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Dangerous Decade 1

Carbon in the form of oil and gas drives geo-politics more than most.

What are the chances of a Free Baluchistan later this decade?

The on-off rebellion could have wings now that the Americans smell an opportunity to:

a) break up the artificial state of Pakistan

b) grab the immense mineral riches of Baluchistan (note how Sky, BBC, Al J and Fox don’t talk about this

c) eat into Persia (Iran) by sowing the seeds of rebellion among the Baluchis in modern Iran

 

Dismemberment of states is the order of the day (rather decade) to redraw the imperial map. After all, much of what we see is really the result of imperialist diplomats carving out territories and leaving political timebombs behind…

What are the Germans up to?

German troops beyond the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan? Who would have thought it in the days before the fall of the Berlin Wall…. but nowadays no one bats an eyelid… who isn’t in Afghanistan, playing imperial games?

Now Berlin decides to sell 200 Leopard battle tanks, one the world’s most lethal, to that pillar of democracy….. wait for it…. Saudi Arabia.

Why?

It needs oil like every other fossil-fuel addicted economy… but then, it can always go to Russia for more..

At least Berlin isn’t running behind the invaders of Libya but that’s not saying much.

Being the economic powerhouse of Europe, Germany has unparalleled influence these days.

It will make or break Europe this decade.

Pity, the current right wing regime is meddling in sensitive regions in the worst possible way.

While I am happy to see the likely end of the ‘Christian’ democrats in the next elections (2013) and the entry of a Green-led coalition, the fact that the German Greens actually support the war in Afghanistan (in some misguided idea about democracy or women rights), it will be an improvement but it won’t be earth-shattering.

The two rising stars China and Germany haven’t worked out they need to change their foreign policy…….

RIght wing Republicans support Libyan ‘rebels’

Some ‘progressives’ must be a little concerned that they parroted all the bumph from Whitehall and the State Department about how all the bombing was being done to ‘protect civilians’ and that it was to ‘promote democracy’.
These ‘progressives’ are rubbing shoulders with the likes of John McCain, striding around in Benghazi, calling for more attacks… He can smell the oil friends and he wants Cyrenaica to get the best the US can offer… bombs, a fake democracy and contracts to ship the oil out to the West…
Long ago I said Gaddafi was a fruitcake and a dictator… however, that does not mean siding with a ragtag bunch of Al Qaeda/neo-Taliban/tribespeople/fighters even if some of them may have good intentions… After years of US/UK bombing in Afghanistan & Iraq are we still ignorant of what these states do in these countries… who are we so gullible to buy the line that William Hague has any intention of genuinely helping Libyans.
The apologists are using the same refrain: we can’t let civilians be butchered…. the same line used in Iraq and Afghanistan…..
Let’s all grow up!
Our forces are not there for humanitarian reasons. It’s for the oil, the gas and the seat at the UN Security Council.
That’s why we cannot just talk about being anti-cuts.
We should be looking at the Green Party manifesto which calls for a £8 billion annual cut in defence spending…. I think we need more to become a ‘normal European country’ i.e. cut fron £40 billion to £20 billion a year so that we can defend ourselves and at the same time have no chance of entering another imperial war…
We have to be against the Cuts for hitting the wrong places…. and demand cuts to defence….

Africa is the frontline this decade

In 2010, we looked to South Africa only for football.

In 2011 and for the rest of the decade, Africa will prove to be next theatre of war.

Ivory Coast is on the edge of civil war.

Sudan could split – the Christian South seceding after years of Western backed insurgency action. Darfur continues to smoulder while the North & Khartoum look to regroup, probably withdrawing further into theocracy.

Nigeria is simmering, split according to oil, religion and identity.

The Horn of Africa is so far gone that it does not appear on the news anymore.

The West is waiting for Zimbabwe to collapse. Some retired old hands at the FCO have never got to terms with the 1980 Lancaster House accords.

Egypt has to explode a few years into the regime of Mubarak’s son.

To work it out, we need to follow the oil or gas pipelines.

The energy multinationals want their pound of flesh (or barrels of oil) and regimes and the collaborating elites will cause mayhem at historic levels.

So expect to hear about Chad, Cameroon and Angola.

Cruelly forgotten is Congo. Until a situation arises where those resources are controlled by others.

Which brings us neatly into the activities of Asian governments and corporations. They can only elbow in up to a point. They may have the money but they don’t have the troops on the ground or navies to get them there.

When an entity like CNOOC or a food giant goes too far, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a military escalation, via a bout of induced instability.

Let us remember that the Gulf of Guinea (the coast off West Africa) is another Middle East in gas and oil (add Algeria, Chad & Libya) while much of sub-saharan Africa is one giant mine, filled with treasure.

It’s been a one way bet since the 1990s with the withdrawal of Cuba, China and Russia.

Now the latter (at least China) are re-entering with sackloads of coin. There is as yet no ideological side to this as it’s either a case of IMF free market hell or state-owned Asian capitalism. It’s an unpalatable choice between two types of plunder.

How nascent African movements interact with competing foreign states and their multinationals will be fascinating.

Once we had ‘one person, one vote’ and a contest between capitalism and socialism.

What is there now?

The politics of identity is being used to destabilise states.

Africa needs something else. We have seen how parts of Latin America have shifted to the Left while others beef up their strength on a commodity surge, without letting the generals back in again (like the 1970s).

But Africa hasn’t done the same, or at least not got our attention.

The new movements might want to finance their future on the remittances of their brothers and sisters in Europe, America and West Asia.

But the rest of us need to know there is an alternative African message,  ideology and worldview. A updated form of national liberation based on class, not colonisation.

We can’t keep ignoring a billion people sitting on the richest resource pile in the world.

One difference between this decade and the 1970s: the majority are informed, connected and switched on. It looks like it’s going to be a continent of upheavel, hate, loot, savagery and blood with a few oases of rebellion to show the way.

New Year New hopes New Wars

On Sunday, we will be recovering from the celebrations the night before and wondering if we really meant our New Year resolutions.

The Chinese will keep their powder dry till February 4th, the first day of the Year of the Rabbit.

Long before nearly a billion and a half East Asians make a resolution, we will have broken ours, probably by the first week.

And what do we have before us as we travel the road M2011.

Some will pat themselves on the back for ‘avoiding’ the VAT increase to 20%. Or is that another way of saying we all went to Westfield and Oxford Street to spend £300 on stuff we could have lived without to save £7.50.

Now, what’s the APR interest on £300….. around £80? We will soon know as the credit card bills arrive on our doormats late January and early February.

By this week, 100,000 public sector workers will have received their redundancy letter (a Xmas present unwrapped to offer the statutory 90 day notice before the New financial year in April).

House prices are forecast to fall somewhere between 5 to 10%, though central London may buck the trend.

Last year, one in five properties in London were bought by mainland Europeans…. I imagine some swish Greek millionaires were in there, having taken out their Euros from Athens to avoid waking up one morning and finding the Euros had turned back to Drachmas… that’s on the cards in 2011.

The Irish rue that phrase ‘the luck of the ……’ as they go to the polls and kick out Fianna F and bring in FG…. no one is bothered unless…. the new lot (with Irish Labour & maybe Sinn Fein support) demand a review of the onerous IMF/EU austerity package…. Then watch the financial markets.

Europe’s PIIGS will be dancing on thin ice as Portugal goes to the wall… and everyone wonders how they can save Spain… all this we can watch in high definition by March.

The Italians (with a €1.9 trillion debt) will suffer Berlusconi again and probably face their moment of death/debt next winter or 2012.

This will be a year for Germany. They will decide the fate of the Euro and Europe as a project. How Margaret Thatcher must hate the idea of a German Thatcher, in the guise of Angela Merkel,  deciding the future while a British Prime Minister watches from the side, and twiddles his thumbs.

Surely there will be a spread of wars in Africa, though I wonder whether the ‘progressive Left’ will notice in London, so engrossed are they with the Eastern Mediterranean (or part of it).

The Congo will continue to burn… but will we notice? Five million dead so far but that’s not news unless the raw materials stop coming our way..,,,

West Africa looks like it has found a new victim…. while Sudan is on the verge of a split,  offering a vision of an African Arc of Instability from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic.

The Afghan War, which looked like it was entering the final chapter this time last year, has suddenly added a few more chapters as the Energy companies & weapons manufacturers twist Obama’s arm (though he does not need much persuading) to guarantee four more years of profits…. The TAPI pipeline is back on the agenda and the Afghan Army is being trained to protect it. The pipeline is set to start in 2012 and pumping out Turkmenistan ‘s gas into Pakistan and India by 2014.

Well, that’s the plan.

WIll there be any new Asian Wars in 2011? Every year we think it could be Iran. Maybe. The democratic Green Revolution failed so it leaves only a military strike to produce regime change. If Obama wants to be re-elected, he probably doesn’t want it in 2012, which is why 2011 looks like a dangerous window…

The Maoist war in India will gather strength though no Guardianista will notice unless Arundhati Roy is arrested….. that war is a slow burning fuse which will be the ultimate game-changer this decade …… but just as we do with Africa, we will ignore it and keep our narrow focus across the Middle East (or West Asia as it is known elsewhere).

The big financial story, besides the Euro, will be the bankruptcy of some US cities (and maybe a couple of European ones too).

With house prices falling too, the second leg of the crisis will be upon us….

What a dark canvas this all is…….. the positive splashes of paint will be the rise of political and social consciousness among millions of Europeans… about time too…. and there will be small victories along the way…. but 2011 seems more like work-in-progress rather than the finished article….

The almost non-existent English Left are pinning their hopes on the emerging student movement but that’s just another way of saying the ‘Left’ want to piggy back rather than broaden the opposition…

Most voters or citizens haven’t got an alternative vision firmly implanted because most of us haven’t communicated this consistently.

Between a token Union day out (sorry,  big terrifying strike) and the Royal Wedding, the unpalatable news will be that the World financial markets will show off London and the UK as a beacon of right wing neo-liberal governance.. and sterling might even soar with that vote of confidence…… imagine all those cheap holidays in Cyprus……

The climate change talks will collapse in South Africa even there if there is a meaningless ‘agreement’ and shedload of pledges.

The idea of the villains and the victims somehow burying the hatchet and over-ride the greed of oil companies and the oil dependent agri-business giants to construct a road map to a Greener World is touching…… this road started in 1992 and still has little to show…. so the only way we can call this ‘good news’ is to suggest that this will mark a turning point.

The negotiation process is not much better than the decades of conferences on poverty…. and where did we get with that then?…… Or Third World Debt…..

Hmm…. perhaps I am being gloomy because this is the down time between Xmas and the New Year….. perhaps when the rabbit sings in February I might look forward to the end of the dark winter and scent the spring with its hopes of a brighter future… Let’s hope so….

But let’s end in a positive way…. remember Soros said he was enjoying a good year of the Crisis…. and let’s rejoice in the good fortune of all those bankers planning how to spend their bonuses on yachts and trophy wives…… and all those companies in the ‘security business’ who are making hundreds of billions in providing us with floor to ceiling coverage of ‘protection’…… with 500,000 CCTVs in London (solving just 1,000 crimes),  reading our emails, following our Oyster card movements, tracking our purchases, recording our phone calls, profiling us on spiffy software and categorising us as trouble makers…….. I think we are in the wrong business trying to save the world…….. it seems so much more rewarding destroying it..

Lucky for some then.

Have a happy 2011

 

Wiki says Indians torture in Kashmir

WikiLeaks cables:
India accused of systematic use of torture in Kashmir

Beatings and electric shocks inflicted on hundreds of civilians detained in Kashmir, US diplomats in Delhi told by ICRC

by Jason Burke in Delhi

Beatings and electric shocks inflicted on hundreds of civilians detained in Kashmir, US diplomats in Delhi told by ICRC

US officials had evidence of widespread torture by Indian police and security forces and were secretly briefed by Red Cross staff about the systematic abuse of detainees in Kashmir, according to leaked diplomatic cables.
The dispatches, obtained by website WikiLeaks, reveal that US diplomats in Delhi were briefed in 2005 by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) about the use of electrocution, beatings and sexual humiliation against hundreds of detainees.
Other cables show that as recently as 2007 American diplomats were concerned about widespread human rights abuses by Indian security forces, who they said relied on torture for confessions.
The revelations will be intensely embarrassing for Delhi, which takes pride in its status as the world’s biggest democracy, and come at a time of heightened sensitivity in Kashmir after renewed protests and violence this year.

Other cables reveal that:

• The Dalai Lama has told US officials that combating climate change is more urgent than finding a political solution in Tibet, which “can wait five to 10 years”.
• Rahul Gandhi, the crown prince of Indian politics, believes Hindu extremists pose a greater threat to his country than Muslim militants, according to the American ambassador to India.
• Five doctors were coerced by the Sri Lankan government to recant on casualty figures they gave to journalists in the last months of island’s brutal civil war.
The most highly charged dispatch is likely to be an April 2005 cable from the US embassy in Delhi which reports that the ICRC had become frustrated with the Indian government which, they said, had not acted to halt the “continued ill-treatment of detainees”.
The embassy reported the ICRC concluded that India “condones torture” and that the torture victims were civilians as militants were routinely killed.
The ICRC has a long-standing policy of engaging directly with governments and avoiding the media, so the briefing remained secret.
An insurgency pitting separatist and Islamist militants – many supported by Pakistan – against security services raged in Kashmir throughout the 1990s and into the early years of this decade.
It claimed tens of thousands of lives, including large numbers of civilians who were targeted by both militants and security forces.
The ICRC staff told the US diplomats they had made 177 visits to detention centres in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere in India between 2002 and 2004, and had met 1,491 detainees. They had been able to interview 1,296 privately.
In 852 cases, the detainees reported ill-treatment, the ICRC said. A total of 171 described being beaten and 681 said they had been subjected to one or more of six forms of torture.
These included 498 on which electricity had been used, 381 who had been suspended from the ceiling, 294 who had muscles crushed in their legs by prison personnel sitting on a bar placed across their thighs, 181 whose legs had been stretched by being “split 180 degrees”, 234 tortured with water and 302 “sexual” cases, the ICRC were reported to have told the Americans.
“Numbers add up to more than 681, as many detainees were subjected to more than one form of IT [ill-treatment],” the cable said.
The ICRC said all branches of the Indian security forces used these forms of ill-treatment and torture, adding: “The abuse always takes place in the presence of officers and … detainees were rarely militants (they are routinely killed), but persons connected to or believed to have information about the insurgency”.
The cable said the situation in Kashmir was “much better” as security forces no longer roused entire villages in the middle of the night and detained inhabitants indiscriminately, and there was “more openness from medical doctors and the police.”
Ten years ago, the ICRC said there were some 300 detention centres, but there are now “a lot fewer”. The organisation had never however gained access to the “Cargo Building”, the most notorious detention centre, in Srinagar.
The abuse continued, they said, because “security forces need promotions,” while for militants, “the insurgency has become a business”.
In the same cable, American diplomats approvingly quoted media reports that India’s army chief, Lieutenant-General Joginder Jaswant Singh, had “put human rights issues at the centre of an [recent] conference of army commanders”.
The ICRC said a “bright spot” was that it had been able to conduct 300 sessions sensitising junior officers from the security forces to human rights.
The cables reveal a careful US policy of pressure in Kashmir, while maintaining a strictly neutral stance.
Two years after the cable on torture was sent, US diplomats in India argued strongly against granting a visa request from the government of India on behalf of a member of the Jammu and Kashmir state assembly who was invited to a conference organised by a think-tank in America.
Usman Abdul Majid, a cable marked secret said, “is a leader of the pro-GOI [government of India] Ikhwan-ul-Musilmeen paramilitary group, which … is notorious for its use of torture, extra-judicial killing, rape, and extortion of Kashmiri civilians suspected of harbouring or facilitating terrorists.”
The diplomats admitted that denying Majid’s application might have some repercussions with Indian officials, “especially those from India’s Intelligence Bureau who have been close to his case” but said it was essential to preserve a balanced approach to the Kashmir issue following the prior refusal of a visa to the leading separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
The cable notes that officials are “unable to verify with evidence the claims against Majid”.
US diplomats repeatedly refer to human rights abuses by security and law enforcement agencies within India. In a cable from February 2006, officials reported that “terrorism investigations and court cases tend to rely upon confessions, many of which are obtained under duress if not beatings, threats, or, in some cases, torture”.
A year later a brief for the visiting acting coordinator for counter-terrorism, Frank Urbancic, described India’s police and security forces as “overworked and hampered by bad … practices, including the widespread use of torture in interrogations.”.

Slash the ‘Defence budget’ in half

If we want to become a normal European country, we need to cut our ‘defence’ budget by £17 billion a year… that’s after the much trumpeted 8% cut in defence spending…..

Too much debate & protest has been about Trident (which has not been built) and the Afghan War (a relative pittance at £4 billion a year).

The defence budget is a £40 billion a year bottomless pit…. I couldn’t get Stop The War to focus on this… (I understand the obvious reasons) but we have to move beyond the Green Party Manifesto commitment of £8 billion off annually. We have to demand more than double that amount.

Will the Sun say we are weak? So what. The Express will be livid…. Oh dear.

Let them define who are enemies are and why we should spend twice as much per head than Germany. … the country that is bailing out Europe…… how? because it has a high-technology manufacturing base (making things the Chinese cannot) and wastes less on the military (and incidentally has several hundred thousand people working in a new renewable energy sector)…..

The Right wing are taking an axe to sacred cows.. and slicing up the welfare state……. and education…. Why cannot a Party on the Left (which is where the Greens are) do the same the other way round….?

Let us ask who the British tanks are ‘defending’ in Germany….. two decades after the Russian armies disappeared…..

Let us define exactly how many Iranians and North Koreans are going to ignore mainland Europe and invade Blighty…. and how…. what enemies do the English general see …. the ones  German ones cannot?

This is as scandalous as the banks… but we are ignoring it…… At least the banks say they are too big to fail. The military are just too obese to move…. they are not propping up UK PLC .. they are just feathering their nests and playing a fantasy 19th century adventure as if they mattered…

It’s time we were tough on defence… by slashihg it…… not looking over our shoulder at imaginary voters who wouldn’t dream of entertaining us… Being tough on things such as defence and taboos such as immigration (as Max Hastings says) means NOT toeing the line and telling it like it is..

Let’s define who are potential constituency is…….. not follow the crowd in a crowded field…. the LibDems have blundered into a minefield… Let’s choose another route…..

Farid Bakht

 

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