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..There's a little Samuel Pepys in all of us..

Friday, March 28, 2003

"It has been hacked," said Jihad Ali Ballout, a spokesman for al-Jazeera...
The Arabic daily's websites, both English and Arabic language services, were subjected to what's called 'denial of services' attack.. basically what the hackers did was flood the site with useless information, blocking legitimate traffic..
One group, called the 'Freedom Cyberforce Militia'.. directed people who logged on to al Jazeera's English site to another website.. with the message 'God Bless Our Troops'..
Another group has those using the English language site taken to a map of the States with Old Glory spread across the landscape.. and the message Let Freedom Ring..
Those using the Arabic language service were re-directed to a porn site..
The TV channel has described the electronic onslaught as a vicious attack on the freedom of the press...
Appears they have a fine sense of irony..
And y'know..according to British pathologists.. some 35 hundred seeming healthy Britons die in their sleep each year.. they're going to call it SADS.. Sudden Adult Death Syndrome..
We were looking for a new disease just the other day..
One wonders why they tell us of these new things.. that we've always had around us.. but which now seem to be deadly.. like sleep..
It's not as though they're in a position to actually do anything about it.. they've no cure...
One supposes the medical profession now naturally assumes that this society wants more involvement with illness.. what with the proclivity towards hypochondria we've developed over the past few decades.. It certainly makes a good public case for more funding..

Thursday, March 27, 2003

They made a good pair.. Tony and George facing the media after their Camp David talks earlier today..
There was talk of 'taking the time to do the job..' and' freeing the oppressed Iraqi peoples'.. disgust with al-Jazeera and the Ba'ath regeme for releasing the photo's of 'executed' British soldiers.. an overwhelming sense of dedication and commitment..
But y'know.. one's attention was caught a few times by George.. the thought that's he's possibly slipped off the wagon or was equally possibly taking some heavy duty anti-anxiety script bounced across the pub this afternoon..
It was the almost lacadasical attitude the President showed.. a certain gleam in the eye..
As for the tone of the world in general.. it appears Australians have swung behind the war effort.. the French are talking about strained but normal relations between itself and the US.. their Defence Minister stressed today that their objection was not specifically aimed at the US.. but was against the concept of war in this case in the most general of terms..
The lights of Baghdad shine through a mist.. a fog.. smoke from the oil trenches and pits wafts through the entire city..
One can only hope that in this effort.. the Iraqi people themselves actually do end up the winners..
Perhaps in future.. the marches might be better directed to ensuring control of the country stays in the hands of those who live there.. permanently..
A definative statement from Geof Hoon.. Tony's Defence Secretary.. to the effect that Britain has 'categorical proof' that Saddam has, and plans to use, chemical weapons..
This Geoff's basing on discoveries of chemical warfare protective suits that Iraqi Command had issued to southern forces.. and some as yet undefined 'discoveries' made in Iraq by British troops..
Geoff also mentioned at his briefing that the explosion yesterday in Baghdad might not have been caused by the Iraqi's themselves.. that as yet there's no evidence they were firing anything in that direction when the 14 people were killed..

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

ArabNews is the only English language daily in Saudi Arabia, and understandably it's going to show a somewhat slanted version of the news.. looking for those analysts and commentators and authorities who back their own particular version of the truth..
This.. at least.. the East has taken from the West..
Now today they've pubished a telephone interview.. conducted with one of Labour's own..
This is what the BBC bio has to say about George..
George Galloway is one of the most visible backbenchers in the House of Commons, with a strong line in fiery oratory and a skill for enthusiastic denunciation.
However, the idiosyncratic uses to which he puts his skill had led to his being almost as detached from the Labour party as from the opposition parties.
His abrasive and intemperate style has left him without a great deal of sympathy in Parliament, but he continues implacably nonetheless.
He is a left wing opponent of privatisation and of nuclear weapons, and has previously been arrested while protesting outside naval bases.
However, his major political interests, and the ones which cause the most controversy, are international, where he is a self-styled friend of oppressed countries and opponent of Western imperialism.
He has fought a long campaign against sanctions on Iraq, and was an adamant opponent of the Gulf War and the military action in Afghanistan.
In 2002, he caused the first ever suspension of Westminster Hall when he refused to withdraw his allegation that Ben Bradshaw was "a liar".
Mr Bradshaw had described him as "a mouthpiece to the Iraqi regime over many years".
Thus endeth the lesson.. on how to choose one's sources..

One would think.. the spin doctors that worked for the Iraqi's before this war began.. mobilizing all those protestors for Saddam's cause.. would be advising al-Jazeera against broadcasting photo's of dead British soldiers and POW's..
This alone is turning a significant number of people away from 'the cause'.. perhaps giving them for the first time a glimpse of what it is they were marching to preserve..
Mind you.. having said that.. the Western mindset.. Western concepts of morality are only partly shared by those in the Middle East..
Not to say they're uncivilised.. merely different..
To them.. the dead bodies of their enemies.. are trophies to be celebrated over..
The prisoners.. a sign their cause is just.. and an oppostunity to display the foreign devils..
A corpse is not an uncommon sight in that part of the world.. and parading them is as much a part of their life as disguising them is in ours..
Damn y'know.. when it gets to be this time of the year.. one expects to see kids out with bats and gloves.. spring training games on television.. the thwak of bats hitting balls all over the country.. It's part of the North American seasonal parade.. much as the leaves turning in the fall.. and snow up past your backside in the winter..
One has to miss it.. even if you can't stand the game itself, it means summer's not that far away when your windows occasionally become colateral damage..
It's a cultural thing..
As is the reaction of many to this war..
Know this fellow.. lives in South Western Ontario.. works in computers and makes a damn good living at it too.. drives three hours a day to get to and from his job.. has a house paid for.. a wife he loves to bits.. she works as well and between them they can afford to take several vacations a year..
They couldn't care less about Iraq.. this war..
They have no opinion on the morality of it all.. they've been asked, and quietly smiled while saying 'I pay politicians to make these decisions.. the army to enforce them.. don't waste my time..'
And when pressed about the 'morality issue..for gods sake..' their smile becomes a trifle more strained.. their tone of voice closer to that one would use with an annoying but handicapped zealot.. and they answer 'we do what we can.. we watch our own.. and we leave national issues to the people elected..'
They are the silent majority.. and they have every right to be just that..
When people decry the stance of one side or another in this conflict.. they're merely stating for whatever record they might feel will exist.. that they agree/disagree with decisions they are powerless to affect. Once the machinery is set in place.. we as a whole are subject to the 'whims and fancies' if you will.. of those we have given the job of running it to..
Truth be told.. as my friend says.. 'Why would I want to be Prime Minister..? I make more money.. and can sleep at night..'
In the meantime we'll march to the sound of the band we hired for the night.. even if some of us wanted rock and roll.. and the group plays polkas..
Safwar.. a small town on the Iraq-Kuwaiti border.. was the first to get Humanitarian Aid Packages..
It was an odd scene to watch.. a crowd of some several hundred Iraqi's.. crowding around a couple of articulated lorries.. tractor trailers.. as boxes and plastic bags of water.. food.. are scrambled over.. The picture speaks for itself.. These are people who have not suffered from this American action.. who's lives have not been battered by the effects of foreigners wading heavily armed through their country..
Rather this shows a people who have been starved by their own government.. who are desperate for whatever they can get from those fighting against Saddam..
In how many more small villages in the south will this scene replay itself..
How many cities.. towns.. small villages.. are there in Iraq..?
An update on the Shaab incident this morning.. the number of killed in the explosions has now been dropped to 15.. and the Americans are scratching their heads.. saying '..we can't say if this was our doing..' They investigating.. but other scenario's have been speculated on..
Odds are it was a couple of American missiles.. but keep in mind they're subject to damage from anti-aircraft fire.. and were a couple thrown off their guidance systems.. that market area lies in the flight path to a military target..
'Stupid villains'..
The Iraqi Information Minister disputes that the port of Umm Qasr is under Coalition control.. saying the invading forces.. are confined to Dock No.10..
That this small town is not yet defeated..
Odd.. the dolphins seemed comfortable yesterday..
Nevertheless.. the news that will have the wires burning is from Baghdad.. the Shaab district in the Iraqi capital was bombed this morning.. reports are 45 civilians were killed while doing their morning shopping.. The Iraqi Government itself has been quiet about this incident.. no mention of it in the Information Minister's briefing..
But western media's on it like white on rice..
One might deplore war itself.. one certainly deplores the loss of civilian life.. what's almost cavalierly referred to as 'colateral damage'..
But even more.. one must deplore the machinations of a government openly engaged in the attempts to destroy one's way of life..
Very nice to say 'live and let live'.. admirable..
Now in a perfect world..

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Australian divers are at work in Umm Qasr harbour.. clearing away mines hopefully faster than government boats can lay them..
And for the first time.. dolphins are working with the military.. to sniff these mines out.. so to speak.. so the divers can deal with them..
Not to say dolphins hadn't worked with humans before.. but this is the first time in combat conditions..
Meanwhile.. back on the road to Baghdad.. there's a report for a massive firefight east of the city.. In that weather.. one can only speculate..
By the way..those two British tankers killed today.. were fired on by another British tank..
It was dark.. and fifty Ba'ath tanks were staging a breakout..
The talk at the pub this evening was subdued.. There's almost universal amazement that so few have lost their lives in this so far.. on both sides.. Not that the regulars are looking for massive body counts.. very much the opposite in fact.. but the precision and restraint.. is unprecidented..
If we're not carefull.. war will revert to the old conventions..
Like the Shannon and the Chesapeake..
Umm Qasr seems to be under control.. which means the supplies of food.. clothing.. medical supplies for the Iraqi people themselves can begin to dock as soon as the Ba'ath mines are cleared..
Basrah.. has again responded to the opportunity to rid themselves of Saddam's control.. and this is what the Coalition forces were hoping to see.. In fact the cooperation of the Iraqi's is imperative in the American plans.. Not only does it allow Coalition soldiers to avoid a Belfast street-to-street situation, but it lends creedence to the entire effort..
This will really be a war of liberation.. if the Iraqi people stand up in support of it.. It appears they might indeed..
In the meantime.. Baghdad's suffering under a sandstorm.. winds high enough to bend palm trees.. it would be hard to think of conditions that are harder on machinery..
Yet the strategic bombing runs will continue..
One can only thank whatever gods there might be.. that one doesn't live near Fairford in Glocestershire.. the B52's.. and they're big birds.. have been flying rotating missions non-stop for a few days now..
Makes all of us reflexively look up at our own roof-tiles..
A meeting today of the Arab League.. OPEC essentially..
Iran.. a country somewhat eager to see the US and Britain involved in a war with it's neighbour just a few weeks ago.. has changed hats again.. Iranisn Foreign Minister Naji Sabri called this 'a violation of the UN Charter'..a 'threat to world peace'..
Lybia waxed prolix on 'Iraqi heroism'..
All very much feelgood and hail fellow well met, in a Middle Eastern sort of way.. but just what it means in practical terms is very unclear..
This group has no executive powers.. cannot even censure member states such as Qatar..Bahrain.. Kuwait.. who have American troops launching attacks from their airfields..
This has become a problem for the PanArab League.. While public opinion in their individual states is strongly opposed to this war.. most leaders would just as soon see the back of Saddam..
But there remains ingrained distrust of the west.. and questions concerning the future of other Arab governments.. should the US take umbrage with them..
These are not good times for politicians.. it's a case of being universally damned if we do.. and comprehensively damned if we don't..
What we have here.. is a city which rose twelve years ago against the dictator.. expecting a change in government.. supporting the American troops all the way..
A city that.. when the Amerians pulled back without removing the dicator.. was subjected to terrible reprisals by the government left in power..
A city today.. that has had problems for three days now with water supplies.. wherein three of five children already suffer from malnutrition.. who wonder if this time the Americans will follow through and remove Hussein..
It's part of the reason Basrah has been so hard to finish off.. why there exist 'pockets of resistance' in residential areas..
The people of Basrah remember.. they fought before and were punished for it..
This time.. they'll want a sign of good faith.. some food for their kids would be a good start, and to that end we have the UN involved.. UNICEF in Jordan is loading up supplies earmarked for Basrah.. One can only hope they manage to find a way to get it there..

Monday, March 24, 2003

What a scene..
The briefing room at the White House.. a detailed update on progress in Iraq.. with the members of the media hanging on every word..
To begin.. the attitude of the reporters present was demanding, to say the least.. the White House spokesman was repeatedly pressed for details of casualties and POW's.. Unsatisfied with the response that the military has a proceedure to follow.. notifications to make.. before numbers and names can be released..
The reporter pressed for a number.. citing the right of the American people to know..
Now.. there can only be two reasons for such demands.. neither is particularly pallatable..
The first could be that indeed, the hysteria surrounding this particular campaign has infected the members of the 5th Estate to the extent they've forgotten SOP.. that indeed it's what they've been told to get.. the gory details..
The second is that they're that naive, that they'd expect a government at war to release to the world what their battle damage reports contained..
Either possibility has one shaking one's head..
For the attitude of the media.. only reflects the attitudes of those who watch.. who direct this war from their armchairs.. who make up ratings..
Disinformation through the chatrooms..
The range of emotions displayed concerning this war runs the gamut.. with foaming anti-americanism vying for position with rabid anti-Iraqism.. perhaps anti-Saddamiam might be more correct.. but it does get confusing where one line ends and the next begins..
It's crises the likes of this that bring out the best in folks..
However.. point is there appear to be those in the chats.. who's sole purpose is to distort the ubiquitous reports we're getting.. to 'demoralize' those who would support the action against Saddam.. to twist the aim of the invasion away from the Ba'ath and towards the innocent Iraqi's themselves..
It's a tactic that might work on those in Baghdad.. or Basra.. Then again that might prove difficult.. what with the internet not really common to Iraqi households..
One of the fundamentals in Middle Eastern diplomacy has historically been.. when asked a direct question.. obfuscate.. lie.. It buys time for a considered response to be formulated.. and lies on the international level can be shrugged off as 'misunderstandings'..
This is the approach we're seeing from some chatters. and while highly amusing.. it has sinister overtones..
As for the peace activists.. some are so frustrated with their lack of success.. they're ready to take a swing at someone..
An amazing exercise we're watching really..
Casualty figures are so low they're not really indicative of a full-blown war.. more like an early seventies meeting between the Mods and the Rockers.. or Hell's Angels v Devil's Disciples.. perhaps that's dated..
Nevertheless.. of all the wars in history.. this one will go down as perhaps the least costly in terms of human life..
Now it comes down to guerilla warfare.. and perhaps we'll see damage by the Saddam Fida'iyin.. and the hardcore Ba'ath troops.. those who have absolutely nothing to lose should the Saddam regeme fall..
This might be close to the time Jaques Chirac.. the UN.. and all the rest begin diplomatic pushes..
Perhaps an effort to prevent street warfare..
But.. with all the cards being held now by George.. to some extent Tony.. it'll needs be a large olive branch the politicians begin offering..
Ahh here we go..
The American troops near Basrah.. have apparently discovered a chemical weapons factory near the city of Najaf.. and several other sites are apparently being examined with 'some interest'..
One would put money on that.. 'some interest' indeed..
This is the news Jaques Chirac had no doubt been expecting.. no doubt dreading..
It's the 'justification'..
Coming up to 5am in Baghdad, and the sky's a dull red with the mixture of flames from bombed buildings and the oilpit fires.. lit for whatever reason by the Iraqi defence.. the power and water supplies were cut for the first time yesterday.. the people will be wondering how long now.. before the sound of assault rifles punctuates the call to prayer..
Terry Lloyd had been with ITV for 20 years.. He'd covered Iraq before.. back in 1988 when Saddam gassed the Kurds Lloyd sent reports from the villages in the path of the gas clouds..
He knew his way around a war..
It's confirmed now he was killed while driving away from Iraqi outposts near Basra.. by what was almost certainly friendly fire..
Tonight we have both George and Tony condemning Saddam and his cronies for televising part of the interrogations, of American POW's.. as if Saddam is truely concerned with something as petty as the exact nature of the Geneva Convention..
At times.. this posturing for the camera can become tedious..
What is to be noted.. particular to this conflict.. is the degree to which the motk is involved.. we are immersed in minute by minute updates.. constant analysis.. pictures of real-time action.. This war is being fought very much in public.. so no misunderstanding here.. it's all available for the viewing..
Thank gods for satellite television.. where somewhere, on one channel or another.. Happy Days is always being aired..
We, all of us, can occasionally do with a good mental enema..

Sunday, March 23, 2003

An idea of what's going through the minds of the other leaders of the Arab Middle East..
The PanArab League met.. to discuss this war in their backyards.. and the various leaders just couldn't seem to get themselves to discuss a regeme change in Iraq..
The sole voice came from the Sheikdom of the UAE.. saying it was time to ask Saddam to step down..
The others adopted postures not unlike those seen along the bar at the pub.. with fingers along the nose and glazed eyes lost in thought.. as perhaps they contemplated should Saddam be asked to remove himself by his Arab confreres.. who indeed might be next..?
Yet.. as this war continues towards what is certainly the inevidable removal of the Ba'ath and Saddam.. these same Arab leaders will have to face their angry citizens.. several camps of angry citizens.. each with their own agenda for the modernization of their respective countries and the redistribution of power..
Egypt is not happy.. it's traditional stance against Israel will be severely impededed by an American presence in the area.. and the Shi'ite majority in Iraq will certainly have a much louder voice, once the Sunni core has lost it's influence in government..
Ahh...and there's also the question of France and the EU to be considered.. The Middle East has always had close ties with France in particular.. and now Chirac has put himself beyond the pale as far as the reconstruction of Iraq's concerned.. there must be many who're wondering if they've backed the wrong horse..
Sunday after church.. as the men wandered in to face the bar.. their wives taking up customary stations along the window seats..
Much shaking of heads.. regretfull statements about the sad inevidability of casualties under friendly fire.. comments about the state of British materiel..
An RAF Tornado shot down as it returned from a mission by an American Patriot missile.. a mistake..
Two helicopter crashes within the past three days.. 19 dead.. 14 of them British..
A British Television reporter and his crew missing behind Iraqi lines.. now thought to be KIA.. again it was friendly fire..
There are those here who remember the Ai Shau.. with the thousands.. literally thousands of enemy casualties.. our own men falling in their hundreds..
Relatively speaking.. after 4 days of warfare we're getting off lightly..
It does seem to date.. that we're more dangerous than the Iraqi's by far though.. certainly as far as our own troops are concerned..

Saturday, March 22, 2003

Seems to be the issue on most people's minds these days.. from the micro to the macro people are constantly engaged in the process of making others understand why they're doing whatever it is they're involved in.. That also includes the often tedious task of explaining exactly what it is one's doing to begin with..
Gets complicated.. and truth be told.. it needn't be..
While one certainly does not advocate unaccountability.. but one questions the number of times that issue's raised over the course of a day.. and the issues called under scrutiny.. The most mundane acts.. walking down one's own street..driving into town for a loaf and a pint while you're at it.. spending an unplanned hour or so talking with one's neighbours..can become 'issues' in some eyes. 'This calls for an explanation' could be the catchphrase of the era..
Case in point.. on the micro we have one of the regulars down at the pub, being hauled unceremoniously out of our company, accompanied by some surrepticious chortles from those he left behind and his vastly annoyed wife who had been expecting to go shopping..while offering weak protests of ''s Saturday was only a pint.. half an hour at best there..' ..
On the macro we have General Tommy Franks.. and four members of the 'coalition' brass.. spending quite a while presenting to members of the 5th Estate a battle plan.. and a synopsis of what will happen to Iraq once Saddam's away..
Poor Tommy's got far too many wives here..

Friday, March 21, 2003

The human mind is a wonderful thing..
It comes in an infinite number of styles, shapes, sizes.. Can be made to order, or taken right off the rack..
It's malleable..capable of defying physics by compacting itself into containers far too small.. or expanding beyond it's limits to fill a space far too large..
Indeed, it can exist in a seeming void..
It can be set as hard as stone.. or assume the consistency of old blancmange..
It can be a sponge, absorbing all it comes in contact with.. it can be an amazing assimillator..
It can be impervious to all external influence.. repelling all it comes in contact with.. it can assume tremendous degrees of obtusity..
This, mankind has been able to see in even the comparitively tiny cross sections available before mass communication.. and finds it even more evident in this time of instant global contact..
The point of this being.. that what has been seen as characteristic of mankind historically.. is indeed the character of mankind..
That the marvel of being able to speak with one another in vast numbers over all distances, does not change anything in the percentile, only in the sample size..
In a nutshell.. there will always be idiots.. visionaries.. intellectuals.. poseurs.. apathetics.. in any sample you take..
We've really not come that far at all..
Down to the nuts and bolts of war now.. with the political aspects taking a somewhat welcome breather behind the stirring photo's and universal strategic second-guessing which fill the minds.. and the media..
For now at least..
Paris is on alert today.. with the discovery of vials of Ricin in a railway station locker..
This is the second front of this war.. which has yet to be either fully appreciated or seen in action.. the war which will be carried from the Middle East into Europe.. Britain.. the United States mainland.. Australia..
As George so sagely put in his address last evening.. this war has been minimized by many.. thoughts of a three day victory are not realistic.. that this could take longer than most expected..
British troops have been told perhaps three weeks before they're wrapping up.. we'll see when it comes to the short strokes for the Ba'ath government.. when defeat is imminent.. what they might unleash..
The boys at the pub haven't gone as far as to buy their own personal chemical suits yet.. well.. not all of them anyway..

Thursday, March 20, 2003

The start of this war against Iraq has had leaders around the world jumping to the microphones..
Russia's Vladimir Putin.. says this is unjustified..
Jaques Chirac.. expresses Gallic regret this began without UN backing.. irony's a strong suit with that man..
China says the action violated the principles of international law..
The Vatican said it was 'deeply pained'..
Little from the Middle East surprisingly.. Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi condemned the 'unjustifyable and illegitimate attack' on their neighbour..
But.. on the other hand.. Austrailia..Japan.. the Philippines..South Korea all supported the incursion.. saying the world could not kowtow to a petty dictator..
Having said that.. anti-war demonstrations took place today in Athens..Cairo.. in Australia and Indonesia.. the latter having the worlds largest Muslim population by the way..
The political posturing will continue.. uncomfortable albeit.. until there is evidence one way or the other concerning the posession of restricted weaponry by Saddam..
This, in some small amount, has already been demonstrated by the launch of what's now said to be two SCUD long-range missiles into Kuwait this morning..
Oh.. and by the way.. officially the first ground force action took place at 11:15amGMT.. when British forces returned fire with mortars.. on an Iraqi anti aircraft position..
It's traditional.. Commanders of men in the field address them prior to going into battle for a number of reasons.. calm the excited.. bolster the strong.. encourage the faltering..
Lt.Col. Tim Collins of the 1st Battalion Royal Irish delivered this to the Battle Group of his Company.. it's worth remembering..
"We go to liberate not to conquer. We will not fly our flags in their country..We are entering Iraq to free a people and the only flag which will be flown in that ancient land is their own. Show respect for them.
There are some who are alive at this moment who will not be alive shortly. Those who do not wish to go on that journey, we will not send. As for the others I expect you to rock their world. Wipe them out if that is what they choose. But if you are ferocious in battle remember to be magnanimous in victory.
Iraq is steeped in history. It is the site of the Garden of Eden, of the Great Flood and the birthplace of Abraham. Tread lightly there.
You will see things that no man could pay to see and you will have to go a long way to find a more decent, generous and upright people than the Iraqis.
You will be embarrassed by their hospitality even though they have nothing. Don't treat them as refugees for they are in their own country. Their children will be poor, in years to come they will know that the light of liberation in their lives was brought by you.
If there are casualties of war then remember that when they woke up and got dressed in the morning they did not plan to die this day.Allow them dignity in death. Bury them properly and mark their graves.
You will be shunned unless your conduct is of the highest for your deeds will follow you down through history. We will bring shame on neither our uniform nor our nation."
Words to live.. and to die by..
Baghdad noon hour..
A few cars on the streets.. some pedestrians.. life, while exceedingly subdued.. goes on..
The mood in the Iraqi capital is one of some surprise.. that there has not been the carpet bombing they'd been told to expect.. that indeed the only attack so far.. was a cruise missile deployment against some specific targets on the city's outskirts.. where intelligence had some senior members of the Ba'ath government in residence..
Geoff Hoon.. our Defence Minister.. has just met the members of the media.. and has informed us that there were several preemptive operations set in motion last night.. some of which British Special Forces were involved in.. Geoff seemed eager to stress that this war was indeed against the regeme, not the Iraqi people.. and that these attacks were based in intelligence that suggested some of the government leaders could be taken, before it became necissary to push on with the full might of the allied forces..
'Take up your swords'.. was the live response from Saddam..
The response from the French.. from L'Empereur Chirac if one might be so unkind.. is immediate condemnation of the attack.. and what almost amounts to a demand for their cessation.. One doubts France's voice is heard quite so distinctly either in Number 10 or the White House these days..
One note..
One was somewhat struck with the look in the eyes of George when he addressed the American public last night.. this morning.. whenever..
Either he's exeedingly tired, or he's got what could be the start of a maniacal gleam in his own eyes.
May this not turn into a 4th Crusade..
Watch for the main assault.. sometime after sundown..
It's about a quarter to five in the morning in Baghdad.. and while the city is braced for an immenent attack.. the streetlights are on.. buildings are lit.. the sunrise will bring the Muzzein to call them to morning prayer..
The deadline for Saddam's resignation and departure has now passed.. and the word from the White House is that as George said, this war will start at a time of the US's choosing..
This delaying tactic is serving managing several purposes.. demonstrating that George is not exactly a cowboy.. rushing in on the stroke of one this morning to deal justice to the renegade Saddam.. putting the Iraqi people in a state of constant stress.. disrupting the flow of Iraqi life on all levels.. while the threat looms ever larger just over the various borders Iraq shares..
Over 13 million leaflets have been dropped on Iraqi territory over the past weeks.. all of them describing how Saddam was a despot.. that this was a fight to liberate them.. instructions on how to surrender.. All this in an effort to turn his own people against Saddam..
However.. there is a downside to this waiting game as well.. for George cannot be seen to be faltering..One hopes.. when the balloon finally goes up.. George doesn't wear a gleefull grin watching it all come to pass..
There's no room for self-righteousness in politics.. We all of us understand the game too well to swallow that..

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

French Foreign Minister Domenique de Villepin almost wiped a tear away.. as he accused Britain and the US of being mean..
Actually his words were somewhat more eloquent.. having to do with the recent talk 'not being that that could be seen as friendly'..
Tony and Jaques are set to meet tomorrow in Brussels.. likely some hours after the first wave of American and British troops will have entered Iraq.. The thoughts of those at the pub were that this would not be the most cordial of meetings.. indeed this could define the course Britain takes in increasing ties with the EU..
It's going to be hard having two dominant countries vying for the top position.. the first among equals.. in this new EU..
Given the tenor of current British sentiment.. The EU does not loom large in our future..
Chirac's no doubt smiling at this.. Tony's doubtless gnashing his teeth..
But more and more there are parallels being drawn between the new EU.. and the Holy Roman Empire..
The rift between 'Old Europe' and the US grew an inch or so this morning.. when it was found that Germany and France's offices at the EU had been bugged..
Of course the immediate response was blame the United States.. but indeed, that assumption might be a tad off.. What concievable purpose would the US have in getting word of the inndermost workings of the EU.. of France.. when Chirac and Schroeder have been so outspoken in their stance.. It would be more likely that the EUGate was the work of a Middle Eastern faction.. anxious to determine whether or not Chirac and Co. would falter..
We shall see..
Meanwhile.. the economic benefits of this conflict have already been felt.. world markets bouncing back now the uncertainty is dissipated.. and the war machine is running.. Watch oil prices once this dispute is settled, and Hussein's away.. The re-emergence of Iraqi oil supplies into the market will be something OPEC Ministers will be mooting as we write..
And as the troops in the Kuwaiti desert set themselves up for the order to press on.. likely in the early hours of tomorrow morning.. one of the natural defences of Iraq has already kicked in.. As we discussed some months ago.. this is the time of year for the annual Harmittan.. the desert winds.. when the heat picks up along with the wind.. leaving existance in that area a sandy experience indeed.. This season lasts a couple of weeks.. and while it does move trillions of tons of sand around.. it also makes the use of chemical or biological weapons dangerous not only for those aimed at.. but for those aiming.. The wind's an impartial factor here..
And finally for the moment.. the question has been put to those across this island.. if now war's a certainty.. has the opinion changed about it..
The concensus, while certainly not unanimous.. was no. Those opposed to the action for the most part remain so..
This is going to reflect very badly on Tony, should the weapons he expects to find, or have used against our troops, fail to materialize..
Again..we shall see..
One note of interest here..
One of the points emphasized by George in his speech of intention Monday night.. was the establishment of some equitable government in Israel/Palestine..
The Palistinians have obliged.. they've pushed Yasser Arrafat one step farther away from complete control by creating the post of Prime minister..
What this means is that Arrafat has no say in the formation of the new Palistinian Cabinet.. While he retains control of the security forces, and the peace talks with Israel.. realistically this appears to be a move towards diluting the sweeping powers Arrafat has traditionally held..
This was one of the points George wanted settled.. and it signals clearly that Palestine.. and Israel.. will be ready to work towards ending their differences.. without the overwhelming influence of Hammas and perhaps what one American speechwriter will eventually get around to calling the 'Old Middle East'..
An 'incident' near Gatwick.. now that has the mind working in high gear.. what with Police hauling away the 'Europeans'.. all charged under the Terrorism Act.. and evacuating quite a few of the houses is the immediate vicinity..
This is what Europeans.. and one must group the British within that category if only for convenience sake.. have lived with for decades.. This could be what those within the continental US might have to become innured to..
A victory of sorts for Tony in the Commons this evening.. the vote to determine whether British troops shouldbe used against Saddam was passed through the House.. by a margin of 412 yeas and 149 nays.. Tell the truth this represents the largest revolt against the government since Tony's come to power.. Not a particularly encouraging sign..
However.. it was a victory.. and Britain has committed itself and it's men to removing Saddam and the really important task of discovering hidden caches of WMD..
Now.. the resignations from the government.. for posterities sake if nothing else..
Sandra Osborn.. Labour MP for Ayr..aide to Scottish Secretary Helen Liddell..
Anne Campbell.. Labour MP for Cambridge..PPS to Patricia Hewitt..SecState T&I..
Bob Blizzard.. Labour MP for Waveny..PPS to Nick Brown..Minister Works and Pensions..
Home Office Minister John Denham..
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath.. Jr. Health Minister..
Robin Cook.. Leader of the House of Commons..
Ken Purchase.. Robins PPS..
and Andy Reed.. Labour MP for Loughborough.. PPS to Environment Secretary Margart Beckett..
That's it.. so far..

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

It was the French voice who the anti-war protestors applauded.. it was the 'voice of reason' embodied by Jaques Chirac who's cry they followed.. and it seemed as though world opinion.. as ill-formed as it might be.. could perhaps sway the will of the 'mighty US' and allow the semblance of peace to remain in the Middle East.. at meast that's the picture as Le Monde put it..
But now.. at this stage where we're well past the eleventh hour.. it is obvious that France.. the millions who followed the parade around the world.. could not force Saddam to capitulate and disarm.. or dissuade George from his intention of removing the government in Iraq..
As the focus shifts away from the United Nations and down to the battlefields of Iraq, France's voice will become increasingly irrelevant...We have grown used to asking at every twist in this year-long build-up, "What will the French say?" because what the French said truly mattered...
But that obsession with the French position, which has of course flattered the French themselves, will gradually peter from now on the talk will be of offensives and surrenders, death and victory, destruction and the hope of re-building...
In none of this will France have a word to say.
Camped on its moral high ground, it may take solace in the consistency of its opposition to war. And there will always be many around the world who applaud what it did.
But France has never liked being left out of the international the new post-war order, it may have to get used to it.

Robin Cook is history.. having given quite an eloquent resignation speech in the Commons, he's retired with his ambitions to the oscurity of the Back benches.. In something of a surprise move Clair Short.. the most outspoken of those threatening to resign.. has decided the best place to fight the good fight is from within..
A couple of other minor resignations.. nothing like the broken dam some had predicted.. however lines have been drawn..
Saddam and his family have united in their distain of offers to quit the country and avoid war.. one wonders where he would go anyway..
George is continuing his justification of the action.. as is Tony.. both are contemptuous of Chirac and France in general..
And in the desert.. these are the long hours.. when the heat of the day and the winds die down.. then while waiting for orders time stretches interminably and the high pitched humm of the genny's pierce your thoughts..
The weapons inspectors are leaving.. all foreign nationals have been warned by their respective governments that the middle east isn't a particularly safe place for westerners these days.. those who will leave.. have left.. even the journalists have pulled pack to Qatar.. most of them at any rate..
Forty-eight hours George said..
We'll see..

Monday, March 17, 2003

Now.. Tony has a problem..
The emergency Cabinet meeting called to 10 Downing Street will be underway in moments.. and when it breaks up.. one must wonder how many leaving the residence will still be part of the Blair inner circle..
Robin Cook.. has arrived.. going in through the back door, literally.. Clair Short is there, by the more conventional entrance.. the others are en route..
it's Cook and Short who will lead the ranks of those who've written their letters of resignation.. they've tied their political futures to a different wagon now.. and there's little point to turning back at this point..
Saddam.. regardless of the effects of this war, has already won a significant victory..
Now, Powell has referred to 'an ultimatum' to be delivered by George to the American public.. he's cited the legality of military action.. and his disappointment at those in the international community who have consistently blindsided the effective use of diplomacy..
One last note for the moment.. Powell has underscored continuing American support for the UN.. and the hopes it's efficacy will not be compromised..
However.. the UN Security Council met a problem in Saddam.. that it could not cope with.. that 1441 is not being enforced.. and as such has become an impediment to international law and order...
One is quite happy no caricaturist has yet come up with the 'George as Judge Dredd' cartoon.. but then there it is..
If clocks could tick faster.. the second hands marking the time left for peace would be flying around the dial..
Note here.. France is being blamed for this outcome.. Direct reference from Britain when withdrawing the new Resolution puts the onus on 'that nation which issued it's veto even before the Iraq government itself responded'..
The Cabinet will meet at 10 Downing street in less than half an hour.. Jack Straw is slated to address the Commons this evening..
George will speak to the Nation this evening.. well.. one o'clock in the bloody morning here.. we'll be watching to look for any mention of a religious nature tho..
But the White House has said that the 'miracle of diplomacy' has not happened.. that the window's now closed..
Colin Powell's expected to made an announcement is some 15 minutes or so.. and what we'll hear is 'regrets..but it's time..'
Saddam has pulled his armoured and artillery divisions into Baghdad.. Chemical Ali's setting up his defence of the southern area of Basrah.. France and Russia has estabished themselves as the opposition to George's efforts and have again stated their veto's would be used.. Tony's meeting with his Cabinet in emergency session this afternoon.. One would expect an emergency session in the Commons tonight or tomorrow..
So now.. it might be said all hands have been forced...
George and Tony must go into Iraq.. to deal with the threat of Saddam and to re-establish their own political credibility.. France and Germany, and one might well say the EU, have set themselves apart from allies they've supported since the Second World War.. Spain being a noteable exception here by the bye.. And while life appears to be carrying on as normal in Iraq.. the tension levels are palpable.. with military materiel being moved into the streets..
This tactic of Saddam's is especially despicable.. for it ensures civilian casualties.. but then they're only grist for the world's media mill and Saddam understands this as well as any hard-bitten cynic of an international editor looking for the best images for the 6 o'clock news.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

An ultimatum from President Bush.. a 'more discussion only means more delay' from Tony..
One more day for Hussein to disarm completely.. one more day for Tony to try and drag Chirac back into the fold.. and then George will let slip..
The talk at the pub flows around France.. and the political game it's played to date.. There is speculation that tomorrow might see an eleventh-hour recanting by the French President.. and a withdrawal of it's automatic veto of any new UN Resolution..
Now that would pose a moment's problem for George.. for it would mean the delay of invasion.. while the UN at least made the incursion 'legal' and 'moral'..
Meanwhile, back in the zenanna, Baghdad battens down for war.. five months supply of foodstuffs and water.. the Imperial Guard deployed.. the 4 area commanders named.. and the average man in the street is that concerned about American near-misses.. that those doctors mentioned in an earlier posting were out riding today.. and plan to be back again Tuesday..
Hussein is quoted as saying 'Iraq will fight anywhere in the world' if it is attacked..
So much for those waving peace plackards.. saying there was no tie between Hussein, and organized terrorism..
This is a small village.. and of a Sunday we're appreciative of the fact this is Scotland, and here most church's don't ring bells.. for we are just down the road from a church. One has found occasion to talk to to the tiny congregation about the weather, about the need to prune the rose bushes and mend the fence. But we never talked about God.
The religious aspect of one's life over here is understated.. personal.. certainly nothing one would find involved in any part of government..
Not so these days in the US tho..
The Bush administration hums to the sound of prayer. Prayer meetings take place day and night. The early settlers came to the States, in part, to practise their faiths as they saw fit...Since then the right to trumpet your religious affiliations - loud and clear - has been part of the warp and weft of American life.
Now this is not about the Bible Belt - or about the loopy folk who live in log cabins in Idaho and Oregon and worry that the government is poisoning their water. This is about Mr and Mrs Average in Normaltown, USA.
According to that faith there is such a thing as heaven - 86% of Americans, we are told by the pollsters, believe in heaven.
But much more striking, and much more pertinent to current world events, is the fact that 76% or three out of four people you meet on any American street believe in hell and the existence of Satan.
They believe that the devil is out to get you. That evil is a force in the world - a force to be engaged in battle..Much of that battle takes place in the form of prayer.
And nobody spends more time on his knees...back in metaphorical mode here...than George W Bush...He is famously born again - at the age of 40 it was goodbye Jack Daniels and hello Jesus. He has never looked back.
So while there are plenty of rational people giving rational advice about policy matters in the Bush White House there is also a channel, an input, from on high.
Doubtless the president and his people have been praying earnestly that Saddam Hussein might fall under a bus.
But if no bus comes..they feel justified in what they have decided to do.
Meanwhile.. Germany has told all it's nationals to leave Iraq.. they'll be shutting down their Embassy tomorrow..

Saturday, March 15, 2003

The global protests against war in the Middle East have made their last hurrah.. those who wanted their voices heard were out today, well aware of the fact the US and Britain will be launching attacks.. perhaps as early as.. say.. 0200 Wednesday morning..
What is matter for speculation down at the pub is the fate of the Iraqi's themselves..
Many recall the effects of the West when first we appeared.. historically speaking that is.. when the French and British first ventured politically into areas hithertofore confined to the influence of the Ottoman Turks..
The tale of Lawrence was brought up..
The difference in the average lifestyle for those of the area.. as seen developing over the past 200 years or so.. more dramatically in the past 80.. from that their fathers enjoyed before Napoleon et al desended upon them, is startling.. and indicative..
What the westernization of the Middle East will entail this time.. remains to be seen..
But the Iraqi Mullahs will not appreciate the image they've projected of the 'western devils' contradicted..
And the anti-American stance exhibited by France.. posing as frontman for the EU.. will only fester and spread..
Thirteen years ago today.. the Observer journalist Farzad Bazoft walked out into the Baghdad dawn, to be hanged as a spy by the Hussein government..
This in spite of a call for clemency from Maggie Thatcher, and journalists around the world.
Y'see Farzad had been told of an explosion outside Baghdad.. hundreds killed in some sort of 'industrial accident' at a military base south of the city..
Being a reporter.. he hitched the first available ride towards the scene.. this happened to be with British nurse Daphne Parish..
They were both arrested..charged..and convicted of spying.. The explosion was at one of the many top secret military installations scattered about the countryside..
Maggie called the execution an 'act of barbarism'.. but didn't quite go so far as imposing further trade sanctions against Hussein and Co. .. the thought was that it would throw a wrench into any chance Daphne had to ever seeing light of day again..
As it turned out.. Daphne was released on the 16th of July 1990..
On the 2d August.. Hussein invaded Kuwait..
Lest we forget..

Friday, March 14, 2003

Ahh well.. some days you can't find right from doing wrong..
Tony's looking at a major rebellion within his ranks, should this war proceed without the official seal of approval from the United Nations..
That being highly unlikely.. figures as prominent as House Leader Robin Cook could soon leave their seats empty as they retire to the back benches..
Not a good sign for Tony.. and while some are stalwart in their support.. saying indeed, he's taken them to two election wins.. this revolt within will remain a problem, even should Tony be proven justified in his unwavering support of the US..
At this point.. surely someone is adding up the cost of all this, and weighing what's lost against what's gained.. for what remains, will be the shape of the real New Labour..
Some days it doesn't pay to get out of bed..
'Splendid Isolationsm'.. a British political stance that dates back to the days of constant conflict with the Continent.. days of Napoleon..Tallyrand.. Hanovarians on the Throne..William Pitt in the House..of British supremacy on the seas and universal colonial expansion..
Those were the days.. It's a concept buried deep within the British psyche..the pride of achievement and heroic isolation seen in the 1940's still lingers even within the hearts of those who three weeks ago were chanting against this war..
Thanks to France.
The stance taken my Jaques Chirac has drawn this country together.. this time not in protest, but in defence of what's seen as our national identity.. This French posturing and political jockeying is something we are familiar with.. it's history.. And it gives us a common enemy.. a foe worthy perhaps of our uniting against..
Unlike poor Hussein, who was given so much support... simply by dint of his underdog status..
But what was natural for a mighty 19th Century empire and stirring for a people standing alone in the 20th Century is not necessarily appropriate for a middle ranking European power of the early 21st Century.
One will watch as things unfold over the next few weeks.. as Tony finds his distance against Chirac.. as the war begins and what discoveries it might provide..
As this political game continues..

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Well.. says Tony.. looks as though this United Nations Resolution is a no-go.. that, in a rare use of American terminology, Downling Street could not 'elasticate' forever..
Just what is elastication.. the mind boggles..
Nevertheless, It's all France's fault, that Chirac has poisoned the whole diplomatic process..
Even the Queen has perhaps signaled some Regal distaste for the Continent, cancelling a planned trip to Belgium.. mind you she'll be needed here if the country does push off to war.. she'll sign the final papers..
Now.. the Tories have rallied closer behind Tony than has the PM's own Labour.. and Conservative leader Ian Duncan Smith,an eminently forgettable man at this point, has spoken out, perhaps less in support of Tony, but more certainly to condemn the despicable French, and has, in one's opinion, summed up what this political farce has degenerated to..
That being France and Russia, along with a particularly quiet Germany, promising to wield their vetos if a vote is called.. while the others in the Security Council look about themselves and think 'well then.. so what'..
It matters nothing how anyone else votes on this now.. it's condemned before it hits the ballotbox.. So much for the UN.. when the will of the mighty US can be considered an issue for debate, when faced with a determined France..
So much for the future of the UN.. but then again one can see a pattern in the dismanteling of the UN and NATO, through the withdrawal of European support..
For make no mistake.. for now.. Jaques Chirac speaks for Europe..
And the US with Britain tagging along.. will most certainly wage this war, which has become so much larger than ever it should have..
Odd, that the most skilled diplomatic moves made throughout all this nonsense, have come from Saddam Hussein..

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Public opinion.. a strange animal at the best of times..
Tony has been battered these past twenty four hours.. what with Donald Rumsfeld's blase approach to the British commitment to the cause.. threats of resignations from his own ministers.. the intractibility of the public towards this action.. it's been difficult..
Seems now the new UN resolution might not even make it to the voting stage.. what with so many of those holding veto's blithely tossing them about like confetti.
This is not good for Tony.. the public has been geared now to expect legitamacy, whatever that really means..
A sampling of what the motk was saying..taken from various sources from around the island today, gave us this should there not be another Resolution passed by the Security Council..
..It makes it far harder to hold the Labour Party together...
..It will outrage a swathe of public opinion...
..All those extra tests announced hours earlier would presumably fall...
..So would promises of further delay...
..It could therefore bring war even closer - within days..
And the question now aimed at the continent.. at Jaques Chirac.. with his inspirational intractability..
..Has France pressed the 'Go' button?

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

It was a good laugh down along the bar this evening.. as American Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld put his foot squarely into Tony's pie..
One's sure it was with the best of intentions.. but when Don said Britain didn't really have to go to war here.. that the United States would go it alone should the political cost be too much for Tony..
Well. To say the least it taken some of the wind from Tony's sails.. How can he justify to the Commons British troops in action.. when even the country we're helping doesn't really need us.. and has said so..
And there's more here.. for Tony has tied us with the West.. setting us against the will of the combined EU.. so we've lost face on two fronts with one lapsis linguam..
This is worthy of Gilbert and Sullivan..
This war has taken up most of the talk these days.. both in the news and in the home..
When working in public media.. it was one of the delights of the job to take someone who was fresh in the industry, and teach them how all that had to be done, could be done and done well, within the ubiquitous timeframe. One of the first lessons which had to be learned, was to take a step back.. look at what's relevent within all the sources of information available.. get an overview..
This particular time, these past few months. will take some while to digest once the dust settles.. for definate lines are being drawn in the sand, and historical alliances tested to their limits. One could say Hussein's merely a puppet in this charade.. that any excuse would have suited the purpose of this time..
That Iraq and it's petty problems with the world have simply become the focus of a struggle far more powerfull.
That the politicking behind this Middle East crisis, is the real war, not that which will certainly be fought in that distant desert.
Perhaps indeed this can all be traced back in an unbroken line to the dissolution of the Imperial Era, and the advent of instant mass communication.. but certainly just as Gibbon has documented that of Rome.. some historian will soon be examining what data remains from the Rise and Fall of what might be called 'The Age of Pseudo-Enlightenment'..
The tone in the chats is beginning to turn somewhat.. there are those frightened of war.. there are those who believe it to me a moral imperative at this point.. and then there are those who would, so they purport, sooner die themselves than be thought resoponsible for the death of another.
However, as mentioned, while the tenor of chat was firmly against action in Iraq.. it seems now to be more ballanced with similar numbers pro as con..
This could simply be a case of familiarity breeding contempt.. the motk having become saturated with information and arguments and wanting only now to see an end.. any end.. to it..
It could be that resignation is setting in.. that the inevidable is recognized, and while there was a time for dissent it is now a time to stand behind the preservation of one's way of life..
Whatever the cause.. the public is wavering.. and this is perhaps the most telling of the results of this conflict to this point.. that people's emotional weathervanes have been set to spinning..
It must be indictive of the sense of confusion that we all of us feel on a daily basis.. brought into a focus..
Perhaps we should be taking notes, for purposes of future self-examination..

Monday, March 10, 2003

Following a day wherein both Britain and the US havebent their diplomatic backs double.. France and Russia seem determined to use their veto's against the new resolution due to be presented on Wednesday..
Not that this is unexpected.. as has been explained at length, Chirac has an agenda of his own, in which opposition to the US is a political necessity.. Russia as well, wants to ensure itself a position of influence in this new Europe..
Regardless, despite French claims of 'no smoking gun' and the Anglo/American stance of existing breaches to 1441.. the fact remains Husseins days are numbered..
We'll add up the political profit and loss statement when Iraq is in American hands.. with both Tony and George betting it all on their being evidence yet to be found..
One wonders what the reaction from the anti-war movement, when Husein releases VX or Sarin on the invading troops..
Will the collective moral outrage shift aim.. or will there be such an antiAmerican backlash that there will be cries of 'serves them right'..
One has to say.. from a number of perspectives this is a lose-lose situation..
Popular opinion is an ill-educated beast.. it sways on the fulcrum of emotion.. and gods know these days it's more important to feel good.. than to be unpleasantly employed ensuring freedoms are preserved..

Sunday, March 09, 2003

And for those who look to Baghdad, and see the teeming millions who starve and suffer.. a glimpse of the other side.. Hussein's world..
On Friday, as the world debated possible action against Iraq, some of Baghdad's elite were practising their jumping. Equestrian that is..
'If the weather wasn't bad we'd have a lot more riders,' said Ahmed, one of the coaches, as he mounted a horse in the ring. 'But everything is normal, even with the Americans. There were two doctors here this morning. They said they heard the bombing would start on Tuesday but they plan to come that day anyway.'
The British left a mixed legacy in Iraq - a typically well-organised civil service, palace intrigues that continue today, and a tradition of clubs. There are hundreds of them across Baghdad: some for professionals, one for every government ministry and others for religious minorities.
The business elite in Baghdad, who make up the majority of the Club's membership, has been doing well in the past few years. Following the the Gulf war, a class of 'new billionaires' made money from reconstructing the bombed Iraqi infrastructure. And during the oil-for-food programme, a lot of money was made in oil contracts as well as smuggling.
Many of the businessmen are Syrian and Lebanese, though Europeans, Russians and Canadians with government connections come in and out Baghdad on a regular basis. Arab businessmen, some of whom were offered Iraqi citizenship, were encouraged to move here and have opened some of the high-end restaurants that serve wine illegally to journalists and UN inspectors.
'Since 1991 and the sanctions we have been living normally - we haven't been affected by them in our business or our lives,' said Erfan Dhamen, the owner of a chain of restaurants that offer mazgouf , a Tigris river fish. 'Business is good - business in Iraq is getting better.'
One wonders if Kalashnikovs are standard issue for waiters.. Probably not..

There was a time.. not so long ago in a place not far away, when the stereotypical images of the World Powers were lampooned regularly..
The Red Army sang songs, while the US army dropped bombs.
It is funny to see some of these images again, after all this time. The same mad cartoon generals, holding the same missiles or dropping the same fat-bellied bombs. The other week, the New Statesman carried a cover piece by Francis Beckett, in which he wrote: 'The Bush administration is the final corruption of an imperial nation convinced that its destiny is to rule.' I am pretty sure that, circa 1959, you could have read almost exactly the same words in the Daily Worker, substituting Eisenhower for Bush.
The Red Army, as discovered in August 1968, did not just sing about the glories of the steppe. The Chinese were not all delighted to find themselves living through the Cultural Revolution. The list of crimes - from Chile to Angola - which are trotted out every time America is discussed, mostly took place in the context of the Cold War, when we had a terrified nuclear peace in Europe, and proxy wars and proxy dictators throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America. Yet, if anything, the idea of 'America' is more widely shared now than it was even back then.
Some of this is almost eternal semi-prejudice. Young, brash America is characterised by recklessness, naivety and greed, just as (for the British, at any rate) Italy is full of theatrical cowards and France of cynical philanderers. Bill Clinton (that odd combination, a theatrical philanderer) was often depicted by British cartoonists as riding a phallic rocket, wearing a cowboy hat and going to war to try and extricate himself from the consequences of his various liaisons.
But now it matters more.
Since 11 September, we have all been frightened. And, increasingly, we blame the Americans for frightening us. I think a lot of ordinary Europeans (and quite a few Americans) believe that if the US would somehow stop doing whatever it is that is so upsetting people, then the threat would lessen, and we could get back to normal. The Yanks are stirring the nest, we think, and we could all be stung.
But.. this perception is facile..
George came to power wanting not to intervene and not to build nations. During the bitterly divisive election of November 2000, the Texas Governor cast Al Gore as the naïve moralist who wanted to be the world's policeman. As one observer noted at the time, George's story was that, 'America is over-committed around the world, pushes its weight around too much, and tells other countries how to run their affairs too often. We need to scale back, be humble and get out of the nation-building business.' A Bush-supporting commentator put it this way, 'Virtually every friendly state expects America to take the lead in solving every problem everywhere. But the Cold War is over. The world is dramatically less dangerous for the United States.' A year later, four planes blew this conceit to smithereens.
Criticism.. if any is due.. applies with equal force to us in Europe. We have, over years, dealt with torturers and tyrants, sold them weapons and flattered their egos. And if there is one thing that the west could do to win over sceptics, it would be to admit the nature and origin of these errors..
That being said, there are those in opposition to the west's recovery from this scenario, who would take nothing as admitted.. nor would they admit any similar acts in their own spotted histories.. These must simply be endured.. while the problem of the Middle East, so long in addressing, is dealt with, finally..

One is amazed once more, at how the political machinations of a country such as Iraq, can discomfit so many in the west.
George Bush is being vilified worldwide..even his own countrymen speak against him and his efforts against Hussein..
Tony Blair is facing by far the most cataclysmic of crises, with already one Parliamentary Private Secretaries.. that's a step down from a Ministerial post.. resigning over the stated intention of war on the 18th.. This could cost him and Labour years of progress in the eyes of the enfranchised populace.. could cost him his job.. and even if he 'wins'..goes to war and finds weapons of mass destruction, he will find the rifts within his own Party deep and unfordable.. a Pyrrhic victory at best..
Chirac has whipped the French into a frenzy of peacefullness.. counting on and getting the benefits of the intrinsically hysterical nature of the Gauls.. and the divisions declared now between France, the US, Britain, and the EU are deliberate, and designed to grow wider as the EU consolidates it's hegemony..
Malta voted today to toss in with the Union.. Slovenia.. Cyprus.. Hungary.. Slovakia.. Lithuania.. Poland.. Czech Republic.. Estonia and Latvia will all vote on membership this year.. effective next..
Odd in a sense.. it was back in 1798 the Maltese reballed against Napoleon and his French occupation of the Island.. preferring to be in British hands til 1964.. that today they would vote to put themselves under central European control.. mind you, today's Maltese referendum is non-binding.. an indicator so to speak.. ratification takes place next month.. Perhaps by that time Chirac will have been demonstrated to be a manipulator of the first water..
Second only perhaps.. to Hussein himself..

Saturday, March 08, 2003

A message to the west from the Iraqi leader today.. to the UN.. to NATO.. to those who have expressed their opposition to war against his regeme..
In a statement, Hussein announced the chief weapons inspectors had exposed what he called American lies about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
"The embargo against Iraq should be lifted totally and comprehensively after America's motives were revealed to the world and after Iraq abided by Security Council resolutions," the statement said.
This from a man who's government has kept the UN and it's inspectors dangling for a dozen years..
It also demanded that the Security Council denounce the US and Britain as "liars", strip Israel of its alleged weapons of mass destruction and force it to pull out of "Palestine and occupied Arab land".
Ahh.. what weapons we hand our enemies in the name of 'enlightenment'.. what strength we give abominations, through the desperate willingness to atone for what's seen as our own..

This is a peculiar country, this Scotland.
Case in point, there's been an editorial meeting called in Glasgow for those of us who toil, at the ungodly hour of 8am of a bloody Sunday morning..
Now truth be told this is not an unexpected development this meeting, but what is unique in this instance, is that we're all required to appear, in person. Some of us have never met, and while most have a desk somewhere in the complex, many would have impressive layers of dust were it not for the cleaning staff. This making a personal appearance is not unprecidented, but highly irregular, and that in itself is what makes this country peculiar.
There are many of us who work from the comforts(sic) of our own homes, passing information back and forth either by post or electronic means. Many who meet for daily discussions, while remaining miles apart...
There are segments of the workforce who have managed to integrate their work habits into their basic lifestyles, without assuming a seperate persona for the office.. without a shirt and tie.. and soon.. it may well be that this political machination to preserve geographic autonomy, will be superceeded by the economic reality of a global village..
Macluhan is smiling.. somewhere..
It's getting down to the short strokes for Tony now.. he's spent this day telephoning his fellow world leaders.. drumming up support for the upcomming vote..
An ICM poll published in Sunday's News of the World suggests 69% of people back war with Iraq.
It is the first public poll to be published since Dr.Blix delivered his final report to the UN in New York last Friday night ..suggests just 22% now oppose military action. Less than a fortnight ago, another ICM poll suggested 52% opposed military action in Iraq. But.. 77% of those who support war against Iraq said there must be a second UN resolution.
The need for a second UN resolution is reinforced by the fact that just 15% of the public as a whole would support war without one.
The problem being, there are still folks turning out in their numbers around this world, demanding, for whatever their reasons might be, that war not be an option at all..
Curious as to where these folks were, when raq invaded Iran.. when Egypt invaded Israel..
Also curious to hear their solutions to the ongoing carnage in the Middle East..
It appears Mr.Blix is somewhat erratic on his approach to Iraq..
Yesterday his message was that Iraq is showing significant movement towards appeasing those who would attack it.. Today he's distributing a rather large collection of documents to Security Council members, detailing a wide range of questions Iraq has failed to address.. still,according to MrBlix, unaccounted for are some ten thousand litres of anthrax..SCUD missiles fitted with biochemical warheads..and UAV's with a range beyond the 150km limit set by the UN..
And the deadline rolls on..
It was somewhat unprecidented, the meeting yesterday in which Jack Straw did his utmost to convince the French there was a danger in Hussein.. Jack broke with convention.. appealing to direct emotion at times.. addressing the French minister as 'my friend, Dominique'..
An approach, by the way, that met with typical Gallic distain..
The French have their own agenda here, involving the formation of a new world power which does not include the United States, and quite possibily will not include Britain either. It's doubtfull Jaques Chirac will allow any compromise at this point in the game. He's set his hat for the leadership of the new Europe, and the US is only an impediment.

Friday, March 07, 2003

Picture this..
From an historical perspective, the European countries which have had a major presence in Africa and the Levant have been Britain, France, Germany, and to a smaller extent Italy..
Since the end of the First World War, these European powers have withdrawn from their protectorates, most before the Second World War began, Britain and France leaving it until 1948 for the former, 1966 for the latter, but there have been tight ties maintained, diplomatic bonds, especially by the French.
Now, we have France itself, once pre-eminent in Europe, humiliated in both World Wars by the Germans, losing ground constantly in all endeavours other than the European Union. And with the planned expansion of the EU, to include many states which were part of the former USSR, states which have drive and a will to catch up, France and to a lesser extent Germany, are concerned with their positions, their influence, in the new EU.
France is the strongest opponent to an American defence of it's presence in the Middle East, and has been a constant critic of Israel, and it’s American leanings. If France manages to delay action to assure the west's foothold in the Middle East, it strikes a major blow on two fronts.
One, it puts a finger in the eye of the United States, and another in Britains.. It brings down NATO, an organisation which could easily be replaced in funtion by the formation of an European Army.. made up of factions from all member states.. and draws a line between Europe and the new world again..
Two, it tightens ties with the Middle East, and leaves France as the savior of the oil producing nations.. This will bolster it's position in Europe immensely, and indeed offer it a card with which to trump American interests, what with the US being the largest importer of oil on the planet..
War is unpleasant.. no denying it..
But national interest is national interest.. and when it comes down to it.. the nation must examine what it stands to lose, if this divisive trend continues..
While supporting a war is politically unfashionable.. the necessity of undertaking one's responsibilities, and succeeding.. must be obvious.
General Sir Michael Jackson.. no, no relation.. is in the Gulf himself today.. he's the British equivalent of the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his message for his men is 'semper paratus'..
It's been a day of sabre rattling in Britain.. Jack Straw telling the UN Iraq has ten days to demonstrate some meaningful intent to disarm.. or Britain will invade on it's own..
France, Russia, they've declared their opposition to anything that would offer support to the US.. the question has been asked of Europe.. should more time be given for the inspection process, and Iraq continues to misinform and misdirect, will there be support when the extension expires..? An addendum to the question is a query..' why light a fuse when you rally don't want an explosion anyway..'? The political agenda of the EU is obvious, and as such even the motk should see that there will never again be support for the US, unless it means significant economic and political gain for Europe..
On the foreign fronts.. bin Laden's relatives are being picked up.. two sons-in-law arrested in Pakistan.. ties to terrorist organizations.. it's expected more and more al Q'aida operatives will be in jeopardy.. some of whom have been in deep cover for decades.. since the capture of and revelations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed..
It's amazing what 'human rights' our activists will put themselves to preserve..
14 Moroccan men have been carted off to the Casablancan equivalent of The Big House for committing 'acts capable of undermining the faith of a Muslim' and for being in posession of 'objects which infring morals'. These guys were performing heavy metal, and the objects the posessed were their guitars, and of all things, their band tee shirts..
The press has dubbed these lads as 'Satanists', alleging they're involved in international devil worship..
For those who follow the Moroccan heavy metal scene by the way, nine of the 14 were in 'Nekros', 'Infected Brain', and 'Reborn'..
Now it's not as though Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell haven't stood in their respective pulpits and denounced American rockers.. it's been going on in the fundamentalist sects ever sice Elvis started swivling his hips around.. but one can't think of an incident where musicians were handed out jail time for religious reasons..
Well.. Jimmy Morrison, but that was Florida.. and he was somewhat over the top..
The point of this was meant to highlight the sad fact, that those around the world who have been out in their millions in support of regemes in the Middle East, without having a single bloody clue what these governments support.. to what conditions the normal people in these countries have become used to..
Ahh.. and for those christians who would head off to Morocco to try and bring them the message of light and forgiveness.. It's a crime to try and convert a Muslim to another faith.. three years worth..
Imagine what a Moroccan religious chatroom would sound like.. compare to say.. Yahoo.
And get those warrants lined up..

Thursday, March 06, 2003

Days, not months.
Jack Straw expects this new UN Resolution to go down in either French or Russian flames.. the world expects the US and Britain to contiune on the path to war.. and the boys along the bar believe this whole thing's going to be over in a matter of weeks.. and are looking for a new topic..
Thankfully this is Britain, and one or another of our politicians is always doing something..
One subject that's got many a finger along many a nose is the disposition of Iraq.. once Hussein's away in a Libyan palace..

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

A row this afternoon, at a meeting of 57 members of the OIC, the Oranization of the Islamic Conference, began when the Kuwaiti official interrupted a speech by Izzat Ibrahim, the second-in-command of Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council, with the words "shut up you dog".
Mr Ibrahim, who had been delivering a speech critical of Kuwait and the US, responded by calling the Kuwaiti representative a "monkey" and a "traitor".
"Shut up you minion, you (American) agent, you monkey. You are addressing Iraq," said Izzat Ibrahim, the second-in-command of Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council.
Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah tried to fight back but his comments could not be heard over the fray, according to those present from the 5th Estate..
Another Kuwaiti minister then jumped up and waved a small Kuwaiti flag which had been on the desk.
The angry exchange was halted when the summit chairman, Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin-Khalifah al-Thani said the discussion was not relevant to the meeting and moved on to the next speaker.
Now..the aim of the summit was to present a unified front from the Muslim world calling for war to be averted...
And we turn out in our millions.. we are an easily led folk..

A jont declaration from France, Germany, and Russia this afternoon, saying they 'will not allow' a UN respolution to pass them, if it authorizes war against Iraq.
Surprised? I think not somehow..
At the joint press conference the Foreign Ministers of those countries, it was France's Dominique de Villepin who actually did the talking, while Germany nodded in blank agreement and Russia was caught looking rather nervously towards the wings, as though on third, dreading the call from the dugout, to steal home..
Colin Powell has made another call for the world to look at the reality of the situation, stressing that nobody wants to live in a world where the United Nations means nothing.. intimating that should that august body, through the veto's of France and Russia stymie this Resolution, then that's exactly the impression the world would have. The US is certainly going to go this alone, well with Britain if nobody else.. and that would be a massive slap in the face to the French.. the Russians.. the Germans..
Perhaps enough for them to dissolve historic ties the likes of NATO, so as to concentrate their attentions, and their budgets, on the formation of an European Army..
It's historically something piddly.. something intrinsically 'small', that starts the ball rolling on matters monumental..
You have much to lose, here in the west.
Much, taken that much for granted, that there's honest surprise when confronted with the lack of it when abroad.
The disgust of first-time visitors, when checked into their medium rate London hotel, that there are only 5 television channels.. and the chagrin of those who choose the discount hotels, at the discovery that the bathrooms are not en suite.. And that's in Britain..
One of the rights defended most vehemently, and abused so blatantly, is the right to free speech.. to voice one's opinion, or to regurgitate with vigour the opinion one's learned, by rote, from one's particular media outlet.. This is a right peculiar to western cultures. Unique, one might say, to the extent it's permitted in such countries as Canada, Britain, and the United States..
It's that much of an ingrained habit, that we cannot imagine any existence at would deny others the same degree of 'freedom'.. and we get righteously indignant when confronted with societies which display such restrictions..
Yet it may well be this social conscience, a phrase coined back in the 60's by someone the likes of Ginsberg..or Leary.. or McCluhan.. which has us playing into the hands of people who would see us in motley.. who do see us as milling sheep.. following the piper of 'enlightenment'..
Now lets not get it wrong here.. enlightenment it something to be greatly sought after, but it's a personal path as most in the west are beginning to agree..
What has been forgotten is the price that was paid, for this freedom to be..
What has been forgotten that no matter how much we wish it were otherwise, there are those who do not feel as we do, who do not like us, and who will do their damnedest to ensure we start thinking the way they do.
It's a mission from God.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Again one has to smile.
An essay question was given to a group of 13 year olds in the London area..
One young girls response to the assignment began..
"My smmr hols wr CWOT. B4, we used 2go2 NY 2C my bro, his GF & thr 3 :- kids FTF. ILNY, it's a gr8 plc."
Which in translation from text messaging shorthand would read: "My summer holidays were a complete waste of time. Before, we used to go to New York to see my brother, his girlfriend and their three screaming kids face to face. I love New York. It's a great place."
Seems the art of composition is now defined my the space available on the text screen of a mobile phone,

Monday, March 03, 2003

There's been much talk of late about the Balfour Declaration, and what it amounted to..
For purposes of edification only..

Foreign Office

November 2nd, 1917

Dear Lord Rothschild,

I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.

"His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."

I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.

Yours sincerely,

Arthur James Balfour

That was it folks.. and here we are today..
Picture this.
Somewhere in continental North America.. include Hawaii.. some kids are on their computers.. in Internet Cafe's perhaps.. setting up meetings.. chatting.. whatever..
Suddenly appear men in dark ill-fitting suits, accompanied by an armed guard or so.. and these kids are swept away to be charged by the Morality Police for 'illicit contact'..
Orwellian.. ain't it..?
Dozens of Iranians were arrested yesterday for excatly this.. according to General Ahmad Rouzbehani.. "Some people were using an internet site to allow girls and boys to talk and arrange meetings in a place in north Tehran where they had illegal relations."
It's for the preservation of a regeme such as this one.. that we turn out in our millions to protest..?

Sunday, March 02, 2003

In the chats, the sentiment against the war continues unabated, however, if one takes the link to and has a look at their 'Talking Point' feature, one will find a more reasoned response.
Not to say all are in favour, but it would seem that those who have used the BBC's forum have spent more time looking into the situation as a whole, rather than being led by the nose by their favourite newscaster or editorialist..
Meanwhile, Hussein has agreed today to destroy yet another 6 al Samoud missiles.. and France has hardened it's stance and will alomost certainly apply it's veto to the second UN Resolution. But again, all this will do is drive the wedge further between what France sees as a 'unified Europe' and the 'western hegemony'.. France is desperate to reaffirm itself as a world power, and Chirac sees this issue as a 'flag'.. something he can rally the disaffected under, to campaign for a Europe united under the leadership of France, Germany, and possibly Russia..
It's not to be thought for a moment that the EU nations opposing this action are unaware of the very real threat Hussein poses, but they're less concerned with the preservation of the State of Israel than is either Britain or the US.. France can always reforge ties with Algeria, or the Sudan, to establish a European presence in the area.. The west has all it's eggs in one basket, with only one hen laying for it.. while the rest of the flock would sooner break their offspring than give them to the one that feeds them..

Saturday, March 01, 2003

Two brief notes here..
Seems Venezuela's been noticing odd things of late.. their time, as compared to the rest of the world, has appeared to have slowed down.. clocks run some ten and a half seconds slower each hour, than they do anywhere else..
Had them scratching their heads for a while.. in fact it wasn't until they noticed the sun was setting at about 3 in the afternoon, that they calculated some 14 hours and 36 minutes had been lost over 12 of the last 13 months..
It's their power supply aparently.. the entire national grid is running on a reduced output, which has made their electric clocks.. run slower..
Just the clocks mind..
The second comes from the United States..
No more will American schoolchildren stand in the morning, before their lessons begin, face the flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.. at least not on the west coast..
The case against the pledge was brought before the courts by a parent of one of the children who undoubtedly mumbled their way uncomrehendingly through it each morning, who felt the reference to 'One nation, under God..', or more precisely, '..under God..' was not in his child's best interests..
Michael Newdow felt his daughter should not have to be 'subjected' to those terrible words, he being an atheist and of the mind this would brainwash his daughter into a life of deism, or horror of horrors, theism.
How incredibly inane man can be at times. One of our more endearing qualities.
A quiet, rather dull day across the island, as Spring makes up it's mind whether to make an appearance, or spend a couple more weeks wending it's way towards us..
An afternoon of rugby.. racing on the flat at Ainstree.. life continues at it's measured pace here, with few raising their voices in protest.. as many raise their eyes, as though watching the skies for the signs of war their parents described to them, as it had been described in turn to them by their parents. It's a general sentiment, this being unhappy with, but resigned to the reality of another war.
Tony has taken perhaps his boldest stance to date.. gently comparing those who oppose this action against Iraq to those who opposed any action against Hitler during that man's meteoric rise to prominence in the 1930's.. saying it was the misguided action of these well-intentioned peoples who were ultimately responsible for the carnage to follow.. Tony went even one step further, saying even if the US does not take action, for whatever reason George might have at folding at this point in the game, Britain is quite prepared to take Hussein on it's own.
Tony must be thinking it as rather ironic, that while there are 123 members of his own Party who would oppose him, his official Opposition is backing him to the hilt.
Strange bedfellows doth politics make.. forsooth.

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