Saturday, January 17, 2009

Layer 115 War Crimes, Ditching Trident, Indiscriminate Slaughter, Civil Servants, Uncivilised Conduct and Progressive Values.

Reported on Radio 4 this morning:

The United Nations Relief Agency has for the first time used the term ‘War Crimes’ when referring to Israeli actions in Gaza.

Reported in the Guardian yesterday:

“Trident is a waste of money, say ex-military leaders.”

Britain's nuclear submarines are "completely useless" against modern warfare, and the £20bn spent on renewing them is a waste of money, retired senior military officers said yesterday.

The former head of the armed forces Field Marshal Lord Bramall, backed by two senior generals, argued that the huge sums being spent on replacing the delapidated submarines that carry the Trident ballistic missiles could be better used to buy conventional weapons which are badly needed by the armed forces.

"Nuclear weapons have shown themselves to be completely useless as a deterrent to the threats and scale of violence we currently face or are likely to face, particularly international terrorism," the group said in a letter to the Times. "Our independent deterrent has become ­virtually irrelevant, except in the context of domestic politics."

Retired army general Lord Ramsbotham, one of the signatories, said he wanted to restart the debate over the renewal of ­Trident, which was approved by the House of Commons in March 2007, despite a large rebellion by Labour MPs.

Ramsbotham told BBC2's Newsnight programme: "We argue that it is conventional weapons we now need. Their pinpoint accuracy, their ability to help our forces in the sort of conflicts that are taking place is something which means you have to question the huge expense of Trident, which is limiting what we can do."

The fact is that Trident is an inappropriate weapons system. You can't see Trident being used against something like nuclear blackmail by international terrorism. It is a cold war weapon. It is not a weapon for the situation where we are now."

Ramsbotham said he was "quite certain" that some serving members of the military shared his doubts. He added that the government's decision to renew ­Trident was driven more by political considerations than by the true requirements of national defence.

Also in the Guardian:

Simon Jenkins has a wonderfully radical and visionary column, headed ‘Indiscriminate slaughter from the air is a barbarism that must be abolished’, in which he proposes that the world should declare air-launched bombs and long-distance shells to be illegal under the 1983 Geneva convention. Extracts:

The tragedy in Gaza surely marks the time when the world declares air-launched bombs and long-distance shells to be illegal under the 1983 Geneva convention. They should be on a par with chemical munitions, white phosphorous, cluster bombs and delayed-action land mines. They pose a threat to non-combatants that should be intolerable even in the miserable context of war.

If gas, landmines, chemical weapons and cluster munitions are now banned - a ban broadly obeyed by most civilised armies - why not aerial bombardment? Instead, bombing is becoming ever more prevalent.

The Israelis have responded to the Hamas bombardment of their towns with a far heavier bombardment of Gaza. Both endanger civilians to a degree that cannot be other than criminal. That human shield tactics may be involved is no excuse: the law does not permit the killing of innocents in the hope of reaching the guilty. The bombing of urban infrastructure is an act of terror.

In an extraordinary article on these pages yesterday, David Miliband declared the title "war on terror" to be "misleading and mistaken".

Did Miliband protest when Tony Blair reportedly pleaded with George Bush to be the first to bomb Kabul in 2001? Is this the same Miliband who sat silent as a member of the government that supported "shock and awe"?

The truth is that the war Miliband is still waging against militant Islam has been conducted largely by weapons of terror, namely bombs and long-distance artillery shells. They have killed untold thousands of non-combatants since the "war" began in 2001 - a violence far more devastating than the Israelis have inflicted on Gaza - destroying unimaginable numbers of homes.

In Afghanistan the American commander, David Petraeus, is said to regard his own side's bombing of villages and wedding parties as utterly counterproductive. Yet once forces are deployed, with ground and air in partnership, they seem beyond all command and control. They illustrate Liddell Hart's comment on military technology, that "the progress of weapons has outstripped the minds of those who wield them".

In the complex politics of war, these weapons are like torture. They numb moral sensibility and do harm beyond all justification of victory. They should be abolished. If we wish to kill other people for whatever reason, we should use only weapons that kill the right ones.


A Progressive Shock-Doctrine?

Digby Jones has apparently said that half of those employed in the civil service are a waste of space and should be sacked. It’s a pity he didn’t moderate his eye-catching phrases and limit himself to saying that he’s not talking about the thousands of hard-working people in the lower ranks. He only came into contact with the upper reaches when he was a junior minister, and he’d almost certainly be justified in saying that hundreds of those upper ranks are over-paid, time-serving, dull, vision-free, toadying creeps who traipse from meeting to meeting and spend all their time talking round in circles, contributing nothing to the national well-being.

The topmost ranks surround themselves with over-paid and useless yes-men and women, covering their backs and making sure they offload tasks, and outsource the blame when things go wrong. The problem is we don’t have politicians with sufficient calibre and determination to change this state of affairs. What we have is toadying politicians who surround themselves with ‘bright’ young advisers whose main interest is in playing the system that exists for their own comfort and benefit.

There’s probably no way out of this. Our national culture is fragmented and encourages self-promotion and self-interest. There’s no national consensus towards agreed ideals and goals. There’s still a war, and there will continue to be a war, between Thatcherites and the social democratic Left, between neo-conservatives and progressives, between people with money and property and those without, between Mail readers and Guardian readers, between BBC lovers and Sky/Fox lovers, between haves and have-nots, between the stupid and the enlightened.

Since 1979 the Stupid Party and its values has been in the ascendant in this country, thanks to Thatch and NuLabour (Thatch-lite). Which is why our society is increasingly unequal, unfair, violent, exploitative, over-stressed, spiritually barren and unhappy. Its economy is fucked.

I’m almost at the point of being past caring, but not quite. Not quite yet. The next four years are make or break for decency, genuine democracy and enlightened values. Either the Left uses this opportunity to develop a kind of reverse shock-doctrine, or we can all just forget about peace, justice and harmony. At least in Britain.

But then who cares about Britain? Why waste our time trying to fight against the power of the wealthy and the ignorant and the Establishment in a place where the entire national culture is geared towards the stupid values of quiz shows, celebrity, flash, bling, glamour, greed, property, soaps, football, show-biz and fame. Grumpy old man? Moi?

The point is, it’s not quite like this in the rest of the world. And it’s to these other places that progressives need to look for sustenance, hope and optimism. Countries that run decent education systems for the benefit of their pupils, countries with decent public services run by highly motivated professionals, countries with top civil servants whose promotion is due to merit and their proven ability to make a positive difference, countries with sustainable and competently-run economies, financial systems and governments. Countries that haven’t dumbed down to the extent that this one has, thanks to its ignorant media, its shameless politicians, and its brainwashed and grasping, spiritless and soulless citizens.

Thank goodness that standards have continued to rise and enlightenment is still on the agenda in places like Denmark, Finland, Japan, Germany and France, none of which supported the ‘war on terror’, squandered their national budgets pursuing such nonsense, or fell into the orbit of the neo-conservative ascendancy that’s continued to grip the USA and the UK, amongst plenty of other places.

We’re talking here about countries that don’t equate ‘attainment’ in academic timed tests with genuine education, that didn’t allow their financiers to fuck their economies, that don’t squander money on illegal wars, that don’t allow an elite minority to become obscenely wealthy at the expense of an increasingly-impoverished majority.

Thank goodness such countries still exist and form the core of a civilised international community. Thank goodness we can still look elsewhere for models of progressive social-democratic civilised life.

Democratic socialists, social democrats and other pacifist progressives throughout the world must now seize the moment and act collectively to alter the balance of power, nullify the neo-conservative hegemony, take back proper democratic control of our financial, commercial and industrial systems, redistribute wealth, restore peace and order to international relations, and promote enlightened values. We now have every possible reason to do it, so let’s just do it. If not now, when?


As for the Heathrow expansion - let’s not go there.


Ken Livingston has on his LBC programme this morning some lunatic right-wing member of the London Assembly, Brian Coleman, who’s a full-time councillor in Barnet, much admired by West London taxi drivers, it seems, who actually says he admires George Bush and his administration and would vote for another four years of Bush and neo-conservatism if he could. See what I mean? Fucked.

This twat also defended what the Israeli forces have been doing in Gaza, and tried to use the usual bullshit about “Well what would you do if Hamas was firing missiles at London?” Thankfully Ken was ready for that and immediately retorted that we DID have the IRA bombing London but we didn’t attack them in their hiding places in Belfast and Derry with Apache gunships, missile-firing drones, F16s, tanks and long-range artillery. We’re not THAT uncivilised. Yet.

Back to the war crimes.


A good friend sent me this today:

Interesting quotes from Gerald Kaufman this week:

"My grandmother was ill in bed when the Nazis came to her home town . . . a German soldier shot her dead in her bed. My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza. The present Israeli government ruthlessly and cynically exploit the continuing guilt from gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust as justification for their murder of Palestinians.”

Kaufman compared the Hamas militants in Gaza to Jewish resistance fighters during the Second World War, saying: "The spokeswoman for the Israeli army, Major Leibovich, was asked about the Israeli killing of, at that time, 800 Palestinians. The total is now 1,000. She replied instantly that '500 of them were militants’. That was the reply of a Nazi. I suppose the Jews fighting for their lives in the Warsaw ghetto could have been dismissed as militants."


There were some more good letters in the Guardian yesterday. Read them at:


Israel must lose. It is not enough to call for another ceasefire, or more humanitarian assistance. It is not enough to urge the renewal of dialogue and to acknowledge the concerns and suffering of both sides. If we believe in the principle of democratic self-determination, if we affirm the right to resist military aggression and colonial occupation, then we are obliged to take sides... against Israel, and with the people of Gaza and the West Bank.

We must do what we can to stop Israel from winning its war. Israel must accept that its security depends on justice and peaceful coexistence with its neighbours, and not upon the criminal use of force.

We believe Israel should immediately and unconditionally end its assault on Gaza, end the occupation of the West Bank, and abandon all claims to possess or control territory beyond its 1967 borders. We call on the British government and the British people to take all feasible steps to oblige Israel to comply with these demands, starting with a programme of boycott, divestment and sanctions.

This is signed by over 300 people, mainly academics.

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