Monday, February 28, 2011

Libya : Most Libyans don't want any foreign military intervention - and that includes the vast majority of Gaddafi's opponents

Something those people calling for military intervention in Libya (and condemning the UN and Obama for not ordering it) should hear, is that even most of Gaddafi's opponents in Libya don't want any foreign military intervention in their country - and even many exiles are against it

For instance an NPR reporter in Bengazhi found

NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro said …Protesters also made clear that they do not welcome foreign intervention in Libya…….“They don't want to be rescued, they don't want any military intervention,” Garcia-Navarro reported from Benghazi. “They have done this themselves, they say, and they will get rid of Moammar Gadhafi finally themselves, as well.” (1)

Mahmoud Al Nakou, a Libyan exile in London, wrote

Despite the heavy sacrifice they are offering every day, Libyans utterly reject any foreign intervention, even for their defence and protection. From the outset, Gaddafi warned his overthrow would make Libya the same horrific, chaotic arena that Iraq and Afghanistan are today. But the people are adamant that this revolution is theirs alone. (2)

Al Jazeera reports that

Opposition protesters in eastern Libya have formed a national council, pledging to help free areas of the country still under Muammar Gaddafi's rule. Hafiz Ghoga, spokesman for the new National Libyan Council that was launched in the city of Benghazi on Sunday, said …..

…“We will help liberate other Libyan cities, in particular Tripoli through our national army, our armed forces, of which part have announced their support for the people," Ghoga said.

Ghoga said the newly formed council was not contacting foreign governments and did not want them to intervene.

His comments came after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington was "reaching out" to opposition groups in the east.and was prepared to offer "any kind of assistance" to Libyans seeking to overthrow the regime. (3)

No doubt opinion is divided and there will be a minority in favour of it, but it’s clear the vast majority of Gaddafi’s opponents don’t want any foreign militaries in their country and after the bloodbaths and systematic torture in Afghanistan and Iraq and Western governments’ ulterior motive in Libya – disputes with Gaddafi over oil profits, who could blame them?

Even resigned Libyan Justice Minister Abdel Jalil (another member of the ‘National Council’ of the revolution), who seems to be the Libyan version of Curveball, a defector who tells Western governments whatever lies they want to hear to get their favour, said he was against foreign military intervention in a TV interview with Al Jazeera.

UPDATE: Mustafa Abdel Jalil has replied to questions on a no fly zone and foreign military intervention by saying “What we want is an air embargo to stop Gaddafi bringing in mercenaries.” but that “Any intervention will be confronted with more force than we are using against Gaddafi.” , which sounds like the Council do want a no-fly zone but don't want foreign troops on the ground, assuming Jalil speaks for the whole Council(4).

UPDATE 5th March : Since the 1st of March some rebels in Benghazi have been calling for both a no-fly zone and air-strikes against Gaddafi's forces, but only if this is a UN authorised operation (5). It seems unlikely the Russian or Chinese governments will approve either on the UN Security Council unless Gaddafi starts using his air-force against civilians (as previous reports said he was). The Libyan airforce has switched to targeting arms and ammunition dumps to stop them falling into rebel hands - although there are also reports of water pipelines to rebel held cities being targeted, which - if they succeeded in hitting and cutting them (which they don't seem to have so far) could kill a lot of civilians and rebels through shortages of clean water (as they have in Iraq from 1991 to present). The Iraqi no-fly zones were never UN authorised, though the Bosnian no fly zone was.(6) - (8)

There is no reason why humanitarian flights of food, water, aid and to help transport migrant workers trapped on the Libyan/Egyptian and Libyan/Tunisian borders home should not be increased though, with military escorts if necessary. No-one could deny the need for these flights and many lives are already being saved by relatively small scale humanitarian flights by the British government and others (9)

(1) = NPR (US National Public Radio) 27 Feb 2011 ‘Libyan Rebels Close In On Tripoli’,

(2) = 27 Feb 2011 ‘Libya: neither tribal nor Islamist’ by Mahmoud Al Nakou,

(3) = Al Jazeera 27 Feb 2011 ‘Libya opposition launches council’,

(4) = Sky News 28 Feb 2011 'Libya: Rebels 'May Use Force To Take Tripoli'',

(5) = Washington Post 05 Mar 2011 'As Gaddafi holds on, some Libyans seek foreign intervention',

(6) = BBC 01 Mar 2011 'Libya ammunition dump avoids air attack'

(7) = CNN News Stream transcript 03 Mar 2011 'Fight for Libya Heating Up; Crimes Against Humanity in Libya; Mubarak Corruption Allegations',

(8) = NYT 28 Feb 2011 'Qaddafi’s Forces Hit Back at Rebels',

(9) = 02 Mar 2011 'Libya: Britain sends planes to help with mass airlift of refugees',

Friday, February 25, 2011

Libya : Why military intervention by the US, Egypt or Tunisia would cost more lives than it would save and boost support for Gaddafi

My last two posts were on why Libyan defectors' claims about Gaddafi and Lockerbie may be lies like Iraqi defectors' claims on WMD; and on western governments' ulterior motive in Iraq, Libya, Iran and Venezuela - oil profits.

This post looks at the calls for military intervention by the US, Egypt or Tunisia - and suggestions for a 'no fly zone' to stop Gaddafi bombing rebels and whether these would be likely to save lives or cost them

Given the methods used by Coalition forces in Iraq – systematic torture and targeting civilians for instance – and the “El Salvador option” death squads and torturers they helped train for the new government - military intervention by the US and it’s allies would not be likely to result in any lives saved. Despite much propaganda most Iraqis were not better off as a result of the 2003 invasion and far more lives were lost than saved (1) – (3).

There are suggestions (for instance from Ian Birrel, a Guardian columnist and former speech writer to David Cameron)  that the Tunisian or Egyptian military could intervene to overthrow Gaddafi with UN Security Council approval, but these countries’ militaries don’t even have a good record on how they treat their own people and are both still run by dictatorships themselves (despite David Cameron’s attempts to portray any country he’s still promoting arms sales to as democracy, Egypt and Kuwait remain dictatorships) (4).

The Egyptian military have been involved in have recently been involved in the torture of opponents of the dictatorship according to Amnesty International (see 'Egyptian military urged to halt torture of detainees' Amnesty 17th February 2011). It doesn’t seem likely that either dictatorship would particularly want to promote democracy in the Arab world either.

An example of this kind of US and European government backed “humanitarian intervention” by proxy took place between 2006 and January 2009 in Somalia, when the US government backed an Ethiopian invasion of Somalia to overthrow the Islamic Courts Union which had just won a civil war with non Islamic fundamentalist,, but extremely brutal, warlords’ militias (5) – (6).

This resulted in Ethiopian army units raping and torturing Somalian villagers and slitting villagers’ throats as if they were goats according to witnesses who spoke to Amnesty International. The UN reported that there was a humanitarian crisis worse than in Darfur during the Sudanese genocide in both Somalia and among the 4.5 million inhabitants and refugees in the Ogaden region disputed between it and Ethiopia , many of whose people are Somali rebels who oppose Ethiopian rule. This was largely due to Ethiopian forces and their US backed Somalian warlord allies preventing food getting to areas held by their enemies and firing indiscriminately on entire towns and villages. Survivors said Ethiopian forces even killed children and a million refugees were left in Somalia and it’s neighbours. The Ethiopians eventually gave up due to heavy casualties and withdrew, just like the US in Iraq. All the killing and chaos did nothing to prevent Al Qa’ida operating in Somalia. As in Iraq, if anything the chaos made it easier for it to do so (5) – (12).

Once again oil and gas profits and control of a major export route (via the Gulf of Yemen or ‘Gulf of Aden’ between Somalia and Yemen – where Western oil companies are already operating) was probably a key motive for US involvement in Somalia too. Several oil companies - Agip of Italy , BP Amoco , and US company Conoco - have exploration and drilling rights for oil and gas which they negotiated with the murderous US-backed dictator Siad Barre before his overthrow in 1991 by his chief of police Mohammed Aidid. Those contracts remain on hold due to civil war. The bloody US-led Operation 'Restore Hope' in 1993 saw the killing of many UN peacekeepers and hundreds of Somali civilians - but failed to resolve the civil war in favour of America's protege - Barre's former interior minister Abdikassim Hassan (13) – (14).

Sending NATO fighter jets to enforce a no-fly zone in Libya has been suggested by President Sarkozy of France and by former Labour MP and Minister David Owen, to stop Gaddafi using planes on his own people. This did save some Kurdish lives from Saddam's helicopters in Iraq, but soon began to involve constant bombing by the USAF and RAF, killing Iraqi civilians along with military – and ramped up massively during ‘Operation Desert Fox’ under Clinton (which was the cause of Saddam  refusing to re-admit UN weapons inspectors until 2002, not a response to it – and they left, on US government directions, he didn’t expel them); and in the months before the March 2003 invasion under Bush (15) – (18).

Gaddafi would also most likely gain support among Libyans from any foreign military intervention in the country, which is why, in his televised speech, he asked them “Do you want America to occupy you, like Afghanistan and Iraq?” (19)

Many Iraqis who hated Saddam would fight foreign invaders or occupiers. The same would happen in Libya. Even a no-fly zone would have to be enforced by shooting down Libyan jets - and this and foreign fighter jets over Libyan skies would persuade many Libyans an invasion or occupation like Iraq was coming. This doesn't rule out a no-fly zone if Gaddafi begins having civilians bombed on a large scale, but has to be taken into account.

It’s better to let Gaddafi’s regime fall as more and more Libyans (including army units and tribal leaders with their armed followers) turn against him – and in future stop selling arms to dictatorships before the fact that they use them to kill their people in large numbers becomes headline news, instead of afterwards (20) – (21).

(1) = BBC News 23 Apr 2004 ‘Picture emerges of Falluja siege’,

(2) = Guardian 17 Apr 2004 ‘'Getting aid past US snipers is impossible'’,

(3) = Also see the links below and numbered sources listed for them, and and

(4) = 23 Feb 2011 ‘On Libya we can't let ourselves be scarred by Iraq’

(5) = USA Today 26 Dec 2006 ‘U.S. backs Ethiopian attacks in Somalia’

(6) = 23 Feb 2011 ‘On Libya we can't let ourselves be scarred by Iraq’

(7) = Napoleon A. Bamfo (2010) ‘Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia in 2006: Motives and lessons learned’, African Journal of Political Science and International Relations vol 4(2), Feb 2010, pages 55 -65,

(8) = Independent 22 Nov 2007, 'Somalia war-refugee crisis surpasses Darfur in its horror',

(9) = Independent 03 Dec 2007 'Humanitarian crisis' facing Ethiopia, says UN',

(10) = Independent 09 Feb 2008, 'Somalia: The World's forgotten catastrophe',

(11) = Amnesty International 06 May 2008 ‘Routine killings of civilians in Somalia’,

(12) = See (5) above

(13) = Los Angeles Times 18 Jan 1993 'The oil factor in Somalia', or  LATimes archive link

(14) = US Energy Information Administration ‘Yemen – Background’,

(15) = New York Times 18 Aug 1999 ‘With Little Notice, U.S. Planes Have Been Striking Iraq All Year’,

(16) = New Statesman 17 Aug 2000 ‘Labour claims its actions are lawful while it bombs Iraq, starves its people and sells arms to corrupt states’,

(17) = Guardian 19 Feb 2001 ‘Raid shows Bush-Blair bond on Iraq’,

(18) = Counterpunch 04 Dec 2002 ‘No-Fly Zones Over Iraq : Washington's Undeclared War on "Saddam's Victiims"’,

(19) = Channel 4 News 22 Feb 2011 ‘Gaddafi – I am not going to leave this land’,

(20) = Reuters 20 Feb 2011 ‘Libyan unit "defects" as more Arab protests simmer’,

(21) = Al Jazeera 21 Feb 2011 ‘Libya revolt spreads to Tripoli’,

Libya : Why oil profits are the common factor behind calls for military intervention in Iraq, Libya and Venezuela

There’s a second similarity between current calls for military intervention in Libya and the Iraq war, apart from false claims made by defectors to try to encourage a US invasion – a government the US and British governments want rid of because it’s getting in the way of maximising their firms’ oil profits.

After the 1991 war Saddam stopped giving oil contracts to British or American oil companies, switching to giving them to the French, Russians and Chinese instead – which is why the first two countries supported war on Iraq while the last three opposed it (1).

At the same time as condemning the brutal, murdering, torturing dictator of Iraq (who they’d supported, funded and armed even after the gassing of Halabja) the US and British governments kept backing murdering torturing dictators from the Saudi monarchy to Mubarak in Egypt and Karimov in Uzbekistan, strongly suggesting the issue was oil and not democracy, torture or Saddam killing his own people (especially as they continued killing and torturing many of them even after he was overthrown).

The US Energy Information Agency says Libya has Africa’s largest proven oil reserves and that “most analysts agree that the country is still under-explored” - i.e there's a lot more to be discovered. BP's annual statistical energy review 2010 found Libya has proven reserves of 44 billion barrels of oil - the 10th largest in the world.

Western governments were reconciled with Gaddafi’s government and approving arms sales to it since he agreed to pay reparations to the families of those people killed in the Lockerbie bombing and began giving them oil contracts again from 2004 (with US firms going back five years before BP) (2).

However Gaddafi has been less generous on the share of the profits than they’d hoped, having demanded an increasing share of those profits and even making noises about possible nationalisation, leaving American oil firms worried he might kick them out altogether (3) – (4).

Similar actions by Mohammed Mossadeq, democratically elected President of Iran, in 1953, resulted in the British and American governments sending CIA and MI6 agents to organise a military coup which overthrew him and installed the Shah’s dictatorship (5) – (7).

When Hugo Chavez was elected President of Venezuela and set out plans to make US and other foreign oil firms operating in the country pay higher shares of profits, the US government backed a coup attempt against him too, in 2002, but it failed (8) – (10).

So those actions by Gaddafi are much more likely to be the reason the US and British and other European governments want rid of him than him ordering his forces to kill his own people.

This would also explain why Hague and Clinton find Gaddafi’s actions “horrifying” and want a UN resolution against him, while they were merely “deeply concerned” about Mubarak having hundreds of his own people killed – and ditto for the monarch of Bahrain ordering democracy protesters shot - and having the mourners at their funerals shot too. Clinton even saidWe call on restraint from the government, (and) to keep its commitment to hold accountable those who have utilized excessive force” as though the monarch of Bahrain had no responsibility for it. The killings in Bahrain haven’t stopped any more than they have in Libya (11) – (17). (Hague seems to dutifully parrot whatever Clinton says almost word for word)

(1) = Washington Post 15 Sep 2002, 'In Iraqi War Scenario, Oil Is Key Issue : U.S. Drillers Eye Huge Petroleum Pool', ; ‘A U.S.-led ouster of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could open a bonanza for American oil companies long banished from Iraq, scuttling oil deals between Baghdad and Russia, France and other countries, and reshuffling world petroleum markets, according to industry officials and leaders of the Iraqi opposition...."It's pretty straightforward," said former CIA director R. James Woolsey, who has been one of the leading advocates of forcing Hussein from power. "France and Russia have oil companies and interests in Iraq. They should be told that if they are of assistance in moving Iraq toward decent government, we'll do the best we can to ensure that the new government and American companies work closely with them." But he added: "If they throw in their lot with Saddam, it will be difficult to the point of impossible to persuade the new Iraqi government to work with them.’

(2) = CNN Fortune 28 Jun 2004 ‘Libya's Black Gold Rush With sanctions lifted, Big Oil is lining up to do business with Qaddafi’,

(3) = CNBC 03 Mar 2009 ‘Libya Wants Greater Share of Its Oil Revenue’,

(4) = Forbes Magazine 01 Jan 2009 ‘Is Libya Going To Boot U.S. Oil Companies?’,

(5) = Pollack, Kenneth M.(2004), ‘The Persian Puzzle', Random House, New York, 2005 paperback edition - pages 27-140

(6) = Curtis, Mark (1995), ‘The Ambiguities of Power : British Foreign Policy since 1945', Zed Books, London & New York, 1995 paperback edition - pages 87-96

(7) = Takeyh, Ray (2006), ‘Hidden Iran', Times Books , New York, 2006 - pages 83-96

(8) = Observer 21 April 2002 ‘Venezuela coup linked to Bush team’,

(9) = BBC News 11 Oct 2004 ‘Venezuela raises oil drilling tax’,

(10) = Gott, Richard (2005) , ‘Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution’, Verso, London & New York, 2005

(11) = BBC News 28 Jan 2011 ‘Hillary Clinton 'deeply concerned' about events in Egypt’,

(12) = DipNote US Department of State Official blog 21 Feb 2011 ‘Secretary Clinton: “Libya Has a Responsibility To Respect the Universal Rights of the People”,

(13) = BBC News 19 Feb 2011 ‘Hague condemns violence in Libya, Bahrain and Yemen’,

(14) = Human Rights Watch 8 Feb 2011 ‘Egypt: Documented Death Toll From Protests Tops 300’,

(15) = LA Times 19 Feb 2011 ‘BAHRAIN: Protesters shot as government seeks to smother protests [Video]’,

(16) = BBC News 15 Feb 2011 ‘Bahrain man 'shot dead' at protester's funeral’,

(17) = MSNBC ‘Stunned U.S. urges Bahrain to show 'restraint' after bloody crackdown’, ; ‘Clinton said she expressed her "deep concern" in a telephone call with Bahrain's Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa and emphasized that violence should not occur on Friday, when many in Bahrain may attend funerals of those killed or prayer services…"Bahrain is a friend and an ally and has been for many years," Clinton told reporters. "We call on restraint from the government, (and) to keep its commitment to hold accountable those who have utilized excessive force."

Libyan defectors' claims on Gaddafi and Lockerbie may be lies like Iraqi defectors' WMD claims

Gaddafi is certainly a dictator – and is certainly having his own people killed. That doesn’t mean every claim made by a defector from his government is true, any more than those made by Iraqi defectors’ from Saddam’s dictatorship. So former Libyan Justice Minister Mustafa Abdel Jalil’s claims about Gaddafi having ordering the Lockerbie bombing may be lies, like many Iraqi defectors' claims about WMDs (1). Jalil claims that he has proof for his claim, but can’t tell us what this proof is – much like Ahmed Chalabi or Tony Blair on Iraqi WMDs.

Jalil’s claim is made even less credible by his additional claim that Megrahi was guilty and that Gaddafi had Megrahi brought back to Libya to hide his own involvement (2). If Gaddafi was responsible for the bombing and wished to hide it, why would he send one of the men he had ordered to carry it out, who could incriminate him, for trial? He would have sent some patsies to take the fall instead.

What’s more Scottish law professor Robert Black, UN observer Dr. Hans Kochler, trial witness Edwin Bollier and Dr. Jim Swire (whose daughter Flora died in the bombing) all say the entire trial of Megrahi and the appeals process was a sham and politically influenced, with some key witnesses paid money to testify (a fact even included in the judges’ verdict), coached and shown magazine photos of Megrahi before the trial, a key piece of evidence (the supposed timer from the bomb) tampered with and the judges coming to illogical conclusions which could not follow from the evidence. There was no jury. The report of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission on the Megrahi case has never been published, though their press release on it mentions several of these serious problems with the trial (3) – (19). (For more details on this see this post and this one)

All these people were present at the entire trial and have researched evidence linked to it in detail. None have any reason to be biased towards Megrahi or Gaddafi. Whoever placed the bomb on that flight, there is no evidence it was Megrahi and plenty of reasons to think it wasn’t. (more detail on this in this post).

While Gaddafi did refuse to give BP oil contracts until Megrahi was returned to Libya in 2009, this is hardly a strong argument in favour of Jalil’s claims. If Megrahi was involved and Gaddafi had given the orders, Megrahi had had over a decade to divulge that secret if he was going to. It’s more likely Gaddafi was showing he could still be a powerful patron for his supporters.

Jalil, having decided to back the rebellion or revolution against Gaddafi has the same motive to lie about Gaddafi to get the US and European countries to intervene that Chalabi and other exiles had on Iraq.

(1) = 23 Feb 2011 ‘Gaddafi ordered Lockerbie bombing – ex-minister’,

(2) = See (1) above

(3) = Guardian 03 Oct 2007 ‘Fresh doubts on Lockerbie conviction’,

(4) = 28 Jun 2007 ‘Libyan granted new appeal over Lockerbie conviction’,

(5) = Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission 28 Jun 2007 ‘NEWS RELEASE


(7) = BBC News 21 Jan 2002 ‘Lockerbie verdict 'politically influenced',

(8) = Independent 21 Aug 2009 ‘Hans Köchler: I saw the trial – and the verdict made no sense’,

(9) = Observer 02 Sep 2007 ‘Vital Lockerbie evidence 'was tampered with'’,

(10) = Herald 21 Aug 2009 ‘This shameful miscarriage has gravely sullied the Scottish criminal justice system’ Professor Robert Black , ; also reproduced on his blog ‘The Lockerbie Case’ 21 Aug 2009 ,

(11) = BBC News 14 Mar 2002 ‘UN monitor decries Lockerbie judgement’,

(12) = Guardian 03 Oct 2007 ‘Fresh doubts on Lockerbie conviction’,

(13) = 28 Jun 2007 ‘Libyan granted new appeal over Lockerbie conviction’,

(14) = Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission 28 Jun 2007 ‘NEWS RELEASE ABDELBASET ALI MOHMED AL MEGRAHI’,

FHIMAH, ; ‘The verdict includes a self-contradictory reference to Gauci as a witness who tried to give “the false impression” that “his continued association with the American authorities was largely motivated by financial considerations” and that “information provided by a paid informer is always open to the criticism that it may be invented...and in our view this is a case where such criticism is more than usually justified”. (Of course there may well be reason to think Gauci’s boasting about being paid for his testimony wasn’t false

(16) = The Firm (Scottish lawyers’ magazine) 10 Jun 2008 ‘UN Observer to the Lockerbie Trial says ‘totalitarian’ appeal process bears the hallmarks of an “intelligence operation”’,

(17) = New Statesman 17 Jan 2000 ‘Let's peeble the judges again’, (quotes Law Professor Robert Black of Edinburgh University)

(18) = BBC 19 Nov 1999 ‘Lockerbie trial judges named’, (see 5th and 6th paragraphs)

(19) = Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission 28 Jun 2007 ‘NEWS RELEASE ABDELBASET ALI MOHMED AL MEGRAHI’,

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Craig Murray - Raymond Davis Does Not Have Diplomatic Immunity

by Craig Murray (this is copied from Craig's blog as comments aren't working on his at the moment)

Take this as definitve from a former Ambassador

There are five circumstances in which Raymond Davis, the American killer caught in Pakistan, might have diplomatic immunity. They are these.

1) He was notified in writing to the government of Pakistan as a member of diplomatic staff of a US diplomatic mission in Pakistan, and the government of Pakistan had accepted him as such in writing.

2) He was part of an official delegation engaged in diplomatic negotiations notified to the government of Pakistan and accepted by them.

3) He was a member of staff of an international organisation recognised by Pakistan and was resident in Pakistan as a member of diplomatic staff working for that organisation, or was in Pakistan undertaking work for that organisation with the knowledge and approval of the Pakistani authorities.

4) He was an accredited diplomat elsewhere and was in direct tranist through Pakistan to his diplomatic posting.

5) He was an accredited courier carrying US diplomatic dispatches in transit through Pakistan.

2) to 5) plainly do not apply. The Obama administration is going for 1). My information, from senior Pakistani ex-military sources that I trust, is firmly that the necessary diplomatic exchange of notes does not exist that would make Davis an accredited US diplomat in Pakistan, but that the State Department is putting huge pressure on the government of Pakistan to overlook that fact. This passes a commonsense test - if the documents did exist. La Clinton would have waved them at us by now.

A brilliant article here by Glenn Greenwald.

Craig Murray - Berlusconi's cut

by Craig Murray (this is copied from Craig's blog as comments aren't working on his at the moment)

A very senior diplomatic source told me yesterday that Berlusconi is frantic lest Gadaffi falls and the channels are revealed by which Berlusconi gets a cut on the huge amounts of Libyan oil and gas lifted to Italy. Just at the moment that would be too much even for Berlusconi to survive.

This morning I see the Italian foreign minister is warning 300.000 Libyan refugees will fly to Europe if Gadaffi falls - as though there will be none if he stays. I have checked with other diplomatic sources, and they confirm that Italy is using the refugee warning to argue that Europe should back Gadaffi, and not impose sanctions. That point is not coming over in the mainstream media.

This blog will be back up completely revamped next week. But I thought this snippet was important. If someone wants to repost it somewhere comments are possible...

Cameron's government is still arming dictatorships - including Saudi, Egypt and Kuwait, which is not a democracy

British Prime Minister David Cameron has claimed the British government was wrong “in the past” in supporting dictatorships in the Middle East and condemns the “appalling violence” against protesters (1).

Yet his government is still backing these dictatorships and their violence by approving sales of lethal arms and crowd control weapons to Kuwait, Saudi, Egypt and many others besides, as they torture, jail and kill democracy protesters and dissidents. This has been hidden behind the fig leaf of suspending a most export licences to Libya and Bahrain in order to try to give the false impression that all arms sales to dictatorships have been suspended (2) – (6).

Cameron travelled to Egypt with a delegation of British arms company salesman on his coat tails. Egypt’s government is not a democracy. It remains an entirely undemocratic government even after Mubarak’s resignation. It includes the Generals of a military which has been involved in torturing democracy protesters, sitting alongside Mubarak’s appointed henchmen, including his notorious torturer in chief Omar Suleiman, who has said Egypt isn’t ready for democracy (7) – (17). These are the people who helped Mubarak torture and murder Egyptians for decades – they’re not going to have changed overnight. This regime refuses to hand over to a government of national unity that would include the opposition and exclude Mubarak’s cronies (18) – (22). That means that it’s promise of democratic elections could be as empty as Mubarak’s was in 2005 (23).

It's also a bit late to suspend arms export licences if you wait till after the dictatorships start killing people by the dozen or the hundred - as in Bahrain and Libya respectively.

The Guardian reports that "Labour MP Denis MacShane has called for an immediate stop on all arms exports to Bahrain. Amnesty wants a ban extended across the region." (that suggests the UK government is still issuing some export licences for arms to Bahrain). The Guardian continues "Defence contractors said they felt "battered and bruised" by the condemnation that they had received, following the violence throughout the Middle East and north Africa.". The poor souls. They're so much worse off than all the people who have been tortured, beaten and murdered by the dictatorships they're arming for profit.

Cameron responded to criticism of his hypocrisy by saying that it’s “unrealistic” to expect “small democracies” like Kuwait to produce all their own arms (24). Kuwait is not and never has been a democracy. The Emir rules like a medieval king, appoints his own governments without having to respect election results and has anyone who criticises his government or organises political meetings jailed. There are elections to the Kuwaiti parliament, but that parliament is largely powerless in practice and the Emir can disband it at any time (25) – (30).

Cameron's strange definition of democracy seems to be "sells us oil cheaply and buys our weapons".

So is our Prime Minister actually going to support democracy, or does he prefer to just continue mouthing empty platitudes while securing profits for British firms by selling dictatorships weapons with which they are still intimidating, torturing and murdering their own people whenever they demand democracy? It can’t be both at once, no matter how much he might like it to be. His government’s foreign policy is currently as much of a hypocritical joke as Blair’s ‘ethical foreign policy’ was.

 (1) = 22 Feb 2011 ‘Cameron says UK prejudiced for believing Muslims cannot manage democracy’,

(2) = 21 Feb 2011 ‘Abu Dhabi arms fair: Tanks, guns, teargas and trade at Idex 2011’,

(3) = 21 Feb 2011 ‘UK firm defends Libya military sales’,

(4) = 21 Feb 2011 ‘David Cameron's Cairo visit overshadowed by defence tour’,

(5) = Independent 19 Feb 2011 ‘Crackdown on arms exports to Bahrain’,

(6) = Campaign Against the Arms Trade 18 Feb 2011 ‘CAAT condemns empty words from Government as arms sale drive continues’,

(7) = ABC News 13 Feb 2011 ‘Egyptian army vows transition to democracy’, ; ‘"The current government and governors undertake to manage affairs until the formation of a new government," a senior army officer said in a statement delivered on state television.’

(8) = BBC News 14 Feb 2011 ‘Egypt crisis: Protests switch to demands on pay’, ; ‘During the transition the cabinet appointed by Mr Mubarak last month will go on governing, submitting legislation to the army chiefs for approval.’ ;        ‘Military statement - Constitution suspended ; Council to hold power for six months or until elections; Both houses of parliament dissolved; Council to issue laws during interim period; Committee set up to reform constitution and set rules for referendum ;Caretaker PM Ahmed Shafiq's cabinet to continue work until new cabinet formed ; Council to hold presidential and parliamentary elections ; All international treaties to be honoured’’

(9) = Al Jazeera 12 Feb 2011 ‘Egypt's military leadership - Brief profiles of members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces as it assumes power from Hosni Mubarak’, ; ‘General Omar Suleiman, vice-president and former intelligence chief, is among the key retired or serving military officers on the council.

(10) = Press TV 13 Feb 2011 ‘Egypt army to decide on Suleiman fate’, ; ‘"The role of Omar Suleiman will be defined by the Higher Military Council," Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq said on Sunday.’

(11) = Reuters 10 Feb 2011 'Egypt VP democracy comment misunderstood-state agency', ; ‘In the ABC interview in Cairo on Monday, Suleiman was asked if he believed in democracy. Speaking English he answered: "For sure everybody believes in democracy, but when you will do that? When the people here would have the culture of democracy."’

(12) =  Al Jazeera 07 Feb 2011 ‘Suleiman: The CIA's man in Cairo  - Suleiman, a friend to the US and reported torturer, has long been touted as a presidential successor’, by Professor Lisa Hajar of the University of California,

(13) = ABC News 01 Feb 2011 ‘New Egyptian VP Ran Mubarak's Security Team, Oversaw Torture’,

(14) = New Statesman 17 May 2004 ‘America’s Gulag’,

(15) = Human Rights Watch 09 May 2005 ‘Black Hole – the fate of Islamists rendered to Egypt’,

(16) = Bloomberg Businessweek 01 Feb 2011 ‘Mubarak’s Top Spy Rejected by Cairo Streets as Masses March’,

(17) = 09 Feb 2011 ‘Egypt's army 'involved in detentions and torture'’,

(18) = 13 Feb 2011 ‘Egypt's military rejects swift transfer of power and suspends constitution’,

(19) = 12 Feb 2011 ‘Army and protesters disagree over Egypt's path to democracy’,

(20) = Reuters 30 Jan 2011 ‘ElBaradei urges U.S. to abandon Mubarak’, ; ‘"I have been authorized -- mandated -- by the people who organized these demonstrations and many other parties to agree on a national unity government," ElBaradei told CNN.’

(21) = Scoop NZ 14 Feb 2011 ‘Egypt's Protesters Communique Number 1’,

(22) = ABC News 13 Feb 2011 ‘Egyptian army vows transition to democracy’, ; People's Communique No. 1", issued by the protest organisers, demands the dissolution of the cabinet Mr Mubarak appointed on January 29 and the suspension of the parliament elected in a rigged vote late last year.The reformists want a transitional five-member presidential council made up of four civilians and one military person. The communique calls for the formation of a transitional government to prepare for an election to take place within nine months, and of a body to draft a new democratic constitution. It demands freedom for the media and syndicates, which represent groups such as lawyers, doctors and engineers, and for the formation of political parties. Military and emergency courts must be scrapped, the communique says.’ (From the full text linked to above - (27) – ‘syndicates’ here is almost certainly a mis-translation of ‘trade unions’.)

(23) =  Human Rights Watch 23 Nov 2010 ‘Elections in Egypt’,

(24) = 22 Feb 2011 ‘David Cameron hits out at critics of Britain's arms trade’,

(25) = US Department of State, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs  ‘Background Note:Kuwait’,

(26) =

(27) = Human Rights Watch 21 Jul 2010 ‘Operation Roll Back Kuwaiti Freedom’,

(28) = Human Rights Watch 11 Dec 2010 ‘Kuwait: Permit Peaceful Political Gatherings  - Security Forces Violently Disperse Parliamentarians and Professors’,

(29) = Human Rights watch 31 Jan 2011 ‘Kuwait: Free Speech and Assembly Under Attack’,

(30) = Human Rights Watch World Report 2011: Kuwait , ; ‘Freedom of expression markedly deteriorated in 2010. The government continued criminally prosecuting individuals based on nonviolent political speech, denied academics permission to enter the country for conferences and speeches, and cracked down on public gatherings. In April state security forces summarily deported over 30 Egyptian legal residents of Kuwait after some of them gathered to support Egyptian reform advocate Mohammed El Baradei.

In May prominent writer and lawyer Mohammad al-Jassim was detained for over 40 days and charged with "instigating to overthrow the regime, ...slight to the personage of the emir [the ruler of Kuwait],... [and] instigating to dismantle the foundations of Kuwaiti society" over his blog posts criticizing the prime minister. A judge released al-Jassim in June and adjourned the case until October.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bahrain, Libya and Kuwait : Causes of the protests and foreign governments’ involvement

Bahrain and Kuwait - the supposed Shia 'fifth column' for Iran

The monarchy in Bahrain say there should be a dialogue once peace is restored, as if saying “let’s all have a nice talk together, you know, once I’m finished having more of you killed to try to frighten any of you who’re still alive by then into backing down” was the most reasonable thing in the world; and has copied Mubarak’s line of pretending to mourn for the dead, as if they had nothing whatsoever to do with ordering them killed.

The British and French government had been arming and training Bahrain's police and  military. In Bahrain those police have murdered democracy protesters, then murdered the mourners at the funeral. The UK and French governments have suspended arms sales. Don’t expect that suspension to last longer than media coverage does.

Bahrain is seen by both the Saudi monarchy and it’s allies as being too close to and too similar to Saudi Arabia to allow it’s government to be toppled &ndash (not to mention the US fifth fleet being based there); though I hope the protesters succeed in toppling it.

Bahrain also has a Sunni elite and a Shia majority – one of the causes of the protests as the Shia majority feel excluded from the best jobs. To the simple minded Pentagon planners and the Saudi monarchy, all Shia are seen as potential fifth columnists for the Iranians. (They even managed to make this a self-fulfilling prophecy in Iraq by driving the Iraqi nationalist and anti-Iranian Al Sadr and his Medhi army into the arms of the Iranians). Saudi Arabia also has a large Shia minority in provinces which contain significant amounts of it’s oil reserves.

In Kuwait demonstrations by migrant workers who have lived and worked there for years and decades, demanding citizenship and chanting “we are Kuwaiti” may also spread to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Emirates who rely almost entirely on migrant workers – including Pakistanis, Phillipinos and Palestinians.

Libya and the US, France and UK - Why Bahrainis being shot leaves western governments “concerned” while Libyans being shot makes them “horrified”

Britain and France were also arming and training the forces of Gadaffi's regime in Libya - plus providing SAS training for the Libyan military , since he took the hint at Saddam’s overthrow and renounced WMDs and terrorism – and much more importantly started giving US and British oil firms contracts again. Despite the synthetic outrage over the release of Megrahi (who was almost certainly innocent of any involvement in the Lockerbie bombing and fitted up in a jury-less show trial) American oil firms were back in Libya in 2004, five years before BP.

The reconciliation between Libya and the US and it’s allies is far from perfect though, partly because the US government continues the dodgy claims about Megrahi, but even more because Gadaffi has been demanding that his government keep a higher share of oil profits  – and even suggesting the possibility of nationalisation (which was enough to get the CIA and MI6 to overthrow Mossadeq in Iran when he did the same in 1953).

That may be why British foreign secretary William Hague called the Libyan military shooting protesters dead by the dozen “horrifying”, while similar murders on a similar scale by Mubarak’s police and those of Bahrain’s monarchy only made him and Hillary Clinton “deeply concerned” rather than horrified.

The fact that the British government approved sales of sniper rifles to Libya and that many of the dead protesters there are being killed by Libyan military snipers may also have something to do with it

UPDATE: Sky news has reported that only a small number of sniper rifles were approved for export to Libya by the British government and that these were in storage, for display purposes only and had the firing pins removed.

Being shot, tortured or jailed without trial doesn't become better or worse depending on the ideology used to justify it

The continuing protests for democracy and jobs across the Middle East and North Africa show that undemocratic governments of different ideologies and forms of government are all more similar than any of them would like to think.

They may vary the rhetoric they use to justify their rule and their actions, but they’ve all been jailing their own people without fair trial for decades, torturing and murdering them – and they all send their police or soldiers to shoot unarmed demonstrators in the street the moment it looks like their power might be threatened.

Which ideology you’re being jailed, tortured or shot for makes far less difference to those on the receiving end than those trying to justify it might think.

This holds whether it’s supposedly to defend the Revolution and the Republic in Libya and Egypt, to defend the Islamic revolution in the semi-theocratic Islamic Republic of Iran, or to defend the monarchy in the Kingdom of Bahrain (and held for Iraqis tortured in the name of democracy too – because democracy, as George Orwell said, is more often an undefined word used to justify unjustifiable actions than a reality).

Democracy does exist in a very real sense for the protesters who see it as fair elections, the right not to be jailed without trial, tortured or murdered by the government – and – though this gets less press – the right to a job and a living wage (most of the demonstrations having  included demands for jobs and better pay from the start).

The hypocrisy of democratically elected governments who back many of these dictatorships (the only exceptions being Syria and Iran) continues, with bans on sales of arms and “crowd control” devices, just a bit late and - on their past records - unlikely to last long.

The demonstrations across the Middle East and North Africa have been as much about jobs and pay as democracy from the start

While most of the focus has been on demands for political democracy the protests across the Middle East and North Africa have been as much against unemployment, for jobs and for higher pay from the start. For instance in early January the BBC reported ‘The number of people killed in unrest over unemployment in Tunisia over the weekend has risen to 14, officials say…. The protests first broke out in December over a lack of freedom and jobs.’ (1)

The Tunisan man whose suicide by setting himself on fire set off the protests came from a family whose farm land had been taken by a bank after it foreclosed on the families debts. (2)

In Egypt at the end of January they reported ‘At least eight people have been killed and dozens injured since the protests against unemployment, corruption and rising prices began on Tuesday.’ (3)

This is not surprising as political and economic equality go hand in hand – and similarly for political and economic inequality. Having a job does you little good if you are jailed without fair trial, tortured or shot; while having the right to vote is not much good if you’re homeless or struggling to make enough money to be able to afford to eat.

In every case the global recession caused by the financial crisis and corrupt and brutally oppressive undemocratic governments have played a part. In most (e.g Egypt and Tunisia) neo-liberal economic policies promoted by the IMF and ‘developed world’ governments have also played a role. Even while these policies were creating economic growth poverty was increasing and unemployment wasn’t falling. With the recession, both rocketed.

In Egypt Amnesty international reported that as the clean up of Tahrir Square began “In hospitals, banks and insurance companies, employees gathered to demand better pay and working conditions.”  Protesters for higher pay include everyone from public sector employees such as ambulance drivers to tourism workers (4) – (5). Mubarak followed neo-liberal economic policies recommended by the IMF. While this resulted in economic growth,  the benefits went to a small minority. Mubarak’s family has an estimated fortune of $70 billion, another thousand families who are close to Mubarak benefited greatly and unemployment fell, more than half the population lives on less than £1 a day and there are a million homeless street children in Egyptian cities (6) – (10).

Trade unions have also been important in many cases. In Egypt it was the General Strike called by trade unions that seemed to tip the military into finally forcing Mubarak to resign (11).

(sorry for repeating some of one of my previous posts on Egypt here but i thought it justified a post of it's own on how from the start of the protests in Tunisia on, jobs, pay and unemployment have been core issues)

Last updated 1st March 2010

(1) = BBC 10 Jan 2011 ‘Fourteen killed in Tunisia unemployment protests’,

(2) = Independent 21 Jan 2011 'Tunisia: 'I have lost my son, but I am proud of what he did'',

(3) = BBC 28 Jan 2011 ‘Egypt protests escalate in Cairo, Suez and other cities’,

(4) = Amnesty Livewire 14 Feb 2011 ‘The new face of Egypt’,

(5) = BBC News 14 Feb 2011 ‘Egypt crisis: Protests switch to demands on pay’,

(6) = IMF Survey Magazine 13 Feb 2008 ‘Egypt: Reforms Trigger Economic Gr

(7) = 04 Feb 2011 ‘Mubarak family fortune could reach $70bn, say experts’,

(8) = 06 Feb 2011 ‘A private estate called Egypt’, by Professor Salwa Ismail, London School of Economics,

(9) = 14 Feb 2011 ‘Egypt's army calls for end to strikes as workers grow in confidence’,

(10) = UNICEF ‘A new approach to Egypt’s street children’,

(11) = 09 Feb 2011 ‘Egyptian talks near collapse as unions back protests’,

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The NO2AV campaign lies about AV and is a front for the Conservative Party and big business

There is not one true claim about AV on the NO2AV website – see below for their four biggest lies about AV and to find out how AV works. While we know 95% of the ‘Yes to Fairer Votes’ campaign funding comes from the Electoral Reform Society and the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, the NO2AV campaign refuse to say who funds them.

There are some pretty obvious clues though. The head of the NO2AV campaign Matthew Elliot, doubled as founder of the ‘Taxpayers’ Alliance (which he’ll probably return to after the AV referendum is over). The Taxpayers’ Alliance is funded by the same wealthy business-people who fund the Conservative party and has a director who doesn’t pay any tax in the UK. Just like the NO2AV Campaign, the Taxpayers’ Alliance ‘refuses to publish details of its income or a list of donors’. Liberal Conspiracy were told by a NO2AV press officer that the person who appointed Elliot was Baron Rodney Leach, a Conservative peer on the board of two large companies. No wonder NO2AV won’t say who funds them – it’ll be Conservative party donors just like the Taxpayers’ Alliance.

Electoral Reform : The Existing System, AV or PR?

I’ve been in two minds about AV, because I’d have preferred Proportional representation (in which everyone’s vote counts equally, whoever they vote for – and no votes ending up “wasted”) or AV plus (AV for constituency votes, with a minority of MPs elected on regional lists by PR). However the only choices we’re being given by the government for the moment are AV or the existing First Past the Post system, which allows some parties to get big majorities on a third to 40% of the votes. AV would be an improvement on the outdated and unfair First Past the Post. The constant lies told by the No2AV campaign have made my mind up for me – I’ll definitely vote for AV.

No2AV Lie One: AV will cost £250 million (and enough of the UK’s annual budget that schools or hospitals’ funding will have to be cut to fund it)

The No2AV campaign get their made up £250 million figure by taking the cost of holding the referendum on whether to switch to AV and publicising it (which is the same whether you vote yes, or no, or don’t vote in it at all) and adding the cost of electronic voting machines, which are not needed for AV and are a completely separate issue. Australia has had AV for elections for decades and doesn’t use electronic voting machines. The real figure is £26 million – one off (i.e not every year) to educate voters about it before the next election. This is out of a UK annual public spending budget of about £700 billion (700 thousand million), making the cost less than one hundredth of one per cent of the annual budget – for one year only. Yet the NO2AV campaigns claim we can’t afford this.

NO2AV Lie Two : AV is complicated and unfair (and how AV really works)

They claim that AV is complex and unfair. In fact it’s as simple as 1,2,3. You put a 1 beside the candidate you’d like most to win, 2 beside your second choice, 2 beside your third – instead of an X beside just your first preference in the existing First Past the Post System.

Under First Past the Past a candidate can be elected with less than half the votes – and in fact only a third of the winning candidates in most British elections get more than 50% of the votes in the constituency. The rest are usually elected on 30 to 40% of the vote. The votes for all the other candidates effectively go straight in the bin – they don’t count at all. So the majority of voters get no say under first-past-the-post – their votes are ignored - resulting in governments being elected with huge majorities of seats on a third of the total votes cast. For instance in the last election in 2010 the Conservatives got 307 seats (47% of the MPs) on just 36.1% of the vote, while in 2005 Labour got 356 of the 650 seats (more than 50% of the MPs) on just 37% of the votes. How exactly is either of these results fair, or even democratic?

Under AV, if one candidate has more than half the votes after all the first preference votes are counted, they’re elected. If no candidate has more than half the votes the candidate with the least votes is eliminated and the second preference votes of those who voted for them as their first preference are given to their second preference candidates. If this gives one candidate more than 50% of the votes, they’re elected. If not the candidate with the next fewest first preference votes is eliminated and their voters’ second preferences are given their votes – and so on, until a candidate has more than half the votes. This ensures that far more peoples’ votes count – and that no candidate can be elected without having the majority of votes in their constituency (i.e more than half, not just the biggest minority). So AV is simple, but much fairer.

By giving voters more than one preference when voting it means people can also vote for the smaller parties or independent candidates they may really want to vote for as their first preference, without having to worry that their vote will be wasted or let the party they dislike most in, because they can vote for a larger party with their second or third preference.

NO2AV Lie Three – AV ‘gives some people more votes than others’ and voters for fringe parties get more votes than voters for big parties do / only Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems will benefit from AV

The NO2AV campaign make up the ridiculous lie thatUnder AV, the great majority of voters (those who vote for either of the leading two candidates in a constituency) get only one vote, while those who back minority or fringe parties get several.”

See Lie Two above for how AV really works. Everyone’s gets only one vote under AV. Everyone can vote for one candidate as their first preference, one as their second, one as their third. If their first preference candidate is eliminated during counting due to having been one of the candidates with the fewest votes, their vote will be transferred to their second preference – and so on until one candidate has more than half the votes.

So they only have one vote, just as under the existing system, but, unlike in the existing system, there’s a good chance their vote won’t go in the bin if they’re first choice isn’t elected. It may be redistributed to their second or third preference.

AV is fairer and will give any candidate, of any party, who can get the votes of half or more of the voters in a constituency, the chance of being elected. This will help ensure racists like the BNP don’t get elected due to ‘coming through the middle’ with the largest minority of the vote if e.g the votes in a constituency are split three ways between them and two larger parties, because they’d need more than half the vote under AV to be elected.

I despise Nick Clegg for breaking key election pledges he made. I’ve never voted Lib Dem – and I probably never will. AV won’t only benefit the Lib Dems though – because it you have three preferences when you vote you can vote for a small party or independent as your first preference without worrying that it might be a “wasted vote”, as even if your first preference isn’t elected, you can vote for a larger party with your second or third preference. Minority parties still won’t be able to get elected unless they get more than 50% of the votes in a constituency though – under first past the post they can get elected on the largest minority of the vote.

The NO2AV campaign won’t tell you who funds them – because it’ll be the same Conservative donors who fund the Taxpayers’ Alliance

The Yes to fairer votes campaign campaigning for AV are open about who funds them – 95% of their funds come from the Electoral Reform Society and the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust.

The NO2AV campaign won’t say who funds them – but their new head is Matthew Elliot, founder member of the Taxpayers’ Alliance.

The Guardian reported that TPA donors include ‘Sir Anthony Bamford, the owner of the JCB digger company, and Tony Gallagher, the owner of Gallagher Estates, both Conservative donors, who with 32 other businessmen have donated about £80,000 to the group through the Midlands Industrial Council.’ along with ‘Malcolm McAlpine, the chief executive of contractor Sir Robert McAlpine, said he had also funded the group.’ and ‘David Alberto, a property developer supplies office space to the group near Westminster worth an estimated £100,000 a year.’ All of these people also donate large amounts of money to the Conservative party

One of theTaxpayers’ Alliance’s directors – Alexander Heath – lives in France and pays not a penny in taxes in Britain.

You can find out more about AV and the campaign for a 'yes' vote in the referendum on it at the 'Yes to Fairer Votes' campaign site at