American politics

American politics&Middle East&Pop culture01 Apr 2005 05:20 pm

I thought I’d spotted one of the BBC’s traditional April fool joke stories here:

US army to produce mid-East comic

The article describes how America’s latest propaganda efforts in the Middle East are targeted at young people. It claims a US government website is seeking storylines:

“In order to achieve long-term peace and stability in the Middle East, the youth need to be reached… A series of comic books provides the opportunity for youth to learn lessons, develop role models and improve their education.”

Ha ha, oh yes, very funny. Comics to brainwash the young! Arf. Satirical and close to the bone, but obviously not true. Nice try, Beeb. You nearly had me there. April Fool! (etc)

Then I noticed the story was dated 31 March.


American politics&Corporate&News media&The art of blog15 Mar 2005 12:08 am

Hello all. Apologies for the cursory nature of my entries lately. Finally, I have found a moment to pop in and wave blearily. This is in direct defiance of my clock’s disapproving face, which clearly implies “Time you weren’t sitting at a computer any more, Foxy ol’ thing”. Yes, it’s actually frowning at me. Well, kinda. OK, no it’s not.

Anyway, I’ve just got time to note that bloggers are officially not journalists in the eyes of the American establishment. Which presumably means we don’t need to adhere to the pesky libel laws either? Good-o.

The BBC (see link above), as ever, are reporting this news as though it defines world legislation rather than merely that of a foreign country, so expect the legal concept to drift across the Atlantic and into our statutes soon.

And the second “Duh, really?” news story of the day award goes to Army Life Conducive To Bullying And Violence. Well, knock me down with an AK47. Who’d have thought it?

Africa&American politics&Europe&Human rights01 Feb 2005 02:10 am

“70,000 dead and 1.6m homeless, but the UN says it’s not genocide”

What’s in a name? Is 70,000 enough murders to count as genocide? If it is, it legally obliges the UN member countries to take action in Sudan. Under the 1948 Genocide Convention, UN members must actively “prevent and punish” other countries who systematically murder people. Seems fair.

Yet the UN has not conclusively stated that the Sudanese military slaughter campaign is genocide.

But the label is the least of the issue. Britain, France, Denmark and Greece want the Sudanese government to be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court. Kofi Annan is also pushing for this course of action. The majority of the 15 Security Council members will support this view.

An open and shut case? Nope.

The USA opposes a prosecution, because it sees the International Criminal Court as “a threat to its national sovereignty… The Bush Administration revoked President Clinton’s signature of the Rome Treaty, saying that it feared that the court would be used for political prosecutions of American soldiers and officials.”

Would 100,000 dead Iraqi civilians count as genocide*, just out of interest?

(* Is it ever called genocide when we do it?)

American politics&British politics&Middle East21 Jan 2005 01:20 am

I was going to write about the systematic abuse of Iraqi prisoners by UK troops, but Swiss Toni has got it covered.

I’ll just add that I find it difficult to believe that any lowly private or corporal would dare to commit acts of torture and humiliation if they were not sanctioned – in fact, encouraged – by commanding officers. These soldiers will be made scapegoats, like the American private Lynndie England and several of her low-ranking, inarticulate colleagues were blamed for flouting orders, not following them. But it’s impossible not to believe that the rot runs very deep indeed, into the very foundations of the military system. Like Swiss Toni and Gerry say, if you train a person to be a cold-blooded killer, don’t be surprised if he or she behaves viciously.

Then I considered writing about Bush’s inauguration. As George Monbiot neatly wrote this week, “On Thursday, the fairy king of fairyland will be re-crowned. He was elected on a platform suspended in mid air by the power of imagination. He is the leader of a band of men who walk through ghostly realms unvisited by reality. And he remains the most powerful person on earth.”

But I was in peals of laughter by the second paragraph of the first news report I read about today’s lavish inauguration.

“The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands,” Mr Bush said.

This is black comedy, I thought, surely? I couldn’t help picturing furious editors of the Oxford English Dictionary taking out an injunction against such wilfully perverse use of the word “liberty”.

“It is the policy of the US, he said, to support forces of democracy ‘with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world’.”

ENDING tyranny! He really said that!

With my sides now comprehensively split, I decided to move onto another, less bleakly hilarious topic. Well, less hilarious. Equally bleak.

How about speculation that Iraq is on the verge of civil war, goaded on by the US administration?

The long-awaited Iraqi elections are being imposed by force by an invading nation. It’s no way to nurture democracy. And the very definition of democracy is that the Iraqi people have the right to choose any leader they wish. Given the unpopularity of the occupying army, it seems likely that, left to their own devices, the Iraqi people would largely choose an anti-US candidate.

Now let’s think about this. America have worked hard to colonise what is one of the most strategically important countries in their sights. Are they really going to stand for the election of a socially-minded Iraqi president who sends them packing, sets up a decent welfare state and imposes tax on oil at source to pay for it (a deftly wrought suggestion of Robert Newman’s)? Or are they going to find a way to ensure they get their own way, and first rights to cheap oil, by any means necessary?

Um, can I have a moment to think? Uh…

Mike Whitney writes:

“Civil war can be messy. Inciting religious and sectarian hatreds tends to disrupt the smooth execution of business; like the purging of potential enemies and the extracting of vital resources. Never the less, Rumsfeld is nearly out of options; ‘divide and conquer’ may be all that’s left. If we glance at the last 3 imperial projects; Kosovo, Haiti and Afghanistan, the very same strategy was applied. All three nations have been effectively carved up, delivered to US multi-national corporations, and reduced to warlordism or anarchy. Their outcome sets the precedent for similar results in Iraq. Will Iraq be Balkanized along ethnic and religious lines?

That’s what the Generals are hoping, and their plan is already in full swing.”

And it’s not just America attempting to control the crushed, brutalised state of Iraq. Medialens reports that not only are the US nudging their preferred Iraq presidential candidates forward, so are Iran:

“…[T]he American writer Edward Herman, co-author with Frank Brodhead of the classic work, Demonstration Elections (South End Press, 1984), points out that when an occupying power sponsors an election ‘it is not free and democratic because it was imposed by an external force and did not come from demands from within’. (Email to David Edwards, January 15, 2005) Moreover, because the election is externally imposed, participation can be interpreted as an implicit approval of the occupation, a corrupting factor in the vote.

And of course the 100,000 Iraqis killed under the occupation will not be voting; nor will the unknown thousands languishing without charge in US-run jails. The ongoing conflict will prevent many more from participating – the several hundred thousand refugees from Fallujah, for example, who are currently busy trying to survive. Nor will international observers be able to monitor the election inside the country.

On December 15, the New York Times reported that on a list of 228 candidates submitted by a major Shiite-led political alliance to Iraq’s electoral commission, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim’s name was entered as No.1. The Times reported that Hakim has close ties to Iran’s ruling ayatollahs…

Unreported by the mainstream US and UK press, another foreign power is also using its influence to push its candidates.

Washington-funded organisations with long records of manipulating foreign democracies in favour of US interests are deeply involved in the election. The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) are part of a consortium to which the US government has provided over $80 million for political and electoral activities in Iraq. NDI is headed by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, while IRI is chaired by Republican Senator John McCain.”

Meanwhile, back in Washington, “The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world” says Bush.

Freedom. Liberty. Those words which used to mean something light and empathetic and gentle. Which now mean something violent and sly and corrupt.

If I’d thought about it more carefully, I might’ve come up with a proper conclusion. But it’s late, and you know all this already.

NB: For a far clearer commentary on selected highlights of Bush’s speech, I recommend visiting Jenni chez Déesses Démocratiques. And apologies to anyone else who’s written an incisive post on this topic which I may have missed, in my half-awake bookmark-free (grr) state. I plan to be more coherent next time, and it may even be possible for a casual reader to locate the point. Here’s hoping.

American politics&Asia Pacific&Global politics&Seasonal&South Asia01 Jan 2005 01:28 pm

$350m from the USA.

$500m from Japan.

Now we’re really getting somewhere!

American politics&British politics&Seasonal23 Dec 2004 03:33 pm

I was going to write a quick post about remembering those who are suffering while we’re eating and drinking twice our own bodyweight and arguing with relatives. But Swiss Toni’s Tonight thank god it’s them post said it all and more, so I will leave the topic in his capable hands.

Instead, have a bit of unusually restrained Mon-sense:
George Monbiot: “The US government is… like a robin attacking its reflection in a window”

and an article about the British Government’s attempt to cover up their deliberate destruction of classified documents, before the Freedom of Information Act kicks in, by burying the issue in the one time of year nobody’s watching (see also: ID cards)…

and a wish that the survivors of today’s horrific north London knife attacks recover fully. Deepest sympathies to the family of the Edmonton man who died.

American politics&Middle East&Pop culture18 Dec 2004 01:43 pm

I wrote it off as a sick, badly-timed joke at first. Then I saw it in print with my own eyes.

Hollywood producers are making No True Glory: The Battle for Fallujah with Harrison Ford as a heroic General in charge of the attacks. The film is based on a forthcoming book by pro-war journalist Bing West.

What are the chances of an Iraqi production company filming a huge multi-million dollar blockbuster presenting the insurgents as heroes, to even out the cinematic shaping of history?

Zero? Close enough. There’s no money, no access to resources, no stability. When you’re worrying about personal safety and whether the electricity will ever be reconnected, your priorities probably don’t stretch to feelgood cinema. And hey, it’d be murder trying to find a safe location to film in. The Americans will at least be able to make their production from the comfort and safety of a fully-functioning, financially stable country. Well OK, a fully-functioning country.

Back in Fallujah, the US army claims the battle has been won. A resounding victory for truth, honour and justice. It’s all over bar the clearing up. Strange, then, that people living in Iraq tell such a different story. “Goodbyes in Iraq are always sincere…because the possibility of never seeing one another alive again is very real. Our eyes tell it all to one another.”.

American politics&Australia&British politics&Europe17 Dec 2004 01:18 pm

The former head of the KGB, General Yevgeni Primakov, and the ex-boss of the former East German Security Police, Markus Wolfe, have been employed by the US Homeland Security department.

In 1997, Markus Wolfe was refused entry to the USA on the basis that he was a terrorist. Evidently the criteria for vetting staff are less stringent than those used for visitors.

Last week, anti-war protesters in California learnt that state law entitles police to take DNA samples even from those against whom charges have been dropped.

Gerry wrote last week about the passing of the Surveillance Devices Act into Australian law. This permits federal and state police to use covertly planted spyware on citizens’ computers, to track their online activities. This includes recording keystrokes which are later deleted.

The British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, has today refused to accept the legal ruling which states detention of “terrorism” suspects in Belmarsh Prison is unlawful. Lord Nicholls said “Indefinite imprisonment without charge or trial is anathema in any country which observes the rule of law.” Lord Hoffman said “The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these.”

This cut no ice with the British government. Jack Straw replied “The law lords are simply wrong to imply that this is a decision to detain these people on the whim”. Charles Clarke, Blunkett’s replacement as Home Secretary, insisted the prisoners will be kept under lock and key regardless of the ruling, while the Government prepares to change the law itself to make its crimes legal. “We will be studying the judgment carefully to see whether it is possible to modify our legislation to address the concerns raised by the House of Lords,” said Clarke.

Needless to say (as B1rdie commented in the post below), Charles Clarke has also picked up Blunkett’s ID cards baton and is running with it all the way to a new police state.

Are there any influential countries where this sort of thing isn’t happening right now? I’d really like to know.

American politics&British politics13 Dec 2004 06:45 pm

We Europeans don’t think much of Bush. Plenty of Americans like him. But, as you already know, he’s not widely trusted outside his own country.

That’s why Blair’s supporters were dreading the idea of Bush visiting Britain in February. Some Parliamentary sources even suggested that the general election was being moved back to May to allow time for the negative effect of Bush’s visit to wear off. It’s acknowledged that whenever Blair appears in public with Bush, his popularity at home drops dramatically.

So Blair will be breathing a huge sigh of relief tonight. Because it’s been agreed that Bush will not visit Britain after all. Aware that his mere presence would lose the Labour party seats, he’s agreed to stay away until his cohort Blair has the election in the bag.

Let’s think about that for a moment.

Rather than take notice of the opinions of his electorate, which largely detests Bush’s policies and Blair’s obsequious role as key supporter, Blair’s only priority is to minimise public outcry during the period in which that anger could affect the renewal of his employment contract. It wouldn’t do to have another 2 million marchers on the streets at that critical time. Instead of listening to the voices of the majority of his people, Blair chooses to circumvent the issue by heading Bush off until his job is safe once more. Rather than reassess his own policies in light of his people’s opinions, and change them accordingly, his only concession is to take defensive action to protect his own position. That way, he needn’t alter a single Bush-wooing, corporate-friendly policy.

And hey, Bush isn’t offended at being uninvited. He needs Blair re-elected so he can mask America’s dangerously isolationist policies beneath the veneer of international consensus.

If any British readers wish to write to their MPs to express disgust at the idea of elected representatives ignoring their constituents’ wishes, as though Britain was officially a dictatorship and not the democracy it purports to be, is a convenient one-stop shop.

American politics&Global politics&News media08 Dec 2004 01:35 pm

A former Wall Street Journal associate editor writes:

Who’s behind the oil-for-food scandal?, Murdoch, Conrad Black and the Neocons

“It may be there is no scandal at all. Just another trick of the neo-conservatives to blow away anyone who gets in the way of their plans for a global empire.”

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