Saturday, August 20, 2005
London police maintain "shoot-to-kill" policy
Reuters "London's police force has reviewed its controversial "shoot-to-kill" policy and left it largely unchanged despite the killing of a Brazilian mistaken for a would-be suicide bomber, Scotland Yard said on Saturday..."
"Largely unchanged" presumably means that Sir Ian Blair can go on making lying statements to compliant journalists, "Gold Command" can go on giving the order to shoot to kill random passers-by who have not been identified as even "alleged" terrorists (but who may, perhaps have wrong looking eyes), no warning will be given, people may be held around the arms and torso by one plain clothes officer while another shoots them in the head at point blank range... and all this, to make us feel "safer".
Where, oh where, is the democratic opposition to this utterly unbelievable, frightening nonsense?
In his article for Dissident Voice, Mike Whitney writes, " It always astonishes how quickly the demagogues in Washington and London swing into action when there’s a chance to hack away at personal freedom. They seem to operate on the theory that people will only be safe when the country assumes the same standards of justice as, let’s say, Egypt or Saudi Arabia."
He quotes the Prime Minister of Great Britain on the subject of "terrorism"
- "There is no justification for it, period,” Blair opined. “And we will start to beat this when we stand up and confront the ideology of this evil. Not just the methods but the ideas. …We are not having any of this nonsense about it is 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 got to confront it as that. And, then we will start to beat it...”
“We shouldn't even allow them the vestige of an excuse for what they do,” Blair boomed. “What is happening in Iraq is that ordinary, decent Iraqis are being butchered by these people with the same terrorist ideology that is killing people in different parts of the world.”
Really? How odd that the rest of the world sees it as the predictable reaction to a barbarous occupation"
- "... the consummate political poseur: always ready to wrap himself in the Union Jack, assume a Churchillian pose and rattle-off some patriotic claptrap about battling evil...He’s become a tattered coat on a stick flailing away at the ether to no affect; an empty gourd of a man; pallid and soulless; ..."
I too am despairing of seeing anything more than self-serving, high-handed vanity and callousness in the actions of the authoritarians we have allowed to rule our lives. The half-way decent ones such as Mo Mowlam and Robin Cook have gone, leaving behind precious few in whom we can have any trust. Reid? Clarke? Byers? Mandelson? Blunkett? Beckett? Blears? Howard and his ilk? Mere partners in a danse macarbre, choreographed elsewhere.
John Pilger writes in similar vein to Mike Whitney, describing a particularly nasty raid on the Iqra Learning Centre and book store near Leeds. The Iqra Trust is a well-known charity that promotes Islam worldwide as "a peaceful religion which covers every walk of life." Pilger, in his New Statesman article, says:
- "....The police smashed down the door, wrecked the shop and took away anti-war literature which they described as "anti-western".
Among this was, reportedly, a DVD of the Respect Party MP George Galloway addressing the US Senate and a New Statesman article of mine illustrated by a much-published photograph of a Palestinian man in Gaza attempting to shield his son from Israeli bullets before the boy was shot to death. The photograph was said to be "working people up"..... It is not known whether the police have yet read the chapter that documents how the Americans, with help from MI6 and the SAS, created, armed and bankrolled the terrorists of the Islamic Mujahideen, not least Osama Bin Laden.
The raid was deliberately theatrical, with the media tipped off. Two of the alleged 7 July bombers had been volunteers in the shop almost four years ago. "When they became hardliners", said a community youth worker. "They left and have never been back and they've had nothing to do with the shop." The raid was watched by horrified local people. who are now scared, angry and bitter...."
John Pilger's article begins by raising fears of a black list here that will go far beyond terrorism. Thomas Friedman is the New York Times columnist who wants the US State Department to draw up a blacklist of those who make "wrong" political statements - such as those who believe American actions are the root cause of the current terrorism.
- "...The latter group, which he describes as "just one notch less despicable than the terrorists", includes most Americans and Britons, according to the latest polls.
" this McCarthyite rubbish has floated across the Atlantic and is now being recycled by the prime minister as proposed police-state legislation, little different from the fascist yearnings of Friedman and other extremists. For Friedman's blacklist, read Tony Blair's proposed database of proscribed opinions, bookshops, websites. The British human rights lawyer Linda Christian asks: "Are those who feel a huge sense of injustice about the same causes as the terrorists - Iraq, Afghanistan, the war on terrorism, Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib - to be stopped from speaking forthrightly about their anger?"
Websites such as warmwell.com, make "wrong" political statements every day. They are written by perfectly ordinary people trying to make sense of an increasingly senseless world. Are we also,(in small letters somewhere at the bottom), soon to find ourselves on a blacklist?
Dammit. I shall quote the quintessentially English John Betjeman - whose poem here would no doubt have landed him on Mr Blair's blacklist too - "Come, friendly bombs..."
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Giant wind farms are to save the country from global warming. The wild beauty of the windiest parts of our country has a value that cannot be measured. And the country is to be desecrated in the name of green energy.
The Argyll and Bute Regional Council have just taken a decision that has left everyone thunderstruck. They have turned down a planning application for 16 wind-turbines to be erected on the ridge in the Inverliever Forest in Argyll. A probably temporary victory for the protesters.
Like them, that amiable and brilliant scientist Professor James Lovelock is not impressed with the rush to cover Britain with gigantic windmills. His Gaia theory sees the Earth as a single, living organism. He speaks urgently about how dire are the threats facing her. He is one of our very best scientists; kindly, and a true visionary. The turbines he bluntly calls dark satanic mills And what's more
- "wind power won't cut it at all ......It's better than doing nothing, but it's absurd, just gestures. Time is of the essence...."
Rather than trying to involve us all in a united effort the political response is to create a Gold Rush involving only those in the know. This is not leadership from public servants. It may save political face - but it won't save the planet.
Undemocratic quick fixes need bribery and threats. In the foot and mouth crisis it was wildly inflated compensation payments made to those who otherwise would complain at the overkill - and a very nasty hidden blackmail to those who did protest anyway. Here, it is massive subsidies to the companies, and a careful PR campaign designed to make protest seem selfish nimbyism. Into its web, the environmental groupies with their decency and desire for activism were soon drawn. When Stephen Timms cried "Go forth and Build Turbines!" like a latter day Moses, the shining eyes of the environmentalists dared anyone to cry "Hang on a Minute!"
David Bellamy did - and has inevitably been condemned and smeared for pointing out the "government’s naive belief that wind farms produce green electricity"
At the end of the film "The Day After Tomorrow" the "Dick Cheney" character, the humbled Vice President who has escaped with a large number of his shaken fellow americans into Mexico, looks into the camera and delivers the film's message: "...for years we operated under the belief that we could go on consuming our planet's natural resources without consequence. We were wrong..."
Yes yes. Of course we are wrong. But it is no use looking to governments to take responsibility for helping us to take responsibility for ourselves.
Global Warming - whatever its causes - is not going to be stopped by wind turbines. Similarly, the global consequences of the depletion of cheap oil are not going to be addressed in public by anyone ruthless and powerful. Peak Oil is starting to get talked about at last. But governments are dodging the issues.
Dr. Robert Hirsch, a Senior Energy Program Advisor at the Science Applications International Corporation, an Energy expert with the best credentials, wrote a calm and measured US government sponsored report. It was described as "unprecedented" in US government circles. Its conclusions pulled no punches. It disappeared from the internet for weeks.
In fact, here is the elusive Hirsch Report (pdf new window. Loads slowly.)
- "....... The world has never faced a problem like this. Without massive mitigation more than a decade before the fact, the problem will be pervasive and will not be temporary. Previous energy transitions (wood to coal and coal to oil) were gradual and evolutionary; oil peaking will be abrupt and revolutionary...."
Climate change and Peak Oil. Interlinked problems. No leadership. I have a mental picture of Corporal Jones rushing up and down,crying "Don't panic! Don't panic!" I also have a nasty feeling that we are on our own.
Monday, August 15, 2005
Britain has the most draconian terrorism laws in Europe — and much good it has done.
Here he is in the Sunday Times balancing elegantly between two valid positions. There is the anger that many feel at the groups who squat around in the UK luring young Moslems into acts of mindless violence in the name of "religion" and the feeling that of course they should be sent packing and who cares what happens when they are.
Then, there is the deeply worrying thought that much of the post September 11 political anti-terror shenanigans is flawed and phoney and has done our society a great deal of harm. And, after the July bombing in London, it is getting very much worse.
I have certainly tended to lean towards the second and veered away from the first, my liberal eyes averted. Simon Jenkins, however, looks at all aspects of the question and his article It's Pure Torture for Tony must be read in full. While appreciating the difficulties the government faces, there are still some rapier thrusts here, cutting through the government's muddle and exposing them for what they are:
- "......Most of the 12 points listed by Tony Blair before going on holiday turned out to be hot air, a burst of macho initiativitis. They involve laws closing mosques, censoring the media, banning societies and criminalising free speech. Small wonder that Sir Ian Blair, the London police chief, was left murmuring that he would use such powers “sparingly”.
Falconer was left to deal with judges, at whom the prime minister directed a few parting shots.
The opinions of judges in this matter are not the issue. The issue is the law.
... the undignified spectacle of Hazel Blears, the junior Home Office minister, going round east Mediterranean dictatorships .... The best that Jordan has offered is a “memorandum of understanding”, which sounds one stop short of the thumbscrew.
...... What does she discuss — just one electrode, please, and not before Christmas?
Falconer rightly accepts that it is for judges to decide whether certain countries have passed the Blears Good Torturing Seal of Approval. But unless they, the law lords and possibly the Strasbourg court reject evidence of torture from Amnesty, Liberty, Human Rights Watch, even the US State Department, they will have no option. They must stop the deportations.
In desperation Falconer is going for belt and braces. He also wants a law to make article 3 somehow less than absolute. He wants judges to "balance" the likelihood of torture — the number of beatings per man hour? — against the threat the detainees pose to British security. He does not want to bully the judges, just lean on them a bit.
..... The problem is that no law can unwrite the European convention. The 10 detainees cannot be sent home if they risk torture, period.... Ministers cannot have it both ways. In passing the Human Rights Act they deferred British law to what 46 sovereign nations, including Britain, had agreed when they wrote the convention after the war.
If the prime minister really wants bombastically to "change the rules" of this game he has only a nuclear option. He cannot "derogate" from bits of the convention. He can only repeal the Human Rights Act and withdraw from the convention altogether. Even by Blair’s standards that would be drastic. To be resiling on a policy that he and his wife have boasted of for years should stick even in Labour’s throat.
To do it to appease torture would be unthinkable.
This row seems to have grown out of all proportion. These men may be offensive and even dangerous. So tag them, bug them, monitor their associates, infiltrate their cells. If they step out of line, prosecute them for incitement, conspiracy, racism or whatever. If need be have special courts. But Britain has the most draconian terrorism laws in Europe — and much good it has done.
Michael Howard and his colleagues let these people in. Ever since 9/11 the prime minister has left them unmolested. Britain has survived worse threats before. Something tells me Britain will just have to cope."
Saturday, August 06, 2005
Special Judges, smudging and fudging
Perhaps it's just that I am.
The Independent today explains what the new terror laws are, how they are supposed to be implemented, and what critics say about them.
Are Mr Blair and co, after having first helped to create the conditions in which the mindless violence of frustration appeals to people, to be allowed to destroy the fairness and justice for which England has been respected for so long? If what we read is right, the actual bombers are cannon fodder, easily biddable and persuaded that a contempt for human values is justified by the quick fix of terror. Being too biddable is a sign of great weakness. There is no such thing as a quick fix. Both can lead to unforseen disaster.
The new measures can be seen here
In brief, "Special judges" may be appointed to hear cases such as control order applications. New grounds for deportation include "advocating violence in support of beliefs". The government is also looking at a police request to allow detention without charge for up to three months, instead of the current 14 days.
Much of this is to be introduced without legislation and proves that Human Rights legislation can be ripped up within moments when it suits the government.
As with the US and its wish to empty Guantanamo by sending prisoners back to places such as Saudi Arabia, the UK government is to "seek assurances" (on paper) that anyone deported won't be tortured.
All this is another of the Government's quick fixes and is full of possible implications for a very scary future for Britain. Terms like 'glorifying' can't be defined as easily as all that. A few days ago, Professor John Gardner, ( as quoted in previous blog) asked,
- "Are academics and commentators no longer to be permitted to defend any political violence? Is Ted Honderich's Violence for Equality, or Peter Singer's Democracy and Disobedience, to be put on the banned books list? The only thing protecting these books at the moment is that, in the eyes of the law, an argued endorsement is not an incitement.
The thought that the government may be thinking of changing this should send a shiver down the spine of anyone who still has a spine (damn few).
Decent judges are unlikely to be happy at the watering down and smudging of legal safeguards - just as Robert Bolt's Thomas More, in A Man for All Seasons, retorted memorably to Roper:
- "Oh? And when the last law was down and the Devil turned round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's, and if you cut them down -- and you're just the man to do it -- do you really think you could stand upright in the wind that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law for my own safety's sake."
Mr Blair's solution to such worries? Easy. Cut the Gordian Knot of Human Rights. Just as he surrounds himself with biddable career politicians, he can appoint new and biddable judges. Not surprisingly, that other biddable one, the Lord Chancellor, is now to be expected to appoint more "special judges" quickly.
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
"...we might not go out with a whimper after all.."
George Monbiot writes today in the Guardian about something few of us know about or want to know about - but which looks set to destroy us (unless, of course, bird-flu, global warming and the die-off from Peak Oil get us first).
George Monbiot's headline is The treaty wreckers
- In just a few months, Bush and Blair have destroyed global restraint on the development of nuclear weapons.
Ordinary members of the public are not expected actually to understand much about the "talks" going on about Iran's nuclear capability and North Korea's nuclear capability or the pacts and deals made by the US with both Pakistan and India. Media reports, such as they are, tend never to point out the obvious - that the playground bullies in the nuclear club condemn others for having the weapons they have themselves. If they were responsible instead of bullies, there might be some hope - but there are no prefects and no teachers on patrol. The UN nuclear watchdog, so vocal elsewhere, has no teeth to wonder why Britain is (according to George Monbiot and Robin Cook last week) replacing "our Trident nuclear weapons, without consulting parliament or informing the public."
- George Monbiot: "The non-proliferation treaty, of which the UK was a founding signatory, determines two things: that the non-nuclear powers should not acquire nuclear weapons, and that the nuclear powers should "pursue negotiations in good faith on ... general and complete disarmament". Blair has unilaterally decided to rip it up.
In America, Mr Bush wants to destroy the non-proliferation treaty too. May's summit in New York was supposed to strengthen it - but John Bolton refused even to allow the other nations to draw up an agenda for discussion.. Monbiot tells us that Mr Bush, yesterday nominated John Bolton to the post of US ambassador to the UN against the wishes of Congress by means of a "recess appointment" - ie he sneaked it in while everyone was on holiday.
He is now free to go ahead with research for a "robust nuclear earth penetrator" (RNEP)- which brings to mind not only one of the final scenes of the hugely enjoyable "The Incredibles" in which the "Underminer" uses a massive drill to wreak havoc upwards into the city- but also its wonderfully shock-haired maniac villain, boasting to an aghast Mr Incredible about his new weapon system, and bellowing, "Who needs super powers? NOW you respect me...because you are afraid."
It is Emperor Caligula and his Oderint dum metuant "let them hate as long as they fear". Monbiot tells us that the RNEP idea was conceived in 1991 as a means of dealing with Saddam Hussein's biological and chemical weapons.
- "Saddam is pacing his cell, but the Bushites, like the Japanese soldiers lost in Malaysia, march on. To pursue his war against the phantom of the phantom of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, Bush has destroyed the treaty that prevents the use of real ones.
Monbiot also spells out the American double standard.
- " ... You could sketch it out as a Venn diagram. If you have oil and aren't developing a bomb (Iraq) you get invaded. If you have oil and are developing a bomb (Iran) you get threatened with invasion, but it probably won't happen. If you don't have oil, but have the bomb, the US representative will fly to your country and open negotiations...
...The world could now be more vulnerable to the consequences of proliferation than it has been for 35 years. Thanks to Bush and Blair, we might not go out with a whimper after all....."
Orson Wells as the smiling Harry Lime in The Third Man is a prophetic villain. From his vantage point on top of the Riesenrad, the large Ferris wheel, he sees people appearing like ants, and says that insects are the sort of thing one crushes with one's shoe without giving them a moment's thought.
But we aren't living in a film and there's no one left to defeat these Harry Limes who think they are statesmen. Blair seems now completely off his head with power and there is no one able to take him away with his arms encased in a straight white jacket. He is surrounded by sycophants, those who love the smell of power, and those who want a stepping stone to their own status and power. So there is no one to remind him of his own frailty. (Well, Cherie had a go this week, at least but she was derided as "insensitive" by a member of the so-called Opposition, God help us.) It is an Emperor's Court.
We might just as well be living under Caligula. The globe is now being ruled by tyrannical madmen - but like Caligula, who wanted to be worshipped as a god, they profess god-given righteousness and their voices drip with sanctity. And, as George Monbiot reminds us, "Geoff Hoon...announced ...that Britain would be prepared to use small nukes in a pre-emptive strike against a non-nuclear state."
Small "nukes" still make a big bang. Crushing insects for politics. "This is the way the world ends"...said T.S.Eliot, but he was writing before the days of nuclear non-proliferation treaties and the insane proliferation of huge nuclear bombs. The horror of Hiroshima was exactly 60 years ago. Once again, no lessons learned.