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Taking Sides?

I haven’t commented much on the Syrian civil war, or as it seems to be playing out, Hezbollah v al Qaeda.

Once again though, I see that the USA and the UK look like they are going to become involved in a foreign war with no clear strategy or plan.

Thank goodness that we have Tony Blair the Middle East Peace Envoy acting on behalf of ‘The Quartet’ (The USA, Russia, The EU and the UN). Surely he will make everyone see sense?

bliar

Mind you, maybe we should listen to Tony who has such an impeccable record of involving himself others in military conflicts on a completely false pretext with no real plan an ethical basis on sound intelligence and with a clear strategy.

Now correct me if I’m wrong here because I am a simple soul.

Didn’t the West intervene in Afghanistan as a direct result of the 9/11 attacks, planned and orchestrated by al Qaeda?

Wasn’t this also a reason put forward (as well as the bogus ‘weapons of mass destruction’ excuse) for bombing Iraq and killing thousands of civilians?

al Qaeda were indeed the baddies. They were the enemy of freedom and democracy and had to be defeated at all costs.

Jump forward a decade and now we have Blair, Bill Clinton and John McCain urging Obama and co to arm al Qaeda!

As a free bonus in all of this we get an instant plunge back into the freezer for Cold War II as Russia are funding the Syrian government.

Maybe if Bin Laden was still alive he’d have made the Queen’s birthday honours list?

No Way José

I wonder if any readers know what the Azores Summit was?

It was a meeting in 2003 attended by Tony Blair, George W Bush and Spanish Premier Jose Maria Aznar. It was the precursor for the invasion of Iraq, an illegal war which was to have a catastrophic loss of life and would cost over a trillion pounds. You can read an account of the summit here and whilst some may point out that the source is hardly an objective one, this blogger at least is impressed at the prescient tone of the article written at the time.

Any such meeting would require an organiser, a host. The three leaders were very confident in the man who fulfilled the role although as president of Portugal at the time where there was near 90% opposition to the Iraq war, he had to keep a low profile.

However now that he is in a rather more powerful position than he was then, surely there is no need for his reticence and modesty.

Step forward José Manuel Barroso.

BBB

“Lets go to work”

Yes indeed the same José Manuel Barroso, unelected but most powerful man in the EU*, who knows all about what would happen if Scotland were to vote yes in the independence referendum. Scotland would have to apply for membership of the EU he says. Of course in the period since he intervened in the debate, several legal experts have pointed out that there would be no mechanism by which a state could be excluded simply by reasserting its nationhood.

(* A man whom Tony Blair proudly boasts owes his position to him)

As the very name United Kingdom (the current member state) was first used in 1603 after the union of the crowns of Scotland and England and became a constitutional unit of equal partners following the Act of Union in 1707, it is difficult to see how the “Remaining UK” could be chosen in isolation as the successor state over Scotland.

I’m no legal expert but there seems to be a sufficient clarity deficit of the constitutional position to at least cast doubt on M Barroso’s interpretation of EU law. The UK meanwhile as the member state has done nothing to improve the clarity of the legal situation. Michael Moore is quite happy with Barroso’s letter it would seem.

The whole independence debate is now shaping up to be not very much about independence at all. It is becoming more of a choice between London and Brussels. Given the likelihood of 1) A referendum on UK membership of the EU post 2014 and 2) The likelihood of that vote being to leave the EU, the situation is gearing up to be a most interesting and complicated one.

I personally can’t see Scotland voting to separate from its biggest trading partners in such circumstances.

That may well turn out to be a pyrrhic victory for M Barroso.

And his friends.

The ghost of Libya past

Yes one wonders what all those meetings between Blair and Gaddafi were all about?

Photo courtesy of Lakelander who is a Tory blogger but one who sometimes displays an intelligent and acerbic wit.

Tony Blair, Walter Smith, Henrik Larsson and my mum

As I was phoning people round yesterday to tell them of the date and time of my mother’s funeral, one conversation in particular highlighted the qualities which I attributed to mum in my short posting about her.

The conversation was with the mother of a young lad who my mum befriended. Mum was widowed way back in 1975. One day not long after my father’s death, this wee boy spotted her doing some gardening and he could see she was upset.

“What’s wrong?” said the wee fella. “Oh my husband died recently and I’m just a wee bit upset – that’s all” she said. “Never mind” said Scott in a sympathetic voice “You’re quite old so I suppose it won’t be too long before you join him!”

Mum thought this disarming honestly, in the form of an attempt at sympathy from a wee boy was absolutely hilarious. It was clear the lad had vision problems. It turned out he had a few other medical issues too as well as some learning difficulties not helped by his continuing poor health.

My mum never forgot how the wee fella, (a neighbour as it turned out) had unwittingly cheered her up that day and took an interest in him. She would visit him in one of his many stays in respite care, encourage him to read and would help his parents sometimes by taking him for a walk during times when Scott was confined to a wheelchair.

In the late 90s Scott, by then aged around 30, was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Mum, trying to think of something positive to do, had the idea of writing to well known people telling them of Scott’s indomitable spirit and asking them to write him a letter.

Well, letters started to arrive from Scott from Tony Blair, Liam Gallagher, Craig Brown and many other famous folk. Some of the letters were simply to say that they had heard about Scott and that they wished him all the best.

Others would contain gifts, photos or souvenirs. Walter Smith sent him a signed Rangers top for example. However it was another letter from the other half of the Old Firm which delighted Scott the most.

Henrik Larsson, at the time the most skilful player in the country, was banging in the goals for Celtic. He sent Scott a charming letter and said that Scott was to watch the next televised Celtic game and that if he (Larsson) scored, he’d make a sign to the camera which would indicate that the goal was especially for Scott.

I can’t remember what the sign was – an alternate thumbs up or something – and Larsson had quite possibly sent similar letters to others, but when he scored and made that sign, his mother said she nearly had to physically detach Scott from the ceiling.

The point was that Scott’s final months were made a little bit more bearable through receiving all these messages of support from famous folk.

Scott was only one person who mum helped.

Another, a pupil of mum’s had problems with dyslexia. She overcame those problems thanks to mum’s teaching skills and on leaving education became an artist. Her work was recognised and she now works for Dreamworks as an animator.

She never forgot the help she’d received and a few years ago she visited mum and gave her Shrek baseball caps and other merchandise for my kids as she had worked on the movie.

Others with dyslexia went on to university degrees and gainful employment through the help and encouragement they’d received. Many never forgot and as I was clearing some of mum’s possessions yesterday, there was a box containing many thank you letters and cards from grateful former pupils.

However, a wee boy’s chance remark in 1975 and the rather unlikely friendship it started was perhaps the happiest memory uncovered yesterday.

Dodgy

I’ve never believed Alistair Campbell or Tony Blair’s accounts of the lead up to the war in Iraq for one second. Respectively they are 1) A smart arsed media man and 2) A smart arsed lawyer/politician and they may know how to respond to awkward questions, but truth? nah sorry, they wouldn’t know truth if it was dressed up in a day-glo suit, smelling strongly of garlic and shouting ‘I am truth’ through a megaphone.

These bastards lied about their desire to engineer British involvement in Bush’s great middle east adventure, and were prepared to stand by as the Chairman and Director General of the BBC meekly resigned. Their crime? telling the TRUTH.

In an article in the Independent on Sunday Kevin Marsh who was the editor of the Today programme (which covered the story that the Iraq dossier had been ‘sexed up’) in 2003 comments on evidence given to the Chilcot enquiry by intelligence official Michael Laurie:

(Marsh described Maj-Gen Laurie’s evidence as) “devastating for [Alastair] Campbell”, the former Downing Street communications chief, whose furious response to the Today report led to the Hutton Inquiry and ultimately to the resignations of the BBC’s director general and chairman. “The thing that rankles with me a little bit is that I thought at the time when [the Today reporter] Andrew Gilligan came with the story was that it wasn’t just broadly correct, it was 100 per cent correct,” Mr Marsh said.

“Here’s the guy at the very top of the [Defence Intelligence Staff] saying, ‘we knew we were being pushed to find a certain bit of evidence and it was being presented in a certain way’ and that’s exactly what Andrew said in his story.”

In written evidence to the Chilcot inquiry, Maj-Gen Laurie rejected Mr Campbell’s claim that the dossier was not intended to make the case for war: “This was exactly its purpose and these very words were used.” In the wake of the Hutton report, the BBC is widely held to have become more cautious in its journalism, introducing layers of procedural checks as senior executives sought to avoid further criticism. Mr Marsh, who was later appointed executive editor of the BBC College of Journalism, described it as a “fairly suffocating compliance culture”.

John Kampfner, who was a political correspondent on Today but left before the 2003 controversy, said the BBC should have done more to stand up to the New Labour government. “There was absolutely no willingness on behalf of the governors to do anything but raise the white flag,” he said. “It was a wholesale capitulation instead of what should have been a partial expression of regret for certain procedures of oversight with an agreement to disagree on the substance and [an expression of] support for courageous journalism.” What was already a cautious news organisation took on a culture of being fearful of “sticking your neck out”, he said.

Mr Campbell has said he has nothing to add to his previous evidence.

So what now?

Perjury proceedings against Blair and Campbell?

About as likely as Madeleine McCann being found alive and well by Inspector Knacker of the Yard I’d guess.

Can Anyone Explain to Me?

Just how involvement in military action can be limited?

I am no expert in the field but isn’t the whole essence of military action one of goals and strategy?

Yes?

In that case, what is the goal of military action in Libya? Is it, as France, the USA and the UK say, to protect the lives and human rights of the insurgents in Libya? How do they think they are going to achieve that with the strategy of a no-fly zone and limited strikes?

Are they trying to effect regime change in Libya*? If so, why? I simply ask, because fruitcake and despot as Gaddafi undoubtedly is, how far up the scale of fruitcakery and despotery does he register? How does Libya compare with other countries in the region?

(*And if so, how will that be achieved without ground troops?)

Well, it is top of the United Nations Human Development Index for Africa. Libya’s rating is comparable to that of several EU states (only a sliver behind Portugal for example). The per capita earnings in Libya are the fourth highest in Africa.

Tony Blair with African Human Rights advisor

Why does the plight of the insurgents in Libya merit military action? What about the killings and human rights abuses in Sudan? Did ‘the allies’ take action in Darfour? What about Zimbabwe which has a long record of human rights abuse and killings and is now effectively under military rule? At least in Zimbabwe there is a credible and established opposition, but for how long?
What about Israel and their long record of killings and abuses in Palestine and Gazza? What about HAMAS? Did I mention the Ivory Coast, Yemen or Bahrain?

"You dancin'?" "You askin?" - Vertical expression

Why it only seems a few years ago that Tony Blair’s tongue was so far up Gaddafi’s arse, that surgery was almost required to remove it. Are the human rights abuses that have got Sarkozy’s dander up, something that has happened since then?

Talking of which, does anybody know how Tony’s job as middle east peace envoy is shaping up?

Why are the French so keen to lead the military action in Libya? What is the French success rate for military action anywhere? What track record do they have for selflessly defending the human rights of citizens of a foreign nation?

Anywhere?

Bearing in mind that the USA and UK are bogged down in two foreign conflicts already and have been for more than 8 years at huge cost in human life and financial resources, just why is public opinion in support of military action in Libya?

Wasn’t it only weeks ago the UK was scrapping aircraft carriers and Nimrod jets?

Some of the planes bound for Libya will, I assume be taking off from Lossiemouth? Is the air base there still to close?

Can anyone explain any of this to me?

Lets Faith It

“Religion is a force for good in the world” was the title for a debate in Toronto yesterday between former British Prime Minister Tony Blair speaking for the motion and intellectual journalist Christopher Hitchens speaking against it.

Hitchens, currently undergoing chemotherapy for aggressive cancer was nonetheless in characteristic sparkling form and I simply could not agree more with the majority of the points he made.

For instance (paraphrased):

Religion is destructive, is based on superstitious hokum and, a bit like communism, might briefly seem noble until you see that it steals your every freedom away. Religions require that we are created sick and then ordered to be well, and over us to supervise this is a sort of celestial dictatorship, a kind of divine North Korea … Salvation is offered at the low price of the surrender of your critical faculties.

The response from Mr Blair besides being weak saw him also spectacularly miss the point – “I do not consider the leader of North Korea a religious icon,”

An audience vote produced a victory for Hitchens, with 68 per cent opposing the resolution and 32 per cent supporting it.

I enjoyed the Hitchens book God is Not Great and found very little to disagree with. His journalistic critique of religion I’d suggest is much more user friendly than his fellow author scientist Richard Dawkins’s work.

When Hitchens broadens his scope to include international politics and war, like his nemesis George Galloway he can descend into complete craziness no matter how well he structures a point or argues a case.

On religion though he is usually just about spot on.

The Independent article reporting on the Hitchens – Blair debate is here

It Was All a Misteak!

I stumbled on this spelling error from Tony Blair in 2001.

Inexplicably, the then Prime Minister of the country couldn’t spell tomorrow! (A statement of fact not a wisecrack).

The Newsround (Childrens’ news) article at the time quoted thus:

“Prime Minister Tony Blair’s admitted the mistake he made in an important letter was a spelling error and not his bad handwriting.Britain’s leader was writing a letter to a prospective Labour MP when he spelled the word tomorrow wrongly, instead writing “toomorrow”. Even worse for Mr Blair, he spelled the word wrongly three times in the letter.

The article goes on to say;

The Prime Minister’s political opponents have used the mistake to make fun of Mr Blair, but his office in Downing Street said it might not have been a spelling mistake.They said that it might have been Mr Blair’s messy handwriting that was the problem, not his spelling. But the PM said: “I regret I have to put my hands up and say it was indeed my spelling that was at fault.”

And a former teacher revealed how a young Tony Blair mixed up his geometry by labelling the hypotenuse on a triangle the “rhinoceros”. He apparently told his teacher: “Sir, I knew the answer was something like hippopotamus, but rhinoceros was the first thing that came into my head.”

I’m imagining Blair at the Iraq inquiry. “I knew the thing we were to do was something like persuasion, but invasion was the first thing that came into my head”. When Alistair said our game of golf had been delayed I thought he said “What’s the name of that gulf we’re going to invade?”.

When people were saying “Don’t invade Iraq it’s illegal, immoral and will result in 1000’s of deaths” Peter told me that what they were actually saying was “Just agree to anything Dubya says”

Crime Blockbuster

Thanks to Ken Fitlike

Apparently there’s now a nationwide campaign for people to surreptitiously place the book in crime sections.

Yon Blair Book

Apparently…………………..