Ed Miliband Leader of the Left?

Nora Connolly 

Ed Miliband on the mic

Copyright archived Department of Energy

Ed Miliband is the leader of the Left, a revelation made recently in a broadcast with BBC/Independent journalist Steve Richards. Although, Miliband appears more interested in identifying himself with Conservative politicians, concepts and with Mrs Thatcher`s legacy – obsequiously describing her as a conviction politician. In his early thirties we discover that Miliband`s summer reading was Iain Macleod’s biography, Ed Milibands`s `One Nation` agenda clearly has had a longer gestation period than cynics might have thought. The Disraeli citation highlighted in the broadcast was further evidence that the philosophical underpinning of Miliband`s big idea is a Conservative/reactionary one. The only left-winger mentioned during the programme was Ralph Miliband, the father of the Labour leader, a brilliant Marxist thinker who sadly died in 1994.

Miliband`s position was considered analogous to Mrs Thatcher`s period in opposition, a correlation that allowed for a comparison with Miliband by Charles Moore. Richards returned to Thatcher`s legacy indicating that she developed a strong populist message, a political outsider who produced a critique of the former government led by Ted Heath in which she served. A politician who overturned the Keynesian post-war consensus, whose populist message was based on the notion that the state needed to get off peoples backs.  Read more of this post

Hitting New Lows: Blair’s response to Archbishop Tutu

Nicholas Pentney 

Image © Skoll World Forum

In response to Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s call for him to stand trial in The Hague over the Iraq War, the former Prime Minister Tony Blair spoke of the “morality of removing him [Saddam]” and reminded us that: “we have just had the memorials both of the Halabja massacre, where thousands of people were murdered in one day by Saddam’s use of chemical weapons.” He contrasted the horror of that massacre with present-day Iraq’s improved economic situation and reduced child mortality rates. Make no mistake; Blair was once again trying to argue that the Iraq War was actually a humanitarian intervention.

Attempting to justify the Iraq War on humanitarian grounds is nothing new. The principal architects of the invasion – Bush, Cheney, Straw and of course Blair – have been playing that particular card ever since  the official rationale for war (you know, the security threat that Saddam’s possession of WMDs and terrorist links posed) were found to be completely lacking in foundation. The humanitarian argument swayed many critics of the war especially after they struggled to answer the questions typically posed by the pro-war camp: didn’t Saddam Hussein deserve everything he got? Wasn’t he wicked? Didn’t the Iraqi people deserve to be free from him?

No one can doubt that Saddam was a monster, a tyrant and a criminal who needed to be brought to justice, but the full scale invasion of Iraq was no police action to capture a criminal. No police action involves endless bombings, the targeting of residential areas, the tolerance of looting and the deaths of thousands of civilians. There is no moral code under which such bloodshed and destruction could be acceptable in the pursuit of bringing a single criminal to justice.  Read more of this post

Thoughts on the Draft Communication Bill: An Interview with Andy Phippen

The Left Central Writer

Professor Andy Phippen

As Professor Noam Chomsky points out, the internet is capable of liberating oppressed people while having the potential to be utilised for surveillance and for controlling opposition to state oppression. It is the latter observation that the pressure group Open Rights Group believe relevant, considering our civil liberties to be at risk due to the draft Communications Data Bill pointing out:

It marks a serious increase in the powers the state has to order any communications provider – whether it is an Internet Service Provider (ISP) like BT or an Internet company like Google – to collect, store and provide access to our information about our emails, online conversations and texts.

The Orwellian feature of the legislation is outlined by Open Rights Group arguing it grants the technical ability to identify the political orientations of protestors who blog or write for radical websites. An issue relevant to whistle blowers or investigative journalists who might find themselves subject to the measures outlined in this draft legislation under the guise of ‘public interest’ or their journalistic work compromised by a vague requirement of the state to investigate a crime.

Professor Andy Phippen agreed to talk about the proposed legislation:

AP: Government’s respond to social problems by avoiding the issue and focusing instead on the internet, a knee jerk reaction motivated by ‘legislative hyper-activity.’ The internet mirrors society. We need to focus on the actual social problem and criminal activity rather than focusing on the internet.

LC: What’s the motivation behind the Bill?

AP: Technological advancement brings fears for governments; even the invention of the printing press produced a hysterical reaction. Biblical scholars were concerned that they were going to lose social control over the ‘common man.’ The availability of books meant those in power lost control.

Yet from history we learn that the printing press empowered humanity and in the same way the internet democratizes information. The government today fear a loss of control in much the same way as the biblical scholars did. Knowledge is power and the internet has empowered.  To take one example, look at academic research. It is becoming more freely available and as a result it has enriched the knowledge base. Academic research and other information, once available only to elites, is now widely available.

LC: Do you think the internet enhances our democracy?

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Obama vs. Romney: the world is watching

Daniel Crump 

Image © Rivarix

Matters of foreign policy do not tend to be first on the list of a voter’s priorities coming up to an election, especially in times of economic turmoil. When US voters go to the polls in November they will be asking themselves when unemployment is going to fall, whether the health care system will continue to be of benefit to them and how much money they will have in their pockets once they retire. Perhaps, then, the sensible move on the part of the contenders is to downplay talk of foreign issues and concentrate on the economy.

However, history has taught us that many a presidency has come to be defined by a set of decisions related to manoeuvrings on the world stage. Kennedy’s record was arguably saved from the humiliation of the Bay of Pigs by his firmness during the Cuban Missile Crisis. What respect George Bush Sr. may have lost in failing to capture Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War, he made up for with his role in German Unification in the early 90’s.

Are we asking the right question?

In the run up to November’s vote, it is perhaps unhelpful to ask whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney would best serve the US’s interests on the world stage. The question people ought to be asking is whether a first term president is preferable to one in his second term. This is the case for two main reasons. Firstly, a President’s first term in office has always been more about dealing with the footprint left by the previous administration than about imposing his own foreign policy vision. Secondly, foreign policy is by nature reactionary. No matter how concise a doctrine exists at the outset, there are certain events that one can simply not prepare for.

To argue the first case, we need only go back four years when Obama officially inherited two wars from George Bush Jr. It was clear, despite his commendable desire to ease tensions with Iran, that his Middle Eastern policy was going to be dictated by how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan played out. It is certainly no secret that Iranian involvement in the Iraq War was one of the biggest obstacles the President was going to have to overcome if peace between Tehran and Washington was reachable. U.S officials insist that the training of Militant Shiite groups in Iraq by Iranian forces has been a huge challenge for the US army. Iran is said to view Iraq as a potential buffer zone from any future invasion, most likely by the US’s main ally, Israel. Similarly, George Bush’s unavoidable presence in Afghanistan was always going to make Obama’s relationship with Islamabad one on permanent knife edge.  Read more of this post

The Bradford Spring

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Image © David Martyn Hunt

As the morning dew fell from a Friday Spring morn, the political class awoke to one of the most sensational by-election results in modern history. George Galloway’s election vindicates those who have long argued that Labour’s opposition to the Tory agenda is, to quote Mr Galloway, “feeble to the point of paralysis.” Labour is currently the only established party of opposition, yet is finding no way to even begin to channel the fury voter’s feel about tax increases for pensioners, the privatisation of the NHS and savage cuts to public services to pay for tax cuts for the rich. Labour cannot channel this righteous indignation because it has, in government and opposition, acted as the Tories would. Even now they promise merely a sanitised dose of spending cuts as the answer to Britain’s ails. What of the ever widening gap between the have nots and the have yachts? What of the stagnation of working class wages and representation for the last 30 years?

Galloway’s Respect Coalition proved that by coalescing the united forces of the left, we can alter the corporate media narrative of a servile public willingly accepting the political fantasies of a government of, by, and for the rich. Just look to public opinion and it will show you that dissatisfaction with all three political parties is, quite rightly, at unprecedented levels. Furthermore, Galloway is correct when he contends that he didn’t merely win by tapping into Muslim anti-war sentiment. Rather, the British people at large are repulsed by wars that have cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians around the world. People are crying out for radical change and waiting for an alterative to a future of misery, war, and austerity to be articulated.

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Lib Dems – idealists or realists?

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Image © Liberal Democrats

Laurel

Like many people I am not a member of a political party but did vote for the Lib Dems on the grounds of their opposition to the Iraq war and their promise to abolish tuition fees.

In an article (Times 14th) Daniel Finkelstein took time out to refer to the historic march against the Iraq invasion and said ‘Almost ten years ago, idealists young and old congregated in capital cities all over the world to protest against the forthcoming invasion of Iraq’. Well, sorry Mr Finkelstein, but events have shown that we weren’t the idealists, we were the realists. The idealists who took us to war have created a situation where, following the chaos created in Iraq, Iran fills the vacuum and threatens to become the dominant, nuclear armed, state in the region.

Many of those who marched were from the middle classes and many duly voted for the Lib Dems because of that party’s opposition to the war and because of the party’s promises to eliminate tuition fees.

Yes, tuition fees again, but this time the issue is what it did to the party.  Mr Clegg took those (middle class) votes and used them to gain his party a position where they could hold the balance between the Tories and Labour. But when it came to the crunch he used those same votes to turn his back on promises he had made over tuition fees. From that moment on he lost the support of thousands if not millions of middle class voters.

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DeJa vu all over again

Dominic Turner

Image © Arash Razzagh Karimi

You may be forgiven for thinking you’ve seen this all before. Increasingly ‘crippling’ sanctions.  Whispers of ever-growing weapons capabilities. The pounding beats of the same war drum, of distant threats, from a savage alien culture. We were here almost 10 years ago. This week Israeli ‘intelligence’ asserted the claim that Iran may be capable, in some indeterminate time, to strike US cities with missiles. You may remember similar claims in 2002 about the Iraqi regime being capable of striking the West within 45 minutes. Those claims, like the ones of today, formed part of the propaganda package sold to British public as the reason to illegally invade Iraq, a war that cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi’s.

If you search through the pages of British and American media outlets you will see the liberal use of the phrase “strategic strikes” on Iran’s nuclear facilities. The same was said before Afghanistan was bombed into the Stone Age, causing the deaths of around 30,000 civilians. The truth is, Iran’s nuclear facilities are scattered around the country, meaning any war or planned attack would inevitably cause immeasurable casualties to a civilian population that is more than twice the size of Afghanistan’s. 

In July of 2007 41% of Americans still believed the bald faced lie that Saddam Hussein was personally involved with the attacks of September the 11th, a central facet in selling the war to the American people, three years after it was proved false. Today, Sky News is sowing the same seeds of destruction, proclaiming that Iran and Al Qaeda are plotting a joint attack in Europe. The fact that Al Qaeda are Sunni whilst the Iranian leadership is Shia nation, and are sworn enemies, is an inconvenient fact that cannot get in the way of the war mongering of the Murdoch owned media. The success of the propaganda mill can be demonstrated by the fact that 71% percent of Americans believe Iran possess a nuclear weapon when even US defence secretary Leon Panetta has admitted that Iran has not yet decided whether to build nuclear weapons. Any strike on Iran would not be an act of self defence but an act of war.

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Christopher Hitchens: A tribute

Steven Akehurst

Image © Paul G

“More Bosnia, less Iraq”. So went a text sent by Christopher Hitchens, who died from cancer last week, to Stephen Fry in late November. Fry was orchestrating a make-shift discussion at the Royal Festival Hall with Hitchens’ more famous friends on his ‘loves and hates’, with Hitch himself following online after falling too ill to participate. As George Eaton noted, at an event which already eerily felt like the dry run of a funeral service, it seemed like Hitchens was trying to edit the first draft of his own obituary.

Alas, to no avail, it would appear from reading much of the reaction since Friday. But if it’s fitting that Hitchens died in the same week as the Iraq war came to a formal end, then it’s no less so that he went in the same week as Vaclav Haval, the great Czech dissident who authored his countries’ overthrow of Communism. For whatever one thinks of his position on Iraq (and I disagree with it), Hitchens leant his vociferous support for the war with the same logic as he did to Haval and intervention in Bosnia, and it must be reckoned with on that basis. Read more of this post

Mission Accomplished?

Andrew Noakes

Image © U.S. Army

 

Almost ten years on from the 2003 invasion of Iraq, President Obama has fulfilled his 2008 campaign pledge to withdraw US troops from the oil rich country. Last week, he told American soldiers that they could return home with their ‘heads held high.’ For America, now, the Iraq saga is finally over. But for Iraqis, the carnage goes on. As John Simpson tells us, there have been 79 bomb attacks in the last month alone.

Knowing what we know now, it is hard to imagine that the Iraq War could ever have been a success as the Bush administration envisaged it. Since 2003, the country has been gripped by a sectarian civil war; it has become a haven for terrorists; and Iran, meanwhile, has been transformed by the conflict into a regional superpower. And yet, looking back, it seems perfectly obvious that the invasion would have produced these outcomes. Read more of this post

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