Archive for September, 2012

Christopher Lee

September 30, 2012

Image

More Bombs in Iraq and Bang Goes The Peace That Never Was

1st October 2012

Car bombs killed going on for 50 people in Iraq this past weekend and wounded at the very least, 100 others. Where did you say?  Iraq? Isn’t that where we all went to save them from some dictator?  Saddam Something or Other?  Now the TV networks no longer report from there, the memory dims. Of course it does – thank goodness.

Iraq did you say? That’s the very place, the very people and the very Saddam Hussein, the tyrant, dictator, psychopath (we called him all those things) that we were instrumental in having hanged by the neck in December 2006. Job done we said although we were a bit embarrassed about the televised event.

But we did get rid of him didn’t we? Yes we did. And we got rid of the other guy? Gadaffi? That’s your man.  Yes we did.  But what’s that you say?  The Libyans are still killing each other? I’m afraid they are.

Iraq is a place of terrible killing.  It happens most days, certainly weeks. Every month so far tbhis year in Iraq there’s been a mortar bomb, car bomb or some similar attack on Shias and security peoples. On one day this weekend, eight died when a car bomb went off in Taji, the mainly Sunni town north of Baghdad, as almost at the same time others were dying in the capital itself and Shia pilgrims were wounded, some may still die,  in Madain.  Just another day.

The real targets are said, by government and regional officials,  to be security forces and not civilians, certainly this is not seen as an internecine war.  Really?  Then how come the first bomb in Taji was a Shia area and the one in Madain went off alongside a bus carrying Iranian (Shia) pilgrims.  Mind you, a car bomb did kill six and maim ten by a police patrol in Kut on Sunday, but not all the casualties were police.

When we all cut and ran from Iraq (sorry, withdrawal of course)  most wise heads nodded in agreement with the idea that the rival groups were simply waiting for the last American to switch off the lights so Shia and Sunni could get down to killing each other. The vice-president, Tariq al-Hashemi is a Sunni.  He’s on the run because he’s been found guilty of terrible treason and could even be hanged in Iraq,   So every time a Shia dies, Hashemi’s people are blamed.

Iraq is being rubbled and the people are in terror on many days of the week. We knew it would happen.  We could not get out quick enough.

In Libya, where the central authority really is attempting to get control, open murder and gun crime is greater than when the horrid colonel was in charge. But, thanks to our remote control part in his downfall ie drone attacks, we are not lumbered with brigades on the ground that we have to pull out as soon as is decent – perhaps not really even that.

We all know about the sleeping chaos and mayhem in Afghanistan gathering its strength for its big push when the coalition of troops pull out in 2014.  For those who believe the NATO PR men when they say the ANA etc will control the ambitions of the assorted Taliban, militia, and warlords, just do not forget why we are going:  

We leave not because we believe we can safely hand back the security of Afghanistan to its people.  Not at all.  We leave because we cannot fix Afghanistan – just as we could not fix Libya and Iraq.

We, mostly Western military and political decision makers, should have stayed away from other peoples war without declaring that we would advanced in some Imperial fashion into other countries in order to protect our interests while pretending to protect those of the people who eventually we leave in the lurch.  There’ll be other wars and we may even start them.  The desperately sad thing about it all, is that we are not loyal to our friends and that we never learn.  Even sadder, the mourners at the Iraqi graves this morning, know that.

Advertisements

Christopher Lee

September 28, 2012

Image

The pundits should quit sneering. Ahmadinjad is no basket-case. He was the truth about another road the road to nuclear war

 

28 September 2012

The pundits sneered at Iran’s President Ahmadinejad as he gave his speech during this first, and most important, week of the United Nations General Assembly. As ever, the pundits got it wrong.  These are the pundits who sneered at him when he came to power in August 2005.  The people we are meant to believe said that he would not last.  They said the Supreme Leader with one flick of his little finger would have him dumped into the trash can of Iranian political show-offs.  Odd isn’t it that Ahmadinejad is still here.

And this week in what is probably (nothing in Iranian politics is harder than probably) his last Presidential speech at the UN, Ahmadinejad was the one to listen to – along with that other survivor, Benjamin Netanyahu of israel.  The Pundits dismissed them as predictable and hardly.

Never trust a pundit’s judgment. Mostly they are charlatans.

Ahmadinejad said the Zionists wanted to bomb Iran to rubble – true.  Netanyahu said Iran had to be stopped before it became a nuclear weapons power – true. That ladies and gentlemen of the international television studio haunting heavy paper scribbling community of pundits just happens to be the biggest threat to most of our futures.

Iran with nuclear warheads would be the biggest form of terrorism, the world could imagine and fear.  It would make the threats from Al Qaeda look like litter and jaywalking offenses in comparison. A face-off between Iran and Israel would drag in the entire Middle East and respective allies as far away as Washington and London and so create a global matrix of military and political instability that would be laid across the world’s economic, financial and strategic institutions and influences.

Imagine the simple disruption and chocking of the oil supplies from the Gulf that would surely follow. Nations with no part in such an Israeli-Iranian confrontation would be brought their knees. The UK for example has not much more than nine days oil stocks. The government would fall if roads went empty.

Israel could not bomb Iran into submission with help from the US and the UK. The latter two don’t want it to happen.  But in reality, Israel would be doing the whole world a good turn.  The whole world could never say so.

All this is the size of the biggest dilemma in the Middle East and there fore before the global council that is the 200 or so states of the United Nations which is, after all, nothing more than the sum of its 200 parts.

When Obama gets up and says we all have to take on terrorism or, Cameron says we have to support the Arab Spring and Africa’s fight against poverty then because of their global standing (or in Cameron’s case, imagined standing) we will listen and says that makes sense.  When the Iranian President with his basket-case rep and Netanyahu with his Dayan-style integrity get to the podium, delegates go for skinny latte and pastries.

Pundits head for the $100 appearance money network studios and tell us one’s a headcase with no real power and the other rattles too many sabres. But, just remember, the head-case wants us all to think Iran is building nuclear warheads that can hit downtown Zionism and the man with the sabres knows the rules of Mossada.

Netanyahu does not have 100 percent Knesset backing for his view (and the US is hoping he won’t get it).  Ahmadinejad has to go next year.  So two questions in reverse: when Ahmadinejad goes what happens to the nuclear program? What happens when Netanyahu convinces the Israeli Cabinet that with a new Iran president, nothing has changed.

Message to pundits: go back and read both UN speeches and think, rather than sneer about it.

Christopher Lee

September 24, 2012

Image

The US Surge is over Mr Kazai – Now what are you going to do?

24th September 2012

The last of the 33,000 US Surge troops hit Continental US this week and as everyone knows, that’s it Karzai – better get used to the idea that from now on it’s increasingly all yours.  We’re out.  

There’s no hiding in Kabul from the reality of the US exit from Helmand.  We all knew they were going.  They said so months ago. We all feel just as safe, in other words, we never felt safe anyway.  

But the toughie now comes: what will the US do with the 68,000 of so troops it has left? The answer: they’ll do everything possible to keep them alive and not end up on the Taliban score sheet.  If that makes it all sound some of game then you’ve hit it in one.  That’s what this whole thing has been about since 2001 – a mean, bad and ugly game played by the Americans and their mostly European Yes Men.  

A whole shed-load of US and British officers have gone to Afghanistan in search of promotion and rep.  Show a soldier a war and he has to go.  That’s what he is hired to do but with no Afghan row of medals, then he may as well take a career brake.

Sad to say, in all wars it’s mostly the dudes who get KIA on their Service records. The ranchers get to be one, two and maybe even three stars.  The irony is that however high or low you get on the military pay-grade in that overwhelming beautiful country, you still don’t fix the war.  

At one time the blatantly obvious cliche-ridden one star with a name to make would spew out the conventional wisdom that there was no military solution to Afghanistan, only a political one.  No one stood up and said wait a minute: without a military solution there cannot be a political one. In other words what the hell are we doing in yet another fire fight that every one knows we’re going to quit when shrouds get as common as empty gum wrappers?

So it has been with the surge.  Talk to the Afghan insiders and they’ll tell you bluntly that they’re weren’t too happy when the surge troops arrived and they’re hardly sorry they’ve gone.  If that sounds illogical considering the curb on Taliban activity during the surge, then it is not. It is part of the considerable opinion that says the American surge alienating many Afghans and that the Taliban capitalized on that US unpopularity.

This ignores the fact that many towns and cities in Kandahar and Helmand are better off from the big US influx that sent Taliban going for cover. Now the last helmets are hunger up in the US The people there are waiting for the Taliban’s return.  The statistics tell us something we have to learn about this war.

Afghanistan is split into about 400 districts. Between 45 and 50 percent of all attacks on the people, the government and the ISAF forces take place in the ten southern districts. Want to see a war? That’s the place to go.  Always has been. And don’t be fooled by the ISAF-NATO numbers.  

The truth is this: killings are as great as when the surge troops arrived. In the first six months of 2010 1267 civilians were killed.  In the first six months of 2012, 1145 have been killed.  Not much in it if you’re trying to claim success.

So who covers the US pullout? In theory, Afghan troops.  British and American commanders tell pliant TV crews that the ANA are fine soldiers and the training has done a good job.  They do not say that unlike Taliban who are dedicated fighters, the ANA and especially the police are not dedicated.  No Commitment.  Commitment gets you killed.

Simply, the ANA and police have not filled the gap left by the departed US surge troops and worse, they never will whatever the ISAF handouts tell you. 

The Taliban have a saying: “the Americans have all the watches and we [Taliban] have all the time”.  In other words, when ISAF goes we will take over.  Better believe it.

Christopher Lee

September 24, 2012

Image

Bin your iPhone5. It hasn’t a clue where you are and it’s turning us into cretins with no minds of our own

24 September 2012

My new iPhone 5 doesn’t know my way home. That is official. Apple with all its genius to fool people that they’re getting the best mobile in the world has cocked up. Its mapping APP doesn’t work.

This, of course, amounts to a crisis. A man on the French TV show France24 claimed that he lived in a place called Dudley. Clearly he does not. Clearly the man is a fool because his iPhone map shows no such place as Dudley exists. His clean socks, his old school photographs and his teddy bear must be somewhere entirely different because Apple knows best.

Apple has always known best. Apple has clouds. Apple has buzzing things that tell you the name of songs; can tell you what’s in the shop you’re passing; tell you the best time to buy Turkish delight squares in Kazakhstan and gives you a torch so that you can see the keyhole on your front door. Only it is not the keyhole on your front door. It is the keyhole to someone else’s front door because you do not know where you are, where you think you are and even where you have always been for the past 30 years.

My iPhone knows best. It has to know best because it has more computing power than the whole of NASA space rescue programme when they brought back Apollo 13.

But it is not just about computers. It’s about us – you, me and my priest. Because the reason Apple knows best is because we’ve all said it does. We have all not only got used to the idea that iPhones know best. They also know everything. They know so much that we no longer have to know anything at all. This is the real crisis, not the workings (or non-workings) of some crap fashion accessory.

iphone 5 queuesSimply, the iPhone has taken over. We no longer talk to each other in restaurants because like everyone else in the restaurant we are looking at our iPhones. If we want to know the time of the train we ask our iPhone. A lawyer next to me on a train to Canterbury from London’s Charing Cross checked her iPhone to find out where she changed trains. She did so instead of asking the guard who was standing just along from us.

We’re not only obsessed enough to camp out for 48 hours to get the new one (even though it could not tell us where it is we are camped) but we are determined to pay whatever is asked for it because such is the Apple hold, no one can discount it. We even like it being expensive.

We have now got ourselves an A* in cretinism. We have given up initiative and basic brain power and the fun of finding out by looking things up in books, asking the way of a complete stranger, making up our own minds where’s a good restaurant and seemingly everything else other than when we want to wee or poo – and that will come.

Can we get out of this? I think so. I have left my wiggly amp phone in its box. Instead, I have bought for £9 a small, pretty Samsung that just phones and texts. It does the job and I hope it will catch on.

If I lose it? I’ll ring it from the Pay As You Go twin I also bought – at £9, I can afford it. If someone picks it up, I’ll ask them where they are. They will probably know – unless of course they consult their iPhone. Then I’m afraid, we’re all lost.

Christopher Lee

September 18, 2012

Afghanistan is not hell, but you can see it from Kabul.  And the future’s better than the escaping US & UK think.

18th September, London
Most people know, or claim they know, that the coalition forces should never have gone to Afghanistan. Those same members of the Let’s Get Out Now brigade are basically saying to hell with Afghans. Let them get on with it.  Karzai can go to Hell. As you can see from Kabul he won’t have far to go.

As for British and American soldiers they’re being picked off one by one either by Taliban or individual Afghan guys in uniform who are either demented (the convenient ISAF explanation) or whom have just that moment been insulted and humiliated in front of their colleagues. So bring them home by Christmas say British legislators in the House of Commons – or at least some of them do.

Everyone knows it’s a mess and those who really know a thing or two also understand that logistically and practically it’s impossible to get the brave boys and gals home in time for mince pies and Santa.

The British foreign secretary, the increasingly sad figure of William Hague said the NATO decision to scale back patrols with Afghans will have what he calls a “minimal” impact on UK strategy.

But wait one moment Mr Hague.  What’s this UK strategy?  Since when is the UK fighting a private war?  Come now, why not admit that policy is being made on the hoof which is fine.  That’s pretty standard in warfare.  What is a little disturbing is that the Americans are panicking – again pretty standard stuff in war.

That panic was relayed to ISAF and without much consultations, the Americans told ISAF to postpone joint patrols.  So much for the coalition of the willing.  The Brits are the other man joint patrollers and have suffered much from insider killings.  It is clear that as ever, the Americans totally ignored the Brits.  Instead they’re saying they have had enough and they’re doing what they have a record of doing in these imperial and colonial war things – giving up.  Remember Vietnam if nothing else.

The British defense secretary, Philip Hammond is a reasonable man with a poisoned chalice.  He’s presiding over the most mismanaged defense cuts in generations and knows full well there are going to be more so far unannounced reductions in British defense funding.

Pulling out of Afghanistan, as much as he would like everyone home safely, will do nothing much more than allow the Treasury guys into his ministry with a slash and burn policy on major projects such as the two Royal Navy carriers and, what’s more the public will support the Treasury. Not much of a job really.

What’s more, when Hague and Hammond say nothing that’s going on at the moment will change British strategy they talk amazing self-important nonsense.

Everything in Afghanistan and Washington is moving too fast for Hammond.  He was in Kabul a few days ago and told Karzai that it was up to his people to get a grip on ANA and police recruiting.  In other words it’s Karzai who must do something to stop green on blue. The Americans are not so daft as Hammond.  The Americans know full well that Karzai cannot deliver his own crap to the pan as a cold eyed colonel put it to me.

Karzai is due to go in 2014, the year his real minders in the form of the coalition forces skip the country. So who runs the country when he goes? Some think he’s lining up his brother for the job. Those same people point out that his brother is corrupt.  This is the land of corruption, so what matters that?  Anyway, Karzai doesn’t really want his brother in the job.  If that came to pass, Karzai might just as well get on the last helicopter out in 2014 – Vietnam style.  His days would be numbered if his brother forced his way in.

Come the day the people who have to sort themselves are the Taliban.  The old guard want their jobs back that they had post-Soviet occupation and the new idealists want a say in the country’s future – don’t forget it’s potentially a very mineral rich state.  The problem is with the hoodlums who’ll have no status once the war is over.  Parochially, Northern Ireland is a prime example of that as Hammond knows full well.

What will happen?  Afghanistan will be partially governed and in desperate need of outside help.  Once the main coalition brigades are gone they promise to leave a rump coalition left to continue training both military and civilian middle management – company commanders in both senses.  A nation trying for peace cannot survive without its middle-class in everything it does. That should be the real Hague ambition – to provide just that.

The money therefore has to be on the idea that what’s happening now is something you could have guessed would happen and it will not change the long term way to a different Afghanistan. A grim Taliban takeover?  Not entirely and in truth not really. There is no Eldorado for Afghans at the end of this but as long as Pakistan, India and the Central Asian Republics don’t squabble over the spoils of this war, Afghanistan will assume the grand status of an emerging nation.  That’s not so bad.

And that’s why all the American panic and the British puffed up ego don’t matter a bit. The fluster and bluster and scare too easily because mentally, they’ve already abandoned the place.

Christopher Lee

September 17, 2012

UN Syrian War Crimes List is secret.  Why? This isn’t one-side savagery.

17 September 2012

The Foreign Office has received a Restricted circulation list of suspect war crimes committed by Syrian military.  The list is compiled by yet another UN Commission. For the past twelve months, the Commission’s task has been to find abuses in human rights in Syria.

You’d think that was something of a home-by-teatime job.  Not so, according to the suits here in Whitehall.   The tricky number is not so much gathering reports because they come real or imagined from anyone with an iPhone in any place you can name in Syria.

The test is two-fold: forget allegations and concentrate on hard evidence and secondly, is the evidence against individuals on both sides of the civil war tough enough to prosecute?

Because the chairman of the International Commission of Inquiry for Syria set up last year  is Paulo Sergio Pinheiro. He has asked the UN Security Council (the UK is one of the five permanent members, hence the study in London) to copy his finding to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague.

That would be the first step in indictments for war crimes in the Syrian civil war.

Mr Pinheiro says there’s sure evidence that individuals at the top of Syria’s government have been signing off massacres – remember more than 100 killed at Houla last Spring – individual murders, torturing and rape.

Now, this gets more interesting as the crimes themselves.

Yesterday (Monday) there was a meeting in Geneva of the Human Rights Council. At that session Mr Pinheiro rehearsed all his skills and caution that has made him such a respected Brazilian diplomat and academic at Brown University, Oxford and Ecole des hautes etudes en sciences sociales.

He gave the Council a confidential list of the individuals who might stand accused of the war crimes.

However, that’s the list we should see.  We all know that no conflict goes clean. Every fight is dirty and a civil war tends to be the dirtiest because there’s little ideology fought over only blood vengeance and something deeper than ideology – ethnic hatred.  So it is in Syria.

Why then no naming of names? Professorial lawyer Pinheiro says his Commission lacks one crucial element: absolute proof that would nail the war criminals for the rest of their natural lives.  So what’s going on? Rumour? No, he say. We know who is guilty.  Well, we could all guess up big on this one.

The problem is this: the professor can tell the ICC who authorized and in many cases carried out the criminal atrocities. But the ICC has to have squeaky clean evidence otherwise there’s no chance of a conviction – assuming any of them come to trial.

Something else missing from that list are the names of the rebel war criminals.

But aren’t we all supposed to be on the side of the rebels? Every Western government is. Blind faith in their cause?

Listen to Obama, Cameron et al and that certainly sounds like it.  So why nothing on the summary executions carried out by Free Syrian Army rebels in Aleppo, Latakia and Idlib?  There’s just as much evidence for the rebel ordered atrocities as there is for the crimes committed in the name of Assad.

There is a further complication. Islamist fighters have infiltrated the Free Syrian Army. There is not enough overall command and control over the FSA and therefore the Islamists are killing in the manner they know best – with ruthless disregard for the human rights the FSA is supposedly fighting for.

Messy enough? It should be, especially as now we know that there is a considerable number of Iranian special forces – the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolution Guards Corps – operating in Assad’s army.

They have arrived to take command or enforce command since the wounding of Assad’s hardline brother Maher who is said to have lost both legs in a bomb attack in Damascus on 18 July.

Maher al-Assad’s name is on the professor’s list. It is hoped that his rebel role call is as detailed and as high ranking.

Christopher Lee

September 16, 2012

Symbolism of two great beliefs – and neither sees the truth of the other

16th September 2012

Hundreds of thousands of Catholics invaded Beirut this past weekend.  They came to see, hear and pray with their Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. As they did so, thousands of Muslims protested with fire and trashing across three continents.

The Pope called for humility not his words – but as one schooled in the Vatican’s shadow, I’m sure that’s what he meant when he prayed for peace and reconciliation.

As he raised he voice in that ecclesiastic yawn all Popes inherit, the more raucous cries of revenge were posted in the form of fire bombs, abuse and breaking glass at American, British and German embassies across the very un-peaceful Middle East.

The connection with the Pope’s visit to Lebanon, a land of seventeen religious groupings, and the hurled anger of perhaps a minority element of Middle East Islam is that in the whole world the two occasions represent the potentially frightening power of the two contrasting religions of the world today – and any time.  

Of the globe’s seven billion people 1.6 billion are classed as Muslims and about 1billion are Catholics. Add on the other Christian denominations and you have something in the region of 40 per cent of the world believing in the same God and in theory at least, being obliged to leads lives as the varying and various Messengers have insisted that vary-form God demands.

Religion is not the question. After all it is difficult to think of anything new to say about the religion that recognizes the same God.

Levels of religious fervour and what is said and done in the name of Allah, God, Jehovah or whoever called is really the only debate because it is based on the untrustworthy of protagonists. We talk in extremes with one end barely heard or caring and the other clubbing opponents and even some of its own social-economic adherents with uncompromising belief.

As Benedict said Mass here, on the Beirut sea front it was remarkable to see that an estimated 350,000 people had travelled from all over the state and from Iraq and Jordan and further abroad to hear this hunched white cassocked figure in homily.

For in the entire region and for obvious historical reasons, there is no other society as tolerant of religion as Lebanon

Nearly 55 percent of Lebanese are registered Muslims – almost equally Sunni, Shia and some Alawites. There is too the minority and monotheistic Druze who originated from the Ismailism sect of Shias.

Almost the rest, about 40 percent, are Christians – Maronites, Greek  and Syriac Orthodox, Armenians, Melkite Catholics, Assyrian, Chaldean and Syrian Catholics.

There is therefore, a history of internecine warfare where the protagonists slip easily into religious groupings in a society that officially does not legislate for and so does not recognize non-religion or indifference.  In Lebanon you have to believe in something.

After all the pressures of rebuilding Lebanon and the deteriorating state of Christianity seemingly anywhere but the African continent, the Christian Lebanese are on the run so more important then, the apparent success of the Pontiff.

What we have here is a tale of two dynamics.

The Pope is for most, even his followers, a vision thing.  He is the Vatican’s symbol sent on tour with no more effect than a royal figure.

The 350,000 in Beirut for Mass will ever remember the moment for its imagery. For most that figure will be just as remote as it is at Easter for the Blessing from the balcony at St Peter’s. His message that we should have peace to all mankind is the message of the Nativity and the Victorian Christmas carols.  What else does he say? There is nothing.

The marauding Muslims from Benghazi to Khatoum to Camp Bastion and beyond are also symbols.  They are radicals but not in the praiseworthy manner as were the radicals of Tahrir Square most of whom were also Muslims.

The Pope asks for, the embassy attackers demand. Their separate messages are believed only by their own people.

Yet for onlookers in Washington, Cairo, the United Nations, the palaces of Saudi Arabia and in London there is a terrible symbolism.  It is of the two great religions just a few miles apart on the same day pleading their cases that the same Allah is Great as if the other did not exist.

Christopher Lee

September 15, 2012

 

Syria: it can only end when the pattern in shrouds says enough’s enough. That moment has not come

15th September 2012

The latest UN-Arab League peace envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi has finished his first session of talks with President Bashar al-Assad.  As expected, even by Mr Brahimi, he drew a diplomatic blank.  Frankly, why would anyone expect anything else.

He said what we all know: that the Syrian crisis is deteriorating and, as he thought, is becoming “a threat to the world.”  Which of course is exactly what Bashar al-Assad and his surviving administration want to happen.  Their only chance of an negotiated way out of the bloody war is for the rest of the world – starting in the oil lands of the Middle East – to fearful that the war will spread.

All the time it was judged that the civil war would remain just that, then the effects of the crisis were containable. The building that is burning Syria could burn down but the other houses on the block including the HOuse of Saud would not be set on fire.  If that seems unlikely, then you have only to look at the actions of neighbours and their allies since it all started eighteen months ago.

It all began in Deraa in March 2011. The trigger was the Arab Spring, the sense of rebellion rather than revolution that change was indeed possible and that people power speaking through their mobiles to rally opposition would be photographed, written about and filmed to such an extent that the whole world could stare down from their comfortable seats as if dropping in on the World Series.  Tahrir Square became a spectator sport.  As rebellion became effective so the promises it gave spread throughout the region.  In March 2011 it reached Syria’s southern city of Deraa.  It did so not in the form of an existing underground group, by when a bunch of kids painted slogans on the school war and were arrested, tortured and accused of treason by Assad’s security people.

From the cellars to the rooftops of Deraa people emerged, most uncertainly, to protest the arrests.  The police opened fire, killing too many for the protest to whimper away.

The demonstrators, now in their thousands were daily shot at as they took to streets across Syria demanded Assad’s going. By July, the thousands were hundreds of thousands. The streets and rubbled buildings of Homs, Houla, Aleppo, Deir al-Zour, Idib were added to the powerful imagery as the rest of the region and beyond watched, apparently helpless to stop the war . Each side was determined to crush the other and soon the rebels had an uncoordinated rabble of lightly armed militia that was soon and inaccurately dubbed by Western Media as an army.

By the summer of 2012, an extrapolation from various aid agencies suggested that a further destabilizing factor this conflict was the displacement of more than one million people within Syria and on the move across the borders into Turkey, Jordan  and the ever vulnerable to instability factors, Lebanon.  According to the UN humanitarian director, Valerie Amos, some 2.5 million Syrians within the country need assistance to survive. So, what have the presumably powerful Western or Western-sponsored powers done to stop this slow moving carnage? Not much is the short answer.

It is true that the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and now a member of the shadowy Elders group of former world leaders, was sent in as a peace envoy. His mission was never going to get anywhere.

Dangerously, the Western nations have had a hand in arming the rebels. With any eye on their own oil-related interests, the big UN members have not warned off the likes of Qatar and Saudi Arabia from arming the anti Assad forces and have joined in the world condemnation that includes demands for Assad’s going – ignoring the fact that not all Syrians support the rebellion.

Today a solemn-faced Annan is gone and Brahimi looks sad. They know, but can’t easily accept that there are three options for the future of this war.

Firstly the ability of Assad & Co to keep the loyalty of the wider army. The innermost Republican Guard’s loyalty for the moment at least is not questioned. But as powerful as it is, even the top league 4 Division can only work if the rest of the “green” army stays loyal. Secondly, the rebellion still has no true centre of political and military gravity.  It needs a tough and trusted thinking system if it is to survive as more and more displaced and weary civilians lose faith in what they are trying to achieve and say go away from our village otherwise Assads men will come and kill us.

The third element for regional analysis is the international intervention in Syria, not necessarily militarily.  That intervention has not come on a grand scale as it did, say, in Libya.  It cannot.  The targets are not the same and the consequences for the civilian population unthinkably horrid.

Regionally, Syria’s role as an influential player in the tenuous stability of Lebanon and even Israel is historically vital. Ironically, while the UK, the US, Canada and almost everyone else calls for the Assads to go, those same governments are desperate to maintain Syria as a strong regional player. A further irony is that Turkey, so publicly opposed to the Syrian government, is the other strong element.  And to one side, Iran very much needs an Assad Syria to survive while the rest of the region want Iran to fail.

So we have, Turkey pushing Assad’s downfall but fearful of Syria as a collapsed state.  Iran pushing Assad to survive and equally fearful of a collapsed Syrian state.

Here then is the matrix laid before Brahimi.  When he met Assad in Damascus he apparently had “serious, frank and comprehensive talks”. What else could they be?  He left empty handed. What else could have been?  He brought nothing to the table in Damascus and Assad had nothing to give him, They both know that the only way this war will end is when there are too many shrouds for either side.  That sadness has not yet been reached.

Christopher Lee

September 12, 2012

Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan – each proving we should never have got involved

 12th September 2012

The American ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, has been killed  by Libyan Islamist militia  who stormed the US consulate building in  Benghazi yesterday . Three other American officials have died as a  result of the assault  by the Islamists hit the compound with gunfire  and grenades and then torched it.
The attack came after an internet trailer for an American film about  the Prophet Mohammed. The Islamists did not like the movie.
And the show was not big box-office in Egypt .  But in the capital  Cairo,  the protesters took their riot into the US Embassy  but didn’t  feel the need to shoot up the compound nor kill anyone, not yet anyway. When she heard about the killing in Benghazi, US Secretary of State  Clinton rightly said she was “heartbroken by this terrible loss”.
Then, to cover the response as she was expected to, added “The United  States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious  beliefs of others. But let me be clear: There is never any
justification for violent acts of this kind.”
Of course that’s exactly right Ms Clinton but let’s not pretend you  did not see it coming.
The movie was, apparently, repeat apparently, made in California by an  America who is said to be anti Islamist.  Most people are when this  sort of thing goes on.  But the man, allegedly called Sam Bacile  teamed up with an Egyptian Copt to  make and promote the budget movie, put it on YouTube with an Arabic  translation.
Fans of the movie say it was all about Free Speech. The thousands  that gathered outside the US embassy in Cairo and the guys who tore  down and burned the American flag flying then at half mast to  commemorate 9/11  saw their protest as part of the envelope of so-called Free Speech.
This year, the US will give Egypt about $12 billion in aid. The US  also took a major part * on-passing Intelligence Reports to the NATO  bombing let’s-whack-Libya team and operating drone attacks including  the one that destroyed the convoy carrying a fleeing Gaddafi –  in  helping the Libyan rebellion “succeed”. Meanwhile, the Americans are keeping their heads down over Iraqi  demands on the US ally Turkey to send home Iraq’s vice-president Tariq  al-Hashemi who has, in abstentia, been sentenced to death in Baghdad.  Hashemi is a Sunni.  Iraq’s Shia Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is
insisting Turkey sends him back.
Why no call for reconciliation and justice from the White House? For  the same reason that Washington appears to have sympathized with those  who didn’t like the movie: as an earlier Clinton might have said It’s  The Election Stupid.

In Afghanistan, Taliban see themselves on a roll.  They continue &  successfully carry on killing US troops and want to show inside  eighteen months that they’re chasing the US forces (and the NATO  collation with them) out of Afghanistan.  Forget the RUSI report on a more diplomatic Taliban.   The guys who matter don’t wear suits.  The guys who matter are the guys in the bush.  These are the ones who will follow  Mullah Omah into administration not the Mercedes-driving ex-people.   Any student of what happened post-Soviet occupation or even, post  Lancaster House Rhodesian settlement know this. Shrouds left in the bush mean power.

What all this shows is that George W Bush should never have got the US  and Allies involved in Iraq and Afghanistan because once they decided  to go home (with a little help from their friends the US electorate)  they would get the idea that they had achieved nothing other than find  themselves hated throughout large parts of the most important region
on the globe. Obama tried a low key involvement in Libya, but there’s no way even he  can control the power of YouTube and the rest of the social network.

The hell of it all is that there is not a single place in the world  that doesn’t have a view about US and Alliance involvement in other  people’s problems.  Other people’s instability and destabilizing  events are seen as part of the global war on terror.  They are not,  but that’s the way they are seen by increasingly incompetent  Intelligence analyses in the major Western capitals. Staying out of  other people’s troubles may make good short-term sense.  But it
doesn’t handle prejudice at home and in other minds.

If Romney wins, he’ll understand just how baseless are his speeches  about making America strong again.

America is not strong when a couple of prejudicial guys in California  can get the US ambassador killed in a place most Americans had never  heard of until last year  and in truth, still don’t know where it is.

Christopher Lee

September 10, 2012

Looking for stella life? Beware! It might just be someone you don’t want to meet.

10th September 2012

Scientists this week tell us that more planets could have sustained life forms than we have so far thought possible. Here in Scotland at the British Festival of Science there’s a new idea about life out there in the universe, or even some other universe.  It goes like this: Until now if we think that if a planet has or has had surface water, then that’s an indicator that the planet had some sort of life – may still do.

But this week, a very bright PhD student at the university here, Sean McMahon, says why confine our ideas to surface water.  What about underground water?

Now, my doctor and dietician tell me to drink two litres of water a day to live longer. I believe them.  Even I believe that water is true life blood. Scientists say that life form may have been able to live on less.  I say, what do you mean could have?  Why not still?  It doesn’t have to look like us or foul things up like us.

McMahon thinks on a bigger scale. He’s interested in how life could over come some of the planetary problems of living too close to the sun or too far away.

He says that planets close to the sun dry up because the water evaporates.  Planets too far away may have ice, but it’s ice.  The middle bit is the ideal for supporting life.  Not too hot and not too cold is called a Goldilocks planet.

But he says, if a planet is big enough it could have underground water that didn’t turn to ice.  So life form is possible. Couldn’t that mean that most of life here on earth is not on the surface, but deep in our planet’s belly?  Could be he says.

But Aberdeen Uni has got me thinking in a different direction.

Could there be hundreds, maybe thousands, of planet-type places where we could send some of not quite loved ones without being accused of sending them to oblivion?

We could do this through the PAIN (Planetary Alphabetical Identification Naming) system.

For example, we could send Citizen Ahmadinijad to the Planet Alpha, the bankers to Planet Bravo, the politicians to Planet Papa and Tony B all by himself – just to be sure –  to Planet Tango.  

Personally, I send Madonna to Planet Mike, Clegg & Cameron hand in hand to Planet Charlie, I suppose for balance, Ed Milliband should go to Planet Wallace Every tribute band would be sent to whichever letter they’re impersonating and Fergie & Andrew’s girls to the mostly badly dressed asteroid, Planet Naff.

I wonder if Richard Branson’s teeth shouldn’t be sent to Planet Gnasher – tourist class of course so they’d know how most of us feel on long flights. For the rest, do your own list.

Why bother? Mainly because there a sense that the people who annoy us most (without even counting relatives) are all massively powerful and are some we’ve even voted for.  

Worse still, there’s a sense that these people are not only powerful but they are mediocre.

They take us to wars that we all know we should not go to under any circumstances and rules of logic. They corrupt the money supply and  rip off our savings when every half-witted clerk in the banking hall knows that if you give somebody a sensible mortgage they’ll work hard (and therefore pay taxes) to keep their castle away from the bailiffs.

They cringe for our votes every four or five years and promise us the world if we give them. What about promising them the world?  Not this one of course – they already own that. Let’s do every one a huge favour. Let’s believe young McMahon and the good scientist as Aberdeen this week. Let’s pick planets and stella ice packs, call-up Houston control, stick aboard a Titan our chosen ones and keep NASA in business.

Best of all, once they’ve all gone we can look around our own planet with plenty of room and have time without them always pestering and controlling us and ask the simplest question: how did we, in this once very sustainable planet, bugger things up so much that we’ve allowed ourselves to be controlled by such a horrid society of charlatans and political harlots.

Of course, McMahon et al might ask themselves the other question from their super computer modeling: at what point with the foul-up rate accelerating will the destruction be so complete that we shall have to leave.  But to go where? To one of the McMahon planets of course. Yes, but…

Just image. You escape this hell. Arrive on the light-years-away planet only to be met by the teeth, the perma-tan, the new-look hair. Three light years hard travel and guess what? Welcome to Planet Blair. If McMahon’s right, anything is possible, anything but justice.