Wednesday, February 05, 2003


I watched the whole 70 minutes of the Colin Powell briefing to the UN and while there was a lot of old stuff brought up again there was also some important key new evidence brought forward that clearly shows the Iraqis are not complying with the weapons inspectors - they are hiding stuff and lying.

Powell was persuasive, calm and collected. After listening to his presentation I can't imagine anyone but the most bigoted anti-Americans could continue to argue we do nothing. The debate over what kind of action needs to be taken will go on, but not acting is clearly off the agenda.

The Iraqi regime had been given a clear warning from the UN and there is only one conclusion that can be drawn from all this - Saddam wants war.

He had been given a clear choice between cooperating and disarming or continuing to lie and then face military action. He has chosen the latter.

I am sure all those who will be marching and demonstrating in London on February 15 will be demanding that Saddam takes swift action to avoid a war. This lying warmonger must be stopped.

posted by BA on 11:31 AM link

Tuesday, February 04, 2003


The full text of former Labour MP Tony Benn's interview, or conversation would be more accurate, with Saddam Hussein can be found here. It is apparently Saddam's first tv interview with a westerner in 12 years.

I can imagine the criticism Benn is about to receive in the British press and it will give me no pleasure. I have always liked, respected and admired Tony Benn. But there really were no tough questions asked. Benn is not a journalist but he could have done much, much better.

Perhaps David Aaronovitch, in his pre-broadcast spoof, knew something when he reminded Benn of this quote:"If I meet a powerful man, I ask five questions: What power have you got? Where did you get it from? In whose interests do you exercise it? To whom are you accountable? And, how can I get rid of you?" - Tony Benn, July 2002.

Just the last one would have done.

But forgive me if I leave you to make your own verdicts on this one.

posted by BA on 5:30 PM link

But hold on a minute. Just when I start to get comfortable with the idea of supporting military action to liberate Iraq I come across two items of disturbing news.

First that the nuclear option is being considered by the US to deal with chemical weapons hidden underground. I'm no scientist and call me a scare-monger but the idea of destroying chemical weapons with nuclear weapons sounds like a crazy cocktail to me. It might disarm Saddam but it might also leave an awful lot of innocent victims - it doesn't sound like a serious and responsible tactic for liberating a country.

And talking about liberation - what about the Iraqi democrats who some of us would like to see given a major role in the freeing of their own country? Still no word from Bush or Blair about this aspect but one of the main Iraqi opposition leaders is already warning that they are being ignored.

"We do not know the Americans' intentions or plans and we do not know if they will help the Iraqi movement in the process of (regime) change or not," says Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) which draws its support from Iraq's Muslim Shi'ite majority.

Meanwhile some Iraqi opposition leaders are already going home.

posted by BA on 8:45 AM link

Monday, February 03, 2003


Judging from some of the emails I have been getting so-called Left Hawks appear to be appearing all over the place in recent days. People who have kept their heads down amidst all the rage and fury on both sides of the debate are coming off the fence - perhaps encouraged by some well-known names in the media.

First it was Hitchens in the US, now in the UK we see newspaper columnists such as Aaronovitch and Johann Hari making a reasoned case, based on left values with a real understanding of what Blair is trying to do.

While there may be differences in tone and generally a stronger feeling among European leftists than American liberal-hawks that a second UN resolution is needed - the basic case being made is the same and there is is a strong discomfort with the 'anti-war' movement shared on both sides of the Atlantic.

This article by Mitchell Cohen, co-editor of the left US magazine Dissent, puts the case for action against Saddam in the language of the left and destroys most of the anti-war objections.

He ends by saying: "So I will not support an antiwar movement, even if it includes many good people. I hope, for the sake of honest public debate, that those good people keep this movement focused on Iraq. Iraqi suffering ought not to be exploited by "activists" with other agendas (such as Israel/Palestine, which has nothing to do with Saddam's tyranny and must be addressed on its own, unhappy grounds).

In the meantime, I will support Iraqi democrats, even if they are few in number and their prospects difficult. I am antifascist before I am antiwar. I am antifascist before I am anti-imperialist. And I am antifascist before I am anti-Bush. "

posted by BA on 3:46 PM link

It's too easy to get lost in the UN resolutions, the diplomacy and the political jousting that surrounds the Iraq issue today. Now and then it is good to remind ourselves of what Saddam's Iraq is and what basic freedom means for real people.

In 1991 in the city of Karbala rose up and freed itself from Saddam's grip - for a few days. The US had promised to help an uprising but as we all know, cynically, the help never came and the revolution in this momentarily free city was brutally crushed.

Zainab Al-Suwaij was there as a 20-year-old Iraqi woman and retells the story of hope, fear and defeat in this moving article for the New Republic.

It ends with these words: "The night before I left Iraq, I burned my diary in an oven, page by page. Anyone caught with such a document would be killed. In all, I burned over 200 pages--full of details about what I had seen and done in Karbala. As the pages went up in flames, tears streamed down my face.

For many years, I have tried to forget what I wrote in those pages. But I can never erase those memories. Sometimes I feel I am back in Karbala. We are waiting for the Americans once again."

Found via the interesting blog Look Back In Anger.

posted by BA on 1:55 PM link

Are we only getting half the story from the US and UK government's about Iraq and their intentions? Probably. But as this article in the Melbourne Age shows the 'anti-war' movement are peddaling their own half-truths.

Want an example of simplistic, alarmist and downright dishonest views on the situation from Britain? Then read this nonsense from the 'newspaper' produced by the leaders of Britain's anti-war brigade.

Highlights: "The war on Iraq is about oil-everyone knows it and now the US has admitted it," "Fear of war is causing panic in the world's stockmarkets" , "Some 30 hospitals across Britain have been put on standby for thousands of war casualties from Iraq," etc, etc.

posted by BA on 1:30 PM link

Phil Woolas, the Labour MP for Oldham, a town that has been targetted by the racist British National Party and which is suffering from racial tension, has put forward the perfectly reasonable view that racial attacks on whites are not being condemned strongly enough by politicians and not being taken seriously enough by the authorities.

I don't know about the situation in Oldham but this lack of concern is certainly the case in the part of Lancashire that I hail from. Asian youths attacking white people remains a taboo topic for too many politicians and that does nothing but help the BNP.

But step forward Shahid Malik, a members of the Labour Party national executive, to condemn Woolas and claim his remarks would be misused by extremist groups. Why? Can't he see that by giving the impression of indifference to black on white violence, politicians merely feed the sense of abandonment and unfairness that the disgusting BNP exploit?

How can it possibly serve race relations to attack a politician who is criticising racial violence?

To be honest I am amazed that the careerist Malik is anywhere near the NEC of the Labour Party. His family have a lot of power in the party in Burnley - scene of race riots last summer (which Malik managed to somehow get himself arrested in) and I am told there are a lot of local people who are far from happy about the way his family operates in the local party - to say the least.

But more importantly I cannot understand how someone who is prepared to take such a stand against a Labour MP fighting to keep a community together, in extremely difficult circumstances, can be given a place in a top body of the party.

Those towns in the North of England that have suffered from strained community relations, Oldham, Burnley, Bradford etc, need a good dose of straight talking and honesty and they need politicians like Phil Woolas who are prepared to deal head-on with real problems affecting both communities.

And it is precisely people like Shahid Malik, so quick to silence any criticism of his own community, that help create an atmosphere of distrust which can only help the real racists.


Woolas has responded to the criticism here

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in the Independent understands why what Woolas says important and makes some excellent broader points.

Blogger Iain Murray seems to miss the point I'm afraid.

posted by BA on 5:40 AM link

Sunday, February 02, 2003


Some of the American bloggers have got very excited about the articles from Burchill and Aaronovitch on Iraq (see below), seeing them as some sign that the British left is being won over to the case for military action. If only they knew!

Sorry to dampen the optimism of Stateside readers but Burchill and Aaronovitch are far from typical of the UK left - in fact they have become two of their favourite hate figures, although I have to say both seem to enjoy being cast in that role.

They are disliked almost as much as US lefties hate Christopher Hitchens these days, with one big difference -- the US left used to adore Hitchens, whereas no-one on the left ever liked Burchill and Aaronovitch - two people who were brought up as communists and left behind most of their ideological baggage with one exception - a healthy dislike of Trotskyists.

A more Hitchens-like experience came after this piece from the left's favoured columnist Nick Cohen, daring to criticise the anti-war left with statements such as:"For all its apparent self-confidence, the Left, reinforced by a small army of bishops, mullahs and retired generals, lacks the nerve to state that the consequence of peace is the ruin of the hopes of Iraqi democrats."

But unlike Hitchens, Cohen, sadly, hasn't followed this up with a series of sustained attack on his former admirers - nonetheless he still came in for plenty of abuse for daring to be a heretic.

I had a little taste of that reaction myself this weekend when I was asked to cease posting mails to a Labour left mailing list where I had been involved in a surprisingly calm, intelligent and relevant discussion about Iraq with a former Guardian journalist.

My views in favour of the liberation of Iraq were apparently against "the basic principles of the list", according to one list correspondent who asked for me to be removed from the debate - she obviously likes her conversations to be strictly limited to mutterings of agreement - rather like the dictator she fails to see that she is assisting.

posted by BA on 5:51 PM link

Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has given a one hour exclusive television interview to........... 77-year-old left-wing former Labour MP Tony Benn.

Benn won't say anything about the content of the interview he filmed this weekend as he hopes the whole thing will be broadcast in full shortly - it should be.

posted by BA on 1:46 PM link

Seems to be the moment for former communists to come out as supporters of regime change in Iraq. David Aaronovitch follows Burchill in today's Observer - he is actually quite a good read when he sticks to politics rather than 'my first wank' etc.

"The Iraqi people, however, can't shift their tyrant on their own. Again, it would be preferable if an invasion could be undertaken, not by the Americans, but by, say, the Nelson Mandela International Peace Force, spearheaded by the Rowan Williams British Brigade. That's not on offer. It has to be the Yanks. "

"If, in a few weeks time, the Security Council agrees to wage war against Saddam, I shall support it. If there is no resolution but the invasion goes ahead, I will not oppose it, though most of the people I like best will. I can't demonstrate against the liberation, however risky, of the Iraqi people. "

Neither could I.

posted by BA on 4:56 AM link

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