Friday, October 29, 2004

Kerry and Edwards

Garton Ash's core point is that Kerry would be preferred by the Europeans and indeed this is his main appeal. On Iraq, I'm not too impressed by the criticicism, from Greg Djerejian for example, of Kerry's schedule for withdrawal : I can't see the Iraqis consenting to the presence of US troops in 4 years time.

Overall, I'm inclined to the view that it won't make that much difference. One of the disappointments of the Democrats' campaign has been the attitude of Kerry and especially Edwards towards Israel and Palestine. As Juan Cole has argued, surely it could have been possible to proclaim a policy that would have appealed to Arab-Americans without alienating the Jewish vote.

Perhaps it will change after a  President Kerry has spoken to Tony Blair and 'Europe'.  Some former Clinton advisers, such as Dennis Ross, have taken the 'Arafat is the obstacle' approach, while Robert Malley, a more junior Clinton adviser, has continued to argue the importance of a final status settlement, the disagreement reflecting the argument as to whether the Palestinians were to blame for the failure of the Camp David 2000 / Taba 2001 process.

On Iran, as I have said before and as Garton Ash argues, Kerry's policy is marginally preferable.

So, my purely hypothetical vote would be for Kerry / Edwards. Just.

Thursday, October 28, 2004


I installed Google Desktop Search  the other day. I came across these while looking for it. Old news, I know.  (20 Oct)

Myanmar power play dashes reform hopes
Reuters - 1 hour ago
The ouster of Myanmar's prime minister, architect of a tentative "roadmap to democracy", has dashed faint chances for an end to military rule and leaves Southeast Asia's policy of constructive engagement in tatters.
Facts about Burma Boston Globe
Myanmar prime minister under house arrest Independent Online

My weblog is now googlable. You just have to register your home page. Something else I came across.

From a very long thread on Daniel Drezner :

And my liberal friends please tell me: ... It is a damn shame I have to go to Bush and the "conservatives" for a liberal foreign policy.
: M. Simon on 10.18.04 at 12:32 AM

Germany and America

THE BD Heidelberg Postcard is interesting, especially when 2 Germans join in in the comments section.
You may remember that the current German government made wildly exaggerated claims about Serb atrocities (concentration camps) during the Kosovo intervention, a war that did not have the blessing of the UN either and was just as legal or illegal as the Iraq war. Were Schršder, Fischer and Scharping lying? It was only five years ago, yet we hear very, very, very little about this glaring inconsistency in our mainstream media. But you believe them to report accurately about a country and a war they obviously despise.
Post by werner at October 24, 2004 01:27 PM
Another commenter referred to this piece from The Washington Post by Timothy Garton Ash : President Kerry and Europe Update This is what I meant to quote :
[Chirac] has endorsed Beijing's position on Taiwan and said the E.U. embargo on arms exports to China should be lifted. This raises the grotesque prospect of European weapons being pointed at American warships in the Taiwan Strait. But of course it's not France that is calling the shots here. In the 1970s, Henry Kissinger played the China card against the Soviet Union. Today, China is playing the European card against the United States.
This is somewhat more convincing than Garton Ash's pleading that he is not against all Republican presidents - 'Reagan's dramatic turn from arms race to detente, in response to the emergence of Mikhail Gorbachev' - just 'this Bush'.


Something significant must be happening when France Inter's Bernard Guetta departs from his usual carefully prepared script, instead having a question and answer session with the programme's main presenter.

22:00 News about Arafat's health has broken

7:10 BBC R4 have someone from an Arab-US organisation and a journalist from Ha'aretz.

Then over to France Inter, who have the vice-Foreign Minister from Ramallah. Skip the review of the French press, which has nothing on this. Which is just as well, since the BBC have reshuffled their schedule for a long interview with a whisle-blower from UK defence intelligence.

The vice-FM cannot confirm whether Arafat attended morning prayers and says they are very worried about him. Israel is allowing him to leave, but refusing to say whether they would allow him to return.

In the event of Arafat's disparition (a euphemism usually meaning death), it is said that a collegiate form of leadership could emerge, featuring Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen ) and Ahmed Qurei or Qureia (Abu Alla ) .  Marwan Barghouti, now in an Israeli prison, is a name also mentioned. Time to dust off the old files on the struggles within the Palestinian leadership.

'An opinion poll by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research this month found that Mr Arafat remained the most popular Palestinian leader for 35% of those polled, while ...Marwan Barghouti was second with 20%. Mr Abbas, who has virtually no public recognition, scored 3%.'

'Mr Abbas hopes to demote or remove Arafat loyalists such as ... Saeb Erekat... He wants to appoint Mohammed Dahlan minister of interior affairs' 'Mr Dahlan in his early 40s' April 15, 2003, The Guardian

The replacement of Arafat could remove an excuse from Israel and the US. On the other hand, his sucessor(s) would lack his 'charisma'.

Update The BBC profiles most of the main players  here and has the reaction of the press here. Danny Rubinstein was the Ha'aretz man I mentioned before.

In the afternoon, Israel says it will allow Arafat to return.

18:00 Arafat is to leave for treatment in France.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Global Justice

I said on a  previous post  that I must come back to Johann Hari's
against the extreme and undemocratic neo-liberalism imposed on much of the world’s poor by the IMF and World Bank; there is no freedom in a sweat-shop
It's very easy to make points about the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO being a Washington-based conspiracy. However, I heard on the BBC a month or so ago that the WTO were criticising subsidies to European sugar farmers, which were making life impossible for farmers in Mozambique, a country, remember, recovering from decades of civil war. Subsidies to North American farmers are just as bad, of course.    (I could not find any recent link, but the following ones give some of the background.)

Where then does that leave arguments against 'extreme neo-liberalism' ? Well, with a little bit of truth. 'Yesterday the World Bank admitted it should have condemned subsidies in rich countries, while it was telling poor nations to deregulate.'  (Newsnight, 28 August, 2002) '. Or this : 'The managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Horst Koehler ... said "The IMF will not insist on building ... conditionalities which are not in the countries' interest and will not help the countries solve their problems."  Correspondents say this appeared to be seen as a softening of the IMF's position. ...The IMF and the World Bank have also forced Mozambique to scrap a surtax on imported sugar...'  (IMF boss's promise to Africa, 7 July 2000 )

The main problem though is the quotas and tariffs which Oxfam says  'set Europe's sugar prices at almost three times the world market price, meaning huge subsidised surpluses are dumped annually overseas' From Newsnight again, 'Eight hours spent stripping sugar cane pays 99p. The workers would earn more if their sugar was selling in European and American markets, but Western producers get subsidies which enable them to cut their prices. Anyway, there are strict rules limiting the amount of sugar the West imports.'

See also this and this. That's just sugar. Similar things can be found for cotton.

I noticed an advert on Harry's Place for a book by Christopher Hitchens called Orwell's Victory. I don't think he would have seen much 'victory' in a situation where Africa is probably worse off now than it was in 1960. OK, I can't think of a better title for the book and maybe you can have victories in some battles. (If it's not obvious, here is the link again.)

As for 'undemocratic', it is all done according to the will, or at least the compliance of democracies in the West or North. The unpalatable truth is that it is imposed on poor countries by some very rich countries.

One country, New Zealand, has abolished all farm subsidies.They seem to be managing all right and are developing their wine-making industry, for example.

The elephant in the room

from Jimmy Doyle (via SIAW) :
There is an elephant in the room and it’s a double standard of elephantine proportions.
My letter [to the Guardian] was published; this (opening) sentence was cut.
Exhibit B: Guardian feature from last year (not online) where people write in with questions about curious everyday phenomena (why does water go the other way down the plughole in the Southern Hemisphere, etc). Reader’s question: “Is there a reliable way of telling the difference between Americans and Canadians? I don’t want to take an instant dislike to the wrong person.”


This is interesting. The only prediction I will make is that the Democrats will whinge about being 'robbed', if they lose that is.

I am cajoled by return of email to make a prediction, 'just for the fun of it'.

So, purely on the basis of Saturday's FT, 'Bush could win popular vote but lose electoral college' :  1. Kerry     2. -00.5     3. 005  (the reverse of Bush 2/Gore 2000.

The real fun would be to see if the Republicans were still whining about it in 4 years time. One obvious parallel with 2000 is 1960. I heard somewhere that Nixon had almost as good a case as Gore's. Or the 1966 British election...

It's a shame the table doesn't go back to 1940. Phillip Roth has a novel out in which Lindbergh beats Roosevelt and so 'the American "old right", isolationist and bordering on pro-fascist' I mentioned previously came to power.

Europe from Right to Left (Part 3)

The Turkish PM was at the IFRI, explaining to the French élite the case for his country's entry. Turkey is no longer either a sub-marine or a Trojan Horse for the US. (Who was the last country to be accused of that ? ) By refusing to allow the Americans to use its territory for the invasion of Iraq, remember, it showed that it shared the French an German lucidity on the matter. There is another part of Bernard Guetta's commentary that I would like to quote (and translate) at some length.
those in favour of the entry of Turkey into the [European] Union also had to gauge for their part how much the geo-political vision on which is based their 'yes' comes up against unavoidable realities. ... [mention of the genocide of the Armenians]... And to the question as to why his daughters go to university in the United States, he repeats calmly what we know, that they can study veiled in America whereas they cannot in Turkey. What are we to understand by that ?

That secularism is strong in Turkey or that its Prime Minister prefers his daughters to go abroad rather than do their studies without a veil ? It's as you wish, but the certainty is that, if  Europe's interest  is to integrate Turkey and to prove that there is no incompatibility between it and Islam, Turkey still has some big steps to make. (21 Oct)

Like Iraq, the issue of 'the veil' is a great barrier to clear thinking in France.

Some words of Paul Wolfowitz :

We may someday look back on this moment in history as the time when the West defined itself for the 21st Century—not in terms of geography or race or religion or culture or language, but in terms of values—the values of freedom and democracy. It was... Winston Churchill who once said, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all of the other systems of government which have been tried."
The French, German and Turkish leaders met in Berlin yesterday. (26 Oct)

As another example of European 'solidarity', there were demonstrations in 6 countries (including the UK) in support of General Motors workers (20 Oct). However, as was pointed out in the FT (15 Oct), German labour costs are 30-35% higher than those in the French car industry.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Difficult, but necessary

51 Iraqis, who had just completed their training for the Iraqi Army, unarmed and in civilian clothes, murdered near the Iranian border. More fuel for those who claim that Iraq is a 'catastrophe' or 'in chaos'. As with the bomb attacks on the UN or the Red Cross, or kidnapping and murder of contractors trying to rebuild Iraq and even aid workers, to me it just emphasises the difficulty of the task, but also its necessity. And causes me to have just a little doubt about Kerry. 

Iraqis say they want security, so the insurgents attack the police. The insurgents say they are against the 'occupation', so they attack people who are being trained for Iraq's own army. It is a campaign of pure, ruthless terror, which only foreshadows the re-establishment of the 'Republic of fear', or worse, that they seek.

Europe from Right to Left (Part 2)

Joschka Fischer is in favour of Turkey joining the EU (BBC 20 Oct). Before the 11 September 2001 attacks he had been sceptical about integrating a country of that size and taking the EU to the borders Syria, Iraq and Iran. In a striking phrase he said, "To modernise an Islamic country based on the shared values of Europe would be almost a D-Day for Europe in the war against terror." And this would be all the more reason for the constitution to be approved, to make an even more enlarged EU workable. Martine Aubry spoke along similar lines (France Inter 20 Oct). Denis MacShane, a British Minister, has also argued for both, not only in The Guardian, but also, in his more than passable French, on  France Inter.

There may be some tactical disagreements, but it seems likely, then, that the Left will get behind these propositions : the constitution and EU membership for Turkey. And the debate on the latter is due to go on for the next 15 years.

It is strange that the Right's position now is strikingly similar to the Left's 20 years ago, when the British Labour Party came close to a position of advocating withdrawal from Europe and NATO, or in the 1970's when the hard left argued for a 'siege economy'. At the time when British entry into the EEC was under discussion, so about 1971, the 'pro' argument ran along the lines that European unity was a good thing, better than France and Germany fighting each other which was an all too recent memory. One of the points made, from the left, was that this union was only of half of Europe, the Western half.

Incidentally, Orwell argued, remarkably in a life that ended in 1950, for a (western) European union of democratic Socialism (*).

What changed obviously was the end of the 'cold war'. Poland, the Czechs, Slovaks and even former parts of the Soviet Union have now joined the EU (**).  Even Russia itself, at least in part thought of as 'European', could conceivably join one day and in 60 or 100 years we might have a common border with China ( L’Europe et ses frontières,  6 Oct 2004 ).

If the Urals to the east do not provide a 'natural' frontier to the East, neither to the south does the Mediterranean, the 'mare nostrum', for the Romans, like the Carthaginians and the Greeks before them, not a barrier at all, but the centre of their empire.

It has been said that the eastern border of the EU now corresponds almost exactly with the old boundary of Catholic Europe. I don't know about that. What about Croatia ? It is part of the next wave of EU candidates and in a much better position to join than Serbia, but then so is Romania. Much more significant is that the southern border of the EU corresponds to that of 'Catholic Europe' around 1500.

That then is the major cultural divide, a result of the Arab/ Islamic expansion across North Africa in the 7th / 8th centuries. Admitting Turkey breaches one part at least of that divide. As for Morocco, Algeria and  Tunisia, I can't see their rich neighbours to the north of the Mediterranean welcoming them with open arms. Too many potential migrants, too much poverty.

Notes :

(*) It took me ages to find this one : it's definitely worth reading : TOWARD EUROPEAN UNITY, George Orwell

(**) Remember the sneering, when the new countries entered in May, about newspapers running stories of hordes of migrants swamping the country. Another anecdote : people down the pub still talk about seeing the town centre full of foreigners.

Europe from Right to Left (Part 1)

No, not a prediction or a tendency in time, but just the order I'm going to deal with them. On the map, it's from left to right, since I'm going to start with the UK.

What do we make of a situation where a party gains support by promising to withdraw from the European Union and drags the main right-wing opposition to within touching distance of that ? Or where a section of the right-wing press, the Mail and the Daily Express since it abandoned its brief espousal of New Labour, while remaining anti-Europe, is also anti-American and anti-Iraq War. (Somewhat bizarrely, this shift is hardly noticed : a professor of politics, analysing an opinion poll in The Guardian last year, thought that the Daily Mail favoured the war; or John Le Carre in Absolute Friends casting it as one of the villains in the denouement of a fictional neo-con conspiracy : 'The Daily Mail carried a searing attack on the "latest whistle-blower... and closet saboteurs of our nation's good name ..." ' (P379) ). The position of those, on the left or centre-right, who are pro-Europe and anti-American, makes a certain amount  of sense, up to a point. But to be anti-Europe and anti-American ? I don't read it that often, but I remember one article in the Mail on Sunday last year that tried to link the two, saying that Blair was so much Bush's poodle that he would join in the War in Iraq and also sign up for the Euro, because the Americans wanted him to do that too. But the idea hardly 'gained traction', as they say.

The Right is also anti-immigration and anti-'asylum-seeker'. I don't know if the British Right has got round to thinking about it much, but the centre-right opposition in Germany opposes Turkey's entry into the EU. The Right in Austria is against it too, talking in terms of the Ottomans at the gates of Vienna in 1683.

UKIP also is anti-the enforcement of speed limits (the police should concentrate on catching 'real criminals'). So, is this just a set of disparate, opportunistic policies ? We have to turn back to the attitudes towards Europe.

The Conservatives have always had an element of course that opposed Europe, from Powell to Ridley. But how can so many on the Right be advocating a policy, so contrary to business interests, of withdrawal from Europe. Of course, we would still trade with other nations - free movement of goods. But what about  free movement of capital ? Or labour ? Or harmonisation of regulation concerning goods sold ? As for John Redwood saying we should go back to the Europe we joined, unravelling 30 years of changes, including the single market agreed by Margaret Thatcher ?

Paul Wolfowitz, on the other hand, is in favour of Turkey joining the EU (the 'admirable things' I mentioned before can be found in his remarks to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, December 2, 2002. One questioner remarked 'you spent about... close to one third, one half of your time talking about relations between Turkey and Europe'). Is this another example of US imperialism ? A letter in The Guardian a week or two ago said that when the Americans think geopolitics, they think big and they think cynical. Is this how empires behave ? By encouraging the enlargement and closer integration of another grouping ? Aren't they supposed to destroy alternate power blocs ? (Think of Rome's treatment of Carthage.) So perhaps it's more a case of globally imposing an idea, that is liberalism (not in the American sense of the word, but in the French meaning of unrestricted capitalism). An imperialism of ideology then, if that still makes any sense.

The Left, however, wants to build a social democratic Europe.

Update (26 Oct) -  minor corrections.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

France and Iraq

2 gems from France Inter's Géopolitique.
[le bilan] de Georges Bush n’est pas discutable. Il est indiscutablement catastrophique puisque ce Président a fait entrer son pays en guerre sur la base d’un mensonge, que cette guerre embourbe les Etats-Unis dans un conflit qui fait prospérer le terrorisme islamiste (7 Oct)

la Turquie a refusé aux Etats-Unis d’utiliser son territoire pour pénétrer en Irak, a partagé la lucidité française et allemande sur cette aventure (5 Oct)

Indiscutable. Indisputable, unquestionable. Lucidité.  Clearness, clear-headedness.

A touch of French arrogance, non ?

Martine Aubry, a French socialist, said, in the context of the Constitution, if there were a referendum on Iraq, just because Chirac voted against would not mean she voted for.

Update (25 Oct)

Incidentally, Blair promised a referendum, then Chirac followed suit. But whereas, the issue has been virtually forgotten in the UK, in France it's a big subject of debate.

Iran and the 'veil'

Harry's Place, Persepolis (still catching up). I have to reply to this.
I couldn't help thinking about the segment of "progressive" opinion who seem more concerned with the right of Muslim girls and women to wear the hijab to school in Europe than with their right not to wear it in Iran and elsewhere in the Islamic world.
I do care about both, but there are those, especially in France, who seem to think that not allowing women to wear the head scarf somehow compensates for them being forced to wear it in other countries.

Again I have to agree with the words of Tariq Ramadan, I  'would neither force a woman to wear a head scarf nor force her to remove one.'

Specifically on Iran, I would not want to go into the realms of the neo-cons and talk about mullocracy and regime-change or lump Iran into the 'axis of evil'. As a matter of practical policy, I have to come down on the side of the 'realists' and say that it is urgent to deal with, and isolate, the nuclear issue. The crisis there continues, though with no coverage on domestic news services in the UK (radio and TV, I mean).

Friday, October 22, 2004


That the numbers killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau are open to dispute is beyond dispute, but the idea is not to arrive at the smallest number possible. It is now thought that a minimum of 1.1 million died, 90% of them Jewish. In Communist times, the figure was put at 4 million, with the proportion of Jewish deaths being smaller, 1.3 non-Jews being said to have died.

Via Harry's Place and Jonathan Derbyshire , Carol Gould, An American scapegoat in London
, in The Guardian.

This prompted a tirade from the Englishwoman - let's call her Lady E. "I rejoice every time I hear of another American soldier dying! You people are destroying the world". ...  I jumped up... prompting Lady E to come over and grab me. "Another bloody American! You are scum."

I have lived in Europe for all of my adult life, and from the day I arrived I have been aware not only of an oft-blatant anti-semitism but also a resentment of Americans ...

Here is what I perceive as the explanation: Europe has always been a seething hotbed of anti-semitism. England, sadly, has the distinction of being the very first country to expel its Jews and initiate the blood libel. The Jews were not allowed back into England until the time of Cromwell, and feel to this day that they worship by the grace of the sovereign.
...Anti-Americanism is not a result of Abu Ghraib or of a Rumsfeldian pronouncement. It is a disturbing and hurtful form of psychosis that is rapidly eroding the all-important special relationship.

I would not claim that England was immune from anti-semitism, but I feel that it is a function of anti-Americanism, rather than the other way round.

One thing I noticed from a recent poll is that opposition to the Iraq War is even stronger amongst older age groups than among younger people. Which is a way of giving statistical backing to the following anecdote.

On my recent trip, I got involved in a dinner-table argument about the killing of the British hostage with a man in his sixties, who had previously expressed his admiration for General Franco. From Iraq, to a general tirade against the US system, I found myself asking ironically 'I suppose the Jews are in control of everything ?' He neither confirmed nor denied.

Another point occurred to me later, however. This man, a Catholic, had also previously shown his sympathy for the faction that opposed Vatican II (the reforms of the Catholic church in the 1960s). On the face of it, this is about wanting to keep older forms of worship, the latin mass and so on. However, there is a deeper point. One of the results of Vatican II was, in James Carrroll's account,

... to affirm two very important things, which in a sense are offensive, but they needed to be affirmed. One, the Jewish people living in the time of Jesus and living afterwards, can never be held guilty for the death of Jesus. An important affirmation. Why? Because for 1500,1800 years, that was the basis of Christian attacks. Secondly, that document renounced the idea that Christianity had replaced Judaism as a favorite religion of God's. Judaism had its own ongoing integrity.
One who spoke of "the Church's responsibility to change its relationship to Jews" was that young bishop from Poland...

The future of the left (Part 4)

Some unfinished business - the future of the left, otherwise known as the 'death of the left'. The previous parts were posted on Harry's Place, here : Part 1 (Posted August 24, 2004 01:55 PM ) , Part 2 (Posted August 24, 2004 01:57 PM ) , Part 3 (Posted August 26, 2004 01:17 PM). At least one person found it 'a useful contribution'.

So, to continue, and to try to answer ChrisB's question 'The how though, "the how"... ', all we can do is to continue to chip away at the truth. By 'we' I mean anyone who has any interest in the exchange of ideas. When you think about the particular nature of this moment in history, publishers, newspapers and broadcasting organisations, important though they are, are no longer the sole gatekeepers of the flow of information and debate. So much is available now, not restricted by physical proximity, permanently accessible and quotable. Of course this is used for the transmission of lies. But also for truth.

Something I wrote earlier, contra John Berger (Posted at August 26, 2004 02:42 PM) :

Propaganda could also serve the interests not just of an actual, existing  elite, but also of a putative elite (exercising its authority on behalf of the proletariat, of course). Propaganda is propaganda because it distorts the truth.
As it happens, Ian Buruma seems to have written along similar lines about Michael Moore's film ('Lights, Camera, Manifesto ', Financial Times, 9 Oct 2004). I missed the article, but from a letter in the following weekend's FT : 'Each work of propaganda mentioned refers ... to state propaganda ..., whereas Michael Moore's films... are criticism. He is aiming to demolish the official justifications or "ideology" forced on the public by the most powerful state in the world.'.  (Update : article and letter can be found here. Buruma does not so much make the same argument as me, as take it as assumed. Hence the letter's attack, along the same lines as Berger's.)

Can such propaganda be justified though ? After all, it has given the 'Left' some apparent victories. More prominence is given now to Tariq Ali, say, than in a long time. Books by people like John Pilger are probably selling more than ever. And of course their indignation against the US and its rampant capitalism fills the New Statesman (pieces by the likes of Aaronovitch or Nick Cohen provide a welcome leavening of opposition to the totalitarian 'left'). I suppose the NS has a circulation in the 10,000's (How many read Harry's Place, I wonder. I never thought I would say this, but I'm starting to miss those things you used to see on early websites, probably because it was in the 'Teach yourself Javascript' books : you are the 17,384th visitor to this site...). Even in The Guardian, one million people are quite frequently able to read a radical critique of US 'imperialism'.

There was one Pilger article in the New Statesman in August, about why Kerry would be no better than Bush. I did not read it with much attention - it was so entirely predictable - but one phrase stood out : 'James Rubin is a Zionist.' No supporting evidence, just the phrase. I know we would get the usual disclaimer of anti-semitism, but really he might just as well have said, 'James Rubin is a Jew.'

Surely it is possible to persuasively argue the case for a more just society without resorting to propaganda and dishonesty. What we have to do, I think, is try to 'think inside' our opponents heads. This is what Orwell did so brilliantly in 'The Road to Wigan Pier', for example, when he highlighted the attraction fascism might have for the petty-bourgeois.

In the US, but also in Western Europe, their former (white) colonies, Japan etc (what I will call the Rest of the West), without dismissing the problems of these societies completely, Norman Geras' 'minimum utopia' has largely been attained. In much of the rest of the world, in Africa, the Middle East and so on, it obviously remains very remote. This induces a sense of moral inadequacy, or to put it in old-fashioned terms, guilt. One way of resolving this tension, shuffling off the guilt, is to blame everything on the US. This is especially attractive if you happen not to live in that country and is the response of much of the 'left' in the Rest of the West.

The response of the 'right', on the other hand, is to erect barriers, to blame everything on immigrants or 'asylum-seekers'. Another example was this comment following the Beslan massacre :

The problem is not the various grievences, or poverty, or bad government, those exist everywhere and at all times. Wealth and good government are the exception not the rule. ... The only solution is to attack and destroy the ideology [Wahabbism] and the people who spread it.
Of course, the extremes of Right and Left often come within touching distance of each other. The resumption of the dark myths of medieval Europe into Arab propaganda and the far-Left's sympathy with that are well-enough known not to need dwelling upon. It is also worth noting though that some of the 11 Sept conspiracy theorists find analogies in the theories about Pearl Harbor, originally put about by the American 'old right', isolationist and bordering on pro-fascist.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

British troops and Fallujah

Having talked about the situation in Iraq for the last couple of posts, what about one of the leading stories in Britain in the last couple of days, the possible deployment of some British troops to just south of Baghdad ? Let's start at the beginning, at least where I first heard it.

Blair is 'using our troops to boost Bush', Sunday Telegraph.  They also had a more detailed and more balanced story : 'I need to ask you for a favour'. The first, however, was presumably the front page one.  Quite why the Telegraph saw fit to hand that out, complete with quotes from Alice Mahon, Peter Kilfoyle and Robin Cook, I don't know. It was picked up by the BBC's Broadcasting House, as usual one-sided, review of the Sunday papers, which also chose to highlight approvingly a story about Bush's behaviour proving the delayed effects of his former alcoholism. The Telegraph's leader later came out in favour of the deployment (Monday. The Times amd the Sun were also supportive, the rest of the media, in some cases viciously, opposed).

Sir Menzies Campbell : "Why is Bush making this request now? If Blair says 'yes' and Kerry is elected then the first meeting between Blair and Kerry could be very interesting." Think about that for a moment : it implies that Kerry cares more about his political advantage than about British troops helping Americans. Perhaps he does.

As for other countries seeking to influence the US election, this cuts both ways : one story that made the headlines briefly last week, at least in the FT, was Peter Struck, Germany's Defence Minister, saying they might deploy troops to Iraq, 'if circumstances changed', though the 'offer' was later withdrawn. Still on the issue of timing, a few weeks ago most of the speculation about Fallujah was that Bush would wait until after the (US) elections and then flatten the place.

So, we come to Monday and Geoff Hoon's statement to parliament. Another argument is advanced : why, when there are 130,000 US troops in the country, do 650 British need to be used ? The obvious point, as I argued in the previous posts, though Hoon (C4 Monday) and Straw (BBC Tuesday) did not use it for obvious reasons, is that the troops are needed further North, the US troops are overstretched.

On this thread on Harry's Place , Gerard , somewhat off-topic, asked, 'Could Harry take a break from Trot-bashing to condemn the bombing of Falluja? ... I'm sorry ..., people are being killed in Falluja as I write.' I might equally ask, are those who condemn the bombing of Falluja going to support this deployment, which might contribute to US and Iraqi forces being able to deal with the insurgents on the ground, rather than through allegedly indiscriminate bombing from the air ?

Wednesday, British military spokesman says US troops in Iraq are "fully deployed" (BBC).

Update (23 Oct) 'Sarah Baxter' 'democrat for Bush'  From last Sunday's papers, another front page. I thought it was from The Telegraph. In fact, it's from The Times, but what the hell.


Thanks to Norman Geras for drawing attention to this report, although I would put the emphasis slightly differently.
"Is the resistance good or bad?" is Question Number One in Iraq. Of course the answer depends if you are Shiite, Sunni or Kurdish, and if you were a former military officer or a political prisoner.

A few weeks ago the Iraqi government, with the help of the Americans, decided to conduct a big sweep looking for weapons, insurgents and hostages in the town of Latifiya, 30kms south of Baghdad. The town is a hotbed of Sunni insurgents
Eight police officers were cramped in the car under the command of a young twentysomething lieutenant, a recent graduate from a US-sponsored training course in Amman. He is one of the new recruits on whom the government and the Americans are building their hopes to rebuild the country. His number two was a Shiite police officer in his 50s who first joined the force under Saddam.

The lieutenant turned out to be a Sunni, originally from the area in which the raid was taking place.
He tuned to his aide and said, as he started to unbutton his shirt:

"If the mujahideen open fire at you, be sure not to fire back."

"What do you mean sir?"

"I mean, make sure not to fire back because those are mujahideens, holy warriors."
"And what about all the people who get killed in the car bombs? Are they occupiers too?" By now the aide was shaking with anger.
"See, the resistance detain people and investigate them. If they are OK they will be released...."

Everyone in the car fell silent, and by now we were on the outskirts of Latifiya and we could hear the explosions. The lieutenant, now wearing a coloured T-shirt, tucked his gun in his trousers and jumped out of the car and mixed with crowds. Later, four policemen were killed in the raid when insurgents attacked them.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Hitchens and Wolfowitz

From Lenin's Tomb  (I saw it somewhere else first, but I can't find it now) : 'Democracy Now has hosted another debate between Tariq Ali and Christopher Hitchens'. Hitchens, asked whether he's joined the ranks now of the neo-conservatives :
...there is a division within the neo-conservative movement, which is, by the way, one of the tests of its authenticity as a tendency. I would say I was a supporter of Paul Wolfowitz, though.
Now there are some of the neo-conservatives, I think, thought by taking out the main rejectionist dictatorship in the region, they would make Eretz Israel, or Greater Israel, more secure, or more feasible, alternatively, whether you think Greater Israel has been achieved or not. ...Wolfowitz and others took exactly the opposite feeling. If you took out the rejectionist dictatorship, you were in a stronger position to bring the leverage on Israel about the settlements and about expansionism...
There is a bit about Algeria too, but I don't want to be distracted by that just now. The main thrust of the argument is worth quoting in full and at length.
Wolfowitz and Kissinger disliked each other and disagreed very strongly with each other for a long time. I think the origin of the disagreement and the origin of Wolfowitz's political career is that he argued it was important to dump the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines. Base or no base, let it go and take the chances that this would have a ripple effect in the rest of Asia, which was just what Kissinger didn't want. As a result, there were outbreaks of democratic insurgency, starting with the Aquino election, in South Korea, in Taiwan, eventuating in Tiananmen Square, in fact, in 1989, which of course, Kissinger also opposed and took the side of the Chinese Stalinists. On the Middle East, the victory of the neo-conservatives is very paradoxical, because contra Bush, Eagleburger - Bush Sr., that is - Eagleburger, Scowcroft -- I've just mentioned, by the way, the two leading members of Kissinger Associates -- and others, Colin Powell. The argument of the neo-conservatives, or at least of the Wolfowitz wing, was, "We can't go on like this, running the Middle East as a kind of political slum of client states. We have to take the chance that destabilization would be worth it in the long run." That's what, that's still why the extreme right in the country, people like Buchanan and others, oppose it. Precisely for that reason. They and the pro-Saudi conservatives.
'Lenin' also provides a link( Paul Wolfowitz: A man to keep a close eye on, Tim Shorrock) that gives a different view, specifically about East Asia. This can be summarized as follows. Wolfowitz defended US support for the dictators in the 1980's [hardly surprising when he was a relatively junior member of the Reagan administration]. Then, when their downfall became inevitable, due to 'millions of students, workers, and ordinary citizens pouring into the streets day after day', he claimed all the credit. Well, maybe he is not due all the credit, but some of it. Small point of consistency : how could he be 'Holbrooke's immediate successor in the top Asia slot at the State Department, serving there from 1982 to 1986' ?

I think Wolfowitz has said some admirable things, notably about Turkey. On the other hand, you have to have a realistic strategy to achieve your objectives. Hitchens mentioned Colin Powell. We're back to Iraq. According to Woodward, Powell 'wanted the bastard gone as much as anyone' (PoA, P272-3), but with the support of allies and enough troops. ' Wolfowitz was like a drum that would not stop.' He had this "crazy" plan to seize the Southern oil fields - the "enclave strategy" (P26).

It all comes down to security, having enough troops. As a recent analysis put it :

a country must first have a state before it can become a democracy. The primary requirement of a state is that it hold a monopoly on the use of violence. By that measure, the body that the United States transferred power to in Baghdad on June 28 may have been a government - but it was not a state. What Went Wrong in Iraq, Larry Diamond, Foreign Affairs, September/October 2004
It was barely reported in Britain, but Kerry wanted John McCain to be his running-mate. McCain refused and has fallen back into line in the Bush campaign, in spite of the shabby treatment he received in the fight to be the Republican candidate in 2000, which Kerry still mentions. It is thought that he still hopes to get the 2008  Republican nomination. McCain is known to favour the lack of sufficient troops argument. So, if there had been a Kerry-McCain ticket, would it not have focused on this, rather than the sub-Deanesque themes of 'the money could have been better spent on health etc' or 'it's a distraction from the hunt for al Qaeda in Afghanistan' ?

PS : more Hitchens here ...

Monday, October 18, 2004


Oświęcim : crowds of bored-looking Israeli teenagers. Our guide tells us they spend a week or so going round all the sites. Birkenau (or Auschwitz II) is really sinister : open, windswept, the railway line disappearing into the trees where most of the murdering took place. The Rough Guide to Poland also recommends a visit to Birkenau to understand the scale of what happened.

Strangely enough, on returning home, the FT magazine had a piece by Monica Porter : ‘Our English-speaking guide… difficult to hear above the cacophony of guides holding forth in Italian, Polish, French, Japanese and German in the brick blocks where once the inmates lived and died in agony.’ There again, she went in July.

Kraków : a huge steelworks was built at Nowa Huta on the outskirts of the city, with the idea that the ’working-classes’ would provide an ideological counterweight to the conservative and Catholic intellectuals who dominated the old University. Of course though, they did not give up their Catholicism. The planning for housing etc. did not include any churches. However, eventually the authorities allowed a church to be built and consecrated around 1975-7. This was at the time when Karol Wojtyła was bishop of Cracow. There is a photograph in the museum of his birthplace, with apartment blocks in the background and a sea of umbrellas in the open area around the church.

I couldn’t find that picture, but here is another (credit) :

There is a better account here.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Tariq Ramadan

NYT - Mystery of the Islamic Scholar

'Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss theologian of Egyptian descent who is probably Europe's best-known Muslim intellectual, received an urgent message from the American consul in Switzerland: Washington had just revoked the visa granted him after a security review last spring.
Mr. Ramadan himself set off a storm in France last fall when he wrote an online essay criticizing several French Jewish intellectuals for being "biased toward the concerns of their community" by defending Israel - in its construction of a barrier in the West Bank, for instance - and supporting, to varying degrees, the Iraq war.

These positions, he wrote, betrayed the intellectuals' commitment to universal values. If Muslim intellectuals, he wrote, were expected to denounce anti-Semitism and terrorism committed in the name of Islam - which he does repeatedly, he said in an interview - why didn't Jewish intellectuals bear a similar responsibility to condemn "the repressive policies of the state of Israel" and to oppose discrimination against Muslims in Europe, he asked.

Bernard-Henri Lévy, a prominent European intellectual, promptly labeled Mr. Ramadan a champion of double talk and said he had written an "anti-Semitic text." The label of anti-Semite stuck to him even though, Mr. Ramadan said, he has been decrying anti-Semitism in the Muslim world for years.'

Another quotation :

'Recently, he appeared on a televised French debate during which he was badgered about his support for what other guests kept calling "the veil." How could he favor forcing women to cover themselves? they asked.

In a calm voice, Mr. Ramadan responded that he would neither force a woman to wear a head scarf nor force her to remove one. It was a human rights issue, he said, and yet once the ban became law and the choice for French Muslim girls was between going to school and wearing their head scarves, his advice was to attend school.

Last fall, also on television, Nicolas Sarkozy, then the French interior minister, challenged Mr. Ramadan to prove he was a moderate by telling Muslim women to "take off their veils." Mr. Ramadan refused.

Mr. Sarkozy also challenged him to call for the abolition of the stoning of adulterous women, which is mandated by a strict reading of Islamic law. Mr. Ramadan called instead for a moratorium on stoning.

"That way, you start a dialogue," he said. "I won't change any thinking in the Muslim world if I issue a blanket condemnation of stoning to please the French interior minister."

But Mr. Ramadan was attacked fiercely for refusing to take an absolutist stance.' (My emphasis)

Blogging is suspended. I'm going to Poland (Częstochowa, Oświęcim and Kraków)   . Hope to resume on or after 16 Oct. The last few posts have been a bit incomplete. Will try to finish them then.


>...on the Iraq War 2003.

Bob Woodward, Plan of Attack
Five Washington Post articles adapted from it : first third ...
James Rubin, Stumbling Into War, Foreign Affairs, September/October 2003
Hans Blix, Disarming Iraq
John Kampfner, Blair's Wars
Robin Cook, Point of Departure
(I can't say I've read the last two cover-to-cover.)

Cheney, Rumsfeld, Blair

C4 News' Jonathan Rugman had a long piece on Cheney ... lampooned by the 'left' , cue pictures of demonstrators chanting "their greed goes marching on" etc. ['moderate']. They didn't mention Powell's thoughts according to Bob Woodward : 'Powell detected a kind of fever in Cheney. He was not the steady, unemotional rock that he had witnessed a dozen years earlier during the run-up to the Gulf War.' (PoA P175, WP3)

They also managed to dig out a clip of Rumsfeld from late 2002 talking about links between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Even so, this was a somewhat less than confident assertion and they had to flesh it out with Dick Cheney, always running ahead of the president.

As The New York Times put it, 'While Mr. Rumsfeld often has cited C.I.A. reports of murky ties, including the presence of Qaeda operatives in Iraq, he has not been as adamant on the issue as other senior administration officials, in particular Vice President Dick Cheney.'

Having just read Bob Woodward's, Plan of Attack, and a few other accounts in the past, 2 questions still remain a mystery : why was it not possible to get a 2nd resolution ? and why, after Blair had promised not to take Britain into war unless there was a 2nd resolution, did it take part in the invasion, rather than just, say, taking part in the stabilisation afterwards ?

Kampfner stresses the major failure in British diplomacy due to Blair's over-optimism and naïvete - he got Chirac wrong, and Schröder and Putin. However, Powell, Bush and the Saudis also misread Chirac, according to Woodward. Rubin, on the other hand, lays the fault at the Bush administration's refusal to compromise, for example setting a mid-April deadline for Iraq : 'Blair and his diplomats worked hard to craft this compromise plan, but Washington's inflexibility doomed the effort.'

Maybe it was just French perfidy, like de Villepin's 20 Jan ' "Nothing! Nothing!" justified war. Powell was so furious... Any leverage with Saddam was linked directly to the threat of war...' (Woodward, P281-5). A trawl through Greg Djerejian's archives (March 16, 2003) gives this link.  'U.S. officials argue that it is clear that France... always intended to block a war, and that no amount of diplomacy would have bridged the gap. A senior official said ... "If we were diplomatically perfect, I'm not sure it would have fundamentally changed the outcome."  '

Second question: why did Blair then insist on British participation in the main war-fighting operation ? I can't remember who it was, maybe Blix, who suggested there was some political advantage in this (in spite of reservations about the war, people tend to rally round when troops are actually in action). If so, the benefit is merely short-term and, in the light of what has come out since, perhaps the option of British troops just taking part in peacekeeping should have been taken. Straw wanted it, Bush offered it, Rumsfeld leaked it - 'Rumsfeld indicated that the British might not participate if there was war. ... "What the f**k" are you doing?"  an official from the British embassy in Washington immediately asked.'   (Woodward, P340-1)

My guess is that Blair was just convinced of the strategic and tactical necessity of the war. Both Kampfner (P279) and Woodward (P337) quote from a Guardian interview : 'Defending himself against the charge that he was behaving like George Bush's poodle, he portrayed himself as a hawk in his own right. "It's worse than you think. I believe in it. I am truly committed to dealing with this, irrespective of the position of America. If the Americans were not doing this, I would be pressing for them to be doing so." '

Full Text: Final Report of U.S. Inspector on Iraq’s WMD - I certainly haven't read all of that. One quote, though, from Vol I P65 - '• Saddam surprised his generals when he informed them he had no WMD in December 2002 because his boasting had led many to believe Iraq had some hidden capability, according to Tariq ‘Aziz. Saddam had never suggested to them that Iraq lacked WMD. Military morale dropped rapidly when he told senior officers they would have to fight the United States without WMD. ' Comment is superfluous.

Update (18 Oct)

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Afghanistan, then and now

I watched the film 'Kandahar' on Sunday. What can I say ? I also saw a report on C4 News about the forthcoming election. I know there is intimidation in places, pressure from tribal elders to vote in a particular way, coverage of Karzai compared to the other candidates, even the taunt that this is mainly a stunt being staged ahead of the US election.

But when one watches that film, set in 1999, at the time of 'the last eclipse of the 20th century'... People were robbed on the road with impunity (so much for the Taliban, with all their faults, providing 'law and order'), there was always the risk of a foot being blown off by a landmine. Those problems have not been altogether overcome. But above all there was an overwhelming sense of hopelessness.

Now, there is a woman candidate for President, you see people listening to the arguments, women, some in burqas, some partly uncovered, some with faces wholly uncovered (the candidate's campaign had to ensure that not even a small triangle apart from that was exposed on her posters).

Note: it was said that this is the first time women have voted... From what I recall, women were elected to the assembly in the 1960's. I can't remember whether women had the vote or not. Of course, that assembly did not have much power. There is an account in John C Griffiths' Afghanistan: A History of Conflict (Andre Deutsch, 2001).

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Bush, Kerry... Iran and Korea

>Mr. Bush A free Iraq will set a powerful example in the part of the world that is desperate for freedom. A free Iraq will help secure Israel. A free Iraq will enforce the hopes and aspirations of the reformers in places like Iran.

Mr. Kerry Thirty-five to 40 countries in the world had a greater capability of making weapons at the moment the president invaded than Saddam Hussein. And while he's been diverted with 9 out of 10 active duty divisions of our army, either going to Iraq, coming back from Iraq or getting ready to go, North Korea has gotten nuclear weapons and the world is more dangerous. Iran is moving towards nuclear weapons. And the world is more dangerous.

Mr. Kerry The president always has the right and always has had the right for pre-emptive strike. That was a great doctrine throughout the cold war. ... So what is at test here is the credibility of the United States of America and how we lead the world. And Iran and North Korea are now more dangerous. Now whether pre-emption is ultimately what has to happen or not I don't know yet. But I'll tell you this as president I'll never take my eye of that ball.

Mr. Lehrer New question, Mr. President. Do you believe that diplomacy and sanctions can resolve the nuclear problems with North Korea and Iran, taking them in any order you would like?

Mr. Bush North Korea first, I do. Let me say I certainly hope so. Before I was sworn in the policy of this government was to have bilateral negotiations with North Korea. And we signed an agreement with North Korea that my administration found out that was not being honored by the North Koreans.

And so I decided that a better way to approach the issue was to get other nations involved, just besides us. And in Crawford, Tex., Jiang Zemin and I agreed that the, a nuclear-weapons-free North Korea peninsula was in his interest and our interest and the world's interest. And so we began a new dialogue with North Korea, one that included not only the United States but now China. And China's got a lot of influence over North Korea. In some ways more than we do.

As well we included South Korea, Japan and Russia. So now there are five voices speaking to Kim Jong Il, not just one. And so if Kim Jong Il decides again to not honor an agreement he's not only doing injustice to America, be doing injustice to China as well.

And I think this will work. It's not going to work if we open up a dialogue with Kim Jong Il. That's what he wants. He wants to unravel the six-party talks or the five-nation coalition that's sending him a clear message.

On Iran, I hope we can do the same thing: continue to work with the world to convince the Iranian mullahs to abandon their nuclear ambitions. We've worked very closely with the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Great Britain, who have been the folks delivering the message to the mullahs that if you expect to be part of the world of nations, get rid of your nuclear programs. The I.A.E.A. is involved. There's a special protocol recently been passed that allows for instant inspections. I hope we can do it. And we've got a good strategy.

Mr. Kerry With respect to Iran, the British, French and Germans were the ones who initiated an effort, without the United States regrettably, to begin to try to move to curb the nuclear possibilities in Iran. I believe we could have done better. I think the United States should have offered the opportunity to provide the nuclear fuel, test them, see whether or not they were actually looking for it for peaceful purposes. If they weren't willing to work a deal then we could have put sanctions together. ...

With respect to North Korea, the real story: We had inspectors and television cameras in the nuclear reactor in North Korea. Secretary Bill Perry negotiated that under President Clinton. And we knew where the fuel rods were. And we knew the limits on their nuclear power. Colin Powell, our secretary of state, announced one day that we were going to continue the dialogue and work with the North Koreans. The president reversed him, publicly, while the president of South Korea was here. And the president of South Korea went back to South Korea bewildered and embarrassed because it went against his policy. And for two years, this administration didn't talk at all to North Korea. While they didn't talk at all, the fuel rods came out, the inspectors were kicked out, the television cameras were kicked out and today there are four to seven nuclear weapons in the hands of North Korea.

Mr. Lehrer I want to make sure ... that the people watching here understand the differences between the two of you on this. You want to continue the multinational talks. Correct?

Mr. Bush Right.

Mr. Kerry Both. I want bilateral talks which put all of the issues from the armistice of 1952, the economic issues, the human rights issues, the artillery disposal issues, the D.M.Z. issues and the nuclear issues on the table.

Mr. Bush The minute we have bilateral talks, the six-party talks will unwind. It's exactly what Kim Jong Il wants. And by the way, the breach on the agreement was not through plutonium. The breach on the agreement is highly enriched uranium. That's what we caught him doing. That's where he was breaking the agreement. [I thought North Korea had broken the agreement on plutonium and made some bombs from it.]

Secondly he said - my opponent said he'd work to put sanctions on Iran. We've already sanctioned Iran. We can't sanction them anymore. There are sanctions in place on Iran.

And finally, we were a party to the convincing - to working with Germany, France and Great Britain to send their foreign ministers into Iran.

Mr. Kerry ...but I first want to say something about those sanctions on Iran. Only the United States put the sanctions on alone. And that's exactly what I'm talking about. In order for the sanctions to be effective, we should have been working with the British, French and Germans and other countries.

Mr. Bush Back to Iran just for a second. It was not my administration that put the sanctions on Iran. That happened long before I arrived in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Kerry Weapons of mass destruction, nuclear proliferation. But again, the test of the difference between us: the president's had four years to try to do something about it. And North Korea's got more weapons. Iran is moving toward weapons. ... I'm going to do it in four years and I'm going to immediately set out to have bilateral talks with North Korea.

Mr. Bush Yeah, I, again, I can't tell you how big a mistake I think that is to have bilateral talks with North Korea. It's precisely what Kim Jong Il wants. It'll cause the six-party talks to evaporate. It means that China no longer is involved in convincing, along with us, for Kim Jong Il to get rid of his weapons. It's a big mistake to do that. We must have China's leverage on Kim Jong Il, besides ourselves. And if you enter bilateral talks, they'll be happy to walk away from the table. I don't think that'll work.

Mr. Kerry Now, I'd like to come back for a quick moment if I can to that issue about China and the talks because that's one of the most critical issues here - North Korea. Just because the president says it can't be done, that you'd lose China, doesn't mean it can't be done.

I mean this is the president who said there were weapons of mass destruction, said mission accomplished, said we could fight the war on the cheap; none of which were true. We can have bilateral talks with Kim Jong Il and we can get those weapons at the same time as we get China because China has an interest in the outcome too.

First presidential debate, transcript as recorded by The New York Times. My emphasis.

I think Kerry is right about Iran, but Bush is right about North Korea, though as Kerry points out, he might not have got in this mess in the first place if he'd followed Powell's line.

'European governments are lobbying the Bush administration to change course over Iran before next month's presidential election, urging Washington to adopt an incentive-driven policy that Senator John Kerry has already pledged, according to diplomats and US politicians.
According to unnamed diplomats and a Kerry adviser, senior officials from Germany and the Netherlands - which currently holds the European Union presidency - had high-level meetings on Iran with both the White House and the Kerry camp in recent days.

"The European message was that we cannot let weeks pass before the next deadline without doing something," one diplomat said. "We need a last-ditch approach, not more pressure, but a mix with a package and incentives." Several sources said the White House officials responded with considerable scepticism to the European initiative, but did not reject it outright.
The US refuses to speak to Iran directly, but [the EU3]  have held talks with Iran over the past year, focused on persuading the clerical regime to give up development of the whole nuclear fuel cycle. "Kerry and the European positions are close in a number of ways," said Robert Einhorn, a proliferation expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who has been involved in the discussions over Iran.

The European proposal would offer Iran guaranteed and closely monitored supplies of nuclear fuel for its civilian reactors in exchange for an end to Iran's development of the full fuel cycle - specifically the enrichment of uranium that can be used to make nuclear weapons. But senior Iranian officials have told the Financial Times that this is not acceptable. Diplomats believe the issue is still negotiable with more flexibility from the US.'

'EU urges Bush to adopt Kerry line on Iran' ,Guy Dinmore, Washington, October 1 2004 19:47 (Sorry, link is no longer free.)

Monday, October 04, 2004

Lebanon, France

2 news items I was interested in, from Friday. So, not very up-to-the-minute and no particular thematic link.

'Ex-minister hurt in Beirut blast' 'A bomb has gone off in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, injuring a former minister and killing his driver. The explosion took place on a side street of Beirut's seafront, just outside the home of MP Marwan Hamadeh.
The BBC's Kim Ghattas in Beirut says it looks like Mr Hamadeh, a Druze and a member of the opposition, was the target. ... President Emile Lahoud said the attack targeted Lebanon's security and stability. Lebanese officials and top western diplomats went to the hospital, where Mr Hamadeh has been receiving treatment for wounds to his face and legs. The visitors included Syria's Vice-President Abdel Halim Khaddam, who rushed over from Damascus when he heard the news

Druze leader Walid Jumblatt appealed for calm, but said the car bomb was a clear message for the opposition. Mr Jumblatt has been leading a fierce campaign against Syria's influence in Lebanon and Mr Hamadeh is a member of Mr Jumblatt's parliamentary bloc. Until last month, he was also a cabinet minister, but along with three colleagues, he resigned from his post to protest against a controversial vote in parliament to keep the president in power for another three years. The extension of the mandate of Emile Lahoud, a protege of Damascus, was seen as a direct result of Syrian pressure...'

'Muslim girl shaves head over ban'  A 15-year-old French Muslim girl has beaten the ban on Islamic headscarves in schools by shaving her head. ... At school on Friday she said: "I will respect both French law and Muslim law by taking off what I have on my head and not showing my hair."

Blair and Iraq

Will Blair survive another 4 or 5 years, as he has said he wishes ? Many commentators, for example John Kampfner on C4 News Thursday, think not. For them, Iraq is a mistake that will not go away.

However, the arguments of the hard left, or so-called left, with their support of the 'heroic resistance', appear increasingly threadbare and the mood, at least in the Labour Party, seems to be swinging in favour of solidarity with those Iraqis, like trade unionists, who oppose theocratic fascism (see Harry's Place's 'Meanwhile in the real world...' ). I commented there as follows, in particular on this link :

When you get past all the stuff (from US and UK people) about 'the occupation of Iraq by US and UK governments' , you get this :
Abdullah Muhsin of the IFTU gave an account of the history of the independent democratic labour movement in Iraq, from Saddam Hussein’s brutal suppression of the tobacco workers’ strikes organised by the Workers’ Democratic Trade Union Movement in Kurdistan in the 1980s to the foundation of the IFTU in May 2003.

Abdullah pointed out that the Iraqi people’s language and culture is rich in words and ideas expressing revolt and liberation; the ‘intifada’ of the Iraqi student movement in the 1950s and ‘Al Thawra’ (the revolution) the proper name for the area of Baghdad often referred to now as ‘Sadr City’. Abdullah reminded the meeting that the so-called ‘Iraqi resistance’ referred to in the media represent neither a national liberation struggle (but rather an attempt to ‘balkanise’ Iraq) nor the possibility of re-building Iraqi civil society (except on the model of a mediaeval theocracy).

It was Abdullah Muhsin I was taking about in this email from 18 Aug, in response to a post of Norman Geras', 'Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions letter' :
BBC Radio 4's PM programme picked up the story Wednesday evening. I didn't catch all of it, but they had on the IFTU man, stating that he was also opposed to the war (implying that otherwise he wouldn't be worth listening to and neglecting to mention that trade unions could hardly operate freely under Saddam Hussein).

Then over to Mark Seddon. Didn't the conference have Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton ? Yes, we welcomed them, but we prefer to have elected leaders. What about Hamid Karzai a couple of years ago, one thinks. Even The Guardian mentioned that.

I see from the latest report that the closed-mind anti-war faction in the Labour party seems to have got its way, having 'threatened demonstrations and walkouts'.

There is much speculation also that Blair might go 3 years after the next election or, as Tony Robinson argued, we could get 4 years of Blair followed by a year of his successor. The idea is that the new man would need at least 6 months before an election. They seem to do things differently elsewhere, the most obvious example being Spain, where if the PP had won the election, the leader would not have been Aznar but someone else, whose name I forget, but the FT did a profile of him, assuming the PP was going to win, before the impact of events became clear that fateful weekend in March. The Independent mentioned this too Saturday.

Anyway, Gordon Brown certainly deserves the succession and I do not see that at 59 he would be too old. Otherwise, what to make of Chirac, who may well stand at the next presidential at the age of about 74 ? But then, Brown does not have to worry about keeping immunity from prosecution.