Newsnotes 2003 08

Notes On The News

By Gwydion M. Williams

Reaping the whirlwind [Iraq ‘Peacekeeping’]

A few biased men [Guantanamo Bay detention camp]

Laundered Law [Money Laundering]

California dreaming [Recall for the Governor]

The Importance Of Being Infallible [Death of David Kelly]

Some very old news [An ancient exoplanet]

Reaping the whirlwind [Iraq ‘Peacekeeping’]

If the news had been of the US capturing Saddam’s sons, that would have been a victory.  In fact they died heroically, rather than surrendering as they might have done. Which didn’t stop Bush and Blair crowing about their deaths (I would not have got personal like that, it is stupid as well as distasteful to turn a political matter into a kind of blood-feud.)  In any case, I was sure from the first uncertain news that the elimination of the dynast would make the majority Shiites less likely to cooperate with the USA and make a united anti-US opposition easier to form.

I’d also wondered about the sudden US success, and in Mosul of all places.  Why were both of them there?   Who betrayed them and what was their motive?  The sons seem to have attracted much more hatred than Saddam himself, because people in Iraq knew he’d done a lot for them.  Capturing the sons would have been a grand coup, indeed.  But evidently they refused to surrender—the US military has an imperfect record over taking prisoners, particular non-white prisoners, but I’d assume not in this case.

The whole way the US has treated prisoners is however a very poor incentive to surrender.  The USA is happy with random law, just so long as US citizens cannot be judged by any foreign court.

As for ‘rebuilding’ Iraq, the US has mostly helped to break apart everything they hadn’t smashed already with the 1991 war and the terrorist bombing campaign designed to make the Iraqis overthrow Iraq.  Both German and Japan had a tradition of stable authoritarian rule, which was seen as normal and often benevolent by most of the population.  Saddam represented the most coherent part of Iraqi society, trying to do the same thing as Bismarck did in Germany or that 19th century Japanese did with the Meiji Restoration.  Or Ataturk after the West busted the Ottoman Empire, but the Wise Men of the New Right have proved to their own satisfaction that all of this is unnecessary and that democratic order will emerge spontaneously thanks to market forces.

What has actually emerged spontaneously is chaos!  And why shouldn’t the US be blamed?

A few biased men [Guantanamo Bay detention camp]

In the current climate, you’d not expect Islamic militants to get a fair trial in an America court or with an American jury.  Despite which, the Bush regime has no intention of risking it and is making sure that those detainees who are not blatantly harmless or senile will be tried before a military tribunal.

A regular jury would be taking a chance if they decided that ‘anti-terrorist’ charges were nonsense and that many of the accused had no more connection with al-Qaeda than Woody Allen has with the Hells Angels.  But they might do it, whereas a military tribunal would consist of career military who are much less likely to arrive at a verdict that would enrage their superiors.

The detainees in the USA’s little bubble of lawlessness in Cuba were mostly in the Taliban’s ‘foreign legion’, Islamic fighters for an Islamic regime that was a de facto government, which is not a crime.  The Taliban were tolerating al-Qaeda but might have been persuaded to give them up if the US has been prepared to show respect for the Taliban way of doing things.

But the whole point of everything the US has done since 1991 is to establish their superior rights, that US citizens may not be touched by foreign courts, while US courts and the US government may reach into foreign jurisdiction and be treated as superior beings.

US policies ensure that money, goods and cultural products are without frontiers, but poor people are shut out of the rich world unless the rich world needs them.  And four-fifths of the UN vetoes are held by one-tenth of the world’s population.

The USA in the past has helped overturn democratic governments that did not suit it, and might well do so again.  It definitely does not want any sort of democratic global government—existing states with Western-style democracy would produce a clear majority against American-style capitalism.  Even the USA might vote against American-style capitalism if it had a cap on electoral expenses, or a system of proportional representation.

The present world order evolved mostly by accident, as did the US political system (a simple copy of 18th century England, with elected officials in place of monarchs and royal governors).  But the mix and mess and ‘limited sovereignty’ is kept in being because it suits the powerful—currently a rich ‘Overclass’ that is as socially detached and irresponsible as the classical ‘Underclass’.

Democracy?  It’s enough to make a cat laugh!

[As of April 2015, they have released a few of the more obviously innocent.  But failed to manage any sort of trial.]

Laundered Law [Money Laundering]

Money laundering only exists when the money is itself the product of crime.  To give money to a money launderer would not be criminal if the money was honestly earned.  But law has always been a surreal matter in which esoteric rituals count for more than facts

“Scotland Yard claimed last night that the future of covert police work was under threat after a court ruling that some of its officers had committed a “state-created crime” during a sting aimed at trapping suspected money launderers.

“A total of £15m was brought to London hidden in suitcases, laundered by undercover police officers and then returned to alleged drug dealers over a three year period, the court heard…

“Judge George Bathurst-Norman allowed 10 defendants to walk free after saying that the police had “overstepped the line between legitimate crime detection and unacceptable crime creation”.”  (Guardian, 29th July.)

The police were guilty of contempt for the law, because they took the same view of legal ‘grey areas’ that the same judge had taken in 2001. And because they relied on advice from some lawyers rather than other lawyers of a more senior rank.

Contempt for the law as practiced is all that you can feel.

California dreaming [Recall for the Governor]

Direct democracy in line with the best libertarian principles has given California a vast budget deficit, since there is almost always a clear majority for less taxes and more public services. And when this doesn’t add up, fire the top man for not meeting the public’s wishes.

“Californian Governor Gray Davis will face a re-election battle this autumn – less than one year after narrowly winning a second term in office.

“More than a million people have signed a petition forcing a “recall ballot” in which the electorate vote on whether he should step down and, effectively, select his successor.

“Mr Davis, a Democrat, is blamed by his Republican rivals for the state’s economic slump, which has left it with a $38bn budget deficit.

“He will be the first governor to face a recall ballot since the measure was introduced in 1911.”  (BBC Online 24 July).

Life does not exist spontaneously: it began as a very rare accident, billions of years ago.  Millions of gene-lines went off in different directions, all subject to ‘natural selection’, with most remaining very simple and just one emerging as modern humans.  Not ‘naked apes’, we are hairless rather than naked, perhaps from a very ancient habit of making fires and perhaps even wearing clothes, we should be called the painted apes.

Vastly more than most animals, we are whatever our social environment makes us.  Language, for instance—we cannot think of ourselves thinking without it, and yet where does it come from?

The English-speaking world stems from the successful authoritarianism of Tudor times, when older forms of Englishness were uprooted in the wars between Puritans and Counter-Reformation Catholics.  People were hammered into a uniform sort of culture that would keep its shape without further gross violence, even when transported across the Atlantic, and which could absorb outsiders into the same uniformity.  But it has never been natural, and assuming that civilised values would emerge from fragmented individualism was just foolish.  And so we see the land that gave us Hollywood, Nixon and Reagan making itself foolish once again.

[He was replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger]

The Importance Of Being Infallible [Death of David Kelly]

The Kelly affair seems to be getting ever more serious for Blair: possibly the man knew exactly what he was doing and struck back at his persecutors with deadly effect.  I may be quite wrong, we’ve not yet had the inquest, but let’s see what comes out.

Had Blair & Co. been content just to look bad, they might have soon lived it down.  But they were too vain and had to try to assert their own perfection, at huge cost.  The BBC quite rightly refused to back down over having reported accusations that the government spread falsehoods in an official report that was indeed untrue.  Campbell attacking the media for reporting a substantial rumour is foolish as well as unjust.

What were they thinking of?  A government of cynical liars we could live with, a lot of British governments have been like that.  A government of panicky fantasists, who knows what they’ll do next?

[The tragic and mysterious death of weapons expert David Kelly remains a puzzle as of April 2015. The man had correctly said that Iraq had no Weapons of Mass Destruction.]

Some very old news [An ancient exoplanet]

Meantime astronomers have found a planet 13 billion years old, located around a pulsar in a globular cluster, but thought to have begun as the planet of a regular sun that is now an ‘AfterStar’ (white dwarf).  This may be the general explanation for pulsar planets, they belong to a companion star.

That particular planet has been around for more than three times as long as the Earth has had life on it.  It is a suitable backdrop against which you can view the self-important little shysters who have dominated politics since the incoherence of the 1970s.


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