Issue #63 January 17th - 22nd 2004
Tortured use of the word 'democracy'
Anthem for doomed pagans
The long lost diary of Miss S L Gleaden (part 14)
'The Honourable Profession'
A week off ill
Tortured use of the word 'Democracy'
Quoting George Orwell is popular with the defenders of British and American foreign policy - partly to discredit their critics on the left by comparing them unfavourably with him - and partly to portray all wars as similar to World War Two - the democratic liberating 'allies' versus the brutal dictators of the 'axis' - now the 'axis of evil'.
Orwell - initially a revolutionary socialist to the left even of Bush's critics today - would have found this hilarious. He only supported the allied governments as an alternative was fascism - and worried that the democracy lost under wartime conditions would never be recovered.
Far from being concerned to liberate occupied countries from fascism the British and American governments were keen to see if they could get some nice 'moderate' fascists installed in power. For instance in France and French North Africa they had little time for De Gaulle and his 'Free French' - wanting to hand power back to fascist collaborators such as Admiral Darlan in North Africa (later assassinated by French rebels) and Marshall Petain. De Gaulle became first post-war President of France despite American opposition (1). In Italy workers collectives that had defeated fascist forces in the North were broken up and Roosevelt planned to install the Italian king as monarch of what had been a democracy for a century. In the end they settled for imposing an effective one-party state by massive funding for the right wing of the Christian Democratic party in alliance with the senior ranks of the Italian Catholic Church and the Mafia (2,3).
Neither have any of the 'Axis of Evil' governments ever posed any threat comparable to that from Nazi Germany. Not one of them was a world even regional power. In the Middle East for instance that power has been not Iraq but Israel ever since its foundation after World War Two. In 1967 and 1973 it defeated the entire Arab world and if anything it's military strength relative to its neighbours has greatly increased since then. As for weapons of mass destruction - Israel already has long ranged missiles mounted with nuclear warheads. Saddam Hussein never came close to acquiring them.
Let's put weapons of mass destruction aside though. Even Bush and Blair now admit they may never be found. Instead they claim that history will judge them right to have overthrown brutal torturing dictatorships in Afghanistan and Iraq.
According to President Bush 'The torture chambers and the secret police are gone forever' from Iraq. Now this 'double-speak' - stating the exact opposite of the truth as in Orwell's book '1984' - is something he would have had a good laugh at because in fact both torturers and secret police remain - but now they are the Pentagon's rather than Saddam's.
Governor Paul Bremer has confirmed Amnesty International and Occupation Watch's claims that US forces are holding over 9,000 Iraqis without trial, many of them journalists , trade union leaders, party leaders and ordinary Iraqis with no links to Saddam's regime or the attacks on occupying forces. Torture by beatings, sleep deprivation and denying prisoners food and water is routine. Bremer has announced the planned release of around 500 - under 10% of the total.
Now the Bush administration has announced that a 10,000 strong secret police force will be formed from Iraqi Kurds, Iraqi exiles and former Mukhabarat agents working along with the 250 plus CIA agents already in the country. It is planned that they will carry out operations against the 'civilian infrastructure' which 'supports' the 'insurgents' - polite euphemisms for the torture and killing without trial of anyone opposing American rule of Iraq. Its operations are to be based on the CIA's 'Phoenix Program' which began in Vietnam in1967. This development of a 'counter-terror' program begun in 1965 involved the torture and killings of tens of thousands of Vietnamese suspected of Communist sympathies. Torture methods included starving women to death in cages, electric shocks administered to victims' genitals and tapping dowel rods into victims' ears until till they died. That's according to congressional evidence given by K. Barton Osborne , a US military intelligence officer who served in Vietnam (4).
Orwell in his essay 'Politics and the English Language' identified the corruption of the use of language as a serious threat to democracy (5). For instance he observed that in the British empire bombings and massacres to put down rebellions were described as 'pacification'. 'Democracy', he warned, had become a word that meant nothing. Every government claimed to be a democracy but none would define what it meant. That is exactly what has happened to 'democracy', 'freedom', 'justice', 'equality' and 'liberation' today. They have become the meaningless catch phrases of dishonest rulers. Under Saddam there were 'political prisoners' - now, held in the same jails and often interrogated by some of the same people who carried out torture under Saddam, they are termed 'security detainees'. Under Saddam thousands of people were 'disappeared' - now, under US occupation, they are taken away with black hoods over their heads and no-one knows what has happened to them - even the US army often claims to have no knowledge of the 'detainees'.
Our allies Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt all employ torture 'routinely' and 'systematically' according to Amnesty International - and the CIA and FBI regularly send suspects to Egypt for torture. The British government has stated that it considers evidence extracted by torture at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan to be admissible before immigration hearings. In December Amnesty International discovered that two Afghans held at Bagram had been beaten to death - while at least 5 Iraqi civilians have been beaten and kicked to death while held by British forces.
Already killingskillings of Iraqi civilians by coalition forces are common. The US 82nd Airborne division alone has paid compensation to 176 Iraqi families for the deaths of civilians killed by its soldiers - and received over 900 claims. The British Ministry of Defence has still failed to bring any charges against several of its soldiers who arrested and kicked and beat Iraqis 7 months ago - one of them to death. Instead, like the US army, it offers token compensation payments to cover funeral expenses rather than justice.
Blair and Bush claim that 'history' will judge them right to have overthrown a 'monstrous dictator' whether or not weapons of mass destruction are ever found in Iraq. Many Iraqis don't agree. As the Iraqi exile Sami Ramdani put it the 'delicious moment' of Saddam's capture was 'soured' by 'it's announcement by the newly appointed dictator Governor Paul Bremer'.
The occupation is set to 'end' this year but the troops will 'stay on' till at least 2006 'at the invitation' of the new government. How can you end an occupation without removing the occupying forces? How exactly can Bush and Blair predict in advance of elections that the new government will want their troops occupying Iraq , especially given that polls by the American Zogby polling firm show two-thirds of Iraqis want those troops out within a year at most?. Perhaps because anyone opposing such a result will be eliminated by the Iraqi version of the Phoenix Program - just as supporters of candidates opposed by Washington were killed in the original Program in Vietnam? (6).
The plan is meant to parallel that in Afghanistan - which is strange because there has still been no date set for elections in Afghanistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, appointed by Bush, has held pipeline negotiations with Turkmenistan and Pakistan. Karzai was an adviser to Unocal oil of California - which failed to get the Taliban's agreement to build an oil and gas export pipeline between the two countries through Afghanistan (7).
According to President Bush 'Freedom is a beautiful thing'. It certainly is - but in Iraq and Afghanistan under American occupation freedom is as empty a word as it was under Saddam and the Taliban. One quote of Orwell's that the 'allies' don't use much is - 'When the next fascist regimes are born they will be born with the word 'freedom' on their lips'. In the mouths of modern heads of government 'freedom' has become as empty a word as 'democracy' - and only a clear definition of what these words mean - and a hard look at what governments' policies actually are, as opposed to what they say they are, offers any hope for the future.
Anthem for doomed Pagans
What memorial for those who die as cattle?
Wilfred Owen wrote his 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' in the closing stages of World War One, shortly before his own death four days before the Armistice. It was a cynical outlook on a government which had basically sacrificed his generation, then used propaganda back home to make it seem honourable and to render the dead as heroes. Owen doubted that he and his fellow soldiers were anything other than cannon fodder.
It's been nearly a century (give or take a decade) since then and the Western World has progressed through Civil Rights, Human Rights, Socialism, the New Age, and a myriad of other things, which have battered the mindset of 'the rich man in his castle and the poor man at his gate'. It might be expected that, in the liberated 21st Century, soldiers in Owen's position, amidst the carnage of the battlefield, at least feel that they are respected for being there and that the Honours proclaimed as propaganda for his 'doomed youth' generation would be reality for ours.
Unfortunately not for one class of American military. Widow(er)s of fallen veterans have applied for the formal military headstone, in regimental resting places, as is the right of their heroic spouses; only they have encountered an obstacle. These headstones are all topped with the symbol of the deceased's faith and there are 30 odd symbols to choose from. However, should the deceased be a Pagan, there are no relevant symbols there. Paganism, in all its strands and branches, is not recognized as a faith by the VA, the organization responsible for the cemeteries.
It seems ironic that the oft-spoken reason for war, in America, is for 'freedom and liberty' and to protect American values and the Constitution; yet the freedom and liberty to choice one's own religion, and to have that religion respected should you pay the highest price, is not available to those very defenders of it.
Owen's cynicism is suddenly not so out-dated after all.
The long lost diary of Miss S L Gleaden
The diary of Miss S L Gleaden had peacefully travelled the world with the dippy but loveable adventurer. Its life had been interesting and slightly unpredictable, but no matter where it was S L Gleaden provided a safe corner in her rucksack. Until fate insisted that the pair should part company catapulting the diary into a whirlwind of bizarre and slightly random situations. Eventually though the diary washed up on the shores of a small town in the long forgotten county of Cumbria. Locals were impressed by the story contained within, not to mention the book's ability to wash up on the shores of a landlocked town, and after many hours were able to track down the explorer herself and made sure that the book returned to her but not before they had read it from cover to cover of course...
The Cumbrian locals who had put the diary in a very safe place whilst they themselves battled with a storm which threatened to tear down their back fence, began placing bets:
"I bet she gets arrested as soon as it gets light. They are only just made it to Bangladesh. I bet those Burmese guards will be after them."
A new day, a new country, if I wasn't an illegal immigrant I would be feeling on top of the world right now. But I suppose I am on top of the world depending on your perspective on life. Or maybe I'm on the side. One thing is for certain I'm not on the bottom. I don't think I've ever been awake before I and E before. Hope he wakes up soon we really should get moving! We have a long way to go before we get to India!
Day 19- a bit later.
Surprisingly I and E woke up the second I finished writing and slammed my diary shut. The look of puzzlement slowly drained from his face as he realised where he was. I noticed him anxiously put his hand in his pocket to check that the seeds of the small white flower were still safe before he turned and then softly whispered to Molly:
"We're safe! We're free! Wake up and enjoy this moment with me"
Molly who even after just waking up was a patient as ever with the excitable I and E and merely smiled, brushed the hair from her face and looked at the country that we had ended up in.
I looked across the sea of green that stretched for miles into the future and wondered what would happen when we started to move forwards. The answer to this question was postponed as I and E decided that we were not moving anywhere until we had something to eat.
After we had finished I decided it was time to bring up a subject that had been worrying me somewhat.
"Now I know this car doesn't need to stop to eat grass but it does…"
I and E interrupted me before I could finish.
"Don't worry. The car doesn't eat grass because it drinks fuel. It's ok though I filled up just before we left Burma… " Said I and E talking slowly as if to a three year old.
"Mmhmm…I remember. What I was going to ask was. How much fuel does it have left in it now?"
I and E turned to the dashboard and then looked back worried. If he had been a cartoon character the word "empty" would have been written in both of his eyes as he blinked.
"You need to turn the engine on to see how much is left" said molly quietly
He reached for the key, the three of us peered at the needle as it slowly rose to just below the ¾ full level and then stopped.
"How far do you think we can get with that?" asked molly
"Hopefully to the next town but does anyone even know where the next town is?" I replied.
We sat in silence for some minutes.
"Maybe we should switch off the engine and conserve the remaining fuel while we think" said molly helpfully
Having taken molly's good advice we consulted my trusty readers digest atlas. As we were unable to determine how far we had come the nigh before, or even the exact track we had taken it was very difficult to decide where we were at that moment. We wildly estimated our position and then discussed many routes and methods in which we would get us to India. To I and E's dismay his suggestion of hijacking a plane was tactfully dismissed by myself and Molly in favour of a more realistic option. We decided that we would head for Chittagong, a large port town on the coast of Bangladesh and stow away on the first ship that seemed suitable for our needs.
We had been driving for about 20 minutes when we spotted the man with a goat 50 meters from the car. He was the first human we had encountered since arriving in Bangladesh but he didn't interest I an E in the slightest. The goat however was a different story…a very strange story as it happens.
"I remember the time I taught a goat to dance." Remarked I and E casually
I blinked and looked I and E with astonishment. I looked towards Molly for confirmation. She simply rolled her eyes and nodded slowly.
"How on earth did you teach a goat to dance? And more to the point WHY?!"
"When I was a young boy, people used to laugh at me. 'always off chasing some crazy scheme' they'd say. 'He'll never get anywhere that boy.' Then they'd laugh at me"
I nodded, feeling slightly amazed that I and E from his own accounts who had been scorned from a young age for wishing to pursue his fanciful dreams had an inch of hope left in him, let alone the fact he seemed to be filled to the bursting point it.
"My father owned a goat. A small skinny thing with big brown eyes. Only used to produced a small cup full of milk each day and some people in the village where I lived said it was a worthless good for nothing. Just like me. But I loved that goat. I used to go outside late at night and tell it things, and instead of laugh at me like the rest of them, it would stand chewing and looking at me with thoughtful interest.
"It was on one night when the moon was full and bright that I noticed that goat was copying me as I nodded, and tilted my head to emphasise points in the story"
I nodded and tilted my head. Just to show I understood.
"It started me thinking. If I can make a goat copy my head movements without even trying what else could I make it copy with a bit of work?
"Over the years I had built up a good relationship with that goat and now I found it paying off. I began by persuading him to follow me as I walked in time to music. He was a very willing pupil and before long he was copying my every move. My father was walking home one night when he found me and my goat dancing to Kylie Minogue. He stopped dead in his tracks and looked at me 'My son, I have known many men in my life. Some old, some young….'"
I began to see where I and e got his flair for telling a dramatic story from
" 'but not even the oldest and wisest or youngest and stupidest have managed to make a goat dance before. If you can make a goat dance, you can do anything'" I and E stopped proudly and turned around to see my reaction.
"That's very impressive I an E" I said through gritted teeth. "Now, please watch the road"
Apart from that the journey has passed by in an amicable silence. Molly has been gazing dreamily out of the window, I and E has thankfully kept his eyes on the road, and I have been keeping you up to date my dear diary. The car has started to make a slightly worrying juddering noise. Goodness knows how much further it will go.
'The Honourable Profession' - Part Two
Before Bosman: Radford, Campbell, And What Could've Been Professional football had its first brush with English law less than two years after the introduction of the Football League and before the introduction of this League's registration system. In Radford v Campbell Nottingham Forest sought an injunction to prevent Campbell from playing for Blackburn Rovers. In March 1890, Campbell signed a contract committing him to play for Nottingham Forest in the 1890/91 season. However, before that season started, he signed another contract with Blackburn Rovers. At that time, Rovers were the most successful and prestigious club in the country, being founder members of the English League in 1888 (which Forest did not join until 1892) and winners of the F.A. Cup on five occasions between 1884 and 1891. As mentioned above, Rovers had been paying their players long before the Football Association agreed to professionalism, and Campbell received the princely sum of £4 10s per week from them.
The application for an injunction was refused at first instance and Forest appealed to the Court of Appeal, where the case was heard by no less a personage than the Master of the Rolls, Lord Esher. The short report of his judgment is worth quoting in full:
"The Master of the Rolls said that this jurisdiction of the Court must depend upon the circumstances of every case. It was not in every case in which a man was about to break his contract that an injunction should be granted restraining him from doing so. What was there at stake in the present case? There was no question of character or of property except that it was said there would be a diminution in gate-money. But the real point was the pride of the club; they wanted to win their games, and in order to do so they had engaged these professionals. Ought the solemn machinery of the Court in granting an injunction to be invoked in order to satisfy their pride in winning their matches? If the defendant broke his agreement an action would lie against him, and it might be even that an action would lie against the other club for enticing him to do so. But it was unnecessary to decide that now; all that needed to be said was that Mr. Justice North (at first instance) was right and that this was not a proper case for granting an injunction" (1890).
Lord Esher's contempt for the sport, and particularly for professionalism and the clubs' obsession with "winning their games", drips from the judgment; In Esher's eyes, the Court ought not to involve itself with something so trivial as football..
But Forests' ambitions were no different to those of many other clubs who aspired to the heights that the likes of Rovers had reached. They had turned professional in 1889 and Campbell must have been a quality player in order to attract such a huge salary from Blackburn. Aside from having their best players poached, Forests' main concern was the success of near rivals Notts County. By the late 1880s, both clubs were playing in the Trent Bridge area of the city (Forest shared the County Cricket Ground) and in 1890/91 while Campbell was playing for Blackburn and Forest were playing in regional competitions, County had their best-ever season and finished third in the League. However, Forest were admitted as founder members of the new Second Division at the start of the 1891/92 season; expansion of the League being a consequence of the professional clubs realising that their interests were best served by giving more clubs the opportunity to play at the top level. Similarly, they appreciated the financial benefits that lay in giving more fans the opportunity to pay for the privilege of watching the best clubs and the best players.
These clubs also appreciated the need to remove the imbalance of power that existed within the game, usually between clubs based in large cities and those located in the smaller towns. If the small teams simply could not match the crowds of the big ones (the clubs argued) the big teams would dominate the competition as a consequence of being able to pay the highest salaries and, like Blackburn Rovers, recruit all the best players. If this were not prevented, it would cause a decline in interest and support for the smaller clubs and, quite possibly, their extinction. Accordingly, the League's officials decided that restrictions had to be placed on richer clubs' ability to tempt players into joining them from other clubs. This was deemed necessary in order to ensure an equal spread of talent and to keep the League competitive, thereby maintaining spectators' interest in all clubs. In order to achieve this, the League's officials filched the registration scheme through which the Football Association had regulated professionalism since 1885 and adapted it to suit their own requirements. Accordingly, from the start of the 1893/94 season, a player had to be registered with the club he intended playing for and once he had registered, he could play for no other club. One can only speculate whether these player registration provisions would have developed differently if Radford had been decided in Forest's favour.
A week off ill
Today I got up and went to work as I do everyday. I got in at 9.00 am sharp and made a start on the mountain of paperwork that had built up over the last few weeks (I'm convinced it has bred over the weekend as the intray looks twice as full as it did on Friday when I left it). Then it happened that my belly was rumbling my throat was dry and I had to run to the toilet knocking down the water cooler and tripping over the cable of the photocopieras I went. I eventually made it and just in time as my breakfast came up like Mount Etna erupting.
I returned to my desk and phoned the sick room and was told to go home and take the rest of week off.
After a night of sheer hell and talking to that guy Hughie down the big white phone I decided to have a lie in only to be woken up five times by the doorbell. The first three were the postman who had forgotten to deliver a parcel to me, then a recorded delivery letter and finally he had found another letter at the bottom of his bag and because it looked important he thought he better hand it to me. (I could have killed him, I'm convinced he is an escaped mental patient that is stalking me or something.) The fourth time I went to the door it was this guy who told me that my house was old and that I needed to do all my facings and gutterings with this new plastic stuff that lasts for ever and never rots of goes shabby. At the end he added that it would only cost me my soul. Finally to top it all off just as I thought it couldn't get any worse I had this religious madman telling me that if I gave him thirty pounds he would give me a book that would change my life.
Thirty pounds lighter I took my new book to bed and read it.
I got up early and sat and watched breakfast tele. Gone are the days of the Green Goddess or even Mr. Motivator - now it's all news and weather and then this mad Scottish woman ranting and raving to people about all kinds of rubbish. It only got worse after that too: some Jamaican Woman came on asking people what was wrong with their lives and telling them that it would all be alright if they took a lie detector test and just sat down and talked about it. I had to get out, so after the obligatory visit from the postman I went for a walk. It rained and I came home soaked to the skin so I decided to have a bath.
Just as I was getting comfy in the bath the dam phone rang. I burst out of the bathroom with nothing but a towel on and answered it. Some bloke on the other end asked me if I would be interested in a quote for a conservatory to which I told him that I lived in a top floor flat and what good would it be to me. (I know it was a lie but I was well angry at getting out of the bath.)
So I dried myself off and went back to bed to read about my life getting better.
Felt a lot better so I decided to go shopping. I went out, said hello to the postman and got to the car only to discover it had a flat battery and I had to go on the bus. That was an adventure in itself. First the bus was twenty minutes late, then two of them turned up at once. I had to fight my way past three pushchairs to get a seat and the only one available was next to an old lady who complained about her bad legs all the way to the shops. As I got off I was stopped by the same nutter who sold me the book who me asked if I wanted to come to his house for a meeting. I told him to get stuffed and made my way to the shop only to be greeted by a woman who asked me if I needed a new kitchen installed. It took me twenty minutes to say I was not interested before I could start shopping.
Got home three hours later, put away the shopping and decided to go to bed and see if my life was any better than yesterday.
Got up early again as the dog next door was barking at the bloody postman. Decided to get the car sorted. I got a jump start from the guy next door before he left for work, again said hello to the postman and headed to the local garage to buy a new battery. Got to the garage where I was told that the engine needed a part and that the cost for it and labor was going to be two hundred and fifty pounds, oh and another fifty pounds for the battery. Left it there and headed for the bus stop.
Got the bus eventually only to bump into the old lady again who today was moaning about how her son Cecil never comes to visit her and how the prices of things these days are terrible.
I arrived home feeling as if half my brain had melted and decided to watch TV. Afternoon TV is just as bad as the morning stuff - the only difference is that it is full of programs of old women solving murders.
I took a bottle of vodka to bed and decided that the book could go and jump.
I'll tell you this much: hopefully the weekend will be a lot better and I am never taking another week off work ill. (I'll go in even if my head is hanging off.)