The Puzzle of MH17

I have been trying to get my head around what actually happened when flight MH17 was blown down over rebel held areas in the Ukraine. It is hard for me to understand the motivation that any side in the conflict has for bringing down a civilian airliner carrying passengers far above the war zone. such an act would bring worldwide universal condemnation and would bring such reprisals as would make the angels weep. 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.

Desmond Tutu Is Right – We Cannot be Selective about Justice

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is a good man who has won the Nobel peace prize (one of the Nobel Committee’s better decisions) and who is not afraid to speak his mind. There are many offensive things to the good, as well as many pleasant and happy things. One of the most offensive things is hypocrisy. Mr Tutu, who last month refused to share a speaking platform with Tony Blair, has now suggested that Mr Blair and Mr Bush should stand trial at the International Criminal Court for starting the war against Iraq. Continue reading

The Fashion of War

There seems to be a fashion in the matter of war. Sometimes war is in fashion and at other times war is out of fashion. Right now war is fashionable, but it is possible that the fashion will change. Fashions in war usually do change after a few years of futility, which futility can only be seen with the wisdom of hindsight. Continue reading

Mr Bush and his water board

Mr Bush has written his book. In the grand tradition of underpaid public servants this former President of the United States is publicising his book by having parts of it serialised in newspapers. His Presidency in my view was characterised by cowardice and bullying. He allowed himself to be hidden from sight when the Twin Towers were blown up, until he was advised that it was safe to emerge. This is not the action of a brave man. He also punished Iraq for something that Iraq did not do, claiming that Iraq was involved in the Twin Towers and owned threatening but unspecified weapons of mass destruction. Continue reading

Alistair Campbell is upset

It is quite astonishing how politicians and their propaganda experts feel that when their vice or folly is exposed, it is done so purely because their enemies wish to humiliate them, rather than for reasons which are about the quality of what has been done. Continue reading

Should Mr Blair be President?

No one quite knows precisely what the job of President of the European Council will be or into what it will develop. Theoretically it is no more than a Chairmanship. Being a Chairman is an important job and it is influential; agendas are set, milestones are proposed and a Chairman must aim to achieve consensus among the members of the Council. Being a President is a different role. Not only do you set agendas but you formulate policy and lead others. I suspect that many politicians think that the Presidency of the Council will morph into a Presidency of Europe, and certainly that seems to be the thinking of the United Kingdom Government, who is touting Tony Blair for President of the European Council. Continue reading