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Progressiveireland on Hiatus

Ok folks, just lettin you know that i will be leaving this afternoon for me holibobs. I am sure those of you who are deeply addicted to my coverage will be ok until i get back. If you miss me too much, subscribe to the RSS or the Maillist and you will be first to hear of my return to the blogosphere. For those of you lost in a sea of unknown content, its only fair to point you to a few great sites for alternative content.
Disillusioned Lefty
Harry's Place

Back Seat Drivers
Dossing Times
and Slugger
Have a great two weeks all of you,

7.23.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Progressiveireland on Hiatus

Ok folks, just lettin you know that i will be leaving this afternoon for me holibobs. I am sure those of you who are deeply addicted to my coverage will be ok until i get back. If you miss me too much, subscribe to the RSS or the Maillist and you will be first to hear of my return to the blogosphere. For those of you lost in a sea of unknown content, its only fair to point you to a few great sites for alternative content.
Disillusioned Lefty
Harry's Place

Back Seat Drivers
Dossing Times
and Slugger
Have a great two weeks all of you,

» Author: Cian » Comments:

Its not Cause and Effect, Its Complex

There is a growing crescendo of criticism;rightly I happen to believe, for the equivalence of
the Iraqi occupation with the upshot in terror attacksin Europe. It is simply put and more eloquently than Ican deliver I fear, by Brownie at Harry’s place. There are no laws of physics at work here, the offering of simple solutionsto an issue such as this (like the removal of troops=no more attacks), is a logical fallacy. I believe that there is little that can be done to fundamentally and totally destroy this ideology outside of allowing history to unfold.
In the short and medium term though, promises of complete solutions by fundamentalists on both sides are disingenuous and can lead to dangerous actions that undermine our liberty and freedom while securing little in return.
Elsewhere the Times article by Gerard Baker is being cited by disillusioned lefty as a rather decent point against current tides of ‘cretino-left’ (to borrow a phrase) opinion. While I think parts are slightly excessive, I agree that fundamentally we must communicate and integrate Iraqis and Muslims alike in combating insurgents and terrorists. The use of attacks by both sides to justify staying or going regarding Iraq is the sadly political point scoring and vastly irrelevant to our current dilemma of theology which promotes the destruction of and clash with civilisations. There are strains of this attitude in all religions, not least Zionism and Christian Fundamentalism.
The strategy from here is to see that religion's capacity to pervert human values and divide societies occurs readily in certain conditions. As the piece on Disillusioned lefty pointed out; “This isn't about revenge. Brainwashed Muslim teenagers don't blow themselves up for shits and giggles. It's a war, and war involves strategies and tactics. They bombed London to achieve a definite goal. Probably something to do with British withdrawal from Iraq. But that is just one battle on the way to 'victory'. Their war is to re-establish the Caliphate, and not even George Galloway can support that - I hope.”
To lose sight of our problem is to condemn us eternally to never finding mitigating solutions. On all sides the argument is being perverted and diluted into Iraq and its focal point. Withdrawal from Iraq should be predicated on a best case scenario for Iraqis we don’t leave until it’s in their interests which are determined by them. Staying or going is not a function of tube attacks. Our democracy is a function of tube attacks and our response must outline the democratic framework through which we aim to respond to extremist views and the manner in which we must face up to the alienation in our societies.
Western societies can no longer point to stats and say we are diverse and integrated, we must challenge division and disintegration, promote equal opportunity and education. It’s not to combat the poverty trap but to prove that in democracy we value every single citizen and encourage them to grow and succeed. To achieve such a solution requires the acceptance that we have not attained the panacea of liberal democracy, that our system is not perfect and still excludes, that we must work constantly to revitalise and reinvigorate our representation of minorities and society as a whole. The process we must embark on now is a return to the real existence of every day life.
An attempt to break cultural barriers and show that we stand united against attempts to enforce dictatorship of any kind at home or abroad. If we are to pull troops out of Iraq it must not be under the pretence that we will no longer be bombed or scared. It must be for a positive impact on Iraqi welfare. That is the debate and it cannot be allowed to blur into one on terrorism. The war has a radicalising effect but as brownie pointed out it is not a case of cause and effect, no scientific
solutions nor any scientific certainty. As soon as we see that there are no sure-fire prescriptions and no serious hope of ridding us entirely of extremism we can observe how genuine democratic responses and liberation movements can lift the duality of views from moderates in the East, Middle-East and West.

7.22.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

War Without End

I am struck by the coherency of John Gray's contribution to the newStatesman this week on the topic of the London Bombings and the global war on terror. His calm and assured views chime with my own take on recent events, that a post-modern disconnect exists whereby appearance is simply taken as reality. Thus the whole war by media in Afghanistan, Iraq and more opaquely the GWOT.
His broad point is that by entertaining such perception as reality we seek to have (or offer in the case of politicians) a secure and stable society and state. This situation is practically impossible and in the rush to assuage the human desire for certainty and security, not least in the U.S., we have entered into an unwinnable war in the traditional sense.
As I have argued over the past few days (here and here), there is something surreal about taking society to war with terror. It ends up rotting all we believe in until we are unsure where to turn. As Gray argues;

"We seem to have lost the art of living in an intractable world, so we contrive an alternative reality in which insoluble problems are conjured away by displays of goodwill."

It is from this trend that emerges the US/UK response to terror with overt force and attempts to 'stamp out' terror wherever it may be. While such attempts may be justified, the broader strategic policy of removing from the world in so far as possible the threat of global terrorism lies unattended.
I think it is fair for all on the left to support calls for a strategic review of the war on terror. I don't think it will get anywhere but it will help us all to face up to the fact that we cannot simply remove terror as one would a boil. Terror is more like a burgeoning young sapling stretching its roots deep into the ground. We need to fight in a coherent and clearsighted manner against those who harbour support for extremism and encourage liberty for all in the pursuit of critiques of terror ideologies. The fact is no solution will work 100% some will work well, others will work badly.
Humans naturally desire to feel secure, however this war/struggle should be waged in the full knowledge that its success is likely to be localised and protracted. We may never feel safe nor secure again, nor may moderate Muslims among us. The power of unattainable expectations is that it can exacerbate an already bad disconnect between appearance and reality until the only route to what we desire is simply being lied to. A war on terror can be argues for, a war on reality is not as easy to defend. We should not be afraid to speak out against double standards or moral equivalence nor condemn terror, we should be aware of how difficult and unlikely a total solution is to attain.

7.20.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Unite Against Terror

I encourage those of you who regularly read the blog to check in and sign the statement of opposition at Unite Against Terror. I have been trying recently to come to grips with the over and back arguments regarding the state of the world and the dominance of global terror and i am forced to agree with the statement;

"We offer our support and solidarity to all those within the Muslim faith who work in opposition to the terrorists and who seek to win young people away from extremism and nihilism, towards an engagement with democratic politics.

We believe that democracy and human rights are worth defending with all our strength. The human values of respect and tolerance and dignity are not 'western' but universal.

We are not afraid. But we are not vengeful. We believe the kindness of strangers has lit the way and this light will drive away the darkness. We want to join light to light to show that evil, injustice and oppression will not have the final word. Through these acts of human solidarity we will mend the world the terrorists have fractured."

Though unlikely to develop the momentum of MPH taking a stand and calling for freedom is the first step in confronting terrorism. We must stand tall for the liberty of all societies. As Harry notes from one of the why I signed statements,

"There can be no freedom for Muslim peoples without the defeat of the Islamofascists and everything they stand for; and there can be no defeat of the Islamofascists without liberty for all Muslim peoples." Marko Attila Hoare (Faculty of History, University of Cambridge)

We can and must all stand tall against those who would enslave us. We have no kindred dreams with those who would kill Muslim and Christian alike in pursuit of fundamentalism. The power in all societies is the power to overcome extreme views. We must encourage our governments as well as our citizens to respond in a manner which opens up the whole of the world to freedom of thought and expression backed up by security for the masses against fundamentalist agression.

7.19.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Commitment to our Values??

Following on from a piece in yesterdays observer by Andrew Rawnsley, I came across a briefing paper on HRW regarding the ongoing proceedings of enemy combatants in Gitmo. Rawnsley's argument was that contrary to bravado statements from the political leadership that 'terrorists will not change our way of life etc etc' they are actively doing so. I am inclined to agree and this is an Orwellian case of the reality departing from the depicted or perceived truth. I am not suggesting a deliberate attempt by the executive/establishment at a power grab, thats another post entirely, simply the fact that our politics and our discourse are, and will continue to be, patently different because of the 7/7 bombings.
One of the clearest messages that is being heard around the western establishment is that no matter what we must cling to our freedom, our way of life, our commitment to democracy and defend our society from 'evil ideologies', 'those who hate us' and so forth. This is a sentiment I echo and any progressive who wavers before condemning the attacks on London and others should consider the variety of critiques of envious leftists. The call for defence of democracy makes on consider exactly what our disparate and numerous systems of democratic polity have in common, what it is that binds the west together as an entity. The freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights perhaps? The freedom of private enterprise? Preservation of Human Rights and the rule of law?
It is commitment to these very values that is reiterated every single time one of the world leaders stands up and says terror will not defeat us (whether it can or not is another issue). Yet the U.S and allies ha taken the GWOT on a trajectory which has done a better job of undermining western liberties and freedoms than many extremists could have hoped for. The report from HRW outlines in 13 pages a critique of the administration of justice to those in Gitmo that may not reach the light of day in national media. I apologies if it did, I simply may not have noticed.
The military tribunals which are being put in place to attempt to try suspected terrorists and assorted suspected criminals, take serious liberties with the rights of non-US citizens by curbing the degree of public scrutiny and recourse of defendants to instruments of law according to the report the main points of critique include;
"Under the Defense Department rules, the military commissions will or are likely to:
  • Deprive defendants of independent judicial oversight by a civilian court.
  • Improperly subject to military trials persons apprehended far from any battle zone.
  • Try prisoners of war (POWs) in a manner that violates the 1949 Geneva Conventions.
  • Deprive defense counsel of the means to prepare an effective defense.
  • Prevent defendants from seeing all evidence introduced against them.
  • Impose no obligation on the government to disclose exculpatory information.
  • Place review of important interlocutory questions with the charging authority rather than
  • an independent adjudicator.
  • Fail to guarantee that evidence obtained via torture or ill-treatment shall not be used.
  • Allow wide latitude to close proceedings and impose a “gag order” on defense counsel.
  • Deprive military defense counsel of normal protections afforded military lawyers from
  • improper “command influence.”
  • Restrict the defendant’s right to choose legal counsel.
  • Provide lower due process standards for non-citizens than for U.S. citizens."
The jurisdiction of the commissions is set to be as broad and global (amorphous if you will) as the GWOT itself. For a state which refuses to subscribe to the ideal of International Transnation Law embodied in the ICC and ideas of global accountability for actions of the state, the granting of similar powers to an unconventional military court smacks of double standars at the very least. The legal theory suggests that any person suspected of involvement with the enemy, whomever the enemy du jour happens to be, can be tried in the military commission instead of federal law. This effectively leaves every corner of society open to being termed a war zone, thus trumping civilian law for military courts.
The principle of equality before the law is intended to apply to all people before the one law. Usurping rules of justice and due process to nail down convictions may catch some extremists, but the drag-net approach is likely to catch innocents too. Normal safeguards against false convictions may be lost in the course of the running of these commissions. HRW concludes that;
"Such a misuse of military courts to try civilians would be an evasion of
U.S. obligations to conduct fair trials under international human rights law."
That's due to the obligations contained in the Third Geneva Convention which stipulates that the accused POW is due the same process and law procedures as members of the detaining army. Alongside the refusal to allow independent and competent determination of POW status is the attempt to undermine the pillars of criminal defence, lawyer-client confidentiality, recourse to appeal etc.
The legal arguments continue for over thirteen pages and I encourage all of you to read it.
There will undoubtedly be those who argue that the War on Terror is a new war and global terror a new phenomenon. In order to remain free we must give up some freedom to effectively police our state the argument goes, there are those out there who hate us and have the infrastructure in place to kill us in our thousands. The effective use of fear to curb the wests commitment to democratic politics and the belief in human liberty is troubling for us all.
Our commitment to democracy must remain undimmed and we cannot allow the security arguments to undermine our beliefs.
The defence of our values is something we will all come to expect from our leaders. As Shakespeare once wrote, "words to the heat of deeds to cold breath gives," actions speak louder than words. Dissent and opposition to some policies in the GWOT is not abandoning our society to extremists, its reaffirming the motivation for engaging with them. The easy option is to allow the US Military to do what it will to secure convictions.
The belief that the men and women subject to trial are willing to ignore our human rights must be proved and cannot be implicitly accepted or suggested by the nature of the proceedings. International law and international standards of governance must be put to the top of the global agenda as a means of fostering critique and dialogue in the whole of the world. Democracy and freedom is not the preserve of the rich of the correct religion. Those on the right have been evangelising democracy for much of this century thus far. The left must take charge of the cause to ensure equality and humanity is accepted as a natural human condition.
One of the keys to unlocking the cycle of hatred is creating an environment where al-Qa'ida theology has no grip, has no evidence (real or apparent) to support its recruiting methods. Creating an environment where those of all religions and hues feel free to speak out and criticise, where opposition is not the preserve of the elite and popular discontent is expressed through violence. Essentially, I believe that victory if there is such a thing, is attainable only through ongoing support for democracy everywhere, the liberation of humanity around the world and above all the unflinching 'defence of our values' not the undermining of them for short term need/gain.
The US must hold fast for once to its rhetoric. Our system is not a religion but a framework. We must support those who wish to support their people ini freedom and oppose those who wish to deny this fundamental and basic human right. We cannot condemn suspects to shoddy justice, we need to support due process, independent evaluation and adequete procedure. Rule of law is not an indulgence and treating it as such comes dangerously close to an attitude of rule of the qualified all-seeing all-knowing.

» Author: Cian » Comments:

Terror is More Than a Security Problem

It didnt take long for parts of the UK government tale to come undone in the press. Following allegations earlier this week from Nicolas Sarkozy regarding the arrest of one bomber previously, there were instant denials and rancourous snarls from Home Secretary Charles Clarke. The man was mistaken was the general theme of responces from Whitehall.
So it disappeared for a few days, though a stink of fish clung to the air surounding the whole situation. Then along comes todays Sunday Times with reporting that the man was in fact obserrved and analysed by MI5 in the course of an investigation last year and deemed "no threat".
Without doubt, there will be the usual reactionary calls from the usual reactionary sources. It is, potentially at the very least, damaging for Clarke to appear to have covered up and misled over an important issue such as this at a time when people are still recovering from the emotional hammering of 7/7. This is not why I am writing however, the resignation calls I shall leave to the Mail et al. I think Clarke is a rather decent Home Sec and its the 'better the devil you know' approach which would lead me to support his stay.
The purporse of this is to point to the obvious failure of reliance on solely security and intellegence based solutions to the current problem of extremists in our midst and across the globe.
The judgement that Mohammed Sadiq Kahn was of no threat to the country is a seemingly sane and rational judgement taking account of resources and procedure as well as evidence of activity and radicalisation. There are possible weak points in the decision process but in the rush to judge or give some insanely emotive response we will probably never find out from the press at large.
The fact is that no security force in the world can get inside the mind of a man who doesnt fit pre-existing models or profiles. When he is the first of his kind, he breaks the mould and causes a restart in Security thinking. Thus the problem with the solely security solution is that its always reactive and unless you are a member of the Bush administration cannot actively be preemptive without trampling on Human Rights and Civil Liberties.
If pre-emptive security of the sort experienced at Broadmoor is the only viable solution to the protection of democracy, then perhaps the debate on HR and Civil Liberties would be shorter and more definite. There is not such agreement or proof that defeat/undermining of terror networks is best done in this fashion, the macrocosm example of Iraq is hardly instructive support for the argument either.
Therefore it is clear that we must embrace the multi-faceted approach to terror and extremism that is incumbent upon democracy every day in the face of Facism and the BNP types. Security plays a vital role in observing movements and monitoring chatter online etc, but it cannot be alone in its role. We must try to ensure that security has little or nothing to react to. That we do not give reasons for well educated and clever Muslim youths to examine the al-Qa'ida, Salafist/Wahhabist worldview and agree with its observations is paramount. We have a role and a duty to our electorates to cease activity which throws fuel on the fires of hatred in the mind of a few men.
One commentator recently likened al-Qa'ida's present form to a theology of sorts. In the sense that the power of its ideas rather than its leaders is its key force. We must then go about disproving the ideas and incorporating Imams and other figures in our society to disarm the bomb of of effervesent hatred.
Our engagement with others across the world and particularly in the middle east appear to give credence to the theology which says the evil west only desires to destroy Islam. We cannot keep letting them see and read more of this and this, it must be more along the lines of activity in the west such as opposition to the war and the ability to criticise our leaders.
I am not laying the blame at our door, it is however partly our interst, responsibility and duty to defeat extremism at home and abroad. Human life is the greates treasure we will have, only living opens our freedom up to the world, we must oppose those who would snuff it out.
"Hearts and Minds" is peddled so often as to be devoid of meaning and power currently, this is far deeper than a superficial hearts and minds programme. This is a strategic need for a sea change in policy by the west, on poverty, freedom, inclusion, education and, most fundamentally, in efforts to stop giving evidence and support by action to al-Qa'ida et al.
We can argue all day about who created al-Qa'ida and how its a western responsibility for the destruction of Afghan democracy in the name of the cold war through use of Mujahiddin. The fact is this extremism is here and out there. Unless the ratio of agents to suspects in 1:1 or better we have no chance of "securing" our way to victory. We must engage and address our strategic imperative of securing moderate empowerment and the fostering of Iraqi democracy. The opportunity to do such in Iraq has thus far been squandered and may never be recovered. I sincerely hope it does. We are all emotionally involved now.

7.17.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Cause a War needs Guns!!

While all of us are preoccupied trying to figure "good" muslims from "bad" ones and deciding where to bomb next in retaliation for (sorry, prevention of) terrorist attacks, the US is busy delaing with the logistics of a War on an abstract noun.
A joint press release from Amnesty, Oxfam and other arms trade campaigners cites a new deal at the UN regarding small arms and ammunitions. Anyone who has read the reports of recent events in the UK, would readily agree that controlling the flow of arms to failed states and areas like the Balkans with burgeoning arms black markets, is a pivotal pillar in controlling extremist capability to commit mass murder. Not so.
The US has taken sides with Egypt and the Devil incarnate Iran to make sure that, according to the release;
"The new UN agreement on a system to track small arms and light weapons is toothless and riddled with loopholes."
That this deal was negotiated behind closed doors should surprise no one. What should be a cold dose of reality is the fact that it only took a small number of countries to overturn the democratic will of the global community and impose a lax regime on small arms trading and explosives trading. Bear in mind the significance controlled explosive trading may have had on the success of the 7/7 attackers in attaining weaponry.
The loopholes are severly crippling to the goal of restricted arms trading internationally and undermining for anyone who desires to see rehabilitation for failed states in the international arena.
"for those countries who routinely sell weapons to the world’s worst regimes, it will be business as usual. There is more likelihood of being able to trace a missing suitcase than machine gun bullets." Anna Macdonald, Head of Campaigns for Oxfam.
Bearing in mind that the largest traders in Arms are the US and the UK, then this is cause for concern indeed. There is no legally binding mechanism and even if there was a clause which stipulates the sale may not be disclose under the cover of national security is enought to circumvent any outside observation of the activity of our only hyper-power and allies.
So the sale of arms to Uzbekistan, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey in the face of overwhelming evidence of state sponsored terror and mass human rights abuses, which have been cited in some quarters as contributing to radicalisation of young Muslims, is free to continue.
Added to this hypocritical stance is the fact that arms spending far outweighs spending on development and poverty relief both nationally and internationally in most arms exporters. If the stated aim of the US GWOT is to be believed then there are contradictions in this stance to be answered for. When the US and Iran are on the same side of the fence one must be dubious about the results and the reasons. This is only a victory for big business and the balance of trade in US and UK. There is small comfort here for the very people the GWOT is intended to reach out to and support.
A lisence to maintain the status-quo is not acceptable. We must demand our governments be serious about arms, serious about supporting dictators and human rights abusers and unafraid to accuse to the US of acting undemocratically in the international arena. We must desire arms control if not for our sake, for the sake of those like the protesters in Uzbekisatand killed by soldiers using British made and exported Military Land Rovers. Arms control is, alongside democracy and freedom, a key pillar to defeating international extremism. If that is truly an aim of the west then we have missed a major opportunity.

7.14.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

More on Islam

A week after 7/7 and it seems that everyone is coming out of the woodowork with opinions on Islam and its relation to terror and violence.
Firstly over at gavin's blog, we are directed to Ronan Mullen in todays Examiner. To be honest, i reckon Gavin is right to call him up on this one, what little of benefit it offers to the debate about how we could and should relate to moderates in the muslim community, is overshadowed by the incompetence of his argument regarding the developed attitudes of Christianity.
Bearing in mind that many peope still die at the hands of fundamental Christian beliefs, for diverse reasons around the world, one would think the sensible contribution is to call for a greater progress across religions in terms of tolerance and Human Rights. There is little special about christianity and certianly very little to crow about.
The "clash of civilisations" take is no longer acceptable in this time of danger to all communities. We are going to have to hang together or all hang seperately. There is only one way that a clash of civilisations is inevitable and that is only in the manner of self-fulfilling prophecy. We can only manufacture such a clash and as such can manufacture a solution. It is not about wealth or reason solely, it is an argument about the universality of peace and human rights. Irrelevant of religion.
This point is taken up over at slugger where they are discussing the contribution of ex-nun Karen Armstrong to today's Guardian. In the aritcle, a very knowledgable piece actually (particularly for those who read yesterdays piece on Egyptian Elections regarding Qutb), Armstrong is arguing for a more tolerant read of Islam to be taken and that terrorists not be immediately identified with the greater Muslim majority. She is correct to point out that al-Qa'ida provides a world-view like marxism or anarchism, the problem for us is that international actors are reenforcing arguments for the al-Qa'ida worldview and moderates are accpeting the subsequent extremist commentary. Again this becomes a distinctive and detailed argumetn which probably alienates a lot of peoples interest and stretches their good will.
The main factor I think is worth noting is that from Mullen's piece Christianity is not perfect and certainly not the prime example of perfect religion, this model is to be applies further to Islam which has difficulties of its own. However as we are somewhat qualified to make judgements on our own religious culture we are deeply unqualified to judge other examples yet. The learning process takes time. We must begin to engage and discuss for sure but dagerous ethno-centric characterisations help little in a debate that must sweep not just the west but the world.

» Author: Cian » Comments:

Egyptian Elections, Free and Fair?

When i posted on the london bombings over the weekend, I pointed toward the need for democratic spread in the Middle East as a means of empowering moderate voices in the society and alienating the extremeses (in effect mirroring what we must do in our system to hard-right/left).
I myself had a debate on the politics.ie forum about the election in Egypt and whether it represented the beginning of the process outlined above. From the beginnning i have been sceptical about the whole affair, i consider it to be window-dressing American Foreign Policy. Then I found this report from Human Rights Watch, which although a few weeks old is no less relevant to the whole debate following 7/7.
The Muslim Brotherhood are an organisation with a very mixed history, in Saddat's time and till this day they are predominantely a social organisation who offer support to the millions of slum-dwellers in Cairo, they operate as a dual religious/charitable organisation in the same way as Christian Aid perhaps. Their problem is that they are prone to oppression as the Egyptian rulers fear their potential electoral power. They are after all a partty with broad populist support among the poor.
HRW is acussing the egyptian government of taking advantage of national security pretext to imprison those of the Brotherhood who organised a mass demonstration against electoral rules in place for the upcoming presidential election. Currently the Brotherhood are omitted from the election (many feel it is due to their odds-on success should they run).
“President Mubarak should use this opportunity to end the practice of invoking national security to stifle peaceful dissent,” according to Joe Stork, deputy director of the Middle East & North Africa division.
The actions of Mubarak have for years given lie to the american myth of spreading democracy and again in his oppression of a party that operates with full popular support he has shown that democracy in the middle east means publicly endorsed autocracy/tyranny. This is unacceptable and any of us who fear international terror have only to look at such actions as detrimental to our own national security.
The case of Egypt is telling for it is here that the whole fundamentalist faith appeared to develop and take hold in the face of widespread oppression of muslims. Many fanatics here point rightly to the role of the west in supporting Saddat and Mubarak, it is here alongside Saudi Arabia that the worldview of Al-qa'ida is developed and openly subscribed to. If we stand any chance of defeating terrorism here and abroad it is in supporting the middle ground, opening up political systems and giving voice to the moderates.
Democracy abroad must not come to mean authorised dictatorship in the 21st century as it did in the last.

7.13.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Child Poverty in Ireland

On Thursay last, Barnardos has the unfortunate timing to launch their Annual Report. The report details what appear to be over 148,000 children in this country who live in consistent poverty. This means that they may not have at least one hot meal a day and that their families earn less that 40% of the MEDIAN INCOME. These are the poor and the vulnerable of the future. These are the people whom the Celtic Tiger has left behind.
I know that the Celtic Tiger has come in for a bit of a beating recently but there is a clear and defined need to clean up some of the mess left behind by breakneck development and the creation of a individual-centric culture.
The result of a startling number of young people growing up in poverty is far greater than Welfare budgets. This issue strikes at the heart of democracy. These kids are on their way to becoming disillusioned, disaffected and alienated from our society. The impact that this will have on our democracy, at a time in history when it is likely to be under attack from the Apathy Party and international terrorism, cannot be underestimated.
There is a moral responsibility to look at the opportunities afforded to a child. All children are created equal, all children are entitled to the best standard of care and education a socitey can offer them and none should be prejudiced by their income or status. THis is a fundamental right and truth.
Yet in Ireland, it is being ignored. In the UK, newLabour made a serious run at child poverty and the sureStart programmes is one of the most successful progressive and redistributive measures implemented in years.
What is required in this country is a genuine effort to improve the lot of all irish children, strategy should by followed by action and action should be meaningful and aimed at the best interests of children. Early intervention and parenting groups are only the beginning, education, health and justice need to be seen to be done in the poorest sectors of our society. WE cannot afford to alienate more people at a time when we can afford to look after them all.
Freedom is not the preserve of the RIch.

7.12.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Bush Under Fire over Rove Leak

There seem to be major ructions across the pond at the moment in the White House press corps. The case which arose from the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA counter-WMD operative, apparently in retaliation for criticism of the war from her high-profile husband, seems to have revealed evidence that Karl Rove was the leaker.
The whole issue arises from before the war, when the US cited intelligence stating the Iraq was importing, or preparing to import, Uranium from Niger. Plame's husband conducted an investiagtion into the claim and found that there was no evidence of any Iraqi attempt to purchase uranium from Niger. In retalliation for his apparent subordination, the identity of his wife, a CIA under-cover operative, was leaked to a right-wing columnist in the US, Robert Novak. The result has been a court case which can potentially undermine press freedom by forcing journalists to reveal their sources. Gary Younge in the Guardian had a good backgroud to the case here.
It is, however, the recent revelation of sources by Time Magazine, despite protest from Cooper, which appear to point to Rove as the source of the 'outing' of Valerie Plame.
Newsweek got hold of an email from Cooper to his Time editor which outline and finger Rove as the informant in the case. Their story went to press here.
From here it becomes far more inflamed with partisan politiking. The Nation columnist, David Corn, began his call for the head of Rove in his Capital Games column. He has done more extensive background work and more detailed critique on his blog.
To be fair this whole scandal seems to be a symptom of a far greater malaise that appears to be striking the Bush administration. There have been numerous tenstion points both within and outside of the administration regarding Social Security reform, the approach and plan for the war, excessive government power etc etc. The states seems to have realised that on 9/11 it wrote off its claim to balance the power of the executive on the ground of national security. Of course, the President required more power to ensure security, but he has been allowed to amass an arsenal of powers that allowed him to act as he pleases, and do so with impunity, in all spheres of government. Where little consideration was given to Congress, there is now none. Where the committes once caused a stir, they are now shot down in the press. This government has launched its own subversive action on the democratic integrity of the USA by amassing power irrespective of checks and balances.
The reaction when the institutions realise what is going on, is bound to be a backlash against the regime. This may be the first of a series of broader ructions between this quasi-authoritarian White House and a libertarian establishment.
On the topic of the Rove Case, it seems that he may not be going to do time for this. The law is written in such a strict sense that more evidence of a more damning nature is needed. This means that the only punishment the other estates can hope for is the resignation/sacking of Rove. From Bush such an action seems unlikely although its seems that Rove has publicly made a mockery of Fleischer's statement;
"that's not the way this white house does things."
Rove may go or he may not, what this case will hopefully acheive is the returing of american politics to a trajectory tolerant of dissent and press freedom, a trajectory which leads to the restoration of the checks and balances and, most unlikely of all, a trajectory which centralises things again.

» Author: Cian » Comments:

Archive Update

Just finished updating the Archive by Topic to include the most recent posts and articles.

7.10.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

G8 Communique

While London was under attack, much of the world's attention was diverted from the other major British foreign policy initiative at the moment, G8 and Africa. The G8 summit was intended to serve as a major initiative on African development and also the partial rehabilitation of British Foreign policy in the eyes of the electorate and the world. The release of the communiqué was perhaps more muted than had been envisioned, however that didn't stop the dissenting voices from the MPH campaign making sure that their objections were heard.
The document itself is a mixed bag of hopes, aims and some modicum of commitment. The moves on AID are to be welcomed but of course we would all prefer them to arrive now not in five years time. The fact of it is that those who were sceptical about the power and commitment of the G8 to make genuine historical change at this summit seem to have been vindicated by the furious spinning being done in the aftermath.
When a document is not good enough to stand on its own merits there is a large amount of spent to turn a pig's ear into a purse. One can see from the rancorous dissent of oxfam and that the hopes laid out before the summit have been summarily dashed by what appears to be more of the same. My own take on the issue of debt is that a great deal could have been done to cement the relief of Debt to a vast swathe of poor countries and to ensure the maximum pressure will be brought to bear on private creditors to do the same.
There has been a great deal of disappointment among the NGOs and MPH campaigners who see this as an opportunity wasted.
I don't wish to overly-regurgitate the points of NGO and development campaigners but I am dismayed myself with the amount of reference to the private sector that is afforded to the communiqué. Little is done to support state initiatives and many African observers see this as a prescription for more of the same in terms of trade liberalisation and corporate expansion.
From Peter Hardstaff of the World Development Movement (WDM);
"The G8's approach on trade seems to be 'Ask not what we can do for the poor, but what the poor can do for us."
The problem with much of the communiqués is that it commits the west to nothing concrete and certainly no action which is of benefit to Africa unilaterally. Much of the language can be, and in some quarters is, interpreted as a commitment to the current agenda of liberalisation with little give on trade fairness.
In other sectors there were plenty of statements of intent regarding education and corruption. It is on the latter that I am most dubious. George Monbiot has been following for some time the exploits of corporations in Africa and also at home he has highlighted how successfully they manage to avoid corporate manslaughter charges and other assumptions of liability. To change corporate behaviour in Africa means supporting government in other ways and also withdrawing export credit loans from companies engaged in Bribery.
Some companies caught out so far are major arms exporters and major contributors to the budget's bottom line.
The initial criticism of the MPH campaign by Anarchists of getting to close to politicians and not being critical enough seems to be justified to some extent. They have been taken in and used as a photo-op and, unless the communiqué lives up to its most positive spin, spat out again when used.
This wasn't the history changing moment some wished it to be, until we question the authority of the G8 to prescribe trade, aid and debt rules for the rest of the world we may be stuck in the same vicious cycle of exploitation in the name of national self interest for a long time.

7.09.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

The Problem With Terrorism

Is that it only happens to us. Robert Fisk apparently caused some outrage and offense for his piece in yesterdays Indie and Indo which tries to give some context to the attacks in London yesterday. The article is delivered in Fisk's typically robust style but nothing in it is enough to cause offense, in my opinion. The attempt to give some background, or even context, to the war on terror has been lampooned by the western formula dividing the issue into one of them and us.
I was listening to Dermot Ahern on the radio a while ago and he highlighted, quite correctly, the difficulty that the UN currently has in agreeing a standard definition of terrorism. The current preferred model is 'violence committed against innocent civilians,' he said. However as many on the left are quick to point our this puts the US, UK and China right to the top of terror organisations. In the absence of an objective definition we are bombarded with lopsided media coverage which can dedicate 10 to 15 pages of coverage to London yet both of the Falluja attacks only occasioned a two-page spread if they were so lucky.
The point, as I outlined in the start is that currently terrorism only happens to 'us' and is rarely acknowledged as such when it is perpetrated on our behalf or in our name. This is in no way a defense or mitigation of what occurred on Thursday. It is abominable and it is far too simplistic to say it is simply a result of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
What this attack affords us is an opportunity to engage seriously and in a popular democratic fashion with the causes and forms of terrorism. It is a tricky and very emotive debate but I feel it is finally one worth having. As was pointed out over at irisheagle (see post: 'Plan C') the whole issue of international terror is a function of social dynamics in the Middle East. The prescription across the board from Fisk to bloggers is wider promotion of democracy with some going so far as to call for equalisation of wealth globally.
I think many of us realise that our interference in the middle east on the necessity of resource security forces western support for strong arm regimes (Saudi, Egypt, Ex-Iraq...) and does very little to promote wealth redistribution and popular democratic involvement. Outside of Saddam many of our current and ex allies in the middle east were more plutocratic than redistributive. One only needs to consider the case of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to see how men and women across the society can be drawn to extremism.
I am no middle eastern expert and certainly no supporter of al-Qa'ida but it is certainly fair of Polly Toynbee to point out that the resolution to commit to promotion of democracy and 'doing the right thing' in Africa and the Middle East is not capitulation to terror but the implicit acceptance that, like poverty, the cure lies in helping those societies help themselves. That may mean the removal of strategic partners, like military and autocratic regimes, for the unpredictability of popular democracy.
That may mean removal of support for occupying forces all over the region and genuine promotion of conflict resolution, not inflaming it for political advantage. Many point to the importance and symbolism of Palestine in the cause of al-Qa'ida and other extremists and surely they would be unwilling to countenance a two state solution. However if the two state solution was actually followed and supported the vast majority of popular opinion would accept and support those terms. This turns the issue of extremism into a struggle similar to what we in the west have with far-right/left elements in our political system. We can manage them because our opinions have been granted weight and we outweigh extremists in voice.
The time is fast approaching when western foreign policy exploits shall come home to roost. We must take a brave step to empowering the people of the middle east and promoting Human Rights and conflict resolution. Then we must cooperate globally with stamping out terror.
Solutions are always more myriad than the simplicity of their explanation but with freedom, equality and democracy as a guiding principle we can give societies the power to stamp out extremism.In doing this we must first acknowledge the moral case for our cessation of terror activity in the region also. As I said earlier, terror currently only happens to 'us'. This is history's greatest weakness- it is written by the victor. In challenging al-qa'ida the War on terror is unlikely to solve more than it causes. We cannot allow those at the top to frame and manipulate the debate into an us and them. We have responsibilities for our role and they for theirs. Terror is an emotive word but not one exclusively available to our lexicon. We must realise the experience of terror is a shared one among innocents the world over. To some we are terrorists, to us they are. In truth we all cause terror and it must stop. Fair reporting is unlikely but necessary. A proper working definition is essential and many of us must beseech our states to cease state sponsored terror in our name.
We have the power to stop this, only together and only through democracy.
The problem with terror is that it behoves us to adopt an objective view ofthe issue and realise that none are blameless. It requires us to move forward in cooperation with the people of the middle east to achieve peace and hold unilateral intervention as the final option. It requires of all of us perhaps more than we can give at the moment. When the dust settles however there are and must be hard questions to be asked and unpallatable answers contemplated.

» Author: Cian » Comments:

London Bombings I

I, like many others find it a tad early to begin picking over the fallout from the London bombings at the moment however i am unsurprised to see one of the most predictable of todays headlines on BBC an hour ago:
"ID cards 'wouldn't stop attacks'"
According to Charles Clarke the id card scheme would not have prevented the attacks happening yesterday. This is what experts have been saying sine the beginning of the scheme so perhaps its time to consider investing the millions/billions elsewhere.
I will be doing more over the weekend on the bombins themselves.

7.08.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Uk Terror Attacks

Check out Gavin for very excellent coverage of the attack in the UK according to his sources there is an ongoing resuce operation on trains in the underground but it may be hampered by the effect of the explosions on the tunnels.
Also dossing for equally good coverage and slugger

7.07.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Child Poverty

elsewhere this morning Fergus Finlay and Barnardos announced a document on child poverty and care in ireland. Among other facts are the fighure of 150,000 children who live in consistent poverty in the republic.
I ahve long argues the role of government is to protect the society from ravages of private sector excess yet in times of exceptional richness we are failing future generations by condemning them to poverty. The rights of the child are sacrosanct and our govenrment must be expected to do all it can to provide early intervention and adequete measures to lift irish children out of poverty.
I will return to this in detail later on or tomorrow but oyu can read the report here.

» Author: Cian » Comments:

UK Under Attack

For those of you living in a cave the UK was the site of a spate of suspected terrorist attacks this morning. Much of Londonis in chaos as the attacks took place on the busy public transport system.
Here are some links thus far for you to peruse:
Reuters is far too busy today understandably

My own quick comments are probably a statement of the obvious. This is a very scary time for londoners and my thoughts are with them at the moment.
In terms of Tony Blair it seems highly likely that Iraq will be cited for the attacks and at a time when he is attempting to direct foreign policy from iraq to Africa and global warming this is a costly reminder that commitment to iraq and the loyalty to the us foreign policy comes at a high price. I am not sure if this will have the same regime changing effect that we saw in Madrid but it is certainly a possibility.
In terms of the coverage, we are highly unlikely to be greeted tomorrow with a desire to discuss the motivations behind these mens actions and the effect our behaviour has on radicalising individuals in the middle east. We are unlikely to have foreign policy and lifestyle dragged into the debate over our reaction and we are certainly going to be greeted with more attempts by the executive to back up counter terror power and executive power.
This are not right or wrong yet although i fret the potential to miss this opportunity to get to grips with Islamic terror and our actions in a manner which could effect peaceful change.
I am sincerely hoping that tony Blair proves himself to be a man of the people and will engage and listen to how they desire to deal with this attack. he cannot afford to be inflexible or dogmatic. The only losers here are all of us.
My prayers are with those currently in london and my hopes are that this is an opportunity grabbed to tackle the thorny issue of WHY.

» Author: Cian » Comments:

FG Attack Government on Decentralisation

Richard Bruton has returned to the limelight this afternoon with a news at one appearance to slam Tom Parlon over the handling of the decentralisation programme (apparantly only a max of 10% of projects will be done on time). The announcement of the impending failure and subsequent opportunity to raise a divisive issue will suit FG no end. Their benevolent leader has made a number of Human appearances recently and looks every bit a man who believes power within his grasp. Otherwise that Restaurant appearance last night was a total waste of time.
However the raising of this issue allows us to reflect on the broader issue (pdf) which was alluded to in the briefing papers from the democracy commission on 29 June. The fact is that, while the whole scheme of decentralisation smacks of jobs for the constituents and is in fact understandable in light of who was making the decisions, decentralisation is going to be of zero benefit to our democracy not our political system. It merely introduces greater land distance between departments of state which will still be doing the same job only in "local" areas. The Kerry CoCo will not be running the Dept of Tourism just because it will be in Kilarney.
What was missed in the whole idea of decentralisation was the opportunity to turn local administration into real and effective local government, as is the ideal of a republic. There is little excuse for the carve up that went on at cabinet when the scheme was introduced and a serious government would have charged an independent body with the programme. That is neither here nor there however when Charlie could have been sending the Mandarins to Local authorities to instigate new and sweeping powers which would have decentralised the whole political system and process.
People often dont understand why it is so important to increase local government, the issue here is that by doing this we are sharing out a power which now lies almost exclusively in the hands of our executive. An increase in the relevance and power of local authority would make government more accountable to local people and more collective in its decision making. The free reign to look after constituencies would dissipate rapidly and a new dynamic of cooperation with regional groups replace it.
The big loser in the process of decentralisation is our Democracy and one doesnt read anywhere in Bruton's lament that the scheme itself is flawed in concept.
If we accept Subsidiarity at EU level then we should accept it at national level. Public services will not improve because of a change of scenery, they will improve when the actors closest to the issues at hand utilise power and funding to quickly implement solutions. Also the nature of local govenrment authority in this country tends to be more coalition led in chambers around the state. This promotes consensus politics and makes it difficult to centralise power in one organ or party.
The reenforcement of local government is and must be the corner stone of 21st century irish republicanism. Our current model is stale and missing the issues for nearly 40% of our electorate who dont vote. WE need to wake up and change.
In my view decentralisation is not the answer to our democratic defecit only to satisfy constituencies for the ministers.

7.06.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

So How Was Live8 For You?

After the weekend of marathon concerts and then a sunday of memorable pullout souvenier sections, i decided to ask what this might acutally do. There is enormous schizophrenia in the media circus which is usually pretty tight in its opinion. There are some who reckon this can really impact and make a difference, others who scoff at such celebrity indulgence.
My two cents on that is there is a great deal of spin and counter spin taking place according to various national and other agendas.
However i think the truth is somewher in the middle of the road regarding Live8, my one criticism is that the little movie slots failed to outline what we really mean by free trade, differentiate between free and fair etc. Inform without alienating.
Outside of that the whole prohject raised awarenedd suitably. Now we all expect something to happen at gleneagles and something may happen. But talk is cheap and real action is never set in stone, as those NGOs found out regarding our 0.7% Aid pledge.
It is never going to be a monumental failure and those who partook surely get some credit and album sales. The thing is though that i fear the difference will never be made until serious support is lended ot democratic regimes and every single incentive is given to those who strive for good governance and fraternal peace not hate riddled fraternacide.
I wish both Bob and the Crusties at the summit the best and hope that through two very different means of protesting something good may come from a meeting that can cause such harm. I would prefer to see all of us denounce the G8 as a neo-imperealist sham which serves to exacerbate and perpetuate current inequality through bullying and concerted economic warfare. The rich world however has a chance to do good but remain sceptical until action happens after the speeches. The G8 can be rightly seen as courting good publicity but i want hard promises and harder action which precipitates fair trade and the cessation of criminal policies regarding market liberalisation in countries unprepared to do so.
The problem with the G8 definition of democracy is that it means democratic-neo-liberalism. When we really need to let Africa decide if neo-liberalism is its bag. much like Malaysia and China did amoung others.

7.04.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

More Rossport 5

For those who missed the comment posted by the editor at tuppenceworth.ie, there is an open letter sitting on the table of minister Dempsey from Solicitor Edward Mcgarr regarding the Rossport 5 and Corrib gas field. Some of the information being asked for includes the Original Petroleum Lease issued by, i may be wrong tho, Ray Burke to Statoil and Marathon regarding exploration, A copy of authorisation from the Minister to works at corrib, Foreshore licenses and plan of development from Statoil/Shell.
The information is accessible through an EU directive which takes precedence over irish law and the relevant case law etc is cited. Obviously its written in legalese but stick with it and you will see there are some juicy pieces that may be obtained. This is a story to watch for all of us regarding the activity of the state in issuing licenses and the corporations in acting on them.
In other areas the observer yesterday ran a focus on the story retelling most of what we already knew, although i myself hadnt heard of the UCC report which cited the bay as a major breeding area for sealife, especially rare dolphins and whales. Cannot track a link though any help is appreciated.
These again take precedence over corporate interest especially ifthe state wont benefit and the project should be canned.

» Author: Cian » Comments:

Poverty Weekend 2005

Well, from here on in this weekend is likely to be overtaken with the issues of Africa and the Make poverty History Campaign. That is of course before one considers the Live8 gig tomorrow. The talking heads will be consumed by the whole G8 summit on wednesday at which there is actually work to be done for a change.
This is a wonderful opportunity to educate the broader population about the issue of Africa and the way our lifestyle can contribute to their current plight. Of course this is not simply a time for public guilt fest and ignorance of local issues but this weekend has the potential to do something rather big.
It also has the potential to rather little at all. It is this G8 summit that will lay the ground for the rich countries response/preperation for Hong Kong this summer, and it is toward such negotiations we should all look for real movement on the issue of market subisdies and access. In the run up to events like the G8 and Hong Kong it is not only Bob Geldof whom we should be looking at, there must be mobilisation of African campaigners and politicians and developing world coopeatives where the demands rest. Tomorrow is a chance to give a voice to more than the interests of the west.
The prospect is that on Debt the majority of private debt will remain, on Aid there will be a nominal boost with strings attached, on trade one can only see further liberalisation beofe access is guaranteed.
This is unmanageable so we must be aware of what is success and what is failure before the spin kicks in. Failure is more of the same. Failure is increasing dependency on Aid without offering the prospect of wealth generation. Failure is the enforcement of western liberal solutions instead of support for homegrown solutions. Failure is the continuing blind eye turned to African Death and Civil war. Failure is the reluctance to ensure support of all democratic campaigners and securing those with the bravery to speak out.
Success is the adoption of string free debt relief, the cooperation of private debt holders in relieving deb, the increase in conditionless aid, the promotion and protection of pro democracy campaigners, the strengthening of current democratic regimes and the reform of export markets to allow fair competition.
The odds are a middle of the road fudge of all the above and spun to our satisfaction. Still the headlines and the interest generated by MPH and others is commendable in provoking interest in learning on African issues.
im sure at this stage i dont need to tell you to get behind the efforts. but i will.

7.01.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Rossport 5

**The Story so Far(Indymedia.ie)**
Tonight the rossport five remain in jail at the leisure of the courts for remaining in contempt of a court order. That we have all quiescently allowed the Shell corporation to run a rough course and agressively attack the protesters before permission has even been granted to lay the pipe is an absolute travesty.
There is of course a case to be made for exploting the corrib field. One of those is the potential for the exchequer to redistribute gas wealth among those in the west who are less well off.
An attack on corporations is usually an easy enough shot to take but this requires far more than criticism of Shell. Their action is pre-emptive of permission being given by Dempsy and if the last few days are anything to go by he seems well aware of the political damage that may await his course.
In getting people to support this move, the government must be pro-people rather than pro-shell, exploiting the gas for the sake of it is not an option. This must mean grating alternative land to those who are affected and ensuring that the system put in place by shell is safe and secure. The working conditions on the rig must be fully secure and labour laws respected.
The government has here a chance to rid itself of the pro-profit aura that surrounds it and the PDs.
However the odds are that the might of the shell bureaucracy and legal team and their agressive removal of opposition at this early stage will result in the railroading of local people into a project which puts their lives in danger.
Oil and gas recovery can be a lucrative enterprise but as we have learned from africa, the corporations tend to prefer unfair play and massive profit extraction while also engaging in environmentally unsafe practice (Gas flares in nigeria by shell e.g.).
The environmentally sensitive areas around mayo must be guaranteed and regulation must ensure the safety and profit of the public and the environment. Irish people have no reason to show such fealty nor loyalty to shell, we owe it to ourselves and our children to ensure that should we let them in they treat us and our country with respect.
If the corrib is to yield enormous profit in these times of high energy prices then we are entitled to our cut and the people of the west especially deserve to see the profits shared with government and reinvested in their region.
On top of all this is the fact that men still lie in jail in protest at the activity of shell. THe government cannot understandably interfere in the judicial process, what it can do is reign in the activity of a voracious and bullying Shell E&P Ireland. The Minister is right to remain away from the court proceedings but wrong to lay off of shell.
The corporate animal only responds to bullying and hard-ball. So Minister, play hardball and make sure we dont rue the day you took office.
Finally i think its fair to call for the immediate cessation of proceedings against the 5 by shell until a full decision is made on the pipeline. Protest is not a crime

» Author: Cian » Comments: