Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Imbued with reactionary ideas

Thanks to an anonymous commenter, I've just read - and been confused by - Nick's latest 'Standpoint' blog. The Liberal Defence of Pedophilia. He opens:

Ophelia Benson has the worst job in the blogosphere. She reads the papers of cultural studies and post-colonial academics - and given their obscurantism she often must be their only reader - and explains how intellectuals who affect a liberal style, are imbued with reactionary ideas.

Some kind reader like Justin or Captain Cabernet will remember the correct Marxist term for this - but isn't being "imbued with reactionary ideas" something of a given until after the revolution?

Here she is on a disgraceful effort by the Cambridge Review of International Affairs to turn a defence of the men who abuse women into a left-wing cause, by denigrating the efforts of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, a feminist group which tries to give Afghan girls education, healthcare and the right not to be forced into "marriage" before they are 16 (as half Afghan girls are).

I have some time for Ophelia Benson. I've certainly got nothing against her, but, if we're going to do the careful reading thing (which seems to be Nick's idea of what Ms Benson[1] does) the paper in question (full details) is -- well here's a clue from the top of the page:

Graduate Theses and Dissertations > Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETDs) 2008+ > View Item

It is NOT a peer reviewed journal article; it is an MA thesis. As such it is the work of one student (Melanie Butler) and not an "effort by the Cambridge Review of International Affairs".

Update 31/3/2010 6:15 am BST Thanks to Ophelia Benson in the comments, it was a published article. This was not obvious from the link, but the mistake was mine alone. I don't believe this injures my argument concerning the content of the thesis/article, though clearly it makes me look like a fool.

I'm not combing through MA theses, I'm happy to say. I was alerted to the article by Lauryn Oates, Projects Director of CW4WAfghan.

Cambridge Review of International Affairs published Butler's thesis. Volume 22 Issue 2 June 2009, pp 217-234.

Somehow Nick's keenness for cutting and pasting not only misses the above, but he manages to ignore what may be the crucial sentences in the abstract which he quotes:

Drawing on post-colonial feminist theory, this paper highlights the implications of CW4WAfghan’s Orientalist discourse on women’s rights, and tackles the difficult question of how feminists can show solidarity with Afghan women without adhering to the oppressive narratives that permeate today’s political climate. It is only by employing alternative models that contextualize the situation of Afghan women in relation, rather than in opposition, to our own, that feminists can begin to subvert the mutually reinforcing narratives that sustain imperialist violence and women’s subordination.

I can't see what there is to object to in "show solidarity with Afghan women" and how this equates to defending forced marriages of girls under 16 (which is where 'pedophilia' [sic] comes in). And for added fun, "adhering to the oppressive narratives that permeate today’s political climate" sounds like a higher-falutin' version of "imbued with reactionary ideas".

I am a person of my time.
You adhere to the oppressive narratives that permeate today’s political climate.
She is imbued with reactionary ideas.

It does sound like a difference of political stance more than anything. And why is Ophelia Benson combing through Masters' theses anyway? Contra Nick - that's not a job at all.

I've downloaded the paper, but not read it yet.
In other 'Standpoint' news, Alex Massie has a few trenchant observations on their "fact gathering."

[1] My apologies if she has a doctorate and should be referred to as "Dr"; I can't find anything on Butterflies and Wheels to suggest that she has.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Truth, the Whole Truth in Fewer than 140 Characters

Almost certainly not forthcoming book reviews

Thanks, if that be the word, to commenter "Skidmarx", we discover this. We thought that Paul Berman's "Who's Afraid of Tariq Ramadan?" was far too long and tedious first time round, and it was left to Simon to step into the breach and summarise it. Apparently some mad bastard liked it so much they thought it should be even longer, even wordier, even more pretentious and even more concerned with picking pointless three-year-old fights.

In the intervening time, Ayaan Hirsi Ali has joined the American Enterprise Institute and started going out with Niall Ferguson, thus rather vindicating those of us who felt at the time that while a democratic society must protect the safety of all and that attempts by Islamic fanatics to silence their critics should be condemned by all (insert your own willyoucondemnathon if you don't like that one), having received some death threats for your political views does not confer immunity from criticism of them for the rest of your life, still less does having once been censored mean that you're always and forever a liberal (cf Havel, Vaclav).

Thursday, March 25, 2010

If you like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you'll like (also: get help)

Thanks very much to Alex for the heads up on this

If you took it into your mind to put together a really awful blog, what elements would you bring together? A load of Decent also-rans? No editing whatsoever and pride in the fact? Really ugly centred text? No commenting allowed? Perhaps a few thoughts from Alan "Not the Home Secretary" Johnson?

Ladies and Gentlemen, "Arguing the World", brought to you by "Dissent".

Blair on Iran

Some more Alex Massie love, I think.

There ain't no Just Journalism, there's just willyoucondemnathons

The scary thing is not so much that this stuff is woeful, it's that the whole site is like that. Erdogan shoots his mouth off, the Guardian decides to cover this on the website rather than in print, and this proves that they're all anti-Semites! This would be considered a second division gotcha on most Decent blogs.

Check out their Advisory Board.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Because you're worth it

Good spot of this excellent piece by Chris Dillow, thanks anonymous commenter.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Lacunae

Aaro writes on Byers. But ... not a word on Hewitt or Hoon, despite the fact that a glance back at the last three months of his col reveals them to be much more relevant figures in today's Labour Party. This is presumably because Patricia Hewitt is a mate (long time Watchers will recall the favourable profile he wrote of her a few years ago), but even so, the absence is palpable and probably more informative than what's actually present.

Of course the thing is that to include H&H would be tantamount to admitting that what Aaro writes in respect of Byers is more or less totally destructive of Aaro's politics. As we've discussed ad nauseam, the particular Aaronovitchite strand of Birtism is completely dependent on the extension of more or less unlimited trust of authority figures. As this week's column recognises, this doesn't work; the degree of integrity required can't survive in the face of simple greed, let alone the more complicated motivations of those who seek political power.

In many ways this was a huge relief. Many on the Left, me included, had been brought up reacting to wealth with a puritanical pout. We were, in some ways, opposed to enjoyment itself — unless it was of a very particular worthy kind

As the obituaries confirmed, this wasn't true of Michael Foot. It isn't true of Tony Benn. Lord knows, it isn't true of George Galloway. The instinct to shoot someone because of their pyjamas really doesn't have much to do with left wing politics, and someone who dislikes Silvio Berlusconi because he's vulgar and has a silly suntan has missed the point in a pretty important way.

Maybe this is a transitional column for Aaro - there is an interesting question of how he will write about a new political environment. But really man. Don't pretend that you've just noticed that Blair and Berlusconi were mates. Or that this was just some personal foible of Mr Tony's (possibly to be blamed on Cherie). This was always the game you were playing.

(PS, not really Aaro-related - does anyone else find it slightly strange and not entirely unpukemaking to see Lord Mandelson doing the pursed lips and sorrowful anger routine all over the late news last night, given that he himself has not only been sacked from two ministerial jobs in murky circumstances, but that the Hinduja affair which prompted his second resignation was specifically to do with the advocacy rules that Byers is accused of breaking?)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Desperate Denis and the Real Beneficiaries

I don't think we'll hear our friends at Harry's Place complaining about the anti-Semitic bias of Comment is Free (aka Opinions are like arseholes) today as the Guardian have bravely™ printed one of Decent Denis MacShane's think pieces (via, of all people, Tim Worstall) Tories must answer for extremist links. I suspect, looking at the url, that the title has been changed. But what an argument it is!

This week we can see the ugly face of the Conservative's foolish alliance. Even if no Tory MP was present to march in memory of the Waffen-SS alongside their Latvian allies, the grotesque nature of the ceremony mocks not just Jews but all who sacrificed themselves to defeat Nazism. As Efraim Zuroff, the head of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, noted the event was deeply offensive. "These people were thinking they were fighting for Latvia but the real beneficiary of their service and their bravery was Nazi Germany."

So no Tories were there, but Denis lays into them anyway. Is the election here yet? Or is this going to get worse? This story was also reported in the Independent on Wednesday, which I found because MacShane's links were no helping in telling me where or when Zuroff said this.

Only hours earlier, Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, the man currently considered to be the world's leading Nazi hunter, had called on Latvia to ban public celebrations marking the country's controversial Legionnaires' Day, calling it an "attempt to rewrite history".
"With all my sympathy for the victims of Communism, the crimes of Communism are simply not the same as the Holocaust. Part of this is fuelled by a desire to deflect attention away from the extensive collaboration with the Nazis during the Second World War," Mr Zuroff said. "They thought they were fighting for Latvia but the real beneficiary of these men's service and bravery was Nazi Germany."

I like "the man currently considered to be the world's leading Nazi hunter" a label that once fitted Simon Wiesenthal himself.

Good to know that if we honour dead soldiers at all, we must now consider not only what they thought they were fighting for, but how things turned out. Some cynical people might say that the real beneficiaries of the Iraq debacle (7 years anniversary today! if you're on Twitter don't forget to congratulate Alastair 'Joint Intelligence Committee' Campbell for his role) were oil companies. Does anyone really want to play this game for every war? From the Independent, this paragraph is priceless.

A large gang of young ethnic Russians represented the other side. They brandished placards bearing the words "Waffen SS" and the names of Latvian villages where atrocities against Jews were committed by Latvian Waffen SS members during the war. Some 75,000 Jews were murdered in the country during the Nazi occupation. "It is disgraceful that these people should be allowed to march here," said one of them, called Mikhail, in his early thirties. "All the Russians are against it," he insisted.

Those nasty Latvians fighting Mother Russia! Didn't they know that under Stalin's influence they could all work in state-owned factories and, as an added incentive, every worker would have the right to join a reading group to discuss how wonderful the writings of Karl Marx were and how perfect was the paradise they lived in? Put like that, we can see what fools they were to resist.

What next. Don't dare say that Mao or Pol Pot were bad guys. Because the Holocaust! Hitler was the worst! If you say that Stalin killed 20 million, you're denying the Holocaust, ergo you're an anti-Semite.

Denis's conclusion:

When Latvian rightwingers commemorate the memory of the Waffen-SS in March 2011 it would be good for British politics if they marched alone and were no longer part of an alliance with a British political party.

They did march alone, Denis. You said so yourself.

BTW, I think the Tories' current alliances in the EU are a huge mistake in lots of ways, but MacShane's argument just seems really low. Good grief, I think Donald Rumsfeld could be an accessory to war crimes for selling Saddam weapons during Iran-Iraq and should never have worked in government again at the very least. Further, I think a lot of the Bush administration was criminal or corrupt in various ways. Too many Republicans have connections with repressive regimes in Latin America - or with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia (repressive, anti-Semitic, slavery permitting, etc, etc). See House of Bush, House of Saud for the ties between the family of the 41st and 43rd Presidents and the Saudis. This didn't stop the Labour Party being extremely close the GOP during Iraq. Blair told Bush: "Whatever you decide to do, I'm with you."

If old soldiers want to march to celebrate fighting for their country, as they saw it at the time, that's fine with me. Fighting for your country isn't like dining at the Ivy, Denis. You don't get a menu or a choice. Perhaps we should check if soldiers at the Cenotaph this November really fought for freedom, reading themselves to sleep with extracts from Edmund Burke, or Churchill's war speeches. If they were as cynical as say Spike Milligan or Joseph Heller, we should turn them away. I'm not looking forward to this election. All I know is that I'm not going to vote Labour or Tory.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Is David T a Troll?

I've come rather late to the "George Galloway's solicitors issue a writ against David T[oube] of Harry's Place" story. Connection to Harry's Place seems to be a lottery, but here is David T's post the matter (and this, I think is a copy on the Counter Jihad Alliance blog).

Galloway's solicitors sent David T a letter: 717Kb PDF document. Page four reproduces David T's offending comment. But for those of you who don't like PDFs, you can find it here: it's comment 29 on the Socialist Unity post 'Tower Hamlets Labour Councillor Defects to Tories'. The timestamp (which I have no reason to doubt) is 24 February, 2010 @3:26 pm.

Galloway's lawyers state in a letter dated 16 March 2010 (which I make 20 days or just under three weeks later): "Please note that the Comment is false and that our client is shocked and disturbed that you would refer to Viva Palestine and by association himself in this way."

NB The reason for the title of this post is Socialist Unity's comments policy:

We will delete racist, homophobic, sexist, and derogatory comments about people with physical disabilities or mental distress. Comments will also be deleted that are offensive and insulting about individuals. We will also delete comments by “trolls”, i.e those people whose purpose is to impede debate and who post comments with no regard to the subject matter of debate but whose sole purpose and intention is the baiting of other people

We expect comrades to behave in a comradely and fraternal way and to treat each other with respect. We will moderate comments in a way that a Chair moderates a meeting.

Bad behaviour stifles debate. It infringes upon others right to freedom of speech.

Since the subject matter of the original Social Unity post was slagging of Tower Hamlets' Labour Party, and David T's comments (there are several) are mostly about Hamas T-shirt slogans, it does not seem unfair to me to accuse him of "post[ing] comments with no regard to the subject matter of debate but whose sole purpose and intention is the baiting of other people". So, if David T is a troll, why did Social Unity not delete his comments? Not surely because Mr Galloway could see a way to turning them to £50k to his benefit and that Andy Newman's the post's author is, according to Socialist Unity's 'Who we are' page "is a member of Respect Renewal".

If David T's comments were so hurtful to George Galloway, I can think of a much easier, if less potentially remunerative, solution. But then, I am neither a lawyer nor a member of the Respect party.

Quick afterthought 6:00 pm: Since David Toube posted quasi-anonymously (assuming that there is such a thing) as 'David T', what if he's picked an alias at random and couldn't be identified for a suit? Who would be responsible then? It seems to me (I am still not a lawyer) that newspapers delete comments at least partly because they could be held liable. So, if distress was caused to Mr Galloway, shouldn't 'Socialist Unity' take some of the blame?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Nick is at it again

this time in Standpoint, where he writes

George Galloway, who saluted the courage of Saddam Hussein, was there too, inevitably, as was Tariq Ramadan, the shifty academic who thinks there should only be a "moratorium" on the stoning to death of adulterous women rather than an outright ban. Imagine the fuss if, say, William Hague and Michael Gove had gone to a conference on the future of right-wing politics in London and joined members of the BNP, a far-right politician who had saluted the courage of Augusto Pinochet and an academic who argued for a "moratorium" on black immigration to Britain.

So I'm trying to get my tiny brain around this one. Stoning adulterous women is bad (agreed). A temporary halt to the stoning would be less bad than stoning going ahead, but someone who called for that (rather than for an outright ban) would not be grasping the true moral awfulness of the practice (again, agreed). So for the parallel to work, black immigration has to be a bad thing that we ought to ban ... and someone calling for a mere moratorium just doesn't get how bad black immigration is? I don't think that even Nick meant to say that.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Green Zone

I've just come in from having seen Green Zone and fired off about a dozen tweets on how good I think it is. "Not a dull moment, or filler scene, or poor performance." By me, on Twitter. (I also added a superfluous 'The' to the title, pedants.)

It's a good movie. It shows what a mess we made of Iraq. (That's partly for John B.) That is, shows visually, rather than by argument. It's a taut 'shades of dark' thriller. With lots and lots of shooting. One thing I loved was that, after the final "protagonist goes one-on-one with villain" scene the fighting in the background continues. Take that James Cameron with your glib extended action scenarios!

I'm really glad that Norman Geras thinks history should be the judge of Iraq. What did Auden say? "History to the defeated/May say alas/But cannot help or pardon." Ah yes, how true.

If anyone's read "Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone" by Rajiv Chandrasekaran (which I may rush out and buy tomorrow anyway; I have been meaning to read it), I would welcome your opinion.

Sorry about this, but I'm bouncing up and down on a high from seeing this film. MRQE reports mixed reviews. THEY ARE WRONG! IT IS BRILLIANT!

If you're not of the belief that the Iraq invasion was a huge clusterfuck, it's still a very good action movie.

(Posted here because it's about the Iraq thing (invasion/occupation/liberation/clusterfuck) and about a conspiracy theory which just happens to involve whether those WMDs are there or not.)

Oh grow up, will you?

This is why you need a frequently updated Watch site - taken on its own, this would seem like a more or less admirable note of caution in the face of a howling mob. It needs to be seen in context though - the "please, won't you grow up" lecture is one that Aaro gives us every other week, on nearly every subject.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Book plugs!

As commenter Matthew says "By the way Nick's column this week has been replaced by an advert for Ian Mcewan." As indeed it has.

In the same spirit, if any readers have a book out, or a friend with a book out - feel free to plug it here. Not just books, records, comedy gigs. Don't feel bound by constraints of honesty, make it sound most excellent. And if it's a friend's work, you can slip in a sort of interview in the form of "[friend's name] tells me that..."

Quality journalism at Aaronovitch Watch!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Surely the tip of the iceberg

"You just mocked our party. That was political agitation. Surely the tip of the iceberg. I'm going to report this to the minister's office."

Seven years on, it’s gone well beyond the original wound, and we’re at the stage where many folk twist the knife in their own scar to keep it bleeding.
David Aaronovitch (for me, that column will keep on giving, although not perhaps as Dave intended).

I blame Mike Power. If he hadn't tweeted this, I wouldn't have known that John Rentoul was on twitter and hence would not have seen

Germans subsidise Blair-hating movie http://bit.ly/a9PMXz

As I don't entirely trust url shortening sites (how do they make money? why should they continue to exist?) that link goes to Germans subsidise Blair-hating movie which links to Rentoul's "friend Julie's" blog post How Germany's taxpayers paid for Harris' settlement with Blair.

"Oh, I like a good financial scandal," you say, rubbing cupidinous hands with glee. ('Cupidinous hands' - have you tried decaffeinated? And I don't trust you with glee, you said it didn't contain any calories, remember? - Ed.) How much was this subsidy? €200.000,00 or about £130K. I think the IMDb explains this largesse rather well here: 'The Ghost Writer' was filmed in Berlin, Germany, Sylt, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, and Usedom, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Germany. I think the German taxpayer will have made more that €200K back in taxes, and benefits not paid to extras, minor actors, and film crew - all of whom work intermittently. Never mind the stimulus to the economy in accommodation, catering, etc, and German film making is probably enhanced by the opportunity for lighting men, assistant directors, etc to work with a master craftsman like Polanski. Yes, he's a rapist, and he should have spent time in prison for that, but The Pianist was utterly brilliant. Besides, this is art which takes place beyond good and evil, and people who probe books and films for political subtexts are despicable philistines.

Finally, I can't speak for the film, which I haven't seen yet, but "Blair-hating" may be a misinterpretation. Robert Harris interviewed by the Guardian (via Harris's Wikipedia entry).

Rentoul calls 'The Ghost Writer'[1]:

A film directed by a man facing extradition to face sentence, about a man whose guilt exists only in the minds of the haters.

To which I really want to add, "Adapted from a book by a former BBC journalist and Observer political editor, who has met Blair and studied him closely" but that would ruin the innuendo.

Who is twisting the knife here? Harris and Polanski - or the self-pitying Julia and John? (Why oh why can't I find Pete Townshend's splendid song about Tony Parsons and Julie Burchill, "Jools and Jim", on YouTube?) And who are the "haters" - those who think Blair is culpable or those calling everyone they don't like "Shortists and jihadists"?

Sorry for ranting, but this really annoyed me last night and I'm still annoyed this morning. I saw The Shaughraun at the National Theatre in the 80s - ie under Thatcher - when it starred Stephen Rea. The story is about clever Fenians and bumbling policemen; the baddie, a police informer, dies at the end. "Rea was married to former Provisional Irish Republican Army member and hunger striker Dolours Price from 1983 to 2003." Oh, I don't think there was anything 'political' in that. Taps nose. The British taxpayer subsidised that, and quite right too. New Labour aren't just like the Tories, they're more the Stasi every day.

[1] Added later, for clarity. I don't think it was clear who said that before.

Friday, March 12, 2010

What a coincidence!

David Aaronovitch, whom this blog is named after, for any new arrivals, recently grumbled, "There has been no popular film yet made about Iraq." He also wrote Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History. (BTW, the Times' short bio that appears alongside Dave's pieces doesn't mention this book. Merely a mistake - or something more sinister?)

How wonderful to learn that today sees the release of The Green Zone, "Paul Greengrass's Baghdad-set conspiracy thriller ". Mixed reviews via MRQE.

Damon plays the leader of an army team which has been ordered to find weapons of mass destruction believed to be stockpiled in the Iraqi desert. But instead of WMDs they come across an elaborate cover-up.

Who can forget Those weapons had better be there .... Now, why would anybody believe that there was a conspiracy behind the WMD story?

Delightful coincidence. Unless there's a plot to destroy the credibility of David Aaronovitch, of course.

The Real Hurt Locker

Foreign Policy has a wonderful photo essay: The Real Hurt Locker about the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams working in Iraq and Afghanistan. I think some of its criticisms of the film are unfair: "unlike the gung-ho Hurt Locker team that seems to find itself in a firefight wherever it goes, the real guys tend to focus on disposing of IEDs". The film is clear enough that it covers several weeks but chooses to relate only the stories from a few particular days, which I think are understood to be exceptional, not typical. Anyway, contra David Aaronovitch this IS Iraq. Via Rachel Maddow.

Update 12/3 11:20 am An alternative view:

The movie didn't show the massive destruction of Iraq caused by our invasion. It didn't show how, seven years later, some people still don't have dependable electricity, clean water or adequate sewage. It didn't show how many Iraqi citizens are still trying to find employment so they can feed their families after we destroyed their infrastructure.

Easy answer to a stupid question

The stupid question was Will Brown Dump Charlie Whelan?[1]

For the easy answer read Rachel Sylvester. Spoiler: it's "no".

Perhaps a very stupid question from me. Given the real dislike both Martin Bright and Nick Cohen have for Charlie Whelan, why didn't they write the story first? Both seem to wonder what Charlie Whelan does for Gordon Brown. The answer to that is, "Rather a lot, actually."

[1] Nick tweeted the link to that post, with the original title. Some kind soul (hem, hem) pointed out that Charlie Whelan works for Unite, not No 10, so hard to see how Brown could 'sack' him. Nick gracefully acknowledged that point.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A very strange argument indeed

Thanks to Justin McKeating's brilliant tweet:

One for @MalkyMuscular this: http://bit.ly/aaWJKk. Someone's been and borrowed the Decent Tardis (http://bit.ly/bonDqd).

The good thing about borrowing a Tardis is that one can bring it back at the very moment one took it, so the owner need never know. Still, it would have been nice to ask. (Taking this metaphor a bit literally, aren't we? - Ed) If those links don't work for you, the first goes to John Rentoul: The moral case for the Iraq war (that is, John Rentoul wrote it on the Independent's livejournal). Rentoul:

Fine analysis of the moral case for the invasion of Iraq by Nigel Biggar, regius professor of moral and pastoral theology at the University of Oxford, in today's Financial Times. He begins thus:

The surfeit of moral certainty among the commentators is suspect; the zealous clarity of their moral waters needs muddying.

The professor, in muddying those waters, does not shy away from the terrible death toll that followed the invasion. But he deals with it in a clear-minded way, asking how one can judge whether it is disproportionate.

Granted, I'm hostile to theologians generally, but it seems an odd approach to an argument to call for lack of clarity. You have facts and reason, damn you! (But this may be how theologians always argue. That's certainly the impression I get from Andrew Brown in the Guardian and Thought for the Day. Reason and logic are the enemies of religion.) Not only does John Rentoul (who surely qualifies as a Decent) call this a 'Fine analysis', but Norman Geras says, "Guardianistas be on your guard! It may contain more complexity than you can handle." It contains more something than I can handle, though I wouldn't call it complexity.

Maybe critics of the war view with equanimity what might have happened without the 2003 invasion, trusting that the secular rationality of Realpolitik would have prevented the rivalry between Iraq’s atrocious Saddam and Iran’s millenarian Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad from turning catastrophically nuclear. In this age of suicide bombers, however, such faith is hard to credit.

I don't know anyone who has argued that we invaded Iraq to prevent conflict, nuclear or otherwise, with Iran. Given that Iran and Iraq had already fought a long and pointless war, and neither side had gained from it, another conflict seems very unlikely. And, assuming this war had happened, would it have been nuclear? Even if Iran is developing nuclear weapons now, no one claims that it has a working bomb.

Now add the concern about weapons of mass destruction. This was sufficiently grave to rouse the UN to litter the period 1991-2003 with 17 resolutions calling on Saddam to disarm permanently. Given the shocking discovery in the mid-1990s of Iraq’s success in enriching uranium and coming within 24 months of nuclear armament, and given the regime’s persistent flouting of the UN’s will, there was good reason to withhold benefit of doubt and to suppose that it was developing WMDs. It was not just Messrs Bush and Blair who supposed this. So did Jacques Chirac, then French president, and Hans Blix, the UN’s chief weapons inspector.

Is anyone prepared to argue that this isn't a complete list of Security Council Resolutions (SCRs) involving Iraq [1991-2004]? There may have been resolutions on the floor of the UN but if these weren't made by the Security Council (the only body capable of enforcing disarmament), they wouldn't have been anything other than hot air. And does anyone know what "the shocking discovery in the mid-1990s of Iraq’s success in enriching uranium and coming within 24 months of nuclear armament" refers to? Osirak was in 1980 and 1981 and it doesn't seem fanciful that, if Iraq came close to nuclear armament again, both Israel and Iran would take pre-emptive action again. And Iraq couldn't stop them when it was fighting a war with Iran and receiving backing from the US. Oh and what does Hans Blix say now? Hans Blix answers Tony Blair's '2010 question'. "Iraq was, as I said, on its knees in 2003..." Does "coming within 24 months of nuclear armament" even matter when Iraq was subject to sanctions and US flyovers?

We now know this reasonable supposition was mistaken and that the problem was less urgent than it appeared. But it was still urgent. Saddam was intent on acquiring nuclear weapons and support for containment was dissolving.

Oh really?

Who knew, back in 2003, all the things the invasion would achieve? Looks at Alastair Campbell. I'm really disappointed in you, Alastair, why didn't you tell us it was all about stopping a nuclear war? Oh, you'd have looked ridiculous and the NHS may have struggled to treat all the hilarity induced injuries. That's actually a good reason.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Aaro extends the purple finger

I think this one falls into the category 'nice try'.

I notice he's still in denial about the casualty figures ("implausible"), and apparently you only count as 'talking about the Iraqis' if you're talking about them building a vibrant new democracy, painting schools etc. Talking about the years in which they were dying in tens of thousands being murdered with electric drills doesn't count.

"The war was illegal, immoral, the greatest foreign policy blunder since Suez or since Pharaoh spurred his chariot into the Red Sea, Blair lied or dissimulated, was Bush’s poodle, was driven crazy by his own messianism, didn’t tell the Cabinet anything, didn’t listen to the country’s clear opposition"

These aren't "stock phrases" or "conventional wisdoms that now pass from brain to lip without encountering thought along the way", Aaro, they're a reasonable description of the facts. You bought a bill of goods manufactured by an obvious idiot and sold to you by a pushy young lawyer and an international chancer who turned out to be an Iranian agent. Own your mistake, man.

Are you fucking kidding me? Watch: "As far as we know", there was "no widespread fraud" in the Iraqi elections. Other than that bit where Ahmad Chalabi (remember him, Dave?) disqualified half the candidates from a rival party on trumped-up charges of Ba'athism? And "nor was there violence between supporters of the various candidates".

Update: If you want to see video footage of Aaro expanding on this theme while wearing a really horrid purple shirt, the Times website can sort that out for you.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Is someone impersonating Aaro?

I only ask, because I find it hard to believe that the author of "Private lives should never belong to the public" (Feb 16) is the same person as "Online truth is more valuable than privacy" (March 2).