Tag Archives: Libya

Debt, gimmicks and the right

The right loves its gimmicks. First, the brains trust behind the disastrous Rally Against Debt paraded their “Debt Clock” around the streets of London. They were trying to tell us that “time was running out” and that the government had to “cut deeper and faster”. They thought that if they drove a massive clock on the back of an articulated lorry around Westminster’s streets on a Saturday afternoon, with the city full of people shopping on their credit cards, spending money they don’t have on things they d0n’t need… would somehow convince these people, some of them tourists, of  the merit of their argument, they were sadly mistaken. They just looked like a bunch of rich Ayn Rand-reading nerds with too much time on their hands who could afford to hire a truck for a stunt. Whoopee-do.

In a classic example of monkey-see/monkey-do, Hammersmith & Fulham Council has come up with its own version of a gimmicky debt gauge. It’s called the “Debtometer” and the ‘device’, so our overlords tell us,  is meant to measure the debt “going down”. Shepherds Bush blog has the story.

The council website says,

Millions of pounds are being freed up for vital frontline services as the council looks set to hit its target of halving its historic debt mountain by 2014.

Hammersmith & Fulham (H&F) Council’s debt reduction strategy, which includes moves to sell under-used council buildings, is set to wipe another £12million off the town hall’s debt burden by April 2012.

The news comes as the council launches a new quarterly online ‘debtometer’ so that residents can keep a track of the progress made in reducing municipal debt.

You’ve got to love the way LBH&F’s Tories dissemble the facts. All councils run up debts; that’s how they survive. I mean, have you ever heard of a council being forced to shut down because it had no money? No, I haven’t either. Hackney is  poor borough that often finds itself in massive debt but it hasn’t shut down. The entire article about the “debtometer” is reproduced verbatim on the H&F Tories site .

These cute little gimmicks that are dreamt up by the right are distractions and nothing more. They are PR confidence tricks designed to divert attention away from the fact that they have no real ideas beyond cutting public services.  Why? Because they tell us that don’t use them (so who empties their bins?) and they think that the rest of us are ‘addicted’ to the state. It’s the old new classical liberal idea of deserving and undeserving poor revivified under the neo-Hayekian aegis of ‘freedom’ and ’empowerment’.

But those who claim these stunts are more than the sum of their parts are deluding themselves. These are the people who come out with snappy lines like “the nation had maxed out its credit card” and “we need to live within our means”. In their arrogance, they have convinced themselves that no one understand economics like they do. They talk a good talk but like a cheap jumper, their argument soon unravels when it is scrutinized.  They can only “speak in maths”, as the Radiohead song goes. Yet without people – a society – there is no economy. No people, no need for commodities.

But try and tell them that.

Not to be outdone by Gordon Brown’s “quantitative easing”,  Hon Gid introduced his own idea of economic interventionism at the Conservative Party Conference. He called his concept gimmick, “credit easing”.

But credit is debt.

Ask anyone who has a credit card, a bank loan or a mortgage.

But people with credit cards don’t have access to the international bond markets. They can’t sell their junk in the same way as a nation-state. In fact, while this government talks about reducing debt, it raises money on the bond markets to continue its costly wars in Libya and Afghanistan. This is something that our slash and burn Tories won’t tell you about. Instead, they’ll tell you that cuts are “necessary” and will beg the question with a “But surely you realize how important it is for the government to reduce the nation’s debt”?

The Taxpayers Alliance loves to claim that its “our money” that’s being “burnt” but what they won’t tell you is that most of the nation’s wealth is concentrated in a small number of hands and those people (including the entire membership of TPA) are well insulated against economic hardship. If you put that point to them, they’ll start flailing about and will regurgitate the usual neo-Hayekian drivel about “responsibility”.

The cuts to public services, especially those to education, is a form of de-investment. That is to say, the Tory-led government is not investing in the economy – as it should at this time. Instead, it is sucking money out of the economy and diverting some of those funds to those pet projects that are run by its supporters – the free schools, for example. It has no interest in investing in people…unless they come from a privileged background. In which case, there is no need to invest in them because they will, by dint of their circumstances of birth, reproduce the same selfish, dimwitted values that were espoused by their parents.

No wonder we’re in the shit.

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Filed under Economics, Hammersmith & Fulham, London, neoliberalism, Rally Against Debt, Spiv capitalism

Libya. Confused? So am I

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. Still free.

They say that the first casualty of war is the truth. The war in Libya is no exception. Since the bombing began in February, we have been treated to all sorts of rumour, speculation and innuendo. First, we were told that the no-fly zone imposed by NATO was to prevent Gaddafi from launching air strikes against his own people. We heard the same thing in the 1990’s in the days of the Iraq no-fly zone. Civilians were killed and tanks, which can’t fly, were destroyed. Civilians have been killed in this war too. But as long as we get our hands on the oil, who cares? You can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs. Right?

Then, some members of the SAS or SBS or whoever they were, were captured by the rebels after we had been told that there were no “British boots on the ground”. Later we were told by the MOD that there were British ‘mentors’ and ‘advisors’ in Libya. In pre-1965 Vietnam, the US stuffed the country with ‘advisors’. But they weren’t advisors at all; they were actively involved in combat operations and also helped to facilitate the coup that ousted Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963.

Then, about a month ago, were informed that top rebel general, Abdel Fatah Younis, had been assassinated. The finger of blame was immediately pointed in the direction of Daddy Gaddafi. It turned out that the general had been killed by gunmen on his ‘own side’ and that the National Transitional Council and all the rebel forces are far from united in their efforts to topple Gaddafi.

In the last couple of days, Tripoli was reported to be moments away from collapse and that rebel forces had entered the Libyan capital. Gaddafi’s sons, Saif al-Islam and Mohammed had apparently been captured with the former being in the custody of the International Criminal Court. Last night, Saif al-Islam appeared on television to urge his supporters to fight on. The two South African air force planes on the tarmac of Tripoli airport weren’t there to fly Daddy Gaddafi to Zimbabwe or Angola as the commentators had speculated. In fact, no one really knew why they were there but the ‘experts’ still offered an ill-informed expert opinion nonetheless. Daddy Gaddafi remains in charge and doesn’t look as though he’s going anywhere in a hurry. Some of the rebels who apparently entered Tripoli withdrew overnight. Why? Well, not even Chatham House knows the answer to that question.

The war is over? It doesn’t look like it.

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Filed under Africa, Libya, World

Hague – there won’t be any boots on the ground…

…except for the ones that are being worn by the ‘military advisors’.  The dispatching of ‘advisors’ is often a prelude to a full-scale war. In the late 1950’s, the US sent advisors to what was then Saigon before the escalation of the Vietnam War in 1965. Truth be told, the US provided more than just “advisors”, there was a sizeable military presence in Vietnam before 1965. Indeed my father was stationed at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in 1963.  So when people tell me that the Vietnam War started in 1965, I know better.

This conflict began with so-called “no fly zones”, which are also precursors to a full-blown war. I do find it odd, that within this “no fly zone”,  Libyan ground forces are being attacked.  I mean, when was the last time you saw a flying tank or a flying howitzer?

We were told that “regime change” was not part of plan in Libya but it seems as though this has been the intention all along. The UN Security Council resolution that authorized the “no fly zones” did not call for regime change but you can bet your bottom dollar that that’s the plan. Scameron wants it.  Sokrazy wants it. Even Obomba wants it.  Although the public has been told that this “isn’t about oil”, the fact of the matter is that it is about oil. The last time anyone said “this isn’t about oil” was in the run up to the Iraq invasion and guess what? It was about oil. Blair and Bush lied.

So when William Hague tells us that there aren’t any boots on the ground. He’s a liar. There are  boots on the ground and there will be more of them.

UPDATE: 2/2/12 @1942

Well, it seems that there were special forces boots on Libya soil as well as those of the very special advisors. I wonder, could there have been more of them? Boots, I mean. Possibly. Anything’s possible.

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Filed under Africa, Libya, World

It’ll be over by Christmas…

One question remains: where did all these Senoussi flags come from?

…is what they said when the First World War started in August 1914. The war lasted 4 years and cost millions of lives. It was also a boom time for arms manufacturers, who made money from both sides of the conflict. This was also the war that saw the birth of the public relations industry. Air power was also in its infancy. There weren’t any “No Fly Zones” or anything like them.

Fast forward to the present day and similar themes emerge. Many of the right-leaning newspapers in this country have printed headlines that have read “Over in weeks”. The same happened in the case of the Iraq invasion. The truth of the matter is that the so-called coalition of nations that are presently involved in the bombing of Libya have entered into a conflict that has no end in sight nor is there a coherent end strategy. And this is always the problem when nations embark on military action: the nations involved are fond of portraying this variously as having the potential for being a short conflict or ushering in a new era of ‘democracy’. They will conduct the war as though it was a remote control c0nflict (110 cruise missiles were launched on Day 1 alone). We should be in no doubt that the No Fly Zone that has been declared is the precursor to something nastier. The No Fly Zones over Iraq were merely the opening shots for the full-scale invasion that took place on a false premise. It was a ‘phony war’. The current Libyan NFZ can arguably be read in similar terms.

The US, UK and all of the NATO countries that have been involved in Afghanistan, entered into that war with one eye shut. Not being great students of history, they wilfully ignored the writing on the wall. The war is now 10 years old and there seems to be no end in sight. It is only the arms industry and the defence contractors (mercenaries) who have really gained anything from the conflict.

Libya presents a similar problem. The Gaddafi regime is intractable and will not give in without a bloody fight. The coalition of the short-sighted has clearly bitten off more than it can chew.

The ever astute Robert Fisk warns us about the West’s support for Arab dictators and the mess we could get ourselves into.

Whatever you think of George Galloway, he pretty much nails it in this interview on Sky. The interviewer is a Grade A plank.

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Libya – here we go again

While protesters were being shot at by Bahrain’s security forces, the West ignored this in a rush to enforce what it described a “no fly zone” in Libya. When I saw the news footage from BBC News (to my shame), I was struck with a sense of deja vu.

In 2002, we were told by our political leaders that Saddam was a “tyrant” and that he “killed his own people”. Fast forward to 2011 and we see the same things and hear the same half-truths, only this time, the names have changed. This time Gaddafi is a “Mad Dog” who “kills his own people”.

Unlike Yemen and Djibouti, Libya has oil. Bahrain has oil too, but the pro-Western dictatorship remains intact, so the oppression can carry on. There has been much talk about the “rule of law” and how we must “protect innocent civilians”. It seems to me that the UK, US, France and the other warmongering nations are somewhat selective in their use of military assistance to ‘protect’ people from tyranny.

The situation in Libya began with a rebellion, which then morphed into a civil war, now the West has taken it upon itself to take sides in the conflict. There have also been rebellions and uprising throughout Africa and the Middle East yet, there was no talk of military intervention – even when civilians were being killed. The West has been watching events nervously since the first protesters took to the streets in Tunis and then Cairo. There had been much hand-wringing and mealy-mouthed words of support for the protesters but little else.

There is a very good blog from Socialist Unity here

Al Jazeera has a good article about Western overzealousness here.

In yesterday’s Telegraph, warmongering Moonie, Nile Gardiner, whose headline screams “David Cameron’s War: the Empire Strikes back at ‘Mad Dog Gaddafi” said,

There is no doubt that David Cameron’s stock as a world leader has soared since the start of the Libya crisis, in marked contrast to that of the American president. But his decision to invest military resources in a Libyan campaign carries with it significant risks, and must only be undertaken as part of a broader strategy to rebuild British military power. The British lion has roared, but must also be strong enough to go in for the kill.

Notice how he manages to praise Cameron and have a pop at Obama at the same time. Cheap stuff. So this is Cameron’s ‘good war’? There is no such thing as a good war. Like Blair, Cameron is looking for his place in history but if, like Iraq, this goes badly for him, he will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

I saw Hon Gideon on the Andrew Marr Show this morning and while he is cutting public services, he talked how he was going to spend more on Britain’s military. So they can find the money for killing people abroad but not on things that improve people’s lives in this country? Typical topsy turvy neoliberal nonsense.

Last month, Cameron was hawking weapons around Egypt and the Middle East. Those weapons, like those supplied to Libya, will be used to kill protesters. Oh, the irony.

Meanwhile in Bahrain

Meanwhile in Yemen

Meanwhile in Senegal

Good article by Robert Fisk here

I am not a fan of the Colonel but I know hypocrisy and double standards when I see them.

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Filed under Africa, Libya

That Cameron fella, he’s all heart

Yesterday, I was stunned by the sight of David Cameron walking around Tahrir Square in Cairo. He was also pictured meeting with the leader of the military command council, Mohammed Tantawi, who is charged with ruling Egypt until elections are held in September.

Today, he is in Kuwait. Let’s put it this way, he isn’t in the Middle East to glad-hand national leaders and congratulate them on their ‘democratic reforms’. I mean, Kuwait. Come on!   He’s there to sell them weapons.

All this guff that comes from Cameron’s  mouth about “democracy” is just a load of bunkum; a cover for his arms deals. Hague and Cameron talk about “the rule of law and freedom” but, in truth, they don’t really care who is running those countries  so long as they buy container-loads of weapons.

The Guardian reports,

David Cameron‘s efforts to promote democracy in the Middle East by becoming the first foreign leader to visit Cairo were overshadowed as it emerged that he will spend the next three days touring undemocratic Gulf states with eight of Britain’s leading defence manufacturers.

They add,

Meanwhile Gerald Howarth, a British defence minister, was also attending the region’s largest arms fair, in Abu Dhabi, where a further 93 British companies are promoting their wares. They included companies selling rubber bullets and CS gas for crowd control as well as heavily armoured riot vans.

The marketing drive aimed at military and police buyers was backed by a 15-strong delegation from UKTI, the trade promotion wing of the department for business which is co-hosting a British pavilion with ADS, the UK arms trade

A few days ago, it was revealed that Britain had revoked arms licences when it was discovered that the live ammunition that was fired at protesters by the country’s security services had come from the UK. In Libya, the picture is the same and the government had to rush to revoke licenses.

Britain is the fourth largest exporter of arms in the world and supplies some 7% of weapons sold to other countries. Only the US, Russia and France sell more arms than Britain.

Britain only revoked arms export licenses for Libya days after various news agencies reported that the weapons used to kill hundreds of Libyans had originated in the UK.

The Independent says,

Mr Cameron in Cairo condemned as “completely appalling” the suppression of protests in Libya. He said: “I call on them even at this late stage to stop. People’s aspirations for greater democracy, for greater freedom, for greater rights should be met with reform, not repression.”

David Cameron. Hypocrisy be thy name.

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It can’t happen here?

Or can it? The events in North Africa and the Middle East have sparked off protests and rebellions around the globe. Last night,  Saif al-Islam Ghaddafi was on Libyan state television speaking darkly about “foreigners, Islamists, drunks and drug users” being responsible for the revolts in Benghazi and now Tripoli. But Ghaddafi is a desperate man and like all dictators (elected and unelected) he’s blaming the events on everything and everyone but his father’s regime.

The protests and revolts aren’t confined to North Africa and the Middle East. There have been protests in China, Gabon and Wisconsin in the United States are the latest countries to witness mass protests against corrupt regimes and neoliberal economic policies. In Wisconsin,

Some 70,000 people, including union members from neighbouring states, flooded the state capital Madison on Saturday, protesting against benefit cuts proposed for government workers and an attack on union bargaining rules by the right-wing Governor.

In China, the Irish Times reports,

FEARFUL THE wave of change sweeping across North Africa and the Middle East could undermine the position of the Communist Party, Chinese security forces took to the streets of 13 major cities yesterday to squash any displays of dissent after a mysterious online call for a “Jasmine Revolution”, inspired by pro-democracy demonstrations elsewhere.

Crowds gathered outside McDonald’s in the Wangfujing shopping precinct, not far from Tiananmen Square, and some protesters were taken away.

One man was detained when he tried to place a jasmine flower in front of the restaurant.

In Djibouti, the Financial Times says,

Opposition parties said more than 30,000 people protested on Friday against the dynastic rule of President Ismail Guelleh, who last year scrapped a two-term constitutional limit to allow him to stand for re-election at polls due in April. Government officials say less than a thousand people took part.

One person has been killed.

In Yemen, MPs have joined the anti-government protests. AFP says,

Opposition MPs, who vowed to take to the streets in a statement issued on Sunday, joined students who have been protesting for the past nine days.

Security forces surrounded the protesters as they gathered in a nearby square carrying banners declaring: “People want change,” “People want to overthrow the regime” and “Leave”.

The Common Forum, an alliance of parliamentary opposition groups has urged all of its parties on Sunday to “join the protesting youths… in their demonstrations against oppression, tyranny and corruption,” in a statement received by AFP.

In Morocco,

Thousands staged rallies in Moroccan cities on Sunday demanding political reform and limits on the powers of King Mohammed VI, the latest protests demanding change that have rocked the region.

Between 3,000 and 4,000 people took to the streets of the capital Rabat, shouting: “The people want change, denouncing corruption and calling for a democratic constitution to be adopted.

In Casablanca, the North African nation’s biggest city, more than 4,000 people came out demanding: “Freedom, dignity, justice,” an AFP reporter said.

Already in Britain, the cost of living has sky-rocketed and the current Tory-led government continues to attack the poor, the low-waged and the working class. It has already put forward a range of cuts designed to kill any future young people may have longed for by raising university tuition fees and scrapping the EMA. The NHS is to be further marketized under their proposals. These are presented as ‘reforms’ but as anyone who has lived through the 1960’s will tell you, the word “reform” means something else.

As the cuts begin to bite, there will be more protests. The government will tell us that any change/protest should be made at the ballot box.  I’m not sure any of us can sit around for the next 4 years while we watch the country being destroyed by bankers and the mega-riche.

For pure comedy value, here’s Glenn Beck with some uneducated nonsense about the “New World Order”.

He blames the protests  on “The Muslim Brotherhood, Commies and the United Nations”. Standard fare for endtimes hick conspiracy theorists.

In 1848, revolutions swept away the old orders in Europe. In Britain, the Chartist petition was presented to Parliament, who pushed it aside.

These protests are only the beginning.

UPDATE: 2348

Added link to Gabon

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Filed under Africa, Cuts, Government & politics, Middle East, Middle East, United States, World, Yemen