Thursday, March 02, 2006

Three points on a tedious column

Three brief points on Nick's latest Standard column:

1. Why does he mention matters constitutional and the "new localism" in the first part of his piece, but then use the fact that central government severely restricted the Mayor of London's powers as an occassion for cheap sniping at Ken in the second part?

2. I know from local government connections that councils everywhere are planning for avian flu, just as the planned for SARS and for foot and mouth. Why is it risible for the Mayor of London to mention avian flu? If there were to be a big avian flu outbreak and Ken hadn't mentioned it, would Nick later point this omission out as evidence of Ken's shortcomings?

3. I bet we did all know the comparative figures on conventional arms supplies to Iraq that Nick mentions in the third part. Wikipedia suggests that matters are a bit more complicated though, and that US support for Saddam may have increased substantially once the Iran-Iraq war started going badly. There's also the question of so-called "dual use" exports, which may give a different picture of US involvement than statistics for conventional arms exports do for a very long period. Why is a section of which the substance concerns conventional weapons sales preceded by a subheading about weapons of mass destruction? When did France cease to be part of the "West"?

15 Comments:

Blogger Matthew said...

The only BBC story I can find on the arming is pretty explicit in who did it

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3324053.stm

It seems an odd idea of news values to report on the story about German help to the US in the Iraq war, as if nothing else was going on in Iraq of note.

Also on the first issue, surely some people do vote Conservative because they faced down the unions?

3/02/2006 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Also, wasn't part of the Arms-for-Iraq scandal that Britain had an embargo which was being circumvented by sales through Jordan?

3/02/2006 11:06:00 AM  
Anonymous evil bruschettaboy said...

I thought the main gay marriage bit was actually rather good, and it was probably not Nick's fault that it got headlined as a cheap bit of NuLab "you should be grateful". but the bit about Germany is just bizarre; does Nick really think that Germany was heavily involved in Saddam's war planning? Did anyone think about this for a second?

3/02/2006 12:39:00 PM  
Anonymous rioja kid said...

I think it was just part of some forlorn attempt to impose mythology on reality. Part of the creation story of decentism is that a noble war band gathered to make the muslim free, while cowards flinched and traitors jeered. The more the actual facts go against this interpretation, the more it needs to be reasserted. It's obviously a reassurance to the other folks huddled round the campfire. It just looks weird to those of us in outer darkness.

Inter-alia, it's a bit like the way that Unionist mythology developed in Northern Ireland.

3/02/2006 02:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Backword Dave said...

Nick: "Then I wondered why New Labour gets no credit for the good it has done."

I blame this and this, myself.

Nick: "What to do about religious GPs who refuse to treat homosexuals or schools that ignore the bullying of gay children are hard questions that haven’t been resolved."
Hard questions? I wouldn't let either those doctors or headteachers work in the public sector. Period. Name, shame, and fire.

And am I wrong or were the "anti-gay laws" Section 28? Bloody stupid legislation, but restricting councils from making fools of themselves wasn't such a bad idea. Thatcher's government addressed AIDS as well as it could, despite the protests of the more maniacally religious (like James Anderton), and at least two Tory MPs were gay and not particularly secretly so -- Matthew Parris and that guy on the Indy whose name I can't remember, somebody Brown. Michael Gove still is a homophobic Tory from what I know; but has anyone tried getting John Prescott's or David Blunkett's real views on homosexuality?

Nick: "Few will vote Labour because of its stand on civil rights." Hasn't Nick frequently argued that Labour is against civil rights?

And I have just one word on Ken Livingstone's "two-penny worth on avian flu, which is a matter for the NHS, not him. " Pigeons!

3/02/2006 03:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Backword Dave said...

Oh dear. In some parallel bizarro universe, Norm think Nick dun good. Except --
What percentage of Saddam Hussein's weapons came from Britain and America? I ask because on the rare occasions the BBC mentions Saddam's genocidal crimes it always says he was 'armed by the West.'
There are two things here: Saddam's total weapons (of the sort every state has) and his genocidal crimes.
I bet you can't guess the answer. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a mere 0.46 per cent of conventional weapons bought between 1973 and 2002 came from America and 0.17 per cent came from Britain. The overwhelming majority came from France and the Soviet Union, while West Germany gave Saddam the plant to make the poisons he used to gas the Kurds.
Again here's a dodgy use of figures.
Good job he didn't buy the supergun then? And didn't we arm him because he was kind enough to fight Iran? I didn't think that he paid us. It was, to use a very flexible word, a "gift." Does it matter by the way that the Soviet Union ceased to exist during the 1973-2002 period?

3/02/2006 06:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

The reference to 'West Germany supplying the plant' is presumably to Uhde Ltd, a British subsidiary of which built the plant, insured by the Export Credit Guarantee Department. So if it can be insinuated that any government 'supplied the plant', it's Britain's.

3/02/2006 06:16:00 PM  
Blogger Sonic said...

Also no mention of the naval support given by the US and Britain during the war, esentially sinking the Iranian navy, protecting Iraqs oil exports and being very fogiving when and Iraqi Mirage (note French) blew away a US destroyer.

Trotsky once said socialists were the "memory of the movement" Decentism seems to be the forgettery.

3/02/2006 07:48:00 PM  
Anonymous rioja kid said...

Also, no mention of the US satellite intelligence provided to Saddam enabling him to identify, locate and destroy Iranian forces.

Of course, that's not exactly a weapon and it wasn't sold. It was just given him for nothing and enabled him to kill a lot of people.

3/02/2006 08:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Mark said...

It was in early 2003 that these claims originated, there were many right-wing weblogs doing pieces about how the UK and US didn't really arm Saddam at all and how it was all down to France, Germany and Russia. As was widely pointed out at the time, this may be to some extent true for conventional weapons but unfortunately the right-wing pundits were either too thick to notice or decided to simply the fact that when it comes to non-conventional weapons (ie. WMD and precursors), the US and UK were basically Iraq's main suppliers, along with West Germany. It amazes me that it has taken Nick three years to finally cotton on to these misleading and self-serving arguments.

From the Sunday Herald:

"SEVENTEEN British companies who supplied Iraq with nuclear, biological, chemical, rocket and conventional weapons technology are to be investigated and could face prosecution following a Sunday Herald investigation.
One of the companies is Inter national Military Services, a part of the Ministry of Defence, which sold rocket technology to Iraq. The companies were named by Iraq in a 12,000 page dossier submitted to the UN in December. The Security Council agreed to US requests to censor 8000 pages -- including sections naming western businesses which aided Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programme.

The five permanent members of the security council -- Britain, France, Russia, America and China -- are named as allowing companies to sell weapons technology to Iraq.

The dossier claims 24 US firms sold Iraq weapons. Hewlett-Packard sold nuclear and rocket technology; Dupont sold nuclear technology, and Eastman Kodak sold rocket capabilities. The dossier also says some '50 subsidiaries of foreign enterprises conducted their arms business with Iraq from the US'.

It claims the US ministries of defence, energy, trade and agri culture, and the Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories, supplied Iraq with WMD technology.

Germany, currently opposed to war, is shown to be Iraq's biggest arms-trading partner with 80 companies selling weapons technology, including Siemens. It sold medical machines with dual-purpose parts used to detonate nuclear bombs. The German government reportedly 'actively encouraged' weapons co-operation and assistance was allegedly given to Iraq in developing poison gas used against Kurds.

In China three companies traded weapons technology; in France eight and in Russia six. Other countries included Japan with five companies; Holland with three; Belgium with seven; Spain with three and Sweden with two, including Saab."

The Thatcher government described Iraq as an especially "lucrative market" for weapons deals in internal documents, with Geoffery Howe later explaining that he regarded objections to weapons sales to Saddam's regime as an "emotional misunderstanding". At one point Iraq was our biggest market for machine tools. And Iraq didn't in fact pay for a large amount of the weaponry and materials it got from British arms manufacturers as a result of the Gulf War breaking out, leaving the arms manufacturers severely out of pocket. According to Pilger, Tony Blair rectified this situation shortly after coming to power by simply paying the British weapons companies what they were owed, using tax payers money. When it was suggested that Blair should do same the same with regard to Indonesia - stop the sale of Hawk aircraft being used by a genocidal regime to murder East Timorese civilians and then compensate the weapons companies accordingly - Blair said he couldn't possibly do this as it would be a totally unacceptable imposition on the British taxpayer and so unfortunately the Hawk sales, agreed by the previous Tory government, would just have to go ahead. Shortly afterwards, his own government arranged a few of their own deals to sell arms to Indonesia.

3/02/2006 08:50:00 PM  
Anonymous evil bb said...

I've just noticed that this piece is headlined "Transient Gaiety" on Nick's blog but "The Gay Wedding That Made Me Thank Labour" in the paper Standard. I wonder if NC gets stitched up like this often?

3/02/2006 08:59:00 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

In answer to the question, "When did France stop being part of the West", the answer in the Encylopaedia Decentus is "Sometime in early 2003", I belive.

3/02/2006 10:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Backword Dave said...

Matt, France rejoined "the West" when a French newspaper published the Danish cartoons. France is on our side again. Apparently, we're not on our own side at present.

Apropos almost nothing, can anyone believe this?

3/03/2006 12:01:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Are you saying Nick Cohen isn't a ferocious critic of the war in Afghanistan and GW Bush? Clearly my copy is hopelessly out of date.

The old Cohen was a bit in evidence on Newsnight, though you can see his point about putting on weight. I did like the bit when he put on his pathetic girly voice and said 'I can't worry my pretty little head about that' (impersonating Jowell). For all avid watchers you can see it on the BBC newsnight website until later today - it's about 10 mins it I think.

3/03/2006 07:22:00 AM  
Blogger fatbongo said...

no one i know thought about the war these terms: the germans & french are altruistic pacifists = good guys vs UK, US are self interested warmongers = bad guys.

the fact that the germans, soviets etc also armed iraq is entirely predictable to anyone with a rudimentary understanding of international political economy.

It isn't relevant to the disussion of whether the war on iraq was a good idea or not.

3/05/2006 07:12:00 PM  

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