Category Archives: Foreign Policy

DAVID CAMERON USES VETO AND EUROPE CARRIES ON REGARDLESS

David Cameron used the diplomatic equivalent of the nuclear deterrent in his negotiations with the Euro zone nations, yet the results were less than impressive.

There has been a lot of hot air floating around the commons and else where over the last few days, however, as usual Ed Miliband is failing to make any headway over the issue.  His beloved brother however hit the nail on the head.

“This is the first veto in history not to stop something. The plans are going right ahead. It was a phantom veto against a phantom threat”

What has been revealed over the last few days is just how naive, inadequate and unbelievable has been the stance by David Cameron over the Euro zone issue.

It now transpires that there was little if any networking or laying the groundwork before the summit took place.  Indeed even up until the final moments before David Cameron had his fateful meeting, his European “partners” knew very little about the demands he was about to make.

The UK, it turns out were isolated and out of the loop before the summit even started.  There is little wonder, that the other European member states were not in a listening mood.

It appears either David Cameron and his advisers were completely incompetent, or a decision had already been made that a deal could not be brought back to the House of Commons no matter what.

What David Miliband got exactly right, is that you do not “use” your veto unless you will gain an advantage in doing so.  You can “threaten” a veto, but it is something you should not use, if you want it’s effect to benefit you.

In this case we can see exactly why the veto was so badly used.  The other 26 countries will do exactly what they like in any case.  The UK now has fewer friends or allies and very little influence on the way ahead.

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DAVID CAMERON’S EURO SCEPTIC NIGHTMARE

We have so many Deja vu moments with the current government, however, last night was perhaps one that David Cameron would have preferred had not have happened.

Cameron has nothing to hide over Europe?

The spectre that is Europe on the shoulders of any Tory leader is a heavy burden.  Sadly for the British people, it has again weighed heavily on the shoulders of yet another Tory leader.  David Cameron, known for his clever political manoeuvres in the corridors of the Tory party and Westminster decided to politically take on a fight which has left him embarrassed, undermined and left his own power within in his party dented.

Instead of allowing a free vote and playing down the significance of the outcome of any vote, he decided to take on the euro sceptics and in the process has lost two ministerial aids; suffered the biggest backbench rebellion in 30 years and opened up old festering wounds that the Tories have been trying to heal for 13 years.

It reminded everyone of the catastrophic Major years –  81 voting against the government (half of the back benchers) not counting those that abstained and has prompted the euro sceptics to ask – Is Cameron one of them?

The longer the Euro sceptics look at David Cameron and his rhetoric the more they feel that actually he will dither and give bluster, but in the end is unlikely to repatriate much power back to the UK Parliament and certainly not in this parliament.

What could force his hand however, is a) that the back benchers will now put far more pressure on him and to placate them he will have to act to stop the inevitable split and back biting that will occur and b) Any systemic Euro zone restructuring to solve the ever growing crisis WILL inevitably require changes to the European treaties.

What is curious is why Cameron bothered to risk the stoking up of the hornets nest in the guise of Tory Euro sceptics?  He showed is political manoeuvres with the Liam Fox issue, delaying taking action so he was seen to be giving him every chance so as not to anger the right wing.  He could have done the same this time but decided not to.

The art of being a leader in politics is knowing the fights to take on and when to do it.  The judgement on this occasion was most certainly wrong.

David Cameron’s position is now clear, his problems of keeping his coalition together has just taken a turn for the worse.  He has been concentrating on keeping his coalition with the Lib Dems on track, but in doing so has angered the right of his party AND the Euro sceptic wing.

He has clearly damaged himself and will find going tougher in the months ahead and the coalition has suddenly been made harder to keep together.

9/11 : The Impact and the Legacy

This weekend marks the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, a day that has become of monumental importance in the psyche of the US.

On Sunday we will rightly remember the terrible events of 10 years ago, the awful loss of life, and an attack not only on the US, but on all right thinking people, of whatever religion, race, gender or creed.  A waste of so many lives and a terrible impact on so many others.

My own memory of September the 11th and the attack on the twin towers is of hearing the events unfold on the radio as I was driving back from an appointment in Luton.

I was preparing for a tedious journey back to Birmingham when Simon Mayo announced on 5 Live that a plane had gone into one of the twin towers of the World Trade Centre.  The details were sketchy and it was not known that it was a large airliner.  It was also initially being treated as an accident and it was only when the second plane hit that the reality began to unveil itself.

It was a momentous couple of hours as the story unfolded, and without being able to see the pictures my imagination was running overtime.  Of course my imagination, for once, could not live up to the actual pictures which were so awful and graphic they almost defy description.

When I got back to the office everyone was listening to the radio, captivated by the news as rumours spread about companies letting their staff home early for fear of further terrorist actions.

Driving home was surreal, and when I finally arrived to see the television pictures it was just so shocking, like a disaster movie unfolding before your eyes.

10 years on we have a terrible legacy from 9/11.  Not so much from the event itself, but what it led to and the catastrophic mistakes that have been made since.

The US was in shock and it reacted with consideration first, a pause before the storm that was to follow.

Then came the wars, the terrible wars.  Thousands dead, millions of displaced and refugees; and the sinking of the reputation of the US and Britain.

We will all be thinking of the 3,000 victims of 9/11, but sadly our thoughts will not be able to stay there.

We cannot ignore what came after and the hundreds of thousands of victims as a result of the reaction to that terrible day.

The Legacy of 9/11 is truly horrific.

Some say that the world changed that day.  I don’t believe this apocalyptic narrative, that seems to justify what came after.

It was not that the world changed, but that our perception of it changed.

We created the “War On Terror”, one of the most ridiculous concepts that justified the invasion of two countries and the threat to bomb Pakistan out of existence if they did not help the US and hand over some of their sovereignty for military actions inside their borders.

Much of the world agreed with the initial bombardment of Afghanistan to help the northern alliance defeat the Taliban, and of course the search for Bin Laden.  Yet what came after was catastrophic for the region and our own security.

Earlier today I listened with great interest to the Tony Blair interview on the Today programme.  It was a remarkable interview, listening to the “middle east peace envoy” living in complete denial that actions create reactions.  His “belief” that the Iraq war was justified and under no circumstances created more terrorism, more radicalism or destabilised  the region.

Denial is a terrible thing. I understand the human need for him to protect his “legacy” as Prime Minister, but his complete lack of taking on board the facts were remarkable.  He disagrees with the head of MI5, Lady Eliza Manningham-Buller (who he appointed) who has criticised the policy of the War On Terror, stating that it brought more  danger to the shores of the UK.

Tony Blair, like George W Bush is in denial and will not accept any criticism whatsoever for his actions as Prime Minister, or the fact that there was no threat from Iraq to the UK and there were no weapons of mass destruction.

9/11 will not just be a day for remembering the victims of that day, but a day when reflection on all that has happened since will take place.

UK Governments Libyan Deceit

THE TRUTH WILL OUT – Is an often used phrase, and these days with electronic communications, social networking and the internet it is perhaps more apt than ever.

While David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy bask in the limelight of a job well done, and how they were so “brave”, Papers obtained from Human rights groups seem to show that the  UK security forces and the CIA colluded with the Libyan leadership and Muammar Gaddafi against the very opposition groups allied forces are now championing.

It is hardly startling news.  Hypocrisy apparently runs hand in hand with Politics, yet it is no wonder so many of the British public are cynical of military action and the motives behind them.

MI6 apparently provided intelligence about exiled opponents in the UK to their counterparts in Libya and the CIA even abducted “militants” and handed them over to the Libyan authorities to no doubt be imprisoned (if they were lucky), tortured, or killed.

From the information so far obtained it is less the official story of letting Libya in from the cold, as bending over backwards for his mild co-operation.  No doubt all in the name of the ridiculous “War On Terror”.

From Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi’s release to the sickening smiley handshakes and “fake tents” with Tony Blair to the current crop of damning revelations, the cynicism of the public will only grow deeper.

Yesterday, I watched the unveiling of the morning papers review on the Andrew Marr show where Deborah Haynes, Times Defence Editor, announced that these revelations were hardly surprising and “well that’s politics”.

It is amazing how the normalisation of disgraceful acts can justify almost anything these days as if we should throw up our arms in defeat.

Where the likes of Deborah Haynes gets it totally wrong, is that politics is not an end in itself, it is a facilitation of societies needs.  The fact is that the acts of politicians affect peoples lives.  What we are talking about in Libya, is not the gossip on Capital Hill or the Westminster village, but the torture and killing of innocent people.

The ramifications stretches across our foreign policy and the middle east, from Iraq to Libya.  Politicians play their games, supporting whatever they feel suits them at the time, building up dictators and selling them intelligence and arms and then when it all goes wrong to put our own men and women on the line to sort the mess out.

Deborah Haynes could not have been more wrong – it is not politics – it is people.

Wherever we turn we see deceit at the heart of government, never more so than with our foreign policy.  This is largely due to the lack of accountability and transparency.  Foreign policy and “security” always bring with it the cloud of secrecy that can be enforced.

Our security services can collude in torture and rendition; send our special forces to the middle east, far east and South America; and support despicable regimes in private while the rest of us are kept in the dark.

How many of us knew the SAS was training troops and fighting in South America in the 1970’s and 1980’s at the time or even now?  To no doubt help the fight against those evil regimes that were either elected democratically or opposition groups who do not have access to democratic institutions.

In the end our armed forces often end up picking up the pieces of the ill thought out politicians game plan when it all goes wrong.  The rest of us become yet more cynical and our reputation in the world continues to nose dive.

Will we ever, ever learn?

SPECIAL OR ESSENTIAL: David Cameron rolls over and gets his belly tickled by President Obama

So here we are again, the great SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP is talked about, mostly by British politicians and the Press.

Now we have a new emphasis on the terminology used by US Presidents to get that familiar feeling, we are now being told it is an “essential” relationship.  Essential no doubt that the British hang on as tight as possible to the coat tails of the US super power as they exercise their power and we try and pick up the scraps of influence and economic advantage.

The sad fact is that the UK’s influence in the world is constantly diminishing and the importance of the ties between the US and Britain are also diminishing. More importantly, the relationship is one that the British need and the US could live without.

The US barely ever mentions this so called “special” relationship except in only some newspapers and only when a British Prime Minister visits the US.

It seems it does not matter who the British Prime Minister is or which colour party he/she represents, they soon swoon to the tune of the US and talk up their Liberal Interventionist credentials.  Ed Miliband is already doing so in opposition.

Perhaps we could gather some real perspective by understanding that if we were positioned on another area of the globe we inhabit we might see things somewhat differently.

The talk is of the state visit to the UK by President Obama.  Actually this is a week long visit to Europe.  Two days will be spent talking to the G8 countries along with a visit with the Russian President and Polish President.

I am not diminishing the importance of the visit, but can we please stop this sycophantic attitude that all our Prime Ministers have toward the US.  Please.

OSAMA BIN LADEN ASSASSINATION: The Conspiracy Theorists and the Armchair Liberals

Over the past few days the media has been in a frenzy over what they see as the biggest story for years, the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

However, rather than the main discourse being what the true position is with the “war on terror”, or the real threat this poses, we are faced with the discussion of whether we should be able to see photographs of Osama Bin Laden’s head partly blown away and covered in blood and the most liberal of bleeding hearts saying we should have captured him alive.

Now I am no fan of the hypocrisy and Emperialism of US foreign policy, however, there are few in the world who can truly believe that the world is not better off without Osama Bin laden.  A previous post here discusses the deaths caused by him and the reaction from the US and others here.

The decision of the Obama administration not to make public the photographs is absolutely the right decision.  Those calling for the publication of these are largely members of the press, and conspiracy theorists.

Now the press want to sell copies, and on that basis is not good enough to display the bloody corpse of a mass murderer. In respect of conspiracy theorists, those that do not wish to believe he is dead will continue to do so regardless of the evidence presented.  It is a narrative that some people wish to follow nd that it suits their innate beliefs to follow.

The US is learning from past experience (which I wish they would do in other areas of policy!) where in the past assassinations like Che Guevara displayed the body of a martyr that became iconic and a rallying cry for years to come.  They would be foolish to make the same mistake again.

In addition, Obama’s own experience must have taught him not to pander to conspiracy theorists when he himself is constantly affected by them. A sizeable section of the US public still (around 11% of the public and 58% of republicans), even now after the publication of his birth certificate, believe he is born outside of the US .  Others,  around 24% believe he is a Muslim!

Republican politicians are even now trying to make Political capital out of this uncertainty in the public’s mind.

Conspiracy theorists believe what they want to believe and what suits them.  There is no doubt that even if video and photographs were released of the assassination, some will not believe it, some will say it is not him, some will not want to believe it and others will use the material for propaganda purposes.

Then we have the armchair liberals who give liberal thinking a bad name. They sit in their armchairs, reading left wing publications, talking only amongst themselves in a self righteous gathering of minds, a bit like the so called debates in the Leftfield tent at Glastonbury, preaching to the converted.

Oh, the troops could have taken him alive they say; oh he should be brought before a court they say; oh it was an illegal assassination they say.  They live in a nether world of idealism that does not fit reality.

The US, whether we like it or not is AT WAR with Al Qaeda.  Osama Bin Laden was a danger to anyone and any society that did not believe what he believed.  He was a rallying cry for murder and mayhem.  To kill someone, in a war, who would not hesitate to kill you, is not a crime.  Indeed it could be said to be a necessity.

The troops carrying out the operation would have split seconds to make decisions over the success of the mission and for self preservation. No one can criticise them for killing Osama Bin Laden.  The armchair liberals should concentrate their energy on liberal issues worth fighting for.

Conspiracy theorists and in this case, armchair liberals are two heads of the same coin, both are removed from reality.

OSAMA BIN LADEN ASSASSINATED BY THE USA

Yesterday, the news filtered through that Osama Bin Laden had been assassinated by US armed forces.  Barak Obama announced the news early yesterday morning which  galvanised some to immediately celebrate at ground zero and the White House in Washington, the two American cities most affected by 9/11.

No soon had the news been announced than the theories of what will happen next were being discussed.  The political futures and legacies of politicians was initially discussed.  One commentator said “who would bet against Obama winning the next election now”, while quotes were quickly sought from Ex-President George W Bush  and Tony Blair seeking to justify their policies of war and destruction over the past decade.

There is no doubt that the cudos of President Obama will increase with this news as it appears he gave the final order to strike following the gathering of intelligence.

However, questions remain.  The most obvious one being that it had been publicised and widely thought that Osama Bin Laden had been hiding in the mountains and border areas of Pakistan in a clandistine operation moving from one low key location to another.  In fact he was found in a large military compound less than a mile from the Pakistan’s army Academy compound and 40km outside of the capital,Islamabad.

The question on everyone’s lips, especially the US security forces is how could he have been there without the Pakistan authorities knowing?

The conspiracy theories have also started with some asking why the body was buried at sea and why no photos?  Some in disbelief that he could be dead.  One reason could be because of past mistakes over such assassinations as Che Guevara when the photos of the corpse became iconic images that galvanised support around the world.

Perhaps we should also consider the cost of war on both sides.  9/11 cost 2,977 lives, along with other terrorist operations:

  • 1993, World Trade Centre bombings causing 6 deaths and over 1000 injuries.
  • 1993, Bombay Bombings causing over 250 deaths and 700 injuries
  • 1998 US Embassy Bombings, 200 deaths and 5000, injured
  • 2000, USS Cole bombing
  • 2002 Bali Bombings, 202 deaths and over 500 injured
  • Istanbul attacks, 57 dead and 700 injured
  • 2004 Superferry bombing in Phillipines, 116 dead
  • 2004 Madrid Train Bombings, 191 dead and 1,800 injured
  • 2005, 7/7 London underground attacks, 56 dead and 700 injured
  • 2005, Sharm-el-Sheikh attacks, Egypt, 88 dead
  • 2005, Amman Hotel Bombing, 60 dead
  • 2006, Mumbai Train Bombings, 209 dead
  • 2007, Algiers bombings, 33 dead
  • 2008, Danish Embassy bombings, 6 dead
This list is not exhaustive.  There have been many attacks that have not been specifically attributed to Al Qaeeda but have been inspired by them, or responsibility for the attacks has not been officially acknowledged such as the Madrid Bombings.  This list also does not include the fear and oppression produced in areas controlled by Al Qaeeda. 
However on the other side, in order to secure the death of Osama Bin Ladan:
  • Invasion of Afghanistan 2001 – Afghan troop Deaths 8,587; US Troops over 1,140; Other coalition troops 772; Contractor deaths 298; Journalist deaths 19. Injuries 0ver 48,600
  • Iraq War – Iraqi Troops 30,000; US Troops 4,414; Other Troops, 318; Contractors, 933;  Journalists 192, injuries over 130,000. Civilian deaths – unable to be precise but at least 100,000, to over 1 million.  Refugees escaping Iraq, over 3 million.
Many of these deaths would be regarded as caused by an illegal war that had nothing to do with the war on terror anyway. In addition to this, the US, UK and European powers have agreed to, aided or facilitated the torture of civilians and prisoners and abandoned the rule of law (ie, Guantanamo). 
For any one to now justify the Iraq war due to the death of their most wanted would be stupidity personified. 
No one other than the brain washed extremist will mourn the death of Osama Bin Laden.  However, unless the oppression of the west and the US super power changes course, extremism is likely to be alive and well for years to come.