"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons." Bertrand Russell

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

'bad news' from Iraq

Dear (Irish Times Editor),

The backlash against 'bad news' from Iraq in Mondays Irish Times was not without reason but it did conveniently miss out a few key details.

The Sunday Telegraph reported on Sunday the results of a poll undertaken by the British MoD, the results were a damning indication of the lack of support for coalition occupation. The poll found that "up to 65 per cent of Iraqi citizens support attacks [on British troops] and fewer than one per cent think Allied military involvement is helping to improve security in their country."
Which supports a report conducted by The Center for Strategic and International Studies at the end of 2004. It concluded that the Iraqi insurgency was "largely domestic in character, and had significant popular support," while the number of attacks on Coalition Forces accounted for approximately 75% of all attacks. Given that the insurgency is not a single entity it is fair to say that there are varied goals among these groups, with only one single goal common to all, the expulsion of foreign troops.
Attempts to derail the nannied political process by insurgent groups, coupled with the attempts by higher powers to draft a constitution favourable to outside interests is escalating the violence and confusion. The UN is certainly confused, having condemned late changes to the rules governing the referendum days before the vote, its amendment is now commended.
It is fair to say Iraqis have risked life and limb again to further their democratic agenda, however their prerogative was made clear in the January elections where a majority chose to elect a government whose stated goal was to call for the end of occupation. While the argument that because Iraqis voted for an interim government that made a U-turn on occupation, its continuation is somehow justified is in direct conflict with Iraqi public opinion. This argument is epitomised by Kevin Myers, who always manages to conflate support for Iraqis with support for terrorists. The ratification of the draft constitution does not herald an end to occupation, while it does open up Iraq's oil market to foreign companies.
With the continued occupation escalating violence it is quite clear the price Iraqis will be made pay for the imposition of democracy is in the hands of the liberators. 100,000 and counting.

Yours etc...


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

When torture is Justified

Dear Ms Kennedy,

Lara Marlowe writes another absorbing article in today's Irish Times (17/10/05). The story of an honest man arrested, tortured and imprisoned for many years returning to see his tormentor punished. What a fair trial would be for this tormentor is hard to define. Luckily the tormented, Dr. Shahrsitani, shares an important lesson in humanity, "I am very happy that he has not been put on trial in the same way he put us on trial."

Unfortunately this man's inconceivably wise words bear little resemblence to our supposedly justified anti-terrorism measures. Human Rights Watch has not been alone in reporting the coalition's flagrant abuse of humanitarian law, but it has been one of very few organisations to question the morality of their own governments breaches of international law.

The "extraordinary renditions" programme, which allows the United States to target suspected terrorists anywhere in the world, kidnap them and transport them to countries such as Egypt, Uzbekistan or Morocco, where the term torture is much more loosely defined, is in full swing now. Backed by operations conducted in Guantanamo the list of honest men arrested, tortured and imprisoned for many years is growing. The difference, unfortunately for these men, is that they are extremely unlikely to ever see their tormentors put on trial.

Will we ever know how many honest men's only experience of Ireland was that spent in Shannon airport on their way, ironically, to internment without trial. Do we condone the actions we help facilitate?

Yours etc...

1. http://hrw.org/campaigns/torture/renditions.htm

Saddam torture victim to attend trial
Lara Marlowe

IRAQ: An honest man is arrested, tortured and imprisoned for many years. He escapes and after a long exile, returns home to see his tormentor punished.

Hussein Shahristani's life is a 21st-century version of Alexandre Dumas's great novel, The Count of Monte Cristo. Tomorrow Dr Shahristani has been given one of the rare, highly-prized seats at the opening session of Saddam Hussein's trial.

"They asked me to testify against him," Dr Shahristani says, but he refused. "At a personal level, I have forgotten and forgiven. I don't want him to be tried for what he has done to me personally." Dr Shahristani holds a doctorate in nuclear chemistry from the University of Toronto. He knew Saddam in the 1970s, when Saddam was vice-president of Iraq and head of the country's Atomic Energy Organisation, which Dr Shahristani worked for.

When Saddam seized power in 1979, he made Dr Shahristani his chief scientific adviser. Five months later, the secret police arrested Dr Shahristani in his office. His sin: refusing to accept the diversion of Iraq's nuclear power programme to military uses, and criticising the mass arrests and executions of his fellow Iraqi Shia after the Islamic revolution in Iran.

Dr Shahristani was tortured for 22 days, much of which he spent hanging from his hands, which were tied behind his back. He was beaten, and poked with electric cattle prods. But because Saddam wanted to preserve him for the nuclear programme, Dr Shahristani was spared the treatment endured by others: branding on the back and stomach with electric irons; holes drilled into the bones; parts of the body dissolved in sulphuric acid.

continued... The Irish Times


Monday, October 17, 2005

"Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor...

...it must be demanded by the oppressed."

"It was on the second day of the Games that Smith and Carlos took their stand. Smith set a world record, winning the 200 meter gold, and Carlos captured the bronze. Smith then took out the black gloves. When the silver medallist, a runner from Australia named Peter Norman, saw what was happening, he ran into the stands to grab an OPHR patch off a supporter's chest to show his solidarity on the medal stand. As the U.S. flag began rising up the flagpole and the anthem played, Smith and Carlos bowed their heads and raised their fists in a Black power salute, creating what is now a widely recognized image. But most people don't see that their medal stand included more than just the gloves. The two men also wore no shoes, to protest black poverty, and beads, to protest lynching."


Persistence of Vision


The storm thats brewing...

...and those that are stirring the pot.

Last chance to avoid war
(Filed: 16/10/2005)

Our report today on the illegal transfer of missile technology to Iran marks a serious raising of the stakes in the faltering effort to make Teheran come clean about its nuclear programme. As Con Coughlin reveals, former members of the Russian armed forces are helping Iran receive assistance from North Korea.

The significance of the illegal trading is that Iran may be even closer to developing a full-blown strategic missile capability than most Western nations have been willing to concede. Iran already has missiles capable of carrying warheads to targets throughout the Middle East. But the system now under development could - if completed - rain nuclear weapons on many parts of Europe. The crisis must now be referred to the United Nations Security Council as a matter of urgency - with the unambiguous understanding that this is only a first step.

In Paris on Friday, Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, made clear her view that the time for diplomacy between the so-called EU-3 - Britain, France and Germany - and Teheran is rapidly drawing to a close. "There is always the course of negotiation," she said, "but there is also the course of the Security Council." The Bush administration is privately mystified by the argument often deployed in the British Foreign Office that referral to the Security Council is more effective as a threat than as an action. This raises the question: what is the Security Council for if not to act in such situations? Busying itself with trivia, the council should instead be taking urgent steps to prevent a geo-political disaster.

Iran has always maintained that its nuclear programme is civilian in nature, although it is hard to see why a country with such rich natural resources would invest so heavily in nuclear power. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the country's hardline president, declared last month that "with respect to the needs of Islamic countries, we are ready to transfer nuclear know-how to these countries". Having imported the means to cause millions of deaths, Ahmadinejad now threatens to export the technology to other Muslim states, creating an Islamic commonwealth of nuclear terror.

continued... The Telegraph

Nearly 25 years later, readers of the Sunday Telegraph were regaled with with the dramatic story of the son of Libya's Colonel Gadafy and his alleged connection to a currency counterfeiting plan. The story was written by Con Coughlin, the paper's chief foreign correspondent and it was falsely attributed to a "British banking official". In fact, it had been given to him by officers of MI6, who, it transpired, had been supplying Coughlin with material for years.

The origins of that November 1995 newspaper article only came to light when they were recently disclosed by Mark Hollingsworth, the biographer of renegade security service officer David Shayler. Shayler had worked on MI5's Libya desk at the time, in liaison with his counterparts in the foreign espionage service, MI6, and had come away with a detailed knowledge of events, and a bundle of secret documents to back them up.

The allegations were confirmed from an unexpected direction. The Sunday Telegraph was served with a libel writ by Gadafy's son. The paper was unable to back up its suggestion that Gadafy junior might have been linked to a fraud, but pleaded, in effect, that it had been supplied with the material by the government.

In a long and detailed statement, which entered the public domain in the course of a judgment given in an interlocutory appeal on October 28 1998, the paper described how, under Charles Moore's editorship, a lunch had been arranged with the then Conservative foreign secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, at which Con Coughlin had been present. Told by Rifkind that countries such as Iran were trying to get hold of hard currency to beat sanctions, Coughlin was later briefed by an MI6 man - his regular contact.

Some weeks later, he was introduced to a second MI6 man, who spent several hours with him and handed over extensive details of the story about Gadafy's son. Although Coughlin asked for evidence, and was shown purported bank statements, the pleadings make clear that he was dependent on MI6 for the discreditable details about the alleged counterfeiting scam. He was required to keep the source strictly confidential.

Throughout the formal pleadings, the Telegraph preserved the figleaf of its sources by referring to a "Western government security agency". But this veil of coyness was blown away by City solicitor David Hooper in his book on libel published last month, Reputations Under Fire, in which he says: "In reality [they were] members of MI6."

So, unusually, an MI6 exercise in planting a story has been laid bare. Now, there is no suggestion that Con Coughlin is dishonest in his work. He is a perfectly conscientious journalist who I expect did his best to substantiate his facts and undoubtedly believed in their truth. But nevertheless, those facts may not have been true. And I believe he made a serious mistake in falsely attributing his story to a "British banking official". His readers ought to know where his material is coming from. When the Sunday Telegraph got into trouble with the libel case, it seems, after all, to have suddenly found it possible to become a lot more specific about its sources.

continued... The Guardian


Thursday, October 13, 2005

Scott of the common sense

Dear Ms Kennedy (Editor - The Irish Times),

I would like to draw your attention to a talk held by the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts) in London last week [1]. The topic under discussion was, 'Is Iran heading ineluctably towards military confrontation with the US military?' The guest speakers were Scott Ritter, Fred Halliday, Dan Plesch and the talk was chaired by the Guardian's diplomatic editor Ewan MacAskill.

Dan Plesch began by rephrasing the question. He asked, "is the US heading towards military confrontation with Iran?" War it seems will be similarly based on the existence or as in the case of Iraq the non-existence of a nuclear threat. Former weapons inspector Scott Ritter then spelled out how he believes the case for war will proceed, "First, the deception, based around talk of a security threat...Second, confrontation in the field of international diplomacy...When the impasse reaches the UN the US will challenge the international community to act. When the non-existent case is rejected, as the US hopes it will be, the air strikes will follow."[2]

Ritter continued, stating that planning for war is underway "right now." When asked whether he believes the coalition's credibility has been sufficiently damaged so as to undermine any future accusations of WMD proliferation he responded, "Bush has been exonerated in several inquiries on the subject."

Given that neither Tony Blair nor George Bush have suffered major political or popular losses since the truths about Iraq's alleged nuclear potential were revealed, both men were re-elected, is it fair to say that Mr. Ritter's informed opinion is with basis? It is noteworthy that neither Dan Plesch nor Fred Halliday vocalised any discomfort with Mr. Ritter's remarks.

The lead up to war is not, however, an eventuality. The press will play a massive role in either creating a perception gap or choosing, this time, to inform the same public hood winked by the 45 minute rule of the realities so often kept from them.

The Guardian reports "UK accuses Iran over killing of soldiers," "a senior British official directly accused Tehran of supplying Iraqi insurgents with sophisticated roadside bombs that have killed eight British soldiers and two security guards since May."[3]

The Times reports "Iran Blamed for the Death of Eight Britons," "The British official refused to be drawn on whether the Iranian Revolutionary Guard had been acting on the orders of the Tehran Government or operating independently." [4]

Jeremy Paxman comments on the British government's allegations of Iranian involvement in Iraqi insurgency, " If Iran is doing this to us what should we do to Iran?"

British anti-war group Justice Not Vengeance (JNV) points out the gaping holes in the Guardian's very own reporting; 'no hard evidence that the explosives technology came from Iran,' 'Defence sources suggested that blaming the IRGC for supplying the explosives technology was going too far' and 'military officials said there was "so much expertise in Iraq" the bombs could have been made by former members of Saddam Hussein's security forces.' Enough to question the choice of headline?[5]

Iraq's Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari stated "Such accusations are baseless and we do not agree with them at all," when asked to comment on the UK government allegations, continuing "Relations between Iran and Iraq are currently very friendly and strong and expanding. We are proud of the situation."[6]

In light of the very obvious support for those in government by the British press will The Irish Times be following suit in aiding the 'softening up' of public opposition to war or will it take an independent stance? Will you be printing the cautions made by Scott Ritter?

Yours sincerely,

1. http://www.ica.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=14377
2. www.democratsdiary.co.uk.
3. http://www.guardian.co.uk/iran/story/0,12858,1585931,00.html
4. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,7374-1813246_2,00.html
5. http://www.j-n-v.org/London_Blasts/London_Blasts_index.htm
6. http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L06709304.htm


the dole effect

Dear Madam,

In Wednesday's (12/10/05) Irish Times Paul MacDonnell discusses the most serious challenges facing the progression of economic freedoms within the developing world. He cites the Middle East's rampant unemployment, linking this with the growth in extremism. He writes "Unemployed, uneducated young men in this region have fewer reasons to refrain from joining or supporting extremist groups than their employed and educated counterparts elsewhere."

Professer William Reville in an uncommonly astute and balanced article in May this year discussed research in the March edition of the Psychologist that suggested "that most suicide bombers are psychologically normal and the phenomenon is most readily explained as a community response set in a background of violence, aggression and revenge." Also citing the surprising fact 47 per cent of suicide bombers have a third-level education. His piece discussed how the media can contribute to reducing instances of suicide attacks in much the same way Mr. MacDonnell attempts to explain how economic freedom will curb the apparent 'dole effect' of bored and underpaid young men turning to terrorism.

These arguments unfortunately are not congruent, Professer Reville points to the violent environment extremism breeds in, Mr. MacDonnell points to the disillusionment of the 'lower tax brackets'. While we must aid economic development in the developing world we must also address the background of violence and aggression many in the developing world are familiar with. The impending war with Iran is a case in point.

Yours etc...


Friday, October 07, 2005

Young, White, Football Star, Dead...

That'll do...

Pat Tillman, Our Hero
Dave Zirin

"I don't believe it," seethed Ann Coulter.

Her contempt was directed at a September 25 San Francisco Chronicle story reporting that former NFL star and Army Ranger war hero Pat Tillman, who was killed in Afghanistan last year, believed the US war on Iraq was "f***ing illegal" and counted Noam Chomsky among his favorite authors. It must have been quite a moment for Coulter, who upon Tillman's death described him in her inimitably creepy fashion as "an American original--virtuous, pure and masculine like only an American male can be." She tried to discredit the story as San Francisco agitprop, but this approach ran into a slight problem: The article's source was Pat Tillman's mother, Mary.

Mary and the Tillman family are relentlessly pushing for answers to the questions surrounding Pat's death in Afghanistan. They want to know why it took the Pentagon five weeks to tell them he died in a tragic case of friendly fire. They want to know why they were unwitting props at Pat's funeral, weeping while lies were told by eulogizing politicians. Mary is now hoping that a new Pentagon inquiry will bring closure. "There have been so many discrepancies so far that it's hard to know what to believe," she said to the Chronicle. "There are too many murky details."

continued... The Nation


Thursday, October 06, 2005

A Simple Challenge

Dear Madam,

What does it say about the state of independent media today when Tony Blair can say ''There is no justification for Iran or any other country interfering in Iraq'' without someone emulating the 80 year pensioner Walter Wolfgang and calling him on his nonsense.

Is it unreasonable to expect experienced journalists to point out elementary irony or has the fear of ejection become just as rampant in the halls of the 'liberal' media as it has within the Labour party conference circuit?

Yours sincerely,

Blair suspects Iran role in Iraq attacks - Herald Tribune

Pensioner Ejected - BBC News


Knee Jerk Revisionism

Dear Madam,

Duncan Cambell reports in today's Irish Times (5/10/05) that "[i]n a move that has echoes of US intervention in the country's politics in the 1980s, US deputy secretary of state Robert Zoellick is in the capital Managua this week to head off the possibility of the Sandinista leader, Daniel Ortega, returning to power."

Mr. Zoellick warned those who thought they could remove him, "there will be consequences in terms of their relations with the United States." He also attacked Mr Ortega and Mr Aleman and their "corrupt pact," making clear that $4 billion in debt forgiveness and a $175 million grant would be withheld if Mr Bolanos was toppled.

In 1986, the International Court of Justice ruled that the United States was guilty of aggression in its support for the terrorist Contra war against Nicaragua and because of this owed Nicaragua an indemnity of US$17 billion for the destruction caused. This money has yet to be paid.
Therefore it would not be surprising if the US administration withheld debt forgiveness or monetary aid, indeed it would echo history.

Yours sincerely,

US warns Nicaragua against ousting president
Duncan Campbell

NICARAGUA: The United States has warned Nicaraguan politicians that millions of dollars of aid will be withheld from the country if any moves are made to oust the president, Enrique Bolanos.

continued... The Irish Times


Shell and Marco Polo

Dear Madam,

Commercial risk is a complicated thing for most to understand, but Kevin Myers has many other important issues to contemplate, what with the Islamic tide set to soon overwhelm him. Too many it seems to warrant any deeper knowledge of it other than; Shell good, Mayo farmers not so good and Eamon Dunphy bad.

Shell who Mr. Myers attempts to cast as the heroic lead his version of Marco Polo's famous voyage of discovery, battling against primitive natives hell bent on breaking the law to resist hard working oil companies liberating the natural resources simply wasting away beneath their feet, have been unfairly type cast in my opinion.

The thrust if his argument is that Shell "has been sinking wells around the Irish coast for 20 years" with this being their first find. Shell has, according to Mr. Myers, undertaken huge financial risk in it search for resources around Ireland. It is now morally and legally obliged to take full advantage of its deserved bounty.

It is quite a coincidence that it is also 20 years since the state rescinded its right to the 50% stake in oil and gas operations maintained under previous governments. In 1992 the corporation tax rate on oil and gas profits was reduced to 25%. Oil companies were also allowed to write off all costs against tax, not merely from their Irish operations but from operations anywhere in the world, going back 25 years. Therefore all the 'commercial risk' referred to by Mr. Myers will simply be written off against tax liability.

Perhaps Kevin should stick to what he is good at, scaremongering.

Yours faithfully,

1. socialistparty

An Irishman's Diary
Kevin Myers

How do people who assemble signatories for public letters choose their guest list? What central principle unites an artist, Bobby Ballagh, a columnist for this newspaper, Fintan O'Toole, and that scrupulous observer of the drink-driving laws, Eamon Dunphy?

continued... The Irish Times