Thursday, April 26, 2012

George Galloway has his faults - but compared to Blair, Biden, Bush, Cameron or Clinton he's a model of honesty and decency

Many of by-election winner George Galloway's political enemies condemn him for flattering Saddam in 1994 and saying Assad was a reformer in 2005. Like most people (most definitely including me) he has plenty of faults. He can be a bit over the top, seem arrogant, exaggerate sometimes, make mistakes, be intolerant of those who disagree with him and sometimes (e.g on Tibet) I completely disagree with him.

He also sometimes talks as though anyone who is an enemy of the US government and it's allies must basically be in the right or admirable (though not nearly as often as some of his critics suggest). Those faults pale in comparison with some of his political enemies' statements and actions and duplicity though, but his political enemies don't get nearly the same amount of condemnation that most of the media have for Galloway.

Tony Blair called President Mubarak of Egypt "immensely courageous and a force for good" even after Mubarak had protesters killed by police (1). US Vice President Joe Biden meanwhile claimed Mubarak was "not a dictator" on the grounds that he was an ally of the US and no ally of the US could possibly be a bad man (2). US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's initial view of Mubarak's killing of protesters was that "the Egyptian government is stable and looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people" (3).

To be fair some Republicans were outraged by these statements - they wanted the US government to be even more supportive of Mubarak (4). The Obama administration did eventually call for Mubarak to step down - in favour of his vice President and chief torturer Omar Suleiman (5).

I must have missed Times columnist and Tony Blair fan David Aaronovitch's ringing condemnations of Blair, Biden and Clinton for this pandering to murdering dictators.

Aaronovitch, in one of his Times columns, claims Galloway praised Assad as a reformer in April 2011 during the Arab Spring uprisings (6). The only reports from any mainstream source which I can find of Galloway praising Assad as a reformer are from 2005 and 2006, when everyone thought Bashar Al Assad might turn out to be a reformer (at least compared to his father) (7). US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton still said Assad was considered a reformer on 27th March 2011, two days after around 23 protesters were reported shot dead in a single protest in Syria (8) - (9). Again, I must have missed Aaronovitch's condemnation of Hillary Clinton for this - I did see him condemn Galloway for saying something similar though.

(Aaronovitch's article includes the line "Mr Galloway would not have stood in Bradford West had it not contained a very substantial Muslim population." which sounds a lot like the kind of prejudice against Muslims that was common against Jews before the Holocaust was widely known about after World War Two)

Galloway had written a blog post in August 2011 condemning Assad's forces' actions as terrorism and those of a police state and saying there was a "genuine popular uprising" in Syria, while also pointing to a minority among the anti-Assad movement of armed sectarian Sunni extremists who are being backed by various foreign powers for their own ends - a much more balanced analysis of what's going on there than Aaronovitch's ridiculously one sided one (10).

This was seven months before Aaronovitch's column, but Aaronovitch made no mention of it.

(Again, I don't disagree with Aaronovitch on everything. Sometimes he's right, but on most things to do with the Middle East, Muslims, Tony Blair or Iraq, Aaronovitch has either fallen for propaganda or else is one of the propagandists - which I don't know)

What's much worse than their statements of support for dictatorships is that the Obama administration (like the Bush administration before it) and the Coalition government, like 'New Labour' before it, have not only praised but also armed many dictatorships as they're committing massacres - just like all their predecessors.

When Saddam was actually committing genocide against Iraqi Kurds in the 1980s (during the Iran-Iraq war) the British and US and French and Russian and Chinese governments were arming and funding him against the Iranians under Ayatollah Khomeini. Funding from the US government continued after the gassing of Halabja in 1988 and arms sales and "dual-use" exports to Iraq continued to be quietly approved by the American and British governments until 1990 (see the blog post on this link and sources 5 to 10 on it as well as this document and this one from the US National Security Archive on sales of US helicopters and heavy trucks to Saddam).

While Galloway signed eight parliamentary motions condemning and calling for an end to US and British support for Saddam between the gassing of Halabja and 1990, Tony Blair MP refused to sign any of them (11).

Similarly today the US government has continued it's $1.3 billion a year military aid funding to Egypt (plus approving arms sales ) under it's military regime, just as it did under Mubarak, despite the fact that Amnesty International found Mubarak was having people tortured and killed ; and that they have since repeatedly reported that the military regime that replaced him is as bad or worse than Mubarak was . The decision seems to have been that heavily subsidised arms industry jobs in America were worth more than peoples' lives or democracy in Egypt (12) - (14).

The US and British governments have also continued arms and supposedly "non-lethal" tear gas sales ( with tear gas having killed dozens of people when used in high concentrations in Bahrain already) and military training to the forces of the dictators of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain (calling them 'monarchies' is supposed to make their torture and murder and dictatorship more legitimate somehow) as their forces torture and kill protesters (15) - (19).

Tony Blair, who claimed he sent British troops into Iraq to free Iraqis from a brutal dictator (before going on to involve them in US led war crimes and torture) ; accepted money from a South Korean oil firm looking for contracts in Iraq - and has since become a paid public relations consultant for the brutal dictator of Kazakhstan who has striking oil workers and protesters gunned down by security forces with machine guns (20) - (22).

So which is worse? Flattering one dictator once and saying another might be a reformer when most other people also thought that was a possibility? ; or arming and funding dictatorships as they torture, kill and even commit genocide?

I don't agree Galloway on everything - for instance his claim that Tibet has always been part of China sounds to me a lot like the argument made by extreme Israeli hardliners that the West Bank has always been part of Israel on the basis of some 4,000 year old biblical Kingdom of Israel.

However, despite all his faults, compared to most of his political enemies and rivals George Galloway is a fairly honest and straightforward man. Compared to snake oil salesmen like Tony Blair and David Cameron he's almost a saint.

(1) = 02 Feb 2011 'Tony Blair: Mubarak is 'immensely courageous and a force for good'',

(2) = ABC News 27 Jan 2011 'VP Biden Calls Egyptian President Mubarak an “Ally” – and Would Not Call Him a Dictator',

(3) = Reuters 25 Jan 2012 'US urges restraint in Egypt, says government stable',

(4) = ABC News 02 Feb 2011 'Republican Presidential Hopefuls Critique Obama on Egypt',

(5) = Observer / 06 Feb 2011 ' Egypt protests: Hosni Mubarak's power fades as US backs his deputy',

(6) = Times 31 March 2012 'So why did he choose to stand in Bradford?' by David Aaronovitch

(7) = BBC News 19 Nov 2005 'Galloway praises Syrian president ',

(8) = Washington Post blog 04 April 2011 'Hillary Clinton’s uncredible statement on Syria' ,

(9) = Haaretz 25 March 2011 'At least 23 said killed as protesters in Syria clash with security forces',

(10) = Vote George Galloway blog 15 Aug 2011 'George Galloway on Syria',

(11) = Guardian 18 March 2003 , 'Diary' ,

(12) = NYT 23 Mar 2012 'Once Imperiled, U.S. Aid to Egypt Is Restored',

(13) = Amnesty International 22 Nov 2011 'Egypt: Military rulers have 'crushed' hopes of 25 January protesters',

(14) = Amnesty 22 Feb 2012 'Egypt: Recent security force policing 'reminiscent of Mubarak' era',

(15) = Independent On Sunday 15 Jan 2012 'Britain accused of hypocrisy over Arab arms sales' ,

(16) = Amnesty International USA blog 30 Jan 2012 'U.S. Arms Sales to Bahrain: 4 Questions for the Obama Administration',

(17) = Physicians for Human Rights 'Tear-Gas Related Deaths in Bahrain : March 2011 - March 2012',

(18) = Observer 28 May 2011 'UK training Saudi forces used to crush Arab spring' ,

(19) = Amnesty International 17 Apr 2012 'Bahrain: Reforms risk appearing hollow as violations continue',
; 'But... in practice, the security forces remain largely unaffected by these institutional forces continue to face protesters with unnecessary and excessive force - particularly tear gas, which has resulted in several deaths in recent months. At least 60 people have now been killed in connection with protests since February the same time as police reforms are being introduced with much fanfare, detainees are facing torture'

(20) = Guardian 17 Mar 2010 'Tony Blair got cash for deal with South Korean oil firm',

(21) = Independent 31 Oct 2011 'The two faces of Tony Blair',

(22) = 16 Feb 2011 'Clashes between police and sacked oil workers in Kazakhstan leave 10 dead',

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Abu Qatada and Abu Hamza should be tried here for the crimes they're suspected of - we shouldn't deport even our worst enemies to be tortured

I completely agree that Abu Qatada and Abu Hamza's views are extreme and morally wrong - and that if they have encouraged people to carry out terrorist attacks targeting civilians or helped fund or organise them they should be charged, tried and jailed. None of that can justify deporting them to countries where they will most likely be tortured and convicted based on statements made by other people under torture though.

"Assurances" from the Jordanian government (basically a dictatorship under the King of Jordan) that they will not do either of these things to particular prisoners extradited to them from European countries including the UK have been proven worthless. This has been established by investigations by Human Rights Watch and by Amnesty International (1) - (2). They've also found that torture in Jordanian prisons is routine and brutal right up to present (3) - (4). That makes Home Secretary Theresa May making a great show of seeking of "assurances" on Qatada just a pantomime done for the sake of appearances.

The right wing media circus in the US could to lead to Hamza, if he is deported to America, being sent to Guantanamo in Cuba for torture, or the US airbase at Bagram in Afghanistan, or secret US prisons in Afghanistan, where prisoners are tortured and tried by 'military tribunal' kangaroo courts (5) - (10).

If Hamza and Qatada have encouraged, funded or helped organise terrorist attacks on civilians, as they are alleged to have done while in the UK, they should be given fair trials here, with a jury. If they're found guilty they can them be jailed for their crimes.

There are excuses given by the Home Office about the supposed difficulties of getting a conviction in court, but British Historian Professor Mark Curtis in his book 'Secret Affairs' (on British government dealings with radical Islamists) and investigative journalist Richard Norton-Taylor say the real reason this option has not being taken is that British intelligence and the Metropolitan Police's Special Branch had many mutually beneficial dealings with Hamza and Qatada throughout the 1990s which would be likely to come up during a court case here and embarrass them, the British government and possibly senior members of both main UK parties (11) - (12).

Another likely reason that neither have been charged and brought to trial here is that the Conservative party are keen to create an easily avoidable dispute with the European Court of Human Rights as part of their propaganda against the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act. Neither prevents us trying or jailing either of these men. Neither have anything to do with the EU - they existed long before the EU, were always separate from it and the European Community and are based on the UN Declaration of Human Rights which was written in order to ensure that we never slipped back into the horrors of the Holocaust and the Second World War.

The right wing of the Conservative party also have an irrational hatred of anything European or foreign which is so extreme that they might as well be calling for the abolition of foreign countries and foreigners.

Those who promote extreme interpretations of Islam often call those who disagree with them "hypocrites". We are more likely to deny them more recruits by showing their claims false by upholding the principles we say we stand for, than by ignoring them when they become inconvenient and so seeming to prove the extremists right.

If we throw away our principles of opposing torture, demanding fair trials and holding people being innocent until proven guilty, the moment they apply to someone whose views the majority of us dislike, then we will really have allowed our enemies to destroy our way of life in a way that no terrorist attack could manage to.


(1) = Human Rights Watch 06 Oct 2011 'Diplomatic Assurances: Empty Promises Enabling Torture',

(2) = Amnesty International 12 April 2010 'Europe must halt unreliable 'diplomatic assurances' that risk torture',

(3) = Human Rights Watch 08 Oct 2008 'Jordan: Torture in Prisons Routine and Widespread - Reforms Fail to Tackle Abuse, Impunity Persists',

(4) = Human Rights Watch World Report 2012 : Jordan , ; 'Perpetrators of torture enjoy near-total impunity. The redress process begins with a deficient complaint mechanism, continues with lackluster investigations and prosecutions, and ends in police court, where two of three judges are police-appointed police officers. '

(5) = Scotsman 27 May 2004,'Soldier left brain damaged after playing unruly prisoner at Guantánamo',

(6) = Independent 14 Oct 2006 - ‘Guantanamo guards 'admitted abusing inmates',

(7) = Human Rights Watch 01 Jun 2010 'The Bagram Detainee Review Boards: Better, But Still Falling Short' ,

(8) = CBS News 13 Nov 2011 'Bagram: The other Guantanamo?' ,

(9) = BBC News 15 Apr 2010 'Afghans 'abused at secret prison' at Bagram airbase',

(10) = BBC News 11 May 2010 'Red Cross confirms 'second jail' at Bagram, Afghanistan',

(11) = Comment Is Free 14 Feb 2012 'Why is Abu Qatada not on trial?' ,

(12) = Mark Curtis (2010) 'Secret Affairs : Britain's collusion with radical Islam' Serpent's Tail/Profile Books, London, 2010 , chapter 16 (pages 265 - 276 of paperback edition)

Monday, April 02, 2012

Why Galloway is right on Afghanistan and the three main parties’ leaders are wrong

The BBC and Channel 4 News seemed to have exactly the same questions for George Galloway after his victory in the Bradford West by election, including whether he would condemn attacks on British troops by Afghan insurgents.

Galloway’s response was that since British troops are occupying Afghanistan they are bound to be targeted by Afghans, just as if foreign forces were occupying Britain, some British people would be attacking them.

This view is backed up by US intelligence analysis which found that over 90% of the people NATO forces are fighting in Afghanistan are neither Taliban nor even religiously motivated, but fighting for control of territory or mining or smuggling routes, or angry at foreign forces occupying their country or valley. (1)

A study by the US Bureau of Economic Research also found that the number of insurgent attacks on NATO forces is directly related to the number of Afghan civilians killed by NATO forces - with many insurgents having joined the insurgents after civilians in their village were killed (2)

So condemning the attacks on British troops makes no difference whatsoever - it's an empty gesture. Bringing them home might actually save some of their lives though.

This BBC and Channel 4 both seem to believe that this view is beyond the pale because it’s a different one from the leaders of the three main UK political parties, but in fact it’s entirely rational and based on the facts as established by even US intelligence and the US government.

A few weeks before that David Cameron was with President Obama claiming that the war in Afghanistan is about preventing another September 11th and protecting people back in Britain and the US from terrorism (3).

This ignores the fact that the September 11th attackers trained in Germany and the US, not in Afghanistan – and that at no point in a ten year long war have NATO or the Karzai government’s forces controlled all of the territory of Afghanistan. There will always be areas in the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan where terrorist groups could train. So there is no reason to think that the war in Afghanistan could ever reduce the terrorist threat and plenty of reason to think it will increase it by having non-Muslim forces ending up killing Muslims, including civilians, in a predominantly Muslim country.

Since 90% of the people NATO are fighting in Afghanistan aren’t Taliban either, the war can’t be mainly about stopping the Taliban either. The fact that our governments have no problem with continuing to arm and fund dictatorships or military regimes in Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi and Egypt as they kill and torture unarmed protesters shows how much they really care about promoting democracy or human rights.

Since 90% of the people NATO are fighting in Afghanistan aren’t Taliban either, the war can’t be mainly about stopping the Taliban either. The fact that our governments have no problem with continuing to arm and fund dictatorships or military regimes in Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi and Egypt as they kill and torture unarmed protesters shows how much they really care about promoting democracy or human rights.

This does not make all the sacrifices of their lives by British troops in Afghanistan meaningless. They gave up their lives believing they were stopping Afghanistan falling back under the rule of the Taliban – and maybe they did. Certainly far more girls have been able to go to school in Afghanistan in areas controlled by NATO and the Karzai government than could under the Taliban – and there have also been some horrific murders of schoolgirls by the Taliban – but many of our allies in Afghanistan are as brutal or as fundamentalist as the Taliban are – and most of the people our forces are fighting are not Taliban at all.

(1) = Boston Globe 09 Oct 2009 ‘Taliban not main Afghan enemy’,

(2) = BBC News 24 Jul 2010 ‘US military curbs 'reduce' Afghan attacks in some areas’,

(3) = Independent 15 Mar 2012 ‘David Cameron pays 9/11 tribute at Ground Zero ’,