Friday, March 26, 2004

Michael Ignatieff thinks hard about extraordinarily difficult issues and comes to ideas I dont always agree with. His remarks on The Lesser Evil: Hard Choices in a War on Terror are necdessary reading. One sidebar: it includes a passage on Palestinian activities including suicide bombing which are what one of our MPS should have said to make her original point clear.
Ignatieff makes a core case on civillian immunity being the value we need to rescue as a priority in this bloody time. On this I agree though for my part I would say we need go further and to rethink the justification of 'collateral damage' in official warfare.

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No doubt some of you will have seen this heartwarming story in the BBC webpages today: Libya considers Branson mine plea. Goodwill stuff hard on the heels of our pioneering PM.
In brief The Mineseeker Foundation is developing a system to pinpoint landmines by radar from a helium-filled airship. The scheme will cost up to £30m. Richard branson, who part-funded the Mineseeker foundation charity, is asking Ghadaffi to fund it.

There is one small problem and I need to choose my words carefully. So some selection of terms such as Hot Air, Technological Utopianism, publicity oportunity, and utter balderbash come to mind. Also munchikin-level versions of Star Wars daydreams. If you want some discussions on how to do civillian mines clearance in the real world have a look at the archives of the MGM demining list. There is a message thread on a previous sighting of this Baloon, back in 2001 when the promoters were trying to recruit Nelson Mandela as a supporter.

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The 'Clarke' revelations in the US continue to make waves. There seems to be a tendency amongst the non-Bush peoples of the world to lionise Richard Clarke... but he is of course no progressive or peace worker, rather a practical Machiavellian. His anger at the decison to invade Iraq is an expression of a dedicated security professional comfortable with the practice of Honorable Rascality who sees a totally bungled operation compromising national (US) interests. See Tim Dunlop's discussion of Clarke's evidence and his book for some useful progressive insights on this.

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Thursday, March 25, 2004

One of the good things about the 'Messing Around of America' by the Shrub Tendency is that Liberals are at last losing the 'cringe posture' when the L-word is thrown as an accusation. Example fron the New York Times where Al Franken has a Q+A session

" Question: Why do liberals like you hate America?

Al Franken's response:

Liberals like me love America. We just love America in a different way. You love America like a 4-year-old loves his mommy. Liberals love America like grown-ups. To a 4-year-old, everything Mommy does is wonderful and anyone who criticizes Mommy is bad. Grown-up love means actually understanding what you love, taking the good with the bad and helping your loved one grow... "

Now I wonder if we could adapt that to the UK...

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Some reasoned criticism of the recent Libdem Federal Conference by Bobbie of the Politix weblog, taking up the points made on British Spin. Bobbie says:

" Love them or hate them, the Liberal Democrats have interesting and individual lines on the Iraq war, tuition fees, taxation and a number of other issues. Their spring conference was a chance to grab the attention of potential voters, get some good media coverage and clarify the gap between themselves, Labour and the Tories.

Instead, they roll out of their conference with a vague spattering of press coverage - most of it far from positive - and massive speculation over whether their leader has a drink problem."

In short our news management is pretty bad. Can't say I disagree completely with that.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Military privatisation in Iraq.
Both Juan Cole and Edward Hughes at Fistful of Euros highlight an extraordinary privatisation tender put out for the protection of the Green Zone (administrative HQ) in Baghdad after the US handover. Contractors must:

"... deal with vehicles containing explosive devices, the improvised explosives planted on roads, "direct fire and ground assaults by upwards of 12 personnel with military rifles, machine guns and RPG [rocket-propelled grenade], indirect fire by mortars and rockets, individual suicide bombers, and employment of other weapons of mass destruction . . . in an unconventional warfare setting." To meet that challenge, the bidders' personnel must have prior military experience, and those involved directly in force protection must have "operated in U.S., North Atlantic Treaty Organization or other military organizations compatible with NATO standards."

Quite a mercenary outfit called for.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Well, reflections on Iraq and justifications. First thought on the Iraqis who are pleased with (some of) the results of the war as revealed in the special opinion polls yesterday on the BBC. Reminded of the grassroots feelings of people trapped in the USSR - of how Zeks on the way to the Gulag shouted with joy when the Korean war broke out, screaming at the train guards 'Truman is coming to get you!'. And how the few western visitors allowed to the Baltics in the fifties through to the early seventies were sometimes startled to hear whispered questions from some locals 'when does the war start'... longing for a conflict just so the tyranny would end. Well the removal of the USSR was a good aim and a fact now delightedly to be celebrated, but the call for nuclear war to bring this about was wrong.

There was and is a profound wrongness about the Iraq war even though there are results and possibilities of great benefits in Iraq. A very thoughtful analysis in Juan Cole's commentary on the uproar after the Spanish Elections , including this quote:

"There is not and cannot be such a thing as a "war on terror." Terror is a tactic. There can be a global counter-insurgency struggle against al-Qaeda and kindred organizations. But a large part of such a struggle must be to deny al-Qaeda recruitment tools and propaganda victories. The way the Bush administration pursued the war against Iraq, as a superpower-led act of Nietzschean will to power, simply made it look in the Middle East as though al-Qaeda had been right. Biin Laden's message was that Middle Easterners are being colonized and occupied by the United States. "

We must make it not so.

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Still spots of good news... Looking at the pictures from Kingston of the England victory and remembering my Gran shaking her head about the magnificent hostility of a West Indies field setting many decades ago. Eight fielders behind the bat plus the wicketkeeper. She would have been pleased at the turning of tables... Gran played women's cricket for Glamorgan in the early years of last century and was one of the people who introduced overarm bowling to the women's game.. Family history throws up odd things...

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