Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Full text: Irony as a Trace Element in a Vegan Diet.

Full text of Karmic Carnivorism, in the Guardian Comment is Free page,

my attempt to introduce irony as a trace element into Vegan diets.

Sing the praises of vegetables as much as you like: I say animals deserve to be eaten.
Ian Williams

January 29, 2007 05:25

Last week my old colleague Ed Pearce was singing hymns of praise to vegetables, and while we agree on much, on this we have to differ. I have to confess that I am a born-again carnivore.

Brought up in post-war Britain when meat was rationed - and my parents could not afford it - I posed a challenge by refusing to eat vegetables. "If you don't eat them up, you won't grow big and strong," said my mother. Well I didn't, and grew up pretty big and fairly strong - and very politically incorrect.

When I see lambs frisking in the verdant fields of spring, my mind turns to mint sauce. When an animal welfare group sent me an press release protesting that millions of horses are exported from America every year for food, I wrote back offering my heartfelt support. "Those animals should stay here to be eaten!" I protested. They did not contact me again.

I knew whereof I wrote. I have eaten horsemeat in France and in Kazakhstan, where I ate the local delicacy, karta ("take the thick part of a horse's rectum ... clean thoroughly". Rest of the recipe available on request). I carried on appreciating haggis, even when I read the recipe that warned that, when boiling the sheeps' lungs up to make it, one should be sure that the windpipe was over the edge of the pan - so the mucus could drip outside.

In contrast, my sister was instinctively averse to meat from an early age, so at the table we could discretely shuffle respective personal taboo foods between each other. Since then, she has rationalized her early tastes and become an ethical vegetarian, albeit a fairly relaxed and non-doctrinaire specimen.

But to counter the New Ageism I do encounter, I developed what I like to call Karmic Carnivorism.

In part this was in response to discussions between vegans on such esoteric issues as whether it was permissible to swallow animal products during fellatio, or whether the bacterial content in badly cleaned plant foods would provide enough trace nutrients such as vitamin B12 to keep a pure vegan alive. In fact, fellation does indeed provide nutrients such as vitamins C and B12, according to those who have time to research such culinary esoterica.

There is a school of thought that the only reason pure vegans stay healthy is because insects and dismembered rodent bits and droppings add value to even the most sanitary vegetarian food chain. But I suppose that most of us, no more than vegans, want to dwell on the proportion of rat crap in our food, no matter how nutritious.

In any case, I thought such theologically-precise logic chopping deserved a response.

My reasoning, to keep my conscience clear as I savour lamb chops and kidneys, sweetbreads and steaks - and the occasional chewy horse bit - is that plants are innocent. Unless they are some kind of weirdos who garnish their salads with Venus flytraps, vegetarians macerate and digest innocent plant species that have never done harm to a living being.

In contrast, most of our domestic meat animals are plainly guilty of herbivorism. They eat innocent plants that have never done them any harm; so, from a karmic way of looking at it, it is only fair if they end up on a dinner plate.

However, one must not be vindictive: forgive them, for they know what they do. The fall-back position for the ethical carnivore is that the best thing that ever happened to sheep, cattle, pigs - and horses - is that our ancestors discovered that they were both tamable and tasty. Their selfish genes are now jumping for joy. There are far more of them, and they are far more widespread, than their wild ancestors could ever have dreamed of. Just look at the common chicken: once a forest-dwelling bird in South-East Asia, now a tasty snack whose genes are replicating furiously on almost every continent.

Environmentalists take note: the secret to guaranteeing the survival of endangered species is to persuade people to eat them. Would that we could persuade people to eat a far wider range of fauna - ostrich, emu, goat, buffalo, and beyond - so that their genes, too, could selfishly spread across the globe, becoming as widespread as those of the lucky animals who provide us with pork, beef, mutton and chicken.

Lost in Space - Full Text

Lost in space

The US reprimand to China over its successful anti-satellite test has all the sincerity of King Herod leading a Unicef fund-raiser.
Ian Williams

Here's the full text of the Guardian Comment is Free piece for those who were too lazy or technologically challenged to click on the link.
January 19, 2007

The US reprimand to China over its successful anti-satellite test has all the sincerity of King Herod leading a Unicef fund-raiser. As inventors of the rocket, the Chinese have every bit as much tenure in orbit as the country that belatedly followed Sputnik into space.

Of course no sensible person can be happy at Beijing's action, not least if you look at the 900-plus missiles aimed at Taiwan. But test was entirely legal - and it is so because the United States has consistently blocked any international convention to "limit its freedom of manoeuvre" in space.

Restated only last year, US military doctrine is that it should control beyond earth orbit, and make sure nobody else can challenge it, which is why it will not accept any treaty demilitarizing space.

This has been yet another of those remarkable obsessions of the Republican right and neocons, going back to the Reagan administration.

One of the Bush administration's first reactions to the distinctly sub-orbital airliners smashing into the World Trade Center was to boost spending on the "Strategic Defence Initiative" - Star Wars. The US has spent well over $100 billion so far on it. And so far it has fairly consistently failed to hit the missile equivalent of a brightly painted fish glued in a barrel.

MIT professor Theodore A Postol has over the years unveiled the outright deceptions perpetrated by the Pentagon to claim success from abject failure in the hugely expensive anti-missile programme. Now, since it all depends on US spy satellites, the Chinese test threatens to bring the whole faith-based programme tumbling out of orbit to impact on solid reality.

Indeed, for a hugely expensive military failure, its only competition in costliness has been the Iraq War itself - which is of course one of the reasons that the Chinese could persuade themselves that the test was necessary.

This obsession with outer space, shown in his decision to invade Mars, is almost as mysterious as George W Bush's fixation on Iraq. Ironically his Yale Transcript gave him his very lowest score in Astronomy with 69, even lower than his 71 in political science classes.

Even so, if you sometimes suspect that Darth Vader is stalking the corridors of a reality-challenged White House and Pentagon, you may not be so far wrong. Along with the "Strategic Defence Initiative," Bush's Moon and Mars projects are an almost certainly motivated by an attempt to ensure that the Force is always with US.

And the genesis of the Star Wars programme was indeed science fiction. Hard-right hard-SF writer Larry Niven boasted: "The scheme that drove the Soviet Union bankrupt was first-drafted at my house in Tarzana, by about fifty good people invited and led by Jerry Pournelle (another SF writer of similar views). We were gathered to build a space program, with costs and schedules, to submit to Ronald Reagan via his science adviser. We generated the Space Defense Initiative (or 'Star Wars' if you didn't like it.)"

Niven recounted that other SF writers, like Robert A Heinlein (Starship Troopers!) and Poul Anderson, along with retired general Daniel Graham and the astronaut Buzz Aldrin, joined lobbyists from companies like Boeing in the "Citizens' Advisory Council on National Space Policy", which he credits with Reagan's 1983 Star Wars speech.

As Frances FitzGerald author of Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars and the End of the Cold War, put it laconically about the myth of Star Wars crashing the Evil Empire: "The evidence for this proposition is wanting." She explains, "Soviet spending on strategic weapons was a very small fraction of the overall Soviet military budget."

The people who invented Iraqi WMD's had a dry run on this one. FitzGerald noted that the analysts who actually looked at the data concluded that Moscow's weapons procurement programs were flat, while its spending on strategic missile systems had actually dropped by 40% from 1976 to 1983. The administration suppressed those reports in favour of more threatening and politically correct estimates, just as later Star Wars test failures were rewritten as successes.

Other countries have every right to protest the Chinese test, which presumably has showered yet more debris to threaten satellites in orbit. But until they turn on Washington and demand that it supports effective demilitarization of space, they are allies in hypocrisy and fantasy with the Bush administration.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Irony as a Trace Element in Vegan Diet

Latest Guardian Comment is Free with slightly tongue in cheek - in fact tongue wrapped round horse's rectum - piece defending meat eating.

Karmic Carnivorism

Full Writing on the Wall

Here is the full text of my Guardian "Comment is Free" piece on Carter which I can now post here.

Writing on the wall

The manufactured row over Jimmy Carter's criticism of Israel risks obscuring a real chance for peace.
Ian Williams

January 26, 2007 04:01 PM

The fuss over Jimmy Carter and his new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, gained new momentum this week as the former president spoke at Brandeis University, near Boston.

Carter's critics - of whom there are many - demanded that he use his speaking engagement to debate Alan Dershowitz, the prominent defender of torture and Israel. I look forward to similar demands that every time Dershowitz speaks, he give space to one of his opponents - Noam Chomsky, say, or Al Sharpton - and lets them counter his arguments.

Dershowitz, writing in the Jerusalem Post, claimed he just wanted "a real dialogue." But when overtly racist Israeli minister for strategic affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, who has advocated mass killings of Arabs, let alone apartheid, came to the US to speak at the Brookings Institute's Saban Center, did Dershowitz call for his remarks to be balanced by a riposte from a speaker from Peace Now, let alone Palestinian Envoy Afif Safieh?

This manufactured furor against Carter's book could not happen in any other country except the USA - and it has certainly not happened in Israel, where many clear-sighted Israelis would agree entirely with the book's message. More to the point, those with intimate experience of apartheid in South Africa, ranging from Archbishop Desmond Tutu in this space, to 200 prominent South African Jews in a letter last year, make much more explicit comparisons.

Carter has been called bigoted and anti-Semitic. In his book, however, he comes across as rather mealy-mouthed. In his speech at Brandeis he re-emphasized what he says in his book: that his warnings are against Apartheid to the territories, when the discrimination faced by Bedouin and Arab citizens in Israel on, for example land ownership, or access to social services, bears some very critical examination.

"I realize that this has caused great concern in the Jewish community," he said. "The title makes it clear that the book is about conditions and events in the Palestinian territories and not in Israel."

In fact, the word apartheid appears only three times in the entire text of his book - and always in the context of the Occupied Territories. The one time that he mentions it most explicitly, he is quoting an Israeli who feared that "we are moving towards a government like that of South Africa, with a dual society of Jewish rulers and Arab subjects with few rights of citizenship," in the context of describing future options for the Occupied Territories.

This is doubly interesting; because of course the Israeli press often makes the comparison with apartheid, since Israelis have to live with the consequences of their policies. It is only in the US that the legions of front-line fund-raiser banqueteers brandish their silverware in horror at the description.

Another time, Carter uses the word is in his description of the effect of the Separation Wall, "imposing a system of partial withdrawal, encapsulation, and apartheid on the Muslim and Christian citizens of the occupied territories." But he adds: "The driving force of the two peoples is unlike that in South Africa - not racism but the acquisition of land." This is somewhat inaccurate, since apartheid in South Africa involved massive confiscations of the best land and corralling the dispossessed into small areas.

His third use of the A-word is the most interesting. Rabin had just returned from the apartheid state, and described to Carter "the close relationship Israel had with South Africa in the diamond trade ... but commented that the South African system of apartheid could not long survive."

Israel's sanctions-busting trade with the racist state helped it to survive longer than it would otherwise have done. And Israeli collaboration on arms programs may have gone beyond missiles and planes as far a joint nuclear test, with a pariah regime whose antecedents were Nazi sympathizers. If apartheid is such dreadful concept that we can't use it about Israeli polices, where were Carter's critics when Israel was the mainstay of the apartheid regime in South Africa?

I cannot recall that one of the shrill denouncers of President Carter's book ever taking exception to this conspiracy. Did one of them ever protest Israeli support for South Africa, or the hobnobbing of Israeli leaders with men who had been interned as Nazi sympathizers during the second world war? In contrast, the State Department told Carter not to talk to Hamas during his visits.

Apartheid is both understandable and abhorrent; it is the truth of the analogy that hurts. Clearly, the row about Carter's use of the word is a cynically contrived effort to detract from the book's plain and irrefutable message, accepted by the whole world community and much of Israel, and indeed by many American Jews: that the road to peace involves implementation of the UN resolutions, and a return to the 1967 borders, with some adjustments mutually agreed.

Dershowitz himself admits this, but still looks for straws to beat at Carter. After Brandeis he depicted one sentence, which Carter himself admits was sloppily phrased, as an endorsement of suicide bombing. Carter wrote that the Arabs "make it clear that they will end the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism when international laws and the ultimate goals of the Roadmap for Peace are accepted by Israel." Dershowitz knows that Carter does not support terrorism. This is a manifestation of an intellectual pogrom of the most distasteful kind.

As the engineer of the most successful peace agreement in the region - the settlement between Egypt and Israel, for which he was vilified for decades across the Arab world - Carter's claim that obstruction from expansionists in Israel, and their friends in the US, is the main obstacle to a peace has particular authority.

That, of course, is why the settlers and their American supporters would prefer you not to read his book or hear from him. Still, we should push the comparison further: the architects of South Africa's apartheid saw the writing on the wall, and came to a settlement before it was too late. It has left their country the most successful and prosperous on the continent.

We already have the wall; Carter has now provided some of the writing. Will Israel have the courage to follow his advice? jimmy carter apartheid south africa israel united states alan dershowitz

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Writing on The Wall

Well here we go again.. new posting on the Guardian on Carter's Brandeis speech, in which I wonder where were all the people who are so appalled at Carter's suggestion that Israeli policy in the West Bank is comparable with Apartheid, when the Israeli government was the major financial and military supplier for the SA regime.

Looks like a good dog fight developing there. Feel free to join in!

Guardian Comment is Free

And click here to buy the book
Palestine:Peace not Apartheid, Jimmy Carter,Simon and Schuster

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Screwed Up Reforms

My latest column from Tribune, London 25 January 2007

The arrival of Sir John Holmes at the United Nations will be a distinctly underwhelming experience for most of the United Nations staff and diplomats. They would have been much more excited if it were his namesake the porn star “Long John” Holmes, whose qualifications were touted at 13 inches plus.

On the face it, the actor's qualifications, even when adjusted for reality at a mere ten inches, still appear more appropriate for his career than Sir John’s c.v. makes him to be Under Secretary General for humanitarian affairs.

Although it is possible that in the best mandarin tradition of the British Civil Service, Sir John will rise to the occasion, being so close a friend of Tony Blair that the Prime Minister ordered the Foreign Office not to submit any other British nominations for high office to Ban Ki-Moon is not necessarily a good qualification for such a demanding position.

What is more, Sir John has a hard act to follow in Jan Egeland, his predecessor, the Norwegian who was nobody’s poodle, and whose outspokenness mobilized billions of dollars for humanitarian aid after disasters like the Asian Tsunamis – at the risk of annoying the White House. Such qualities are not in oversupply in Tony Blair's immediate vicinity.

While all British governments have played this game, their nominations have usually had much more apparent qualifications, and to be fair, have often taken their oaths as international civil servants seriously enough to irritate Whitehall.

But regardless of Holmes’s qualifications, Blair’s nomination is a buccaneering one in many respects, not least in the wreck it has helped make of the UN reforms that he and Bush keep invoking.

The root of many of the managerial and personnel problems of the United Nations -- and there are many -- is that from the beginning the permanent five have ridden roughshod over the UN Charter’s provisions for an independent international civil service.

Under their pressure, Trygve Lie allowed the FBI an office in the building to vet American staff for Un-American activities. For decades, the UN could not employ Russian or Chinese staff who were not sponsored and vetted by their governments.

More recently, the British and French have claimed various high-level jobs, while for the last fifteen years, the Under Secretary General for Management has been an American presidential appointment. Some of them did outstanding jobs, although one notes that when the Murdoch press and Congressional Republicans inveigh against "waste, mismanagement and corruption," at the UN, they rarely mention who is charge of management there!

But regardless of the competence of the appointees, there can be no substantial reform of UN personnel policies when the President of the US, or the Prime Minister of Britain, treat senior posts in the organization as part of their own political patronage.

While it is true that the British, French and Americans do not deign to interfere in lower level appointments, pouring through the breach made by the P5 many other ambassadors work hard to ensure that their nationals get a piece of the UN pie.

Towards the end of his term, Kofi Annan, perhaps a little belatedly, tried to do something to stop this. Admittedly, he waited until after appointing a Bush nominee to head UNICEF, a traditional American position. Senior UN positions were advertised, candidates were interviewed, and Annan appointed people from the non-chosen nationalities.

It was, of course, too good to last. In the last month of office as John Bolton shouted "reform" and demanded that every senior appointment that Annan made should end as soon as he left office, the White House, and Bolton, contrived to nominate a prominent Bush supporter and former editor of the of the Reverend Moon's Washington Times as head of the World Food Programme. The search process went ahead as specified, but reportedly, the White House threatened to pull the funding both from the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the WFP, if the interview panel failed to take note of the manifest qualifications of Bush's nominee. And so Josette Sheeran Shiner was appointed.

And then came Sir John Holmes, whom Blair wanted to be either head of peacekeeping, or political affairs. Ban Ki-Moon demurred, apparently because he had already been pressured into promising these positions to the Americans and the French. So Sir John ended up heading Humanitarian Affairs, for which his main qualification is being a Friend of Tony – and a previous friend of John Major.

It would have been pleasant, if unlikely, to see a British Labour government side with Annan, and his British Deputy, Mark Malloch Brown, in their efforts to reform the UN. Even putting forward several candidates for Ban to choose from would have preserved appearances.

The results may now be disastrous. The leaks suggest that the President will successfully put American diplomat Burton Lynn Pascoe as head of the Department of Political Affairs at the UN. He is indeed unusually well qualified for a Bush nominee.

However it is difficult to conceive of anyone suggested by this administration who will not cross their fingers behind their back as they swear not to take instructions from their governments. For example, Pascoe now has a choice, to implement UN policy on the Middle East – or ruin any career chances he has in Washington!

In any case, appearances do matter. If the UN appears as an unalloyed tool of Washington, that will seriously harm its ability to work across the world. To put it shortly, Tony Blair has joined in doing to the UN what the other "Long John" Holmes used to do to his co-stars.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Orwell from Kabul to Baghdad

Here's a small extract from the Daily Texan of John Rodden's interview with me in 2004, at a conference on Orwell. Click to see Christopher Hitchens and Todd Gitlin and others. It was only a year after the invasion of Iraq, so the full Orwellian horror of the direction the Bush administration was taking was not so clear - but I think I got the drift right.

BTW, My chapter on Orwell and the British Left is in the soon forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Orwell that John edited. Click to see details or order.

You will note that Orwell has become common property with everyone claiming his approval - and since he is dead, he cannot argue. Personally, however, I suspect that when he saw the "Orwellian" techniques of lies, distortions and Big Brother tactics used to herd America to war, and certainly when he saw the neo-colonial attitudes of the White House and the Pentagon on the ground in Iraq, he would have been withering in his denunciations.

Posted: 1/22/07
Down and out in Kabul and Baghdad
UT The Daily Texan - Austin,TX,USA
The following excerpts come from a series of interviews conducted in 2003 by John Rodden, a UT professor of communication studies, for his book "Every Intellectual's Big Brother," which was published by the University of Texas Press. The book explores the many adoptions, political and intellectual, of the author George Orwell. Dennis Wrong is a professor emeritus from New York University, Anthony Stewart is a professor of English literature at Dalhouse University in Nova Scotia, Ian Williams is a journalist with The Nation, Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair and Todd Gitlin is a professor of journalism at Columbia University.

Q: Is there any value in playing the parlor game of "What would Orwell say today?"

Dennis Wrong: It is very difficult to do so, given what a contrarian figure Orwell was. In the most recent case, the war in Iraq, it seems to me that Orwell can be used on all sides of the argument…

Anthony Stewart: If Orwell were alive today, he would have been in agreement with the invasion of Iraq, because he supported Britain entering into the Second World War. … He'd be unpopular with large groups of academics and intellectuals - and he wouldn't care.

Q: Do you believe that Orwell is still politically relevant today?

Ian Williams: I think Orwell is actually more relevant than ever before. He wasn't talking merely about communism. He wasn't talking merely about fascism. He wasn't talking merely about Stalinism, he was talking about totalitarianism and the totalitarian mindset. And I think there's lots of evidence that the totalitarian mindset to varying degrees is still around. Saddam Hussein. North Korea. Even here it's very difficult to read the pronouncements of John Ashcroft and Homeland Security without having twinges of worry about what people would accept here in terms of social control. You see people being locked up. There's something Orwellian, or maybe a cross between Orwell and Kafka, about people being dropped off in places that aren't officially part of the United States, because they're officially part of Cuba, not allowed to see lawyers, not knowing what they're charged with, what their status is.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Star Wars. Darth Vader in the White House.

My latest Guardian Comment is Free piece suggests that US protests over the Chinese shooting down of their own satellite, "has all the sincerity of King Herod leading a UNICEF fundraiser."

It retraces the science-fiction behind the GOP's Star Wars obsession. At least this one is not theological!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Shills for Bills

The latest piece of tongue-in-cheekiness from IR magazine - my January Speculator column.

Amd in a somewhat more serious vein, I will be contributing regularly to the Guardian's Comment is Free pages and the first effort on Ban Ki-Moon's need to spin is out now. Just click.

Shills for Bills

A decade ago, I went to see the Pirates of Penzance. "A policeman's lot is not a happy one," rang out across the auditorium of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice on the West Side of Manhattan.
In the interval I studied the displays in which the misnamed Secret Service showcased their efforts to protect civilization and the dollar from forgers, whose lot, they seemed to imply, was also not a happy one.
The first case had a magnified twenty dollar bill and explained its anti-forgery features, one of which, it proudly declared was "No water mark." I imagined all those forgers gnashing their teeth in frustration at being denied the opportunity to put a water mark in their product, or maybe even iron them out if they had inadvertently used water-marked paper.
In a splash of unparalleled creativity, the Treasury had actually had the temerity to introduce a new twenty dollar bill, and so the next exhibit had an updated display of this new challenge to the counterfeiters' guild. Unblushingly, it described the big step forward in security features, "Note the watermark."
Of course, in these modern days of megadeficits and plummeting greenbacks, it is difficult to imagine how even the most hyperactive counterfeiter could compete with the promiscuously reckless productivity of the US Treasury. But productivity is not the same as creativity.
Users of European currencies had always wondered at the conservatism of the US Treasury's design efforts: making all bills the same size, printing them all green and omitting watermarks off the paper, seemed dedicated to making life easy for forgers.
Anyone who has tried to sort out the wads of assorted bills left in pockets and wallets at then end of the night on the town in the dark back of a New York cab with a streetful of honking psychopaths behind registering their disapproval of the time the transaction is taking, will have horror stories about the hundred that got away, or the twenty that you thought was ten.
But now relief is at hand – thanks to judicial activism. In November 2006 Federal Judge James Robertson, who seems puritanically unconcerned about us blind-drunk-in-a-cab types, but has ordered the Treasury to start working on how to make notes distinguishable for the actually blind.
The idea that the world is full of people who habitually cheat the blind when making change would be almost unthinkable if it were not a smaller scale version of what executives have been doing to shareholders for a decade with the stock options.
Government lawyers claimed that different size bills would make it harder to stop forgery. They are probably the ones who wrote about the virtues of the "now you see them, now you don't" watermarks. The remarkably cosmopolitan judge declared "Of the more than 180 countries that issue paper currency, only the United States prints bills that are identical in size and color in all their denominations."

There is an answer of course, and I must declare an interest. The Canadian gold stocks in my pension fund have been doing very well lately – but they should be doing better. Money is too important to be left to paper, bad designers and incompetent printers. The dollar needs some substance before it follows the lira and yen into multi-zeroed monetary grave. Bring back gold and silver coins and kill counterfeiting, change-kiting and devaluation in one fell swoop.

Valuable Sea Front Property Denies Access to Peace?

Walking on Water in the Back Channel

The news of the back-channel peace talks between Israel and Syria is heartening, and the deal has the makings of mutually acceptable sense – which is why the American Israel lobby, the settlers and sundry Neocons will be horrified.

In fact Hafez Al Assad was offered an even better deal and turned it down over the ten metre wide strip of territory on the shore of Lake Tiberias. The British and French had drawn up the Mandate boundaries and left the beach, effectively, as part of Palestine to ensure what was then British control of the lake and the headwaters of the Jordan.

It was indeed allocated to the Jewish state in the UN partition plan, but one suspects that the Israelis would not be eager to cite that plan as definitive on the boundary front, since it would imply that their boundaries would shrink way behind the 1949 Armistice Line.

In 1967, the Israelis took the lot, and subsequently annexed the whole of the Golan Heights.

Anomalies are always interesting. Resolution 242 calls for Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied in 1967, and that presumably includes the Golan, and the strip of Mandatory Palestine along the lake – which presumably should fall to the Palestinian State.

One cannot envisage Hamas handing out beach towels and renting deck chairs to tourists along the strip, but at the very least, Palestinian negotiators, who have been very legalistic for the last decade or so, should be including this valuable seafront property in their negotiating portfolio and trying to get a good exchange for it.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Attack on Iran Will Run

Mission to be Accomplished for Deserter-in-Chief

When, back in 2002, I said that the US would attack Iraq, people thought I was alarmist. I was not. I was alarmed. I am getting the same feeling now about Iran. (Indeed my alarm alternates between Syria and Iran) Iran will be attacked. And it will be a disaster. It may also be that the famous "surge" is actually in preparation for Iran rather than Iraq.

It really is déjà vu all over again. In the run up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the steady drum beat from the NeoCons and quasi-Likudnik Israel supporters, and the statements from the Bush administration showed that they were intent on doing it. And of course there was the matter of military resources being diverted away from Afghanistan towards Iraq.

President Bush is certainly consistent. He supported the continuation of the Vietnam War from the safety of the Texas Air National Guard, and even when he was AWOL in Arkansas. He has had a lot of support in his irrational endeavours in Iraq – and does now for Iran. History shows that George W. Bush, executioner in chief of Texas, does not need a long rope to lose his head.

And now he supports continuing the war in Iraq from the safety of the White House and even when he is on his frequent vacations in his ranch in Texas. He is not going to give up on this war, no matter how many people die to exorcise whatever deep personal “Rosebud” the Deserter-in-Chief has impelling him forward to match his father's genuine war record.

Israel wanted to remove the only Arab state in the area that posed any kind of threat. Since then it has been claimed that Sharon warned Bush against regime change, but one cannot be totally convinced. The Israeli prime minister may have warned against any hopes for democracy, but he is conveniently unavailable to testify and in any case, there was near unanimity in support of the war from the most fervent Israeli supporters in USA.

However, despite the considerable power of the Israeli lobby, it could not and cannot force the US into a war that is against American interests – but it can provide very useful backing for others who want that.

So was it oil? I think not. While the current laws being forced on the Iraqis would put the Western oil companies in a very favoured position, the costs outweigh the benefits. The oil companies could buy the Iraqi oil whoever was extracting it.

The Neocons certainly are vociferous supporters of Israel, but to be fair, they also have other ideological motives. As the (far removed) ideological descendants of Trotskyist schisms in New York, they genuinely believed that the US Army could take democracy to the Middle East on the bayonets of the US Army, in the same way that Leon Trotsky thought he could take socialism to Warsaw on the bayonets of the Red Army.

The Neocons could also call upon a group of idealist liberal interventionists, including Tony Blair, who genuinely, and correctly, thought that Saddam Hussein was a bloodthirsty tyrant, but who, patently incorrectly, thought that his removal would make all well. To win these over, the Neocons had to hold their noses while the administration and Blair invoked the UN and the resolutions that Saddam was defying. That paper trail of resolutions was crucial in giving the attack some residual legitimacy to persuade some over-scrupulously legalistic types, like Britain's Attorney General.

Gideon Rachman in today's Financial Times
succinctly shows the role of the Neocons in the media in advancing all these separate arguments, and we could rely on them not to draw attention to the other countries that were defying UN resolutions, whether Israel in the territories, or Morocco in Western Sahara.

While their active role in spreading the Big Lie: that Saddam Hussein was behind Al Qaeda and 9-11 was crucial, even more important was the silence of most of the media in the face of that. This was a very active passivity in its way, as the Victorian poet put it in his version of the Ten Commandments.

"Bear not false witness; let the lie
Have time on its own wings to fly"

Certainly few of the major media were taking shot at this duck when it started doing a victory roll over the Potomac.

So what about Iran? All the signs are the same. Iran is being demonized to the extent where fair-minded people could almost feel sympathy for the authoritarian theocrats running it.

The US has twisted the elbows of the Security Council to secure a resolution that Iran will refuse to accept, giving Bush (and maybe even Blair) a UN-blue figleaf of a legal justification for action.

Iran is to blame for the "setbacks" in Iraq: even though it is the Iranian-leaning Shi'as who are the (very expedient) backbone of the Baghdad government.

Iran is behind Al-Qaeda: which is as likely as a conspiracy between the Reverend Ian Paisley and the Pope. Israeli supporters are jumping up and down demanding action.

Iran has weapons of mass destruction: just like Iraq, and despite continual reports from the IAEA and other intelligence agencies suggesting that it has none.

US forces are being directed to the Gulf – and there is talk of a green light, or at least not a red light from the Bush administration to the Israelis to attack using bunker busting bombs on Iran (see Sunday Times ).

That may appeal to some in Washington as a disclaimable act. However, the horror of crossing the nuclear threshold would be apparent to the rest of the world. So would American complicity if, for example, the Israeli planes attacked across Iraq without challenge from the USAF, or indeed if the US did not immediately impose sanctions against Israel for using nuclear weapons.

One suspects that if the US is encouraging the Israelis, the purpose of the US forces in the region is to contain Iranian retaliation, and that the "Surge" also has this in mind. This was, after all, the administration that took resources chasing after Bin Laden in Afghanistan and diverted them to Iraq.

However the real effect of the "surge" will be to provide a lot more targets for the Shi'a militia who are presently not attacking Coalition forces but definitely will be.

The effects of the attack will be much more profound than the attack on Iraq, and it is all down to the President. He is the catalyst that unites all the various factors in this deranged enterprise.

To exorcise the ghosts of George W. Bush's cowardice during Vietnam, hundreds of thousands of American and US troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf will be put at risk – along with the world's oil supplies, the dollar and the world economy. And that could pale into insignificance at the future consequences of a complete collapse of nuclear non-proliferation efforts if Israel crosses the nuclear threshold with, or indeed even without, American complicity.

It is, of course, all totally irrational – but this White House is on the record as thinking that reality can be moulded to its desires. It is also on the record, most recently from the "Surge" in seeing that it learns nothing from its demonstrable failures.

And of course, to refresh your memory on W's skimpy war record, click on "Deserter."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Throwing Anti-Abortionists to the Lions

Dead End Positions

Ban Ki-Moon at his first press conference tried to put to rest the vengeful spirit of Saddam Hussein following his early off the cuff remark that it was up to each country what they did on the execution front.

"I believe that life is precious and must be protected and respected,
and that all human beings have the right to live in dignity. International law affirms these values. I recognize the growing trend in international law and in national practice towards a phasing out of the death penalty. I encourage that trend. As Member States are taking their decisions, I expect they will comply with all aspects of
international human rights law. As you know, I have also urged restraint by the Iraqi authorities in the execution of death sentences imposed by the Iraqi High Tribunal."

Apart from saying "well-wiggled!" to Mr Ban who seems to relish the title the Seoul Press Corp gave him – "the slippery eel," I could not help thinking about American attitudes to execution. Incidentally, he avoided answering the question from veteran Mexican correspondent Ricardo Alday about abortion.

Many Americans proclaim the "right to life" for any sperm that has hooked onto an ovum and most of them, it would seem are equally fervent about injecting, hanging, electrocuting or shooting fully grown people. President W. Bush, who never once offered clemency for the almost 200 executions in Texas while he was governor, is a case in point.

Indeed some of them think it is fair game to top any medical staff who perform abortions, which has always struck me as a somewhat eccentric way to demonstrate the sanctity of life.

Among the "Right to Lifers" are many American Catholics… who seem to partially deaf. Having got over its love affair with the Inquisition, the Church is actually equally fervently against executions as it is against abortions. But that is not a text you hear often from right wing Catholic politicians drumming for votes.

In Britain, I knew many left wing Labour members who were opposed to abortion – but they were at least consistent and opposed the death penalty as well. In the US being opposed to abortion means many Liberals would not be seen dead with you, while opposing executions will have the right exorcising you on the spot.

Surely there is room for a wedge issue here for Democrats of faith to expose the spurious claims to exclusive morality of the Christian right?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

An old Asia hand to the UN
By Ian Williams

Some of the article covers material that I've already posted. Click for the full article, or just read below for the update.

Asia Times

NEW YORK - Seemingly substantial rumors are sweeping Washington and the UN that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, at President George W Bush's suggestion, is about to appoint Burton Lynn Pascoe, currently US ambassador to Indonesia, as head of the UN's Department of Political Affairs.

At least it won't be former ambassador John Bolton, and at least Pascoe is a foreign service professional deeply aware of the rest of the world. A three-year spell in Taiwan and a knowledge of Mandarin, time in Central Asia and China and you begin to see why Ban could feel he could appoint such a nominee.

Indeed, one cannot help speculating how much toing and froing there was before the White House came up with a candidate so unusually experienced and knowledgeable by this administration's (or indeed others') standards and whose Asian experience would make him acceptable to Ban.

Even so, it does not augur well for the United Nations or the United States to have any American identified with the current White House (or for that matter any previous administration's) heading such a crucial department, especially as one of the leading neo-cons, ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, has been nominated to replace Bolton.

Pascoe is too sophisticated to thank Bush publicly for his appointment, as did Christopher Burnham, the previous under secretary general for management. But one cannot help thinking that he will keep his fingers crossed when he takes the international civil servant's oath.


However, it is still early days. Ban's "mis-speaking" on the UN's attitude to the death penalty over Saddam Hussein's execution was a rite of passage in which he had not yet shed his mental position as South Korea's representative. However, he has a considerably better chance of transitioning into a genuine international civil servant than Pascoe.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Ban, American Moguls at UN?

Khalilzad: Good News and Bad for UN
The Nation

Ian Williams
The impending appointment of Zalmay Khalilzad to replace John Bolton as US ambassador to the United Nations is mixed news. Khalilzad takes his directions from Vice President Dick Cheney, and since the beginning of the Reagan Administration has been an ardent supporter of the various neocon adventurist positions.

While he almost certainly shares the neocons' bedrock contempt for international law and the UN, Khalilzad does not carry Bolton's baggage: decades of obsessive fulmination against the international body. As a Muslim of Afghan descent who possesses more social and diplomatic graces than his predecessor, he will probably do a better job of advancing the White House agenda.

Progressives who called for the dismissal of Bolton might have crossed their fingers and hoped he stayed. After all, do we really want an effective diplomat representing the Bush-Cheney agenda? Much better, surely, to have an ineffective bully and blowhard who provokes opposition than someone who has charm and diplomatic skills. We may now be seeing that experiment in real time.

But Khalilzad's appointment leaves open the question of who will be the next US nominee to high office in the UN. It was rumored that he was under consideration to be under secretary general for political affairs, and the United States had expressed interest in taking over the position as head of peacekeeping.

The French seem to think that they have a lock on peacekeeping... but then the British thought that their man John Holmes was on the trail for that or political affairs until he ended up in the important but less politically sensitive position heading humanitarian affairs, so there may be room for disappointment. Maybe Paris misinterpreted Ban Ki-moon's still-less-than-perfect French? Perhaps to ward off American interest, Ban has reportedly been considering splitting the responsibilities of peacekeeping between its administrative and logistical side and the more overtly political aspects.

There still may be the chance for a nightmare scenario in which Bolton is nominated for one of the presumed American senior positions in the UN hierarchy. I advance this theory for several reasons: The Bush Administration is arrogant and/or stupid enough to try such a stunt, and Bolton is obsessive enough about the UN to seek another post. But my main reason for raising it is prophylactic--the hope that people will be so horrified at the thought that they will not let it happen. (Note that these positions are not subject to confirmation by the US Senate since they are technically made by the secretary general. It is considered polite for everyone to pretend not to notice the US arm-twisting when the Secretary General makes his decision.)

However, we should not get too personal about Bolton. It would be a disaster for the United Nations and the United States to have any American identified with this White House (or for that matter the previous one) heading such crucial departments.
Indeed, Britain's recent close proximity to US positions probably counted against the appointment of Holmes to the peacekeeping post. The advantage of the UN for rational American policy is not only that it provides a global legion of sepoys to carry out duties that would swamp the US military. An independent globally respected body can implement resolutions, even American-inspired ones, while one that is overtly American-dominated would have far less credibility. Indeed, the perception of following narrow American interests that would accompany almost any conceivable nomination from this Administration would put UN staff and peacekeepers across the world at considerable risk.

For all the complaints from Republicans in Congress, Washington has always had far more say in the UN than is good for the organization, and while on one level such senior appointments would line up perceptions with reality, they would reap no benefits for anyone.

If Ban Ki-moon thinks that putting a US-approved appointee in such jobs will insulate the organization from criticism, he should consider that American presidential-patronage nominees have been in charge of UN management for fifteen years of unrelenting American media and Congressional criticism of UN management.
In fact, the first item of any serious reform of the UN was already derailed by the United States with the enforced appointment of Josette Sheeran Shiner as head of the World Food Program, which rescinded Kofi Annan's already belated declaration of personnel independence.

Ban Ki-moon was off to a good start in reclaiming that lost ground by appointing two women--Alicia Bárcena of Mexico to the traditionally US-held position of under secretary general for management, and Dr. Asha-Rose Migiro of Tanzania (hitherto foreign minister) as his deputy, replacing Mark Malloch Brown, the retiring British incumbent.

A Clark's Tale

I really do think there is a solid case for impeaching George W. Bush – and Dick Cheney as well come to think of it. But when I got an email passed on from Ramsey Clark, asking me to support his impeachment campaign, I had to demur.

There are many good reasons for opposing the war, but none of them involve the innocence of Saddam Hussein, Clark's erstwhile client. Bush lied about the war. The Bush dynasty covered up their complicity in Saddam's crimes, but that does not exonerate the latter.

Ramsey Clark has simply no credibility on this matter. He has a consistently recidivist record of defending war criminals, tyrants and butchers from Milosevic to Saddam. My article on Clark in Salon in 1999 still holds in still holds, and if anything, he has probably gone down hill since.

There were legitimate war resisters in the Second World War. Few of them had the bad taste to defend Hitler and Mussolini, yet what is about so much of what passes for the Left in America that they are so undiscriminating. They ally themselves with supporters of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, in Rwanda, and now the butcher of Kurdistan. It is perfectly acceptably, and indeed politically much more sensible to recognize that the US war can still be wrong even though Saddam Hussein was indeed an evil dictator.

And what is worse, Clark is a lousy lawyer. For example, in his defense of Rwanda genocide indictee Pastor Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, aligned with Neocon sentiment against multinational tribunals -- somewhat ironically for a case originating in Texas -- said his client faced execution if extradited. Unlike Texas, the Tribunal, of course, has no death penalty, and indeed when it found Ntakirutimana guilty of participating in the killing of hundreds who had sought refuge in a Seventh Day Adventist hospital, it only sentenced him to ten years – about what he would get for a driving offence while black in Texas.

Perhaps it is no wonder that Clark's clients are all found guilty are imprisoned, die in prison or are executed. I would sooner trust him with brain surgery than with drawing up credible articles of impeachment. I groan when I see him representing war resisters from the forces, seeing any legal defense disappear in a cloud of Neo-Trotsykite rhetoric inspired by his sponsors.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Repelling Boarders

One of the many sites on the Israeli side of Middle East conflict is “Myths and Facts.” Usually they share a common disability to see the other side- for example a recent release on this one demanded that the Palestinians abide by the road map, but was deafeningly silent about the near simultaneous announcement that the Israelis were, in total defiance of the same road map, building a new settlement in the West Bank to house settlers removed from Gaza so the IDF could declare a free-fire zone there.

The 28 December announcement was more interesting than most since it inadvertently threw up a new angle. It took the Bush administration to task for seeing “nothing wrong in considering a plan to declare an independent Palestinian state with provisional boarders (sic)within the next 2 years.”

I suspect he meant borders. And in that sense I share his dislike. There should be a Palestinian state with its borders based on the 1967 Green Line with mutual adjustments agreed by the parties.

But his repeated mis-spelling of boarders does open up thoughts based on regarding Israeli settlers as “boarders.” In one sense of course, the word refers to temporary paying guests in a household, which opens up the possibility of telling the settlers to pay the rent for the last thirty years - and serving them a week’s notice to vacate the premises.

Secondly boarding is what pirates do to ships. “Repel boarders” is the cry in the Hornblower- style movies. And it is indeed true that the settlers are collectively guilty of a form of piracy, boarding and illegally seizing Palestinian territories. Interestingly, piracy still has a mandatory hanging sentence under old international conventions... but let that pass. After all, Saddam Hussein was not even charged with trying to invade Iran.

But by free association with swashbuckling, we move to the attacks mounted by the IDF on Ramallah this week, while Olmert was trying to enlist the cooperation of Mubarak. Even Israeli politicians were outraged, and prepared, at least off the record, to talk about IDF sabotage of the political leadership.

It is yet more evidence of the stranglehold of the Shin Bet and IDF, now overwhelmingly dominated by Likud appointees, over Israel’s allegedly civilian leadership, and vindicates yet again what I said November 12 on Impunity and Jack D. Ripper.

Until Israel’s politicians get control of their Security Services they are allowing the conservatives to blow up any road to peace on a whim. And of course while the UK and US allow a free pass to this type of behaviour, there is little incentive for Olmert and Peretz to deliver.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

American for Peacekeeping? -- And Which American would that be?

Blair Cronyism derailing UN Reform

Here we, three days into the New Year, and it is already apparent that when the Permanent Five members talk about UN reform they are only kidding. The first major appointment of the New Year is in fact a Major appointment, albeit out of Blair.

When I heard that John Holmes was going to take over from Jan Egeland as USG for humanitarian affairs, my first confused thought was "The porn star with a ten-incher? But he's dead!"

Alas, no one so colourful. Rather Sir John Holmes is a protégé of Tony Blair and sometime host of the Prime Minister on his frequent freebie holiday junkets around the world. Before he was Personal Private Secretary to Conservative Prime Minister John Major, but his career survived that of possibly the least memorable and colourless premier in British history. The British wanted him for Political Affairs or Peacekeeping, and instead of putting forward several candidates, at Blair's instructions lobbied heavily for him alone when Ban visited London last year.

At least it was not the former BeeGee who was Blair's most recent host.

Ban Ki-Moon is of course under pressure to appoint staff from the P5, and it is even possible that in the best mandarin way Holmes could turn up trumps in the job, despite his complete inexperience in the field of humanitarian relief. However, the appointment sends a signal: that reform is what the West expects the Third World to do, not what the major powers do.

It reflects more discredit on the West than on Ban. Such outstanding ostensible cronyism, in the wake of the appointment of a former Washington Times editor and Bush protégé, is hardly likely to convince the majority of the UN members of the bona fides of the would-be reformers.

While few could take exception with the meritocratic but geographically balanced appointments of Indian Vijay Nambiar as Chef de Cabinet, or Haitian (and Francophone!) Michelle Montas as spokesperson, Ban's team is so far remarkably water-tight as far as leaks go and so at this early stage, reading the runes is made all the more difficult because there are so few runes to read, and each could be read in an opposite way.

The appointment of Alicia Bárcena of Mexico as USG for management could be taken as a double blessing. A non-American heading the department is a welcome break with tradition, and a discrete finger to those not unadjacent to John Bolton who demanded a complete break with the Annan team, not to mention her being Third World, women and all the other beancounting pluses.

On the other hand, it lets the Americans off my personal hook – for decades they have railed against UN management while all that time the person responsible has been an American Presidential appointee. More worrying is the implication that an American will get one of the really important posts: peacekeeping or political affairs. Quite apart from the nightmare scenario of John Bolton rising like Rasputin from the dead and being appointed to one of those positions, it is difficult to conceive of a Bush nominee in either position who would not confirm the growing suspicions of the rest of the world that the UN is there to further narrow American interests.

It would put every blue-helmet and UN staffer under increased risk – not to mention the political damage to the organization. If anyone knows how to slip a memo in Korean under the SG's door on the 38th floor, now would be a good time to do it.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Out of the Closet

A version of this appeared in Investor Relations Magazine, December 2006 issue

Notes From The Throne,
Ian Williams brings the secrets of leadership out of the closet.

Five hundred years ago, Sir John Harrington, said 'Treason doth rarely prosper…for if it prosper, none dare call it treason.' He could almost have epitomized brown-nosing since at one point he won back the favor of Good Queen Bess by introducing her to his invention, the water closet.

With the oleaginous toadyism that lubricates most organizations, there indeed are few who care to challenge whoever is on the throne, whether it is the President of the US or the CEO of a major corporation. But they will all be quick to cheer whoever stabs them in the back to take their place.

So, despite all the respectful prose about them while in office, how can modern CEO's ensure their place in history when they leave, let alone when they've gone to that big boardroom in the sky?

A slave crowded into the chariot of Roman Commanders during their Triumphal parades whispering into their ears, 'Remember, you are only mortal.' The slave who drew the short straw for this assignment probably ended up in the arena shortly after, since the ego of Roman commanders exceeded even that of modern captains of industry.

Although modern executives can send hundreds of thousands to the unemployment lines to the cheers of Wall St, those generals in the Forum were serious, they could really execute, and sent similar numbers to their messy deaths without a twitch of their togas.

For all these centuries, Rome was considered the apogee of civilization, and its leaders heroes for all ages. Yet the Empire practiced brutal military aggression against its neighbors. Resistance provoked Roman orators into paroxysms of patriotic rhetoric, about the savagery of these natives resisting civilization as the invading legions killed and enslaved their people – or kept them for mass crucifixions or to feed the lions in the Coliseum.

Two millennia later, official history remembers the Emperor Trajan as one of the best of the Caesars. But his column in Rome shows his troops sacking cities and carrying away wagonloads of loot from his unprovoked annexation of what is now Romania. Julius Caesar, who ethnically cleansed much of Gaul, is a household name.

In contrast, most of the super-CEOs that now haunt the business pages will totally disappear from consciousness within a few years of their retirement. So how can a modern day Wall St Lord of the Universe preserve his or her name for posterity?

Well obviously, many of them pass the first test for posthumous fame – which by imperial precedent is tendency to preen themselves on doing harm to others, while enriching themselves.

On the other hand, can you imagine a Ken Lay Column, for example, erected in the centre of Houston, showing his success in looting companies, destroying livelihoods, and bribing legislators? It would not really cut the historical mustard.

My answer is a reform of corporate governance: every board should have a compulsory cynic on board to cut executives down to size. I am prepared to offer my services for a modest fee, with (preferably not backdated) options, tied to how much I can reduce executive compensation.

And I would also advise them that the secret of immortality is ostentatious philanthropy.
Ford, Rockefeller, Carnegie, were unscrupulous strikebreaking financial finaglers, but giving away their wealth to eponymous foundations has preserved their names for a century or so.

Of current magnates, who will remember a decade hence the chainsaw gangs who have vivisected thriving enterprises in search of bloated options? I would hazard that one name likely to survive is Bill Gates. If he had just been the CEO of Microsoft, his memory would have been flushed down one of Sir John Harrington's inventions like a crashing Windows system. But I would predict that thanks to his endowment, the Gates Foundation will be around when people will hazard that 'Microsoft' is a term for a detumescent organ.

Which, like Roman history, is unfair really. Warren Buffet modestly left his fortune to a foundation named after someone else. Now that should make the history books.

Worse than Criminal- Stupid

Napoleon's talk of liberation of other countries soon turned into chaos and oppression as well. It was the hasty execution of another high-ranking threat to an aggressive regime that led Talleyrand, the French statesman, to say "That was worse than a crime; it was a mistake." In 1804, Napoleon had sent a snatch squad across the border and "rendered" the Duke of Enghien, one of the last of the Bourbons who was then executed after a hastily convened kangaroo military tribunal.

The echoes are deafening with the sordid execution of Saddam Hussein, of whom it must be said, nothing became him like his going.

Early media accounts carried the interpretation of one Iraqi official who claimed that he saw fear in the eyes of the victim. In contrast, on the grainy cell phone video and the officially released version, Saddam Hussein maintained his dignity when all around showed none.

With the help of a ghoulish participant voyeur with a cell-phone camera, those whom the US has put in power have made a martyr of a mass murderer. Congratulations are due. To hang someone, in such a sordid ambience, on the eve of the great Feast of Sacrifice, with a Koran in his hand, the Islamic declaration of faith on his lips, while the undisciplined bunch of thugs crowding the execution chamber heckled and chanted sectarian Shi'a slogans…. Really, short of inviting the Israelis to pull the lever, there is little more they could have done to vindicate the tyrant.

After four years of occupation, the US has succeeded in handing over the reins of power to a government that is so infiltrated with sectarian militia that it could not restrain them, nor even stop one of them poking his cell-phone under the trap door to catch the last unruly moments. Thanks to the technophile ghoul we can now hear why the official video was released without a soundtrack.

They even made Silvio Berlusconi seem saintly. Doubtless sensitized by the treatment of his political forebear Benito Mussolini at the hands of a lynch mob, he decried the execution as a betrayal of the civilization that Italian troops had been invited to take to Iraq. He was, in his own rightist way, entirely right. Compare that with the silence of known death penalty opponent Tony Blair, or the Pontius Pilate behaviour of British Foreign Secretary Margaret Becket, who said it was up to the Iraqis, perhaps forgetting Blair's retrospective attempts to justify the invasion of Iraq by saying it was to put a stop to the barbarism of the Saddam regime.

It is now claimed that the US tried to stop the execution being held so precipitately… but George W Bush is every bit as guilty as if he had personally tightened the noose. I have yet to hear a single convincing explanation for the invasion of Iraq, and the trial did not enlighten us at all. But throughout, there has been some deeply personal motivation on the part of George W. Bush against Saddam. "He tried to kill my father," Bush claimed in 2003 and without getting too Freudian, one can see that the wastrel draft-dodging frat boy did sincerely want to vindicate himself against his father's genuine war record.

But officially, Saddam was hanged for a mass execution in 1982. That was a very expedient charge. As I have said before, it was picked very carefully, and it was not just Republican prejudice against multinational tribunals that led them to conduct an in-house trial.

In an international tribunal he could have called on witnesses to testify how much support he had had from the US. He killed far more people after1982, and the US went on to support him diplomatically, financially and militarily for the duration of the long bloody war of attrition with Iran. It covered for him while he gassed the Kurds, and killed untold thousands of his opponents.

The US cynically incited the Kurds and Shi'a to rise after the first Gulf War, and then equally cynically abandoned them to their fate at the hands of the regime.

But think of the things that Saddam Hussein was not hanged for. He did not in any way assist or condone the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center, but dearly hath he paid for the Bush propaganda machine's association of him with it. And he paid for it on the week when US military dead reached 3,000, over-reaching the dead of 9-11. Not to mention anything up to half a million Iraqis dead, and as many more who have fled their country in fear of the consequences of American liberation. That is a very heavy price to pay for not having anything to do with Al-Qaeda or the World Trade Center. And one hopes that other panderers to Washington around the world draw the lesson of how deeply and murderously ungrateful the new Empire is to client states.

Not to mention how stupid, in converting a genuinely evil and murderous dictator into a martyr. In a crucially placed area, they have created Hobbesian anarchy and call it victory.