What makes other people’s grandchildren dispensable?

In a report today on Huffingtonpost it is stated that Gadaffi’s son and three grandchildren were killed by NATO airstrikes. And the question that we should all be asking ourselves is why it is ok to kill these grandchildren but we would be devastated if our own grandchildren were harmed.

What is the difference?

Do people seriously want to believe that Gadaffi’s small grandchildren (that is if they were small – but presuming it) are in any way different to grandchildren of an American family in Idaho for instance or a family in Germany.

Yet these civilians were killed by directly targeted hits by the NATO forces.

The question I have is this. Would the NATO generals be as willing to order hits if their grandchildren were in that building? What about the airforce pilots who fly the planes that strike the targets or the people who hit the buzzer to set off drones? Would it be the same?

Stupid question. Of course not. There would be no wars if people’s grandchildren were in the firing line. So what is the difference? Can we be so callous that we ignore this fundamental principle.

If we could view all children in the same light as if they were our own, we couldn’t possibly conceive of starting any wars. And let’s face it, the intervention in Libya is not short term. These battles never are. Remember the Vietnam war? What about Iraq? The Afghanistan one? The World Wars?

Other solutions have to be found. War is not the answer.

It’s not about dictators overstaying their welcome in the Middle East

its about poverty and hopelessness. I think the world is misreading the situation playing out in the Arab world. Well let’s put it rather that the Western world is getting it wrong.

We think democracy is something to fight for. Well. Not really. The freedom to vote for a bunch of wallies (to put it mildly) isn’t really on people’s hit list of desirable freedoms nowadays. Hence the low turnout at the polls in the developed world.

It’s not even about freedom of speech or association. Not about freedom of religious affiliation and whatever other good stuff gets written into fancy constitutions that are seldom upheld. Or women’s rights.

It’s about being able to earn a living to feed the family and give our children a safe and hopefully better future than we have ourselves. Bottom line.

This is a wish that every adult has. Even families without children wish this for their friends and relatives and in fact for any child on earth. My parents had it, I have it for my kids. Same wish.

That’s why the Arab world was in fact not prepared or ready for a military uprising and were caught off side when suddenly a war started all around them. They didn’t want political power or even to run the government. They just want a better life.

The fact that the anger is directed at the top leaders is understandable. They are the ones in charge. But they don’t necessarily have a substitution for those leaders sitting there for forty odd years.

Because it’s not about political change. This is not a South Africa where the ANC fought and lobbied the West for support and managed to get sanctions imposed against the White government. South Africa was ready for change. There was a well educated and politically astute new government sitting in the wings ready to take over.

This is not the case in the Middle East. The people taking to the streets to protest do not have anything else in mind but the fact that they want a better deal. That’s it.

So how does the sending of a now NATO organised military intervention fit into this scene? Well. Just about as badly as it did in Iraq where the local population hadn’t actually asked for the intervention that since 2003 has plunged their country into a war zone. Sure some people were happy to see Saddam toppled. But a lengthy war that displaced millions? Not really anybody’s first choice.

In the same way a handful of protesters in Libya had asked for a no-fly zone. Loudly via CNN. The same handful shown on a loop. But did anybody ask the general public that this is what they wanted? Did they want an all out war?

They wanted it as little as the people of the West wanted it. Best we go back to the drawing board and sort this mess out. Quickly!

Is this a good idea the bombing of Libya?

Interfering in the political set up of another country by sending in missiles just doesn’t sound like a good idea. Especially the entire might of the West – USA, UK and France amongst others. It’s like taking a baseball bat to kill an ant. What else gets destroyed along the way? Half the furniture? Or in this case much more serious stuff such as civilian lives, infrastructure and an entire system.

Why does the West always think it has to met out such enormous punishment? And especially as this is a leader/dictator they kind of tolerated for years on end. What has changed so much that suddenly the military powers are getting involved.

In fact what happened to the no fly zone story? According to the New York Times: -American and European forces began a broad campaign of strikes against the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi on Saturday, unleashing warplanes and missiles in a military intervention on a scale not seen in the Arab world since the Iraq war. Read the full article here.

What is with that?

It’s probably a few things such as it’s good PR to be seen to be doing something. It might just increase their popularity with the people of their countries. After all President Sarkozy who was the first to shoot, is hardly popular at home in France. Perhaps this flexing of small muscles in the little man might just turn the tide of public dislike.

Obama’s ratings are improving but the Republicans are still gaining. Perhaps he thinks by being the aggressor he will win back the vote of the folk who have migrated back into the Republican camp.

Cameron in the UK? He is trying to force through a bunch of very unkind new measures which will seriously and detrimentally affect the lives of his countrymen. Maybe he is trying to divert attention outside of the country while he messes up his homeland. And we are not even going to try to describe the dismal state of Merkel’s party in Germany.

Then there’s the impatience Europe might be having with the rioting happening across the pond called the Mediterranean. It’s been going on for too long. Too many people fleeing and crossing into Greece and Italy. They don’t know what to do with the thousands of refugees. Isn’t it easier to quickly sort out Libya so that this tide might be stemmed.

Maybe it’s also a matter of flexing the muscles and showing the East, those new brats on the block called India and China, that the power is still in the West. Of course this is an illusion. But then when have the Allied forces ever shown a semblance of clear thinking. Just look at Iraq and Afghanistan. Rest your case on those two examples alone.

Whatever the reason for this attack that started even before the UN resolution had been passed, shades of Iraq again, it’s not a good one. Attacking a country with full force just because there are some internal political upheavals is not enough reason. After all there have been internal conflicts that have not brought about such fierce attack. For instance the Ivory Coast has been left to it’s devices while the leadership, what leadership, fights over the spoils.

Ah. But then the Ivory Coast doesn’t have the ninth largest oil reserves in the world. Almost forgot to mention that one.

The throw away society – even humans

One thing I’ve noticed in Vietnam is that people recycle naturally. Everything is re-used many times over. People don’t even need large dirt bins. The refuse collector comes around with a push cart ringing a bell and households put out a small packet holding their daily rubbish.

It’s different in developing countries where our refuse is a mountain every day. We have become a throw away society. A bruised fruit is trashed, paper and plastic is thrown out, half eaten meals are dispensed with, once worn shoes are binned. Many times things that have never even been unwrapped are sent packing.

Regrettably this attitude of throwing away things that we feel we have no more use for permeates our entire thinking. Reading a report on the Veterans homelessness statistics in the USA was a shocking reminder how callous and unthinking society really is. Even supposedly highly evolved ones such as the West.

Here are just a few statistics to shock you out of your comfort zone for just a few minutes. According to the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Veterans Affairs (VA) departments report published on February 10, 2011 nearly 76 000 veterans were homeless on a given night in 2009 of which 43% were unsheltered.

Out of all veterans 136 000 spent at least one night in a shelter during 2009. This is a most shocking revelation.

We send young people out into war zones. In the case of Iraq and Afghanistan there is even no particular reason why troops are even there. These people are exposed to horrific scenes.

They are expected to kill people for no reason except that they have been ordered to. Civilians or ‘enemy’ no distinctions need to be made. In return they never know whether they will survive the trip and if they do they will have seen at least some of their friends killed in action.

In other words their minds are totally messed with. And in many cases their bodies have been damaged making them disabled and less likely to be able to work as before.

So they come back damaged goods. And we throw them away. Literally. Onto the streets. If there were a garbage collection for messed up people, we would use it.

If society has to send young people into war, and that alone is a crime against humanity, then at least look after them when they come back. Let’s not throw away our people too.

Peace on earth supported by billion dollars weapon sales

Image sourced from Wikipedia and is covered by GNU Free Documentation

A shocking article in the Spiegel recently describes the booming weapons industry. USA will be delivering US$60 billion’s worth to Saudi Arabia. Total global spend on arms and related goodies is estimated to hit the US$700 billion mark in 2010.

What’s on the Saudi King’s shopping list? There are a few F-15 Fighter aircraft and helicopters, weapons and tanks amongst other bits and pieces. Has anybody checked lately where Saudi Arabia is? In the middle of Iran, Iraq, Israel a sneeze away from Afghanistan. In other words it’s situated in the middle of the hottest and nastiest conflicts.

Bizarre isn’t it to see the TV images of US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton shaking hands with the Palestinian and Israeli leadership during the latest Peace Deal negotiations. The next thing you read is that the US is selling a mountain of weapons to the neighbour.

But let’s not single out the bad Americans in this little saga. Western European weapons manufacturers are as aggressively selling their macho adult toys to whoever wants them.

According to Sipri, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 34 companies out of the top 100 weapons manufacturers are based in Europe and account for 32% of the global business. 44 of them are in the USA.

One wonders whether Bush and Blair during their search for weapons of mass destruction might have wanted to start in their own backyard first. After all they are making them. Bound to find some there.

BAE Systems a UK manufacturer in fact heads the list of the main weapons manufacturers. Maybe this is the reason for Blair’s support of the Iraqi war, the sale of weapons. It’s all about the money after all. Might not even have been about oil.

BAE has a turnover of US$34 billion. Quite a sum. It makes tanks, nuclear powered submarines, explosive devices and is currently working on jet propelled aircraft that don’t require pilots. Next time somebody steps on a landmine check the Made in GB sticker. Did Lady Di. the ultimate British royalty, know this when she put so much effort into creating awareness about the tragedy of this war device.

Next time you join the throng of travelers in a Boeing or Airbus think about the amount of money these companies are making supplying the world’s war mongering politicians with appropriate people destroying tools.

Knowing that do we feel quite as friendly towards those two brands?

EADS, a subdivision manufactures Airbus, is ranked seventh in the world in terms of weapons manufacture. And there’s no stopping their progress further up the list. 48% of Boeing’s turnover is generated by arms sales. In 2008 that added up to a cool US$29 billion.

So who are the big weapons manufacturing and exporting countries? The big three nations that come up in response to this question are the USA followed by Russia and then Germany. Especially submarines ‘made in Germany’ seem to be popular.

From an economic perspective there is absolutely no reason why these three super powers would want a peaceful resolution in any of the conflict spots in the world. A cynic might even wonder who is stoking the fires.

Victorious troops pulling out of Iraq? What victory

Imagine this picture. A bully has beaten a weak opponent to pulp. In fact he has also beaten a few bystanders who just happened to be in the vicinity by mistake to pulp. You get the picture. We’ve all seen it in some form or other.

Then take the camera away and focus on what happens a few moments/hours/weeks later and the very same bully is seen performing wondrous deeds of resuscitation of his very same victims. There are string of heroes on camera. People helping, rebuilding, restoring those pulped people.

On closer looking one realises with shock that the bullies who have beaten up the people and their property in the first instance are now shown as the heroes rebuilding and fixing the damage.

This is the scene being enacted across Iraq. I suppose one should be happy that the bullies are doing this. They certainly didn’t do much in Vietnam after they had pulped up that country.

But it really must make any half way sensitive person want to vomit. Watching the scenes of ‘courageous’ expat people rebuilding the Iraq country and trying to help the people back on their feet.

This last week, while Obama was doing his interpretation of saving the Iraqi nation, a CNN reporter was showing viewers all the so called improvements. Here is a market where a year ago nobody was selling fruit and vegetable. Here is a rebuilt school, there a restored mosque and so the story went on.

It’s strange though that nobody ever states the obvious. Before March 2003 they were selling fruit and vegetables at that market, schools were being used for the right purpose and people could pray at their local mosque.

The figures both in monetary terms and lives lost are staggering. And the result of this war? Well not really easy to work out. Because the supposed purpose of this war was to find Weapons of Mass destruction. Well those were never found.

Then that changed to the axis of evil story. Fighting terrorists et al. That didn’t quite give off the correct result either. Now there are more terror attacks on anybody and anything in Iraq on a daily basis than there ever were before March 2003.

Oh wait. It was about Iraqis attacking the USA. Well that hasn’t been proven much either. And quite frankly if they did now out of retribution for what the US has done in their country one could almost understand it.

Here are some statistics just to remind us. A book recently published states that it has cost the US over US$3 trillion. And the UK and other allied forces?

Money isn’t all, although many people tend to think so. It’s the human life factor that is more important surely. So here are just a few stats for us to consider. Some of these stats do not represent the most recent figures. So many will be even worse.

US troops killed – 4 420. wounded 31 026 – 20% of which are serious brain or spinal injuries. It is estimated that 30% of troops coming back home develop serious mental health problems within 3 months. 120 000 troops were in Iraq at the height of the ‘surge’.

141 Journalists killed. Iraqi police and soldiers killed 9 654 but the big one here is the figure for the Iraqi civilians. According to the Iraq Body Count site the figure stands at around 106 000 civilian deaths due to the war efforts. Other sites state the figures to be as high as 1.3 million. Number of displaced people in Iraq are around 2.8 million.

And the toll carries on. No matter the huge differences in the statistics. There is bound to be secrecy around the true costs of this war. Who would want to admit to these horrific statistics. But even the lowest estimates are still shocking in their scale.

So as the news programmes carry on showing the world the pull-out of troops surely somebody should put a truthful account together. Surely some editor should have the courage to focus on what horrific damage this war has done to a country. Let’s not see pictures of what has been repaired. Let’s see pictures of what Iraq looked like before the war, how it was destroyed and what damage is now left over for the Iraqis to repair. It’s not as if their economy is exactly thriving with an inflation rate of 50% and the oil price coming down.

Let’s just for once try and be honest. Difficult I know.

Still wondering about the reason why the UK went to war in Iraq

So the war in Iraq was supported by the UK because Blair, the then Prime Minister, was worried about the Weapons of Mass Destruction.  Oh but there weren’t any to be found. Well then it was the hatred of tyranny and terror. Mmm, they didn’t find too much of that either. Sure, they finally found Saddam Hussein in his bolt hole.

There are some small murmurs every now and then questioning the reasons for the UK’s involvement in this war that lead to the death of 1.2 million people. So far. Most of those  are innocent civilians.  Johann Hari, one of my favourite journalists, has a good article on this in The Independent.

But one thing that is mostly overlooked is that the UK is a democracy and it has houses of Parliament where elected representatives sit earning nice little salaries. And in order to avoid having a Prime Minister go off pop and do something stupid like getting involved in a war that has no purpose whatsoever, these folk get to vote on issues. On issues for instance whether to send ones soldiers off to fight a war that is none of ones or their business.

After all there was no real threat to British safety from Saddam Hussein and his rather motley crew of ragamuffin army folk.  But off they went to war regardless. Regardless even of UN disapproval.

The question has to be asked, why did so few people stand up to stop this idiotic action? Isn’t this what the Germans had to suffer after the war. The recrimination about not stopping Hitler, not stopping the Holocaust and not stopping the second World War.

So where are the recriminations this time around? Why is nobody pointing fingers at the British government, all those politicians still getting their pay, not having to be accountable for the deaths of 1.2 million people.

Surely it’s not just Blair. It’s a whole bunch of other folk who should be held accountable too. What did they do to the Germans after the war? They brought to court anybody they could find who had any kind of say with respect to the massacres at the holocaust. Is the Iraq war any different? And what on earth is everybody doing in Afghanistan?

Maybe it’s about Oil in Iraq and Opium in Afghanistan? The BIG money spinners… So then who was pulling the strings one wonders.

At what stage do you let your strings be pulled by the puppeteer

How much effort does it take to hoodwink people into believing something that is not even remotely based on fact. What kind of indicators need to be present to make us believe what we are being told?

Do we need photographs, films, celebrity endorsement, the media and books, TV appearances and radio exposure? What makes us finally tip over and buy the stories we are presented with?

This is not a new thing. Not so long ago people believed the earth was flat. Then people believed there were witches and burnt a whole lot of innocent women at the stake. What about the poor women in the Arab world and what amazing ‘sins’ they are being accused of and stoned for. A raped girl needs to be stoned? Somebody believes in that moral code.

What about the many people who bought into the whole anti-Semitism story that Hitler dished up and persecuted and killed millions of Jews. How did they believe that? In retrospect it is truly unbelievable.

So what does it take for us to buy into these misrepresentations, lies, myths, or whatever you want to call it.

Probably not as much as we think we do. Possibly for a clever person or organisation it actually doesn’t take that much to get us to buy into a fact or occurrence that could eventually, when the dust settles, be considered outrageous.

In fact is it not perhaps possible that the more outrageous the lie the more we would be inclined to believe it?

There are two particular bits of history that have a fair question mark over them. That is a fair number of people question the validity of the happenings. One is the moon landing, the anniversary of this is being celebrated at the moment. The other are the 9/11 attacks.

Was the moon landing a Hollywood ‘documentary’? Probably. Besides the inconsistency of the photographic and so-called visual proof, it is probable that the USA didn’t have the technology, not necessarily sending the folk out, but of bringing them back home. That’s where the biggest doubts might be.

Of course one could imagine that some kind of UFO assistance could have provided a bit of a helping hand. But then who believes in UFOs? Which in fact is the joke isn’t it.

So many sightings have been made from pilots flying aircraft, to scientists observing them from the ground to photographic evidence. But nobody believes in that. Yet most people have bought into the landing on the moon story.

What about 9/11. There are many enquiries. One in particular is a pilots association that is putting a question mark as to whether the airplanes could have been flown into the buildings and Pentagon as reported.

Another enquiry is now being held where architects and engineers are asking some very strong questions as to how the buildings could have burnt and crumbled as they did. In fact evidence seems to support that the buildings were brought down by internally placed explosives in a controlled implosion.

So we have expert pilots and expert architects and engineers and nobody is going to believe them. Because we somehow have bought into the story sold to us by the media and governments (including the UK in this scenario) that it was a terror attack by a few Saudi Arabians.

These Saudis, who hardly could fly a small plane never mind a commercial airliner, were the ones who engineered this whole thing. We even got to see them checking into airports, all shown nicely on TV. And we bought it all.

Oh and these few individuals arranged this terror via the internet. That’s why governments are pushing for the right to snoop into all of your emails and online activities.

Now they can search through your things while you are doing something as harmless as catching a flight. In fact they can treat you like a criminal and presume you are guilty before given the chance to prove your innocence.

Have you ever wondered how much ‘evidence’ you need before you accept the presented material as fact? Would be interesting to check next time you get dished up some big story. Like the reasons for the Iraqi war for instance. Or now Afghanistan?

How much of all the war stories are you believing? At which point did your credibility level hit the tipping point and you got hooked?

An unexpected accolade for George W Bush

Hotly following on George Bushes visit to Bagdad, the UK’s Gordon Brown is not to be outdone by his US counterpart, with his own visit to the capital. What these two political allies wanted to achieve was anybody’s guess.

It seems that Bush was doing a last bit of travel on company costs. Whiling the time away, so to speak.  Although one wonders what on earth possessed him to visit a country where his actions have created such unbelievable hardship, distress and sorrow for the general population.

Was he going to gloat? Wave the victory flag? At least he didn’t pitch up in a military aircraft waving a sign with ‘Mission Accomplished’ on it.  What mission and what accomplishment one asks oneself. Did he visit to rub noses in the blood, guts and tears of Iraqis?

In all probability, and if one were to believe the newscasters, G W Bush visited Iraq to say good-bye and to receive the heroic victor medal. Instead he received a pair of shoes thrown at him by a reporter. Besides a fabulous video and YouTube opportunity, showing a surprisingly agile president ducking in time to avoid getting hit, we also learn that the throwing of shoes is considered the height of an insult in Iraqi society.

We further hear that Iraq has learnt well in its time under US occupation and has taken on board acceptable US police behaviour. The reporter was beaten and according to news reports suffered several broken ribs. Another instance of the practice of quiet persuasion.

The question then on everybody’s lips should be whether Gordon Brown will also be accosted with a pair of size ten shoes accompanied by a mouthful of accusations. If one were to believe that this is a sign of extreme disdain of the person getting the order of the boot extended or OBE for short, then Brown should be in line for similar treatment.  Shouldn’t he?

No victory parade as Britain finally withdraws from Iraq

There are still people out there who are mouthing off about the war in Iraq and that it needs to be won. These people are living in a world wholly beyond reality. The reason for their current trips down fantasy land is the fact that the British troops are pulling out of Iraq. The only part of this withdrawal which I did not anticipate was the publicity. I always thought that Brown was planning to do it very quietly.

What has shone one of the spotlights on the withdrawal has been an airing of criticism by top UK Generals against the alleged bungling of the Americans in Iraq. As expected, that was not left unpunished by the Americans. Understandably so. Nobody likes to be told how incompetent and useless they are.

It is questionable though whether the Brits did any better. As they crawl their way out of their old HQ, it will take them 8 hours to cover the 12km to their airport base, they leave behind as wrecked an area as the Americans preside over.

The UK criticism deals with the lack of nation building attempted after the armed forces won the short skirmish and took over the country.  It is maintained that there had not been any preparation by the Americans for the subsequent occupation.

Talking about victory, who can forget the cringe inducing public relations effort of Bush and his ‘Mission Accomplished’  trip to troops in 2003. He obviously saw himself as a Top Gun and his action might just indicate the state of mind of this man. Step aside Tom Cruise.

One would imagine that the reason for this current posturing by the UK military and attempts at passing the buck is that the futility of the exercise is finally sinking in. Regrettably this is not the case. The discussions will evolve around who was at fault for losing the war and not the insanity of starting the war in the first place.

Neither Bush nor Brown are going to admit that the war in Iraq was uncalled for, immoral, devastatingly horrific for the Iraqi people and purely for the purpose of securing the oil resources.  Regrettably, no such admission will be forthcoming.

These are some of the Basra stats according to the Independent. 655 000 civilian deaths since the conflict began – no mention of the numbers of displaced people. 168 British service people killed, no numbers given for the maimed. £5bn cost to the UK. Some reconstruction achieved such as schools built and water pipes laid although the report does not state whether these were reconstructed after the destruction of the war, or were in fact new facilities.

Whatever the consequences of the British decision to take part in this war, and history will be rewritten a few times one imagines, one can at least applaud their decision to leave now rather than later.  Nothing positive can be achieved by prolonging the agony. It remains to be seen how long it will take for the country to heal itself. Probably many more years than it took the Allied Forces to destroy it.