The Wrong Thing for the Right Reason

Parliament in the United Kingdom has voted against the United Kingdom participating in punishment of the Syrian Government for the time being, I expect it was a case of many members doing the right thing for the wrong reasons but it has prevented the United Kingdom doing the wrong thing for the right reason. Now brave sailors in submarines five hundred miles from Syria will not bravely push buttons to launch Cruise missiles which may or may not hit the right targets or the wrong targets and explode. It seems that the United Kingdom will leave the honour of these actions to The United States of America and the Republic of France.

Ice in the Antarctic

The most dramatic and immediate evidence of climate change is to be found at the extremes of the planet. The ice at the poles and the conditions in the tropics show most vividly how our climate is changing. Tropics are increasingly becoming deserts and the poles are losing their ice cover. Continue reading

Words of War

Politicians are expert at using phrases which convey an general impression but no specific meaning. When they contemplate war or warlike activities these phrases which have half meanings or in some cases two or three possible meanings are used.  So we hear words which can mean different things to different people and words which mean different things to different people have almost no meaning at all.

These are the words of war:-

Weapons of mass destruction: virtually every weapon, from a bow an arrow to a nuclear bomb can be deployed as a weapon of destruction; mass is a relative term: the English archers at Agincourt wreaked mass destruction on the French army; the Lancaster bombers over Germany provided mass destruction as did the dam busters’ use of the bouncing bomb; napalm destroyed masses of people, as did the atomic bomb; the gassing of the marsh Arabs involved a weapon of mass destruction. the Zyklon gas used by the Nazis was a weapon of mass destruction. What is meant by “destruction” in this phrase? is it the destruction of many buildings or people or both? How many people killed constitutes mass destruction? is it three hundred, three thousand or three hundred thousand?

Compelling Evidence: compelling evidence is not irrefutable evidence neither is it evidence that holds up beyond reasonable doubt. Compelling is not a term of art but a subjective term; what one person regards as compelling may be dismissed by another person as not evidence at all.

Chemical Weapons: it is hard to know what are chemical weapons and what are not chemical weapons; clearly many regard depleted uranium munitions as chemical weapons but such munitions have been regularly used as has napalm, agent orange and other chemical type weapons without incurring the wrath of the world and with the use of such weapons being regarded as the use of chemical weapons by many nations.

Necessary Measures: there are calls to take necessary measures to protect the Syrian people but what are these necessary measures? Do they comprise bombing of Syrian army installations or the bombing of Syrian fighters or the invasion of Syria. I do not understand what is meant by protection if in the course of such protection many innocent lives are lost. It does not seem possible to me to allege that you are protecting a group of people when you cause them loss of life and injury?

A simple limited response: I do not understand what a simple limited response means; it cannot mean a bombing strike, because if it did those using the phrase would simply say “a bombing strike”. I do not understand the concept of a response in the context of bellicose actions. If a war crime has been committed the proper course of action is to catch and punish those responsible; talking in terms of a response gives the talker using that word almost unlimited wriggle room to subsequently define what he meant according to how matters worked out.

Military action that is legal, proportionate and focused on saving lives by preventing and deterring further use of Syria’s chemical weapons: The user of this phrase (h M Government) has not defined what constitutes military action. It could be bombing or invasion. The use of the word proportionate” is difficult in the context. Surely H M Government know what they mean and they should spell out what they mean so that people can decide for themselves whether the proposed course of action is proportionate. The use of these words simply hides the intentions, rather than communicates the intentions.

Collateral Damage: I know what this phrase means; it means the killing of innocents which as not the prime purpose of the military action that killed those innocents. The phrase disguises, or attempts to disguise, the fact that innocents have been killed.

Unlawful combatants: this phrase simple means the enemy, but is used to deny the enemy captured prisoner of war status, which status prevents ill treatment and torture.

We must always be suspicious of the motives of people who cannot or will not speak plainly and communicate accurately. Their motives are seldom honourable and good, and in making war the motives of people who want to make war must be honourable and good.

Chemical Weapons Used by the Western Democracies

The exotic foreign policy of the United Kingdom is about to become a great deal more exotic. Parliament has been recalled four days early in order to debate whether some kind of military action should be undertaken by the United Kingdom in Syria. The United States is also proposing some kind of military action as is France. They are concerned to prevent the use of chemical weapons in Syria. That is the stated concern and it has arisen because 355 people have died in Syria as a result of a chemical weapons attack. Continue reading

Watching the Civil War in Syria

There is a civil war in Syria. Millions have fled the country to escape death and injury. Thousands have been killed. Chemical weapons have been used. It seems that all sides in the civil war (there are more than two sides) are committing atrocities and war crimes against the civilian population. The Western democracies are talking of intervening in some way. Any intervention will not end the war and the atrocities. It may end the existing government of Syria, but there are many people who want to take over the government and ending the rule of one regime does not guarantee that the rule of the next regime will be better for the people of Syria. Continue reading

August Bank Holiday

Today is August Bank Holiday in England and Wales and Northern Ireland. It was one of the first statutory holidays created to give workers of all kinds a break from work while the weather was still warm.  It is a good day to rest from work as summer gradually comes to an end.

A Furniture Con Trick

Under the laws of the United Kingdom you are not allowed to make false claims to customers. There are strict rules about advertising a product at a sale price. If an item is described as being reduced it must be genuinely reduced.  Continue reading