Hello there. First, the usual caveat, what I say carries no weight. I am not right or speaking the truth, etc. What is required is perspective, I believe. And perhaps a carefully developed moral philosophy, not the one handed out at birth by the Western tradition.
Okay, the first thing then, would be to note some simple facts regarding Iraq and Afghanistan.
I have pointed this out previously, but Iraq (or Mesopotamia) was supposedly the site of the first chemical weapons attack (tear gas) in Middle East history. The date was 1920. This met with the enthusiastic support of Winston Churchill, who was then Secretary of State for Air, who noted this:
“I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes. The moral effect should be so good that the loss of life should be reduced to a minimum. It is not necessary to use only the most deadly gasses: gasses can be used which cause great inconvenience and would spread a lively terror and yet would leave no serious permanent effects on most of those affected.” [Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alleged_British_use_of_chemical_weapons_in_Mesopotamia_in_1920]
A lively terror, indeed. This same man now adorns the UK’s 5 pound notes, the announcement coming as the Western powers tell Bahar Assad of Syria that his use of chemical weapons will represent ‘a red line’ that will trigger an intervention.
It might be ill-mannered to speculate upon just whose blood Churchill was offering in that quotation.
Prior to the first Gulf War, crippling sanctions had been imposed. 500,000 Iraqi children were thought to have died as a result. These sanctions emanated from the same body, the United Nations (in this case, its Security Council), that propagated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. (Article 3, UDHR)
As if the first Iraq War was not sufficient, a new one was initiated in 2003. A study published in The Lancet estimates that it resulted in close to 1 million excess deaths, along with millions of refugees and internally displaced persons. [link]
The Guardian has recently run a piece on how the ‘dirty wars’ of Latin America were brought to Iraq in the person of Richard Steel. [link] This led to the training of paramilitaries, who helped foment the ethnic violence that unleashed a polarizing civil war that continues to rage. [link]
Aftermath of an Iraqi car bomb attack in a week that has left 230 dead
We should also note the horrors of Abu Graihb and the US/CIA construction of a worldwide network of secret prisons for torture and indefinite detentions. The visible side of this is Guantanamo, which itself had a secret prison within the complex (this is an essential story which appears to have received little attention). [link]
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. (Article 5, UDHR)
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile. (Article 9, UDHR)
Whenever talk turns to individual victims of evil, as it does with the Woolwich Operation today, I think of poor Baha Mousa, the Iraqi hotel receptionist. Here is what he looked like in life:
And here is what he looked like after being beaten to death by members of the British armed forces:
Seven soldiers were charged with his death, one pleaded guilty; he served one year in jail and was dismissed from the army.
I wonder how many people would even know this man’s name, if you stopped them on a UK High Street. FaceBook censored my attempt today to link to the above picture on my timeline.
Besides murdering hotel receptionists, the UK participated fully in the US policy of extraordinary rendition, despite numerous denials. [link] One man who was kidnapped and tortured (along with his wife) is now a leading political figure in the new Libya. He wants answers, an apology, and a single UK pound of compensation.
Abdel Hakim Belhaj would like one pound and an apology from Jack Straw and Sir Mark Allen (senior MI6 officer)
The impact of the UK state’s crimes on the criminal justice system have been grave. Secret trials are becoming the norm. [link]
Belhaj says he has no wish to see his case enter the secret court system, which the justice and security bill seeks to introduce.
“I have been a victim of a secret trial before, in Gaddafi’s Libya. I did not get to see any evidence or to question any witnesses against me. For all I know there were no witnesses. I was then sentenced to death.”
(The Libyan coup also included elements of Al-Qaida, which I will return to).
Last, but not least, drones. The US has engaged in drone strikes in the following countries: Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia. So far, estimated deaths stand at 4,000 [incredible resource on drones] The US has engaged in the deceit of counting any males of fighting age as ‘militants’ regardless of whether there is any evidence of this. [link]. The US has also, without charging them with a crime, engaged in the assassination by drone of 4 of its own citizens, one of whom was only 16 years old, [link] The UK Ministry of Defence is drone-sharing with the US.
There is possibly no greater menace to public health than the operation of drones. This is certainly a means of inducing terror in a population. As has been reported:
Community members, mental health professionals, and journalists interviewed for this report described how the constant presence of US drones overhead leads to substantial levels of fear and stress in the civilian communities below. One man described the reaction to the sound of the drones as “a wave of terror” coming over the community. “Children, grown-up people, women, they are terrified. . . . They scream in terror.” Interviewees described the experience of living under constant surveillance as harrowing. In the words of one interviewee: “God knows whether they’ll strike us again or not. But they’re always surveying us, they’re always over us, and you never know when they’re going to strike and attack.” Another interviewee who lost both his legs in a drone attack said that “[e]veryone is scared all the time. When we’re sitting together to have a meeting, we’re scared there might be a strike. When you can hear the drone circling in the sky, you think it might strike you. We’re always scared. We always have this fear in our head.” [from Living Under Drones project]
With regards to Afghanistan, the British (in the form of the for-profit corporation, The British India Company) initiated the first Anglo-Afghan War in 1839 (1839-1842). Its culmination was the almost total destruction of Elphinstone’s army during its retreat. The only man who made it to the safety of Jalalabad is Dr William Brydon, pictured below:
Not content with total defeat, the British fought two further wars in Afghanistan.
In the second, an Afghan mutiny saw the British garrison at Bala Hissar besieged and most of those within annihilated.
The final Anglo-Afghan War was fought in 1919 and was a brief engagement that confirmed the boundary between India and Afghanistan.
It would seem the British can’t contain their penchant for war. Is their aggressiveness due to their Christian creed? The centuries may pass, yet seemingly, they never learn, they never change.
I would note, equally, that Afghanistan has at no point in its history invaded the British Isles, and appears unlikely to do so. This is despite the latest British invasion of their country, which began in 2001, and was ostensibly a response to the attacks of 9/11. A glance at the British Army website today showed the following front page message:
Small text. The British Army is no place for bifocals.
We’re getting into the meat of it now. Al-Qaida.
Firstly, Al-Qaida may have actually been a CIA database of fighters linked to the mujahadin. I use the term because it is in common circulation, not because I endorse the idea that there is/has ever been, any actual organization that has perceived itself to be Al-Qaida.
Be that as it may, we can still run with the Al-Qaida narrative, because as we see, even today the British Army and Western leaders continue to justify their war-making foreign policy through recourse to 9/11 and the need to fight/destroy Al-Qaida.
Now, let me address some problems with this:
Libya – The marvellous band of ‘rebels’ that received NATO air support to overthrow Gaddafi (plunging Libya into a still-deepening spiral of violence) contained Al-Qaida elements, as the Telegraph noted [link]. It’s worth noting what the chap in this story says:
Mr al-Hasidi insisted his fighters “are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists,” but added that the “members of al-Qaeda are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader”
These rebels were also saluted by UK Foreign Secretary William Hague, who found them “inspiring” [link], while Senator John McCain went as far as describing them as “his heroes” during a visit to Benghazi. [link]
Benghazi brings us on to Syria (why? One theory has it that the CIA was running arms looted from Gaddafi to the Syrian rebels, as well as encouraging muslim fighters to transfer to the new front).
Syria – Just today, in the aftermath of the Woolwich Operation, the US was pressuring the EU to relax its embargo against arming the Syrian rebels. [link] We know for a fact that these rebels are full of Al-Qaida. [link]
With Syria, the media has struggled to develop the kind of smokescreen necessary to permit a NATO intervention. Instead, as I noted at the start, chemical weapons are invoked as the pretext for military action, and we rather come full circle, as the West defends ‘civilized values’ in the face of barbarism, whereas, when it suits, we ‘take off our gloves’ and give the savages a taste of the only thing they understand, a bloody good hiding. I imagine this sort of reasoning is going on today, in the wake of Woolwich, but I am not about to tackle what my fellow non-entities have gibbered.
Leaving aside the rhetorical role of Al-Qaida, and the nonsense of fighting them while supporting them (or at least, being allied with them), let’s take a look at the Woolwich Operation.
The Woolwich Operation
This attack involved the killing of a soldier, whose identity has now been disclosed, Lee Rigby. He was ambushed and then hacked and stabbed to death in the street. As, the moral guardians inform us in the shrillest of voices – this took place near a school. His killers were two black men, and one of them, holding his weapons, his hands covered in blood, offered the following statement to camera:
Presentation is everything
“We swear by Almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you. The only reasons we have done this is because Muslims are dying every day. This British soldier is an eye for an eye a tooth for tooth. We apologise that women had to see this today but in our lands our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your government. They don’t care about you.”
Now, I am tempted to dispense with the ‘motivated by religion’ argument first, which also incorporates the mocking, “Islam, religion of peace”, as well as the pseudo-rational Richard Dawkins and his specious argument that Islam is somehow uniquely menacing among the world’s major faiths. Dawkins may not have noticed, but the high point of Islamic expansionism took them as far as the siege of Vienna. In 1529. The Caliphate was broken up decisively with the formation of Saudi Arabia, during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1932. (Wishing to banish any prospect of the Caliphate re-emerging, the British encouraged the radical Sunni preaching of the Ibn-Saud family, Wahabism.)
The next part of this message is simply fact. Muslims are dying every day, due to foreign policy decisions taken by the leaders of the Western powers.
I leave it to somebody else to decide upon the moral proposition of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.
Again, it is true that women in the muslim countries being attacked by drone strikes, proxy forces, or coalition troops, are exposed to violence every day.
The most interesting part, to me, are the last two sentences.
“Remove your government. They don’t care about you.”
This statement is the culmination of my own analysis, and explains, among other things:
- why I don’t believe the UK to be a liberal democracy
- why I believe that the general population of the UK are totally powerless to change state policy
- that the state is continuously breaking down any group that develops a different social vision
- why I believe the state will continue to imperil the security of the general population, and saddle them with ruinous expense for these wars
With regards to liberal democracy, the notion is that the state has no interest, and simply adjudicates over the claims made by different interest groups (or classes) within the society. Thus, a high capacity state tends to be able to successfully monopolize the use of violence within its territory, as it successfully resolves competing claims. The UK does conform to this model in terms of its policing (more or less), but with regards to the formulation of government policy, I find this liberal democracy to be a fantasy.
To my view, the UK conforms, at its heart, to a realist reading, so that beyond the narrowly segmented area of social intercourse, what we might call civil society, the part where gay marriage becomes legalized, women agitate for equal pay and conditions, people protest against cuts to the NHS or to the education budget, beyond that there is a carefully marked-off domain that is the preserve of an entrenched group of interests. This is the top-down model that explains why all three mainstream parties went into the last election with manifesto commitments to remain in Iraq and Afghanistan, regardless of public opinion on those issues. Fixed.
And who are these entrenched interests? Major defence contractors, the oil giants, the boards of multinational corporations, the City of London. There is nothing the average person can do about these people and their interests, and anybody that gets ideas about making mischief doesn’t just run the gauntlet of the police, but will be contending with the security services (who I have had direct dealings with on one occasion, they are efficient and not very nice).
They are also wrecking the economy for the rest of us, with military spending contributing directly to the austerity narrative. A recent TNI report [link] outlines how a large part of the EU debt crisis was caused by military spending in Greece, Portugal, and Spain (purchasing weapons systems from guess who? Germany, the Netherlands, France). As one Greek economist noted:
if you could account for Greece’s decades of formidable military spending “there would be no debt at all”.
The UK is the planet’s 4th biggest military spender and a major arms exporter.
One question that emerges from the realist view is: how can the state mobilize public support behind policies that are not to their benefit, that indeed, serve both to impoverish them and to make them less safe.
I think the media reaction today has given us some excellent guidance on such a question. Let’s look at what Cameron said in Paris:
“First, this country will be absolutely resolute in its stand against violent extremism and terror.
We will never give in to terror – or terrorism – in any of its forms.
Second, this view is shared by every community in our country.
This was not just an attack on Britain – and on our British way of life.
It was also a betrayal of Islam – and of the Muslim communities who are give so much to our country.
There is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly dreadful act.
We will defeat violent extremism by standing together…
…by backing our police and security services…
…and above all by challenging the poisonous narrative of extremism on which this violence feeds.
Britain works with our international partners to make the world safe from terrorism.
Terrorism that has taken more Muslim lives than any other religion.
It is an utter perversion of the truth to pretend anything different.
That is why there is absolutely no justification for these acts…
…and the fault for them lies solely and purely with the sickening individuals who carried out this appalling attack.
Confronting extremism is a job for us all.”
I don’t think I need to say much about this. It constitutes a self-serving narrative where violence emerges from the minds of madmen, somehow without being the responsibility of any set of historical factors (no matter that the attackers cited specific factors), and there is thus no need to reflect in any way on what may have motivated the attack. We, as a society, are blameless, as is, Islam. Fortunately, we are blessed with great reserves of strength and heroic police and security forces, who labour behind the scenes, night and day, to keep us safe. And we are heroes, too, because we won’t be shaken by this, because, at the end of it all, we’re British, and we have a particularly indomitable spirit. Redux: Nationalism. Unity. We are blameless. We are resolute.
So do we really not need to reflect at all on this attack, does it really signify nothing?
Dave’s takeaway line:
But one of the best ways of defeating terrorism is to go about our normal lives
And that is what we shall all do.
So there we have it. Just as George W. Bush stood among the wreckage of Ground Zero and advised the American people to go shopping, here is Cameron, advising us all, in the words of Bill Hicks, to ‘keep watching American Gladiators,’ lest we awake.
And now, let’s turn to the leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband:
“This is a truly appalling murder which will shock the entire country.
“All of my thoughts are with the family and friends of the victim.
“The British people will be horrified by what has happened in Woolwich. They will be united in believing that this terror on our streets cannot be allowed to stand.
“The Labour Party will offer the Government our complete support in establishing the facts of what happened and ensuring that those responsible face the full force of British justice.”
There we have it. British justice. Full force. Of the kind that hides state wrongdoing behind the screen of secret trials. Or gives a murderer of an innocent Iraqi a year in prison. That British justice.
Opposition to the state
Let’s go back to the UDHR:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers (Article 19, UDHR)
Remember this chap?
Mark Kennedy. No relation.
Not even a spook, but part of the police apparatus, charged with infiltrating and breaking up groups that are non-violent and law-abiding [link], but who dare to have a ‘radical’ i.e., different vision of what British society should be. It doesn’t matter whether that vision is of an eco-paradise or of a totalitarian state, it’s not acceptable to the powers that be. That’s why I never bothered to participate in any UK politics, I knew my desire for a fundamental change was barred from the get-go. Instead, we must live, powerlessly, in a managed democracy.
That leads me on to a key point. To my mind, this attack is a demonstration of powerlessness, of an impotent rage. By itself, this act can achieve nothing. Yet, it’s the limit of what’s possible, and it represents a momentary reversal of power. The aggressor is caught unawares, and is made an offering of, a sacrificial victim. In the hope that such an act will confront the audience with the significance of what their government is doing. Instead, we are told the perpetrators are evil, or are madmen, and must not be listened to; their words, even if they possess a coherence, their grievances, even if they are legitimate, must not be considered in any serious way. They must be dispensed with, and instead, we talk about our own anger, and our own powerlessness erupts, in a wave of hatred, in a clamour for action, in a baying for blood (in some instances). “We’re better than this,” chime in the leftist voices, with their self-serving arguments that racism is some special preserve of the political right.
But is it really? For me, the cultural superiority/racism is found in all portions of the political spectrum. Even the briefest read-through of John Stuart Mill, the foundation for liberal thought, will reveal the most noble sentiments mixed with the most blatant racism.
On the subject of freedom of expression, he gave us this:
If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.
Beautiful, right? And a notion neither the UK police nor MI6 have learned to embrace.
But John Stuart Mill was also an ardent imperialist, as this was a means of bringing culture to the barbarous… well, perhaps that enlightened form of racism is unfolding in the wake of Woolwich, too, I’m afraid to go and look. My point being that racism is entrenched in the most fundamental notions of what consitutes bring British, and tends to emerge from almost every mouth at times like this, regardless of superficial affiliations. But we’ll see.
So, Mr Kennedy, do you condemn this murder?
What a question. And not the right one, I feel. It’s like asking me to condemn the legitimate anger that a person might feel. That I feel myself, without having ties to the muslim nations that have been slaughtered for ten years by the Western powers and their allies. Who am I to condemn that? I certainly don’t condemn this attack more than all of those carried out by the Western powers and their allies. And furthermore, shouldn’t we, after all that our leaders have done; killing millions, displacing millions more, tearing apart entire countries; after all that, we get a single murder on a British street? That’s it since the 7/7 attacks?
Rather than getting angry, shouldn’t the public perhaps count their blessings? At what meager blowback they’ve endured? At how little such devastation has touched their daily lives, while the bombs and soldiers their taxes have supported have wreaked havoc through the Middle East? Perhaps wearing a poppy and sending a song by Military Wives to the top of the charts was the full scope of the public’s preparedness to engage with these illegal wars.
Maybe Richard Falk, of the UN, was right, when he spoke up after the Boston bombings:
“the American global domination project is bound to generate all kinds of resistance in the post-colonial world.”‘
As I’ve said before: There’s enough suffering to go round. Demand your share.
But you condemn the method?
Is it worse than a drone strike, the victim determined by an algorithm? In a world where more than three men doing jumping-jacks is a ‘terrorist training camp’, where civilian casualties are designated ‘bug splat’ by the remote pilots dispatching people with 500lb bombs. Or practising ‘double taps’ where a second bomb is dropped on rescue workers or those seeking to bury the dead. Was it any more callous than the gunship crew in the Collateral Damage video Bradley Manning sent the world via Wikileaks?
Is it worse than that?
But you agree that this shouldn’t happen on the streets of Britain?
I agree. It shouldn’t happen anywhere. We have no more right to visit violence upon the streets of Kandahar, of Baghdad, of Sanaa, than these attackers had.
And the victim was innocent?
And will it matter to you whether the attackers were born and raised in the UK or are immigrants?
This is not supposed to be some contribution to a discussion, which is contrary to my views (I think I can be respected for that). I just brought together some information and a few observations.
In deference to Mill, the one opinion that counts today is that of OneState [link], and it serves, as it urges us all to be free, to enjoy the fruits of liberty, to silence the population, and to disconnect us permanently from any influence over its machinations. I’m sorry I can’t offer anything positive to finish with.
I’ll leave you now, as the public line up to receive permanent enlightenment:
In his last journal entry, D-503 indifferently relates that he has been forcibly tied to a table and subjected to the “Great Operation”, (similar to a lobotomy), which has recently been mandated for all citizens of the One State, who are subjected to the operation to prevent possible riots having been psycho-surgically refashioned into a state of mechanical “reliability”, they would now function as “tractors in human form”.
Thank you for not listening.
A few good books:
Jeremy Scahill: Dirty Wars - http://www.amazon.com/Dirty-Wars-Battlefield-Jeremy-Scahill/dp/156858671X/ref=sr_sp-atf_title_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1369322929&sr=1-1&keywords=jeremy+scahill+dirty+wars
Steve Coll: Ghost Wars - http://www.amazon.com/Ghost-Wars-Afghanistan-Invasion-September/dp/0143034669/ref=sr_sp-atf_title_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1369322860&sr=1-1&keywords=steve+coll+ghost+wars
Peter Hopkirk: Struggle for Empire in Central Asia - http://www.amazon.com/The-Great-Game-Struggle-Kodansha/dp/1568360223/ref=sr_sp-atf_title_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1369316198&sr=8-1&keywords=peter+hopkirk+struggle+for+empire