Thursday, July 12, 2007

War For Oil

"Beware the leader who bangs the drum of war, in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervour, for patriotism is indeed a double edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch, and the blood boils with hate, and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need of seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader, and gladly so. How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar."
Julius Caesar

Have you noticed that members of the insurgency in Iraq are now almost universally referred to as “al-Qaeda” on your evening news? Also, almost any act of terrorism anywhere in the world is generally attributed to al-Qaeda, as in the following quote by Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister.

Mr Brown told Andrew Marr on BBC One's Sunday AM it was "clear that we are dealing, in general terms, with people who are associated with al-Qaeda".

This is ironical for several reasons.

Firstly because al-Qaeda were never in Iraq before the 2003 invasion. Secondly, because the insurgency there also contains large numbers of groups who are, and always were, opposed to al-Qaeda.

(In fact, the US administration can’t have it both ways: either the Iraq insurgency is being run by al-Qaeda, or it is being secretly funded by Iran - one or the other - because the regime in Iran and the leadership of al-Qaeda have always been enemies.)

Thirdly because al-Qaeda were a virtually moribund organisation before the so-called “war-on-terror” gave them all the justification they needed to continue their barbarous campaign of murder.

Fourthly because most of the time it’s simply not true. Al-Qaeda as we perceive them are as much a creation of the United States government and the media as they ever were of Osama bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahri. Al-Qaeda needs an enemy, and so does the United States. It’s like a marriage of convenience, each giving the other justification for its actions.

Finally, and most ironical of all, as we heard in the recent National Intelligence Estimate, al-Qaeda are now better positioned to strike the West than it has been since September 11th 2001.

Al-Qaeda is “operationally stronger than a year ago" and has "regrouped to an extent not seen since 2001," we were told. "They are showing greater and greater ability to plan attacks in Europe and the United States…."

In other words, despite over six years of bombings and tactics designed to dismantle it; despite the war on terror and the attacks on our civil liberties; despite Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay; despite extraordinary rendition and the torture that goes with it; despite 655,000 dead* (most of them Muslims) in Iraq alone; despite all of this, al-Qaeda are stronger than ever.

Kind of makes you wonder what the last six years have been about doesn’t it?

We need to get a little perspective. On the same day the botched attack occurred in Glasgow - in which no one died - more than 100 Afghan civilians were killed in a three-hour bombing raid on a village in Helmund province. Real and effective bombs as opposed to improvised and useless ones.

No one knows how many people died in Iraq on that day. Or to put it another way: in order to protect us from a conspiracy that doesn’t exist, we kill civilians in other countries, thus creating more bloodshed and more mayhem, and more resentment leading, almost certainly, to more attacks.

This is not a war on terrorism, it is a war on decency and human values.

It’s all part of the game. You create chaos so no one knows what’s going on, and under cover of that you are free to pursue whatever agenda you choose.

In the case of Iraq, the agenda is oil. It always was.

Even now there is a bill before the Iraqi parliament, being forced through by the American government, which will effectively privatise Iraqi oil.

The joke here is – and I’ve just heard George Bush say it at his press conference – that the supposed aim of the bill is to “redistribute oil wealth”.

Yes, you heard it. You redistribute oil wealth by giving control of it to private companies. It’s a new interpretation of that old concept, redistribution of wealth: from the Iraqi people to the American oil companies.

So now you know.

Free enterprise: it really works.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Letter To A Christian

God created man and man created God. So is it in the world. Men make gods and they worship their creations. If would be fitting for the gods to worship men. (Gospel of Philip)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Al-Qaeda's New Tactics

Tom Lehrer, that great American composer and humorist once wrote, "political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize".

Tom Lehrer had no idea how far this would go. Political satire has now turned into international diplomacy. Tony Blair has landed the job as the Middle East Peace Envoy. Is this someone’s idea of a joke? George Galloway, of the anti-war Respect Party, said: "It's rather like appointing Count Dracula as the head of the Blood Transfusion Service." Which is as good a punch-line as any I suppose.

Of course, coming in the wake of last week’s terror-attack in Glasgow, and the attempted attacks in London, this may not appear so funny; except that I‘ve been screaming with laughter ever since. It wasn’t the attacks themselves, of course: it was the political commentary afterwards.

"Al Qaeda has imported the tactics of Baghdad and Bali to the streets of the UK," said Lord Stevens, a former London police chief and Gordon Brown's terrorism adviser.


Al Qaeda, remember, were the guys who hijacked four planes and flew two of them into the World Trade Centre, and one into the Pentagon, and only failed with the fourth because of the bravery of the passengers: at least if we are to believe the official story that is. So now they have changed their tactics it seems. No longer satisfied with ruthless efficiency, they've decided to try stupidity instead.

Let’s get this right. Two guys in a jeep full of Calor Gas bottles and petrol, one of them with a can of petrol and a lighter, charge at full pelt into the entrance doors of Glasgow airport while simultaneously trying to set light to themselves. In what way is this “importing the tactics of Baghdad and Bali to the streets of the UK”?

The people who made the bomb in Bali knew what they were doing. They made a bomb. It was a real bomb. It worked. You don't have to sympathise with the bombers to know the difference. A bomb is something that blows up, not something that just catches alight.
Bombers in Baghdad regularly blow up US army convoys using a variety of sophisticated methods. Some of them are suicide bombers: that is they have explosives strapped to their body which they can detonate at will having positioned themselves next to their target. What they don’t do: they don’t douse themselves with petrol to act as a slow-burning fuse, setting light to themselves with a cigarette lighter, shouting “Allah! Allah!” while driving a jeep into a stationary building.

These people weren’t terrorists, they were idiots.

This is the kind of threat that can arise occasionally in any city or town across the world: the threat of rampant absurdity. People go crazy occasionally. They do crazy things. Sometimes they even set cars on fire.

These people did the kind of damage to Glasgow airport that you might see on a road when someone falls asleep at the wheel. Well no: nowhere near as bad. Glasgow airport, you see, wasn’t going anywhere. Glasgow airport couldn’t swerve across the road to hit the on-coming traffic. The jeep hit Glasgow airport and Glasgow airport stayed exactly where it was, albeit smouldering a bit.

Scary stuff.

But it gets worse.

The front page of the Guardian this morning (Wednesday 4th July) says this:

“Mastermind based abroad suspected of guiding plot.”


MASTERMIND? As if Dr No and Ernst Stavro Blofeld had got together to launch this fiendish plot. It must have taken years in the planning, trying to work out just how to have the least physical impact with the most amount of trauma.

Maybe Osama bin Laden himself orchestrated it. I can see him right now, sat up there in his mountain fortress, surrounded by armed guards, thinking up ways to bring down the west. “We’ve tried ruthless precision. We’ve tried diabolical efficiency. We’ve tried flying planes into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. Now let’s try stupidity as a tactic. They won’t be expecting that.”

The whole thing defies satire, it really does. A bunch of crazed idiots build a load of useless bombs and we are all supposed to be scared for our lives. Well they were clearly very angry people, willing to die for their cause: the only trouble is they had absolutely no idea how to go about it. The idea that there can possibly have been a link to Al Qaeda or that there was any training involved is just another one of those bad jokes.

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Al Qaeda.

Al who?


OK, so it’s not a funny joke.

Try this one instead. Have you heard the one about the new Middle East Peace Envoy?

It’s Tony Blair!


Now that is funny.

How Long Is A Piece Of String?

It probably took over a thousand years to build, from its first to its last, and was in constant use for several thousand years after that. Indeed, you could say that it has never really gone out of use, if my visit to see the sunrise with Joe can be counted too. Who are we but the latest in a long line of visitors come to admire and wonder at this mysterious structure?