Tag Archives: coalition government

He Killed His Own People!

The Cat has always been bemused by the claim that so-and-so “has killed his own people”. This line of argument is usually deployed in advance of an invasion, air campaign or the implementation of a ‘no fly zone’. When one unpacks this argument, it is always found wanting and reveals the hypocrisy at the heart of the establishment’s rationale for military adventurism.  Sometimes the phrase “he’s another Hitler” will be added for dramatic effect.

In the run up to Gulf War I, we were told Saddam Hussein had “killed his own people”.  When Gulf War II rolled around, he also become “another Hitler”.  By his “own people”, the warmongers and the news media were referring specifically to the Kurds.  But Saddam Hussein didn’t see the Kurds as “his own people” and he wasn’t alone in this: it is a view that had been consistent in Baghdad throughout the history of Iraq, since it became nominally independent from Britain in 1932.

The Kurds (led by the powerful and corrupt Barzani clan) had constantly been in conflict with Baghdad since independence and had been waging a guerilla war in Northern Iraq for decades.  A full blown war between the Iraqi Kurds and the Iraqi government took place in 1961.  But this isn’t to say that Kurds didn’t participate in Iraqi politics or in government.  They did.  General Bakr Sidqi, for example, was the head of Iraq’s army.  He led the forces that participated in the Simele Massacre of 1933, which saw thousands of Assyrians slaughtered as they fled towards the Syrian border. Sidqi, King Ghazi and the Prime Minister Rashid Ali al-Gaylani, didn’t see the Assyrians as “their people” either.  Al-Gaylani would return as Prime Minister in a coup in 1941 and enter into a short-lived pact with Nazi Germany until he was overthrown by the British in the same year.

Western news media – especially British and American news media – have repeated ad infinitum the claim that Bashar al-Assad has “killed his own people” to rally public support for official military intervention and the eventual toppling of the Syrian president.  That Assad has killed his own people isn’t in doubt, but his forces have also killed people that the West ironically sees as its allies. Fighters from the al-Nusra Front, for example.

Britain and the United States have historically offered much support to national leaders that have “killed their own people”. Many of these leaders were military strongmen that were entertained by British and American governments because of their impeccable anti-communist credentials.  Below is a partial list.

  1. Nursultan Nazarbayev (current president of Kazakhstan)
  2. Islam Karimov (Uzbekistan, 1989 – 2016). His successor, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, is just as if not more violently repressive.
  3. Suharto (Indonesia, 1967 – 1998)
  4. Mobutu Sese Seko (Zaire, 1965 – 1997)
  5. General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte (Chile, 1973 – 1989)
  6. Generalissimo Francisco Franco Bahamonde (Spain, 1936 – 1975)
  7. The Greek Colonels (1967 – 1974)
  8. Air Chief Marshal Hosni Mubarak (Egypt, 1981 – 2011)
  9. Colonel Anwar Sadat (Egypt, 1970 – 1981)
  10. General Zia al-Haq (Pakistan, 1978 – 1988)
  11. Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo (Dominican Republic, 1942-1952)
  12. Jose Efrain Rios Montt (Guatemala, 1982 – 1983)
  13. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi (Iran, 1941 – 1979)

The conflict in Syria, like that in Iraq has been subject to the most deceitful, one-sided coverage with the siege and aerial bombardment of Aleppo becoming the focus of some pretty blatant propaganda. In short, we’re getting a raw deal from our news providers. Patrick Cockburn in today’s Independent writes:

The dominance of propaganda over news in coverage of the war in Syria has many negative consequences. It is a genuine civil war and the exclusive focus of on the atrocities committed by the Syrian armed forces on an unarmed civilian population gives a skewed picture of what is happening. These atrocities are often true and the UN says that 82 civilians may have been summarily executed in east Aleppo last month. But, bad though this is, it is a gross exaggeration to compare what has happened in Aleppo to genocide in Rwanda in 1994 or the massacre in Srebrenica the following year.

In the same paper Robert Fisk writes:

But it’s time to tell the other truth: that many of the “rebels” whom we in the West have been supporting – and which our preposterous Prime Minister Theresa May indirectly blessed when she grovelled to the Gulf head-choppers last week – are among the cruellest and most ruthless of fighters in the Middle East. And while we have been tut-tutting at the frightfulness of Isis during the siege of Mosul (an event all too similar to Aleppo, although you wouldn’t think so from reading our narrative of the story), we have been willfully ignoring the behaviour of the rebels of Aleppo.

Our leaders, though they may claim otherwise, have also “killed their own people” and we don’t need to cast our minds back that far.  The brutal regime of cuts to social security by the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition (2010-15) drove people to commit suicide, and although these people died by their own hand, it was the government’s policies that were ultimately responsible for their deaths.   Why?  Because this is a feature of what Pierre Bourdieu and Loic Wacquant called “symbolic violence”, which gets the victim to carry out acts of violence against themselves, thus obviating the need for actual physical violence from the state.  It’s a pretty clever trick.  No?

Governments are more than happy to kill their own people, even in so-called ‘democracies’. It isn’t confined solely to certain Middle Eastern countries.

Reference

Bourdieu, P., & Wacquant, L.J.D. (2003). Symbolic violence. na. Available at: http://cges.umn.edu/docs/Bourdieu_and_Wacquant.Symbolic_Violence.pdf  Accessed 29/2/16

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Filed under Free Press Myth, Ideologies, Iraq, Journalism, Media, Middle East, propaganda, Syria, Yellow journalism

In the national interest

When the Tories and Lib Dems came together to form the coalition, they told us that they did it in “the national interest”. In 1931, the National Government was formed between Baldwin’s Tories, the Simonite faction of the Liberal Party and the scumbag faction of the Labour Party led by Ramsay MacDonald. They told the people that they formed this coalition in “the national interest”.

Then, as now, the National Government’s solution to the ever-deepening economic depression was to have no solution. The “Invisible Hand of the Market”, they believed, would magically come to their aid. It never did. Today’s Tories think the “Invisible Hand” will rescue them and the crocked economy. It won’t. Instead, the lessons of history are arrogantly ignored to promote such fallacies as The Laffer Curve.

Politicians in the 1930s were treated as demi-gods: they were practically untouchable. The press fawned over them and it was more or less forbidden to mock them in print or on stage.

These days, we know our politicians are human. The trouble is that some politicians – especially the Tories – believe themselves to be superior to the rest of us. This is demonstrated to us on a near-daily basis by the numbers of Tory MPs who accuse the unemployed of choosing to live on benefits as a lifestyle choice. These people have never had to claim dole or work in a low-paid job. None of them have had to make the choice between paying their heating bill and eating.

Nick Clegg (see this excellent blog by The Mambo) is fond of saying how he formed the coalition with the Tories in “the national interest”. He repeats this mantra as often as anyone will listen. The trouble for him is that none of us are listening because we’ve heard enough. Clegg hates dissent… that’s because he’s never dissented in his life. Without dissent, we’d still have slavery and women would not have the vote. Clegg thinks that we should all shut up and let the coalition carry on destroying lives. The Cat has news for him: we dissenters won’t go away.

The national interest is just another way of saying “self-interest”. If these people were really working in “the national interest”, then they would be working hard to improve the economy. They would be working overtime to create jobs. They wouldn’t be punishing the unemployed and disabled for the crimes of the feral rich. Handing out tax cuts to millionaires is not working in “the national interest”, it’s working to shore up and extend the interests of your class.

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Sir John Simon lays his ghostly hand on Clegg’s shoulder

220px-Sir_John_Simon_1-3-16

Sir John Simon

I wonder if Nick Clegg would recognize the photo of the man above? If he doesn’t, then he should familiarize himself with it. Sir John Simon took his faction of the Liberal Party into the National Government in 1931. Simon’s reasoning was similar to Clegg’s: he was acting in the national interest. In order to understand how things got this way for the party we need to go back a little further to the end of the First World War.

The  so-called “Coupon” election saw Andrew Bonar law’s Coalition Conservatives come in first place with Lloyd George’s Coalition Liberals in second place.  The National Coalition, which had governed during the war, was thus returned in a landslide.  But there was simmering discontent among the Tories who formed the largest group within the coalition.  The Conservatives managed to prove that Lloyd George’s had been selling knighthoods and peerages (quite possibly one of the biggest open secrets of its time).  There was also anger among many Tories and Unionists over the creation of the Irish Free State. Other events added to the mess, the coalition collapsed and an election was called.

There had been a division among the Liberals that stemmed from 1918 when many of their MPs rejected the coalition coupon (we could, of course, go back to the split over Home Rule but let’s leave that for another time). This group was led by Herbert Asquith, whom Lloyd George had replaced as party leader in 1916. Deep cracks had developed within the Liberal Party during the years of the coalition and matters came to a head when coalition ministers were shouted down and heckled during the 1920 Liberal conference.  Lloyd George formed his own party, the National Liberals, to contest the election. The 1922 election saw the Lloyd George’s party split the vote while Asquith was pushed into third place by the ascendant Labour Party. The Conservatives under  Andrew Bonar Law were returned with an overall majority. But this was not to last. In 1923 another election was called when Law resigned due to ill-health. Stanley Baldwin replaced him and although he held a decent majority, he called an election. The result was a hung parliament and the Liberals, newly reunited under Asquith, won 158 seats and were in third place.

The following year, another election was called, ostensibly on the issue of tariffs. Baldwin fared better. Nonetheless Labour increased its share of the vote, which led to a realignment of the political poles. The tension was now between the Conservatives and Labour with the Liberals officially becoming the third party. 1924 was a disaster for Asquith, as well as losing his seat, the party’s 158 seats were reduced to 40. Baldwin didn’t have enough seats to command an overall majority and declined to form a government and a confidence and supply arrangement was negotiated between Asquith’s Liberals and Ramsay MacDonald, while Lloyd George was left to smoulder on the backbenches.This put the Labour Party into power for the first time as a minority government. But this didn’t last, thanks in part to the Campbell Case, the infamous Zinoviev Letter and some latent anti-socialist feeling that had been whipped up by the Tory press (plus ça change).

The 1929 election was fought against the backdrop of the 1926 General Strike and resulted in a hung parliament, with Labour forming a minority government.  In 1926,  Lloyd George replaced Asquith for the second time and the party took 13 more seats but it was all over for the Liberals as a major force in British politics. Decades of divisions, splits and tensions had finally reduced them to a parliamentary rump.

Labour were split over their response to the Depression with prominent members of the cabinet, such as Arthur Henderson, threatening to resign. MacDonald was urged to form a National Government and when the general election was called in 1931, Baldwin’s Tories formed the largest party in the Commons. Lloyd George fell ill and de facto leadership of the party fell to Herbert Samuel, whose report in 1926 had partly led to the General Strike and was tasked with leading the party in the election. Ironically, Samuel had been a  supporter of Asquith. Liberals were divided over support for the National Government and Samuel’s party split into three factions: the Liberal Nationals who supported the National Government, Lloyd George’s Independent Liberals and the mainstream liberals led by Samuel. They never really recovered.

Sir John Simon – a cold fish of a man by all accounts – took the bulk of the party (the Simonites) and joined the government, while Samuel took the rest (the Samuelites) and,  in 1935, crossed the floor to oppose the government. But it was hopeless, in the General Election that year, Samuel lost his seat and the number of Liberal MPs was cut by a third when they lost 12 seats. Simon’s Liberal National party was virtually indistinguishable from the Conservative Party and in those constituencies where the party stood candidates with a healthy majority, they were unopposed by the Tories. In 1935 they held onto most of their seats and lost only 2.

After the war, the mainstream Liberal Party under Archibald Sinclair won 12 seats. The Liberal Nationals won 11 seats. But the writing was on the wall for both liberal parties. The Woolton-Teviot Agreement between the Liberal Nationals and the Conservatives merged the two parties at the constituency level in 1947. They even changed their name to the National Liberals but they were nothing more than a Tory-owned brand name. In 1950 they won 16 seats, while the mainstream Liberals’ number of seats dropped from 12 to 9. By the time of the 1951 general election, this number had fallen to a mere 6. The Liberal Party’s number of seats never broke through into double figures until the elections of 1974 and, even then, the party could only win 14 seats under ill-fated Jeremy Thorpe.

Nick Clegg was elected as an MP in 2005 after serving as an MEP,from 1999 to 2004 but he had plotted to take control of the party a year earlier. Lib Dem leader, Charles Kennedy, had done much to improve the Lib Dems fortunes and the party held 62 seats. Clegg was given the job of the party’s spokesman on European affairs and was being tipped as a future party leader. This seems to have gone to his head because later in the same year, he was one of the signatories to a letter demanding Kennedy’s resignation. Kennedy was forced to resign and Sir Menzies Campbell became caretaker leader. Campbell was then rudely pushed aside by Clegg and Huhne, whose supporters declared him to be “too old”. Clegg and Huhne distanced themselves from the ageist comments but there’s little doubt that they played a part in Campbell’s departure from the leadership contest. Et tu Nick? Et tu Chris?

Nick Clegg has never faced a split in his party but like Simon, he believed that he was acting in the national interest.  He inherited a party that was in much better shape than when Paddy Ashdown had been leader. Clegg effectively squandered the good work that was done by Kennedy by dragging his party, first to the right and then into the arms of the coalition. If he’d have done the sensible thing, he’d have taken the option of a confidence and supply arrangement with a Tory minority government. Instead his miscalculations and lust for power are likely to cost the Lib Dems badly in the next general election. The public will not forget the Lib Dems behaviour over tuition fees, the NHS, benefit caps and the EMA.

So far, Clegg has kept an iron grip on the parliamentary party but the constituency parties are more restive with numerous defections from the Liberal Democrats to Labour in local councils across the country. Even so, Clegg seems to have  marginalized any opposition. Even Charles Kennedy sounds as though he’s on-side these days!

The Lib Dems have two choices: they can split or they can stay together and be slaughtered at the ballot box. There is another way: they can dump Clegg but how easy is that? If that happens, the Lib Dems are likely to see a repeat of 1935 and we know how that movie ends.

So what happened to Simon? He was Home Secretary under Baldwin and Churchill kicked him upstairs in 1940, but he did not sit in the War Cabinet.  He was a Tory in all but name. And Clegg? What will become of him? Well, a similar fate awaits him: he will lose his seat and will be elevated to the Lords. That’s what happens to toerags: they’re rewarded with ermine robes and a seat on the red benches.

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Fine Gael and Labour form coalition

Gilmore and Kenny - old chums?

It was a foregone conclusion that Labour would hop into bed with the Blueshirts. The current government majority is now something in the order of an unprecedented 113 seats. Labour have been in coalition with FG before, the first time was in 1948. As I have pointed out in a previous blog, the two parties make strange bedfellows.

Should the coalition prove unpopular, the next election could see Labour lose most of the seats that it gained. Does this worry the party’s leadership? Well, no. It would seem that certain members of Labour, long in the tooth as they are, were depserate to get their hands on a ministerial portfolio before they shuffled off this mortal coil. Pat Rabbitte, one of Labour’s negotiators has already worked with FG having been in the so-called ‘Rainbow Coalition’ of 1992.

From the Irish Times,

“I am happy to tell you that we have concluded an agreement, some of the finer details are now being worked out for presentation to both parties,” Mr Kenny told reporters.

The parties took divergent views during the election campaign on the scale of public sector cutbacks, the split between taxes and spending cuts, and the time frame for cutting the budget deficit to an EU limit of three per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).

Both Mr Kenny and Mr Gilmore said the deal reached on these points would be made known when the programme for government is published later today.

“They are issues that we will be signing off on in the morning,” Mr Gilmore said, adding that he was happy with the structure of the government but refusing to say how many seats his party had secured at the cabinet table or which party had got the coveted finance portfolio.

The deal will be put before a 1,000-strong Labour Party special delegate conference today, while Fine Gael will seek the backing of its TDs and senators.

I don’t expect either conference (or Ard Fheis in the case of FG) to reject the deal. I do, however, expect to see some dissent among younger members of the Labour Party who were hoping for a new alignment of the left in Irish politics. This is a major disappointment for many Irish voters who were hoping for some real change. Instead, all they will get from this coalition is spare change.

UPDATE:  @1714

Just hearing on BBCNews that Labour has voted in favour of the coalition with FG. Oh joy.

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Another coalition gimmick?

This government and the last one are/were fond of gimmicks. After all, they have no real ideas, no proper policies – they just react to what the papers say. Today, Nick Clegg announced that there would be a ‘bonfire’ of unpopular laws. The right wing press is full of approval, while the few left-leaning dailies (there are only 2 of them, count them) have barely mentioned it. The Guardian appears to have ignored it altogether but the fact that the right-leaning papers have picked up the story  should set off some alarm bells. So what is this all about? Will some laws be repealed or will some of the more unpopular ones like the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (1994) remain on the statute books? The Criminal Justice Act, as it is popularly known, was the work of the last Conservative government. Remember, this is the party that claims to have discovered ‘libertarianism’ in the last few years.

But what exactly is freedom? Is Nick Clegg’s idea of freedom the same as David Davis’s idea of freedom? Freedom, like choice, is an illusion. Often when people talk about ‘greater freedom’ and the ‘cutting of red tape‘ they usually mean that they want to further enrich themselves or, they already have the money to live a freer life than those who exist on the minimum wage.

So be suspicious, be very suspicious when Nick Clegg or the rest of the coalition talk about ‘freedom’. They’re free to do what they want and you’re not. Have a look at the 10 Downing Street site, there’s a link to another site called “Your Freedom”, Clegg is pictured seated at a desk telling us that this is the ‘first day of freedom’. It’s all smoke and mirrors.  This coalition talks about how the last government spent money but, already, it has shown that it can do the same thing while pretending that it is part of an exercise to ‘cut red tape’ and give you more ‘freedom’. The Your Freedom website is a waste of taxpayers’ money.

We don’t need politicians to ‘free’ us. As the Situationist graffito said “Don’t liberate me — I’ll take care of that” (May 1968).

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