Hearts and minds #3539

The Coalition is still pursuing a ‘hearts and minds’ strategy in Iraq. Not one of ‘impressing Iraqi civilians with our decency and respect for their lives’, admittedly, but one of ‘slicing Iraqis’ hearts and minds into small pieces with artillery shells‘.

(short link summary: the Americans sent in helicopter gunships to destroy a crippled and abandoned armoured car. Dozens of civilians including children were standing round the armoured car at the time, because it was an interesting thing to look at. The helicopter gunships opened fire anyway. Journalist Mazen Tomeizi was one of the people killed, while filming around 70 metres from the armoured car).

I’d like to believe that the airmen responsible were acting counter to their orders and will be court-martialled and suitably punished. But we know from countless other unpunished civilian-slaughtering incidents that this is more like official policy… actually, that’s unfair: the strategy is more like unimaginably clueless incompetence than deliberate policy, not that that makes much difference to the dead and wounded.

Whatever. If this is what we’re fighting for, what’s the fucking point?

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They’re back

Good news, everyone: Sarah Justanotherfalsealarm is back from her summer of no blogging with lots of interesting stuff on queerness and pop culture, while Michael Brooke has moved from posting twice a week to posting four times a day.

Read both, and write a full report below comparing and contrasting them [25 marks].

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Down with TV

For the first time in about a month, this evening I had time to watch TV at the time when some good programmes were on. So I turned my TV on to catch the interesting-sounding programme on Jewish comedians, only to be met by a snowstorm with green lines superimposed on it.

None of the TV’s controls have any effect; nor does removing the aerial – overall, it seems to be entirely fucked. It’s 13 years old, and cost less than £100 when new, so I’m not really annoyed about the value for money side of things. But damn, why couldn’t I have found this out when there was only rubbish on?

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Colin speaks truth

I always used to like Colin Powell. Although hitching himself to the current corrupt bunch of bastards has permanently tarnished his reputation in my eyes (and I suspect, those of the world), it’s a relief to know that even he thinks the neocons are "fucking crazies".

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Lord Robertson is disgraceful

Last year, a member of the public claimed on the Sunday Herald’s online messageboard that George Robertson, former NATO secretary, was involved in a cover-up over the Dunblane massacre. This allegation was untrue and defamatory; as soon as Lord Robertson brought the post to the editor’s attention he deleted it and apologised.

Any reasonable person would have left it there – but being unpleasantly litigious, Lord Robertson didn’t. Instead, he sued the newspaper for libel, and won a five-figure sum in damages.

The UK’s libel laws are extremely stupid, for two reasons. The first is that their bias in the plaintiff’s favour means that the main beneficiaries are often crooks, conmen, cheats and liars; the second is that they spread liability far too far (retailers and distributors can be held liable for libels printed in publications that they sell).

Lord Robertson clearly doesn’t fall into any of the former categories, but it’s equally clear that his case falls into the latter. The Herald took all reasonable steps to remove the libel once it was printed, and he would have suffered no damage to his reputation had he accepted the newspaper’s apology.

While I can see that enough money to buy a house (in Scotland at least) for no work would be a pleasant thing to receive, and that Lord Robertson’s actions are in no way unlawful, his actions would appear mercenary and unnecessary in anyone. Since we hold public servants to higher standards than regular citizens, this makes matters significantly worse.

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Animal rights activists are stupid, throw ferrets at them

Animal rights terrorists are evil bastards, who’ve done far more harm in the UK – directly to individuals, even before you get onto the damage to scientific research – than Al Qaeda. But because they’re not brown-skinned and don’t wear funny clothes, they get far less negative media coverage than the Islamoloons.

So it’s excellent to see Guardian columnist Catherine Bennett pointing out that these guys are proper, nasty terrorists who should be stopped. I imagine the Guardian’s postbag tomorrow will be bulging with angry missives, letterbombs and ricin.

Laban Tall has more on what the crazy animal rights bastards do, while Tomodachi has an interesting digression on the meaning on terrorism (which also makes another insufficiently-made point: that the chances of any individual being a victim of Islamic terrorists are so small as to be worth ignoring).

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Can’t even fake it

If you’re going to forge documents from 1973 in an attempt to make George W Bush look even more crooked and dodgy than he already does, then you should go to the trouble of using a vintage typewriter. Or at least word process it using Courier with “autocorrect” turned off.

This isn’t exactly master forgery. It’s really, really basic stuff that I knew about when I was 11 (although admittedly I was trying to produce fake tenners on a colour laser printer using Christmas decorations as the metal strip when I was 11, so I may not be representative).

Perhaps this is why the Republicans fight so much dirtier than the Democrats: the latter just aren’t good enough liars to get away with it.

And yup, I know that there were proportionally-spaced typewriters in 1973, and that there is some evidence they may have been used in this case. Perhaps the strongest evidence is that surely no political goon could be quite as stupid as outlined above…

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Fair point, but

As Jack Straw endorses the Russians’ right to carry out pre-emptive strikes against terrorist bases, Norm wonders why we’re not willing to extend Israel the protection of these, err, norms.

At least, I assume that’s where his post is going. Although a problem with accepting pre-emption in international law is that if it applies to the US, Russia and Israel, then it would seem to apply to Iran and North Korea as well: the USA is substantially more of a threat to Iran than Saddam’s Iraq was to the USA, for example.

I don’t begrudge the USA, Russia or the Israelis the right to strike against imminent terror threats, assuming that they don’t abuse the right by making up lies and bombing whoever they like (this is something to which the Israelis are rather less prone than the other two actors).

One might claim some kind of ‘democratic force’ argument – that becuse Iran and North Korea are run by mad dictators, they don’t have pre-emption rights. This is also dubious: Russian democracy, never strong, seems to be petering out altogether; and US democracy also has certain flaws (did Fidel Castro really offer to send electoral observers to Florida this year, or did I imagine it?). Israel, once again, is fairly clean here.

Unless there’s another good theory I’ve missed, all we’re left with as a basis for world order is the ‘do what you like as long as America approves it’ club. And as any Latin American will happily tell you, “The USA is great. Also, I confess to being a communist. Please can you stop beating the soles of my feet now? Thank you, Mr CIA man.”

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After George W Bush’s inauguration, the Onion published an op-ed titled “Our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over”. Someone has updated this by adding links to terrible things promised by the satirical Dubya and delivered by the real one…

(via Nick Barlow. Also, vote Kerry).

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