Aug 042016
 

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over recent events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

Dictionary

The answers to the world’s problems have been right under our noses all this time. Not until we elected Teresa May to run UK plc did we find out there were so many ways to solve the world’s problems. Between May and Donald Trump – who has some very interesting means of making America and the whole world Great Again – I think we’re on the brink of world peace. More on that later, but get the champagne ready.

Firstly, apologies for the late running of this service. I’ve been on a journalism course in London for a few days, then I went on holiday.

The Centre for Investigative Journalism threw its annual summer school, which was for the most part very interesting.

There were some people from Bristol who started a newspaper and are selling shares in it. It’s a whole year old and a whole new way to get local communities involved in news. To Fred Wilkinson – maybe we should try something like that in Aberdeen? Just a thought.

Anyway the highlight of the summer school was the Panama Papers. The men who received the Panama Papers leak and brought it to the world, Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer, gave a talk.

It was kind of boring though – unless you’re interested in minor details like who is really running the world, who’s funding wars and drug production, which countries are starving their citizens while their elite are buying London penthouses, and what companies launder dirty money.

If you for some reason do care about money flowing through a German law firm in Panama to oppressive regimes, shady billionaires and known criminals, and care about this leak which saw prime ministers (Iceland) resign, further FIFA scandal, Putin and his money-moving pals named, this may be of some passing interest.

Obermaier and Obermayer must be pretty lazy journalists; they’ve not even read all the information leaked to them, and instead are just letting anyone look into the leaked documents here.  It’s as if they wanted to share information or something.  Coming in at 11.5 million documents spanning 40 years and still growing, it might take a few more weeks for them to read everything.

Why bother with dusty old shell companies and billions of pounds when you could be out there looking for a Pokemon Squirtle? For one thing, the Panama Papers database shows there is more than just beauty, glamour and wit to be found in Manhattan’s Trump Towers.

Someone operates out of Donald Drumpf’s building a wee company called Concord International Investments. This has a wee related company, Concord Consultant Services Ltd. This small enterprise, operating from the British Virgin Islands, has some interesting directors. There’s Sheik Aly Hafiz Wahba (apparently a Saudi minister), and, er. the Isis Investment Group.

The Concord lot are tied into a company called Barfield which operates down under.

Also this summer, I’ve been trying to read up on science a bit.

Its registered address is shared with a whole host of interesting nominee companies.

I could go on – and will do if I can ever unravel it all.

But I think we can agree on one thing: even if Mr Drumpf is not directly involved in any of these companies operating out of his building (let’s face it, you might not even know who operates out of your flagship premises if you’re a mere real estate moghul), it shows that there is no bias against people from other cultures in the Trump world. Well done Mr T.

‘What do any of these companies and people do?’ you might ask. I’m sure they must do something more than transfer money around from place to place (and let’s face it, that’s hard work itself as we all know). If I ever find out, I’ll let you know. So, hunt your Pokemon by all means. Perhaps someone out there however might like to spend some time chasing down the rich and powerful using the Panama Papers leak. Just a thought.

Also this summer, I’ve been trying to read up on science a bit. It must be getting more important and popular, as there are more TV-related science programmes on now.

Did you know some people think the world is even more than 6,000 years old? I read this week that the woolly mammoths might have died from thirst. It seems when the climate was changing, their drinking water supplies started to dwindle and get contaminated by all the critters trying to get water. They all competed for the dwindling water, trampling the existing resources such as food plants into the ground, and there were too many of them to eat and drink in a world which was changing.

I mean, it’s kind of interesting to read about that kind of stuff I guess – but it’s not as if we can really learn much which is useful to us now about overpopulation in a species using up its food and other resources to the point of no return. And that brings me back to how the world’s been saved and why we should be grateful.

Climate Change: (Old English proper compound noun) Outdated fashionable notion the earth, biodiversity, and life in general were under threat of some kind

Climate Change Problem Solved! Result!

Not even a month into her stewardship of the United Kingdom, Teresa May has in one fell (very fell) swoop fixed the climate change problem: she closed the former ‘Department for Energy and Climate Change’. 

we’re probably going to start using more coal and ‘shale gas extraction’

Sensibly, it’s now part of the much more important new entity ‘Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’.

I can’t tell you how happy I am.

Simple solutions to complex problems. Worried about Cimate Change? Answer: sweep it under the rug – or at least into another department which acknowledges business and energy are more important than the climate changing.

There are a few climate change denier deniers out there. They’ve had some hurtful words for our new PM such as:

“Stephen Devlin, an environmental economist at the New Economics Foundation (NEF), said the department’s abolition was a terrible move by our new Prime Minister”.

He said it appeared to signal “a troubling de-prioritisation of climate change by this government”.

“Tackling climate change is an era-defining challenge that must direct and determine what industries we develop, what transport infrastructure we construct, how we manage our land and what our diets look like. It requires a central co-ordinated strategy; if we leave it to the afterthoughts of other departments we will fail,” he said.

“This reshuffle risks dropping climate change from the policy agenda altogether – a staggering act of negligence for which we will all pay the price.”
– http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change-department-killed-off-by-theresa-may

But don’t let the alarmists worry you. It’s not as if there is any history of our Conservatives appeasing businesses, and if climate change were lucrative – sorry – important, we’d probably get round to doing something about it.

Instead we’re probably going to start using more coal and ‘shale gas extraction’. This is great, because it means more jobs. Furthermore, the article has over 800 comments from people calling climate change denier deniers ‘weirdos, cranks and lefties’ – so that’s any scientific or environmental campaigners’ told.

If you happen to look at statistics that show the world is warming at the same time our fossil fuel consumption is increasing, that the Maldives risk flooding (as many other places), that there are freak storm systems defying known patterns, then just remember – the world changes a lot, there are other things to think about (Pokemon, celebrity baking on ice). If there were a problem, Teresa May would be on it. So – rejoice! Problem solved.

Terrorism: (Modern international noun) The belief that violence and shock are the best means to win arguments, gain power and destroy opposition.

Terrorism – that’s so yesterday. We’re going to elect Donald Trump president, and he’s already itching to know why we just haven’t nuked the terrorists. With an incisive mind like that, should the unthinkable happen and he loses the election, we could always put him out as a diplomat. After all, talking tough is the only thing that’s respected, and we must stop being weak. Nothing says tough like dropping a nuclear bomb or two.

Once we let President Drumpf nuke a few of the terrorist strongholds (London, Paris, Tehran, Nigeria, Palestine, New York, Germany), then people will start behaving. No longer will we have people willing to die to exert control over the freedoms and behaviours of others. No, by then we’ll all be ruled by the Trump convention mentality and will conform if we know what’s good for us.

Women will stop all this feminist nonsense and realise the fulfilment they can have as being ‘a great piece of ass’ as Trump would say. Mexicans will dutifully stay put, and happily earn their pesos by sewing Trump neckties. The Chinese will stop ‘raping America’ economically and realise America is Great Again. Trump’s right: we’ve over 7,000 nuclear weapons and we’ve not used a single one. That’s hardly making good economic sense, is it?

The source for this claim is MSNBC news personality Joe Scarborough:

“Several months ago, a foreign policy expert went to advise Donald Trump,” Scarborough said.

“And three times he asked about the use of nuclear weapons — three times he asked. At one point, ‘If we have them, why can’t we use them?’”

The Trump camp dismisses this as untrue. Scarborough fair? Not to Trump supporters.

Time Magazine also disputes the claim Trump asked about using nukes. In a recent piece it suggested that he doesn’t want to use them. Here’s a quote:

“I will have a military that’s so strong and powerful, and so respected, we’re not gonna have to nuke anybody… I will have a military that’s so strong and powerful, and so respected, we’re not gonna have to nuke anybody,” he said, adding that he would be “amazingly calm under pressure.” Still, Trump told the magazine he wouldn’t get rid of the nuclear weapons because “other people have them” and are “unfortunately gaining more and more.” “It is highly, highly, highly, highly unlikely that I would ever be using them,” he added.” 

Well, if Trump says it’s ‘highly, highly, highly, highly unlikely’ that he’d ever nuke another country, that’s good enough for me. After all, he has proven time and again he’s a man of his word. If he does drop a bomb, we can not only be sure that the act will dissuade any further terrorism – we can be sure it will be the biggest, best, strongest, most respected bomb in the world.

With a Trump White House ensuring world peace by nuking some bad guys, and climate change abolished by Teresa May, I think a celebration is in order. I’ll either be in BrewDog having one or two, or in an underground bunker stockpiling water and Monsanto vegetable seeds.

Next week? If we are still here, more Panama Papers and local news.

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Sep 012011
 

By Jonathan Hamilton Russell.

In June of this year I  wrote an article on the situation in Libya called ‘Libya another Brutal Conflict’.
In it I suggested a way forward would have been via negotiations, which would include the expectation for fair elections run by the United Nations, the withdrawal of NATO and the use of UN peacekeepers.

Qaddafi would have been forced to face his opposition but in a non-bloody way. Only if such negotiations failed would military action be considered.

The mantra regarding the war on Iraq was ‘weapons of mass destruction’; this proved to be a lie. The mantra in relation t oLibya has been ‘the defence of innocent civilians’. This, as the conflict has escalated, has proved clearly not to be the real objective. Investigations by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and a UN commission headed by the legal scholar Cheri Bassioni found there was no evidence of the atrocity stories which were given as the reasons for NATO action.

Yet this was not listened to by our politicians and was not widely reported by the media. What has clearly happened is a mission of regime change which went far beyond the UN mandate. Such developments were opposed by the US Congress and never properly debated in our own Parliament.

Rather than protecting civilians, NATO weapons have inevitably killed them.

Their targets increasingly widened from attacking tanks that were moving towards Benghazi, to attacking all Libyan Military installations, to attacking any building that was seen as supporting the Gaddafi administration.

Inevitably there were civilian casualties. On the day of the rebel attack on Tripoli, more bombs were dropped than on any other day in NATO’s history. The rebels were also being supported and trained by troops from NATO countries, and as evidenced by the Sunday Times, some were Libyan exiles living in the UK. This has led to an even more bitter war between the ‘rebels and Kaddafi loyalists with disastrous human consequences.

The hospitals are not coping and Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are reporting human rights violations on all sides. Human Rights Watch consider that the evidence suggests that the old governments Khamis Brigade killed 45 detainees. The horrors of what happened to Kaddafi troops and the disappearance of all the medical staff at Abu- Salim hospital is just unfolding as are other atrocities, but these are only the most heavily reported incidents.

We never seem to learn the lesson of the horrors that war can bring.

Richard Seymour in the Guardian reported on Peter Bouckaert from Human Rights Watch findings that he had not identified one mercenary among scores of men being arrested and falsely labelled as such by journalists. Many Libyans are black but have been labelled as black mercenaries from Africa and led to racist incidents.

Qaddafi’s regime became increasingly oppressive over time

On top of this, much of the country’s infra-structure has been destroyed. The Libyan Transitional Council estimate it will take ten years to repair the damage done to the country’s infrastructure.

So what is the future for Libya? It is almost certain that Qaddafi will be eventually defeated, but how long that takes and at what continuing human cost is still to be seen. Worryingly, anyone supporting Qaddafi will not be seen as a civilian but as a supporter of a mad and dangerous dictator. The rebels are not a united force. The National Transitional Council has been recognised by over 40 foreign states; however, has it been recognised by the militias on the ground?

Abul Fatah Younes, the leader of the  Rebel army, was murdered by one of the Islamic militias and this in turn led to the sacking of the whole cabinet by Musta Abdul Jalil, the chairman of the National Transitional Government.

Will this Government be able to rule or will fighting continue between the various factions, in particular those aligned to a more Islamic agenda and those not? These groupings are now highly armed and as our policies did in Afghanistan, they could easily come back to bite western interests. Atiyha Abdl al Rahman, the deputy leader of Al-Qaida who was killed by US drones in Pakistan, was Libyan.

Qaddafi’s regime became increasingly oppressive over time. In his early years as a revolutionary leader, he was involved in pulling down prisons.  Being active himself over the years led to the atrocities that more recently took place of Islamists in Libyan prisons. Hopefully human rights will improve, but that has yet to be seen, and Libya was far from being the only country which has tortured and killed the more extreme Islamists.

Any new government will still have to find ways of dealing with Islamic groups and could end up being equally oppressive.

The Qaddafi regime was oppressive to its enemies, they did however have the highest social indicators in the Third World with better housing, health care and standards of living than in other Middle East and third world countries. As with Iraq these social strengths and the resulting effects on the countries well-being are sure to decline particularly if conflict continues.

Libya was not a country in debt, but it is now, and like us it will have to become beholden to the banks for money borrowed to rebuild the country. Who will own the huge reserves held in foreign banks which were there in part to deal with Libya’s future when the oil stocks have gone?

This has caused considerable indignation on the African continent.

Libya has historically produced 1.5 to 2 million barrels of oil a day. Qaddafi was hated by the west for nationalising Libyan oil and though he has more recently been co-operating with Western firms he has still been directing considerable investment into the economy and saving for its future.

Any new government will, unless clearly Islamic, be beholden to the West, and as such oil is almost certain to be obtained by the West more cheaply; the cost of oil on the markets has already gone down. Libya will also likely have military NATO bases for any future developments in the Middle East.

The poorer Libyans will, I suspect, be those who will be the most badly affected but others will gain and disparities in wealth will increase to the overall detriment of the country. Hopefully human rights will improve, but that has yet to be seen. Qaddafi was supportive of women’s involvement in society and was one of the reasons that he opposed so strongly the more extreme tenants of Islam and its supporters in Libya.

The future for women could go either way, but is certain to cause tension in the new Libya.

Qaddafi was instrumental in setting up the African Union and financially supported African infrastructure projects. The West, unless replaced by Chinese interests, will now have greater control over the African continent. However despite for instance South Africa supporting Resolution 1973 which led to intervention in Libya, their and other African countries attempts through the African Union to set up peace talks were knocked back. This has caused considerable indignation on the African continent.

overall spending on wars leads to fewer resources to be spent on other areas

Due to the way that NATO overstepped the UN resolution, there is now reluctance by many countries to do anything in Syria or the other Middle East countries. Damage has been done to International relations and the workings of the United Nations due to NATO’s actions.

Why have we, and why are we continuing to arm dictatorships in countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Syria, etc.  which are oppressive to their people? In fact, why are we arming any country? All armaments have the potential for use both between warring countries and on countries own citizens. Yet selling more arms is a key target of the present UK Government.

The selling of arms does lead to profit and work for those involved and money for Government. However overall spending on wars leads to fewer resources to be spent on other areas and in the United Kingdom, France and the United States it will lead to increased cuts in public services which will affect us all, but in particular the more vulnerable people in our society.

The United Nations was set up to try and stop wars between countries. Libya had not invaded another country.

The intervention was, however, based around the doctrine of  ‘the responsibility to protect’ following The Rwandan genocide. The way NATO has acted by clearly taking sides in Libya has brought this doctrine into disrespect. The press in the UK have in the main been heralding the success of the Libyan intervention, but if you dig deeper this can only be questioned.

The United Nations needs itself to have increased power to stop the manipulation that has clearly taken place around the Libyan conflict.

So what can we do?

  • We can protest. Stop the War and CND are holding an anti-war rally on October 8th to mark 10  years of  military intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Libya. The demonstrations against the Iraq war may not have stopped the war but they did shake the establishment and led in part to the downfall of Tony Blair
  • We can support the United Nations associations to help make this a stronger organisation that gets back to its original basis for existing
  • We can protest against our pension funds being invested in the arms trade as is in the case of Aberdeen City Councils pension fund.
  • Campaign Against the Arms Trade ( CAAT  ) will be holding their yearly demonstration on September 13th in London. ‘ Cut the Arms Trade not public services’. Please see:  Stop the War  or CAAT website.
Jun 102011
 

By  Jonathan Hamilton Russell.

The situation in Libya is complex and an understanding requires a historical perspective and the realisation that Libya is a tribal society which has many tribal and political interests. Gaddafi when he took power in Libya in 1969, in a bloodless coup, nationalised the oil and took it away from Western Control.

He used the money gained to invest in the social structure, i.e. health, education and social housing in Libya.

Gaddafi became involved in supporting’ Liberation’ wars in Africa and Ireland  and this along with the Lockerbie tragedy led to sanctions and to initial bombings by the US in 1986. Sanctions led to a decline in the wealth of Libya and In the late 90’s Gaddafi changed his policy to the West due to the effects of  these sanctions  and  to his even greater dislike of fundamentalist Islam in the form of Al Qaida and the Taliban. Libya was returned into the international fold and welcomed warmly by our own Prime Minister at the time Tony Blair.

Gaddafi admits that he has carried out human rights violations and torture on his opposition in particular to those linked to Al Qaida, to whom he is strongly opposed and for this he should, like any other abuser of human rights, be prosecuted. Al Qaida has had a strong following in Libya and Libyans were the largest grouping of fighters within Al Qaida in Iraq.

Gaddafi says he got his lead on the use of torture from the United States and if he is to be tried for human rights and war crimes so should lots of other national leaders and all those affiliated to NATO.

Gaddafi was instrumental in setting up the African Union and has helped in the development of infrastructure projects in Africa. According to the United Nations, Libya until the present conflict had the best social indicators in the Third World.  Gaddafi has promoted the equality of women and is opposed to the backward attitude of most of the Arab world in relation to their attitudes towards women. Gaddafi did instigate his own form of democracy very similar to Soviet Style Workers committees and had no formal position as head of state. In reality he has been at the head of the country and has increasingly been concerned about hanging on to power.

Gaddafi is a complex man who has done both good and bad but the media portrayal of an evil dictator is to say the least over simplistic This does not mean that his desire to hold onto power has not led to an over controlling and oppressive state but it does mean that our response to him should be more balanced particularly when you compare Libya to other regimes in the Middle East which are equally repressive but also have greater disparities in wealth. There have been reports of Gaddafi’s troops having been involved with rape in Misrata a common occurrence in war which is barbaric and unacceptable.

The United Nations staff, on the ground in Libya say there is no hard evidence of this. However a spokesperson from the International Court on war crimes say they have evidence that systematic rape is being used by the Gaddaffi regime. This clearly needs further investigation before any firm conclusion can be reached.

Libya is a tribal society and the West of the country has benefited more than the East.

The bombings were aimed at stopping a humanitarian disaster yet where has the outcry been about those supporters of Gaddafi tortured and killed

Gaddafi clearly has his opponents but these are a mixture of Western sympathisers including those who want more democracy and those who follow Al Qaida. The majority of leadership of the Rebels in Banghazi is presently made up of ex Libyan Government ministers who previously had no interest in Western Democracy but are defecting as they see the imminent collapse of the regime.

A significant number of the more experienced of those fighting for the revolution gained their military skills fighting for Al Qaida in Iraq and are to be feared by many of those who support Gaddafi. Getting rid of Gaddafi is not likely to lead to a peaceful democratic Libya but is much more likely to lead to greater internal division and continued violence.

The oil is to be found in the East of the country.

The eastern leaders have already agreed to give oil contracts to the West. The bombings were aimed at stopping a humanitarian disaster yet where has the outcry been about those supporters of Gaddafi tortured and killed, the killings and general plight of African Workers and to the casualties of NATO bombings? Why has Libya been selected for this type of intervention when the evidence is that equally bad oppression is taking place in other Middle Eastern countries.

Libya compared with most countries had only a small army and arms sales to Saudi Arabia  – an equally oppressive state – are far greater. From 2008 until the last quarter of 2010 arms sales to Saudi Arabia from the UK were three times  less than those to Libya.

War is always brutal and people always suffer on all sides, yet it appears to have become the norm to intervene in this way rather than to find ways forward via negotiation. This policy of military intervention has been used to disastrous effect in Iraq, Afghanistan Pakistan and Palestine.

The only beneficiaries of these conflicts are the arms companies burgeoning profits. Ordinary people on the ground pay for war by the murder or mutilation of their loved ones. Why were the attempts by the African Union and Venezuela to act as an intermediary for negotiations in the Libyan conflict so easily turned down?  Nor any other attempts to broker negotiations put in place? Surely all forms of negotiation should have tried before the policy of protecting civilians turned into a  military intervention aimed at regime change at any cost.

The cost of this action and the resulting likely cries for more military spending will lead to even greater cuts in our own social spending

NATO  has moved from a position of ‘protecting civilians’ to regime change and is in effect putting many civilian lives in jeopardy.

This policy has never been sanctioned by our own Parliament and does not fit with the United Nations own charter as Libya has not invaded another country.

Our own Prime Minister, who was caught promoting the sale of arms to Middle East dictators at the beginning of the Middle East uprisings, has with his ally President Sarkozy of France been the main instigators of this military Intervention in Libya and have in many ways replaced Bush and Blair as the main instigators  of military intervention in other states. President Obama initially hesitated but – as has sadly become his style – eventually taken a hawkish position in Foreign policy.

The results of these actions have lead to more civilian casualties and to the destruction of buildings and infrastructure and to the loss  of social gains.  The cost of this action and the resulting likely cries for more military spending will lead to even greater cuts in our own social spending. The United States spent over £750 million on the conflict in its first few weeks. In the UK the corresponding figure currently stands at around £300 million and it is forecasted that this will rise to one billion by September.

One factor that has got lost is that when Libya’s Foreign Secretary  Moussa Koussa was interviewed by the Scottish police in relation to the Lockerbie bombings,  yet we have heard nothing of these interviews.

Surely if he had  evidence of Libya’s involvement this would have been given huge publicity and given as a justification for military action. Dr Jim Swire has warned against any evidence from defectors being taken seriously as they have interests of self-preservation. There is still significant concern about the correctness of the present verdict regarding the Lockerbie bombing

We appear to have become numb to the use of brutal military action by our own Government and have fallen for the media’s over-simplistic justification of getting rid of a mad and brutal dictator. NATO has extended it’s timescale for operations and calls from South Africa are going unheeded. Al Jazeera has shown footage of Western troops West of Misrata yet one of the main points of the UN Security Council was to exclude foreign involvement on the ground.

I  believe that a negotiated settlement should be sought with the clear aim of setting up elections. It would then be up to all the Libyan people to decide on their future. All bombings by NATO should stop while negotiations take place. One of the main demands of the UN Security council resolution was for a cease fire. Given any ceasefire it should be United Nations Peacekeeping forces that should be put on the ground not NATO troops that are on the ground.

All those responsible for war crimes and torture should be tried at the International War Crimes court.