Thursday, 28 April 2011

Thoughts On the Royal Wedding and "Class War" Bores

The interest in the Royal Wedding is nothing to do with "feudal nostalgia" as Tanya Gold asserts and more to do with a celebrity and media driven society obsessed with spectacles and ways and means of averting the boredom that comes from excessive consumerism and toxic affluence.

The monarchy became a popular symbol of Britain during the nineteenth century along with Empire, Protestantism and other pillars of a now crumbled order. The flying of the Union Flag for the occasion in London, an increasingly socially and ethically ghettoised global city with little connection to the rest of the UK makes the attempt to unify 'the nation' seem absurd.

Indeed, the Royal Wedding seems to be exciting more interest around the globe from foreigners than from those in Britain themselves who no longer primarily see themselves as "British" . This is why David Cameron's attempt to drum up support has in most areas of Britain north of the Home Counties and more prosperous towns and cities not been met with such tremendous enthusiasm.

The number of applications for street parties from what I can gather are down from what they were in 1981: this is partly due to the way the mystique of monarchy was tarnished by adultery, divorce, and banal soap opera into which Charles and Diana's marriage descended into.

More than that Britain in 1981 is a very different place than 2011. Society is more atomised. People do not know their neighbours and national identity has fragmented into English, Welsh and Scottish nationalisms. The English identity has become little more than obsession for the football team.

In the part of North London I live in there are virtually no posters advertising Royal Wedding parties, at least in Wealdstone. Only in wealthier white English areas is there any significant public indication of an attempt at celebration, as in Ruislip where some houses wear a festive air with huge flagpoles running up St George's flags.

Along the motorway towns there is a flicker of enthusiasm. But it's less about celebration of the Royal Wedding than a defensive proclamation of English identity which accompanies the wearing of sport casual wear with St George's flags on it. The flagpoles are there all year long in any case.

The Wedding Parties will be more about a "get together" in order to have the chance of socialising and meeting people for a drink in a country where this happens often via Facebook. In the same way as watching football on the telescreens in clone pubs in the motorway towns fulfil this function.

Those protesting against the Royal Wedding are also playing their banal cliched role in being "radical" in a bored society where the need to "feel" something is paramount. The wedding is partly about "identity" but it is also an event that will bring tourists and money to London. It's also a business-"The Firm".

By global standards most Britons are pampered and privileged: they are consumers with higher levels of affluence than ever before. The boredom is one reason why people value 'right on' class war poses . This is also folkloric ritual. Britain is deeply bored. And increasingly very boring.

The Royal Couple still have more in common with the average affluent consumerist Briton than those Eastern Europeans who do cleaning in London, those Chinese who make the cheap goods people in Durham or Derby consume, those who stitch together the clothes that are sold in High Street retail outlets.

The Royal Family are celebrities but most celebrities are elevated to their position by the masses. Whether the latest pop pap purveyor or those talent shows run by Simon Cowell. If people just switched these manipulators and morons off, ignored the X Factor and so on then 'the system' might be changed.

But the Royal Family are not that so bad for Britain compared to Simon Cowell, the recycled celebrities on TV. Making the point in public of not watching one wedding is pathetic when the system of manufactured wants, desires and consumerist alienation is really run by those who give consumer-citizens what they have been conditioned to want.

All Britons are privileged because they happened to have been born here or permitted to live here. It's hereditary and also an aspiration. British people are aristocrats compared to the condition of most people across the world, those who exist to stitch together the consumer goods with brand logos that define the consumer's status.

The point is that the Royal Family could be reduced to the level of the monarchy in Sweden or Spain. The doltish swipes against monarchy on the basis of 'them 'n' uz' are class war tropes that some British get off on because they are no less infantile than those who personally identified with the life of Diana as an exciting soap.

As in Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, where the aristocrats are almost oblivious to the condition of the people outside their own cocoon, the affluent consumerist Briton cares little for those living beyond their own shores nor the tourist complexes they visit in corrupt undemocratic nations.

Money power is the prerogative of rich Westerners when they go to Thailand or Cuba to exert their global droit du seigneur. Like bored aristocrats, a significant number of Britons drink themselves stupid due to boredom, are obsessed with sex and debauchery.They have a sense of entitlement.

In global terms, Britons are global aristocrats. Britain makes little of use, lives off its past by flogging itself as a playground and pleasure nexus for other globally privileged, and is one colossal parasite sucking in capital from other nations to keep its consumerism- one hardly merited by anything it actually produces with the country going.

In that sense, the Royal Family is a perfect symbol for Britain, where pre-modern meets post-modern but less so where public life is defined by celebrities, rock stars, and other assorted halfwits are more obsessed with image, status and their malignant egotistic pursuits.

However, the asinine swipes against monarchy on the basis of 'them 'n' uz' are class war tropes that some British get off on because they are no less infantile than those who personally identified with Diana. D Carter took issue with this,
You dismiss concerns over the British class disease as if it were completely unrelated to the monarchy and didn't exist. In reality, they sit atop the whole rotten edifice. "Think yourself lucky" is the argument of medieval serfs defending their masters, not 21st Century citizens.
But Britons are not medieval serfs are they ? They are privileged consumers.

But by any standards, the British people are better off, live affluent consumer lives amidst the brands and logos and all year available supermarket produce and holidays abroad that make them aristocrats by global standards. Do Western consumers really work so hard as to merit all what they have ?

Does a corporate PR exec really produce something far more valuable than a miner in China ? A factory worker in a developing nation ? A graduate in an Arab nation who cannot get a job because the West inc Britain shore up corrupt dictatorships to control the oil supply that fuels the average Briton's lifestyle ?

Arguing that we're all Kings because of our own accidents of birth is no argument at all.

Yes it is an argument. Not necessarily in favour of the Royal Family but of the parochial idiocy of "class war" tropes when the real class war might become one in an age of globalisation between the 'have not' nations and the haves. Given that "the masses" are now as affluent and bored as C18th nobles.

It's how to stagnate and devolve. It's how British manufacturing declined. "Of-course they'll buy our stuff, no need to invest, they always have haven't they?".

If you had not noticed, Britain doesn't make much any more. The wealth comes from servicing the needs of the global economy. The Royal Family is part of the Heritage Industry. They could be replaced by actors, of course, but Britain lives off its past.
Just accept the status quo and be glad of small mercies. That might be acceptable when we're really all in it together, world war for instance, but in peacetime it's a hopeless excuse for all the things that beset us and the class system in general.
Britain should be glad of small mercies. The consumerism that alone defines the lives of most of them, the brand snobbery ( endorsed by the monarchy from Glade Air freshener to Walkers Butter biscuits ) is part of their identity. Only football gives an outlet for emotion.

Footballers come from lower class backgrounds but are , by any standards, overpaid. Unlike the Royal Family, they do not entertain for life. And if you hate football ( as I do ), it's a mystery why hordes of screaming crapulent dolts chant and get passionate for a brand name like Chelsea.

But few criticise football fans for being stupid blind serf like beings who elevate people who happen to be able to kick a ball well to the status of icons.

It's not as if Chelsea means anything is it ? 11 players kicking a ball across a field and all performing because they are paid colossal sums of money to do so. By those with enough money, those who affect working class or plebian culture but are wealthy by global standards.

It can be argued whether the Royal Family is relevant. It can be argued whether it provides value for money and finances itself. It can be argued whether it should be scaled down to Dutch or Swedish proportions. But the crap about "class war" should be dropped.

Face facts: the class system is still there partly but people are not that bothered because there is no "working class" any more: there is an underclass and the fresh waves of migrants who do the jobs Britons think they are above doing. The class system has been globalised.

D Carter criticised this,
That there are others worse off in purely fiscal terms beyond our shores does not diminish the point that the monarchy and aristocracy are the representatives of a class of foreign invaders who have kept us and our ancestors in servitude for a millennium.
The concept of the Norman Yoke is not one particularly relevant.

Consumerism is their tool, not ours, designed to keep us in debt and servitude.

No, consumerism as a way of life is something that large numbers of people willingly collude in because it has become an essential part of their identity and also of part of the sense of entitlement that animates those who have grown up in a land in which the desire for more and more is now normal.

The obsession with image and egotistical self assertion, something known perversely as "individualism"- is even at the heart of the most vociferously anti-monarchical groups. Those who crave attention such as the boring group known as "Class war".

Take the doltish Ian Bone. On his website he writes this, unintentionally hilarious,
Cometh a Tory government and a Royal Wedding and cometh Class War. London Class War was re-established on Sunday and Croydon CW coming soon. CW will be organising actions against the royal wedding soon and on the day.Theres the Better dead than Wed cd to get out. We urgently need to do 5,000 FUCK THE ROYAL WEDDING POSTERS and a 5,000 re-run of the wildly popular CLEGG/CAMERON WANKERS POSTERS.
Such moronic protests are counter culture becoming consumer culture. The CD's, the posters. It's all part of the folkloric ritual of "anti-monarchism" in Britain that appeal to the rebel market niche. It's as boring, if not far more so, than the at least unpretentious older fan of The Queen.

Ian Bone's loathing of the monarchy is largely part of rebellion against his the system which made his father a Butler, mere toytown revolutionary politics of the sort that gets him invited on to The Johnathan Ross Show and ultimately to sell his books to film makers who want to make a profit.

Class War Anarchism sells and helps youths to work off excess energies. whilst deluding both City financiers and radical activists that there is something more exciting and interesting in their lives than banal consumerism.

The Whitechapel Anarchist media and computer blogs show a devotion to virtual anarchism in which an organised club form anarchy becomes a kind of day trip out in the City. An account of the WAG's day out to the Climate Camp 'Peasant's Revolt' during the G20 Protests in 2009 starts off like this,
The day started off with us trudging down to our old haunt Bank for 12 Noon prompt, despite the usual stereotypes of Anarchist time keeping we were there bang on time, but then the waiting began. Two hours in total. The Police presence was tiny, though they did enjoy ducking behind pillars and spying on us when we met up with some more famous anarchists, though being a WAG means the police are always interested in your activities anyway. We spotted the FIT Copper from television programme Bargain Hunt who took the wisecracks on the chin to be fair. He never should have bought those stones though!
Lifestyle anarchism of this sort is no less ritualistic than the obsession with watching Princess Diana's life

Rather like battle Civil War re-enactment societies the WAG tends to like hoisting banners, frequenting ale houses and staging events like Spitalfields Fair.According to their 'favourite' anarchist magazine Freedom, it had 'tug of war, five a side football, and a 'plethora of stalls and entertainments'.
'Most popular though was ye old stocks, wherein many malefactors and ill doers were righteously bombarded with wet sponges'.( My italics )
Without any sense of irony, the report boasted, 'the fair drew several hundred people and to the merriment of all, no cops'.

For all the posturing about the cops and the Ruling elite, such activity is merely plebeian affectation for the pre-consumerist age on a 'Merrie England' theme. There is never any real criticism of consumerism because Whitechapel Anarchist Group is about self-presentation and brand differentiation.

If anyone posting here cannot tell be that certain forms of anti-monarchical posturing are not as much part of the obsession with spectacle and the need to work off boredom, or that anti-monarchists and those who see it necessarily as class repression are not as tedious as David Dimbleby, then it would be interesting to know how.

It's not that the British public regards itself as somehow cap-doffingly inferior to the royals; On the contrary,at the bottom of the widespread mania and enthusiasm for the coming wedding spectacle is the sense that 'we' own the Royal Family.

Which is precisely why there was that absurd outpouring of kitschy demonstrated grief after Diana died back in 1997 and Tony Blair was able to exploit it to put forth the idea of "the People's Princess" to a generation obsessed with celebrity because they have reached a higher stage of consumerist boredom.

Supporting the Royal Wedding and the monarchy ( or hating it as the apex of "class oppression" ) is an exercise in consumer choice. But more than this, with regards the monarchy as celebrity they are at least polite and despite being aristocrats there are many millionaires with "class war" pretensions in public life who are far more annoying than the royals

Take the idiotic Paul Weller, that erstwhile class warrior who penned Eton rifles is now a class warrior millionaire who gets drunk out of his brain with women much younger than him. But he's not a modern day aristocrat ennobled by the housing estate masses now is he ?

If Britain is hardly a serious nation any more, it due to these radical hypocrites more than the ruritanian charade ( as J G Ballard characterised it ) that is the Royal Family.

"Mission Creep" in Libya is nor Folly: It's a Geostrategic Deperation.

Throughout the west there is a desire to relieve people in distress, but when humanitarians arrive with screaming missiles and a clear political agenda, those being attacked are understandably suspicious of motive. I do not believe Cameron is after Gaddafi's oil, but tell Tripoli's residents, whose sufferings were happily ignored by British governments when their leader seemed secure. The first humanitarian duty to those who are suffering should be to relieve that suffering, not to fight their civil wars, suppress their dictators, partition their countries and destroy their infrastructure. Something has polluted foreign policy.

States Simon Jenkins ( These humanitarians come to Libya with missiles, and an agenda, The Guardian April 19 2011 )

Well, no Cameron is not after Gaddafi's oil as an individual. It is somewhat silly to look at foreign policy as if it were merely the personal folly of politicians, those who lack the sense and knowledge that the older generation who grew up during World War Two had in doing everything to avert war after 1945.

In the long term the far bleaker and more frightening reality is that the profligate fuel use inherent in British consumerism, one common across North America and Europe, means that the future will be one of resource wars. That and the New Great Game with China over control of oil rich regions.

There is no point pretending that this is "rapacious imperialism" organised by sinister corporate elites: most people, including anti-war types, collude in creating resource wars when they fly EasyJet to the Algarve, buy out of season strawberries from Waitrose or have three cars on the drive.

The cretinous statement that Britain's wars are "all about oil", as it this were some trump card that proves moral superiority and the hypocrisy of "Them" and not "Us", ignores the way that Blair went into Iraq in 2003 to give the people what they wanted-cheap and abundant fuel.

Just as the fuel protest in 2000 had convinced Blair that high petrol prices could potentially bring chaos, so too the global crash of 2008 and instability in the Arab nations in 2011 has threatened to push petrol prices up to levels that consumers will not like, that is most Britons.

Hence the Chancellor George Osborne's fuel duty reductions and promise to put "fuel in the tank of the British economy" in the March budget. Labour also sought to exploit discontent over petrol prices. When the Libyan crisis broke out, it threatened to disrupt another important source of oil.

So the fact is if that control of oil supplies is part of the geopolitical calculations upon which power operates, then the intervention in Libya is clearly about advancing Britain's oil interests, not least as in 2007 BP negotiated the development of a huge oil concession in the nation.

When Gaddafi lost de facto sovereignty over Libya and the rebels looked as though they could win, only then for the stronghold of Eastern Libya in Benghazi to be threatened with protracted destruction and death, Britain and France sought to use the humanitarian impact as a pretext to remove Gaddafi.

Policy is formulated by politicians, statesmen and 'experts' according to a variety of objectives, often ones that quite clearly are contradictory and clash. No doubt Cameron and Sarkozy thought that a Libya under anti-Gaddafi forces and committed to destroying the dictatorship would be preferable.

It is clear that the endgame all along was the removal of Gaddafi was increasingly seen as unreliable when set against the control he had over Africa's prime source of high grade low sulphur oil. China was also making inroads in Libya.

Here is the rub: now that the Western powers have staked all on backing rebel forces against Gaddafi, it will be impossible for them to avoid continuing to back them by putting military advisers on the ground and continuing to give aid as if Gaddafi returns British oil interests will be threatened even more.

The US seems to have scaled down its role, probably adopting a policy of "wait and see" as it is European nations that have far more at stake as regards drilling and exploration rights. Something which invalidates the idea that the US is primarily behind an attempt at "neo-imperialism" in Libya.

The struggle for diversification over oil supplies is one that connects to the preservation of the consumer lifestyles the great majority of people in the West want, even if they fail to connect it to foreign policy and certain journalists waffle on in bemused fashion at why these wars are happening.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The Royal Wedding and Boring Posturing.

It's understandable that many in Britain are going to be somewhat indifferent to the Royal Wedding, if only because they are tired of the media hype. Yet the sheer scale of the resentment demonstrated by some anti-monarchical leftists, however, presumably lies in their hatred of the symbolism.

The fact that the British monarchy is held to embody the class system that prevails in Britain. However, if the Royal wedding was not hyped up to such proportions and if the monarchy became more low key as in the Netherlands and Denmark or Sweden, then far fewer would have problems with it.

But a key difference is the mulish legacy of bitterness in Britain that it has not become a more equitable society. Plus the cultural tendency towards a doltish kind of cynicism of the sort demonstrated by the pseudo-proley pose of Paul Heaton on why Hull would not celebrate the Royal Wedding.

The pop star, who had a few mediocre songs to his credit a few decades ago, wrote bluntly in The Guardian with contrived Yorkshire bluntness ( Hull is no king's town, 20 March 2011 )
... I heard that Hull's was the only council in the country that hadn't had a single application for a street party for the royal wedding. Nearby East Riding of Yorkshire council has received 12. Lots of my old friends sent me texts that day: "Good ol' Hull. Fuck the royals!"....Personally, I will only celebrate anything to do with royalty when one of them dies.
If certain cultural critics see the existing veneration for the Royal Family as a symptom that it cannot grow up, the same is true of those leaping on an annoyingly over hyped occasion to vent the same sentiments I had when I gave away a Royal Wedding Sugar Spoon to a class mate in 1981.

I was 6. My mother was not very pleased and looking at her disappointment on her face, I retrieved the thing and gave it to her. Ever since this wilful act of rebellion against conformity, I've never had a particular animus against the Royal Family itself. As my mother said, just reduce the hangers on. Scale it down.

Monday, 18 April 2011

On John Pilger and Libya.

John Pilger has written in the New Statesman ( Westminster warriors untouched by Libya’s suffering and bloodshed, April 8 2011 ),
"The Euro-American attack on Libya has nothing to do with protecting anyone; only the terminally naive believe such nonsense. It is the west's response to popular uprisings in strategic, resource-rich regions of the world and the beginning of a war of attrition against the new imperial rival, China".
Perhaps. but the alternative might be for China to be given a free hand to control Libyan oil and its record of supporting dictatorships at least gets around the problem of double standards by not having standards at all, other than the one of backing dictatorships in Africa with no questions asked.

Given that the Libyan crisis began by a revolt against Gaddafi's dictatorship, it's clear that the dictator the UK had supported right until the Arab Revolutions began had lost de facto control and the Western powers had decided that Libya would be better off without him and to support those who called on the West for help.

Pilger asserts,
"The Libyan "pro-democracy rebels" are reportedly commanded by Colonel Khalifa Haftar who, according to a study by the US Jamestown Foundation, set up the Libyan National Army in 1988 "with strong backing from the Central Intelligence Agency". For 20 years, Colonel Haftar has lived not far from Langley, Virginia, home of the CIA, which also provides him with a training camp. ...
"Libya's other "rebel" leaders include Mustafa Abdul Jalil, Gaddafi's justice minister until February, and General Abdel-Fattah Younes, who ran Gaddafi's interior ministry. Both men have formidable reputations for savagely putting down dissent.
The rebel leadership might "include" such people. But does it necessarily define the leadership? Pilger provides only three names.

Even so, the evidence needs to be provided that all the rebels are necessarily engaged in fighting a tribal war for a new dictatorship to rival Gaddafi's regime, which comes close to suggesting that they are all mere dupes of Imperial Power because they have accepted support from NATO.

If evidence has not been supposedly proved that Benghazi was not in danger of being crushed brutally by Gaddafi, then at least evidence could be given that the rebels are not, in fact, pro-democracy.

Unfortunately, oil fuels the Western economies and in a period of global economic depression in the West, it is hardly surprising that the powers are trying to influence events there.

Pilger earlier suggested that if Libya did not have oil but grew carrots, then the West would not bother intervening. ( West should get out of Libya, Herald Sun, April 4 2011),
“What the West should do is absolutely nothing.....Stay away from other countries of the world, stay away from their resources, stay away from their people, let countries develop in their own way, let the Libyan people deal with (Libyan leader Muammar) Gaddafi...

“This isn’t really about Libya … it’s about the US,”

“If Libya grew carrots there would be no no-fly zone. Libya has oil (and is) a strategic part of the world and is independent … and that is the reason Libya is being attacked.”

Libya's revolt was being threatened by Gaddafi's military. Rebel leaders and activists requested NATO intervention.

And if Libya is about oil, then it it's true that the great Car Economy, the flying in of produce from around the globe to feed Western consumers ( many of whom are "anti-war" protesters ) means that either the West acts to preserve oil supplies or the Western style of life will decline. Carrots do not fuel the economy.

Clearly, Pilger would not want to tell his fans that if the West does not intervene to ensure global oil supplies, then they must learn to live with a lower standard of living.

But, that could be the horrid truth. As John Gray and Michael T Klare have suggested, unless alternatives to oil dependence are found, conflicts over supplies is set to be the norm in the 21st century.

Radical progressives such as Pilger have not dealt with such brutal naturalistic facts because they fail to fit the notion that if only the West was not so "rapacious" and just stopped intervening the world would be better.

Yet Pilger's own failure to mention the scope, cynicism and contempt for human rights in resource rich zones pursued by China in opposition to the West is also an example of perverting truth through omission and comes across as somewhat parochial.

Seumas Milne, an erstwhile supporter of the British StWC and journalist praised by Pilger dismissed the idea of Chinese Imperialism in a recent debate in London. But, as Pilger himself suggested in The New Rulers of the World, the New Great Game is on.

By all means "unearth the filthy truth", as Harold Pinter advocated. However, if that means deliberately omitting the fact that the wealth and comfort of the people of the West will not be affected by non-intervention in areas of oil and gas, then this reduces Pilger's perspective, that it's all about "Them" and greedy politicians and corporations, to somewhat populist and cowardly propaganda riffs.

Diary "Every Little helps"

Food is getting damned expensive. Key tip for saving money: go to Sainsbury's Local at 9.45 pm. Scope out the reduced items and befriend the man with the bar code machine. Get the basket ready and pile in the items reduced down to 20p. I got a basket yesterday that would have cost £50 for £4.20. It's like being a modern hunter gatherer.

I'm in constant competition from a couple of huge Slovak women built like shot putters with greedy peasant faces who have pushed me away from Taste the Difference ready meals a few times. Now I've outwitted them by flinging the half price reduction items before they get there for the knock down prices and getting the manager to take the basket out into the storeroom. It's their fault for shoving bacon in his face and screaming "deescount, deescount" at him.

This avoids the old problem of all of us sharking around at just after 10pm and pretending to be curiously interested in custard tarts ( not out of date ) and then rushing to the man with the price gun and jostling for position to get the lamb chops. My favourite moment was snatching a huge steak for 50p ( was £4.50 ) from right under their noses on the bottom shelf. I'm more agile than them.

April 14 at 12:12am


Just pulled off today's prize scoop from Wealdstone Sainsbury's. An £11.17 New Zealand Leg of Lamb. I shamelessly placed a lamb chop on top of the packet and more or less guarded it for 35minutes until the manager dropped it down to £4. There are at least 4 dinners to be had from it.

I'm not joking. These bargains give me an adrenalin rush. The price of food is high these days. In the Arab nations it has led to social revolt and political protest. It's absurd that so much good food gets thrown out. At least I'm using up the food nobody else wants. Apart from the competitors I have, the Romanian gypsies, Slovaks and one Greek labourer who once shared the spoils with me to defuse the potential conflict.

And instead of being a bored consumer, I'm hunting for my food. Maybe that's the point of two for one deals. This little earner subverts the system. Though, as Tesco suggest "Every little helps". I don't suppose their model consumer has lingering around reading novels on the chairs provided near the self service machines has that in mind though.

One thought I had is whether in the future there will be only computer check outs and security guards around to prevent fraud and anti-social elements fighting for knock downs. Though it might be on CCTV and sold off to Reality TV shows

Sunday, 3 April 2011

"The Iraq Effect on Libya".

'Illusions commend themselves to us because they save us pain and allow us to enjoy pleasure instead. We must therefore accept it without complaint when they sometimes collide with a bit of reality against which they are dashed to pieces'-Sigmund Freud.

'Will real progress be possible only when Gadafy leaves the scene? I tend to think the opposite. If he is sincere in wanting change, as I think he is, he could play a role in muting conflict that might otherwise arise as modernisation takes hold. My ideal future for Libya in two or three decades' time would be a Norway of North Africa: prosperous, egalitarian and forward-looking. Not easy to achieve, but not impossible'-Anthony Giddens in 2007 ( The Guru of Blair's Third Way )

' sources are clear that most of those involved with Saif were following the lead set by Tony Blair after he successfully used the invasion of Iraq to force Gaddafi to abandon his arms programme.

Blair deserves no blame for his entente cordiale. Had he not neutralised Gaddafi, the regime would now have weapons of mass destruction to use against the citizens of Benghazi'-Nick Cohen
The question is whether Choen's statement is true or not. Certainly, the US and UK rapprochement had the effect of ending Gaddafi's chemical weapons threat. But that was hardly the sole aim of embracing the dictator again or of selling him other conventional arms.

Yet Nick Cohen is not the only backer of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 who claims that the Iraq War forced Gaddafi to give up his weapons of mass destruction programmes.

Christopher Hitchens has also been plugging the line about 'the Iraq effect on Libya', ( The Iraq Effect.If Saddam Hussein were still in power, this year's Arab uprisings could never have happened ),

....very important in the timing, was Qaddafi's abject fear at watching the fate of Saddam Hussein. This has been amply reconfirmed by many Libyan officials in the hearing of many of my friends. He did, after all, approach George W. Bush and Tony Blair, not the United Nations. So now Qaddafi's stockpiles are under lock and key in Oak Ridge, Tenn....
This ex post facto rationalisation for the invasion of Iraq is unconvincing, though, as Gaddafi most likely used the idea that he wanted to avoid the fate of Saddam Hussein in order to opportunistically try to restore relations with the USA and Britain.

Gaddafi used the threat of the weapons programme to allow Bush and Blair to claim that the Iraq War had compelled him to give up on the weapons programme, one that would be convenient to the Bush administration after it had failed to find WMD in Iraq.

Bush in 2004 stated in his State of the Union address: "Nine months of intense negotiations succeeded with Libya, while 12 years of diplomacy with Iraq did not...words must be credible, and no one can now doubt the word of America" . Meaning force was, therefore, justified.

The facts, however, are that Gaddafi had consistently attempted to use his abandonment of a nuclear weapons programme and chemical weapons ( mustard gas ) as a trump card that would get sanctions removed before 2003, not least as Gaddafi was even back then facing an economic crisis.

Before 2003, Libya's chemical weapons production was not seen as a priority, even though Gaddafi had in October 1999 offered to enter the Chemical Weapons Convention. The emphasis was upon using Libya's role in terrorism to preserve sanctions on the nation.

The rapprochement in 2004 was more a consequence of the fact that the Iraq war had failed to secure the oil for the USA and UK in the near future and to try and exploit the war for "regime change" as having had a positive effect in "the war on terror" in Libya's case.

The reality was that Gaddafi was now seen as a force for "stability", especially as he had a record of executing Islamic fundamentalists, such as those in Hizb-ut Tahrir even back as far as the 1970s, and so he could become an ally in the Bush-Blair war against Al Qaida.

The Iraq War merely broughtabout the end of Gaddafi's barely existing nuclear programme as it was hardly important when compared to the need of Western powers to continue their search for access to oil and to save face and credibility after no WMD were subsequently found.

The sanctions on Libya had served their purpose by 2004 as by contrast with the Middle Eastern states, Libya's oil was largely still untapped and of a far better quality, without large quantities of sulphur and so better for oil refineries. The realpolitik cynicism on Libya was consistent with the war on Iraq-the over depenence upon oil.

The delusions of the liberal left shown by those ideologists behind Blair, such as Anthony Giddens and others at the LSE, in embracing the potential for regime alteration in Libya under Gaddafi were rationalisations based on in inability to accept how globalisation has caused the potential for resource wars.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Libya, Iraq and Oil.

.... half the dictators in the Middle East always have a warm place in their hearts for George Galloway. I have seen evidence that this familiar anti-democratic leftism has taken hold in parts of the LSE, but my sources are clear that most of those involved with Saif were following the lead set by Tony Blair after he successfully used the invasion of Iraq to force Gaddafi to abandon his arms programme.

Blair deserves no blame for his entente cordiale.
Had he not neutralised Gaddafi, the regime would now have weapons of mass destruction to use against the citizens of Benghazi. The fault lies in the British establishment's determined pretence that Libya was no longer a vicious state, a pretence that was very profitable for BP, and the PR companies, lobbyists and academics Saif Gaddafi recruited.

Writes Nick Cohen ( Lord Woolf's conflict of interest at the LSE, The Observer, Sunday 3 April 2011).

The notion here, that Gaddafi gave up his nuclear weapons programme in 2004 because he was afraid that his was another regime under threat from USA and UK military action, can hardly be used as a pretext to argue that the Iraq War was still a good thing after all.

Blair's rapprochement with Gaddafi in 2004 was necessary because the Iraq War, essentially an oil grab, had plunged the nation into chaos, sectarian warfare and thus led oil prices to soar: that occasioned both Gaddafi's 'fear' that he could be 'next' and the need of Western powers to secure access to Libya's high quality oil.

Nick Cohen perpetuates that dealing with dictatorships is all about oil profits only and not, as David Strahan puts it in The Last Oil Shock that wars such as Iraq were due to "geostrategic desperation". It's this hunger for oil that led to supporting dictators and invading Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein.

Whether its backing dictatorships and selling arms to them or promoting "regime change" through imposing democracy, the endgame has continually been the race to control oil reserves when faced with accelerating global demand ( esp from China ) and the need for diversification of supplies.

The British establishment never ceased regarding Gaddafi's Libya as a "vicious state": it was prepared to ignore it as the need for Libyan oil, an important source of supply needed for Britain's high octane consumer car and supermarket economy to continue. That had been spelt out by the impact of the Road hauliers strike in 2000.

Ironically, George Galloway stated on Sky News that the current intervention in Libya is about BP's profits and not about the fact many global and regional powers-including Iran- are competing to control oil and gas and using it as a tool of geopolitical influence. Controlling oil is not about price and profit but national power and prosperity.

The fact is that people do not want to hear that war, destruction, anarchy and dictatorship are the necessary consequence of the pathological struggle to control oil and nothing to do with corporate profiteering, a sentiment common amongst anti-capitalists despite the fact living standards in the West depend upon it.

Yet the Stop the War Coalition leaders and those like Milne and Pilger never mention that because they want to profit from the cheap outrage that comes with directing ire at the political classes, as if they alone profited from a car economy, cheap EasyJet flights, and exotic supermarket products.

Cohen too wants to suggest that when BP supports regimes with dictatorships, it is about profits but when the USA and UK invade Iraq it is not about control of oil supplies, something mechanically written off some as a "conspiracy theory" because they portray those emphasising the oil factor as being concerned with oil prices.

Cohen ignores the continuities in British foreign policy to maintain the idea that there is an easy distinction between rationalising the existence of dictatorships and the creed of the "pro-liberationist" left that wants to remove 'rogue regimes' by military force and fight a' war on terror'.

The reality is different: over dependence upon oil necessarily undercuts the promotion of democracy in Arab nations where "the curse of oil" ensures Orwellian doublethink from states wanting access to abundant and cheap oil. As well as to benefit from the inflow of Arab petrol money.

Mark Almond on Libya.

Mark Almond on RT commenting on the confused strategy of the Western powers as regards Libya.

Almond has also put the dangers of the Western powers bombing strategy into historical perspective ( Libya - 100 Years of Bombing, or Is Fascism the Forgotten Root of Humanitarian Intervention?Friday, 1 April 2011 ).

The celebrations of the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Italian unification in March, 2011, were overshadowed by the crisis in Libya. Coinciding with Italy’s birthday, Silvio Berlusconi’s government decided to make seven air bases available to NATO allies for the bombing of Colonel Gaddafi’s forces.

By coincidence, this was one hundred years since the Italians invented aerial bombardment and initiated its practice precisely over Libya. A century later, the bomber returns to the scene of its bloody birth. Clio seems to take a perverse enjoyment in ensuring that history repeats itself, first acting as imperialism then as humanitarian intervention, without even needing to change the stage-set.

On 1st November, 1911, Lieutenant Giulio Gavotti dropped the first bomb from an aeroplane. According to the Ottoman authorities it hit the military hospital in Ayn Zara in the Libyan desert. The Italians strongly denied targeting an installation protected by the Geneva Convention. Modern aerial warfare and the propaganda battle which has accompanied it ever since was underway from the start.

Lt. Gavotti’s four bombs were modified hand grenades, but soon the Italians had learned how to drop incendiary bomb and shrapnel bombs – what we would now call cluster munitions.

The initial impact of aircraft overhead was alarming and disorientating to the forces below. Panic spread as an airplane engine was heard approaching. But soon enough the Turks and Arabs below learned the limitations of aerial bombardment and their terror subsided. The Italians decided that they had to increase the terrorising effect of their bombing and strafing to keep the enemy on the run. The Italian pilots also realised that fixed targets like villages or oases were easier to find and strike than mobile guerrillas.

The British Arabist, G.F. Abbott who was with the mixed Turkish-Arab forces resisting the invasion noted that they soon recovered from their fear partly because bombs which fell into the sand tended to explode harmlessly. But he added, “The women and children in the villages are practically the only victims, and this fact excited the anger of the Arabs.”

Antagonising the civilian population was an unfortunate side-effect of the bombing which became a major factor in turning the Italian invasion into a protracted counter-insurgency.

When the idea of occupying Libya as a fiftieth birthday present to themselves was turned into practice in September, 1911, Italians were assured of a quick victory there. They were told that the Ottoman Turkish regime was thoroughly hated by the Arabs living there and that a warm welcome could be expected for the soldiers bringing civilization and liberation from the Sultan’s tyranny. To use modern parlance, Italians were encouraged to expect a cakewalk. The media assured the soldiers, “Arab hostility is nothing but a Turkish fable.”

The Arab Uprisings: 'Interesting Times' Ahead.

Compared to the impact of the 1973 oil crisis, the potential for one in 2011 or 2012 grows more ominous. Marks Almond has written ( Middle East uprising will put oil giant Saudi Arabia in peril The Daily Mail 20th February 2011 )
The oil-rich autocracies on which we depend are now facing full-throated is the rising tide of violence around Saudi Arabia which could ignite a political blow-out of terrifying proportions in the world’s biggest oil producing country.

Even people who hope to see the end of the Saudis’ hand-chopping, wife-beating Wahhabi fundamentalist regime must realise that its downfall will create a global economic earthquake.

The situation in neighbouring Bahrain is a microcosm of what might happen in Saudi Arabia.

Don’t let Bahrain’s tiny size mislead you.This island kingdom sits on the fault-line separating the tectonic plates of the Muslim world and is the fulcrum of American power in the Middle East.

The U.S. Fifth Fleet is based on the island –which is attached to Saudi by a causeway – and pro-Iranian Shi’ites who make up 70 per cent of the population are seething with rage against the pro-Western king.

The remaining 30 per cent of Bahrain’s population are Sunni Muslims, and the bitter Sunni-Shi’ite infighting there could spark a religious civil war which could quickly spread to Saudi Arabia.Outsiders would pour in. Not just jihadi fanatics. Iran would support the ‘oppressed’ Shi’ites of Bahrain and Saudi.

What would America do? Could Obama abandon the pro-Western rulers of Bahrain and Saudi if Iran got involved?And how then would people in other Arab states such as Egypt react if the West put stopping Iran ahead of People Power? And how might Israel react?

In the long term, democratising the Middle East must be a good thing – that is, if we can get to the long term. In the short term, the world is in for its bumpiest ride for decades.
Set against the background of the global crash of 2008 and the recession, the consequences could be global instability and within Europe the potential for social conflict as the faltering economy crumbles further and consumer comforts that have been taken for granted give way to an era of privation and hardship.

US and UK Strategy and the Oil Stakes in Libya.

Michael Boyle wrote in The Guardian today about President Barack Obama's confused strategy in dealing with the Libyan civil war, ( Obama doctrine? If only. Saturday 2 April 2011 )
In his speech on Monday night, President Obama articulated his rationale for the ongoing military campaign in Libya, claiming that a failure to act would have permitted humanitarian catastrophe that would have "would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world".

But as recent events have demonstrated, a compelling moral case does not equate to a coherent strategy. Indeed, it is charitable to call this strategy muddled. Initially committed to only to defensive operations to stop the advance of the Libyan military into cities like Benghazi, the Obama administration quickly began working with the rebels to coordinate air strikes to push back Gaddafi's forces.

This turned the US, Britain and France into combatants in a civil war; no matter how much they claim only to be engaged in "kinetic military action" or some other Orwellian euphemism, the facts are plain.

There are now CIA officers present in Libya to coordinate air strikes with rebels, and the US has flown over 1,600 sorties. While the American public may be fooled by the dissembling language, Gaddafi and his regime will have no illusions about who is bombing them.Now, if only to underscore this point that this is a real war, the US and its allies are considering sending weapons to the Libyan rebels.
The reason for this is that the Libyan civil war and the intervention of the Western powers is crucially concerned with the future of Libya's large oil reserves, the largest in Africa, and the fact that Gaddafi lo longer had de facto control over the nation.

That Britain and the US have gone beyond the UN mandate to protect civilians and have aimed at "regime alteration" by proposing to supply arms to the rebels is now obvious and the endgame has cleared mutated into getting rid of Gaddafi.

The reality is that where oil is concerned, the strategic over dependence upon oil and the continued longer term failure of Western nations to wean themselves off having oil fuel their high octane consumer economies necessarily and inevitably is drawing them further into the war going on in Libya.

When oil is at stake, it is clear that morality is subordinated to realpolitik in a way that becomes dangerous. The need is to broker a negotiated peace that will partition Libya and not for Britain and the USA to push the endgame towards propelling the civil war further by backing the rebels to push west.

Both BP and Exxon Mobil have huge oil concessions in the Ghadamis region in the west of Libya and it is interesting to speculate whether they will for an all out attempt to remove Gaddafi or advocate the partition the nation between the eastern region of Cyrenaica and Tripolitania in the west.
A strategy that minimises the bloodshed and returns Libya to some form of stability in the right one. The question is whether the rebel leadership in the east is prepared to accept a partition any more than Gaddafi's clan and supporters could be induced to.

Proponents of "humanitarian intervention" have as yet often failed to demonstrate coherent strategy no less than reflexive "anti-war" agitators who, in reality, are opposed to what they consider another attempt to impose Western clients on an Arab state.

Noam Chomsky, the veteran critic of US Foreign policy, has not denied the fact that had Gaddafi gone on to attempt retaking Benghazi that a bloodbath would have ensued, ( On Libya and the Unfolding Crises March 30, 2011 )
Libya is rich in oil, and though the US and UK have often given quite remarkable support to its cruel dictator, right to the present, he is not reliable. They would much prefer a more obedient client. Furthermore, the vast territory of Libya is mostly unexplored, and oil specialists believe it may have rich untapped resources, which a more dependable government might open to Western exploitation.

When a non-violent uprising began, Qaddafi crushed it violently, and a rebellion broke out that liberated Benghazi, Libya's second largest city, and seemed about to move on to Qaddafi's stronghold in the West. His forces, however, reversed the course of the conflict and were at the gates of Benghazi.

A slaughter in Benghazi was likely, and as Obama's Middle East adviser Dennis Ross pointed out, "everyone would blame us for it." That would be unacceptable, as would a Qaddafi military victory enhancing his power and independence. The US then joined in UN Security Council resolution 1973 calling for a no-fly zone, to be implemented by France, the UK, and the US, with the US supposed to move to a supporting role.
There was no effort to limit action to instituting a no-fly zone, or even to keep within the broader mandate of resolution 1973.

The triumvirate at once interpreted the resolution as authorizing direct participation on the side of the rebels. A ceasefire was imposed by force on Qaddafi's forces, but not on the rebels. On the contrary, they were given military support as they advanced to the West, soon securing the major sources of Libya's oil production, and poised to move on.
( my italic-K.N )
A ceasefire was intended to be "imposed" on Gaddafi's forces but clearly bombing from the air cannot achieve that. It is as if Chomsky thinks that the Western powers have more influence over events in Libya than they actually do.

But Chomsky is correct that the military intervention went further than the mandate allowed, one reason that Russia and China then stated they disagreed with the bombing of Gaddafi's ground forces, after having abstained rather than vetoed the UN mandate.

China and Russia's criticism most likely as they do not want the West to control Libya or install clients who will give the oil concessions to Western companies The CNPC had in 2005, one year after Blair's rapprochement with Gaddafi, won the right to a major exploration block.

All the large powers have a stake in the oil in Libya and clearly the failure of Iraq, no less than the fact the invasions aftermath, the severe impact upon the US economy caused by this expensive conflict and the global crash of 2008, led to a weakening of the dollar, allowing the CNPC to gain control of oilfields.

Libya is interconnected to Iraq in that it was in the year of this catastrophic invasion (2003) that the USA lifted sanctions on Libya and them, when Iraq started to go badly wrong, to negotiate American participation in Libya's energy sector and why Blair opened up relations with him again.

Saddam's removal also led Gaddafi into terminating his nuclear weapons programme and adhere to the terms on the non-proliferation treaty and for the US to become involved with signing new contracts with the Libyan regime to develop drilling rights in large areas of unexplored territory.

It is hard to avoid the fact that the intervention, though partly about avoiding a protraction of the civil war that would have gone on if Benghazi had been entered by Gaddafi's forces, has been concerned about control over the oil, as a longer civil war would have knocked out production of high quality crude oil.

Yet critics such as Chomsky ignore their own criteria for what a "humanitarian intervention" by default could look like, as when he wrote in 1994, ( Humanitarian Intervention, Boston Review ),
.....intervention undertaken on the normal grounds of power interests might, by accident, be helpful to the targeted population. Such examples exist. The most obvious recent one is Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia in December 1978 after years of murderous Khmer Rouge attacks on Vietnamese border areas...the Vietnamese invasion removed Pol Pot, terminating major atrocities, though that was not the motivating factor.
Whether that could apply to the intervention of the Western powers will be seen only if they are prepared to move towards negotiating a settlement that could require them to be prepared to sacrifice their oil interests in the west of Libya or one that leaves the Gaddafi clan in control of major oil blocks.