Archive | July, 2005

Internet schizophrenia…it’s out there

27 Jul

I am a member of several political message boards and I contribute regularly to one in particular. I find them very useful in keeping up with the views of different sections of the UK electorate and it’s also practical to bounce ideas off potential critics.

I often post my blog pieces to put them up for scrutiny before I submit to the weblog. This relationship suits me and I have found it very productive, but one thing has unsettled me over the past few weeks, a phenomena that is more psychological than political…

It appears one or two members of a very popular site have multiple personalities; by this I mean they have one or more ‘screen-names’ (or membership accounts). I have tried this out myself creating a Right-Wing American who breezes into the site occasionally and rants at the liberal arguments, I mostly targeted my own contributions. I suppose the idea was that a good debater can assume both sides of argument and it’s a nice to vary the standpoint and test ones skills. My ‘evil’ pseudonym still exists but I grew tired quickly of the charade and have retired him indefinitely. It seems however that some dual-identity members have become somewhat co-dependent on their alter ego, using him/her to post a radicalised version of their ‘official’ argument.

But why? And is this electronic schizophrenia at all worrying?

Of course it is natural that people will enjoy the privacy of the Internet, and we all like to think we have insider knowledge. Everyone can relate to someone playing a practical joke and taking pleasure in having a laugh at someone else’s expense, but could leading a dual existence – even only online – actually be endemic of a greater psychological problem?

Of course you may ask: “how do you know someone is using two screen-names, if they are veiled by the anonymity of the Internet?”

I have decided that if I could so easily ‘create’ someone with diametrically opposed views to myself with such ease it is probable – no, nigh on certain – that others have exploited this opportunity. I am also aware that these posters have used coloured fonts similar to their alter ego before quickly deleting (and then re-posting in the correct identity/colour). There are also telltale signs that someone is deliberately ‘pitching’ posts between screen-names to further the argument and shape debate. Ultimately man is fallible and will always screw up – you just have to catch them.

I would be interested to run this by a psychologist, but luckily for me – if somewhat unfortunate for my family – I do not know any. So why does someone get so attached to their primary identity that they create a new personality for spouting their more radicalised opinions? Maybe they do not have the courage of their convictions and hide behind a sanitised formal persona, so as not to be regarded as an outsider or extremist.

I would be especially concerned if a member was experimenting in gender bending, and creating a personality sexually at odds with their ‘official’ personality. Could this be endemic of some closeted sexual deviation or frustration? I have my suspicions on one such member on a UK site that appears to be both male and female…. I have little doubt that hermaphrodites are a rarity even on the Internet, so I must assume some deep routed sexual uncertainties. Maybe the person has received a stringent upbringing or their public persona is one of high moral values, hiding basic human urges and desires.

Maybe I should just accept that the Internet will always attract those who are socially dysfunctional, and that it will always give a voice to societies oddities. The Net is a hive of radicals and fundamentalists, and gives disproportionate power to armchair revolutionaries; you should always have your wits about you.

So I will go now and cast my suspicious eye over my internet community, safe in the knowledge that at least I know who I am……I think!

An American Question.

25 Jul

How long will the US remain the sole superpower? Can the current American political establishment learn anything from empires resigned to history’s scrapheap?

History has told us that all empires eventually come to an end, even the Roman Empire collapsed. The Romans became unstuck in a heady mix military overreach and misguided political leadership. Their political system had also become increasingly corrupt, toothless, and diluted.

The British Empire eventually dissolved following the Second World War, the British realised that colonial rule can only last so long; people yearn for self-rule and the ability to choose their own path through the world. The post-WW2 empire was quickly broken up in favour of an economic and ideological entity: The Commonwealth.

The Empire’s end was brought about both through legitimate political protest and dissent, and as in the cases of Kenya and Malaysia – to name but two – militant insurgencies. More importantly the British government was in financial dire straits following a long and expensive war. The British could no longer finance its huge military machine.

In this context probably the most interesting empire was the one inherited by King Philip II of Spain, a rule dominated by military conflict. Interestingly Philip only knew 6 months of peace during his 42-year reign, Philip was obsessed with furthering his influence and ensuring Spanish dominance of the globe. It was said that the Spanish Empire was the “first empire on which the sun never set” such was the extent of this pan-global entity.

When Philip died in 1598 he left a crumbling treasury, an unstable empire, and a much-weakened military. Philip had failed to run a financially astute enterprise, constantly fighting wars he could not pay for. His autocratic rule meant he had to keep his upper classes placated with minimal taxation; therefore his tax base was inefficient to support his extensive military infrastructure.

Philip also suffered significant military losses (including the prized Spanish Armada – in a navel battle with the British weather) and suffered further economic woes with unsustainable levels of foreign capital influx (from the newly explored Americas), which caused inflation and decimated the internal Spanish economy.

The one certainty of History is that it repeats itself ad nauseam, the American elite should be aware of the follies and circumstances of previous imperial declines to minimise the impact of the fall. Should they choose controlled decline a la the British, and try to salvage as much dignity and influence as possible? Should they continue regardless as the Romans did until strong challengers usurp their dominance? Or finally will the US become bankrupt like the Spanish in 1557?

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There can be many comparisons with the above case studies and the current US situation. Like the late Roman Empire, the US – in George W Bush – has a leader obsessed with the belief that a great war defines every great leader. Bush saw his father throw away his political capital in the first Gulf War when Bush 41 decided against following Saddam Hussein’s armies to Baghdad. In a conversation with journalist Mickey Herskowitz before his first election victory Bush commented:

‘If I have a chance to invade, if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency.”

Bush fell into the trap that has snared so many before him by fighting a war he did not have to fight. America may well emerge victorious and Bush may yet be vindicated, but there is no doubt the American military will re-emerge from the battle scared and weakened. Falling volunteer numbers are already causing great concern within the Pentagon, and the military’s reputation has been damaged.

Like the Spanish in the Netherlands, the American military is being grinded down both mentally and physically by insurgencies, the search for an exit strategy from Iraq is already being reported. Like the Goths proved against the Romans, the insurgents are showing that a light and agile fighting force, which better knows the terrain, can outmanoeuvre, cause damage, and undermine the morale of a larger better-equipped adversary.

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It is true that the US ‘Empire’ is different from those above, as it does not claim sovereignty over other countries. However it would be wrong to suggest that America is not imperial as it expresses its will on the world using its unmatched economic resources and military power. In this era of the UN and marching global democracy the international community frowns on direct control of one country over another, as it does in the case of China and its occupation of Tibet. America is much more astute in its imperial overtures, it uses economic dependency to exert influence over foreign governments.

Let’s remember that the Roman, British, and Spanish Empires were primarily trade enterprises. The Roman Empire was a network of markets relying on the logistical infrastructure provided by the Roman Army, which spent as much time building as fighting. The British were driven both by ideology and profits, Simon Schama called his program on the Empire, Britannia Incorporated, to emphasise the economic foundations that financed and justified the expansionism.

The Spanish Empire was a wedding of Catholicism and Capitalism, as the Spanish spread the word of God they collecting vast wealth from around the world. The Spanish used their immense army and navy to secure exclusive access to the factors of production (minerals, labour, and land) needed to sustain its economic ambitions. The Catholic Church and the extended Holy Roman Empire provided Spain with an important cultural identity and allies to rally in times of conflict.

America employs a collective of compliant states that can be mobilised in time of conflict as we have seen in the military intervention in Iraq. A cocktail of economic co-operation and direct aid is used to further the strategic designs of the US leadership. The US uses these allies to increase its already significant voice within international institutions, and can therefore impose its will on the world.

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So where will the threat to US dominance originate? The majority of strategists point to Indo-China as the greatest threat to American hegemony. China and the US are financially co-dependent by a complicated exchange of capital, the US corporations invest heavily in the Chinese economy and it return the Chinese subsidises America’s trade deficit by buying up billions of dollars in treasury bonds. Until recently the Chinese also tied the Yuan to the Dollar to further facilitate continued investment and to protect the value of its Dollar assets. A rising Yuan – following the revaluation – may inhibit trade imbalances, but an intelligent response in respect to China’s money supply could temper any slowdown.

If the Chinese were to call in these bonds (which are in effect promises) the US treasury would find itself in severe difficulties. The reticence of China to call in these bonds is fuelled by its need to ensure low taxation – and therefore a high level of oversees investment – within the US economy. This co-dependence is the Cold War of today’s international economy, and tensions on both sides of this standoff are high.

The real threat to Sino-US relations may actually be more ideological than economic, as China is currently ramping up its military capabilities and continues to rattle its sabre implicitly towards Taiwan,
and more subtly at Japan. A senior Chinese general recently threatened the US with nuclear Armageddon if it interfered in China’s claims on Taiwan:

“Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds … of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese,”

So will Beijing’s ideological One-China Policy threaten its delicate balance of capital flow with America? Or will the threat of nuclear war and economic collapse dissuade both leaderships from a mutually destructive war? If both sides of this confrontation are to avoid a meltdown in relations the current nationalistic rhetoric will need to be toned down. What is for sure however is that the Chinese purchase of US Treasury bonds cannot continue forever.

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It is unlikely that global terrorism threatens the US as much as an uncompetitive economy. Manufacturing in the US has been hit heavily by the phenomenon of outsourcing labour, scarce primary resources, poor educational standards, and rising healthcare insurance costs. Toyota recently decided to situate its new plant in Toronto as opposed to the US, because the skill base was below standard in the Southern States that competed for the assembly plant. This could equally have been because the Canada state provides healthcare insurance for its citizens rather than relying on employers to foot the ever-spiralling bill. Could the expensive ‘closed’ medical industry in the US with its rocketing profits actually cripple the greater US economy?

Rivals to the US’s economic supremacy are someway behind in terms if GDP but their growth has been phenomenal. Brazil threatens the US’s agriculture with its hyper-efficient farming techniques and its minimal cost base. China remains the globes rising manufacturing superstar. And India is the emerging knowledge and service economy. And with the EU looking to re-gear its economic mechanisms and labour laws to increase its competitiveness and reduce costs, the US has potential usurpers in every major continent bar Africa.

The key to all developed economies in the globalised world is value added production and a sound knowledge base. These sophisticated nations will never compete on low-cost mass-production, so must ensure they can compete in financial and corporate services, pharmaceuticals, science and technology, and other skill based production industries.

The problem the US faces within the knowledge economy is the deteriorating educational standards and college dropout rates that threaten to further reduce its attractiveness to high-skill investment. Major US and Euro-Asian corporations will continue to invest elsewhere if America cannot provide this resource.

As India continues to express its impressive knowledge base with furious growth in medical and information technology, the pressure on America to reform is mounting.

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Empires have always had to face up to the evolving world, but as with large corporations they are cumbersome and resistant to change. America needs ideological leaders who can convince the US people of the necessity to make difficult changes to their way of life. If the US is to attract industry something must be done to increase its educated workforce. The US must realise that expensive subsidies and trade barriers are breeding inefficiency in production. The government needs to take drastic steps to reduce per-capita healthcare costs by opening up its market to globally sourced pharmaceuticals, not just through the proposed tort-reform.

The US must also scale back the scope and cost of its ‘military complex’. The massive financial cost to the US is not resulting in substantial economic growth, the cost benefit of expenditure on such scale must be questioned. The reduction of the armed forces would result in reduced power on the world stage, but this would be partnered by a cooling of diplomatic tensions that could facilitate global economic growth. As with the Spanish Empire – which faced a rising British imperial aspiration – the US must deal with emerging powers and realise that if it wishes to avoid a bloody conflict over dwindling resources it must concede some ground.

The question facing the American leadership is similar to the one asked of the struggling British Empire. Is it better to relinquish some supremacy voluntarily and preserve as much influence and wealth as possible, or face having their primacy stripped away by war or economic collapse?

Over the coming decades the American people will have to address these difficult questions.

A quote….

23 Jul

A friend currently residing in the States quoted this the other day and I have to admit it had passed me by, so I thought I would share it: –

“Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are Conservative.”

John Stuart Mill
English Philosopher

The War on Terror – An honest debate

23 Jul

Has anything really changed in the weeks following the bombings in the London Underground? Obviously many families have felt the impact personally as loved ones were hurt or killed, and Londoners will be fearful every time they board a bus or tube train, but has anything really changed?

Today another more lethal explosion has claimed the lives of over 80 Egyptians as militant groups yet again attempted to destabilise Hosni Mubarak’s administration. In the Middle East this war between militants and governments has raged for decades as the Islamic world opened up to Western influence and economic co-dependence.

I have mentioned in a previous post a recent book released by Robert A Pape where he argues that over 95% of suicide bombers are fuelled by occupation not fanatical religiosity. Pape analysed 462 suicide terrorist attacks to assess the strategic goals of the attacks, he reviewed documents and the religious background of the attackers. Pape found that 57% of those assed would be accurately described as secular, not fundamentally religious. Even in the case of al Qaida, Osama bin Laden has consistently made his strategic goals clear.

Al Qaida seeks the expulsion of Western military forces from land they perceive as inherently Islamic. It’s also true that they also have the more ideological goal of creating a kingdom under strict Islamic law, but this objective is not the cause of the relatively new phenomenon of attacking on Western soil. They attack us because we exert our influence over their region.

So why do our elected politicians repeatedly use rhetoric that dehumanise Islamic militants and consistently refute any legitimate strategic aim?

President Bush has consistently stated that the terrorists “want to destroy our way of life”. Mr. Bush claims al Qaida hate American values and freedoms, while bin Laden himself has rejected this, and stated that his goal is indeed strategic and is – in his eyes and among millions of Muslims around the world at least – legitimate.

Lets go back to the first Gulf War. We know that April Glaspie’s handling of the diplomatic exchanges prior to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait were ambiguous at best, and deliberately misleading at worst but what US imperial interests would be served by conflict in the region?

Firstly we have the close relationship between the Saudi royal family and the Bush administration. The Saudi royal family enjoys vast wealth through oil exports and its tight control of its people; it allows the countries Wahhabist cleric’s control of the educational system and influence on lawmaking, in return for their support and legitimacy. The Saudi People are given scant democratic representation and the recent elections in Iran – much maligned by the Whitehouse – would put the Saudi’s to shame (the House of Saud recently allowed limited local representation for strictly vetted candidates).

Members of the Saudi elite – including members of the bin Laden family – have been regular visitors to the homes of George W Bush and his father former president George HW Bush. So what links the Bush’s and the Saudi’s?

Of course it’s oil and regional influence.

The most significant footnote in the first Gulf War was the huge military presence the US maintained in the region after the conflict had been resolved. This might would give the US increased regional influence and a foothold above the worlds largest proven oil reserves. The Saudi princes in return saw the suppression of the regions most powerful agitator Saddam Hussein, and secured their favoured relationship with the world’s last remaining super power.

To dismiss the above as a conspiracy would be ignoring US intervention in Central America, and more recently their secretive moves in the central Asian Republics. Whether or not there is any water in this argument is irrelevant to angry Arabs who see foreign – mainly Christian – troops based on their lands, and propping up their oppressive leaders.

So is it appeasement to highlight these issues?

How can it be? We must address the reactions in the Islamic world to our policies, to ignore a causation link between terrorism and our military and economic influence would be ignorant and dangerous. However our political leaders do exactly this. Anyone who highlights this is an appeaser.

It is also true to say that this is an Islamic problem (as outlined on numerous occasions by Tom Friedman), and that Europe’s Muslim communities must do more to seek out and destroy their fanatical fringe elements.

An improved dialogue and mutual respect between the security services and the Muslim leaders should be fostered, and concerted efforts to greater integrate their young into mainstream British culture and industry should be undertaken.

We must also stand united against undemocratic regimes such as the Saudi model above and the military dictatorships such as that of Pakistani leader President Musharraf, we must have the strength to deliver on our promises and not show pluralism in our actions. Bush and Blair are seen alongside Musharraf as enemies of Islam throughout the Middle East and the Asia. Hugh Sykes – the BBC journalist – interviewed protestors outside the Red Mosque in Islamabad yesterday; the level of hatred among these Pakistanis was disturbing in the least. The Bush team has repeatedly praised the Musharraf administration for its help in the fight against terror. By allying ourselves with dictators we are further inflaming the resentment in these unstable regions.

So will the Right allow a reasoned and informed debate on the real causes of al Qaida’s terrorism or will they ensure that blindness and ignorance will suppress intelligent discussion?

The Western response is ‘we will not negotiate with terrorism”, when what they actually mean is “we will not negotiate our policies.”

The current world order is not up for negotiation.

Sadly by not resolving the root causes of discontent in the Islamic world, we help it fester and produce yet more fanatics willing to blow themselves up for bin Laden’s cause. Our security forces have proved that they cannot watch every bus and rail station, and if these early tragedies are not heeded we are increasingly susceptible to attacks with far greater loss of life. Are our water supplies and nuclear facilities secured?

So get used to bomb alerts and attacks in the future because al Qaida are not going away, they’re just getting warmed up.

A Liberal Response

22 Jul

Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy has responded to the London Bombings in the usual muddled and incoherent way that typifies his party’s statements and policies. Kennedy’s remarks were disingenuous as they belie his previous remarks, and basic common sense.

In their search for the centre-ground (and therefore a perceived greater share of the vote) they are unable to take a moral or strategic position on the attack. Kennedy was between a rock and hard place and the right were waiting – claws drawn – to attack anyone brave enough to state the blindingly obvious that the Iraq war has further fanned the flames of extremism and has a causational link with the attacks.

Kennedy was anxious to claim no “causal link” between the attacks and the war in Iraq. But he claimed that we had been targeted because of our involvement. Sorry; come again?

Kennedy yet again has proved toothless and impotent in representing liberals; thankfully some strategists do not share Kennedy’s views.

Chatham House (international think-tank; formally the Royal Institute of International Affairs) has pointed out, Iraq – and our subordinate partnership with the Bush administration – has significantly weakened us in the fight against terrorism. The institute stated that Iraq has “given a boost to the al Qaida network.”

The pro-war right are now in a frenzy attempting to deflect criticism towards the left, as their strategy to ‘create an enemy’ becomes a reality. The right need this war to drive their pro-military agenda.

Oh of course the right cry that 9/11 pre-dates the Iraq invasion, this of course is nonsense as the war had been rambling on since the first Gulf War when the US led Security Council imposed sanctions on the Iraqi nation. As Saddam continued to enjoy a palatial existence, it was his people that suffered the misguided strategy of suffocation that got the international community nowhere. However it did cost over half a million Iraqi children their lives. Madeline Albright commented – to CBS when asked about these deaths – they “were worth it”. How does the international community reconcile 500,000 dead children with no progress? How was it worth it?

Ally the above with proven evidence that the first Bush administration facilitated the invasion with its ambiguous ambassadorial exchanges with Saddam, and you have a real picture of the history of this conflict. Saddam claimed that some of the oil rich Kuwaiti land historically belonged to Iraq; the US ambassador to the ME explained that the US has no policy of involvement in Iraqi-Kuwaiti conflicts. The transcripts of this exchange are available on the web.

April Glaspie (U.S. Ambassador) to Hussein on 25 July 1990:

“We have no opinion on Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait. James Baker [US Secretary of State] has directed our official spokesmen to emphasise this instruction.”

The western governments love to dismiss Islamic discontent as some intangible ‘hatred’ of western freedoms and values…how so? Bin Laden himself (in his telecast before the `04 US election) dismissed this claim explaining that if he hated western freedom why have “we not attacked Sweden?”

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The Iraq war was the least effective and most bizarre way to address the ideological conflicts that exist between neo-conservatives and Islamic Fundamentalists. The Neocon’s are imperialists who are manifested in a US military and corporate agenda. Dating back to Nixon and Reagan their self-interest and obsession with power has shaped the global climate.

The Islamic fundamentalists are religious zealots, but ones who deeply resent western occupation of their historical lands. They returned from post-soviet Afghanistan to find US bases in Saudi Arabia (at the time of 9/11 the US had 5,000 combat troops in Saudi Arabia) and their leadership had become eunuchs to US power and influence. OBL believes that America is built on a house of cards and that a few well-placed nudges will bring the house down. He knows he cannot expel the US army from the ME with direct force, so he intelligently attacks the foundations of western power; the supposed safety the governments can provide their people. He believes that by undermining the security of western societies their people will demand change.

A recent book by Robert A. Pape – called “Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism,” – has analysed all terrorist incidents since 1980 and found that over 95% can be put down to resistance to occupation; continued violence in Iraq and Palestine support this. It is simply irresponsible to try and dismiss Islamic terrorism as religious or somehow demonic; this merely allows the right and the controlling governments to deflect criticism from their actions and policies. This is the true ‘Fog-of-War’. As with western and soviet propaganda during the Cold War, truth is suppressed in favour of an almost religious polarising ideology.

The neocon argument for Iraq now claims that by fighting insurgents in Iraq we are “not fighting them here [meaning America].” Bush even claimed this in the days following the London attacks in a staggering display of insensitivity. The reasons for this war change every week as the weakened leader makes sense of his shattered presidency.

While I would agree that Europe’s Muslim communities need to do more to address their internal extremists and the psychopaths who strap on explosives, we Westerners must not be brainwashed by the our government’s – and the right’s – constant non-truths and lies about the root cause of all this death and destruction.

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Why does our government persist in using demonic terminology to describe al Qaida?

On the radio this week (Today, BBC R4) two ‘experts’ were asked, “should Tony Blair negotiate with an al Qaida representative [if possible]?” Both interviewees stated that al Qaida did not have a political angle so could not therefore be negotiated with; both went onto claim that the organisation was ‘evil’. I’m sorry???? Osama bin Laden has always sought a political conclusion, US and western military powers out of the Arabian peninsular and other Islamic lands. As Pape explains:

“No matter how you slice it,” he says, “it’s American policy that’s underneath this, not Islamic fundamentalism.” Washington Post

Calling al Qaida ‘evil’ is predictable in world where politicians were weaned on Cold-War propaganda, when you do not want to discuss real issues it’s easy to use dismissive and emotive terms to rule out real debate and/or diplomacy.

Why not talk to al Qaida? If indeed 95% of terrorist attacks are fuelled by occupation, this enforces the adage “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”. Al Qaida operatives are not killing people out devilment or religious fundamentalism (remember 70% of suicide bombers in Lebanon were Christians); they believe they have a legitimate political goal.

I do accept that some of the actual bombers were poisoned by – deliberately fostered – religious hatred and fervour; I refer to the al Qaida movement as an entity with it’s own strategic goa
ls.

So if we want to continue to have a military presence in east and central Asia we have to accept the violent ramifications, and not to continue to attempt to dislocate ourselves from the effects or our actions. Are occasional terrorist attacks worth the strategic/economic benefits of our military occupations? This is the question we need to ask ourselves.

I’m sure these are the real discussions in the corridors of power, at the Whitehouse and Number Ten, but these are not the discussion one wants in the public domain. How can politicians level with the public when limbs are being separated from torsos because of policy? So lets not be brainwashed by incessant rallying calls about evil’ ideologies. This is about politics and strategy leading to human conflict.

What we need is an intelligent debate on the subject…more next time.

Rove: Fire him Mr. President

16 Jul

It’s all getting very sick now….

Just been watching Fox News and the Republicans are closing ranks behind slovenly Republican political strategist Karl Rove. Rove’s squirming attorney’s words are being taken as gospel by the senators and the news channel. However this fabric of lies does not so easily sucker the mainstream media.

Of course the deeper story was the outright lie that Saddam has sourced yellowcake in Niger, and who told this porky? It’s Mr. Bush!

I can just imagine the behind the scenes politicking at the Whitehouse attempting to save their political Buddha. The chubby Rove has repeatedly changed his story over the last 2 years so why should we believe the balloon headed one now?

We have a journalist (NY Times: Judith Miller) in jail involved over the same incident and Robert Novak (the conservative columnist) keeping quiet, at least in public. One would imagine the Whitehouse applying the pressure on Novak to corroborate pro-Rove stories however he may have already told the truth to the official investigation. What a shame?

The simple fact is that the Right are now trying to get the vulgarian Rove off the hook on technicality of language: was Plame covert or not?

The right suggests that Valerie Plame was not a ‘covert’ operative therefore her identity was not sensitive. However she was deemed sensitive enough to be under a pseudonym in the first place and as a ‘Directorate of Operations’ would have known the identity and location of very sensitive operatives in the field (how AQ would like to have this information). We all know now that security takes second place to partisan vengeance.

So as we have seen with the reports of US official burning a UK mole, we have an administration more interested in consolidating political power than ensuring that they are victorious in the so called War on Terror.

Why has the President – someone who prides himself on his straight talking honesty with the American people – been so quiet? Passing off reporters questions with a dismissive arrogant brush the hand Bush did not need this scandal. Bush’s Presidency is unravelling as the public turn against his Iraq folly and his Social Security plan, the last thing he needed was his ‘architect” mired in controversy.

Now we will see the ethical standards of Bush and the Republican Party. Rove is a reptile that puts political before the security of operatives whose lives are in danger.

Bush promised to fire anyone involved in this scandal. Scott McClellan is also embroiled: –

“In September 2003, Mr. McClellan said flatly that Mr. Rove had not been involved in disclosing Ms. Plame’s name. Asked about the issue on Sept. 29, 2003, Mr. McClellan said he had “spoken with Karl Rove,” and that it was “simply not true” that Mr. Rove had a role in the disclosure of her identity. Two weeks earlier, he had called suggestions that Mr. Rove had been involved “totally ridiculous.” On Oct. 10, 2003, after the Justice Department opened its investigation, Mr. McClellan told reporters that Mr. Rove, Mr. Abrams and Mr. Libby had nothing to do with the leak.” The NY Times

Seems to me that the honour and credibility of McClellan and Rove is beyond salvage and both must be fired. Of course as soon as the crisis has subsided the usual Republican cronyism will ensue. If Jeb stands in ’08 he will have the disgraced Rove in tow no doubt.

See this Whitehouse exchange last week?

Q = Journalists

MR. McCLELLAN: Wait — I don’t think that helps advance the investigation.

Q All right, you say you won’t discuss it, but the Republican National Committee and others working, obviously, on behalf of the White House, they put out this Wilson-Rove research and talking points, distributed to Republican surrogates, which include things like, Karl Rove discouraged a reporter from writing a false story. And then other Republican surrogates are getting information such as, Cooper — the Time reporter — called Rove on the pretense of discussing welfare reform. Bill Kristol on Fox News, a friendly news channel to you, said that the conversation lasted for two minutes and it was just at the end that Rove discussed this. So someone is providing this information. Are you, behind the scenes, directing a response to this story?

MR. McCLELLAN: You can talk to the RNC about what they put out. I’ll let them speak to that. What I know is that the President directed the White House to cooperate fully with the investigation. And as part of cooperating fully with that investigation, that means supporting the efforts by the investigators to come to a successful conclusion, and that means not commenting on it from this podium.

Q Well, if —

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I understand your question.

Q Well, Fox News and other Republican surrogates are essentially saying that the conversation lasted for two minutes and that the subject was ostensibly welfare reform. They’re getting that information from here, from Karl Rove.

MR. McCLELLAN: And again, you’re asking questions that are related to news reports about an ongoing, continuing investigation. And you’ve had my response on that.

Of course none of this should not come as a surprise to Bush, what should he expect when one surrounds oneself with Nixonian’s such as Cheney?

Time for to go Tony to go?

12 Jul

Last Thursday the inevitable happened. After the attacks in New York, Bali, Madrid and hundreds of attacks in the ME, the war on terror came to the United Kingdom.

Prime Minister Tony Blair must have thought he would ride out the threat until after his succession and be able to claim, ‘There were no attacks on my watch.’ There was a look of helpless disbelief on the PM’s face as he addressed the nation at lunchtime on the day of the bombing; his speech however was the usual western political response to terrorism:

“They must not and should not succeed. When they try to intimidate us, we will not be intimidated. […] The purpose of terrorism is just that – it is to terrorise people and we will not be terrorised.” The Guardian

This is the standard message of defiance that could have been from the lips of usurped Spanish president Jose Maria Aznar, Australian PM John Howard, or a fresh faced George W Bush stood on the rubble at Ground Zero. Western leaders are unable to convey any real insight into the Fundamentalist mindset, so attempt to take a Churchillian position of war leader.

Tony Blair is too self-conscious to adequately personify the Commander and Chief character that Bush has perfected; he lacks the steely-eyed confidence and defiance that excuses the incredulous performances of the US president. We have also grown tired of the pseudo empathy of the Blair product, and its deliberate paused delivery. We wince as he falsely ponders his next carefully chosen – see scripted – word. This is not to criticise Blair the person who faced something all leaders dread, but Blair the Statesman.

Has Blair’s charismatic capital been spent; the very last drop of blood been squeezed from his credibility? Has Blair pleaded for our trust for the last time, and now we cannot help but be suspicious of his rhetoric?

In not mentioning Iraq, Blair infuriated the Left as they thrashed around deciding on their position. Leftish thought wanted to link the terror attack to the decision to take the country to war. There is no doubt that the terrorists will attempt to justify their attack by demanding British withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, but this diversion is a deliberate PR exercise.

While the presence of US and coalition troops infuriates the Fundamentalist movement, this is not the foundation for their hatred. The real target for their frustrations is their own governments and the political establishment. Radical Islamists see the decadent lifestyles of the Princes and Presidents and see the once proud Islamic civilisation in tatters. As I have said before this is an Islamic crisis manifested in unified outward violence towards the West.

The Right of course is in its element thriving and feeding on the anger that has been unleashed. The Right senses the time is right to mobilise, the political climate is receptive to their cry’s for an authoritarian crack down on mosques and Muslim groups. Blair of course treads carefully; the media could manipulate strong words if violence breaks out. We can just imagine the headlines….

The nation is defiant yet wounded. No matter how many times we tell ourselves it was inevitable, we can’t help but think something has changed and we are more unsettled – if a little wiser – now. And so we look to our leader as someone who we can unite behind and someone who can make sense of the public consciousness.

Blair unfortunately, is politically crippled by his credibility deficit. The PM is unable to shake the albatross of Iraq, Dr. Kelly, and WMD. We see these issues hanging from his neck as he addresses us, the Great Communicator’s message silenced by the inevitable baggage of a third term premiership.

Gordon Brown notably has moved quietly in the shadows hoping the meek shall inherit the earth. As Blair rushed to London, Brown concentrated on keeping the wheels on the Commission to Africa wagon. A respectfully contemplative G8 delivered record pledges on aid to Africa, no doubt facilitated by compassionate intentions to offer solidarity to the Blair government.

In a week that was supposed to the crowning Blairite moment with delivery on both African aid and Olympic candidacy, Blair’s hopes have been crushed by a few pounds of high explosives. What we needed over the weekend from the Prime Minister was honesty, insight, and defiance. Not just the latter. We know the reality of our Iraq adventure, and those in power knew before what our involvement would mean. The Joint Intelligence Committee pointed out in February 2003 that al Qaida was: –

“by far the greatest terrorist threat to western interests, and that that threat would be heightened by military action against Iraq”. The Guardian

So while Iraq is not the premise for Islamic terror, we know our involvement meant our nation would be singled out for retribution. If he were honest Blair he would have alluded to this inevitable conclusion. Again this sidestepping of the real issue further damages Blair in the eyes of his people.

Is there any point in waiting for the healing process, in a vain attempt to ‘leave on a high’ is it too late now? Rightly or wrongly the public do trust Gordon Brown. Brown is seen as the steady hands behind the gloss of New Labour. The public trust him on the economy, which for all the doomsayer’s predictions (me included) has proven remarkably resilient, and never more so than following Thursday’s attacks where the city employed mechanisms to control a possible Fast Market.

In my opinion Blair has the opportunity to be reborn as a Prime Minister, and salvage his legacy. He is the pre-eminent global politician of our time; no single democratically elected leader has had such an impact both domestically and internationally. While many sneered at his address on Thursday, many – Michael Howard among them – saw an experienced leader with the skills and experience to lead this country through this crisis. We may no longer trust Blair implicitly but we know the real deal when we see it, Brown is an unknown quantity as PM. We may not realise what we have till its gone.

Blair has the chance to deliver a strategy to fight the threat of terror, to prove he is capable of living up to his ideas of grandeur. A strategy that would outline how the security services will seek and destroy the terrorist cells in Great Britain. A strategy that would challenge the hateful rhetoric being preached in many of the countries radicalised mosques. A strategy that would secure our ports, and repatriate the country’s unofficial residents. But Blair – ever shy of confrontation – has not delivered a significant response yet. Will he use the attack to force through the expensive I.D. card legislation, which will only deliver marginal benefits in the long run, or will Blair propose a strategy that will challenge the root of Islamic discontent?

Imagine Blair’s legacy if he were to add real progress on counter-terrorism and the Middle East peace process to the already significant CV. A CV with highlights that include: Aid to Africa, tackling US policy on climate change, family tax credit, progress in eradicating global and domestic child poverty, and our longest period of uninterrupted economic growth to date. No post-war international leader could come close.

If Blair left we would also have to consider the message this would send to the extremists who carried out the attacks. As with Aznar this would be viewed as a huge victory and justification of the attacks, by way of forcing political change.

We must remain resolute and Blair must remain. We need the experience and political expertise of The Great Communicator if we are to overcome this threat to our way of life.

So come on Mr
. Blair, this is your moment to shed the shadow of George W Bush and claim your legacy. We must challenge the Middle East and we must not be held to ransom over energy supply, the solution is difficult and costly but we will have to pay this price eventually we just need a leader big enough and wise enough to make tough decisions?.

Are you big enough Tony?