Response to Hey Mike Kelly!


I don't expect fundamental changes anytime soon. Maybe I'm defeatist, but anything else to me is pissing in the wind. (Am I allowed to say that on the forum?)

A rough and ready guide to how to implement long term, fundamental political change:

  1. Stop repeating the mistakes of the past, immediately.
    Among these mistakes I would include:
    - Going to war on economic grounds (including to acquire resources), or pre-emptively.
    - Arming other countries
    - Allowing anybody anywhere to starve
    - Sponsoring terrorism
    - Worshipping democracy as currently practiced by most Western states as if it were the ultimate form of human social organization
    (Don't misunderstand me here - I fully acknowledge the advancements we have made in terms of personal freedoms and representation. But I would laugh out loud at anyone who tried to convince me it was anywhere in the remote vicinity of the finished article.) Obviously this implies seeking energetically for ways to improve our own social and political arrangements and worrying less about selling our boxed (should that be botched) solution to them. I must point out in connection with this that you continue to miss the point, that our Western lifestyles freedom and affluence are only peripheraly connected with the existence of democracy, and are much more to do with the resource drain from the 'Third World' to the 'developed world'. So I don't put as high a value on democracy as you probably think I should. Essentially it boils down to the fact that we in the West, economically speaking, could not have our liberated, democratic and affluent lifestyles were it not for the non-existence of true democracy in other countries. When I said before about Bush and Blair wanting a regime in Iraq it can do business with, I mean business on their terms. not business as it would benefit the Iraqi people. You might loosely compare this to the cash-crop economies that dominate much of the Third World and feed our Western appetites for luxury goods at the expense of the producers of those goods. Without some understanding of world trade and just how inequitable it is, you can't conceive of how much we live off the backs of the poor and starving. We could not afford to pay fair prices for such goods (by fair I mean prices that would provide the producers with the same living standards as we expect). This is a fundamental mechanism of capitalism as it currently exists - it depends on having somebody to exploit. And, to put it bluntly, if Third World countries had control of their own resources on a so-called 'level economic playing field', we would very quickly become the exploited.
    So while everyody's singing the praises of democracy, economically speaking it's desirability is highly questionable, and especially so in key areas like the Middle East. That's why I don't trust Bush and Blair to be doing this for the right reasons, and I don't think there's anything anybody on the planet could say that would make me change my perspective.
    Saudi is an excellent example of what I'm talking about. An utterly horrific regime created (again) by the Brits... Don't need to go over all that again. Great for business. Keeping the leaders fat on 'Western-style freedoms' is a great way to discourage them from sorting out their own populations. And any time a Middle Eastern government looks like veering away from the US oil axis, there's America with Brtitain yapping at its heels, at the ready to go in and put a stop to it.

  2. Immediately lift sanctions on Iraq and allow aid in
  3. Call Israel's bluff and get serious about the Paelstinian situation, to the exclusion of all distractions
    Yes, Al Quaida might strike. Yes, it's distantly, remotely possible that Iraq will launch an unprovoked attack on some Western target. But those possibilities ahould be disregarded for the time being, and the amount of energy that's currently going into all this nonsense should be diverted to trying to solve the Palestinian situation.
  4. Swallow the terrible pain, and stop doing business with corrupt regimes/businesses.
    This is the hardest to swallow. Life could become a bit austere. In fact it could get extremely ugly. But it's the only way to go. I can't emphasize the need for this strongly enough. It is the best pressure that can be brought to bear if change is genuinely desired. In fact I think ultimately ethical trading is the only strategy with any real power for change. It requires legislating strongly for ethical business/trading practices within our own economies and rigidly enforcing the legislation. Of course this will never happen in my lifetime. Business interests and lack of willingness to take the medicine prohibit it.
  5. Immediately and drastically restructure the Thirld World debt situation. Primarily by writing off vast amounts of uncollectable debt.
  6. Step back and see how the world looks now we're acting with some dignity and humanity in it.
(I would very much welcome anyone else's additions to or comments on this list...)

I would be interested in reading about Hussein's self-protection scheme.

I can't comment with any authority on whether things are better now in Yugoslavia than before the intervention. More to the point, I can't comment on whether things are better than they would be if some other approach had been pursued. To me it reflects a desperate paucity of ideas that military intervention was the best solution anyone could come up with. I'm not well-enough informed about that situation to be able to suggest what else could have been done, so I'm an easy target to be shot down on this. Nonetheless, given all the wisdom and insight that exists in the World, I firmly believe it must be possible in virtually any situation to come up with a better solution than war with it's terrible price, if the will were there to do so. Maybe the fundamental difference between us is that you have little patience for this woolly thinking, while I believe that until we all agree that war is unacceptable and start doing everything in our power to avoid it, we haven't done enough. Having said that, you're probably right - some leaders will never listen to any kind of reason. However, I don't think that judgement should be applied until they've been given reason to listen to, and at the moment reason is in extremely short supply.

Why do you set a time limit of 3-6 months on Hussein's removal from power. I would like to know what evidence you have that there is a significant threat of Iraq launching an unprovoked attack on any Western country (or any country at all) during or shortly after that time. What makes you think the risk of such an attack will be so much greater in, say, a year or two years time?? To my mind, unless you can convince me that there's a serious threat of such a thing, you will never convince me that there's a justification for any pre-emptive military action. Powell and Blair haven't convinced me of that; can you?
If not, then you come back to the argument that war should still be launched for the sake of the Iraqi people, and you've already conceded that this is not the case. (In a previous post you said "I never said that the best interests of the Iraqi people were the main motivation for the US building up around Iraq or that the US had altruistic motives."). So I infer that you think Bush and Blair's motivation for war is suspect, but you think that they should go ahead anyway because, despite this, by chance perhaps, things will work out best that way in the long run.
If you don't mind me saying so, you seem perhaps unhealthily preoccupied with the perceived threat to us from Iraq. Earlier you said you thought the threat from Iraq was "maybe not immediate, but real". What exactly do you think that threat is? Where might he attack? What damage could he cause. What death-wreaking potential does Iraq have? How does it stack up against the likely casualties of a pre-emptive Western attack on Iraq? Let's get down to brass tacks here - if you base your justification on the threat from Iraq, I think it's fair to ask you to provide documentary evidence of the scale of the threat. (I think Bush is having trouble with this at the moment - perhaps you could send him your sources.)
Do you think it's healthy to live in that kind of fear, to the extent you would justify making war on the strength of it? You may be right, the threat may be real, I still wouldn't regard my fear of it as justification for pre-emptive military action. Perhaps I've a gun at my head and I don't even know it. Or perhaps the gun isn't even loaded yet, but you're ready to shoot the owner just to be on the safe side. I don't really know how we can clarify who's perspective is more accurate on this, but if you start shooting everyone who might have a loaded gun, things will get very messy very quickly.

In fact, if you start shooting everyone who might have a loaded gun, you might find yourself being shot at fairly quickly, as everyone thinks to themselves "somebody should stop this madman".

Let's stop and look at the facts a minute. As has been pointed out elsewhere, Iraq has never launched an unprovoked attack on a Western state. To my knowledge, the only 'unprovoked' attack Iraq has launched on anyone was on Kuwait, and while I wouldn't try to justify that action, it should be pointed out that there is a history between Iraq and Kuwait. Although painted in the Western media at the time as a totally unjustifiable and unprovoked attack by one sovereign state on another, there was much more to it than that. In terms of the regional politics. Iraq has justification for viewing Kuwait as part of it's territory. I don't know if you're aware of the background. Don't want to get bogged down in it, but in short:
Kuwait was originally part of the Iraqi vilayet (I think that's an administrative region) of Basra. It was seperated from it by the British (again!) in 1896. Every Iraqi government since 1921 has subscribed to the historical claim on Kuwait. When Hussein's Iraq invaded, they had the additional provocation of Kuwait's oil price fixing strategy which threatened the Iraqi economy. As I said, I'm not trying to justify it, just to point out that there was once again a historical and political context for it. So as far as I'm concerned the 'Iraqi Threat' is not that different from the old 'Soviet Threat' or the 'Red Chinese' or all the other historical bogeymen we've needed to justify the unjustifiable. The case is at best unproven.

So there's a UN resolution. There are a whole lot of UN resolutions, many of which are ignored most of the time. Next you'll be saying that The Poll Tax was justified because Thatcher and her cronies wrote it down in a policy document.

I'm not sure what being a pragmatist really means. Is it someone who does and defends things they know are wrong, but doesn't feel bad about it because they feel so defeated by circumstances that they consider themselves to have no choice?

Rachel: I don't understand why it would be a waste of time to find out what people are thinking and why? I agree with all your other excellently made points, especially regarding terrorism. The fact is, despite all the protestations to the contrary, dialogue with 'terrorists' almost invariably takes place in the end. Basically, while I'm not condoning random violence, I do believe the term 'terrorist' is by and large unhelpful, that violence is often the only voice people have, and that it's been shown to be as likely to achieve results as anything else, since without it nothing at all happens. If the US addressed the rest of the world's grievances with it in a meaningful way, I can't help feeling the terrorist situation would take on an altogether different perspective.

Created By: Bruce Harper