OPINION: Instead of launching a war, the US and UK could have weaned us off the fossil fuels that pay for the brutal regimes of dictators
Twenty years ago today, [20 March] war was once again unleashed on Baghdad. In the UK – and much of the rest of the world – people sat in front of their TVs watching the skies above the ancient city flash with flame as buildings were rendered to rubble, the limbs and lives inside crushed.
The real victims of George Bush and Tony Blair’s shock and awe were, of course, the people of Iraq. Estimates of violent deaths range from a hundred thousand to a million. That doesn’t include the arms and legs that were lost, the families devastated, the melted minds and broken souls, trauma that will shatter down generations. It doesn’t include anyone killed in the conflict since then: there are still British and US troops in the country. It doesn’t include the poverty resulting from crushed infrastructure, the hopes abandoned and the potential immolated.
And that’s just the 2003 war: Britain has bombed Iraq in seven of the last 11 decades.
But in far gentler ways, the war was to shape the lives of those watching through their TVs, too. The invasion of Iraq – along with the other post-9/11 wars – was a road our governments chose irrevocably to drive us down. And we, too, have been changed by the journey.
The financial cost of the Iraq war to the US government, up to 2020, is estimated at $2trn. The post-9/11 wars together cost the US around $8trn, a quarter of its debt of $31trn. Much of the money was borrowed from foreign governments, in a debt boom which, some economists have argued, played a key role in the 2008 crash.
It was in this period, in particular, that China bought up billions of dollars of US government debt. Just before Barack Obama was elected in 2008, Beijing had overtaken Tokyo as the world’s largest holder of US Treasury bonds. Today, America’s neoconservatives are obsessed with China’s power over the US. What they rarely mention is that this was delivered by their wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Britain’s financial contribution was more meagre – in 2015 the UK government estimated it had spent £8.1bn on the invasion of Iraq, and around £21bn on Afghanistan. But these are hardly figures to be sniffed at.
Also significant, in both cases, is where this money went: the Iraq war saw a revolution in the outsourcing of violence. In 2003, when the war began, the UK foreign office spent £12.6m on private security firms. By 2015, just one contract – paying G4S to guard Britain’s embassy in Afghanistan – was worth £100m.
Over the course of the wars, the UK became the world centre for private military contractors – or, to use the old fashioned word, mercenaries. While many of these are private army units, others offer more specialist skills: retired senior British spooks now offer intelligence advice to central-Asian dictators and, as we found out with Cambridge Analytica during the Brexit vote, psychological operations teams who honed their skills in Iraq soon realised how much money they could make trialling their wares on the domestic population.
This vast expansion of the military industrial complex in both the US and UK hasn’t just done direct damage to our politics and economy – affecting the living standards of hundreds of millions of people across the world. It has also distorted our society, steered investment into militarised technology when research is desperately needed to address the climate and biodiversity crises.
Similarly, the war changed British politics. First, and perhaps most profoundly, because it was waged on a lie, perhaps the most notorious lie in modern Britain, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
Acres of text have been written about the rapid decline in public trust in politicians in the UK in recent years. Very few grapple with the basic point – that, within the memory of most voters, a prime minister looked us in the eye, and told us that he had to lead us into war, based on a threat that turned out to be fictional. There are lots of reasons people increasingly don’t trust politicians – and therefore trust democracy less and less. But the Iraq war is a long way up the list.
Obama – who had opposed the war – managed to rally some of that breakdown of trust into a positive movement (whatever you think of his presidency, the movement behind it was positive). So did the SNP in Scotland.
But often, it went the other way. If the war hadn’t happened, would Cleggmania have swung the 2010 election from Gordon Brown to David Cameron? Probably not. And this, of course, led to the second great lie of modern British politics, the one about tuition fees and austerity.
Without the invasion, would Donald Trump have won in 2016? Would Brexit have happened?
There is a generation of us – now approaching our 40s – who were coming into political consciousness as Iraq was bombed. Many of us marched against the war, many more were horrified by it. The generation before us – Gen X – were amazingly unpolitical. Coming of age in the 1990s, at the end of history, very few got involved in social movements or joined political parties.
When I was involved in student politics in the years following Bush and Blair’s invasion, student unions across the UK were smashing turnout records. Soon, those enraged by the war found Make Poverty History, the climate crisis, the financial crisis and austerity. A generation of political organisers grew up through climate camps and Occupy and became a leading force behind Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, helping organise a magnificent younger cohort of Gen-Zers which arrived after us.
But I shouldn’t end on a positive note. The disaster predicted by the millions across the world who marched against the war has played out. Hundreds of thousands have died. The Middle East continues to be dominated by dictators.
This war was justified on the grounds that Saddam was a threat to the world. But while his weapons of mass destruction were invented, scientists were already warning us about a very real risk; already telling us that we had a few short decades to address the climate crisis.
Rather than launching a war that would give the West access to some of the world’s largest oil reserves, the US and UK could have channelled their vast resources into weaning us off the fossil fuels that pay for the brutal regimes of dictators. Instead, we incinerated that money, and the world, with it.
Dublin City University (DCU) has rejected a proposal to award Tony Blair an honorary doctorate for his work on the Good Friday Agreement.
The former British prime minister had been proposed for the honour alongside Bertie Ahern.
However, the Sunday Independent understands the university’s governing authority rejected the nomination over fears it would lead to a backlash due to Mr Blair’s role over the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
“The decision was made that Mr Blair would be too controversial. They felt the Iraq war would bring too much negative attention to the university,” a source said.
TWENTY years ago tomorrow two million marched for peace in the biggest protest in British history.
The London demonstration formed just one of scores of marches against the US’s stated plan to invade Iraq which maybe mobilised 30 million people worldwide.
Despite a barrage of lies and war propaganda echoed by the BBC and most major newspapers, polls showed a solid majority of the British people were against the war.
But the government went ahead nonetheless. This was the crime of the century: not the first of the wars of aggression that the US and its allies embarked on during Washington’s “unipolar moment” after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but the largest and most consequential.
It was also the most blatantly unprovoked. Unlike Yugoslavia or Libya, where Nato effectively took sides in a local conflict to advance its destructive agenda, the Iraq crisis was entirely fabricated. The US and British governments knew their case against Iraq was based on lies.
My first website / blog – from 1998/9 – is mostly archived at https://geocities.restorativland.org/Athens/Olympus/1833/index.htm. Warning: the link to the ctheory site from the New diary page links to a site concerned with ‘toto’. I had no idea what toto was either. The ctheory<dot>com address was originally the Ctheory site concerned with Frankfurt School philosophy.
There is a page missing, called ‘deep DT’s first statement on race’ or something similar. It was an argument against racism, claiming that races do not exists since genes are so mixed. It’s a snapshot too so that the New Diary page that I claimed changes often but actually only occasionally changed often is a snapshot. I regard it as amoung the earliest blogs (weblogs) because that New Diary page changed i.e. had it’s commentary updated which is the essential element of a blog.
Geocities provided a minimal interface. I would create pages editing HTML before uploading to geocities. There were simple wysiwyg (what you see is what you get) code editors to create webpages then but they were crude and limited. CTRL-U or a similar command (press the CTRL and U keys together in your browser) allows you to see the simple HTML code.
Geocities was a very early part of the web that allowed individuals to crate websites and I think that it was for free. The geocities websites were popular. You can see some of my neighbouring websites at geocities here. Fascinating.
The geocities webpages were purchased by – I think – yahoo and shut down. It is only within the past few years that the historical archives have appeared.
I campaigned against the USUK second Bush-Iraq war that started in early 2003 using the usenet nntp messaging system. It is very similar to the original arpanet system of the earliest internet used by universities and may be an evolution of it. It was very powerful being monitored by governments and big news sites. Many of my posts can be seen in this listing (the first few pages). [13/11/22 I didn’t realise that the ‘Highway’ post was there initially. Google has censored it now, WTF are they afraid of?]
I also campaigned against the Iraq war starting 2003 in person. One of Stop The War coalitions slogans at the time was “Not in my name” and I would often be carrying a poster with that phrase. I was getting harassed by former boss of the Metropolitan Police and Tony Blair’s butler Ian Blair during this time.
I was still using usenet at the G8 protests in Scotland in July 2005. The London tube explosions of 7 July 2005 happened at the end of the G8 events in Scotland. I have produced an analysis of these explosions called the UNOFFICIAL NARRATIVE and there’s a link to the July 7 truth campaign on my blogroll. I concluded that they were dust explosions and that there were no terrrists.
I started using a blogging service provided by the Canadian host host cjb in January 2006. The url was blogs<dot>cjb<dot>net/dissident and some archives are available on the Wayback machine. cjb blog hosting was free again worked quite well except that there was a small limit to the size of posts (1kb ?) which I often hit. We’re getting closer to a conventional blog with that classic blog layout which I really like – a sidebar on the right with links to earlier posts. Results from a search on the wayback machine (some of them are quite poor with missing elements).
The very first post of 6 January 2006 is missing from the Wayback machine. It was “It’s an honour to join the dissident bloggers” mostly referring to Craig Murray’s blog.
Some posts disappeared from this blog – I suspect forcibly removed by the UK government or Metropolitan Police under Ian Blair. It’s a political blog attacking Blair’s and Cameron’s later Libservative governments and doing original investigative research into the London explosions and the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes. I appear to have established that Jean Charles de Menezes was murdered. I posted elsewhere and the server was snatched by British Transport Police shortly after my posting. It appears that the posting has resurfaced and accepted by many as proving that JCdM was murdered.
I moved away from this blog to the paid host tsohosts after the pages disappeared and cjb claimed to know nothing about it and no backups. With a paid host I got the domain name onaquietday<dot>org.
I started with this current host in March 2022 because I was disappointed with the service at my previous host. They were bought by a bigger player and suffered with poorer performance and service. I am very pleased with my current host – speed, support and value are excellent.
I moved the content of my previous blog to this one when I moved so please feel free to look about. There’s a search box and categories on the right hand side.
Suppose that I should provide some blogging instruction …
to be continued
14/11/22 One from the archives
August 14, 2006 – THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE: Reality is negotiated
A while ago I promised “the truth is out there” series of articles to promote conspiracy theories. Here’s a start.
Everyone has their own truth and their truth will be largely dictated by their perspective and disposition. Individuals with hugely different lifestyles, experiences and motivations will have hugely different ‘truths’ or pattern of beliefs, values, attitudes, prejudices, etc.
Reality is negotiated between different actors. New Labour seem to have incorporated this processs of negotiation into its policy-making and this was explicitly stated in the early New Labour period. This probably applies only to New Labour policies that are not not negotiable e.g. rabid Neo-Conservatism / Neo-Liberalism and Crypto-Fascism. New Labour know fully well that certain outcomes are favourable to themselves, their interests and purposes and they engage using lies and deception. We know that they lie – they have been caught out endless times.
The difference with Blair, Reid & Co is that they’re shameless and so don’t care – or perhaps don’t need to care – when they are caught out lying since they have never been held to account for their actions. This is deliberate – they actively evade accountability and responsibility for their actions.
My approach to reality is that there is one ‘real’ reality that is perceived and interpreted differently by different actors. When things happen, those things really happened but then the process of negotiation starts.
New Labour do not share this approach. They believe that reality can be negotiated, remoulded, renegotiated, reinterpreted or even censored long after the event. Their approach is remarkably similar to Orwell’s concept of ‘doublethink’ and betrays their shallowness and absence of any real values. For Blair, since reality is infinitely renegotiable, lying and deception is just a part of achieving what He wants.
“The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. … To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies – all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.” Orwell, George (1949). Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Much of this derives from narcissist Blair. Blair has certainty in the total absence of any supporting evidence – even when there is plenty of evidence supporting contrary positions. How is this possible? Does it mean that He has special insight denied the rest of us common mortals? Does it mean that He can ‘feel’ the truth? Does He have powers denied to us mere mortals? Or perhaps He’s simply a sad, pathetic nutjob?
Although much of this derives with Blair, the Labour party cannot escape its responsibilities and blame.
more on conspiracy theories, Blair, New Labour and Fascism soon
14/11/22 Another one from the archives. John Reid is saying that suspected terrorists should be killed and Keir Starmer’s current Labour Party has been saying the same recently. So here’s the reality: if John Reid or Keir Starmer want somebody killed … they assign the status of (call them) a suspected terrorist and kill them. [15/11/22 Actually and as in the case of the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes, they murder them and then lie profusely including calling them a suspected terrorist to justify the murder. ]
September 29, 2006 – Evil Fascist John Reid is just plain wrong
Blair’s speech “The first rule of politics: there are no rules.”
Of course there are rules – they’re called laws. What Blair means is that they have ruled as though there were no laws.
Reid must stand for PM to protect himself and the Blairites from the cells.
Evil Fascist John Reid’s speech
“It cannot be right that the rights of an individual suspected terrorist be placed above the rights, life and limb of the British people.It’s wrong. Full stop. No ifs. No buts. It’s just plain wrong.” Even if that suspected terrorist is a suspected terrorist only for his legitimate political activities that should be protected in a tolerant society? But what about the suspected terrorists you have already killed or shot evil Dr. Reid? They were innocent. Do you undertand what is meant by innocent evil Dr. Reid? That’s one of our values but obviously not one of New Labour’s values.
It’s just plain wrong that evil Dr. Reid put right-wing death squads on the streets of London. to be continued
16 November 2022. Let’s crack on with this. So far we’ve established that I am an experienced blogger. Today I’ll deal with the practicalities of setting up a blog and hopefully tomorrow we’ll discuss this blog post that I did recently. So the rest of this blog post is technical at a below novice blogger level about how to blog. Please avoid if not interested.
What you need to blog
Firstly, you need some sort of computer. You’re reading this so you’ve got access to something.
I have difficulties using a smartphone for blogging but know that some of you are wizards on them. If it’s all you’ve got it will do and you’ll improve with practice.
A tablet will work fairly well. My preference is a laptop or desktop puter running debian Linux. Shared puters are available at libraries, schools and universities, expect that you can find something.
Secondly, you need blog hosting. This is where your blog is kept and served to the internet. While you are able to do this yourself by installing a webserver, I would not recommend it because it will be slow with extremely limited bandwidth and very complex to set up and administer.
Speed, Support, Security
Hosting is free, cheap or more expensive. I would and do go for cheap but there are other considerations. You want a fast host because you lose viewers if your site is slow to load. You want a host with good support because you’re likely to need it. Free 24 hour support is the one to go for. You want a host that has some concern for and regular security practices including backups. More expensive is simply more expensive without any advantages over cheap and good.
I much prefer Linux based hosting because that’s what I’m familiar with. You will eventually need to execute commands on the server host so it helps if you’re familiar with the host system.
The best way to select a blog host is to read reviews and compare and contrast. Make sure it provides everything that you need. Shared hosting is fine. I recommend my current host (and they’ve got a very good offer on atm) – it’s for you to find out who that is ;) Free is probably slow and limited in some ways e.g. no domain name, I suppose acceptable if you just wanted to try at first.
Many web hosts attract new bloggers with a free domain name offer. It’s worth spending some time choosing a name. Onaquietday is not ideal because it clashes with Arundhati Roy’s statement that it pays tribute to — ‘Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.’ You get stuck with a name so give it some thought and decide what extension you want.
Watch out for extras that are sold with webhosting e.g. SSL certificates. You often don’t need those extras and they can be confusing. Try asking the host before signing up: Do I need that? What does it do? and do your own online research.
Hosting will cost a few $/E/£s a month, year or some other period. You will need to buy a domain name if it’s not included – up to $/E/£20 or so and up to $/E/£20 every 2 years to renew (keep) the domain name. I always used to get charged every 2 years to renew, looks like some hosts are charging every year.
Don’t worry about different currencies – just pay and it will get converted. You will need a credit or debit card and expect that a prepaid debit card will work. If not try elsewhere.
Blogging platforms are often a CMS – Content Management System – tweaked to be a blogging platform and this is a further consideration when selecting a blogging host. The most popular and the platform I use is WordPress. Other blogging platforms are available e.g. Joomla, Drupal or Ghost. It’s probably worth searching for a simple blogging platform and see what’s out there.
How to Create a Blog With Joomla
WordPress comes with a default theme – the theme being an interface between WordPress and the creator and between WordPress and how it appears to users. I updated from the default theme to the free (no cost) OceanWP theme because I needed better performance on mobile devices especially phones. I particularly needed reactive text (text that wraps to the screen size as it is resized).
Use a ‘staging website’ before making any changes.The staging website is a copy of your blog that is not publicly accessible. Test changes on it until you learn how to apply those changes to achieve what you want. You then need to apply those changes without any mistakes to the live blog or restore the staging website to the live blog if it’s all there with only the changes you want. You then need to delete the staging website and reload the cache.
Worpress uses plugins to alter it’s fuctionality. I use Akismet – an anti-spam comments filter, a lazy-load plugin that prevents loading of images until the user approaches them, a few extras for the OceanWP theme that I use, Yoast SEO which I tend to ignore and a 2-factor authentication plugin for extra security. I don’t use a caching plugin because I think that caching is already incorporated into the host server. It all seems to work well.
Posts are categorised and possibly tagged to help people search through posts. It essentially just groups similar posts together.
It’s worth watching a few vids and maybe read a few articles to learn how your blogging platform works. Search when you run into a problem – it’s very likely that many people have had that exact problem before. Your blogging platform will take some learning but just publish and get it out there, you’ll improve with experience.
Copyrighted and other content
This is a rough guide, not to be relied on as an authoritative statement of law.
You own the copyright on your own original work. Content on the web is usually owned by the publishing organisation and you’re only permitted to quote short, selected excerpts while providing a clear link to the original source. There is an exception for derived works but it needs to be more than trivial changes.
Content published under Creative Commons licences needs to be copied exactly, clearly attributed with details of the creative commons licence used. You are able to alter CC content to produce derived works, check the details for yourself.
Content published as press releases can be used as you like without attribution although I often do. I suggest that you respect any embargo requested.
As a less experienced blogger I used to quote newspaper articles at length. I got pulled up on it once by the Independent newspaper. As a rule of thumb I quote 3 paragraphs of a newspaper article. I sometimes quote more, especially two sections from different parts of a long article. The source are unlikely to be that concerned – you’re sending traffic to them through a clear link after all and news gets stale. I try to avoid linking to content that is restricted in some way e.g. a paywall or registration needed.
I never used to be concerned about images and just used them. There are many copyrighted images on this blog used without attribution. Image search engines often have an option to search for images under a creative commons licence so I do try to find them.
In the final analysis I am a not-for-profit blogger so that I am not profiteering through using others’ content and don’t have any money. You won’t get sued if you don’t have any money or other assets.
I think that it’s fair to accuse Labour politicians Sadiq Khan and Keith Starmer of supporting the right wing press in unfounded allegations. What Khan and Starmer are also doing is attempting to benefit politically from Just Stop Oil’s actions which have forced the debate.