Middle East


American politics&British politics&Global politics&Middle East14 Aug 2006 08:18 pm

Cowley Road, East Oxford

Cowley Road, East Oxford – Photo by Dood LD, originally posted on Indymedia

“When monarchs through their bloodthirsty commanders lay waste to a country, they dignify their atrocity by calling it ‘making peace'”.
– Tacitus

American politics&British politics&Middle East21 Feb 2006 01:16 am

So let’s get this straight.

You’re a north African Muslim and a qualified pilot. You can work in Britain.

Somehow, you can be falsely accused of training terrorists. You can be wrongly detained in one of Britain’s most notorious high security prisons. You can be threatened with extradition to the US as a terror suspect, with all the nightmarish visions that conjures. Then you can be released after 5 months without charge and told by a judge there is not a bit of evidence against you.

But you aren’t eligible for any compensation for the wasted 5 months of your life, your ruined career or the injustice you have suffered.

Huh?

Lofti Raissi

Luckily Algerian pilot Lotfi Raissi has now won the right to a judicial review, which means he might just get some compensation for his pains after all.

But if he still doesn’t win the argument, it means we have a criminal justice system which allows an Algerian to be banged up in Britain for no reason and receive no recompense for his shredded life even when found innocent.

Well, I feel safer just thinking about it. Thanks once again, government.

British politics&Europe&Middle East&Religion06 Feb 2006 09:00 pm

Muslim protest against Prophet cartoons Some Muslims have been protesting violently about the publication of some cartoons depicting the Prophet negatively. Embassies have been torched. Property has been destroyed. Threats have been made. Our newspapers are full of words and pictures about it. Our society is outraged.

Belief

Several Muslims have died as a result of the protests. (Not the hundreds that were killed during this year’s Hajj, admittedly, but then some Muslim deaths are more interesting than others.)

Muslim protesters rage not merely against this single act of blasphemy, but against what this act symbolises. They rage against European arrogance, Western governments’ mafia-style looting of Arab lands, media campaigns demonising anyone in a beard or hijab.

Great anger does not necessarily need great provocation. Anger is cumulative. Ills are totted up until their number is too great to bear. Like breakage of the proverbial camel’s back, after a while, a single straw will be enough.

The media is so saturated with this story, it whips the storm to ever greater intensity. More violence, better story. More coverage, more mileage for incensed non-Muslim columnists. More debate. More invented “Sensible Freedom-loving West vs. Archaic Tyrannical East” binary oppositions. More hate bred on each side.

The more the story is prodded, the angrier it gets.

Politics

In Westminster, an unpopular prime minster consults expensive public relations advisers as to how best to break the news of military action in Iran to a jaded public. The scene is replicated in European and American ministerial chambers.

The problem is that the general public do not see Muslims as “other”. The public are unable to perform the emotional detachment necessary to sanction another aggressive campaign. The ‘C2/D/E’ demographic are still open to manipulation without too much trouble, but the broadsheet readers are currently off-message. Their feeble ethical rebellion cannot stop progress, but it makes the job of presenting a benevolent veneer slightly more demanding.

If only a way could be found that would stop the leftists and pacifists from obstructing the path of Western corporate power. If only we could damage the reputation of Islam and those who follow it. If only something could be done to back Muslims into a corner and create the illusion that the wildest extremists speak for all. If only Islam could be portrayed as unreasonable, backward, dangerous, subversive, unpleasant, stupid.

If only followers of Islam could be hanged by the zeal of its most extreme adherents, in a way that would carve a deep chasm between ‘them’ and ‘us’, between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. We know their weakness. We know which buttons to press. If only we could find a way to use that knowledge to our advantage.

If the flames of such a campaign could be fanned, it would give us the moral high ground. It would hush the whine of middle class pinko indignation and deflect pundits’ attention to such laughably naive concepts as “free speech” and “science versus religion”. While the dinner party set’s attention and sympathies are diverted elsewhere, we’d have just enough leeway to start our Iran campaign and tidy up the dregs of Iraq and Afghanistan. As a bonus, we’d probably win the “Are Hamas terrorists or freedom fighters?” argument too.

Of course, expensive public relations firms and governments do not need to ask “if only”. They just need to orchestrate an appropriate story and appropriate coverage. It is easy to guide public thought, and these men and women are experts.

Muslim woman praying Communication

For their part, the media will run any story released to them at any angle required, provided it does not conflict with the needs of their advertisers or shareholders.

Fait accompli

… Well, whaddya know. Pure luck and good timing, of course. Perhaps God is an Englishman after all.

American politics&British politics&Middle East&News media&The art of blog26 Nov 2005 10:35 am

Publish the Al-Jazeera memo, Tony, you power-crazed maniac
Did George Bush order the Al-Jazeera headquarters in Qatar to be bombed? Or did he not?

If he did, did Tony Blair attempt to talk him out of it? Or did he not?

The Daily Mirror says yes. The British newspaper was gagged by the Attorney General after revealing the existence of the memo.

David Keogh and Leo O’Connor, civil servants who handled the memo, are due to appear in court next week, charged under the Official Secrets Act.

Until the memo in question is published, we cannot know for certain. What we do know is that its contents are sufficiently important that a D-notice was slapped on them, forbidding publication. Any editor who does so will be prosecuted for violating national security. To even the least politically-minded, that gesture speaks volumes.

Thankfully, Al-Jazeera aren’t taking this news lying down and are demanding that the memo is published. And several editors (including Tory MP Boris Johnson of the Spectator) and a legion of bloggers (like our own Red, who also designed the jazzy button at the top right of this post) have announced that they’ll happily publish the memo if they’re given a copy.

The Official Secrets Act is supposed to protect the safety of the country, not protect the current government from political embarrassment. I hope the brightest legal minds in the country will put their efforts into making this distinction if David Keogh and Leo O’Connor go to full trial.

If I happen to come across a copy, I’ll post it here and email it to every likeminded editor and blogger I can find. If another blogger or editor publishes the memo, I will be delighted to reproduce it on this blog, and so will plenty of others.

What will they do, arrest us all? Let’s see.

American politics&British politics&Middle East26 Oct 2005 09:18 pm

Can anyone explain to me how I’m supposed to be deeply affected by the thought of 2,000 dead American military personnel in Iraq, while simultaneously not being bothered about the 100,000 Iraqi civilians who died violent deaths in the same period?

I’m having a few problems with that one today.

Boy weeps in Iraqi rubble

As always, visit BugMeNot for a login if you want to read the Lancet report for yourself.

Middle East&The art of blog05 Oct 2005 07:15 pm

Just like the last time, I can’t see my own blog. Just an empty space.

But I suppose at least I’m not in Saudia Arabia. If I was, I wouldn’t be reading any of your blogs.

Soundtrack to this post: Fox shouting “Hello? Hello?” down a silent telephone as the other party vainly shouts “I CAN HEAR YOU” in an increasingly exasperated tone.

British politics&Middle East27 Sep 2005 05:52 pm

Running the country must be an easy job. Apparently Blair gets so much free time, he can moonlight as a sales executive for BAE, the British arms manufacturer.

To whom was our very own military Avon Lady trying to sell these instruments of mass slaughter?

Why, those brutal fundamentalists – sorry, I mean our dear friends and allies – Saudi Arabia.

In return, the Saudis are allegedly asking for a few favours. They want two asylum seekers returned to them, perhaps to give them a stern talking-to. They want British Airways to forget all that “terrorist threat” silliness and start running flights back through Riyadh.

And they want the investigation into corruption involving the Saudi royal family and BAE to be buried.

So being PM, “bringing democracy to the Middle East” (selectively) and devising draconian domestic anti-privacy laws must all add up to part time employment.

If Tony has any more free time, perhaps he could pop up to Sedgefield and see if his constituents need a hand with anything?

The man has now slipped beyond parody.

Soundtrack to this post: Killing An Arab – The Cure

American politics&British politics&Middle East31 Aug 2005 08:30 pm

Around 1,000 Shias have died in a stampede in Iraq.

“Hundreds, maybe thousands” have died in the New Orleans flood.

The Queen is really upset about the dead Americans.

She has yet to register any flicker of interest in the dead Iraqis.

Soundtrack to this post: No Surprises – Radiohead

British politics&Middle East&The art of blog18 Jul 2005 10:52 am

An official report by Chatham House and Economic and Social Research Council says that the UK is more at risk of terrorism since our cuddly CareBlair took us into Iraq.

Who’da thunk it?

Anyway, enough about all that. I’ve noticed my comment count goes down the more serious I get. Perhaps I shall write a post about marshmallows next.

Soundtrack to this post: Acid – Rubberoom

Africa&British politics&Middle East&News media14 Jul 2005 05:17 pm

Another suicide bombing in Baghdad. Happens most days, doesn’t it?

As the article says, “At least 26 Iraqis, almost all of them children, were killed in a car bomb attack in Baghdad on Wednesday” as well.

Those people have not been named, their photographs have not been in the international press, and, as Swiss says, we did not observe two minutes of silence for them.

For their bereaved families, our silence must seem permanent.

And oh look, there go a few more of our civil liberties:

“[Charles Clarke] wants to ensure that any non-British citizen suspected of inciting terrorism is deported immediately. … There would be agreements with North African countries to make sure asylum seekers were not tortured on return to their country of origin, says No 10.”

How would that conversation go?

“Excuse me, chaps, you wouldn’t mind not torturing this fellow when we send him back, would you?”

“Not at all, my good man, I will personally see to it that this national absconder and potential terrorist is treated like a long-lost brother the moment he sets foot on Algerian soil.”

What could possibly go wrong?

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