Monday, March 28, 2011

Fool Me Twenty-Seven Times, Shame On Left-Wing Extremists Yet Again

It's a particular irony that those calling most loudly for CONDEMNATION of the weekend's violence in London are, perhaps non-coincidentally, among the country's foremost proponents for the use of violence abroad, on a scale that wholly dwarfs a bunch of angry idiots boxing with policemen.

Like any good citizen, I strongly disapprove of angry idiots boxing with policemen.  On the other hand, I'm forced to observe that they aren't using Predator drones or forming kill squads; they aren't destroying buildings with cruise missiles or launching hundreds of airstrikes on a series of nations that they haven't formally declared war upon.

I have only so much outrage to go around, and I notice that no matter how much we all complain about the awful, paint-happy arseholes, it never seems to be quite enough.  Perhaps that's because every single hack bitching about the anarchists is aware that, say, the Black Bloc don't represent The Left, and so many are intentionally pretending that they do?  It's surely a possibility.

I look down upon rioting and smashing things up, yet - and I'm happy to be corrected here, if possible - the historical success rate of unfocused rioting and smashing things up is arguably much better than that of lunatic attempts to bomb freedom and democracy into nations from high altitude. 

Sharp-eyed critics might say, Aha!  You're setting up some kind of false equivalence here.  There is no connection between angry idiots boxing with policemen and lunatic attempts to bomb freedom into nations.

To which I can only say Oh, really?  Because I recall that, when I believed that invading, bombing or  occupying all those countries was basically insane, pundits from right across the political spectrum suddenly told me that THE LEFT had gone insane and should be ashamed of itself.  When I believed that, say, attempts to bomb antisemitism and support for terrorism out of Beirut and Gaza were doomed to murderous failure, cries from all corners insisted that the real problem was TWO BLOKES AND A DOG who thought terrorism and racism were just fine.

And so on: control orders, Pakistan, the financial disaster and Libya, to pick a few random issues, and now, the Tories' cuts.  All somehow revealed that some nebulous LEFT that doesn't appear to possess any political power at all beyond the ability to print articles in low-circulation newspapers was the heart of the problem.

I hate to say it, but it is sort of starting to look like this awful, despicable left is little more than a stick that a bunch of people with a very narrow range of political beliefs beat dissenters with.  I throw it out there, for discussion.

So, those angry idiots.  I say, come back and ask for fiery denunciations when they're rioting with a multi-billion-dollar armaments budget.

Aha! those sharp-eyed critics might say again - the angry idiots' violence serves absolutely no sane purpose and is in fact extremely counterproductive. 

Well, yes.  Heaven forfend, that anybody should deploy aimless violence in pursuit of unrealistic political goals.

All Necessary Measures

"Left open, as well, was the question of how the allies could justify airstrikes on Colonel Qaddafi’s forces around Surt if, as seems to be the case, they enjoy widespread support in the city and pose no threat to civilians". - NYT, 28th March

Yes, you do have to wonder about that.  If only there was some kind of mechanism by which proxies could interrogate the authorities on questions of war and legality, then transmit any information thus acquired to the general public, perhaps via the exchange of currency for printed reports or even provided free of charge in electronic form.

Whatever.  I, uh, hate to judge before all the facts are in... It's beginning to look like, uh, General Ripper exceeded his authority. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Man Has Only One Look, For Christ's Sake!

I find it astonishing that to this day, one of the most common criticisms of the UK's tiny anti-war movement is that they’re reflexively opposed to any British military wheezes, and that this in some way reflects badly on them.

It's hardly as if there aren't any other criticisms that can be thrown.  I could suggest a few myself, and yet it seems to me that knee-jerk opposition to whatever bombing campaign, invasion or occupation is under discussion at any given time is their most endearing trait.

I mean, can anyone think of another area of government policy that has fucked up as badly as our recent wars?  Can anyone suggest a policy that has exploded in our face so publicly and so undeniably, this many times, and hasn’t been axed?

Not only do they fail to achieve their basic aims, they cause actual, long-lasting grievous harm.  If road traffic regulations were causing fifty-car pile-ups every other day, or if the NHS were horribly botching 80% of surgical procedures, they’d be scrapped in seconds.  Anyone opposing their immediate, fiery destruction would be instantly denounced as a psychopath, and any politican trying it would probably lose a popularity contest to the Yorkshire Ripper.

And yet, here we are again. I don't see any need to reiterate in depth the long list of disasters that have befallen our military endeavours over the years, and yet - only 13 MPs voted against the use of force in Libya, after a decade in which US-UK involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan has led to a bodycount so vast that we’re afraid to tally it.  Maybe they're all privy to a plan that I'm not, or something.

The coalition can’t decide who’s in charge, FFS, and it’s blatantly obvious that they can’t even agree what they’re trying to achieve or how they’re going to go about achieving it. They can't agree upon whether Gaddafi is fair game or inviolate.  We still don't have much of a clue who the Libyan rebels actually are, and if there's a sunset clause in resolution 1973, I'll be damned if I can see it.  How long are we prepared to continue enforcing this no-fly zone, and are we prepared to escalate even further if it's ineffective?  Have any UK government ministers given us halfway satisfactory answers to any of these questions?

Still, maybe they deserve another chance to prove that exploding the hell out of people in pursuit of a vaguely-defined goal will deliver. After all, what could go wrong?

Honestly. I thought that pretty much the only good thing that came out of the catastrophes of the last decade was a general awareness that war is a Big Deal; a last resort, an option that we don’t use lightly. Now it turns out that we don’t even have that, and that we're still primed to go off like Two-Push Charlie the nineteen-year-old porno addict in a lapdancing club when somebody whispers airstrikes.

I really hope that I'm wrong about all this stuff.  I hope I'm back here in two weeks going Wow, I didn't know that you could set up a people's parliament that fast.

I hope this latest bombs away, fingers crossed effort finally, somehow, works.  My ideal outcome - as it was in Iraq and Afghanistan - would be an outbreak of peace and amity across the region for decades, coupled with the near-total extermination of the idea of international intervention as a political possibility in all but the direst need.

Hell, I'd take just the peace and amity if it was offered and never mind the exterminating part, but I figure that, while I'm asking for the moon on a stick, I might as well aim high.

(Cribbed from a slightly more heated comment of mine at Crookit Timber).

Thursday, March 17, 2011

You Wait Years For a War, And Then (x) Come Along At Once

The United Nations Security Council is due to meet in New York to discuss action in Libya.  Western countries want a no-fly zone to halt the advance of forces loyal to Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi...  (Sources) suggest that if the resolution is passed, air attacks on Col Gaddafi's forces by the British and French air forces could begin within hours. It is not thought that the US would be involved in the first strikes, but the British and French are likely to get logistical backup from Arab allies. 

Holy shit.  Looks like they're actually going to do this thing, the nutters that they are.  The French, by the way, are positively straining at the leash on this one.

Well, most of you lot will have an advantage over me - by the time you read this, we'll know whether the resolution passed or not.  God knows how this one will pan out, but I will say this: you have to admire the balls on our leaders.  You'd think western governments could accumulate Nectar points for wars, given the number of conflicts they want to buy into at once.

If it passes, we'll have to assume that, contrary to all appearances, there is actually some kind of plan beyond Bombs > ?? > Freedom.  I certainly hope so, since that was the extent of the plan last time round.

If it fails, we'll be left to wonder why it was proposed in the first place.  There's no political gain in forcing the Chinese or the Russians to veto a resolution, after all.

I find it deeply alarming that so many of the people involved in pushing for this - Cameron, Clinton, John Kerry - are those who have spent the last eight years telling us all how cretinous their predecessors were for miring their countries in ultraviolent bloodbaths.  Clinton and Kerry both based their presidential campaigns around the fact that they'd been duped and outwitted by the most famously dense POTUS in American history, FFS.

More alarming still is the fact that, for weeks now, our papers have been filled with leaders and opinion pieces saying things like We must not let the fact that our previous interventions have been murderous catastrophes prevent us from jumping into Libya with both feet.  When you consider that half of those people have spent much of the decade backing away from the Iraq disaster like it was an angry Bengal tiger on viagra, while somehow also insisting that Al Qaeda ate their homework...  It's not encouraging, really.

Difficult to say what consensus has developed, given the usual media riot of information - I've been told that Libya is 1774, or 1848; 1939, 1956 and 1968, not to mention 1989 and 2003.  It looks a hell of a lot like 2011 to me, but maybe all those figures just have me confused.

You'll know already that I'm no military strategist, beyond some vicious PS3 skills and a lot of tedious books.  Quite what the plan is I can't guess, because at the moment it appears to be halting the offensive on Benghazi, and then.... something.  I do hope it's not And then the people will rise up, because there are thousands of dead Highlanders who could tell you exactly how that plan usually works out. Plus, it's not at all clear who the people actually are in this case, especially since Libya has its share of jihadist lunatics, but I guess we're about to find out*.

Well, fingers crossed for a quick, super-effective campaign that luckily takes out Gaddafi and all of his leading henchmen en masse.  As with Iraq, you can only cross your fingers and hope that it somehow turns into flowers and democracy, rather than a ten-year commitment to blowing shit up for no discernable reason.

If this one drags on for months, with the usual fuck-ups, massacres and unforeseen disasters, then we might as well paint those warplanes white with a flashy red cross on the underside, for the impression it'll make on the locals and their touchy neighbours. 

Update!  Bombs away.  Hope everyone enjoys the killcams.

*The good news here is that, as soon as it kicks off, the Soldiers for Allah's Glorious Whatever are usually the first to get themselves pointlessly killed, charging tanks with AK-47s and so on.  That's what happened in Iraq at least, and... Oh, shit.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Two Testicles In The Same Ballbag

I’m happy for people to make valid points, but if the only response is IRAQ IRAQ IRAQ!!! – then frankly one should join Stop the War coalition and hang out with Lyndsey German. That is about the extent of your political nous... I’m not saying Dqsquared, FR, you’re doing this. But you’re mighty close to it. - Sunny at Liberal Conspiracy, on the proposed No-Fly Zone over Libya. 

Let me put it like this, shall I?  In 2001, George W. didn't stand up and tell the world that he intended to send American troops to Afghanistan for the purposes of miring the US military in an unwinnable, decade-long bloodbath.

Nor did Tony Blair tell Parliament in 2003 that the UK was going to Iraq to destroy half of Fallujah and instigate a horrific sectarian war conducted with bombs and power drills.

Shall we find other examples?  Bill Clinton didn't, say, lay out detailed plans to bomb the Chinese embassy in Belgrade; Lyndon Johnson never announced plans for a "Dead Society" in Vietnam, and the Soviet politburo didn't cheerfully decide to accelerate the collapse of the USSR by invading Afghanistan in 1979.  The army rangers expeditionary force didn't go to Mogadishu to get into a firefight with an army of crazy Somali teenagers, and US General David Petraeus does not meet with Hamid Karzai and tell him that he plans to repeatedly murder his citizens and execute his cousins.

And similarly, David Cameron is not calling for a catastrophic, bloody and unproductive intervention in Libya that slips and slides into, say, a generalised air assault on Tripoli, or to a ten-year commitment to containing a victorious Gaddafi.

I don't hallucinate grand, over-arching Neo-Conservative schemes to rule the universe.  My argument here and elsewhere has always been that most of the western military adventures of the last few decades have been blundering, ham-fisted and incredibly destructive, not because we are evil, but because we are heedless and not a little stooopid.  We are quick to identify the wounds inflicted by tyrants and despots, yet slow to recognise the horribly violent reality of our attempts to stop the bleeding.

There's a scene at the end of Black Hawk Down where the commander of US forces walks into his base's surgery and is overwhelmed by the horrific injuries his men have sustained in their attempts to arrest a Somali warlord.  Feeling impotent and trying to do something useful to help, he grabs a handful of rags and tries to mop up a pool of blood on the floor, but only succeeds in smearing it around. 

That's us, that is.  This is why I strongly advise against intervening in Libya - our track record of ending violence and restoring order is dreadful.  In particular, I suggest that we avoid bombing any further countries until our recent ratio of wars won to wars lost rises to at least one out of two.

And now, check the discussions going on here and here.  I know I come off as a smug smartarse almost all the time - it's intentional, on occasion - but I think there are very, very serious questions to be answered about the no-fly zone proposals.  Do we have any good reasons to believe it will work?  Have we planned for contingencies, such as a swift victory for Gaddafi or the capture of NATO personnel?  How long do we intend to operate an NFZ and how likely is it that we'll be forced by unforeseen circumstances to move to aggressive actions against the Gaddafi regime?   Is this a practical plan with achievable goals?

Practical plans are one thing.  Half-arsed military wheezes designed to make westerners feel better about the awful things they're seeing on their televisions are another entirely.  Which is this?

The answer - Anyone who opposes intervention is joyfully urinating into the pleading faces of Gaddafi's victims, and is a big Commie who would probably have appeased Hitler.  The idea that we should refrain from bombing other countries is the lunatic conceit of a much despised political fringe.  That should set alarm bells ringing, I think.

Well.  If nothing else, it's a stark reminder of an unpleasant truth - that warmaking isn't an issue of left or right, and that lefties get just as hard for dubious bombing campaigns as right wingers do, depending on the issue.  The justifications are identical and the red-baiting arguments against dissenters indistinguishable.

When it comes to killing people and blowing shit up in pursuit of unclear aims, in short, wingnut lunatics and self-declared liberals are two testicles in the same ballbag.  I don't know why I find this surprising, after all these years, but I do.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Jobs For About Twenty Percent Of The Boys

Oh, ha ha, oh yes, go tell it on the mountain, brother...
“The fact is there are around half a million vacancies in the economy at the moment,” he said. "It’s not the absence of jobs that’s the problem. It’s the failure to match the unemployed to the jobs there are.” - Iain Duncan Smith MP, 6th March 2011

"The total number of unemployed people increased by 44,000 over the quarter to reach 2.49 million, according to the Office for National Statistics". - BBC News, 16th February 2011 
Now, I appreciate that politicians can't tactically think through everything that they say, and that they're much more susceptable to gotchas! than those in lower-profile careers.  Really, though, how bloody hard is it to subtract half a million from two and a half, without producing a ridiculous result like "zero"? 

At a time when there are five people unemployed for every available job* and the UK government is actively cracking down on the workless, why announce that the lack of jobs isn't the problem?  I suppose it's quicker and easier than going door to door telling the unemployed to fuck off in person, but it does look a little crass.

Still, you have to admire the great, gleaming brass balls on Duncan Smith.  Recall, the Tories have been ostentatiously rejoicing for months over the burgeoning bodycount in their Jihad on public sector employees.

There's probably no need to repeat this, but unemployment is a catastrophe for most working people, and not just in the short term.  Even when times are good, it can take years just to claw your way back to a similar position, and that's assuming you can find a job that isn't the type of temp tossoff of a four-month post on a fuck-you-buddy contract that hundreds of thousands get by on. 

I could go into one of my tirades about the financial crisis here, but will resist and merely note that David Cameron's great plan for national salvation is to tut-tut the banks and horsewhip regulators and bureaucrats.  Sharp-eyed readers may notice that this is identical to the tactic that dropped us into the crapper in the first place, but no doubt it'll perform miraculously this time.

Anyway, in toto - Iain Duncan Smith tells the unemployed that their inability to find a job is unrelated to a massive jobs deficit, in the middle of an intentional public sector bloodbath; Cameron kisses up to bosses and kicks down on employees.

Well, fuck it - say what you like about disability outreach multi-ethnic lesbionics officers, but not a one of them ever exploded a trillion dollars out of existence and bankrupted half a planet.  If any of them did, I doubt that many Prime Ministers responded by finding new ways to publicly tongue them.

Tories, really.  I do wonder whether the likes of IDS are aware of how vicious and vacuous they sound, and I certainly wonder what else they could do to humililate and grind down the unemployed.

Maybe Duncan Smith could make them wear fetish gear to sign on, or text them photos of his withered genitals.  Maybe posting them each a turd in a box would suffice, but you imagine that the Tory backbenches would probably see that as an unforgiveable giveaway to the undeserving.

*Note that when I say "job", I don't mean "well-remunerated and fulfilling career opportunity".

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Super Army Soldiers

God love the SAS, really.  Super-soldiery is a tough job and I'm glad they're around in case any embassies are seized by nutters who need silent perforating.  Wouldn't do without 'em.

But really. The most famous SAS escapade I'm aware of is Bravo Two Zero, in which a squad of SAS men are helicoptered into hostile territory; get lost, and then get captured.  Sure, there was some wham-bang action in it, yet you'll notice the Keystone Kops undertones.  Arrive; get lost, captured.

Now, compare and contrast - SAS-backed Libyan diplomatic mission ends in humiliation.
A British diplomatic effort to reach out to Libyan rebels has ended in humiliation as a team of British special forces and intelligence agents left Benghazi after being briefly detained.  The six SAS troops and two MI6 officers were seized by Libyan rebels in the eastern part of the country after arriving by helicopter four days ago.
Jesus.  If an attempt to establish a basic relationship between the UK government and the Libyan rebels goes this well, you have to wonder how awesome it would've been with warplanes and airstrikes.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

These Red Barrels Filled With Highly Explosive Chemicals Are Vital To The War Effort
by Colonel Mael Radec, 7th Helghan Army

Faster, you fools!  The hated Interplanetary Strategic Alliance will soon attack the Imperial Palace, and we must prepare fortified defensive positions and then place lots of red barrels filled with volatile chemicals next to them.

You up there, in the machine gun nest!  Do you have a clear field of fire?  Excellent.  Short, controlled bursts, soldier, and do not flinch from your duty! And also, put one of these a garishly-coloured containers filled with highly flammable rocket propellant in the centre of your position.

Do not question my orders!  I will have you whipped for your insolence!  How can we expect to defeat the approaching ISA force without needlessly distributing a surfeit of strategically-placed high explosives?  The very idea is ridiculous. 

Our orders are clear.  Emperor Visari has decreed that this time and this place - this is where the ISA's dreams of conquest will be shattered by my iron fist.  This is where the invader will be turned back; where he will taste the bitter poison of his final defeat.  This is where the ISA will learn that Helghan... Our beloved Helghan belongs to the Helghast.

And he will also learn that barrels filled with combustible chemicals tend to explode with great force when they are shot at.

Do not fear, my brothers!  Our will is implacable and our courage unbreakable.  Our arc turrets will tear the enemy to pieces and crush his morale, and the large red barrels placed around them in direct line-of-sight of the enemy will provide extremely dangerous and potentially destructive protection from their feeble weaponry.

Here they come!  To your posts, my brothers, and fight like lions!

Now, to find a suitable vantage point, to observe proceedings.  I must find something to stand upon...

Setting An Example For Supporters

Celtic 61% Rangers 39%
Attempts on target
Celtic 4 Rangers 1
Attempts off target
Celtic 11 Rangers 0
Celtic 5 Rangers 0
Celtic 15 Rangers 23
Yellow cards 
Celtic 3 Rangers 7
Red cards 
Celtic 0 Rangers 3

All of this proves that both halves of the Old Firm are as bad as each other, apparently, and that we need to be harshly dealt with.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The Options, The Options

The Government has signalled that the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya - to protect the civilian population from Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's brutal crackdown - could go ahead without the backing of the United Nations. - PA
Altogether now with Comrade Blade as we say for the umpteenth time - Some. Motherfuckers. Are Always. Trying. To Ice-Skate. Uphill. 

I'm not overly alarmed about the prospect of our armed forces laying some kind of epic whizzbang smackdown on Gaddafi's goons.  Since at least the Falklands, successive British governments have loved nothing so much as  fondling their powerful weapons systems, with the frequency and urgency of Fifty Cent on a vodka Red Bull and Viagra binge.

This relentless stroking and rearranging and tucking and jerking appears to be both reassuring and endlessly encouraging. It's done with the all the conscious thought that the ordinary human being devotes to breathing and blinking.  It seems to me that, in practical terms, Britain's lacks the capability to seriously impede Gaddafi with our much-reduced and overstretched military, and others agree...
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed David Cameron's call for plans to be drawn up for a no-fly zone, saying that the idea was "superfluous".

Make of that what you will, Davey, but I a-reckon that there Russkie's sayin' how we ain't got no damn balls.

Undaunted, our Prime Minister - who, let's recall, strolls past Churchill's imposing jowls every day en route to his dippy eggs and soldiers - clearly thinks that "exerting pressure" might be a useful move.
After Mr Cameron's dramatic announcement on Monday in the Commons that he had ordered military commanders to begin planning for no-fly zone, officials sought to play down suggestions that action was imminent.
Woof woof, growl bark woof.

Nonetheless, let's not forget that just because we're incapable of interposing ourselves in Libya's strife, that doesn't mean that our nutty cousins couldn't do so on our behalf.  Our psycho Auntie Hillary reminds us that "no option (is) off the table", which is the standard US response to the question Are you about to do something utterly deranged and terrifyingly insane in the Middle East? 

I have to say that, if I was Barrack Obama, I wouldn't leave all those options sitting around on some table for just anyone to pick up and start waving around after a hard night on the Mai Tais.  I'd lock those options away in a nice, sturdy cabinet so that my underlings couldn't go optioning-up on foreign dictators when they got a bit pissed and ornery.

Anyway, we'll find out soon enough whether we plan on barking all day or biting.  Readers will know how wise I think the second option is, for a variety of reasons that I won't reiterate here, so let's just say this.  While the humanitarian aims of any operations in Libya may seem wonderfully obvious and noble to us, they're unlikely to be seen that way across the rest of the planet. The locals' attitude, after all, may not be quite so charitable and forgiving as ours.

Let's do the maths once more here, for clarity.  In the past decade, Britain and/or the Americans have either bombed, invaded and/or occupied Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia; our wacky allies have bombed Lebanon, Syria and Gaza, and the United States also maintains military bases in Bahrain, Israel, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

You can assess that using whatever justifications and euphemisms you like, but any major campaign against Libya is going to be a hard, hard sell to the UN as disinterested humanitariansm, even if it's exactly that.  Assuming we're bothering with the formalities this time, that is.

Still, the British government, eh?  All the memory capacity of a geriatric goldfish in a body filled with adventuresome spirit and a few hundred bloody bulletholes.  What a plucky bunch we are.