Arab Spring

12 June 2011
The spring now moves inexorably into the summer. The green shoots are now going brown. Or red, as the blood pours. Gaddafi is now indicted by the International Criminal Court while the fighting goes on. Yesterday it was reported that 31 ‘Rebels’ had been killed in Misrata ( and the bizarre possibility that Gaddafi has at the very least sanctioned rape as a weapon (by supplying Viagra type drugs to his forces).
Today, however, news from Syria that Assad’s forces are effectively torching the rebellious town of Jisr al-Shughour forcing at the very least a refugee crisis, is very disturbing. The circumstances behind the deaths of 120 security force people last week remain mysterious. But this town has long been troublesome to the regime…
There is some spring-like news, however, from Yemen with the exit of  Ali Abdullah Saleh after his brush with weaponry left him in need of medical help. It was of sufficient urgency for him to have to go to Saudi Arabia to receive it. Whether he will come back remains unclear.
20 March 2011

Care needed when picking friends

And so another war begins. I was there protesting against the UK going into Iraq in London on that cold February day. I will not be demonstrating this time. The cause is different. I wake up this morning with a heavy heart. But Gaddafi supresses and kills his own people with their own ‘defence’ forces (using weapons supplied by us). He has said that there will be no mercy. The proliferation of independent media show the often uncomfortable outcome of the regime’s brutality. These changes in the Arab world, but particularly in North Africa, are different. These are not colonial wars – an excuse for the West to occupy yet more territory. These are wars of liberation. These are wars of ‘the time has come for change’. The people of Egypt go to the polls today to vote on their own ongoing push towards democracy after their own relatively velvet revolution. Meanwhile, the inability of the people of Benghazi to protect themselves from Gaddafi’s forces threatens their own progress towards a new future of self-determination. It seems that it is relatively easy to drive out the authorities from towns and cities. We could probably do that in Brighton and Hove. However, Gramsci wrote that they will regroup and come back with force. They will show no mercy, even if it was their’s to show. There is something in this for all of us to learn. It is also time for us to get real about weaponry, who we sell them to and why we make them. And whilst I have not been in favour of secular views to be part of the ‘Thought for the Day’ slot on Radio 4, perhaps it is time for radical voices to be heard at that time in the morning rather than apologists for God’s inhumanity? (Picture:

28 February 2011

Gadaffi is a true thug; slowly but surely he moves towards his judgement day. He was a great admirer of Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania. At least he knows how it will end. His son Saif al-Islam, however, really has written a suicide note. And listening to the Director of the London School of Economics this morning on the radio, has left them with a pot of blood money. Education is a wonderful thing, but blood is thicker than water. Seemingly.
13 February 2011
It was momentous. I think Mubarak had said to the generals that he would stand down on Thursday 10 February and then went on TV to say the opposite. I hope he enjoys his time in Sharm el Sheikh. It looks a delightful place.
6 February 2011
Still hangs on Mubarek. The behind-the-scenes diplomacy, however, looks intriguing. I wonder how the Bush Administration would have handled this. Obama seems to be opting for the the least worst option: change. Whilst Mubarek is a staunch US ally, at 82 his days are numbered in any case. Better to embrace the will of the people, so-to-speak, and have influence over the next incumbent of the presidential palace rather than alienate and see the Israeli peace deal literally go up in smoke?
4 February 2011
There is no other story than Egypt. This is epochal change in the making; it is only a matter of time before the edifice tumbles. It always surprises me the arrogance of certain leaders and their own importance. Thatcher and Blair spring to mind in the UK, but Mubarak takes this to new heights. Whilst the country is in chaos with thugs on the streets fighting against the demonstrators, Mubarak argues that whilst he would like to go, without him the country would slip into chaos.
The Guardian today offered a comment from a protester who rejects Mubarak’s plea to be patient and wait for elections in September. The protestor noted that if this was the first day of a peaceful transition, they are right to stay until Mubarak leaves office.
It may be a facile comparison, but take airports, for example. In the event of a cancellation, one should not leave the airport until the airline has made alternative arrangements for passengers. Leave the airport and one is at the mercy of airline phonelines. In Egypt, I imagine, one is at the mercy of the secret police. Tahrir Square may be the safest place. The protestors in Cairo and Alexandria are hugely courageous.
30 January 2011
Events in Egypt are extraordinary. Uprisings are always events, but this one is much more strategic (than say, Tunisia earlier this month). One senses that both the US and UK governments would prefer to keep Mubarek. Calls for peaceful transition seem a little empty and disengenuous. 30 years of one increasingly despotic leader suggests change is needed. Whatever we think of the US, constitutionally, the President can only serve 2 terms. Even the Russians have this constitutional limitation.

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