Boiling a Frog

Last Sunday George Bush gra­ciously flew into the UK for a final offi­cial vis­it before he steps down as pres­id­ent in Janu­ary next year. PM Gor­don Brown looked dis­tinctly uncom­fort­able at their joint press con­fer­ence, par­tic­u­larly when he had to announce that the UK would con­tin­ue to sup­port US mil­it­ary adven­tur­ism in the Middle East by send­ing yet more troops out there.

Of course, over the years many mil­lions of us opposed these illeg­al wars, but to no avail. This was the last oppor­tun­ity for peace pro­test­ers in the UK to vent their feel­ings towards Bush. The police respon­ded in an increas­ingly heavy-handed way, pen­ning the peacen­iks up, beat­ing inno­cent people around the head for no reas­on, and call­ing in the armoured riot police.

One friend of mine said that they were stand­ing there play­ing protest songs when sud­denly a wall of Rob­ocop lookalikes appeared and began to advance on them. My friend, a seasoned act­iv­ist, had nev­er seen any­thing quite like it; even he was unnerved. Anoth­er decided to make a stand. Well, to be exact, he lay down at their feet, pro­tec­ted only by Solomon his trusty Peace Dog.

Des­pite all this, the police per­sisted in blam­ing the pro­test­ers. Deputy Assist­ant Com­mis­sion­er Chris Allis­on announced that the Met would hold an enquiry and said: “We are ser­i­ously dis­ap­poin­ted by the irre­spons­ible and crim­in­al action of those who have chal­lenged police….”

Allis­on then went on to make a state­ment that chilled my heart: he said that the protest could have been used as a “cov­er” for ter­ror­ists tar­get­ing George Bush.

So this is what it has come to. Many intel­li­gent com­ment­at­ors over recent years have said that politi­cians and police use the threat of ter­ror­ism to gain more and more dra­coni­an powers. Time and again we have seen inno­cent people stopped for no good reas­on under Sec­tion 44 of the Ter­ror­ism Act. Infam­ously, this Act was also used to throw 87 year old Wal­ter Wolfgang out of a Labour Party con­fer­ence for heck­ling Jack Straw. Police can even arrest you now purely to ascer­tain your identity.

But for a seni­or police­man to claim that viol­ence is accept­able against peace cam­paign­ers as they might be har­bour­ing ter­ror­ists is one step bey­ond. The tac­tics the US army has used so dis­astrously on the streets of Bagh­dad have now been impor­ted to the streets of Westminster.

I have been say­ing for a long time that the laws are already in place for the UK to be defined as effect­ively a police state. The only reas­on that this is not yet obvi­ous to all is because these laws are not applied more widely. But per­haps we are see­ing the first signs of this now.

Where will this end? The Ger­man people did not just wake up one day in 1939 and find that they lived under a fas­cist régime. The pro­cess was slow, and the erosion of demo­cracy incre­ment­al. The vast major­ity was not even aware of what was hap­pen­ing to their coun­try until it was too late.

They say that if you put a frog in cold water, and then gradu­ally heat up the pot, the frog can­not detect the change in tem­per­at­ure fast enough and will sit there boil­ing to death. This, I fear, is what is hap­pen­ing to our democracy.


Iran Threat — First the Spooks, now the Politicians

As I pos­ted on on 7 May, Israeli intel­li­gence is claim­ing it has new intel­li­gence that proves the recent US Nation­al Intel­li­gence Estim­ate wrong in its assess­ment of the nuc­le­ar threat posed by Iran.

Mossad claims to have sol­id intel­li­gence that proves Iran is still try­ing to devel­op a nuc­le­ar mil­it­ary cap­ab­il­ity. There have been recent high-level talks about this between the intel­li­gence agen­cies of the US, UK and Israel.

A report in The Guard­i­an today now indic­ates that the politi­cians are fol­low­ing suit. Israeli Prime Min­is­ter, Ehud Olmert, is set to meet Pres­id­ent Bush today to dis­cuss the threat from Iran. It would not sur­prise me if the US soon announces that it has proof of Iran’s nuc­le­ar intent, and tries to push for anoth­er a “pre-empt­ive”, and highly illeg­al, attack.

The (Il)legal Road to War

Yet anoth­er art­icle has appeared about the mess that is the wars in Afgh­anistan and Iraq. Max Hast­ings, writ­ing in the Daily Mail yes­ter­day, described how our sol­diers in Afgh­anistan feel that the con­tin­ued con­flict is point­less if there is no clear polit­ic­al strategy to resolve the situation.

The Brit­ish army is over­stretched, appar­ently at the behest of the USA. Accord­ing to the art­icle, our mil­it­ary badly needs to redeploy both nor­mal troops and the SAS from Iraq to Afgh­anistan, but the US is unwill­ing to allow this to hap­pen for polit­ic­al reas­ons. The Amer­ic­ans also appear to be mak­ing shame­less use of the SAS.

So, let’s remind ourselves of how we got into this mess. At an inform­al meet­ing with Bush in 2002, Blair uni­lat­er­ally com­mit­ted this coun­try to sup­port the Amer­ic­an inva­sion of Iraq. Without the sup­port of Blair, Bush could not have pre­ten­ded that he had a mean­ing­ful inter­na­tion­al coali­tion to invade Iraq.

Hav­ing made this prom­ise, Blair needed to deliv­er. Intel­li­gence mater­i­al, rather than being used to inform policy mak­ing, was manip­u­lated to fit around pre-determ­ined decisions. This was sum­mar­ised clearly by the then head of MI6, Sir Richard Dear­love, in the notori­ous leaked “Down­ing Street Memo”, in which he is quoted as say­ing that the intel­li­gence and facts were being fixed around the policy.

Fol­low­ing on from this came the Septem­ber Dossier, which not only placed undue emphas­is on the claim that WMD could be launched against Brit­ish interests in 45 minutes, but also the fake intel­li­gence that Sad­dam was try­ing to pro­cure urani­um from Niger. And finally, we had the Dodgy Dossier of Feb­ru­ary 2003, based largely on a 12 year old PhD thes­is culled from the inter­net, but which also con­tained nug­gets of raw intel­li­gence from MI6. Inter­est­ingly, it has been estab­lished by the For­eign Affairs Select Com­mit­tee in par­lia­ment that Blair did not have pri­or writ­ten per­mis­sion from MI6 to pub­lish this intel­li­gence, which leaves him wide open to pro­sec­u­tion under Sec­tion 1(1) of the 1989 Offi­cial Secrets Act.

These are the false asser­tions that inex­or­ably took this coun­try to war. But even if these claims had been true, aggress­ive war is illeg­al under both inter­na­tion­al and Brit­ish law. A raft of legis­la­tion pro­hib­its our coun­try enga­ging in any mil­it­ary action except in self-defence:

Just Foreign Policy Iraqi Death EstimatorThe Gen­er­al Treaty for the Renun­ci­ation of War (Kel­logg-Bri­and Pact)
The United Nations Charter
The Nurem­burg Judgment
The Nurem­burg Principles
The Rome Stat­ute of the Inter­na­tion­al Crim­in­al Court
The UK’s Inter­na­tion­al Crim­in­al Court Act 2001

The Iraq and Afghan wars are unwinnable and illeg­al. It is time for the people of the UK to inform them­selves of the laws of war and demand that they be upheld. We are all equal under the law – even the former Prime Min­is­ter. Every day we delay res­ults in the deaths of more of our ser­vice­men and of yet more inno­cent people in the Middle East.