Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Droning On on the Af-Pak Frontier

A vitally important and thoroughly documented new report on the impact of Obama's drone campaign has just been released by researchers at NYU School of Law and Stanford University Law School. Entitled "Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan", the report details the terrorizing effects of Obama's drone assaults as well as the numerous, highly misleading public statements from administration officials about that campaign. The study's purpose was to conduct an "independent investigations into whether, and to what extent, drone strikes in Pakistan conformed to international law and caused harm and/or injury to civilians".
Reports Glenn Greenwald today,

The fact is that the Drone Attacks are simply not going to destroy the Taliban. If anything, the evidence is that, even in Afghanistan, the attempt to use aerial force to defeat enemies simply ends up hitting the civilian population and creating more recruits.

The Afghanistan War is not winnable and is being fought so ferociously in order to facilitate US geopolitical interests in Central Asia: a very important part of this is the construction of the TAPI pipeline which will, as the middle two letters of the acronym make clear, will go through Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Drone Casualties are a price Washington thinks is worth it. Business as usual. And the business of war across "Af-Pak" is clearly the TAPI Pipeline, something both evident from what leading figures in Washington have said ( though never Obama himself ) and from numerous strategic studies.

Why the TAPI Pipeline is Part of a Strategy to Isolate Iran.

Is this what the conflict is all about, to get India on side for Iran, giving them an alternative source of gas, you think?
I think Pakistan is probably more important to get on side for any further action against Iran. Yet, as power cuts in India have recently shown it too is facing an energy shortage. Certainly, US/NATO strategy in Afghanistan is primarily about maintaining a stake in the New Great Game in Central Asia.

The evidence points to a geopolitical strategy of encircling Iran and destroying its regional influence both in the east towards Central Asia and the west towards the Middle East. As regards Afghanistan, the TAPI Pipeline is vital if Iran is not going to benefit from gas exports east.

There are, in my view, numerous reasons,

1) TAPI will integrate Afghanistan into the region economically, freezing out Iran and damaging its economy . That, in turn, will ramp up pressure for "regime change" in Tehran to get one that can no longer get in the way of US policy in the Middle East.

2) TAPI will guarantee that, after eleven years of warfare, that a key goal of Western strategy is attained. If the US/NATO were to leave without guaranteeing the security for the pipeline project, it would have acheived little beyond the initial aim of driving out Al Qaida.

3) TAPI will bind Pakistan closer to the Western Powers at a time when Pakistan faces potentially destabilising energy shortages. As the West seeks to isolate Iran, not least due to concerns over its nuclear programme, it has to stabilise Pakistan by providing energy without involving Iran.

These are the realities behind the surge, the investment of vast amounts of money and the willingness to sacrifice lives. The West would prefer not to sacrifice soldiers lives recruited by the state and want to use trained Afghans to do the job along with mercenaries and "special troops".

But this is what is at stake. One day, we might have a serious discussion about it.

Why The TAPI Pipeline is a Geopolitical Strategy not a "Conspiracy Theory"

For those in some sort of parallel universe where the TAPI Pipeline simply is not a strategic calculation within the overall war aims of the Western Powers in Afghanistan, it needs to be understood that those who support the US/NATO effort assume that the TAPI Pipeline is a vital interest ( even if hazardous ).

Alexandros Petersen wrote, ( TAPI pipeline: Bigger is not better Tuesday, June 12, 2012 )
TAPI has received strong support from the United States as part of Washington's "New Silk Road" strategy to bring development to Afghanistan through regional infrastructure connections, and as an alternative to the proposed Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline.
Petersen assumes the TAPI is an ambitious project but he does not write it off at all. He is author of the The World Island: Eurasian Geopolitics and the Fate of the West and Advisor to the European Energy Security Initiative at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
TAPI must also maintain a reasonable scope. The construction of a record-breaking pipeline through a conflict zone with too many regional cooks in the kitchen is an insurmountable task. A relatively modest gas link with sound commercial underpinning and adequate security provisions may stand a chance at becoming reality.
Petersen does not want the TAPI pipeline to be "politicised" ( as if this would not happen or as if it is purely a commericial venture ) , despite the fact the insistence on the Afghan route from Turkmenistan is obviously political for those in Pakistan who would prefer the Iranian option which would provide gas four times cheaper.

The interpretations that can come from the fact of TAPI is an important strategic consideration are various. To deny that one of the main goals of Western geopolitics is to promote and facilitate the TAPI Pipeline is not. But it is difficult to sell that to the electorate in Western democracies so other narratives are sold ( "war on terror)

Newspapers and the BBC need journalism critical of the TAPI pipeline project that links it firmly in the context of the Afghan War. More transparancy is needed and the media ought to be doing its job , especially in outlining the true stakes in this war instead of those commenting only on military strategy.

For those who warble on about TAPI being a "conspiracy theory", it is curious that leading figures in Washington would seem to back up the fact that the pipeline is strategically valuable and that if Afghanistan had remained unstable or a haven for Al Qaida, it would have no chance of being built. Victoria Nuland, a State Department 'spokesperson', said this on May 23 2012,
"Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI gas pipeline) is a perfect example of energy diversification, energy integration done right. We are very strong supporters of the TAPI pipeline. We congratulate the (four) countries that signed (the agreement on) it..We consider it a very positive step forward and sort of a key example of what we're seeking with our New Silk Road Initiative, which aims at regional integration to lift all boats and create prosperity across the region....I frankly don't know whether we have commercial involvement in this, but we have been supportive politically and we stand by to be supportive in other ways if asked,"
This directly and flatly contradicts the "think tank" position of Petersen, who is not a government spokesman, and who thinks that the commericial viability and not the politics of a "peace pipeline" is the main issue.

The fact is that TAPI is part of a geopolitical strategy in Central Asia and is commercially valuable, though only a conspiracy theorist would have it that the war in Afghanistan was launched to get gas or enrich Halliburton-the Michael Moore line that makes it easy to write off the TAPI pipeline as so central to the war

That isolating Iran is a strategy behind the promotion of the TAPI Pipeline ( and it could not be built without Western troops providing security ) is clearly outlined by Nuland. Robert Blake who is responsible for the region has again and again said what is expressed here,
"We have been very clear about how we feel and how the international community feels about those kinds of investments Iran has historically been unreliable as a global partner...In this case, the case of the TAPI pipeline, you've got private sector investment, you've got new transit routes, you've got people-to-people links, you've got increased trade across a region that historically has not been well-linked, where there have been historic antipathies which are now being broken down by this positive investment project that's going to give jobs, it's going to give more energy, it's going to give more technology to the people of all of these countries...If Iran wants to come back into compliance with its international obligations, the whole picture's going to look different in terms of the way we feel about investments.."
Comment is Free . Facts are Sacred. So said C P Scott of The Manchester Guardian and these words are the masthead of the online site of that newspaper today. And so it should be If the facts are even reported, of course, in the mainstream Western media.

At least those facts which are inconvenient and euphemised only as "vital interests".

Monday, 24 September 2012

Why are British Troops still in Afghanistan ?

The reason British troops are in Afghanistan is to provide the security environment for the construction of the TAPI Pipeline. This strategic war aim has little to do with corporate profits, though these are a potential beneficial spin off as recent successful bids by Western energy giants to construct it show.

As Business Recorder reports, ( TAPI gas pipeline project: Singapore, NY, London road shows ‘well received’ September 24 2012 ), the Asian Development Bank, the "Transaction Advisor" or  "TA", is there to fund the project and "gauge the market resoponse",
The New York road shows were attended by world leading IOCs such as Chevron and Exxon Mobile and leading financial institutions Citi Group and US Exim. All participants expressed a keen interest in the project. In the London Road Show, TAPI Parties met with representatives of British Petroleum, Shell, British Gas and Morgan Stanley. Invitees for upcoming shows are Mubadala Group, Macquarie, RWE and Deutsche Bank.
It should be noted that the Asian Development Bank is mostly controlled by Western interests. It is a cousin of the World Bank. Key players are the US, Australia and the UK. The bank exists to facilitate Western financial interests in Afghanistan's "nation building".

The idea this war is about " international terrorism", as Foreign Secratary Hammond claimed a few days ago is not true. The Taliban was never the same as Al Qaida and many Taliban factions even back in 2001 were hostile to it. More so today as the Taliban is only partly made up of members prominent then.

The war is for the strategic benefits of the TAPI Pipeline, curtailing Iranian gas exports to the Indian subcontinent and maintaining a stake in carving up the mineral wealth of Afghanistan against the ival attempts of China to gain concessions in mining. Afghanistan has $1trillion of Lithium reserves.

These war aims are euphemised as "International Development" , "Nation Building" or "Infrastructure Projects". The reality is that these are all interconnected with NATO geopolitical strategy, as is evident from the stated intentions of Hillary Clinton and Robert Blake to create "A New Silk Route".

The TAPI pipeline is important as part of the aim of isolating Iran. The IPI Pipeline has already been largely built on the Iranian side and would supply gas to an energy hungry Pakistan four times cheaper than from Turkmenistan and Afghanistan to the north and with less domestic discontent.

No war, the Fourth Afghan War included, is ever only "about" one thing. The importance of the Trans Afghan Pipeline was there from the outset of the War. Preventing Al Qaida from having a base in Afghanistan was also an original war aim of the Bush II administration.

As the war has dragged on and Washington becomes more concerned over Iranian ambitions, and its ability to exercise influence in the Middle East and Central Asia grows stronger as Shia movements gain power and influence, blocking a lucrative Iranian pipeline to the east has become ever more important.

The TAPI pipeline's construction would offset the need for Iranian gas exports, entrench the sanctions regime already in place and, possibly, destabilise the government in Tehran and help bring about "regime change". The alleged nuclear programme of Iran is also a consideration here.

In a nutshell, the governments of NATO nations keep giving contradictory statements as the real objectives are thought to be ones that are difficult to explain to the publics of democratic states and so the usual "politically correct" ones are given-development, women's rights, protection from terrorism etc

John Foster, a former World Bank economist and expert in energy geopolitics, has at length argued the central importance of the TAPI pipeline in "staying the course" in Afghanistan. The most detailed treatment is his seminal 'Pipeline Through a Troubled Land.

The fact that is, as British soldiers continue to be repatriated in body bags, that there is no debate in Parliament about the war aims. This makes it all the more important that those who oppose this war actually understand what the true stakes in the conflict are.

Friday, 21 September 2012

How to Rationalise Violence in the Name of a Peace Movement.

As malign as Blair is, he has been given a "peace making" role in the Middle East as the Quartet Representative, and so the BBC is bound to ask him his opinion. This, in itself, is too much for Lindsey German, a leading member of the SWP, StWC and RESPECT.

German proves why extra-parliamentary opposition to the political elite fails so miserably. An article for the Guardian,(  Why is the deluded, self-justifying Tony Blair given airtime? ), German has nothing to offer apart from trying to rationalise the often violent protests against the idiotic 'The Innocence of Muslims' film
The man who has done more than most to contribute to anti-western feeling among Muslims in the Middle East and Asia is called upon to tell us why Muslims shouldn't be angry about anything.
Well, since the StWC believes its mission is to harness the resentment of British Muslims against British foreign policy-as Muslims singled out for fiendish treatment both abroad and at home-the fact Blair has spoken about the halfwits protesting about a stupid amateur film made about Mohammed is good.

It means that the propaganda can be ramped up about how persecuted all Muslims are both at home and abroad in a dastardly process of "demonisation",
So while Blair dismissed the film as "laughable", he claimed that those who reacted against it by demonstrating were "very dangerous and wrong". He seems to think that the film can be judged by the standards of the Cannes film festival and, once found wanting, can be dismissed by all right-minded people.
This is the ad hominem fallacy. The fact that Blair has said the film is 'laughable' does not mean it is not. It is. It was posted on Youtube and now deranged mobs seem intent on degrading the image of their religion around the world.
Why are Muslims so sensitive on this question? Maybe the answer comes not just from one crude and racist film, but from long years of hurt caused by wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, imprisonment without trial by western-backed dictators, extraordinary rendition and torture
This crude lumping together of what are often aggressive mobs with "Muslims" is an insult to to Muslims. If one said of the deranged US Christian fundamentalists bombing abortion clinics as "Christians", this would be an insult to all decent sincere Christians or those from a Christian background.
..the objection to the film is not about its quality, but its intent of slandering and insulting Muslims across the world.
But Blair said the film was appalling. The question is why politicians are latching on to this to exploit the hysteria for their own ends ( including some in the British "anti-war" movement ) who crave outrage and fan it out to upgrade their own power hunger.

German proves that by trying to elide the protests in majority Muslim capitals with those in Britain,
Many of those opposing US and British policies in the Middle East are young and well educated. They are not religious fanatics but object to the being treated as inferior, and object to the richest countries in the world exploiting their resources and occupying their countries.
Well, some of them are and some of them are not. It is curious that the StWC has no coherent position on Syria at the moment. Many intelligent Muslims and those of other faiths or no faith oppose US and British policies without buying in to the idea that "Muslim countries" are being attacked because Muslim.

After all, when Sunni jihadists ( back by the West ) are trying to overthrow a secular Arab nationalist dictatorship it throws up a dilemma for an anti-war movement led by apologists for totalitarianism. Which is a pity, as a strong movement opposed to interventionist wars is needed.
They see unmanned US drone aircraft killing people in Pakistan and Yemen and wonder what kind of civilisation they are being offered.
They may well do. But "they" are not all one. And any reasonable Pakistani will understand that there as many in the West that oppose their own governments but cannot do much about them. Unless he thinks "the West" is just one Evil Enemy in total from Hollywood, Youtube, Drone Bombs and Irreligion.
Blair opined that "the great debate in the world at the moment is between the open-minded and the closed-minded". As usual, here Blair casts himself in the role of decent liberal. But some of his closest allies in these wars have been the US neocons, known for their narrow conservatism.
Blair is a neoconservative in foreign policy but the neoconservatives are not actually very conservative. Many conservatives opposed both the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. And their were liberals who opposed "liberal interventionism". The world is complex. And admitting that is a problem for a propagandist.
Blair himself has refused to ever acknowledge that he has done anything wrong over the invasion of Iraq. His "open-mindedness" never extended to taking on board public opinion, which from that time has been consistently anti-war.
That is made more difficult by the fact that intelligent opposition to these wars is drowned out by those like Galloway and those who oppose the wars partly as a means to vent anti-Western hatred in general. That puts off most British people and means the elites can dismiss it as mere background noise.
Blair also claimed that most of those killed in Afghanistan and Iraq were the victims not of western intervention but of sectarian killings. This is simply not true. Hundreds of thousands have been killed in those wars, large numbers by air strikes, many in sieges such as Fallujah, and millions have been displaced.
Blair started the war and one that was not necessary. It was of dubious legality. That is known. Even so, a tremendous number were killed in Iraq by sectarian killing and murders. The perpetrators did not need to do that. They did not have to muder one another. But it was an inevitable consequence of invading such a state.
Where there are sectarian killings, as in Iraq today, they date from the war and occupation and the policies that helped divide and rule.
Partly the US tacitly allowed Shia militias to carry out ethnic cleansing. Yet the US was not only the sole cause of that-unless it bears the responsibility for invading and causing the mess in the first place. This article denies any sense that Islamist movements have any moral agency.

Tell that to the Iraqi Christians.


Afghanistan is covered in the media in bulletins that report on the progress of this "progressive" war as if role of the US and NATO as peacekeepers and "nation builders" were merely a given fact. No context and no background as to why so much investment of Western resources in "staying the course" is given.

To a certain extent, this is a consequence of journalists focusing on one aspect of a war in aspic. Take for example this recent article in The Guardian,
The ALP was created in 2010 at the request of Gen David Petraeus, the former commander of international forces in Afghanistan and now the director of the CIA. The ALP is a loose network of local defence forces designed to mobilise and arm local civilians to defend their communities from the Taliban in areas where the national police and army have a limited presence.
This means areas such as Helmland through which the strategically vital US backed TAPI pipeline will be constructed. Where the vast majority of British troops involved in protecting what is referred only to merely as an "infrastructure project" have been killed by the Taliban by IED's.

The attacks from the ALP reflect Taliban infiltration. The Taliban are far from unpopular in the Pashtun areas of Afghanistan. Partly due to the futile attempts to win a "war on drugs" by destroying poor farmer opium crops and also due to the fact that other ethnic groups control Kabul and potential transit fees from TAPI.
For the US and Nato, with plans to expand the force to 30,000 by the end of 2014, the ALP is a cornerstone of the handover of Afghanistan's security to Afghan forces. It has become an integral part of the international withdrawal strategy, which is one reason why the US and Nato have mostly dismissed concerns raised by human rights groups about the ALP, claiming that abuses were committed by other armed groups or were aberrations that were dealt with.
The US and NATO "withdrawal" ( referred to as "international ) is a strategy that will leave considerable numbers of Western special forces and military advisers on the ground, if indeed that promise to withdraw all troops is even adhered to ( the French and US military have repeated a potentially longer commitment).

As reported by the Natural Gas Europe Journal ( Who Will Be Tapped By TAPI July 23rd, 2012 ) the
In a speech July 12 in Washington at a conference jointly sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert O. Blake, Jr. mentioned TAPI last, as merely making “progress”. He focused on the US pledge to continue to support the Afghan National Army after NATO withdraws most of its troops in 2014 , but it is not clear which uniformed Afghan force might actually guard the pipeline or when construction could begin. ( my italics )
Facts must be faced: the Afghanistan War has only marginally been concerned with human rights. The reality of the conflict has been brought to the fore far more now than it was from the outset and that reality is the geopolitical significance of the construction of the TAPI Pipeline under Western auspices.

The TAPI Pipeline is vital to Western interests in Central Asia and diverting the supply of gas from Turkmenistan south away from exclusive Russian control and from Chinese pipelines to the east. It also means that Afghanistan will be tied into a regional economic zone that excludes Iran.

This is precisely why Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has along with Robert Blake referred to the "New Silk Route" and threatening Pakistan with ominous consequences for wobbling on their commitments to the TAPI project and deciding to back the rival IPI Pipeline with Iranian gas four times cheaper.

From the outset of the TAPI project, the Taliban, which was created in Pakistan, has been determined to benefit from the pipeline or to destroy it if they are not involved in benefiting from it. That is why the ALP has been so deeply infiltrated by Taliban elements and what this war is now about.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

History versus Propaganda: The Uselessness of Seumas Milne.

One of the most depressing trends in British domestic politics is how extra-parliamentary opposition to the dangerous and destabilising foreign policies pursued by the USA ( and ,therefore, by the UK ) consist of the dregs of movements that were largely sympathetic to Global Communism of the Leninist type.

In the shape of the former RESPECT Party until 2007, when it was an alliance of atheist militants of the "Socialist Workers Party" and Islamists, and the "Stop the War Coalition", former advocates of totalitarian style politics continue to offer the leading voices against the "interventions" in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya.

One of the worst is Seumas Milne. In The Guardian, he starts off from the premise that he hates the USA as the embodiment of Global Capitalist Evil with the fervour of the more cliched kind of activist who seems to get off on ramping up outrage and offering little constructive about what could be done.

That is demonstrated in the very nature of an article today where Milne writes, with reference to the riots and protests by some angry Muslims towards the idiotic portrayal of Mohammed in a low bugdet film shot in the US,
...the only surprise is that there aren't more violent anti-US and anti-western protests in the region.

This merely crude and boringly predictable anti-US sentiment, which Milne shares in Britain on behalf of those Muslims outraged by US foreign policies, is considered to be about decades of intervention, meddling, supporting coups and the more recent direct invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
The issue Milne evades is the one of whether the "blowback" from the US and UK policy of sponsoring terroristic Islamist movements as proxies is responsible for the protests across what is simplistically termed "The Muslim World" ( ignoring the nature of the vast differences amongst 1.4 billion people ) .

Do the protests in various cities across North africa and the Middle East and Asia reflect spontaneous eruptions of outrage against the tacky Mohammed film made in the USA ? Or do they come from the carefully co-ordinated manipulation by political actors in these areas?

Milne, still embittered by the victory of the USA in the Cold War against the USSR that he portrays as a positive check on US Imperialist power, dates the Islamist terror threat ( as opposed to the wider Islamist movements against the US e.g. the Muslim Brotherhood ) back to the Western support for the mujahadeen against the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

Irrespective of the issues at stake in the NATO occupation of Afghanistan and its failures, Milne has consistently exhibited a certain amount of schadenfreude that the West is being biffed by what he regards as the same forces that inflicted defeat on the Soviet Union.
The US decision to suspend joint Afghan-Nato operations in response to a wave of attacks by Afghan soldiers and police on Nato troops cuts the ground from beneath the centrepiece of western strategy
Yet the attacks on NATO troops are mainly from the Taliban who are Afghans in so far as they live in Afghanistan. But , in reality, they are Pashtuns, one ethnic group amongst the many that live in Afghanistan. This is not a nationalist revolt. This is a factual error.
The US-British invasion of Afghanistan was of course launched in response to the 9/11 attacks: the poison fruit of US-led support for the Afghan mujahideen war against the Soviet Union. Why do they hate us, many Americans asked at the time, oblivious to their country's role in decades of coups, tyranny, sanctions regimes and occupations across the Middle East
The 9/11 attacks came from Al Qaida who were a small minority of the former mujahadeen who fought against the Soviet Union. Most of the mujahadeen fought because they detested the Soviet Union for its atheism and for the PDPA's draconian modernisation policies.
True, President Carter's National Security Adviser Brzezinski did in 1979 exploit the situation to help funnel arms and funds to the USA but most of the money and foreign recruits came from Islamic charities such as the Muslim Brotherhood, the Sunni movements opposed to the secular Arab nationalist regimes.

The idea the USA singlehandedly destabilised a "promising" Communist regime in Kabul ( and it was only strong in Kabul ) and induced the Soviet invasion is a myth. It was part of the decision to invade but the responsibility for the chaos in Afghanistan belongs to the Communists.
... just as the mujahideen the US backed in Afghanistan later turned their guns on their imperial sponsor in the form of the Taliban and al-Qaida, so many of the Islamists and jihadists who fought against Gaddafi with Nato air cover have their own ideas for the future of their country..
The mujahadeen did not do that as it fragmented into rival factions after the USSR withdrew from Afghanistan. The early 1990s saw warlordism and the Taliban was created by Pakistan to advance its interests in the neighbouring state. Another factual error nailed.
There was no "the" mujahadeen in the 1990s. They turned their guns on one another and Al Qaida was able to find a base there amidst the chaos of a collapsed state. In 2001, the USA backed former factions of the mujahadeen in the Northern Alliance to overthrow the Taliban.

The reason was that the Taliban, by not expelling Al Qaida, were no longer useful in furthering the strategy to build the Trans-Afghan Pipeline from Turkmenistan down through to India, thus blocking off Iranian regional ambitions and diversifying the supply of gas away from Russian control.

The 9/11 Attacks gave the US and NATO a pretext to go into Afghanistan in order to advance its interests and, by extension, build a functioning state. It was an absurdly foolish foreign policy doomed to failure. Yet Milne's grasp of the history of Afghanistan is as shaky as the left wing interventionists he opposes.

Then again, the purpose is not hitorical accuracy or understanding. It is to ramp up pathological hatred.
Western war in the Muslim world has also fed a toxic tide of Islamophobia in Europe and the US. What is it about Muslims that makes them so easily offended, Europeans and Americans commonly demand to know – while Muslims point to cases such as the British 19-year-old who was convicted in Yorkshire last week of posting a "grossly offensive" Facebook message that British soldiers in Afghanistan "should die and go to hell", and ask why they're not afforded that protection.
The police are continually charging people for Twitter comments where no threat or harm to life is present. There is no attempt by British governments to "demonise" Muslims. If anything, they have sought to bend and twist free speech laws to please "the Muslim community".

The fact is, without hyperbole, that the wars in Afghanistan are wars fought to advance strategic interests and control oil and gas supplies. As in the Kosovo War in 1999, the Western Powers will bomb traditional Christian lands to advance their geopolitical interests.

The fact that these wars are interpreted as "anti-Muslim" is only for propaganda purposes and to agitate the Muslim British population in to forming pressure groups to try to change British foreign policy. It should change but not because of pressure, the threat of violence or intimidation in this country.

It should be done by reasoned argument and drawing attention to the dangers in getting dragged into conflicts in the Middle East just in order to engineer the outcome in such a way as benefit our oil interests. Energy independence would avert these hazards and dangers.

Milne never mentions these realities because his ideal is not peaceful co-existence but in sowing antagonistic hatreds of the sort that ideologues on the hard left feed off. It also helps this hack establish his "credibility" , he thinks, amongst British Muslims.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Overpopulation, Suburban Blight and Authoritarianism.

Increased population means overcrowding and even if planning is used to disperse the population elsewhere the potential for turning England ( especially the SE ) into a vast overlit wasteland is going to be a fact, as the evidence of the new Con-Lib testifies in its absurd populist ploy to build yet more houses.

The BBC reported today,

'Just a few months ago the government rewrote the entire planning framework for England, after fierce initial resistance from countryside campaigners.

Now ministers want further changes to planning in England in an attempt to boost house-building and revive the economy.

The announcements come as the economy continues to languish, with the recession now having lasted more than nine months. The construction sector has performed particularly badly.

Mr Cameron said: "This government means business in delivering plans to help people build new homes and kick-start the economy"

Rather as in Capek's R.U.R where the robots have killed off and replaced humans, the robots can only think of measures to keep the economy growing by the promise to "build more houses". The consequences for what England will look like are appalling no less.

New Labour, which intentionally increased the population by relaxing controls on immigration, contributed towards this rising problem.There were hideous new plans afoot back then in 2004 to build a new super city along the M62 in the north of England from Liverpool to Hull.

'Mr Alsop's vision includes innovative solutions to urban sprawl such as extending Liverpool into the sea by erecting buildings on stilts up to a mile from the coast. He also proposes transforming the South Yorkshire town of Barnsley by modelling it on a Tuscan hill village, complete with its own walls. 
Other ideas, such as Stack - a vertical "village" where 5,000 people can live, work, worship and play - offers a twist on the skyscraper solution to population increase. Mr Prescott has said he sees a northern super city as a potential rival to London's economic power and size'.

Those concerned that population control will mean more authoritarianism and "planning", have ignored the fact that overpopulation and the demand that makes on the environment and, indeed, resources, leads ineluctably to authoritarianism anyway.

The construction of more boxy housing estates, such as the "megacity" that has been advocated between Birmingham and Coventry, will mean more road building ( something Cameron favours, and more infrastructure of huge supermarkets and logistics depots and warehouses with chain link fencing.

The Daily Telegraph reported,

Up to 100,000 homes would be built on green belt in the Midlands near the controversial High Speed 2 rail route as part of a dramatic expansion of housing.

    The plan, disclosed by Andrew McNaughton, the chief engineer of HS2, would exploit the new and highly controversial National Planning Policy Framework, which aims to simplify Britain’s planning laws, increase economic growth and provide homes for Britain’s booming population.

    If it goes ahead, the development would effectively obliterate the open countryside east of Birmingham to create Britain’s longest continuous conurbation, stretching 40 miles from Coventry to the far side of Wolverhampton.

    The planning framework will be published on Tuesday by ministers who want a new age of “pro-growth” planning. It was described by one Whitehall source last night as “the most radical business deregulation there has ever been”.

    Meanwhile, new official figures analysed by The Sunday Telegraph show that two million homes are expected to be built by 2020 to meet demand fuelled by a massive population rise. 

The neoliberal economic model has failed Britain completely. The emphasis has to be on sane planning and not this absurd fetish of making a "bonfire of controls". The "homeowning democracy" is a something that needs to go as well. More five storey flats need to be built as in Central Europe.

Successive governments have been responsible for importing the American style high octane consumerism to Britain, the "Great Car Economy" and waves of house building. It is simply not sustainable in England without a real deterioration in the quality of life.

In any democratic society, retaining the power of a sovereign state to decide on immigration and to stabilise numbers is essential precisely if it is not later to slide into authoritarian control. How to do that is the question. Not Utopian fantasies about infinite growth and Progress.

For an increasing population will make more demands on the global environment too. A society based on excessive consumerism and car use requires more petrol and that means greater involvement in struggles for resources which could mean more wars such as Iraq, militarism and authoritarian rule.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The Case Against Tony Blair.

Evidently, the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was one of controlling Iraqi oil and removing the over dependence of the USA and UK on a Saudi regime that was looking more unstable. The foreign policy of the USA has increasingly been based on diversifying supplies of oil as documented in Michael T Klare's seminal Blood and Oil.

The continual shifting between moral and legal precepts to rationalise the invasion are relevant only in trying to absolve Blair from the notion of intentionality as regards the crime of aggression. The fact that insurgents murdered and killed in Iraq after the invasion hardly absolves Blair from his part in initiating it.

The actual consequences of the Iraq war were not, of course intended. But pursuing the war, ignoring the due procedure of international law and doing so as part of a plan to take the resources of another nation, even if under the control of a criminal dictator, was intentional and was the aim.

The war was an intentional act of geopolitical strategy. Any effects that could have been posited as "moral" would have been a spin off from a successful invasion and only had Saddam Hussein really offered a threat so serious that no military action would have been more harmful to life than invading.

This was the case put before the electorate.And that view was discredited by the manipulated "intelligence" and fraudulent claims about Weapons of Mass Destruction. The war was not about a "moral case" even if a moral case could be offered.
Nor about non-existent WMD, the acronym itself being a euphemism, one that downgraded a sensationalistic term implying the imminent threat of being blown to bits by a rogue state to a sort of bureaucratic process when that form of spin was required to downgrade the original implications.
Weapons of Mass Destruction could destroy us in 45 minutes. WMD was the preferred term for an administrative procedure based on a supposed objective detachment based on a discussion of fact and evidence. That would be a matter for debate. And one that could be spun out.
That Saddam had the intention to use Weapons of Mass Destruction was supposedly obvious. Yet it was hardly less obvious than the intention of the USA to invade Iraq no matter what the evidence really was. And that was made quite clear from much of what leading neoconservatives had said in the run up to war.
Weapons of Mass destruction was a pretext that turned out to be a ruse to invade, though the real question is whether Blair knew that there were no WMD or whether he simply believed any facts were "essentially true" just to be able to justify an action he had already decided on.

No matter the level of self delusion, the rationale for the invasion was to grab Iraq's resources. That was decided upon by Bush and Blair at Crawford when they looked at geological maps of the oil wealth ( as documented by David Strahan in his The Last Oil Shock ).
All else was a form of logic chopping apologetics. Blair must be put into a War Crimes Tribunal, his motives and actions questioned forensically and all the factors looked at and subjected to assessment. This is not only something vital to uphold principles of justice. It is essential to preserve democracy and accountability.

Given that resource wars are the norm today-as is Afghanistan, a war to construct the TAPI Pipeline and to secure geopolitical advantages in Central Asia-it is unlikely that any Western government will consent to Blair being arrested and put on trial as he should be. They could never embark on such a war again.

So unless Power is to trump the Rule of Law and expedient falsehood win over truth and justice, Blair must be tried. For the alternative assumption might be, however, that if other Powers without democracy can protect their access to resources without the annoyance of such things as public enquiries, rule of law etc, we might be "better off" without them.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Malign English II

Some linguists "accept" that as English changes all change must be merely accepted without much question as to whether the words and terms entering the language can do much to distort the very process of thinking that underlies the very coining of the words themselves.

This will not do. Numerous words have entered the language as though they are merely substitutes for older words that somehow no longer do justice to reality. In which case, it might be well to try to understand what reality it is that the words are somehow seeking to represent or even re-present

One stupid word is "bling" . As opposed to stating what the word represents in actual words that make it clear what it means-the ostentatious and vulgar showing off of supposed "wealth"-the word tends to be used instead of "flashy" to mean something vaguely acceptable as such, even ironically. 

This is clearly desirable to a silly person with numerous gold chains around his neck or a "pimped up car" to mean that he or she is not merely a poncing fool, an insecure posturing person of little interest  but somehow a worthy, if slightly showy, individual of "the community".

"No-brainer" is another idiotic term. Apart from those aspiring to be complete morons, nothing in life should entail not having a brain, wanting to use it or using it to make a quick decision. There is absolutely no use at all in using this hideous word instead of something akin to "a snap decision".

"Snap decision" is a far better way to express an actual decision as opposed to using a word that would mean the presumed decider is some form of zombie. The only possible use of "no-brainer" is a person who has has had his brains exploded out of his brain by being shot at close range with a pistol.

The worst recent word coining is  "chillaxed" . It should be axed forthwith from the lexicon. I fail to see how such a term ( And I refuse to accept it as a word ) differs or has any meaning other than existing expressions that mean what is meant, without the implication of being 'so stressed out'. 

This term is used by ultra 'stressed out' corporate clone bores who cannot just 'relax' or 'put their feet up' but have to insinuate that their relaxation amounts to a combination of relaxing and "chilling out big time". Presumably as all machines that are overheating must chill down. 

As a term used to imply a person needs 'time out' to ponder upon a decision, the term is not at all helpful either. 

One reason why it is a term used by the PR man David Cameron, the Prime Minister of Britain. Maybe in the coming future dystopia, carping critics will be subject to compulsory "chillaxation" programmes in huge freezing warehouses and "rendered" like hung meat carcases encased in ice.

Malign English

Abuses of English often abound without question. One appalling term is "human resources", the implication of which is often not questioned or else reduced, perhaps understandably by those who do not care to think about this, as "HR". There are other examples of this common in everyday speech.

One is the misuse of the word "impact" as in "It will impact on performance" etc. This suggests that impacts are always totally direct, rather like high impact explosives, things that impact on directly by being set in motion as if the chain of causation was as simple as a billiard ball hitting another.

The more nuanced use of the older English ( I still use ) "to have an impact on" is being made obsolete by corporate go getting power jargon. So these days cuts in services, for example, will "impact on the economy" . Or else "impact on the job market".

It sounds positive in a vaguely menacing way. In the same way a smart bomb impacts on delivery. The fact it might indiscriminately shred people to pieces and damage them is less relevant. If something "has an impact", then its exact nature needs to be clarified by reference to facts. To "impact on" is Orwellian.

Another ghastly use of English is manifest in the term "to access services", using a noun as a verb. This is simply ugly, appropriating computer data entry language to everyday occurrences in life. The correct English is "to gain access to" or "to have access to" something.

Now that implies an element of difficulty, something many might find an alarming prospect. To state you would like to "have access" to something implies negotiation, consent and recognises the existence of something other than one's own immediate needs and wants. Something annoying to the greedy consumer.

For example, it is possible a person might want to "have access" to the thoughts of his or her beloved. If he or she wanted to "access them", the individual could be thought to be a pyschopath ready to use torture to achieve that or some form of sadistic peddler of brainwashing techniques or a deranged hypnotist

A Comment on the Meaning of Faith, Belief and Religion.

When discussing the impact of religion, it is not only those who argue the case for atheism that make unquestioned assumptions by assuming that "religion" stands necessarily for something fundamentally opposed to certain values that can remain "meaningful". But the method of argumentation between atheists and those who are religious often is.

Canon Giles Fraser falls into the trap of that the so-called "New Atheists" and the religious often do, by bandying around abstract nouns and extrapolating vast claims and posing various arguments from them so as to win an argument. In The Guardian today Mr Fraser writes,

'As Max Weber explained, traditional societies regard the world as "a great enchanted garden". This is the world-view of The Tempest. In contrast, modern societies, through science and secularisation, have purged the world of magic and laid it out as a blind play of impersonal forces'

It has to be said that "societies" are not monolithic entities that can "regard" or "believe" in a certain world-view or reject it. They are made up of various mortal individuals who have had , and continue to have, the freedom to accept the claims made by authority or reject them. ( and so it should be ).

However, if 'impersonal forces' are at work in society here and now in 2012,  the given truths are no longer those of the clergy. That is a good thing. And yet the impulse towards blindly accepting a belief system or a system of accepted truths has not gone away. As Philip Larkin once wrote 'what remains when the disbelief has gone?'.

Indeed new forms of manipulation not even practised by supposed Christians are going to fill the void. Getting rid or repudiating the old forms of religion has seldom removed the need nor the impulse to believe in something. And something of that can be seen in the person and product that was Tony Blair.

As was clear from the debate on religion between Christopher Hitchens and Tony Blair on whether 'religion was a force for good', the actual question there was whether Progress was a force for good and to what extent religion is a form of progress. And between the two there was a consensus that this was how it should be so regarded.

Blair defined religion as "faith" or belief as if  all were interchangeable and saw that as a positive good when the correct form of motivation was present. Ironically, Hitchens held to that too on the grounds that the good things faith can achieve are only those consonant with the values of secular humanism. 

In which case "faith" is either obsolete or else dangerous as opposed to a force for belief that has always been hijacked by those wishing to shore up power over other humans  ( and nothing could be more human than that ). And belief in something is that which is liable these days to be manipulated.

The New Clergy are advertisers, spin doctors, PR merchants, media mongering demagogues and spin doctors. In some sense, this new class of the anointed are there to direct and channel the wants, needs and desires of the "flock" towards believing in the necessary myths that enrich and benefit those elites.

It could be argued that Money is both an impersonal God and consumerism, through identification with brands a new form of enchantment, that works like religion to cast a spell over "the masses". Yet that is based on a supposedly "secular" way of looking at human existence.

A more interesting perspective might be to regard Western Society as existing under a new form of irrational magic. And to see this as a continuity with the obscurantist aspects of religion in the past. In that sense organised religion, ideology and the admass society have something in common.

The Afghanistan War in a Nutshell.

What is the reason for the Afghan War? Women's Rights? Nation building ? "War on Terror" ? All have been put forth at one stage or another as the reason for "staying the course" there after a decade of conflict since the US invaded in 2001.All official pretexts are half truths and rationalisations. More "Public Diplomacy".

It has always been the strategic goal to bring about the construction of the TAPI Pipeline first and foremost:without it none of the secondary goals, even if the US was not espousing them for propaganda reasons, would be difficult without integrating Afghanistan into the regional economies through the pipeline project.

The value of it to the US and NATO is that "energy independence" means, effectively, not relying on Iran's IPI rival pipeline. By blocking off Iranian interests to the East whilst now also attempting to destabilise and overthrow the pro-Iranian Assad regime in Syria, the geopolitical game plan is clear.

This truth is never made available to the British public who are spun a set of half truths and kitsch about "our boys", as if their sacrifice is about protecting us at home. Hence the use of "the war on terror" intermittently to rationalise the sacrifice. The electorate is too fickle to understand the real

In fact, the US was colluding with the Taliban before the events of 9/11 made that strategy impossible to back. It had been parts of Pakistan's political elites which created the Taliban in the 1990s in the first place so as to control Helmland and secure the pipeline route.

It should be remembered that Helmland, this low lying region in which most British troops have been killed by Taliban roadside IEDs, is the only possible transit route for Turkmenistan's gas south towards the Indian subcontinent. British troops have been used to secure a pipeline route on a "The Grand Chessboard"

Now, if that is considered "worth it", do remember that the US is at the same time trying to negotiate with the Taliban and Vice President Joe Biden does not regard the Taliban as "terrorists". The goal is constant: the pipeline. US companies are bidding at present to win the contract to build it.