Human rights

British politics&Human rights12 Apr 2005 12:51 pm

And, in a week where two aristocratic divorcees made each other very happy, gay rights campaigners made an important point. If the heir to the throne can now re-marry – unthinkable just 50 years ago – then why can’t gay couples marry even once?

This is a sensible question, and one which should receive urgent attention from legislators. To continue to deny the right of marriage to a large chunk of society, based only on the sex of the person they happen to love, is clearly an absurd violation of the notion of equality. Marriage should be available to everyone, or no-one. Preferably everyone.

Her Majesty’s police force responded by detaining Peter Tatchell and two other OutRage activists under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act.

Well, it’s not like the police have got criminals to find or anything. For crying out loud.

I’ve taken the liberty of drafting an open letter to the Met by way of response:

Dear Metropolitan Police,

What do we pay you people for exactly?

Yours sincerely,

Urban Fox

Global politics&Human rights24 Mar 2005 12:38 pm

“People whose lives are barren and insecure seem to show a greater willingness to obey than people who are self-sufficient and self-confident. To the frustrated, freedom from responsibility is more attractive than freedom from restraint. They are eager to barter their independence for relief of the burdens of willing, deciding and being responsible for inevitable failure. They willingly abdicate the directing of their lives to those who want to plan, command and shoulder all responsibility.”

Eric HofferThe True Believer

Working on this assumption: what the world needs now is fun, fun, fun. And a generous refill of self-esteem.

Happy Easter everyone. However you spend it, make sure you enjoy your long weekend.

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?)

British politics&Corporate&Human rights26 Jan 2005 11:18 pm

First loyalty cards, now spy chips. The leading British supermarket, Tesco, has taken another step forward in its mission to collect every possible item of data about its customers: it is trialling the insertion of RFID chips into its products.

What are RFID chips, the innocent shopper may ask? Well, RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification. Essentially they’re spy devices. No bigger than a grain of sand, they enable the store to monitor exactly what and where the product is.

Tesco have already experimented with these chips. Eighteen months ago, they placed them inside Gillette razor packets. The chips triggered a hidden camera under the shelf to take a photo of the shopper picking up the product. This move was in violation of an internationally agreed moratorium on RFID experimentation.

The latest trials are taking place in Tesco’s Sandhurst and Leicester stores. The only notice the supermarket is giving its customers of the trial is worded thus:

Not quite the comprehensive warning consumer groups might have expected.

Eventually, the RFID industry hopes that the technology will replace barcodes. The chips will be embedded in anything from clothing to magazines to household products. It means anyone with the correct reader device will be able to tell exactly what you’re wearing and carrying the moment you walk into a room. And anyone living in the “developed” world will be able to imagine the implications RFID technology could have for increased corporate control of people’s lives.

This isn’t science fiction; it’s happening now. What are your thoughts?

(Key points and photo taken from Indymedia and, which provide a much more detailed examination of the issue. There is also a general overview of RFID technology here.)

British politics&Human rights&Middle East26 Jan 2005 01:25 am

The remaining British inmates of Guantánamo Bay prison have been released at last. Feroz Abbasi (age 24), Richard Belmar (age 25), Martin Mubanga (age 32) and Moazzam Begg (age 36) were yesterday flown from the Cuba camp to an RAF base just outside London.

But they won’t be getting their home comforts back just yet. Having already been detained without trial for three years, they were immediately arrested under the British Terrorism Act 2000.

Along with its vicious little brother, the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, this nasty legislation allows the arrest and indefinite detention of any person, regardless of whether there is a scrap of evidence against them or not. Under these Acts, a person can be locked up and the key thrown away solely on the basis that the Home Office thinks they look like a bad sort. “Muslim” seems frequently interchangeable with “bad sort” for the purposes of these assessments. Rather like it is to the American security services.

Best of all, there was no point arresting them at all. The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir John Stevens, “ruled out any prosecution on the basis of material gathered during interviews in Guantánamo Bay… He told The Independent that his officers would have to obtain an admission from the four suspects or find other evidence before the men could be put on trial in this country.”

As well as being idiotic from a crime and punishment perspective, this move is also in contravention of the recent House of Lords ruling, which stated that detention of such “suspects” without enough evidence for charge or trial is illegal.

Returning to Britain would be hard enough for them even without having been arrested. Their anonymous lives destroyed, these men now have to find some semblance of a normal existence. Clinical psychologists working in Guantánamo have expressed serious concerns for the mental health of the prisoners. Professor Ian Robbins assessed the British inmates released earlier and concluded that they exhibited “signs of post-traumatic stress disorder”. The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture are sufficiently convinced by allegations of Guantánamo ill-treatment to be providing post-release care to the four men. The founder of the charity, Helen Bamber, has gone on record saying she believes they have been tortured.

And as well as recovering from the mental and physical abuse described by so many Guantánamo prisoners, these men have to contend with the cruel glare of the British tabloids, and the creeping sense of guilt at having got away while former cellmates remain incarcerated.

Remember, these are men against whom no charge has been brought and no proper evidence found. These are men who used to be labelled “innocent until proven guilty” by the judicial system, until post-9/11 Western governments realised they could harness public grief and fear to find a way round that inconvenient legal and moral principle.

It is expected that the four men will be released within the next few days, and will be granted the “freedom” to hide away in remote safe houses until the media gets bored of the story. But this is no consolation to them, to their families or to anyone who feels that justice should not be sacrificed on the altar of Blair’s Bush-worship.

Because, let’s be honest, this whole story is a farce. It looks a lot like our ex-Guantánamo foursome was arrested on arrival for the sake of appearances. Rather than risk humiliating the American authorities by being seen to dismiss the men as harmless, the British government is engaging in a pantomime of arrest and questioning, as though it is seriously worried they might pose some threat. That way, it looks as though the men weren’t illegally arrested, illegally detained, illegally tortured and left permanently scarred by the very killing machine with which their own government is proud to be in cahoots.

This transatlantic sycophancy has got to stop.

Britain’s collective psyche has numerous failings: pomposity, arrogance and a xenophobic superiority complex, and that’s just for starters. But ask a group of older Brits what they perceive their nation’s greatest values to be, and common sense and fairness will rank highly in their answers. It’s a shame this self-image is such a laughable myth.

Blair must stop scampering to serve Bush and big business, and start acting in the interests of the people who are forced to pay for his bombs. Or we must replace him with someone who will.


Internment without trial (Liberty)

Released prisoners: press release (Amnesty International)

About Guantánamo Bay (Amnesty International) (WARNING – harrowing content)

British politics&Europe&Human rights28 Nov 2004 02:54 pm

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that European troops who control a foreign country can be prosecuted under human rights law for breaching the civil rights of local people.

This means British troops may face legal action over the deaths of civilians in Basra.

As well as this, the United Nations Committee against Torture has accused Britain of breaching the UN Convention Against Torture in Iraq.

Full story here.

American politics&Human rights&Middle East&News media27 Nov 2004 03:07 pm

Oxford English Dictionary definition:


noun a person who uses violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.

— DERIVATIVES terrorism noun

I was reading an American blog the other day and was surprised to note that the writer had called all Iraqi people fighting back against US soldiers “terrorists”.

Poised to leave a comment highlighting this inadvertent error, a worrying thought suddenly occurred to me. Perhaps there was more to this writer’s use of language than a shaky grasp on his mother tongue. Perhaps he genuinely thought Iraq was a country comprised of terrorists, not ordinary people.

Does any 21st century westerner really hold such a shallow concept of ‘foreign’ countries, I wondered? Quotation from blogs like this sounds like satire, a classic pastiche of the “them and us” mindset of previous generations. Surely such xenophobic misconceptions about other members of the human race have been consigned to history, along with the burning of heretics?

So I decided to look around for proof, to see how widespread this blanket “terrorism” misconception was.

Blogs are a great place to start research of this kind, because that’s where ordinary people feel free to express their ideas without censorship, commercial incentives or political expediency. Blogs had to be my first stop.

Reading… and more reading

And it didn’t take long before I found more evidence of confusion. This writer is convinced that “The Marines are steadily and successfully killing terrorists and breaking things in Fallujah.” This one announces proudly “Operation Hurricane Blows Away 60 Terrorists”. I don’t doubt that both bloggers are certain of the accuracy of their descriptions.

On the other hand, one blog entry dated June 2004 (i.e. before the latest Fallujah offensive) discusses the contradictory use of language. The writer is posting from Iraq. “The subject of terrorism was breached, and Amin grew quickly frustrated. He felt the US was being hypocritical in calling Arabs who fight against them terrorists. ‘They are fighting to protect their city… why don’t the Americans call soldiers from Honduras here terrorists?’ He continued, ‘They are fighting Iraqis…but they are not called terrorists? What is the difference?'”

Back to the other view. This blogger says the massacre of Fallujah’s remaining citizens is justifiable because they are “vermin”. Those who haven’t succumbed to foreign threats or been hounded out of their homes have only themselves to blame. “At this point, it appears that the only people left in Fallujah are those who support the terrorists. Those who fled earlier are willing for the Marines and Iraqi forces to reduce the city to rubble, if necessary, to get rid of the vermin that infests it.”

In the 1930s, Third Reich propaganda and ‘news’ described the Jews in similar terms of sub-humanity and infestation, softening up the German public for genocide. Such use of language is chillingly familiar to those conversant with Holocaust history. As this messageboard poster notes, “The propaganda of Dr. Goebbels and Vichy France kept calling the French Resistance ‘terrorists.'” Presumably that comparison didn’t occur to everyone.

One blogger goes a step further and derides the entire Muslim religion in a single stroke. Despite US and UK governments stating openly that there is absolutely no link between the World Trade Center attacks and Iraq, and the fact that there have been no Iraqi nationals involved in any terrorism in America, this blogger has picked up an illogical idea and run with it. “It is evident that ‘liberals’ in the media have ‘forgotten’ that the US was attacked and that thousands of American civilians were killed by ruthless, immoral, moon-god worshiping swine.” Oh yes, moon-god worshippers. Damn those pesky amnesiac liberals.

See, it’s OK to slaughter Iraqi civilians. They’re ‘them’, the dangerous, unknown other. They’re not human, they’re “terrorists”, “swine”, “vermin”. Pass the salt.

Where does such breathtakingly arrogant ignorance come from? How does any educated adult labour under the misapprehension that all Arabs are terrorists, all resistance is terrorism and all those who do not acquiesce to foreign occupation are “vermin”? How does any semi-educated person conclude that reactively fighting against a foreign army invading your city is the same thing as proactively creating violent disturbance in an attempt to achieve political aims by intimidation?

Actually, forget education. How could anybody of sound mind possibly blur these concepts?

News available in every colour! As long as it’s red, white and blue

One look at the mainstream American media answers that. This conceptual confusion is everywhere because it’s the official American truth.

Here’s an excerpt from a New York Post column:

“Since the political decision to stop short in Fallujah last April, the terrorists had bragged to the world that the city would never fall to the infidel. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his thugs turned Fallujah into a vast dungeon, complete with torture chambers and execution halls. The terrorists stockpiled weapons and ammunition, welcoming thousands of international “Jihadis” and using the city as a base to spread terror across central Iraq…

Fallujah became the new world capital of terror. And Allah’s butchers proclaimed that they’d slaughter U.S. troops in the streets, if they tried to enter the city.

Guess who’s dying now?”

The writer stops short of yelling “Three cheers for mass bloodshed!”, but only just.

Everywhere you look is the fresh footprint of new bogeyman Al-Zarqawi and his mythical “thousands of international Jihadis”. He’s been wheeled onto the media stage in the absence of Osama bin Laden. The “torture chambers” and armies of foreign “thugs” mentioned above are a propaganda fantasy denied even by soldiers currently posted in Iraq. Nobody’s seen any evidence of his presence in Fallujah and nobody really believes he’s in control of the city. But never let the facts get in the way of a good story, right?

This journalist perpetuates the myth that al-Zarqawi is running a “network” operating from Fallujah. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is a Jordanian whom Iraqi citizens maintain is nothing to do with their resistance against US occupation. Many believe even his presence in Iraq is a US fiction designed to justify the destruction of civilian towns. It’s impossible for us to know which version of events is true, if either, but it is indubitably not the cut-and-dried issue these media reports claim. As this blogger points out, truth is a scarce commodity in war, particularly where it concerns the infamous al-Zarqawi.

This report also frames the Fallujah conflict in terms of good and evil. It states “In Fallujah, valiant American heroes search for ammunition and find much in the terrorist-infested city… Valiant US Marines move toward the center bringing justice to terrorists. Only the MSM would try to bring portray this crushing of terrorism as a defeat.” John Wayne’s heroic silhouette is almost discernible behind the text, like a watermark.

The Washington Times overlooks the thousands of dead Iraqi civilians, but shrieks “Terrorists kill dozens in Iraq attacks”. Another writer quotes US puppet “minister of provincial affairs” Wael Abdel-Latif in calling the Iraqi resistance “terrorists”. At no point does the article admit that the interim Iraqi government has been put in place by the invading country and thus hardly speaks for the ordinary citizens of Iraq.

You’re either with us or against us

Heard that the International Red Cross and Amnesty International have condemned the US/UK attacks for destroying medical supplies and killing medical personnel? Thank goodness the NY Post is here to put us straight. “U.S. and Iraqi forces are attacking on multiple axes, keeping the terrorists off balance. Key sites within the city already have been seized — including a hospital that cared more about propaganda than its patients.”

Heard the one about Al Qaeda having links with Iraq? Well yes, we know it’s a fabrication put around in rumour form because it is perceived as helpful to the US government, and the media knows this too. But it doesn’t stop some journalists from dropping the name of Al Qaeda into their Iraq news stories as though it is fact.

They may as well just call all opposition “Satan” – like Lt. Col. Brandl did in his pre-attack army peptalk – and be done with it.

Somewhere along the line, “Al Qaeda” has become shorthand for “terrorist”, and “terrorist” has become shorthand for “anyone who tries to stop us”. Distinct, unrelated concepts have been whizzed up into a single meaningless froth. News is now served as a low carb smoothie and there’s only one flavour on the menu.

OK, there are exceptions. Pockets of critical thinking do remain. Some mainstream journalists are not afraid to question the US-led war effort. Open-source news agencies such as Indymedia do report on controversial issues such as US use of chemical weapons in Fallujah. And these sources are vital, because they show us an angle we wouldn’t otherwise see. In Europe, dissent is slowly becoming more widespread even in mainstream publications. But in America, it seems those whispering misgivings about the war are frequently drowned out by those banging drums in favour of it.

It’s hardly surprising. Try to see all sides of the crisis in America and you’re immediately labelled as unpatriotic. Every day we’re reminded by American media: The USA is eternally on the side of justice, truth, compassion, selfless sacrifice for duty. We’re always fighting for oppressed people’s benefit, not our own. We’re the world’s policeman, always ready with a friendly smile and a stack of lovely, liberating bombs.

As Lynne Cheney said in a recent interview, “Well, but Matt, you’re being awfully relativistic here. I mean, the insurgents are killing Iraqis by the hundreds, Iraqis by the thousands. It’s not as though this is a matter between just ‘on the one hand on the other hand.’ We are on the side of freedom.”

So… now what?

This manipulation of words and the consequent reduction of complexities to Manichean polar opposites amounts to a war on language. How can we reinstate joined-up thinking to a defiantly simplistic debate?

Our mainstream media won’t point out their own mistakes. Our governments aren’t going to jump in to correct misconceptions which help with their propaganda efforts. Those who benefit from the butchered language of 21st century war reporting aren’t going to volunteer to defend accuracy. Hell, they’re propagating this nonsense.

Bloggers, armchair pundits and outraged citizens: I think the reality check may be down to us. Because if not us… then who?

American politics&Human rights&Middle East&Religion16 Nov 2004 01:04 am

American Marines have been filmed shooting injured Iraqis at point blank range.

The picture below was taken of one such incident. It took place in a Fallujan mosque.

click photo to read ITN news story

That’s right. In a mosque. If there could possibly be a more inappropriate place to showcase wanton disregard for Muslim life, I can’t think of it. If there’s any image more likely to launch hitherto moderate Muslims into fanatical vengeance fantasies, I can’t imagine it.

(Christians might like to imagine how they’d react to footage of a wounded, dying Western man being shot at point blank range by a group of Arab soldiers on the altar of a church. This doesn’t even take into account the separate horror Muslims will feel at soldiers trampling over prayer rugs with their dirty boots, or the thoughtless, careless way in which such sacred buildings are summarily destroyed.)

One incident was shown on ITN news this evening, with just the soundtrack of the killing heard clearly, but with the picture paused as it was “too distressing to be broadcast”.

In another incident, also shown on British TV tonight, soldiers are seen discussing how a shot Iraqi has fallen between two buildings and cannot escape. One soldier walks up to the gap, aims at the injured man, shoots, and walks away saying “He’s done”. This footage was broadcast in Australia and other countries days ago and has whipped up a storm of outrage trailing right across the planet.

Fallujah is broken, smashed, smelling of “broken corpses and decaying flesh” , with no water or electricity or food. We hear that 50 doctors and nurses have tried to enter but that 17 of these were shot dead by US troops while crossing the River Euphrates. We hear today that the journalist who made that report has been shot by US soldiers.

We hear stray dogs and cats are eating corpses in Fallujah because the bodies aren’t being cleared away. That Iraqi blogger also makes the following claims:

“They report today that Asma Khamis al-Muhannadi, a doctor who witnessed the US and Iraqi National Guard raid the general hospital said, “We were tied up and beaten despite being unarmed and having only our medical instruments.”

She said the hospital was targeted by bombs and rockets during the initial siege of Fallujah, and troops dragged patients from their beds and pushed them against the wall.

Al-Muhannadi went on to say that all of them were put under intense inspection and, “Two female doctors were forced to totally undress.”

She continued on, “I was with a woman in labor,” she said, “The umbilical cord had not yet been cut. At that time, a US soldier shouted at one of the (Iraqi) national guards to arrest me and tie my hands while I was helping the mother to deliver. I will never forget this incident in my life.””

We hear that Amnesty expresses concerns about violation of international laws in Fallujah, that the Red Cross and Red Crescent have been denied access because the US says it is capable of treating any remaining civilians, despite the vast numbers of innocent people who have bled to death or died as a result of lack of access to basic medical care.

We learn that typhoid is spreading in “ghost town” Fallujah and that puppet president (unrecognised by Iraqis) Allawi laughably insists there has been not a single civilian loss in Fallujah. No wonder he’s so unpopular with his people. Not even Rumsfeld or Hoon are brazen enough to make that bold a claim. Conservative estimates are currently around 2,000 Iraqi dead. The distinction between “insurgent” and “civilian” is impossible to make.

Military families, traditionally pro-war and pro-government, have made unprecedented breaks with convention by protesting about the Iraq campaign vociferously. A few days ago, families of dead Black Watch soldiers forced their way to Downing Street’s steps to hand in a wreath of protest. Soldiers and their families have spoken out so strongly against this war that the Ministry of Defence scarcely knows how to handle the sudden abandonment of protocol.

And meanwhile, Iraqi sources say the Fallujah massacre has only inspired the able-bodied men of Iraq to fight all the more against their unwanted occupiers. They intend to fight to the death.

This is a war waged without reason, without humanity and without a hope of succeeding in its professed aims. A few years ago, a lot of Muslims disliked the West’s foreign policy, but only a handful of crazed extremists ever took violent revenge. Today, watching thousands upon thousands of people being killed, their homes destroyed and an entire city reduced to rubble, how many more will be preparing to fight back? With pride, life and hope obliterated so publicly and so humiliatingly, what do these nations have to lose by fighting us back? Aren’t these ideal conditions for destructive hate and suicidal vengeance to flourish?

As a global population, we have never been more at risk. Let’s not kid ourselves: we are all pawns in our governments’ callous, acquisitive war games and we will be the ones who have to pay for their greed.

This senseless killing must stop now and those responsible must be brought to justice. If you oppose this war, please make sure your voice is heard.

American politics&Asia Pacific&Human rights&Middle East08 Nov 2004 11:39 pm

Here’s a bedtime story.

Imagine China is the world’s biggest superpower. (It will be one day anyway.)

Imagine one day the Chinese government decides it doesn’t like the way America is being run. It decides that capitalist so-called democracy doesn’t suit its vision of the world. Imagine it’s annoyed with the way the American government interferes with its economic plans and its trade ambitions. It quite likes the look of America’s assets, the wealth and resources of that country. It likes the geographical location too, the way it provides easy access to the resources of Canada and South America.

Imagine China doesn’t believe in America’s god. (It doesn’t.)

Imagine it starts a propaganda campaign in China to win over the people. It tells them all about America’s human rights abuses – every country has some to pull out of the bag – and whips up patriotic Chinese fervour for what it claims is China’s superior, freer way of life. It points to a recent terrorist atrocity in China, done by some extremist Westerners as revenge for what they think is brutal Chinese foreign policy in Christian countries, and it claims that this was undertaken by a powerful organised network of Christian fundamentalists. Despite the fact that all Western countries condemned the attack, including the countries the Western terrorists came from, the Chinese people believe this version of events. It tells the Chinese people that Christian fundamentalism is the biggest ever threat to world safety. It warns the world that unless it takes action, Christian terrorists are going to destroy everyone. It tells the Chinese that Christian fundamentalists hate them because they are free.

Imagine this expansionist project meets great resistance from the rest of the world, but China uses its vast size and influence to intimidate some countries into joining in. It uses its sophisticated media and diplomatic channels to decry and deride those nations who refuse to get involved, calling them part of an axis of evil, or spineless, or disloyal, or ungrateful for past help. It embarks on trade restrictions and economic blackmail, or thinly veiled threats of attack, to those countries who do not offer help.

Imagine it enlists those allies it has managed to win and invades America. It bombs the American people into submission, removes Bush from power, imprisons him and installs a puppet leader who will run the country and its terrified people exactly as the Chinese government order. It drops leaflets on Americans, in English, explaining that the Chinese are liberating them and that they must make no attempts to resist if they wish to live.

Imagine some outspoken American people say “We weren’t happy with Bush, that’s true. He locked people up without trial in Guantanamo Bay. He allowed torture to be a legitimate military technique. He imposed draconian new laws to restrict civil liberties. He changed our constitution to restrict states’ rights to govern themselves. He cut taxes for the rich, lost us jobs, increased our national debt, squandered our money on weapons of mass destruction and reduced access to welfare. Hell, he wanted to reverse some women’s rights and he imposed his religious beliefs on all of us. But you Chinese people can’t just march in here and take over our country. That’s not freedom. That’s dictatorship.”

Imagine that plea has no effect. The Chinese government says “This is for your own good. Comply or you will be destroyed.”

Imagine the Chinese military campaign devastates rural areas and cities alike with aerial bombs and expensive weapons systems, killing hundreds of thousands of American citzens, destroying buildings, hospitals, water supplies, and bridges. It sparks a wave of American fury but doesn’t care. It insists it is liberating ordinary Americans. “We are not your enemy”, it says. “We are freeing you from Bush’s evil grasp. You should be grateful.”

Imagine the Chinese war machine keeps going until it dominates the whole country. All except a couple of cities. Imagine one of those cities is Chicago.

Imagine that almost all of Chicago has evacuated in fear or been killed. A hardcore 10% of the population either refuse to leave, or can’t because they’re old, sick or incapacitated. Those remaining who are able-bodied decide they aren’t going to stand for the Chinese aggression. They are going to fight back.

Imagine the American resistance fighters in Chicago try everything they can to defend their city against the Chinese takeover. Some of them manage to steal some weapons and bombs while the Chinese army aren’t looking, and mount attacks on Chinese soldiers. These Americans are dying in large numbers but still refuse to give up. They intend to fight to the death for the cause they believe in, for American freedom and autonomy to run their country the way they see fit. They refuse to recognise the new Chinese-authorised American president and vow to rid America of their violent invaders.

Imagine they are so desperate they resort to suicide bomb attacks on Chinese soldiers. They are so maddened by the drive to save their people and city they’re prepared to guarantee their own deaths if it’ll take out just one or two or three of these violent occupiers in the process. Imagine how desperate a person has to be to consider that a worthwhile sacrifice.

Imagine the Chinese government pulls a few international strings, twists a few arms and secures extra troops from one of its allies. It plans an enormous campaign to devastate Chicago and crush the American resistance. It tells the world media “These Chicago insurgents are terrorists. These terrorists are using Chicago as their base. We need to rid the country of these evil terrorists so we can free it. We need to kill these terrorists to protect the American people. We need to destroy Chicago in order to save it.”

Imagine Kofi Annan, the leader of the UN, intervenes at this point, telling the Chinese government to cancel the invasion of Chicago, that its plans are inadvisable and destructive. The Chinese government replies “But we’re just following the orders of the new American president.” The world knows this is ridiculous, as the new American president is nothing more than a figurehead put in place by the Chinese themselves. But the world media don’t dare to speak out, because they’re owned by multinational corporations who have a vested interest in maintaining Chinese hegemony. So they report it from the Chinese angle regardless of their own misgivings, calling the American resistance fighters “terrorists” and “rebels” and “insurgents”. They say the Chinese soldiers are “just working to make America a better place, to guarantee the safety of the elections next spring”.

Imagine a large number of Chinese soldiers aren’t happy with the orders their leaders are giving. Whole regiments are convinced that they have been sent to fight an unjust war, that they are being used as pawns in the economic games of corrupt rich men. They watch their Chinese friends dying, watch American civilians and children dying, feeling in their hearts that the killing they are being asked to do is wrong. Great numbers of them become convinced they’re being lied to by their leaders, but have no way of refusing to act out their orders. So they have to go ahead with the campaign despite these misgivings, but they are deeply distressed about it.

Imagine the Chinese army bombards Chicago with bombs, bullets and bayonets. It even invades a Chicago hospital, tying up and blindfolding all the staff who surrender and killing anyone who doesn’t. The Chinese army turns off the Chicago power and water supplies for days at a time, to wear down the few surviving Americans. Disease and suffering is rife. The American leader imposes a curfew so no man between 15 and 55 can leave their homes between certain hours, effectively permitting the Chinese soldiers to shoot on sight any man they see walking outside, regardless of whether he poses a threat.

Imagine the Chicago resistance still refuse to give in. They keep fighting until they can’t fight any more. They do this because they believe they are fighting for America, for freedom, for Jesus, for their families, for what they believe is right. They refuse to give in until the Chinese occupation leaves their country, even though they know they don’t have a hope in hell of beating 20,000 troops. They are prepared to fight to the death.

Imagine all this is happening right now. Imagine this is real.

Are these Chicago citizens terrorists? Or freedom fighters?

Before we go to sleep tonight, let’s reflect on this and be glad it’s just fiction.

And be grateful we aren’t spending the night in Fallujah.

American politics&Audience participation&British politics&Europe&Global politics&Human rights&Middle East&Race&Religion&Self07 Nov 2004 02:00 pm

Those of you who have trawled through the comments on this blog may be familiar with Katy, the Texan Republican who disagrees with me on every conceivable point. Well, Katy’s written an extensive refutation of my Goodnight America post in her own blog here.

Being up for a squabble, and clinically unable to leave her opinions on Jesus, racism and Bush unchallenged, I confess I responded in similar detail. That response is below.

I warn you: they’re quite long posts. And I still can’t work out how to modify my template for the cutaway technique, even by following the idiot-proof instructions. (I’m blaming the template itself for having tricksy style sheets, naturellement.) So it’s just a big slab of text. Whole paragraphs of the stuff.

But if you enjoy watching war-loving Christian Republicans and bleeding heart British socialists crossing swords, maybe you’ll think reading it is time well spent. It’s your call.

In an earlier post, Jon kindly remarked on my “patience” in responding to another commenter’s dissent. Ha. Jon, I wonder if it’s not so much patience as a natural extension of my British politeness. We apologise when other people push us in the street. (Seriously. We do!)

Besides, while it might be tempting for all sides to take the “Is your head full of marshmallows, dipshit?” angle, that would just shut closed minds even tighter. In all honesty, I’m often shocked at views like Katy’s, but it’s best to hear them. We each surround ourselves with like-minded people, so it’s easy to float along in an ideological bubble. At least this way nobody fools themselves that the world is anything other than a big argumentative soup. Er, so to speak.

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