Category Archives: ‘Terror’

Shock, horror: UK government uses state broadcaster to broadcast propaganda

This story, which The Guardian broke yesterday, whill no doubt fill all freedom lovers with fear. Could it really be true that the British government, the PM of which has openly called for more resources to be dedicated to ‘propaganda’ in the media, the same government which sacked the entire board of directors of the BBC after the Corporation had the temerity to suggest they’d misled the public, would really use the state broadcasting service to broadcast specifically anti-Al Qaeda propaganda? Surely not!?!

As any fule know, the BBC has been used for this purpose for decades (since forever, basically). In many ways, there’s not much wrong with it: anti-Al Qaeda messages are hardly harmful. But intentionally misleading people (like when they promoted the idea of Al Qaeda as some sort of cogent, identifiable enemy), is.

The BBC deny that this edition of Analysis was influenced by the government. So where, exactly, does ‘security correspondent’ Frank Gardner get his information from? I bet you a tenner that when he’s talking about people as difficult to meet and assess as Al Qaeda, his mates at SIS or FCO give him a pretty good briefing. And why not? It’s not like he’s going to go to Waziristan himself to ask Osama if he’s on hist last legs.

But it’s not just the ‘war on terror’ which the British government operates via the BBC. Most official foreign policy positions are mirrored in BBC coverage. While it is fashionable to call the BBC ‘biased’ (normally because they report the deaths of Palestininan women and children, the bloody Trots!), in fact the Corporation is inherently tied to the establishment, and particularly when it comes to foreign policy. This is why the headline on Radio 4’s PM programme yesterday wasn’t “Is Russia redrawing the world map?” but “Russia redraws the world map” – exactly the UK’s official line, and a far stronger headline than employed by The Guardian or Channel 4.

That anyone at the BBC or the UK government would try to deny what is an obvious, even understandable, state of affairs is hilarious. Almost as much as anyone thinking this is news.

Updated: Iraq war killed more than Saddam

A depressing article at The Guardian discusses the death-toll of the Iraq war, in which between 700,000 and 1.5 million people have died. All studies into the human impact of the war except the Iraq Body Count now estimate a death-toll greater than the total killed by Saddam Hussein in 30 years of dictatorship.

There’s your moral intervention.

UPDATE: Bush has given a highly upbeat speech about how it was all worth it, despite “a high cost in lives and treasure” – whatever the hell that is supposed to mean. I mean seriously, fuck. Treasure? What the hell is the man on about?

Will Nick Cohen, who flip-flopped on the war before settling in favour of indiscriminate suffering and death (tough decision so he must have been right… right?) – will Cohen also give a speech to say “Non, je ne regrette rien”…? No doubt it’ll be rammed with ‘thought experiments’ and other nonsense, though hopefully not references to ‘treasure’.

Senior US officials implicated in nuclear black market

An interesting post at Lenin’s Tomb asks why more isn’t being made of Sibel Edmonds’s claims about corruption in the US government.

State Secrets laws don’t permit her to talk to a judge about it, much less a television reporter, and much of the media has avoided looking too intensely at the matter. Apparently, she knows that several high-placed American officials put US nuclear materials on the black market, some of which were going to Pakistani secret police individuals with connections to ‘Al Qaeda’.

By the way, lots of work on at the moment… I’m still working on a few longer posts though.

Air travel and dehumanisation

We had a wonderful weekend in England. London is a fantastic city where I’d like to spend more time. But our departure from Stansted airport did much to cement  certain views I’ve held about air travel for some time now.

Modern air travel is cheap and quick. It also used to be fairly simple but in the last year or so, it has become an increasingly complicated way of travelling. The trouble started with check-in. We joined the queue for our flight shortly after check-in opened. We spent about an hour and a half queueing because of the ineptitude of the woman at the easyJet desk. She was phenomenally slow and left her post for nearly half an hour after claiming that a passenger with dark skin didn’t have the correct documentation. His Spanish passport was eventually, grudgingly accepted and the queue continued to shuffle on at the rate of one passenger served every five minutes.

A sign by the check-in desk warned passengers to allow at least 40 minutes to clear security – making clear that the onus is on the passenger to make sure that (s)he gets to the gate on time. In this case, though we had joined the queue as it began, we cleared security with about 10 minutes to spare. At least five passengers toward the end of the queue checked in but were then delayed in the security check phase. They were kicked off the flight and the flight’s captain gave us a patronising lecture about leaving enough time to get onto the plane. Perhaps he didn’t know that the five passengers whose luggage had to be removed from the flight were delayed because of one of his own colleague’s ineptitude.

Next, we approached the security check. This is the biggest recent change to modern air travel. Apparently, current rules (introduced in the wake of various terrorist attacks and attempts), insist that every passenger be put through a series of humiliating trials which test whether they’re a terrorist or not. Herded like cattle on their way to the slaughterhouse (or at the very least, the dipping tank), passengers wait in line until shouted at to proceed. Queues appear and disappear as stewards marshall people this way and that like shepherds call sheep. Belts must be removed, jumpers and jackets too. Personal possessions are laid out for all to see in black metal trays for the x-ray.

Next, we are forced to walk guiltily through a metal detector so inefficient that it failed to detect my wedding ring, 2lbs of coins and bulky metal watch which I had elected not to put through the x-ray. The girl in front of me had three bottles of sun cream which were confiscated, obviously because they might have been used for the production of high explosive. After the indignity of dressing myself again in public, I was herded down the next roped-off passageway only to be told to remove my shoes. By this point, I was getting really annoyed. “For Christ’s sake!”, I said as I pulled my trainers off – all the while being told by the woman at the shoe checking desk that I should ‘move out of the way’. This woman obviously noticed my irritation and said to me in a very obviously challenging way, “You seem very angry, sir”.

That short sentence made it clear that the exhibition of emotion of any sort was suspicious and deserved being challenged. I have no doubt whatsoever that if I had remonstrated with her over that fact that only half of the passengers were being screened in this way (the rest were allowed to just walk straight past), I would have been questioned – and probably by one of the police officers armed with huge semi-automatic rifles.

My problem here is not with security per se. I’m aware that there’s a small number of people out there who want to blow aeroplanes up. I’m also aware, however, that 50% of passengers could just walk through the shoe-checking phase. That I carried loads of metal through the metal detector without it noticing. That I could buy a tennis racket or bottle after security which could realistically be used as a weapon on an aeroplane. That it’s by no means inconceivable that a terrorist network could infiltrate airport shops and make sure that a bottle of water, perfume or shampoo that actually contained the ingredients for explosive were placed on shelves for the right person to buy. In short, I don’t believe that the security in modern airports is particularly effective. It still contains multiple holes which could easily be exploited by a committed terrorist cell.

In truth, I believe that these security checks we all have to undergo are part of a campaign of psychological warfare, the object of which is not to protect us but to cow us. The series of controls act more than anything else as steps in a process of dehumanisation and humiliation which never fail to conjure up the feeling of the emotions we might experience as we queue for access to the camps.

AVT demo in Madrid: pure class, again

The BBC deigned to report on the AVT’s demonstration in Madrid at which between 7,000 and 110,000 activists marched against the early release of José Ignacio de Juana Chaos, after he wrote threatening articles which named some judges. What’s interesting about the way the protesters and the BBC presented this demo was that it was somehow to do with de Juana Chaos’s previous offence, the murder of 25 people during his career in ETA. Ostensibly, however, that was not the aim of the march at all. After all, de Juana Chaos has served 18 years of his sentence for that crime and, were he any other prisoner would be out early. So yet again, a demonstration called against one thing ends up being really about another thing completely. Or a multiplicity of things, as there were the usual banners around alluding to some kind of Zapatero involvement in 11M.

The AVT has no credibility as a politically independent pressure group.

It was nice to see the 7,000 enjoying the sunshine in Madrid’s streets. Nice to see them waving their flags (some of them replete with fascist emblems). Nice to see their Nazi salutes while they sang the anthem of the armed forces. There’s no doubt about it: the AVT rent-a-mob are a classy bunch.

One more thing: does anyone have any recent opinion poll stats on this topic? I haven’t been able to find anyone but was reliably informed by the BBC’s north American Spain correspondent that ‘the vast majority of Spaniards are against de Juana Chaos’s release’. That’s fine if it’s backed up with statistics… I just can’t find them. Much obliged to anyone who can enlighten me.

Scratching a bad rash

I’m getting a bit sick of the design and layout arond here. Thinking about a change. Also, the content: more righteous indignation, less paranoid speculation. Or was it the other way around?

Actually, I’ve been reading Nick Cohen’s interesting criticism of the left in today’s Observer. He makes a number of salient points in his dissection of everything that is wrong today with liberal-left politics and its general failure to adapt to the 21st century. I don’t agree with him on everything. But he does remind me why I decided some time ago never to align myself with any political group or party because there are simply none who seem to have the right approach to things. Spain is a classic example: I’m not a Catalan nationalist but I’m sympathetic with those who would like more autonomy for Catalonia. At the same time, I couldn’t support any of the parties who push for greater autonomy here because their memberships and leaders seem to be conniving, divisive pricks to a man. Besides, if greater autonomy means more laws banning me from drinking calimotxo or Xibeca and smoking weed at the beach with my mates, then perhaps it’s not such a hot tip?

The Iraq debacle is another good example (and this is what Nick Cohen is focused on): I’m naturally a Labour man but how can I vote for that party when Tony Blair still insists that it was the right thing to do. It wasn’t. Saddam was an awful, murderous bastard but the hell which has been unleashed on ordinary Iraqis does not justify his removal. Nick Cohen’s main argument seems to be that the left has lost its way because in its opposition to illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, curtailed human rights at home, rendition and Guantanamo, it has failed to condemn the evil which so called ‘neo-conservatives’ are determined to defeat. There’s a lot of ammunition for this argument and those employing it get a very real thrill from expounding the claim that the left wing is stuck in a bygone age when it could rely on being morally superior and nothing more. And it is true that numerous anti-American and anti-Semite worms have crawled out of the woodwork just in time to make us all look bad.

But the problem with Cohen’s position is that all he’s doing is claiming the moral high ground for the neocons. Basically, he seems happy to tell the left that they don’t recognise that the world has changed and things aren’t as clear cut as they once were, while at the same time he’s stating quite firmly that this is a simple case of moral imperative: we had to remove Saddam at any cost. Clearly, he wants to have his cake and eat it.

He continues by drawing attention to the millions of left wingers who demonstrated against ‘the overthrow of a fascist government’. To emphasise his point, he makes trite references to Rome, Madrid and Berlin – as if the residents of cities which had once lived under the shadow of a dictator should somehow ‘know better’. The problem is that opposing the war was never the same as appeasing Saddam. Who cares if he was happy about the protests? The point of the demos was to let our governments know that we weren’t going to be hoodwinked into an illegal war which would end up killing tens of thousands of civilians. And we were absolutley right.

The problem for those who were (and, carazily, still are) in favour of the war is that they really did think they were going to get things over and done with pretty quickly. They didn’t realise that they were going to visit on Iraq a state of murderous destruction not seen since the dark days of Saddam’s purges. Or if they did, they didn’t care.

The point of all this is, I suppose, to say that in the case of Iraq, there is no moral high ground. We on the left had nothing to suggest in the way of alternatives to getting rid of Saddam. We need the oil, the Iraqis need democracy and the world is a better place without that awful man. At the same time, supporters of the war must accept that they have made a colossal mistake in Iraq, causing the deaths of many tens of thousands of civilians, enraging an already volatile muslim community, establishing the dangerous precedent of pre-emptive attack and handing vast strategic power to a much more dangerous country: Iran.

In the end, Nick Cohen’s article is more or less spot on, insofar as it discusses the facts of the dispersal of the left-wing in Britain… (I only wish he’d write another about modern conservatism). While there are aspects of his argument which I find I can’t agree with, he’s correct about two important things: the left wing has lost its way horribly and we have failed to display any reasonable degree of solidarity with the Iraqis: the true victims of all this mess. Think on.

PP says No! to peace

Understandable, perhaps, when the demonstration was organised by trade unions… but what possible reason could the Association of Victims of Terrorism have for not attending the march? They are, after all, a nominally apolitical group. In the past, observers have been heavily criticised for suggesting that the AVT has become little more than a grassroots PP activism unit… but it’s all beginning to look a bit more obvious now.

The AVT’s website is dominated by criticism of the Socialist government and a banner which describes the ‘Civic rebellion’ to be ‘unstoppable’. In fact, looking through their site, it’s tough work finding a single example of what the AVT actually does to help victims of terrorism. I’ve been told that even if the AVT has strayed from its original aims, it was founded in good faith. I find this difficult to believe. The whole movement is based on a simple lie: that the necessarily random victims of Basque terrorism, and their families, could somehow all subscribe to the same complex, right-of-centre political philosophy.

One of my favourite sections of the AVT site is their ‘Culture and Entertainment’ section, which features several books about terrorism, Zapatero’s ‘Spain, state in emergency’ and conspiracy theories about the 11-M bombings. Great reading, I’m sure. Sad, though, that innocent and trusting folk all over the country are being invited – with some cojouling -to donate their money to these people who allow political prejudice to get in the way of peace.

ERC: most evil people in history?

It has come to my attention recently that there has been something of a campaign of misinformation recently concerning the Catalan nationalist political party, Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya. I feel that as someone committed to truth over opinion, sophism and rhetoric, it falls to me to refute these claims and redress the balance somewhat.

Myth 1: ERC are a misguided bunch of beardy nationalists who are no more threat to Catalonia’s future than the long dead Gen. Franco.

Response: This is a complete lie. Anyone who knows anything about ERC knows that they are the most dangerous political party in existence today. Worse than the Basque Communist Party, worse than the Galician PP, worse even than CiU. ERC hold as a central party commitment the subjugation of all non Catalan speakers, the construction of a 30M wall all along the region’s border with Spain, a complete boycott of Madrid and that the Olympics should be held in Vic – even though they were only held in Barcelona 14 years ago!

Myth 2: ERC have other policies besides a neo-fascist Catalan superstate.

Response: This is a complete lie. Anyone who knows anything about the leadership of ERC knows not to trust a man with such a well-groomed moustache. Remember when Carod-Rovira snuck off to speak with Basque nazis in France? Well, the whole story wouldn’t have come out if it weren’t for brave officers from Spain’s ‘intelligence’ services taking time out from not monitoring Al Qaeda operatives who instead decided to spy on an elected official. And thank God they did! If he hadn’t been rumbled, it is believed that Rovira’s plan was to sell a field in Manresa to the terrorists so that they could use it as a training camp.

Myth 3: The boycott against Catalan products was organised as a response to Catalonia’s proposed new Estatut by a bunch of neo-fascist pricks with nothing better to do.

Response: This is a complete lie. Anyone who knows anything about Spain knows that the real neo-fascist thugs are the ones proposing to increase Catalonia’s autonomy from Spain via democratic measures. Besides, the boycott had nothing to do with a climate of confrontation during which the head of Spain’s army threatened to invade Catalonia. The reason brave Spanish patriots boycotted Cava is because Carod-Rovira called on Catalans not to support Madrid’s bid to host the Olympics – even though it’s over 14 years since they were held in Barcelona! Suggestions that the boycott was linked to a tiny group of concerted radicals who operated a suave ‘word-of-mouth’ campaign via email, internet forums and text messages are totally unfounded.

Myth 4: It’s disingenous to refer to ERC as ‘nationalist socialist’ at every single opportunity, clearly suggesting that they are the natural successors of the Nazis.

Response: This is a complete lie. Anyone who knows anything about political parties should know that ERC are a left-wing nationalist political party and that when the Nazis called themselves ‘national socialists’ they weren’t lying and trying to trick Germany’s large number of uneducated but left-leaning industrial workers: they were just telling it like it was! So what if it’s CiU who have officially stated that they don’t want any more muslims coming to Catalonia? So long as no one else reports that, we’ll be able to pin it on ERC within a week!

In closing: I hope I’ve done something to assuage some of your doubts about the true nature of Esquerra Republicana. The final piece of information is of key importance though: even the PP are better than them.

Think about that as you watch your neighbours go to the polls on Wednesday.

Why does everyone hate the BBC?

There is a widespread trend in the so-called ‘blogosphere’ which consists of bashing the BBC for an alleged bias behind their coverage of home and international news. Sites like ‘Biased BBC’, ‘Busting BBC Bias’, and several others are dedicated to highlighting a perceived anti-conservative or more often anti-Israeli agenda.

Analysis of state-run news agencies is important. I have witnessed plenty of occasions when the BBC has taken up its ‘public service – unite the people’ mantle with a bit too much enthusiasm. Golden Jubilees and other uninteresting royal events leap to mind.

However, I have never detected anything in their coverage of the Israel-Palestine or Israel-Lebanon which amounted to anti-Israeli bias. Every news report I’ve watched over the last few weeks has matched Fox News for the amount of content broadcast from the Israeli side of the frontier, spending plenty of time talking to Israeli civilians in shelters, inspecting damage to houses and shops, asking for the opinions of shoppers and holidaymakers in Tel Aviv. All of this was done in a sensitive, humane way with absolutely no hint of malice or put-downs on the part of the BBC.

Of course, the BBC also showed images of devastation in southern Lebanon. Blocks of flats which had collapsed, two-storey-deep holes in Beirut, dead women and children. Several times, it was noted that the BBC weren’t allowed to enter Hezbollah-controlled zones. It was made clear at these times that this might have been because Hezbollah had ‘command and control bunkers’ or ‘armed fighters’ on the streets. Continue reading Why does everyone hate the BBC?