Category Archives: Conflict

British Troops withdraw from Afghanistan

Monday the 27th October 2014.  At last the day the last British troops have left Afghanistan.

I have repeatedly voiced my opposition to our involvement in the conflicts in the region.  In my view our involvement has been counterproductive.  We have seen young men across the Middle East and even at home become more radicalised.  Arguably the region is less stable than when we began and it is thought by many that we are less safe at home than before the invasion.

It has been conceded that the Taliban are still in control of large areas of the country, Afghanistan now exports more heroine now than it did in 2001.  The conflict has cost a huge amount in both lives and money.

It has always been my view that the invasion of Afghanistan was illegal and immoral.  It is estimated that at least 20,000 Afghan civilians have died during the conflict and I would dearly love to see both Tony Blair and George W. Bush stand trial for war crimes.

Having said all of that I salute every member of our armed services who served in that region.  I salute the 453 British Service personnel who paid the ultimate price.  I salute the thousands of armed forces personnel who have been wounded and maimed and I salute the families of our service personnel who have had to come to terms with loved ones serving in the region.

I salute the bravery, sacrifice and fortitude of each and every person affected by this conflict.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them!!

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Ottowa – Another tragedy

Todays Daily prompt is a free write for 10 minutes so here goes.

For the past 24 hours my news feed and television screen have been filled with comments on the awful tragedy that took place in Ottawa Canada yesterday.  The murder of Nathan Cirillo, the second such killing in a couple of days is as senseless as it is futile.  It is yet another tragedy, for Corporal Cirillo’s family, for his unit, for Ottawa, for Canada and of course for every right thinking person on the face of this planet.

Once again this atrocity seems to have been carried out by a so called Muslim extremist.  It does seem that, at least in the media, every act of this sort seems to have been committed by someone who is a radicalised Muslim terrorist.  Whether the media coverage given to these atrocities is an accurate reflection of the facts or not is in many ways immaterial.  What we are constantly fed via our media is the concept that radical Islam is a threat to our way of life and a threat to world peace.

Now I don’t for one second try to play down the tragedy of Cirrilo’s murder, but I wonder how many murders were committed in New York, Washington or Los Angele’s yesterday?  What I do know is that none were reported in the UK media.  It seems that the murder of one soldier by a Muslim extremist is much more newsworthy.  Of course the fact that the gunman entered the Canadian parliament building and was shot dead by the Sgt-at Arms and that elements of the story were captured on video does add considerable drama to the whole thing as does the fact that Ottawa is by-and-large a very peaceful city.

I do wonder if much of the reporting of this and similar incidents isn’t secretly welcomed by the politicians because it allows them to more easily justify their actions in the Middle east.  Canada’s Prime Minister Mr harper was quick to get himself on television to state:

“We will not be intimidated. Canada will never be intimidated”.  “In fact, this will lead us to strengthen our resolve and redouble our efforts… to take all necessary steps to identify and counter threats and keep Canada safe.”

Mr Harper stressed that the perpetrators “will have no safe haven” in Canada.  , but admitted the attacks showed that the country was “not immune to terrorist attacks”.

It seems to me that I have heard those (almost) exact words from the last two american Presidents and the last 3 UK Prime Ministers on numerous occasions over the last decade or so.  The fact remains that terrorists seem to be able to carry out their attacks all too easily and that western policy in the Middle East serves only to further radicalise the people of that region and worryingly this radicalisation seems to be spreading increasingly to our own populations.

Something has to change.  I am neither clever enough nor influential enough to say what needs to change, but things cannot be allowed to continue as they are.

As a final comment spare a thought for the friends and family of Nathan Cirillo and for every family touched by senseless slaughter in the ‘War against terror”

Yes it’s true, the United States really is the greatest country in the world – but in what? – Stop the War Coalition

Wow, I just came across this article and thought it worth sharing.  I think it throws up some really interesting issues.  Check it out and let me know what you think. Yes it’s true, the United States really is the greatest country in the world – but in what? – Stop the War Coalition.

AMERICAN politicians are fond of telling their audiences that the United States is the greatest country in the world. Is there any evidence for this claim?

Well, yes. When it comes to violence and preparations for violence, the United States is, indeed, No. 1.

In 2013, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the U.S. government accounted for 37 percent of world military expenditures, putting it far ahead of all other nations. (The two closest competitors, China and Russia, accounted for 11 percent and 5 percent respectively.)

From 2004 to 2013, the United States was also the No. 1 weapons exporter in the world. Moreover, given the U.S. government’s almost continuous series of wars and acts of military intervention since 1941, it seems likely that it surpasses all rivals when it comes to international violence.

This record is paralleled on the domestic front, where the United States has more guns and gun-related deaths than any other country.

study released in late 2013 reported that the United States had 88 guns for every 100 people, and 40 gun-related deaths for every 400,000 people―the most of any of the 27 economically developed countries surveyed. By contrast, in Britain there were 6 guns per 100 people and 1 gun-related death per 400,000 people.

Yet, in a great many other areas, the United States is not No. 1 at all.

Take education.

In late 2013, the Program for International Student Assessment released a report on how 15-year old students from 65 nations performed on its tests. The report showed that U.S. students ranked 17th in reading and 21st in math. An international survey a bit earlier that year by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that the ranking was slightly worse for American adults. In 2014, Pearson, a multinational educational services company, placed the United States 20th in the world in “educational attainment”―well behind Poland and the Slovak Republic.

American healthcare and health fare even worse.

In a 2014 study of healthcare (including infant mortality, healthy life expectancy, and mortality from preventable conditions) in 11 advanced industrial countries, the Commonwealth Fund concluded that the United States ranked last among them. According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. healthcare system ranks 30th in the world.

Other studies reach somewhat different conclusions, but all are very unflattering to the United States, as are studies of American health. The United States, for example, has one of the world’s worst cancer rates (the seventh highest), and life expectancy is declining compared to other nations.

An article in the Washington Post in late 2013 reported that the United States ranked 26th among nations in life expectancy, and that the average American lifespan had fallen a year behind the international average.

What about the environment? Specialists at Yale University have developed a highly sophisticated Environmental Performance Index to examine the behavior of nations. In the area of protection of human health from environmental harm, their 2014 index placed the United States 35th in health impacts, 36th in water and sanitation, and 38th in air quality. In the other area studied―protection of ecosystems―the United States ranked 32nd in water resources, 49th in climate and energy, 86th in biodiversity and habitat, 96th in fisheries, 107th in forests, and 109th in agriculture.

These and other areas of interest are dealt with by the Social Progress Index, which was developed by Michael Porter, an eminent professor of business (and a Republican) at Harvard. According to Porter and his team, in 2014 the United States ranked 23rd in access to information and communications, 24th in nutrition and basic medical care, 31st in personal safety, 34th in water and sanitation, 39th in access to basic knowledge, 69th in ecosystem sustainability, and 70th in health and wellness.

The widespread extent of poverty, especially among children, remains a disgrace in one of the world’s wealthiest nations. A 2013 report by the United Nations Children’s Fund noted that, of the 35 economically advanced countries that had been studied, only Rumania had a higher percentage of children living in poverty than did the United States.

Of course, the United States is not locked into these dismal rankings and the sad situation they reveal about the health, education, and welfare of its citizens. It could do much better if its vast wealth, resources, and technology were employed differently than they are at present.

Ultimately, it’s a matter of priorities. When most U.S. government discretionary spending goes for war and preparations for war, it should come as no surprise that the United States emerges No. 1 among nations in its capacity for violence and falls far behind other nations in providing for the well-being of its people.

Americans might want to keep this in mind as their nation embarks upon yet another costly military crusade.

Unequal Terms – The Daily Post.

Todays Daily prompt is to join in with Blog action day by discussing what inequality means to me.  I am approaching the task by way of free write so here goes.

We face inequality, unfairness, prejudice and discrimination in every walk of life.  I hope that I am open minded and that I stand up against inequality whenever I come across it.  I suspect that my strong feelings hark back to my growing up in Northern Ireland.  Early in life I was aware of members of my family displaying an extreme and totally irrational prejudice against anyone who was a Roman Catholic.  This seemed totally bizarre to me.  I could understand people hating on those responsible for terrorist atrocities, but grouping everyone of a particular faith for hatred as a result just didn’t seem right.

I left Northern Ireland and joined the Navy at 16 and very quickly became aware of how it felt to  be on the wrong end of discrimination and prejudice for no good reason.   Just because I had a Northern Irish accent I was labelled stupid, a terrorist and became the butt of a never ending stream of Irish jokes.  I was called Paddy, Mick, Bog trotter, Boggy, just about anything except my given name.  This was not just by my fellow trainee’s but by instructors and trainers as well.  I can’t even begin to explain just how difficult it was to stand up against this.  When you stood up against this type of insidious bullying you were labelled a trouble maker and accused of failing to fit in.

When I moved to my first ship this type of behaviour was prevalent.  I remember when two black lads were attached to my ship for a period of training.  They were from a foreign Navy though I don’t remember which one.  The were immediately nicknamed ‘Daz’ and ‘Omo’, the names of two popular detergents at the time.  The implication being that they would wash ‘Whiter than White.  Even now the thought of people being treated in this way makes me cringe.

After leaving the Navy I joined another male dominated macho culture where despite being in a position of authority I continued to be the butt of Irish jokes and so on.  In this job I saw at first hand how badly women were treated in the workplace.  it was always assumed that they should be ‘looked after’ by male colleagues.  To this day I will never forget the treatment of one female colleague by other members of staff.  This lady was in her late 20’s and was jaw droopingly beautiful.  One day in the office she was leaning across a desk when a senior colleague came up behind her, grabbed her by the hips and ground his groin against her rear simulating having sex.  As you can imagine she was horrified.  She stood up to the bully and made a complaint against him.  As a result she and her partner were totally ostracised and subject to the most horrific abuse by other colleagues.  despite their being numerous witnesses to the actions of the male colleague the complaint was not upheld and the lady eventually had to leave the job because she was so badly treated.

These are just a few examples of how I have witnessed prejudice in action over the years.  I have seen people passed over for promotion and be subject of discrimination and bullying as a result of the colour of their skin, their gender, their sexuality, their ethnic origin, their appearance and just about anything else you could imagine.

I spent much of my working life in training roles and spent a lot of time helping colleagues to identify inequality, to stand up against it and to support others who were subject to it.  I genuinely believe that I have been able to use my own experiences to raise awareness of inequality issues and as a result have done as much as possible to combat the blight on society.

One issue I often talked about openly was my own mental illness.  I am a big guy, 6’2″ tall, even after 37 years of living in England I have a broad Northern Irish accent and I am both forthright and confident.  people see me as very strong minded and I guess a little brash.  I was always amused to see students reactions when I told them I suffered from mental illness.  They seemed unable to grasp the fact that someone strange and confident could suffer so badly from depressive illness.  Unfortunately for me my organisation was not great at dealing with mental illness and on many occasions they were unable to support me effectively.  This eventually lead to my being retired early as a result of my illness.

Talking about inequality, discrimination and prejudice openly is the only way to widen understanding of it and (in my vision of Utopia) to eradicate it.  I hope that through the vast majority of my life I have done this and I hope others will to.  It is about understanding the effect your actions have on others.  It is not always possible to know that you have offended other peoples sensitivities.  Only by raising issues and talking about them in a calm, rational, non-judgemental and supportive way can we educate others and make life in general better for everyone we come into contact with.

So thats my story.  Have you faced similar issues?  How did you deal with them?  Did you feel you were adequately supported?  please let me know, I would really like to hear your story.

When commenting on WordPress is a bad idea!

I came across a really interesting  and useful piece of advice today.  Unfortunately for me it came about 18 hours too late!  The advice came in the form of a post from Opinionated Man.  The advice “Your audience is not your friend”.

I have been writing this blog for a few months now and for the most part it has been a really positive experience.  I am getting a reasonable number of hits on my site and the numbers of people commenting and following my blog is slowly growing. I have just followed the Writing 101 and Blogging 101 courses as I firmly believe that you can always learn something new and there was always the chance that I would gain a bit of inspiration.  As these courses drew to a close we were encouraged to reach out to other bloggers to help build our networks.

In my reader I searched for topics that interested me and hit upon a post criticising Western Governments for committing funds to rebuild Gaza after what was described as Israel’s ‘Defensive War against Hamas’.  Now most commentators worldwide have roundly condemned Israel’s recent actions and I made what I thought was a balanced and measured comment on the blog. I should have looked a little more deeply before commenting and admittedly I should have known better.  The writer you see identifies themselves as an Israeli activist and the tone of the posts made it unlikely in the extreme that the writer would engage in a conversation that disagreed in any way with the posters views.  As a result I was subjected to a torrent of thinly veiled abuse, accused of being anti-semitic and ill educated.

This was my first negative experience with a member of the WordPress community.  It’s not something I want to repeat :/  I most certainly echo Opinionated Man’s advice.  You should of course reach out to other bloggers, but do check the tone of a blog before commenting on subjects that are controversial and likely to provoke strong reactions. If in doubt either do not comment or be prepared for a bad reaction.

On WordPress as in life you live and learn 🙂

Why we are bombing Iraq & Syria

Why we’re bombing Iraq and Syria: Statement by Barack Obama and David Cameron clears up any confusion

As told to Audrey Bailey.

You may be confused about why we are bombing Iraq and Syria. So we will make ourselves very clear.

We support the Iraqi government in the fight against ISIS.

We don’t like ISIS, but ISIS has been supported by Saudi Arabia, whom we do like, and Saudi Arabia is now supporting us in bombing ISIS.

We don’t like President Assad in Syria. We support the fight against him, but not ISIS, which is also fighting against him.

We don’t like Iran, but Iran supports the Iraqi government against ISIS.

So some of our friends support our enemies and some of our enemies are our friends, and some of our enemies are fighting against our other enemies whom we want to lose, but we don’t want our enemies who are fighting our enemies to win.

If the people we want to defeat are defeated, they might be replaced by people we like even less.

And all this was started by us invading Iraq to drive out terrorists who weren’t there until we went to drive them out.

We hope you now understand.

Source:  Stop The War Coalition

The Futility of the war against ISIS

There is a fascinating piece by Patrick Cockburn in today’s Independent on Sunday newspaper which throws the situation in Iraq into sharp relief.

Cockburn explains that:

“At the start of the bombing in Syria, President Obama boasted of putting together a coalition of Sunni powers such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to oppose Isis, but these all have different agendas to the US in which destroying IS is not the first priority.

The Sunni Arab monarchies may not like Isis, which threatens the political status quo, but, as one Iraqi observer put it, “they like the fact that Isis creates more problems for the Shia than it does for them”.

Once again this demonstrates how futile the involvement of Western forces in situation in the Middle East is.  The policy of western governments is a shambles.  our Governments seem to be incapable of understanding that there are so many agenda’s at play in the region that addressing one ‘problem’ merely reveals a different problem or agenda.

The original article is available here and it makes fascinating reading.