Wednesday, December 11, 2013
A headline from ‘Metro’ 22nd November 2013 reads: “How winter kills more people in Britain than in -30C Sweden” and “There were 25,535 ‘excess winter deaths’ – people who died as a direct result of the cold – in Britain in 2011-12 compared with 3,385 in Sweden, it was claimed.” Once we take into account the differing population sizes the excess winter deaths accounted for 4.61% of all fatalities in Britain compared to 3.76% in Sweden.
Sweden suffers far more from what is designated as ‘severe’ weather than does Britain. It has up to 120 days per year of snow lying on the ground (in London it is less than 5) and the temperature can fall to as low as minus 53 degrees Celsius. In the UK the lowest temperature ever recorded was minus 27 degrees Celsius.
In 2012-13 the number of people who died due to the freezing conditions rose to 31,100. Most of those unnecessary fatalities were over 75 years of age (82%) and most of those fatalities were women.
It isn’t just energy inefficiency or sub standard accommodation that is at issue here. The attitude in Britain is that energy companies are entitled to make a profit even when, as monopolies, they enjoy protection from competition. This state protectionism encourages contempt for the consumer and creates an abusive relationship with the public.
Government exploits the poor and the middle classes through its policies and then is coerced by fear of instability to subsidise the marginalised consumer.
People are unable to borrow from banks to purchase property and rents are too high for most workers. This creates a situation in which government has to intervene to subsidise housing. The banks profit from a subsidised property market. The banks enter into a minimum risk relationship with the state to subsidise rental housing and keeps the price of home ownership artificially inflated. The rental market profits the banks that provide the loans to the well off to purchase their rental portfolio while the government controls the spigot of funds available for that housing. The poor then have to be housed in rental accommodation they will never be able to afford to buy.
Many people have insufficient funds to keep their homes warm in the winter time. Remember that statistic. The old people don’t complain, they just die - 31,100 people died from cold – the number of people who suffer in the winter (but survive) will be many times greater.
In Britain de-nationalisation was supposed to create competition and efficiency but the imperious attitude plaguing the larger corporations instead protects the economic behemoth. Banking and Energy are the twin establishment beasts. We want to keep Britain ‘British’ at least in terms of our economic independence but true competition would open up the market place to hundreds of banks and dozens of energy companies. This would reduce costs and yes, it would save lives. Energy companies would have to reduce their prices and take risks to survive. In Britain today they have no need to do either.
The ‘big six energy suppliers’ refers to Britain's largest energy companies. According to Wikipedia they supply gas and electricity to over 50 million homes and businesses in the UK and they control 96% of the energy market. Similarly, the retail and commercial banking markets are dominated by only five banks.
Economic and financial resilience is the key to weathering any downturn in the economy. But the protected juggernauts have no incentive to keep the cost to consumers low or to take any risks with their low value consumer customers and if the government bails them out in the bad times it encourages their recklessness in their high value commercial transactions. It is the reason that the global financial crisis which has now been running since late 2008 has not touched the energy company’s profits and why the banks in Britain were able to weather the storm – they retain their centrality to Britain’s economy as the government fights to protect them from European interference.
Better policy making by the government (any government) would deliver a strong economy without being reliant on high unemployment, cheap foreign labor and high government protectionism. But an economy that has so many monopolies must create movement of senior personnel between those monopolies but no advantage to those people that utilize their activities. If that distorts the economic model then social policy is created to prevent frustration from spilling over into violence and disorder. That social policy can only be financed effectively if the government has sufficient revenues to fund it. With an economy that is so besotted with central control that situation can only become less stable as more people become dependent on government assistance.
The State is influenced in its guiding principles by obsessive regulation of society which is expressed through paternalistic policies offering short term solutions to ameliorate but never solve any of the problems afflicting the economy. This paternalism has constructed a fool’s paradise in which ‘anything goes and anything is possible’ or at least that is what society, through the media, instructs us to believe. But then the reality is something entirely different. It is this contradiction that is creating much of society’s stresses and it is also the reason that nine million Britons, (that is fifteen percent of us) has a criminal record.
We are psychologically conditioned to respond to stress reactions but the purpose of that reaction is survival. We aim to return our situation to a manageable level. If we are unable to exercise effective control in our lives we become stressed. So, on the one hand we encourage unrealistic expectations and then we are dumbfounded by the panoply of medical conditions that appear to be increasing in complexity even as our medical knowledge and sophistication expands exponentially.
The unspoken question that no-one is asking is how we prevent our society from creating enormous pockets of inequality, of deprivation and violence?
And that brings me to my final economic issue.
Mark Zuckerberg believes (FP Magazine December 2013) that “the story of the next century is the transition from an industrial, resource-based economy to a knowledge economy” but that smacks of a “let them eat cake” mentality. It makes assumptions which are unsustainable without recourse to negative eugenics programs or an apocalyptic vision of death camps in our ‘green and pleasant land’.
It isn’t bureaucracy that keeps unemployment and poverty doggedly high but the attitude of politicians and business leaders that people can adapt to anything.
A member of the British governing classes very recently stated that fifteen per cent of Briton’s have an IQ that is less than 85. OK then, what are this fifteen percent going to do in the knowledge economy? They won’t become doctors or nurses and they won’t be able to compete with cheaper immigrant labor.
The politicians tell us all to buckle under. They tell us immigration is good for Britain. But they don’t have to compete for jobs. I have a friend who is a master tradesman. He was unemployable because he did not speak Polish. I am not anti-immigrant. I am ‘anti’ the idiots in government who think that the not so smart and the not so ruthless don’t matter. I am anti the politicians on all sides of the house that dismiss the ‘expensive’ tradesman who has spent most of his (or her) life perfecting his (or her) art because they assume they cannot always find a solution to the problems they created. And I am anti the educators and their bureaucratic henchmen who insist that people are machines to be engineered.
In the 21st Century, in the giddy rush to progress no-one, no group, no party has a vision for the future that has people, all people, at its centre. In a world obsessed with the rights of the individual we have raised the individual as a group identity onto a lofty peak, as gods, while we ignore the individual as if they are worthless because as individuals they distract us from the ideal.
In the 21st Century no one should freeze to death, or live in fear of the cold. Government has condemned too many to suffering and too many to permanent insecurity. We possess today a model for a society that drives the expectations of the many for a consumerist heaven that does no more than to enrich the coffers of the state and to betray the long term interests of the people.
Friday, November 29, 2013
If competence were the only per-requisite for negotiators then peace would also be achieved through unsolicited concessions and generosity of spirit. But that would be naive. If we do not acknowledge history then we build up the false expectations of one side or the other that history can be repeated. Nations negotiate for advantage, not for any altruistic reason. Nations build up prejudices over centuries at the expense of the disenfranchised; they exploit weakness to disempower their victim. If the weak become strong, any atrocities committed in the past are inevitably revenged, creating a new dynamic for conflict and “historical” grievance. Disequilibrium does not result from inequality but from a shift in relative advantage.
Until they gained self-determination, Jews were a persecuted minority in the Muslim world. That damaging asymmetrical relationship was the currency of mostly Arab rule from the time that the mythical figure of Mohammad appeared on the scene in the 6th Century CE (or AD) and until Israel’s liberation in 1948. Firstly let me explain that last statement.
Religious figures of the magnitude of an Abraham, Jesus or Mohammed are objects of faith – None of them can be proven to have existed. That is why we call it faith. If we accept their existence by virtue of the writings of the men who followed them it does not automatically follow that we must also accept the theological mandate, or diktat that men of faith have demanded. That is Islam (submission); it is not Judaism. Our heroes were never infallible. To accept without questioning all of the religious literature written mostly by men assumes a universal altruism which does not exist in the historical record. Fallibility does not make faith any less important to people’s lives but it does mean that we do, ALL OF US, have a choice. That choice is whether we accept what others write about us in order to impose upon us a label or whether we allow the other their faith, but choose to disagree with the relevance to us of their theology or writings.
If some of those writings are offensive then we must also decide how we are going to interact with both the script and those people who adhere to its message. At the same time, our response must not make us insensitive to the feelings of either our friends, or out enemies. Jewish fear and past history has made many Jews narrow-minded and fearful of criticism. Taking every slight as a new call for our ethnic cleansing does not help to explain our fears and causes us to appear as if we care for only one issue.
This is our problem and more so for Jews than for Christians and Muslims. For while the Church recognises that some of what has been written over the centuries by Christian theologians was toxic by design and murderous by intent, the Shoah encouraged a reappraisal by many but not all Christians of past narratives and the relationships that they created.
Islam though, has never been forced either by circumstances or by religious necessity to confront the original sin of its creation, its blood lust, and its ongoing narrative contempt for all non-Muslim infidel nations.
The Muslim triumvirate of holy writings are the Koran (the word of Mohammed), the Sunna (the body of traditional Islamic law based on the life of Mohammed), and the Hadith (the account of things said by Mohammed and his followers which is the canonical basis for Islamic Law.) The most canonical Hadith is Sahih al-Bukhari. It is said to be 98 per cent violent jihad. To many Muslims it is the most important book after the Koran.
The Koran ridicules the non-Muslim and while there are said to be many contradictory passages within it, the doctrine of abrogation enables followers to pick and choose; to behave with casual disdain or with violent assault. Earlier passages in the Koran are more tolerant, probably because they refer to a period when alliances were necessary in order for the faithful to grow in strength and gain control. Later texts are much less tolerant; Mohammad and his conquistadors were powerful enough to repudiate earlier treaties of amity and to assail their competitors.
The tragic reality is that while reciprocity is the key ingredient to tolerance in society, it is wholly absent from countries in which Muslims form the majority and in countries where they are the minority it is the reason multiculturalism has failed. Demands that we respect the Islamic right to preach hatred and to behave with bigotry are unsurprisingly accompanied by expectations of protection that are often in excess of any thing offered to the targets of that hatred.
A very small selection of statements by Muslim leaders follows:
- Jews are “the scum of the human race, the rats of the world….and the offspring of apes and pigs” Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, imam at the Masjid al-Haram mosque in Mecca. The Sacred Mosque or The Grand Mosque is the largest mosque in the world and surrounds the Kaaba. al-Sudais has a global audience.
- Israeli leaders “cannot be called humans, they are like animals….Israel is the sinister, unclean rabid dog of the region.” Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
- “Against us stood the most intelligent people on earth….we succeeded in compelling the Jews to do what we wanted … and what have we given them in return? A piece of paper!....we have established sophisticated machinery to control and limit to the minimum contacts with the Jews. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. (Ephraim Dowek, Israeli-Egyptian Relations 1980-2000 (London: Cass, 2001) Also, see below.)
- “Over the decades he (Mubarak) reduced interaction with Israel to the minimum level, he fostered a culture of virulent antisemitism in Egypt, turning his country into the world’s most prolific producer of antisemitic ideas and attitudes.“ (Palestine Betrayed. Ephraim Karsh)
Islam’s 'friends' say that these are no more than the extreme views of radical fringe groups. They are not. They are the views of the political and religious leadership of the Muslim world. These quotations aren’t insane rants of incoherent gibberish nor do they emanate from the orifice of some clinically delusional nut. University professors as well as world leaders believe in the writings of a mythic 6th Century warlord whose lust for power rapidly built a political force that today threatens to dominate the globe.
If Muslims scream hatred from the political and religious pulpit then peace is not possible, except as a sham.
The USA, desperate to keep Russia from re-establishing its influence in Egypt turned a blind eye to the unadulterated poison pulsing through the veins of the Arab world’s most influential nations (Egypt and Saudi Arabia) just as it now does so, with Iran, Turkey; the Palestinian Authority and Gaza. Short sightedness fosters greater long term regional instability because it makes nations bereft of trust and insecurity is never a formula for international peace.
I am reminded of the threat of a previous era. During the peace protests of the 1960’s a favoured mantra of the anti-nuclear lobby was the strategic estimate that nine nuclear weapons were all the Soviet Union needed to destroy the UK. The USSR had deployed 50 missiles against mainland Britain. The language used by Israel’s enemies against her and against Jews worldwide precludes nothing. If words are bombs the greater Muslim world is its premier nuclear power.
The terrible rhetoric of Israel’s enemies has its Islamic foundation in the deserts of Saudi Arabia 1,400 years ago. The US President and his political followers here in Europe expect Israel to trust in them when they have not EVER been minded to sanction those for whom this primeval bigotry is just business as usual. This grotesque tolerance follows naturally on from an extreme form of individualism that accepts elemental chauvinism as a right for others to display, and more frighteningly, as a right of others, to act upon their beliefs, without interference.
Throughout its history Trojan Horses have taken many forms. ‘Religion of Peace’ is one of the memes used by Islam and its western apologists. Most of the Near-East was created by Britain and France after the First World War. In 1920, the San Remo Conference created a legal basis for carving up the defunct Ottoman Empire into artificial states. Those states were always dysfunctional and they could only ever be ruled by force of arms. Read again the words of hate. If containment contributed to the fall of Communism, why then, do we actively prop up hate saturated Muslim nations?
Perhaps the main issue is this: the greater Israel’s insecurity becomes, the more difficult it is to negotiate, let alone promote a two state solution. Is it in the interest of the USA and others to ignore incitement from the Muslim side and to subsequently blame Israel for its intransigence? There are financial penalties for doing what is right, and huge financial benefits to embracing Hitler’s Muslim predecessors.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
There will be much hand-wringing and frustration expressed with the Israeli attitude towards the agreement signed today between Iran and the “P5+1” group (the USA, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany). The following below is a minute selection of the reasons for Israeli wariness of Iranian intentions:
“Every Muslim, from the moment they realize the distinction in their hearts, hates Americans, hates Jews, and hates Christians, this is a part of our belief and our religion.” Osama Bib-Laden in an interview to Al Jazeera 1998.
“First the Saturday people (Jews) and then the Sunday people (Christians)". Yasser Arafat Arafat added that the Palestinian flag would fly from 'minarets' in 'Al Kuds'. (i.e. synagogues and churches would become mosques)
Article 7 of the Hamas Charter is taken from Hadith Bukhari Volume 4, Book 52, Number 177: Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle said, "The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say. "O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him. (This quote applies equally to all Jews irrespective of age or sex and is oft repeated from pulpits throughout the Muslim world). Hadith Bukhari is second only to the Koran in being regarded as the most authoritative of all Muslim literature.
“Israel is a cancerous tumour in the heart of the Islamic World” Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei March 2009 (he recently restated this).
Mohamed Morsi, until recently, President of Egypt stated for the TV cameras the following in 2010 “We must never forget, brothers, to nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred for them: for Zionists, for Jews.” He then reminded his audience of a quote from the Koran, the holiest book in Islam: “The Jews are the descendants of apes and pigs.” (Repeated in Chapters 2, 5 and 7 of the Koran)
Of course the previous Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke as an ultra-orthodox Muslim who many would suspect was frankly unhinged. When he spoke it was with the imprimatur of the power behind the thrown, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. You cannot be elected to parliament in Iran without Khamenei’s authorisation.
Since his election, President Rouhani has said Israel is a "wound" that "had to be removed". There was some debate on whether the translation from Farsi should be read as a ‘sore’ or a ‘wound’ but only a fool would quibble over the difference.
The threat of appeasing Iran has bizarrely drawn a long list of Israel’s implacable enemies towards an unofficial rapprochement (the Gulf States, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia to name the few) with her.
Israel has suffered 65 years of warfare, 65 years has it been threatened with annihilation and yes it remains militarily, the most powerful nation state in the Near-East. But the unremitting hatred that expresses itself in sermons by Islamic scholars, undermining Israel’s legitimacy everywhere at every opportunity cannot encourage Israeli confidence in any deal that is signed with Iran. Much of the debate today focuses on a Palestinian or Muslim narrative that is filled with holes, deception and outright lies. And then Israel is told to trust the same Western nations that have never lifted a finger to stop the constant drip drip drip of hate that has enveloped the Internet, the Western media as well as all of the organs of the antisemitic United Nations Organisation.
Nobel Prize winning novelist Wole Soyinka says that “Arabs and Islam are guilty of the cultural and spiritual savaging of the Continent”, their unrepentant and unrelenting, often violent racism he calls the great taboo. In ignoring the racism that inheres the Arab debate on Israeli or Jewish rights; or in dismissing the narrative of conquest, ridicule, vilification and hate that typifies the Islamic discourse (not just since the creation of Jewish self-determination in historic Israel) Israel has to hope for the best but make preparations for the worst.
I leave you with the words of Saudi cleric and poet Muhammad al-Farrajii and a final insight. Al-Farrajii’s unadulterated hatred for Shiites (he calls Iranians “Zoroastrians”), and the rest of non-Sunni humanity is incitement to genocide. In his long poem that he read out on Shada TV (September 13, 2013) he lauded Hitler for “barbecuing Russians and Jews”.
If President Obama and his major domo John Kerry (current Secretary of State) want Israel to buckle under and accept their agenda they must appreciate that none of their actions over the five years of the Obama administration help to remove doubt about the deal.
Monday, November 18, 2013
Simon Jenkins writes for The Guardian newspaper as well as London’s Evening Standard. In a recent article for the Evening Standard (29th October 2013) he stated that “were Britain a separate Eurozone the north would become Greece and Spain to London’s Germany.” The article titled “Sorry, Archbishop but London is where the action is” was an arrogant justification for the status quo. He is solidly upper middle class which while not objectionable may have prejudiced him in favour of the status quo. More later, on this.
In the last few years I have travelled around England for my holidays and yes, Simon Jenkins is partially correct. London is different to anywhere else. London is huge. The city population is around 8 ½ million people and between 14 million and 21 million people reside in its greater metropolitan region. It is a sprawling and semi-violent megalopolis. Like all world cities its infrastructure creaks and is often shambolic; it is dirty and when it fails it does so with a spectacular aplomb that acknowledges its divine right to extract even more money from us all, irrespective of where we live in the UK.
Within its boundaries unspeakable wealth proudly perches astride neighbourhoods of extreme deprivation while the poor oil London’s parts - as is the case in any centre of power. And London is a world city. Simon Jenkins suggests that in the most recent recession “London survived the recession astonishingly well…the cuts were down the line, out of sight, in the provinces.” So while the rest of the developed world suffered the deepest recession since the 1929 Depression, Londoners, we are informed, escaped unaffected, except that in London 25% of those between the ages of 16 to 24 are unemployed (as compared to 20% for the UK as a whole). And to all those Londoners who earn a university degree, the disadvantage of not being in employment during the early years after high-school may hit home hard when their first class honours degree does not even gain them work as shop assistants and care workers.
Those statistics conveniently omit the people who simply gave up trying to find work, or those who work in the ‘shadow’ economy (in Europe, said to be worth some €2.1 trillion – RT “European citizens survive thanks to shadow economy”). And the political classes of both left and right turned a blind eye to the approaching catastrophe of a disconnected and aging population, living out its latter years in isolation and poverty.
Smugly, Simon Jenkins boasts that we are witness to the age of the big city with their hinterland of dormitory suburbs and green belts for “leisure and weekending”. If London is privileged, it is also spoiled and oblivious to the greater needs of the nation. If the megacity is the colossus dominating the nation (at least in Britain) then it also represents the failure of society to adapt to population growth with any future vision. Le Corbusier’s modernist abomination – his dream of a cityscape of unrelenting uniformity and grey mediocrity was intended to house the masses. It may have represented the negation of class but his city lacked a soul. The megacity represents the failure of human imagination and the triumph of a class structure that depressingly refuses to acknowledge the weakness behind the idea which encourages massive concentrations of population.
A new socio-economic model was recently publicised in the British press. It breaks society down into lots of Class sub-types. Status, wealth and education, set against their absence, no longer suffice as predicators of class. I suspect that it is those people who want to retain the divisions that will be most interested in its re-classification. In fact class remains three tiered but it can now be defined as the overwhelming majority in the middle and at the extremes, the disinherited poor and the very rich. In the mid-twentieth century the middle classes began the expansion that hugely diminished the lower classes. The middle class enveloped all but those on the periphery of society. However, in the future we shall return to the more traditional picture of a small middle class, a smaller upper class and a huge pool of lower class workers and retirees.
If competition and technological advances wiped out lower class jobs in the latter half of the twentieth century; cheap loans and the idea that anything was materially possible pushed the poor into the middle classes. A similar process will reverse the trend and it will destroy the middle classes, creating another seismic shift in class identity. Eventually, only the rich will enjoy any kind of security.
Lord King, the former Governor of the Bank of England was interviewed for the Daily Mail in October 2011. He described the British economy as experiencing the biggest squeeze in living memory. But for the rich, there was rarely if ever any pain. Taxes and soaring costs affected the middle and lower classes only. It would be irrational to consider a future that is any different to this.
How does class encourage the growth of the megacity? Because big cities drain the vitality out of their provinces; through business and fashion, culture and politics they attract the talent to the epicentre and utilise resources far out of proportion to the rest of the nation.
London is a gargantuan source of energy sapping the vigour out of everywhere else like a terrestrial ‘black hole’. Power is a magnet that attracts those seeking it. It is a logical concomitant of centralisation. It is why I argue for decentralisation because it is only through it, that the dilution of centralised authority will occur.
There is no mystique surrounding centralisation and there is no mystery surrounding power. Power entices those that yield it whether they are union officials or investment managers; bank managers or local counsellors. Any power has the potential to corrupt and far too often, checks and balances simply do not work. Bureaucracy institutionalises the status quo. The industrial revolution created areas of devolved economic activity but in Britain, it failed to seduce those that wielded power, away from the centre. Eventually the centre failed. Eire broke away from the British Empire; Northern Ireland became a backwater that had to endure a decades-long civil war before anyone seriously noticed it, Scottish nationalists salivate over the possibility of secession from the Union and one day Wales will arrive at the same conclusion; that London rules and demands its medieval tribute still.
Centralisation encourages bad behaviour. Numbers grow and solutions reach a level of complexity that creates inefficiency. Instead of each of us becoming networked, our interconnection traps us within a maze of interlocking systems that are managed remotely, in reality disempowering consumers and businesses alike even as they create the illusion of touch. In fact to talk about consumers and businesses is to dismiss people as economic entities devoid of an identity. All systems become open to abuse. Someone somewhere can manipulate your powerlessness.
According to a Foreign Policy article of September 2012 “Just 600 urban centres generate about 60% of global GDP” and while the future 600 top urban centres will change over the next decade and beyond, there will be no difference to the power they wield. Cities choked with toxic waste; health scares, perhaps even pandemics created by not paying sufficient attention to what is described, in the same magazine issue, as “ghettos of poverty and dysfunction” (pollution, filth and disease) represents the dystopian vision for our mass urbanized future.
It is only by creating distributed hubs with local, decentralised controls that we will successfully redistribute and therefore dilute power, away from the centre. What will then be created is a community of interest. Distributed efficiency and shared knowledge will create interdependence. It is this community of interest that society has had stolen from it by centralisation.
Decentralization means redistribution of resources back to the provinces. It means sharing the wealth of institutions so that culture resides in the nation and not just in the national capital. It means focusing the development of infrastructure nationally and not on massive and wasteful megaprojects that protect the pivotal position of the Centre. And lastly, it means creating imaginative solutions in order to deconstruct the megacity, recreating the sense of local community that once existed in semi-isolation only.
Sir Simon Jenkins represents a celebration of the Titanic. He tells us that “bigger is better” and that the iceberg makes wonderful ice-cubes for his martinis. But like other luminaries of the status quo he is blind to the threat to his tranquillity. Megacities amplify alienation for the poor and over the coming decades their numbers can only massively increase in number.
In order for us to regain some of the empathy of reduced scale the trend towards megacities must be reversed. Biologically, big is not better, ultimately it leads to extinction. We should learn from nature.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
THE FOLLOWING IS A GUEST CONTRIBUTION FROM ALAN'S POLICY BLOG. HIS BLOG ADDRESS IS AT THE END OF THIS ARTICLE.
The USA should cease funding Pakistan and declare that there will be no resumption until the Taliban are disbanded – now that would bring the Taliban to the negotiating table!
From the perspective of Judeo/Christian morality the now ex-leader of the Pakistan Taliban was an individual imbued with evil. His moral maliciousness permeated the very fibre of his being. Personally he beheaded kafirs, non-believers, and mowed down with automatic weapons scores if not hundreds more. In his leadership role he planned many further atrocities slaughtering many thousands, mainly fellow Muslims.
He hated the US, the big Satan, the little Satan and the West in general. Having slain many American citizens in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the US had good reason not to like him. Seeing no chance of bringing Mehsud to justice before hell freezes over, by which time casting him downwards would hardly be an effective punishment, the US, after years of trying, have finally managed to execute him.
A drone, controlled from thousands of miles away, crept up on him, tapped him on the shoulder, smiled and then after a thirty seconds slo-mo whilst the victim suddenly realised his plight, vapourised him.
Good job, well done some may say. At least some form of justice was affected albeit not with the ideal integrity that free democracies demand of their own systems when prosecuting their own subjects.
Well so be it. What is done is done. Was it a sensible action or will it disadvantage the US and reflect badly on the West and its allies?
Some argue that it strengthens the hand of the West. Others led by the BBC, that it has ruined the chances of any sort of peace agreement between the Pakistan government and the Taliban.
Looking at the logic of each of these positions in turn:
First from the anti-Taliban, pro-drone perspective:
1. Killing the leader of any terrorist organisation sends a powerful message. Unlike their followers who have been indoctrinated into the philosophy of self-immolation, the leaders value their own lives too much. After all leadership must have some perks. The US has a record of killing with drones senior Taliban members in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
2. This sends a powerful message to would be terrorist leaders. Move into any of the top hot seats and you become a priority target. Judging from what has happened to your predecessors your days are numbered. If you want to avoid their fate then start negotiating to save your arse.
3. This means that when the political negotiations start, the Taliban have internalised that they cannot win and that they must compromise to save themselves.
4. For the anti-Taliban forces it means they have the negotiating advantage and can drive a hard bargain going way beyond a temporary cease fire to gain a lasting peace.
Looking at it now from the anti-drone strike perspective:
1. Drone strikes are immoral and flout international law because they cause collateral damage
2. Collateral damage hardens the attitudes of the general populace against those forces that caused the collateral damage
3. The Taliban leadership, via a video, had let it be known that they wanted to talk with the Pakistani government.
4. Killing their leader will make them all angry and they will now no longer want to negotiate.
5. The implication is that whatever carnage ensues will be the fault of the Americans for being stupid enough to kill Hakeemullah Mehsud.
6. Their crime made doubly worse by the use of drones.
Which of these positions do you feel is more likely to be right?
Both make assumptions and have logical inconsistencies.
Amongst the main ones against those in favour of drone attacks are that:
x Some Taliban leaders may seek martyrdom. If that were the case then these leaders will never come to the negotiating table unless they know they have the advantage. Handled skilfully the negotiation outcome will be yet another step towards their ultimate goal of Islam-uber-alles and Sharia law supremacy.
x The anti-Taliban negotiators may be as inept as the Europeans headed by Baroness Ashton and totally fail to capitalise on the advantage they have been given.
The main illogicalities of those who see the drone strikes as detrimental to peace include:
x If collateral damage from drone strikes, which are relatively tiny, causes such hatred against the West, then the collateral damage of tens of thousands of Muslims murdered by the Taliban should generate proportionally more hatred against the Taliban and thus weaken their position. Apparently this is not the case.
x The first duty of any government is to protect its citizens. This is even enshrined in that flaky body of jurisprudence referred to as international law. Therefore although it will be argued that drone strikes are illegal under international law, this cannot take precedence over an administration’s duty to protect its own citizens.
x It might also be claimed that the likelihood of becoming collateral damage by harbouring dangerous psychopaths like Mehsud in their midst might make the communities loyal to him reconsider the wisdom of their action.
My analysis is deliberately simplistic. I have not considered any of the broader political dynamics impacting on this situation nor of the technological and social forces that are pertinent.
Nevertheless, I conclude, as you may have guessed, that on balance the US judicial killing is a force for good, albeit I also understand the arguments against it.
Of course my analysis is, besides an intellectual exercise, of no significant consequence. What matters is how things turn out in the real world.
My assertion is that drone strike will continue, piling even more pressure on the Taliban to come to the negotiating table. My bet is that within 12 months they will be talking to the Pakistani government and that they will, by that stage, be desperate to salvage almost anything from their broken dream of an expanding, Sharia compliant Caliphate.
This should hand a major tactical advantage to the Pakistani government providing they prove more competent negotiators than Baroness Ashton’s lot.
You may however, have come to a different conclusion which would be interesting to hear about.
The Bilateralist Comments:
Pakistan’s intelligence service (The ISI) has well documented connections to many terrorist groups. It is through many of these proxies that some awful crimes have been committed in the furtherance of Pakistan’s local and international agenda. Lashkar-e-Taiba carried out the 2008 Mumbai atrocity that killed over 160 people. Throughout the massacre the Pakistani killers who belonged to this murderous movement were recorded, in ongoing communication with their ISI handlers. Given the opportunity, these ‘holy’ Muslim warriors horrifically tortured many of their victims before granting them “release” through death.
The USA should cease funding Pakistan and declare that there will be no resumption until the Taliban are disbanded – now that would bring the Taliban to the negotiating table!
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
In an Op-Ed in the New York Times (NYT) two writers – Victor Gilinsky and Henry Sakolski “Let’s Be Honest About Israel’s Nukes” intertwine Arab use of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD’s) with Israel’s clash of civilizations. They omit any historical data and pay homage to Arab propaganda as if it is fact. Muslim protestations of self-defense against Israeli (Jewish) ‘threats’ are accepted without ever questioning what is clearly a wholly one-sided and disingenuous interpretation of history. The dishonesty displayed by the authors (and the NYT for publishing something this damaged) is in their omission of pertinent facts. A parallel article would have condemned Britain as a warmonger and as a threat to world peace for fighting back against Nazi Germany. In a modern twist to the fable that turning the other cheek protects the innocent, the aggressor becomes the victim and the victim (the modern Jew) is turned into a stereotyped thug. It truly is a reinvigorated formulation for antisemitism and a subtly crafted 21st Century blood-libel.
The reality of Israeli survival in the Arab jungle has been one of necessary reaction. Violent regimes have never respected those that are passive in their self-defense. Russia is known to have stoked the flames of war in 1967, by supplying false data to the Syrian regime on Israeli troop numbers near the Syrian border with Israel. In 1973 it supplied Syria with chemical weapons. When faced with defeat, Syria threatened to cover Tel Aviv with a lethal chemical cloud. Israel informed the leaders of the Soviet Union, through diplomatic third parties, that its intelligence on Israel was wrong, that Israel possessed a second strike response, that Israel would not hesitate to respond and most crucially, if even a single shell succeeded in reaching Israel, Israel's subsequent survival depended upon a massive response. Just as it did in 1967, the Arab world panicked. The USSR was again found to be ‘in error’. It had reported that Israel was defenseless. The Arab world lost the war. But from day one after the cessation of physical hostilities it is assumed that Israel began to develop its own WMD capability. A bluff only works once.
Put into context, this war between Islam and Judaism is now being fought out in the global press. It is the failure to respond to this propaganda war that is Israel’s greatest failure.
Israel may respond to acts of violence against it with what appears to its critics, as overzealous enthusiasm for a military response. In a region where Arab violence has been the norm for over a thousand years and Islamic prejudice daily prescribes the unfavorable treatment afforded minorities, this fear is a natural, learned response. Israel’s post-oppression identity is a direct consequence of its treatment by Islam and its Arab masters. In the Arab world caution has fatal consequences. Fundamentalist Islam is macho. Its focus on obedience, superstition and an eternal Manichean good guy bad guy conflict is seductive in its attraction to those who are lost because it is so prescriptive.
Yasser Arafat invoked the “peace of the brave” when talking to non-Muslim audiences but in Arabic he decreed that his Peace for the Jews was a “peace of Koreish” – the conquest and extinction of the non-Muslim presence in Mecca by Mohammad.
A murderous thug accustomed to violence and the threat of violence is incapable of conceding rejection. Jews have turned the other cheek for most if not all of the 1,400 years of Muslim conquest, domination and threat.
The dystopian past is more than just memory. It is a trap from which the Muslim world also appears powerless to escape. The narrative of ascendancy is a difficult one to forgo, particularly when, as is the case with Islam, it is driven by religious imperative. But even a psychopath understands fear and the threat of retaliation serves as an effective brake on the inclination towards violence in most cases. After the Arab defeat in 1967 Egyptian Commander in Chief and first vice-president Abd al-Hakim Amer (President Nasser’s life long friend) committed suicide (or was poisoned by Nasser). The Arab defeat in 1973 spelled the end of Soviet influence in the Middle East. It would take another 40 years before a US President gave Russia the key to restored super–power status, a welcome mat and an open door through which it will march on the whole region.
The campaign to rewrite the history books, the violent assault that the Left and its allies perpetrate against Israel in the international arena (at every opportunity) are all part of the same pattern of violence with which passive Jews have lived throughout their history. And the problem with that NYT article to which I referred at the beginning, is that crass, opinionated articles selectively cherry pick only that which validates their prejudice. The NYT dresses up its bigotry in the finery of cant disguised as scholarship. When we give publicity to tyrants such as Putin, Assad or Rohani, we validate the thug.
You never provide oxygen to bigots, unless that is, you have a biased agenda.
Quality refers to depth of analysis, or does it? When we refer to the quality press, accuracy is not a prerequisite for selling the message. Repetition overcomes skepticism. Delivery is most effective when it exploits existing prejudices (beliefs) and establishes the authority of the message by making false connections and by being selective about the truth. This is the essence of propaganda.
In any discussion of the press we can see three levels of reporting.
Beginning at the bottom, the red tops (the tabloid press) are known for their excellent sports cover, their page 3 half-naked women and their sensationalist and superficial reporting of everything else. The mainstream press is no less opinionated but is usually less shallow in their opinion pieces. They also offer an in-depth analysis of national and some international stories. But they remain partisans in their reporting. We then reach the pinnacle of our global press, the quality newspapers. In reality, they are no less prejudiced but they offer a more thorough deception in the web they build around their arguments. Their arrogant self-assertion of impartiality is easily pierced by examining their work practices as well as what they write. Selective morality is buttressed by careful choice of contributors; if you are going to be a hypocrite, at least have the big guns by your side to ring your praises. The ends truly do justify the means in this ethical wasteland.
Probably the single most dishonest characteristic of the quality press is its need to disassemble the facts before creating a narrative in its own distorted image. That NYT article had one purpose only, and that was to put Israel in the dock.
First President Vladimir Putin wrote an article for the NYT that was so deceptive that any serious student of history must have wept at reading it. Then the Iranian President Hassan Rohani graced NBC with his learned opinions (followed by an interview with the Washington Post) and finally President Bashar Assad was interviewed by Fox News. And now, Bashar Assad will forever remind me of a chocolate box. His picture has been doing the rounds. The mass murderer is all smiles as he sits at a table with his wife and children, the image of innocence and calm reason. But then they all were. That is where the propagandist creates authority and an image of fairness.
President Abbas of Palestine has similarly expressed his opinions without reference to the truth. No one challenged him or any of the others who spoke. We are too polite for that. The best example of this was that both Abbas and Rouhani have referred to the ‘legitimate refugees’ and their right of return to their ‘ancestral home’. Most Palestinian non-Jews were recent immigrants to the Holy Land at the fag end of the 19th Century and up to the middle of the 20th Century. Turkey and Britain allowed them unrestricted immigration to the Holy Land but severely restricted Jewish immigration. By some miracle, the immigrant Arab became ‘indigenous’ while the immigrant Jew became (at best) the indigenized settler. Such racial magnanimity is rare amongst our enemies. But because no one has challenged this Muslim/Leftist version of history, it is today, too inconvenient to question. It does not fit in with the current global narrative. No one disputes the tyrants as their self-righteous calm shimmers out from television screens and their pristine words bask in the unchallenged pages of the international press.
“The truth is that if Israel were to put down its arms there would be no more Israel. If the Arabs were to put down their arms there would be no more war.” (Benjamin Netanyahu). To that should be added the tragic reality that the international quality press cannot be trusted with the truth.
Saturday, September 21, 2013
Hassan A Barari (“Israelism, Arab Scholarship on Israel, a critical assessment.”) states that “Israeli studies in the Arab world are weighed down by biased projection, ideological deformation, predisposition and the need to expose rather than to understand or explain the ‘other’.” This could also apply as a template for Muslim-Non Muslim interaction.
Conflict within the Muslim world has never been about Israel but has always been about Israel. Let me explain. Israel is an imperfect symbol for a Western ideal of democracy and human rights. It is an outpost on the lip of a hostile Arab volcano that contemptuously denigrates both principles. It is this allegiance to a poisoned Arab chalice that before everything, defines, as it obstructs any relationship.
I apologize to Jonah Goldberg, if any of what follows should be attributed to him. To the author of “Liberal Fascism,” the word ‘fascism’ is “a modern word for heretic.” Heretics are hounded, marginalized, tortured and killed for their thought crimes. How ironic therefore that a fascist will utilize the word as a weapon to be wielded against anyone with whom they disagree, with cavalier and promiscuous abandon. Its core supporters are to be counted amongst liberals and adherents of left wing politics. They claim to represent the moral high ground which means that they inevitably preach a need for “Social rebirth.” The Nation of Islam, many Afro-centric groups, Anti-Zionist groups and individuals employ tactics that differ little from totalitarianism. While fascism is associated with militarism, in its nuanced Western state it rejects Western intervention in the affairs of nations to which the military is central to controlling society.
The means by which ‘undesirables’ are targeted is by a sophist argument that goes: if it is good, it cannot be bad; while if it is bad, it cannot be good. The irreducible logic of modern day fascism is that the chosen are flawless and therefore, to argue for objective or principled reason falls on deaf ears. In this way, anti-Zionism is no different to fundamentalist Islam or The Church that gave us the apparatus of the Inquisition.
The foundation stone of this cultural prejudice is obedience, and it largely discourages critical thought.
In support of this poisoned Occidentalist mindset we refuse to critically examine conduct or mores of behavior outside of our own small corner of humanity. We dissect our society through a conflict prism defined by Western guilt, colonial angst and indifference to a cultural competition that is often, aggressively waged against us. Comparisons are inevitable but usually superficial, so it is better not to make any judgment at all. And this is the problem. Our differences make us unique but not all differences are to be admired. We should celebrate what is worthwhile and reject what is not.
Instead we seem to have adopted a laissez faire approach to ethics. It is easier to feign concern and do nothing so as not to offend. Part of the reason for this is that we all want to believe that everyone is equal, of identical aspiration and talent; if only we provide the means by which ‘they’ may demonstrate their qualities. We want to believe that the kindness and grace we confer on others is reciprocated and if, one day, we should need their help, then not withstanding our failure of altruism, they will forgive us and nevertheless, they will help us too. The fallacy of this line of thinking was demonstrated when, in spite of Muslims being the main victims of the Boxing Day Tsunami (that killed an estimated 230,000 people in 2004) donations came from everywhere but the incredibly oil rich Muslim world.
The basis for our strategy of ignoring crimes that other nations commit is perceived economic necessity (will ‘they’ trade with us if we criticize them?); indifference and racism. Our intellectual elite justify this reality by pointing out our own lax standards of public morality. So it behooves us to hold our tongue whenever we feel squeamish about how others behave. Who are we to criticize the unethical misbehavior of any individual or group? Of course this logic then cascades down to withholding our criticism of unsavory misbehavior in our own society. To be an ethical hypocrite makes for an intellectually athletic series of denials as to the not so complicated nature of evil. One persons’ bloodthirsty murderer becomes another persons’ freedom fighter irrespective of the psychopathology displayed in their behavior.
Barari‘s book was a critical assessment of how the Arab world viewed Israel. But statements were sheathed in a protective coating of superior Arab purpose and Islamic purity. This is understandable if we consider that dissent is an unnatural component of the Islamic environment. Dissidents are subject to arrest and torture. For the less fortunate, there is an almost casual preference for the bomb, the bullet or the sword as the favored response to any idea that does not conform to an acceptable narrative.
Until the Arab and greater Muslim world loses the propaganda war it remains incapable of genuine reflection, debate or engagement with either Israel, the USA or for that matter, anyone else. But for Israel the greater strategic threat to its survival is its inability to conduct a public relations counter assault against those religious and political racists who deny it and deny us our equal rights in the world.