Archive for the ‘Arab Spring’ Category

Bombing Syria

François_Hollande_26_avril_2015I was sickened by the attacks in Paris. As a regular attender at gigs, I can only imagine the terror of a gunman in a dark confined space, let alone two gunmen. Paris is special.

France’s President Hollande (left), however, is not. I sense that he is using this opportunity to reinvent himself as a statesman, he doing not so well on the being President gig. He seems now to strut around inspecting his troops and embracing photo-opportunities with the scenes of terror as a backdrop. Oh, and bombing Raqqa in Syria, the Capital of the Islamic State, the perpetrator of the atrocity.

Whilst Raqqa may be the Capital, it is also a city full of civilians, many living under occupation. Any attack will have civilian casualties. But for President Hollande it does seem now that they are dispensable in the pursuit of his statesmanship. For goodness sake, the perpetrators of the atrocities were French nationals living in Belgium! Arguably, the attacks should have been prevented as there seems to be plenty of evidence that the perpetrators were known to the authorities. Warnings had been issued. They were not acted upon. That is not to excuse them, but we spend a lot of money on the security services and have – and will continue to – voluntarily concede civil liberties in order for these individuals to be monitored.

IS is of our own making. The US/UK illegitimate invasion of Iraq is one component. Our continued support for Saudi Arabia, arguably the source of the IS-statehood – a variation of Wahabi-ism – where beheadings are legitimate forms of punishment and the subjugation of women institutionalised, is another.

And then there is the ally of the French across the Channel, the UK, with its very own statesman pretender, David Cameron. Now, it seems, it is timeGuardian_graphic for him to push ahead with his much-heralded desire to bomb Syria. He argues that we, the British, are already bombing Iraq and the Syrian border at the moment is a bit nebulous (see chart, right). It is not really respected by IS and Assad is a bit holed up in Damascus to do much about any incursions. That is until the Turks blow out of the sky a Russian fighter and film the pilot being being shot at as he descends with a parachute. Spend 17 seconds over Turkey without an invitation and boom!

I can only hope that the UK Labour Party MPs do not accede to Cameron’s war mongering. I fear that they will. We seem not to learn the lessons of history – both near and far.

Picture of President Hollande: Claude Truong-Ngoc, Wikipedia

Graphic: Guardian newspaper:

The Autumn has arrived

So, now we know why the British Government was so keen to intervene in Libya. Fools like myself believed for once that the reasons were truly humanitarian; i.e. to avert a massacre in Benghazi. But no. The British had used Gaddafi’s facilities for rendition – a consequence of that warming of relations between our nations (see On seeing the tide flowing against Gaddafi and towards the ‘rebels’, how might we (the British) make friends quickly? Let us help the ‘rebels’ led by Gaddafi’s former Justice Minister, Mustafa Abdul Jalil. They will control the country and we continue to have a strategic interest in the region, not least the oil. So much for a people’s revolution.

Certainly a massacre in Benghazi was averted. But how many people died in the subsequent fighting in and around Tripoli?

The attack on Hama

1 August 2011

President Bashar al-Assad sent in the tanks to Hama, a non-conforming town to the north of Damascus. Hama had been attacked by his father in 1982 with 10 thousand deaths when the City was literally razed to the ground. The reports coming out of the city today, such that they are, talk of indiscriminate arms firing, tanks and explosions. The story is familiar; however, this time, UK and Nato forces are not there in support of the citizens.

Listening to William Hague, the UK foreign Secretary this morning on Radio 4 was pointless as he dishonestly explained the West’s absence. It is different, of course, but not because the Arab League has not asked for assistance.

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.