Notes On The News
by Gwydion M Williams
- Iran: I’d Lie For You (And That’s The Truth)
- U-2 Can Lie About Russia
- Tory Brexit Blues
- Handmaidens for Greenpeace?
- India Affirms its Hindu Identity
Iran: I’d Lie For You (And That’s The Truth)
The difference between the current Iran tanker row and a ‘Heavy Metal’ pop fantasy is that Heavy Metal doesn’t get anyone killed.
‘I’d Lie for You (And That’s the Truth)’ was a 1995 song by US pop-star ‘Meat Loaf’. Its spectacular video features a Middle-Eastern tyrant and a demoness. It worked as realisation of all of the weirdness and nonsense knocking about in Anglo heads.
Similar nonsense dressed in a smart suit and with the appearance of reason is put in charge of a gigantic military machine. Controls the vast economic power of the USA.
Nonsense one could laugh at, except it kills millions and causes gigantic suffering.
Wise Cold War victors would have used the trillions no longer needed for a global war-machine to make it easy and pleasant for Russia to move to a version of the Western system. And they might in the longer term have toppled Communist China, vulnerable after the popular revolt it crushed in June 1989. It was shaky back then, surviving when similar regimes mostly fell to mass protests later the same year.
None of the Cold War victors were at all wise, apart from George Soros, who sensibly called for a ‘Marshall Plan’. Wanted to repeat the success in winning over West Germany, Italy and Japan. He was disbelieved by people who mistook New Right Fairy Tales for Deep Wisdom. And Soros himself makes no connection between his advice being ignored then and the rise of Putin a few years later. A Jewish multi-millionaire showing real concern for Russian suffering might have made a big difference – but that was just one of many opportunities he missed.
The West let Russia be looted. They also spent an estimated six thousand million dollars on wars that killed half a million people. (Some would say actual deaths were far higher.)
It began in 1990, with a mysterious failure by the relevant US ambassador to warn off Saddam Hussein when he asked about using military force to deal with Kuwaiti cheating on shared oil resources. He correctly noted that the USA would be unhappy with a long and costly war. But he could have been reminded that the US airforce could do him vast damage at very little cost.
This reminds me of the mysterious failure by Britain’s Foreign Secretary to tell Imperial Germany that it would be unacceptable to send an army through neutral Belgium. It was not clear if Britain would mind. France had joined Russia’s threatened war to defend Serbia’s probable guilt in the murder of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.
It was treated as minor by Britain when Germany asked about it, and then an unspeakable crime when they actually did it. Suggesting that it was a trap, laid by people who had long wanted a war to cripple Germany. Who thought it was the best answer to Germany displacing the British Empire in the system of global trade that Britain had set up.
Probably some powerful Western leaders thought a war against Iraq would be a smart move. Would produce docile regimes that would let back in the oil interests that had been kicked out by Arab Nationalists, a cause dear to the heart of many powerful US politicians. Notably Dick Cheney, who later as Vice-President helped organise the 2003 invasion.
The first Gulf War in 1990-91 featured a lot of lies, including a shocking and entirely false story about Iraqi soldiers throwing Kuwaiti babies out of incubators. And a long-running claim that Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction’ were a danger to the West.
Saddam had no ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ that would threaten the West, or even Israel. Nor any demonesses, as far as anyone knows. The one was barely more absurd than the other, but was easier to sell to a fear-ridden public.
Iraq had repeatedly shown it was not serious about fighting Israel. It could have saved the independent Palestinian organisations in Jordan when King Hussein cracked down on them in September 1970. It did not do so.
Against Israel, it was all talk and no action. But it tried to be a useful agent of Western power by attacking Islamist Iran in 1980. It had to be rescued from defeat in 1988 by US threats against Iran. But after the Soviet fall, it was one of many once-useful allies who were lined up for destruction. (Zaire/Congo, Sukarno in Indonesia, Ceausescu in Romania, the whole of Former Yugoslavia, Italy’s Christian Democrats.)
Iraq was smashed using repeated lies. But New Right fantasies about building an ideal new state in the ruins were exposed as nonsense.
With the current row, Corbyn took a bold stand and said there was no ‘credible evidence’ of an Iranian role in tanker attacks. One of many who doubt.
Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt called Corbyn ‘pathetic’ for not backing British intelligence in the matter. Not trusting the people who either lied or were grossly incompetent in the matter of the ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’.
With Boris Johnson suddenly in trouble after a row with his live-in girlfriend, we could end up with Hunt as Prime Minister. Hard to say which of them is the lesser evil.
U-2 Can Lie About Russia
Liberals see Trump as an amazing aberration in US politics. He is just the next stage in most things, including contempt for truth.
The notorious Gulf of Tonkin incident is being recalled in the latest row over Iran. But it began much earlier.
US Global Imperialism began with the Spanish–American War of 1898. Started after an explosion that sunk a US warship. Spain was blamed, maybe falsely and definitely on too little evidence. And rather than help people who were fighting to liberate themselves, the USA made them obedient to US interests.
The Philippine had tried their own revolution in 1896, and fought a bitter war from 1902 before accepting they were now a US colony. At least 200,000 Filipino civilians died, mostly from famine and disease. And it was there that the US military first used the torture called waterboarding.
Cuba, nominally sovereign, was kept obedient to the USA until Castro overthrew Batista in 1959. Castro tried to be an independent leftist, asking for a $30 billion U.S.-funded ‘Marshall Plan’ for Latin America. The USA, which spent vast sums keeping the loyalty of Western Europe and non-Communist Asia, presumably felt it already owned Latin America and could save its money. Castro had to look to the Soviet Union to get any sort of independence.
More recently, do people remember Garry Powers, and a famous U-2 that has nothing to do with the Irish rock band? The U-2 was a spy aircraft, repeatedly used for illegal flights over Soviet territory. It supposedly flew too high to be shot down, but in 1960 the deterioration of the Soviet Union hadn’t really begun and they succeeded. And President Eisenhower lied and said it was a straying weather aircraft until the Soviets produced a live pilot. (He was supposed to commit suicide.)
Eisenhower, sometimes seen as the last decent US President, also retained Richard Nixon as Vice-President and probable successor. Nixon showed you could safely lie to a trusting public with the ‘Checkers’ incident, in which Nixon confused a slush-fund with a nice little dog someone had given him.
Nixon went on to give gigantic tax breaks to the very rich men who had funded his political career. On the positive side, he did make peace with Mao’s China, which perhaps only Mao had the authority to make after so many years in which the USA pretended that the Kuomintang remnant was the real China and entitled to China’s UN seat. On Nixon’s part, he had been deeply involved in more than twenty years of lying about Chinese realities.
The current lot are no more honest than Nixon was. But much less smart and realistic.
Tory Brexit Blues
Tory MPs must know that Mr Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is an empty loud-mouth, and often incompetent. Pure as New York snow – he was born there, though with rich British parents. He has called himself a ‘one-man melting pot’, with a combination of Muslims, Jews, and Christians as great-grandparents. Yet he repeatedly encourages racist opinions.
Boris Smugenough? He’s vulnerable to being given his full name, and not the populist ‘Boris’.
He rose from a first-round total of 36.4% of Tory MPs to 51.1% in the final round. They see him as their answer to Nigel Farage. And as a British version of Donald Trump, ignoring the detail that Trump has split the Republican base.
Farage is the immediate threat. In the European elections, Farage without UKIP turned out to be much stronger than UKIP without Farage. But that’s only in elections that were not going to give either of them authentic government power.
In 2014, UKIP won 26.6% of the votes and 24 seats.
In 2019, the Brexit party won 31.6 and UKIP 3.3%. A total of 34.9, with 29 seats going to the Brexit party.
Dedicated Followers of Brexit haven’t gained much.
The same is true for the modest surge for Britain’s Liberal-Democrats, and the even bigger one for Britain’s Greens. The Liberal-Democrats had their worst-ever result in the last European Elections in 2014, when they were in coalition with the Tories. Before that they ranged from 13% to 16%: and now have 20.3%. Not so impressive.
As for the European Union that we probably will be soon leaving, votes mostly went against those in power. But not in any coherent direction. “The centre-left and centre-right parties suffered significant losses, while pro-EU centrist liberal, environmentalist, Eurosceptic and right-wing populist parties made substantial gains.”
In Portugal, the ruling Socialists ‘rule OK’ and have not abased themselves before Austerity and New Right values. They kept support.
There is also something healthy in the State of Denmark. In a General Election held shortly after the Euro election, the centre-left replaced a centre-right coalition that included an anti-immigrant party. It helped that the centre-left finally faced up to the fact that unlimited immigration does not solve anything, and has done vast damage to left-wing causes:
“The outgoing centre-right government … is forecast to finish a distant second on about 18%, with support for the far-right Danish People’s party predicted to collapse to barely 11%: half its score in the 2015 vote and a repeat of the DPP’s poor performance in the European elections last month.
“The projected results follow the adoption by Denmark’s mainstream parties of hardline anti-immigration policies previously the preserve of the far right, which immigrants and human rights campaigners believe have led to a rise in racist abuse and discrimination.”
Free movement of peoples is an ideal that might have worked if the original Mixed-Economy Globalisation had not been derailed in the 1980s. As things are, people feeling economic pain needed to see their views being taken notice of.
Handmaidens for Greenpeace?
Men are supposed to react mildly when women make a nuisance of themselves. As the red-clad Greenpeace women did when they invaded a Tory gathering to protest about Climate Change.
A quick-thinking person might have said ‘look, we’re invaded by extras from The Handmaiden’s Tale’.
What they mostly did was do nothing. No sensible person would have seen the women as dangerous. I’d suppose it was staged as an all-female event for just that reason.
If you instinctively feel that an unknown misbehaving woman is a physical threat, you have some pretty screwed-up instincts. Women are much less likely to be violent than men are. And when they are violent, it is almost always personal, not against people they don’t know. Malice, yes. I was harmed without any actual violence by at least one person at work I’d never done any harm to, or been more than a work colleague to. But women usually avoid violence, in part because the average man is stronger than 90% of women.
I don’t suppose Greenpeace were expecting the free gift of Tory MP Mark Field grabbing a protestor and throwing her out with unreasonable force. Another sign the Tories are ‘losing it’.
India Affirms its Hindu Identity
The nice One World vision of the 1950s and 1960s is everywhere dying. Killed in part by the Soviet Union preferring power politics to its original ideas, shown in extreme form by the crushing of a sensible left-wing regime in Czechoslovakia in 1968.
But further damaged and fatally damaged by the Centre-Right helping a rich Overclass exploit the rest of us from the 1980s. Their choice when they saw the Soviet model no longer attracted large numbers of people in the West.
The New Right expected people to be happy living in a social vacuum and moved mostly by greed and vanity. Still cannot understand why this does not work.
In India, sadly, there is no large left-wing movement able to fill the gap. Instead the North Indian version of Hinduism has done so:
“What will Narendra Modi do in his new term as India’s prime minister?…
“Coalition partners of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had hoped for top posts. But Mr Modi owes them nothing: he won a parliamentary majority without them. So his bulging 57-person government consists largely of loyalists from his own party…
“The new government has signalled plans to build on some of Mr Modi’s first-term successes. During the campaign Mr Modi claimed to have brought electricity to all 600,000 of India’s villages; the next step is to make it work around the clock. He will also bolster vote-winning social programmes, such as cash handouts to farmers and a broadening of health insurance for the poor.
“Mr Modi’s personal pledge to eliminate ‘open defecation’ spurred the building of an impressive 92m toilets. His new government’s laudable first promise is to follow this up by bringing safe, piped drinking water to every Indian home by 2024. As a start, it has merged a handful of agencies and ministries dealing with water.”
One notable weakness is that it is very much the North India version of Hinduism. South India speaks Dravidian languages, unrelated to Hindi or any other language in the Indo-European family. They may have remnants of a culture older than the original Hinduism, believed brought by conquerors after the collapse of the Indus Valley civilisation. They have certainly retained older aspects of the later Hindu culture that bounced back after Buddhism briefly dominated under Asoka. They have not been as much changed by Muslim influence as North India has been. They often eat beef, a big issue for North India. And they do not support Mr Modi.
Could this split India? Probably not. For one thing, speakers of the main Dravidian languages can’t really understand each other. They united to get English recognised in 1963 as India’s second official language. And they must have taken note of how the related Tamil people in Sri Lanka failed and suffered enormously in their own bid for actual independence.
Hong Kong – Freedom for What?
Western praise for the Hong Kong protests have avoided the awkward fact that Hong Kong is indeed a haven for criminals.
Sources not at all sympathetic to Beijing will in other contexts freely agree that Chinese criminal gangs known as Triads are enormously powerful there. Are deeply entwined with normal business: see for instance the novel Noble House by James Clavell. (Who also whitewashed the British Empire’s role of pumping in opium to destroy China’s ancient culture.)
The current protests have been correctly reported as bigger than the earlier protests over elections biased to the business community. I’d suppose the change is that the business community know that Hong Kong would be nothing without its links to the rest of China, but like living in a little bubble of relative lawlessness.
Egypt – Obedience Overrides Democracy
Mohamed Morsi, dead after gross mistreatment while in jail.
Democratically elected President of Egypt.
Overthrown after suitable positive signals from the USA.
Can anyone seriously believe Western leaders care about democracy when it does not suit them?
Honest When Watched
It seemed very heartening, when an experiment with lost wallets found large numbers of them returned.
But checking the details, I felt it had been hyped:
“Research assistants walked into post offices, hotels, police stations, banks, museums or similar places, approached someone at the reception desk and said ‘Hi, I found this on the street around the corner.’ They slid the wallet toward the person, saying ‘Somebody must have lost it. I’m in a hurry and have to go. Can you please take care of it?’”
It probably matters that someone else knows, even if they are unlikely to check. Wallets dropped in the street or abandoned in some waiting-room might get a different result.
Normandy – Only a Second Front
Most people in the West think that it was the USA that defeated Nazi Germany.
Recent celebrations of the Normandy landings did nothing to correct this.
But the Russians did make the point:
“As historians note, the Normandy landing [in June 1944] did not have a decisive impact on the outcome of World War Two and the Great Patriotic War. It had already been pre-determined as a result of the Red Army’s victories, mainly at Stalingrad (in late 1942) and Kursk (in mid-1943).”
But I’ve not seen anyone mention that Stalin went on pushing for a Second Front, long after it became clear that the Nazi invasion was defeated and that they’d eventually collapse even without a proper Second Front. (There was also the invasion of Italy, but that had bogged down.)
Clearly Stalin was concerned about saving Soviet lives. And had no particular ambition to gain control of more of Europe than the actual Cold War division gave him.
Previous Newsnotes at the Labour Affairs website, https://labouraffairsmagazine.com/past-issues/. Also https://longrevolution.wordpress.com/newsnotes-historic/. I blog every month or so at https://gwydionmw.quora.com/, and tweet at @GwydionMW.
 You can see it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbdpXx-PHuM. Someone with video talents could do a spoof version, building on the links I have suggested.