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Aug 232009
 

Seems that by releasing the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, the Scottish government has annoyed the chief of the FBI Robert Mueller who has indicated his disgust at the decision. Ordinarily an opinionated statement from someone from the US on UK policy can be irritating, but is perfectly fine – there is such a thing as free speech. However Robert Mueller is not a private citizen; he is a member of the US government machinery. Perhaps he should remind himself that his organisation’s role is domestic law enforcement so he should really not be making statements about the justice systems of foreign countries.

After all the UK is not a US state. The right thing to do in terms of foreign policy over this matter would be for the US authorities responsible for foreign relations to issue a note to the UK Embassy indicating disquiet over the decision and not to trumpet the details in the press. Condemning one of your oldest allies in the press is the sort of behaviour that is indicative of US arrogance that is so irritating throughout the world.

Just to correct one misconception that the US press seems to have made – he was not leading the investigation into the Lockerbie bombing. Not unless he was working for the Dumfries and Galloway police force at the time. I am sure that he was involved in the investigation but the US Justice Department was merely assisting the Dumfries and Galloway police with the investigation. I am sure the Scottish police were grateful for the assistance which would have been very helpful considering the airline involved (Pan Am) was a US company. But it was still a Scottish investigation and when the conviction was made, the justice handed down to the guilty party was Scottish.

Quoting from Mueller’s statement :-

… because I am outraged at your decision, blithely defended on the grounds of ‘compassion.’

Well perhaps ‘compassion’ is not part of the US justice system, but it is part of the Scottish justice system. Keeping a man in prison far from his home and family when he is dying is inhumane – whatever his crime. And at least this UK citizen feels outraged that the Scottish government is being criticised for being humane.

A further quote :-

… as inexplicable as it is detrimental to the cause of justice. Indeed your action makes a mockery of the rule of law.

Well firstly if you find the concept of ‘compassion’ inexplicable, then perhaps you should sign up for a course on humanity, because whether you agree with compassion or not, it is fairly easy to see the reason behind the release of the Lockerbie bomber on compassionate grounds.

As to the rest of the statement, the bomber was given a fair trial, found guilty, and sentenced to a term in prison. The rule of law has been served, as the guilty has been found and treated appropriately. As to justice being served, well the guilty party did serve 8 years in prison which is not enough, but is not a minor punishment by itself. And the bomber won’t serve much longer even if we did not release him on compassionate grounds; he is dying slowly and painfully, and will shortly be dead (those who believe in such things might think that God wants a quiet word with him).

Lastly :-

… gives comfort to terrorists around the world …

Which is just ridiculous. What normal person is going to risk 8 years in prison ? Whatever punishment you hand out to terrorists, terrorists will attack if their beliefs lead them to think that they are doing the right thing. Nobody is going to attack UK targets because we release terrorists who are dying whilst the US cruelly keeps them in prison.

Although I have no sympathy for the Lockerbie bomber, I am proud that I live in a country that will release a dying prisoner on compassionate grounds.

Jul 252009
 

Sometimes I really do not understand some comments that crop up from time to time in the media. Apparently there are many people who do not understand why we are fighting a war in Afghanistan.

Well I guess some people are so dumb they need reminding to keep breathing.

Or are so uninterested in what is going on that they never listen to media discussions on the war.

It is not as if the reasons have not been discussed many times. And it is not as if the aims are particularly difficult to understand – we’re there to establish a stable government that is not going to let Afghanistan be used as a solid base for terrorism. Sure, things start to get a little more detailed and confused when you dig down into more precisely how that will be done especially when combating the opium/heroin trade gets mixed in.

The terrorists in Afghanistan use the heroin trade to raise funds for their activities, so it is perfectly reasonable to try to stop the funds, but it needs to be done in such a way that it does not irritate the opium farmers whose livelihood depends on the trade. As I have suggested before, the simplest way of dealing with this, is to simply buy the opium for a fair price ourselves.

So the next time someone complains that they do not know why we are fighting in Afghanistan, remember that whilst it is perfectly reasonable to object to the war for all sorts of reasons, objecting because you do not understand the aims is just indefensible.

Jan 282009
 

Today the conflict in Northern Ireland has appeared in the news again. Fortunately this time the conflict was no more than angry words, but it shows that the “troubles” are not quite over yet. The news that sparked this conflict? The announcement that all the families who lost a member during the troubles would receive £12,000 as some sort of gesture (they avoid the word “compensation”).

The problem with this is that this package includes those families who lost a member who was a terrorist “killed in action” as it were – for example the family of an IRA bomber killed by his own bomb would receive this gesture. It is hardly surprising that this is somewhat less than those who feel they are genuine victims of terrorism.

Those who came up with this idea need to have their heads examined. Perhaps their hearts were in the right place, but they should have known that this proposal would never have been popular. The family of that IRA bomber mentioned earlier (and the equivalent families of Unionist terrorists) are victims of terrorism as much as the other families, although I very much doubt I would get much agreement from the other families.

Why?

First of all the family of a terrorist is not responsible for the actions of the terrorist, and they will suffer the normal effects of grief when that terrorist is killed. In a society where that terrorist did not feel the need to go out and murder people to make a point, the family would still have that member of their family.

Does it sound like I am blaming society for turning ordinary angry young men (and women) into terrorists ? Yes to an extent.

A normal healthy society does not turn a significant number of angry young men into terrorists. They may well go on protests, throw bricks through windows, and generally make a nuisance of themselves. They will not go out and plant bombs, and shoot people.

Any society that does turn a significant number of angry young men into terrorists is sick in some way.

That does not mean that the terrorist is innocent of the crimes they commit – anyone who bombs, or shoots in an attempt to achieve a political end is in the wrong.

But any society that is sick needs a tonic.

Jan 172009
 

On a side matter, who the hell came up with this mealy-mouthed “collateral damage” phrase anyway ? Let us call a spade a spade and stop hiding an ugly truth behind a pretty phrase. It is “civilian casualties”.

Who is responsible for the civilian casualties in the current mess in the Gaza strip ? I should point out that I’m talking about the Winter 2009 mess seeing as there have been so many in the past and will probably be again.

Well Israel’s mealy-mouthed spokescritters will have you believe that it is all the fault of Hamas for fighting amongst civilians and stock-piling weapons amongst civilians, etc. There’s an element of truth to that, although one wonders whether if Israel were reduced in size to a territory the size of the Gaza Strip, would not their own army do pretty much the same thing ? Or at least the Zionist lunatic fringe.

But Hamas does not deserve all of the blame. Israel gets some too. Whether or not Israel is justified in using military force in trying to stop Hamas from attacking Israel, those dead cilivians in Gaza were killed by Israeli bombs, Israeli shells, and Israeli bullets. Israel has to bear the responsibility of those deaths and not just blame Hamas for them.

To claim otherwise is an insult to everyone’s intelligence and further damages Israel’s credibility. And Israel needs to spend a lot of time repairing their credibility. There are many ordinary people in Europe who are more likely to believe claims made by Hamas than claims made by Israel because of the lies and half-truths that Israel has told in the past.

There are many weapons used to fight terrorism. One of the most important is truth. One of the least important is military might.

Jan 162009
 

So various organisations claim that Israel is using white phosphorous munitions in Gaza, and Israel denies their use. Or to be more specific denies the use of “WP” which is military slang for white phosphorous munitions intended for uses other than smoke (i.e. set things burning which might not otherwise burn – like people).

But Israel is using white phosphorous munitions; tell-tale pictures of shell casing designed for use as smoke screens have been released, and they have admitted using smoke screens. This makes their denial of white phosphorous (or more specifically “WP”) considerably foolish.

Whilst a nit-picker could claim their denial is in fact true, their denial relies on people understanding the difference between “WP” munitions and smoke-screen munitions. It would be far better to say that their use of white phosphorous is compatible with the various laws of war (the Geneva conventions, etc.).

But is it ? A spokesperson for Israel is hardly in the position to know. They may well know there is a policy to only use white phosphorous smoke screens in areas where civilians may be, and they may not be used to target civilians, but they do not know that Israeli armed forces have stuck to those policies. It is easy to imagine that some artillery unit has noticed that their smoke screen shells when “accidentally” fired too low are quite effective at setting fire to things and to carry on having “accidents” without letting their senior commanders know.

Even if that is not happening, and Israel is sticking to the letter of the laws of war, they may not be sticking to the spirit of the laws of war. The use of white phosphorous munitions in cvilian areas is banned to prevent horrific injuries to civilians; the use of smoke-screen weapons in civilian areas that may cause such injuries sounds like it should also be forbidden.

White phosphorous is a terror weapon in much the same vein as chemical weapons … it is not classified as a chemical weapon because armed forces find the smoke screen effect so useful. It is worth pointing out that one of the first uses of white phosphorous was by a terrorist organisation in the 19th Century (the Fenians).

Jan 032009
 

Never has an overused phrase been more deserved as in the case of the Israeli government and the Hamas group in the latest chapter in the long running sorry story of violence between Palestinians and Israelis. Both sides should be mortally ashamed of their actions. Both sides are more interested in political posturing than in concern over the people they supposedly represent.

It also demonstrates that governments at best are only interested in paying lip service to serving “the people” and will spend far more resources looking after their own interests – retaining power. It is just that you rarely see governments lusting after power quite this much.

What does Hamas think it is doing with those pathetic rocket attacks against Israel ? They seem to serve little purpose other than to annoy Israel, and provide an ego boost to the Hamas militants. It is not as if they are very effective at killing innocent civilians.

And as for the Israeli response, you have tried this same thing before … over and over again for around 60 years. You have not managed to stop Palestinians military or terrorist actions in the past with this (over the long term), so why do you think it will work this time? All this indiscriminate killing will achieve is further evidence that Israel does not give two hoots for international law or for the lives of innocent (in many cases) Palestinians.

It is interesting to note that Israel does not permit journalists to enter Gaza. Almost as if they know what they are doing is wrong and just do not care. And of course as their ground offensive has started, perhaps they are trying to hide something ?

Israeli actions will drive Palestinians into being more accepting of extremists and will in the long term increase the amount of violence against Israeli civilians. Does that mean Israel should not respond to Hamas missile attacks ? No of course not, but the response must be proportionate (to be legal), and must go out of the way to avoid “collateral damage”. It may well be right that Hamas uses civilians as a shield for military purposes, but Hamas will not be blamed for those collateral casualities no matter what Israel claims.

Personally I do not really believe that those who govern Israel are so stupid as to believe these miltary attacks will accomplish anything. They are pandering to the Israeli fanatics frothing at the mouth who insist that something must be done, and the only reason they are doing it is to keep popularity so that they keep power when the next elections occur.

May 032007
 

The UVF made a little announcement today, saying that they’ve put violence behind them and their arms are “out of reach” … whatever that phrase is supposed to mean. This is of course great news after all the UVF is one of the organisations that began with the “troubles” in Northern Ireland/6 counties. And from the beginning they were one of the most violent … the first killing of a policeman was them, and they gloried in sectarian killings far more than most paramilitary organisations.

But there is one thing that has always puzzled me about the peace process in NI. Whilst the IRA was still armed, all the pressure on disarmament was directed towards them with only occasional mention of organisations such as the UVF. It seemed very one-sided especially when you consider the origins of the “troubles” where peaceful protests by catholics was met with increasing violence by “loyalists” (I’ve always hated that description). It is easy to forget that British troops were first sent to NI to protect the catholic community.

Anyone who knows the history of the IRA knows that after the border wars of the late 1950s/early 1960s, they had stopped using violence and were interested to see what the independent peaceful protests about the atrocious treatment of the catholic community could achieve. The loyalists claim that these protests were wholly controlled by the IRA … not so! Sure there were IRA members who took part … as (mostly) catholics themselves they had some interest in seeing the aims of the protest movement succeed, but it was never an IRA cover organisation.

So why were the loyalist paramilitaries treated so leniently by the peace process ? Why were the loyalist politicians allowed a voice when the republican politicians gagged ? Well, part of it is because the loyalists politicians managed to maintain a better illusion of distance between themselves and the paramilitaries … I guess you could say they were better politicians. And perhaps the British and Irish governments took the rantings of a certain loud and vile politician too seriously.

The peace process tends to give the impression that the republicans were more responsible for the troubles than the loyalists. They are certainly not without fault, but hopefully history will spread the blame more evenly.

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