Thursday, December 29, 2005

UK government covers up torture with lies

The evidence is mounting that the UK government has little or no respect for human rights. The self-styled patrons of the rule of law are breaking the law as and when it suits them. Not too long ago the British and American governments tried to remain tight-lipped over allegations of CIA flights to carry so-called terror suspects to foreign destinations where they could be questioned under torture.

Now the Greek authorities are investigating complaints by a number of Pakistani men that they were abducted following the London bombs and subjected to torture. The Greek have openly called Jack Straw’s assurances that the British government was in no way involved a lie, and a Greek newspaper has published the name of Nicholas John Andrew Langman as the MI6 station master in Athens responsible for the operation. Only after these revelations is the parliamentary intelligence and security committee looking into the matter.

Langman had previously been outed as an MI6 officer by disgruntled agent Tomlinson as well as in connection with the “accidental” murder of Princess Diana, yet the British government seems to have imposed a gagging order on UK media, as whilst they report that he has been named in Greece, none of them give the name themselves.

Gagging orders are also being attempted to stop the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan from revealing about British collusion with torture. Telegrams that he had sent to the Foreign Office complain about British cooperation with Uzbek security services who were known for their human rights abuses. Then there is a copy of legal advice the Foreign Office sought to see if they were operating within the Law in accepting torture intelligence, and according to Michael Wood, their legal adviser; it is fine, as long as it is not used as evidence.

So whilst the government publicly says one thing, what goes on behind the scenes is quite different, and naturally they do not wish for those discrepancies to become general knowledge. It may, however, be too late for them, as the internet does not as readily accept censorship as the mainstream British media, and the documents have been widely circulated by Blairwatch.

We live at the edge of a police state, and had the Metropolitan police not made the blunder of Charles de Menezes’ assassination, they might have already succeeded in curbing the remainder of our freedoms. Since the illegal invasion of Iraq there have been so many unsavoury revelations that the government has completely lost its moral authority. Sadly, there is no viable force yet to replace them, but at least we can successfully resist their attempts to stop us from pointing the finger at their misdemeanours. Like with all police states, be they well established or in the fledgling state, mind control usually evades them.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Double standards as usual

The British always know to go with the money. A court in London has ruled that the former vice-president of oil giant Yukos cannot be extradited to Russia. Aleksander Temerko, a close associate of jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was accused of defrauding a state oil company, and Russia sought his extradition. The British judge, however, said   it was highly unlikely, if not impossible, for Mr Temerko to receive a fair trial in Russia and that Russian authorities wanted to punish him for his political opinions. The decision is likely to make Britain many friends amongst the oil oligarchies who have tried to carve up Russia until they ran into some patriotic resistance.
Lawyers for Mr Temerko argued in court that the Russian authorities had failed to produce any witnesses to back the extradition request and were wasting millions of British tax payers’ money in legal and court fees.
Contrast this with the case of Babar Ahmed. Babar was seized in 2003 under anti-terrorism legislation and brutally assaulted by police but then released without charge as there was no evidence against him. A year later he was re-arrested on an extradition warrant from the US. The US, too is wasting British tax payers’ money and is failing to provide any evidence in support of its extradition request. However, being good friends, they don’t have to. As a gift during one of his visits former home secretary David Blunkett gave them the Extradition Act 2003 which means that extradition requests from the US can be fast-tracked without the need for safe-guards or evidence.
There is a right to appeal before the High Court and subsequently to the House of Lords, but at no time are the US authorities being asked to submit any evidence. There is no money in standing up for human rights, and British judges are not likely to conclude that extradition warrants by the inventors of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib could ever be politically motivated. I suppose you get what you pay for which is not the same as justice. It’s called the Rule of Law.

For details on Babar Ahmed's case see here

Friday, December 23, 2005

BBC: a leopard cannnot change his spots

The BBC claims to be independent and objective. It needs to in order to continue receiving its subsidy paid from everybody’s TV licence. But in reality it isn’t. However, they know the art of diplomacy. Below is a response I got when complaining that in a programme announcement they referred to the West Bank and Gaza as allegedly occupied territory. I asked them whether that meant that the territory wasn’t really occupied but only seemed to be and whether that was not a misrepresentation of Palestine’s status under international law.

To start with, it took them a whole month to come up with an answer. Here it is:
“Dear Dr Bleher,
Thank you for your email regarding BBC Radio 4 on 21 November. Please accept my apologies for the delay in replying. We know our correspondents appreciate a quick response and I regret that you have had to wait so long on this occasion.

As you are undoubtedly aware, when the Arab-Israeli War ended, the Israeli government began establishing settlements in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights, despite international pressure. In this respect, settlements are considered illegal under international law, in contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention and subject to a number of
UN Security Council Resolutions and this is reflected in our reports which make frequent references to “occupied territories”.

As you will also be aware, Israel disputes the relevance of the Fourth Geneva Convention and our news reports on television, radio and on our website have stated that successive Israeli governments maintain the West Bank and Gaza Strip are disputed and that Israel has valid claims in this territory.  

May I take this opportunity to assure you that the BBC is committed to impartial reporting of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We appreciate your feedback on our coverage which has been registered and thank you again for taking the time to contact us with the strength of your concerns.

Yours sincerely

Denise Tattersall
Divisional Advisor
BBC Information”

Here you have it in a nutshell: the Israeli settlements in Palestine are illegal but Israel disputes the validity of the law. Consequently the BBC must balance its reporting in order to remain objective and also pretend that the law does not matter when it comes to Israel.

I suggest the BBC apply this same standard to all their reporting. When reporting the theft of a vehicle, for example, they should pay regard to the fact that the thief did not think the property laws had much relevance for him and therefore has a valid claim to the car. By their own standards expressed in the above reply the BBC are far too judgmental when reporting murder, rape, theft or other crimes as fact and should pay more attention to the possibility that these, too, can be seen from different perspectives. Ultimately, it all depends whose side you are on!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Why they want Kennedy to go

There has been a concerted campaign to change the leadership of the Liberal Party, yet the demand is not coming from within the membership. It is, therefore, justified to ask the question as to who or what is behind these efforts. The short answer is that Charles Kennedy is an obstacle in the establishment plan to retain control of the body politics.

When Tony Blair changed old Labour into new Labour with the help of Peter Mandelson, not many suspected that this would mean the end of the Labour movement; today Blair is widely known as Bush’s poodle. For these career politicians in the service of the establishment political loyalty does not exist. Mandelson, now the embodiment of capitalism, started out as a member of the Young Communist League. There is no reason to believe Gordon Brown will be any different, but with the Iraq war and ultra-Thatcherite reforms at home the government’s credibility has been severely dented and the chances of Labour winning yet another term are slim.

This month the Tories have seen the beginning of the old Conservative Party to be revamped into the New Conservatives under David Cameron. It is no coincidence that Cameron was the leadership favourite and media darling. He is a neo-conservative (in the American meaning of the term) apologist of the war who compared Islamic terrorists to the Nazis. His true colours were first exposed by Neil Clark in the Guardian.

Nonetheless, the Tory party is far too discredited and tainted from its past to be considered a serious alternative to the Blairite nanny state government. And here is where the Liberals are destined to play there part unless they’re careful. Cameron has appealed to Liberals to enter into an alliance with him as his new Tory party is the real liberal centre ground. Charles Kennedy who is both critical of the Iraq war and conciliatory towards Muslims would, of course, have to go before such a Conservative-Liberal coalition could come about.

Just like David Davis provided the stepping stone for David Cameron, Sir Menzies Campbell might be set up as the initial challenger to Charles Kennedy. The ultimate beneficiaries might be the Euro-sceptic Nick Harvey or, more likely, Mark Oaten who argues for “tough liberalism” to replace the party’s soft image. Mandelson sure must be pleased at the latter’s voting record regarding gay rights.

Media commentators make a lot of Kennedy’s drinking habit these days. He might not be a match for Gordon Brown in the pub but the motivation in smearing his image is most certainly political. Boris Yeltzin’s habit did not stop him from being president, because the puppets displayed to the public as running the show are not selected on the basis of their personal integrity.

With the population becoming increasingly disillusioned about politics there is a real risk of the public turning its back on Westminster. A deal between the Tory’s and Liberals could make the two electable and ensure that the sham continues for a little longer. If the Liberals want to be a real alternative to the mirror images of Labour and Tories, they should be extremely weary about letting Kennedy go.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Illegality a mere occupational hazard

You might think that I am going to write about illegal immigrants working in industrialised nations under this heading, but I am talking about Occupation with a capital O – the military variety. Iraq is holding what is widely held as the first proper free elections in the country. Not long ago George Bush told us with regard to the Lebanon that you cannot have free elections in a country under occupation. Maybe he changed his mind.

There is, of course, such a thing as international law, at least on paper. Under international law an occupying force has responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of the people living under occupation but may not permanently change its political or economic system. This is because military aggression and occupation are illegal under international law, and the law, whilst acknowledging that de facto such situations exist, is designed not to reward the occupiers for having taken control of someone else’s country. Being in occupation of a country does not imply having sovereignty over it.

The “Allieds” (a more endearing term chosen by the occupiers for themselves), never having been too squeamish about breaking international law when going to war against Iraq, continued breaking the law by doing exactly what they were not supposed to do: rewriting the Iraqi constitution and altering its political and economic setup. A leopard does not change his spots, but as the same nations are constantly reminding others of their legal obligations they are very anxious to give their annexation of a sovereign state the mantle of legality by demonstrating public support. This is called bringing democracy to the Middle East.

The gamble is likely to pay off unless the Iraqis continue to put up armed resistance, for in the game of international politics only power has a voice. There are other, high-profile precedents to show that crime pays when perpetrated by a state power. The obvious one would be the Israeli occupation of Palestine which has been illegal for half a century yet providing a handsome return for the perpetrators. A less obvious example is Germany.

Most people don’t understand the common law, and even less so international law. Not wanting to believe that they are being conned they assume that the de facto authorities controlling them are legitimate. Most people would think that Germany has been a sovereign state since the end of the second world war – not so. Germany remained an occupied country until as late as 1990 when the two-plus-four treaty paved the way for reunification. Until then the Russians controlled East Germany and the Americans, British and French West Germany and they not only had their military bases there but also ultimate authority and full immunity from prosecution. If a German national was involved in a car accident with, let’s say, an American GI, the matter would be dealt with by the US military police, and the German police had no jurisdiction.

The situation changed in 1990 with the occupying forces, sorry, the “Allied”, agreeing to withdraw their troops and bestow sovereignty upon the state they had created after the war. This is merely a treaty amongst the occupiers, not a formal peace treaty with the occupied nation. The Allied argued that they did not want to make a peace treaty because this would require dealing with the issue of reparations. This, however, is merely a rhetoric nicety: Germany has already paid large sums in reparations and the issue could be dealt with be simply waving any further demands. The real reason why more than half a century after the end of the war no peace treaty has been signed is that such a treaty would have to be signed with the original sovereign nation state, in this case the German “Reich”.

The 2-plus-4 treaty clearly states that the new Germany is not the legal successor of the German Reich and that whilst the German Reich continues to hold legal sovereignty it lacks the organisation to exercise this sovereignty. Therefore the new German state, roughly covering the geographic extent of the former German Reich is bestowed de facto sovereignty over that territory by the occupiers. A peace treaty with the current German administration would not have been possible because this administration has no standing in international law as it does not legally represent the German people. Short of the German Reich acquiring the necessary “organisation”, however, and commencing a legal challenge to the current government installed in Germany with regard to sovereignty, the de facto continuation of a puppet government installed by the occupying powers is not likely to change.

What we see unfolding in Iraq is modelled on the so successful German blueprint. The occupying forces will not sign a peace treaty. They will stay in overall command until they have restructured and re-organised the country to their design, after which they will hand de facto sovereignty to a newly created puppet state outwardly legitimised by alleged popular support. Until such time the question whether the new Iraqi government will have the authority to ask the occupiers to leave is theoretical nonsense as it will only exist by permission and design of the occupiers with no real standing in international law. The German government had no say over the presence of foreign armies until the signing of the treaty in 1990.

One little problem remains for the gang leaders of international occupational terrorism: the Germans were glad the war was over and did not put up any resistance to the occupation. The cultural differences were not large enough for an objection to the American way of life to turn into armed rebellion, and largely the population bought into the American dream. This dream has since been exposed as a nightmare and there is no sign that the Iraqis are enthusiastically buying into it. The sales tactics, too, have changed. In Germany the Marshall plan ensured that submission to the new authorities was sugar coated. In today’s Iraq the aim is to plunder, not to build, and even basic sanitation needs have not been fulfilled after more than a year of occupation. Without the American-sponsored “Wirtschaftswunder” (economic miracle) the continued occupation might ultimately prove more hazardous than anticipated.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

What went wrong on 7-7

I’ve been asked to review the latest book by Crispin Black, not the fire-eating musician, but the British “intelligence expert” who has just authored “7-7 The London Bombs – What went wrong?”, published by Gibson Square.

Lt. Col. Crispin Black MBE worked as an intelligence expert for the Ministry of Defence until 2002. His responsibilities included briefing No 10, work for COBRA, the government’s emergency committee, and long-term strategic analysis for the Joint Intelligence Committee. He has written several columns for the Guardian, currently works for a private intelligence company and is intelligence expert for the BBC. You’d expect some sound analysis and decisive pointers from a man like this.

Sadly, authors of political analysis have become a bit like ambulance chasers. There is money to be made from disaster, and quickly publishing a title about a recent major event is one way of doing it. Books on 9/11 already proliferate, and so will books on 7-7.

On 96 pages Black tells us hardly anything we don’t already know. Nonetheless, the book is an interesting insight into the intelligence community in that his analysis is as flawed and shabby as the intelligence strategy he criticises. If people like him are our celebrated experts I hate to think what the competence level of the ordinary government or ministry of defence staff might be like. Or maybe Western society is simply very apt at letting the least profound members rise to the top. Bush,admired by Black, would be a case in point.

This may be due to vanity. Black gives us an example of his own vanity on page 22. A few hours after the London bombings he is travelling on a bus and “An American tourist said rather loudly to me ‘Are you CIA – my father worked for them?’ The smart embossed blue folder which I had been given on a visit to the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, US, was clearly visible in my bag.” If I was to hire an intelligence expert I would immediately disregard someone who feels the need to display his “credentials” so openly and would prefer to opt for someone practicing the good old British understatement.

Black is supportive of the intelligence services and the police as well as of the government in general, but criticises them for their lack of efficiency. He bemoans the rift between MI5 (the domestic secret service) and MI6 (the foreign one), calls for an overhaul of the intelligence setup and lends his voice to the need for a public enquiry into the failings of intelligence on 7-7, which has just been dismissed out of hand once more by home secretary Charles Clarke. His key assumption is that the attacks on London were made possible by “the so-called Covenant of Security”.

Black defines the “Covenant of Security” as “the long standing British habit of providing refuge and welfare to Islamist extremists on the unspoken assumption that if we give them a safe haven they will not attack on these shores. French intelligence call this policy – with contempt – ‘Londonistan’.”

The French, straight after the now disbanded Royal Ulster Constabulary, are his heroes and he has a whole chapter reserved for them entitled “The French Do It Better”. “In France you upset the police and intelligence services at your peril”, he writes and argues “We need to re-establish that kind of respect here for the office of our home secretary”.

The chapter was apparently written before the rioting in Parisian suburbs exposed the French model as woefully inadequate, and Crispin Black might need to eat his words with hindsight when he states that “the French know exactly at any time what is going on in the various arrondissements of Paris, down to the Islamist bookshop that is not paying its full taxes. It is information that may not of itself be immediately useful, but what it allows the French to do is to pick up on the slightest fluctuations in mood and gives early warnings of trouble ahead.”

The grammar of this last sentence is about as unrefined as the suggestions that tax evasion is a common amongst “Islamist” bookshops, but the point here is that the only solution Black has to offer for the reform of the British intelligence services has since proved to be a lot less attractive.

Black is a pragmatist and might have written the chapter differently had the riots preceded the printing stage of his book. His chapter on Iraq bears out the cynical approach probably quite characteristic of today’s politicians and “experts” alike. I was “an enthusiastic supporter of the war” he writes, “and remained so even after it became apparent that the intelligence books hat been ‘cooked’. … The tragedy of the Anglo-American intervention in Iraq is therefore in  my view not that it was illegal but that – with more fore-thought and better analysis – it could have worked.” Tony Blair would probably agree as would most petty criminals: There’s nothing wrong with crime if you get away with it, the problem is getting caught.

Black’s analysis in his book is best characterised by what it leaves out. He bemoans that Hussain Osman, one of the alleged 21 July bombers, “was able to escape from the country a few days later on the Eurostar after walking past his own wanted poster in Waterloo Station”, but he makes no mention at all of Haroon Rashid Aswat, a suspected mastermind of the 7 July bombings, who left the UK unhindered and whom the British security services protected from being apprehended by their US counterparts because of his having been an MI6 informant. He resurfaced after being arrested in Zambia, but the trail has since gone cold again. When Black also wonders that “there must, for example, have been something about the profile of Siddique Khan [one of the alleged London bombers] that turned off the natural and often aggressive inquisitiveness of MI5 and Special Branch – despite the fact that his name had emerged out of an investigation into a potential Islamist extremist activity”, maybe he should enquire with MI6 whether this was for the same reasons.

This is precisely why a proper enquiry is needed, however uncomfortable it may prove for the government. We are told that four suicide bombers detonated explosives in London. Because they are all dead nobody has been charged with this crime and there will be no trial. We have to take the word of the intelligence services for it – the same intelligence services who lied to us over Iraq – or the police – the  same police who lied to us about the Brazilian they shot on 22 July. Black mentions him briefly, blaming it all on the high stress levels amongst the police at the time but contradicts himself by on the one hand acknowledging that “members of a police firearms unit shot eleven bullets at close range (three missed) while restraining and pushing Mr de Menezes to the ground”, whilst claiming a page later: “You need to kill him so convincingly and quickly so that no twitching
in his body could possibly depress the switch (this is the reason behind what looked like overkill at Stockwell tube station).” The key words are “while restraining and pushing” – you can’t have it both ways.

All in all, Crispin Black’s book is an opportune riding of the waves helping to obscure the facts and muddying the waters. It fails to ask pertinent questions and provides hardly any answers. Let’s hope this expert sells his stock of books quickly as there will no doubt be many
more to follow. The only lesson to be learnt might be that the credentials of our expert commentators in the media are no indicator of their substance. They are, in fact, as useless as a keep-sake folder picked up during a visit to CIA headquarters.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Australia in denial

Australia, like the rest of the Western world, is in denial. A mob of drunken rioters attacked minorities in Sydney, shouting racist slogans and injuring over 30 people. The violence then spread to other areas where a man was stabbed and cars were damaged. Yet, prime minister Howard, whilst condemning the violence as “sickening” stated, “I do not accept that there is underlying racism in this country”.

The French, in spite of a fortnight of rioting, do not accept that they have a problem with racism either, nor do the British, but they all have created the sickening conditions where a small group of racists can incite a drunken mob and send them on the rampage for Arab or Paki bashing. They have consistently vilified immigrants, and particularly Muslims, as enemies of society and would-be terrorists. When a man pulled the headscarf off a Muslim lady in Sidney he probably thought he was doing his country a service. Throughout the Western world the Muslim symbol of decency is portrayed as a sign of militancy which needs to be removed. The French succeeded doing this by manipulating the law, the Aussies, after a few cans of lager, preferred to take the law into their own hands.

The British are even more cunning. They let women keep their scarves, happy that this makes it easier for them to be discriminated against, and even get the head of the government-sponsored race relations body, Trevor Phillips, to lecture Muslims on the need to integrate. The facts, however, remain: Until Western societies acknowledge that they have created an enemy image within, the tension will not ease. It smacks of nothing but hypocrisy to chastise people, drunken or not, for simply acting upon the sound bites they are fed daily by their political leadership. Of course, we could say that we get the leaders we deserve, in which case the blame falls squarely back on the whole of society.

Maybe what is really “sickening” is the inability of the so-called democratic process to remove bad and corrupt politicians from positions of leadership.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Pinter’s Powerful Pen

The pen is mightier than the sword and the truth will prevail. The prophet of Islam described as the greatest bravery to speak a word of truth in the face of a tyrant. Thank God that there are, in this world of spin doctors, still amongst us people with enough integrity to call a spade a spade. Frail and unable to travel the playwright Harold Pinter has delivered by video link a most powerful attack on the smug self-gratification of the “free world”. He starts by exploring issues of language and truth, how elusive the truth can be for the artist, how undesirable for the politician, yet how essential it remains for the survival of morality and mankind. I have selected a few quotes below that deserve taking note of:

“Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.”

“Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the post-war period: the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought. All this has been fully documented and verified.”

“But my contention here is that the US crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognised as crimes at all. I believe this must be addressed and that the truth has considerable bearing on where the world stands now. Although constrained, to a certain extent, by the existence of the Soviet Union, the United States' actions throughout the world made it clear that it had concluded it had carte blanche to do what it liked.”

“Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.”

“The United States no longer bothers about low intensity conflict. It no longer sees any point in being reticent or even devious. It puts its cards on the table without fear or favour. It quite simply doesn't give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant. It also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain.”

“Do we think about the inhabitants of Guantanamo Bay? What does the media say about them? They pop up occasionally – a small item on page six. They have been consigned to a no man's land from which indeed they may never return. At present many are on hunger strike, being force-fed, including British residents. No niceties in these force-feeding procedures. No sedative or anaesthetic. Just a tube stuck up your nose and into your throat. You vomit blood. This is torture. What has the British Foreign Secretary said about this? Nothing. What has the British Prime Minister said about this? Nothing. Why not? Because the United States has said: to criticise our conduct in Guantanamo Bay constitutes an unfriendly act. You're either with us or against us. So Blair shuts up.”
“The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading – as a last resort – all other justifications having failed to justify themselves – as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people.”
“We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it 'bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East'.”
“I know that President Bush has many extremely competent speech writers but I would like to volunteer for the job myself. I propose the following short address which he can make on television to the nation. I see him grave, hair carefully combed, serious, winning, sincere, often beguiling, sometimes employing a wry smile, curiously attractive, a man's man.
'God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden's God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam's God was bad, except he didn't have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don't chop people's heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don't you forget it.'”
“I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.
If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us – the dignity of man.”

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Another plane crashes into tower building

An Iranian military plane crashed into a tower block today causing significant damage. All 94 people on board are said to have died as did 34 in the building. Eyewitnesses said that the building was engulfed in smoke and dust and a huge fire swept through the block before the fire brigade arrived.

I am not trying to score points out of a tragedy. The loss of a plane and its crew and passengers is sad, and because of the size of the plane and the building casualties are greatly increased. However, there are some pertinent questions.

The Lockheed C-130, also known as the Hercules, is widely used as a military transport plane. It is a heavy machine, although not as heavy as a Boeing 767. The 10-storey apartment block, on the other hand, is a dwarf compared to New York skyscrapers. It certainly wasn’t built to withstand this kind of impact nor had the kind of steel support structure they did.

So a heavy plane crushes into a relatively weak building. It causes a fair amount of damage and heavy loss of life. But it does not bring the building structure down. There is fire and wreckage, but not the sudden collapse of a building in a matter of seconds we saw on our television screens on 11 September 2001. What we saw then is not normal.

Many scientists have since come out to state publicly that a re-enforced building like the New York towers could not simply collapse due to the impact by a plane or the heat generated from burning aircraft fuel. They allege that only an explosive charge inside the building could have had that effect, a planned demolition.

Today, amidst the tragedy in Iran, we have seen proof positive that planes don’t vaporise buildings. We’ve been told fibs about 9/11. When will we be told the full truth?

Monday, December 05, 2005

The blind leading the blind

The British government is spineless, and we are treated to another bout of obfuscation. It is becoming increasingly clear that the CIA were picking up alleged terror suspects from all over the world and flying them to secret prison locations in countries outside US jurisdiction. Britain was complicit in these illegal, clandestine operations, yet all our Foreign Secretary could do is write to the American administration for clarification. As if he didn't know.

Did those American planes land secretly in the UK? Is security at our military airports so poor that planes can land and take off without being noticed? Are not all movements recorded? Forget the so-called war on terror, if planes can come and go without being noticed.

This whole saga is slowly becoming yet another embarrassment for our government.  It is another example of the good old British double standard: “One rule for one and one rule for another”. The American and British governments have no qualms about breaking the law as long as they can justify it as fighting lawlessness or terrorism as they now call it.

If it was up to the British, nobody would ever have made this cowboy behaviour an issue. Thankfully, the Irish, Spanish, and now also the Germans, display a little more backbone.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The death penalty in Islam

The hanging of a drug courier in Singapore, and the 1000th execution by lethal injection in America has led to calls for the abolishment of the death penalty around the world.  The murder of a policewoman in Great Britain, on the other hand, made the former Metropolitan police Commissioner, Lord Stevens call for the death penalty to be re-introduced. Lord Stevens, by the way, is also the president of AOPA, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, of which I am a member.  It’s a small world, I know.

The debate about the rights or wrongs of the death penalty is clearly emotionally charged. Certain well reported events may shift the discussion to one or the other extreme. Decisions on whether the death penalty is appropriate, should be taken, irrespective of whether the victim of a murder is a member of the police force or an ordinary citizen, nor should the fact that the perpetrator can claim mitigating circumstances affect the policy as such, although there is always a case for clemency.

In Islamic law the death penalty has its place as a last resort. It is kept as a reminder that there are crimes so heinous that only the ultimate penalty will be a deterrent, and criminals are so hardened that sometimes only their removal will stop them from offending. It also takes account of the rights of the victims of crime. Let's not forget that those perpetrators about whose right to life we debate so passionately may themselves have caused numerous innocent victims to lose their lives. Hard drugs, for example, are not merely a means to pay for extortionate debt. They destroy the lives of addicts and the communities around them. A country like Singapore has the right to protect itself against such a menace.

The reason the death penalty is so dangerous in its application, however, is that it cannot be undone in case of a miscarriage of justice. Great care must be taken that the conviction is sound and no sentence is passed without due safeguards. The victim's family also have a right to accept compensation from the perpetrator instead or indeed use clemency and, of course, the state should only have the right to apply the ultimate sanction if it abides by all the rules itself. In the hands of a corrupt regime the death penalty becomes a tool of abuse. If a society wants to hold its citizens to account and rule out delinquency, it must first set an example of lawfulness itself.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Working longer for less

The debate is on in the UK - and probably the rest of the industrialised world - as to what we should do with our pensioners. We live longer and cannot afford paying for their early and comfortable retirement. Whether the older generation have made a valuable contribution to society and deserve respect and dignity in return is not part of the discussion. It’s all about economics. This is a materialistic society, after all. More than that, however, the debate is seriously flawed in its basic premises.

Industrialisation and material advancement were once thought to be the panacea for all of humanity’s woes. Machines were to do all the work and people were to reap the benefit of their (the machines’) labour. There is no doubt that machines have taken the sting out of many jobs and have replaced human effort, be it in the household or in the factory. But they have not freed up their human masters to pursue leisurely tasks. Instead, they have enslaved them.

In the home, domestic equipment has freed women from doing the housekeeping only to force them to seek paid employment. In the workplace machines have reduced the requirement of human input and forced people into unemployment. The predicted prosperity has not become true for most of the citizens of the industrialised world. To the contrary, life has become more rushed, more stressful, less satisfying.

This is not the fault of the machines. The reason for this disastrous outcome is a skewed financial system where money becomes an objective in itself instead of being a means to an end. In the early parts of the last century the protagonists of the social credit movement made it abundantly clear that if machines were doing the work but were not being paid for it, then the people who were no longer doing the work and were not being paid for it either could hardly afford the products produced by the machines. They argued that every citizen should receive a dividend to share in the wealth created by automation.

In the materialist world, however, man is only worth as much as he produces, although, after some means-testing, he may be given a pittance to keep him alive and out of poverty. Children may be future earners, but old-age pensioners are a burden and dispensable as far as the materialist economy is concerned.

The way we run our economy is a huge con-trick by the bankers. Everything is debt-financed, from the bread we eat to the houses we live in. Food is shipped around the world, products are imported from far-off places, whilst a country’s local produce is being exported - all in order to increase our dependencies. The banks - and unfortunately most people are not clued up on this - do not finance economic activity with their own funds or those of their depositors. They have been given the right by government to create new credit out of thin air and then charge for it.

If a bank creates a pound in new credit but wants two pounds back over five or ten years, where is the extra pound going to come from? At an average interest rate of 5% (and we’ve got much higher rates now) the compound interest on a single pound lent in year one of our calendar would today, two millennia later, be worth five thousand balls of gold each weighing the weight of the earth. It is lunacy, it is unsustainable. Governments hope to postpone the melt-down by creating economic growth. But nature does not permit unlimited growth which becomes a cancer that eventually destroys its host. If it wasn’t for wars as a valve to let off steam the economy would have collapsed a lot earlier.

Have you ever wondered why there is always more money for war than there is to spend on peace-time benefits? Or how come that these fabulous banks have more money than all the countries in the world put together, seeing that there isn’t a single country now that is not indebted to them? They have obtained their wealth by fraudulent means. First they corrupted our politicians and governments plus the media, and once they had them in their pockets it was plain sailing. Instead of issuing a nation’s money supply themselves, as Abraham Lincoln argued they should, governments gave that authority to the banks and then bought it back from them at a surcharge. Our high taxes are the result of the banks collecting the spoils.

The pension debate, therefore, is a red herring. Short of a thorough shake-up of the financial system by which we are enslaved we are heading for a rough ride into the future.