Tag Archives: Syria

David Davis – How Not To Negotiate

This morning I caught Conservative politician David Davis on Andrew Marr’s BBC TV program.  It seems Mr Davis has just come back from Syria where he met president Assad and he was in discussion about the problems faced by Syria and how they might be resolved.

Davis made a fascinating comment, one which really stood out for me as the absolute epitome of why anyone with any sense hates politicians of whatever shade.

Davis was asked how he saw the conflict being resolved and this was his reply outlining how we might see a negotiated settlement.

“Well they have to negotiate properly, they have to do what we want.”

Let me tell you Mr Davis, that is just the sort of negotiation at which Hitler and Stalin were hugely adept.  That is not negotiation, that is dictatorship.  There, in a single sentence, is the reason why western foreign policy has turned the middle-east into a powder keg of violence and extremism.

Sadly the people of the UK have also fallen for this brand of neo-fascism by electing a conservative government.  The attitude that says “we know what is best for you so kindly do as I say” is just so incredibly arrogant and sadly it is exactly this attitude that guides government policy in our country today.

It is sad, elitist and just down right bloody wrong and yet the British people continue to bend over and say more please.  Wake up People!

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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.

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.

BBC News – UK troops training Kurdish forces in Iraq, says MoD

BBC News – UK troops training Kurdish forces in Iraq, says MoD.

So Despite the UK Governments promises that the UK will not commit ground troops to the conflict in Northern Iraq and Syria we have sent troops to ‘Train’ Kurdish forces to use heavy machine guns that have been supplied by the UK Government. Once again we are arming rebel factions to fight other rebel factions. Lets not forget that this means we are arming people who until recently were branded ‘Kurdish Separatists’.  Separatists who are rebelling against their government (no matter how distasteful that government).

In any other context they would be labelled terrorists in the same way that the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka were ‘terrorists’. I am sure there is a name for people who keep repeating the same mistakes time and time again. Why on earth can our government not learn from it’s mistakes? It kills me that an MOD spokesman has stated that the troops sent on this mission are ‘Non Combat Army Trainers’.  Get real, they are soldiers deployed to a combat zone.

We should remember that the Kurdish forces are not a part of the Iraqi security forces.  Forces we were assured could control and look after their own affairs when western forces withdrew from Iraq in 2009. Yet more madness from western governments who seem to be at a loss on how to clear up the total mess they have created in the region.

Groundhog Day!  Madness!

Bombing ISIS isn’t working – Stop the War Coalition

Let me be absolutely 100% clear here.  I served in The UK armed forces and will always support those put in harms way by our Government.

The current conflict across the Middle East will not be affected in the slightest by the current bombing campaign by the western coalition.  The British armed forces learned that you cannot win a military victory against terrorists.  Many years of conflict in Northern Ireland was not ended by force of arms.  It was ended by a political solution.  Unfortunately the western coalitions policies in the Middle East simply continue to make things worse.  When I trained as an electronics technician in the Royal Navy the Government of the day was raising money by selling weapons and training to both Iran & Iraq.  I trained alongside sailors from those countries.  A few years later we were fighting them and they were using weapons we sold them and trained them to use against us.  The situation now is hardly any different.  Less than to years ago we were arming supposedly moderate “Freedom Fighters” in Syria in a bid to secure regime change.  Those Freedom Fighters are now called ISIS and we are now bombing them and presumably arming new “moderate “Freedom Fighters” to tackle them.  Remember, one mans Freedom Fighter is another mans terrorist.  At the same time we are allowing the most awful atrocities to be carried out against the Kurdish people and the people of Gaza.  We are rightly outraged when ISIS murder Western hostages and yet we stand idly by whilst ‘friendly’ Arab states (Saudi Arabia) behead its own citizens in public executions for reasonably minor crimes.  We watch as petty thieves have their hands cut off in public spectacles and women are punished for driving cars.

Sadly Western Policy in the Middle East is confused, inconsistent and such a mess that I doubt if it can ever be reconciled.  In the meantime we send our young men and women into no win situations, risking their lives in an ultimately fruitless endeavour.  Does anyone truly believe that the Taliban will not re-emerge in Afghanistan once western withdrawal is complete.

The article below is by Robert Fisk and reproduced from the “Stop the War Coalitions website”.  It gives an in depth analysis of why the bombing campaign is doomed to failure.

IS THERE a “Plan B” in Barack Obama’s brain? Or in David Cameron’s, for that matter? I mean, we’re vaguely told that air strikes against the ferocious “Islamic State” may go on for “a long time”. But how long is “long”?

Are we just going to go on killing Arabs and bombing and bombing and bombing until, well, until we go on bombing? What happens if our Kurdish and non-existent “moderate” Syrian fighters – described by Vice-President Joe Biden last week as largely “shopkeepers” – don’t overthrow the monstrous “Islamic State”? Then I suppose we are going to bomb and bomb and bomb again. As a Lebanese colleague of mine asked in an article last week, what is Obama going to do next? Has he thought of that?

After Alan Henning’s beheading, the gorge rises at the thought of even discussing such things. But distance sometimes creates distorting mirrors, none so more than when it involves the distance between the Middle East and Washington, London, Paris and, I suppose, Canberra.

In Beirut, I’ve been surveying the Arab television and press – and it’s interesting to see the gulf that divides what the Arabs see and hear, and what the West sees and hears.

The gruesome detail is essential here to understand how Arabs have already grown used to jihadi barbarity. They have seen full video clips of the execution of Iraqis – if shot in the back of the head, they have come to realise, a victim’s blood pours from the front of his face – and they have seen video clips of Syrian soldiers not only beheaded but their heads then barbecued and carried through villages on sticks.

Understandably, Alan Henning’s murder didn’t get much coverage in the Middle East, although television did show his murder video – which Western television did not. But it didn’t make many front pages. Mostly the fighting between jihadis and Kurds at Ein al-Arab (Kobane) and the festival for the Muslim Eid – and the Haj in Saudi Arabia – dominated news coverage. In general, the Arab world was as uninterested in Henning’s murder as we have been, for example, in the car bomb that killed 50 Syrian children in Homs last week. Had they been British children, of course…

But I’m struck by friends who’ve asked me why we are really carrying out air strikes when we won’t put soldiers on the ground. They have noted how the families of American hostages – fruitlessly seeking mercy for their loved ones – keep repeating that they cannot make Obama do what they want him to do. Yet, don’t we claim that our democratic governments can be influenced by individuals, that they do what we want?

And watching David Cameron on my Beirut television last week, I asked myself why it was really necessary for the RAF to bomb the “Islamic State”. He knows very well that our four – or is it two? – clapped-out Tornadoes are not going to make the slightest difference to any assault on jihadi forces. Indeed, he was prepared to delay RAF strikes until the Scottish referendum was over. If so, why did he not defer them altogether to save British lives?

But it was obvious at the Tory party conference that Cameron’s greatest threat came not from a man in Mosul called Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, but from a man in Bromley called Nigel Farage. Thus he waffled on about how Britain would “hunt down and bring to justice” Henning’s killers and do “everything we can to defeat this organisation in the region and at home”, using “all the assets we have to find these [remaining] hostages”. By “all the assets”, he must mean ground troops – because the RAF is already being used – and this we are not, I think, going to do. “British troops held hostage by Islamic State” is not a headline he wants to read. Thus I fear we are going to do nothing except bomb. And bomb. And bomb. Farage can’t beat that.

Like all Western leaders faced with a crisis in the Middle East, Cameron does not want to deal with it – or explore why it happened. He wants to know how to respond to it politically or, preferably, militarily. Our refusal to broadcast the “Islamic State” beheading videos is understandable – absolutely in the case of the actual murders – but by preventing Brits from actually seeing these horrors, the Government avoids having to respond to the public’s reaction: either a call for more air strikes or to demand their annulment.

This secrecy means the hostages do not exist in our imagination; they only emerge from the mist into the horrible desert sunlight when that grisly video arrives. In the region itself, hostages become public property at once, relatives giving interviews and demanding action from their governments. As I write, the families of 21 captured Lebanese soldiers faced with beheading are blocking the main Damascus- Beirut highway. A Qatari envoy has arrived to help (presumably with lots of cash).

Perhaps we need to reframe our understanding of the “Islamic State”. British Muslim leaders have said, quite rightly, that Muslims show mercy, and that the “Islamic State” is a perversion of Islam. I suspect and fear that they are wrong. Not because Islam is not merciful, but because the “Islamic State” has nothing at all to do with Islam. It is more a cult of nihilism. Their fighters have been brutalised – remember that they have endured, many of them, Saddam’s cruelty, our sanctions, Western invasion and occupation and air strikes under Saddam and now air strikes again. These people just don’t believe in justice any more. They have erased it from their minds.

If we had not supported so many brutal men in the Middle East, would things have turned out differently? Probably. If we had supported justice – I hesitate to suggest putting a certain man on trial for war crimes – would there have been a different reaction in the Middle East? In the Syrian war, they say that 200,000 have died; in Gaza more than 2,000. But in Iraq, we suspect half a million died. And whose fault was that?

The “Islamic State” are the real or spiritual children of all this. Now we face an exclusive form of nihilism, a cult as merciless as it is morbid. And we bomb and we bomb and we bomb. And then?

via Bomb, bomb, bomb ISIS isn’t working, but does Obama have a Plan B in his brain? – Stop the War Coalition.

The war on Terror – What has happened to the world since 9/11

Step out the front door like a ghost into the fog

where no one notices the contrast of white on white.

And in between the moon and you the angels get a better view

of the crumbling difference between wrong and right.

Today is the 13th Anniversary of the tragic events that took place on September 11th 2001.  The anniversary of the murder of 2977 people is a cause for reflection and my thoughts today are very much with the family and friends of the victims.  I had a few moment of contemplation this morning and the memorial posts on social media kept my mind returning to one of the great tragedies of our time.

This afternoon I went off to walk my dogs before collecting my son from school.  This hour or so each afternoon is my thinking time, an opportunity to walk across heathland usually without seeing anyone, no-one to talk to and on days like today a chance to enjoy a bit of early autumn sunshine.  It also gives me a chance to listen to some music.  I am eagerly looking forward to hearing Counting Crows new album on its UK release next Monday as I will be seeing them when they hit the UK in November. I decided to listen to one of their old albums and I selected their first album ‘August and Everything After’.  The words at the beginning of this post are the first four lines of the opening track “Round Here”.  Classic lines from Adam Duritz, a songwriter who can hold his head up in any company, one of the very best.

Those lyrics were written some 10 years before 9/11 and yet both the lyric and the title of the album have a peculiar resonance with me on this sad day.  You see Duritz is a master at painting images with his lyrics and the pictures it painted for me today were of 9/11.  I shall never forget the images of firefighters and police officers emerging from the fog of dust as the towers collapsed.  I shall never forget the television pictures of those trapped above the aircraft who chose to fall to their deaths rather than face the flames.  One can only hope that the angels took their hands and comforted them as they fell.  My mind will never escape the thoughts of those trapped who, knowing the end was near, tried desperately to call loved ones, to say goodbye, to share a few final words, to snatch a crumb of comfort in their final moments.  I will forever admire the people, firefighters, police officers, paramedics and ordinary members of the public who risked their own lives to save others.

9/11 was and will forever be a massive blow to the American psyche.  This was terror on a massive scale on american streets, something that most americans never believed possible.  Understandably the nation clamoured for justice, for vengeance.  Who could ever forget the haunted look on George W. Bush’s face as he addressed the nation, as he swore vengeance, his words reflected the anger of the nation and indeed the civilised world.

Unfortunately the words “the angels get a better view of the crumbling difference between wrong and right” also resonate strongly.  It seems to me that the tactics employed by the USA and its coalition partners have failed miserably.  Now I speak as an armed forces veteran, as a retired cop who has worked through and helped plan counter terrorist operations and I speak as someone who grew up in a Northern Ireland torn apart by terrorist atrocities.

Terrorism is the weapon that the weak deploy against the strong and it is almost impossible to defeat.  It most certainly cannot be defeated by the use of military might, by missiles or by bombing.  The problem is that when military might is deployed against terrorist there are always huge numbers of innocents caught up in the conflict.  The death of innocents is the best recruiting sergeant for terrorist groups, it radicalises and it builds hatred against the strong. The Israelis action against Gaza in recent months, the mess that has emerged in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan and elsewhere as a result of the war on terror and the arab spring are very clear examples of the failures of western foreign policy in the region.

Today I see that President Obama has authorised the use of airstrikes in Syria, something he failed to do to try to halt the slaughter of innocents by the warring factions in that countries civil war.   He now seems to be throwing support behind president Assad to enable him to battle ‘Islamic State’.  Just a few months ago Obama was arming ‘moderate Syrian rebels’ in a bid to oust Assad.  In Egypt the west supported the rebels in their bid to overthrow President Mubarak and then 12 months later supported the rebels who sought to overthrow the democratically elected “Muslim Brotherhood”.  Now please don’t misunderstand me, I am not condemning western leaders for trying to defeat terrorism.  It is undoubtably the case that policy changes according to the risk assessment at that particular time.  There are no right answers, no good options only less wrong and less bad.

The fact that western leaders seem unable to grasp is that the current policies in the region are doomed to failure.  This is a threat the like of which has never been seen.  In the past we have always known that the terrorist planned to cary out their attack but they also planned to escape and to survive.  The Radical Muslim terrorist does not think that way.  As was so cruelly demonstrated on 9/11/2001 they don’t fear losing their lives in their attacks, in fact they often seek martyrdom.  Western ‘interference’ in the region simply adds fuel to the fire, creates more martyrs and complicates the situation further still.  We can never be successful in imposing our values on societies that abhor everything we stand for and frankly I do not believe we should even try.

It seems to me that Duritz’s words were somewhat prophetic.  The difference between right and wrong has indeed crumbled and it would take all of heavens angels to sort out the mess that we in the west carry a huge burden of responsibility for creating.

My final thoughts return to those who lost their lives on 9/11 and their families, may the angels hold you in their hands and comfort your hurt on this saddest of days.