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AFTER THE ARRESTS July 30, 2005

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The arrest of the terrorist suspects in London and Rome, raises the possibility of answers to questions about the hows of suicide bombing, as its raises issues relating to the wider context of their behavior. There are wider questions of morality, as much as practical issues to be revealed.

There will be further police and intelligence interrogations, and there will be a trial in the which the suspects will be given an opportunity to present a defence. I would be surprised if they are not convicted. If national law is not the appropriate law for the inmates of Guantanamo Bay, is British law the appropriate law in this context, or are their implicit global humanitarian principles that should be invoked?


Suspects on balcony (BBC). Posted by Picasa
Terrorism is a normal tactic of war, as it is an unavoidable consequence, for example, of bombing cities. The practical problem with suicide bombing is its effectiveness; the puzzle is how to stop its volunteers and their subsequent conditioning. Suicide bombing is likely to arise in the context of asymmetrical conflicts. One side has overwhelming military superiority, for example they have warplanes and tanks, an advantage which that side exercises, and the other has no ability to acquire those capabilities. The moral problem arises from an implicit accusation that if you hold our lives in such low regard why should not we butcher you, and if we cannot do this directly, we will attack defenceless civilians as you have done.

I do not think this observation makes me as an apologist, rather it leads me to be a pacifist position, other than in those very few circumstances when war is really the last resort, its execution is proportional to the threat posed, and its justification must match universal principles. In short a just war. While I believe there is a strong juridical tradition in Islam, the defensive jihad has been hijacked by engineers and others, explicable in part because of the exigencies of the late 8th century and early 9th century during the course of the Abbasid Caliphate, and the existence of Western supported totalitarian governments in the Middle East.

War and foreign policy have unintended consequences, both in the past and the present.

The practical responses to terrorism are intended to stop it. The three responses of which I am aware – counter insurgency, intelligence and policing, and dialogue – attempt to be proactive, to stop terrorism before it arises, but they all have problems. If we see the Iraq war as a form of counter insurgency, perhaps a fanciful suggestion as best, we observe that it has stimulated internal terrorism as it has added to the fuel of grievance. Policing is associated with the ramping up of special powers for secret intelligence services which magnify distrust among minorities and are directed to the end of the national police state. Once a crime has been intended, there is no place for dialogue, only rigorous interrogation. Of course, the former Archbishop of Canterbury and the prospective Saudi Ambassador to the United States are going to agree.

The blinding simple part answer is one that cannot happen. Those people who decide to commit their nations to war must be held accountable at international law. We cannot separate practical and moral considerations.

It seems, aside from the case of Mr de Menezes, the British police supported by the SAS have been role models. As Juan Cole notes the foot soldiers are now in custody, and it will be interesting to see how far the police and the intelligence people can go in breaking open the terrorist cells.

PLANET X July 30, 2005

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So what exactly is a planet? There were once seven, and now there are ten. The planet world changes quickly.

Merriam Webster provides the definitions of the word:
Etymology: Middle English planete, from Old French, from Late Latin planeta, modification of Greek planEt-, planEs, literally, wanderer, from planasthai to wander.
1 a : any of the seven celestial bodies sun, moon, Venus, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, and Saturn that in ancient belief have motions of their own among the fixed stars
1 b (i) : any of the large bodies that revolve around the sun in the solar system.
(ii) : a similar body associated with another star.
1 c : EARTH — usually used with the
2 : a celestial body held to influence the fate of human beings
3 : a person or thing of great importance : LUMINARY


The new planet has a highly inclined orbit.(BBC) Posted by Picasa

The BBC provides an account. It seems that Planet X was discovered in 1846, and first seen in 2003.

OBJECT DISCOVERED IN SOLAR SYSTEM July 29, 2005

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The new object.(BBC) Posted by Picasa

Astromers have discovered a new object circling the sun. The BBC reports:

Details of the object are still sketchy. It never comes closer to the Sun than Neptune and spends most of its time much further out than Pluto. It is one of the largest objects ever found in the outer Solar System and is almost certainly made of ice and rock.

It is at least 1,500km (930 miles) across and may be larger than Pluto, which is 2,274km (1,400 miles) across. The uncertainty in estimates of its size is due to errors in its reflectivity. It might be a large, dim object, or a smaller, brighter object. Whatever it is, astronomers consider it a major discovery.

The issue now seems to be who first discovered it – the Americans or the Spanish.

FRIDAY NIGHT DOG BLOG – WATTLE BLOOMS July 29, 2005

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This week the dogs are shown again against the natural bush background with greater prominence given to the wattle, of which there seems a lot around these parts.


Taffy is interested; Sasha remains nonchalent. Posted by Picasa


Parallel arrangement. Posted by Picasa


Among the Eucalypts. Posted by Picasa


Passing dogs . Posted by Picasa


Speaking in tongues. Posted by Picasa


Something afoot. Posted by Picasa


The sun reappears. Posted by Picasa


Taffy and Sasha stand easy. Posted by Picasa

“IT’S THE OIL, STUPID” July 28, 2005

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Bob Herbert, of The New York Times, sets out the argument, or the process of elimination, by which it can be concluded that oil, the great prize, was the reason for the invasion of Iraq.

On reflection, I am not convinced. To take an historical analogy, you cannot envisage the Normans invading England or Sicily, which they did successfully, and stuffing the place up to such an extent that it either would not be of lasting value, or that its intrinsic value to them was destroyed. It seems to me, and it may be well detrimental to us, that the Americans could be bigger losers other than just the shame of defeat and iniquity. They may lose the position held since World War II of being the dominant power in controlling Middle East oil. The recent agreements between the Iraqi PM and Iran relating to an oil pipe from southern Iraq to Iran may be a harbinger.

I do not know, but I suspect, that the invasion was in fact directed towards imposing a cultural hegemony on Iraq, only to be understood if you look through the special blinkered glasses of the cultural hegemonists. There aim was to undertake a make over of Iraq in an American image. That would account for the intensity of the resistance from within Iraq, as it would for the anger of the Arab and Muslim world which appears to providing an never ending line of suicide bombers, within Iraq and elsewhere.

To underestimate the strategic importance of oil, hard to imagine, but if it did happen will prove a costly blunder. If true, however unlikely, we might just abbreviate that description to “stupid”.

Postscript: Perhaps even more stupid than a spelling mistake.

UPDATE – 31/07/2005

Thanks to Bryan’s comment I refer to this document by William Kristol of the Project For a New American Century, published in April, 2005. He sets out the reasons for the American invasion of Iraq. Perhaps, it is sufficient to quote the concluding paragraph:

It is also becoming clear that the battle of Iraq has been an important victory in the broader war in which we are engaged, a war against terror, against weapons proliferation,and for a new Middle East. Already, other terror-implicated regimes in the region that were developing weapons of mass destruction are feeling pressure, and some are beginning to move in the right direction. Libya has given up its weapons of mass destruction program. Iran has at least gestured toward opening its nuclear program to inspection. The clandestine international network organized by Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan that has been so central to nuclear proliferation to rogue states has been exposed. From Iran to Saudi Arabia, liberal forces seem to have been encouraged. We are paying a real price in blood and treasure in Iraq. But we believe that it is already clear–as clear as such things get in the real world–that the price of the liberation of Iraq has been worth it.

Good idea. Declare victory and leave. It grieves me that the continuing suffering of the Iraqis is ignored. The strategic role of oil in the history of the Middle East is mnimized. Of course, words such as liberation, can mean many things, and sometimes exactly what I choose them to mean.

Hegemony and hegemonists requires reference to Noam Chomsky. He responds to Washington Post readers questions here.

WITHDRAWAL SCHEDULE July 27, 2005

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According to The New York Times, US troops are to begin withdrawing next year to allow Iraqis to take over.

None of this annoucement is to be understood as either “cutting and running”, or as some variety of timetable, nor should it to be understood that all US forces will be withdrawn, or that US military bases will not be established.

Some questions remain. What happens to the Iraqi oil? Will off shore repositioning be resumed? Will all aspects of the US military presence be withdrawn from the Arabian Penninsula? Has the Australian Government been told yet?

UPDATE: 28/07/2005

Kevin Drum, at The Washington Monthly, has a wider view, and is somewhat more enlightening.

REPOSITIONING TERROR July 27, 2005

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The “war on terror” positioning is not working with the punters, so it seems.

As reported by the BBC, the Bush Administration has unveiled its new positioning statement, and not with the usual razzamatazz that such announcements usually entail, at least in the commercial world.

The report notes:

In recent days, senior administration figures have been speaking publicly of “a global struggle against the enemies of freedom”, and of the need to use all “tools of statecraft” to defeat them.

They are the wordsmiths, but I suspect in this instance this represents too many words, and not enough meaning. Some of those wretched people who just always oppose what a noble administration proposes, always dispassionately with the well being of all the American people at heart, will probably suggest that the Bush Administration is an enemy of freedom, and for that matter liberty.

Like I say, wretched people.

In the spirit of verbosity, I actually like: “a global struggle against freedom’s foes”, on the basis that alliteration is always nice to have, and it is good for memory, and builds on repetition.

Afterthought:

It occurs to me, a substitution may well work here: “A global jihad against the enemies of freedom”. “Jihad” works in that it is a struggle on all the levels, and it includes the idea of defensive war. Karen Armstrong’s article in The Guardian is my reference on the meaning of jihad:

Because it is increasingly recognised that the terrorists in no way represent mainstream Islam, some prefer to call them jihadists, but this is not very satisfactory. Extremists and unscrupulous politicians have purloined the word for their own purposes, but the real meaning of jihad is not “holy war” but “struggle” or “effort.” Muslims are commanded to make a massive attempt on all fronts – social, economic, intellectual, ethical and spiritual – to put the will of God into practice.

I suspect that understanding God’s will might be at least as difficult as determining the electorates will, and ends up a very subjective process, and a process that can be shaped and helped along in various ways. At the very least this substitution raises the question as to whether freedom, or liberty, is God’s will. For some believers yes, and for others, no. Like the Law, the religions of the book, are caught between a literal interpretation and intention, and do we assume the texts as a whole are free of contradiction.

Islam challenges the deeply entrenched assumption in western political theory that divides the secular and the religious thinking and behavior. We tend to insist that they should think as we do, but why exactly should they accept our values and assumptions?

The answer, I suspect, is that multifaceted nature of global interaction has passed the point where we are now effectively a global society, and the use of political, military and economic power can be perceived as the imposition of values and assumptions, and not just the competition to dominate strategic resources. Dialogue may be a possible alternative to the war on terror, as would be the development of new institutions for the global village, such as the International Court of Justice.

DIVIDED LOYALTIES July 26, 2005

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Maybe we might be opposed to the causes of terrorism – such as invasions in the pursuit of imperialism and short term political leverage, of which the recent Iraq invasion is part of a historical pattern. To be opposed to terror is too abstract, and to be opposed to terrorism is too easy.

While suicide bombing violates fundamental humanitarian norms, those beliefs and values are important when we consider the suffering of others, and how we might, in my opinion must as a moral imperative, recognize that suicide bombing arises from asymmetrical warfare, and like terrorism in general realize, including when committed by western governments on lesser peoples, it is a tactic of war.

Given an understanding of cause and effect we might stop terrorism. In this case it might be more difficult, but sometimes democratic electorates might exercise sharper vision than their political leadership, standing in the shadows of the great and powerful, and obsessed by calumnies and obsessions of political advantage.

Furthermore, in my opinion, despite the damage done to the Australian values of fairness and decency, to which I remained committed, they still represent the best chance to maintain a multi-cultural society, for which there is no alternative now, nor has there ever been. Fairness and decency stand opposed to ignorance and bigotry. Some of the yelling, bullying commentators on the ABC, for example, might take note.

In fairness, I must add, that in matters Islamic and Islamist, my ignorance is almost without bounds. Nor am I free from bigotry or prejudice.

Many of us have divided loyalties. Some of us, in the past, had a greater loyalty to the British Empire than they did to Australia, or so it might seem. We might allow our fellow Muslim citizens to be proud of Islamic Civilization, as we recognize what we in turn have drawn from them, sometimes realized, and sometimes not.

I have just found out that when Baghdad fell to the Mongols in 1258, the end of Abbasid Empire, other Muslims stopped there advance at Gaza, two years later, thereby moving the centre of the Islamic World to Cairo and saving the homeland of those of us with European forebears.

I make these statements because I was talking to my cab driver on the way home tonight. As I do, I was asking how things had been. It turned out he had a special contract with a business. I said they must be concerned about security. He told me yes they do, but they do not know all the drivers are Muslim. He told me he had turned off the radio because it gave him a headache.

Terrorism is not now, as Thomas Friedman once suggested, a Muslim problem; it is one we all share. With the attacks on the London underground and the killing by police of an innocent Brazilian, terrorism has come home to us, and it is a problem we must solve together. If our political leadership remains blind, we must show them the way, or show them the door.

UPDATE:

I think it fair enough to say that David Wearing, via Juan Cole, agrees with pretty much most of what I am trying say. Now I need to find someone who disagrees – other than Miranda Devine.
Problem solved, via John Quiggin.

DEUTSCHLAND ELECTION July 25, 2005

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There are similarities between the election due in Deutschland on 18 September 2005 and the election in Aotearoa. They have a similar electoral system, and the electoral competition in both countries is between a man and a woman.

Of the two, the Deutschland election, might be regarded as more significant. Deutsche Welle has an account of the players and the political parties.

AOTEAROA ELECTION July 25, 2005

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The New Zealand general election is set to take place on Saturday, 17 September 2005, as reported by the NZ Herald.

This election should be more interesting than the recent British Election with a first past the post electoral system in which the party that got 35.2% of the vote got to elected. In the NZ system, this might still be a good result for a major party, or at least better than the 26% that National received last time, but to form a government a party with that percentage would need to negotiate with minor parties to form a government, because representation in parliament is a true reflection of voter support.

From what I last heard the polls are indicating about equal support for the major parties, with everybody’s political nightmare, Mr Winston Peters and his NZ First, waiting to be the king or queen maker as the case might be.

The political arguments and campaign techniques are likely to be familiar, except the electoral system, in this case a more democratic one, changes the way the numbers fall.

LONDON UPDATE July 23, 2005

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In this situation, the message from the British political leadership “remain calm” and “don’t panic” does not meet the needs of the population following the new sequence of London bombings.

I had not expected there to be further attacks on the basis that they would expose the king pins in any terrorist cell or network. The fact that further attacks have occurred increases the sense of uncertainty and fear, increases social tensions as more draconian security and preventive measures are undertaken, as in the killing by police of a suspect thought to be carrying a bomb, and frays the social glue of trust between the people in the society, although the importance of social trust is obvious, its’ importance cannot be underestimated.

My neighbours must trust me, as I must trust them, but when I start stereotyping people because of background or appearance, in the vast majority of cases unfairly, adding to their anxiety as to my own, we have reached a point, I suspect, in which platitudes are not even bandaids. The national security state is much of a horror as terrorism. Reports suggests that apprehension among mass transit travellers has increased, and that are stigmatizing the minority populations has begun.

At this point, it begins to look as the terrorists are winning, and that the increase in the intelligence powers, rationalized on the need to prevent further terrorist attacks, within the society have the potential to increase social tensions. From a policing point of view, if an attack cannot be forecast in specifics, it cannot be prevented. Increase police powers will act to reduce civil liberties, such as freedom of speech, and make mistakes that could lead to murder by the authorities more likely. It seems to me this whole situation is going nowhere. I may be exaggerating – the cricket crowd at Lords looks pretty relaxed.

The key issue, it seems to me, is to cut off the recruitment, given that socialization process with the right people is virtually inevitable, once the process of commitment and reinforcement has been set in play. Bush in his Fort Bragg speech, for example, made a play for recruits in the US military on the basis of patriotism and US values, and once a recruit joins in most cases they can get that person to shoot to kill. The terrorists seem to have a sophisticated selection and socialization process.

There may be as least two roads to foil bombing. The first is to understand the target market, the profile of the likely terrorist recruit, and to understand the grievances they have and how they might be drawn into the social conditioning, possibly technical learning process, to become terrorists. The second is to target the people who are the bomb makers, the trainers and the leaders. It seems to me it is as important to profile these people, if that is possible. Thirdly, if there were grounds for considering such terrorist training was happening, there might be ways to remotely attack the process.

In my opinion, as long as Iraq is happening and the foolish war on terror in general, we can expect further terrorist attacks, perhaps of varying success. The current crop of leaders in the US and Britain cannot allow themselves to see this connection because they have undergone self indoctrination, which explains why they hang on there strange notions of evil ideologies. They cannot understand that imperialism is a cause, and as Ken Livingstone said it goes back in the Middle East at least eighty years. Nor do they wish to admit that oil is a strategic resource, and that the population at large does perceive what is going on, and in general what has gone on.

They need to be replaced. In my pessimistic, realist frame of mind, I think this will not happen, therefore the situation will get worst, especially in Iraq, and we become more vulnerable. What we need are political leaders with Broccacian wit – and for that matter electorates as well.

UPDATE: Sunday, 24 July 2005

The BBC reports, the man shot by police in London was a Brazilian electrician, unconnected to terrorism.

This is frightening. The London police, and presumably our police in there turn, are using the techniques and following the guidance of the Israelis, who have considerable experience with suicide bombing, expect perhaps diverting the cause that leads to the behavior. So help us. We are really in trouble now. See Barista for the details.

UPDATE: Tuesday, 26 July 2005

Mark Brahnisch at Larvatus Prodeo deals with the issue of trust, which is not as straight forward as I have represented it, and which has a literature in sociology and significance for ecoconmics.

FRIDAY NIGHT DOG BLOG – SUNLIGHT AND SHADOW July 22, 2005

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Sasha looks, Taffy looks away Posted by Picasa


Caught in a horse shadow. Posted by Picasa


Gathering gloom. Posted by Picasa


Taking the light Posted by Picasa


While the sun shines, look away. Posted by Picasa


Good positioning. Posted by Picasa


What’s with Taffo? Posted by Picasa


Sasha and Taff redirect their interest. Posted by Picasa


Slip, sliding away. . . Posted by Picasa
The fun in doing some things is not knowing, but learning. In the case of these photos, I suspect the subjects join the bemusement.

“ONE STEP FOR . . .” July 21, 2005

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Thirty-six years ago men stepped out from their descent vehicle onto the Moon’s golf course without clubs or a golf ball. Soon they were riding around in golf buggies.


Stepping Out (BBC News) Posted by Picasa
The BBC, as you would expect, has its’ report. The Guardian republishes its’ report from the day it happened.

SHAMEFUL COMPARISON July 21, 2005

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Sometimes blog writing and blog commenting opens my eyes to another realm of negative discovery.

Islam is a whole continent of belief and practice from which I am a stranger. To read, for example, James Turner Johnson’s article, Jihad and Just War, I do not know where to begin, for example that the world view of 7th or 8th centuries could be taken as relevant guide to the present. I become conscious that my education has been euro-centric. I know nothing at all about the relationship between Byzantium and the Muslim Caliphates, or effects of the long, exhausting (I suspect) reign of the Ottoman Empire on the Arab World.

Then too, when I read the tabloid journalists who write commentaries for The Sydney Morning Herald, specifically Miranda Devine and Paul Sheenan, I am shamed into the thought that in my effort to be polemical I could be likened to them. That would, by one reckoning, be an extraordinary feat, since typically their use of reasoning and evidence mostly defies comprehension. As far as I can tell they do not appear to work from a comprehensive thesis, and never attempt a coherent conclusion, but remain content to let their evidence take them every which way across the landscape of their prejudices.

Of course, writing a newspaper column is not easy, for some of us impossible, but it is likely to imagine it may require research, and perhaps a desire to drill down to understand different world views and experiences, or even similar experiences that lead to different behaviors. They might want to explain why some political leaders describe their Muslim adversaries, perhaps particularly the suicide bombers as captives of “an evil ideology”, and why some people mistake terrorism not as a tactic of war but as a death cult, which conceivably it might be as well.

The good thing about this technology is that the tabloidists we can read for diversion, and then click out elsewhere in pursuit of education and information. But as the sole writer here, and the principal reader, I will try to maintain appropriate standards, perhaps governed more by a questioning spirit.

UPDATE:

Others have chosen to comment on Miranda Devine at Catallaxy. And it seems also at Larvatus Prodeo with other references.

THE MOST FOOLISH MISTAKE . . . July 20, 2005

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. . .is to underestimate the power of the invaders to set the agenda, at least in the mainstream media, and by implication to some extent in the blogsphere as well.

If you wish to see the application of this power, no wonder Karl Rove was smiling some days ago, look at the front page of the online addition of The New York Times today. There is no point in making a generic reference to the NY Times online edition, but Bush’s nominee for the High Court, brought forward a number of weeks, has cleared all other stories. Of course, this but one day, and the Palme enquiry is sure to emerge, but at the same time it should give pause as the effectiveness of media management.

As we look at these developments over the next six months, we can expect more and other tricks to become evident.

Of course this is a conspiracy theory, and in all democracies politicians tend to conspire against the electorate, and the methodology seems to have become more developed. This development, if it is such, is something for which all citizens must become aware. They must know what they are looking at,and what they are hearing. Since the mainstream media seem, in some particular cases, is no longer concerned to keep the bastards honest, the humble citizen, such as myself, is more vulnerable.

Despite the opportunities, the purpose of democratic politics is not that politicians become magicians, but that they should be representatives and leaders.

“QUAGMIRE EXIT STRATEGY . . .” July 20, 2005

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The practical reasons for all the western forces to be withdrawn from Iraq are one set of considerations; the moral reasons represent an imperative.

Kim Breazley, as reported by ABC News today, is undoubtedly right to call for an exit strategy from Iraq, except that he does not go far enough to demand a timetable. The Opposition Leader correctly identifies Iraq as a quagmire, a state which no amount of pangossian spin will change.

Letting the pressure for terrorism to build in Iraq, aside from the suffering and death caused to the Iraqi people, which shows no sign of letting up, is likely, either directly or indirectly, to lead to blowback as we evidently witnessed in London. The invaders for some time into the future continue their mindless prattle about evil ideologies without self reference, but sooner or later the facts of what their invasion has caused will become evident to them, or if not to their electorates.

By engaging in the struggle to do good, we might follow the direction of Prophet Mohammed in undertaking the Greater Jihad and with luck stop the lesser jihads “on a dime”. To stop the suicide bombers outside, but especially inside Iraq would be a good in itself. Furthermore a timetable for withdrawal will signal to all the Iraqi people, and to the wider Arab and Muslim world, that elections and democracy are effective, that they can have their wishes fulfilled. The Iraqis will tend be inclined to vote again, as they must soon with confidence and expectation, and with the participation of all the population.

We will be then leaving Iraq as a wreck with great need for reconciliation and reconstruction. In fact, the Greater Jihad.

UPDATE: Tuesday 21 July 2005

Here is another, more authorative prediction that Australian troops sent to Afghanistan with the support of the Labor Party are in for the long haul. I wish them well, and better outcomes than others before who have founded on the topography and tribes, and then withdrawn to quarters in Kabul before departing never to return. How to tell a taliban from another tribesman belonging to the Northern Alliance is beyond me. The Americans with all the prescience of a great power had the foresight to arm and train, what now will be opponents, with modern weapons.

Strangely the war on terrorism is a given, but the wars that create terrorism are not.

STORM IN A TEACUP July 19, 2005

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Earlier today under the title “Allies reject terror link report” ABC News Online observed:

Britain, Australia and the US have angrily rejected a report which says backing for war in Iraq had raised the risk of terrorist attack.

The respected Royal Institute of International Affairs (RIIA) said the invasion of Iraq and its bloody aftermath had boosted recruitment and fund-raising for Al Qaeda, suspected of being behind London bombings on July 7. . .The RIIA said Britain had created its own problems by playing “pillion passenger” to Washington. “The UK is at particular risk because it is the closest ally of the United States,” said security experts Frank Gregory and Paul Wilkinson.

That provoked a strikingly robust rebuttal from Britain, the United States and Australia. “The time for excuses for terrorism is over. The terrorists have struck across the world, in countries allied with the United States, backing the war in Iraq, and in countries which had nothing whatever to do with the war in Iraq,” Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said in Brussels.

In Washington, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Australian Prime Minister John Howard challenged any notion that a country could be made safer from terror by avoiding confrontation. “I think that people who think that terrorists pick and choose discriminately don’t understand how it works. The United States had done nothing on September 11 when it (the attack on America) was done,” Mr Rumsfeld said.

“People who think they can make a separate peace with terrorists will find that it’s like feeding an alligator, hoping it eats you last,” the secretary told reporters at a Pentagon press availability with Mr Howard.

“I have a similar view,” Mr Howard said. “No country can allow its foreign and defence policy to be malleable in the hands of terrorists.”

The RIIA report was issued as Interior Minister Charles Clarke met Opposition party leaders to seek a consensus over tougher anti-terror legislation.

The problem with this news report is that it omits a critical fact, namely that the Charter House report was written prior to the 7/7 attack (sic). The robust rebuttal in unison is, of course, a mere surprise. Surely, it is long past time that the ABC Online News provides a link to the report, as the BBC did.

To do that would unfortunately prick the tone of hysteria, and lessen the effect created of the angry responses. Media outlets appear to be making media management easier, which perhaps to nobody’s surprise, except me, includes contingency planning, and our attempted collective indoctrination more complete.

Nonetheless the first response of the invaders has been a categorical rejection of any link between the suicide attack in London and the war raging in Iraq. The media does not any more play the role of the third estate, representing an independent and critical voice on government policy. Instead in large part they have been co-opted into the propaganda management system of government, some more completely than others.

In this context, blogging is not irrelevant; it is essential. Admittedly, some are more essential than others. Yet even attempting to throw spanners into the spin machine honors the blogger’s mission.

Nevertheless, via Juan Cole, we learn that some British soldiers are bemused at the connection the London Bombing and Iraq. Juan Cole observes:

Newsday profiles the relative calm of the Shiite south and the resulting relaxed attitude of British troops in Basra. Without perhaps meaning to, the article helps explain how the British could hope to shrink their forces in Iraq from 8,500 to about 3,000 during the next nine months. The success of the British in southern Iraq has raised questions in the minds of some as to whether US rules of engagement, including using massive force in returning fire, have contributed to the insecurity in their areas.

There are dangers in riding as a pillion passenger. Where that leaves Australia I will leave to your imagination.

I think that on the balance of probabilities that the suicide bombers, impelled by their sense of Muslim identify and the grievances and sense of protest felt throughout the Muslim world, especially in the Middle East, but not excluding those Pakistanis close to the Kashmir conflict, fit into the profile suggested by Professor Robert Pape’s research reported in Dying to WinThe Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism.

Is there a more probable explanation?

CORRECTION: Wednesday, 20 July 2005

“The problem with this news report is that it omits a critical fact, namely that the Charter House report was written prior to the 7/7 attack.”

This statement is wrong. The section of the report, “Security, Terrorism and the UK” titled “Riding Pillion for Tackling Terrorism is a high-risk policy” identifies four mission areas for UK counter terrorism policy: prevention, pursuit(by the use of intelligence), protection and preparedness. The report does not say that the invasion of Iraq led to the London bombings but rather that the relationship with the US “posed particular difficulties for the UK” and that it ” gave a boost to the al-Qaeda networks propaganda, recruitment and fundraising.” The report specifically says:

Notwithstanding the attacks in London on 7 July 2005, the UK has rightly placed a major response emphasis on intelligence-led action to disrupt potential terrorists or terrorist networks.

So the ABC’s report of what the report says is accurate. The robust response that there cannot be any connection between the invasion and the terrorist bombs attacks remains the issue.

FIRST ANNIVERSARY July 18, 2005

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Twelve months ago today I set out on this journey, and I find myself today kicking my foot against the milestone.

The graph represents the visits by month, taken from Site Meter. The actual figures are unreliable and invalid but they do give a pattern over a twelve month period. On present indications July looks like it may be the lowest month ever. The peak of visitors was related to the tsunami.

The apples may mean something or nothing, but I think (maybe that is all I have to please here) that they good look. Currently the apples are measuring 1247 “hits” more than Site Meter, even though I added them months after.

During the past twelve months I have lodged 418 posts. A little bit more than one a day. If you are interested here is the first post. I do not know how to organize the posts into categories. So I am trying now, starting with the post below, not to always make a comment for the moment, which means that I often do not recognize later what I have written, but follow a story over a period of time, and be thereby be more alert to how it develops

That will engage me. It is my belief that good blog writing engages the reader, who I think you have to imagine disagrees with all your assumptions, but remains interested enough to keep reading. I try to write like that, but I think it is beyond my skill, nevertheless not beyond others.

IRAQ AND THE BOMBERS July 17, 2005

Posted by wmmbb in Category to be ascribed.
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The debate in Britain has started. It has a long road to go. We might speculate as to who will be left standing within six months.

This debate will focus on the governing party. Already Claire Short and others have identified the direct relationship between the continuing threat of suicide and other terrorist attacks and the invasion of Iraq. Blair, in a Thatcher-like way, has declared that he is not for turning. I doubt very much whether Blair can carry the country on this, and I am confident that he will not persuade all the members of his own party.

There are a number of reasons for supposing this to be so. There is the recent memory and aftermath of the case for the invasion, including the Downing Street memos. A significant proportion of the electorate, manifest in the increased vote and representation for the Liberal Democrats, were opposed to the war prior to the London bombing. The aftermath of the London bombs will give rise to increased social tensions, as policing powers to combat terrorism are ramped up. The situation in Iraq will continue to deteriorate from the failure of either the Americans or the new Iraqi Government to establish control amid the continuing suicide bombing campaign of the Sunnis.

The reason I think that the British public will not harden into an implacable “hunt them down and kill them” response is that the social costs and implications will become immediately obvious. It seems to me it makes more sense to say, “If we had not got into this foolish war in the first place, we would not now be facing these problems and living with fear.” I am supposing when people make first reference to personal experience the media is less influential and media management is less effective.

Also I am guessing tenuously that there will be no further suicide bombings, on the basis that they will have become harder to execute and that the capture of their planners and facilitators becomes more likely. Furthermore there is no strategic reason for them. All of which presupposes a rational purpose behind the bombing and the bombers, which may not be the case.

So I am predicting that either Blair will fall, or the British Labour Party will fracture, perhaps with more of its members departing to join the Liberal Democrats, which of itself would severely undermine the already questionable legitimacy of the government and consign the party to electoral oblivion. The more sensible alternative will be replace Blair, by which time American public opinion will not be supporting Bush or the invasion. At the very least the pro-war politicians on both sides of the Atlantic face difficult weather ahead. I doubt that spin, which always helps, will extricate them from the gathering storm.

Of course in all these matters, I may prove dramatically wrong. That is the opportunity that this medium makes possible. And doubtless it would represent a lack of theoretical constructiveness in the first place on my part.

Postscript:

The Palme affair in the US is not wholly unrelated to these developments, because it will in the longer term make more people aware of the workings of media management which among other methods attempts, often successfully, to stop journalists publishing stories that contain mistakes. How helpful of the spin doctors.

UPDATE:

According to the New York Times report, Tony Blair characterized the terrorists as being in the grip of “an evil ideology”, in a similar way to George Bush in his Fort Bragg address. Perhaps it suits Blair and Bush not to say that terrorism is a tactic of war.

The fact that the bombers apparently placed their Muslim identity above their British identity is not easily understood, at least by me.

THE TERROR TRAP July 16, 2005

Posted by wmmbb in Category to be ascribed.
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Suicide bombing are, as Professor Robert Pape has said, a form of asymmetrical warfare. One side in these conflicts does not have the technological means of warfare that they other has in abundance.

Suicide bombings are not without strategic success. Most spectacularly in the case of the withdrawal of the Indian Army from Sri Lanka – but that was a no-brainer. Any Indian political leader of minimal insight and intelligence could apprehend the implications.

The suicide bombings by Palestinians have attacked the counter-insurgency excesses of the Israelis, which are rarely if ever fully reported by the Western media giving rise among other issues, as we discover, to an increased sense of grievance in the Arab and Muslim world. The Israelis can stand resolute and uncompromising knowing they have the full support of the Americans, who see them as a valuable support for their purposes in the Middle East.

And suicide bombing represent a form of daily horror in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. Yet we watch on as if indifferently, with the prospect that this may lead to a civil war between Sunnis and Shiites, which might lead to far worse consequences. The case for a timetable for withdrawal from the occupying forces is overwhelming. Of course, such a staged withdrawal needs to include contingency strategies, but it is not beyond the wit of possibility.

But London is different. The London bombings drive the message home as no other event in the non-English speaking world could. The Madrid bombings were a major story, and after six months following the change of government at the Spanish election the new government withdrew it’s troops from Iraq. London is the story. The Saturday papers – The Sydney Morning Herald and The Weekend Australian – are full of it, but carefully avoiding reporting cause and effect.

Understanding the motivation of the bomb couriers, three of whom were British born of Pakistani descent, was a puzzle to me. The New York Times attempts to provide an explanation.

With time – perhaps three or four months – the Iraq war will again assume centre stage. The Bush Administration, and perhaps the Blair government, will argue the case for not giving into terrorism. They will say that we must pursue the course of defeating terrorism, while giving cause for increased terrorism.

The terror trap is a box for Bush of his own making. The initiative will have to come from elsewhere – which leaves Britain looking into mirror and the crystal ball.

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