Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

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Provocations, Progress (?) and Puns

June 7, 2008

So, the oil price has spiked overnight. So, it’s supposed to be due to a number of factors, such as America’s sharp rise in unemployment, an Israeli official’s comments stating that an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities is a likely possibility and gee, uh, I don’t know… The fact that consumption of and demand for oil is at an all time world-wide high and that oil is a finite resource that we are, well, running out of. The first two factors are no doubt important. But the third factor is the most important thing to remember about the recent feather flurry in rich western nations (such as here in Australia) about the oh so terrible jump in petrol prices. The way the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd and the the Opposition Leader, Brendan Nelson (or is that Malcolm Turnbull) have carried on about it the last few weeks has been a prime example of blubbering politicians simply not being able to grasp the gravity or seriousness of the chief underlying cause of this (political speak) “added pressure to the economy”. Of course, I have neglected to mention the just as serious negative environmental impacts that our consumption and demand for oil have. What’s needed is a shift away from oil to more economically viable and less ecologically damaging means of producing our energy needs. Funding needs to be diverted to science to achieve this and harmful interventions (or silly exemptions from the Australian Rudd government) that are suffocating market activity towards this end need to be stopped. One step foward. Two steps back…

Barack Obama has finally declared victory in the Democratic Primaries and Hillary seems a bit lost in the wilderness. I’ve heard many commentators dissecting it all and assessing whether this whole process has meant progress for the cause of women and/or African Amercians in the modern United States. I’m inclined to say yes to both. Whether the system actually changes or is changed is a completely different issue, but attempted participation in some active way seems to be up at least on the Democrats side. Both Hillary and Obama’s campaigns seem to have energised and activated millions of Americans from both sexes (for both sides), from many different segments of the middle classes and some from the working classes and of course from people from a plethora of different races. I said it early last year about the Australian election, and I guess the same is going to go for the American one this year: It’s going to be a very interesting year in politics.

Oh, and something annoying! With all these damn stories on the TV and on the net about world oil prices at the moment, I’m going crazy with the bad puns ( “Speculation sets world oil price ablaze”, “Oil price fuels inflation”, “Petrol prices fueling flames at the bowser” etc.) – some stories even have several within themselves. Meh! Bah humbug! Go backpedal on CO2 emissions and ride a bike to work!

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Winning Hearts and Minds…

March 7, 2007

Through rape, torture, intimidation and murder. That’s the way to do it! Although it’s been well documented through disgusting examples like the Abu Ghuraib prisoner abuse episode, everytime I hear more about the way ordinary Iraqis have been treated under the US led occupation, I get more upset and outraged.

Last night on Late Night Live, Phillip Adams spoke to Joshua Key, a US Soldier who served in Iraq and has now gone AWOL and applied for refugee status in Canada after refusing to return there after witnessing and taking part in some of the most horrific, disgusting and degrading acts that I’ve ever heard about. For the full MP3 interview, go here and be sure to download it as the ABC only keeps it up for about a week. Josh’s book The Deserter’s Tale: Why I walked away from the war in Iraq was released in Australia this week.

Last night in the interview, Josh told us that among other things, he had witnessed the following:

  • A little girl who had usually come to beg food off Josh and some other soldiers decapitated after being machine-gunned.
  • A father and his 10 year old son decapitated by US troops after their car came under machine gun fire. There were no weapons or explosives in the car whatsoever.
  • Four Iraqi bodies decapitated and US troops kicking one of the heads around like a soccer ball on the banks of the Euphrates River.
  • US soldiers using C4 explosives to break down residential doors.
  • US soldiers stealing people’s possessions after raiding their houses. Josh explained that one of the soldiers he was on duty with even took to stealing jewellery from some of the houses they raided and sent it back home to his wife in the US.
  • What he thinks may have been a rape. Josh said that whilst he was outside a building they had raided, he was told by another soldier to guard the front of the building. In the 20 or so minutes in which he did so, he said he heard grunts, a woman repeatedly screaming and other noises which overwhelmingly led him to the opinion that the Iraqi woman inside had been raped by a US soldier.

This is not to say that every US soldier in Iraq is taking part in these disgusting activities, but it’s no wonder that attacks against US troops are viewed favourably by a majority of the Iraqi population when disgusting abuses such as these occur. There is no justification for these acts, not that there was any justification for the war in the first place. In the 200 odd house raids that Josh took part in, he tells us that he didn’t find one terror suspect nor any weapons of any kind. Thus, ordinary Iraqi houses are being destroyed, looted and their occupants humiliated, raped, tortured and killed under this occupation every day.

All this is from the mouth of only one soldier which can only lead us to the horrifying conclusion that this is happening all over Iraq. This brutal occupation must end now.

UPDATE 9/3/07: Tony Jones speaking to Joshua Key on Lateline last night.

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Blair acknowledges failure, Bush calls it sign of success – awaiting Howard’s spin

February 21, 2007

The disintegration of the COW. Tony Blair has contacted George W. Bush to tell him that he will be pulling British troops out of Iraq. No doubt Blair will of course talk of what a great success the occupation has been – but his actions will speak louder than his words. As late as October last year, Blair was insisting that we must not withdraw as there was still much to do. Wow, he did it all in four months it would seem! At a time when the Howard Government here in Australia is saying that any withdrawl by any coalition forces will be akin to a defeat in Iraq, the COW seems to be disgruntled, disorganised and completely out of puff. I bet Alexander Downer is fuming that he wasn’t told before his Lateline interview last night. Referring to the British so many times – tsk tsk tsk Alexander: do you get told anything by anyone? Howard was asked this morning by a journalist “Has Tony Blair undermined your argument against a withdrawl timetable?” to which Howard responded “I’ll talk to you fallas later”. Indeed, how do you bullshit your way around this one Howard?

UPDATE: British reaction over at The Tomb.

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John Howard cuts and runs… and shouts… and goes red

February 14, 2007

As I watched John Howard from the gallery again yesterday foaming at the mouth trying to shift the focus of what he actually said on to a completely different point (a classic Howard tactic if there ever was one), Kevin Rudd remained calm and focused. After about an hour of question time, Rudd stood up and directly challenged Howard to a nationally televised debate at a time and place of Howard’s choosing regarding Australian policy on Iraq. Howard simply cut and ran – he would not debate Rudd in front of the Australian people on a matter that Howard himself has said is one of the utmost importance regarding Australia’s national security.

So, one has to wonder (or does one really?) – is Howard simply out for his own personal political gain here and sticking by his mate George Bush or does he have Australia’s national security interests at heart? Over the last few days, Howard has constantly reiterated that he has the courage of his convictions and is “staying the course” in Iraq (gee, he’s about six months behind with the echo on that one). Brendan Nelson backed up the PM’s claims on Lateline the other night equating a withdrawl from Iraq with the downfall of civilization as we know it. Now, if these two men (and indeed the Howard Government as a whole) are so concerned for Australia’s future and believe that this future hinges heavily on Iraq, then why have we got such a small committment of troops there? I would have thought that Howard and Nelson would be in there themselves so dire are their warnings about the future of Australia if we withdraw. Obama hit the nail on the head when he said that unless Howard increases his committment, then it’s just a bunch of empty rhetoric. And, well, that’s exactly what it is – we all know it and Howard himself knows it.

Bush, Howard and Blair GOT IT WRONG when they invaded Iraq. Needless to say, the situation in Iraq is absolutely out of control. A newsflash for Howard is that the Iraqis are going to keep doing what they’re doing regardless of whether America is there or not. At the moment, most Iraqis see the US as an occupying force propping up an ineffective government. The fact that the number of attacks against the general populace and US troops has been increasing at an alarming rate in the last three months highlights the fact that the several “wars” that are going on in Iraq have been lost already. Perhaps Howard should ask for some TV time on Fox in America (he’d get it no doubt) and explain to the American people why he thinks they should sacrifice thousands more of their young women and men to die for a cause that has changed so many times since the start of the war that we honestly wonder what he, Bush and the other neo-cons will come up with next. I’m sure many Americans are dying to hear Howard, the “man of steel”, the omniscient, the wise old statesman tell them why they should support a war that has cost them so much in lives, money and morale, was started because of lies Bush, he and Blair told the world and has not achieved any objectives other than the overthrow of a government that wasn’t friendly with Al-Qaeda in the first place.

Or perhaps most Americans, after Howard insulted them by saying that the great Democratic Party of the US (a party that was voted into a majority in both Congress and the Senate only last November by the people of the United States) is the party of choice for terrorists see Howard’s words for what they are: BULLSHIT with a capital B. As Terry McAuliffe, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee stated after he heard Howard’s remarks: “Firstly, the Prime Minister has been a great friend of George Bush’s. He has been with him lock-step from day one on this war in Iraq. He and George Bush, they can go off and talk to each other. We don’t care what he says.”

As for Australians, well we should care. Not only has he embarrassed the hell out of us internationally, insulted one of the great US political parties (the party of Roosevelt, Kennedy and Clinton) and treated the American people with contempt, but has acted contrary to the interests of Australia. On top of all this, he doesn’t even have the guts to debate Kevin Rudd after making such a big deal out of all this over the last few days. Howard is the one who is cutting and running – what a disgrace, what a coward.

UPDATE: Since Howard said yesterday that the proper place for any debate regarding Iraq is in Parliament, Rudd challenged him to an hour long debate in the House of Reps this morning. The Howard Government in response shut the debate down and moved that Rudd no longer be heard, once again proving they are a bunch of idiotic cowards who aren’t willing to act in Australia’s interests on this matter.

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Howard picks a fight with Obama

February 12, 2007

Silly Howard. Firstly, not only is what Howard said ridiculous, but it is completely inappropriate for someone in his position to try to interfere with the elections of another country. Saying that if the Democrats win office in the US that the terrorists will win is completely stupid of Howard – and he must have known so when saying it. So what do we have? Yet another fear mongering comment from Howard – except this time he’s slipped up. Whereas his fear mongering is usually careful and targeted, he has picked a fight with the wrong person and the wrong party at the wrong time – and has mis-read the deep feeling of resentment in the US over the Iraq war. I guess that’s the mindset you fall into though when you’ve been hanging off George W. for too long.

I noticed Howard saying of Obama: “He’s a long way from being President of the United States”… Yes, well so are you John and you have no right whatsoever to go strutting around with an arrogant air of self importance regarding a matter of US politics – particularly when you are one of the leaders that committed us to this mess in Iraq in the first place. Howard should be thanking candidates of the Democratic Party for trying to fix and end the mess in Iraq. I suppose Howard being the wise old statesman that he is has a wonderful, all encompassing solution for Iraq other than “more money, more troops and more time”. At least Obama has put his cards on the table. In taking Obama on, John Howard has shown how feeble, small-minded and arrogant he really is and Obama’s response shows him up as such.

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Surely not

February 5, 2007

Many writers and commentators are now seriously speculating about a coming war with Iran which could possibly be started by mid this year. Two carrier strike groups are now stationed on the Gulf, anti missile batteries are in place and British mine-sweepers are also on hand. Bush and the neo-cons have been steadily increasing their verbal attacks on Iran. The architects of the war in Iraq have accused Iran of sponsoring terrorism around various locations of the Middle-East and are playing up the fact that Iran is developing nuclear technology – something they say will inevitably lead to the Iranians developing nuclear weapons.

I personally can’t believe that the US will invade Iran with ground forces. Afterall, the debacle of Iraq has surely been vicious enough to ward off even some of the most determined neo-cons. On the other hand though, given that Iran doesn’t have nuclear weapons and by the CIA’s own assessment does not have the capacity to even develop any before roughly 2017, “tactical” airstrikes on their own seem rather pointless – so perhaps a ground invasion is on the cards – for reasons that, like the invasion of Iraq will perhaps take many decades to emerge. Sam Gardiner, a retired Colonel of the US Air Force offers this telling insight into the escalation of the US military around Iran in recent months and what to look for in any build up for a possible invasion or airstrike. Perhaps the old Gulf of Tonkin tactic will be initiated so that Bush and the neo-cons can forever say “but they started it”. Who knows?

Again, with all the reading I have been doing on this and of all the dire warnings I’ve come across and the seemingly belligerent actions by Bush and his cronies, I still can’t believe that a full scale invasion of Iran is in our immediate future. However, many of us couldn’t believe the circumstances that led our nations into the Iraq war and yet, well, do I even need to say it? Surely the American public don’t want another war. Surely the American military doesn’t want another war. If America does indeed invade Iran, then Bush will only be rapidly bringing about further economic, social and political ruin for the US as well as that of the Iranian regime. The American military is not coping in Iraq. If it were to invade Iran, it would face firstly an organised military which in open battle it would undoubtedly defeat, like it did with the Iraqi Army – but consider what else it would face: a largely educated populous three times the size of Iraq, a mountainous, rocky country with plenty of places for militias and guerillas to operate from and the possibility of having to defend itself and three US-backed puppet regimes on numerous fronts that will stretch from Iraq, through Iran and to Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan. Not to mention the sour taste of many more thousands of US troops being killed for… well… nothing.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen. But I, like many others, am worried. As Colonel Gardiner says in his assessment:

The White House could be telling the truth. Maybe there are no plans to take Iran to the next level. The fuel for a fire is in place, however. All we need is a spark. The danger is that we have created conditions that could lead to a Greater Middle East War.

And if that happens, then we’re all in for an even more uncertain future consisting of war, economic ruin and political mayhem. Whatever works for you – pin your hopes or say your prayers. How did we get to this point?

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What to read and watch while the world burns

August 2, 2006

Some newsbytes and commentary worth reading as Israel gears up for a wide scale ground invasion, Iraq’s civil war (does anyone seriously doubt that’s what it is anymore?) gets worse and worse and Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan government forget the 2002 truce.

Lenin comments on Israel’s Lebanon offensive in the wider context of Empire.
– Sean Gonsalves talks about the “war” in Iraq, the language of the war, the rule of law and which way foward over at AlterNet.
– The “Baghdad Blogger”, Salam Pax invites us to follow him around Baghdad and see what it’s really like living outside the green zone in the one of most dangerous cities in the world (as seen on Foreign Correspondent).
The Sri Lankan military and the Tamil Tigers are facing off over a reservoir which supplies the innocent people caught in the middle with drinking and irrigation water.
– The Congo seems calm thus far after the first democratic elections to take place there in 45 years. However, the threat of violence between east and west looms over the horizon. Hoping it stays peaceful.
– And as NATO takes over Southern Afghanistan (remember that theatre of the war on terror?) from US troops, it is welcomed with an ambush from the Taliban that has killed three British soldiers.

Yikes… Try to digest all that. As the world burns, I’m keeping Michael Franti on in the background, particularly “Time To Go Home”:

Those who start wars never fight them
And those who fight wars never like them
Those who write laws can recite them
And those of us who just fight laws we live and die them

and:

How many people were they runnin’ from and how many people never saw it comin’
How many people never heard the warning how man people should have stayed at home and
How many people never heard the call and how many people never saw at all
How many people did they spend it on and how many people got to sing this song
How many people never heard the cry and how many people gotten pushed aside
How many people never saw the dove fly and how many people never said goodbye
How many people never saw the fall and how many people till we end it all
How many people never saw the wrong and how many people did they drop the bomb on?
Don’t take our boys away no don’t take our girls away no
It’s time to go home…

Once again, hoping for better days.