Iraq for Britons and warns of an expected increase in attacks by insurgents.

My advice to those deported is to sign up for one of the many fine resistance outfits in the New Iraq. They pay well, I'm told, and you may even live. Failing that, how about everyone here join the demonstrations planned. For Londoners, you can gather outside the Home Office, Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF on Friday 26 August 12pm - 2pm.

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Tariq Ramadan in Red Pepper. posted by Richard Seymour

It isn't yet available on Red Pepper's website, but an interview with Ramadan by Oscar Reyes of Red Pepper is well worth sampling - if only because he has been so falsely maligned, including by those who should bloody well know better. On the London bombings:

When Tony Blair says that there is no relation between the attacks in London and those in Iraq, he is correct on ethical grounds - you cannot justify what was done in London by what is happening in Iraq. But on politicla grounds there is a connection, of course ... As Muslims, we need to stop being defensive and face up to our responsibilities for Islamic education and understanding. But the government and wider society also have a responsibility to look at the kind of education that we are providing in this society, whether it helps Muslims to understand that they are accepted as fellow citizens.

On moving beyond the 'moderate' versus 'fundamentalist' dichotomy:

It is really important not to accept this simplistic division, where Muslims who are saying what we want them to say are the moderates and all the others are fundamentalists. The Muslim community is as complex as, say, the Christian community and we have different voices ... [Muslims should] take a clear stance on the idea that Islam means 'against the West'. We have people, ideologists, using Islam in that way, and they are playing exactly the game of the neo-cons on the other side ... And it's up to us all, Muslims but also others in the West, to understand that we are fighting two extremisms that are nurturing each other.

On a "silent revolution" among young European Muslims:

In the face of the current reaction in Britain, you can feel that the second and third generations are asserting their identities, being British and Muslims at the same time. They are asking for their rights and not remaining on the margins of society. This shows an acceptance of their citizenship, that this society is their home, that they are no longer in dar al-harb (abode of war). Women are more present, more assertive, more aware of their rights against discrimination too ... We have even seen more Muslims getting involved in the European Social Forum too. And in France, we have had the 'Ecole pour tous' - which brought together non-Muslims and, even within feminist groups, saw them working together in the name of common values ... And this is what I call the "silent revolution".

And on the relationship between the Left and Islam:

Some within these movements understand that they have to study, to know more, to decentre themselves from the culturally dominant ideology. But others are totally misled by their perception that they are politically progressive, and fail to understand that they are culturally still very conservative and even backward sometimes, very imbibed with the ideology of colonisation, that 'we know best'. It's very difficult to deal with such people...

We need people who understand that they have to be serious about diversity. We have to deal with people in the name of our common resistance but we come from specific realities, values and histories.

It doesn't take a great stretch of the imagination to conceive of who "such people" are. Anyway, also worth reading is this and this.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

An interview with a resistance consultant posted by bat020

posted by bat020

There's a fascinating interview in today's Financial Times with Colonel Watban Jassam, who is described as a "consultant" to the armed Iraqi resistance. Colonel Jassam is a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war and spent 15 years as a prisoner of the Badr Brigade. Unsurprisingly, he is not a big fan of SCIRI, the largely pro-occupation sectarian Shia group that is a major player in the puppet government. But he has little time for Sunni sectarianism either:

He stresses he has nothing against the Shia per se. “We like [anti-American Shia leader] Muqtada al-Sadr. I don't have any problem with Shia, just with the Supreme Council and with Badr.”

In the interview Jassam spells out his views on the future direction of the Iraqi resistance:

The colonel's advice to the insurgents is twofold: hints on how to strike while dodging the marines' devastating firepower, and thoughts on what their political goals should be... To achieve their second goal, turning Americans against the war, the mujahideen need to shape their operations “to support anti-war sentiment in the west”, he says.

Speaking of "anti-war sentiment in the west", the latest SW carries an interwiew with Los Angeles-based activist John Parker who discusses the recent revival of the US anti-war movement. This revival has of course coincided with things getting much bloodier in Iraq, which has in turn stoked up the Troops Out question. A recent Juan Cole post argued against withdrawal... which sparked a swift rebuttal from Gilbert Achcar.

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Iraqi Kurdish leadership and Israel posted by Richard Seymour

One of the least noticed but most curious aspects of the current battle for Iraq is the relationship between Kurdish leaders and Israel. There have been a number of reports about the growing closeness between leaders of the two main Kurdish parties, the KDP and the PUK, and Israel, not least by Seymour Hersh. They seem to have struck upon a common interest: Iraq should not survive as a state.

While some will quite reasonably put this down to the particularly supine politics of the KDP and PUK leaders, both of whom have - in the name of an internecine power struggle - sold out their fellow Kurds, one to Saddam, the other to Iran. However, John Cooley traces the history back much farther in his An Alliance Against Babylon: The US, Israel & Iraq (2005). In particular, the relationship may well have began when Israel was busily coercing Iraq's Jews to leave the mainly Arab state and emigrate to the new Jewish state (with the help of the British, and Iraq's pro-British puppet government). Israel, seeking allies in the Middle East and Africa, looked to non-Arab groups like the Kurds and non-Arab nations like Turkey, as well as Iran, following the 1953 coup. Cooley reports that Israel, through Mossad, was supporting SAVAK in Iran and also the Kurds in Iraq for several decades. He writes:

Serious Israeli support for the Iraqi Kurds goes back to 1964 ... Defense Minister Shimon Peres met secretly with an ageing Kurdish leader, Khumran Ali Bedir-Khan, who had spied for Mossad during the early years of Israel's independence. In August 1965, Mossad organised an initial three-month training course - the first of others to follow - for the officers of Barzani's "Pesh Merga" (Kurdish for "those facing death" or sacrificers) fighters. The operation was code-named "Marvad" (carpet).

In the late summer of 1966 ... Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol deputised Aryieh ("Lyova") Eliav, the Labor party general-secretary who was then a member of the Knesset and deputy minister for industrialization and development, to conduct a survey in Iraqi Kurdistan and contact Barzani. An Israeli assistance programme was set up under Haim Levakov, a Palmach veteran and specialist of Arab affairs. An Israeli delegation with a complete Israeli field hospital and a small Israeli staff of doctors and nurses was sent to Barzani’s forces in jeeps and trucks, probably from Iran...

Eliav greeted Barzani in the name of the Israeli government. He presented greetings from the Knesset to Barzani in the form of a special gold medallion, struck to commemorate the opening of the newly elected Knesset. What forms Israeli assistance could take, besides arms and military training, was discussed. The field hospital, described by Eliav as a “big present” to Barzani, was set up.

During this time, which Cooley describes as “the secret Kurdish-Israeli honeymoon”, Barzani made a number of covert trips to Israel, touring the kibbutzim, meeting editors and politicians. Mossad and SAVAK helped the Kurds set up an intelligence outfit called Parastin, and Iranian intelligence arranged for Kurdish insurgents to be trained by Israel on its territory. The Shah made a deal with Saddam in 1975, which lasted right up until the uprising of 1979, and that terminated the Iranian connection (the post-revolutionary government was inclined towards a nationalism reinforced by Shi’ism, and treated the Kurds rather harshly as a result). Much more deserves to be said of the US involvement in this affair, particularly after Iraq’s involvement in the oil-price rises in 1973, and of course in the aftermath of the October 1973 war. However, that would be more work, and neither of us wants that.

What is worth mentioning is that when the Shah decided to drop the Kurds, in return for territorial concessions, so did Israel and the United States. The United States, for its part, took a well-documented turn toward Saddam, assisting his murder of the Kurds, covering up his crimes, with the executive trying to frustrate congressional moves to limit arms sales to the dictator. Only after a joint Kurdish-Shi’ite uprising in 1991 had been crushed with the help of the US did it turn toward support for the Kurds again. Israel, meanwhile, resumed support for the Kurds in the run up to the war on Iraq when it became clear that they might finally break up Iraq. Seymour Hersh was told by a former Israeli intelligence officer that the Israelis were building up the peshmergas so that they could go much farther than the Americans could dream of, and “penetrate, gather intelligence on, and then kill off the leadership of the Shi’ite and Sunni insurgencies in Iraq”.

While none of this diminishes for a second the endless tragedies to which the Kurds have been subjected nor vitiate their legitimate demands, it does help explain a crucial dynamic in the present Iraqi situation. The invasion and occupation of Iraq was advertised, among other things, as a bid to create a unified democracy. If democracy doesn’t look to be doing very well, the centrifugal forces are gaining in the New Iraq. Kurds are demanding nothing short of federal autonomy, some Shi’ites want the same, many don’t, and Sunnis are preparing themselves for civil war over the matter. It is hard to resist the conclusion that one aim of this war was to infirm Iraq as a nation-state. Sunnis and Shi’ites are uniting to prevent that.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Burn the witch posted by Meaders

The post-Hutton BBC continues its long march to Murdoch. The main item on the London news yesterday evening was the Jean Charles de Menezes story; not surprising, of course, given SO19's incompetent bloodlust and the scale of the Met's subsequent mendacity. But instead of asking, as even the Evening Standard did, about the "lost" CCTV footage from Stockwell station, or reporting on the compensation offered to de Menezes' family, or of picking up on any number of immediately relevant stories relating to the murder, the BBC chose to focus on the vital question of the family's campaign: who is that sinister squat man answering questions at the press conference? who is that suspicious Iranian sitting next to him? Londoners, tiring of trivial reportage on minor issues like the police shooting random commuters on the tube, were undoubtedly demanding answers.

Fortunately, Brian Coleman was on hand to answer them. Brian Coleman is leader of the Tories on the Greater London Assembly. Brian Coleman can sniff out left-wing plots before they even exist. Brian Coleman's nasal irritations were given almost half of the BBC's prime-time regional news footage for the south-east.

De Menezes' death is being used by those with an "extreme left-wing agenda", says Brian Coleman. The BBC helpfully followed up by profiling Asad Rehman and Yasmin Khan, two spokespeople for the family. Behind Asad, the dread hand of George Galloway; behind Yasmin, the far more sinister "Corporate Pirates".

Thank heavens for Brian Coleman. The last thing any Londoner would want is for those murdered by our brave defenders of the British way of life to be represented by competent or experienced campaigners, pushing their sinister "extreme left-wing agenda" of holding the police to account. No, much better to offer the family £15,000 and hope they shut up for a bit.

But wait. All this talk of "agendas": what's Brian Coleman been up to lately?

He's a busy man. He's long been concerned about racism, for instance:

Of Somalis Mr Coleman has stated: ‘The influx of asylum seekers from countries which have no connection with Britain, such as Somalia, must be halted.’ (Barnet & Whetstone Press, 4 March 2004). Of Irish Travellers he stated: ‘Most of the past few summers, outer London boroughs have been plagued by Irish travellers who have caused tens of thousands of pounds of damage.’ (Daily Telegraph, 19 March 2004). Of foreign students in general he argued: ‘why should the people of north London suffer in order to attract hundreds of foreign students?’ (Barnet and Potters Bar Times, 8 April 2004)

And, of course, he's very concerned about the police. In his own words:

"Conservative members of the GLA proposed an alternative budget which would have provided 1,050 extra police officers and public transport improvements but would have cut expenditure." Evening Standard, 28 February 2001

"Residents who wish to see virtually the entire workforce of the Metropolitan Police Force on parade need only visit the Notting Hill Carnival next weekend.

My sources at Scotland Yard tell me that the rest of London will be denuded of police that weekend in order to prevent a repeat of last year's Carnival mayhem.

Now this coming weekend I shall be at the Friern Barnet Summer Show which manages to attract about 10,000 people and is policed by a handful of local police officers.

I fail to understand why London should suffer the disruption of the Notting Hill Carnival, either put it in Hyde Park or cancel the thing altogether."
Evening Standard, 14 August 2001

Elsewhere, Brian Coleman has suggested the police use water-cannons against May Day protestors; argued for the removal of road humps so the police can drive faster (referring, by-the-by, to Transport for London as "Taliban for London"); and calls for "zero tolerance" policing in London.

Needless to say, Brian Coleman does not have an agenda.

Update: But Gareth Furby, who presented the BBC report, might have:

We were approached by a journalist from the BBC, Gareth Furby. He started by asking us if we were scared to be on the number 30 that day and was non-plussed when we replied that we weren’t.

But what really upset him was when I said that the foreign policies of Tony Blair and George Bush were responsible for making London a target in such a horrendous way.

This was beyond Furby’s comprehension. He abruptly terminated the interview and berated me for being “an apologist for terrorism”.

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Death Squads in The New Iraq. posted by Richard Seymour

They're not even trying to deny it any more. The CIA-trained Iraqi security forces are working with Kurdish and Shi'ite militias to carry out "abductions, assassinations and other acts of intimidation" . I know what you're thinking - they're just talking about getting the bad guys, right? Think again:

Shiite and Kurdish militias, often operating as part of Iraqi government security forces, have carried out a wave of abductions, assassinations and other acts of intimidation, consolidating their control over territory across northern and southern Iraq and deepening the country's divide along ethnic and sectarian lines, according to political leaders, families of the victims, human rights activists and Iraqi officials.

While Iraqi representatives wrangle over the drafting of a constitution in Baghdad, the militias, and the Shiite and Kurdish parties that control them, are creating their own institutions of authority, unaccountable to elected governments, the activists and officials said. In Basra in the south, dominated by the Shiites, and Mosul in the north, ruled by the Kurds, as well as cities and villages around them, many residents have said they are powerless before the growing sway of the militias, which instill a climate of fear that many see as redolent of the era of former president Saddam Hussein.


Since the formation of a government this spring, Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, has witnessed dozens of assassinations, which claimed members of the former ruling Baath Party, Sunni political leaders and officials of competing Shiite parties. Many have been carried out by uniformed men in police vehicles, according to political leaders and families of the victims, with some of the bullet-riddled bodies dumped at night in a trash-strewn parcel known as The Lot.


Across northern Iraq, Kurdish parties have employed a previously undisclosed network of at least five detention facilities to incarcerate hundreds of Sunni Arabs, Turkmens and other minorities abducted and secretly transferred from Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, and from territories stretching to the Iranian border, according to political leaders and detainees' families. Nominally under the authority of the U.S.-backed Iraqi army, the militias have beaten up and threatened government officials and political leaders deemed to be working against Kurdish interests; one bloodied official was paraded through a town in a pickup truck, witnesses said.

Some parties in the south get to expel a police chief they don't like and instal one they prefer , which certainly puts a stop to any precipitous investigations into what how the Salvadoran Option is panning out on the ground. Try that in London and Ian Blair will scream bloody murder - or, more likely, he'll simper about "a terrible tragedy, er, deep regrets, er, police under terrible pressure, many other deaths, er, no further questions". Meanwhile, the militias are into beating and killing those they take a dislike to.

Sadly, what appears to be happening is that the putative 'civil war', often used to justify troops remaining in Iraq, is actually taking seed under the rubric of the occupation - and with no small amount of help from the occupiers. And, of course, it is no surprise to see how Haditha , having been brutalised by the occupiers , has now gone over to authoritarian Islamist groups , with - if The Guardian is right - the general support and acquiescence of the local population .

On top of which, the invasion looks set to turn Iraq into a state governed by Shari'a law . If Iraqis choose this, it is no one else's business to dictate otherwise, but this is a constitution being drawn up by a puppet government, closely 'advised' by the enormous US embassy.

No, it's all going swimmingly. Iraq is in fine shape. Look at all those schools and hospitals they're rebuilding. Iraqi trade unionists totally dig it . They keep saying how thrilled they are.

Actually, to break with glum cynicism for a moment, the most hopeful sign from Iraq is precisely the recrudescence of grass-roots trade unionism . They are being supported in their struggles - both against the occupiers and the employers - by British and American trade unions. This is particularly important when large parts of the liberal left in both of these countries have been cheering on the occupiers, and when a large part of (what remains of) the Iraqi left has acquiesced in the occupation of their country. Another hopeful sign has been the joint Sunni-Shi'ite demonstrations , and the spectacle of Sunni resistance groups defending Shi'ites . That sort of solidarity is precisely what is most dangerous to the occupiers, who need - and are evidently striving to accomplish - the total fragmentation of Iraq's struggle and identity.

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Monday, August 22, 2005

The Prophet Disarmed. posted by Richard Seymour

Following 9/11, the Bush & Blair administrations needed to find some respectable, moderate Muslim organisations they could patronise: these, you see, are the good Muslims, whom we are not at war with. We make no crusade – er, war – against Islam; our only enemy is the acephalous international network that struck at the heart of, um, Western civilisation. Why, no other than Iqbal Sacranie, head of the Muslim Council of Britain, was knighted for his services to the Crown-in-Parliament. Those good old days are gone, and it now seems that even the moderates are becoming too prickly for the government to deal with: saying bad things about the war on Iraq and Western support for Israel one minute, looking for a cup of tea in Downing Street the next. Who on earth do these Mohammedans think they are?

I say this because there appears to be something programmatic about the ferocity with which moderate Muslims are being attacked and publicly vilified, and it has to do with disarming their criticisms of the government’s foreign policy. Last night’s Panorama documentary, ably dispatched by the MCB themselves, was preceded by a barrage of attacks on the Muslim Council of Britain, a moderate Muslim organisation. There was also the odd scare story about Muslims, particularly this drivel, which claimed that a Muslim crime organisation was funding terrorist attacks – of course it had no evidence whatsoever for such a thesis. On the same day, there was Martin Bright’s rather wet effort for The Observer, which referred to “an extraordinary letter obtained by the Observer”. The letter, addressed by the MCB to the BBC’s director-general, was available on the MCB’s website – the front page, in fact, so hardly a terrific find on the part of the Observer. The article said that the MCB was accused of failing mainstream Britain because it called the upcoming Panorama documentary “pro-Israel”. It noted that the letter would be “used by critics” of the organisation. Who these accusers and critics were, the reader was never told. One astute reader of the piece wrote to Mr Bright, and received an interesting if cursory reply:

Both your objections are valid. I can't say any more: as the article appeared in my name I have to stand by it.
Warned by the sound of so much hand-washing, then, one is inclined to wonder in who else’s name the article might have appeared under had Mr Bright not been so lumbered. Indeed, this wasn’t the only response, as the Observer’s blog notes:

The overwhelming balance of correspondence we have received has been towards defence of the MCB and anger at the tone and content of our story.
That would be, anger at the fact that it’s all tone and zero content. The reference to a “pro-Israeli agenda” arose because the MCB said that almost the entirety of John Ware’s questions toward Iqbal Sacranie were about he and his organisation's attitudes to Israel. Indeed, as Inayat Bungwala rightly notes, it is perfectly correct to describe a pro-Israel bias at the BBC, since “All independent studies show that all the mainstream broadcasters give more coverage to the Israeli official perspective than to Palestinians”. See, in particular, Greg Philo and Mike Berry’s Bad News From Israel, in which their exhaustive studies confirm a bias of several orders and magnitudes in Israel’s favour. Mr Bright’s article managed to claim that the MCB is a “self-appointed organisation” and has “no women prominently involved in the organisation” – except, of course, as Iqbal Sacranie promptly pointed out, there are many Muslims in the organisation, and one of its assistant secretary-generals, Unaiza Malik, is a woman. The entire article was, in fact drivel.

Aside from all of this nonsense have been various charges levelled against Inayat Bungwala. The Financial Times reports that he said Osama bin Laden was a “freedom fighter” when he fought the Russians in the 1980s. “Obviously I don't hold those views now”, he said. He added: “We condemn the killing of innocent civilians. The term mujahid is reserved for those fighting illegal occupation, which Osama bin Laden was doing in the 80s in Afghanistan”. Not good enough for the pink paper, which salivates about how Bungwala’s comments “come at a sensitive time” when everyone is already laying into the MCB. The Telegraph charges him with anti-Semitism, because of a comment made back in 1992, from which Bungawala has already resiled. According to Rod Liddle , both Inayat Bungwala and Iqbal Sacranie must be anti-Semites because they did not attend Holocaust memorial day. It’s political-correctness gone mad, I tell you.

This comes as Normo Tebbs has decided to enlighten the world as to the problem with these Muslims – they hadn’t been asked to pass his “cricket test”. Islam, he said, had made no real advances in art, literature or sciences. Could this be the same former Tory front-bencher who took it upon himself to defend the Sun’s use of page three girls? I think we all know what he means by literature... It follows a series of bigoted articles by some dickhead called Will Cummins, and also a rather nasty stream of Islamophobic vitriol from Anthony Browne , who has recently been paid for a couple of Muslim-baiting articles on a racist website known as V-Dare, in which he complained that Britain was losing its identity “under the weight of Third World colonization”. It is twinned with a similar campaign in the United States against a similar organisation known as the Council on American-Islamic Relations. (Also see this right wing stop-shop and penumbral lair of moonbats:

And of course it comes amid the epidemic of racist violence toward Muslims, latest among which is an arson attack on a Masjid in Woolwich, where I used to live and study. The place was surrounded by a high wall topped with barbed wire the last time I was there, so these were some determined arsonists.

Back to the Panorama documentary, and the reporter behind it, John Ware. Ware has form, it seems, as Islamophobia Watch explains. He has previously been behind what even David Blunkett couldn’t help but describe as a programme pursuing a “Powellite anti-immigration agenda”. The documentary, again a Panorama special, relied on unchecked claims from the right-wing anti-immigrant group Migration Watch. It assured viewers that they had every right to feel resentful about these immigrants “jumping the queue” for housing and healthcare. What a surprise to discover that he is behind yet another poorly sourced, badly made programme with a racist message.

The eternal bleat from the Right is that they are being prevented from asking legitimate questions by an hysterical climate of political-correctness. This would be more impressive if they managed to get their facts right from time to time, or if they could even come up with a properly phrased question. As it is, the attacks presently being mounted demonstrate what has previously been indicated in attacks on the MAB and the crusade against the much more extreme Hizb ut-Tahrir: that Muslims are already guilty, and that they must ceaselessly plead their innocence by placing before the courts fresh examples of Muslim deviance, tolerating the odious, announcing the obvious, and otherwise keeping very, very quiet.

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Justice for Jean Charles de Menezes posted by Meaders

It's a plug:

Justice 4 Jean Demonstration
Monday 22nd August


Outside Downing Street (nearest tube Westminster)

It now appears that a catalogue of errors has unfolded regarding Jean Charles’ murder. This includes deliberate and continued misleading of the public and the family by the Metropolitan Police.

The family are very shocked and distressed by the leaked information but it verified what the family already knew, that Jean did nothing wrong, that he was not wearing a bulky jacket or running from the police. The Family campaign is calling for the sacking of Metropolitan Chief Commissioner Sir Ian Blair who continued to mislead the public and for an immediate public inquiry into Jean’s murder.

This Monday marks a month from Jean’s murder. On this evening the family campaign will be calling a demonstration

We need as many people as possible to come along. It is only through continued public support that we can put pressure on the police and government to take responsibility for what they have done. It is in the public interest that justice is done for the Menezes family and that those responsible for his killing are held to account.

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"Britons would trade civil liberties for security" posted by Meaders

(posted by Meaders)

So says the Guardian headline, based on an ICM poll finding 73% of us would give up our civil liberties to "protect against terrorist attacks". Marginally more people are now satisfied with Tony Blair than dissatisfied. Civil liberties be dammned: the British public back their police and their Prime Minister.

Scratch just a little, however, and a different story appears. (The ICM's report is available here, as a PDF file.)

First, the headline question asked: it's biased. "Do you think it is right or wrong to lose some civil liberties to improve our security against terrorist attacks?"

This presupposes that the loss of civil liberties will improve security. That's debatable, and the case still has to be made. The question leads the respondent to answer in a certain way. Ask someone if they would rather lose a few minor rights, or be blown up on the tube, and you can almost guarrantee the answer. The fact that nearly a quarter of respondents saw through the bias is itself impressive.

The apparently rock-solid support for Blair's measures starts to wobble when specific measures are presented.

Forty-five per cent would support the banning of radical Islamist organisations "even if they don't advocate violence". Thirty-one percent oppose, with a great crowd inbetween that are uncertain or unbothered.

Forty per cent want judges to continue to "protect our civil liberty" against fifty-two per cent who think judges "should not overturn" Draconian legislation. That slender majority is within the usual margin of error, as is Blair's positive popularity rating.

Finally, as the Guardian says, "The poll was carried out before this week's revelations about inaccuracies in the initial police account of the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes."

The picture is not rosy. The combination of genuine fear, and an overwhelming government and media barrage have eaten away at popular support for democratic rights. But it has not been replaced by a significant support for the government's measures: beneath the headline figures, the situation is fluid, with significant minorities remaining opposed and no clear majorities for the government on the most critical issues.

When ID cards were first announced to, amongst other things, combat terrorism, opinion polls reported majorities in favour. As the costs of the scheme emerged, balanced against its lack of clear benefits, public support dwindled. The same can happen to this clampdown: from declaring themselves to be leading a "different mood" , New Labour can be very rapidly brought low. There is a real political battle on now to defend some of our basic freedoms. Events like the Stop the War demonstration for civil liberties can be decisive in turning public opinion and blocking the government's plans.

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Democrat leaders: smart to support Bush. posted by Richard Seymour

Amid growing rumours of possible frustration among Democrat Party activists, various leaders have decided to speak out on Iraq. Hilary Clinton, Joe Biden and a number of other political ambulance-chasers, have all explained that they will be continuing to support the occupation of Iraq. One amoeba explained :

"Credit the Democrats for not trying to pour more gasoline on the fire, even if they're not particularly unified in their message," said Michael McCurry, a former Clinton White House press secretary. "Democrats could jump all over them and try to pin Bush down on it, but I'm not sure it would do anything but make things worse. The smartest thing for Democrats to do is be supportive."

That'll work. It certainly worked out fine last time round . From 'Anyone But Bush' to 'No One But Bush' - didn't take long, did it?

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The Dispossessed and their moral duty to the oppressors. posted by Richard Seymour

With the portentous proclivities of the pseudo-novelist and huckster that he is, Elie Wiesel pronounced his verdict on the withdrawal of Israeli colonists from Palestinian territory:

The images of the evacuation itself are heart-rending. Some of them are unbearable. Angry men, crying women. Children, led away on foot or in the arms of soldiers who are sobbing themselves.

Let's not forget: These men and women lived in Gaza for 38 years.

Successive governments, from the left and the right, encouraged them to settle there. In the eyes of their families, they were pioneers, whose idealism was to be celebrated.

And here they are, obliged to uproot themselves, to take their holy and precious belongings, their memories and their prayers, their dreams and their dead, to go off in search of a bed to sleep in, a table to eat on, a new home, a future among strangers.

Honestly. The poor bastards. Having eulogised the "settlers" (stop using that word), he then goes on to berate the Palestinians for looking so pleased with themselves, adding:

I will perhaps be told that when the Palestinians cried at the loss of their homes, few Israelis were moved. That's possible. But how many Israelis rejoiced?

I don't know that it wasn't all a big laugh for some Israelis: however, is it the same? No. No, it isn't. For instance - and do try to follow this complex reasoning - when Palestinian homes were destroyed, it was to benefit the occupation of their land; when Israelis were removed with kid gloves, it was from land that they had stolen to service Israel's occupation. If someone had nicked my house, I'd be pretty happy to see them kicked out of it by whatever means were necessary. Still not convinced? Consult Jonathan Steele in Friday's Guardian:

There was no "sensitivity training" for Israeli troops, no buses to drive the expellees away, no generous deadlines to get ready, no compensation packages for their homes, and no promise of government-subsidised alternative housing when the bulldozers went into Rafah.

Within sight of the Gush Katif settlements that have been handled with such kid gloves this week, families in Rafah were usually given a maximum of five minutes' warning before their houses, and life savings, were crushed. Many people did not even have time to go upstairs to collect belongings when the barking of loudspeakers ordered them out, sometimes before dawn. Fleeing with their children in the night, they risked being shot if they turned round or delayed.

As many as 13,350 Palestinians were made homeless in the Gaza Strip in the first 10 months of last year by Israel's giant armour-plated Caterpillar bulldozers - a total that easily exceeds the 8,500 leaving Israeli settlements this week. In Rafah alone, according to figures from the UN relief agency Unrwa, the rate of house demolitions rose from 15 per month in 2002 to 77 per month between January and October 2004.
Parts of Rafah now resemble areas of Kabul or Grozny. Facing Israeli army watchtowers and the concrete wall that runs close to the Gaza Strip's boundary, rows of rubble and ruined homes stretch for hundreds of yards.

You see what I mean? There's a slight difference which is not merely academic.

On the other hand, we must never forget what We Must Never Forget. For instance, Elie Wiesel writes:

[L]ast May, at an official dinner offered by King Abdullah II of Jordan, I spoke with the Palestinian prime minister, Ahmed Qurei. When I asked him what he thought of Sharon's courageous decision regarding Gaza, it was with a wave of the hand that he objected, adding with disdain: "All that is worth nothing, means nothing. If Sharon doesn't begin right away to negotiate definitive borders, a great catastrophe will be the result." He repeated those words: "right away" and "a great catastrophe."

The optimist in me wants very much to believe that those were just words.

The drama of the Nazi holocaust is endlessly replayed in the mind of the apologist for Israel. The Arabs, jack-booted, marching in their military parades, foaming at the mouth, baying for Jewish blood, warn of a "great catastrophe". For whom, they do not say - but they don't need to. Anyone who has seen Schindler's List will know that the Shoah was redeemed in Israel, and its redemption is still not safe with all those barbarians at the gates.

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Sunday, August 21, 2005

Next year Jerusalem? posted by levi9909

The Telegraph reports on how George Bush's new appointment to the UN (together with "Jewish groups") has protested about a UN group promoting withdrawal from the rest of the occupied territories in the wake of the so-called disengagement.
Jewish groups reacted with fury to banners, mugs, bumper stickers and T-shirts bearing the slogan "Today Gaza, Tomorrow the West Bank and Jerusalem" which bore the UN Development Programme logo.

Israelis view the slogan, and particularly the reference to Jerusalem, as an aspiration to destroy the Jewish state. [then why didn't they say "tomorrow Tel Aviv"?]
And what about the Jewish groups who claim to want Israel out of the occupied territories? Apparently the Anti-defamation league got in on the act as well, with Abe Foxman saying that it was
inappropriate for the UNDP, as an impartial global development organisation, to fund such a political and provocative message
Without getting into how a UN group echoing many a UN resolution by way of stickers and mugs etc is provocative, what on earth is the head of a group founded to protect Jews from defamation doing linking Jews in general with the occupation? Perhaps this is why some people call the ADL, the Anti-definition league.

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Synagogue sweep? posted by levi9909

I just got this report from one of my regular correspondents in the US
During the Gaza "disengagement" saga — Jon Stewart calls it "The Jew Carry Show" — a lot of people are showing their true colors. But as the strange sight of fanatical young acidic Jews fighting other Jews proves, the color orange, for one, means different things in different contexts.[actually in the UK and Ireland orange stands for hard right wing sectarian bigotry as well]
So what is "the Jew Carry Show"? Is it like "supermarket sweep" only where the contestants are Israeli soldiers rushing through synagogues and carrying out as many Jews as they can in the time alloted and amid as much media hype as can be mustered? I must check.

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Saturday, August 20, 2005

MoveOn, moving on... posted by Richard Seymour

There was some controversy over recent criticisms of the tactics of American activist group MoveOn on the Tomb recently. In particular, it was strongly hinted that if any group merited the ubiquitous term "bruschetta brigade" it was them.

Of course, in the United States, MoveOn has been harshly criticised by the radical Left for its tremulousness, and by Bush apologists for its depiction of the President as a neo-Nazi in internet ads. Actually, the demonology of Bush went hand in hand with its support for Kerry and its peon tactics of mobilisation ("hey, let's us liberals have some house parties and eat snacks and drink Chianti and talk about how bad Bush is"). From being an antiwar group, it moved to support for the pro-war candidacy of John Kerry as well as his even more rabid side-kick John Edwards - naturally, their reward was that Kerry rebuked them for being so mean to Mr Bush. They continued, nevertheless, to organise on his behalf.

This March, Norman Solomon was disconcerted to learn that MoveOn had made their peace with the occupation of Iraq . Yesterday, in one of ZNet's e-mail commentaries, Norman Solomon wrote :

The day after Wednesday night's nationwide vigils, the big headline at the top of the home page said: "Support Cindy Sheehan." But MoveOn does not support Cindy Sheehan's call for swift withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.


Consider how the MoveOn website summarized the vigils: "Last night, tens of thousands of supporters gathered at 1,625 vigils to acknowledge the sacrifices made by Cindy Sheehan, her son Casey and the more than 1,800 brave American men and women who have given their lives in Iraq -- and their moms and families." Such a gloss excludes a key reason why many people participated in the vigils: They wanted to express clear opposition to any further U.S. involvement in the war.

I love the use of that word "mom". It's so cosy and American and apple-pie. In fact, MoveOn's whole approach from the beginning has been marked by stars n stripes stuff. Their support for Kerry involved distributing a video rebutting the account of Vietnam Swift Boat veterans which said that Kerry was a coward and so on. But no, he really did kill all those people - isn't that great? God bless America, vote Democrat and wave that star-spangled banner.

Some one, with more free time on their hands than I, should bring Rob Newman's advice to the attention of MoveOn: "The rest of the world has a flag too, you know. It's just like yours, except it's on fire."

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Golden Willy award. posted by Richard Seymour

I'd like to thank the Willesden Herald for kindly awarding the Tomb a joint Overall Winner award for their annual Golden Willies, as well as - for the second year running - the Best Commentary award.

As usual, and before anyone suggests it, we at the Tomb proudly receive our Golden Willies and know exactly where we can stick them.


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Friday, August 19, 2005

The logic of the Democratic Police State posted by bat020

posted by bat020

Good piece by John Pilger in today's New Statesman on what he calls the rise of the "democratic police state" (available online at UK Watch).

It covers ground that should be familar to Tomb readers, including Thomas Friedman's chillingly McCarthyite call for an official blacklist of those "just one notch less despicable than the terrorists" - he means those who believe US government actions are the root cause of terrorism.

Pilger also picks up on last month's police raid on a community bookshop in Leeds, where they confiscated anti-war material claiming it would "work people up". He notes how fear of terrorism is being used to justify a repressive police presence in Muslim areas:

Muslim people all over Britain report the presence of police "video vans" cruising their streets, filming everyone. "We have become like ghettoes under siege," said one man too frightened to be named. "Do they know what this is doing to our young people?"

He ends with a quote from Tony Blair from his press conference on 26 July:

We are not having any of this nonsense about [the bombings having anything] to do with what the British are doing in Iraq or Afghanistan, or support for Israel, or support for America, or any of the rest of it. It is nonsense and we have to confront it as that.

... which is itself interesting, because in his press conference on 5 August, Tony Blair was asked "You have said repeatedly that you don't think there's any link between Britain's involvement in the Iraq war and what happened in London", to which he replied:

Well let me first of all correct, I keep being asked this and I keep correcting it but it doesn't seem to make any difference but there it is. I mean I've never said that those people who are engaged in extremism won't use Iraq as a way to recruit or motivate people as they do Afghanistan, as they do the issue of Palestine, as they do, as the video made clear yesterday, what they call the presence of western countries in Islamic countries.

All this underlines that those who deny that imperialism is the root cause of terrorism are logically forced into a racist position, namely that Muslims are the root cause of terrorism. Police repression, ranging from a massive increase in harassment of young Asians all the way to the wanton slaying innocent commuters, all follows from this.

Of course this racism is disavowed - the ideological formula is "There are Good Muslims and there are Bad Muslims, except that there are no Good Muslims." And the fact that even the most timid and respectable Muslim organisations are now targets of the liberal bombers simply confirms this grim logic... which can only be halted if we Stop the War.

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Child abuse. posted by Richard Seymour

I don't know quite how Gore Vidal ended up in a studio with a Tory MP who happened to be blustering about the need to reintroduce corporal punishment into schools, but when asked what he thought on the matter, Vidal replied: "I am all for corporal punishment, as long as it is between consenting adults."

Quite. I've never understood why anyone beyond sadistic perverts, authoritarian cranks, deluded weirdos, Tory MPs (or, as is more common, all of the above), would want to inflict violence on children. It strikes me that the assumption of a natural parental right to smack kids about derives from the same identification with power that once said it was okay for husbands to beat their wives. Social violence - sexual or physical - is almost always meted out to society's weakest: women and children. This, surely, is a tradition to vilify and fight rather than nostalgically mythopoeticise and yearn for. Which is not to say that I can't understand why people might sometimes get so fucked off with a kid that they want to beat him or her about for a few long minutes: it's just not to be done, that's all.

That said, a Japanese beer company seems to have come up with an excellent way to handle noisy, quarrelsome children: give them a drink . It's a non-alcoholic substitude called Kidsbeer. You see:

The drink started out as Guarana, a cola beverage that used to be sold at the Shitamachi-ya restaurant in Fukuoka, run by 39-year-old Yuichi Asaba.

Asaba renamed the sweet carbonated drink Kidsbeer, a move that made it an instant hit....

..."Even kids cannot stand life unless they have a drink," reads the product's advertising slogan. ( via )

Just what will all the manufacturers of cheap synthetic cider do now?

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Thursday, August 18, 2005

A tube driver writes... posted by Richard Seymour

My RMT correspondent has written an updated piece, as promised:

Heathrow and Stockwell: Practical solidarity

There's a line spun by the media that we should all feel sorry for the sacked workers at Gate Gourmet, but that we should also condemn the solidarity action taken by BA baggage handlers. In other words, we're being told that it's ok to see people as victims, but we mustn't actually do anything about it (except bring our own packed lunches if we're travelling by plane).

One thing that makes this blog different is that it doesn't follow that line. Not only does it comment on what's going on around it, it actively encourages people to do something. Lenin's Tomb has given 100% support to the BA workers who took solidarity action in support of the sacked catering workers.

While we – as blog readers - are not in a position to ground flights from Heathrow, we are in a position to help. We can offer the best form of practical solidarity after striking: We can collect money to help out those workers who've been sacked or are on strike.

Loads of workers have taken collection sheets round their workplaces and have had a fantastic response. People are collecting anything from a few tenners to hundreds of pounds. I’ve just done a quick whip round of 25 tube drivers in my depot and got 200 quid. I’ll be taking it down to a Gate Gourmet workers’ solidarity meeting tonight.

It doesn't have to be organised through union branches, although that's a good start. Download the collection form here (PDF), print it out and take it round your workplace. If you've only heard the media condemnations, you'll be surprised by how much support there is for the Heathrow workers.

It's important to collect what you can and send it to the Gate Gourmet workers ASAP. The address is Gate Gourmet Hardship Fund c/o TGWU, 218 Green Lanes, London N4 2HB. Make cheques out to TGWU and put “Gate Gourmet” on the back.

In the same way, Tomb readers in London are in a position to show solidarity over the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes by police at Stockwell.

Jean Charles' family has organised a protest at Downing Street this coming Monday, 22 August, at 6.30pm.

The protest is supported by the RMT rail union. Be there if you can, tell everyone you know, and bring union banners.

This kind of practical solidarity can really turn blogland into a place that spurs people into action. So many sites have contributors who just want you to sit back and bathe in their bland words. Here, we can make a difference.

Let’s get out and do that

Update: I got the following information via e-mail:

[S]ix representatives of the
Metropolitan Police travelled to the village of Gonzaga in Brazil
to offer the family a substantial sum of money in return for their

After the police seized Jean Charles' house for investigation his
family were placed in a hotel in Richmond selected by the police.
Here they were held effectively incommunicado and denied phone
calls to Brazil.

Despite this, the Menezes family is determined to seek justice and
have refused to be bought off. The family campaign is several
thousand pounds in debt; all the money thus far has been donated
by a handful of activists and friends. If you can help in any way
please send cheques made payable to Jean Charles de Menezes Family
Campaign, PO Box 273, london, E7 or transfer money to Jean Charles
de Menezes Family Campaign, Account Number: 61455664, sort code:
40-07-12. HSBC bank, 349 Green St, London, E13 PA5. Contact 07931 337890 or 07956 210332

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Sharon's moment of truth posted by levi9909

Posted by Mark Elf

With "disengagement" finally under way amid the predictable fanfare from western media and equally predictable demonstrations of just how "painful" this "concession" is , this is a consideration of what kind of Palestine Ariel Sharon is offering to the Palestinians.

The Gaza Strip comprises 360 square kilometres of land with a population of about 1.4 million Palestinians and 7,500 Jewish settlers. It is mostly desert and much of the arable land is reserved, at present, for Jewish use only. 75% of its Arab population live below the poverty line and 13% suffer from malnutrition. It has no natural freshwater resources and no control over its telecommunications. It was occupied, together with the West Bank, by Israel during the six days war of June 1967 and has been occupied ever since. It is no stranger to Palestinian resistance or Israeli war crimes. During the ethnic cleansing campaign (1947-1949) that brought Israel into existence with its Jewish majority, Gaza [with an influx of Palestinian refugees] became one of the most densely populated places on earth. Israel emerged from that war controlling 78% of what was Palestine.

Gaza and Ariel Sharon have been well acquainted since the 1950s when Ariel Sharon led "reprisal" raids against Palestinian villages that brought shame even to Israeli leaders. Foreign Minister Moshe Sharrett referred to one of Sharon’s atrocities as a "stain [that] would stick to us and not be washed away for many years". Clearly he underestimated the strength of Zionist propaganda in the mass media.

During one of Ariel Sharon’s visits to the White House, President George W. Bush described him as a "man of peace". Leaving aside the fact that Bush often can’t tell one world leader from another, it is possible that he was responding to Ariel Sharon’s stated willingness to make "painful concessions" on the "roadmap" to peace with the Palestinians. To those familiar with Sharon’s history, the description "man of peace" wasn’t one that sprang to mind. Apart from the bloody and disproportionate "reprisals" mentioned above, he was the architect of the Lebanon war that began in 1982 with the slaughter of perhaps 20,000 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians in a matter of weeks. The Israeli Supreme Court declared Sharon "unfit for office" because of his culpability in some particularly gruesome atrocities by Israel’s Lebanese allies in the refugee camps of Shatila and Sabra. Whenever there have been peaceful overtures by Arab states or the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Sharon’s response has always been, at best, dismissive and usually downright hostile. He has had more Palestinians killed, for example, since the PLO accepted Israel’s right to exist on 78% of Palestine than when their demand was for a "democratic secular state" or the "destruction of Israel" as the Zionists prefer to call it. In 1981, the Rabat plan, whereby the Arab states agreed to normalise relations with Israel in return for Israel withdrawing to its pre-1967 boundaries, was described by Sharon as "a declaration of war". And the recent Saudi peace plan, much the same as Rabat, is now gathering dust.

In addition to the war crimes Sharon has always had a reputation for being dishonest with his political masters. His first patron, David Ben Gurion, recorded in his diary (29/1/1960) that "if he could wean himself from the habit of lying he could be an exemplary military leader." Later, in 1982 he lied to Menachem Begin about his aims in the Lebanon war. He lied to the Kahane Commission (Supreme Court), he lost a libel action against the Israeli liberal daily Ha’aretz and now he tells of painful concessions for peace.

So what does the proposed Gaza withdrawal consist of? We have seen what Gaza itself consists of. It has almost nothing and what it does have has been commandeered by illegal colonial settlers or is provided by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). The settlers will, if the plan goes ahead, be withdrawn. Settlers have been known to kill civilians (as recently as yesterday) so this could bring some comfort to the Gazan population. However, if the withdrawal goes ahead, might Israel press for UNRWA to be withdrawn? UNRWA provides housing, healthcare, education, but above all, jobs. This isn’t mere speculation. Last year, Sharon accused an UNRWA ambulance team of loading a Qassam (home made) missile on to an ambulance. He was too hasty in his accusation. Israeli intelligence didn’t have time to doctor their photographic "evidence" and the accusation was exposed as another lie when the "missile" turned out to be a stretcher. But looking at American websites and other media, many commentators have happily run with the Qassam story. This does not simply expose Palestinian ambulances to Israeli attacks. Israel has attacked medical facilities without "pretext" before. It is to undermine the authority and credibility of the Agency in order to hinder all of its work. Taken with the mass campaign of political assassinations, Sharon is creating a Gaza with no viable economy or polity.

Sharon has said that his withdrawal plan is a part of Bush’s much vaunted "road map" to peace and Palestinian statehood. This is curious since his most trusted adviser, Dov Weisglass, is on record as saying that "the significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process, and when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda". So the idea of following the road map is yet another lie by Sharon, though Weisglass was forced to withdraw his prepared statement.

But how painful is this particular concession? In a way, it represents a step back by Sharon. True, the Jewish population of Gaza is hardly a significant factor as a proportion of Israel’s population as a whole, and indeed of the settler population itself, and Sharon has always said that "Zionism is not about what Israel can do for Jews but what Jews can do for Israel." But his party, the Likud, still sings the anthem Shtei Gadot with its expansionist lyric "one side of the Jordan is ours and so is the other". So relinquishing land, any land, is always painful. The outcry from the far-right, including comparisons of Sharon with Hitler (this on account of his treatment of Jews rather than Palestinians) isn’t just choreography, though that is part of it. But the Israel-free Gaza will be so enfeebled and dependent many Palestinians will have to leave as they have done for decades now. The ethnic cleansing that Israel has failed to fully achieve by war, they have tried to make up for by economic stealth and this will surely continue in an "independent" Gaza. If large sections of the population leave, it is likely that only the most militant would remain. If this happens it wouldn’t take much for Sharon or a successor to manufacture a pretext for reoccupation.

Some commentators are perplexed over the support that Sharon is now garnering from the Zionist "left" for his plan. This is because they fail to see that Zionism doesn’t really have a left. Traditionally, the Likud wanted Jewish rule over Palestine and the Palestinians if needs be. Ethnic cleansing was never an essential part of their policy. They were happy to go the "way of (apartheid) South Africa". This never suited the left. The call for "transfer" (the expulsion of all of the Arabs from all of Palestine) was always a Labourite demand. The strict segregation engendered by the barrier is also a Labourite idea. The fact is that Sharon has a Labour Zionist background and he has made no significant departures from that throughout his career.

So with massive military strength, a reduction in Palestinian attacks, a Palestinian leadership either dead or brought to its knees, the uncritical support of an American President (and Congress and any credible Presidential hopeful) and no viable alternative government of Israel, why is Sharon withdrawing from Gaza? When the disengagement plan was first discussed, Sharon’s extreme right critics argued that he was rewarding the Palestinians. His words in an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth (Israel’s most popular daily newspaper) are informative. Of unilateral disengagement from Gaza he said that "this should be seen as a punishment and not a reward for the Palestinians".

For once, he might just have been telling the truth.

This article is a slight update of one first published in October 2004 by Ireland's Sunday Business Post.

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