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Well Meet Again,

Dont know where, dont know when.

Im taking a break from blogging, no idea how long for. Over the past few weeks ive been bloggin by numbers. Little of the emotion has been naturally there. Its a fabricated attempt to impersonate oneself (as Sartre might term it). So instead of writing posts i hardly recognise when rereading, im off.

The addiction will probably not let me stray for long. Regular posts will disappear for a while. Its less a political catharsis, a la Kevin(happy birthday by the way), more a search for first principles.

Im sure this is one of those indulgent things bloggers do. See you out the other side. Fear not ill still be a lefty. Yet more considered.

Ciao, Belle.
RR

11.28.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Priciples, What Are Yours

I realise ive spent the last week posting mostly about the CIA in Shannon, and to be honest, il probably resort to it again sooner or later. Yet on a weekend when the papers seem intent on making us read and consume shit in print, I got thinking.

I was re-reading the last post and a comment by Gil-Robles struck me;

"These fundamental values and principles are what separates us from terrorists and dictators. I am not ready to renounce them."

Neither am I, sir, er...I think. It occured to me that we all approach things from hundreds of paths. There is some posts out there at the moment about the blogosphere in general, i think here and here.

They made me think about the basic fundamental premises from which we begin our engage in our discourse. Sometimes I wonder, often forget, my starting point. Im not sure as we speak. Yet many I read, are pretty sure or seem it. So I was wondering. What is the fundamental premise on which you model/base your politics?

What is your starting point (and perhaps why)?
i.e. your raison detre for engagement, blogging or otherwise. You know what I mean and if you dont il clarify in comments.

I promise I'l return to irishpolitics soon. Or later, i havent decided.

RR
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11.27.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Council of Europe on CIA Torture Flights

There is an interesting interview over at open democracy with Alvaro Gil-Robles, Human Rights commissioner for the Council of Europe. Below is an exerpt from the section where we are mentioned explicitly, in a rather embarrasing comparison with the pro-active response of the Spainiards. Its ok though, Dermot was told that it is all above board and kosher.


Alvaro Gil-Robles: ..... I know that the minister of foreign affairs is going to speak to the parliament, and that he is going to give the information that Spain has on this. It seems to me a good route – towards the light, that things be known and that the government reports.

I tell you sincerely that I wish all governments would follow this example. It would be good if all the ministers told their parliaments, that parliaments would investigate and that finally we could tell our citizens that these centres did not exist and these situations had not occurred. Or, if they have come into existence, that we assign the responsibility to those who have permitted them to exist.

openDemocracy: According to reports, several governments are implicated – Spain and Ireland in the clandestine flights and the movement of prisoners, and the government of the United Kingdom in other violations. Why do you think that these democratic governments are violating human rights to this extent?

Alvaro Gil-Robles: I am not saying that they have violated human rights. I am saying that we have to have an investigation to determine if such clandestine detention centres do exist. We are in the stage of newspaper accusations, with no official confirmation of which countries are involved, though many versions are in circulation. For me this is enough. There are doubts and we have to shed light on this, to investigate. What I am asking for is this investigation. Clearly, I am not accusing anybody. I am saying we have to investigate. We cannot stay silent.

We certainy cannot. There is no room within a demorcacy or union of democracies for thin-end approaches to human rights and torture. The rest of the article is a very valuable insight to our democratic condition and our vulnerability if we succumb to efforts or desires to torture suspects. I could honestly post most of it. Such a move would doubtless harness few readers pleasure so I shall refrain. I may return to some of the latter interview later in the weekend perhaps. Read it.

Returning to the matter of Shannon's use. It is imperative that we ask questions of our role, if only to assert our loyalty to democratic principles of right and law. We cannot afford to be implicated in doing nothing alongside allowing our airspace to be used for illegal measures.

One point which I wish to reiterate at this point, I am sure that this sounds like a degree of war-bashing nonsense from some rabid lefty, nothing is farther from the truth. Honestly, I believe the decision to allow the US Army use Shannon is one our government took, we voted them in and if we disagree with the policy, should vote them out. It is a seperate issue when one considers that our facilities have been abused and our standing debased, if the CIA used Shannon to transfer torture suspects.

The whole issue is not even in play. Gil-Robles again, " this [terrorism] does not mean we have to renounce our fundamental values and principles. The firmer we are the more we are confident of this battle. If we violate these principles we will have surrendered the most fundamental thing: our model of society, which is given unity by our principles. These fundamental values and principles are what separates us from terrorists and dictators. I am not ready to renounce them."

Neither should we be. We must have an investigation and ascertain the facts as they relate to our airspace and its use.

RR
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11.25.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

US Troops cross To Syria

From dossingtimes, grain of salt at the ready and health warning attached.

» Author: Cian » Comments:

More Unembedded Photojounalism

Continuing from an earlier theme, there is a selection of photographs over at guardian.co.uk in a similar vein to the unembedded series I posted on earlier.
I dont plan on posting most of them here, since its been done and you all can work away yourselves. There are some good shots in there, id encourage all of you to take a look.

There is also an accompanied commentary from the journalist in question Sean Smith located here.

Just a photo or two. Striking and provocative.




Leading the blindNovember 23: Suspected insurgents captured by US marines on Iraq's border with Syria.



EarshotNovember 23: Troops put their fingers in their ears to cut out the noise from tank fire and helicopter rockets during the fight for the town of Ubaydi.

More by clicking on the photos.

Some of his report, uncensored, is horrendous on all sides. Take this;




"Five other marines were killed when they went to a farmhouse outside Ubaydi. They were chasing two men, went into the house, and it blew up."

"All men of military age were detained. they had material sprayed on their hands to reveal whether they had handled explosives or gunpowder. Families were split up and loudspeakers were barking commands. Some of the detainees came back and some did not."



Certainly brings the war closer than most words, the only overall impression one receives is that it is getting messier and messier. The longer it goes on the louder the cry "vietnam" can be heard. On this evidence one can see why.

RR


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11.23.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Hugo Chavez - Humanitarian (?)

From the BBC.

"Officials from Venezuela and Massachusetts have signed a deal to provide cheap heating oil to low-income homes in the US state.

The fuel will be sold at about 40% below market prices to thousands of homes over the winter months."

I have posted before on Chavez' intent on being a fully signed on member of the awkward squad. His raison detre seems to be making life difficult for Bush, alongside governing a country. Many have raised concerns over the activities of Chavez since he came to government, with an equally vociferous counter-argument running too.



"Local congressman William Delahunt described the deal as 'an expression of humanitarianism at its very best'".

I wonder if congressman Delahunt is a Republican, although something tells me probably not. The deal will see 45Million litres of heating oil shipped to the poor in Mass via a U.S. subsidiary of the Venezuelan national oil company.

Talks are under way to extend the deal to poor residents of New Yorks Bronx. There is another report on this from VenezuelaAnalysis.com with more detail.

It really boils down to this;
Is Chavez
a) A humanitarian intervening in an unequal U.S. society out of humanitarian interest
b) A meddling busy body intent on scuppering Bush and his republican administration
or
c) Looking for some good headlines?

Answers in the comment box to the usual address.
RR



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» Author: Cian » Comments:

Investigation into CIA Torture Flights

London Denizen (nee Exile) has a post yonder about the ongoing inquiry into CIA torture flights to Europe and elsewhere.

His final point, " Come on Europe, stand up for what you believe in." Seems to have been picked up. It looks like another case of blogging motivating news-makers.


First there is news that the council of Europe, Europes highest Human Rights watchdog, is preparing to investigate the allegations surrounding torture flights.



"Under Article 52 of the European Convention on Human Rights – a treaty which is legally binding on all Council of Europe members – the Council chairman is authorised to request information from national governments.

The Council of Europe’s investigation is headed by Swiss senator Dick Marty. In a letter sent today, Davis is asking the governments to provide, by February 21, 2006, information on the manner in which their internal law ensures that acts by officials of foreign agencies within their jurisdiction are subject to adequate controls"

Marty is investigating more than terror jails, his remit includes overflights which as we can see from the picture above affects Shannon alongside some other major European airports. Bearing in mind that Dermot Ahern has already clearly distanced himself from this whole issue, taking assurances from U.S. authorities.

It seems unlikely that come February 2006 he will have serious questions to answer since there have been many stories about how LITTLE information the Irish Authorities actually require from U.S. military planes (remember the issue over whether the Soldiers had guns which is illegal yet ignored? Tgovernmentent collated little or no data on passengers or cargo).
However there is still a likelihood of this matter getticlearedred up since Marty should be able to figure if Shannon was used for trenditionion of passengers to Eastern European jails.

Thisn'tsnt the only reason however for the CIA to worry, the Council of Europe can be sidelined although it has power in the Human Rights arena. There is also (via BBC) news that another internal investigation is to take place, this time in the U.K. bringing the number of states looking into this to 4.

We are now painfully behind best practice in at least holding an investigation to dispell the suspicion of guilt. Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell and others are looking at the role of Prestwick in Glasgow in facilitating overflight for illegal renditions, speaking to the BBC he said;


" It seems to me that we [U.K] may well be facilitating transfer into circumstances where torture may be used"



There is always implacable opposition to transnational justice, contravening sovereignty and other arguments do indeed hold weight. However in tabsencense of an instrument to tie the many disparate strings of information together, those who have been exposed to torture, and the populations endangered by such radicalising activity, require some truth.

This approach is certainly to my mind the best way of achieving the degree of truth and clarity I, as an Irishman, desire. Our government has mentioned nothing of an investigation. Mentioned nothing of examining Shannons role. They should and if they refuse to then the whole jigsaw may not fall into place.

Hopefully concern over Shannon is unnecessary. From treportageage that has made into our MSM however, I fear the opposite is true. No matter what, we need to know and desire to know.

For those who followed Soj's series at Eurotribune on the CIA jails, part 7 is here. Translating news reports from Romania and others on the reaction from there.

RR

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» Author: Cian » Comments:

Democratic Paradox?

Just browsed across this report from news24 recently, I thought it raised some interesting issues for the idea of democracy as a whole. Apparantly nearly 50% of Americans are ok with the idea of torturing detainees in order to get information from them.



The survey, involving 2 006 people from the general public, found that 46% felt that torturing terrorist suspects to gain important information was sometimes (31%) or often (15%) justified while 17% thought it was rarely justified and 32% were opposed.

By contrast, the study found that of 520 opinion leaders also questioned on the same issue, no more than one in four believes that torture of terrorist suspects can be sometimes or often justified.

This raises some profound questions for the idea of democracy, is torture to be justified and used on the basis of majority support? Is it feasible or correct to argue such a position or are the leaders surveyed correct in being unreprersentative of the popular opinion?

Is the role of torture in the execution of any investigation or manhunt out of bounds and non-negotiable thus taking it outside the remit of democratic decision making? Is that allowed since in our society the people must be sovereign and able to decide their fate? At the heart of this contradiction is an opposition by those who are in power, authority and aware of the circumstance to the use of torture, yet diverging from the views of those they serve/represent.

I know many of you will say so what? Big deal. Yet in terms of what it means for constructing and interpreting democracy, it is a big deal. The state is not intended to be tyrannical over a mans ideas, yet at the same time, Human rights law universally proscribes the use of torture and rightly so.

Im sure that the argument that once people are aware of the ins and outs they will be less likely to support torture is a good one. Perhaps the correct way. I know leaders are often at odds with their populations yet commentators are often shy to seeks ways around this. How can we, should we, translate the public will into decision?

On an issue like this the public is wrong, no amount of torture will help the war on terror. On a broader issue it underlines the terrible mess the whole project is in if torture is being seen as a necessary solution.

RR


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11.22.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Do you feel Racist?

Vincent Browne, both personally and through Village, has gone off on one big time about the state of Irish Society. Im sure your all familiar with the case, arguments and players.

Just a few questions;

1.) Do you feel racist against travellers and their community?

2.) Do you feel our society is?

3.) Is Enda Kenney's response racist pandering or measured argument (prompted by Brownes Village Magazine not online yet)?

4.)Is thinking Padraig Nally should be free tantamount to racism against travellers? As it may be painted and seemed to be in so many words by Eamonn McCann on Questions and Answers last Monday.

Food for thought on a monday.
RR

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11.21.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

A Smorgesbord on Shannon's Torture Role

Over the past few days, there have been a number of blogs and media organs taking a bit of a deeper look at the recent (2, 3)allegations of CIA torture flights being routed through countries such as Spain, Greece, Poland and Ireland.

Our role is something murky, Dermot Ahern has a few reassuring words but nothing that is not ambiguous enough to withstand further questioning. The Australian has a nice, if suitably succinct for a Murdoch organ, account of the major points at the minute;



"Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern responded to allegations of CIA flights touching down on its territory by saying yesterday that "at this moment in time there is no evidence of that".

He said: "We have been given absolute guarantees that they are not using Shannon (airport) in this respect ... we are getting absolute categoric assurances from the US government, a friendly government."

Soj over at Euro Tribune has six-parts in ongoing coverage of the situations in Spain and other states implicated in the terror overflights. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,

The Spanish have been very proactive in trying to determine the role of Palama in the overflight network. The power of the judges there endures that an investigation can continue unless political pressure becomes immense. That is not to say that its a perfect system merely that the setup suits the need for information.

Getting back to our whole role in the debacle, Dermot says were all on top of it. The assurances from the U.S. are enough to be secure in the knowledge that the planes we know of are safe. However according to Village, there are at least 2 and maybe more flights that we are not aware of, which can be implpicated in the torture network.


"The airplane was used by the CIA in the transfer of two Egyptian asylum seekers from Sweden to Egypt, where they were tortured, according to a Swedish parliamentary report and to Human Rights Watch. It landed in Ireland 13 times between 2000 and 2003, according to the Department. On at least one occasion, it landed at Shannon on return from an operation where a suspect was transferred, on this occasion from Pakistan to Morocco. The man in question, Binyam Mohammed, has alleged that he was tortured by the authorities in Morocco."


There are questions coming, which are not being genuinely addressed. Do we need to wait until, HRW or Amnesty, or the Spanish Judiciary tell us our politicians shoved their heads up their bums while men were shipped through Shannon to be tortured at their destination. Or again are we simply not asking questions adopting the "whatever your having yourself attitude?" so beloved of those political criminals hate figures of the eighties?

Im not satisfied we are as innocent in all this as we should be, or would like to believe. Im not sure any of us should be. For anybody not sure if torture is such a bad thing, perhaps a perusal here might give you some food for thought.

RR

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» Author: Cian » Comments:

Rumsfeld Distances Himself from Iraq Invasion

There comes a point in a bloggers life, approximately Sunday evening at ten-ish, when a post comes along that needs to be transcribed in full. Its lazy, oh it is, and I stole it from thinkprogress here.

Ill react at the end once I've recovered from the tough task of transcribing an entire post.



In a striking sign of faltering U.S. efforts in Iraq, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is now trying to distance himself from the decision to invade Iraq.

In last Sunday’s Washington Post, Rumsfeld downplayed his role significantly:

For there comes a point when even the secretary of defense must realize that “it’s not your decision or even your recommendation,” Rumsfeld reflected with Woodward. By which he meant the Iraq war wasn’t Don Rumsfeld’s decision or recommendation.

Rumsfeld went even further this morning on ABC’s “This Week,” telling George Stephanopoulos that he “didn’t advocate invasion” and in fact, “wasn’t asked” about the decision. [Full transcript below.]

Rumsfeld can’t rewrite history. The truth is, as early as 1998, he signed a letter urging President Clinton to turn his attention “to implementing a strategy for removing Saddam’s regime from power. This will require a full complement of diplomatic, political and military efforts.”

Hours after the 9/11 attacks, Rumsfeld was already urging his aides “to come up with plans for striking Iraq — even though there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the attacks.” According to notes, he wanted “best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit [Saddam Hussein] at same time. Not only [Osama bin Laden].”

Indeed, a Newsweek article from September 2002 described Rumsfeld as “the most visible and certainly the most colorful frontman for attacking Iraq.”


Full ABC transcript:

STEPHANOPOULOS: If you had known that no weapons of mass destruction would be found, would you have advocated invasion?

RUMSFELD: I didn’t advocate invasion.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You didn’t?

RUMSFELD: No, I wasn’t asked. If you read all the books and the things —

STEPHANOPOULOS: Why weren’t you asked? That’s very puzzling.

RUMSFELD: Well, I’m sure the president understood what my views were. But as a technical matter, did he ever look and say, “What should we do? Should we go do this or not do that?” This something the president thought through very carefully.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you trying to distance yourself from the war with that –

RUMSFELD: Of course not. Of course not. I agreed completely with the decision to go to war and said that a hundred times. And don’t — don’t even suggest that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I’m just asking.

RUMSFELD: Well, you know better.

My own reaction, aside from the obvious distaste for a man without the cajones to stand up and be responsible for his actions, is that this is very telling of thinking in the White House. First the Nuremburg trial defence is simply not going to cut it for a character of the power and stature of Rumsfeld, a war was much farther away without Rumsfeld advocating it. As thinkprogress pointed out above, the guy is cited across the web and MSM as being a major player in the whole Iraq Episode.

Rumsfeld has form of distancing himself from known history. I am thinking particularly of the T.V. footage of him meeting Saddam in the 80s to sell him some weapons, that footage has rarely come to bite him over the course of his current stint in office except when Michael Moore made Farenheit 9//11 and even then the fallout didnt catch Rumsfeld. He is one of politics great snakes. There is little to trap him down and little he cannot slither from. So to see him turn his great talent of separating him from his actions sends signals that many who inhabited the administration but were never "of" it are prepared to move on.

While their intentions for the Presidential term lie in bits, at the feet of Iraqi insurgents, public disaffection, internal malpractice/corruption and an imploding public policy agenda, the men and women who were seen as the real power behind the President are moving on. Rumsfeld has proved more adept than most at keeping ahead of the curve and his machinations to be the first to jump from the sinking Iraq ship suggest that he is thinking ahead to 2008.

As I said, he has a knack of being unassociated with negativity in the public psyche. This seems to be more of the same, it seems as though it is directed at 2008 and perhaps another tilt at the portfolio.

RR


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11.20.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Unembedded, Continued.

I came across the serialisation of this photos over at Daily Kos last week and promised to post a few more as they come out. Well, it seems that DKos is busy so im just going to post some more anyway. The photos are vailable through Chelsea Green Phblishing here.

So on we go, a selection of images on display from Unembedded continues;



Photo by Kael Alford

NAJAF, AUGUST 21, 2004
A father shows his hand to snipers as he carries his terrified child across the front line between U.S. forces and the Mahdi Army at the wrecked outskirts of the old city.





Photo by Rita Leistner.

RASHAD PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL, BAGHDAD, APRIL 15, 2004
Patients had few activities to occupy them. One was watching television, which included the Coalition Provisional Authority’s daily live broadcasts and updates to the press. On this day, General Richard Myers, the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, was fielding questions on how he proposed to address the rising insurgency, especially Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. Myers underplayed the threat of the insurgents. A few months later the hospital grounds would shake from nearby bombs, and mortars would land in its courtyard as coalition forces fought the Mahdi Army right outside the hospital gates.







Photo by Rita Leistner.

SADR CITY, BAGHDAD, AUGUST 6, 2004
Members of Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army rally in Sadr City.





Photo by Thorne Anderson.

FALLUJA, SEPTEMBER 23, 2003


A doctor in the Falluja Hospital raises an X ray to point out head injuries to nine-year-old Hussein, whose home in the village of Sheker was attacked with American air strikes. His twelve-year-old brother was also seriously injured in the attack and three other members of his family were killed. A U.S. Army spokesperson did not acknowledge any mistakes and said that one “enemy fighter” was killed in the air strike.



Photo by Thorne Anderson.

BAGHDAD, JULY 18, 2004
Young men and women venture out for the evening in Zowra Park. Socializing after dark in Baghdad ceases during periods of heavy fighting or suicide bombings, but rebounds as soon as there is a perceived lull. Still, mixed-gendered public outings are increasingly discouraged by religious conservatives’ censure.



Photo by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad

BAGHDAD, AUGUST 1, 2004
A man receives treatment at Kindi Hospital after suffering injuries when two apparent car bombs exploded just minutes apart outside Christian churches. Car bombs exploded outside at least six churches in Iraq on Sunday in an attack apparently coordinated to coincide with evening prayers.



There are a number of images I didnt post over at Chelsea Green, Its a thought provoking look at a war that effects everybody in the region, perhaps beyond. Its not going to answer the rights or wrongs of war, no book will ever truly influence what is basically a belief in the effectiveness of war or otherwise.

What it does is forge an empathy denied of so many through impersonal coverage, there is a discussion under way at photo.net with some interesting views of the work.

I wonder what many of you make of it? Is it simply a piece of opportunistic publishing pandering to an anti-war group or a necessary look at the human cost of insurgent and Coalition activity in a costly war? Or none of the above?

*UPDATE: Movie clips done in the process of working on the book available from here.

RR
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Buy Now

11.19.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

So why did Keano really leave?

As a fan of another team, I dont particularly care. But Football 365 do and have a round up of the rumours du jour.



"Although Keane's departure from the club was expected following his infamous ‘unbroadcastable’ rant on MUTV, the timing has prompted fevered speculation that the parting was anything but amicable."

"The pair are said to have engaged into a stand-up row which culminated in Keane's 'brutal' departure."

The Sun and its cohorts are going to sell papers ninety. Look our for it to descend to one or other making moves on wives, or not. Enjoy.
RR

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11.18.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

When is Democracy Not a Democracy?

When political appointees decide that certain voters cannot cast their vote because of skin colour. Surely this is a history post, on the emergence of the slave-trade or something about racism in France? No and No.

News from across the water suggests that as Bush and his possie become more inept and less popular, the only way to win elections is disenfranchising Black voters in the south. Tom Dachsle raised the issues of a new law being proposed in Georgia. It proposes tighter requirements on possession of photo-ID to vote. Surely a harmless move like that couldnt cause trouble, or be intended to disenfranchise black voter? Again wrong on both counts.

Following up the story over at Thinkprogress, the rationale behind the law being proposed by Rep. Sue Burmeister (R-Augusta) was revealed;



The chief sponsor of Georgia’s voter identification law told the Justice Department that if black people in her district “are not paid to vote, they don’t go to the polls,” and that if fewer blacks vote as a result of the new law, it is only because it would end such voting fraud.

The newly released Justice Department memo quoting state Rep. Sue Burmeister (R-Augusta) was prepared by department lawyers as the federal government considered whether to approve the new law.

Where does one start with the right to vote? Its no surprise that the political advisers in the White House have the power to override career staffers who are well versed in their democratic responsibility to their citizens. This administration is absolutely ruthless in its pursuit of, well, ah, I dont know what it is they are at anymore. From AJC;



"It [the staffer report] cites analyses showing that, in fact, the effects of the law — which will require Georgians seeking to vote to present a driver's license or an identification card for which they must pay — could fall disproportionately on blacks. It concludes that the state had failed to show the law would not weaken minority voting strength, and recommends that the attorney general's office formally object to it."

Bearing in mind that GOP heads in congress are getting uppity over next years elections, one is forced to conclude that there exists a willingness still in the administration to alienate voters, rob them of the vote and ensure success unfairly. Undemocratic, unfree and illegal.

The behaviour of the administration is taking a scary turn. Traditionallseparationration of powers prevents this sort of illness settling in. The powers are so blurred at this stage that for all its vast bureaucracy, the U.S. is facing a serious governance dilemma.

RR



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» Author: Cian » Comments:

A Second PHD Fraud?

Adding grist to the mill for those of us who suspect our politicians have outsourced governing to underqulified professionals, news from breakingnews.ie and practically everywhere else suggests a second big-wig government adviser has attained a PhD from a diploma mill. I didnt get all that involved in the last debacle, others were far better qualified to commentate on it and it seemed a politically isolated event. It seems that this outbreak of PhD purchasing is not confined to Barry MacSweeney at all.



Reports this morning said Dr Con Power, the chair of the Financial Services Ombudsman Council, had obtained a PhD from Pacific Western University, which is regarded as a so-called "degree mill".

This morning's reports said he was insisting that his PhD was legally awarded on the basis of many years of research and publications.



Ah so did Barry and I am pretty sure that not many of us will take this one seriously as a reply either. If the government are outsourcing work and power to intellectual frauds with pseudo-qualifications, what hope have we of changing anything? These men are not all, perhaps not slightly, to blame for some of this governments worst performances in delivery of everything, preservation and resucitation of the helath service, etc. etc., however that many of them can congregate at the top with no worries about degrees or quality, we should be worried.

Its a dangerous way to carry out government and I worry this isnt the last we will hear of intellectual frauds attaining top adviser positions in government. The whole role of advisers is deeply vexing to a system built on Civil Servant integrity and capability. Perhaps this is another opportunity to enhance our democracy for the government to pass up.

RR


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» Author: Cian » Comments:

My own Tribute to Silliness by Willy O Dea

Willy ODea managed to get the whole country up in arms, uh puntastic, without ever having to actually accomplish his minsterial job (e.g. monitoring the activity of a foreign agency using our airspace for suspected terror flights). '

Gavin has been keeping an eye on the fallout, with easily the best response coming from Deaglan over at Res Publica. "Dirty Willy"....wonderful. Id would love to be original enough to craft my own homage to stupidity, all i can come up with is that piece in the top-right.

Dont worry Groucho is only a temporary. Unless he has some more dodgy photos in his closet.

RR

11.17.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Plame-gate Turns Farcical

The saga over the leaking of the identity of Valerie Plame's identity took a farcical turn last night. So far we have one confirmed indictment, Scooter Libby and many rumours over Karl Rove for leaking the identity in a unilateral fashion. The story so far is that those indicted were doing their bit for the GOP, cocked up and now face criminal federal charges. George W Bush and his administration while connected have plausible deniability of some concrete plan/conspiracy.

So that story was trundling along and people were wondering why exactly Fitzgerald wasnt taking a well earned holiday following his indictment of Libby. Cos he wasn't done unearthing mud to fling at the White House is the answer. Yippee exclaimed the Democrats with great relish.

To hurry up the pace, it turns out that this was no accidental outing by George's favourite cowboy and his aide, Bob Woodward was seemingly approached by a third party looking to plant the story in the Post. America Blog has been keeping an eye on the development here.

Now, this whole thing is starting to turn farcical. I know that the Bush administration is slightly tetchy with criticism. However hatching a plan which is blatantly illegal, although we all know Legal Adviser Miers is one of the good guys, seems more akin to the mind of Dick Dastardly than the President of the United States.

It seems that the more talk there is of impeachment, the more crap tumbles out of the ineptly constructed, flat-pack closet that now occupies a whole floor in the West Wing. The bumbling, it-wasnt-me shenanigans turn the very principle of governing a country into some George II esque farce.

Just to get back to something resembling a point;



"4. That means YET ANOTHER senior administration official - a THIRD official - was running around town leaking Valerie Plame's identity and CIA status."

"We're to believe it was simply "random chance", or an innocent slip of the tongue, as I believe Bob Woodward called it, that 3 senior officials all happened to "slip" in talking to the top media outlets in the nation.

"Now, mind you, the top officials apparently didn't slip when talking to the Topeka Times or the Billings Gazette (or any other small-bit newspaper), they only "slipped" when talking to the biggest news outlets that could broadcast this "gaffe" worldwide.

Imagine the coincidence of that."

This is absolutely nuts. On one hand its three accidents, the other its a serious attempt to break the law to further the plot for war. This is an insane way to carry out politics.

It also appears from the same post that Woodward could be implicated in obstruction of justice for admittedly trying to avoid subpoena in the investigation. More on that here.

For many this is a snore fest, petty personality politics at its worst, yet its not. For the Presidential office, more so than any other world leader, is a managerial post. Its about direction, leadership and execution. In this administration their is evidence of genuine ineptness at carrying out the duty of state. The office of president requires the balancing of interest, ideology, law, order and the interests of the citizens. Much deliberation etc is required. Any decent president wouldn't tolerate active law-breaking. At least not nationally. Look at Nixon.

A fish rots from the head down, and this white house is showing similar tendencies to collapse under the weight of its own ineptitude and rash cowboy regard for the rule of law. Many many examples exist of bad execution and leadership, bad policy is more subjective but I argue that has also been plentiful. The whole place is a mess and the world expects them to pick up the pieces in Iraq? Better hold out for that one.

This all comes on top of the emerging scandal of torture being used against suspects in CIA custody and the use of White Phosphorous in Iraq. One wonders whether we should begin to call it the Bush Mal-adminstration.

Momentum at home is always fuelled by personality and local politics, this is an exercise in chickens roosting. Im not sure where this will lead, but I can hear some Democrats rub their hands in glee.

RR



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Added Content

As you cannot miss, i just added cartoons from bigsniff to the sidebar to keep one and all entertained. If they are too big however, they have to go. So if your experiencing trouble loading the site, let me know and ill sort it out. If you like the toons, click on the bigsniff by clicking the decapitated head. Mmm.
RR

11.16.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Or Should it be Us Versus Both?

Im beginning to think the latter. If your curious why then Anthony Sheridan has it here at irishcorruption.

People's lives get ruined and its all about flak-jacket tactics. Sometimes, its so constant that moral outrage is beyond me.

RR

» Author: Cian » Comments:

The Church versus The State

It seems that my post, prompted by another article in today's press, looks to be augmented by a piece from the powerful mind of Ronan Mullen, suitably covered by Gavin.
It seems that the Ferns report has done more than just outline abuses in the Catholic Church since its publication. The reaction from Liz O Donnell seemed to throw Bertie into all sorts of convulsions, such is the effect of answering questions on him.

He was in the Irish Times today, speaking at an inter-faith ceremony last night talking about religion and not a religion.To paraphrase; 'the states role is to promote the virtue of religious observance not one particular religion'. That seems to be a very odd conception of the state to my mind. Though I agree that shopping centres, "the new synagogues and churches" arent heavy on religion, Bertie's general thrust is still stuck around scholastic times.

The role of the Church in the development of the Irish state is hardly something to be proud of. At a time when government was beginning to experiment with radicalism at the end of the 50s (Noel Browne e.g.) the church held an effective veto over policy (the mother and child scheme e.g.). Reading recently through a biography of Haughey, I counted at least two social crises where the Bishop brought about reconciliation with striking unions. At a time when the rest of the world was busy "dropping out" of the system and asking questions, the Irish political process was sclerotic in some areas thanks to some interventions by the Church.

In our education system there is a major role to be played by Faith schools, while we consider it so natural, the U.K is undergoing paroxysms at the prospect of lots of schools run by church organisations decentralised from the state's control. The idea that the state's job is to promote faith, not in a specific doctrine just some concept of faith, is an anachronism. Recourse to faith represents a massive failure on the part of our society to think imaginatively regarding its humanity and the expression of such.

I understand that for many, being Catholic is part of Irish identity. That as a situation is not necessarily a good one. Bertie's job is not to help me find a dogma that suits my needs, such inside-the-box thinking is what the Enlightenment project sought to question. The role of the state, as it exists for social ends, is to foster and promote humanity through education and questioning. Religion is not akin to spirituality and again not analogous to reason. I argue that the states role is to promote the latter as opposed to the former.

Give a man a meal and he eats once, teach him to fish and he eats forever. Similarly with life, religion only quells the question, to answer it truly requires that we have the tools at our disposal to arbitrate over our own selves. Reason is the power and will to question, a responsibility to promote religion stands at the anti-thesis to the power of the "WHY?".

One of the best discourses I've read on the need of a state to take on a religion is to ensure that the people are suitably maintained and kept from causing disturbances. The only way to ensure that was by everyone adopting the state-based church which is a contradiction in terms if one thinks of it. Rousseau was talking of maintaining harmony in the Social Contract yet the argument seems to have had a deep impact on our dear leader.

Religion can and often is used in a manner akin to psy-ops. Guilt and the self-policing role of religion make things easier for everybody. Not right, just easy. I think Liz was correct, when I posted on the topic, I abstractly pointed to its implications for education. If we follow our logic here, and hers, then it should indeed open up our education system to different approaches and focuses.

As this debate rumbles on, we must maintain sight of the fact that as a people we have declined in religiosity, the church has lost some of its moral legitimacy and authority in the way we conduct our lives, this turns it into a groundless ethical consultant, when it cannot manipulate our behaviour. We have ceased to be puppets of parish voting. This has a profound impact for the type of leadership we need. If Bertie thinks we need religion let him stand up and argue for its return to its old role. We do not treat it as sacrosanct anymore on the ground yet often it doesn't read that way.

This is not some exhortation to abandon the church along with precepts of right, wrong, ethics, morality, even spirituality. Simply to say that is to cast out the baby with the bathwater. We are a complex society who learn nothing in school of our republican fathers and their thought. Not just Pearce and those before him but Voltaire, Paine, de Montaigne, J.S. Mill to a degree. The men who forged republicanism in the blood of revolution and the pen. These ideas are as relevant now as ever. If we are to be told to live with religion we should be able to evaluate it on its merits, with the tools of reason, spirituality and thought at our disposal. Not just cause Bertie told us.

RR



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Unembedded

From a serialisation over at DailyKos, from a forthcoming book by four photojournalists in Iraq called Unembedded.
There will be photos serialised across the week, if you guys forget il probably link to them all again at the end just to keep you interested. Not sure if i am allowed to show the photo, so il do just that.






Caption:

BAGHDAD, SEPTEMBER 12, 2004
A young Iraqi civilian lies dead in Haifa Street as a U.S. armored personnel carrier burns in the background. Twenty-two Iraqi civilians were killed and forty-eight injured when U.S. helicopters opened fire on crowds celebrating around the burning vehicle, which was disabled by an insurgent attack. No American soldiers were killed in the fighting.

Photo by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad

More Photos here, and the book is available through Amazon.com here.

RR


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Irelands Role in the Torture Jigsaw?

Recently a number of bloggers were posting (1, 2)on the possibility of Irish airports being used to facilitate torture flights on behalf of the CIA. The thrust of the argument, correctly to my mind, was that continued evidence of abuse of detainees, despite denials by George Bush, raised serious doubts about the role of Shannon in the rendition of terror suspects potentially en-route to torture.

However, I voiced serious concern over whether there was any hope of actually examining our role in this sorry mess without being able to put all the jigsaw pieces together from the number of countries implicated in torture. I stand by the view that on our own, we will be stonewalled and end up with a dodgy looking set of neutered findings which allow the status quo to go on unhindered. As evidence seems to mount that torture is but one tool in the war on terror, there are major questions to be raised about the role of Shannon among others. This ranks alongside the questions being asked of Palma in Spain.

According to the Guardian yesterday, the Spanish authorities are looking at the role of the airport in acting as a stopover from Afghanistan to Poland. While the investigation there can be initiated by a judge, the basic fact is that there exists discomfort that the airports of major states in the west are being implicated in an illegal act enabling torture, alleggedly.

The information from Spain and Italy on the activities of the CIA shows that there is a growing network of international investigations into suspect activities and detentions. So there is no longer even the pretense that the Irish would be unable to figure out what in the name of holy moses is going on in Shannon. We like to think that we respect human rights, we are a republic after all. Human Rights are never furthered by torture, that is the position of many across the world.

If it can be done elsewhere, if others are willing to ask questions of the activities of the CIA, on whose behalf Dick Cheney has been lobbying for a n exemption from torture bans, why are we sticking our heads in the sand? That Shannon could have facilitated a single abuse of detainees, that the airport facilitated flights carrying supects to jails which willingly abuse them, is nothing to be proud of. Standing up to terror is simply standing up to abuse of all citizens for political purposes. Not turning a blind eye to torture.

There needs to be an answer to the questions of the use of Shannon, we facilitate troops and whether one likes it or not that is policy. Vote them out. On torture, it can never be policy to facilitate or ask no questions of those who may engage in it. What do the government, authorities and others know and do we accept it as OK that our airports and facilities are complicit in human rights abuses? If the Spanish and Italians can pursue a case, why cant we cooperate and integrate the investigation?
We need to know where we fit in the torture jigsaw.

RR

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Dail Eireann Experiments in RSS

Just popped over to oireachtas.ie to see if anything postable will take place in the hallowed halls of Leinster house. It turns out that the e-governance unit is rolling out an RSS feed of the weekly agenda and it seems likely to be extended to certain other areas.
Check out the page here.

The webmaster is looking for input on what exactly users would like to see on RSS. Outside of the Agenda, i reckon Leaders Qs would be handy, condensed as it needs to be but handy nonetheless.

This sort of thing is very handy, e-government in principle makes much more of the machinery accessible to citizens. Its amazing that on something so 'trivial' we can be quite successful at rolling out e-governmnet yet inept, as Vincent Browne pointed out yesterday, at spending public money on services.

RR


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11.14.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Politics 101 with Michael McDowell

We are all aware of the potential for verbosity that in the Head Office in Stephens Green, doling out Law and Justice in equal measure. It is thus so reassuring to see that Michael can descend to the level of us mere mortals to explain the internal workings of the dark arts of party politics.



"The Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, has said Sinn Fein's aim is to get the balance of power in the next election and use it to control the next government."

In a word, Duh.

The outburst suggests two responses. Is it only now, after eight years in office that Michael grasps the dynamics of small party politics? Unlikely since he ran on that exact platform in 2002.

Or

Does he think we don't really grasp the fundamentals of what it is Sinn Fein are doing and thus being duped into voting for a sleeping Leviathan?

Again non, I think Michael was engaging in, what will be next weeks lesson, playing party politics with the 'balance of power' cos it seems likely at this stage that the Shinners balance of power will be bigger that the PD balance of power.

While he may be right to worry about office etc., the whole thing is a practice in stating the obvious. "Political Party in play for Power Shock". Or not. There are times when statement of the obvious really becomes his second post in government. This is one of those times.

RR
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11.13.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Whither Rupert Murdoch??

Rupert Murdoch, as any reader will know, is so deeply intertwined with the political fabric of the UK that he is a hate figure. Many see him as the man behind the curtain having a veto of sorts over government policy. The defense employed that his outlets only reflect readers views, only infuriates leftists and moralists further.

Since the days of 'the sun wot won it', there has been a belief that Murdoch's support matters to the many who would be king, well prime minister at least. So it is with great detail I am sure that both Blairites and Brownites will be poring over the latest two missives from Irwin Stelzer in left wing publications, far removed from his highbrow home on the Business section of the Sunday Times.

Stelzer, before I continue, is an economist frequently cited as being 'very close', 'confidante' etc to the Rupester. Last week he had a most interesting piece in the New Statesman here on the prospects of Gordon Brown winning the next U.K. election as Labour Leader. The tone was far from threatening, and certainly not one of dark foreboding. Yet there was much about it to prick the interest of politicos.

Most believe that Murdoch's support will be necessary for Brown to reach across the center in the same manner as Tony Blair, but most fear he shant get it. So the Brownster has been dining with Paul Dacre editor of that rag The Daily Mail. It is clear the intent, but consider for a moment where Stelzer is coming from and hence Rupert.



" The failure to reform the National Health Service has resulted in increased waste and a decline in value received for money, for which the Chancellor is clearly responsible. "

"Brown's divorce from prudence has left Britain with a bloated civil service and an (in)famous "black hole" in the public finances, but he has cleverly positioned himself in the vanguard of those calling for a paring down of the public payroll."

"He will have considerable difficulty persuading voters that he has no power to get jails built so that the bad guys can be kept off the streets. Unless the Chancellor believes that jail makes the bad guys worse, or that Asbos rather than jail contain the predators and protect their prey, and can persuade wavering voters that is the case, he will find them wondering why there are sufficient funds to fight poverty in Africa but not enough money to make them secure in their homes and on their streets. "


Basically, Gordon is simply not Tony enough. He has strains of old Scottish Socialist in him and unless he toes the line, the support of The Sun and others is far from guaranteed. I don't think Stelzer or others are too hung up on who is the next Prime Minister, simply that they show a willingness, some may say pragmatism, to continue the Thatcher and quasi-Thatcher projects of the past twenty years. Gordon hasn't come off the fence sufficiently to be supported. So he must be challenged.

Of course Stelzer is not simply parroting Ruperts ideas, the man is intelligent in his own right, but one can be sure that he is laying out the stall for many of Murdoch's side of the spectrum for continued support of the New Labour project. It is not that he has trouble solely with Brown, as his Guardian piece today highlights, he has a problem with a party that doesn't agree with Blair.

The logic being that Brown may be more required to keep to the party's wishes than Blair is, or at least was. Consider this as a manifesto of sorts from his crowd;


"But he [Tony] knows that it is the "right thing" to attempt to reverse the decline in civility; to transfer power to the users of public services so that the young can be educated, the sick cured, and faith in public provision restored; to move against terrorists, no matter the squeamishness of a judiciary unable to adjust to 21st-century warfare; and to stay the course in Iraq."


Perhaps the conspiracy theorist in me is acting up, but I am pretty sure this signals clearer than at any point in May this year, the willingness of the Murdoch press and other conservatives to shop elsewhere if they need to. Gordon cannot rely on a press foiled by a failing and redundant Tory party because we don't know that's how things will go under David X.

There certainly is a stockpiling of challenges to get through for Brown. He must clarify his politics, make nice with the Sun and Times, keep the party sweet and preside over an election. In the face of the current realities in Iraq and in the U.K. talk of 2009 is at best unhelpful. That is something outside of the consideration of the press however.

Murdoch is a long-term thinker and now is the time to start setting out a stall for those who would inherit new Labour from Tony. Whether one likes it or not, Rupert and his associates opinion matter a great deal to Westminster set and their electorates. Will Brown tolerate the interference? Has he any choice? Watch this space.

RR




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11.11.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Choice in Schools and Education

It seems that one of the unforseen outcomes of Ferns has been the wedging of another related-but-not issue to the whole fallout. Liz O Donnell's intervention recently in the Ferns debate in Dail Eireann, reported here;



"Ms O'Donnell said that all roads led to what she called the unrelentingly deferential relationship between Church and State.She said this relationship was the at the root of society's failure to stop what she termed the Church's systematic maladministration and dereliction of duty to protect children."


That seems to be a fair enough comment coming from a party looking increasingly like a traditional secular liberal party. At that point the implication of what she was saying on PD thinking was certainly not on my mind, truisms have a way of seducing you like a siren into simple responses.

Berties rather robust defence of the Catholic Church outlined their indispensibility as education providers in the state;


"Describing the Catholic Church as an important part of civil society, he said its role in managing our primary schools was indispensable and that without it our education system would become unmanageable."

Bertie brought up the education bit Im sure inoccuously but he may have opened a can of worms. Todays RTE report sees Mary Harney supporting her own TD, unsurprisingly. It also sees an alliance being forged by the PDs and Fionnuala Kilfeather CEO of the National Parents Council Primary, the call is clear and unambiguous, choice in public schools.

That seems a tad new labour to me, I just picked up on it and decided to post. If you dont follow newLabour and other machinations across the water, they recently published an education white paper claiming to bring 'choice' to parents in piking schools etc. The paper is located here, yet it has been roundly condemned by backbenchers and commentators as being worse than anything the Tories imposed and more divisive in terms of provision. Im not suggesting for a minute that will happen here. Im simply worried that the choice agenda and its dodgy policies may shape up to save the PDs from destruction at the next election.


"Fionnuala Kilfeather, said the council believed in the right of parental choice, as set out in the constitution. She also said there had been many changes in Irish society over the last several decades."

So the ideological battle ground may yet be opened up between the PDs and their government allies over choice in public services. We havent had much of that talk thus far simply action and creeping privatisation. It seems strange that the Ferns report may be that cause which finally forces open debate about public provision of education and whether the state can do it alone, and if it cant how it should manage its public sector.

Or it mightn't
RR


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A Philosophical Question for You

This question was put to me earlier in the day by one much more intelligent than I. I cannot resist sharing it with you;

"While the American media found it reasonable that Americans should shy away from air transport if the reason was terrorists might be plunging it into buildings, the idea that we should shy away from jets because they have always had a tendency to crash in a statistically predictably manner is not at all reasonable. Contradiction?"

Just a few health warnings, this question was not intended to denigrate in any way the memory of those lost to either terrorism or air-accidents. Its intended as a reflection on the state of mind of the individual and should be engaged with as such.

Im interested in any and all responses, there is not a right answer to be sought here just some insights. My own take is that a risk factor in technology use has become internalised to a degree, while a risk factor from human sabotage of technology is something we find abhorrent. However this crude implement will not crack this question. Answers in the comment box.

Again, this is an invitation to free thinking, not an egregious insult to anyone. Intention is everything.
RR


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11.10.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Super Price War

Turning to home for the odd-post or two. The examiner this morning carries Micheal Martin's expectations that there could be a supermarket price war in full swing by Christmas. Doubtless the lenders and other purveyors of cheap credit will be delighted to hear of more stimulus to a flailing consumer.



"There is substantial evidence that consumers are paying higher prices because of the order," he said.


Im pretty sure at this stage Martin knows what he is talking about right, repeal the legislation and whammo you have a price war that cheapens the sweets up goodo in time for Christmas. Alas, there is one man who knows slightly more on this front than Martin and he is not altogether convinced.

Ben Dunne, in an interview Sunday with the Post, put the blame for high grocery costs on price-fixing among supermarkets and distributors. He feels that the repeal of the Order will do little in the long term to change the practice of cartel price arranging.

"The laughable thing is that the biggest problem related to the high price of food in this country is not the ban on below-cost selling - it's price-fixing,"Dunne said.
"There should be an investigation into it and a maximum retail price that people can charge."

Dunne dismissed claims about the high costs of doing business in Ireland, which have often been cited by retailers as justification for the price differences between Ireland and other European countries.


The man has got a great deal of experience in the business and when he is willing to flag up something as serious as price fixing in the market place one would expect some reaction. HOwever I guess starting one major series of State Enquiries is enough for the powers that be so we will stick to the line that it is all about the Order and removing that makes everything better.

Well, if Dunne is to be believed and;
"There are a lot of unwritten agreements whereby people won't sell products below a certain price. It is going on all the time."
Then that is certainly another one in the bag for this corrupt little state of ours.

RR

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11.09.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

The U.S. Does Do Torture, Evidently

From The New Yorker, Via The Nation comes a very harrowing piece of journalism.
Titled, "A Deadly Interrogation: Can the CIA legally Kill a Prisoner", the article details events in an Abu Ghraib cell which led to the death of a suspect there. Im just going to lift some important bits first;



"Two years ago...an Iraqi prisoner in Swanner'’s custody, Manadel al-Jamadi, died during an interrogation. His head had been covered with a plastic bag, and he was shackled in a crucifixion-like pose that inhibited his ability to breathe."

"According to forensic pathologists who have examined the case, he asphyxiated. In a subsequent internal investigation, United States government authorities classified Jamadi'’s death as a “homicide."

"The C.I.A. had identified him [al-Jamadi] as a "“high-value"” target, because he had allegedly supplied the explosives used in several atrocities perpetrated by insurgents, including the bombing of the Baghdad headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross, in October, 2003."

"According to witnesses, Jamadi was walking and speaking when he arrived at the prison. He was taken to a shower room for interrogation. Some forty-five minutes later, he was dead."

"[The dossier on the case has been with the Attorney General for Eastern Disrtict of Virginia for a Year]A lawyer familiar with the case, who asked not to be named, said that the Swanner file seemed to be "“lying kind of fallow."

"John Radsan, a lawyer formerly in the C.I.A's Office of General Counsel, says, "Along with the usual problems of dealing with classified information in a criminal case, this could open a can of worms if a C.I.A. official in this case got indicte's —a big fat can of worms about what set of rules apply to people like Jamadi. The sixty-four-thousand-dollar question is: What has been authorized? Can the C.I.A. torture people? A case like this opens up Pandora'’s box."

The article goes on to explore what the CIA has been accused of and what it might be authorised to do to extract results and information from prisoners. From the looks of this and other detail in the article, there is at least one allegation and eight more cited astorture where toture may have been used.

Surely eight isnt that bad? It is. No equivocation can be facilitated here. No amount of lies about information, terrorists and hating freedom. One person is terrible, eight is terrible.

The Nation's conclusion and coining of another title for Dick Cheney;
"It is a fantasy to believe that the architects of these cruel, inhuman interrogation techniques will be held accountable by an Administration whose key figures, especially "The Vice President for Torture," are so deeply implicated in the policies that led to the metastasizing use of torture."

The decision of the Washington Post then to withhold its information from the story about torture prisons in Europe and Africa, in accordance with the wishes of the White House is indefensible. Again the main media players in the U.S. have covered themselves in shame. There appear to be genuine cases to answer and the releasing of information will secure the truth, be it innocence for the CIA or justice for the dead.

RR

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11.08.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Who Tortures What Now?

Yesterday, the big GW declared that the U.S. does not use torture to extract information from men languishing in the no mans land between guilt and innocence. I thought that the fact that the U.S. had gotten to the point where talk like that was necessary reflected on the decay within the administration for the position of Human Rights.

I also pointed out that Dick Cheney was spending a lot of time in the Senate trying his damnedest to keep a ban on torture off the statute book. EWI looked earlier at exactly why this might be, according to the International Herald Tribune, a Powell aide has said Cheney was complicit in torture of prisoners. The full post is required reading.

The fallout from the reports last week of the torture camps around Europe and Bush's ongoing wrong-footed comments to the press are ratcheting up pressure on the execution of the War on Terror. There is indeed as EWI says a need for some moral clarity, not the murky reassurances that this is necessary. Have we lost all concept of empathy in ourselves. Human torture is morally bankrupt as a means of doing anything. Instrumental arguments about its effectiveness belie the fact that a man will say anything if tortured enough.

Who exactly has the CIA on a leash, is there a leash, is there any control whatsoever over security apparatus in detaining and arresting suspects around the world? Torture is not freedoms delivery vector, otherwise Saddam would have been safe in office.

Final point is a response to EWI's very important question;

"Does Ireland have blood on its hands?"
To which I would add,
"Does anyone in Government or Power actually know, or has Charlie Haughey's habit of knowing little gotten contagious?"

I fundamentally agree that if we are at risk of being complicit in any so called renditions and facilitating the use of torture, if there is even a whiff of guilt, there must be an investigation. Amnesty would only go so far in getting access to documents and people. The whole thing must be a rigorous examination of what we know and what we allow to happen. Indeed perhaps the only way to get to the truth is as part of a broader investigation into complicity across Europe and North Africa. The sad fact is that this truth may be too hard to get to. Too well hidden and easy to obstruct access to.

RR


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The Iraq War Takes a Hammering

In moves that will likely make wingnuts foam at the mouth for ages, raging incandescently all over the gaff, Iraq took a pretty brutal hammering over the past few days. By this I don't mean the country, which has been getting hammered for nearly two years now. I mean the war as an abstract, as an entity which exists for consumption along the Beltway, through Westminster and across the opinion pages and blogs.

The war which is an idea, containing legality, ideology, intention and other such concepts. It is this war which refuses to die for the regimes on both sides of the atlantic. There have been a few events on both sides of the water from less likely sources than usual. The anti-war crowd are taking a breather and protest has moved closer to the bone with establishment types taking a tilt at what is being portrayed as a farcical betrayal of the Iraqi people.

First comes the revelations in the Guardian by ex-British Ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer, that the process by which war was entered into was not exposed to the rigour of questioning and exploration one might expect from Tony Blair. While Christopher supported the war, the case he makes regarding Tony's inability to ask questions or make demands of the effort do a great deal of damage to the idea of the Iraq War. The abstract is done a disservice by the lack of foresight and preparation invested in the run-up. SO the debate rumbles on at a time when Blair could do with not being dragged back for his six-monthly defence of his decision to go to war, not incidentally the execution merely the decision (thus the argument over Iraq abstract).

Doubtless the book will be a great insight into personality politics but the verdict of such an overtly establishment man, pro-war and well connected could do a great deal of damage with opinion makers.

The confirmation that rumbles exist in the jungle, comes from a report in salon.com on the Democrats increasing competence at tackling the issue. They feel that they have some more evidence to suggest the evidence deployed in the build up to war was false, or at least qualified, yet tacken as truth to the people. As it related to a link between Saddam and Al-Qaida one can gather it is a rather important piece of document and yet more boosting energy for the Democrats.

Still, one does get the impression as I argued earlier that we are firmly into the era of two seperate wars taking place at the moment. There is the one which sees 20,000-100,000 Iraqis dead, 2,000+ U.S. soldiers dead and so on, it is the part of the plan where all attention should be, the efforts to democratise, stabilise and better the country. Yet it really doesnt seem to be working out as planned in that war.

The second war is the abstract war, as it seems to necessarily be when it is engaged with outside of Iraq. It is the war in idea, where argument is not so much rooted in the world and looking to the ground per se but examining the causes, strategy and other instruments of war. Perhaps Im wrong again but it is a rather stark dichotomy in dealing with Iraq. The war on paper refuses to die as an issue, while it may be kept alive by the war in the world it seems to be the former which is more politically damaging yet the latter which is so much more deadly.

RR


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Bush: U.S. Doesnt Torture

Good news for activists and campaigners out there, in a speech earlier on today George Bush declared that the U.S. does not use torture in the War on Terror. While unrelated, the declaration comes on the heels of attacks over the weekend from Mary Robinson on U.S. tv talk show Real Time with Bill Maher.

The assertion comes in a speech delivered after congress passed a law banning the use of torture, a Bill opposed by the White House. Currently Dick Cheny is seeking an exemption for CIA agents from torture, a rather disconcerting note from AmericaBlog;



"Cheney has been the force against adding safeguards to the Defense Department's rules on treatment of military prisoners, putting him at odds with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon R. England."


In a week where they were accused of having secret jails across Eastern Europe and Africa specifically for torturing terror suspects, allegedly.

It seems that there is much discomfort among House Republicans over the willingness of the administration, real or imagined, to conduct extra-judicial proceedings against suspects including the use of torture. The willingness of the House to go against its own presidents often boils down to a single issue in U.S. politics and it is rarely principle. As I pointed to last night, numbers suggest a massive swing to the democrats in one or both Houses at the mid terms next year. Thus there is a desire to keep bums in seats over and above following the dear leader. This could become very tricky for a man that is relying on the Houses to see him back on safe ground, (Alito and CIA exemptions e.g.).

McCain plans to tag on the anti-torture wording to every single bill considered by the Senate until it becomes law. Eye-catching and bad news for Bush.

Bush's claims today were not helped by this development. Bearing in mind innocence until proven guilty, I shall say no more. The matter may be something other than alleged. We dont know, however the commitment to a fair trial for the soldiers is undoubted. A fair trial for those held over years in Gitmo? Perhaps non.

The worries of the Human Rights community is far more than bleeding heart liberalism. Its a case built up on what evidence available that the War on Terror is being conducted in places in a manner that doesnt align with our beliefs. The cross-party consensus on a torture ban should not even have to be explicitly supported in this day and age. It is an argument that should be put to, and kept in, bed.
To lift from Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch;


"Who would have thought we would still be debating the use of torture?” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch and co-editor of the book. “But when a government as dominant and influential as the United States openly defies the absolute ban on mistreating detainees, its conduct jeopardizes prisoners everywhere."

The HRW response to the statement and a blatant plug for a new publication on Torture are here.
In a final nutshell, that fact Bush must come out and say that the U.S. doesnt use torture is a sign in itself of how far things have fallen. Human Rights are never concrete, never fully secure. In taking an eye from the ball, some in power around the world have allowed for a moderate, unhealthy, rollback of human striving. Guilty or not, the speech is an admission that too much hangs over the administration-truth or lie.

RR


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11.07.2005 » Author: Cian » Comments:

Michael Howard, Dead and a Lefty?

Just crossing the channels and happened across a report on Channel 4 News on Tony Blair's press conference this morning. The report implied at some point, or else Blair said it and I missed it, both likely, that by opposing the whole 90-day detention caluse they were now to the left of Labour.

The reported put this point to Michael Howard and the sofa he seems surgically attached to. Out come the hands which hover for a second like they are holding an imaginary basketball before he admits that yes he may be.

"Often in politics we have to do things we believe in" or something to that effect. I am officially thrust into a major bout of self-doubt by the prospect of being closer to Howard than to others in the political spectrum.

After that bout of self-doubt I decided the best comeback is to ridicule the man and his ridiculous thing that he does with his hands. All the time they are outstretched and trying to hold an invisible basketball. Doing this repeatedly probably transmits the point more clearly, trough telepathy perhaps.

So there you have it, Michael Howard is a lefty, so sayeth Channel 4 or Tony Blair. Implication being that being left of Labour is outside the loop, and the centre ground has failed to be moved anywhere toward the centre/centre-left, which as far as I can remember was the idea of the newLabour project.

RR


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Mary Robinson Speaks Out

This from first the Post yesterday, Mary Robinson was speaking on HBO talk show Real Time with Bill Maher. One would be unsurprised to learn she isn't a big fan of Guantanamo Bay and the current U.S. stance toward the Human Rights of those imprisoned there. I have tried to track down clips but to no avail. Here comments come at a pretty tough time for the White House with talk of the possibility of losing one or both houses next year to the Democrats.

Some of her comments are below most are lifted from the Post piece, at the end are the few blogs that commented on it. Unsurprisingly the U.S. isn't shaken to its core when an ex-Irish President although one of the highest international calibre, speaks out against Bush's policies. However it all adds up if there is a snowball effect, which just may be taking place, or about to.







Robinson described the debasing of international human rights as "awful" and "shocking".


Robinson blamed the White House for the "dip" in US standards on human rights.
"As someone who is seeing this from a world perspective, the US used to be a champion of human rights. America has dipped its standards. It's awful," she said.

"As a human-rights person I would say the US gave great leadership. I want the US to give that leadership again.

"And it has a lot to do."


" In human rights communities, we're cringing at what America is doing. We are cringing at the torture."





In any manthat'sguage ththoughtetty tought stuff, a former diplomat, UNHCHR, knows strong language when they use it. The words should give us all pause for thought again and remember why this War on Terror is deemed necessary. The protection of our society and all we stand for. Including Human Rights. Robinson's intervention is damning for Bush and his White House.

The problem is that only those abroad and in New York will be interested in hearing her words and knowing their weight. Outside of a few blogs here and there (scroll down a bit), the response has been muteddoesn'tnson doesnt have the profile in the U.S. to cause an uproar. Yet any admirers of her priknowledged knoweldge cant help but be worried by her own concern. She should know, quite honestly, if Gitmo is a travesty.

This intervention wreinforcey reenforce the divide that exists between most non-Americans and the U.S. government and supporters. Its not the cross-divide intervention it could be as not many know her. Still its a strong contribution.
RR


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