Archive for August, 2013

Which is the best TV channel to watch the forthcoming war series on?
August 27, 2013

Which is the best TV channel to watch the forthcoming war series on?

Al-Jazeera is now part of the Great Western Alliance and has nothing different to report from BBC and the others.

Sky News specialises in children with big eyes and no arms being rescued by British pilots in helicopters (they don’t show the British pilots that dropped the bomblets that blew off the arms in the first place and wiped out his classmates.)

CNN has lots of home colour with ‘loved ones’ waving US flags and politicians talking 1914 jingoism, surrounded by US flags and presenters wearing US flags – no coffins draped in flags allowed.

The BBC will bring back John Snow with computer graphics showing cruise missiles ‘taking out’ (as they say on RTE) battalions of bad guys.

Since the banning of Press TV, both from my satellite and the internet, I can’t get a cross-bearing at all, except for Russia Today which is very heavy on the propaganda to the point of caricature.

CCTV (that’s China, not the one in the supermarket) may have some news but its mostly smiling officials telling how they have achieved exponential growth yet again.

I regularly read Israeli news and can get information by reversing it – a Palestinian attack on the IDF (Israeli wehrmacht) means a kid throwing stones was shot etc.

Ah well! There’s always Michael Jansen in the Irish Times (joke).

Binn Beal   27th August 2013

Comments welcome here or on the forum

A Burden of Borders
August 21, 2013

Gibraltar is one of international society’s great oddities. It is locked in a stalemate of resentment with what one might assume to be its natural kin in Spain, and forever looking towards London for reassurance that it is not a forgotten member of the British overseas territories. The post boxes are Royal Mail red, the currency is pound sterling, the Union flag flies wherever there is a mast to hold it and the British Ministry of Defence is a ubiquitous presence. Its veneer is that of an ersatz theme-park Britain where there is a never ending celebration of the Queen’s Jubilee. But when you turn off the main streets you can see that this is not merely a pose for tourists, some residential areas have kerbstones painted in the style of a housing estate in Loyalist Belfast.

Once of immense geostrategic importance as a gatekeeper between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, the Strait of Gibraltar remains one of the most trafficked bodies of water on the planet, but as the airplane encroached on shipping’s primacy as both a means of civilian transport and a weapon of war, its eminence has receded. The naval history of Gibraltar is part of its branding; the street names, buildings and pubs reinforce its imperial and military identity. It is an interesting stop for the Mediterranean cruise liners which dock to allow its passengers to experience the peculiarity of what some describe as a sunnier Isle of Man, before returning to their ship with bags full of duty-free cigarettes and booze.

As one of the world’s more peaceful hostile borders, the Gibraltar-Spain squabble seldom gets attention beyond its immediate protagonists. However, it has recently been in the news due to a hullabaloo about Gibraltar allegedly sabotaging fishing grounds in the name of building an artificial reef. Spain responded by being wilfully difficult at the border, where lengthy queues were already commonplace as tourists and workers in Gibraltarian businesses attempt to commute daily from Spain. That this may be nationalistic gamesmanship from a Madrid government attempting to deflect attention from internal issues is a case well made.

The entire situation is a fallout of Britain’s historical imperial ambitions: the legacy of centuries old expansionism, colonialism, and negotiation-by-canon has left a messy residue of problems such as this. One argument runs along the lines that Britain’s influence in Gibraltar should be recognized as an outmoded relic and consigned to history. The problem is that having effectively created the defining characteristic of Gibraltarian identity as “not Spanish”, Britain has some continuing responsibility to the political trajectory of those people. In separating Gibraltar from the mainland through the creation of a border, the 18th century British Empire divided not only the land, but the hearts, minds and loyalties of the generations who would live on it.

Self determination being a touchstone of modern democratic order, it was agreed that the people of Gibraltar should decide their political future. In 2002 they voted overwhelmingly (by 99% to 1%) to reject shared sovereignty between Britain and Spain, but to remain as a British overseas territory. It can’t have been any surprise that they didn’t want to develop deeper ties into the Spanish state which had locked its border for well over a decade during General Franco’s dictatorship, and continued to play hardball whenever the whim struck. Decades of animosity and antagonism has resulted in it being perfectly clear that while Spain would snatch the territory back in a heartbeat, whatever streak of Spanishness previous generations of Gibraltarians felt has been eroded through ill feeling, negative experience and inherited suspicion.

The Spanish town which borders Gibraltar is called La Linea. It’s not really a must-see attraction on a tour of Mediterranean beauty spots. It has not enjoyed the economic prosperity that Gibraltar’s seductive low corporate tax regime has fuelled. A young woman from La Linea working as an English teacher in the town once defiantly told me: “The problem with people in Gibraltar is that they think they are not Spanish. They are Spanish.”

Gibraltar has its ‘National Day’ on September 10th. A seemingly endless procession of gentlemen step up to a podium and speechify on why Gibraltar is so great, before drinking begins on something approaching a St Patricks Day scale. Most speeches go along the lines of: “Democracy is new to our friends over the border,” (pause to let everybody nod and grin at the dig about Franco), “they do not understand that self-determination means WE will decide Gibraltar’s future, NOT London, NOT Madrid!”

Yet Gibraltar’s landmark rock predates both the British Empire and the patchwork of kingdoms that coalesced as Spain. The limestone caverns within it, rich with natural formations of awesome intricacy are an entity beyond the constructed institutions of statehood, nation or self-determination. The acquisitive scourge of possession, dominion and exploitation has driven a lamentable wedge between those who settled the north Mediterranean coast and found themselves on opposite ends of the isthmus which links Gibraltar to the mass of the Iberian Peninsula when the land passed from one jurisdiction to another during the 18th century Wars of Spanish Succession.

Over 300 years later, as the gates of the border closed in a fit of pique – maybe or maybe not about fishing – queues lengthened and tempers rose in the draining summer heat. The cackles and shrieks of seagulls overhead circling the border area, wheeling out of Gibraltar, into Spain, and back into Gibraltar again with barely a tilt of their wings seem to mock the irritable humans slowly baking in the sweltering cars jammed below. Supposedly the most intelligent beings ever to grace the planet, stuck still at an impediment of their own creation while the creatures with brains half the size of a walnut effortlessly rose with the thermals before careering with abandon into the sea to feed, rest and screech with contentment at the simplicity of their station.

Buttoned Coat Skies  21st August 2013


The US and Yemen: Protecting US Interests
August 11, 2013

Last week, we were told that both the US and the UK were closing their embassies and advising non-essential citizens to leave Yemen. Many reports are being released on the Al-Queda connection and Yemen.

Germany and France joined in the fun.  Closed their embassies and non-essential were staff flown home. Did somebody rattle their cage that bad, or are they just preparing for the next episode in the international soap called “War on Terrorism”?

There are also a few all too familiar patterns in the history of Yemen.  Strong support for Iraq in the Iraq-Iran gulf war (which did not sit well with Saudi amongst others), IMF program, officially called the PRGF (poverty reduction and growth facilty) aimed at privatizations, increased taxes, mass lay-offs etc. gone wrong and IMF pulling out, vast oil reserves (an estimated 4 billion barrels of oil), strategic position at the eastern end of the Red Sea (and thus the Suez canal), immediately across the water from those pesky Somali “Pirates”, on the doorstep of the Strait of Hormuz, vital for Iran’s oil exports, not to mention that a “friendly” regime would allow Saudi to bypass the potential threat to its oil exports from Iranian domination of the Strait of Hormuz. etc.   How long before we are told that Yemen has weapons of mass destruction?

The Americans did a study in 2012, estimating the oil reserves in Yemen to be 3 billion barrels. Other studies indicate at least 4 billion, some even higher, not to mention natural gas.Their oil is indeed under the Yemeni sand, and like elsewhere, they will go for it given half a chance. Even if they have to create that chance out of nowhere……D=3&SubID=6796

There have been recent talks about US companies taking an interest in the oil reserves in Yemen but also Shell.…D=3&SubID=6796

Yemen Minister of Oil and Minerals Ahmed Dares met on Wednesday in Houston (Texas U.S.A) with Shell Vice-President for business development, Andy Caltiz to discuss future collaboration.

All in all, in the last 10 days US drones killed over 20 people. Surely, that’s no reason to get cheesed off with the Americans, is it?

The US is reported to be preparing special operations forces for possible strikes against al-Qaeda in Yemen.

BBC news at noon

I wonder, is CNN on the ground to provide live entertainment?

Despite the American sponsored and backed Yemen National Dialogue declaring drones and the use of them illegal in Yemen, one of them killed another load of people today (7th August). Reports speak of 2 cars in the middle of nowhere being blown up by rockets fired from the drone.

Witnesses and local officials in the province of Shabwah said the drone fired at least six missiles at two vehicles in a remote area about 70km north of the provincial capital, Ataq. Both vehicles were destroyed.

“Eye Witnesses” (they do come in handy in the middle of the Yemeni desert) also very conveniently confirmed that some of the charred remains definitely belonged to an Al Queda fighter. So reason enough to hail this is yet another victory in the war against terrorism, but of course no mention that Yemen is the poorest of poor countries in the area, and that any argument with authority may have a lot more to do with the poverty maintained amongst the vast majority of the population, despite the oil and gas dollars rolling in. Instead, anybody who disagrees with the powers that be is accused of acting for personal gain and in order to blackmail the government into freeing jailed relatives…

So far, (in the last ten days) about 29 suspected militants have been killed by unmanned U.S. aircraft

(my emphasis)

What happened to innocent until proven guilty?    Yemeni authorities have offered a five million Yemeni riyals bounty for information leading to the capture of “militants”. I suppose just killing people on sight and declaring them “militants” is one way of bringing down the bill for all the military hardware the US has flogged to them? Just knock the $23K of the bill, is it? Oil and gas would of course be the main currency to pay for the toys, no?

In fact, the actions are, as agreed by the US themselves, very much so illegitimate. The Yemen National Dialogue, recognized by the US, has unanimously declared the whole drone program illegal and ordered it to stop immediately. But the US once again chooses to take or leave as it sees fit, rather than obeying the real legitimate, US recognized bodies in the country itself. Can’t both have your cake and eat it, no matter how hard you try….

People might say that we should rely on the “facts” put out by the US government.  Pity that didn’t apply to the “weapons of mass destruction” scam, it could have saved a lot of innocent lives then, and many more to come, for the whole current mess in the region is a direct result of that “fact”…

I have personal, first hand experience with US foreign policy when it comes to “protecting their interests”. 9 years of it (1981-1988), capped by the downing of flight IR655  by USS Vincennes in July 1988. As a result of that war crime in the Strait of Hormuz, (the crew on USS Vincennes were the only ones of all the many ships and aircraft in the area who very conveniently didn’t hear the broadcast from Bandar Abbas air traffic control) me and my crew spent days fishing bits and pieces of human bodies out of the Strait. Not something I’ll forget in a hurry, and not an experience that will allow me to start trusting US policies. Any country that thinks it has the right to interfere in the politics or economy of another country is, simply by claiming that right, wrong from the outset. No matter what facts (“our interest”) they fabricate.

Everybody is indeed entitled to their own opinion, but nobody, not even the US, is entitled to force their opinion on others, be it by fabricating facts or creating scenarios to manipulate opinion and justify the unjustifiable. When I read/see/hear American foreign policy, I know, from experience, that I’m looking at a pack of lies. And with all that, I do of course not even mention the US support and subsequent tolerance of the Greek Junta, just because it suited them…

It doesn’t justify going blowing up marathon runners in Boston or other crimes like that, far from it. The US foreign policies do however create a very fertile recruiting ground for recruiting the nutters who will do stuff like the Boston bombing. The US policies provide them with the reason, that is a fact, the only fact.

Nothing illustrates the wrong-headedness of the US’ drone programme better than the story of Jaber Salim, a Yemeni scholar known for denouncing al-Qaeda. Jaber’s family always worried he would be targeted by militants, in revenge for his strong denunciations of their actions. But in the end it was a US drone strike in Hadramout last August which ended his life. Jaber was a natural ally for the US in Yemen – yet as a result of the drone programme, he is instead being used as a recruitment tool for extremists.

This is only one of the many examples of how US foreign policy is the maker of its own problems. Flight IR655 is another one. If you want to know why Iranians dig their heels in when it comes to not standing to attention when Uncle Sam says so (How dare they!), there is one of many very good reasons. The SAVAK is another one, as is Saddam Hussein, once a very important American puppet. The Americans may have forgotten because it ain’t on TV any longer, the Iranians haven’t forgotten. A few million deaths later, it’s etched in their memory for ever. That is the difference. Same with the Iraqi’s, Afghani’s, Yemeni’s, and every body else who has been/is being pushed around by US foreign policy.

It would be a very good thing if the American people would simply start thinking a little about things instead of watching the sound and light shows over Bagdad and Tripoli on CNN (in between the important bits like Sex in the City, Oprah and Dr Phil of course), and instead ask a very simple question: “What if somebody did this to us, what would I do?”. The answer to that is enough reason to revise the policy, or should be.

In a nutshell, the problem is that US foreign polices look at what they can do others for, rather than what they can do for others. Modern day history gives many, many instances of this, backed up by many, many deaths… The problem is that the US government consistently invests in governments instead of in people. Governments change as soon as the next psychopath sees his/her chance, or the current psychopath steps out of US dictated line (ie. Saleh in Yemen, or Saddam Hussein in Iraq for that matter). People however evolve. How they evolve depends very much so on how they are treated. And that is where the whole thing miserably fails, time and time again, because they get treated like disposables, in the furtherance of short-term power instead of vital components of a long term, sustainable future for all, including the US..

I will repeat it again, if a fraction of the money invested by the US in propping up corrupt puppet governments with military hardware and military personnel (in return for the protection of “US interests”) would have been spent on people instead of psychopaths, millions of people would not have needlessly died or be living in poverty and fear of their lives. Some of it could, God forbid even have been spent at home, on disadvantaged US citizens.
Governments come and go (or get pushed), headlines are past tense the moment they are printed, but people have very long memories, especially when it comes to remembering those who threat them like crap. Put somebody with such memories with his/her back against the wall, as is happening in the Yemen and elsewhere, and you simply don’t know what will happen next. What you can bet on is that whatever it is, it will not be nice… 9/11 springs to mind.
Like everybody else, the US government must learn that they are not just responsible for their immediate actions, they are also responsible for the consequences of those actions. Unfortunately, those consequences usually mean lots of dead people, including lots of Americans. The continuing short-sightedness that continues to rule foreign policies is mind-boggling.

 “nearly $600 million to Yemen for everything from spy drones to opinion polls to pickup trucks as part of a shadow war to fight terrorism”

Meanwhile, 600 million later, somebody is wondering why it hasn’t paid off. Here’s why.
600 million dollars would have build an awful lot of schools, trained a lot of badly needed teachers, health care professionals, and other very much needed skills which are always sadly lacking in impoverished communities. Instead of threatening the people of Yemen with 600 million worth of military hardware in the hands of a psychotic leader(at what profit to the death merchants back home?), the US could have given the people of Yemen 600 million worth of hope and a possible future to look forward to. But then, such an action would of course deny the US military a testing ground for their new toys, and deny the US politicians back home good looking headlines. After all, who wants to know how many hundreds of adults and children in Yemen were taught to read and write if we can tell them that we again killed 6 “terrorists” today, and publish the gory pictures to go with it?

Nothing has changed, and nothing will, until the US government stops backing every psychopath in the world who steals from his own people and is found prepared to hand the loot over to the US. Be it oil, gas, diamonds, gold, or simply a free training ground with live targets for the next generation of killing machines…

Ephilant   8 August 2013

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