July 27, 2004

Bob Piper is a legend

I cannot vouch for all of Councillor Bob Piper's policies as I do not know him, but he is indeed a legend. In two simple anacronyms he has managed to sum up the state of the world:

  • TWAT: The War on Terrorism
  • OIL: Opperation Iraqi Liberation

What's more - he's a Labour Councillor. Yes, that's right. He is actually a member of the Labour Party. A bone fide non-Blairite. There is indeed hope.

July 24, 2004

Mandy is Back!

Peter always wanted to be a European Commissioner

July 22, 2004

9/11: Everyone To Blame

(Except all the US governments who sold Osama the weapons and trained his men, of course). That's the finding of the 9/11 Commission Report into the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington of September 11, 2001.

The sad irony of all of this is that the US seems to have learned little about why terrorists wish to attack them (and their allies), and looked to throw blame around to whomever they think could have stopped this one incident. To believe this is not an appeasement of terrorism - it is an understanding of how the world works right now. One only has to look at the present situation in Iraq - the world's safest haven for terrorists - to see the true outcome of US foreign policy.

The Report is right that no one single person is to blame, but it casts the net of failure so widely that it is impossible to establish where the true fault lies - and where policy should be modified. It isn't really about the CIA - although they made mistakes. It isn't about the Clinton government - although it made mistakes too. It isn't even about the Bush administration (although how it could miss a report, dated September 10th, entitled "Al-Qaeda Plans to Attack US with Hijacked Airplanes", I really don't know).

The devil is in the details of course. That missed report. The failed CIA security checks on known terrorists. Failure to make the link between members of the cell, even when some had been arrested. Missed forged documents. However, while the details may well be devilish - they do guide us away from the real truth.

The truth is that 35 years of militaristic, interventionist and hypocritical US policy that sought to divide and rule, came home to roost that day in September. Successive Presidential administrations ordered military interventions in conflicts all over the globe - normally seeking to install despotic dictators, they saw as being anti-communist, pro-American or open to exploitation. The result - lots of guerilla armies, trained, weaponised and empowered. Norriega, Pinochet, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden are just a few on many names I could list. The common ground? All received training, funding and/or military help from the US.

The question, after a report such as this, would normally be 'what lessons are there to learn?' The Commission recommends a centralisation of intelligence under a cabinet-level Intelligence Director. Of course they would - when decentralised government agencies make mistakes, governments always seek to take control. It's not the answer, never has been.

There has already been a security lock down - ethnic profiling, biometric testing, arrest, detention and torture. All in the name of security and the War on Terror. It's a war that will never be won until the West, as a whole, unites in its attempt to redefine its relationship with the Muslim world. Military intervention, brutalisation of 'suspects' and the lowering on moral and legal standards only alienates those countries, and communities who we, the West, need to hold an olive branch out to.

Will there be another 9/11? Almost certainly. Nothing and nobody can be protected totally. We have already seen a catastrophic series of attacks in Madrid. There will be others, no matter how many people we kill, countries we invade or suspects we beat to death. Let's redress how we fight this 'war' - because using the fist is not, and will never, work.

July 19, 2004

The Liberal Consensus

I missed it, but over the last 40 years there's been a liberal consensus that says its ok to commit crime - well at least according to Tony Blair. The government is now rolling out policies to end this evil conspiracy once and for all!

I must have been watching a different government these last seven years. Haven't Jack Straw and David Blunket paraded one 'tough on crime, tough on criminals' policy proposal after another? This was from the government that promised to be tough on the causes of crime. The rhetoric and policy changed as soon as Labour came into power - we've seen little of their promises, and much of their headline grabbing assault on "yob culture" and now "1960s liberalism", whatever they are. Blaming some mythical culture for our social ills is the very definition of Labour's failing crime policy. It's doubtful whether the latest rhetoric and headline grabbing policies will have any affect on crime at all.

Today's speech by Tony Blair smacks of a PR stunt to get a front page headline in the Daily Mail. The apparent policies behind this initiative are:

  • Community policing
  • Targeting the offender, rather than the offence, including more probation work and tracking criminals
  • Giving local communities the power to "enforce respect on the street"
Let's delve a little deeper. Don't those policies really mean:
  • Cheap pseudo police
  • Pigeon-holing past offenders as guilty
  • Vigilantism
Maybe we should just introduce marshals who roam the council estates on horse back looking for anyone who doesn't look right so they can drive them out of town? Fortunately for Tony satellite technology has come to his rescue. We can now tag these 'criminals' permanently - so we know where they at all times. Nice. The Thought Police are only one step away.

The essential problem with these policies is that it creates fear by criminalising low level offences. If the government are to target anti-social behaviour by criminalising whole classes of people, they also need come up with the cash to ensure the offenders don't repeat and kids don't offend in the first place. What next prison for litterers? Wait there, littering *is* on the list of offences the government is targeting! Personally I can live with a bit of litter if Labour stop invading third world countries. How about a swap Tony?

There's a promise for more money for "youth projects" but no hard figures. There's been lots of promises in the last seven years but very little action. You can criminalise drunks and "yobs" but I suspect it'll do very little to actually get to the real root of the problem.

I despair of this government sometimes. It's no longer a question of when Tony Blair became Margaret Thatcher, but how she gets that face mask looking so realistic. I'm off to smoke pot and sit in a circle chanting ommm with my liberal friends!

July 18, 2004

Blair's Only Option

All new tips for keeping the garden looking great!

Spend more time with the family!

Face humiliation with dignity!

July 15, 2004

The Butler Retort

And Tony did read the report, and he thought it was good. "Children" he said, "we invadeth not because we faketh the intelligence, but becauseth we had none".

July 14, 2004

Whitehall Whitewash Part Deux: The Smell of Teflon

The Butler report is published at 12:30 today. It is written by a former cabinet secretary and lifelong civil servant, and the main opposition parties pulled out calling it a whitewash before the process even got started. Will it get at the truth behind Tony Blair's Dodgy Dossier? Of course not. It's Hutton Part Two: Blair Strikes Back!

In fact, I'm so unexcited by the prospect of finding the truth in the Butler report that I'm writing this before it is even published. We know what it is going to say already and it ain't going to be the truth.

At least the government now seems to accept (perhaps with the exception of Tony Blair) that there were never any WMDs in Iraq - they had all been destroyed years previously. The only WMDs in the country now are those owned by the coalition forces. So that leaves us with the burning question of how the country could have been so badly mislead and duped into supporting the war?

There are only 5 possible reasons why lack of WMDs in Iraq translated into a real and imminent threat, within 45 minutes, in the Dodgy Dossier:

  • Intelligence on the ground got it wrong
  • Analysis of that intelligence was incorrect
  • The interface between the intelligence community and the government was faulty
  • The government knew there was no evidence and lied to us
  • A combination of the above
Anyone who reads this column will know that I have never believed Tony Blair's case for war. A third world country, destroyed by two wars and impoverished by 12 years of international sanctions, developing weaponised biological, chemical and nuclear material and a delivery system that could be a threat to Britain? Pull the other one. Never. The fact is, the only WMDs Iraq ever had were sold to them by the Americans!

I fully accept that there were serious failings in both intelligence gathering - too few sources that were too unreliable - and mistakes made in the analysis back at Whitehall. What I am definitely certain of is that something went badly wrong in the interface between the intelligence community and government. The government wanted intelligence to make the case for a war they were already committed to - intelligence didn't guide what they were doing. In this desperation, pressure was placed on the intelligence community to come up with the sort of language that the government wanted. This much is certain - Jonathan Powell and Alistair Campbell had too much influence over Robin Dearlove, John Scarlet and other key intelligence players. Powell and Campbell's remit was to ensure that the dossier produced the headlines that the government wanted - "45 mins from Destruction" and so on.

What is uncertain is how much Powell, Campbell, Blair and the Cabinet really knew. It seems inconceivable that Blair didn't know the full extent of the intelligence at hand. If he did not, how could he have made the decision to go to war? Surely that would be a complete and total dereliction of duty. More serious though is the alternative, that Blair and his cronies did know that there was a lack of intelligence and did push for the wording in the dossier to be strengthened accordingly.

We will never know the truth until a full, independent inquiry is set up to examine the whole Iraq war. Who made the decisions, when and on what basis? Why did we commit thousands of troops to this illegal and unjustifiable war?

British soldiers have lost their lives, thousands of Iraqi civilians lie dead and billions have been spent and for what? We, the public, deserve to know the full, undiluted, uncensored, non-whitewashed truth, and we deserve to hear that now. Anything less is an insult - the consequences of which even Teflon Tony cannot escape forever.

Blair is consumed by his vision of his place in history. Tony - you are going to be remembered as the arrogant, murdering, warmongering, liar that you are. It amazes me that Labour have learnt nothing from the polls, local and European elections. 1m people took to the streets in protest against the war and many millions voted against Labour in the recent elections. Does that not say something? Can Blair not understand he took us into something we didn't want, won't support and don't believe in. No matter how passionately and with such lip-quivering intensity Blair says he believes in the war - the people don't believe in him and that's pretty serious for Blair's future.

July 07, 2004

What Education, Education, Education?

Tony Blair is presenting Labour's vision of the future of schooling today. He will argue for more specialisation, selection and money for the best schools. It's a fast track to the class-system affirming, two-track education system that the Tories always craved. Blue Agent Tory Blair strikes again!

I went to a state school that had no special status and was run by the LEA. According to current Labour thinking, I should be a failure, living in a crack-den on a council estate (with smoking my only pleasure of course) and be sponging off the state. That I am not and do not must be a complete anathema to Labour's policy-makers.

Tony Blair was elected in '97 on a platform of education. He promised us a world-class system; what we got was red-tape, overworked teachers and mounds of meaningless targets. Today he will probably announce an extension of schools that can opt-out of local authority funding (Maggie would be proud) and have a greater say in curriculum development. Tony says that the country will not return to a system of "selection of the few and rejection of the many" - but that is exactly what is happening. Schools may not be selecting their pupils but by altering funding, placing schools in artificial competition and publishing misleading league tables, divisions between social class and geographical areas are being reinforced.

The likely end is more funding for the best schools, with the best pupils in best areas and less for the 'failing' schools with the blame placed at the door of teachers and not the government. It is already happening - schools are being 'failed', a government "Superhead" (aka: super well paid) is brought in and then the school is deemed a success with little or no real change.

When will Blair learn that the future of education isn't in the market - it's in the money. More money for better facilities, smaller classes and less overworked teachers will bring improvements. Competition between schools will mean the best get better - but the worst will get worse. What we need is a system with equal access for all and Tony Blair isn't going bring us that with this set of policies. Arguments about choice are a distraction - the real argument should be about quality, so let's get back to it.

Instead of preaching his Tory policies, perhaps Blair could actually try teaching for a week - it might give him some perspective. Now that would be a radical change!