Archive for the 'Britain' Category

Irony… sweet, sweet irony.

So, it turns out that Orwell, author of the futuristic dystopic novel “1984” about a government which spies on its citizens, was himself spied upon for long periods of time by his own government’s MI5 division.

Irony, thy name is politics.

Kettle calls the teapot black: Bush calls Cuba “criminal”

Yesterday, U.S. President George W. Bush took Orwellian audacity to a new level by calling the Cuban government “criminal.”

In a speech, Bush stated that “America will have no part in giving oxygen to a criminal regime victimizing its own people…. The operative word in our future dealings with Cuba is not ‘stability’. The operative word is ‘freedom’.” (source)

To the surprise of no one, the fact that this statement was akin to the kettle calling the teapot black was lost on the members of both the United States and the Canadian press.

So, just to re-cap:

U.S.: One of the few countries left in the world which still executes children. Moreover, “The country which has carried out more documented executions of child offenders than any other since 1990 is the USA.” (source)
Cuba: Has executed zero children. Official government policy believes executing children to be not only illegal but also offensive. (ibid)

U.S.: Engaged in two wars of aggression in the past 6 years (Afghanistan offered to give up Osama bin Laden, but the U.S. refused, saying that war was preferable – source). Moreover, the U.S. has historically either directly or indirectly overthrown democratically-elected governments or given material support to brutal dictators in: Guatemala, Cuba, Chile, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Indonesia, Pakistan, Columbia, Panama, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, The Philippines, South Africa and Democratic Republic of Congo just to name a few.
Cuba: Engaged in zero wars of aggression. Ever. (But did try unsuccessfully to overthrow the U.S.-backed Congolese dictatorship over 40 years ago).

U.S.: Has imposed crushing economic sanctions on the people of Cuba since the 1960s which Amnesty international notes has greatly contributed to the suffering of the Cuban people and economy (source).
Cuba: Was the first country to offer medical aid to the United States following the Katrina disaster in New Orleans. Cuba offered more than 1000 doctors and over 26 tons of medical supplies (source). Incidentally, the U.S. government refused the assistance because FEMA was doing a “heck of a job”.

U.S.: Prison system widely considered to be in violation of singed international treaties on basic human rights of dignity. Also imprisons prisoners of conscience. (source)
Cuba: No “supermax” facilities. Extremely ill and infirm criminals permitted to leave prison for house arrest on humanitarian grounds. Cuba also imprisons prisoners of conscience similar to the United States’s practice. (source)criminal-us-colonies-1775-a.png

Just about the only thing Cuba can be accused of is overthrowing the U.S.-backed dictator Batista in 1959.

But then again, if violent revolution is grounds for being labelled a “criminal” then the British would have a fair case for imposing a “freedom fund” on the United States until it overthrows the “criminal” U.S. government which, after all, arose out of the “criminal” government set up by the 13 Colonies.

Now THAT I’d pay to see (that is, of course, assuming U.K. Prime Minister Brown could first extricate himself from his predecessor’s position firmly inside George W. Bush’s colon. A big assumption, I know).

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Who ever thought the French Revolution was funny?

There are comic geniuses such as Robin Williams — masters of time and rhythm — and then there are geniuses who also just happen to be comedians such as British comedian/political commentator/author Mark Steel.

Never in my life have I ever had as much fun listening to a talk about the French Revolution.  The best part, in my opinion, was his routine near the end on the teacher in the classroom schooling all the idiots who thought that there actually were WMDs in Iraq.

I wish every university professor was like this guy.

Mark Steel: Vive la Revolution! Socialism2007 conference. (Part I)

Mark Steel: Vive la Revolution! Socialism2007 conference. (Part II)

Mark Steel: Vive la Revolution! Socialism2007 conference. (Part III)

(note: even though this last clip says “part 2” at the start, it’s actually part 3)

Thanks to Doug from If There’s Hope… for these great Mark Steel clips.  I found some clips from Steel’s talk on Marx a few days ago, but Doug’s site made me want to post these first.   Stay tuned for Steel’s routine on Marx.

Steve Paikin repeats popular myth on TV

A few days ago I was watching Steve Paikin’s television program “The Agenda”.

On this program, he was discussing the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly and the new electoral system they’ve proposed for Ontario when the discussion came to the pros and cons on each system.

Now, in his defence, the myth he repeated is a popular myth found even in the Parliament of Canada’s own briefing papers.  The myth is that the way we run our elections — what is known as Single Member Plurality (SMP) or First Past the Post (FPTP) — is somehow more stable than Proportional Representation (PR) systems which are, by extension, somehow less stable.

This myth has two parts to it.

#1) our system (SMP or FPTP) is stable

A simple review of our history in Canada shows that our FPTP system is far from stable.

minority-parliament-data-canada.pngThis chart shows the breakdown of elections resulting in minority governments versus ones which result in majority governments.  Between the time following the introduction of responsible government in Canada and prior to Confederation exactly 50% of elections resulted in minority parliaments.

Not such a great record of stability especially considering that this is supposed to be the main strength of our system.

After confederation the record improved, but still, to this day, approximately every third election we hold results in a minority Parliament.

Minority Parliaments were elected in:

1854, 1858, 1861, 1921, 1925, 1926, 1957, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1972, 1979, 2004 and 2006.

#2) Proportional Representation systems are less stable

Much of this myth that PR systems are less stable comes from the specious reasoning that since minority governments in this country last an average of a little over 1 year and 5 months, therefore, since PR systems result in minority parliaments more often than not, they too must be unstable.

Again a brief look at the empirical data is more than enough to blow this part of the myth out of the water.

minority-parliament-data-international.png

As you can see, Germany — which employs the same brand of proportional representation which the Citizens’ Assembly has endorsed for Ontario — is actually more stable on average than our First Past the Post system and only slightly less stable than the UK system.

But even then, the difference between the time gap between German elections and British elections is not that much. 

Since the establishment of the West German Parliament in 1949, there have been 16 elections resulting in an average gap between these elections of 3 years, 8 months.

In Canada, on the other hand, we’ve had 39 elections since the introduction of Responsible government for an average of 3 years, 7 months between elections.

Lastly, since 1801, the U.K. has had 54 elections resulting in an average of 3 years, 9 months between elections.

So, should we be afraid of Proportional Representation, as the myth repeated by Steve Paikin suggests, because it’s somehow less stable while our system is somehow magically more stable?

Obviously this is the most shallow argument for keeping the our current system and we in the PR crowd should stop conceding PR skeptics’ main point because, as I’ve shown here, it simply doesn’t hold water.

An apology is owed…

This is an absolutely fantastic quote and a great quote for any progressive person who wants to throw something back at liberals when they turn their noses up at us.

“When capital and the ruling classes apologise for: Colonialism, the 14 hour day, class privilege, the 7 day working week, children in coalmines, the opium wars, the massacre of the Paris Commune, slavery, the Spanish-American War, the Boer War, starvation, apartheid, anti-union laws, the First World War, Flanders, trench warfare, mustard gas, aerial bombing, the Soviet Intervention, the Armenian Genocide, chemical weapons, fascism, the Great Depression, hunger marches, Nazism, the Spanish Civil War, militarism, Asbestosis, radiation death, the Massacre of Nanking, the Second World War, Belsen, Dresden, Hiroshima, Racism, The Mafia, nuclear weapons, the Korean War, DDT, McCarthyism, production lines, blacklists, Thalidomide, the rape of the Third World, poverty, the arms race, plastic surgery, the electric chair, environmental degradation, the Vietnam War, the military suppression of Greece, India, Malaya, Indonesia, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama and Turkey, the Gulf War, trade in human body parts, malnutrition, Exxon Valdez, deforestation, organized crime, the Heroin and Cocain trade, tuberculosis, the destruction of the Ozone Layer, cancer, exploitation of labour and the deaths of 50,000,000 Communists and trade unionists in this century alone, then — and only then — will I consider apologising for the errors of socialism.” (from: the Communist Party of Australia)

There’s a great pic to go with this quote that I’ve just added to the Paulitics Political Images resource (along with a bunch of other additions).

The crime against humanity that is Afghanistan

I have a confession to make which may shock many of my readers and even some of my close personal friends.

Many people do things in the hastiness of youth which later goes on to serve as a deep embarrassment for them.

Some get tattoos.

Some experiment with drugs.

I once took out a membership in the old Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.

But, allow me to explain.  I met two-time PC Party leadership Candidate David Orchard on a couple of occasions and even had lunch with him and his long-time friend and advisor Maraleena Repo a few years back during one of his Ottawa trips.

I joined the PC Party (the only party of which I have ever been a member) due in large part to the principled policy positions of Orchard on NAFTA, U.S. foreign policy, Canadian foreign policy and his impressive environmental credentials.

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from David Orchard’s brother Grant which contained an Op/Ed piece that Orchard and Professor Michael Mandel have co-written and were disseminating as widely as possible.  As predictable, very few mainstream media are carrying the insightful and well-argued Op/Ed (so far as I can tell, only the Halifax Chronicle Journal carried it).  So, out of respect for the man who once impressed me so much that he got me to actually join the PC Party, I am posting his and Professor Mandel’s Op/Ed here for all to read.

———————

Afghanistan and Iraq: the same war
by David Orchard and Michael Mandel

Four years ago, the U.S. and Britain unleashed war on Iraq, a nearly defenceless Third World country barely half the size of Saskatchewan. For 12 years prior to the invasion and occupation, Iraq had endured almost weekly U.S. and British bombing raids and the toughest sanctions in history, the “primary victims” of which, according to the UN Secretary General, were “women and children, the poor and the infirm.” According to UNICEF, half a million children died from sanctions-related starvation and disease.

Then, in March 2003, the U.S. and Britain ­ possessors of more weapons of mass destruction than the rest of the world combined ­ attacked Iraq on a host of fraudulent pretexts, with cruise missiles, napalm, white phosphorous, cluster and bunker-buster bombs, and depleted uranium (DU) munitions.

The British medical journal The Lancet published a study last year estimating Iraqi war deaths since 2003 at 655,000, a mind-boggling figure dismissed all too readily by the British and American governments despite widespread scientific approval for its methodology (including the British government’s own chief scientific adviser).

On April 11, 2007, the Red Cross issued a report entitled “Civilians without Protection: the ever-worsening humanitarian crisis in Iraq.” Citing “immense suffering,” it calls “urgently” for ” respect for international humanitarian law.” Andrew White, Anglican Vicar of Baghdad, added, “What we see on our television screens does not demonstrate even one per cent of the reality of the atrocity of Iraq …” The UN estimates two million Iraqis have been “internally displaced;” another two million have fled ­ largely to Syria and Jordan, overwhelming local infrastructure.

An attack such as that on Iraq, neither in self-defence nor authorized by the United Nations Security Council, is, in the words of the Nuremberg Tribunal that condemned the Nazis, “the supreme international crime.” According to the Tribunal’s chief prosecutor, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, such a war is simply mass murder.

Most Canadians are proud that Canada refused to invade Iraq. But when it comes to Afghanistan, we hear the same jingoistic bluster we heard about Iraq four years ago. As if Iraq and Afghanistan were two separate wars, and Afghanistan is the good war, the legal and just war. In reality, Iraq and Afghanistan are the same war.

That’s how the Bush administration has seen Afghanistan from the start; not as a defensive response to 9-11, but the opening for regime change in Iraq (as documented in Richard A. Clarke’s Against all Enemies). That’s why the Security Council resolutions of September 2001 never mention Afghanistan, much less authorize an attack on it. That’s why the attack on Afghanistan was also a supreme international crime, which killed at least 20,000 innocent civilians in its first six months. The Bush administration used 9-11 as a pretext to launch an open-ended so-called “war on terror” ­ in reality, a war of terror because it kills hundreds of times more civilians than the other terrorists do.

That the Karzai regime was subsequently set up under UN auspices doesn’t absolve the participants in America’s war, and that includes Canada. Nor should the fact that Canada now operates under the UN authorized International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mislead anyone. From the start, ISAF put itself at the service of the American operation, declaring “the United States Central Command will have authority over the International Security Assistance Force” (UNSC Document S/2001/1217). When NATO took charge of ISAF, that didn’t change anything. NATO forces are always ultimately under U.S. command. The “Supreme Commander” is always an American general, who answers to the U.S. president.

Canadian troops in Afghanistan not only take orders from the Americans, they help free up more U.S. forces to continue their bloody occupation of Iraq.

When the U.S. devastated Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia (1961-1975), leaving behind six million dead or maimed, Canada refused to participate. But today Canada has become part of a U.S. war being waged not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in a network of disclosed and undisclosed centres of physical and mental torture, like Guantanamo Bay in illegally occupied Cuban territory. What we know about what the U.S. government calls terrorism is that it is largely a response to foreign occupation; and what we know about American occupation is that it is a way the rich world forces the rest to surrender their resources.

General Rick Hillier bragged that Canada was going to root out the “scumbags” in Afghanistan. He didn’t mention that the Soviets, using over 600,000 troops and billions in aid over 10 years, were unable to control Afghanistan. Britain, at the height of its imperial power, tried twice and failed. Now, Canada is helping another fading empire attempt to impose its will on Afghanistan.

Canadians have traditionally been able to hold their heads high when they travel the world. We did not achieve that reputation by waging war against the world’s poor; in large part, we achieved it by refusing to do so.

Canada must ­ immediately, and at the minimum ­ open its doors to Iraqis and Afghans attempting to flee the horror being inflicted on their homelands. We must stop pretending that we’re not implicated in their suffering under the bombs, death squads and torture. This means refusing to lend our name, our strength and the blood of our youth in this war without end against the Third World. THE END

~

DAVID ORCHARD is the author of The Fight for Canada: Four Centuries of Resistance to American Expansionism and ran twice for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party. He farms at Borden, SK and can be reached at tel 306-652-7095, davidorchard@sasktel.net, http://www.davidorchard.com

MICHAEL MANDEL is Professor of International Law at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto and author of How America Gets Away With Murder: Illegal Wars, Collateral Damage and Crimes Against Humanity. He can be reached at tel 416-736-5039, MMandel@osgoode.yorku.ca.

New Paulitics resource: The Propaganda in Action Series

I’m back from the insanity that has been my life for the past few weeks.  So, for those of you who’ve been wondering whether anything’s happened to me (you’re not alone, my parents have been wondering the same thing), I’ve just been in an interminable universe of essay writting and research.

propaganda-in-action-big.pngAnyway, it’s become apparent that there’s a big demand for my Propaganda in Action series, so I’ve created a new widget in the sidebar resource section as a place to keep all of the installments in the ongoing Propaganda in Action series together in one place. 

I’ve really enjoyed all the feedback and suggestions on this series so far, so it’s a safe bet to assume that there will be more installments coming out in the future.

Click here for the new Paulitics resource: the Propaganda in Action Series

Propaganda in Action: The release of the British sailors

The systematic propaganda consumed especially in North America on the so-called Iranian hostage crisis (the sequel, not the one in 1980) was discussed in detail here.

However, with the release of the British prisoners, we have been hit with a whole new wave of hypocritical propaganda designed to shift our opinion and gloss over history.

Virtually all news agencies have covered the “ordeal” experienced by the British sailors and marines.

In the US: 

CBS news spoke of “harsh interrogation” in “stone cells” and repeated the claim that they  were “operating under a U.N. mandate in Iraqi waters” as a fact (source).

The New York Times, that putative bastion of leftism, ran a story with the headline “Britons Say They Feared for Lives in Iran Captivity”. In this article, the NY Times recounts the “most frightening” story of the “ordeal” as occurring on the second night when all of the sailors and marines were placed in a room blindfolded and one of the sailors vomited in such a manner that one of his colleagues felt that his throat had been slit (source).

The Kansas City Star carried an article in which they describe that the British sailors and marines were “isolated in cold stone cells and tricked into fearing execution.” (source).

In Canada:

The National Post ran with a story headline reading “British sailors describe ‘ordeal’ in Iran” and describing “constant psychological pressure” and moreover, The Post wrote that the British Sailors and Marines were kept in isolation which is actually demonstrably false and not in keeping with even the Briton’s account of events (source).

CTV ran with the story describing that the Britons were “threatened” (source).

And lastly, in the UK: 

The Guardian ran a story with the headline “Freed Britons Say ‘Confessions’ Coerced”, as if that was somehow a surprise or unexpected (source).

But here’s what we didn’t read:

#1) There was STILL no discussion about the fact that the US probably caused the capture as retaliation for ambushing and kidnapping Mohammed Jafari, the head of the Iranian National Security Council and Minojahar Frouzanda, the head of the intelligence division of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as well as the kidnapping of Iranian embassy official Jalal Sharafi.

#2) Even more importantly, the British Captain of the expedition, Chris Air, admitted to Sky News 5 days before the hostage crisis even began that they were spying and gathering intelligence on Iran just as the Iranians had alleged (source). 

Continue reading ‘Propaganda in Action: The release of the British sailors’

Propaganda in Action: The Iranian Hostage Crisis

It is now a more or less uncontested fact that U.S. élites manipulated the events surrounding the first Iranian hostage crises in 1980 to their advantage.  During the first Iranian hostage crisis, the then-campaigning Ronald Reagan negotiated with Iran to wait until after the 1980 U.S. Presidential election to release the American hostages so that he could use their continuing captivity to hammer Jimmy Carter and his ‘inability’ to get things done.

Nevertheless, the plot the media ran with for the first hostage crises was simple: 

Iran = bad for holding hostages. 

U.S. = innocent victim hopelessly caught up in an Iranian revolution (against a U.S.-sponsored brutal dictator, but that was never mentioned in the media) who merely wants for everyone to live in harmony.

Looking at the way the media treated the recent Iranian ‘hostage’ crisis, it seems as though history has a way of repeating itself.

First, the set-up:  According to the Canadian, British and American governments, the official line is that the British sailors were in Iraqi waters operating under the aegis of UN Security Council Resolution 1723, when Iranians seized them.

The Canadian government’s official position, as articulated here in Peter MacKay’s official press release, goes so far even as to say that there exists “clear evidence” that the sailors were in Iraqi waters.

This “clear evidence” apparently does not take account of or address the erroneousness of the British GPS equipment released by Iran showing otherwise, nor does it take account of the apparent ‘confessions’ made by the British sailors.  However, despite the fact that the sailors appear to have been treated better than America treats their hostages, it seems like there’s strong arguments on both sides which would, by definition, negate MacKay’s “clear evidence” claim.

Second:  Who’s to blame?

This is the part that’s been totally left out of North America’s mainstream media.

Watch this exchange between Bill O’Reilly and Colonel (Ret.) Ann Wright who taught international law and the Geneva Conventions for 29 years.

tof-wright-mic.jpg

Click here for WMV and MOV/Quicktime videos of exchange

So, Bill O’Reilly argues that it’s completely beyond the realm of decency to even bring the U.S. into the debate.

However the very next day after Bill O’Reilly ordered Ms. Wright’s mic to be ‘cut off’, The Independent reported that, oops, actually after further investigation, the U.S. is not free of blame after all.

Continue reading ‘Propaganda in Action: The Iranian Hostage Crisis’


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