Sunday, 28 November 2010

Christopher Hitchens is not Great.

Columnist Henry Porter has pondered upon the nature of courage and bravery in The Observer today. There are numerous people he could have used as exemplars here, often people not in the public eye and who are not vain and self promoting. Instead he chooses to write about,
My chum Christopher Hitchens is an interesting case. He has always cheerfully put himself in the way of physical danger – posing by unexploded bombs in the Middle East and nearly being lynched while lecturing a mob of fundamentalists in Lebanon – but Christopher's mettle is now seen with his reaction to terminal cancer.

He has led his life bravely, causing no end of offence to opponents, as well as dismay to those who made the mistake of assuming he was an ally and whom he then drubbed with fratricidal glee.

I cannot think of anyone who has stirred things up quite as much as Christopher, nor in the process provided so much amusement with his writing, but the important thing is that his fearlessness stimulated people to think for themselves.

It's possible to be a brave and bad man or to be foolhardy and that applies quite obviously to Christopher Hitchens. Now that he is dying, he could be brave enough to admit he was wrong to support the Iraq War and to come very close to rationalising torture in a 2005 edition of Slate magazine.

Hitchens claimed that as the USA could not be bound to the Geneva Conventions in its global "war on terror",

The forces of al-Qaida and its surrogate organizations are not signatory to the conventions and naturally express contempt for them. They have no battle order or uniform and are represented by no authority with which terms can be negotiated.

They are more like pirates, hijackers, or torturers—three categories of people who have in the past been declared outside the protection of any law.

Bear in mind that Hitchens was writing here of what could be called "terrorist suspects". That torture could be used to interrogate them in order to to prevent worse atrocities. That was clear when Hitchens went on to write,
Several detainees released from Guantanamo have reappeared in the Taliban ranks, once again burning and killing and sabotaging. The man whose story of rough interrogation has just been published in Time had planned to board a United Airlines flight and crash it into a skyscraper. I want to know who his friends and contacts were, and so do you, hypocrite lecteur.
As Iraq descended into predictable carnage it was more important to Hitchens to continue offering fallback positions. Iraq was not about WMD. It was an oil grab that was dressed up with a variety of pretexts from weapons Saddam did not have and part of a global war on terror and "Islamofascism".

Those who supported this war such as Michael Ignatieff have now admitted they got it wrong. Hitchens has now offered ex post fact rationalisations for the war, that the Bush administration dithered, that the subsequent sectarian war was proof of the surging threat of theocratic fascism everywhere.

On an edition of Breakfast with David Frost, Hitchens came on sheepishly wearing a Kurdish flag in his lapel instead of the US one he sported before. So the war was worth it despite hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, regional destabilisation, and the US collaborating with Shite death squads because the Kurds are deemed free.

There is nothing brave about failing to admit that the decision to back Bush's war was misinformed. Yet Hitchens never based his support on an assessment of the actual facts. He simply fitted the facts to the liberationist creed in the manner described by Orwell in Inside the Whale.

That is to say, that Hitchens wanted to hitch himself to a great cause in order to have something to fight for, the convince himself he was in the vanguard of historical progress once more and to win polemical battles with anti-war activists who were secretly craving the victory of just any anti-US power.

This obviously had an element of truth with regards many such as the unprincipled demagogue Galloway. Hitchens quip that RESPECT was an anagram of SPECTRE, a sinister group in James Bond who supported any destructive elements in order to profit was funny.

Even so, to suppose that just because most anti-war leaders in Britain were moronic ideologues and hack propagandists like Andrew Murray of the CPGB or Islamist fanatics, does not mean that they were essentially part of some seamless global movement to destroy the west.

True, Galloway works as a proxy for the Iranian regime in Press TV but the invasion of Iraq was hardly going to be an opening blow in defeating Galloway, and sinister double talking British Islamists. A reckless and illegal war would only bolster the credibility of those who detest Western civilisation.

By failing to look at the facts in the Iraq War and what was really at stake, Hitchens destroyed his credibility and ended up then seeing in religion a phenomena that poisoned everything and was responsible for preventing the success of the Iraq War and the Israel-Palestine conflict-indeed all conflicts.

Religion is not the cause of war. That merely offers a form of theological justification from an atheist perspective. Politicised versions of certain religious traditions only ups the ante in what are really struggles over land and resources and conflicts with ethnic dimensions.

Irrespective of Hitchens recent self promoting debate with Blair on religion, both men shared a faith based politics in regard to Iraq, seeing only what they wanted to and being obsessed with glory and a battle of civilisation over barbarism. Not an oil grab an the opening salvo in an epoch of resource wars.

Hitchens will be remembered as a footnote in cultural history and in the same way Sidney Webb is primarily remembered for having supported Stalin so too will Hitchens be remembered for backing Bush in Iraq and being typical of a kind of radical liberal who supported credal wars without scepticism.

Hitchens' polemic God is Not Great will be remembered, if at all, as strong in rhetoric and a weak rehash of atheist arguments used to prop up the facile notion that "religion" is "the cause" of conflict when it will be obvious that the pathological struggle over diminishing oil and gas is the driving force.

George Orwell was a brave man. Hitchens can offer no comparison here despite being lauded by Hitchens in Orwell's Victory. There will be no book in future years after Hitchen's death entitled Hitchen's Victory. Hitchens attempted to emulate Orwell in some ways but failed miserably.
The reason is obvious: the conflict between Islamists and the West does not replicate anything very similar to that between the Soviet Union and the West that emerged in the 1930s and 1940s and dominated international politics during the Cold War.

By seeing the conflict in messianic terms by transposing the categories inherited from the Cold War on to the emergence after 1989-1990 of the Islamist Threat, Hitchen's willed the belief that by taking on remnant Arab dictatorships, even secular ones, that "Islamofascism" could be defeated.

By not bothering to look at the particular hisory of Iraq or the documented facts showing that Iraq was to be invaded as part of a strategy of controlling oil and using that as part of a gamble for regional and global hegemony, Hitchens showed a lack of courage in facing up to facts.


One hostile response to this dissection of Hitchen's pose was offered by one blogger thus,
Unfortunately, there are now many people.... who seem to have absorbed uncritically a one-dimensional "economic determinist" narrative of a complex geo-political conflict—and to a degree, I suspect, that would make even the vulgar Marxists of the SWP blush.

However, it would still be wrong for Mr Hitchens to cave in to such morally vacuous, populist formulations and admit that he was wrong about the Iraq war if he doesn't think he was. It my view, if he did destroy his "reputation" with such people in the cause of Kurdish freedom, it was a bargain trade.
The commenter is wrong. I have continually stressed precisely the opposite case to anything resembling "economic determinism". That Iraq was essentially an oil grab does not mean there were not other geopolitical factors at work-using oil as a lever against the Chinese, creating a democratic domino effect etc.

The point about the invasion of Iraq is that it need not have happened and was predictably going to lead to the fragmentation of the state into ethnic and sectarian warfare. The aim of the war was to control oil and not for corporations to make a profit as anti-war SWP types go on about.

The simple fact is that the west is overdependent upon oil in dangerous areas. Anyway this blogger obviously exhibits the usual shoddy line of reasoning of those who think that any mention of the oil as a documented fact in driving the Iraq War is some kind of sinister Marxist-Leninist.

And that this must mean Hitchens was "right" to support the war on the basis of the inherently sinister mindset of those who opposed the war. Again that only reinforces the case I made which is that this is not a logical position to take as it failed to look at what was at stake.

Nor is the one which rationalises the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Arab Iraqis on the basis that the war has liberated the Kurds in northern Iraq. That could be one benefit, but the question would remain whether the number of Kurds being killed on the eve of the war outnumbered those killed elsewhere since.

Yet to reduce the "moral" case for war to such an ethnically based arithmetic of death would be in line with the way the US has been willing to go against all principles in effectively collaborating with death squads and ethnic cleansing to impose authority and control.

To come back to the issue of Hitchens, it is not very brave to fail to admit that the invasion was a huge mistake and to refuse to see what was at stake was oil. And, moreover, that the West is overdependent upon it and built into the fabric of a supermarket shopping Great Car Economy.

That's something RESPECT anti-war types seldom bring up as they are populists who want to tell people what they want to hear no less than Hitchens and "pro-liberation leftists" actually do. The notion that Iraq was not about corporations enriching themselves but strategic desperation is simply too frightening.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Radical Anti-Imperialists and the Afghanistan War.

The odd thing in our time is how those advocating wars in far off lands of whom we increasingly will know more, if the fanatics supporting messianic creeds get their way, seem oblivious to the consequences of their action. This is indicated by a report carried by the Guardian today.

First of all, there is the fact that there is almost no dissent within ruling political parties in many Western nations about continuing the Afghan War to a successful conclusion,
Thousands of protesters have marched through London against the war in Afghanistan as as Nato leaders agreed a strategy to withdraw their troops from the country.

The demonstration, which organisers said was 10,000-strong, came as the prime minister, David Cameron, said the withdrawal of British combat troops from Afghanistan by 2015 was a "firm deadline" that would be met.

Speaking at a Nato summit in Lisbon, Cameron said Afghan forces would begin taking charge of security from early next year and the security handover would be complete by the end of 2014.

"The commitment we have entered into today to transfer the lead responsibility for security to the Afghan government by the end of 2014 will pave the way for British combat troops to be out of Afghanistan by 2015. This is a firm deadline that we will meet."

First of all, there is the fact that there is almost barely any dissent within ruling political parties in many Western nations about continuing the Afghan War to a successful conclusion. There is almost no debate in Parliament about the aims of the war or whether they are inherently contradictory or whether Afghanistan is really a War worth fighting.

Cameron's oblique language over pledge to withdraw still does not say why mission will be complete by 2015. Indeed, the language implies that commitment to transfer the lead to the Afghan government by the end of 2014 is only said at that point to perhaps "pave the way" for "combat troops" to be out by some stage in 2015. Not all combat troops or just troops.

Not all the security services, of course, nor is there any sense of a real withdrawal as the pledge refers only to the "lead responsibility for security " being withdrawn not whole responsibility. Language matters as much as Orwell knew it did and as those who care for its use know it must.
Not one Parliamentarian or established politicians has challenged those like Cameron by forensically examining the language, by asking questions in public that would get clarity upon that. Hence it might have been thought that those involved in extra-Parliamentary opposition to war would eschew the language of propaganda and practice of dull ideological orthodoxy.

However, the problem with "anti-war" propagandists is that the agenda is not to outline a free debate about what's at stake in this war but to upgrade the profile of the StWC which held a protest today in which the usual hack propagandists proceeded to churn out the same tedious line.

For a start, there is the propaganda of wanting things both ways. That the war is bad because it kills soldiers ( obviously, which war does not have casualties ) and the fact anti-war radicals have extolled the Taliban or the insurgents or sectarian militias in Iraq as 'the resistance' as if they were all part of something akin to the maquis in France during the Second World War.

This sort of thing has been repeatedly pumped out by those "militant leftists and "anti-imperialists" like Seumas Milne, Tariq Ali, and Andrew Murray, most of whose propaganda these days adds up to a mere projection on to very different places of the terms used during the fight against Hitler.

As bad as Bush II was and as bad as the decision to invade Iraq was, the USA is not somehow exactly equivalent to Nazi Germany.

Yet World War One memories can be just as useful to a propagandist such as Murray as well, not least just over a week past the Remembrance Sunday of 2010,

....the war touches almost everyone in British life – not least, of course, the families waiting for coffins at Wootton Bassett or preparing for life looking after a maimed relative returned from the battlefield.

The question really has to be why does Murray care that much and whether there is not just a cynical attempt to use the grief of the families and the anger of the veterans to ramp up hatred of "the ruling class" whilst at the same time evading the fact that those squaddies chose to join the British Army. And through the idea of serving an "imperial power".

Disillusionment and anger at this futile war is different to total hatred of everything Britain stands for, something borne out by the Orwellian propaganda that follows in trying to link the depression with a rise in militarism as some "escape forwards" into war to stave off crisis ( a tired Leninist trope ).
The slump and the cuts are bringing back economic conscription with a vengeance. While a few years ago, the Ministry of Defence was struggling to recruit, now senior officers boast of being able to pick and choose who to send off to mutilation or death in Afghanistan from an abundance of applicants.
The term "economic conscription" was first used by James Conolly, a republican Irish nationalist, Marxist-Leninist and anti-imperialist who wanted to explain away why proletarians joined the armies of empire against their "common class interests" that linked them globally.

Yet its apparent that logically the same term could be used to explain why Islamist movements such as Hamas, Hezbollah, or the Taliban can recruit. Poverty motivates young men to become violent and materialists tend think that placating those wants will mollify the pyschopathological urge.

Murray wants to portray all those suffering from the Afghanistan War in Britain ( which is a very small minority ) with both those Muslims suffering abroad and to weld it to the weird amalgam of Islamism and Marxist-Leninist militancy that animates the main leaders of the StWC.

The reasons for this is not so difficult to grasp.

With the decay of the Soviet Union, those true believers stranded by History in the CPGB had to cast around for any cause that would "objectively" hasten the end of "Western Capitialist-Imperialism". The terms of references sound dated but they reflect a pyschopathological hatred that can be updated.

For the rise of global Islamist movements and myth of the trans-national ummah have thus been seen as revivifying the 'anti-imperialist' cause. Something the nice people on Stop the War marches fail to appreciate. The propaganda and placards are designed to exploit Islamist hatred.

Like most so-called "anti-war" radicals of the StWC type, Andrew Murray proves that merely opposing a war does not necessarily mean that a person either understands what is actually at stake or cares about how many die if it makes for good propaganda. For a start, the Afghan War is not being fought merely to "save face" as he claims.

If anything the consistent line of those like Galloway, Murray and others has been in building up face by establishing their credentials as media commentators of the "I Told You So" variety, that Afghanistan is unwinnable and Iraq a catastrophe. This was hardly unpredictable and the mantra seems to have been the Leninist one of "the worse the better"

As Murray puts it, in a way that proves wars are actually only just so Good if the necessary propaganda makes them seem so,
Perhaps this would all seem a price worth paying were it a war that had a purpose commanding support. But few can now credit the argument that the Taliban need to be fought in Helmand lest they overrun Hampshire.

Not a single terrorist plot launched against this country – nor one thwarted or even alleged – has had any roots in Afghanistan.

Nor does the idea that the occupation is needed to prevent instability find any takers. The war has created a Pakistani Taliban threatening the integrity of that nuclear-armed state, fuelled by every disastrous cross-border killing of Pakistani civilians.

No – the blood and treasure now being wasted in Afghanistan is an investment in nothing more worthy than saving Nato's face. If the myth of Anglo-US military invincibility were to be punctured in Afghanistan, one of the world's least developed countries, where would the world order be?

The world order was hardly shaken by the US withdrawal from Vietnam, a far greater drain on blood and treasure than Afghanistan which was accompanied by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissenger's growing diplomatic friendship with China which was conceived of in order to check the Soviet Union.

But even so the key to Afghanistan's importance lies in geopolitical strategy of maintaining a stake in developments in Central Asia, in particular the control of the oil and gas. The TAPI pipeline has been finalised now and NATO's credibility, if anything, is dependent upon its ability to protect the route from the Taliban.

NATO's role has been ever more explicitly since the Bucharest Summit in 2008 about NATO acting to preserve energy security for the West. It's curious that Murray and Galloway do not mention the most obvious fact about what could be called the "New Imperialism".

Only that "the people" in Britain or the US or in NATO states would have cause to reflect on the fact that their high octane consumer economies are made possible by oil and that therefore Blair and Bush could claim to be acting in the public interest.

Likewise, Afghanistan is part of the competition to control the gas supply from Turkmenistan. The construction of the TAPI pipeline is considered a vital strategical asset that will divert control of gas supplies away from Russia, act to block of Iran's regional ambitions in buiding a IPI pipeline.

If the rival IPI pipeline were constructed, the strategic significance of Afghanistan would be diminished and the West cut out of having a foothold from which to determine the division of the oil and gas wealth from the Caspian.

On that basis, supporters of the Afghanistan War will ask which version of imperialism is to be preferred. But obviously far more than "pride" or "loss of face" as regards pure power is at stake. Controlling Afghanistan is a key to controlling Eurasia and hence the fossil fuels that make consumer lives in the West so cosy.

Unlike NATO China is not hypocritical about human rights. It acts straightforwardly as an imperial power without strings attached. If dictators and kleptocrats grant control over resources it needs, then human rights are not even a factor in the calculation. With the discovery of $3tn of hard mineral resources, China has taken an interest in Afghanistan.

Naturally, the Afghan War is being fought according to double standards, an energy agenda that is never discussed in the mainstream media though most think tanks that deal with Afghanistan make the TAPI pipeline a routine factor in outlining the strategy for Afghanistan.

TAPI is held to be the key to regenerating the economy of Afghanistan, binding the regional powers together under the auspices of the enlightened self interest that animates NATO. The alternative is thought to be ethnic separatism, a failed state and destabilising the neighbouring states.

These facts are ones that writers should at least establish in order to advance public debate. Those such as Timothy Garton Ash laud fact in such works as Facts are Subversive, though he has yet to pay serious attention to his own belief in the power of facts with regards oil in Iraq and gas going through Afghanistan.

As for Murray, the blunt line about "no to imperialist war" is one that would be curiously shared by the far right, that is the BNP led by another petty fuhrer to rival Galloway called Nick Griffin who has also called for withdrawal from Afghanistan but without making the pretence about being bothered about Afghan lives.

Perhaps the real argument against Afghanistan is that it has contradictory objectives and that it is not possible to install democracy by military means, something that along with female emancipation is a part of a Utopian pipedream that such things could be tied to a flourishing market economy along the energy corridor.

The USA never really paid more than lip service to those stated goals. European powers and humanitarian NGO travellers believe it ought to be possible without ever having looked at the geopolitical reality and that gas transit states ( even Georgia ) are notoriously dangerous and prone to greater potential conflict.

The real problem with the pathetic state of discussion about Afghanistan is the level of denial and delusion about the nature of geopolitics. Even Murray cannot mention the gas or energy security. For the harsh reality is that the masses in the West all depend on fossil fuels to enjoy their lifestyles.

That reality hardly impinges on self righteous anti-war protesters who go bananas when faced with these facts, often because they are too boneheaded to make the basic distinction between what "is" and what "ought". The world can't be made better unless one really knows what's at stake.

Focusing on energy alternatives has to be a major part of the way in which dangerous engagement in places such as Afghanistan can be avoided. Yet as those resources are there, it is in no Great Power's interest to allow the other to have it whilst those alternatives are being developed.

Assuming that alternatives to the addiction to fossil fuels are developed with the same sort of urgency that scientists seem capable of with regards developing the A Bomb. It's a pity finding alternatives is not prioritised as being as serious as avoiding future resource wars by the gamble for Western hegemony.

Afghanistan is designed to be a war that will contribute towards that. Clearly it will not succeed. The price of not succeeding is seen to be a decline in the credibility of NATO. Something that some of those who are against the war like Murray crave because they like the idea of the Decline of the West.

Friday, 19 November 2010

The Not so Hidden Purpose of NATO.

Martin Kettle in The Guardian offers thoughts on NATO's purpose today,
Over these years, Nato has attempted to reinvent itself in many ways: first as the guarantor of the newly independent former Soviet satellites and republics; then as the enforcer – eventually – of new nation states in the Balkans; and finally, since 2001, as a go-anywhere military alliance, classically in Afghanistan. Yet Nato's deployment in each of these roles took place at least as much for political as for military reasons. The truth is that Nato is now more obviously something that to some extent it has always been – an international auxiliary military force of the United States.
Not one mention of the obvious reason for the continued use value of NATO which is explicitly discussed by it and its supporters , though seldom emphasised in "public diplomacy" as being the main reason for the potential expansion East into Georgia or Ukraine or the continued occupation of Afghanistan-energy.

The NATO website makes this clear or "transparent".
NATO leaders recognize that the disruption of the flow of vital resources could affect Alliance security interests. At the Bucharest Summit in April 2008, the Allies noted a report on “NATO’s Role in Energy Security,” which identifies guiding principles and outlines options and recommendations for further activities. These were reiterated at the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit in April 2009.

The report identified the five following key areas where NATO can provide added value:

* information and intelligence fusion and sharing;
* projecting stability;
* advancing international and regional cooperation;
* supporting consequence management; and
* supporting the protection of critical infrastructure.

Consultations started after the Bucharest Summit regarding the depth and range of NATO’s involvement in this issue. Meanwhile, a number of practical programmes both within the Alliance and with NATO’s Partner countries are ongoing, alongside workshops and research projects.NATO news focuses on this,

# New NATO division to deal with Emerging Security Challenges 04 Aug. 2010
# Energy security focus of NATO seminar in Georgia 25 May. 2010
# Workshop in Lithuania examines energy security issues 13 Oct. 2009
# Seminar in Baku discusses energy security 17 Jun. 2009
# Armenia hosts seminar on energy security

Kettle omits any mention of this and such glaring omissions from almost all mainstream journalists prevents a sensible discussion over the dangers of the West being overdependent upon oil and gas in far off lands and the geopolitical gambles.

Afghanistan is crucially concerned with the construction of the TAPI pipeline. This is a fact and not a conjecture. The TAPI is supported as it blocks off Iran's IPI alternative, gives NATO powers a stake in controlling developments in central Asia and diverts control of Turkmenistan's gas away from Russia.

These are obvious geopolitical facts. The Guardian never mentions this, thus impoverishing public debate, keeping people in ignorance and simply repeating and paraphrasing the official pronouncements of those in power who do not want people to think about the realities of energy security.

A debate on NATO or foreign policy without mentioning oil or gas is like trying to answer the question "Where do babies come from ? " without ever trying to use the word "sex". and talking about how people flirt, successful chat up lines, how plants reproduce or just ignoring the question and pretending it does not exist.

As for those pinheads discussing NATO as an imperialist block or in dated terms about the Soviet Union's threat ( usually rekindled via banal "New Cold War" tripe they should simply get into the 21st century. The Cold War has little relevance. It finished 20 years ago. It's time to understand what's at stake.

Just to help Mr Kettle a little, here's some recent news,

04 Aug. 2010
New NATO division to deal with Emerging Security Challenges

A new Division within the NATO International Staff has been created in order to deal with a growing range of non-traditional risks and challenges. The new Emerging Security Challenges Division (ESCD) started its work beginning of August and will be focusing notably on terrorism, the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, cyber defence, and energy security.

The new division will also provide NATO with a Strategic Analysis Capability to monitor and anticipate international developments that could affect Allied security.

The Emerging Security Challenges Division brings together various strands of expertise already existant in different parts of NATO Headquarters. Merging this work into one Division will give it greater focus and visibility.

The creation of the ESCD underlines the determination to move new, non-traditional security challenges to the centre of Allied attention.

Any thoughts Mr Kettle ?

Saturday, 6 November 2010

On the Use of the Muslim card in Oldham.

When one looks at the utter failure of politics in 2010, one need only look at the grotty little episode concerning the election of the former New Labour MP and Minister of State for Borders and Immigration Phil Woolas.

Woolas was a politician prepared to use his supposed credentials on being "tough on immigration" to portray him as the man during his anticipated re-election in Oldham who would stand up to "Muslim extremists" unlike his Liberal rival in the election.

Such idiotic claims have been rightly condemned. Yet in an article today Inayat Bunglawala can't resist getting this in,
He had already alienated much of the sizeable local Muslim community through a series of patronising comments including dismissing as "a load of crap" a young Muslim woman's concern that the UK's foreign policy in the Middle East was contributing to the radicalisation problem.
There is no evidence offered here as to the extent of the alienation of "the Muslim community's"and given this is supposed to be a defence of democracy against those who avoid clear and open democratic debate through mendacious political propaganda and soundbites, Bunglawala's language needs looking at.

People do not necessary exist in cantons of homogeneous communities like "The Muslim Community". Such language itself was curiously used by both New Labour and Islamists wanting to play on it to upgrade their own political interests and was part of a power game.

Open discussion about the exact nature of the potential threat of terrorism by some alienated Muslims who embrace Islamist ideology deserves rigorous examination. The exact nature of how UK foreign policy has brought into existence the "radicalisation problem" needs looking at.

Politicians like Woolas should not dismiss the concerns of British Muslim citizens or anyone as "a load of crap" and certainly not play on atavistic notions of "Muslim extremists" to unscrupulously gain power at any cost. Woolas was using language vulgar and unbecoming of MPs.

More depressing is the insight into the utter cynicism of the way gaining power must depend on media manipulation,
Fitzpatrick also wrote: "We need to go strong on the militant Moslem angle" and "We need … to explain to the white community how the Asians will take him out … If we don't get the white vote angry he's gone."
Yet Woolas's comments and the penchant for spin and deception are reflected in the language of media savvy Islamists no less. For Woolas did not exactly say there was a death threat against him. Merely that the "Muslim extremists" wanted to "take Phil out".

Unless I'm mistaken, the phrasal verb to "take out" could mean to remove "Phil" from power somehow. No doubt Woolas and his advisers wanted voters to think that could mean "assassination", but such language of insinuation is quite common in politics as what Steven Poole calls "Unspeak".

Unless we get an open democracy once more free from spin and deception, then it is unlikely that the fear of intractable conflicts within Britain will be avoided. What Woolas did was not ordained directly by New Labour from but it was part of the culture of New Labour spin and Orwellian language.

The danger has become one where there is the belief that "The Muslim Community" can be encouraged to exercise power politically as a lobby group in the same way that certain Islamists consider that Zionists do over British foreign policy.

No doubt the Liberal Democrats opposition to the Iraq War made it more appealing to many Muslims but it also did so with many non-Muslims as well who saw it would be a disaster. Woolas wanted to link the Liberal Democrats with "Muslim extremists" to deflect attention from unpopular policies.

Ironically, these include both the Iraq War and mass immigration which the BNP both oppose and which were one reason why Woolas might have thought that conflating the Liberal Democrats with "Muslim extremists" was one way of co-opting such discontent.