Padraig Colman

Rambling ruminations of an Irishman in Sri Lanka

Tag: NATO

The Blair Years Part Four

This article appeared in Ceylon Today on Thursday, November 10 2016

 

Colman's Column3

 

The Moral Imperialist Messiah

 

 

Kosovo

tonibler

When Blair visited Pristina in 2010, he appeared onstage with nine boys who were named after him. Tonibler Sahiti’s mother said: “I hope to God that he grows up to be like Tony Blair or just a fraction like him.” The NATO intervention in Kosovo, which owed much to Blair’s advocacy, is often seen as protecting Kosovo Albanians from genocide. However, SNP leader Alex Salmond called it “an unpardonable folly”.  General Mike Jackson exhorted the troops, “with God on our side” “to protect the Albanian good guys from the murdering Serbs”. Days after Blair’s visit to Pristina, Albanian thugs began murdering Serbs.

Cabinet Secretary Andrew Turnbull sees the apparent success in Kosovo as the beginning of Blair’s Messiah complex. “He is saving the world from evil”. While intervening in Kosovo, Blair declared during a speech in Chicago, (partly drafted by Lawrence Freedman, who was later a member of the Chilcot Inquiry) his “Doctrine of the International Community”. Blair advocated the use of foreign troops to protect a civilian population. This doctrine could have been used to intervene in Sri Lanka.

Sierra Leone

The civil war in Sierra Leone began on 23 March 1991 when the RUF (Revolutionary United Front) attempted to overthrow the elected government.  Families were gunned down in the street, children and adults had their limbs hacked and women were raped.

Unarmed UN observers, including a small number of officers from the British Army and Royal Marines, were expected to monitor the Lomé Peace Accord signed in July 1999. The RUF did not honour the peace agreement, kidnapped UN personnel and seemed set to take over the whole country. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he expected the UK as the former colonial power, to intervene in Sierra Leone directly, rather than relying on the international community.

chief-of-peace

Blair described the Sierra Leone operation as one of the things of which he is most proud. Most of the inhabitants of Sierra Leone welcomed it. The motivation was altruistic and there was no strategic or commercial interest in the adventure. The proportionality of 5,000 troops and naval force being sent to deal with a small group of brutal drug dealers was not questioned at the time. Unfortunately, the Sierra Leone adventure was cited by Blair in his rationale for later deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Afghanistan

Immediately after 9/11, Blair was very supportive of GW Bush. Although anxious to prevent the US taking precipitate and inappropriate action, Blair was also puzzled and frustrated by Bush’s initial invisibility and lack of response. Those in the know thought the 9/11 perpetrators might be hiding in Afghanistan under the protection of the Taliban. At the first meeting of intelligence chiefs in the den at Number 10, Blair had looked a little ‘fuzzy’ at the mention of Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network. One official said, “I don’t think Blair knew much about al-Qaeda at this point. It was clear to me that he had not taken in earlier warnings”.

 

On October 7, 2001, the US, supported by allies, began an invasion of Afghanistan. A small contingent of British SAS soldiers supported American special forces who were guiding the US air force’s bombing raids. The Pentagon initially rejected Blair’s offer to send 6,000 troops. Tom Bower comments “Blair’s commitment was driven entirely by an untested philosophy, and he could not provide a definition of ‘victory’ that would end the war.” Six weeks after the bombing had begun, the Taliban were driven out of Kabul but they were not finished.

karzai

At the 2001 Labour Party Conference, Blair gave an impassioned speech in which he stated his case for moral imperialism and made a firm commitment to fighting alongside the US, whatever the cost. One Cabinet member described it as “the inaugural speech of the President of the World”. Andrew Rawnsley commented: “There was a disjunction between his admission that they couldn’t get the trains to run on time at home and his vaulting claim that they could heal the world of conflict, poverty and disease.”

 

 

Waiting for Chilcot

Basra, IRAQ: (FILES) -- File picture dated 29 May 2003 shows British Prime Minister Tony Blair addressing troops in Basra, Iraq.Blair announced 10 May 2007 his resignation after a decade in powerr, saying he will stand down at the end of June. He told party suporters in his constituency of Sedgefield that he would step down as Labour leader, and therefore as prime minister on June 27. AFP PHOTO POOL Stefan ROUSSEAU (Photo credit should read STEFAN ROUSSEAU/AFP/Getty Images)

29 May 2003  British Prime Minister Tony Blair addressing troops in Basra

 

The entire 12-volume, 2.6million-word Chilcot Report into the invasion of Iraq is available online.   I recommend readers to look at the report’s executive summary.

 

http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/media/247921/the-report-of-the-iraq-inquiry_executive-summary.pdf

 

It was widely expected that the report would be a whitewash and the long delay (the process took seven years) in publishing the report caused suspicions. Previous inquiries related to Iraq – Hutton in 2003 and Butler in 2004 (of which Chilcot had been a member) – had been disappointing.

 

The five appointees who were tasked with disentangling events since 1998 did not inspire confidence. Tom Bower described one of them, Baroness Usha Prashar, as “an untalented quangoist, [who] fulfilled the requirement of diversity.” I worked with her when she was a member of the Social Security Advisory Committee in 1983 and do not recall ever hearing her contribute to a SSAC discussion. On the Chilcot panel she asked Blair questions about post-war Iraq but failed to follow up on his evasions, inaccuracies and contradictions.

 

Nevertheless, the Chilcot report was not a whitewash. It found that military action was not the last resort and that policy on Iraq was made on the basis of flawed intelligence. The severity of the threat posed by Iraq, particularly the existence of weapons of mass destruction, was grossly overstated, and presented with a certainty that was not justified. Furthermore, the UK, which did not achieve its stated objectives in Iraq, did not prepare or plan for a post-Saddam Iraq.

Gerard Russell is an author and a former British and UN diplomat who spent 14 years representing Britain in the Middle East and served as a political officer in Afghanistan. He speaks fluent Arabic and Dari and assisted Iraq’s first elected prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, in 2005. He recently commented on the Chilcot Report in the New York Review of Books: “Perhaps there were no quick solutions to be had, but only the slow rebuilding of an abused and shattered state. If so, the most important lesson for us is that we should be doubly and triply cautious about breaking something that is so hard to reassemble.” Russell concludes:” … occupying and trying to run a foreign country is a doomed endeavour.”

 

How not to Fight a War

 

David Manning, who was the British Ambassador to the US from 2003 to 2007, described to the Chilcot committee “a ring of secrecy” that Blair constructed. Cabinet Secretary Andrew Turnbull realised that Blair and his chief of staff’s passion for speed and secrecy “was not a bad habit he and Powell had slipped into, but how they wanted to operate from the start”.

 

Turnbull was excluded from any discussions about Iraq as was Kevin Tebbitt the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence. David Omand, the former head of GCHQ, who had been specifically appointed as the coordinator of security and intelligence in the Cabinet Office could not get Blair to talk, or listen, to him. In his book, Broken Vows, Tom Bower commented: “By excluding the MoD – and Tebbit’s background included seventeen years in the Foreign Office, then [Director of] GCHQ –Blair denied himself direct advice about the movement of manpower and the supply of equipment before and after the invasion.”

 

According to Andrew Turnbull, Blair was “less and less interested in hearing contrary opinions.” Cabinet meetings were desultory. During twenty-five meetings about the war, no official was summoned to write the minutes, and the papers submitted by the Cabinet Office outlining the options were not read. Blair did not enjoy a good relationship with senior military men upon whom he relied to implement his plans for Iraq. Michael Boyce, was succeeded as Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) in 2003 by Michael Walker. When military leaders asked for more manpower or equipment he said, “Go and ask Gordon”.  Walker tried to get more helicopters but found Blair “inattentive”.

 

War with Brown

 

Officials were astonished that Blair “spent more time and effort managing the relationship with his Chancellor than on any other issue”. More on Gordon Brown next week.

 

Reconciliation in Bosnia

This article appeared in The Nation on Sunday, 29 July 2012

Tensions between the Yugoslav republics soon emerged after Tito’s death and in 1991, the federation collapsed into mayhem. The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina was particularly complex and horrific because there were so many parties involved. It was principally a territorial conflict, initially between Serb forces and the national army of Bosnia and Herzegovina (which was mainly composed of Muslim Bosniaks) and Croatian forces. The population of the multi-ethnic, multi-faith Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was 44% Muslim Bosniaks, 31% Orthodox Serbs, 17% Catholic Croats. Serbs set up their own enclave within Bosnia, Republika Srpska, whose army had some 80,000 personnel during the war and committed war crimes and genocide against Bosnia Muslims and Croats.

Sarajevo

Sarajevo and Srebrenica can stand as specimens for the many horrors of the Bosnian war. The siege of Sarajevo was the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare, three times longer than the Siege of Stalingrad. There was an average of 329 shell impacts per day during the course of the siege, with a maximum of 3,777 on July 22, 1993. It is estimated that nearly 12,000 people were killed or went missing in the city, including over 1,500 children. An additional 56,000 people were wounded, including nearly 15,000 children. Snipers killed civilians queuing for water or trying to buy food in the market. Bosniak homes were ransacked, males taken to concentration camps, women repeatedly raped. UNICEF reported that, at least 40% children in the city had been directly shot at by snipers; 51% had seen someone killed; 39% had seen one or more family members killed; 19% had witnessed a massacre; 48% had their home occupied by someone else; 73% had their home attacked or shelled; and 89% had lived in underground shelters. The Bosnian Government reported a soaring suicide rate by Sarajevans, a near doubling of abortions and a 50% drop in births since the siege began.

Srebrenica UN failings

In July 1995, at Srebrenica, a “safe area” under UN protection, 8,000 Muslim men and boys were rounded up by Serb forces under Ratko Mladić and massacred. The victims included boys aged under 15, men over the age of 65, women, and reportedly even several babies. Dutch UN soldiers were criticised for failing to protect the Bosniak refugees in the “safe area”. Lieutenant-Colonel Thom Karremans was filmed drinking a toast with  Mladić .
In 2005, in a message on the tenth anniversary commemoration of the genocide, Kofi Annan noted that great nations had failed to respond adequately and that Srebrenica would haunt the UN forever. In 2004, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) ruled that the massacre constituted genocide, a crime under international law.
Addressing the Bosnian parliament in July 2012 Ban Ki-moon said: “In a tragedy of such epic proportions, there was so much blood and so much blame. The United Nations did not live up to its responsibility. The international community failed in preventing the genocide that unfolded”.

Jasmin Mujanović argues that persistent fallacies have informed the international community’s attempts to “deal” with Bosnia since (at least) 1991-92. He writes that the war was not “the result of the unbridled and millennial ethnic hatreds of its peoples, but rather the engineered and orchestrated machinations of an unaccountable political elite seeking to secure its political and economic survival in a period of immense social crisis…” Significant elements of the international community advocated a foreign policy based on preserving a vacuous conception of ‘stability’ and ‘unity’ rather than a principled insistence on democratization and human rights. …the international community had sent strong signals to the country’s leadership that an increased role by the Yugoslav National Army (JNA) would be a welcome step towards checking some of their growing concerns about the stability of political authority in the country in the post-Tito period.”

Death toll

There are large discrepancies between estimates of the total number of casualties in the Bosnian war, with estimates ranging from 25,000 to 329,000. According to Prof. Steven L. Burg and Prof. Paul S. Shoup, “The figure of 200,000 (or more) dead, injured, and missing was frequently cited in media reports on the war in Bosnia as late as 1994. The October 1995 bulletin of the Bosnian Institute for Public Health of the Republic Committee for Health and Social Welfare gave the numbers as 146,340 killed and 174,914 wounded on the territory under the control of the Bosnian army. Mustafa Imamovic gave a figure of 144,248 perished (including those who died from hunger or exposure), mainly Muslims. “

Peace?

There were several major massacres during 1995 and NATO made widespread air strikes against Bosnian Serb positions supported by UNPROFOR rapid reaction force artillery attacks. On 14 September 1995, the NATO air strikes were suspended to allow the implementation of an agreement with Bosnian Serbs for the withdrawal of heavy weapons from around Sarajevo. A 60-day ceasefire came into effect on October 12, and on November 1 peace talks began in Dayton, Ohio. The war ended with the Dayton Peace Agreement signed on November21, 1995.

 
The Dayton Accord was described as a “construction of necessity” the immediate purpose of which was to freeze the military confrontation, and prevent it from resuming. There is no space here to go into the intricate juggling to swap territories from one group to another in order to establish the new nation of Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH). Many scholars have deemed Dayton an impressive example of conflict resolution which has turned Bosnia from a basket-case to a potential EU member.

Critics have, however, had problems with the fact international actors, unaccountable to BiH’s citizens, were allowed to shape the agenda of post-war transition, and decide punishment for local political actors. Another perceived flaw is that each ethnic group was discontented with the results.

Truth and reconciliation

Retributive justice is impossible to apply in a context like Bosnia where so many were involved in the conflict. There are not enough resources to capture and try everyone who committed war crimes. Widespread arrests would reignite conflict. In January 2005, Hajra Catic of the Mothers of Srebrenica organization, “lost faith” in ICTY’s ability to dispense justice after they sentenced Dragan Jokic, a man she believed was responsible for 3,000 deaths, to only nine years in prison.

Eileen Babbitt wrote about UN efforts to reintegrate refugees: “they were coming back to communities where they were really, really unwanted. Most of them were coming back to places where they were a majority population and now post-war they are the minority, so another group has literally taken over and moved into their homes, and many of those people are also displaced, traumatized, etc. and they’re not about to simply give up everything and welcome the returning refugees with open arms.”

 
Reconciliation is hampered by a refusal to face up to the truth because each group has its own narrative. Schools are strictly segregated and children learn three different versions of the war. After many failed attempts, there has still not been a successful truth commission.

On 6 December 2004, Serbian president Boris Tadić made an apology to all those who suffered crimes committed in the name of the Serb people. Croatia’s president Ivo Josipović apologized in April 2010 for his country’s role in the Bosnian War. On 31 March 2010, the Serbian parliament adopted a declaration “condemning in strongest terms the crime committed in July 1995 against Bosniak population of Srebrenica” and apologizing to the families of the victims.

Europe

In Bosnia, 88% support the country’s bid for EU membership. Identification with Europe as a supranational community can in Bosnia and Herzegovina become a way to overcome ethnic differences. Poll results show that support for EU membership is strongest in the Muslim community, with 97% in favour, while 85% of Bosnian Croats support it and 78% of Bosnian Serbs. The EU-initiated processes of institutional engineering and systemic inclusion of minority groups and non-nationalists into policy-making processes in Bosnia and Herzegovina signals an important and historic shift from an ethnocentric citizenship model towards a democratic and inclusive citizenship regime.

Bosnia today

On July 25, 2012, Ban Ki-moon addressed the BiH parliament and noted the progress achieved by Bosnia and Herzegovina over the last two decades, including its transformation from a country which hosted UN peacekeepers to a troop contributor to UN peacekeeping operations, and from occupying the agenda of the Security Council to successfully serving on the Council. “Led by your priorities and direction, we are working together to create jobs especially for young people, extend social protection for the most vulnerable groups, end the suffering of those enduring protracted displacement, safeguard the environment, tackle discrimination and promote respect for human rights and the rule of law.”

The Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) highlighted the continued marginalization of minority groups, particularly Roma. In a joint opinion issued in June, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UK Foreign Affairs Minister William Hague expressed disappointment at the protracted institutional gridlock in Bosnia that was preventing needed reforms, including ending ethnic discrimination in politics.

– See more at: http://www.nation.lk/edition/news-features/item/8742-reconciliation-in-bosnia.html#sthash.Ih6Zh13M.dpuf

 

Reconciliation in Mali Part 2

This article appeared in The Nation on Sunday June 30 2013

A UN peacekeeping force, known as Minusma, consisting of 12,600 troops, will be deployed in Mali from 1 July 2013. The stated aim is to provide security for a presidential election due on 28 July 2013. Britain’s UN ambassador said there was “unanimous agreement” that UN peacekeepers should take over from the African Union. The pretext for the previous intervention in Mali was the attempt of the Jihadist group, Asnar Dine, affiliated with the larger Al Qaeda adjunct AQIM, to move out of traditional Tuareg territory in the northern desert to spread Sharia law to south Mali.

The presidential and parliamentary elections planned for July are intended to stabilise Mali, which has been disrupted by a military coup and Islamist rebellion.  “We will organise the elections throughout the national territory in order to reunite the minds of Malians, reunite their hearts, and to enable Mali to remain one and indivisible,” said Minister Moussa Sinko Coulibaly.

The first suicide attacks in Mali’s history recently took place in Gao, followed by fierce fighting in the northern town. Algalas ag Moutkel, who had been in prison for stealing a mattress, told the BBC how an Islamist group cut off his hand with a knife. Gao’s mayor, Sadou Harouna Dial, said that twelve others had hands and legs amputated with knives.

Mali shifted from autocracy to democracy providing a model for post-colonial Africa. In 1991, massive protests touched off a coup that ended the 23-year reign of General Moussa Traoré. The coup’s leader, Colonel Amadou Toumani Touré, presided over a transition that brought a new constitution and multiparty elections. Every five years since then Mali has held elections that have been considered free and fair. Mali was a place of tourists and the non-political Tourés – musician Ali Farke and his son Vieux.

What went wrong?

Laurent Bigot, a French foreign ministry official, described Mali as a ‘sham democracy’. As a legitimately elected civilian president, Amadou Toumani Touré maintained a veneer of progress. Cynics say this was just to keep the aid money flowing. His government at first boosted the number of children enrolled at school but never invested adequately in the education system. He pushed sweeping legislation through with little debate. In 2009, after the Assembly passed a progressive bill to reform Mali’s 1962 laws governing women’s rights and families by 117 votes to 5, Islamic groups stirred up opposition. The law was never enacted. Touré’s “rule by consensus” became a euphemism for suppression.

President Touré was toppled just before he was about to leave office anyway, in what Bruce Whitehouse calls an “accidental coup” by rank-and-file soldiers who did not seem to know what they wanted. The coup caused a vacuum as politicians fled. A lieutenant in camouflage fatigues had appeared on state television to announce the suspension of the constitution. A poll conducted a month after the coup showed that two-thirds of Bamako residents backed the junta and its leader, the army captain Amadou Sanogo who had trained at Fort Benning, Georgia and the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia. Sanogo claimed the coup was necessary because Touré’s government was failing to deal with Tuareg unrest. The army did worse, losing control of the regional capitals of Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu within ten days of Sanogo assuming office. Reuters described the coup as “a spectacular own-goal.”
The Tuareg Rebellion was allegedly armed and financed by France for the purpose of splitting the north of Mali along Algeria’s border, from the rest of the country. Global Research claims that anonymous US military experts say that US and NATO Special Forces actually trained the same “terrorist” bands now justifying a neo-colonial US-backed invasion of Mali by France.

Historian Stephen Ellis has argued that the increasing fragility of African states is “an early sign of a wider problem with the system of international governance” built after World War Two. Western powers are discovering that there are limits to their ability to reform state systems. It may be that the way to help these societies sort out their conflicts is to let them do it on their own.

France did not give up its Empire as easily as the British. French troops have intervened in Africa 50 times since 1960 to defend France’s extensive  economic interests. Investigative journalist Michel Collon has written extensively about war strategies and media coverage of military conflicts, and believes that the US and France both regard the continent as merely a  supplier of raw materials. Africa has 40% of all minerals crucial to international economic growth. France and the US have  military bases as well as using  local armies. Mali is poor because of its colonisation by France and the current plundering by French companies. The real goal of a French presence is not to combat the Islamists but to secure the resources. Despite the presence of Minusma, France will maintain at least 1,000 troops in the country for anti-terrorism operations.

– See more at: http://www.nation.lk/edition/news-features/item/18860-reconciliation-in-mali-part-2.html#sthash.unkyV0gy.dpuf

 

Gesture Politics and the European Parliament

A version of this article appeared in the June 2014 issue of Echelon magazine.

 

Parliamentary Privilege to Pry- Members of the European Parliament have little power but have licence to meddle.

 

At the time of writing, I do not know the results of the May 2014 elections to the European Parliament (EP). Writing about the elections for the April 2014 issue of Echelon, my researches showed that, although real power in the EU lies with the European Commission and the European Central Bank, this does not deter the EP as a body, or members as individuals or groups, interfering on a global scale and having an opinion about everything under the sun.

Sri Lanka

Back in October 2011, GOSL refused Paul Murphy, an MEP representing Dublin, a visa to visit Sri Lanka. He wanted to teach Sri Lanka about democracy. “The whole of the working class, poor farmers and poor people, Sinhala and Tamil, are victims of this repressive government in my opinion.” As well as complaining that he was refused a visa, he raised the issue of an Irish citizen, Gunasundaram Jeyasundaram,  whom he said had been held prisoner by the Sri Lankan authorities without charge for four years.

Soon after Paul Murphy’s fulminations against GOSL, I had dinner at the Gallery Café with a delegation from the Irish Development Authority. They were keen to improve business relationships with Sri Lanka in order to further Ireland’s recovery from the economic crisis.

At the time GOSL refused Murphy a visa, he had been an MEP for only eight months and was 28 years old. Murphy was already supporting striking Kazakh oil workers, trade unionists in Columbia, Syrian revolutionaries, Bahraini and Chinese dissidents, oppressed Palestinians (he took part in the flotilla to Gaza); he protested against a high speed rail link in Italy.

Murphy certainly has no mandate from the Irish people to take on the entire world’s problems. Mind you, he does not have a mandate from the Irish people to address domestic issues either. He has no electoral mandate at all. How many people voted for Paul Murphy? None. Joe Higgins of the Irish Socialist Party handed the Dublin EP seat to Murphy when he was elected to the Irish national parliament.

Africa

I read recently in the Somaliland Sun (I read it constantly) that the Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the EP has scolded the government of Ethiopia accusing it of using humanitarian aid as a political tool. The MEPs said that the EU should use sanctions against Ethiopia to stop human rights abuses against Ethiopian and Ogaden civilians. This may be a worthy cause, but the comment thread in the Somaliland Sun shows that this is a more complex situation than MEPs think.

In April 2014, an EP delegation planned to visit Morocco to assess the human rights situation there but the government refused them entry.

 

Syria

The EP, in its last plenary session before the May 2014 elections, adopted a resolution expressing its concern on the latest developments in Syria. The resolution specifically condemns the attack against the Armenian town of Kessab. The resolution also takes note of the rich diversity of ethnic and religious communities in Syria and expresses concern about the Al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front capturing a number of Christian and Kurdish villages on the Turkish border. Some MEPs wanted the resolution to mention Turkey’s role in the attack against Kessab and in doing so raise again the issue of the Turkish genocide of Armenians in 1915. This may not be the best way of handling the complexities of Turkish-EU relationships.

Iran

On April 3, the EP passed a resolution expressing grave concern over the human rights situation in Iran and the “continued, systemic violation of fundamental rights” in the country, and called on the members of the EU to “mainstream human rights in all of its relations with Iran.” The resolution claimed that the presidential election in Iran in July 2013 did not conform to European standards. Whatever about EP opinion, world opinion generally regarded the election of Hassan Rouhani as a positive step.

The Iranian government was not too pleased about this. An Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman described the resolution as “unfounded and unacceptable” and other senior figures accused the EP of “blatant intervention in Iran’s internal affairs” and called on the Iranian government to reject the EP’s idea of establishing an office in Tehran.

Destabilising Influence

Is it sensible for a body that has little democratic legitimacy, no army, and no tax-raising capability to conduct foreign policy through gesture politics? There is no common EU interest when it comes to foreign policy.

European politicians grandstanded on the Ukraine crisis. This was destabilising rather than helpful. The EU won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2012. Nevertheless, it is not a force for peace if it pursues interventions divorced from differing national interests based in different histories, economies, geography and territorial relationships. If Ukraine were in NATO, EU countries and the West would be obliged to go to war over the Crimea. What European would want to die for Sevastopol?’ Many Russians would be prepared to die for the Crimea.

It was bizarre and rather alarming that Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, could blithely admit to Putin’s face that Ukraine’s membership of NATO could be “part of the process”. The prospect of Ukraine joining NATO has long been recognised as impossible on geopolitical grounds. Ukraine was considered too close, historically and economically, to Russia, and home to strategically important Russian military bases. Putin told Rompuy that he was playing geopolitics.

Russia has effectively integrated Europe into its system of crony capitalism and corruption. Most European capitals, especially London, depend on vast amounts of Russian money for their financial systems to thrive. Ukrainian membership of NATO and sanctions against Russia would not be good news for the City of London.

 

Conclusion

In a non-binding resolution (aren’t they all?), the EP called on the EU authorities to impose immediate sanctions on Russian energy providers in the European market. The EP called for a freeze on the construction of the South Stream gas pipeline, which serves to ensure the supply of Russian gas to Europe, bypassing Ukraine. All the countries along its line – Hungary, Bulgaria, Serbia, Italy – want South Stream because they know that it is the best way of guaranteeing cheap gas supplies.

At a time when a new president of Iran is thawing relations between his country and the US, is it wise for a powerless body to irritate the Iranians? Iran has the world’s second largest natural gas reserves after Russia – about 15.8% of world’s total reserves. Iran is one of the few countries capable of supplying much larger amounts of natural gas in the future. Iran’s overall gas exports in 2009/10 reached a record high of 6.8 billion cubic meters, increasing 44% over the previous year. Is this a good time to be annoying Iran as well as Russia?

I am against sin. I would not argue that the EP should ignore human rights violations but there is a danger that the EP’s meddling could be counter-productive and destabilising. Doing business with dodgy regimes might be more effective than isolating them through

Liberation of Libya

 

 

This article appeared in the December 4 edition of the Sri Lankan  newspaper The Nation.

 

 

 

How is  that liberation of Libya thing working out?

Now, I am well aware that Muammar Qaddafi may have had a few little faults. I have no wish to downplay  his  darker side. I have written about this in some detail at:

https://pcolman.wordpress.com/2011/08/23/the-milo-minderbinder-school-of-foreign-polict/

He armed many terrorist groups and bankrolled the genocidal leader of Ethiopia, Mengistu Haile Mariam, trained Charles Taylor of Liberia, gave sanctuary to Idi Amin.

The plus side was that Libya’s oil revenues were distributed very widely, creating  a welfare state from which virtually all Libyans benefited, with  high standards of healthcare, high rates of schooling for girls as well as boys, a literacy rate of 88% per cent, more opportunities for women than in other Arab countries and the highest per capita income in Africa.

How  does Colonel Gadfly compare to other monsters around the world? Saddam Hussein was hanged; Osama Bin Laden was shot; many other bad people have been assassinated. What was his kill rate compared to GW Bush, Tony Blair and Barack Obama?

Would he have fallen if he had not given up his nuclear weapons? Hugh Roberts, writing in the London Review of Books, said:

“Numerous states in Africa and Asia and no doubt Latin America as well (Cuba and Venezuela spring to mind) may wish to consider why the Jamahiriyya, despite mending its fences with Washington and London in 2003-4 and dealing reasonably with Paris and Rome, should have proved so vulnerable to their sudden hostility. And the Libyan war should also prompt us to examine what the actions of the Western powers in relation to Africa and Asia, and the Arab world in particular, are doing to democratic principles and the idea of the rule of law.”

Western intervention was justified by the news that , on 21 February, the regime was using its air force to slaughter peaceful demonstrators in Tripoli and other cities. The main purveyor of this story was al-Jazeera, but the story was quickly taken up by Sky, CNN, the BBC, and ITN. At this point, according to Human Rights Watch,  the total death toll since 15 February was 233. The total death toll in Tunisia was 300 and in Egypt at least 846. According to Roberts, the “‘genocide’ claim was histrionic rubbish which none of the organisations with an interest in the use of the term was moved to challenge”.

Sound familiar?

Roberts again: “The slanted coverage in the British media in particular, notably the insistence that the regime was faced only by peaceful demonstrators when, in addition to ordinary Libyans trying to make their voices heard non-violently, it was facing politically motivated as well as random violence (e.g. the lynching of 50 alleged mercenaries in al-Baida on 19 February), was consistent with the destabilisation theory. And on the evidence I have since been able to collect, I am inclined to think that destabilisation is exactly what was happening.”

“It is tendentious and dishonest to say simply that Qaddafi was ‘killing his own people’; he was killing those of his people who were rebelling. He was doing in this respect what every government in history has done when faced with a rebellion. We are all free to prefer the rebels to the government in any given case. But the relative merits of the two sides aren’t the issue in such situations: the issue is the right of a state to defend itself against violent subversion. That right, once taken for granted as the corollary of sovereignty, is now compromised.”

A  report has been prepared for the attention of  UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Yes, another one. This one apparently says there have been war crimes in Libya. Yes – Libya. Not Sri Lanka.

Who has been committing the crimes? The freedom fighters supported by NATO seem to have been doing their share.

According to the UN report, thousands of people, including women and children, are being illegally detained by rebel militias, that is the victors supported by NATO,  in Libya. The Independent reports that many of the prisoners are suffering torture and systematic mistreatment while being held in private jails outside the control of the country’s new government. A UN resolution was secured in March in order to protect civilians from merciless suppression  by the Qaddafi regime. Political prisoners  held by the Qaddafi regime have been released, but their places have been taken by up to 7,000 new “enemies of the new state” under the control of revolutionary brigades, “with no access to due process in the absence of a functioning police and judiciary”.

The report states that  both sides committed war crimes in the bitter battle for Colonel Qaddafi ‘s hometown, Sirte. Armed militias continue to  control many towns settling  internecine feuds through gun battles.

The city of Tawerga, whose residents were mainly black, was largely destroyed by rebel fighters from neighbouring Misrata. A number of black Africans were lynched following claims, often false, that they were hired guns for the Qaddafi regime. “Cases have been reported of individuals being targeted because of the colour of their skin.” Blacks have been targeted  for torture and  “ revenge killings, or taken by armed men from their homes, checkpoints and hospitals, and some allegedly later abused or executed in detention”.

The report acknowledges the brutality of the outgoing regime. Ban Ki-Moon said: “I was deeply shocked by my visit to an agricultural warehouse in the Khallital-Ferjan neighbourhood of Tripoli where elements of the Qaddafi regime had detained civilians in inhuman conditions, had subjected some to torture and had massacred as many as they could and burned their bodies”.

Quadaffi  strongly opposed the installation of the US military’s ‘Africom’ on the soil of any African country. He funded a wide range of development projects in sub-Saharan countries. Libya is rich not only in oil. Quadaffi  planned to exploit the immense water reserves under Libya’s Sahara and to transform the economic prospects of the Sahel countries. Western , particularly French, water companies are now salivating at the prospects of profit.

The Milo Minderbinder School of Foreign Policy

No tongues please. I’m British!

I wrote this in April 2011. Things have moved on since.

 

“In a democracy, the government is the people,” Milo explained. “We’re people, aren’t we? So we might just as well keep the money and eliminate the middleman. Frankly, I’d like to see the government get out of war altogether and leave the whole field to private industry.”

Milo Minderbinder, the mess officer  in Catch-22 is the personification of capitalism. He has no allegiance to any country, person or principle unless it pays him. Milo doesn’t see himself as corrupt or evil. He claims to live by a strict moral code. The one country he will not deal with is the Soviet Union (although they are supposed to be allies in the war)  out of respect for private property and disdain for socialism.

Milo organizes the bombing of his own base because he has a contract with the Germans. The Germans may be the enemy but they are good payers.

Milo was a neo-liberal avant la lettre. When markets fail to deliver, the capitalist is quick to turn to the government for help. Milo depends on governments for his riches.

His moral code allows for price inflation and betraying one’s country for the sake of profit. Everyone has a “share” in the Syndicate, a fact which Minderbinder uses to defend his actions- what is good for the company is good for all. He secretly replaces the CO2 cartridges in the emergency life vests with certificates for shares in M & M, on the assumption that the future person who may need that vest will be instantly compensated for its absence. He steals the silk out of parachutes, the morphine out of  first aid kits, all in the name of making a few bucks, honest or otherwise.  His most interesting attributes are his complete immorality without self-awareness, and his circular logicality in running his Syndicate. Minderbinder decides that he can trust Yossarian  because “anyone who would not steal from the country he loved would not steal from anyone.”

This fellow is a bit more cautious on a first date.

Libya and the IRA

During the period 1969–1971, the Provisional IRA was very poorly armed. By 1972, the IRA had large quantities of modern small arms, particularly Armalites, made and bought in the USA. The IRA’s main gun runner in the USA was George Harrison (no relation) an IRA veteran, who had lived in New York since 1938. Harrison bought guns for the IRA from a Corsican arms dealer named George de Meo who had connections with organized crime. Harrison was funded by NORAID -“Irish Northern Aid Committee”.

The IRA used the QE2 to smuggle arms from the USA.

Joe Cahill

Quadaffi first donated arms  to the IRA in 1972–1973, following visits by veteran IRA man Joe Cahill to Libya. In early 1973, the Irish navy seized an arms shipment on the Claudia. Five tonnes of Libyan arms and ammunition were found on board. The weapons seized included 250 Soviet-made small arms, 240 rifles, anti-tank mines and other explosives. Cahill was arrested on board. It is believed  that three shipments of weapons of similar size did get through to the IRA around  the same time. The early Libyan arms shipments provided  the IRA with its first RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenade launchers.  Qaddafi also donated three to five million US dollars to the IRA at this time.

IRA contact with Libya was broken off in 1976 but was restored after the 1981 IRA  hunger strikes. In this period, Libya provided enough arms to equip at least two infantry battalions. Qaddafi is thought to have decided to support the IRA to get back at the British government for its support for Reagan’s bombing of Benghazi and Tripoli in 1986. US planes had been allowed to take off  from British bases. Sixty Libyans died in the attacks, including Qaddafi’s adopted baby daughter Hanna. This second major Libyan contribution to the IRA came in 1986–1987. In 1987, the French navy intercepted the  Eksund in the Bay of Biscay. She was carrying 120 tonnes of weapons, including HMGs, 36 RPGs, 1000 detonators, 20 SAMs, Semtex and 1,000,000 rounds of ammunition from Libya. There were four shipments before the Eksund incident which were not intercepted. There had been a huge intelligence failure of both Irish and British agencies  author Brendan O’Brien described as ‘calamitous’. O’Brien claims that, thanks to Libya, there was an “oversupply” of arms in the hands of the IRA by 1992. It is also estimated that the Libyan government gave the IRA the equivalent of £2 million cash along with the 1980s shipments.

On 31 October 2009, a cross-party delegation of Northern Irish politicians travelled to the Tripoli for the first face-to-face meeting with Libyan government ministers to discuss compensation claims for victims of IRA violence.

Shootout at the Libyan Embassy

On 17 April 1984, there was a demonstration by anti-Quadaffi dissidents outside the Libya embassy in St James’s Square, London . Thirty police officers were sent to control the situation. Shots were fired and eleven people were hit. WPC Yvonne Fletcher died from her wounds. An inquest ruled that she died as a result of a stomach wound caused by bullets from two Sterling sub-machine guns fired from the embassy. Following the shooting, the embassy was surrounded by armed police for eleven days, after which the staff were allowed to leave and then deported. The UK broke off diplomatic relations with Libya.

Joe Vialls, conspiracy theorist or  self-proclaimed private investigator dedicated to “exposing media disinformation,”,  concluded that the fatal shots had come not from within the embassy but from a penthouse flat next-door-but-one to the Libyan embassy, and were fired by CIA/Mossad agents. Vialls may have been a crank but more respectable people were also sceptical about the official line on the shooting. These included George Styles, a top army ballistics expert, Hugh Thomas, expert on bullet wounds from his experiences as consultant surgeon of the Royal Victoria hospital in Belfast, and veteran Home Office pathologist, Professor Bernard Knight.

A report from April 2007 concluded that two men, who were later senior members of the Libyan regime, played an “instrumental role” in the killing. According to a report in the Daily Telegraph in 2009, the Crown Prosecution Service had been told  by an independent prosecutor that there was sufficient evidence to prosecute two Libyans.

The Foreign Office eventually  bowed to Libyan pressure and agreed that Britain would abandon any attempt to try the murderer of WPC  Fletcher. Anthony Layden, Britain’s former ambassador to Libya, said he had signed an agreement with the Libyan government when Jack Straw was foreign secretary. At the time Britain was negotiating trade deals worth hundreds of millions of pounds with Libya. The deal followed a visit by Tony Blair, then prime minister, to meet Colonel Qaddafi in March 2004 after Libya announced that it was ending its nuclear weapons programme. The Foreign Office said the deal had been sealed in an exchange of ambassadors’ letters in 2006: “The Fletcher family know all this and have not considered it to be a big issue.” Queenie Fletcher’s  MP questioned this interpretation.

On Friday, 25 March 2011, Kim Sengupta wrote in The Independent  about a meeting with Omar Ahmed Sodani, the chief suspect in the killing of WPC Fletcher.  Sodani, now 59, was  head of the Al Ejanalghoria, Muammar Qaddafi’s militia in Benghazi. He has been questioned by his captors in the rebel movement, not only about the shooting, but for allegedly providing reports on Libyan students in London which led to their persecution back home, as well as complicity in human rights abuses. “They have interrogated me about the shooting all those years ago,” he said. “I have explained to them that I did not do it.”

Sengupta wrote: “After talking for a little more than an hour, Mr Sodani was led away. As he departed, he made one final pronouncement: ‘I have full confidence in the fairness of the revolution and the revolution’s judges. This country would be a far better place in the future than it was in the past.’ There was no mistaking the fear in his voice.”

Lockerbie

On Wednesday 21 December 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was destroyed by a bomb, killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew members. Eleven people in Lockerbie, a town in southern Scotland, were killed as large sections of the plane destroyed several houses. Total fatalities were 270. Libya did not formally admit responsibility until 16 August 2003. In a letter to the UN Security Council it “accepted responsibility for the actions of its officials” but expressed no remorse.

The motive that is generally attributed to Libya can be traced back to a series of military confrontations with the US Navy that took place in the 1980s. Libyan planes were shot down and ships sunk. Libya was accused of retaliating by ordering the bombing of the La Belle nightclub in West Berlin in 1986.

Even in February 2004, Libya did  not accept guilt. Prime Minister  Shukri Ghanem told the BBC that his country had paid  compensation as the “price for peace” and to secure the lifting of sanctions. He also denied that Libya was responsible for killing Yvonne Fletcher. Qaddafi later retracted Ghanem’s comments, under pressure from Washington and London.

There are  many conspiracy theories about the Lockerbie case. I will not go into them in detail here but those interested in following this up will be guided by:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pan_Am_Flight_103_conspiracy_theories

Campaigning journalists, John Pilger and the late  Paul Foot have written extensively about Lockerbie.

Iran was initially the prime suspect for the Lockerbie bombing and had the most obvious motive. Five months earlier, an Iranian civilian aircraft had been  shot down by the US warship USS Vincennes and Ayatollah Khomeini had called for revenge. The theory is that Iran paid the Syrian-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command (PFLP-GC) to carry out the attack on its behalf. Ahmad Behbahani, a former Iranian intelligence official, later claimed that he personally conveyed the message to the PFLP-GC.

A recurring theory is that the CIA, or rogue elements within it,  it had cleared a drugs smuggling route from Europe to America involving Pan Am flights in return for intelligence about militant groups.

Saif al-Qaddafi said that Libya had admitted responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing simply to get trade sanctions removed. He went on to describe the families of the Lockerbie victims as very greedy: “They were asking for more money and more money and more money”. Several of the victims’ families refused to accept compensation because they did not believe that Libya was responsible. On 23 February 2011,  Mustafa Mohamed Abud Al Jeleil, former Justice Secretary of Libya, claimed to have evidence that Qaddafi personally ordered the bombing.

Indictments for murder were issued on 13 November 1991 against Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer and  Lamin Khalifa Fhimah, Libyan airlines station manager in Malta. (Don’t forget that Milo was Mayor of Valetta). UN sanctions against Libya and protracted negotiations with the Libyan leader secured the handover of the accused on 5 April 1999 to Scottish police. Both accused chose not to give evidence in court. On 31 January 2001, Megrahi was convicted of murder by a panel of three Scottish judges in a courtroom in “neutral” Holland. There was no jury. Megrahi was sentenced to life imprisonment but Fhimah was acquitted.

Megrahi served eight and a half  years of his sentence, throughout which time he maintained that he was innocent. Some argue that the governments in England and Scotland in effect blackmailed Megrahi into dropping his appeal as a condition of his immediate release.

He was released from prison on compassionate grounds on 20 August 2009 as he was suffering from cancer. Allegations have been made that the UK government and British Petroleum sought Al-Megrahi’s release as part of a trade deal with Libya. In 2008, the British government “decided to do all it could to help the Libyans get Al-Megrahi home … and explained the legal procedure for compassionate release to the Libyans”.

Some argue that key evidence presented at the trial (for example, timer fragment, parts from a specific radio cassette model, clothing bought in Malta, a suitcase originating at Luqua, could have been fabricated by the U.S. and Britain for the “political” purpose of incriminating Libya. Paul Foot wrote that when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1991, Bush Sr needed Iran’s support as he built a “coalition” to expel his wayward client from an American oil colony. The only country that defied Bush and backed Iraq was Libya. “Like lazy and overfed fish,” wrote Foot, “the British media jumped to the bait. In almost unanimous chorus, they engaged in furious vilification and open warmongering against Libya.”

Former CIA officer Robert Baer, who took part in the original investigation, said ” the evidence amassed by [Megrahi’s] appeal is explosive and extremely damning to the system of justice.” A “key secret witness” at the original trial, who claimed to have seen Megrahi, loading the bomb on to the plane at Frankfurt, was bribed by the US authorities holding him as a “protected witness”. The defense exposed him as a CIA informer who stood to collect, on the Libyans’ conviction, up to $4m as a reward. New evidence would have shown that a fragment of a circuit board and bomb timer, “discovered” in the Scottish countryside and said to have been in Megrahi’s suitcase, was probably planted.

Paul Foot, wrote that  the Scottish judges, while admitting a “mass of conflicting evidence” and rejecting the fantasies of the CIA informer, found Megrahi guilty on hearsay. Their 90-page “opinion”, wrote Foot, “is a remarkable document that claims an honored  place in the history of British miscarriages of justice”. (His report, Lockerbie – the Flight from Justice, can be downloaded from http://www.private-eye.co.uk for £5.) Foot reported that most of the staff of the US embassy in Moscow who had reserved seats on Pan Am flights from Frankfurt cancelled their bookings when they were alerted by US intelligence that a terrorist attack was planned.

Britain’s strange constitutional arrangements allowed Gordon Brown, who, although a Scotsman representing a Scottish constituency,  was PM of the UK, to express ersatz outrage at the decision by the Scottish government to allow the release. Not only was this hypocritical because  a release was being negotiated for a long time by the Blair and Brown administrations because of oil and arms sales, but there were doubts about Megrahi’s guilt and the fairness of his trial.

John Pilger was incensed at the hypocrisy of the reaction to Megrahi’s release. “No one in authority has had the guts to state the truth about the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103”.

Tony  Minderbinder Blair

Whether Libya was guilty over Lockerbie or not,  there have, no doubt, been dirty deals. Tony Blair first announced a “new relationship” with Libya in 2004. The Duke of York visited Libya several times, meeting Qaddafi and his son Saif. Minderbinder Blair, now peace envoy in the Middle East, recognized that peace and friendship with  Libya was good for UK plc. British Aerospace could provide employment for British workers by selling arms to Libya. Blair stopped the Serious Fraud Office investigation into BAE bribery charges.

And, of course, there is the oil.

David Cameron is the new Minderbinder in Downing Street. Having sold arms to Quadaffi,  the UK  is now entertaining  the Libyan rats deserting the ship. Speaking at a Downing Street press conference about the defector, Moussa Koussa,  Cameron said: “The decision by the former Libyan minister to come to London to resign his position is a decision by someone at the very top. It tells a compelling story of the desperation and the fear right at the very top of the crumbling and rotten Qaddafi regime.”

However, Lockerbie won’t go away. It was made clear that Koussa’s defection will raise uncomfortable questions about atrocities which happened when he was a senior figure in Libya’s foreign intelligence service. Scottish prosecutors told the Foreign Office they want to interview Koussa about  Pan Am flight 103. He could also face questioning about the murder of Yvonne Fletcher.

THE PRESS | Music Reviews

Click Header to Return Home

Julie MacLusky

- Author and Blogger -

HoaxEye

A fake image is worth zero words

Poet's Corner

Poems, poets, poetry, writing, poetry challenges

Casual, But Smart

Pop Culture From An Old Soul

PN Review Blog

‘The most engaged, challenging and serious-minded of all the UK’s poetry magazines’ - Simon Armitage

The Manchester Review

The Manchester Review

Slugger O'Toole

Conversation, politics and stray insights

Stephen Jones: a blog

Daoism—lives—language—performance. And jokes

Minal Dalal

The Human Academy