Saturday, December 30, 2006

Bombing Germany

During the conflict last summer between Israel and Hezbollah,  I got involved in something of a discussion about comparisons of Israel's actions and those of  Britain (and the US (*))  in the Second World War (see 'The fog of war - 2'). In a subsequent e-mail exchange,  I mentioned a programme that had been shown on British TV.  I eventually got around to watching this and even later now to writing this weblog entry.  It turned out to be quite old (**). It did, however,  make two points that I think are worth highlighting.

Chamberlain told parliament in 1938 that targeting civilians would be against international law.

At Nuremburg,  no charges for bombing London, Coventry and other British cities were brought against Nazi leaders, not even against Hermann Göring. 

* Some of the details were a little hazy in my mind:  the British were largely reponsible for the devastation of German cities,  but,  as Jeff Weintraub pointed out,  the US carried out extensive fire-bombing of Japanese cities,  not to mention what happened at Hiroshima & Nagasaki.  

** 'Bombing Germany' written by Detlef Siebert,  BBC / History Channel,  Timewatch from 2001 (editor Laurence Rees),  contributions from American historian Tami Biddle.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Left in Britain

Lest we forget, car production at the Peugeot plant at Ryton, near Coventry, ended this week. Of course, there was a fair amount of publicity at the time of the closure announcement in April (*), not so much now. It's not a programme I normally watch, but I did catch BBC Midlands Today last week (6 Dec). Fairly upbeat piece about someone moving on to run a hotel in Scotland. A more gloomy view can be found on this blog.

Do you remember this: 'Unions launch one million pound boycott against Peugeot'? It turned out to have little impact.

If union activity is so ineffective and an effective industrial policy from the state is barely on the agenda, what is the British Left about?

Some clues can be gathered from a BBC discussion, 'What is Left? What is Right?' Although this was broadcast in May, it should still be possible to listen to it. There you will hear that people like Claire Fox believe it is possible to create some sort of haven of workers' control in the public services - health, education and so on.

* See also my previous post and comments here and here.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Inaccuracies and omissions

(*) Channel4 News, reporting John Reid's statement to Parliament on Monday about the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, said that he had "finally" informed us that the British government had called in the Russian ambassador the previous Friday (24 Nov). Actually, the FT (on its front page) Saturday had this: "The Foreign Office said it called in Yuri Fedotov, the Russian ambassador ..."

C4 News again: on Thursday (30 Nov) referred to "US-backed government" in Lebanon. Later, the BBC (World Service) news bulletins described it as a "Western-backed government". I leave it to readers to think how else the Lebanese government might be described.

BBC WS Newshour, discussing the need for more realpolitik in Iraq now, pointed out that in the "first" Gulf War (1990-1) the US gave Syria's a "free hand" in Lebanon. True enough, as far as it goes, and something to which not attention was paid at the time. However, it is possible to be a little more concrete: in October 1990 many people from the Christian militia of Michel Aoun were found murdered in cold blood (see comments in France, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria... ). Aoun returned to Lebanon last year and, strangely enough,  is now on the pro-Syrian side. This appears to be in order to gain support for him becoming President (BBC WS Newshour, Friday 1 Dec).

Finally, an even older one: Mudlark (FT, 30 Sept.) resolves to call time waiting at the airport for items that were previously allowed as hand luggage "John Reid minutes". Is everybody going mad? We blame not the would-be terrorists who make such measures necessary, but the government which introduces them.

* I've been so busy lately: no time to write the usual sort of post, one that develops a theme and so on. Even so, I'm over a week late with this.

Update: I have not heard that description of the Lebanese government repeated since. Still, it shows how some media organisations were sucked in, at least initially, by Hezbollah's propaganda.

Update 2 - on descriptions of the Lebanese government: Kim Ghattas in reports on Saturday (9 Dec) was still talking about a "Western-backed government", but BBC WS bulletins, Sunday, had "pro-Western government" (which is fair enough). C4 News had softened to "Western-backed government".