Friday, February 19, 2010

Which now is the Rogue State in the Middle East?

The Zionist Israelis it seems have now murdered an elected representative of a sovereign state on foreign soil. Is this terrorism? The neoconservative New Labour rulers of Britain have expressed no concern for the implications for democracy and terrorism elsewhere, particularly here. It is concerned only that British passports were forged to effect the assassination. You can imagine what the reaction in the West would have been if the assassins had been Iranians, and the victim an Israeli.

“Democratic” Israel has full or shared control of 97% of the Palestinian people’s land in the West Bank, where it is demolishing Palestinian homes to build Israeli settlements. It is also building a “security” wall through the West Bank—to secure Arab land and water supplies for the Israelis! Palestinians suffer. They are subjected to arbitrary arrests and torture, and live under conditions many describe as open-air prisons or apartheid.

The Palestinians have been divided by the US and Israel, with Fatah and Israel siding together against Hamas. Fatah controls the West Bank while Hamas controls the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Authority, under Fatah, has been bought off. Israel’s chosen governing partner, directly controls the other 3% of the West Bank.

Hamas is the party democratically and legitimately elected by the Palestinians. Fatah is unelected, known for corruption, torture and intimidation, and bankrolled by the US. Keith Dayton is the US security coordinator overseeing the training of Palestinian forces. He says the stated aim of the mission is to “preserve and protect the interests of the state of Israel”. Hamas is villified and has been boycotted since winning the 2006 election while Fatah—or the Palestinian Authority—receives money and training from the US to fight the party Palestinians have elected.

The ruling caste of the US in Washington, and our own in London, boast their democratic credentials until representatives are elected they do not like, then suddenly they prefer unelected but easily bribed crooks. They have always preferred local bullies to do their military dirty work for them, when they can get them to.

The money and training are being used by the Palestinian Authority to wage war against Hamas, and the Palestinian population of the Gaza strip, literally a completely isolated strip of land confined by the sea and Israel, with a short stretch adjacent to Egypt. The Israeli war on Gaza at the beginning of 2009 killed more than 1,400 Palestinians. The independent Goldstone report heavily criticized Israeli war crimes and attacks on UN buildings in Gaza. The Israeli justification of the war was to stop Hamas rocket attacks. These represent a token resistance to Israeli brutality. The rockets are home made, unguided and almost useless, having killed almost no one. And Hamas had kept a ceasefire until Israel provoked a reaction as an excuse to fight the one sided war.

Israel has the upper hand in every measure. Fatah stays in power by policing Israel’s enemies. There is no peace process. Israel has no interest in peace. It is a small boy under the protection of the big boy in the schoolyard. It enjoys kicking the other small boys, knowing they dare not retaliate. The big boy sadistically enjoys the small boys’ pain and humiliation.

People rightly ask why we are under attack by terrorists, but they never listen to the answer. We are assisting an occupying power in the middle East. We must be implicated in their torture and other abuses. Why does our government keep on siding with international criminals subject to a long list of UN resolutions for their terrorism against their neighbors? We persist in supporting the rogue nation causing all the trouble in the middle east. It is not Iran, but Israel!

Additional reporting from Adam Uppal, The Standard, Canada

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dick Cheney Supports Waterboarding. Does God?

Paradigms Lost at True Slant reports that in an interview with the Republican ex-vice President, Dick Cheney answered in the style we have come to expect of him. He said he questioned whether “this guy” is taking the war on terror seriously. The Religious Right always know what God wants, so it seems unbelievable to hear words of frustration:

“At the same time that American is engaged in a global fight against terror, in which thousands of American lives are at stake, God seems more concerned with setting snowfall records along the Eastern seaboard. Personally, I long for the days of fire and brimstone.”

God is not doing enough to fight terror, and he longed for the Rapture, the days when God let His will be known.

“I was a big advocate of waterboarding. I was a big advocate of the enhanced interrogation techniques.”

God is not supportive. Asked, “Didn’t Jesus say ‘love your enemies’? So torture in not at all Christian!”, Cheney replied:

“No one was tortured during the Bush Administration, but that doesn’t mean we should stop doing it because it is absolutely essential in the war against terror.”

David Knowles at Paradigm Lost reports he repeatedly went after God. Mr Cheney approved of rescinding the military’s controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, but said it had nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that his own daughter is a lesbian.

Asked whether the same logic held true for interrogating prisoners, seeing that the Bush administration overturned the Army field manual when it authorized the use of torture on enemy combatants, Mr Cheney’s reported reply was:

“Why don’t you ask God that question?”

Cheney has never got over no longer pulling God’s strings as he used to when he controlled Bush in the Whitehouse, a man who thought he was God. A former member of the Bush team said its like he wants God to fail, but it’s just Dick being Dick! Or was it a dick?

Paradigms Lost was unable to get God for a comment. Of course, they might be joking!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Israelis and Antisemitism

We read from Martin Sugarman in the UK Independent that the European Union and the British Parliamentary Committee on antisemitism have defined antisemitism as “including conflating or comparing Israelis or the Israeli government with Nazis, portraying Palestinians fallaciously as victims of a Holocaust or genocide, like the Jews, and juxtaposing images of the Holocaust alongside images of Palestinians killed or injured in wars with Israel”.

So, we have a definition of antisemitism that effectively prevents legitimate criticism, and representation of Israelis as carrying out illegal acts, like those of the Nazis, and indeed differing from them only on their scale—whence the only justification of the word “fallaciously”—though not on any scale of human decency. Yet that is what the Israelis have done and continue to do to the Palestinians, and so anyone supporting the Palestinians with justified criticism and visual examples of their treatment by Israelis is antisemitic! Such a definition of antisemitism is absurd, and ought to be withdrawn, if indeed Sugarman is right.

The races described by the word “semite” include the Arabs, but probably not Israelis, who seem mainly now to be Slavs. It means that to be truly antisemitic, to be opposed to Semites, is oppressing Arabs, who are the mass of Semites alive today. The Zionists in Israel are therefore being antisemitic, probably more so than anyone who opposes Israel’s conduct.

An example of the injustice of this definition of antisemitism is given by Maggie Foyer. Her Arab friend Bilal is in hospital with a fractured spine and skull after being attacked on his land by Zionist Israelis. They took his land for Jewish settlement. He will get no compensation for his injuries or his lost land. His village was attacked repeatedly in a few months by gangs of lawless Zionist thugs. If Jews elsewhere in the world than Israel feel threatened by antisemitism, they should be glad they are not the Semites called Palestinians, who are suffering appallingly at the hands of those constantly playing the antisemitism card in self interest. But they will cry in alarm that Ms Foyer is an antisemite.

Why, even, it is antisemitic to deny the right of Israel to exist? Civilized nation states represent all of their citizens, regardless of their ethnic or religious background. When they do not, they have been broken up, like Austria Hungary, and in more recent times the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. What is unusual about the State of Israel is that the government of a land refuses to accept some of the land’s native people, while claiming to represent a collection of people, the Jews, from many other lands whose ancestors have never been there. The Nazis were glad to accept as Germans the people of many other places in Europe and the USSR regarded as ethnic Germans, though they had never lived in Germany. Jews, German or otherwise, were still considered as untermenschen.

Equally, there is nothing wrong and nothing racist about being opposed to the existence of a Zionist State of Israel, that Zionists make out as being antisemitic. In urging it, no one is “insulting or racially abusing them, or defacing the graves of their departed”. Urging a united state of Palestinians and Israelis, with neither privileged, is to oppose discrimination, not to uphold it. Jewish and Arab musicians can act like civilized people in Daniel Barenboim’s orchestra, the “West East Divan”. Are Zionists saying Barenboim is antisemitic or a self-hating Jew. If so, they just expose their own unremitting hatred—usually kept hidden by the smoke and mirrors of alleged antisemitism!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Judge’s View on the Law and How to Protect It

Lord Bingham, until he recently retired, the most senior British judge was interviewed for The Guardian by Stephen Moss in connexion with the publication of his recent book, The Rule of Law. Bingham’s last three jobs were Master of the Rolls, Lord Chief Justice, and senior Law Lord. One imagines he is a man who knows the law. He unequivocally condemns the Iraq war of 2003 as illegal:

I took the view which Michael Wood and Elizabeth Wilmshurst [legal advisers to the Foreign Office in 2003] took—that it simply wasn’t authorized. The whole of the Foreign Office thought this… It is not at all clear to me what, if any, legal justification of its action the US government relied on… If I am right and the invasion of Iraq… was unauthorized by the security council, there was a serious violation of international law and the rule of law… It is, as has been said, “the difference between the role of world policeman and world vigilante”.

Yet Jack Straw told the Chilcot inquiry he often ignored the legal advice his law officers at the Home Office as well as the Foreign Office gave him!

Michael Wood drew attention to the fact that the ministerial code obliges ministers to act in accordance with national and international law, so it isn’t really good enough to say I don’t take the advice of law officers.

Can anyone tell me how these New Labour ministers, from Tony Blair onwards and downwards, manage to get away with such cavalier disregard for the law, and centuries old British parliamentary and ministerial convention that is meant to save us from fascists. Isn’t it plain that it does not do what it is supposed to do, because a bunch of crypto fascist neoconservatives have taken over Labour as New Labour, and have done just as they wanted in office. And no one is raising a stink about it.

It is one thing to enjoy parliamentary privilege, which is the right to be able to say in Parliament anything an MP thinks has to be said without fear of libel actions or jail—something irrelevant to the fiddling of expenses—but it is another to march roughshod over the country’s hard earned laws and customs, meant to protect us, the people, from becoming subjects and not citizens. New Labour’s thirteen years of legal flatulence has made us subjects again—subjects of any undemocratic authoritarian government, one that has put in place every requirement for a fascist putsch. Why is no one outraged at the unknown number of super injunctions that stop us from knowing what is going on? Why are students not incensed, especially now that Labour is hitting them and their universities harder than ever while continuing to feed the country’s wealth to the bankers? Why are there no lawyers willing to risk being jailed to protect the sanctity of the law?

Lord Justice Bingham notes that the government is using the threat of terrorism to erode our basic freedoms. He approves of Benjamin Franklin’s dictum:

He who would put security before liberty deserves neither.

Precisely, and that is where we are! Bingham believes we are getting the delicate balance between liberty and security wrong:

Liberty is losing out at the moment. Extraordinary inroads are being made into principles that would once have been regarded as completely inviolate, such as the growing practice of putting material [evidence] before some decision-making tribunal or judge that the defendant never sees. When I talk to the young, I’m struck by how, even when they have impeccably liberal instincts on things like torture and the death penalty, they tend to make an exception for terrorists. They’ve grown up in a world post-9/11 in which terrorism has been seen as this colossally potent threat.

The danger of terrorism is no more serious than it was in the seventies and eighties, probably less so, but the threat to hard won liberties is indeed real! Thus Bingham’s Belmarsh ruling in 2004 was that indefinite detention without trial of foreign terrorist suspects was incompatible with the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights. He is proud of it because he felt “the stakes were quite high”. Plainly there are. They put anyone at risk of the same treatment. What can ever be just about jailing, without trial or evidence and possibly forever, someone who is merely a suspect? That is now British law!

Someone thinks someone else might commit a crime so they are confined for an indefinite time. It is the Inquisition. It is witch hunting. It most certainly has nothing to do with any concept of justice. Yet who is bothering. Lord Bingham seems to believe there is nothing to be done to defend good law other than through the ballot box. But no UK party is promising to remove all the bad law New Labour has brought in, and they are all complicit in the neoconservative terrorism myth. So the ballot box can solve nothing. What then? Bingham says, if that fails, we should turn to revolution!

Supposing a government came into power that wanted to introduce a whole lot of measures borrowed from the statute book of Nazi Germany, we would be justified in rebelling, just as we were against Charles I.

So what are the British people, and particularly the youth who have most to lose, doing about it? They have not even noticed. They are too busy having fun, watching reality TV, reading the gutter press, getting pissed, and, like half wits, pretending they are all celebrities.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

In Politics, Money Talks Loudest. What Can Be Done?

Ted Honderich made the opening speech in a debate in the Oxford Union on 29 January 2010, the evening of the day when Tony Blair appeared at the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war. The motion was that this House believes that in politics, money talks loudest. The motion was carried. Here is a slight synopsis of the full speech online at Ted Honderich’s website.

“The motion before us two parts, one explicit and one implicit. There is the explicit proposition of fact, and there is the implication of it—that it raises a question of rightness, or indeed isn’t right. Talking openly of what is right or wrong is unusual in this time in England, and may seem curious, perhaps moralistic, maybe innocent or immature, anyway not familiar.

Cant, in particular cant by our democratic politicians, is the dismal order of the day, along with the brazen policy that the response to a question is not an answer but an evasion of it. The cant and the evasion have reduced the clarity and hence the intelligence of public discussion, indeed brought it to its lowest state in 50 years. A society in decline since 1979 has declined further.

Instead of speaking of right and wrong, of what ought not to happen, the political class declares or intones the cant that this or that is “unacceptable”. They are saying that is wrong—what we must not do. They prefer to be inexplicit instead. When you say plainly that something is wrong, or right, you are expected to produce a reason, an argument, something clear headed.

So, what are the things that according to the motion money talks louder than in politics? One answer is truth. It is not only the first victim of war. A second thing that money talks louder than is the logic of ordinary intelligence. That consists in clarity, analysis, relevance, consistency, validity, and completeness, not leaving things out. Truth and logic bring along some humanity with them. You can’t be truthful and logical without humanity—humanity being what is right.

Being simple minded, which our political class is, is also to be avoided. One way of being simple minded about the motion in front of us is to think the part that is the factual proposition can be settled just by some figures. It can’t be settled that way, useful as some general figures are.

It is true that the economically best off tenth of population in Britain and America have something like 70% of the wealth, and the worst off tenth has as good as none. As for income, the best off tenth has about 30% or 40%, and the worst off 2% or 3%. That means that the poorest have nothing to spend on politics, indeed no time left to engage in it after getting their 2 or 3%, and the very richest have a lot.

I say, without fear of any economist or student of the dismal science in this house, the dismal science that never gets around to quantifying what is fundamental, that the richest have more than 1000 times the political influence and power of the poorest. Remember that the poorest have as good as no wealth. 70 times zero is infinitely less than 70 times 1. What does the 1000 times more political influence and power do? More than corruption in the House of Commons, and more than the fact of lobbying even on an American scale. More than industries and interests infesting the regulation of themselves.

The 1000 times more political influence and power can make and maintain what can mildly be called a certain convention of thought and feeling in a society, mainly a successful pretense about what is necessary and what is possible. It consists in illusions upon illusions. About war, classes, the economy, public services, private profit and the profitization of things, taxation, banks, competition, co-operation, foreign ownership, utilities, health, education, politics itself, ideologies and religions, terrorism. Today, there is the illusion about the need to reduce public spending rather than reduce private profiting.

Illusions work better than an army and police on motorbikes. Owning newspapers and paying for ordinary advertisements in them is part of the convention. So is a government broadcasting service. A compliant church despite a brave Archbishop is another part. There is no need for conspiracy, although there is some of that, to make the whole thing intentional.

The illusions bring to mind the other part of the political cant about the “unacceptable”. Our dim but not too dim political class, when they intone “unacceptable”, don’t only mean that something is wrong, they also mean it is somehow unthinkable. Its ambiguity saves them from being challenged either about something’s being wrong or its being or its being believed necessary or impossible by all the relevant persons.

Let us think a little, which you’re allowed to do in a university, even in a debate, by asking what can best be said for democracy. What can best be tried in its justification? The hope is that it is a better decision procedure for a society than any other, for a particular reason—in plain English, it is that two heads are better than one, and more better are than two. What is in heads, according to this argument, is different and compensating kinds of knowledge, different experiences of a society, different wants. But it only works if what is in the heads gets equal and free expression.

In our hierarchic democracies, there is nothing of the sort, nothing remotely like equal and free expression. So there can be no reasonable assumption that our democracies are right about anything at all—social goods, or profitization against co-operation, or terrorism, or our own terrorist war. So put aside the fiction, indeed the illusion, of a democratic guarantee of good policies.

How should we go about judging the result of money talking loudest in our democracy—thinking about that outcome? What principle or other method should we use? Our political class never asks how you should go about judging the outcome. Should we do it by the viciousness of the tradition of conservatism, New Labour wholly being within it? Conservatism is no more a political tradition of self interest than any other, but the politics has no principle of right and wrong at all to support its self interest. Liberalism has better impulses than conservatism, but it is without a real principle to give content to its better impulses. It is without a will to act on those impulses, including its decency in opposing a terrorist war.

Should you judge the result of money in politics by the principle of the Utilitarians, that what is right is what produces the greatest total of happiness, well being or satisfaction—no matter how it is shared out, even if the biggest total rests on some people, a class at the bottom, having lives that are really nasty, British and short? Should you throw psychoanalysis and neuroscience into the plan, as they now say at the London School of Economics, to make people happier without changing the world that was making them unhappy?

Maybe you should try instead a principle of judgement heard of in Cambridge sometimes these days? That is the philosopher Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative. It tells you to treat everybody not only as a means but also as an end. It’s all about respect. Its clearest upshot is that you should nod decently to the homeless fellow in the street when you don’t buy a copy of The Big Issue magazine he sells for a crust.

So, how should we go about judging the result of money talking loudest in our politics? What sums up what is right on any subject anywhere, is the Principle of Humanity. It is that what is right is what according to the best judgement and information gets and keeps people out of bad lives. Bad lives are defined in terms of deprivation of the great human goods, denial of the fundamental desires of human nature—six of them—a decent length of life, bodily well being, freedom and power, respect and self respect, goods of relationship, the goods of culture.

“Money talking loudest” is a standing violation of the Principle of Humanity. It denies every great human good, every denial aided by suppression of truth and evasion of logic. If you’re not pushy or a pusher, you live less long for a start, you have less consciousness, and you suffer pain, constraint, weakness, disdain, self disdain. Your children don’t learn. You read Murdoch newspapers that stop you from escaping the stupidity owed to your ignorance.

Earlier today Blair, a man who managed this democracy into a terrorist war, the Iraq war, insulting the decency that remains in this democracy, appeared before a weak committee, a wretched committee of old boys neither capable of questioning him effectively nor willing to. Not a court. Not Nuremberg. Blair sought today, by the audacity of a shyster lawyer unconstrained by a judge, his policy in the House of Commons, to blunt the truth that he is a war criminal, a criminal against humanity. Old Germans around Nuremberg can feel less bad tonight about the German past. They can say that Nuremberg happened.

In Blair’s wholly intentional killing of innocents in and after the war, wholly intentional since wholly foreseeable, and in his wholly intentional causing of fear supposed to be the stuff of only terrorism, and in everything else of his New Labour, Blair has been and is a creature of money talking. He has been a creature who listens to it talking, goes to ask for more, and pays for it.

What should we do? What should be done about all the denials of the great goods, about taking from people what we all desire? What should be done about the monstrous selfishness? Truth and logic is all we have to rely on, some say. But surely it can’t be the only hope. That would be too terrible. A colonel of the British Army, at the time of English civil war, said:

For really I think the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live, as the greatest he…
Thomas Rainsborough”

Honderich wonders whether revolution could be an answer, or mass civil disobedience, much more insistent than the large demonstrations at the outset of the Iraq war, or a boycott of the market. Any such insistent demonstrating, or a colonel driving a tank into Parliament Square is likely to be what a neoconservative government like this New Labour one would love. They could institute martial law, and declare plainly the fascism they have hitherto been hiding but preparing for.

Honderich thinks revolution isn’t a rational means to the end of the Principle of Humanity. Nor is it, it is the breakdown of society for the very reasons he is outlining, and the Principle of Humanity can only work in a functioning society—by civilized people! Mass civil disobedience, funded by the US has worked in a few places in the last couple of decades. “It brought down a wall, ended an empire. It has changed governments.” Revolution is getting more feasible as the western powers weaken, the very reason for their drive towards fascism.

The eastern countries India and China are becoming serious rivals to the US and Europe. The financial system, as Honderich shows, is getting more and more openly corrupt, and politics too. Society is crumbling and revolution, consisting of the components Honderich mentioned looking more likely, but it will have to fight off fascism first, or somehow force some government to scrap the mass of repressive legislation New Labour has introduced. At present the British are sleepwalking. Mostly they are ignorant of what is going on as long as they have Murdoch’s media, reality TV and celebrities, and can still borrow on credit. They have a rude shock ahead.