Mark John Maguire

Artist

Bill O’Reilly calls for Wikileaks’ Julian Assange to be Executed, Huffington Post 2010 by Mark John Maguire

Bill O'Reilly's comment yesterday concerning execution or life imprisonment for the Wikileaks leaker is an afffront to common sense, as well as to freedom of speech: good democracy, which is founded in the principles of freedom of speech, human rights and the freedom of the individual, is strengthened when it is sound enough to share the truth of its governance with its people: most of Wikileaks' revelations are embarrassing to diplomats and politicians because they give the public an insight into the conduct of government and - occasionally - their errors. No serious classifications have been breached as far as I am aware - nothing Secret or Top Secret has been released. I disagree with Wikileaks in its release of data relating to vulnerable sites around the world: I could see no useful purpose in sharing this information (though I think its value is rather limited). In spite of the protests that Wikileaks has "damaged the National Interest" of the USA/ France/UK/China and "put the lives of US/British/French etc lives at risk" I think the real cause of outrage relates to the fact that the business of government has never been done this way before! Wikileaks has done the US and the world a great service: it is a good day for democracy and a bad day for all forms of top-down government. That is why Bill O'Reilly is so wrong when he ignores the basic principle of government of the people by the people for the people.

 

Charges Against Julian Assange, Huffington Post December 2010 by Mark John Maguire

 Some of the charges against Julian Assange beggar belief (one of these relates to his allegedly having sex with a sleeping woman - didn't she notice?) and all the charges appear to be of such a flimsy (though rather comically disgraceful) nature that it is both inappropriate and disproportionate that he has been placed on a red notice on Interpol's "wanted" list. Leaving aside the question of whether or not there is a case to answer at all, it does appear that the notoriety of Wikileaks' actions has influenced the Swedish authorities in their pursuit of this matter, the British authorities in their response to Swedish requests and the UK Judge's determination in the matter of bail. The UK routinely criticises governments around the world whose judiciaries are influenced by the convictions of their executives: it is important that the UK judicial system is able to demonstrate that it is sufficiently robust to withstand the ire of its own executive and those of other countries. Julian Assange is being pursued for charges which - if shown to be substantial - would invite criminal charges; but he is not being charged for affronting the sensibilities of governments: that needs to be borne in mind by the all the authorities involved: yet so far that is precisely what appears to have happened.

REVIEW of Beyond Nuclear: Mordechai Vanunu’s Freedom of Speech Trial and My Life as a Muckraker in We Are Wide Awake 9 November 2010

By Mark John Maguire

Eileen Fleming’s book Beyond Nuclear: Mordechai Vanunu’s Freedom of Speech Trial and My Life as a Muckraker is a fascinating insight into the life and mind of an activist pursuing a moral crusade against the might of a nation - in this case Israel.

It also provides a journal of such an individual’s experiences in the complex and protracted struggle of the Middle East. Her journey of faith and belief in support of the Palestinian cause - and in particular that of Vanunu Mordechai, the Israeli dissident who served 18 years in prison for revealing Israel’s illegal nuclear programme - has been a remarkable one: she clearly believes she has a purpose and that she is guided by a higher will and perhaps this is the secret to the huge radical energy she exudes.

Her book is an expression of that energy and of the uncompromising commitment she shares with Vanunu in attempting to right the injustices she sees in the daily lives of Palestinians.

 

Her conflict, which is charted in the book - and to a lesser extent Vanunu’s - has been the wider Palestinian problem and the human rights abuses of the Israeli State.

Her visits to Israel and her meetings with Vanunu and others in her efforts to publicize the story the mainstream media largely ignore - especially in the US - is inspiring.

There are few who would doubt the hardships and injustices suffered by the Palestinian people in Israel and its adjacent lands, nor the inadequacy of the international community’s efforts to lessen their plight, but Beyond Nuclear brings this sharply into focus.

It also puts the Vanunu Mordechai case in the spotlight - the story of his abduction, his incarceration and the subsequent restrictions placed upon him are all recorded here.

 

But it is the humdrum indignities that are suffered by Vanunu, the petty restrictions, the heavy handed reactions of the authorities that are most striking: the sense of isolation which Vanunu endures daily, an outcast from his own people - a man on the outside - which has become a metaphor for the Palestinian situation: the Middle East has always been a cauldron of tension and conflict - it is the story of the Old Testament - but it has never been more complex than it is now; a web of related issues: nuclear, racial, religious and geo-political are stirred into an explosive mix. Vanunu’s plight seems to epitomize this concoction: he is a Jew who converted to Christianity, a stranger amongst Palestinians, a man with whom the international community is ill at ease.

Nor are the problems of the Middle East likely to be resolved soon - the international resolve, as well as that of the immediate combatants is simply not there: in August 2009 - in the wake of a long catalogue of such wrongs - Fleming recounts how the eviction of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah area of Jerusalem drew international censure from the European Union, the UN, Britain and the USA: yet nothing has been done to this day to address such breaches of international law.

Indeed, one of the recurring themes in Eileen Fleming’s book and in Mordechai’s many interviews given since his release from prison in 2004 has been the fact that although the international community tacitly acknowledges Israel’s nuclear capability, it has never subjected Israel to a single Atomic Weapons Authority Inspection. It is the white bear in the corner no-one will speak of.

There is much to exercise activists like Eileen Fleming. In some ways Beyond Nuclear is a dispiriting tale of episodic and endemic complaisance by the international community to serious abuses of international law, an unending cycle of oppression, resistance and terrorism; but it is also an affirmation of the ability of human beings to speak out, their willingness to take enormous risks with their own personal safety and to refuse to be cowed by the might of the State.

And there are the occasional brighter moments - for instance, the Israeli soldier playing with Palestinian children and Fleming’s making contact with him from a Palestinian position and exchanging gestures of goodwill. It is a reminder that human beings populate such stories, committing kindnesses and atrocities with seeming equal randomness.

But a state is not the sum of its people, it has its own personality. Israel, as a State, is determined to defend itself and believes its prime objective is to protect its security by whatever means it deems necessary.

Fleming quotes Archbishop Desmond Tutu saying that after a visit to Israel in 2006: “Israel will never get true security and safety through oppressing another people.”

Such wisdom and perceptiveness seems to fall on deaf ears, however - even when it is spoken by respected people like Tutu and it is hard not to escape the conclusion that until people of good will on both sides control the argument, progress will not be made.

Eileen Fleming’s book reveals the frustrations of the truly committed in dealing with the half-committed - and the merely good-willed.

There is no doubting the strength of her own convictions and sense of mission - she will always, one suspects, have difficulty in finding people who can match her relentless energy and conviction.

In the end, Beyond Nuclear: Mordechai Vanunu’s Freedom of Speech Trial and My Life as a Muckraker is an extraordinary tale of courage and conviction and the struggle of the individual’s right to tell the truth and the State’s determination to obscure it or subvert it for a perceived greater good:

The truth, as Oscar Wilde observed, is rarely simple and never pure.

And by the same token, the lesson Eileen Fleming would have us draw would be that the perceived good is seldom so good as to be worth it.

 

MJ Maguire

 

Swedish Zeal in Pursuit of Julian Assange, Huffington Post, December 2010 by Mark John Maguire

The Swedish authorities' zeal in pursuing Assange so assiduously would be commendable, were it not for the fact that their record of pursuing far more serious cases in Sweden was so poor and, as Women Against Rape's Katrina Axelsson says, "there is a long tradition of the use of rape and sexual assault for political agendas that have nothing to do with women's safety". The Swedish authorities must be aware of their limited chances of success here and Raj Joshi, former head of the European Division of the Crown Prosecution Service in the UK, gives the view that extradition to Sweden will be very difficult. The suspicion arises, therefore, that Sweden is pursuing this matter simply with a view to detaining Assange to give the US authorities time to establish legal grounds to seek the extradition of Assange itself... None of this reflects well on any of the countries/authorities concerned and it will be for the UK courts to frustrate any political agendas - so far they have not proved sufficiently robust to do this..

 

 

The Risks of Pursuing Julian Assange, OPED News, 18 December 2010 by Mark John Maguire

John Conyers has asserted a much needed voice of reason within the US judicial and political fraternity: the exercise of caution in pursuing repressive policies and in restricting long-held freedoms of the press in the false name of national security is both undesirable and indeed a dangerous precedent. At present the US seems hell bent on revenge for the embarrassment caused by Wikileaks and has focused that fury upon Assange. But the culprit here is not really an individual at all: the advent of the internet is freeing all kinds of genies - some welcome and some very unwelcome. But whatever our regrets or misgivings may be about the internet, it is an absolute that it has given unprecedented power to the people of the world: the power to communicate freely depite the restrictions of their governments, the power to share information quickly and the power to know. It is a huge freedom and governments are uneasy to see such freedoms affecting the way they have been doing business and so far ill-equipped to deal with it.

The pursuit of Julian Assange is a dangerous path for the US authorities to tread in this respect - it will potentially mean that they have in their midst a captive who will act as a focus for US criticism - but above and beyond this, it sits very poorly with a democracy when it jails someone for revealing the truth. The US's moral voice in the world has been lessened by recent wars and by its continuing Guantanamo debacle... Pursuing another ill-conceived action of this kind will be more help than hindrance to it. The US's growing reputation for illiberalism is making it increasingly difficult for it to raise matters of repressive policy, the denial of human rights, or freedom of speech with China, Zimbabwe, Burma et al when its own record is decidedly shaky. The events of the past few weeks have turned Julian Assange into a cause celebre for liberals throughout the world and for those who believe that governments can only be held to account when their own citizens have a full knowledge of what their representatives are doing. The advent of the internet has brought a new perspective of freedom to the world - as support continues to rally to Assange it is difficult to see how the genie can be put back in the bottle.

Julian Assange: A Nobel Laureate for the Future? OPED News, 19 December 2010 by Mark John Maguire

 As Julian Assange achieves bail in the UK for charges which are yet to be fully disclosed in Sweden, Liu Xiaobo, jailed Chinese dissident, has been awarded the Nobel Prize for peace in absentia. Much of what we in the West like to call "the free world" heralded that decision. And probably noone reading this on OpEd News would baulk at this: Xiaobo has consistently stood up for freedom of speech and has been a thorn in the side of the Chinese authorities since Tiananmen Square 20 years ago. His personal liberty has suffered as a result and he has been hounded in every possible way by the Chinese State. The Chinese, for their part, are infuriated by the affront it sees in making the award to a man they describe as "a major criminal" who has sought consistently to undermine the Chinese State and they have used their considerable economic influence to ensure that a good number of countries stayed away from the ceremony. Furthermore, in an effort to stem the flow of information relating to the troublesome dissident, Chinese cyber powers blocked news outlet websites such as BBC and CNN News, and other media outlets in China in an effort to prevent its citizens from learning anything meritorious of the 'criminal' in their midst.

Xiaobo is, like all men and women of principle, a difficult and somewhat uncompromising character, who is inclined to forget or disregard where his best interests lie. He will always afford opportunities for the State to find fault and to prosecute accordingly. Yet at the core of this is the simple assertion of the individual's right to liberty of thought, action and speech against the State's need to control. Large, powerful and paranoid States do not like freedom of speech or the notion that individuals should have access to the truth. It should be considered a measure of the health of a nation how it treats its dissidents, as well as its criminals and needy. There is a lesson here with regard to the Julian Assange affair and Assange's story is following an uneven - but clear - parallel to Xiaobo's and others who tread this path: it cannot be excusable for the State to hound individuals whose offence is to expose the truth (if it were untruths, of course, it would be quite different); trumped up and thin charges - almost always of a personal and sexual nature - have a long history amongst dissidents: but long term they are always seen by the majority for what they are: trumped up, thin charges; and jailing the individual who embarrasses the State never works.

The West should learn a lesson from Xiaobo's story - or from Mandela's - or from the long line of people in history who have stood against the State for freedom of expression, liberty of action and freedom of knowledge: no nation prospers from the repression of these in the long term. True democracy has nothing to fear from the truth: it is those who seek to pervert it for their own ends - or who misunderstand its true value and meaning - who fear it. The present battles, largely conducted in cyber land between those who believe in complete access to State information and those who do not, is a battle of our time, an inevitable struggle with the coming of the internet - and its outcome is vital: the pursuit of Julian Assange and the statements of governments from across the Western world on the Wikileaks debacle are defining this battle for free speech and the citizen's right to know.

In time the classified cables and inner discussions concerning the leaks and the appropriate responses will shed light on the organic response of the State to the threat it senses in this widening and seemingly uncontrollable freedom. Freedom is never without its constraints, but it is still an abiding truth that a nation which prizes good and integrity should embrace the right of its citizens to know. For now Julian Assange is at liberty and he promises to continue his campaign for the free availability of information: he is the cause celebre of our time. It is certainly too early now, as the world's least democratic regimes turn their backs collectively on Liu Xiaobo and Western governments applaud his courage and stand for freedom against a repressive and undemocratic regime, but give it another 20 years and it will be interesting to see who will support a Nobel nomination for Julian Assange.

MJ Maguire

 

A Case of Police Wasting the Public’s Time? Oped News. 1 June 2011 by Mark John Maguire

The death of Joanna Yeates in the suburb of Clifton in Bristol, has attracted a huge amount of media and internet interest and resulted in a massive police operation to catch the killer or killers. Such occasions as these always produce widespread shock and revulsion, especially when they involve a young, attractive and respectable woman - they also evoke great public sympathy for the family. The Yeates family, after all, will carry Joanna's loss with them for the rest of their lives - and the terrible circumstances of her loss can only make this harder to bear: the family will never again turn on the television to hear an account of a murder, see a police appeal, or witness a tearful family pleading for information, without revisiting their own loss.

But there is another victim here, someone whose life has been all but destroyed by the events of the past few weeks and whose misfortune attracts little attention, or indeed, public sympathy: Chris Jefferies was arrested on 30 December as the world's media swooped upon the weathy suburb of Clifton. His google ranking soared in a way many successful companies can only dream of. And with good reason: after all, the assumption must be that the police do not arrest people on suspicion of such a serious offence without good reason for doing so. Since then Chris Jefferies' life has been picked over in great detail and his neighbours, friends and former pupils and colleagues - all those who have defined his life and from whom he garners his self-respect as a social animal - have been quoted extensively, interviewed and have offered a commentary on his life. Such is the lot of a person arrested on suspicion of the most serious crime a person can be accused of. In many cases they have sought to distance themselves from Mr Jefferies. The Headmaster of Clifton College, the eminent Public School where Chris Jefferies worked until his retirement a few years ago, was at pains to stress that neither he nor most of his staff knew Jefferies, because he had left before their arrival. The societies to which Chris Jefferies had given his time and effort freely were likewise keen to divorce themselves from association with him, or to downplay his involvement with them. Such is the nature of notoriety and its impact on those who acquire it. The shocking thing in this case is the ease with which it has been acquired.

 

It is of little use the Attorney General considering issuing a notice to the Press on the suspect's rights to a fair trial: such an act can do little to rescue the suspect's reputation and can, in fact, serve to harden public suspicion against the suspect. Nor is it the press's fault for reporting that the police have arrested a man on suspicion of murder and for supposing that the police have garnered sufficient evidence for believing this: it is a natural consequence of a free press and a sophisticated and active public opinion. That is why it is essential that the police be acting at all times on both objective evidence and reasonable belief in taking the momentous decision to arrest a person for a major crime. There is a responsibility on the part of the police to ensure that such evidence exists and that the arrest is therefore well-founded. Of course, it is a matter of fine judgement to determine when the evidence has reached a point of critical mass, that the individual's right to liberty and to unsullied reputation are set aside in the interests of the greater good: i.e. the safety of the community. In the case of Chris Jefferies it appears there was no meaningful evidence and the police's judgement was seriously flawed.

As the police address themselves to the familiar round of public appeals, poster campaigns and media interviews it now appears that the evidence against Chris Jefferies was non-existent. Jefferies has been released "on police bail" and remains a suspect, but this is little more than a fig leaf to spare police blushes. Nor can Chris Jefferies take much comfort from his release: his flat, vehicles and possessions have been stripped; doors, fabrics, carpetings and other soft furnishings have been removed; and the internal structures have been comprehensively dismantled and his life and character subjected to forensic examination. On the internet the less temperate have, predictably, bayed for Chris Jefferies' blood. All of this has taken place apparently on no greater grounds than an alleged discrepancy in his statement and the fact that he was Joanna's landlord, living on the premises. The question now being asked is: should this entitle the police to go on a fishing expedition, the consequences of which have such serious consequences on a man's life and reputation? Chris Jefferies, a bachelor living in close proximity to the victim, with a degree of eccentricity and a penchant for strange hair-dos seems to have excited police suspicion for fitting a particular profile, as much as for the alleged discrepancy in his statement. But these are not proper grounds for such serious and public allegations to be made and should cause disquiet to us all. We depend on the judgement and integrity of the police in these matters: the powers to arrest and detain and to level such serious accusations at an individual levy a huge responsibility upon the police: they must never be abused. But can anyone feel satisfied at the way they have been exercised in this case?

A large amount of money and effort has been diverted to this enterprise and the focus has shifted from pursuing other more fruitful lines of inquiry. In the course of the past 3 weeks the police have received a wealth of evidence, which by its nature was most potent in the early hours of the discovery of the crime. Now they have, belatedly, launched a wider trawl for information and begun the search for evidence beyond their mere suspicions: in other words, they are engaged in the proper work of the police.

The government's proposals to bring the police under greater local control and scrutiny and to introduce a degree of accountability is to be welcomed - but the Chief Constables' insistence that they have full freedom in their operational functioning must be qualified by the local authority's power to scrutinise the police's performance. In cases such as that of the Bristol and Avon police, that should mean an examination of the quality of evidence which has led them to take such a serious step as "arresting a man on suspicion of murder" and holding him for several days. This is what accountability means: to ensure that the police are doing their job and doing it in a proper manner to the satisfaction of the community they serve.

Any arrest is and should be regarded as being a major act on the part of the police - the deprivation of an individual's liberty is effectively revoking the most fundamental freedom a human being possesses. It should only be invoked when the evidence points quite convincingly towards a person in such a way that the risk to that individual and to their reputation is outweighed by the greater risk that that individual poses to others. In other words, the benefits to the community must significantly outweigh that of the sacrifice required of the individual. A risk of immediate violence or harm against others would qualify as sufficient reason, so would a risk of the suspect absconding, or of evidence being interfered with. None of these factors appears to have been present in Chris Jefferies' case.

It cannot be the place of any reputable or professional police force to act in the manner of excited neighbours seeking out eccentrics with strange hair-dos: and there is another serious objection to such fishing expeditions: British legal history is littered with miscarriages of justice where the police find their man before they find the evidence. Fortunately this has not happened in this case (because of the sheer absence of any evidence), the search for Jo's killer goes on and it remains to be seen whether or not her killer will be apprehended.

Chris Jefferies will now have to try to pick up the pieces of his life amongst his friends and neighbours and associates and try to live down their misgivings, their subtle doubts and the insinuating guilts they give rise to - all those things that unravel the delicate woven fabric of relationships. More widely, in his community, he will need to try to outlive - for he cannot escape - the instant and unwanted gift of dubious celebrity and ignore the whispers of curious recognition it excites.

The public purse will repair the physical damage to his property, but there will be no recompense for the ruin of his life, his reputation and that undervalued commodity, anonymity. If no-one is caught - and the conduct of the police have not improved this prospect - it is a nightmare scenario facing him: Mr Jefferies will carry an invisible mantle of guilt for the remainder of his life.

If the killer remains elusive, Bristol police have - unwittingly it must be said - done a major disservice not only to Joanna Yeates and her family, but to Chris Jefferies and the public in general. It is important for us all that they be required to give a full account of their actions once the dust has settled.

They should be required moreover to explain why their actions should not be regarded by the public as a case of Police wasting the public's time. It's a fair point and one to which the public deserves an answer.

 

 

Julian Assange Signs £1 Million Book Deal, Huffington Post. 2011 by Mark John Maguire

I see no problem with Julian Assange benefiting from his Wikileaks efforts and a £1 million book deal could at least potentially bring him some of the material comforts he has not enjoyed because of his dangerous work in revealing the inner workings of government. However, I think he needs to be careful to ensure that such a deal does not turn into an avalanche of lucrative media deals which would quickly arm his opponents and government media machines with a focus for their criticisms. It never looks well for activists or ethical campaigners to be seen to be profiting from their principles!
MJ Maguire

 

Assange Arrest Cyber Attacks, The Guardian, 8 December 2010 by Mark John Maguire

Is this the new form of covert State operation and counter-State protest for the future? The US and Israel launched a major, highly sophisticated cyber attack on Iran's nuclear and industrial facilities a couple of months ago in an attempt to disrupt it. It was largely - if somewhat temporarily - successful. China carried out major covert cyber operations against google earlier in the year - which itself led to US protests... In the past week the US and China have both conducted massive attacks against Wikileaks in an attempt to disrupt its operations.

The US has also, it seems, applied massive pressure on Mastercard, Paypal, Amazon, Swiss bank Post Finance et al to block Wikileaks' resource stream and thereby stifle its ability to function. Now hackers appear to be attacking Mastercard and Paypal in a tit-for-tat exercise... Where is this leading? I see that in the defence strategy review and Spending Review in October the UK committed considerable (much increased) resources to its own cyber activities... I suppose this is all inevitable as the internet becomes increasingly powerful and uncontrollable and protesters will become more sophisticated and adept at hitting government agencies and their supporters - but I still think it is a mistake for governments to become involved in cyber attacks against other states and powerful or popular institutions, because it can only lead to greater emphasis on cyber attacks.

The effectiveness of the Israeli-US attack on Iran's infrastructure will not have been lost on Iran: nor on the key watchers in that situation - Russia and China: furthermore, it gives cyber warfare a legitimacy as a tool of foreign policy as well as opening up the prospects for many countries of punching above their fighting weight. And what of China's huge cyber-espionage capabilities? They are in a much stronger position today than they were last week as a result of these activities...

Fatah’s Negotiation Position Exposed, OPED News, 26 January 2011 by Mark John Maguire

The Fatah authorities appear to have been caught putting forward proposals as part of a peace deal with Israel which compromises huge areas of traditional Palestinian claims. In spite of President Mahmoud Abbas's denials to the contrary, the documents issued by the Al Jazeera network have all the hallmarks of authenticity: the verbatim transcripts of discussions, the tenor of the rapport within the negotiating teams, as well as the Israeli positioning all seem to be authentic enough.

The most alarming claim is that the Palestinian Authority was aware of the impending attack on Gaza in 2008 - and this claim is certainly consistent with the tenor and flow of other issues in the documents. I haven't seen all of the documents but the gist of them seems entirely congruent with the actions and conduct of Abbas's Palestinian faction - and it is this congruency which will be the most telling factor not only amongst Palestinians, but in the wider Arab world. The degrading of Gaza would, of course, suit Abbas politically because of the systematic weakening it would bring to the rival Hamas authority - but if the claim of his foreknowledge is true it would appear to consitute a perfidy on the Authority's part which will shock the Arab world. His denials are quick - they have to be - but the tide of opinion in this matter may well prove to be against him: it certainly strengthens the Hamas position enormously.

If the papers are authenticated, then clearly the intention was for Abbas to position himself politically, with the benefit of a weakened Hamas, and to sell this deal to the Palestinians on the back of a carefully orchestrated campaign to win over public opinion. It is unlikely now that any deal along these lines can be revisited in the near future given the damage that has been done to Abbas's personal authority - and presumably the intention of the leaks was to scupper the talks: so the likely candidates for leaking the documents has to be a hardline Israeli who wished to see no quarter given to Palestinians; or a Palestinian dismayed at the extent of concessions being proposed by Abbas's team.

It is a great pity that peace talks remain stalled in the Middle East and greater pressure from the West - in particular from the US - needs to be brought to bear on the Israelis to bring them to the negotiating table with a greater sense of purpose and a resolution to do what is right, but it is always satisfying to see the worst kinds of skulduggery amongst politicians exposed to the public glare! Who leaked? It hardly matters: the truth only damages those whose conduct is dishonest. In this case Mahmoud Abbas appears to be exposed as a ruthless and self-serving man.

 

Iraq War Inquiry: The Blair Bush Letters should be released, OPED News, 21 January 2011 by Mark John Maguire

The Chilcott Inquiry, having been charged with the task of inquiring into the circumstances leading up to the Iraq war, has announced that Sir Gus O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Home Civil Service, has refused to allow Tony Blair's letters to George Bush to be published. This is a crucial moment for Chilcott: Inquiries into national events of this kind have a reputation for obfuscating matters and more or less exonerating deeply culpable people. There are good reasons for this: such Inquiries are manned by retired civil servants and politicians who have been schooled in obedience and marked by institutional imprinting. The Iraq Inquiry is too important to be consigned to the UK's long history of ineffectual inquiries into matters of grave public concern and for this reason Chilcott must insist on the publication of these papers. He cannot, for his own sake and for that of the Inquiry, allow his committee to be suborned by an un-elected bureaucrat - even when that bureaucrat is the Cabinet Secretary.

O'Donnell is no democrat; although instinctively liberal in most matters, in common with most senior civil servants he regards it as an inconvenience and pays lip service to its institutional requirements. Already in his brief tenure he has presided over some serious breaches of democratic principle and been seen to have acted on political principle - most notably in the Green affair where the police were called in to examine routine leaking of papers to the opposition MP Damian Green resulting in Green himself, then an opposition MP, being arrested for carrying out the duties of opposition! It is vital that at this pivotal moment O'Donnell is not permitted to protect the vested interests of the Whitehall world; nor should the Government, in spite of the existence of the principle that Governments should not see the papers of previous governments, be prepared to stand by and see this happen. O'Donnell is a servant, appointed by the Prime Minister to serve the elected Government; the principle at stake here is no mere matter of procedure or of the confidential relationship between the US and UK: it is a matter of the UK's reputation in the world, of the governance of the UK and of the right of the people of the UK to see the kind of commitments that Tony Blair was making on their behalf.

Former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith has confessed that some of the statements being made by Blair in the run-up to the war ran counter to his legal advice and it is entirely possible, therefore, that these could form the basis of possible war crimes charges. It is absolutely crucial that these matters be nailed down as closely as possible by Chilcott: for those wanting to see Blair charged with genocide and tried at the Hague it is an uphill struggle: the committee will not want to point the finger: these are tame figures used to working within the institutions of the UK, not exposing them; the real evidence is unlikely to have been committed to paper in any case: the papers will have only inferential value. But they go to the heart of the matter concerning the purpose of the Chilcott Inquiry and this is their true value: they will shed light on the widely held view that war was inevitable because Tony Blair had given assurances to George Bush that he would take part in it if the US did so. Of almost equal value to what those letters say, is their tone and the subtext they reveal in terms of the nature of the relationship between Bush and Blair and whether or not that was likely to indicate an inextricable determination to invade Iraq. All the evidence so far points to this conclusion: the subversion of evidence and its careful manipulation in the run-up to war, the red herring of Weapons of Mass Destruction, the ludicrous "45 minutes" claim: all point to Blair's utter complicity in this matter. The craven mutterings of then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw at last year's sessions of the Inquiry, the pressure we now know UK diplomats to have been under at, inter alia, the United Nations and - to his lasting professional shame (admittedly considerable pressure) - Goldsmith's decision to alter his legal advice, brings us squarely to the conclusion that Blair's commitment to Bush was absolute and unequivocal, and that this subservience without moral or judicial authority made the war inevitable since it was being driven by hawks in the US for geo-political motives. Thus matters of its legality, the assent of Cabinet or Parliament - or indeed the will of the people of the UK - did not play a material part in the formulation of the decision. It is a matter of resounding infamy that Scarlett, Straw, Goldsmith et al allowed the shreds of integrity they possessed to be given so freely under pressure, but the central issue remains that of Blair's culpability.

The Chilcott Inquiry needs these documents to be a part of the public record, to inform and harden its findings if they are to have credibility beyond a mere institutional exercise. It is, moreover, the public's right to know. The very fact of O'Donnell's refusal is partly indicative of the problem which permitted Blair to commit the UK to a course of action which had little - if any - legal basis, little support and which may have resulted, directly and indirectly, in the deaths of some three-quarters of a million people. It is essential not only that this truth be exposed as nearly as it can be by Chilcott, but that the principle that one man - in this case Gus O'Donnell - should be permitted to withhold this crucial evidence from the people of this country, should be challenged. The UK went to war because of this self-same principle: one man - in that case Tony Blair - gave commitments which very few people in the military, in Whitehall, in Parliament and - most importantly of all - amongst the people of the UK itself, actually agreed with. It is owed to those who died and as future insurance against such immoral and illegal activities ever being perpetrated against others in the name of UK citizens again. It is important to remember that in withholding the crucial documents, the Chilcott inquiry cannot quote or directly refer to their gist - in other words, to a very large extent, they cannot inform the decision of the Inquiry. That is why it is so important for Chilcott to show his mettle. If need be he should offer to resign - it will not be required: the UK Government cannot afford the inquiry to collapse and O'Donnell will be brought to heel quickly enough. It is also appropriate, given the gravity of this matter, that David Cameron and Nick Clegg should set aside the tradition of standing apart from the decisions of previous governments and show the measure of their own integrity by instructing O'Donnell, an un-elected official, to release the papers forthwith.

If there is a lesson to be learned from Iraq, it is surely that one man should never again be able to determine matters of such magnitude on behalf of so many. It is quite improper for the Cabinet Secretary to withhold these papers in the face of overwhelming national interest - and extremely important that he should not be permitted to do so.

 

British Military Drawing up Contingency Plans for Attack on Syria ,Huffington Post, August 2011 by Mark John Maguire 

The same old story: nothing has changed since the ludicrous claims of WMD and the "45minute" claim of Tony Blair in respect of Iraq. Ditto with Afghanistan and Libya and the numerous lies told by the US and the British Governments - is there not now, after millions of deaths, injuries and untold misery inflicted on the populations of these countries by British and American servicemen, a duty to treat this event with considerable suspicion? Assad and his regime are the only ones who could not benefit from such an attack. The likely candidates are a splinter rebel group with a ruthless agenda, US Intelligence and Israel. What is predictable and apparent is that this chemical weapons attack is being used to justify the invasion of yet another country in the Middle East. Beautiful ancient cities have been bombed back to the Stone Age and cancer is apparently more common than flu in Fallujah thanks to the use of depleted uranium armour-piercing shells by the "allies". Is not the thing that should "shock the conscience of the world" the plans being made at this moment to visit more of this madness on the people of Syria? And yet who can stop it? People will today post images of puppies, "Bless our brave soldiers" and scantily clad women on their walls, while quiet suited scoundrels in Washington, Paris and London plan mass murder.

 

Syria, Chemical Attacks and Other Lies, OPED News, 28 August 2013 by Mark John Maguire

 Is anyone truly surprised at the recent chemical-weapons attack in Syria? It seems to have been hovering in the wings all year, until, bang on cue, it finally makes an appearance. Its author will almost certainly be forever shrouded in mystery, but the least likely candidate for this is Assad himself: he has been winning the war with the rebels all summer, gradually reasserting his brutal authority on Syria. More insidiously, Syrian public opinion has been swinging in behind him and a resolution to resist covert international support and condemnation has been hardening. The most likely authors of the chemical weapons attack in Syria are one of the many ruthless splinter groups amongst the Syrian rebels, with the assistance of US Intelligence. It is Weapons of Mass Destruction with a cherry on the parfait. The memory of Iraq, where more than a million civilians were slaughtered -- each life lost with its own tale of lasting misery -- is forgotten. WMD and CWA (Chemical Weapons Attack) are typical of the ruses that precede every war: they are the necessary fig leaf to justify mass murder: even Hitler needed a pile of dead Germans on the Polish frontier to justify the invasion of Poland in 1939.

The US and its allies have laid waste to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, bombing their beautiful ancient cities back to the Stone Age. Now they are utterly determined to visit the same misery upon Syria and then, of course, Iran. It seems that no one can stop them. Those who oppose them are "terrorists", those who reveal their crimes are given draconian jail sentences, or hounded into exile in Russia or forced to seek sanctuary in one of the few non-compliant embassies in the world. Manning, Snowden, and Assange are not heroes, but they are paying a high price for telling the truth -- but in a world where lies are the foundation of policy, the truth is a dangerous thing. Who can doubt that after Syria has been scorched to its roots, John Kerry, Obama, Holder, or some other grey-suited scoundrel will announce, with the straightest of faces, that they have obtained 'incontrovertible proof' that Iran is building a nuclear bomb?

Does anyone care that a new chapter of catastrophe is about to unfold in the Middle East? That the US is about to use its own WMD, its notorious uranium-depleted shells of more lethal and lasting damage than anything Assad or any of the rebels may possess? That in Fallujah where these shells have been extensively used doctors speak of cancer being "more common than flu"? That the most appalling deformities amongst new-born babies are being daily recorded in such places? A few people -- but today most people in the West will go about their business as normal. Somewhere in Syria a man, a woman, or a child, will be doing something similar, oblivious that mass murder is quietly being planned in the most respectable places by the most respectable people in the name of democracy.

 

 

Marmara Flotilla Inquiry, Huffington Post, 2011 by Mark John Maguire

The findings of the Inquiry into the Marmara Flotilla massacre has shocked the international community: the Turkish Prime Minister has rightly dismissed it; a UN Inquiry has already determined that Israeli forces acted with unwanted "brutality": above these objections it is an affront to common sense to exonerate the commandos. I think the Israeli authorities, in stating that it is an independent inquiry free from government interference, are reasonably accurate in their assertion, though: the Turkel Inquiry suffers from the defects of most government Inquiries in democracies as well as authoritarian States: they are not manned by journalists or by ordinary people working from without the system at all: they are the province of retired judges, military personnel, politicians, civil servants and their ilk. Such people are highly biased in favour of the status quo, seek to affirm at all the times the integrity of system, rather than to make moral judgements - and seek to give reassurance to the Establishment: it is an institutional bias. In short, it is the establishment looking at its own failings: this is not an acceptable state of affairs for most spheres of life: only a truly independent body is in a position to judge the actions of a given authority. This is principally why such Inquiries are unsatisfactory and their results frequently seem at odds with common sense. The judgement which stands against Israel will not be that of any internal Inquiry - nor even that of the UN - but the court.

 

The People v The President: a dilemma for democracy, OPED News, 9 September 2013 by Mark John Maguire

This week the US Congress will be asked to give its endorsement to President Obama's military strike on Syria. It is claimed that Assad used chemical weapons in Ghouta in the early hours of 21 August and that such an attack merits a military response. Many in the US and in the wider world have expressed doubts about the Intelligence itself and its being used as justification for the US to launch an attack on its seventh Arab country in the past 10 years. Such doubts appear to be well-founded: Assad had no known motive for launching an attack only hours after the arrival of UN Weapons Inspectors and a mere 12 miles from their hotel.

 

In addition it has been widely accepted that Assad has majority support in Syria, that public opinion has hardened against the rebels and that Government forces have made significant gains in recent months in spite of increased Western assistance. For many, these circumstances militate against Assad being behind the attack and they have pointed to a rebel attack aided by a "third party" for the purposes of drawing the US and NATO into the war against Assad and reversing the decline in rebel fortunes.

In the West, people have watched with mounting skepticism as the US and its allies have declared that there is "compelling evidence" that Assad was behind the attacks. In this the specter of Iraq is never far away, where similar claims were made in respect of Saddam's possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction. It is not, of course, in question that Assad possesses chemical weapons, but simply whether or not he has used them; nor that a chemical attack has taken place, but simply the question of who carried out such an attack. The narrative is complex: there is evidence that the rebels have carried out minor chemical weapons attacks in the past; Assad lacks motive but not means; previous "compelling evidence" has proved to be false; the rebels themselves contain a core of Al Qaeda fighters - and some of these have displayed a brutality exceeding anything Assad stands accused of.

Added to this the record of US involvement in other recent wars has not been encouraging, turning otherwise stable, albeit undemocratic, regimes into lawless democracies, headed by weak leaders propped up by US and NATO forces and presiding over countries that lie in ruins. The critics also allude to the undoubted fact that an attack on Syria would fit in with the US's wider geo-political strategy; that it would deal effectively with Assad's refusal to allow the Qatari pipeline project Syrian access; that disarming Israel's oldest and best-armed neighbor would play well with the AIPAC lobby - and above all, to the fact that the road to Damascus leads conveniently to Iran.

In such circumstances it is not surprising that even US politicians are expressing doubts over the wisdom of prosecuting yet another Middle Eastern war. Its aims are uncertain, the outcome may be undesirable and the US people are weary of endless foreign "adventures", of being regarded by much of the world as a brutal policeman dispensing summary justice wherever it sees fit. Obama and his advisers are convinced that action against Syria is both desirable and necessary, that Assad is responsible for the attacks and that it is in America's interests to punish him. US Presidents have a history of engaging in wars without the approval of Congress and have usually enjoyed widespread public support, many Americans equating support for their President's military endeavors to patriotism. This time a skeptical public mood appears to have infected the policy making arena: world opinion is not in step with the US. In spite of all its efforts at persuasion and pressure, it has not fallen into line. The coalition of the willing has become a coalition of the unwilling with a majority of countries either joining Russia and China in opposing US intervention or at least declining to support it. US isolation over Syria was cruelly exposed at the recent G20 meeting where Obama tried in vain to muster support and ultimately had to be satisfied with a statement from half of those present calling for a "strong response" to Syria, but falling short of the hoped-for endorsement for military intervention.

America's opponents come from unlikely sources too: the UN's cautious Ban Ki Moon has warned that a strike against Syria would be "ill-considered"; the Pope has taken the extremely rare step of calling for an end to talk of military intervention. The greatest spanner in the works, however, came from the UK Parliament's refusal to give its consent to the UK Government for intervention. David Cameron had little choice but to seek Parliament's approval given that he had castigated Tony Blair's initial failure to do so in respect of Iraq and had also previously indicated that he would seek Parliamentary approval in such circumstances himself.

The result was a bombshell for the US and its allies: for the first time in 200 years a British Prime Minister was defeated on a matter relating to national security and for the first time in living memory, the US was deprived of its chief ally. But its effect was far reaching in another respect: it reaffirmed the principle that for war to have any hope of political legitimacy, it must have the consent of its people: Obama's hopes of not seeking Congressional approval suddenly became untenable. Both he and Joe Biden had previously made statements from the safety of opposition that military action was illegal without the consent of Congress and that the Constitution vested the authority for war, not in the Office of President, but in Congress.

There the matter rests and the world awaits Congress's debate and its verdict: seldom has it been entrusted with a more momentous decision: it is watched jealously by a people whom it is elected to serve who are overwhelmingly against war in Syria and by an equally determined President whose future rests on the outcome of their deliberations. It is a finely balanced matter: Congress will not want to deny authority to the President in a matter concerning a strategic military decision: but it is keenly aware of the risks of turning its back on those it represents. That is why Obama must persuade the US people as well as Congress that intervention in Syria is both right and advisable. Representatives will watch the President and the polls very carefully: it is their moment. The most powerful man in the world says America must intervene; the people of America think otherwise.

It is not only a defining moment for Obama and Congress, but a decisive one for democracy, for democracy is a system intended to give people a say in the collective rules that govern the society in which they live. Where democracy does not give its people an effective voice it is no longer, in any meaningful sense, a democracy. Clearly the ancient Greek ideal of democracy where all citizens in the city-state could have a direct say in the decisions of governance is problematic in the modern, sophisticated and densely populated world. The modern notion of democracy has thus evolved to take account of such difficulties and it has become accepted practice for citizens to select a representative to represent their views to the common legislative body. For this proxy system to work and for democracy to function as intended, representatives must at all times pay heed to those whom they represent. If they do not then they cease to be "representative" and democracy becomes little more than government by a small minority. Nor is the advent of elections every 4 or 5 years in itself sufficient to ensure that representation occurs, since the link between the representer and the represented cannot be enforced by the blunt instrument of a periodic election which has a well-defined and limited outcome. It is for this reason that representation must ensure that it delivers the will of those it represents. That point is widely, if not commonly, understood.

The party system, which is developed in the interests of seeing business in a legislative assembly carried through efficiently, inevitably exerts control both on the selection of candidates who will represent the general population and also in the progress of their careers within the system. This raises the potential for an enduring conflict of interests between the party affiliation and the people. This is very much the situation Congress finds itself in today: the tension between the President and the people. However, where such a conflict exists, Congressmen and women should consider: it is not merely the future of the President and his administration that the issue; it is the essential relationship between the people and its representatives that is at stake here. That is why the principle of representation must override all other constraints if that relationship is to be preserved and democracy is to be allowed to flourish.

In the next few days enormous pressure will be brought to bear on Congress, arms will be twisted and promises made in an effort to ensure the President's will will be done. If the President cannot persuade the people that action should be taken in Syria, then Congress's duty is clear: it exists to represent the people governed; it acts as a check to absolute power, to any power concentrated in a single individual, or even a few individuals. When such power is acting contrary to the general will it becomes an abuse. It is the duty of Congress, as with any legislative body in a democracy, to act as a check on such power and not as an endorsement of it.

 

'The French Resolution', The Washington Post, 9 September 2013 by Mark John Maguire

The Russian initiative to bring this crisis to a resolution and avert military action is laudable; the French resolution is not. The wording of the resolution as it stands appears to be designed to make compliance difficult, if not impossible, by requiring the Syrian Government to accept responsibility for the attack on 21 August. That is a very deliberately obstructive and unhelpful starting position! It is moreover, essential that the wording of the resolution does not link non-compliance with the resolution, either explicitly or implicitly, with the use force - otherwise it may become the means by which the US and its allies can argue that any breach justifies a future use of force under the auspices of the UN.

 

 

Obama v Hitler: a shocking depiction and a shocking truth OPED NEWS, 18 October 2013 by Mark John Maguire

A doctored face of Obama in Indiana has depicted the President with  a Hitler mustache: the implications are clear and it has attracted howls of indignation in the media and amongst many Americans. 

But beyond the emotive intentions and responses, the question remains: is the comparison a fair one? Instinctively, emotively, most people recoil from the idea -- but on closer inspection it may be a fairer comparison than many seem to credit it with.

Obama is a dictator in all but the least essential respects; true he is limited to 8 years in office, but during that period his power has been extraordinary and has enabled him to exceed most democratic and constitutional boundaries and norms with surprisingly few constraints. Recently his much-publicised belief in American "exceptionalism" in pursuit of foreign-policy objectives has come dangerously close to 1930s National Socialist dogma. The waging of aggressive war throughout the Middle East is regarded by many legal authorities as a war crime under international law -- which he disregards with much of the arrogance and casual disdain that Hitler demonstrated throughout the 1930s. The holocaust of the Muslim world (how else will history regard it?) for which the US and its allies is responsible seems to bear many unhappy comparisons with the holocaust of the Jews under Hitler's authority. It is true that it is not overtly seeking the elimination of the Muslim peoples, but the deep prejudices against Islam, as well as the effects of the policies employed to "contain" it, make it a rival of the Jewish holocaust. The full extent of the horrors of the crusade against Islam may not be known for many years yet, but we know enough to understand the thrust and effect of it.

Obama's pursuit of political and conscientious dissent in his own country is startlingly similar to that of Hitler: he appears to be constitutionally unable to accept anything that asserts the rights of the individual over that of the State. That is a clear symptom of authoritarian government. He presides over the world's most notorious concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, where some men have been held without trial for over a decade; torture, assassination, secret prisons have all become the hallmarks of his presidency; even his drone wars are redolent of Hitler's V-Bomb programme in 1944-45. His representation of a faction in the US, whose aggressive and seemingly insatiable desire for US world dominance in terms of its ideals and fiscal and economic policies by means of military force, must surely rank Obama with Hitler (and possibly even Ghenghis Khan!). At home the increasingly paramilitary-style police forces and use of secret police with secret powers are as ruthless, brutal, and unaccountable to the public they serve as anything Nazi Germany produced -- and the NSA would make Hitler's Secret Police green with envy.

And what of his politics? How could they be characterised other than National Socialist? His blend of military nationalism with statism and the needs of the individual being subordinated to those of the State are the principle characteristics of National Socialist ideology -- in fact of all  fascist id eology -- and that seems to provide a very neat fit with Obama's. The principal jarring element is the anti- Semitic  characteristic of Nazism, but if "anti-Muslim" is substituted in its place, the comparison is astonishingly close. Of course, it could be argued that his tenure of office is limited, Hitler's w as not, and Congress appears to be able to constrain his activities to some extent; also that the sheer scale of death that Hitler caused -- possibly as many as 20 million deaths -- dwarfs Obama's, which is considerably less than a half a million. But these are hardly the things that defined Hitler and there are probably many more similarities than dissimilarities.

A doctored photograph of Hitler in Indiana may be shocking to many Americans, but the real concern should be that such a comparison can be made and that it can stand the test of scrutiny. That said, I'm sure the Indiana poster's intention was somewhat mischievous! 

ON LANGUAGE AND NATIONAL IDENTITY

March 29, 2013 at 9:30pm

MADONNA UJMADJURIDZE AND MARK MAGUIRE

MARK MAGUIRE: That's very interesting Madonna - especially to have the assessment of an outsider and one who clearly makes his assessment from the perspective of the Irish condition: as you may know Ireland has suffered greatly from the far larger and much more successful Anglo Saxon neighbour. In fact the 3 Celtic nations within the British Isles have all reacted differently to the assault on their identity by the sheer success of the Anglo Saxon race: living in Wales for a long time now, but having lived in Ireland and being of wholly Irish extraction has made me very alive to these different national personalities. As you may not know I was heavily involved in drafting the legislation which brought about the devolution of powers from Westminster to Wales and was thereafter part of a small team who established the National Assembly for Wales in 1999. It has always struck me that, possibly given their greater proximity to England ( and therefore their greater vulnerability to Anglo Saxon influence) the Welsh have sought refuge in their language as their sole remaining bastion of identity. Much of what passes for a Welsh culture is largely the result of an "invention of a tradition" originating in the 18thc - in fact my old tutor from Swansea University, Prys Morgan, the brother of Rodhri, the last First Minister of the Assembly, wrote a book called "The Invention of a Tradition" which addressed this peculiarity of trying to create a national identity. In Ireland (or Scotland) where the countries are more remote from Anglo intrusion, and the issue of national identity has never been challenged, language has never seemed to be of great importance: there appears to be a security in the traditions and other cultural determinants which have been sufficient to maintain national - albeit invisible - boundaries. All 3 Celtic nations have thus reacted quite differently to the challenge of the powerful neighbour - it may be that their relative positions will be secured, at least for the near future, by the general drift in Europe (I include Georgia and the Balkans and Baltic States in this) towards greater federalism: I cannot keep track of the fragmentation of Europe - it was all quite a simple map when I was growing up! Stamp collecting was very easy! I imagine Georgia - my knowledge of Georgia is shameful ( but much increased since our friendship!) - is in a more secure position as regards the preservation of its traditions and national identity: it appears to have a genuine secure adherence to its own language, history, geography and sense of individualism.

MADONNA UJMADJURIDZE: As always, I would value Your opinion at the highest regard, so Your thoughts and views on this would be appreciated. I'm interested in what you might call the invention of tradition. Many of the traditions which we think of as very ancient in their origins were not in fact sanctioned by long usage over the centuries, but were invented comparatively recently. An example of this process of invention - is the creation of Welsh and Scottish ''national culture''; the elaboration of British royal rituals in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This tradition may be deliberately created as was done in colonial Africa. Our countries don't need this, isn't it , Mark?! Thank You so much, Mark!

MARK MAGUIRE: Very true, Madonna - it seems to be a characteristic of human beings that along with a sense of belonging and a tribal instinct for those most similar to ourselves - and a natural antipathy towards and need to dominate others - a national identity based on a long-standing traditions appears to be an essential requirement! In newer countries - like the USA - there seems to be an adherence to and almost obsessive defence of comparatively new traditions and observances... I guess the more recent the tradition the more important they become in their observance...

MADONNA UJMADJURIDZE: Yes, yes indeed!

 

 

Mark John Maguire, artist - Article in Bay Life Magazine Nov 2015 

Flying the French Flag and other Mischiefs

Article by Mark John Maguire

Published in OPED News, 15 November 2015 

 

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Since the attacks in Paris on Friday evening, social media has become awash with images of Eifel Towers contorted to CND symbols; to rainbow teardrops in the form of Tricolors and too many more memes expressing sentiments which exhort us to pray, think of, or empathize with Paris.

Some of it is well-meaning in intention; most is sentimental, inadvertently comical; all of it is, ironically - and quite grossly - misplaced. Perhaps people who rely upon a media geared to the agendas of governments may be forgiven that in such an eclectic outpouring of sentiment on behalf of the 129 lives lost in Paris they ignore the deaths of hundreds of innocents who die as a result of Western actions in the Middle East and North Africa--perhaps.

But one wonders why the lives of almost 300 Russians in the skies above Egypt a couple of weeks ago did not seem worthy of such a response? Why the internet did not become engulfed with Russian flags or people suddenly become Muscovite in empathy - are the lives of 300 Russians worth less? And what of those who in their hundreds die each day across much of the Middle East and North Africa? Have their lives become so devalued as a human commodity that they are scarcely regarded at all? It is an inescapable conclusion which few seem able to contemplate. To these other victims it seems rather insulting to display the French flag - a symbol of the French State - which has continued its bombing campaign against the nebulous ISIS today. Surely such support should be considered at best misplaced; at worst a denial of the principle of equal regard for human life?

Of course, government and media wish to focus our attention on the events in Paris: the military campaigns and interventions in the Middle East and North Africa which form the main plank of US and European foreign policy have ground to a halt amidst public skepticism and distrust of government motives - and with good reason, because they have been marked by failure and have exposed their authors as untruthful, self-regarding manipulators.

The focus is clearly disproportionate and insulting to those who have died in so many countries, but it also has a far more dangerous effect: it mobilizes the greatest of tools a government may call upon: a mob mentality which reduces humanity to the thinking capacity of a flock of mad sheep. More importantly, it polarizes and strengthens public opinion in favor of military intervention. Thus governments, who last week could muster no public backing for further military adventures in the Arab world, can feel confident today that public opinion favors them. Of course, it should not be so, because violence always begets violence and we can be certain of one thing only: that every military action has its equal and opposite terrorist reaction: it is the First Law of Aggression - but public opinion is as illogical and intemperate as a wayward child and does not baulk at actions which may prove counter-productive in the long term.

The sickening scenes in Paris disgust and appall all normal people - 129 people dead in one of Europe's great cities is shocking by any measure. Once again, innocent people suffer as a result of their government's aggressive foreign policy and from the vicious premeditated backlash of those they would subdue.

However, without diminishing the impact of this sad event, we should not lose sight of the fact that in countries across the Middle East and North Africa, the death tally in the past 14 years runs to multiple millions of innocent people; that every day in Syria (whose death toll now surmounts 250,000 people) hundreds of innocent people die and many more are maimed or injured.

Nor should we forget that France is one of 11 countries this year to have engaged in bombing attacks on various parties in the region. We are right to condemn the attacks in Paris; but we should equally condemn the attacks across the Middle East and North Africa which the US and many European countries (including France) have pursued in furtherance of geo-economic aims. There can be few winners in this kind of war, but there will be many losers - and the greatest of all losers will be those who simply wish to live their lives in peace and for whom the presence of oil and gas pipelines/resources in their territory must be regarded as the greatest calamity.

Almost as sickening as the unthinking mob with its faux platitudes is the sight of Obama and Hollande (and any other leader who can scramble on to the bandwagon of rehearsed outrage) spouting interminable nonsense from their pulpits of self-aggrandizement - "we stand together", "it is an attack on us all" "we will not be intimidated". No we don't, no it isn't and of course ordinary people are intimidated by wanton violence, whomsoever its authors may be.

Doubtless these attacks in Paris will result in a redoubling of efforts to attack Syria/ISIS/Al Qaeda/Taliban/Saddam/Ghaddafi et al, ostensibly with the objective of "protecting our freedoms" but with the real intention of subduing opponents to secure energy pipeline networks and consolidate the geometry of resource routes in the region. We can be equally certain that governments in Europe and the US will use the attacks to impose greater curbs on the freedom and liberties of their own citizens.

It is a black time for the people of Paris indeed; but it is a blacker time for anyone in Europe or the US who would restrain government and who prizes individual liberty.

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