Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Promises, Promises: Return to Principle Labour!

Industry and its employees are paying the price for a crisis brought on by the bankers. A loan to save 900 skilled workers from the dole cost a mere £4m, a single banker’s bonus! If taxpayers’ money can be used to bail out the banks, it should also be available to help vital industries. Yet the government persists in enforcing its old dogmas, as if nothing had changed.

Why try to force people who are ill or disabled or workshy and old people over 65 to work when there is not enough work for those who are able bodied and want to work? If there is not enough work for everyone, why not reduce the working week? If there is not enough work to go round, why did Labour help fix 48 hours as the minimum working week by refusing any amendment to the Brussels Working Time Directive. In doing this, the Labour government ignored its own party conference and the policy of both the trades unions democratically and publicly agreed through the TUC. It also defied the stance of most Labour and Socialist members of the European Parliament in an earlier vote in Strasbourg.

The Labour Party was founded by the trades union movement, and reduction in working hours was the aim of the first trades unions. Long hours and abject working conditions meant an early death for working people, including children. Strike pay was the only benefit that the first union offered, and reducing the hours of labour was, “the whole aim and intention of the union”, Will Thorne said. The eight hour day became a basic principle of trades unionism. The primary cause of trades unionism was not higher wages but shorter hours.

The first victory of British trades unionism was at the Beckton Gas Works in London’s East End—the replacement of a twelve hour day by eight hour shifts with no loss of pay. Since then the struggle to humanize work and change the economy has been long and arduous. For a century, the trades unions won significant reductions in hours through their struggles and sacrifices. By the seventies, the demand was for a 35 hour week. But the subsequent victory of the Thatcherite Tories and Blair’s Thatcherite New Labour—just when people thought they were voting for the rejection of Thatcherism—paved the way for the working week to rise from the 1980s onwards.

If the first British trades unionists knew shorter hours helped in the struggle against unemployment, the sons and daughters of clergymen, pseudes and shopkeepers constituting Blair’s and now Brown’s New Labour party simply do not get it still. Its decision to stick with a 48 hour week is a goad to all those who think the UK Labour government’s neoconservative, nineteenth century policies need to be fought with a campaign to reduce working hours in the face of rising unemployment.

Their slogan should be, “Shorter hours for better life”. Long hours preclude a good quality of life, cut down family time, erode away leisure time. And long hours of work are a health and safety issue. Health and safety at work should not be left up to arbitrary local negotiations between trade unions and employers, any more than burglary should be left up to the burgled and the burglar, to use Richard Leonard’s words. Both are matters of public interest, and so are a government responsibility in a civilized democratic society.

Paying workers dole money because they have no work at all for months or years makes no sense. What is required are loans for businesses that cut the working hours of their staff to avoid short time working, or going to the wall. Industry needs money, so credit from the banks has to be forced, if banks are determined to stay divorced from their prime purpose. Their prime purpose is not to devise pyramid selling schemes that allow dealers to get rich quick through the bonuses they pay each other. It is to lend deposited money at modest interest to entrepreneurs.

The nation has put cash into the banks to save them from their own folly. It is time to see it coming out again, in loans to industry. Workers are footing the bill for bankers’ blunders, but the money extracted from ordinary people’s pay should not be a long time commitment. The banks must be made to pay back what they have so far been given apparently unconditionally. They can only do it without stimulating an identical crisis, by returning to prudent business methods.

Too many Labour ministers have no knowledge or interest in the history of the party they represent. They are ignorant of any of the principles that motivated the party, and have opted instead for self gratification, and ingratiating themselves with US plutocrats and Russian oligarchs. They have forgotten that they were elected to serve working people, those who create wealth, not those who own the means of doing it, and certainly not themselves for personal gain.

Labour must return to principles, but since it lost all pretence of democracy in the Blair years, it has to be doggedly pushed and even threatened by the unions, which now represent not only blue collar workers but large numbers of middle class white collar workers, technicians, teachers and civil servants. This great trades union Leviathan has to get rolling again. It means members have to snap out of the lethargy induced by the borrowing boom of the Blair years. It was not a golden age but a tinsel age. Like Blair himself, it was all false.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Is Your Incentive a Fat Bonus or Threat of the Sack?

When industrial changes causing hardships to some workers happen unexpectedly and without the government preparing for retraining, the workers remain conservative about their trades, and dislike innovations, new processes and new methods. When such changes are in the permanent interest of the community, they ought to be carried out without allowing unmerited loss to laborers whose old fashioned work is no longer wanted.

Why should, say, a coal miner suffer when the pits become uneconomic, or coal usage has to be curtailed because of climate change? He has not committed any crime, and the closures are entirely outside his control. Instead of being allowed to starve or suffer humiliating poverty, he must be paid to retrain, be given instruction in whatever other trade is within his grasp and is in demand. Everyone ought to have sufficient pay to ensure a livelihood, whether or not the work they are skilled in is wanted at the moment or not. If it is not wanted, some new trade which is wanted should be taught at the public expense. Is that socialist planning? It is capitalist planning because capitalism depends on public spending. Poverty restricts spending, and suppliers fall on to short time, and bankruptcy. It makes sense to ensure a minimal spending level, even when people are unemployed. Welfare is not a dead loss. It lubricates the economy.

Natural human conservatism tends to hold back progress. But most workers are interested mainly in security, security of employment and security of income. Workers determined to stick with dead end jobs are few and far between—a newspaper editors fantasy. People protect dead end jobs only because they know no, or inadequate, provision has been made for them when the obsolete factories close.

The tyranny of the employer, which robs most people of liberty and initiative, is unavoidable so long as the employer retains the right of dismissal and loss of livelihood. It is a right supposed to be essential for anyone to have an incentive to work properly, but, by some curiosity of human nature bankers and corporate bosses, people supposed to be highly motivated, actually need the opposite incentive—vast bonuses and “golden hellos”—to entice them to work. It needs no massive study to realize that this dichotomy of human nature is nonsense. It is the mentality of the slave master over the slave, propagagated largely by overly rich newspaper editors.

Bertrand Russell said as we get more civilized, incentives based on hope become preferable to those based on fear. Everyone, not just bankers, should be rewarded for working well rather than the right wing dogma of punishment for working badly. The banking instance of it is simply a scam—a way of robbing us all by dubious methods—but the system has always worked properly in the civil service, where anyone is only dismissed for some exceptional degree of vice or virtue, such as murder, or refusal to participate in immoral governments plans.

The civil service is always the first target of reactionary newspaper barons, but they are mainly exemplary workers. New Labour has done its best to destroy the civil service even at the highest level. To restore civil servants’ confidence and the esteem we had in them is another essential of any government that is to replace the odious one of the last decade or so.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Freedom for Sale: John Kampfner

John Kampfner at Index on Censorship, says by the time Blair left office, he had built a surveillance state unrivalled anywhere in the democratic world. Parliament passed 45 criminal justice laws—more than the total for the whole of the previous century—creating more than 3,000 new criminal offences. That was two new offences for each day parliament was sitting.

  • Police and security forces were given greater powers of arrest and detention.
  • All institutions of state were granted increased rights to snoop.
  • Individuals were required to hand over unprecedented amounts of data

New Labour has made the left suspicious of civil liberties, liberties it was always concerned to protect, for they are necessarily removed always by fascist governments intent on destroying liberty as a whole. From ID cards to CCTV, to a national DNA database, to long periods of detention without charge, to public order restrictions on protest and curbs on free expression through draconian libel laws, New Labour rewrote the relationship between state and individual. It laid the footings of a fascist state, just as the USA Patriot Act did.

Meanwhile, blatantly unprincipled and hypocritical, Blair’s government colluded with US “special rendition” flights, the transport of terrorist suspects to secret prisons, with transit rights at British airports, and serious questions have been raised about the UK’s role in torture.

A party that should have intervened for social justice and greater equality instead allowed the bankers to rob us by setting up pyramid schemes to pile up bonuses, then, when the scheme inevitably went bust, arranged for we suckers to pay them the huge deficits they had created, and without any noticeable inclination to seek retribution. Instead, ministers sought ever more ingenious ways of watching us, listening to us, and telling us how to lead our lives. Why is all this not sending out a strong whiff of Naziism?

It is all surprising because, in Britain, since Victoria, we have prided ourselves on liberal traditions. Yet now those who complain about individual rights are regarded with disdain or hostility. Kampfner in a new book (Freedom for Sale) thinks people around the world, whatever their different cultures or circumstances, have been too willing over the past 20 years to trade certain freedoms in return for the promise of either prosperity or security. We have elevated private freedoms, especially the freedom to earn and spend money, over public freedoms, such as democratic participation and accountability and free expression. What he calls “globalised glut”, the thirst for material comfort, the ultimate anesthetic for the brain.

If he is right, we are now moving from the new 1929 to the new 1930s, with the prospect of a new world war in a decade. Sounds as if we should all be reading this book. The we had better wake up.

Baha Mousa: Tortured to Death in Iraq

An inquiry into the killing of an Iraqi hotel worker, twenty six year old Baha Mousa, has heard he was arrested along with a number of other civilians by soldiers of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment in Basra in 2003. It is a horrible and devastating story which should bring tears to the eyes of anyone reading it, tears of shame and humiliation at what was done to him in our name.

These Iraqi civilians were subjected to brutal and vicious abuse from British troops, were subjected to sensory deprivation techniques, kicked and beaten repeatedly. The inquiry saw video footage of hooded and bound prisoners being beaten and abused by Corporal Donald Payne of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment. In his opening address to the inquiry, Rabinder Singh QC, representing Mr Mousa’s family, said:

Baha was a human being, yet to his guards he was known as “fat boy” or “fat bastard”.

Mr Mousa’s father is a colonel in the Iraqi police. While being tortured for 36 hours on the floor of a filthy toilet at a holding facility, Baha Mousa was heard to scream for respite, and say he thought he would die. Mr Singh read out the statement of another detainee, describing what were Mr Mousa’s last moments on the evening of the second day:

I heard Baha Mousa screaming, “Oh my God, I’m going to die, I’m going to die. Leave me alone. Please leave me alone for five minutes”.

After he had been tortured to death, Mousa’s body was released. He had suffered 93 separate injuries. Neither Mousa nor any other of the civilians detained had been tried or convicted of anything. He had recently lost his young wife to cancer and had been left working in a war zone with two motherless, and now fatherless, children.

Solicitor for the detainees Phil Shiner said the responsibility for Mr Mousa’s death rested at the highest level. He said the inquiry must establish:

How it came about that senior politicians, civil servants, lawyers and senior military personnel knew—or ought to have known—that British soldiers and interrogators were using coercive interrogation techniques in Iraq and thought these were permittable and lawful.

The use of hooding and other torture techniques were banned under the Geneva Convention, and outlawed by the UK Conservative Heath government, in 1972, following the use of sensory deprivation techniques during internment in Northern Ireland. Mr Singh wondered whether the use of these techniques had ever ceased:

In 2003, the so-called “conditioning” techniques were used in Iraq on civilians in the name of the people of Britain. Stress positions, hooding, sleep deprivation, food deprivation and noise all came back. Perhaps they never went away.
It is important not to fall into the trap of thinking that this case was simply one of indiscipline. This case is not just about beatings or a few bad apples. There is something rotten in the whole barrel.

For the abuse and murder of Baha Mousa and the indignities and outrages perpetrated on countless numbers of Iraqi victims, only one man has been found guilty of war crimes and that man, the only one who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to only a year in prison and dismissed from the service. Defence Secretary, Des Browne, admitted “substantive breaches” of parts of the European Convention on Human Rights that protect the right to life and prohibit torture, still no one in the army’s hierarchy has been identified as responsible and punished, though the Ministry of Defence agreed to pay out £2.83 million to those who were mistreated, accepting some culpability.

The Baha Mousa inquiry may provide some answers to what went wrong in the army’s chain of command. It may expose ignoble and immoral conduct among British soldiers, including senior officers, in wartime. And all three of the major parties supported the war. Though the Liberals made a token protest, it was not enough to exonerate them. The British public ought to recognize that politicians from all parties carry the guilt of the wounding and deaths of myriads of Iraqis.

But the army’s political masters, the Blair-Brown neo-Nazi concoction called the New Labour government, remain in power, the personal guilt of ministers unacknowledged, their draconian laws still on the statute book, and their own crimes still unpunished. We need to remove these criminals from office, and to send them to the law courts for judgement. We are supposed to know, from our experience of Naziism that military might ought not be used to achieve political objectives.

Monday, September 14, 2009

US Outrage at Lying Campaign

Democrats, and even some Republicans, are outraged that the GOP is running a campaign to undermine the Obama White House by alleging intimidation. Republican Steve Landes is reported to have compared the White House to “the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany”. Landes said:

I’m a student of history, and the Soviets and Nazis are the most egregious examples of those who used those tactics. I’m a history buff and I use the most relevant and strongest example of what people do.

He forgot Republican Richard Nixon’s “Enemies List” and Republican Senator Joe McCarthy’s “Enemies From Within”. Even Republicans have been shocked.

It seems the only basis for the Republican campaign is that Macon Carter, the White House director of new media, posted a blog last month (4 August) on the White House Web site asking people to e-mail the White House to report Republican lies about health-care reform:

There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there… These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to

Plainly the aim here is to be able to refute the falsehoods being spread by the Republicans, yet the implication is that the White House is acting like Senator McCarthy did. He was a Republican! In fact, when Bush twice fiddled his way into Office, the White House kept names, and required oaths of loyalty to Bush’s neoconservativism. Landes offers no proof that the current President is doing the same thing. All he offers is an emotionally loaded allegation.

The internet response is that Republicans cannot stand the idea of a black president, and have to invent nazi or communist plots to explain their worst fears, and the GOP is now a laughing stock of lunatics and freaks. Honest and open political discourse is dead, killed off to feed Republican prejudice. Lacking any ideas themselves, they resort to lies and uncivil behavior to try to block the properly and fairly elected Democratic President, and his Administration’s program—the reason he was elected.

They say “No” to it all and call Democrats scary names, hoping to prevent the change Obama was elected to bring on. When the president wants to talk to school kids—as Bush and Reagan did without anyone objecting—about the value of education, for Republicans, he is indoctrinating them with communism. When Obama wants to provide health care to all Americans, for Republicans, it is a socialist coup. If he was born in Hawaii, for Republicans, the birth certificate is fake, his parents anticipated his Presidency to put false announcements of his birth in the Hawaiian newspapers in 1961, and hundreds of people have kept quiet about the conspiracy. Even Republicans are outraged, and so they ought to be:

As a Republican, I am revolted over the lies of people like Landes, and I am doubly revolted over Landes’ remarks having Holocaust survivors among my friends. Republicans arrest people who wear antiwar t-shirts at Bush rallies, then bring guns to Obama rallies. They appeal to racist fears through demagogic propaganda. They continuously lie about nearly everything. They rant against immigrants, start gratuitous wars, subvert the constitution, steal elections. Then they call the Democrats Nazis. It is the Republicans are acting like Nazis. Any faith I had in Republicans is dying. The crazies and their favored demagogues have begun to rule through stupidity, fear, ignorance and subversion.

Others agree Republicans have gone crazy, asking, “How did the party of Lincoln and Ike ever become such a party of reactionary cowards?”. Susan Eisenhower said, President Eisenhower wouldn’t recognize the Republican party. Their leaders whip fearful people up into a frenzy by telling lies and half truths. Fear is the central policy of the new republicans. Out of the fear, they have created a group of people who want to shoot first and ask questions later. They have no men or women of substance to be their statesmen, only demagogues, Limbaugh, Beck and Hannity. Others ask:

  • Where were these people when Bush confiscated more than 10,000,000 phone records of American citizens without a warrant?
  • Where were these people when Bush’s FBI harvested financial records, medical records and emails of more than one million people, of which only a few hundred were being investigated for anything?
  • Where were these people when Bush decided he could detain ANYONE, citizen or not, for any reason or no reason, never file charges, never provide any evidence whatsoever, and never let them go?

What has Obama done that comes anywhere near those assaults on the Constitution? Nothing! They want a dog eat dog society of “every man for himself. Democrats will fare better than those folks because we believe in taking care of our own and we believe in paying for it.”

Obama will need support, if he is to succeed in changing America. It is nice to see he is getting some. The outrage being shown here, if it bears longer term fruit, could help the world get its faith back in an America that sunk lower and lower over the last 25 years, through Republican regimes and even Clinton’s, politically castrated as it was—if the President personally proved otherwise, at least to Monica!—by phony Republican morality and its power in the Senate.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Afghanistan, yet another US Imperialist War

Geoff Simons, author of many books on geopolitics, describes George Bush as a semi dictator who ignored the constitution and pretended that he was a war leader so as to rule by diktat. But before Bush there were plenty of lies, torture and invasions. This legacy has left Barack Obama trapped in a culture that regards military aggression and subversive operations as normal tactics. This is the deep seated, enduring and global militaristic culture with which Obama has to contend.

Before Barack Obama became president, US military strategists briefed him on the war in Afghanistan. He asked them what was their exit strategy from Kabul. Silence! Whatever Obama thought about this, the US are still deeply involved in killing Afghans approaching the anniversary of his election. Obama is surrounded by people in the US intelligence and military who don’t want themselves or their policies subjected to too much scrutiny.

After eight years of fighting in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden remains free, despite the technology of the mightiest power on earth, and the liberal intervention to democratize the country is stuck in the mire of corruption. Al Karzai, the supposed leader of the country, is a US puppet, who was for long a CIA agent. So it is hardly surprising that any aid sent to Afghanistan simply disappears long before it gets to its targets. The UN suggest that barely 10% of outside aid gets through. It still proves US benevolence, or so the average Yankee seems to think, scared as shit that if they do not keep the front line 6 to 12 thousand miles away, they will have to defend their own back yard. The trouble is their own back yard has continued to expand since the Monroe Doctrine, and for a long time now has covered the whole world.

The Afghan war is what the Vietnam war was, and dozens of other US wars have been in the last 100 years since the Spanish American war, aggression against a foreign state started with whatever excuse and for whatever real reason the US deemed appropriate in its role of world bully. The initial excuse here was the handing over of Osama bin Laden and the al Qaida perpetrators of 9/11. Then it became the noble neocon desire to bring democracy to a backward country—whether they wanted it or not—a banner eagerly waved by Blair, then Brown, as philanthropic imperialism.

On 2 December 1823, president James Monroe outlined the points that defined the Monroe Doctrine—the “American continents” were not subjects for European colonisation and any such attempt would be seen as “dangerous to our peace and safety”. This doctrine yielded the idea of “manifest destiny”, supposedly giving divine sanction to any expansionist policy. The New York journalist, John L O’Sullivan, wrote in 1845 that it was “the fulfilment of our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly expanding millions”. This meant that the racist genocide of indigenous people would rightly contribute to the enlargement of a Christian nation. In 1822-5, US forces repeatedly invaded Cuba and Puerto Rico.

Since then, the US has been an imperial junkie, unable to break the habit of killing foreigners in their own lands as a route to expansionism and resource exploitation. They had begun by breaking treaties with the native Americans and slaughtering them.

The Spanish-American war began in 1898, bringing further opportunities for US expansion across the world. The Cuban war of liberation was converted into a US war of conquest. Cuba had a liberation movement heroically fighting against Spanish colonialism and the US would have to intervene. On December 24 1897, US undersecretary of war, JC Breckenridge, commented that the inhabitants of Cuba…

…are generally indolent and apathetic. Its people are indifferent to religion and the majority are therefore immoral. They only possess a vague notion of what is right and wrong. As a logical consequence of this lack of morality, there is a great disregard for life.

It would of course be “sheer madness” to annex such a dissolute and depraved people into the virtuous US. Cuba was invaded and occupied in what US secretary of state John Hay dubbed “a splendid little war”, which crippled the Cuban economy and reduced the people to destitution. Havana stank, and sick and starving people roamed the city or lay in the gutters. Streets were lined with the corpses of horses, dogs and human beings. All efforts to bury the dead had been abandoned. Breckenridge observed:

We must clean up the country, even if this means using the methods Divine Providence used on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. We must destroy everything within our cannons’ range of fire. We must impose a harsh blockade so that hunger and disease undermine the peaceful population and decimate the Cuban army.

The academic Brian Linn graphically described the response of the US army to the Filipino liberation struggle. Suspects were hung by their thumbs to make them talk. Water was forced down the victim’s throat—“the water cure”—Americans seem fond of water torturing, and euphemisms for it! Villages were burned. US Colonel Benjamin F Cheatham urged his troops to “burn freely and kill every man who runs”. Villagers were forced into concentration camps with food shortages and appalling sanitation. A report said that “malnutrition, poor sanitary conditions, disease and demoralisation”, had cost 11,000 Filipino lives.

The twentieth century gave many more opportunities for US imperial expansion. In the first decade of the century, troops were active in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Syria, Panama, Abyssinia, Korea, Cuba, Honduras and Nicaragua. Just before World War I, the US found reasons to send troops to Cuba, Haiti, China and Turkey. In 1915, president Woodrow Wilson ordered General John J Pershing to invade Mexico with 10,000 troops to crush the insurrection led by Francisco Villa—Pancho Villa. China was again invaded in 1916, while in the same year US troops began an eight-year occupation of the Dominican Republic to combat a popular uprising.

The US invasions continued in China, Guatemala and Russia (all in 1920), China and Turkey (1922), China and Honduras (both invaded in 1924 and 1925), China again (1926 and 1927). In the prelude to World War II, US forces again invaded Cuba and China. In 1940, the US acquired from Britain the lend-lease bases of Newfoundland, Bermuda, St Lucia, Jamaica, Antigua, Trinidad and British Guiana, and in April 1941, Greenland and Iceland were taken under US protection. In October 1945, 50,000 US marines were sent to north China to aid the nationalist battle against the communists. World War II and the Korean war resulted in permanent US occupations of parts of Germany, Japan, South Korea and Britain and of many island bases taken over from the Japanese.

On 7 August 1964, the US Congress, responding to president Lyndon B Johnson’s deliberate lie that US ships had been attacked by North Vietnamese vessels in international waters, approved the Gulf of Tonkin resolution affirming “all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States… to prevent further aggression”. The blatant lie had produced a presidential authorization that led to almost 60,000 US fatalities. Vietnamese dead, like the earlier Korean dead, numbered in the millions. The Vietnamese war included the Phoenix programme, which involved the systematic torture of tens of thousands of Vietnamese peasants.

William Blum, in his book Rogue State, has profiled US interventions since the end of the Vietnam war. Washington launched military or subversive actions in the Dominican Republic, Zaire, Laos, Cambodia, Lebanon, Iran, Libya, Grenada, Honduras, Chad, Bolivia, Iraq, Panama, Colombia, Peru, the Philippines, Liberia, Turkey, Kuwait, Somalia, Yugoslavia, the Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Afghanistan, East Timor, Serbia, Yemen, Ivory Coast, Haiti, Pakistan, South Ossetia, Brazil, Ecuador, Indonesia, Uruguay, Ghana, Chile, El Salvador, South Africa, Portugal, Angola, Jamaica, Seychelles, Diego Garcia, Marshall Islands, Albania, Costa Rica, Georgia and other countries.

In Afghanistan, back in the present, bombing by pilotless airplanes continues, and is extended into Pakistan. Neither Obama nor General David Petraeus seem able to stop rogue officers from doing just as they like. They are undisciplined and irresponsible, but determined to have fun soldiering, just as the captain of the USS Vincennes had fun in 1988 shooting down an aeroplane with 290 passengers and crew on board, in a similar utterly undisciplined act. Many say the Lockerbie bombing, later the same year, was a reprisal for that US atrocity—an eye for an eye, so to speak—but the US did not want any such conclusion to be drawn, so the CIA set up Abdulbaset al-Megrahi, a Libyan, whom most of the British relatives of the dead now consider to be innocent. Yet the US, with the same evidence before them refuse to accept that the conviction of al-Megrahi is, to say the least, unsafe, and the rage is fomented by Obama, Hillary Clinton, and one of the men responsible, CIA chief Robert Mueller.

So the Yankees continue their policy of invasion, utterly unable to accept that it is a long time failure. Or is it a failure? The US military industrial complex have their own economic reasons. It gets huge government appropriations, and these make for vast profits in the military linked armaments and supply industries. For Cheney and the like of his puppy, Bush, these overseas adventures are ways of siphoning tax dollars into personal profit. And who allegedly pays most tax dollars? Cheney’s own Republican voters! They do not seem to notice they are the ones being conned the most.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The British in Afghanistan

James Fergusson (A Million Bullets: The Real Story of the British Army in Afghanistan) has reported from several trouble spots in the world besides Afghanistan, which he has visited several times since 1997. Fergusson was a supporter of the invasion of Afghanistan, and accepted the line about the democratization of the country. Yet he concludes:
It’s all over. We’ve lost the consent of the people. It’s finished.
The troops were sent on “a fool’s errand”, he says, because all the options were not properly considered before the military one was chosen. The aim of democratization given as the purpose of the intervention required the winning over of the people.
It’s not good for winning hearts and minds when you keep bombing wedding parties. How would you feel if it happened in this country? One Taliban commander said, “Supposing thousands of Afghans had invaded your country and bombed your villages and killed your wives and children, what would you do?” You’d be furious. Each one of those people affected by such atrocities is a recruit for the Taliban. They all have fathers, and brothers and sisters. Yet it keeps on happening.
The occupation of Afghanistan is bound to fail, and the use of air power is a disaster, Fergusson says:
It’s part of the problem not part of the solution.
Moreover the strategy called “decapitation”—despite appearances, not literally the blowing off of Afghan heads, whether they are Taliban fighters or women and children—but the targetting of the leadership is counter productive, he tells us, because they are replaced by younger men who are bitterer, more fanatical, and less likely to compromise than the old guard. Carrying the war into Pakistan is also futile and counter productive, Fergusson thinks:
It’s turning into a honey pot for global Jihad, and that’s our fault!
The Taliban and Al Qaida ought to be treated as separate entities, but the west conflates them. The Taliban are not monolithic, and were not, at least initially, concerned with the west. They had no foreign policy. Their revolution was internal, and divided on many issues. They are uniting against the western invaders. Al Qaida’s, on the other hand, was entirely a foreign policy—to defeat the west.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Leaders of World Capitalism!

Exploiting “inferior” nations has been the main objects of US statecraft for a hundred years. It is not for trade that this policy has been adopted. One can trade more fairly with nations that are independent. Exploitation is the correct word to use, for the domination of foreign peoples is purely for US investment, and control of vital resources like oil. US diplomacy has been the servant of US business and finance. Bush and Cheney are the most obvious and least subtle example. These men should be impeached. Such men get their way by appealing to national prejudice and manipulating it as they like. Then citizens who otherwise would be outraged that the government is spending their tax dollars on overseas adventures suddenly get a patriotism overload and send their sons and daughters to their deaths so that rogues can fill their coffers with someone else's hard earned dollars. Taxpayers incur the military expenditure and the adventurers reap the benefit, sometimes even in suitcases of dollars handed over under the cover of war expenditure. Republican voters do not notice when the administration is Republican, only when it is Democratic, because they dance to the tune of an army of Republican cheerleaders in the press and local radio and TV. The evil and corruption US policies produce at home, the death and devastation they spread abroad, and the reaction of the desire for revenge among the inferior “gooks” and “rag heads” are the price which the world has to pay for its tolerance of the self-seeking liars and greedy crooks who lead world capitalism.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Greed, Justice and Revolution

The philosopher, Bertrand Russell pointed out a hundred years ago that human beings may be motivated broadly by the desire to possess things or the desire to build things. Property is the direct expression of possessiveness. Science and art are direct expressions of constructiveness. The dominant feature of possessiveness is hostility toward others, either because what others possess is envied, or because the possessor of something others desire is concerned to prevent them from having it. Generally anyone taking what is another’s is doing wrong, but, in the case of great injustice in society, redistribution of wealth in favour of greater fairness is just, and then resisting this justice is unjust. The reason is that society must be stable to survive, and gross injustice renders it unstable. John Rawls allowed that this is so. Even wealthy people have a greater interest in keeping the society which has allowed them to get very wealthy stable rather than collapse in disorder or revolution, and to yield a little of vast wealth is no hardship to them. And the United Nations Charter of Human Rights—much maligned by the right wing press—also recognizes that revolution can be justified when society is grossly unjust.
…it is essential, if man is not compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law…
Rawls, bending to US realities, allowed that a society did not have to be egalitarian when inequality helped the poorest in society to be better off, but he saw that excessive inequality could only destabilize society, and consequently that class differences, if necessary, ought to be small. The modern USA has ignored this hitherto, and, if Obama, now is trying to do something about it in the one field of health care, Americans ought to be glad. Regrettably, too many of them are conditioned by bigotry and selfishness. The dangers to America are not from outside. Americans need to examine themselves more closely.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

New Labour’s Achievements

Our greatest current philosopher, Ted Honderich, starkly sums up the New Labour experiment we have been suffering since grinning Tony won over the electoral masses in 1997. Labour activists and voters were delighted, but not lefties and socialists who characterized Blair as the first Labour Prime Minister not to have waited until he got into power to sell out. His New Labour had already manifestly abandoned everything that made labour a party of the working class.

Blair’s and Brown’s record since have proved that the New Labour party hasn’t a principle that it is not willing to ditch, that it was not about offering us a new set of policies, but was about selling us a more colourful shade of Thatcherism, and that this “selling” amounted to telling lie after lie after lie, trowelling on the lies so heavily that Brown has gotten completely tangled in his web of deceit, something that Blair knew by his burglar’s instinct was about to unravel so he got on his bike and cycled off at full speed, trying to grab as much loot as he could while wobbling off. The outcome in Great Britain is that the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer. Ordinary workers have ridden on the stoked up debt mountain for the past decade as much as the bankers, giving them the illusion of being better off, but Brown is determined to leave us feeling sorry. He has given a trillion or so pounds sterling to bankers, and left the working class in hock for the next fifty years. The Gini Coefficient is a statistical measure of inequality, running from 0 to 100, where 0 is perfect equality and 100 perfect inequality—a single person has everything. The Gini index for Thatcher governments was 29 or 30. For Blair and Brown, it is about 35. UK society is much less equal than it was before the turkeys voted for Thanksgiving Day, or Christmas in their case. Blair lined up with his chum George W Bush not only to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent Arabs, but also to mould Britain closer to the US, seen by Blair as an ideal—the Great Society, no doubt. The Gini coefficient in the US is around 45.
It’s not a shock that you get turned away from a hospital if your breathing’s getting worse and you couldn’t afford health insurance… For president, America is getting a choice of millionaires at this election. It won’t be as clear this time as last election, though, that it doesn’t matter who wins. Last time America proved that, by not really trying to find out who won.
In the supposedly greatest democracy in history, it seemed inexplicable why Americans were not outraged at Bush’s blatant gerrymandering and electoral rigging, but Americans seemed uninterested. Honderich is right, as are the 50% of people who cannot be bothered to register and vote in the US—what is the point? The US is not a democracy, it is a plutocracy! Britain has taken giant steps in the same direction under New Labour. We should start objecting before it is too late.