Monday, March 26, 2007

Absolutely Shameful

Having disappeared from the blog world for some time, I've finally decided to return. My absence was due to a mixture of insane workload and general creative malaise. Today though, I watched this video from Iraq and needed an outlet for the anger and sadness it made me feel.

The short video is about the impact the ongoing sectarian violence in Iraq is having on Iraqi children. An entire generation are growing up in an environment of violence, hatred, fear, and loss. The long term effects of this on the country are unknown.

You can find the video here.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

After A Long and Unexplained Absence

Some thoughts on moving house:

Looking for a new house sucks. While searching for houses on the internet be wary of the following terms:

Quint = small and poky.

Old Style Charm = cracks in the walls and an outside loo.

Quiet living = located in a back alleyway where people come to dump dead bodies and unwanted pets.

Realstate agents never return phone calls.

Why do I find it impossible to throw anything away?

While sorting though drawer number 1 of RANDOM STUFF I found:

1 pirate eye patch
1 pirate dagger
1 plastic compass
1 plastic telescope
1 small box of assorted Indian cotton, sugar cubes, saffron, a small jar of honey, and a large walnut.
1 packet of candy hearts at least four years old
1 fortune cookie message reading: Tonight Will Change Your Life
1 pink turtle pin cushion

I also found the dreaded box of high school letters. In amongst the letters declaring that all men are emotionally retarded, there was also some incredibly bad poetry. The kind that should never have been committed to paper and if read, induces bleeding from ones eyeballs. Why any woman in her right mind would choose to wander the grounds of a ruined castle wearing a flimsy and flowing white cotton dress weeping and wringing her hands is now beyond me. I find it worrying that at some point in my past this kind of behaviour made complete sense.

There were, however, some truly hilarious and heartwarming letters. One of them even managed to bring a tear to Jelly’s eyes, no mean feat I assure you. It was from the sentimental and big hearted friend who carried a little clay beetle around in his pocket named Stuart Sutcliffe and named his pet chickens Dear Prudence and Polythene Pam.

Some conclusions I have drawn from this experience:

House hunting should only be conducted under the influence of hard liquor.
Packing is wonderful procrastination.
I am truly thankful the melodramatic days of high school are a distant memory.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Because I'm Too Lazy to Write My Own Post

Timothy Garton Ash has an interesting article in The Guardian discussing the issue of democratization as a sustainable long term foreign policy goal which is increasingly coming under fire.

Baghdad Burning talks about the fact that increasingly in Iraq it has become far too dangerous to step outside ones house without wearing a hijab. So much for bringing freedom of choice to the Iraqi people.

The Washington Realist reflects on some different assessments of the terrorist threat, quite pertinent in light of this morning's news.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

That Pesky Thing Called the Geneva Convention

Just warning you this post is mostly one long quote from the Washington Post. If you can't be bothered reading the whole thing I'll quickly summarise:

Pesky immoral foreigners are accusing freedom loving Americans of behaving badly and threatening to try them for war crimes. They are doing this just to REIGN IN AMERICAN POWER. This is bad. The Bush administration are therefore going to try and change the law so that things like torture, the rape and mutilation of non-combatants, and other acts of violence and inhumanity are acceptable behaviour for American soldiers.

"The Bush administration has drafted amendments to a war crimes law that would eliminate the risk of prosecution for political appointees, CIA officers and former military personnel for humiliating or degrading war prisoners, according to U.S. officials and a copy of the amendments. . .

'People have gotten worried, thinking that it's quite likely they might be under a microscope,' said a U.S. official. Foreigners are using accusations of unlawful U.S. behavior as a way to rein in American power, the official said, and the amendments are partly meant to fend this off.'

Smith explains: "The amendments would narrow the reach of the War Crimes Act, which now states in general terms that Americans can be prosecuted in federal criminal courts for violations of 'Common Article 3' of the Geneva Conventions, which the United States ratified in 1949. . .

"Common Article 3 is considered the universal minimum standard of treatment for civilian detainees in wartime. It requires that they be treated humanely and bars 'violence to life and person,' including murder, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture. It further prohibits 'outrages upon personal dignity' such as 'humiliating and degrading treatment.' And it prohibits sentencing or execution by courts that fail to provide 'all the judicial guarantees . . . recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.' . . .

"Former Justice Department lawyer John C. Yoo . . . said that U.S. soldiers and agents should 'not be beholden to the definition of vague words by international or foreign courts, who often pursue nakedly political agendas at odds with the United States.' . . .

"But [retired Army Lt. Col. Geoffrey S.] Corn, the Army's former legal expert, said that Common Article 3 was, according to its written history, 'left deliberately vague because efforts to define it would invariably lead to wrongdoers identifying 'exceptions,' and because the meaning was plain -- treat people like humans and not animals or objects.' "

Thursday, August 03, 2006


From the Internationl Herald Tribune:

'Talabani and Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani played down accusations against army and ministry officers, suggesting that those who have been seen robbing armored cars and kidnapping dozens of civilians were not representative of the force as a whole.

"We've started to make real progress in establishing and training our employees despite well-known challenges," Bolani said.'

It's comforting to know that politicians the world over use the same fluffy, vague language to obfuscate reality. "Well-known challenges" would certainly get top marks.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

'Origins of the Second World War' by My Local Mechanic

"It was the Aussies who were fightin' 'im. He was just a unknown soldier in Germany and they shoulda killed im and there'd a been no war."

"And it was also the fault of the Jews. They controlled the money and the economy was bad and the Germans believed Rudolph Hitler could save 'em from economic ruin."

Rudolph. Hitler. Had a very shiny nose.

Friday, July 14, 2006

A Gray Morning

I’m currently about three quarters of the way through a book about America’s role in World War 1. It’s called, rather aptly, “The Illusion of Victory”. It contains some truly horrific descriptions of war and some even more frightening descriptions of the incompetence of the leadership in America. Woodrow Wilson is so often revered as the man who set America on the path to Global leadership, making the spread of liberalism and democracy the cornerstone of American foreign policy. It’s curious that in all the criticisms of his arrogance, his isolation from Congress and from the American people, his vision of the US as the moral leader of the world is never questioned.

The idea that the US has both the right and the responsibility to morally shape the world is still at the heart of US foreign policy. While traditional interests and realpolitik still carry significant weight, most policy is still fashioned to fit within this ideological framework. This conflation of interests and values is what saw the US entry into the two World Wars, Vietnam and now Iraq.

The blogger at Baghdad Burning has written:
It's like Baghdad is no longer one city, it's a dozen different smaller cities each infected with its own form of violence. It's gotten so that I dread sleeping because the morning always brings so much bad news. The television shows the images and the radio stations broadcast it. The newspapers show images of corpses and angry words jump out at you from their pages, "civil war… death… killing… bombing… rape…"

With Iraq still crippled by unimaginable sectarian violence three years after “liberating” the Iraqi people, it seems absurd to speak of the progress of democracy and liberty as justification for the war. As the investigation continues into allegations of US soldiers raping a fourteen year old Iraqi girl, then killing her and her entire family, it seems grotesque to hear the Bush administration claim their country is the protector of freedom and human dignity across the globe.

And yet, while politically I’m a realist and generally a bit of a pessimist when it comes to human nature, I also truly hope that it is possible to limit this kind of suffering and conflict. It must be.