Friday, October 11, 2013

In the Name of Freedom

"100,000+ civilian deaths so that democracy should be brought to the Middle East".

Grounds provided to Parliament for invasion: false and proven incorrect The UN process to clarify that falsehood: rejected, against the will of the international community Bush regime ideology: shock and awe in line with the 'Program for a New American Century'

Yet democracy (the later justification for war) was ignored. Democracy is still compromised by this demonstrated military culture that resists transparency. Democracy needs press freedom, judicial fairness and accountability, and transparency.

Democracy is not just a one-off vote. It is a culture, an accountability, an openness, a protection of the innocent. It is the freedom of the press to uncover hidden injustices. It should also be legality.

Was this war legal?

Were the actions without a 2nd UN mandate legal?

Was Abu Ghraib legal? Would we ever have been told about it, if it hadn't come to light? Or the rape and murder at Haditha?

Was the aerial bombing from great height a disproportionate action endangering the Iraqi civilian population? Would we ever have countenanced it against our own UK or US civilian populations?

Was the suppression of information like this legal?

Was the UK or US government aware of some of this information, and if it suppressed it, and acquiesced in its implications and violations, was it acting illegally its roles and responsibilities as an occupying force with responsibilities towards the civilian population?

Who killed the innocent civilian Baha Mousa? Which UK soldier did that? Why wasn't he prosecuted? Why did colleagues collude in a cover up?

Is the Ministry of Defense properly accountable or does it collude with the hiding of relevant information that should be part of accountability in a democracy? Why was it alright for the Ministry of Defense/British Aerospace to be engaged in weapons deals with Saudi princes, which involved illegal bribes, when the Saudi regime is non-democratic and has a bad human rights record?

What I'm really saying is: first Tony Blair said imminent attack from weapons of mass destruction was the reason for ignoring the UN processes already in place. Then, when this claim was shown to be doctored and false, the argument shifted to 'bringing democracy to Iraq' (as if Saudi Arabia and countless other trading partners couldn't be invaded on that pretext as well).

But, the democratic majority of the UK ad USA opposed the invasion without the legality of a 2nd UN mandate. Democracy also involves, legality, openness, transparency, accountability.

Countless known crimes in this terrible history of events have gone unaddressed and uncared for. People's intimate family lives have been shattered.

Perhaps the greatest crime that has gone unaddressed was the decision - against international opinion and against our own nation's democratic opinion - to invade Iraq and unleash chaos.

The Iraq War was a disaster and it did nothing for the "war on terror", motivating new martyrs, and totally losing the battle for "hearts and minds".

So I am wholly under-impressed by people who try to portray journalistic truths being brought to light as if *they* are the ones in the wrong.

Our culture is way too militaristic. Our soldiers - like *all* soldiers of courage, including Iraqi soldiers - deserve recognition for individual courage in an invidious situation. But was it worth the 100,000 dead mothers, children, sisters, grandparents, innocent people? Was it worth our own dead soldiers?

And how many more British and American soldiers will die in Afghanistan before we pull out, which the politicians know we must, yet they fear the losing face, and so other soldiers will die needlessly I fear. Indeed it's a weekly death count. As is the continuing civilian death toll there, when innocent people get strafed at weddings, or just wiped out by drones, and so the killing (and on the evidence of the past) the cover up goes on.

If we devoted a fraction of the money we spend on militarism to education, health, and help for those in need, of any faith or creed perhaps we might start winning hearts, and demonstrating democracy. Perhaps we'd stop the hypocrisy of invading countries in the name of democracy while remaining trading partners and colluders in regimes that are non-democratic and oppressive.

If Wikileaks contributes in some way to greater accountability in the future, then maybe politicians will take the responsibilities of war and its (in this case unplanned) aftermath more seriously.

But surely, we live in a democracy because we vote once every 4 years? If the people we vote for then go against the clear democratic will, and worse still, if they should ever break international law in going to war then what exactly are we exporting (apart from more arms) to the countries we claim to democratize?

Catholic Church Goes Cool

I'm an atheist (well Wittgenstenian agnostic would be more accurate, but that's more a philosophical than a practical scepticism - I believe in evolution because I read it in a book, in a culture that takes certain books as being good sources of knowledge, I assume without proof that the table doesn't disappear when I look away from it, I don't need personal proof or comprehension of how carbon-dating works for my belief in it to be rational, until I acknowledge, philosophically at least, that I've got plenty of views that rest on grounds that are at least as shaky as religion). But I do lecture in philosophy of religion, so I have some insight as one who has dealt a lot with catholicism, but isn't part of it (and thankfully didn't have the kind of upbrining that would leave me emotionally traumatised by it).

Wee need to realise that the Catholicism isn't a monolithic entity, but a collection of quite diverse subcultures and belief systems. It's easy to miss that point because of the organisation's insane political-party like insistence on presenting an 'absolute front' to the world, hiding the debate that goes on behind the scenes.

But this is an organisation that on one hand condemned 'revolutionary socialism', while on the other hand was the main instigator and supporter of revolutionary socialism in numerous pockets of South America. It's the organisation that took an appeasement stance towards fascism (I won't enter the debate on how Pope Pius should be judged - yes he did do a deal where he gave political support to Mussolini in return for the Vatican City, and yes he did arrange the smuggling of thousands of Jews out of the country - whether one justifies the other is going to be a long debated question), and it's also the organisation that had thousands of priests and bishops end up in concentration camps for deying Hitler even though their leader remained silent.

It's the organisation that gave - at best, and contrary to its far more liberal position on science pre-20th century (Galileo was largely a political dispute, with the most powerful layman in the catholic church getting shafted after a change in pope) - a very cold shoulder to Darwin's discoveries, while one of it's most famous offshoots, the Jesuits, celebrated the discovery of natural selection as providing a crucial discovery for how humanity arose (and one, which in their view, was better in keeping with their ideology of humanity as essentially an intelligent/privileged animal instead of a 'God' in itself).

It's the church that issues horrific 'official statements' about homosexuality (less offensive under the current pope, admittedly), but has inner city churches in most western cities that are proudly gay-friendly regardless of what 'Rome' might think. It's the organisation that works hand in hand with some of the most oppressive regimes, while also sheltering freedom fighters of all creeds, with many priests in East Timor and South America being tortured and killed because they wouldn't give up their beneficiaries' hiding place.

Like any large organisation, the Catholic church is heavily factional, with economic 'left and right' and social 'conservative and progressive' factions. This last came into public view at the Vatican II conference, initiated by the South American revolutionary socialist wing of the church, who wanted the church to move beyond poverty relief to tackling the causes of poverty, including corrupt governments and capitalist systems. The progressive tide reached a fairly impressive height but was then utterly crushed by the conservative factions who united with the sole purpose of opposing the movement, until the only outcome of Vatican II was minor decentralisation and that the mass is now read in english instead of latin, with the original ideological underpinnings having disappeared entirely.

Following that, the conservative factions united to try and ensure that the 'threat' that initiated Vatican II never gained political power again - they were fine with them being tortured and killed while fighting for justice in far-away lands, but taking it to the church's seat of power had been a step too far. As bishop positions became vacant, traditionally progressive seats were systematically replaced with conservatives, resulting in the anti-modern quagmire that is the 'official' Catholic ideology today.

But the church is still factional, and any analysis must begin from that. There are pro-gay factions, pro-Marxist factions, factions who want the nuns to run things (given that they've got the better track record so far), factions defined by Kantian ideology (bizarrely condemned by the previous pope - you'd think being the church of Immanuel Kant would be something you'd sell yourself on) and of course the conservative factions that dominate the official policy. A monolithic view is never a sufficient one when it comes to Catholicism.

Whore of Babylon.

"Niqab's predate Islam and stretch back to Babylon where they were worn by Arab women of ruling class as a symbol of wealth to rub it in the noses of poor Arab women".

Western culture involves a degree of openness and honesty, and it is generally considered unacceptable to mask your face whilst interacting with another person 'face to face'. The clue is in the name. By showing your face you display to another person that you can be trusted you show willingness to be recognised such that if you ever did them wrong, they could identify you in the future. A smile on a friendly face by a stranger makes people feel happy. If we cannot see the faces of others in public then it is a cause for concern.

Religion equals ignorance and oppression and is never benign. The evidence for that is
easily seen in the infighting around Western women who may want a spot on an executive committee in that brand. Ultimately the women who wear such items of clothing are doing so to proclaim to the rest of society that they have absolutely no desire to integrate or take advantage of the freedoms that women have in western society (in comparison to say Saudi Arabia). Either that, or they are being forced to wear the Burka because their husband doesn't want them to integrate or take part in wider society. Which ever way, I find the whole matter pretty disrespectful and quite sad really.

Most of us if honest will admit that in the very recent past our ancestors were poor, illiterate and unsophisticated. They existed in theocratic tyrannies and were bullied by vile control freaks. That is hopefully a thing of the past. Our decent cultures have bent over backwards, regressing us in order to not cause those coming from the developing world insult.

When you ask what values are being protected? Can I submit that our culture and society holds dear that facial expressions and facial contact between humans is one of the key components of human interaction. We also believe that men are capable of looking at women's faces without turning into lustful rapists, equally women can reveal their own faces to men who are not their husbands without automatically becoming the "whore of Babylon".