Wednesday, November 28, 2007

With friends like these...

One small fact probably says more about the Annapolis conference, and the Israeli-Palestinian "peace process" it is supposed to inaugrate, than any of the many other things I could mention. That is, the identity of the US/Israeli-approved representative of the Palestinians at this ceremonial charade: Fatah.

Let's set aside for a moment the fact that it is Israel and the US, not the Palestinian people, who effectively gets to choose who negotiates on the latter's behalf (as a thought experiment, try imagining the Palestinians choosing which Israeli or US politicians get to join them in negotiations). Instead, let's just focus on the quality of the Palestinian's appointed representatives. Can they be relied upon to act in the best interests of the Palestinian people?

Allow me to offer you a small indication.

Since Hamas won a free and fair election in January last year, Israel and the West (including Britain) have punished the Palestinian people for their incorrect political choice through impoverishment and starvation via a blockade and theft of Palestinian revenues. I wrote about the crushing human costs of the blockade here. When Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip, apparently in response to a coup attempt by elements within Fatah, the Occupied Territories became divided between Fatah's West Bank and Hamas-controlled Gaza. The blockade of Gaza continued, but was lifted for the West Bank.

The humanitarian situation in Gaza deteriorated further. Last week a senior UN official described the blockade as "indiscriminate", "illegal" and displaying "profound inhumanity". The "crushing sanctions" had resulted in "truly appalling living conditions". The Independent reported the official, John Ging, saying that the UN "was unable to provide more than 61 per cent of the necessary calories to refugees. "At present we do not have sufficient funding to provide just one high nutrient biscuit to 200,000 children in UN schools"". The sanctions had caused "human suffering and misery for the entire civilian population in Gaza".

In the summer, a draft UN resolution was put forward by Qatar and seconded by Indonesia, simply expressing concern over the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Fatah, the Palestinian representatives at Annapolis this week - are you sitting comfortably? - lobbied hard and successfully, not only to kill the resolution, but to block the presidential statement that is usually made when a resolution falls to explain why it was rejected.

Just take that in for a minute.

In September last year - 14 months ago now - The Independent reported that some Palestinian mothers had been reduced to scouring rubbish dumps to find enough food to feed their children once a day. Now you see in Annapolis, negotiating on the Palestinians behalf, people who actively support the starvation of Gaza by the occupier and its allies.

That, I believe, should give us the measure of the latest "peace process".

*****

p.s. I am indebted to Richard Seymour, aka Lenin of the blog Lenin's Tomb, for the key link above on the UN resolution. Lenin and I may be children of different political families and differ on a few issues, but I have to say that his writing's consistently very well informed and tightly argued. A useful resource which I recommend.

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Liberalism in 'Londonistan'

My new article, "Liberalism in 'Londonistan'", is published by UKWatch. An excerpt:

"Much has been heard from Britain’s political class in recent years about the role of “values” in the fight against terrorism. The problem, we are told, is that the Muslim community in the UK is failing to integrate with British society and accept our nation’s intrinsic liberalism."

"The message has been imparted to us in several ways. According to a recent study, over 90 per cent of the articles referring to Muslims or Islam in British newspapers on a typical week presented the religion and its adherents in a negative light. The picture presented by the media was of a strict and irreconcilable dichotomy between Islam and British “values”, with the former posing a serious threat to the latter. "

"[However] According to a recent poll, 96 per cent of London’s Muslims, along with 97 per cent of Londoners as a whole, “think that everyone should respect the law in Britain”; 89 per cent of Muslims and 88 per cent of all Londoners “believe that everyone in Britain should be free to live their lives as they want so long as they do not prevent others from doing the same”; 94 per cent of Muslims and 92 per cent of all Londoners “believe that everyone in Britain should have equal opportunities”; 95 per cent of Muslims and 86 per cent of all Londoners “think everyone should be free to practise their religion openly”; and 86 per cent of Muslims and 91 per cent of all Londoners “also think it is important that the Metropolitan Police work closely with communities such as the Muslim community to deter terrorist attacks”."

Read the whole thing here.

Also on this topic, see my "Are Muslims from Mars and Europeans from Venus?" and "Understanding Britain".

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Iran threat - exchange with George Monbiot

My email to George Monbiot:

George - thank you for an excellent piece in today's Guardian drawing attention to the great unmentionable in respect of WMD in the Middle East: Israel's nuclear weapons.


Given how important it is for this subject to be raised prominently in a mainstream newspaper, I'm reluctant to find fault with what you've written. However, there are a couple of aspects of your piece which I think will counteract what I suspect is your aim, i.e. to help the campaign against a war on Iran. I refer to instances where you reinforce some of the erroneous assumptions upon which the drive to war is based.


First, you say that "I believe that Iran is trying to acquire the bomb". May I ask what the basis of this belief is? Do you think that reliance on "belief" can be an adequate position for anyone – especially a Western newspaper commentator - to take on such a serious issue? Given the potentially cataclysmic dangers inherent in any US-Iran war, should we not confine ourselves strictly to the facts and, where there are gaps in our knowledge, admit to our ignorance rather than filling the gaps with "belief"?


The limits of our empirical knowledge of Iran's nuclear program are set by the findings of the IAEA. The agency has, after several surprise and intrusive inspections consistent with the NPT (it is the Additional Protocol, not the treaty, that Iran has withdrawn co-operation from) stated in its latest report (as it has many times previously) that it has no evidence of the "diversion" of enrichment activities towards a weapons programme.


I refer you to this informative commentary from Farideh Farhi on the dissonace between what the IAEA report said and how the media have been reporting it.


Second, it should be noted (though it never is) that Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued a religious ruling banning the construction and stockpiling of nuclear weapons.


Now of course, Khamenei, like any other powerful person, is perfectly capable of telling untruths. But when a person whose authority flows from his religious piety issues a ruling that impacts on his own behaviour he stakes not only his credibility but his power on his adherence to that ruling. Few people have ever accused members of the Tehran regime of being indifferent to personal power. So one has to admit that the existence of this explicit fatwa at the very least reduces by a significant degree the likelihood of Khamenei subsequently authorising an Iranian nuclear weapons programme.


This highlights a further point, scrupulously ignored by those who favour war: that it is Khamenei, not Ahmadinejad, who is in ultimate charge in Iran. It is he who has the last word on foreign and security policy. Indeed, one might well argue, with reference to Iran's complex political hierarchy, that Ahmadinejad is not even second in command.


Yet in your article, you say: "Yes, Iran under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a dangerous and unpredictable state". It is by no means true that Iran is "under" Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad does not have the power to start wars, for example.


You go on to say that "The president is a Holocaust denier opposed to the existence of Israel." Of the problematic turns of phrase in your article, this is possibly the most serious. I'm sure you're aware that Ahmadinejad never threatened to "wipe Israel from the map", as the hawks often claim. But your choice of words - in its formulation of an Iranian nuclear threat - is functionally identical to that disproven "wiped off the map" claim.


Let us be clear. Ahmadinejad - odious Holocaust denier though he undoubtedly is - has never threatened or advocated the physical, violent destruction of Israel. He has advocated the dissolution of what he views as an unjust regime, similar to the dissolution of the Shah's regime in Iran and the Soviet regime in Russia, neither of which resulted in either of those countries being "wiped off the map". He has advocated a single democratic state for Jews and Palestinians on all of mandate Palestine. You imply (whether you mean to or not) that he threatens a holocaust to destroy Israel. In reality, he calls for an election to dissolve it and effect a one-state solution. Believe him or don't. View his idea as foolish if you like. But lets at least acknowledge the facts.


Two more things should be mentioned on this point. First, even if we dismiss the available evidence and believe in the existence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, do we really suppose that Iran would consider for a moment the idea of initiating a war against an Israel armed with x amount of warheads and therefore also against the US with its many thousands of warheads? By what rationale do we argue that the Iranian regime wishes to commit suicide?


Secondly, noting that it is Khamenei that runs Iranian foreign policy, not Ahmadinejad, should we not acknowledge that Khamenei was "
directly involved" in formulating and proposing a comprehensive peace deal to the US and Israel, including acceptance of a two-state solution?


You see, then, why I believe these turns of phrase in your article to be problematic. Iran has no proven nuclear weapons programme, and is governed ultimately by a man who has forbidden the construction of nuclear weapons and who has offered to accept a two-state solution to the Palestinian conflict. Yet your article gives the impression that Iran has an active nuclear weapons programme and is run by a man who may wish to use the weapons he is constructing to destroy Israel.


Any hawk would be delighted that even The Guardian's George Monbiot is prepared to give this impression to his readers - and that’s a big shame given the excellent points you make in your article regarding Israel's nuclear weapons.


As you know, it is when someone at your end of the spectrum accepts the claims of power that those claims pass from points of view or allegations into accepted and unquestionable truths. Its a sad irony that I should be making this point in respect of this article, since your aim was plainly to challenge some of the received wisdom on this issue. However, unfortunately, you have reinforced many other aspects of the received wisdom in doing so. I wonder - is there any chance of your offering a corrective in a future piece?


I hope you accept these criticisms in the constructive and fraternal spirit in which they were intended. Because the issues raised deserve airing beyond private correspondence I am publishing this email on my website. I look forward to any reply from you and would be happy to post that on my site as well, with your permission.

Best wishes

David Wearing

********************
Reply from George Monbiot:


Hi David, thanks for your message. No time for long reply, but v briefly:

[dw - George quotes my original email]

"First, you say that "I believe that Iran is trying to acquire the bomb". May I ask what the basis of this belief is? Do you think that reliance on "belief" can be an adequate position for anyone - especially a Western newspaper commentator - to take on such a serious issue? Given the potentially cataclysmic dangers inherent in any US-Iran war, should we not confine ourselves strictly to the facts and, where there are gaps in our knowledge, admit to our ignorance rather than filling the gaps with "belief"?"

Well, what do you think is going on? Why the insistence on enriching uranium? Why the long drawn-out dance with the IAEA? What do you think this is about (from latest IAEA report):

"Contrary to the decisions of the Security Council, Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities, having continued the operation of PFEP and FEP. Iran has also continued the construction of the IR-40 and operation of the Heavy Water Production Plant."

Given the huge diplomatic and economic costs of Iran's nuclear programme, it looks to me as if it intends to derive a major benefit from it. Generating electricity does not seem to me to be sufficient, given that it has other readily available means (some of the world's largest natural gas reserves). I can't prove that it's seeking to develop a bomb, but I believe it is.


[dw - again, Geroge quotes my original email]

"You go on to say that "The president is a Holocaust denier opposed to the existence of Israel."

Of the problematic turns of phrase in your article, this is possibly the most serious. I'm sure you're aware that Ahmadinejad never threatened to "wipe Israel from the map", as the hawks often claim. But your choice of words - in its formulation of an Iranian nuclear threat - is functionally identical to that disproven "wiped off the map" claim.

Let us be clear. Ahmadinejad - wretched Holocaust denier though he undoubtedly is - has never threatened or advocated the physical, violent destruction of Israel. He has advocated the dissolution of what he views as an unjust regime, similar to the dissolution of the Shah's regime in Iran and the Soviet regime in Russia, neither of which resulted in either of those countries being "wiped off the map". He has advocated a single democratic state for Jews and Palestinians on all of mandate Palestine. You imply (whether you mean to or not) that he threatens a holocaust to destroy Israel. In reality, he calls for an election to dissolve it and effect a one-state solution. Believe him or don't. View his idea as foolish if you like. But lets at least acknowledge the facts."


I'm well aware that "wiped off the map" was a mistranslation. But if we are to use Juan Cole as our source, look at his translation of the same passage:

"The Imam said that this regime occupying Jerusalem (een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods) must [vanish from] from the page of time (bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad)."

Does that not suggest that Ahmadinejad is opposed to the existence of the state of Israel? What other regime did he have in mind? Of course, being opposed to the state doesn't mean he intends to destroy it.

See these too, which I am sorry to say come from Wikipedia:

"A synopsis of Mr Ahmadinejad's speech on the Iranian Presidential website states:

He further expressed his firm belief that the new wave of confrontations generated in Palestine and the growing turmoil in the Islamic world would in no time wipe Israel away.[23]

The same idiom in his speech on December 13, 2006 was translated as "wiped out" by Reuters:

Just as the Soviet Union was wiped out and today does not exist, so will the Zionist regime soon be wiped out.[24]"

and:

"In a speech given on 14 December 2005 in the city of Zahedan, and carried live on Iranian television, Ahmadinejad made the following comments:Why have they come to the very heart of the Islamic world and are committing crimes against the dear Palestine using their bombs, rockets, missiles and sanctions. [...] The same European countries have imposed the illegally-established Zionist regime on the oppressed nation of Palestine. If you have committed the crimes so give a piece of your land somewhere in Europe or America and Canada or Alaska to them to set up their own state there. Then the Iranian nation will have no objections, will stage no rallies on the Qods Day and will support your decision.[64]"


I think you would have to stretch things somewhat to argue to MA is not opposed to the existence of Israel.

We are both against an attack on Iran. But I do not understand how the case against an attack is strengthened by seeking to whitewash the Iranian government.

With best wishes, George


*****************

My response:

Hi George. I'm grateful for your response. Thank you.

Let me address your last paragraph first, where you say

"I do not understand how the case against an attack is strengthened by seeking to whitewash the Iranian government"

I'm tempted to now write a long paragraph in flowery language listing and denouncing the many crimes of the Iranian government in order to prove my moral decency. But there is no need for this because the question of my "seeking to whitewash the Iranian government" does not arise, and there is no basis - none - for your suggesting that it does. What I have done is simply to insist on the facts. The factual record by itself condemns the Tehran regime to hell and back several times over. There's no need for anything else.

You've noticed that my position on this issue is informed greatly by Juan Cole. When discussing the "wiped off the map" issue, Cole said: "I personally despise everything Ahmadinejad stands for, not to mention the odious Khomeini, who had personal friends of mine killed so thoroughly that we have never recovered their bodies."

Despite these personal circumstances, Cole still absolutely insists on the facts regarding Iran, however those individual facts happen to reflect on the Iranian government. I think that sets a fine example to the rest of us.

It would be nice if you could retract your statement about my "seeking to whitewash the Iranian government".

Does Iran have a nuclear weapons programme? There are good reasons for believing it may do. Iran lives in the neighbourhood of a nuclear Israel, Pakistan and India. A nuclear armed United States is committed to regime change in Tehran. The US has occupied Iran's neighbours Iraq and Afghanistan. There are also US forces and allies surrounding Iran in the Gulf, the Emirates, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Pakistan. The last time the current ideological trend was in the White House they backed Saddam in war that nearly destroyed Iran. If Iran wants nuclear weapons in those circumstances, then we hardly need fantasies about Iran wishing to commit collective suicide by launching a pointless attack on Israel (and therefore de facto the US) to explain the reasons why. Iran has very compelling reasons indeed for starting a weapons programme.

However, there are also compelling reasons for believing it may not have such a programme. Like the fact that the Supreme Leader has effectively staked his religious credibility and therefore the essence of his power on their not building nuclear weapons. Like the fact that the empirical evidence points to there not being a weapons programme.

Why insist on enriching uranium when you're rich in gas and oil? Well why squander that wealth in domestic consumption when oil prices are astronomically high? Sensible economics would surely dictate that you maximise the amount of oil and gas for sale on the world market, no?

Why insist on enrichment in defiance of the UNSC? Well why wouldn't any small country insist on their rights under the NPT if it felt it could (Tehran seems to be banking, perhaps overconfidently, on Moscow and Beijing's eternal backing)? Why instead accept being walked over by the permanent nuclear states? Maybe this is just a state seeking to maximise its utility in the normal course of things.

Why the "long-drawn out dance with the IAEA"? Well ask North Korea. After a lot of bluster, Washington was finally forced to do a deal with Pyongyang. Iran tried to do a deal with the US in 2003. A generous deal from the Iranian point of view. The US responded by chastising the Swiss diplomat who brought them the letter from Tehran. Well now Tehran has a lot more bargaining chips, and its not giving them up lightly. That's a possible interpretation. You don't need actual nuclear weapons to be taken seriously on the world stage - just the threat that you might get them soon unless people play nice with you.

So there are many strong reasons to suppose that there is and that there isn't an Iranian nuclear weapons programme. My point is simply that it is not remotely adequate to skip lightly over all this complexity and just say you "believe" the programme exists. What's more, given the real threat of war, doing so is highly irresponsible - especially from someone in your position. Why not just acknowledge the fact that we don't know whether Iran is aiming to build nuclear weapons? That's not "whitewashing". Just a fair reflection of reality.

On Israel, you say:

"Of course, being opposed to the state doesn't mean he intends to destroy it."

This is precisely my point. Ahmadinejad's cretinous utterences on the Israel-Palestine issue are irrelevant to the question of Iranian nuclear weapons. You referred to his position specifically as constituting a threat to Israel. This is silly. Ahmadinejad has not threatened to destroy Israel. He and the Iranian government government have repeatedly said that they do not intend to attack Israel. Iran has offered to accept the Arab plan for a two state solution. Ahmadinejad does not even run Iranian foreign policy. And even if none of those things were true, by what rationale are we to suppose that Iran wishes to commit suicide by pointlessly attacking Israel (which would mean de facto attacking the US)?

You say:

"I think you would have to stretch things somewhat to argue to MA is not opposed to the existence of Israel."

I argued nothing of the kind. And you did not simply argue that MA is opposed to the existence of Israel. You went far beyond that, suggesting that he was a threat to Israel's security. This is doing the war-party's job for it. I know that was the opposite of your intention with yesterday's article, which is why I thought it worth mentioning it to you.

Again, I'm very grateful for your response and would more than welcome any further reply. Since you didn't say otherwise when I asked, I'm assuming you have no objections to my making this exchange public on my website.

Best wishes

David

**********************************************

Reply from George Monbiot:

Dear David,

"And you did not simply argue that MA is opposed to the existence of Israel. You went far beyond that, suggesting that he was a threat to Israel's security."

Where and when?

G

************************************************

My response:

Hi George

You said:

"Yes, Iran under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a dangerous and unpredictable state involved in acts of terror abroad. The president is a Holocaust denier opposed to the existence of Israel."

Is the second sentence not intended to support the statement that Iran "under Ahmadinejad" (which it isn't - its "under" Khamenei, if anyone) is "dangerous"?

If not, I think it this part of the article could have been better expressed.

Best wishes

David

p.s. it really would be nice if you could retract your statement that I am "seeking to whitewash the Iranian government", unless you can point to where and when I've done this of course.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

The "problem of the alien"

Ronan Bennett today delivers a stinging rebuke to the novelist Martin Amis for the latter's anti-Muslim bigotry, and to the political class in general for its acceptance (if not encouragement) of Amis' racism.

"What do you make of the following statement: "Asians are gaining on us demographically at a huge rate. A quarter of humanity now and by 2025 they'll be a third. Italy's down to 1.1 child per woman. We're just going to be outnumbered." While we're at it, what do you think of this, incidentally from the same speaker: "The Black community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order." Or this, the same speaker again: "I just don't hear from moderate Judaism, do you?" And (yes, same speaker): "Strip-searching Irish people. Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole Irish community and they start getting tough with their children.""

"The speaker was Martin Amis and, yes, the quotations have been modified, with Asians, Blacks and Irish here substituted for Muslims, and Judaism for Islam - though, it should be stressed, these are the only amendments. Terry Eagleton, professor of English literature at Manchester University, where Amis has also started to teach, recently quoted the remarks in a new edition of his book Ideology: An Introduction. Amis, Eagleton claimed, was advocating nothing less than the "hounding and humiliation" of Muslims so "they would return home and teach their children to be obedient to the White Man's law"."

[DW - When Amis responded to Eagleton's criticisms by saying "Can I ask him [Eagleton], in a collegial spirit, to shut up about it?", was it just me who sensed a hint of a desperate plea behind the bluster? As in "can I ask him, please pretty please, to stop exposing my grubby middlebrow bigotry for what it is?"]

"Why did writers not start writing [in response to Amis' racism]? There is Eagleton and there is the Indian novelist and essayist Pankaj Mishra, who took apart Amis's strange and chaotic essay on the sixth anniversary of 9/11. But where are the others? Four days after the Pentagon and the twin towers were attacked, the novelist Ian McEwan wrote on these pages: "Imagining what it is like to be someone other than yourself is at the core of our humanity. It is the essence of compassion, and it is the beginning of morality." As an expression of outraged, anguished humanism, McEwan's formulation was truthful, moving and humbling, and can hardly be bettered. But it seems to me the compassion is flowing in one direction, the anger in another. I can't help feeling that Amis's remarks, his defence of them, and the reaction to them were a test. They were a test of our commitment to a society in which imaginative sympathy applies not just to those like us but to those whose lives and beliefs run along different lines."

"And I can't help feeling we failed that test. Amis got away with it. He got away with as odious an outburst of racist sentiment as any public figure has made in this country for a very long time. Shame on him for saying it, and shame on us for tolerating it."

Read the rest here. Also on the same subject, see this report showing that the socio-political attitudes of Muslim Londoners are every bit as liberal as those of non-Muslim Londoners. Perhaps Amis or some other self-styled "Enlightenment liberal" critic of "Islamofascism" could explain how their well developed rationality computes these particular empirical facts?

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Punch & Judy in Pakistan

One can always rely on Time's Tony Karon to provide some of the most incisive and informed analysis available. In his latest blog post, "Benazir vs Musharraf is Punch vs Judy", he doesn't disappoint.

"Appearances aside (although they camouflage very little), it’s plain that Bhutto and Musharraf are still involved in an elaborate U.S.-brokered negotiation process to divide the spoils of power in what might be called Pakistan’s Team America. Musharraf’s police may periodically prevent her from leaving her house, but they’re largely doing her the favor of providing her an excuse for refraining from leading her supporters in confrontation with the regime — which she, and her backers in Washington, are very concerned to avoid. Bhutto has not suffered the fate of other opposition leaders, who have been hounded by the security forces and thrown in prison. And her own political awkwardness and hesitation in responding to Musharraf’s moves are a reminder that all is not quite what it seems in the media narrative of a brave and beleaguered civilian democrat confronting a military despot."

"Musharraf didn’t declare emergency rule because he feared Bhutto’s challenge; he declared emergency rule because the Supreme Court was about to rule that he was not, in fact, legitimately the president of Pakistan, because he violated the constitution by standing for the presidency while in command of the military. And the reason Bhutto appeared to hesitate when it happened was obvious: She has as much to fear from the independent judiciary in Pakistan as Musharraf does. The same judges threatening to strip Musharraf of the presidency had also warned that the amnesty extended by him to Bhutto — absolving her of numerous corruption charges — was also illegal. (And, for good measure, the same judges had also ruled that Nawaz Sharif’s expulsion was illegal.) The last thing Bhutto needs is the rule of law and an independent judiciary in Pakistan, for that would pull the rug out from her deal with Musharraf, put her back in court, and bring her fiercest political rival back into the picture at a moment when she is increasingly vulnerable, politically, by virtue of her alliance with the U.S."

"House arrest, if anything, gives Benazir political cover for avoiding the streets. Better for Bhutto to sit out whatever turmoil will come in the weeks ahead, cultivating an image of martyrdom ahead of the elections that Musharraf promises for January (although a Musharraf promise and a dollar will buy you a cup of chai at Pak Punjab on Houston Street). Remember, Bhutto’s party may be the largest single party in Pakistan, but its ceiling is about 30% of the vote. If the Washington-brokered deal is to work, Musharraf, too, needs Bhutto’s popularity to be boosted."

"The sad thing, for the people of Pakistan, however, is that in the U.S.-sponsored Punch & Judy show, the only choice they’re offered is between the general and a discredited political relic. Regardless of the outcome of this particular Punch & Judy episode, democratic stability in Pakistan is not even on the horizon. "

Read the rest here.

Of course, in light of Washington's belligerent stance on Iran you might have thought that any regime which

(a) is as repressive as Tehran’s;
(b) has a proven and realised nuclear weapons program;
(c) stands a fair chance of being involved in an actual nuclear exchange with one of its neighbours;
(d) has been responsible for serious and extensive nuclear proliferation; and
(e) has deep and long-standing links to al-Qaeda and the Taliban

would be public enemy number one in Washington’s eyes. Not a bit of it. The US has mouthed the usual platitudes expressing its "concern" over recent developments, but has also made it clear that this "concern" doesn't extend to cutting off the vast sums of money its been shovelling down Musharraf's greedy neck since the start of the "war on terror".

So when you declare a "war on terror" and a crusade to spread democracy, what exactly does it mean when one of your closest allies is a brutal dictator who terrorises his own people?
For example, will Pakistan's descent into outright tyranny, with nary a peep from Musharaff's imperial master, prompt anyone in the political class to consider that perhaps the lofty ideals proclaimed by our governments ought not to be taken at face value? Can we expect to see articles in newspapers and academic journals that take criticism of Bush II era foreign policy slightly beyond the realms of "they fell short of their undoubtably noble ideals"? Is there a chance that from now on, when people like former Observer editor Will Hutton report that “the American political class talk democracy and freedom with an enthusiasm that cannot be denied”, they might at least note - just note - some of the more obvious contradictions between what these impressive people say and what they actually do?
In short, will the fact of US support for tyranny and state terror in Pakistan (not to mention elsewhere) be allowed to intrude upon the general assumption of our esteemed leaders' basic moral decency?
Or not?

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Britain’s failure in Iraq

My article "Britain’s failure in Iraq" is published this month in the English language edition of Le Monde Diplomatique. An excerpt:
"In 2003, Britain promised a post-Saddam Iraq that would be “a stable, united and law-abiding state providing effective representative government to its own people.” That those ambitions have not been realised is now widely acknowledged even within the political establishment. A recent report by Michael Knights and Ed Williams described Iraq’s deep south, the area for which Britain is responsible, as “a kleptocracy” where “well armed political-criminal mafiosi have locked both the central government and the people out of power”. "

"Britain’s official goals have now been significantly downgraded to keeping violence at a manageable level, and leaving local administrators and security services to deal with the situation. Even this is far from being achieved, and Britain faces these problems in near isolation from the international community. British policymakers and analysts will be asking themselves what went wrong for many years to come."
Read the rest here. Alternatively, if you want a hard copy, you can get LMD in English from one of the bigger branches of a major bookstore, e.g. Borders on Oxford Street, London.

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