Sunday, January 29, 2006

Vote for Hitch

I got round to listening to the programme on Radio 3,  about British and other European writers living in America, featuring Christopher Hitchens. He concluded by saying that the one thing that might tempt him back to Britain was the prospect of becoming a Member of Parliament. This would have to be guaranteed, but he still saw the House of Lords as ridiculous. Another drawback was the cut in salary. 

Highly recommended is 'The Smell of Paradise', a Polish documentary shown on BBC4's Storyville. They started off interviewing Zelimkhan Yandarbiev (Yandarbiyev, Yanderbiyev) in Qatar in Jan 2004. He met Mullah Omar in Afghanistan in 2000 and asked for political support. The Taliban recognized Chechnya as an independent state.

France and history, still

I've been too busy to blog since I got back from France on Wednesday, so this is terribly out of date.

But then, it's like I've never been away over there. They're still arguing about 'memory and history', 'the positive role of France' during the colonialism etc., with a 1 hour 40 minutes discussion programme on France 3 chaired by Christine Ockrent. There were some good points made, but it ended on a rather absurd self-congratulatory tone, with everybody agreeing that at least France is ahead of other countries, including Britain, in addressing the issue. I don't, however, know of any other countries that have got themselves into the same mess (of politicians telling historians how to interpret history.

On the other hand, Le Monde had some very good coverage on the background to the contretemps between Russia and Britain: 
Stanislav Dmitrievski, le fondateur de la Société d'amitié russo-tchétchène de Nijny-Novgorod est accusé d'"incitation à la haine raciale" et encourt cinq ans de réclusion pour avoir publié en 2004 dans son journal, Pravozachtchita, un appel à la paix du président tchétchène Aslan Maskhadov, tué depuis par les forces fédérales. L'accusation est surprenante lorsqu'on songe aux milliers d'organisations extrémistes, racistes et antisémites qui ont pignon sur rue en Russie sans être inquiétées. L'ONG, elle aussi visée par un contrôle fiscal, est menacée de fermeture. [...] "Les autorités veulent contraindre au silence la seule source d'information fiable sur la Tchétchénie", affirme Oleg Panfilov, militant des droits des journalistes. "On est en train de dire que la liberté d'expression, c'est de l'extrémisme, qu'il n'y a pas de guerre en Tchétchénie et que les journalistes sont des fanatiques", déplore Iouri Djibladze, du Centre pour les droits de l'homme et la démocratie à Moscou.
"Moscou s'attaque..."

Le Monde also reported that Angela Merkel has quickly established a strong position both in Germany and internationally, with an unprecedented 22% rise in popularity since her narrow election victory, according to Der Spiegel.

Back home, Peter Tatchell on C4 News recalled the 1983 by-election when he was defeated by a young, rising, Liberal star - 'Simon Hughes: the straight candidate.'

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

More on Chirac's doctrine

I posted this comment on Emmanuel's weblog, but since he purges these comments after a while, I will post it here too.

Ineffective / inefficace: quelle grosse gaffe ! Merci pour la correction. Je continue en français quand même, compte tenu que je suis en France au moment où j'écris.

Bien sûr il faut
imaginer des scénarios… Celui que j’ai cité était une réponse nucléaire à une attaque nucléaire. Quelques uns de plus:

l'utilisation des armes nucléaires contre un attaque sur l'Allemagne de l'Ouest par des forces conventionnelles supérieures (c'est ce que l'on imaginait à l'époque) de l’Union soviétique ;

l'utilisation réelle des armes chimiques par Irak contre Iran, face à une défaite dans une guerre conventionnelle ;(voir l'analyse ici);

l'utilisation des armes nucléaires contre Irak en 1991, dans le cas d'utilisation des armes chimiques ou biologique ;

l'utilisation des armes nucléaires par le Pakistan contre l’Inde face à des forces conventionnelles supérieures (imaginée vers 2002).

Ce qui est choquant dans la doctrine Chirac, c’est qu’elle laisse ouverte la possibilité de l’utilisation des armes nucléaires contre le terrorisme, pas comme réponse à des armes de destruction massive, pas dans le cas où la survie du pays est en cause. Il est difficile d’imaginer une attaque pire que le 11 septembre, sans l’utilisation des ADM. On verra si la doctrine sera re-affirmée après 2007, par de Villepin ou Sarkozy ou qui que ce soit de la gauche.

Par ailleurs, l’extension de la protection nucléaire aux alliés européens et la mise en commun des ressources français et britanniques soulèvent des questions de ‘command and control’ – qui pousse sur le bouton?– qu'il est difficile de désimbriquer de la question de souveraineté – nationale ou européenne.

Pour la France, il s'agit de réduire les coûts, en les partageant. Pour nous (anglais) il n’est pas clair qu’une coopération avec les français serait moins coûteuse que la continuation avec les moyens de livraison de technologie américaine.

Update: link added above.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


I heard a trailer earlier for yesterday's 'Afternoon Play' about Heidegger on BBC Radio 4. They referred to him as 'the Nazi philosopher'. The same in the Radio Times. I know he was a Nazi party member and sympathiser, but that description makes him sound like the party's ideologist.

The play also had a major part for Hannah Arendt (played by Jemma Redgrave), though this was hardly mentioned in the publicity (the RT's cast list had 'Hannah'.)

Friday, January 20, 2006

Chirac's new doctrine

Chirac expounds a new nuclear doctrine, to widespread criticism in the rest of Europe, albeit limited in Britain. 

France Inter had its commenters on the subject both Thursday evening and Friday morning. Negative reaction seems justified in view of one passage in the statement that seems to envisage a first strike against non-nuclear states. In Le Figaro's version:
Toutefois, «les dirigeants d'Etats qui auraient recours à des moyens terroristes» ou «qui envisageraient d'utiliser, d'une manière ou d'une autre, des armes de destruction massive» sont prévenus : «Ils s'exposeraient à une réponse ferme et adaptée de notre part», réponse qui pourrait être «conventionnelle», mais aussi «d'une autre nature».
This was a point that I think Paul Quilès of the PS, former Defence minister, made, also on France Inter Friday morning. As Dominique Bromberger remarks:
Même les Etats-Unis de George Walker Bush n’avaient pas décidé d’anéantir Kaboul et Kandahar après les attaques du 11 septembre 2001.
Reaction in Britain was largely from the Financial Times, as the BBC noted, Friday, as well as Le Monde.

Chirac, seeking to spread the cost (about 10% of France's military budget), also mooted the idea of extending the 'nuclear umbrella' to European allies. Apart from the question of whether these allies want this protection, issues of command and control would also seem quite tricky.

The front page of Saturday's paper edition of the FT promised a couple more articles, but they had mysteriously vanished from the inside pages. I found them on the website: Nuclear tango forces new US strategy; Chirac speech not expected to hit Iran talks.
Emmanuel had a post notable for its sardonic humour (see his footnote) and the way comments initially turned to the riots in the banlieues.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Departing from the party line

Earlier this month, Norm highlighted Jonathan Freedland's, erm, revision of the standard Guardian line on Iraq and Bush. In last week's New Statesman, the same journalist also had some interesting things to say about Israel and Sharon:
On 7 February 2001, the day after Ariel Sharon won his first landslide election victory, this is what I wrote in the Guardian. "It's as shocking as if Jean-Marie Le Pen had become president of France, or Ian Paisley ruled over Northern Ireland. [...] For anyone who wishes peace for that nation and its neighbours, today is among the darkest of days."
The choice was not between the right, just solution and Sharon's plan: it was between Sharon's plan and nothing.

People like me decided to seize on what Sharon was offering. Let him do the heavy lifting, potentially ending 90 per cent of the occupation; [...]

And there is a wider lesson here for the left, which watches the Israel-Palestine conflict so closely. We can keep demanding absolute justice for the Palestinians and a complete resolution of the conflict, but the result will be that the Palestinians get nothing. We can demand a full, final peace treaty, but we will find ourselves in the same camp as Binyamin Netanyahu, who also says nothing should be resolved until everything is resolved. He, too, demands perfection, knowing it will never happen.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Limited strikes

According to a Special report in The Economist (14 Jan) on Iran, rather than a full-scale attack, the US might prefer
to launch an attritional campaign by attacking Natanz and Bushehr, recognising that the resulting damage would at best delay Iran's nuclear progress. This is certainly the most that Israel could contemplate unilaterally. Such an attack would be a declaration of a war that Israel could start but might not finish without American protection. And Israeli fighter-bombers would find it hard to reach Iran without passing through American-controlled airspace.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

France and history

As I briefly touched on before, there has been quite a debate in France about history. I caught up with some of this when I finally read an old copy of Le Monde. French historians are understandably peeved about the state's continual attempts to tell them how to do their job. The February 2005 directive on 'the positive role of France' was only the latest in a series, previous ones being in 1990, January 2001 and May 2001.

This last declared slavery (abolished by the Republic in 1791, reinstated by Napoleon in 1802) to be a crime against humanity.

As for the non-commemoration of the battle of Austerlitz, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing said he would have celebrated it and so, in his opinion, would have de Gaulle.

Mémoire et histoire, examen critique ou repentance : le débat fait désormais rage

Update: more from The Economist (17 Dec). The socialists, who now admit they were dozing in February, are calling for a repeal of the law.

Behind the debate is 'a fratricidal war on the political right, which has intensified since the riots in the banlieues'. Chirac and de Villepin have distanced themselves from the February law, leaving Sarkozy as its chief defender, railing against “excessive repentance”.  'In some ways, the row over colonial history suits the chiraquiens: the more Mr Sarkozy leans to the right, the more space there is in the centre for Mr de Villepin.'

Ismail Kadare

I kept meaning to listen to BBC Radio 4's series 'Stories from Eastern Europe', but never quite managed it. Tonight's, though, the last, is one not to miss - a story by the Albanian writer, Ismail Kadare, The Dream Bearer.   

Meanwhile, over on Radio 3, Sunday Feature has Christopher Hitchens and others, in a programme about British and European writers in the USA.

Some words of Winston Churchill's that bloggers might well take to heart: "I am going to give a long speech as I have not had time to write a short one" (quoted by Rosie Blau in the FT Magazine, reviewing 'Very Short Introductions...' etc.). 

Nightmare scenario

It is 2030. The nightmare has happened. Nuclear missiles have lifted off from a nation in the middle east. They are heading for Britain, and will strike within the hour.

Regrettably, 20 years earlier Britain decided that it would not keep a nuclear arsenal. The last British Trident submarine was phased out in 2025. The prime minister has no button to press. The missiles fall, gutting the sceptred isle. The PM turns to the remaining western nuclear powers for help: America and France. But the aggressor nation still has missiles left, and it is clear that in the event of any retaliatory strike, Washington or Paris will share the fate of London. France declines to act. In America the debate is longer and harder fought, but in the end the result is the same. The US missile defence system still doesn't work reliably, and the US is unwilling to lose cities purely to avenge the British. The attackers knew this would happen: this is why unarmed Britain was the target.
Lewis Page, 'Hands off our subs' in Prospect. Read the rest - it should still be freely available for the next few days. Also in the 'December' issue: Oliver Kamm on hedge funds; Tim King on the French riots. This confirms the hypocrisy over public housing that I wrote about previously.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Maria Yudina

Harry Eyres, in the FT Weekend section, 10 Dec, mentioned the story of Maria Yudina and Stalin and the Mozart concerto. I found a reference to the FT piece in Italian.  The story  was mentioned in a TV programme some years ago (Channel 4 or BBC ?). She also said that it at least showed that he had a small spot of goodness in his black soul. She got away with that too.

The only reference I could find to his 'black soul' was christian_comment - accessible in Google's cache (retrieved on 29 May 2005):  
During the darkest time of Stalinism in Russia, at an evening concert, Maria Yudina gave a matchless performance of Mozart's piano concerto. Joseph Stalin demanded that a recording of it be made at once, and it was to be presented to him the next morning. This meant that all involved had to work all through the night. When the record was delivered, Maria Yudina said that she was surprised that Stalin had enough humanity to appreciate such music, and she promised to pray for his black soul every day. When found dying. Stalin had on his record turntable Maria Yudina's recording.
For the idea that the reprise took place in the middle of the night:
An interesting story has it that she once played a Mozart concerto for Soviet radio and on hearing this, Stalin ordered a copy of the performance to be sent to him immediately. Since no one dared to tell Stalin that it was a live broadcast, the pianist and the entire orchestra found themselves brought back to the recording studio at four in the morning.
Several people (from a search for "Maria Yudina") claim that the piano concerto in question was the 23rd. BBC Northern Ireland - again from the cache or try this pdf - Encore For Stalin by Robin Glendinning,  4th August [2005] 14:15 on R4:
Two conductors collapsed in fear before Maria Yudina took to the helm and a record of the Concerto was finally dispatched before daybreak to the Kremlin. In gratitude Stalin sent Yudina a bucket of gold coins. She wrote him a hostile note in response which everyone considered suicidal. A warrant for her arrest was duly prepared but shockingly Stalin could not bring himself to sign it.
My emphasis. The hostile note might have contained the 'black soul' remark. Mikhail Segelman has this:
Yudina received a "material assistance" from Stalin and in return sent him these notes: "I will pray for you day and night to ask God to forgive your terrible sins before people and the country."

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Plastic surgery

'As recently noted in an article in The Wall Street Journal, vaginal plastic surgery is one of the field's fastest growing sectors'. This includes 'hymen-reattachment'. 'Our Vaginas, Ourselves', Daphne Merkin in the New York Times Magazine, 1 Jan 2006.
it has always seemed to me that one of the singular advantages of being a woman lies precisely in the "dark continent" quality of our genital cartography. If we women don't get to stalk around flaunting our virile equipment the way men do, we also don't have to deal with locker-room slights or bedroom disparagements. We carry our signs of arousal - our receptivity - on the inside, as opposed to the straightforward jack-in-the-box readability of men. And although it's true that the very structural inaccessibility of the vagina may lead to difficulties with body image (how do you go about envisioning something you can't see?), it also serves as a kind of protection against the relentless judgment - the fierce critique - of every pixel of our appearance that women, far more than men, are inclined to. Men may have begun to worry a bit more about their drooping jowls than they used to and may be the target of those abject penile-enhancement ads that pop up all over the Internet, but 90 percent of all cosmetic procedures are performed on women. So having one less visual surface to commodify - to narrow our eyes at accusingly, checking out for acceptability or desirability in terms of size, shape and firmness - leads me to offer up silent thanks for small favors of chromosomal destiny.

Least-Developed Countries

Article giving some background on the trade talks last month:
The LDCs [least-developed countries] will not be asked to make cuts in goods or farm tariffs in the Doha round, and their concerns in trade talks tend to be narrow and specific. One pressing matter is cotton subsidies. Four west African countries - Benin, Mali, Burkina Faso and Chad - that grow large amounts of cotton are hurt by the dumping of heavily subsidised American cotton on the world market. But most LDCs do not compete much with the products subsidised by Europe and the US, so such distortions are not quite the cause celebre that western NGO activism might suggest.

One of the main concerns of the remaining countries is their so-called “preferences” - special access rights to western markets, some longstanding, some more recent. Partly because of their poverty and partly because of the hangover of colonial preferences in Europe, these rights already give the least-developed countries much better access to western markets than those enjoyed by better-off developing countries such as China or Brazil. They want to secure these deals irrevocably into the future and remove some of the rules that complicate them. They also want the US and Japan to match the generosity of the EU’s scheme, which allows tariff-free access for almost all products.
 'Dipak and the Goliaths', FT Magazine, 10 Dec 2005 (subscribers only). More extracts here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The blog's year

Just to finish off the review of 2005: some of the more technical things. Although this blog started in September 2004, it was mid-February before I added a 'Number of visitors' counter. I was on the blogroll on Chris Brooke's site, The Virtual Stoa, quite early.

'Referring Web Pages' (at the bottom) was a straight steal from Eric the unread and Drink soaked trots for war. I must say I've never seen too many visitors from being on this at other sites.

In May, there was a big upsurge in hits. I'm not too sure where these were from. I discovered some time later that a remark I made, on (the probable lack of) a referendum on the voting system for Westminster, was picked up by siaw, but they linked not to this blog, but to my comment on The Virtual Stoa.

In July, I did the translation into French of the 'Unite Against Terror'  statement: this has been a steady, if not massive, source of traffic. 

Norman Geras does not have comments on his weblog, but he always responds to the emails I send him from time to time. In August, he put me on his blogroll.

I do occasionally get interesting comments, like the one from Anonymous here, but mostly they are spam. After I turned on 'word verification', I got another unexplained increase in visits in mid-November, which I thought might be an attempt to 'break the code'. After that, the comments stopped completely.

Towards the end of November, there seemed to be a problem with truefresco's Referrers code, so I looked around and found Extreme Tracking (see the icon at the bottom of the page). This is an extremely useful free tool.

I don't include many pictures in my blog, but when I do, like the one of Ahmedinejad, they get quite a few hits, via Google Images.

PS: Virtual Stoa seems to have dropped me off his blogroll. However, a fairly offhand  comment brought a number of visits.

French Hostage freed

Bernard Planche est rentré en France lundi 9 janvier après 35 jours de détention en Irak par un groupe armé. AP/CHRISTOPHE ENA

There are different versions of the circumstances of his release. According to word to France Inter, the French Foreign Ministry repeated word for word the account given by the US Army. This was that Bernard Planche had escaped when his captors fled as they saw American forces approaching as part of a joint operation with the Iraqi army (I could find nothing in the NYT on this, so the links are in French, from Le Monde). 

From the brief statement issued  by M Planche:
Je tiens à remercier très sincèrement et du plus profond de mon coeur M. le président de la République , M. le ministre des affaires étrangères, tous les services spécialisés du ministère de la défense qui se sont impliqués pour moi, les médias, qui ont bien voulu sensibiliser les pouvoirs publics français, mais aussi américains et même irakiens, en particulier RFI (Radio France Internationale) pour les flashes infos me concernant et leurs émissions de soutien qui sont les seuls que je pouvais recevoir pendant ma détention.
 Jacques Chirac thanked "the coalition forces". More here.

Note: there was a fairly amusing mistype in the statement when I downloaded the page:
' je remercie mes p[r]oches, ma famille...'

Monday, January 09, 2006


More4 is an offshoot of Channel4: more time for them to tell us what a disaster the intervention in Iraq was. 

Unfortunately, my current technology does not allow me to watch or record both this (on digital) and 'Balderdash and Piffle'. So, it will have to be the latter. Much of the rest of the 'season' seems to be repeats (Peter Oborne, again).

Thank goodness for Democratiya.

Update: I suppose the programme could have been worse. On Blair's decision to take part in the invasion, in spite of Bush offering that the British should just come in for the 'peace-keeping', as indeed Jack Straw suggested, Peter Riddell remarks that this was 'one of the most fascinating moments in recent British politics. .. It was inconceivable that Britain would stand aside at that point: it would be saying, "we're not really in the big league". 

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Not too hopeful new year...

Another report on Uzbekistan by Ian MacWilliam in From Our Own Correspondent. There's no page on the website for it, but you can listen there - it's 2nd in. You can now download the mp3 or hear it by podcast. 

Sorry, that's probably the Radio 4 edition; I heard it on the World Service.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

resting on his shoulders

I heard this, but I'd forgotten it. I came across it while looking for something else. This was before Sharon had his major stroke - Coup de tonnerre en Israël, Chronique du 04 janvier 2006:
Tout semblait devenir possible, même un accord de partage de Jérusalem mais tout reposait sur les épaules d’un homme, un seul, Ariel Sharon, seul capable de réunir une majorité stable aux élections du printemps prochain et de concrétiser, donc, ces espoirs. Or cet homme, victime d’une légère attaque avant Noël et qui devrait subir demain une intervention cardiaque bénigne mais demandant tout de même une anesthésie générale est accusé, depuis hier, de corruption par la police israélienne.
L’affaire est extrêmement embrouillée. Rien n’est avéré mais la police affirme détenir des preuves pouvant démontrer que le Premier ministre et ses fils auraient reçu des versements d’un montant de trois millions de dollars dans le cadre d’un financement occulte de la campagne électorale de 1999, celle qui avait porté Ariel Sharon au pouvoir.
From the following day's:
Tout imposait le tournant pris par Ariel Sharon mais s’il n’est plus là pour l’incarner et le mener à bien, qui le pourra ?
Côté palestinien, Mahmoud Abbas, le successeur de Yasser Arafat, ne peut tenir les rênes, si peu qu’il le fasse, qu’autant que les perspectives de paix demeurent crédibles et proches.

A year in blogging (part 2)

In July, famine in Niger. 4 more posts on Africa (Tanzania, South Africa, Rwanda). At least people were beginning to talk about  addressing global poverty. 3 posts on this (one, two, three) and 3 on the environment (one, two, three).

By the end of August, Iraqi politicians had agreed a draft constitution. The news continued to be one of almost daily terrorist attacks, but there was considerable political progress, signalled by the three elections, in the last of which significant numbers of the Sunni community took part. 43 posts on Iraq  (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen,  fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-seven, twenty-eight, twenty-ninethirty, thirty-one, thirty-two, thirty-three, thirty-four, thirty-five, thirty-six, thirty-seven, thirty-eight, thirty-nineforty, forty-one, forty-two, forty-three)

8 posts on elsewhere in the Middle East and Arab world (Egypt - onetwo; Algeria - one, two; Ba'athism, Morocco, democracy, dress). 3 posts on human rights (one, two, three).

In September hurricane Katrina struck and caused chaos in New Orleans (maybe somewhat exaggerated by initial reports). Smug comments from Europe about American racism were shattered by the riots that started the following month in Paris and other French cities. 6 posts on the US (one, two, three, four, five, six).
18 posts on France (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen,  fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen), plus 3 on the headscarf (one, two, three) and 2 on Les Nouveaux Imposteurs (one, two).
Just 5 posts on Afghanistan this year (one, two, three, four, five), plus some comments here.
Tariq Ramadan was appointed to a British government committee: 4 posts on him (one, two, three, four). 6 more on Islamic issues (one, two, three, four, five, six).

On the 3rd of October, it was agreed to start talks for Turkish entry into the EU: 5 posts on Turkey (one, two, three, four, five).

In November,   Angela Merkel was finally confirmed as new German chancellor, bringing to an end 6 months of uncertainty: 7 posts on Germany (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven).

In December, David Cameron became leader of the Conservatives in Britain. Of course, we also had the election in May, bombs in July: 14  posts on  the UK  (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen).

As for the rest, there were 5 posts on women's issues (how patronising! one, two, three, four, five)  and  one on sexual behaviour (that's even worse!). There were 3 on socialism (one, two, three) and one on unions.  There were 2  on blogging (one, two) and one on the Internet.

On linguistic subjects, there were 4 (neo-pessimism,  sad, ungoogled,  began/begun);  on literary topics, 15 (Orwell, FT Mag, 1935 Congress / Sartre, Proust, John Le Carré; 2 on Ian McEwan - one, twothe NYT / think tanks; 2 on book reviews - one, two; Vasily Grossman, Sarah Kane, Slavoj Zizek, C.S. Lewis  / J.K.Rowling, Bleak House).

There were 5 posts on terrorism (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen) and, getting onto fairly philosophical matters, 8 on 'Relativism' (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight), one on 'liberals' and one on 'degenerates'.

The year in brief: by mid-year, 'Europe' had almost caught up with Iran and was not too far behind Iraq; but then the previous pattern re-asserted itself. Uzbekistan was also covered fairly heavily after May.

A year in blogging (part 1)

I know the first week of this new year is almost over, but 2005 was the first full year of this blog: time to take stock.

January: the year started with many in Asia trying to recover from the aftermath of the tsunami. It ended with the prospect of even more possibly dying, following the earthquake in Pakistan / India.
I spent quite a bit of time looking at the influential views of Noam Chomsky: a total of 6 posts on Chomsky and Vietnam (one, two, three, four, five, six). Right at the end of the year I returned to another subject of Chomsky's "classic":  Spain and its Civil War.
The first of a total of 10 posts on Israel and Palestine (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten).

In February, Rafik Hariri was murdered by a bomb in Beirut: a total of 12 posts on Lebanon and Syria (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve)

In March, Aslan Maskhadov, the former Chechen President, was assassinated by the Russian state. 7 posts on Chechnya (one, two, three, four, five - see forum, six, seven) and 2 posts on Russia (one, two).  
 Also, one on China.

By April, there was a new Pope: 8 posts on Catholicism and Poland (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight).
2 more on Eastern Europe and the Cold War (one, two).

On 13 May, news started coming through from Andijan. 19 posts on the massacre there and the continued repression in Uzbekistan (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen,  fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen). Also, one on Central Asia and the Caucasus in general and one mentioning Turkmenistan.
Further afield in Asia, 4 posts on Japan, Nepal, Malaysia, Singapore,

We'd been talking about the EU constitution since October of the previous year, but on the 29th France rejected it: 16 posts on Europe (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen,  fifteen, sixteen).

On the 24th of June Mahmoud Ahmedinejad was elected President: 30 posts on Iran (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen,  fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, thirty).
3 posts on economics and finance (one, two, three). 

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Suez, Eden and Spain

Peter Tatchell, at Labour Friends of Iraq in November (via Harry's Place):
Franco’s Spain and Pinochet’s Chile were tea parties by comparison to Iran’s Islamist bloodfest. Since the ayatollah’s seized power in 1979, nearly 100,000 Iranians have been murdered [...] In the four months following the June election of hardline President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, over 80 people are known to have been executed or sentenced to death. Under Iranian law, girls as young as nine and boys as young as 15 can be hanged. So far this year, seven children have been executed.
I know a lot of people were killed after the Iranian revolution, especially in the early years. We should, however, also remember that, according to Antony Beevor's The Spanish Civil War, 'the most widely quoted figure for executions and political killings by the conquerors between 1939 and 1943 is nearly 200,000.' At Castellón de la Plana, prisoners who requested permission not to attend mass 'were marched there with the others, then, when they refused to kneel during the service, they were hauled out and shot in the courtyard.' (P390-2)

 After the fall of Barcelona in January 1939 alone 'it is said that as many as many as 10,000 people were killed in five days.' (P367: it is unclear whether this is included in the earlier figure of 200,000.) Earlier, 'rearguard slaughter' took place in Republican held territory as well, but was far heavier in areas captured by the Nationalists: 'the figure for the war must exceed 100,000 and may be nearer to 200,000'. (P106-7) The economic consequences of the war and the settlement imposed afterwards were also disastrous: 'in the most depressed areas the infant mortality rate was higher than 50 per cent.' (P393) Some tea party.

There was a programme shown on BBC TV a month or so ago, about Suez 1956. Amongst the rather forced parallels that were drawn with Iraq 2003, it was said that Anthony Eden talked about 'regime change'. The archive footage they actually showed had him saying something more like, "We must not allow fascist aggression to go unchallenged: we know what happens when the world fails to stand up to fascism." (You can hear a different extract of Eden here.) 

Eden had good reason for saying this. According to Beevor again (P159-160), when the war broke out in 1936, Eden, as foreign secretary, handled the situation virtually on his own. And the British policy was crucial: 'The French government acted most loyally by us.' Eden ' "decided to announce that Britain would apply an arms embargo without waiting for other powers." This in effect meant denying arms to the recognized government and ignoring those going to the rebels [i.e. the fascists who eventually came to be controlled by Franco].'