UK govt destroy entire run of anti-war book because it “might harm national security” (yeah right)

March 16, 2011

Clearly the UK has learnt nothing from the recent Wikileaks furore. The British Ministry of Defence has bought and pulped the entire print run of a book that makes embarrassing revelations about the war in Afghanistan. The MOD claim that the book, Dead Men Risen: The Welsh Guards and the Real Story of Britain’s War in Afghanistan, by Toby Harnden, contains information that might endanger national security. But we all know what that means, right? Here’s a taster:

The Guardian has obtained a copy of the book, which includes accounts of how civilians were killed by British forces. It describes a farmer being killed by a Javelin missile at night, how seven civilians, including six children, were killed by a 500lb bomb – an incident described by the Guardian from classified US material passed to WikiLeaks – and how eight civilians, including five children, were killed by a 500lb bomb fired by a French Mirage plane called in by British troops.

The book describes how in the summer of 2009 a British officer was mentoring Afghan troops who captured a six-man Taliban IED team. He later asked an Afghan sergeant major to see the prisoners so they could be tested for explosive residue, and charged, and processed.

The Afghan soldiers described how three of the prisoners were strangled to death as the others watched. The soldiers said the remaining three were shot in both kneecaps and ordered to crawl back to their villages to tell people what would happen to them if they laid IEDs.

Does that damage national security? Or does it just reveal yet again that men with guns are frequently evil and dangerous?

And even though we all knew that the Afghan war is a huge, stinking heap of bullshit, the military can’t bear the thought that we might hear it again. Duh!

I wonder: how long before the book is leaked online? And this whole book-pulping episode will have a Streisand Effect and everyone will want to read it. Ha.

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No-fly zone over Libya? Who the hell do these people think they are?

March 16, 2011

With the rebels in Libya taking a good battering, there are calls for the “international community” (ie. the USA and its UK lapdogs) to impose a no-fly zone over Libya, to prevent Gadaffi using his air force to bomb his citizens into submission. The Guardian has an interesting article laying out the arguments for and against taking such action.

I’m not going to reproduce the whole argument here – go check out the Guardian article, it’s a good read. No, I’m going to tell you what I think (this is my blog after all): and I say NO NO-FLY ZONE!

I know some readers will think this is an inhumane stance. The poor little rebels are taking a right pasting, we should help them out, right? Wrong! This is entirely a Libyan issue, and the rest of the world has no business poking its nose in. The rebels chose to take up arms against Gadaffi, conned by recent action in other countries in the region into thinking a revolution would prevail. That was their choice, and they chose wrong. Hell, these people have been living under Gadaffi’s rule for 40 years; they should know the crazy bastard wouldn’t go quietly, just like they should know he has substantial armed forces (armed in large part by the UK and France, 2 of the countries now agitating for “international action) and is perfectly willing to use them.

Anyway, what would a no-fly zone achieve? Gadaffi hasn’t been using his planes that much – it’s his tanks and other ground forces doing most of the damage. On the other hand, US/UK jets would have to take out Libya’s anti-aircraft weaponry, which would involve the possibility of killing Libyan civilians – and that would do Gadaffi’s image a big favour. And what if Libyan fire took out a US/UK plane? I hate to think what that could lead to… remember Iraq anyone?

My point of view is not unusual – the Guardian lists the opponents to the no-fly zone as:

Germany; Turkey; Robert Gates (the US defence secretary who would have to put a no-fly zone into practice); Catherine Ashton (the EU foreign policy chief who told Cameron to “hold your horses”); Russia; China; South Africa; Brazil

That is quite a substantial list, including permanent members of the UN Security Council. We really need to take heed of this. Gadaffi is a nasty piece of work; but there are plenty of other nasty pieces of work ruling countries who are actively supported by the “international community”. I hate it when we say “This evil dictator here needs to be stopped, but that evil dictator over there is a cool guy”. We need to be a little more consistent. And we need to sort out problems a little closer to home (such as our own evil rulers) before we launch yet another imperialist adventure. FFS.

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Question: Who is/are “Anonymous”? Answer: No one/everyone.

March 15, 2011

Just read about the “hacker group” Anonymous’ release of apparently incriminating emails from the Bank of America. This story really annoys me. Not because I’m a Bank of America fan – I’m pissed off with the Guardian for describing Anonymous as a “hacker group”.

The Wikipedia article on Anonymous. describes it well – it says:

is an Internet meme originating 2003 on the imageboard 4chan, representing the concept of many on-line community users simultaneously existing as an anarchic, digitized global brain.[1] It is also generally considered to be a blanket term for members of certain Internet subcultures, a way to refer to the actions of people in an environment where their actual identities are not known.

Anonymous is not a hacker group in the sense you’d usually expect: there’s no organization, no hierarchy, no agreed agenda. Anyone with the required know-how and/or tools can do some cyber-vandalism or cut-and-paste someone’s email, then say it was done by Anonymous.

So who is Anonymous? Everyone. No one. Me. You. Anyone. Please bear that in mind next time you see a report that “Anonymous” did something.

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UK shops to sell cigarettes in plain packaging… whose stupid idea was *that*?

March 9, 2011

It was UK health secretary Andrew Lansley’s idea, apparently. He has announced his intention over the next 5 years to reduce the number of smokers in Britain by a greater number than was reduced in the past 5 years. And he has identified cigarettes’ allegedly gaudy, inviting packaging as a chief reason why people take up the habit in the first place. He has also announced a “consultation” into the idea of banning cigarette displays entirely, so tobacco products will have to be sold from “under the counter”.

Obviously, Lansley is a massive tit. Plain packaging and discreet under-the-counter sales will make cigarettes seem very illicit… and we all know what teenagers in general think of illicit activities. I predict that these measures will not reduce the number of smokers at all. Maybe it’ll even increase the number of smokers. Which is, of course, no bad thing for a political party that counts amongst its members the very tobacco barons the government claims it wants to destroy.

The other day I was waiting in the queue for the tobacco counter at my local Sainsbury’s, and I was struck by the current packaging of cigarettes. Every single pack has emblazoned across its front in bold letters sentences like SMOKING KILLS and SMOKING WILL TURN YOUR UNBORN CHILD INTO A STUMP-HEADED MUTANT. If that hasn’t reduced the number of smokers by the “desired” amount, what in hell makes Lansley think his stupid idea will do any better? The answer, of course, is stupidity. And hypocrisy. We must never forget the hypocrisy factor when trying to figure out our Con-Dem government’s motives.

Incidentally, that same Guardian story says that 21.2% of adults in Britain are smokers. It’s a minority, for sure, but it’s one heck of a big minority. Who the hell do the government think they are, messing with more than 8 million people’s right to choose what they do? Plus the government makes a lot of money by taxing tobacco products. What are they going to do if we all stop smoking – increase the tax on road fuel (which, incidentally, is far more harmful to the general population’s health than a damn cigarette)? These pin-headed ministers really do need to think these things through…

Cigarette displays like this may soon be outlawed if the UK govt gets its way

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