The Nether-World

November 29, 2006

Britain Accused Of Collusion With CIA In Draft European Parliament Report On Torture Flights

Filed under: Bliar, European Politics, Rendition, Torture — netherworld @ 4:59 am

If Tony Blair thought the issue of Extraordinary Rendition was going away, he must be pretty disappointed. The draft report on extraordinary rendition following the investigation by MEPs has shown that Britain has allowed 170 secret CIA torture flights, second only to Germany’s whopping 336 flights out of at least 1,245 flights in European territory. Ten countries are accused of allowing stopovers. They are:

  • Germany 336
  • Britain 170
  • Ireland 147
  • Portugal 91
  • Spain 68
  • Greece 64
  • Cyprus 57
  • Italy 46
  • Romania 21
  • Poland 11

The report condemns many EU nations saying that they were aware renditions were taking place and failed to co-operate with the investigation. I reported earlier on Geoff Hoon’s unhelpful and evasive behaviour during the investigation.

Giovanni Claudio Fava’s draft report “deplores” the level of co-operation Geoff Hoon, the Europe Minister, gave the MEPs, and condemns the rendition of one British citizen and three British residents, two of whom were said to have been seized on the basis of “partly erroneous information supplied by the UK security service MI5”.
Source

There are now likely to be more demands for a full parliamentary inquiry into the practice of extraordinary rendition by MPs following this draft report which shows that there were far more rendition flights than have previously been admitted by the Government.

Poland has come in for particular criticism because there is good circumstantial evidence that one of the ‘Black sites’ that President Bush has acknowledged exist is located in the Polish intelligence training centre at Stare Kiejkuty. Romania too has been similarly accused. Both countries have declined to make any further statements after their denials last Summer. The Bush administration, despite admitting the existence of ‘black sites’ and the reality of extraordinary rendition, continues to deny that it authorises and participates in torture. The evidence supplied by Khaled el-Masri and others makes a mockery of those denials. Blair’s government too has now been shown to have at least been complicit in torture.

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November 28, 2006

Bush and Blair’s Stable Middle East: Progress or More Despair?

Filed under: Afghanistan, Bliar, Bush, Iran, Iraq, israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria — netherworld @ 7:57 am

The news coming from the Middle East this week, as well as providing us with the usual overdose of despair, is also showing some faint glimmers of change if not exactly hope in some of the hotspots.

In Palestine the tenuous cease fire between the Israelis and the Palestinians seems to be holding… just, and we are finally hearing some more positive language coming from Olmert which may just be the beginnings of a peace initiative, although it is far too early to say for sure and everyone has seen positive developments quickly collapse into renewed violence. However the cease fire, prisoner exchange and possible talks about a viable Palestinian state are developments which are to be welcomed and encouraged. One has to wonder what initiated this change of heart. Is it a realisation that Israel cannot simply murder its way to a peaceful solution (after several months of relentless attacks, massacres, demolitions and assassinations resulting in over 400 Palestinian deaths, most of them civilian, the rocket attacks continued unabated)? Is it pressure from Washington as Bush prepares to visit the region and needs at least something that will play well with the folks back home (it certainly won’t be from Iraq)? Perhaps both sides are exhausted and need a pause in order to re arm and prepare for another cycle of violence. Possibly it is a mixture of all these things.

In Iraq of course, it is very difficult to see anything positive as the country crumbles further into anarchy. If it wasn’t so tragic, it would be amusing watching the US and British governments try to use any wording they can to describe the situation without uttering those fateful words ‘civil war‘. However, civil war is exactly what is happening, or to be more precise, civil wars may be a better term because the country is so fractured now. It’s now obvious to everyone that the Bush/Blair axis does not have the faintest clue what to do about the catastrophe it has created. Talking to Iran and Syria, previously unthinkable, is now very much on the agenda. While Bush and Blair contemplate this very obvious climb down, the Iraqi leader has gone to Iran to plead for help and has received a promise of assistance. Just what form that assistance will take and how effective it will be remains to be seen, however, it is a change and the closest thing to a positive development happening.

In Britain there has been more talk of troop withdrawals, but again the rhetoric displays the bankruptcy of ideas. It has been more or less acknowledged that troops in the region are contributing to the violence, and also acknowledged that withdrawing them is likely to increase the violence in the short term. The decision seems to be to announce a withdrawal of some (possibly most) British troops by the end of next year while admitting that some troops will be in Iraq for many years to come (probably confined to bases and under siege). Hardly a clear strategy. Of course, the remainder of the so-called coalition of the willing will be out of Iraq much sooner. America is not making any such announcement. The USA is still deliberating on whether to send even more troops into the quagmire as if that would improve matters.

Another hotspot in the news again is Lebanon which also looks close to descending into chaos again. Hizbollah’s threat to leave the government unless it was given greater representation could be a body blow to the pro Western administration. The assassination of Pierre Gemayel, Lebanon’s anti-Syrian industry minister has obviously added to the pressure on Lebanon and also Syria, which has been accused of the murder without a shred of evidence. It is interesting that the killing took place just as Syria was making positive noises about coming in from the cold and helping ease the tension in Iraq. For Syria to murder a Lebanese Cabinet Minister at this time is hardly in its best interests, so we have to ask ourselves who would benefit most from the renewed chaos in Lebanon and and more pressure on Syria as well as who is best placed to carry out such an assassination. Hopefully the tension in the Levant will be allowed to calm down in order for all parties to focus on the far more dangerous situation in Iraq.

Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon are the three civil wars (potential or already started) that Jordan’s King Abdullah warned that we could be facing next year. Not exactly the advance of freedom and hope in the greater Middle East promised by Bush and Blair when they lied their way into the Iraq war and now try to lie their way out of it. But there is also the quagmire in Afghanistan to consider. That conflict is not going well either and America and Britain are having trouble finding other NATO allies to join them in their mission. Far from rushing to join in the fun, NATO countries are looking for a way out of that mess.

While there is very little to get exited about in terms of stability in the region, there is a noticeable change in the air. America’s stranglehold on the Middle East might well be coming to an end. An attack on Iran now looks less likely as the US realises that it needs Iranian cooperation and that Iran seems to be holding the best cards and knows how to play them. Also it will be much harder to attack Iran now that the CIA has said that it has found no proof that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. This with the possibility of a peace initiative in Palestine and Iranian and Syrian cooperation in Iraq does give us some reason to hope, however small that hope is.

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November 20, 2006

Petition for an inquiry into the London bombings of July 7 2005

Filed under: 7/7 — netherworld @ 6:40 pm

Since I started this blog nearly a year ago, I have been campaigning for a full public inquiry into the London bombings of July 7 last year. I don’t know if we are any closer to having such an inquiry but it’s been a while since I last posted anything about that atrocity.

Last week, Downing Street launched a new E-Petition service on its website. The service was put together by those clever people at MySociety who are also responsible for TheyWorkForYou, Write To Them and PledgeBank.

Whilst I share the cynicism expressed by Justin at Chicken Yoghurt, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to create a petition and see what happens. So I have created a petition on the Downing Street site asking for a full public inquiry into the London bombings of July 7. Downing Street contacted me today and informed me that my petition has been approved and is now on-line.

The petition reads:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to hold a full public inquiry into the London bombings of July 7 2005. More than a year after that terrible atrocity that killed at least 52 people and maimed many more, there still hasn’t been a full public inquiry into that event. The “Narrative” and the ISC report we were given are insufficient. We’ve had public inquiries into far less serious events, why not this? We now know that the attacks did not come “out of the blue” as was asserted by the Home Secretary at the time.

If you feel, as I do, that we need a proper inquiry into the July 7 bombings, please sign the petition. Unfortunately this petition is only open to British citizens or residents. For those who aren’t, there is still this petition which I also urge people to sign. Various polls have shown that most people think that there should be a public inquiry into last year’s bombings. The refusal of the Government to hold one is adding to conspiracy theories and speculation that the Government has something to hide. Until we learn the lessons from July 7, we are even more likely to suffer a similar attack. Just because July 7 hasn’t been in the news lately, it doesn’t mean that efforts to get a public inquiry have ceased. Please help send a message to the Government that demands for an inquiry are not going away. You can do this by signing the petition, posting it on your blog if you have one and by writing to your MP.

Here is the petition

Thank you

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November 19, 2006

Git of the Week #1 (of an occasional series)

Filed under: Bliar, Blogging, Civil Liberties, Media, Nu Labour — netherworld @ 10:23 pm

I meant to comment on this earlier so by now it’s already all over the blogosphere, but this story does need to be recorded here too. Actually “git” is probably too polite a word to describe Matthew Taylor, Tony Blair’s outgoing chief strategy adviser who has decided that the reason people are turned off by politics is not the lies and corruption of the politicians but the people who have the audacity to comment on them, particularly bloggers. Talk about shooting the messenger. Anyway, judging by the reaction from the blogs I’ve read so far there is a rare (but unsurprising in this case) show of unanimity, with everyone having pretty much the same message for this patronising idiot. Let’s have a closer look at the comments he made at an e-democracy conference in central London.

Tony Blair’s outgoing chief strategy adviser fears the internet could be fuelling a “crisis” in the relationship between politicians and voters.

If by “crisis” you mean that more people are able to scrutinse and debate Government policy Matthew, that’s not a crisis but a very positive development, one you should be encouraging rather than criticising.

Matthew Taylor – who stressed he was speaking as a “citizen” not a government spokesman – said the web could be “fantastic” for democracy.

But it was too often used to encourage the “shrill discourse of demands” that dominated modern politics.

He was speaking on the day Mr Blair carried out an online interview.

I thought we were all citizens in a democracy, whether we are a part of the Government or not. Are you suggesting that if you were speaking in your capacity of a government spokesman you would have a different set of views? Yes, the web could be “fantastic” for democracy if only you lot would stop meddling with it and trying to impose unnecessary restrictions on it.

Mr Taylor said Mr Blair’s online grilling from voters – and other initiatives such as environment secretary David Miliband’s blog and Downing Street’s new online petition service – showed the government was making good progress in using the internet to become more open and accountable.

But he said more needed to be done by the web community in general to encourage people to use the internet to “solve problems” rather than simply abuse politicians or make “incommensurate” demands on them.

The Government is slowly waking up to the power of the internet and I applaud some of those initiatives, but I hardly think it’s making the Government more accountable. Mr Blair answered only a small handful of questions selected by the journalists conducting the interview. It wasn’t exactly a “grilling” was it? David Miliband’s blog is the laughing stock of the blogosphere. Has it ever veered off message? As for the petition service on the Downing Street website, well the jury is still out. We don’t know if the Government will take any more notice of the petitions than it does of the votes at the Labour Party Conference.

One of the problems the web community is trying to solve is the undemocratic, mendacious and illiberal actions of this government, I’m afraid that requires a little criticism… deal with it! Politicians are servants of the people, so the people are quite right to make demands on them. If Politicians don’t like that then they should be in another line of work.

Speaking at an e-democracy conference in central London, he said modern politics was all about “quality of life” and that voters had a “very complex set of needs”.

The end of deference, the rapid pace of social change and growing diversity were all good things, he argued, but they also meant governments found it increasingly difficult to govern.

Voters do have a “very complex set of needs” and it is the job of the politicians to try and address those needs. Many of those needs are being expressed on the internet. Because there are so many people on-line, there are obviously going to be a lot of differing opinions. Rather than complain about it, look at what people are saying. The end of deference is a good thing, as you say Matthew, but you don’t really mean that do you, otherwise you wouldn’t be saying this:

“We have a citizenry which can be caricatured as being increasingly unwilling to be governed but not yet capable of self-government,” Mr Taylor told the audience.

Like “teenagers”, people were demanding, but “conflicted” about what they actually wanted, he argued.

They wanted “sustainability”, for example, but not higher fuel prices, affordable homes for their children but not new housing developments in their town or village.

I’ve been trying to avoid expletives up until now but … Fuck right off you arrogant, patronising, condescending twat. Yes, we are increasingly unwilling to be governed by a bunch of lying, corrupt, greedy hypocrites like yourself and the rest of the NuLabour junta who are not held to account for their actions. Democracy is supposed to be self-government you idiot. Look it up in a dictionary. Of course people are demanding, and they have different views. Your generalisations of the “conflicted” people are offensive in the extreme which is exactly why you should expect some reciprocation. The examples you give show nothing new. It’s up to governments to balance those conflicts as best they can. If you can’t do that or complain about having to do it then piss off and we’ll find people who can.

But rather than work out these dilemmas in partnership with their elected leaders, they were encouraged to regard all politicians as corrupt or “mendacious” by the media, which he described as “a conspiracy to maintain the population in a perpetual state of self-righteous rage”.

Whether media was left wing or right wing, the message was always that “leaders are out there to shaft you”.

Now where would we get the insane idea that our leaders are corrupt, mendacious and out there to shaft us? The media reporting on the cash for honours investigation, the lies we were told in the run up to the war with Iraq…? Calling the media “a conspiracy to maintain the population in a perpetual state of self-righteous rage” is a little disingenuous when what it does is report on your actions, and anyway, what about NuLaour’s conspiracy to maintain the population in a perpetual state of fear?

He went on: “At a time at which we need a richer relationship between politicians and citizens than we have ever had, to confront the shared challenges we face, arguably we have a more impoverished relationship between politicians and citizens than we have ever had.

“It seems to me this is something which is worth calling a crisis.”

Yes Matthew it is a crisis, one entirely of the Government’s making. The impoverished relationship between politicians and citizens you lament is because of the dishonesty and lack of accountability. The richer relationship you want is partly possible because of a vibrant media and on-line community.

The internet, he told the conference, was part of that “crisis”.

“The internet has immense potential but we face a real problem if the main way in which that potential expresses itself is through allowing citizens to participate in a shrill discourse of demands.

“If you look at the way in which citizens are using technology and the way that is growing up, there are worrying signs that that is the case.

No, the internet is part of the solution. What you call a “shrill discourse of demands” is in fact citizens discussing, debating, arguing and informing. What is wrong with that, and why shouldn’t they use technology to do those things more effectively?

“What is the big breakthrough, in terms of politics, on the web in the last few years? It’s basically blogs which are, generally speaking, hostile and, generally speaking, basically see their job as every day exposing how venal, stupid, mendacious politicians are.

“The internet is being used as a tool of mobilisation, which is fantastic, but it only adds to the growing, incommensurate nature of the demands being made on government.”

Yes, blogs like the mainstream media, can be hostile and if they expose how venal, stupid, mendacious politicians are then they are doing a valuable service. If you don’t like it, why not try being less venal, stupid and mendacious? Anyway not all blogs provide this service, you’ve already mentioned David Miliband’s blog, and there are other blogs which will happily praise your illiberal policies, gloss over your dishonesty and be the deferential compliant citizens you obviously want. I seem to remember you wanting an official blogger for the recent Labour Party Conference. And what about Hazel Blears’ blog? You seem to complain about blogs when they dare to disagree with you, but are quite happy to use them to spread your message.

He challenged the online community to provide more opportunities for “people to try to understand the real trade-offs that politicians face and the real dilemmas that citizens face”.

In other words to shut up and get with the programme… No chance, if it’s all the same to you we’ll just carry on exposing how venal, stupid, mendacious you are. It’s more fun anyway.

“I want people to have more power, but I want them to have more power in the context of a more mature discourse about the responsibilities of government and the responsibilities of citizens,” Mr Taylor told delegates.

The last thing you want is for us to have more power which is why your government has put so much effort into removing as many of our liberties as possible. If you want responsible citizens then lead by example and empower people.

Part of the problem, he added, was the “net-head” culture itself, which was rooted in libertarianism and “anti-establishment” attitudes.

Oh dear! What on earth, may I ask, is wrong with libertarianism? Are you saying that you are opposed to liberty and free will? Judging by NuLabour policies, I suppose the answer is “yes” but that isn’t specified in the rhetoric is it? As for “anti-establishment” attitudes, well Britain has a rich tradition in “anti-establishment” attitudes. It is not a new phenomenon that grew out of the internet, rather a continuation of an old tradition using the internet.

He told delegates: “You have to be part of changing that culture. It’s important for people who understand technology, to move from that frame of mind, which is about attacking the establishment into one which is about problem-solving and social enterprise.”

Technology should be used to encourage elected representatives to communicate better with voters, he told delegates.

Why exactly should users of technology not challenge their leaders and ask pertinent questions?

Government also needed to “develop new forms of consultation and engagement that are deliberative in their form and trust citizens to get to the heart of the difficult trade-offs involved.”

And there should be more effort to make communities “work together to solve problems,” said Mr Taylor.

This government has shown no trust in its citizens and should therefore expect no trust from its citizens. “Work together to solve problems,” is a NuLabour euphemism for “keep quiet and do as your told”. After ten years in power that has become fairly apparent to many people.

Mr Taylor is Tony Blair’s chief adviser on political strategy and the former head of the centre left think tank the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR).

He is leaving Downing Street next week, after three years, to become the chief executive of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts (RSA).

I’m glad you’re leaving Downing Street Mr Taylor. Hopefully you’ll do less harm working in the RSA, but be warned, artists can be notoriously anti-establishment. I doubt they will be any more deferential and compliant than the numerous bloggers who have such a low opinion of you.

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Blairwatch
D-Notice
Guido Fawkes
Iain Dale’s Diary
Mr Eugenides
Not Saussure
Rachel
Paul Linford
Devil’s Kitchen

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English al Jazeera gets off to a flying start

Filed under: Bliar, Iraq, Media — netherworld @ 6:38 pm

The new English language al Jazeera channel which was launched last week has gotten off to a very good start. In an interview with Tony Blair, Sir David Frost managed to tease out what has been interpreted by much of the media as an admission that the invasion and occupation of Iraq has been pretty much of a disaster.

When Frost said the situation in Iraq had “so far been pretty much of a disaster”, Mr Blair replied “it has”, before adding quickly: “But you see what I say to people is why is it difficult in Iraq?

“It’s not difficult because of some accident in planning.

“It’s difficult because there’s a deliberate strategy – al-Qaeda with Sunni insurgents on one hand, Iranian-backed elements with Shia militias on the other – to create a situation in which the will of the majority for peace is displaced by the will of the minority for war.”
Source

Well who would have suspected that Sir David Frost could have prompted such a controversial remark? What I find astonishing is that Blair, rather than accept any responsibility for the “disaster” in Iraq, is blaming the victims of his invasion for, erm… fighting back. Apparantly this possibility wasn’t considered in the original war plans. Amusingly, Downing Street is spinning like mad to distance itslf from Blair’s “ straightforward slip of the tongue“.

But Downing Street insisted his views had been misrepresented and that he had not made “some kind of admission”.

[…]

A spokesman said the prime minister often agreed with interviewers when he responded to their questions.

[…]

Downing Street insisted it was not Mr Blair’s view that the violence in Iraq had been a disaster.

A spokeswoman said: “He was simply acknowledging the question in a polite way before going on to explain his view.

“To portray it as some kind of admission is completely disingenuous.”
Source

I’ll leave it to readers to decide just how much of a slip of the tongue it was.

For some more in-depth analysis check out A Big Stick and a Small Carrot and Obsolete.

Earlier, a former al Jazeera producer, Afshin Rattansi was interviewed by Martha MacCallum on Fox News’ “Live Desk” show. It seems that Martha’s unfounded statements that Al Jazeera broadcast video of terrorists beheading people backfired on her.

Interviewing someone who actually knows something about Al Jazeera was MacCallum’s first mistake. She should stick to interviewing people from the Christian Broadcasting Network, who have no facts at their disposal, only opinions that are the same as hers.

The first thing Rattansi did was point out that the English language Al Jazeera is being distributed in the United Kingdom by Fox News’ parent company. Probably not the way the boss’s memo said the interview should start.
Source

And Fox calls al Jazeera a propaganda channel.

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November 17, 2006

More ID Card Mayhem

Filed under: Bliar, Civil Liberties, Privacy — netherworld @ 7:43 am

Tony Blair yesterday in an interview on the Downing Street website:

Prime Minister:

Obviously all the normal protections will apply, but the important thing about this data is that the data that you have in your passport isn’t fantastically confidential to people, and the key for this thing is not actually the data about you, it is the fact that you have the biometric data of your fingerprint and your iris scan, that is the data that matters and that data is peculiar to you.

Will Hutton:

But who has access to it and how will citizens know that it is absolutely ring fenced and that only appropriate people will have access to it?

Prime Minister:

Because in the laws that we have put through on this, there are only certain people that are allowed access to it and that access, as I say, it is your actual biological data. And I think the confusion that people have here is they kind of think well you know the taxman can go in and get this information also, there is no information other than the same information you get in your passport, the key thing is the biometrics that are there and the reason for that is that this new technology, the biometric technology, and this is why the whole argument has changed, gives you a far better and more secure way of identifying people.
Source

Today’s Guardian:

The government was facing demands to recall 3m micro-chipped biometric passports last night after a Guardian investigation which found that they could be electronically attacked and cloned with a £174 microchip reader.

Biometric data was transferred to a PC after gaining access to the chips in three passports. The findings are likely to put pressure on John Reid, the home secretary, to rethink plans for ID cards.

The Identity and Passport Service has spent £60m on new passport production lines for the £66 documents, which were introduced in March.
Source

And whilst on the subject of ID Cards I can’t let this little beauty go un noticed (via Nosemonkey)

“ID Cards will reduce the threat of the Surveillance Society and help safeguard civil liberties”
Source

The comment from Antipholus Papps is superb:

Concentration camps will reduce the threat of genocidal holocaust and help safeguard cultural diversity.

Fantastic! So ID Cards are going to save us from this are they? Just look at what can happen in America if you are careless enough to forget your ID card.

“A cell phone captured video of a 23-year-old student being administered multiple Taser shocks by UCLA police on Tuesday. The UCLA student was hit with the Taser shocks multiple times while he was in the Powell Library Computer Lab. According to the paper, (Mostafa) Tabatabainejad did not show ID to community service officers who were conducting a random check,” reports NBC.

John Reid will be green with envy. Time for another petition I think. And while on the petition page you may as well sign this one too (via Justin).

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November 16, 2006

Knacker of the Yard is making “considerable progress”

Filed under: Bliar, Cash for Honours, Nu Labour — netherworld @ 9:38 pm

Scotland Yard’s Assistant Commissioner John Yates, the policeman investigating the cash for honours inquiry, has written to MPs on the public administration select committee and reported that “considerable progress continues to be made”. So far 90 people have been interviewed, 35 from the Labour Party, 29 Conservatives, four Liberal Democrats, and 22 non-party. The investigation is said to have uncovered “significant and valuable material”.

This might explain why Tony Blair has been so worried and angry lately, and also why lawyers for Downing Street have launched a pre-emptive strike against the police by challenging any prosecution using the excuse that the investigation has been compromised by unauthorised leaks. This incidentally, is the same defence used by Abu Hamza and Gary Glitter. The accusation that the police are guilty of leaking information about the case is ridiculous of course. Why would the police jeopardise their own investigation? Yates doesn’t strike me as being that stupid. As Iain Dale points out, if anyone is trying to influence the proceedings it is the the Labour leadership who have consistently encouraged journalists to report that the Police have found nothing and the inquiry is going nowhere. Mr Yates seems to be replying to these accusations by saying that “the major developments” in the inquiry remained confidential and that, security surrounding the investigation “remains very tight” despite what has been reported.

You can read the full text of the letter sent by Yates to MPs here. Needless to say, Guido got there first.

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November 15, 2006

About Time Too!

Filed under: israel, Palestine, UK Politics — netherworld @ 8:33 am

In the past year, the Government licensed the sale of £23m worth of weaponry to Israel. This is a dramatic increase (almost double) on the previous year. Britain seems to have a nice little business going in selling weapons to despotic regimes.

However, under both EU (and UK) law arms cannot be sold to countries where they might be used for internal repression, international aggression, or contribute to regional instability. See Criterion Two and Criterion 4 of the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports. So why are we doing it? Well, apparently we have received assurances from Israel that that arms sold to it from the UK would not be used in the occupied territories. Assurances that evidently were not worth the paper they were printed on.

Anyway, it looks as if this cosy business arrangement is about to be disrupted by a Palestinian who is taking the Government to court over the matter.

The government is being taken to court today over the sale of military equipment to Israel including parts for Apache helicopter gunships, laser range finders, and communications equipment.

Saleh Hasan, a Palestinian who lives in Bethlehem, argues that the sales are in breach of the government’s guidelines covering arms exports and are unlawful. The guidelines say exports should be blocked when there is a “clear risk” they “might be used for internal repression”.

Mr Hasan’s lawyers point to comments by Foreign Office minister Kim Howells in the Commons in August that “almost any use of equipment … could be used aggressively, especially in occupied areas”.

They point out that after British military equipment was used in the occupied territories in 2002, Jack Straw, then foreign secretary, said he would no longer take Israeli assurances into account. Mr Howells said that approach “still holds true”.

Michael Fordham QC says in his court challenge on behalf of Mr Saleh that there is also clear evidence of human rights abuses by Israeli forces.
Source

Well, hopefully Mr Hasan will win his case. If he does win, it won’t change facts on the ground, Israel gets most of its weaponry from the USA, but at least Britain will be less complicit in the slaughter of Palestinian civilians. A small victory.

If he looses the case and the UK continues to supply Israel with high-tech weaponry to be used on the civilians of Palestine then that will make a mockery of Tony Blair’s recent rhetoric about solving the Israel/Palestine conflict.

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November 12, 2006

Remembrance Sunday

Filed under: Bliar, Civil Liberties — netherworld @ 7:40 am

Cenotaph

Image by Beau Bo D’Or

Today is Remembrance Sunday, the day we remember the soldiers who died for their country in the many wars that have been fought. In the case of the Second World War there is no doubt that the soldiers were genuinely fighting for our freedom and against a dangerous enemy with a disgusting ideology that threatened all of Europe and devastated much of it and killed so many. As for the other wars, well I’m not so sure. This in no way is meant to disrespect the brave soldiers who fought and died in these wars and who rightly deserve to be honoured, just criticism of the politicians who started these wars. What I hate most about Remembrance Sunday is how politicised it is, particularly now with the Iraq war still raging. I can’t describe this any better than Quarsan over at Blairwatch who summed up my feelings perfectly:

On Sunday, wearing his ‘special serious statesman face’ Tony Blair will lay a wreath at the Cenotaph. The man who sent soldiers out to die for a tissue of lies, the man who has never attended a funeral of a soldier killed by following his orders, the man who has never visited the wounded, the maimed, the disfigured.

The man who just can’t face seeing the consequences of his actions, his errors. The man who doesn’t want us to remember.

I can think of nothing more sickening, more offensive to the dead.

It’s worth reading the whole short post and its comments.

Nearly a century after The First World War the brutality, the lies, the greed, the imperialism and the racism continues only with even more sophisticated means. The utter hypocrisy of Blair pretending to honour those who gave their lives for our freedoms when he is removing those very freedoms as fast as he can beggars belief.

Blair Poppies

Image by Beau Bo D’Or

Over the last week there was the annual discussion of the wearing of poppies particularly for news presenters and politicians who are obliged to wear them when they go on air. One presenter, Jon Snow of Channel 4 news refused to succumb to “poppy fascism” as he called it. You can read his reasons here. Others happily wore their poppies.

There was also a debate about white poppies and red poppies. The point I’m trying to get to is this, if all these brave people fought and died to defend our freedom, surely we have the freedom to wear white poppies, red poppies or no poppies at all without all this fuss. The argument that the money raised from red poppies goes to a good cause (looking after veterans) is all very well, but if the nation is so grateful to these heroes, then they shouldn’t have to rely on a charity financed by the selling of paper flowers once a year.

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Ten Tips For Dealing With GIYUS

Filed under: Blogging, israel, Lebanon, Palestine — netherworld @ 5:30 am

If, like many people, you are disgusted by the behaviour of Israel and happen to blog about, say, the latest massacre in Gaza; the desperate situation the Palestinians are in; the carnage in Lebanon or the provocation of UNIFIL peacekeepers; the threat of attacking Iran or any of the other nefarious deeds that Israel is allowed to get away with, then there is a reasonable chance that you may attract the attention of GIYUS. You’ll know when that has happened when you find your post bombarded by comments (usually anonymous and looking remarkably similar) attempting to justify those actions and attacking you for daring to mention them. A quick look at your stats will confirm that you’ve been GIYUSed. If this bothers you, here are some tips which may put a stop to the attack, or at least lessen the flow of moronic comments. Of course I can’t guarantee that they will work, all I can say is that they seemed to work for me when I became their target. First of all don’t be intimidated, that’s what this little army of cyber soldiers want you to be. Instead you could try the following:

  1. Update your post straight away explaining what has happened and adding a little bit about GIYUS for those unfamiliar with this annoying pressure group. This also lets the GIYUS bots know that you’re on to them.

  2. If possible, add some links to previous posts you might have written on the issues to show that you are not going to be intimidated by their antics.

  3. Refute their ‘arguments’ in the comments. This is easy as they really don’t have any. Their comments go along the lines of “it is about time that Israel completely ignore any condemnation of our effort to stay alive and have a simple life in a and keep pounding at the Palestinians…”. Also they don’t stick around to argue, debate is the last thing they want and its what they are trying to stifle. They just do as they are directed by GIYUS.

  4. On no account say anything which they could construe as being anti-Semitic. That is exactly what they want. Not only is anti-Semitism so obviously wrong but you’ll be lowering yourself to their level. Their main objective is to ‘prove’ that anyone who disagrees with Israeli policies is a) anti-Semitic, b) a Holocaust denier, and c) an ‘Islamo-fascist’. To do this they try to blur the distinctions between ‘Zionist’, ‘Israeli’ and ‘Jewish’.

  5. Use reliable news sources to back up your points. If you can find items from Israeli sources, so much the better. Haaretz and B’TSalem are useful.

  6. Invite others to join in the fun, it makes the thread more balanced and much more interesting. It also saves you from having to repeat yourself or respond to every comment.

  7. Don’t delete their comments unless they really are particularly offensive. That just makes it look like you haven’t got an answer to them. Leave their comments up so we can all have a good laugh at them.

  8. Use humour. Believe me, these commenters have as much sense of humour as Ian Paisley on a bad day, and they don’t like having the piss taken out of them (who does?). The issues are deadly serious for both sides of the argument but the point here is to stop GIYUS bullying you into remaining silent about them.

  9. If other bloggers link to your post then even more people will see it thus rendering their efforts to silence you completely counter-productive. I’ll take this opportunity to thank the Curious Hamster, Obsolete and D-Notice for linking to my post which helped GIYUS’s attack on me backfire.

  10. GIYUS has been particularly effective in distorting or wrecking on-line polls. If you are conducting a poll about Israel and you find that GIYUS members turn up in great numbers to distort the result, my advice would be to shut it down immediately and post a message explaining why. I haven’t conducted a poll about Israel but it’s what I’d do if I found my poll being distorted by GIYUS.

When I was targeted by GIYUS I did most of the things on this list and the comments slowed down and then stopped very quickly. And it wasn’t because the GIYUS bots stopped visiting. As I write this they are still coming, they’re just not bombarding me with their silly justifications for what is by any standard criminal behaviour. Groups like this don’t like to be exposed in this way, so when a light is shined on them they tend to scuttle back to whatever dark recesses they emerged from. Mind you, having posted this I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried again.

If you have been GIYUSed and your post is genuine comment on Middle East news and not anti-Semitic or conspiracy theory garbage, feel free to drop me a comment and I’ll link to it. Freedom of speech is important and we have enough curtailment of it from our leaders, so we don’t need these idiots to bully us into silence. If all this sounds like behaving little better than GIYUS, it isn’t. I’m not advocating bombarding peoples web sites with comments or hurling abuse at anyone. This is just a defence tactic which may or may not work if you find yourself under a coordinated virtual attack from a state sponsored pressure group. No state is above criticism and when a state behaves the way Israel does it should expect to be criticised for its crimes. Unfortunately many governments, particularly the American and British governments refuse to criticise these atrocities and are complicit in them, so it’s up to us to do it.

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