Tag Archives: Afghanistan

10 Things WikiLeaks Should Tell Us About

I’ve not written anything about WikiLeaks recently because I’ve found the whole circus surrounding Julian Assange rather dizzying. Reading the commentariat on Guardian Cif has hardly helped my feverish state of mind over the last few days and I must admit that I found myself beginning to loathe my fellow man for a moment. That moment has passed, I’m glad to say.

Suffice to say, I do think that Julian Assange should probably answer these charges in Sweden, but I also have the feeling that this is indeed part of an obvious and concerted campaign to ‘get him’. None of this dizziness, however, takes away from the fact that WikiLeaks has been serving up some interesting, if hardly surprising, morsels in the diplomatic cables episode [this blog referenced WikiLeaks a couple of years back regarding the leaked BNP membership list – much more exciting]. Hearing that China isn’t a monolithically stupid country convinced that the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea is a bastion of like-minded souls against the world didn’t take my breath away. Nor did the revelation that Putin’s as corrupt as the Church, or that pressure was brought to bear on Spain regarding the Jose Couso case. Sadly, these are slightly depressing truths that we all kind of knew already, just confirmed in dull, bureaucratic language.

To cheer myself up, I’ve been thinking of some things WikiLeaks could reveal in the future. Here are mine. You can share yours in the comments…

  1. Memos that prove me right about there being little or no evidence of WMDs in Iraq prior to the war, and that Blair misled parliament.
  2. Stuff about the banks and how they’re all bastards. Ideally some memos proving that they laugh at the rest of us for funding their rescue. Because I’m sure they do.
  3. Something about alien life. I’m not a conspiracy nut, but after the important-but-nowhere-near-as-exciting-as-it-might-have-been NASA announcement last week, it would be great to read.
  4. Categorical confirmation that Aznar and the PP intentionally misled the country over 11M.
  5. Anything that makes Dick Cheney look even madder than he already does (like, he picked out crowns for himself and Bush or something).
  6. Clear evidence of corruption in FIFA, UEFA and European leagues.
  7. Anything they have on Dr. David Kelly. I more or less accept the suicide story but the whole case stinks.
  8. Proof that 9/11 ‘truthers’ are led by a 7-foot lizard.
  9. Material covering the huge increase in opium crop since the beginning of the Afghanistan war, which companies are profiting and by how much.
  10. Anything at all to do with Catalan politics. Just so we can see how special they feel.

How about you? What would you like to see revealed by WikiLeaks?

In praise of reason

We live in confusing times… I remember only a few years ago watching the famous BBC documentaries about the Taleban’s insane regime in Afghanistan – their destruction of Buddhist monuments, their repression of women, their official homophobia. The era of the Taleban was as absurd as a Monty Python sketch, with its beard laws and its choice of executions (stoning or have a wall pushed over on you). We marvelled, I remember, at the way these twisted individuals had managed to overrun a whole country with their crazy beliefs.

The Catholic Church in England has little in common with the Taleban. While they are the representatives of a foreign theocracy, they are never to be seen toting AK-47s at airports, as the Taleban were wont to do. But they are, in their own little way, attempting to subvert the UK’s comittment to equality of rights and opportunities by attempting to derail legislation which would force them to allow same-sex couples to adopt children from Catholic adoption agencies with the same rights as hetrosexual couples.

Their argument, unconvincing as it is, is that the new legislation will interfere with the rights of Catholics to ‘make a moral judgement’, and thus denies them their human rights. A BBC presenter referred to this as ‘a clash of rights’ today on 5Live, as if we were dealing with two sets of faith-based beliefs which were in opposition. That is not the case. What we’re dealing with is the clash of basic human rights of equality against the traditional right of religious folks to exercie their prejudice as they like.

There’s no doubt that the Catholic adoption agencies have helped a lot of children and a lot of couples over the years. But it would be wrong for the government to cave in to demands by a religious group to legalise their dislike for gay partnerships. Modern society should not have to make allowances for the superstitions and prejudices of pressure groups.

On a different tack, I once again offer the marvellous badscience.net as a vanguard against those who would challenge reason and scientific practice in the quest for a cheap buck. More of this, please.

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.

‘Islamism’ in Swansea University

The Guardian reports today that many universities across the UK house extremist and Islamist groups which ‘pose a threat to national security’. Swansea University is listed as one of the institutions where Islamist groups have been found to operate by professor Anthony Glees, head of Brunel University’s centre for intelligence and security studies.

While I haven’t been a student at Swansea for some time now, it’s true that there was a fair degree of student activism on campus. I took part in campaigns for the abolishment of university tuition fees, to prevent the closure of university departments and on behalf of the Socialist Workers’ Party against the war in Afghanistan.

At around the same time, a motion was put before the student union council to boycott Israeli academics and institutions because of acts being committed by the Israeli state against Palestinians. These were the days of Ramallah and Jenin where crimes against humanity were carried out by the Israeli army.

The main critics of the motion to boycott Israeli academics and institutions were American and Jewish students, understandably fearful that the left wing of the student body were turning to an anti-Semitic position. A synagogue was damaged in an attack in 2002 – and though it was never proven that this was connected with Muslim or socialist students – the suggestion was that the socialists had helped to create a culture of hatred in the town.

Naturally, I think that this was the wrong conclusion. At a time when the BNP were trying to claw their way into local politics, race riots were taking place in Bradford and Leeds, the US had started its racist war against Muslims in Asia, there were a lot of violent and malicious incidents occurring. I believe that the intellectual boycott brought about by the student union was one of the best considered political acts I have witnessed. It was absolutely not anti-Semitic, and I find it personally insulting that whenever there is any discussion of the wrongs that have been committed on either side of the Palestinian conflict, accusations to that effect will be made.

The reason I have brought this up is that I have a sneaking suspicion that Swansea’s ‘extremism’ and ‘Islamic’ will be found to be intrinsically linked with the boycott of Israeli academics and institutions – which just isn’t the truth. As ought to be expected in the climate of fear that the British government is doing its best to create, any free thinking or direct action is automatically challenged as a threat to security.

Anyone familiar with Swansea university, Swansea City Council and the Swansea Police’s attitude towards leftist student activism will already be aware of the attempts made to silence lecturers, terrorise students and prevent demonstrations. It seems that the next attempt might be to refer to Muslim student activists as ‘terrorists’. This is exactly the sort of thing warned about before, throughout and after my brief time in Swansea.

The defamation of any politicised student or worker body has reached such a degree of acceptance in the UK that we may well have gone beyond the point of no return. It’s imperative that anyone who can, speaks out against this attitude.