Monday, October 31, 2005

Chomsky on Srebrenica

In case anyone missed it, here's an extract from today's Guardian interview with Noam Chomsky.
Chomsky discusses Srebrenica- and once again gives his support to the excellent Diana Johnstone. Chomsky is absolutely right to talk of the 'hysterical fanaticism' about Bosnia in western culture- and the Stalinist response directed towards all those who dared- and continue to dare to question the 'party line'.
For neo-conservatives, the cause of Bosnian separatism was an obsession and inflating the casualty figures not just of Srebrenica- but of the whole Yugoslav conflict, became a political necessity. All the deaths in the conflict were tragic- but the deliberate exaggeration of casualty figures to justify the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 was an act of true depravity.

Q: Do you regret supporting those who say the Srebrenica massacre was exaggerated?A (Chomsky): My only regret is that I didn't do it strongly enough

As some see it, one ill-judged choice of cause (by Chomsky) was the accusation made by Living Marxism magazine that during the Bosnian war, shots used by ITN of a Serb-run detention camp were faked. The magazine folded after ITN sued, but the controversy flared up again in 2003 when a journalist called Diane Johnstone made similar allegations in a Swedish magazine, Ordfront, taking issue with the official number of victims of the Srebrenica massacre. (She said they were exaggerated.) In the ensuing outcry, Chomsky lent his name to a letter praising Johnstone's "outstanding work". Does he regret signing it?
"No," he says indignantly. "It is outstanding. My only regret is that I didn't do it strongly enough. It may be wrong; but it is very careful and outstanding work."
How, I wonder, can journalism be wrong and still outstanding?
"Look," says Chomsky, "there was a hysterical fanaticism about Bosnia in western culture which was very much like a passionate religious conviction. It was like old-fashioned Stalinism: if you depart a couple of millimetres from the party line, you're a traitor, you're destroyed. It's totally irrational. And Diane Johnstone, whether you like it or not, has done serious, honest work. And in the case of Living Marxism, for a big corporation to put a small newspaper out of business because they think something they reported was false, is outrageous."
They didn't "think" it was false; it was proven to be so in a court of law.
But Chomsky insists that "LM was probably correct" and that, in any case, it is irrelevant. "It had nothing to do with whether LM or Diane Johnstone were right or wrong." It is a question, he says, of freedom of speech. "And if they were wrong, sure; but don't just scream well, if you say you're in favour of that you're in favour of putting Jews in gas chambers."

Sunday, October 30, 2005

How does he get away with it?

How does Nick Cohen get away with writing such tripe? In the Observer today there's a typically silly and
factually incorrect piece in which he talks of 'sectarian leaders from the Slobodan Milosevic mould ..... exploiting the double antipathy of race and class'... From the what mould Nick? Of the mould of the man who said 'Socialism in particular, being a progressive and just democratic society, should not allow people to be divided by national or religious identity' ? Ludicrously, Cohen accuses Milosevic's Yugoslavia of stirring up antipathy towards the Croats. When I organised a demonstration and petition signing outside the British Embassy in Budapest to protest at the NATO aggression against Yugoslavia in 1999, the first two people to sign my petition were Croats who had lived in Serbia for many years. They told me that they had never encountered any discrimination and had lived happily in Milosevic's Yugoslavia, unlike the hundreds of thousands of Serbs and gypsies who had been expelled from Franco Tudjman's Croatia.
Tudjman, you may recall was a man who once said that he would never allow a Jew, Serb or Gypsy to marry into his family. Cohen is from a Jewish background- and you might have thought he would mention the anti-semitic Tudjman and not the pro-Yugoslavia, socialist and anti-racist Milosevic in his article. But of course, for pro-war, B52 liberals like Cohen, a bit of unintelligent- and unsubstantiated Slobo-bashing is par for the course.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Silence of the Hawks

Lewis Libby, the Chief of Staff to Dick Cheney, and a man who was instrumental in shaping the 'evidence' for the case for going to war with Iraq- has been charged with obstruction of justice, lying to the FBI and committing perjury before a grand jury. Yet, faced with this big and important news story- how do pro-war websites and bloggers respond? Well, by ignoring it all together. Not a word from Norman Geras- a man normally so keen to give an opinion. Silence too from Oliver Kamm. And a deafening hush also from the otherwise very voluble Stephen Pollard. Compare the warmongers' reaction to the Libby affair to the way they are always so quick to make their voices heard when allegations against George Galloway are made.
In his report in today's Guardian, Julian Borger quotes David Gergen, a former adviser to Reagan and Clinton as saying that a move for a new inquiry on how America got into the Iraq war is now likely.
A full, independent inquiry into how a small group of neo-conservative fanatics managed to push both America and Britain into such a disastrous conflict cannot come a day too soon.

Friday, October 28, 2005

The End of 'New Europe'

Here's a terrific piece from today's Guardian by Jonathan Steele on the end of Donald Rumsfeld's 'New Europe' .
The whole idea of 'New Europe' - a place beloved by pro-war, free market fundamentalists- was a fiction from start to finish. Although many of the governments in the region supported the Iraq war, the populations of the countries themselves, as opinion poll after opinion poll showed, were overwhelmingly opposed to the US-led aggression. And the myth of the 'dynamic free-market economies of Eastern Europe' is simply not borne out by the facts. In Poland, a country where 12% 0f the population are living in poverty, the long-suffering electorate have said enough is enough- and voted instead for a government and a President which puts social solidarity ahead of appeasing western multinationals.
And next spring, the neo-liberal coalition which runs Hungary will be booted out of office too.

Poland's disenchanted killed off 'New Europe'
Poverty and regional inequality helped win votes for a socially conservative, nationalist and Catholic president
Jonathan Steele
Friday October 28, 2005The Guardian

"New Europe" is dead, and that's official. The verdict is not that of an obscure thinktank. It comes from the central actor in the heartland of what was once deemed to be a bold new part of the old continent, namely the people of Poland.
In two recent elections, for parliament in September and for the presidency on Sunday, they gave most support to a party which wants a strong state and is highly suspicious of the free-market reforms of the last 15 years. It also has major reservations about the European Union.
Its victory offers an important reality check against the hot air of yesterday's Hampton Court talkathon and Tony Blair's latest calls to step up the pace of liberal reform. The biggest of the EU's new members is as attached to the old social model and as anxious about unregulated globalisation as the "no" voters in the French and Dutch referendums.
The "new Europe" tag was invented by Donald Rumsfeld in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq and initially covered foreign policy. Flushed with their post-communist freedom, it was claimed, eastern and central Europeans understood the value of Washington's international campaign to promote democracy better than western Europeans did. The claim soon proved inaccurate. The governments of "new Europe" supported the war, but majorities in the polls did not. Poles and Czechs were no more enthusiastic about having their troops in Iraq than people in Britain.
"New Europe" was then used to categorise attitudes to internal EU reform. It is this simplification which Poland's voters have exposed. The victorious Law and Justice party offers a traditional Catholic and nationalist platform, which is more about protecting inherited values than promoting further reform.
On social issues president-elect Lech Kaczynski is a man of the right, a critic of homosexuality and an advocate of the death penalty. After "nice" Lech Walesa, the Solidarity founder who became Poland's first non-communist president, we now have a "nasty" Lech, whose election was greeted in Brussels with warnings that he would be watched for any violation of EU standards. His twin brother, Jaroslaw, who led the Law and Justice party to victory in parliamentary elections, has similar views. He did not triumph outright and is still embroiled in fierce negotiations for a "grand coalition" which make Angela Merkel's enforced marriage to the social democrats in next-door Germany look simple.
The fact that Walesa and the two Kaczynskis are all former Solidarity activists shows how far Polish politics has moved from the romanticism of 1989 - and how much Solidarity, even in its first years, was an amalgam of not easily reconcilable interests: workers' rights, Catholic nationalism and westernising liberalism, to name just a few.
Simple slogans about freedom tended to exaggerate the political dimension of the Polish revolution. It also contained an important economic core. What happened in this autumn's Polish elections is the return of economics. During Poland's 16 years of neoliberal reforms, it did not matter much whether the governments which brought them in were post-communists or anti-communists. Economic strategies remained the same.
Now the electorate wants a rethink. At least those who voted do. Disenchantment with politicians of all stripes is high, with barely 40% taking part in September, the lowest turnout since 1989. The Civic Platform, which had expected to win but came second in both polls, is a radical "flat tax" party which advocates a 16% rate across the board. "Flat tax", which unashamedly goes against the philosophy that governments have a duty to promote income redistribution, was almost Angela Merkel's undoing as well. Her proposal to appoint a flat-taxer as finance minister caused a huge slump in her campaign.
Poland's elections exposed a divided country in which regional inequalities have got worse. The geographical split is not unlike Ukraine's. Poland's poor rural east and "rust belt", areas that benefited from postwar industrialisation and are now struggling, voted for the Kaczynskis. Warsaw and the more prosperous north and west chose the flat-taxers.
The results should not have been a surprise. The World Bank has just published its latest survey of central Europe and the former Soviet Union. The bank is hardly a leftwing propaganda outfit but its report, Growth, Poverty, and Inequality, shows how far the region still has to go to make up for the fall in living standards which came with the collapse of communism. In 1988 only 4% of the region's people were poor - defined as having an income of less than £1.25 a day. Now poverty affects 12%.
This is better than five years ago, when poverty affected 20% of the region's people. Things have got better thanks largely to the rise in world oil prices, which has pulled up the economy of Russia and some of its immediate neighbours. Among the countries covered by the World Bank, the eight new EU members are much better off. But the report shows that Poland, alone among them, has seen a further increase in poverty over the last five years.
It also found a growth in inequality between regions, with prosperity largely confined to capital cities while smaller towns and rural areas suffered. The World Bank notes that subjective impressions also matter. It talks of the "transition shock" caused by the sudden switch to market economics. "The socialist legacy of high access to social services (eg, heating) and infrastructure (eg, healthcare) which have since been eroded means that people feel an acute sense of deprivation," it says.
The lesson for the future is that assessments of progress and popular satisfaction must include socioeconomic factors as well as levels of political freedom. EU governments should not get involved in narrow crusades. Poland's neighbour, Belarus - which the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, has called "Europe's last dictatorship" - is sure to attract attention next year when it holds presidential elections. The World Bank survey is relevant here. While poverty went up in Poland, Belarus saw one of the sharpest declines, enjoying "broad-based economic growth beneficial to labour" in which the "benefits were broadly shared by the population".
Few doubt that the Belarus election will be less pluralistic than Poland's; but social solidarity, a strong state, and a government which attempts to lessen inequalities are what Polish voters have shown they want. The people of Belarus probably have similar views.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Stephen Pollard - the Fan of War, Destruction and Killing

Stephen Pollard, the man who once wrote; ''I am a warmonger. I am bloodthirsty. I am rabid. My friends want only peace and harmony, but I want to wreak destruction and killing', accuses me on his website of being a 'fan of ethnic cleansers'. It's rather like being labelled a supporter of violence by Adolf Hitler.
I have never written a single line, or uttered a single word in support of 'ethnic cleansing'. And neither have I ever been an 'apologist for mass murder' - another unsubstantiated- and indeed libellous claim often made by Pollard.
Pollard is of course referring to my opposition to the trial of Slobodan Milosevic at the Hague. For Pollard and his gang of serial regime changers (they're gunning for Syria now), Milosevic is guilty as charged. But for the rest of us, who believe in that quaint old notion that a man is innocent until proven guilty the case against Milosevic has in no way been proven. But of course, neo-conservatives don't let little things like the absence of evidence get in their way. These were the people who after all, told us day after day that Iraq possessed WMDS......

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Stephen Pollard: the very undemocratic democrat

Neo-conservatives make great play of how much they love democracy and freedom of speech.
But the reality is somewhat different. There is no greater example of neo-conservative hypocrisy than the journalist Stephen Pollard, a man who values debate and democratic discussion so much that he does not allow readers to add their comments on his webblog. As the following exchange shows, Pollard doesn't like it one little bit when others seek to challenge his assertions. Back in July, Pollard wrote a piece for The Times entitled 'How Not to Count Bodies' . The piece is enclosed below in its entirety as is the email I sent to Pollard in response- and also his very pompous reply. My wife Zsuzsanna also challenged Pollard on his assertions, but again received a brush-off. Pollard is very happy to accuse me, without any justification, of being an 'apologist for mass murder' and to denigrate the work of Dr Herold and Dr John Sloboda, but he seems very reluctant to debate the issues involved in a considered and non-abusive way. Could it just be, that he knows just how flimsy and contradictory his case is?

How not to count bodies (the Times) 21st July 2005
By Stephen Pollard

Splashed on the front page of The Independent yesterday, was the figure 24,865. "Revealed: Iraq’s Civilian Death Toll", read the headline.
It was not alone. The BBC’s bulletins ran with the same figure, as did the Daily Mirror and The Guardian — derived, said the latter, from "a detailed study of the human cost of the conflict".
There is only one problem with the figure — not that you would know it from the credulous reporting. It is an entirely arbitrary figure published by political agitators.
The figure was released yesterday by two organisations, Iraq Body Count and the Oxford Research Group. According to the BBC, the former "is one of the most widely-quoted sources of information on the civilian death toll in Iraq". Indeed it is — because the BBC itself reports its propaganda as fact.
One of the leading lights of the IBC is Marc Herold, a professor of economics and women’s studies at the University of New Hampshire. Professor Herold has attempted this trick before, when he "revealed" in December 2001 that there were then 3,800 civilian casualties in Afghanistan. The now-accepted figure at the time was two thirds less — about 1,200.
The reason his figures were so wrong then, and are almost certainly wrong now, is that the IBC’s methodology is designed to come to as large a total as possible. The organisation simply adds up all reports of casualties, no matter what the source or how scant the evidence. Hardly surprising, since the IBC’s associates are a veritable who’s who of anti-war activism.
The co-founder of IBC, John Sloboda, is also the director of the Oxford Research Group, an organisation "which seeks to develop effective methods whereby people can bring about positive change on issues of national and international security by non-violent means". Translated, ORG is a lobbying group with a political agenda.
Professor Sloboda describes himself as having "worked with the Committee for Peace in the Balkans". What that admirable title obscures is that the committee was, as he himself has put it, "essentially a lobbying and campaigning group against the Kosovo war". Having opposed the liberation of Kosovo, he turned to Iraq.
The civilian costs of the war have been greater than its advocates expected. It does not help in getting to the truth, however, when parts of the media report partisan lobbying as fact.
Neil Clark email to Stephen Pollard
Re: How not to count war bodies-Stephen Pollard’s Thunderer 21st July 2005 Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 12:02:54 +0000
Dear Stephen,
So you believe the figure of 24,865 civilian deaths from the war on Iraq to be 'an entirely arbitrary figure published by political agitators'? . I wonder if you think the same of the figure of 500,000 Kosovan Albanians, which the US State Department claimed had been killed by Yugoslav forces in the war of 1999? After one of the most extensive forensic searches in history, only 4000 bodies have been unearthed, a figure which includes Serbs, Roma, Kosovan Albanians killed by the KLA, and those killed in the NATO bombings. Yet despite the lack of evidence, supporters of the war against Yugoslavia- a conflict for which you were an enthusiastic cheerleader, continue to talk of 'genocide' and to compare Slobodan Milosevic with Adolf Hitler. As you yourself conclude, it really doesn't help when attempting to discover true casualty figures, that parts of the media report 'partisan lobbying' as fact.
Neil Clark,

Stephen Pollard’s reply:
Mr Clark,
I do not intend to get into an argument with an apologist for mass murder such as yourself. Your email has been placed on my junk filter, appropriately.
Stephen Pollard

Email to Stephen Pollard from Zsuzsanna Clark
Mr Pollard, Yesterday my husband Neil asked you a very simple and polite question in response to the claims you had made in your Times article 'How not to count dead bodies'. You replied in a very rude and dismissive way- calling my husband an 'apologist for mass murder'- which he most certainly is not. If you were to repeat that allegation in print, please be in no doubt that my husband would initiate libel proceedings against you. The suspicion is that you do not wish to answer the question because you know you are on extremely shaky ground. But you cannot expect to promote your opinions so forcefully in the media and not be challenged. You can ignore this email if you wish, and put me too in the 'junk mail', but I am sure that I will not be the last person attempting to receive an answer to this question. So here it is again:
You believe the figure of 24,865 civilian deaths from the war on Iraq to be 'an entirely arbitrary figure published by political agitators'. Do you think the same of the figure of 500,000 Kosovan Albanians, which the US State Department claimed had been killed by Yugoslav forces in the war of 1999? After one of the most extensive forensic searches in history, only 4000 bodies have been unearthed, a figure which includes Serbs, Roma, Kosovan Albanians killed by the KLA, and those killed in the NATO bombings. Yet despite the lack of evidence, supporters of the war against Yugoslavia- a conflict for which you were an enthusiastic cheerleader, continue to talk of 'genocide' and to compare Slobodan Milosevic with Adolf Hitler.

Zsuzsanna Clark

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Neo-Conservative Gazette, 2nd September 1939

I found some copies of the 'Neo-Conservative Gazette' for September 1939 in the attic. Here's what their leading commentators then made of the German invasion of Poland......

2nd September 1939
David Aaronovitch

There are those who say that Germany should have acted within the framework of ‘international law’ and worked with the League of Nations to solve the problem of Danzig and the Polish Corridor. But I say well done Adolf ! The human rights of the German minorities in Poland are far more important than the niceties of international treaties. By ignoring ‘national sovereignty’ fetishists like the Conservative M.P. Winston Churchill and the pacifist lefties of the New Statesman and The Manchester Guardian, Adolf has shown himself to be a true neo-conservative. In fact, one could say the German Chancellor is the Father of All Neo-Cons. He's a man who puts human rights and regime change first, and silly little things like national borders last. Here’s to the Thousand Year Reich! And bring on the Low Countries!

2nd September 1939, by Stephen Pollard

I am a warmonger. I am bloodthirsty. I am rabid. My friends want only peace and harmony, but I want to wreak destruction and killing. That’s why I am so in favour of Adolf Hitler and his ‘go get ‘em‘ foreign policy. OK, Adolf still hasn’t introduced a flat rate tax or introduced education vouchers, but no-one’s perfect. I have just written a new paper for one of the sixty-seven Think Tanks of which I am an Associate Fellow-on how privatising health care in Germany could free up even more money for Adolf’s rearmament programme and thereby bring regime change to even more of the poor repressed peoples of Eastern Europe. Copies of my biography on Sir William Joynson-Hicks are still available at £1 5/2d

2nd September 1939
Best of the Blogs: Harry’s Place webblog

We at Harry's Place rejoice that the Germany's humanitarian intervention to liberate the people of Poland has begun. But the big question of the hour will not go away. Where did Winston Churchill get the money from to own a string of racehorses and chain-smoke Havana cigars? The documents found by German journalists in the Ministry of the Interior Building in Prague last October- and published first in the Neo-Conservative Gazette, clearly show that Churchill's wife Clementine received a total of £1m from the Czech Government in the form of licences to ship Slovakian grain. It’s time for Winston to come clean and admit that his so-called principled opposition to Germany’s humanitarian foreign policy was based on pure financial greed. 'Gorgeous' Winnie must go to Berlin immediately and answer questions before the Reichstag Committee on Foreign Affairs. Nothing else will do! _________________________________________________________________

The Anti-War League

From America, news of a terrific initiative- The Anti-War League.
I enclose a brief introduction to their aims, to be found on their website at
Doug Fuda, who is behind the initiative, is endeavouring to build up a series of chapters in all major U.S. cities and towns. His strategy and analysis is absolutely spot-on-if we are to defeat the War Party we need to build up the widest possible popular movement. But in answer to a few emails I have received on the subject-the ' left-right alliance' does not mean co-operation with Fascists/Hitler admirers, anti-semites and racists. How could it? Fascism/Nazism is the complete negation of everything we stand for. Like neo-conservatism it glorifies war and military solutions. And like neo-conservatism it also regards the concept of national sovereignty with contempt.

Nonpartisan Antiwar League Forming
Millions of Americans are deeply opposed to US government policy as currently being pursued by the "War Party." The purpose of this website is to promote the creation of a new Antiwar League that mobilizes war opponents from every corner of the political spectrum against the plans of our "Republicrat" rulers for perpetual war.
The internet reveals that there are numerous people and organizations who might best be described as antiwar/antistate and it is time for them to come together to fight for a common goal. Our new organization could immediately begin to battle the government/media propaganda machine for the allegiance of the American people and for the future of our society. Our goal would be not to capture the highly centralized warmaking power of the federal government but to dismantle that power.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Cameron is no moderate

It's amazing how many people seem to have been taken in by the attempt to portray David Cameron, the pro-war Thatcherite, as a 'moderate'. Here's my piece from today's Guardian.

Cameron is no moderate
He supports the Iraq war and tax cuts, opposes EU social policies and has neocon associations

Monday October 24, 2005
The Guardian

What exactly is moderate about David Cameron? On taxation, the Tory leadership favourite has signalled his attraction to the flat-rate tax, a far-right wheeze that would leave, according to a Treasury report, up to 30 million Britons worse off and the super-rich even richer. Declaring his support for "flatter taxes", Cameron has enthusiastically backed the decision of his lieutenant, George Osborne, to set up a commission to investigate the idea and has signed up to a classic Thatcherite economic agenda of tax cuts and deregulation.
On Europe, he wants the Conservatives to break their long-standing link with centre-right Christian Democrat parties in the European parliament and talks of "fighting to end the EU's damaging social role". And in foreign policy, he is an unreconstructed hawk, his campaign masterminded by the neoconservative trio of Tory MPs Osborne, Michael Gove and Ed Vaizey, all enthusiastic cheerleaders for Pax Americana. Osborne hailed the "excellent neoconservative case" for action against Iraq in 2003 and denies that the invasion has radicalised Muslim opinion.
Gove and Vaizey are signatories to the statement of principles of the Henry Jackson Society, which has its UK launch next month. The society - named after the US Democratic senator who opposed detente with the Soviet Union - campaigns for a "forward strategy" to spread "liberal democracy across the world" through "the full spectrum of 'carrot' capacities, be they diplomatic, economic, cultural or political, but also, when necessary, those 'sticks' of the military domain". Calling for the "maintenance of a strong military with a global expeditionary reach", the society bemoans the fact that "too few of our leaders in Britain and Europe are ready to play a role in the world that matches our strengths and responsibilities".
The list of Henry Jackson patrons reads like a Who's Who of US foreign-policy hawks: including the former CIA director James Wolsey, William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, and Richard Perle, former chairman of the Defence Policy Board and the man many see as the architect of the Iraq war.
Cameron himself voted for the Iraq war, believing that to vote no "would have been to break the US-UK alliance which has been the cornerstone of our peace and security". Saddam, according to the new Tory saviour, posed a threat not just to the Middle East region, but "to the world", and like all good neocons Cameron blamed the conflict on the French and their promise to veto any second UN security council resolution.
Cameron's meteoric rise from leadership no-hoper to frontrunner has taken many by surprise. But what has happened is that British neoconservatives, faced with the nightmarish possibility that in a straight fight between David Davis and Kenneth Clarke the more charismatic and anti-war former chancellor would prevail, sought to undermine support for the latter by reinventing Cameron, the pro-war Thatcherite, as the voice of Tory "moderation".
The strategy has worked. "The central job of a new Tory leader is to put the Conservative argument in a different way ... to be the change, not just to talk about it. Putting policy meat on the bones just isn't the point" - these are the views of the Tories' modernising guru Daniel Finkelstein. For him, the fact that Cameron looks moderate is all that matters. But those not enamoured by the prospect of a regressive tax system, a revival of 1980s economics, a hostile attitude to Europe or British participation in military invasions of Iran, Syria or any other country the US decides to attack in five or six years' time are well advised to read the small print.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Three Cheers for Joan Rivers!

You’ve got to give it those sassy American dames. For years in Britain we have put up with the self-obsessed dronings of ‘commentator’ Darcus Howe, self-appointed spokesman for Britain’s Caribbean community. A man who, as the Guardian’s Rupert Smith correctly points out in his tv column today, is happy to dish out criticism, but can’t take any himself. Smith writes that last night’s More4 documentary 'Darcus Howe: Sone of Mine’, was ’an extreme exercise in exhibitionism even by Howe’s standards’. Smith says the film showed Howe as ‘arrogant, self-deluded, sentimental and blinkered’. Meant to be a ‘dialogue’ between father and recalcitrant son, Smith failed to spot a ‘single word’ from the younger generation. I am not surprised. I once had the misfortune of spending 15 minutes with Howe, at a New Statesman party . The man simply doesn’t do ‘dialogue’- only monologues and, when he is finished, looks around for someone else to inflict his egocentric babble on. The fact that Howe has been able to get away with it for so long- tells us that in Britain, racism is sadly still a problem. For if we were truly colour blind as a society- we wouldn’t be reliant on a septugenarian American comedienne to tell such a self-obsessed bore where to get off.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

No Cause for Celebration

He was responsible for the deaths of over 1m people and launched a brutal invasion of his neighbour. He presided over a tyrannical and corrupt government with an appalling record on human rights. And he amassed a personal fortune of $10bn dollars while his people were starving. I refer not to Saddam Hussein, who stands trial today before a U.S. backed show court- but to General Suharto, the former President of Indonesia. For Saddam, the ‘guilty’ verdict has already been written and execution in the presence of an already invited team of foreign observers- including the BBC's John Simpson- awaits. But for Suharto, whose crimes, in the words of John Pilger, make Saddam’s ‘seem like second-division’, a much more pleasant fate lies in store: seeing out his retirement in a luxury mansion in Jakarta. No CNN televised trial for the man whose army put to death one quarter of the population of East Timor and who oversaw the killing of up to 1m Indonesian civilians when he came to power in a CIA backed coup in 1965. No trial either for the former Chilean leader General Auguste Pinochet, who like his south-east Asian counterpart, came to power with the help of Uncle Sam and who also massacred thousands of his own people. The pro-war lobby will attempt to use this week’s sight of ‘The Dictator in the Dock’ to bolster support for the invasion of Iraq, which to date has claimed the lives of an estimated 100,000 civilians. But let us be under no illusions that Saddam is on trial not because of any atrocities he may have committed, but because he had the temerity to stand in the way of U.S. plans to establish hegemony over the entire Middle East. Had the Iraqi dictator ‘done a Suharto’ - sold off his economy to Western multinationals, allowed Starbucks and Macdonalds to multiply in the streets of Baghdad and US oil majors plunder his country’s black gold, we can rest assured that he would not now be in a dark and dusty cell, but safely ensconced in one of his palaces, lighting up a Monte Cristo and sitting down to watch his favourite video of the Sound of Music. Let us not forget that the worst of Saddam's alleged crimes, such as the gassing of the Kurds at Halabjah in 1988, occured at a time when he had the full backing of the U.S. and Britain. The selective justice of the New World Order, whereby those leaders who defy the world’s superpower are to subject to the law, but those who comply with its dictates are free to carry on killing and maiming as they feel fit- is no form of justice at all. Only if the U.S. announced that they supported the trial of all world leaders responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians and war crimes, then would we able to take this week’s events in Baghdad a little more seriously. But of course this will not happen- for it would mean that in addition to Suharto, Pinochet and a whole host of Western backed despots, those responsible for the illegal and murderous invasion of Iraq would also find themselves in need of a very good lawyer.
Copyright Neil Clark 2005 All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Full House

The news has just come through that Kenneth Clarke has been eliminated in the first round of the Tory leadership contest. So whatever happens now, it is guaranteed that a neo-conservative, pro-war candidate will win and that once again, in the next General Election both our leading parties will be agreeing on foreign policy. What sort of democracy is it that the views of the majority of the electorate (and indeed the views of grass-roots Tories, many of whom opposed the war)- can be treated with such contempt? The neo-conservatives did all they could to prevent Kenneth Clarke making it through to the final ballot, so petrified were they that he might win and then follow a less hawkish, and less pro-American foreign policy line. Ken we were told was too old, too lazy, and horror of horrors- was a director of a tobacco company (neo-conservative concern over the dangers of tobacco only seem to have arisen when Clarke announced his candidature).
Henry Ford once said that his customers could have any colour car they liked, so long as it was black.
Neo-conservative democracy says we can have party leader we like- so long as they sign up to Shock and Awe and the imposition of free market economies by B52s.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Still a Travesty of Justice

As the world's media circus prepares for the show-trial of Saddam Hussein, here's a reminder of another trial that the New World Order is less keen to publicise these days. I wrote this piece for The Guardian eighteen months ago- and since then developments at The Hague have become even more farcical. All impartial observers (and I don't mean those from the IWPR)- who have followed developments on a regular basis will agree that the prosecution have abjectly failed to prove their case. But since when have the NWO allowed a little thing like absence of evidence to hold them back? Remember, the trial is brought to you by the same people who assured us that Iraq possessed WMDs....

The Milosevic trial is a travesty
Political necessity dictates that the former Yugoslavian leader will be found guilty - even if the evidence doesn't
Neil Clark Thursday February 12, 2004
The Guardian

It is two years today that the trial of Slobodan Milosevic opened at The Hague. The chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, was triumphant as she announced the 66 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity and genocide that the former Yugoslavian president was charged with. CNN was among those who called it "the most important trial since Nuremburg" as the prosecution outlined the "crimes of medieval savagery" allegedly committed by the "butcher of Belgrade". But since those heady days, things have gone horribly wrong for Ms Del Ponte. The charges relating to the war in Kosovo were expected to be the strongest part of her case. But not only has the prosecution signally failed to prove Milosevic's personal responsibility for atrocities committed on the ground, the nature and extent of the atrocities themselves has also been called into question.
Numerous prosecution witnesses have been exposed as liars - such as Bilall Avdiu, who claimed to have seen "around half a dozen mutilated bodies" at Racak, scene of the disputed killings that triggered the US-led Kosovo war. Forensic evidence later confirmed that none of the bodies had been mutilated. Insiders who we were told would finally spill the beans on Milosevic turned out to be nothing of the kind. Rade Markovic, the former head of the Yugoslavian secret service, ended up testifying in favour of his old boss, saying that he had been subjected to a year and a half of "pressure and torture" to sign a statement prepared by the court. Ratomir Tanic, another "insider", was shown to have been in the pay of British intelligence.
When it came to the indictments involving the wars in Bosnia and Croatia, the prosecution fared little better. In the case of the worst massacre with which Milosevic has been accused of complicity - of between 2,000 and 4,000 men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995 - Del Ponte's team have produced nothing to challenge the verdict of the five-year inquiry commissioned by the Dutch government - that there was "no proof that orders for the slaughter came from Serb political leaders in Belgrade".
T o bolster the prosecution's flagging case, a succession of high-profile political witnesses has been wheeled into court. The most recent, the US presidential hopeful and former Nato commander Wesley Clark, was allowed, in violation of the principle of an open trial, to give testimony in private, with Washington able to apply for removal of any parts of his evidence from the public record they deemed to be against US interests.
For any impartial observer, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that Del Ponte has been working backwards - making charges and then trying to find evidence. Remarkably, in the light of such breaches of due process, only one western human rights organisation, the British Helsinki Group, has voiced concerns. Richard Dicker, the trial's observer for Human Rights Watch, announced himself "impressed" by the prosecution's case. Cynics might say that as George Soros, Human Rights Watch's benefactor, finances the tribunal, Dicker might not be expected to say anything else.
Judith Armatta, an American lawyer and observer for the Coalition for International Justice (another Soros-funded NGO) goes further, gloating that "when the sentence comes and he disappears into that cell, no one is going to hear from him again. He will have ceased to exist". So much then for those quaint old notions that the aim of a trial is to determine guilt. For Armatta, Dicker and their backers, it seems that Milosevic is already guilty as charged.
Terrible crimes were committed in the Balkans during the 90s and it is right that those responsible are held accountable in a court of law. But the Hague tribunal, a blatantly political body set up and funded by the very Nato powers that waged an illegal war against Milosevic's Yugoslavia four years ago - and that has refused to consider the prima facie evidence that western leaders were guilty of war crimes in that conflict - is clearly not the vehicle to do so.
Far from being a dispenser of impartial justice, as many progressives still believe, the tribunal has demonstrated its bias in favour of the economic and military interests of the planet's most powerful nations. Milosevic is in the dock for getting in the way of those interests and, regardless of what has gone on in court, political necessity dictates that he will be found guilty, if not of all the charges, then enough for him to be incarcerated for life. The affront to justice at The Hague over the past two years provides a sobering lesson for all those who pin so much hope on the newly established international criminal court.
The US has already ensured that it will not be subject to that court's jurisdiction. Members of the UN security council will have the power to impede or suspend its investigations. The goal of an international justice system in which the law would be applied equally to all is a fine one. But in a world in which some states are clearly more equal than others, its realisation looks further away than ever.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Politics Through The Looking-Glass

New Statesman 17th October 2005

It’s a country where people say ‘Hullo’, when they mean ‘Goodbye’. Where first names come last and last names come first. Where the most un-socialist political party one could imagine goes calls itself ‘Socialist’ and where the case for public ownership and a national health service is put by the conservative opposition. Welcome to modern Hungary-and to a topsy-turvy political landscape straight out of a Savoy Opera. In the three years since it took office, the Socialist-led government of Ferenc Gyurcsany, has sold off 160 state owned enterprises, imposed VAT on medical prescriptions, abolished a tax on stock market profits and sent troops to Iraq in support of President Bush’s illegal invasion. Its future plans include cutting the top rate of income tax and extending privatisation into areas even the Iron Lady dared not go- the railways, the post office, and most controversially of all, health care. Gyurcsany, a former Communist Youth leader whose personal fortune of $17m derives from the first wave of privatisation in the early 1990s, has received enthusiastic backing from neo-liberal institutes, western business journals and U.S. government officials. ‘The immediate future seems to be in safe hands’ says the American Ambassador to Hungary, George Herbert Walker III, who incidentally, is also George W. Bush’s cousin. Meanwhile, the case against the Hungarian Socialist’s Thatcherite agenda, is being put by the country’s ‘right-wing’ opposition. ‘Fidesz’, the largest opposition party and the strong favourites to win next year’s elections, want to introduce a ‘National Assets contract’, requiring that the privatisation of certain public assets- which include Budapest Airport, the state railway, the post office, the intercity bus company and the Hungarian health service- would need a two-thirds majority in parliament. ‘The (current) privatisation law only needs a simple majority and it is about selling assets. The National Assets contract is about keeping those assets’ said Fidesz spokesperson Eszter Pataki. Fidesz has not ruled out renationalising Budapest Airport, if the government goes ahead with its plans to sell it in spite of a Constitutional Court ruling - and there is a precedent for their action- the party repurchased the M1 motorway when last in government. Fidesz’s dislike of privatisation is shared by the smaller Munkaspart (Hungarian Workers Party), a remnant of the former communist party which governed Hungary for over forty years. Co-operation between the staunchly anti-communist Fidesz and the Marxist Workers Party would have been unthinkable a decade ago. Yet co-operate is what the two parties did last year, in their successful campaign to force a national referendum on the government’s plans to privatise health care. Fidesz’s leader, Viktor Orban, once referred to the Hungarians who had grown up under communism as ‘the lost generation’. But faced with the impact of the neo-liberal ‘reform’ process, which has reduced 4 million Hungarians (40% of the population) to poverty, Orban now concedes that for the majority of Hungarians, life is much harder today than it ever was in the days of Kadar’s goulash communism. What the current political debate in Hungary demonstrates, is that the real divide of our time, is not between ‘left’ and ‘right’, but those who support the neo-liberal agenda- of privatisation, tax cuts for the wealthy and running the economy for the benefit of Western multinationals and those who don’t. If Lady Thatcher were Hungarian, there can be little doubt that she would vote for the incumbent government. But for all those who consider themselves to be socialists, the likely demise of the Hungarian Socialist Party- and its replacement by the ‘right-wing’ opposition can only be a cause of celebration. Whatever would Gilbert and Sullivan have made of that?

Copyright N.Clark/New Statesman 2005

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Ten Questions about The World We Live In

Ten Questions about The World We Live In

1. Who said: 'I am a warmonger. I am bloodthirsty. I am rabid. My friends want only peace and harmony, but I want to wreak destruction and killing'.
(a) Osama bin Laden
(b) A radical preacher from Finsbury Park Mosque
(c) Saddam Hussein.
(d) The British neo-conservative writer Stephen Pollard

2. Who said: ‘The first and most important conclusion to be drawn from the Koran is the impossibility of any connection between Islamic and non-Islamic systems'.
(a) Osama bin Laden
(b) A radical preacher from Finsbury Park Mosque
(c) Saddam Hussein
(d) Aliji Izetbegovic, the US-backed Bosnian separatist leader

3. Who said: ‘Socialism in particular, being a progressive and just democratic society, should not allow people to be divided by national or religious identity’.
(a) Willy Brandt
(b) Nelson Mandela
(c) Jaharawl Nehru
(d) Slobodan Milosevic

4. In 1999 the British Prime Minister claimed that the Yugoslav authorities were carrying out ‘genocide’ in Kosovo. How many mass graves have to date been found in the province?
(a) 76
(b) 57
(c) 32
(d) 0

5. In 2003, the British Prime Minister claimed Iraq possessed ‘major amounts’ of Weapons of Mass Destruction. How many weapons of mass destruction have to date been found in Iraq?
(a) 1150
(b) 430
(c) 32
(d) 0

6. Which of these leaders have USA or Britain not tried to assassinate?
(a) Fidel Castro
(b) Salvadore Allende
(c ) Slobodan Milosevic
(d) General Pinochet

7. Which is the only country in the Middle East to possess Weapons of Mass Destruction?
(a) Iran
(b) Syria
(c) Saudi Arabia
(d) Israel

8. A new report says 40% of Hungarians are living in poverty. What did the Hungarian government recently spend £7.7m on?
(a) Free transport for old-aged pensioners?
(b) Free heating for old-aged pensioners?
( c) Extra help for the unemployed?
(d) New medium range air-to-air missiles from the U.S. arms manufacturer Raytheon?

9. Which of these former Soviet Republics has the highest position in the UN’s Human Development Index?
(a) Russia
(b) Georgia
(c ) Ukraine
(d) Belarus

10. Which of these former Soviet Republics had sanctions imposed on it by the U.S. last October?
(a) Russia
(b) Georgia
( c) Ukraine
(d) Belarus
The answer to all the questions is D. What does this tell us about the world we live in?
Neil Clark 2005 All Rights Reserved

Cameron the Neo-Con

Alice Thompson in the Daily Telegraph says there are five questions she would like to ask David Cameron. But the most important one- where Cameron stands on Iraq-the defining issue of the day- is not included. The answer of course is that Cameron is a fully paid up inhabitant of Planet Neo-Con. His campaign is supported by the pro-war trio of George Osborne, Michael Gove and Ed Vaizey-(the latter pair are involved with the soon-to-be launched British section of the hard-core Atlanticist 'Henry Jackson Society'). Cameron’s transformation from leadership no-hoper to front runner has taken many by surprise. But what has happened is that the neo-conservatives, faced with the very real possibility that the Conservatives might soon have an anti-war leader, have hastily choreographed a 'Stop Clarke' campaign, by ditching their previous favourite (Davis) and promoting Cameron- the pro-war, Thatcherite as 'the man of the future'. But all the new Tory Golden Boy really represents is the last tired fling of a very old project. Far from being a ‘moderate’, Cameron is an extremist, a man who supports the illegal invasion of sovereign states and who can be guaranteed, should he ever become Prime Minister, of supporting further U.S. military conquests.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Listen and Repeat After Me....

Listen and repeat after me…
Michael Grade is wrong. The problem, is not as the Chairman of the BBC claims, that the corporation shows too many repeats. It is that it doesn’t show anywhere near enough. The only reason I, and I suspect millions of others continue to cough up for our television licences, is to enjoy again the gems made in the golden age before television executives decided that watching people attend a car boot sale or decorate a house constituted ‘entertainment’. For us, the silent majority, repeats of Only Fools and Horses and The Good Life stand out like beacons amidst the dross of makeover shows, talent contests for the untalented and inane quizzes. But as welcome as Del Boy and Tom and Barbara will always be in our living rooms, why are their series the only comedies which the BBC ever seems to repeat on a regular basis? ’The Weaver’s Tale’, the episode of The Good Life in which Margo buys a spinning wheel, never fails to amuse, but it has been repeated four times in the past three years, (including again last night at 7.00), whereas no episode of ‘It Ain’t Half Hot Mum’ has been seen on BBC1 or 2 since 1995. Jimmy Perry and David Croft’s series- wrongly attacked by the pc brigade for being racist and homophobic, delightfully lampooned the attitudes of the British in India. Don’t today’s generation have a right to enjoy- as mine did- the hilarious antics of the Royal Artillery Concert Party and Windsor Davies’ definitive portrayal of a bullying and uneducated Sergeant Major- rated by Spike Milligan as the funniest comic performance he had ever seen? Richard Briers’ talent is there for all to see in the Good Life, but why do we never get the opportunity of enjoying this brilliant actor in repeats of Ever Decreasing Circles too? In the field of drama, more repeats would also be welcome. Instead of wasting licence-payer’s money on East Enders-style drivel like Cutting It, why don’t the Beeb repeat hugely popular series like The House of Eliot, which captivated viewers in the early 1990s? And for real life drama, what could be more gripping than watching again John Freeman's 'Face to Face' interviews with the likes of Evelyn Waugh, Gilbert Harding and Bertrand Russell? The BBC has one of the largest television archives in the world. So why on earth don’t we see more from it?

Reformers and Hardliners

Reformers and hardliners
What do Iran, Venezuela and Belarus have in common?
Neil Clark Tuesday July 12, 2005
Iran's new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is one. So are Belarus's Alexander Lukashenko and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. These men, we are repeatedly told by CNN, the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, are "hardliners". But what exactly is a hardliner - and why are some world leaders hardliners and others not?
In a dictionary you will find hardline defined as "definite and unyielding". But if so, why is hardliner used so selectively to describe world leaders?
As Mahmoud Ahmadinejad celebrated his landslide victory, another election was taking place in Bulgaria. For the past four years the prime minister, Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, has presided over a privatisation programme that the Iron Lady herself would have drooled over. His neo-liberal agenda has left half of Bulgaria's 8 million people surviving on less than two euros a day. Yet unlike Ahmadinejad, Lukashenko or Chavez, the Bulgarian premier has not been labelled a hardliner - for his "definite and unyielding" policies - but instead is referred to as a reformer and a moderniser.
It's a similar story across eastern and central Europe. The Hungarian prime minister, Ferenc Gyurcsany, whose government is following the most aggressively neoliberal policies in the EU, recently announced plans to privatise healthcare. Hungary has no more money for hospitals - but did find £7.7m to buy air-to-air missiles from the US and £34.5m to "adapt" its armed forces to the demands of Nato and EU membership. To many, a policy of putting guns before health would be considered hardline. But not the western media, who laud Gyurcsany as a "centrist reformer".
Look further and it is clear; if you run your country for the benefit of international capital and orientate your foreign policy towards the US, you will be a "reformer", "moderate" or "moderniser" - regardless of how extreme your polices are. The rule applies even if you served in an SS unit (like the neoconservatives' favourite Islamist, the late Bosnian leader Alija Izetbegovic) or, like the shah of Iran, had one of the most feared secret police forces in the world.
If, on the other hand, you run your country for the benefit of your people and refuse to pay Danegeld to the most powerful empire the world has seen, you will be called a hardliner. Ahmadinejad is "hardline", not for the social and religious conservatism he shares with the non-"hardline" leaders of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, but for his policy of empowering Iranian working class people and defending his country's right to develop nuclear power. Lukashenko is "hardline", not for his authoritarianism, but because he wishes to maintain the last planned, socially owned economy in Europe: an alternative economic agenda that has seen his country climb from 68th to 49th in the UN human development index. And Hugo Chavez is "hardline", not because he once led a failed military coup, but because he wishes to use his nation's vast oil wealth to benefit Venezuela and not US oil corporations.
It is for standing up for the interests of their own people that these three men are labelled "hardliners". For those genuinely concerned with social justice, derailing the US behemoth and creating a world in which people come before profits, the more "hardliners" - and the less "moderates" and "reformers" - that are elected to power, the better.
· Neil Clark is a writer and broadcaster specialising in Eastern European and Middle Eastern affairs