Diplomacy Isn’t Working

August 26, 2013 at 11:46 am

I was speaking to a friend the other day about Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning, whether or not what they did is justifiable and we naturally ended up talking about Iraq and Afghanistan. He was saying that the US still hasn’t learnt its lessons from Vietnam, that regardless of how good your military technology is, if you don’t know the surrounding area very well you’re going to be in for a long hard slog.

At first I agreed, it made sense. But then I got to thinking… Maybe they have learned their lessons. See my friend made the assumption that the US wanted a quick: ‘In, Kill the bad guys, Out’ strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan. But really, where’s the profit in that? The assumption he made implies that the US is a force for good in the world, that they genuinely wanted to help the Iraqis or Afghans, but is that really the case?

Of course not. Where people are involved, nothing is ever quite that simple. There may well have been an element of misguided ‘White Saviour Syndrome’ in the decision making process, but the lobbying system over in the US means that pretty much any decision made by government is guaranteed to have been corrupted by money and corporations at some stage. I wish that Snowden or Manning had stumbled across a document that revealed the decision making process behind the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, but so far they haven’t released anything of that nature so all we can do is look at the situation, see who has benefited most and come up with some conspiracy theories.

If one thing is clear, the civilians on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan have benefited the least. Both countries are now former shadows of themselves, with Iraq now a hotbed of sectarian violence that long ago spiralled beyond anyone’s control and Afghanistan now a wreck of a country where nobody really seems to be in charge. It appears that America made some fatal miscalculations when considering what civilians in both countries actually wanted, if indeed their wishes were even considered. The American assumption was quite simply that everybody in Iraq would be better off without Saddam and that everybody in Afghanistan would be better off without the Taliban, and that they’d be the heroes for delivering such scenarios.

One has to wonder, do the key decision makers recruit Hollywood scriptwriters to devise their plans? It could well be the case that an Iraq without Saddam or an Afghanistan without the Taliban would both be better places, but what was clearly not considered was the method of their removal. An invasion by a foreign military force was only ever going to divide the populations, fear of the unknown does terrible things to societies, it brings out the absolute worst in humanity. This was not considered at all, but in all honesty, the situations we find in Iraq and Afghanistan have greatly benefited the US.

I doubt there are any published statistics, but I can guarantee that while America has lost a lot of soldiers ‘fighting for the flag’ it has certainly made billions in profit over the course of these invasions. Remember that America is the largest exporter of arms in the world, what better way to advertise your products than a decade long occupation of a nation with such challenging terrain as Afghanistan and the removal of a notorious Tyrant from one of their biggest enemies? That’s before we even think about the oil contracts handed out to western corporations in the oil-fields of Iraq, there’s that famous map of Iraq, divided into five states: Exxon, Shell, Chevron, BP and Total.

So, from the military failings of Vietnam, America has learned that military failings don’t necessarily need to mean general failings. Like all good businesses, they’ve learned that in order to make money they need to stick to what they do best and then exploit the s**t out of it. And credit where credit’s due, they’re pretty good at invading other countries under false pretences.

Hence why I’m so nervous about the rhetoric emerging from the US and the UK on Syria. It’s pretty clear that Syria will be far better off without him in charge, he’s lost his grip. But is any kind of military intervention, be it airstrikes or troops on the ground, really the best way to engineer that? Have we thought this through? On the face of it, Syria is divided into at least three large groupings: Assad Supporters, Rebel Supporters and people that just want the fighting to stop. That third group is actually incomprehensible to Western political leaders and Western media outlets. We’re being force-fed this idea that in Syria, you either support Assad, or you support the rebels. But it’s pretty clear that both sides only have their own interests at heart now. Maybe that wasn’t the case initially, but it certainly is now.

What will happen should either of these two sides emerge victorious? Immediately, the scars of war will inevitably be so severe that the victor will oppress those who side(d) with the defeated. They will be rounded up and punished, that’s pretty much guaranteed and we’ve seen that in Libya and more recently following the military coup in Egypt. At the moment Syria appears to be a horrid place to live in, with continual fighting and shortages of food, water and healthcare. If the West believes that eliminating Assad will resolve these problems and make Syria a better place, they have another thing coming.

They should look to their case studies in Iraq and Afghanistan. I remember watching US troops tearing down Saddam’s statue in Baghdad in my Sixth-Form common room, my teachers watching on in shock, I was 17 then. Over a decade later, how does Iraq look now? Arguably worse. Any intervention in Syria will be catastrophic, because whilst in Iraq the tension was simmering away beneath the surface prior to the invasion, the tension in Syria is smashing your head in with a hammer.

And that is why I find everything that William Hague says on this matter frankly disgusting. ‘Diplomacy hasn’t worked’. That may well be the case, but if it hasn’t worked it’s probably because the West are s**t at diplomacy, not just because the Syrian factions are unwilling. This conflict started well over two years ago, and always looked to be one that could escalate to devastating effect. Instead of acting at the time, we’ve just watched with casual interest, and only recently has our interest been piqued. Has anyone even tried to get Assad and the FSA leaders in a room together?

For what it’s worth, my position on Syria is that there should be no military intervention whatsoever. We live in a world where support is not given out of the goodness of our hearts any longer, any invading force will undoubtedly want something in return. Imagine your house is on fire, and your neighbour has a hosepipe. You ask him for help and he says: ‘Sure, but only if you give me the deeds to your house.’ You’d be incredulous, but that is what Aid amounts to. It’s not free, it comes at a hefty price. A price that the aidee just can’t afford. But a price that the Americans routinely demand.

I think we should be calling for a ceasefire, not to destabilise Assad or the FSA but to stop any further civilian casualties, to get medical aid (with no strings) out there, to get food aid out there, to actually help those who need it. Not only should we call for this ceasefire, we should actually take action. Speak to Assad, speak to the FSA. Get them in a room, knock their heads together. Why are you cutting off your country’s nose? To spite your own face? It sounds incredibly naive, I know. But what other option is there?

Bastions of Free Speech

August 20, 2013 at 7:31 pm

This Sunday past, the 18th of August to be precise, the world witnessed yet another act of intimidation against free speech by a repressive state. A journalist, or rather a partner of a journalist, was detained for a whole nine hours to be questioned by police. I’d always heard of these types of things in the past, where a completely innocent person is detained for long periods of time, and wondered:

“What kind of questions do they ask?

Because to be held for a length of time as substantial as nine hours, you’d think there’d be some probing, cutting questions. Of course I still wonder what questions were asked, but not with the same sense of mystery as I once did. For starters, these detentions were the kind of thing that mainstream media outlets assured us only ever happened in horrible nasty evil strange places like Iran, China, Russia or North Korea. How should I know then what a North Korean interrogator would ask? This kind of thing never happened here and if it did it only happened to nasty people that want to attack our very way of life(!)

The mystery disappeared for me at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv (except it’s not really in Tel Aviv), when my wife was subjected to a four hour ‘detention’. It was a bit strange how it all happened really. I was let through straight away without any issues or even any questions asked, but my wife was immediately questioned: “Where are you from? No where are you from? What’s your father’s name? What’s your grandfather’s name? What are you doing in my country? Why don’t you go to Spain?’ I could say something about how the answers must have been the wrong ones, but it was clear that it was actually the skin colour and religion that was wrong.

Anyway, taken away to a little room she was ‘detained’ for four hours, subjected to hourly 10 minute sessions of aggressive interrogation that made me wonder: ‘Does this ever actually work?’. I mean, you’d have to be a really bad terrorist to crack under the heat of repetitive questions that began with ‘Why are you visiting Israel?’ and ended with ‘I SAID WHY ARE YOU VISITING MY COUNTRY, WHAT DO YOU WANT HERE? YOU KNOW YOU CAN GO TO SPAIN?’ What’s the fascination with Spain, I wonder? Do the Spanish Tourist board pay the IDF commission?

I imagine David Miranda, being the partner of a journalist who has dared to confront the greatest (by greatest, I mean largest and meanest) powers of our time for partaking in less-than-legal activities, was probably subjected to a far tougher line of questioning than my wife. Though if he were asked the same question ‘Why are you visiting my country?‘, aside from the obvious ‘I’m not, I’m just changing flights‘ I’d have been tempted to say ‘I have no f**king idea mate. It’s sh*t, it’s always f**king wet and the people have a strange sense of self-importance when really these pathetic little Islands are a spent force, periodically sucking American d**k to earn a few brownie points.’

Whatever David was asked, I think Scotland Yard’s claim that his detention was ‘Legally Sound’ is completely irrelevant. It may well have been legally sound, so to speak, but it was definitely not morally sound. In fact, it was morally repugnant. A complete disgrace. It’s pretty clear that this guy was targeted, this was no coincidence, and he was targeted because his partner is engaged in a campaign to reveal some rather inconvenient truths that may or may not affect the public’s view of not only the NSA and GCHQ but also the US & British Governments too. It’s rather easy to shoulder the blame and mistrust onto the security agencies, but they are only following orders.

Even the legally sound bit is becoming a bit irritating actually, because it’s also legally sound to stop ethnic minorities (particularly black males) and search them at will, the only justification required? ‘They looked suspicious guv’. Must be a bit of a shock to bone-headed bobby to discover things like ‘A Brief History of Time’, a violin or even just a pen in a black male’s satchel instead of some weed, a gun or a knife. Probably just carrying it for a white friend or something. ‘I’ve got my eye on you.‘ So the legally sound thing is pretty meaningless, besides the guy was detained under terror laws. I mean really? He doesn’t even have a Muslim Face, for Christ’s sake.

So the upshot of all this is our government just looks worse than it already did before (a spectacular achievement in all fairness as they look like a shower of c*nts as it is), because all this sorry little episode has done is show the British public that in all actuality we are merely slaves to the States. It’s clear that any secrets revealed by Glenn Greenwald will show the UK in a negative light, a seedy light. They will show that GCHQ and by extension, our Government, are whoring out their services to the US in a bid to impress them, to stay in favour. They will show that we fully support everything they do and our most recent actions show that we will support them in trying to suppress the truth too. What our Government must realise though is that, like all whores, once the US has paid us for our services they will have no hesitation to discard us for a more attractive proposition.

Now Russia, Iran, North Korea and China may not exactly be bastions of free speech and democracy, but it seems that neither are we. That’s not to say that whenever a repressive regime commits an immoral or grotesque act of injustice we should remain silent. Definitely not, but in the case of David Miranda and Glenn Greenwald, the UK has destroyed any credibility it may have once had. The next time Putin imprisons one of his political rivals on weak (or non-existent) charges, our voice of condemnation will be even more meaningless than it already would have. Whereas before Putin would have just swatted us away like the irritating fly that thinks it’s an Eagle, now he’ll merely laugh at how ridiculous we look.

Because the way to stop ‘terrorism’ is to confiscate games consoles. Obviously.

Explosions

August 17, 2013 at 11:20 pm

What is an explosion?

We’ve all seen them on television, in films, on the internet and maybe even caused a few on our games consoles. But do we really know what an explosion is? I have never seen one with my own two eyes, and I’ve never felt the effects of one on my skin. Like most people, I’ve only seen real explosions on a little box in my house, relaying images from far away lands. Occasionally the odd explosion on British soil causes a range of emotions on these isles from mild concern to outright panic, but still I’ve never seen one.

And because so few people in the west have ever seen or felt or experienced an explosion, because most of the explosions we see are so distant or just not real we can quite easily forget what an explosion actually is. Generally speaking, humans conform to the old adage:

“Out of Sight, Out of Mind.”

The explosions we see in Pakistan, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Afghanistan and Palestine all happen well out of reach of western territories. They happen in distant lands where natives of English-speaking countries are few and far between. They happen in cities most natives of English-speaking countries have little or no interest of ever visiting. They kill people without faces or names, people who bear no relation to anyone that we know. So instead of concern for the loss of life, we just don’t care. It is after all, ‘Out of sight’.

That is the really concerning thing here. When people die overseas, the masses just don’t care. And why should the masses care? Leaders of nations don’t really care, they may record messages of faux-condemnation but if you followed the paper-trail from the finger pulling the trigger all the way back up to the pen signing the arms deal, you’ll find the hand holding the pen would belong to the leader of one of these nations.

Our media also has a pretty shocking view on explosions and death too, often giving parity to stories such as ‘David Moyes wins his first match in charge of Man Utd this afternoon’ with stories like ‘Security Forces Clear Cairo Mosque’. I think it would be fair to say that if a Briton were injured in this ‘Clearing’ of a Mosque, it would be the headline news story immediately. Forget that 683 people died on Wednesday, that 173 died on Friday. They were Egyptian, who cares about them? A Briton broke a nail in a siege in the Mosque. Then Cameron, or the equally odious Hague, would be on telly in front of a stand of a hundred microphones calling for an end to the violence in Egypt.

But no British people have died in Egypt, no British people broke their nail in a siege, no leading politicians have called for an end to the violence or even called the coup out for what it actually is. A military coup led by the same Generals who served the deposed Mubarak. So the public follow suit, instead of reading about the Egyptian situation, they read about an online poll of airline passengers’ opinions of airports. Really.

Only when an explosion happens in Britain do the masses sit up and take note. I have some vague recollections of a helicopter crashing in Central London earlier this year, the initial reaction was measured: “TERRORISTS ATTACK LONDON”. I also seem to recall a fire at a tyre recycling depot causing some consternation last year. And of course the riots in 2011, where the damaging of property, looting of multi-national chain stores and the stealing of Basmati rice received much more attention than the killing of a young, black male by police.

Can we blame the masses for not caring though? Looking at the current political situation in the UK, I think the answer is no. Voter apathy will reach all new lows in the 2015 General Election, because Cameron is a profiteering little c*nt who’ll do whatever it takes to hold on to power (apart from improve our country) and Miliband is weak, shifting Labour almost as far to the right as the Tories. Voting for anybody else is always a ‘wasted vote’ anyway, but this time around I think more people will realise that none of these people are the right ones to take us forward, so why bother?

And that attitude, which I have to say I agree with, poisons other aspects of our thinking too. Apathy is like a virus, it first affects our desire to vote where it multiplies inside us making us no longer willing to stand for or against anything any more. Because the ordinary man or woman in the street is losing interest in politics at home, crises abroad only seem like an extension of our politics where it doesn’t really matter who wins, because in the end we’re all f*cked anyway.

As it happens, I won’t vote Labour or Tory in 2015. I may not even vote at all, not through apathy but through protest. I’m not saying ‘I don’t care’, I’m saying ‘You’re all useless c*nts’. But that doesn’t mean that I, or anyone else who doesn’t vote, should become politically inactive and unaware. Quite the opposite, we should increase our awareness.

So next time you’re watching the news, reading a newspaper or browsing a news website and you see a story about an explosion, a bomb or death just stop for a second to think how you’d feel if someone connected to you was directly affected. Remember that the actual people affected in these faraway lands are real people too. They have fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, wives and husbands too. They are exactly the same as you in almost every single way, except they’ve experienced a struggle like nothing we ever have. Try to find out the name of one person that died.

Ask yourself then, ‘What is an explosion?’, and maybe we’ll begin to care just a little bit more.

Outsourcing Death

August 15, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Tony Blair, quite rightly, often cops a lot of flak for his over-eagerness to enter into war with our American partners (read Masters) in Afghanistan and Iraq. I’m sure anybody reading this is well aware that the ‘war’ in Iraq was premised on the fact that Saddam Hussein had built up large stores of WMDs and that we’d save the day by bringing democracy to Iraq. The ‘war’ in Afghanistan was premised on the fact that the Taliban regime there harboured terrorists, so we’d rid Afghanistan of these terrorists, bring democracy and make it a better place. Oh, and of course on the complete down-low was the only actual fact:

We’d make sh*t loads of money out of it.

History now tells us that Saddam did not have any WMDs, never mind a stash big enough to pose a threat to the US or even the UK. We have tried to enforce democracy (the irony) in Afghanistan and Iraq, but we’ve completely failed in that respect as nothing’s really changed in either country. We haven’t really gotten rid of any terrorists in Afghanistan, merely made it easier for them to recruit globally. We’ve only succeeded in making Afghanistan and Iraq far more dangerous places than they ever used to be.

One of the main criticisms that faces the likes of Blair, Bush and now Obama is the civilian death toll. We’ll never really know the exact amount, because of the sheer politics involved in counting dead people. The UN and other international agencies of ‘peace’ will always be keen to downplay this number, whereas sources sympathetic to the local cause may be just as keen to exaggerate. Whether these perceptions are accurate or not isn’t really relevant because no one will agree on specifics, what we can agree on though is a sh*t load of innocent people have died as a result of these ‘wars’. The inverted commas are purely placed because these were labelled as wars, but were actually more like occupations by much larger, more technologically, militarily and economically advanced bullies.

Anyway, the point behind this article is to simply state that politicians in the UK have learned some important lessons from our misadventures overseas helping out our masters. Whilst Tony Blair can be said to have given the direct orders that led to the deaths of potentially millions of civilians, orders that he still refuses to acknowledge any regret for, David Cameron cannot be said to have given direct orders to kill anyone. Our PR savvy Prime Minister learnt from Iraq and Afghanistan, that if you want to make s*it loads of money from killing people, you’re probably better off doing it via somebody else.

We have in place a Government now that is happy, no delighted, to sell weapons (or at least Military Tech) to: Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Israel, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Argentina (Bizarrely enough!), Iran, Russia and China. At the same time we have a government who continually condemn or express concern at state violence and oppression of freedoms in the very same countries.

So instead of pledging ourselves to large-scale participation in military occupations around the globe, David  merely supplies the weaponry for repressive regimes to murder and oppress their own citizens. Of course, the good thing about all of this is that the Arms Trade provides the UK with bucket loads of cash and jobs to boost the economy that his government is so desperately failing to fix. So whilst Tony Blair has blood on his hands, David’s outsourced it to somebody else. And he f*cking loves it.

The Establishment Urinates on the Electorate. Again.

August 13, 2013 at 6:21 pm

The Government today announced another rise in ‘Regulated’ Rail Fares, and it won’t be the last either with further hikes built in already for 2014 and 2015. The stage is set then for Rail Fares to become a bit of a battleground for the main parties in Election 2015. Expect to see the three main parties include ‘Price-Freeze’ promises in their Manifestos, not price cuts (obviously), and expect to see the winner(s) break the promises. Also expect UKIP to team up with a nice British make-up company to announce a Foundation Shade-based ticket-pricing system, whereby the darker your skin tone, the more you pay – unless you buy a one way ticket on the Eurostar to Brussels or Paris of course.

Seriously though, much is being made of another inflation-busting price rise of 4.1% which is pretty hard to swallow, particularly as that’s just an average. Some fares will actually rise by up to 9.1%. That’s an astronomical rise considering the average wage in the UK rose by just 1.4% in 2012. I just don’t see how any Government could justify increasing fares by so much, I understand that there’s a huge national debt and a burgeoning budget deficit to be brought under control, but it could be argued that the majority of these rises will simply end up in the pockets of shareholders.

Rail companies come out in force promising more punctual trains, less delays and improved services but it just doesn’t feel like this is happening. I travelled on a train from Manchester to Bolton (final destination of Blackpool) during the week at 5pm. Around this time, masses of commuters filter out of the city heading for their homes in the relative quiet of Lancastrian towns and villages. I got on at Oxford Road, the stop after the main station at Piccadilly and there were at least 50 passengers waiting for the train. It was seven minutes late by the time it appeared around the bend with just two carriages. Most of the seats on board were already full and we could see that the gangways were also full. Bear in mind, there were another two stations within the City where commuters board before we move out into the suburbs and away from the City.

I know it’s a terribly British thing to do to complain about things half-heartedly and be self-deprecating and faux-grumpy about it. I also appreciate that rail fares in a ‘Developed’ nation such as Britain really are small-fry compared to some of the other concerns that exist around the globe, and perhaps that’s why we half-jokingly complain about our lot, but perhaps that’s also the very reason why successive governments don’t really give a damn about real-life issues that affect real-life people. Times are tough in Britain. Employers don’t want to pay us more, and at the same time expect their customers to pay more. Simple mathematics dictates this to be unsustainable for people living on or below the average wage. How can we expect to be paid less yet pay more?

This government, and the opposition too, are simply taking the p*ss out of the electorate. And quite frankly, we deserve to be taken the p*ss out of because we’re so stupid for sitting by doing nothing except pass our vote every four or five years. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to fall into that a caricature of a stereotype, the British person too stiff-upper-lipped to actually complain about something. We should get up and do something about it. But there’s something in that. We’re a nation that rarely does take collective action, the last major collective action was ‘Stop the War’ prior to Tony Blair steering us into an illegal war and before that who knows – Poll Tax?!

But why? Perhaps our ‘civilisation’ is a little more Orwellian than we’d care to admit, and not because of the recent spate of allegations against Intelligence Agencies spying on ordinary citizens. No, because anybody daring enough to actually think differently is ridiculed, mocked, oppressed or ignored. Their basic premise of an idea is mercilessly torn apart by agenda-driven media hacks, internet trolls or even broadcasters out for a cheap laugh.

I even think the so-called Arab Spring revolutions are being used as a bit of a tool to make us question whether collective action really works. The situation in Egypt is quite frankly bizarre to a complete outsider looking in. Huge amounts of people invested lots of time and energy fighting against a corrupt, autocratic government. Lives were lost in the pursuit of freedom and democracy, before finally the tyrant gave in. Elections are held shortly after, with the Muslim Brotherhood just shading it. Less than a year later further demonstrations are held because the new Prime Minister isn’t very good, so the Military stage a coup, insert the guy who lost the election as PM and promise more elections later on.

Obviously it’s more complex than that and there’s a lot more detail to go into, but this is the view that someone with just a passing interest will have. At the time of the initial revolution, many people in the west wondered what it’d be like if we had the same amount of people over here take such action against our own governments. The retort to that dream is simply ‘Look at them now’. Again it’s simplistic, it’s wrong and it’s defeatist, but it’s another reason for people to just lie down and let the tanks roll over them. Why bother? All that’ll happen is we’ll waste our time and nothing will change.

This is the British attitude, and before we can defeat our hideous government, we have to beat that.

The Cold Room

August 4, 2013 at 11:52 pm

The room was cold and dark. I tried to look around, shivering, but couldn’t see anything. I felt my way around the edge of the room, the walls were cool, harsh concrete. Though I couldn’t be certain, the room seemed to be the shape of a cube. A distant whirring noise penetrated the walls, reaching my eardrums. The lack of light was heightening my other senses and putting me on edge. I couldn’t recall how I ended up in this room, but I sensed it probably wasn’t by choice. At least not my choice anyway.

Then a flash of brilliant white light assaulted my eyes, as if it were punishing them for just being open. I shut them, but the light passed through my crumpled eyelids as if they weren’t there. I covered my eyes with the back of my hand and made an attempt to open them, squinting hard desperate to keep the fury of the light out yet sneak a peek. As much as I tried, I failed. The light was too bright, a burning sensation enveloped my retinas no sooner than they were exposed.

As my raised arm began to tire I switched, raising my right arm to cover my precious eyes, dropping my left arm to rest it. My left arm brushed past the skin on my ribcage, wasn’t I wearing a top? Was I even wearing any clothes? Apparently not. With the brilliant white light beaming down on me, I shrivelled up into a ball of naked flesh and began shivering. The room was no longer cold, the light had raised the temperature significantly in the few moments that it had been on. I was now shivering through fear.

As if recognising my fear, and achieving its goal, the light flicked off as sharply as it had flicked on.

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