Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Iraqi resistance dossier. posted by Richard SeymourIn 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.
Spot the difference posted by bat020Courtesy 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."
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
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.
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.
Monday, August 29, 2005
The politics of weather posted by ChinaIt looks like New Orleans got lucky. Sadly there are bound to be deaths, but considering that people have been talking entirely seriously about the city being turned into a giant cesspool, overall Hurricane Katrina's last-minute shimmy seems to have done the Big Easy a big favour. [update: thanks to 'jook' in the comments for pointing out that, tragically, it seems I spoke too soon.]
Mayor Ray Nagin's press conferences read as surreal combinations of the bureaucratic, the histrionic and the incomprehensible. ('Do all things you normally do for a hurricane but treat this one differently'...?) Given how long it's been known that N.O. is a fucking plaything for hurricanes, you might wonder why he ordered evacuations at the last minute, Saturday afternoon? (In fact, what he said was that he'd 'probably ask people to leave at daybreak Sunday' - so, dude, should we run away or not?) Perhaps it's no surprise that the exodus was a tad sluggish.
And what about those who can't afford to leave, the 100,000 'wretched of New Orleans? The poor, who in New Orleans are disproportionately black, get to stay in what are charmingly glossed as 'special emergency shelters'. Or to put it another way, a noisy, leaking, dangerous, now-roofless football stadium. With a two-mile queue to get in.
According to one elderly resident: 'I know they're saying "Get out of town," but I don't have any way to get out. ... If you don't have no money, you can't go.' But who's taken in by such whining? Certainly not officials who describe themselves as 'pleading with residents to leave'. Yeah, that's the problem: those stubborn locals!
Nagin has form on this aggregation of sudden hysteria and long-term disdain. Almost exactly a year ago the city faced Hurricane Ivan, and like a Monty Python character, Nagin abruptly started shouting 'Run away!'. His advice to the old, the poor, the sick, who couldn't get out? Perform a 'vertical evacuation'. I shit you not. Official advice to impoverished septuaganarians in a killer flood: climb.
It's not as if Katrina's impact hasn't been predictable, and indeed predicted. A couple of days ago, meteorologist Jeff Masters, said:
I'm surprised they haven't ordered an evacuation of the city yet. While the odds of a catastropic hit that would completely flood the city of New Orleans are probably 10%, that is way too high in my opinion to justify leaving the people in the city. If I lived in the city, I would evactuate NOW! There is a very good reason that the Coroner's office in New Orleans keeps 10,000 body bags on hand. The risks are too great from this storm ... GO! New Orleans needs a full 72 hours to evacuate, and landfall is already less than 72 hours away. Get out now and beat the rush. You're not going to have to go to work or school on Monday anyway. If an evacuation is ordered, not everyone who wants to get out may be able to do so--particularly the 60,000 poor people with no cars.
Quite. They did order the evacuation eventually, of course - just 'far too late'.
So why the tardiness, and the failure to learn lessons? Well, you know that thing about capitalism and the free market being the most efficient system available? Want to hear something hilarious? New Orleans' seemingly unintentionally accurately named 'catastrophic hurricane disaster plan' was privatised last year.
IEM, Inc., the Baton Rouge-based emergency management and homeland security consultant, will lead the development of a catastrophic hurricane disaster plan for Southeast Louisiana and the City of New Orleans under a more than half a million dollar contract with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Thanks to that, as Dewberry, a partner in this noble venture put it a while back, '[h]ad one of the devastating hurricanes targeted New Orleans and southeast Louisiana, state and local officials would have been ready'. So how's that working out?
IEM stands for Innovative Emergency Management. I guess 'Climb for your life!' and 'Run to the football stadium!' are pretty innovative. To be fair it must be hard to focus when you're so freaked by the impact on insurance, let alone oil prices.
I should confess that no amount of online poking on my part has clarified to me precisely who in this corporate/mayoral thicket gets to decide when to order evacuation, vertical, horizontal or other. It's possible that the buck stops as much or more with Nagin as IEM and Dewberry. I dunno. So maybe we should just share the love.
Terrorism & Western States. posted by Richard SeymourWhere 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.
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.
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.
Sunday, August 28, 2005
Arise Sir Iqbal posted by levi9909I 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."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.
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?
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.
Sometimes even the B-team catch a break. The My Lil' Journos at the Observer have come panting up with the scoop that someone in Labour's Foreign Office at some distant historic point was actually possessed of a brain, with functioning eyes connected thereto.
In May 2004, the Foreign Office permanent under-secretary Michael Jay sent this letter to the cabinet secretary, stating baldly that
Rather an obvious conclusion, one would have thought, but of course we currently inhabit the universe where the official Labour position maintains 'there was no "causal link" between Iraq and the London attacks'.
British foreign policy and the perception of its negative effect on Muslims globally plays a significant role in creating a feeling of anger and impotence among especially the younger generation of British Muslims.
This seems to be a key driver behind recruitment by extremist organisations (e.g. recruitment drives by groups such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir and al Muhajiroon).
The interesting thing about this letter, beyond of course the curiosity of its existence in the first place (as opposed to the not-at-all-curiosity of its having subsequently been completely disregarded), is that it goes on to lay out a variety of (lord preserve us) 'work streams' undertaken by the FCO in its 'building bridges with mainstream Islam' program.
Now, some of these are laughably vague and government boondoggly, e.g.: 'One of the key priorities of this new unit is strengthening the relationship with, and consultation of, the Muslim community. We have employed a specialist to assist us in this.' Oooh! A specialist! In relationship-strengthening! Dare one presume to guess who this specialist might have been?
Others, like the 'Islamic Media Unit' and the 'Muslim News Awards for Excellence', are the usual, predictable propaganda measures.
(The 'British Hajj Delegation' of 8 doctors and consular staff to provide aid to hajjis is, I must say, pretty random and kind of batfuck, but I suppose broadly commendable.)
But a few of these measures actually seem, given the parameters of the problem for the actually-existing government, like not bad ideas:
- British Muslim delegations to the Islamic world...to strengthen the links between the British Muslim community and many other countries in the Islamic worldOK, so not for a moment to get all starry-eyed about the noble intentions of the Foreign Office as opposed to anyone else in Labour, I would nonetheless characterize these measures as, in general, A Reasonably Good Start at building good, respectful community relations. They presume not only the acceptability but the desirability of connection between British Muslims and worldwide Islam, they seek to incorporate Muslim perspectives, both leadership and grassroots, in governance, and they recognize the specific need to engage with young Muslims. The latter are highlighted for attention in the letter, which notes (in a formulation that comes perilously close to a nuanced analysis of the attractions of extremism) 'many of whom are taking on the burden both of the perceived injustices and of the responsibility of putting them right, but without the legitimate tools to do so.'
- Regular ministerial briefings for key Muslim representatives
- Ministerial outreach to...grassroots organizations in different UK cities, to engage with people who don't normally have access to government Ministers, in community centres, women's organizations, youth groups, etc.
- Outreach to Muslim youth
And these measures already being instituted by the FCO, it would have been easy enough to strengthen and frontline them in the wake of the July bombings, to make them highly visible, official Labour policy. But apparently even easier was to McCarthyize mainstream British Islam, to require loyalty oaths and disavowals from the MCB, to produce slanderous trash like the Panorama special whose express, open purpose is to tar all of Islam with the brush of extremism.
We know why: because maintaining a suitably terrified, docile population under a security state requires the erection of a straw baddie who is not merely terrifying but insidious, an enemy who could be anyone, who is all around us, lurking behind the seemingly moderate, inoffensive faces of our Pakistani or Iraqi or Jordanian neighbors. It's not enough to locate Al Qaeda cells in every hedgerow: that could just as well serve to bind communities together in fear of an external enemy. To frighten the people sufficiently that they will gladly surrender their individual rights and those of their neighbors for the promise of security, you have to atomize them.
You have to convince them that no one can be trusted, and if anyone certainly not those brown-skinned people up the road who may seem nice, and who may have lived there in harmonious coexistence for generations, but who subscribe to a religion that we all really know, given its head, would have every one of us spitted on jihad's sword for our secular, freedom-loving ways before you can say 'allahu akbar'.
Update: (via particleist) Ah, and here's the Observer doing its bit for today, in the 'person' of Martin Bright.
Saturday, August 27, 2005
Johann Hari in Venezuela. posted by Richard SeymourIt 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.
Friday, August 26, 2005
Sectarianism by speech act posted by ChinaPosted by China
More grist to the the-BBC-is-a-pile-of-bollocks mill. The revolts that have shaken Iraq against the Yanqui-chivvied constitution are obviously too big to ignore, so what to do, what to do? Talk them up as a sectarian revolt! That'll discredit them - and by extension the insurgency. And voila the BBC report, 'Sunnis rally against Iraq charter'. Like a theologically obsessive Rain Man, the BBC autistically repeats the terms 'Shia' and 'Sunni' a preposterous number of times to underline just how sectarian the anti-occupation marchers are. 'Thousands of Sunni Muslims have demonstrated in the Iraqi city of Baquba', some carrying pictures of Saddam Hussein, sorry, 'Iraq's Sunni former leader, Saddam Hussein'; '[t]he Sunnis object to several parts of the draft text agreed by Shia and Kurdish parties'; 'the Sunni marchers in Baquba danced and sang chants'; &c.
Hold on, I forget: What kind of Muslims were they...?
On the other side, you didn't know bits of paper could have religious affiliation or ethnic identities, did you? Oh, yes. What's on the table, the BBC explains, is a 'Shia-Kurdish draft'.
Short of sending an underpaid runner round your house to smack you in the face and shout 'Shias and Sunnis hate each other!', the BBC couldn't make its point much less subtle. This kind of essentialism is crass at the best of times. What makes today's little performance so disgraceful is that, even more than usual, it is a gross misrepresentation. As other media outlets have had the decency to make clear, 100,000 Shias marched against the constitution and occupation too. The BBC has to mention these southern protests, so grudgingly mutters about rallies 'to show ... support for the radical cleric Moqtada Sadr and to demand the government improve public services'. That's it. Their opposition to the constitution, let alone the fucking occupation, is written out. In fact, though, as the estimable Channel 4 News shows (wmv file), masked insurgency fighters - you know, the ones constantly described as Sunni extremists - gave a press conference today, specifically to praise Shia leader Sadr for his opposition to the charter.
None of this, of course, is to suggest that there's no sectarianism in Iraq. However, the reduction of all politics to it is i) a crude strategy to discredit the drive for self-determination, and ii) a fucking lie. It's trivially obvious that the entirely legitimate desire to get the US out can and does cut across sectarian boundaries: the question is why does the BBC try to obscure that even when it's so blatant? This report doesn't explain or even describe the situation... so what the fuck is it for, except to consolidate the misrepresentative narrative of sectarianism? And just who does that benefit?
Big up to Unite Here, the American hospitality workers' union, which is threatening solidarity action against Gate Gourmet if they don't reinstate all the Heathrow workers recently sacked by megaphone for a strike they were blatantly provoked into by management.
In a letter to Gate Gourmet's chairman and chief executive, David Seigel, Mr Rayner says: "I write to express Unite Here's unyielding support for the Transport & General Workers Union members negotiating with Gate Gourmet in the UK.Boo, and indeed yah. Lovely to see Americans taking solicitous note of comrades outside our borders once in a while.
"As you know, Unite Here and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters have been negotiating with Gate Gourmet on behalf of over 6,000 members working at your US kitchens.
"Let there be no doubt, we consider your assault on the union employees in London to be an assault on union members everywhere. We are outraged by such immoral behaviour and we expect that you will resolve this dispute by reinstating all of the fired workers. Failure to resolve the matter in the UK will certainly cause the unrest to spread across the Atlantic as our members will be forced to take every lawful measure possible to support our fellow union members."
Referring to the London dispute, Mr Rayner said his members "want to make sure Gate Gourmet knows we will not tolerate such actions in the US, the UK, or anywhere else in the world".
Meanwhile, Gate Gourmet and T & G appear to have reached some sort of preliminary agreement to offer voluntary redundancy to all its workers, including all 670 sacked. GG is avowedly hoping the 'troublemakers' it's been holding out against rehiring will take the redundancy offer, but won't say how it will respond should they decline.
And finally, Polly Toynbee has strangely not-half-bad things to say about it all. Go figure.
Oh, one more thing: neither the NYT nor the WaPo makes any mention of Unite Here's action, though both cover the latest in the GG/T&G talks. Unsurprising, to say the least.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Iraq: sending them back. posted by Richard SeymourYou 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.
Tariq Ramadan in Red Pepper. posted by Richard SeymourIt 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.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
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.
It seems the MoveOn vigils have achieved a certain effect after all, though surely not the one the organization's leadership intended. MoveOn has just come out in favor of House Joint Resolution 55, the Homeward Bound Act (honestly, whose job is it to crank out these cornball names, and do they also name nailpolish colors for Revlon? I can see serious potential for cross-pollination there: the 'I'm Not Really A Waitress' Welfare Reform Bill, 'Russian Red' Economic Assistance Treaty, 'Shocking Pinko' Resolution To Suppress Leftwing Sedition...but I digress).
The bipartisan bill couldn't possibly be more lilylivered; it requires the President
(1) to announce, not later than December 31, 2005, a plan for the withdrawal of all United States Armed Forces from Iraq;Basically, it's a 'Please someday start vaguely intending to bring troops home and when you do start intending to please try to let us know' bill, designed to exert the minimum possible pressure to action while still appearing to be Taking Seriously the country's growing and evident opposition to the war.
(2) at the earliest possible date, to turn over all military operations in Iraq to the elected Government of Iraq and provide for the prompt and orderly withdrawal of all United States Armed Forces from Iraq; and
(3) to initiate such a withdrawal as soon as possible but not later than October 1, 2006.
If this is the best MoveOn can do, it's pretty fucking pitiful, and more than that, it amounts to a spit in the face of their beloved 'Cindy' whose sacrifice they so pompously 'honor' while assiduously gutting it of political significance. Cindy Sheehan calls for 'bringing our nation's sons and daughters home from the travesty that is Iraq IMMEDIATELY, since this war is based on horrendous lies and deceptions. Just because our children are dead, why would we want any more families to suffer the same pain and devastation that we are.' How this terminally bollocksless bill can possibly be said to 'honor' or 'support' Sheehan or her campaign is a mystery to me.
Naturally, while completely disregarding her actual position, MoveOn doesn't scruple to garland itself with Sheehan's notoriety, trumpeting that 'Cindy Sheehan's vigil in Texas has put the problems of the Iraq war on TV and in the newspapers—forcing President Bush and congressional leaders to deal with them', and exhorting members to support a bill Sheehan herself (so far as I can find out) has not, by admonishing them that '[i]t is critically important that the momentum created by Cindy Sheehan and last week's vigils continues'.
So how does MoveOn spin its sudden return to an explicitly, if half-assedly, anti-war position?
How did we settle on support for H.J. Res. 55? In June, we asked MoveOn members what they think we should do and more than 85 percent agreed that a plan like this bipartisan resolution was a step in the right direction. It gives the Iraqis some time to get their house in order while making it clear we won't be in Iraq forever. Without real deadlines, there is little incentive for things to improve.Ah, ok. So back in June their membership polled overwhelmingly against the war (note the extremely wiggle-roomy wording of 'a plan like this... a step in the right direction'), and yet only now, two months later and serendipitously only in the wake of the unignorable evidence of rogue vigils that dared to actually--gasp--protest the war against MoveOn's explicit instructions, do they rouse themselves to even this pitiful expression of opposition.
I don't know what further proof anyone needs that MoveOn is a millstone around the neck of its membership. They hear their members' opinions and ignore them, do their best to tamp down their outrage and scold them into safe, quiet expressions of sympathy for Cindy Sheehan's sacrifice (and not, as several have pointed out, of solidarity for her cause), and then finally, when they can't possibly deny the angry groundswell anymore, they find the most pusillanimous possible measure to back so they can pretend to honor the anti-war position of the--let's be clear--vast majority of their membership, while still playing nice political pattycake with both the Dems and the Republicans. It's a disgraceful abdication of responsibility to its membership, and they mustn't be allowed to get away with it.
American progressives deserve a fuck of a lot better than the sinkhole that is MoveOn, and it's up to us on the left to provide a real alternative.
[Note: MoveOn haven't posted the statement of their support for J.R. 55 on their website yet; if anyone wants a copy of the email they just sent out, drop a line to bionoc at gmail dot com and I'll send it along.]
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.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Stop the press. Please. posted by ChinaPosted by China
The rhetorical devices being used by officials in the de Menezes case are so breathtaking you'd expect their purveyors to blush so hard they burst into flames. But with trusting cow-eyes certain sections of the press just nod, or worse.
'Menezes death "cover-up" doubted'. Ah, the trusty passive voice. The existence of a cover-up is not doubted by anyone in particular, you understand, it's just ontologically a doubtable concept. It's dubious, if you will.
Turns out it's the Brazilian officials who, forced by popular pressure to come to London, are quietly giving Blair and Blair a hand. To be fair, their bolstering of the Met is done with with considerably more virtuosity than the 'crass and insensitive' local bobbies themselves can achieve.
Marvel, for example, as the Brazilian minister of justice, Marcio Pereira Pinto Garcia, manages to smuggle praise for the Met into his backing for those charged with keeping watch on it, stressing that one reason he trusts the IPCC 'completely' is that, as the deputy assistant commissioner of the Met John Yates told him, 'one hour after the incident [the police] sent a note to the IPCC - they were informed since the beginning'. See how honourable and helpful the Met is, how little time it wasted? (Those who cavil that the IPCC has seemed, in fact, rather pissed off with the police's obstruction doubtless have sinister agendas.)
Rest assured that Mr Garcia's elegant rescue is not so subtle that it escapes the BBC's attention. Though this section of the story also, perhaps as a sop to whingers, mentions the fact that the initial police statements and briefings were, y'know, total fucking bullshit, the BBC helpfully stresses this more important exculpatory role of the paragraphs, subtitling them 'IPCC "informed"', just in case we're not clear on the main point.
The BBC doesn't even seem to notice when the pabulum it dutifully regurgitates is contradictory. Thus it quotes Mr Garcia quoting Yates that the only reason the inquiry wasn't handed over for 72 hours was 'because of the mistaken suspicion Mr Menezes was connected with terrorism', but that '[f]rom then on, all the evidence is with the IPCC'. However, just up and to the right of this expression of childlike innocence is a link to the BBC's own fuckridden timeline, which points out that it was on the 23rd of July, one day after he was shot, that 'Scotland Yard says the man ... was not connected to the attempted terror attacks on the capital and expresses its regret'.
So even take Yates at his word, that's 24 hours delay accounted for. What about the 48 hours after that? One unnoticed click away, the BBC makes a nonsense of its own credulousness. Not all journalists can be Pilger or Foot, fair enough, but this is just taking the piss. Surely it would save money for the BBC to simply subcontract its website to the Met, so they can upload their own press releases direct?
Burn the witch posted by MeadersThe 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”.
Death Squads in The New Iraq. posted by Richard SeymourThey'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.
Monday, August 22, 2005
The Prophet Disarmed. posted by Richard SeymourFollowing 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: http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=19140).
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.