May 28, 2004

Complicit in the Death Penalty?

So 'radical' Muslim cleric Abu Hamza has been arrested on an extradition warrant - he faces 11 terrorism related charges in the US. Most of the 'evidence' has been known for more than 18 months so why the arrest now? The intrigue is spiced up by the fact that the Home Office are trying (without much success) to strip Hamza of his UK citizenship and remove him from the country. A UK/US deal perhaps?

This leads to a worrying conclusion. At the press conference US Attorney General John Ashcroft suggested that the maximum potential penalty that Hamza faces is the death penalty. Under the UK/US extradition treaty signed last year the UK will not extradite anyone to the US who faces the death penalty. Neither will any EU country.

Under the treaty no actual evidence needs to be presented by the US, so this is the only issue that could block the extradition. The arrangement is not reciprocal but can you imagine the embarrassment if the UK refused to extradite Hamza? Could the US executive office, who under law must ask for the death penalty, fail to seek the maximum penalty for a potential terrorist? There's only really two ways out for the UK government - they either successfully extradite Hamza with a promise that he will never face the death penalty or they successfully strip him of his citizenship and remove him to a third party country.

One last question. Given that the UK government was complicit is the holding, interrogation and torture of British citizens at Guantanamo will they actually care if the US wants to fry a man they want out of the country anyway?

May 27, 2004

Run Away! Hide! Fear! Terror!

So it appears that there is a general Al-Queda threat. To everyone. At anytime. Anywhere. They're going to hit us hard. They hate us. Hate what we stand for. They're the enemy. We must fear them. We're all going to die!

Or maybe not. Let's just think about this for a moment and be rational. Maybe, just maybe, John Ashcroft's recent terror warning/scaremongering/alert was far more about the realpolitik of American electioneering than any real and present danger - to borrow a phrase. This much seems obvious. The real question is - do the American people buy it any more (I'm damn sure the British don't - have you seen Blair's approval ratings?).

It was interesting to see that John Kerry has already called into question the legitimacy of the warning.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe since US immigration is virtually admitting they couldn't spot these 'terrorists' as they entered the country (allegedly), all citizens should be on the look out. 'Suspect is brown, suspect is presumed Muslim and dangerous'. Wait a minute - I live in London. Half the population are not white. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Sarcasm aside - is there no limit to the fear that the Bush administration will try and create to win votes? I'm not buying it and I'm willing to bet that by November the American people won't buy it any longer either.

May 25, 2004

The Blind Leading the Blind

I wonder if the Bush administration has ever had a strategy for post-war Iraq? President Bush's speech last night was a lesson in desperation as his failed administration tries to claw back some of its lost credibility.

Bush still doesn't appear to have a full grasp of the magnitude of what is happening in Iraq right now. He glossed over the main issues - arguing that there is only an 'appearance' of chaos. No, Mr. Bush. It is chaos!

If America (and us, its poodle) really want to create a 'shining beacon of democracy' in the middle east we're all going about it in the most haphazard and desperately dishonest way imaginable. Of course, the truth is that Bush and his fellow hawks were never interested in the Iraqi people - only in the geo-strategic goals of securing influence in the region and a long lasting, cheap oil supply. Call me a cynic but I never believed any of the phony arguments about democracy, WMD or human rights. America has consistently and clearly shown itself to be no believer in human rights or democracy (although I concede it's a pretty big fan of its own WMD).

There needs to be an exit strategy - but ones that allows the Iraqi people to take power through democratic elections now and not just another puppet government that nobody believes in. US and UK troops will have to come out and an international peace-keeping force, lead by the UN and the Arab league, replace them. This all requires an admission on the part of the coalition that they've got it badly wrong. Will this happen? I very much doubt it.

May 18, 2004

Thai Human Rights Abuses

It appears that Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has finally
agreed a £60m deal with Liverpool FC to buy about 30% of the club.

There have been a catalogue of terrible human rights abuses that have occurred in Thailand during the Shinawatra regime's period of administration. The shocking list of abuses reported by independent bodies such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have included:

  • disappearances of drug addicts
  • mistreating refugees
  • abuse of prisoners
  • repression of migrant workers
  • extrajudicial executions

It comes to something when a football club will put an attempt at short term success ahead of fundamental human rights. No football club should have anything to do with a regime that supports what amounts to the 'ethnic cleansing' of the poor and the addicted. The dodgy way in which Roman Abramovich made the millions he is using to fund Chelsea is one thing, genocide is quite another.

May 17, 2004

Iraq Chaos Deepens

Ezzedine Salim , the head of the US appointed Iraqi governing council has been killed in car bomb attack today. This is further evidence that the Iraqis do not want an occupying force in Iraq and do not want an US appointed puppet government. We need out now.

Every day that occupying forces remain in Iraq their 'popularity' with the local population diminishes. Every day they remain Tony Blair and George Bush move a step closer to voting themselves out of office.

I want Bush - the warmongering, election stealing, draft-dodging, cocaine addict, thief and drunk - voted out. I want Tony Blair - the lip-quivering, patronising, insincere, manipulative, liar - out too. If they stay in Iraq much longer this will happen. However, the death of civilians and military on both sides just isn't worth it any longer.

Iraq Body Count estimates that up to 11,000 Iraqi citizens have died through US bombing. It's not worth it any more. We (The West) gain nothing and the Iraqis are certainly gaining nothing.

May 15, 2004

Morgan Falls On Sword

So Piers Morgan has resigned as the Mirror admits that they were duped over those Iraqi abuse photos. It was the only logical end to this sordid affair and it's a real shame that the government have been allowed, once again, to divert the public and media attention away from the real issue.

The real issue is that there has been abuse by British soldiers on Iraqi prisoners and civilians - several soldiers have come forward to say so and both the ICRC and Amnesty have concurred with this view. Yet, the spinmeisters in the Government have won again by creating a secondary argument with a media outlet. Sounds familiar!

Tony Blair may have won battles against the Mirror and the BBC - but history will define him as the man who took the Britain into an unjust war against the will of the British people. The only thing that may save him from the fate of José Maria Aznar is that the Tories were stupid enough to vote for this too.

May 14, 2004

Time For Blair To Go

It now seems clear to me that Tony Blair lied about WMDs in Iraq and created a diversionary argument with the BBC to cover it up. Having won that argument he is now lying about the abuse of Iraqi prisoners (both military and civilian) and creating a diversionary argument with the Mirror to cover that up too.

Tony Blair’s position is now untenable because the moral, political, strategic and financial justification that could be made for the occupation of Iraq - none of which I ever believed - is blown away when 'we' are no better as occupiers than Saddam's administration were as oppressors.

There is a vile stench in the air around Blair's government. The closeness of his ties with Bush, the acceptance of abuse of British inmates at Guantanamo Bay and the detention of suspected terrorists without charge in British prisons all point to an administration that has forgotten what democracy means.

Tony Blair preaches liberation but practices brutal dictatorship. I believe that it his moral obligation now to resign and let Gordon Brown take the Labour party and the country back to its liberal equilibrium. I don’t expect it to happen – he will fight, fight and fight on with his two-man crusade. The consequences, though, look to be dire for Tony Blair, the Labour party and the country in the longer term. The United Kingdom is never more isolated from the majority of world opinion and never more vulnerable to the whim of its master, the United States.