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?

Activism&Africa&Global politics&Pop culture03 Jul 2005 12:51 pm

No, sorry. I can’t just leave it.

Did any of you see Madonna’s performance? Did any of you watch Geldof’s bit before that? Without vomiting your spleen into your lap?

In case you were mercifully elsewhere, here’s what happened. Bob Geldof went into a foggy rant along the lines of “DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU THIS DOESN’T WORK”. Then an enormous picture of a starving Ethiopian child appeared on the screens. Then Bob says “This girl was 10 minutes from death when this shot was filmed” – leaving aside all questions of whether it would be considered appropriate to film children 10 minutes from death if they weren’t brown – and then shouts “BUT BECAUSE OF LIVE AID, SHE SURVIVED! AND HERE SHE IS NOW!”

And on walks a beautiful fully grown woman with an expensive hairdo and perfect makeup, and everyone cheers, because WE DID THAT! We saved the pretty lady! We Westerners, with our benevolent rich rock stars and kind hearts, we who were prepared to sacrifice a whole day of our lives to watch a rock concert and perhaps give a few quid out of our beer budget! We, who wear matching wristbands and are polite enough not to question the inexplicable participation of pensionable dullards like Annie Lennox, Sting, Pink Floyd and The Who, are saving lives! We are, quite frankly, heroes! Go us! Go us!

And then Madonna walks on, snogs poor Birhan Woldu – for this is she – and feigns tears of self-congratulatory joy. And grabs Birhan’s hand, and punches it triumphantly into the air. Never one to miss a front page opportunity, she does this for quite some time.

I cannot find words to do justice to the offensiveness of this spectacle.

From the parts of Live 8 which I saw, I didn’t hear a single person on any stage mention the reasons Africa is impoverished. Not one. From watching this show, you’d think that global economics pivoted on the willingness of ageing prog rockers to reform.

As ever, RedOne and Gerry neatly sum up the tragedy of Geldof and Bono co-opting the G8 protests. If it hadn’t been for this flamboyant point-missing exercise, the rumble of very real G8-based dissent seen a few months ago may have built into an epoch-defining roar.

And if that’s not a good enough motive for Blair et al to hold hands with Geldof and Bono and support their impotent efforts, I don’t know what is.

I’ll leave you with a nice quote from Robert Newman:

Q: If you could talk directly to a room full of G8 leaders, what would you say?

A: “Here are your Guatemala work visas, we will come and pick you up from the Dole/Chiquita banana plantation in a year’s time, by which point your views about capitalism may have altered enough for us to have a sensible discussion.”

Soundtrack to this post: Grasping Claw – Headset

Activism&Africa&Global politics&Pop culture01 Jul 2005 07:52 pm

“The countdown to Live 8 continues”

If your idea of top quality entertainment is white male middle-aged millionaires playing guitars, you’re in for a treat tomorrow night.

I’ve said enough on the subject, so I’ll leave the cringeworthy, misguided event to speak for itself.

Soundtrack to this post: Rock Is Dead – Marilyn Manson

Activism&Africa&British politics&Global politics&News media&Pop culture20 Jun 2005 07:52 pm

I’m a busy, tired, cynical fox today. This is not so much a post as an attempt to convey an eye-rolling “Hmph” in three needlessly wordy paragraphs.

Fact 1:
In 1985, Bob Geldof’s Live Aid raised £40m for famine relief in Africa, half of which was spent on long term development plans. By Geldof’s own admission, Africa has become even poorer over the intervening two decades. So here comes Live 8, jumping alongside the campaign to ‘Make Poverty History’.

Question: Do you think this self-congratulatory dadrock-fest will change world leaders’ minds about their policies towards Africa, or will they use it as an excuse to applaud themselves about a few paltry figleaf changes (e.g. doubling aid) while ignoring the actual reasons why Africa is impoverished (e.g. the IMF’s demands, the World Bank, the double standards of one-sided ‘free’ trade)?

Fact 2:
Tony Blair wears a white wristband (or, as the hilariously ultra-conservative Telegraph puts it, a “bangle”). He started wearing this – complete with subtly shortened jacket sleeve – in the run-up to the election. Naturally. All in all, he is making a sustained effort to draw attention to his part in this expertly choreographed campaign.

Question: Do you think Tony Blair has any incentive to argue (or intention of arguing) for 100% of African debt to be dropped?

Fact 3:
Bono, a man so ferociously egomaniacal he is prepared to incur the financial and environmental cost of flying a hat to Italy in first class, has also lent his name to the cause.

Question: Would Blair, Bush etc be so eager to trade positive publicity opportunities with this multi-millionaire businessman if his involvement was genuinely subversive and radical?

Soundtrack to this post: Pull Up The People – M.I.A.

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?)

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