Bad Faith?

Koran 4.89 “They desire that you should disbelieve as they have disbelieved, so that you might be (all) alike; therefore take not from among them friends until they fly (their homes) in Allah’s way; but if they turn back [to their homes], then seize them and kill them wherever you find them, and take not from among them a friend or a helper.”

The anniversary of the July tube bombings gave plenty of opportunity to reflect on how Britain had reached a point where some of its citizens were willing to blow up other citizens while they were simply on their way to work. Sadly, it was not an opportunity taken by many and once again we heard a chorus of voices telling us that British foreign policy was to blame for the deaths of the 57 commuters who were killed by four British Muslims.

The usual Islamic nutters were out in force to blame the invasion of Iraq for pushing young Muslim men to murder innocent civilians. At the time, Bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, popped out of his cave to claim that “Blair has brought you destruction to the heart of London, and he will bring more destruction, God willing”. That filtered through to other Muslim groups, not sheltering in caves in Pakistan, but in semi detached houses in London. Al-Ghurabaa, a home grown Muslim group, claim that “If anything the situation has deteriorated one year on from 7/7” and make the chilling prediction that “Another 7/7 is more likely in the climate in which we live today than it was a year ago.” Who is to blame for the fact that a Muslim might blow up more train travelers? “The government seems to always detract from the foreign policy thing, they don’t want to make it an issue”. Hizb ut-Tahrir said “It is very clear that the problem of global terrorism is a problem borne out of Western foreign policy”

But what is really disgusting is the way that this view has infiltrated mainstream politics. Sir Iqubal Sacranie, head of the Muslim Council of Britain, has also suggested that the tube bombings would not have taken place had Britain not engaged in military action against Iraq. Mayor of London Ken Livingstone mused that western foreign policy was to blame for the fact that four Muslims decided to slaughter 56 people in his city. It was a view which was reflected in the wider Labour Party with John McDonnell, chairman of the 500-strong Labour Representation Committee, asserting “Please do not try to tell us that the war in Iraq played no part. This assertion is simply intellectually unsustainable”.

That the war in Iraq was controversial is not in doubt by anybody, even Tony Blair. That is was wrong is a view shared by a great many British people including at least 750,000 who demonstrated against the invasion in February 2003, it is a view I share myself. But it has never occurred to me to blow up the other passengers on my train to work to make the point. The peace activist Milan Rai says that “In other words, if you are against terrorism, you should tell British Muslims: ‘You are wrong to be furious about the invasion of Iraq’; ‘You are wrong to be angry about the occupation of Afghanistan’; and ‘You are wrong to rage against the West’s support for the oppression of the Palestinians’”. No one is saying that, what we should be saying to British Muslims is that blowing up innocent people is a totally and utterly unacceptable way to register your protest.

So we return to the question; why did some British Muslims decide to kill other British people? Having established that opposition to the war doesn’t automatically make you a killer, perhaps there is another reason? Perhaps, quite controversially, it is the faith of Islam itself which is to blame? To put this to the test lets look at some verses from the book by which a billion Muslims worldwide, including 3 million Britains, live their lives by;

Koran 17:16-17 When we decide to destroy a population, we send a definite order to them who have the good things in life and yet transgress; so that Allah’s word is proved true against them: then we destroy them utterly. How many generations have we destroyed after Noah? And enough is thy Lord to note and see the Sins of his servants

Koran 8:37 In order that Allah may separate the impure from the pure, Put All the impure ones (Non-Muslim), one on top of the another in a Heap and cast them into Hell. They will be the ones to have lost

Koran 21:11 How many were the populations we utterly destroyed because of their inequities, setting up in their place other peoples

Koran 2:8-10 In their (Non-Muslims) hearts is a disease; and Allah has increased their disease and grievous is the penalty they will incur, because they are false.

Koran 58:5 Those who resist Allah and His Messenger will be crumbled to dust, as were those before them: for we have already sent down Clear Signs and the Unbelievers will have a humiliating Penalty

Koran 44:43-50 Verily the Tree of Zaqqum will be the food of the sinful. Like molten brass it will boil in their insides, Like the boiling of scalding water Seize Ye Him and drag him into the midst of the blazing Fire Then pour over his head the penalty of Boiling Water

Koran 2:39 Those who reject faith (Islam) and belie our signs, They shall be Companions of the Fire and abide in it.

Koran 2:89-90The Curse of Allah is on those without faith (in Islam) Thus have they drawn wrath upon wrath on themselves and humiliating is the punishment of those who reject faith (Islam)

Koran 5:33 The Punishment for those who oppose Allah and his messenger is : Execution or Crucifixion or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides or exile from the land

Koran 9:35 On the day when Heat will be produced out of the wealth in the Fire of Hell, and with it will be branded their foreheads, their sides and their backs- “This is the treasure that ye buried for yourselves, taste ye then the treasures that ye buried.”

Koran 8:50 If you could see when the angels take the souls of the Unbelievers at death. How they smite their faces and backs saying “Taste the penalty of the blazing Fire”

All I have done is pick some of the bad stuff out of the Koran. There is much good, but if I can pull out all these passages which unequivocally advocate the murder of non Muslims, then it stands to reason that others will pull them out and use them in that way as well. Surely, if a young man dedicates himself to live his life by this book, containing these verses, it is “intellectually unsustainable” to believe that the faith of Islam itself played no part in motivating four young Muslims to slaughter what they saw as infidels on July 7th 2005.

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The War on Drugs

Drugs kill people. We hear it so often that we don’t really think about it anymore. But Im not talking about the rich coke heads in the City, or the depressed skag heads on the council estates, robbing to feed their habit. Im talking about the people killed as a result of the unwinnable war on drugs.

In Colombia war has been raging since the mid 1960’s between the various governments and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC. Like much of the contemporary violence in South America, the FARC initially started life as a Marxist force rebelling against a military government, but unlike many left wing movements in south America, the FARC have not embraced electoral politics in recent years. For better or worse, Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales and Alan Garcia have all been elected since 1999, but the FARC have kept fighting because of drugs.

Colombia is renowned as the world centre of the cocaine trade and it is estimated that about half of the FARC’s income comes from involvement in the drugs trade, totaling between $200 million and $400 million a year. This money allows them to fund a campaign which has included massacres, forced conscription of minors and various hideously inventive booby traps. They have freedom of movement in between 40% and 60 % of the country. They are believed to have been responsible for 20% of the thirty thousand deaths this war has caused.

Afghanistan is another country slithering down the same path. One of the few benefits of the Taliban’s brand of ascetic Islam was their crushing of the opium trade, opium being vital to heroin production. In 2000, according to UN officials, Afghanistan produced nearly 4,000 tons of opium, about 75 percent of the world’s supply. Mullah Omar, Taliban head and colleague of Osama Bin Laden, banned the growing of poppies from which opium comes and destroyed opium labs and jailed opium growing farmers. The UN investigation found that in the province of Nangarhar poppies grew on 12,600 acres of land in 2000. The following year poppies were planted on just 17 acres and were all destroyed by the Taliban. But since the US led invasion in 2001 and the toppling of the Taliban, opium production has come back with a vengeance. According to a UNDOC (United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime) report in 2004, “opium cultivation in Afghanistan has increased by 64 per cent compared to 2003” while cereal production fell by 43%.

Why is this? An answer is to be found in the article above. Ahmed Rehman, a farmer who lives with his brothers on less than three acres of land in Nangarhar province claimed that the opium he produced in 2000 brought in $1,100. The crop of onions and cattle feed he planted in 2001 brought him just $300. “Life is very bad for me this year,” he said. “Last year I was able to buy meat and wheat and now this year there is nothing.” In Colombia the high price commanded by drugs has prolonged a brutal war. In Afghanistan, the high price has encouraged men to abandon other crops to concentrate on profitable opium.

It is the high price of drugs that keeps the FARC fighting and Ahmed Rehman from growing food instead of opium. This high price will always be the case while demand outstrips supply. The Taliban were largely successful in throttling supply in Afghanistan but other efforts have met with less success. In 2004, Colombia’s government reported that 340,000 acres of land under cultivation for coca had been destroyed and almost 150 tons of cocaine seized. Sandro Calvani, director of the UNODC in Colombia, confidently predicted that “Considering Colombia supplies 80% of the world cocaine market, we think prices are going to rise starting in 2006” This price rise hasn’t materialized and in March 2005, General Bantz Craddock, head of US Southern Command charged with fighting the war on drugs, was forced to admit to the House Armed Services Committee that “Why there isn’t a price increase in cocaine, I don’t know. It’s a mystery to me.” If I were to guess at a reason it would be that as soon as an acre of cocoa is eradicated in Colombia, it springs up again in Bolivia.

Not only is this military effort having no effect on supply, attempts to squash demand western countries look to be ineffectual. The 2005 British Crime Survey found that between 1996 and 2004, cocaine use among 16 to 59 year olds rose from 0.6% to 2.4%. It is a similar story across Europe with 3.5 million Europeans estimated to take cocaine, a quarter of the world market. However, the United States still accounts for 40% of the cocaine market with 2.4% using the drug.

The war on drugs has been about stamping out supply and demand and neither has worked. It has driven the price up in the west so that addicts are pushed to crime to fund their habits. In other countries the high prices have funded civil unrest. Perhaps its time to look at another solution to the death and misery that the drug wars are causing? Perhaps its time to think about legalization

With drugs legal and the risk of having your crop defoliated gone, cocoa farmers in Colombia will rush to produce cocoa for the drug market, chasing the profits that the high price brings. This increase in supply relative to demand will have the effect of bringing the price of cocaine crashing down. Tom O’Connell MD has estimated that the “market price would probably be somewhere between one third and 1/20th of the illegal price”. Overnight the FARC will be bankrupt and lose much of their war making capacity. In Afghanistan the fall in price will mean that there is very little difference between what an opium grower will get for his opium and what he will get for his wheat and cereal will begin to look a viable option.

In the west, drugs could be taxed as cigarettes and alcohol are taxed. Furthermore, by bringing them under the scope of government regulation in terms of quality, it should be possible to improve the quality of the drugs available. After all, in many cases it is not the use but the misuse of drugs that causes fatalities.

Of course this is no panacea. In the cases of Colombia and Afghanistan, the west will have to end its farming subsidies so that Colombian formers can compete with them and make it worth their while to grow something other than cocoa. But bearing in mind that the war on drugs was launched 30 years ago and has had, at best, marginal results, surely it is time to look for a different solution?

Planned Democracy

They disagreed with The Plan

This week The Socialist Review, the full colour supplement to the Socialist Worker, has an article in it outlining the benefits of ‘Planned Democracy’ as opposed to the free market. What is ‘Planned Democracy’ then?

Put simply it’s the new label for what used to be called Marxism/Communism/Socialism/Totalitarianism. During the 20th century these ideologies gave us Stalin (perhaps 20 million dead), Pol Pot (up to three million killed out of a Cambodian population of about 10 million), Mao Zedong (perhaps 20 million killed in his Great Leap Forward) and Kim Il Sung (3 million killed in the Korean War), some of the most bloodthirsty killers in human history, so its not surprising that those who follow this violent creed may want to re-brand it. Of course, modern socialists will tell you that those mass murderers ‘weren’t real socialists’ and that Planned Democracy will be nicer all round, but closer investigation reveals that, just as you cant have an omlette without breaking some eggs, you cant plan a democracy without breaking some heads.

Planned Democracy proposes to plan the economy, but think about that. Every single time you choose to take a bus instead of walking, getting a cab or getting a train you make an economic decision. Every time you buy lager instead of cider, you make an economic decision. Choose energy saving light bulbs over Osram, PS2 over X Box, own brand bread over Kingsmill, a holiday in Skegness over a holiday in Bridlington, or a house in one area over another, all of these are economic decisions. If you want to plan the economy, you have to plan all of this. Is it possible to plan each and every decision of each and every person within an economy?

Lets look at whether planning the economic life of a nation is even desirable. Look at the Soviet Union for an example. The Politburo decided that it was most important to build machine guns to shoot Hungarians in 1956, tanks to kill Czechs in 1968 and helicopter gun ships to kill Afghans in the 1980’s. As a consequence, the resources of the state, ie all industrial capacity, were directed towards accomplishing this goal in accordance with the Plan. The Plan, sadly, placed less importance on what the Soviets might need to eat and so agriculture was placed below armaments with the effect of people having to queue for hours to buy a potato. The wait for a car or telephone lasted years (unless you were a member of the Politburo). Life under someone else’s plan was, for the majority of Soviets, miserable.

The very phrase ‘Planned Democracy’ pre supposes the existence of a plan. This in turn pre supposes the existence of someone who is drawing up this plan and if this plan is nothing less than a plan for the economy in which we all live and function, it confers a tremendous amount of power on the planners. A question mark surely has to hang over anyone who seriously believes that society should be micro managed according to their priorities.

Besides, what if I disagree with the plan? A plan, after all, only works if everyone sticks to it and they will only stick to it if they are made to. On D Day it is pretty certain that most of the soldiers would rather not have been the front line troops in the invasion plan but they knew that if they didn’t go along with their allotted role they would be court martialed. To look at the history of socialist plans we see the Five Year Plans of Stalin and The Great Leap Forward of Mao and we see the horrible fates that awaited those who didn’t follow the plan. Starvation, imprisonment, deportation and death.

So, even if you can get past the colossal arrogance of someone thinking they can plan a nation’s economic life, you then have to wonder whether such a Herculean task is possible. If you accept both of these propositions, you have to make allowance for those that don’t; the anti social minority/bourgeois/counter revolutionaries etc. These are the fine threads by which Planned Democracy hangs.

Lads Army

“Get scrubbin’ that Youth Centre you ‘orrible lot!”

As you will see, in the Independent this week Terence Blacker has resurrected the old chestnut of reintroducing National Service. As always, its thought that anti social kids will learn a bit of discipline by training them to be killers.

Quite what form this would take is open to discussion. Some advocate a return to the post war system of drafting young men into the army for two years and sending them off to wherever the army goes. Others, including “call me Dave” Cameron, suggest some sort of national service based on community action, sending groups of kids round picking up litter and cleaning the graffiti off the walls.

The arguments against the re introduction of compulsory military service are so obvious it is hard to believe that anyone seriously thinks it would be a good idea to bring it back. It is often said that you ‘Learn a trade’ in the army, but how? And what sort of useful trade are you going to learn? It could be said that if you can change a tank track in the arctic wastes or guide a smart bomb up Bin Laden’s bottom you are well qualified on civvy street for becoming an mechanic or computer programmer. But the majority of British industry now lies in the service sector (between 1995 and 1999 the Gross Value added of the service sector increased by 14%, that of the production sector by just 2%), working in call centres or banks, and it hard to see how the ability to remove the firing pin of an SA80 in 10 seconds is going to help you with that.

Then there is the economic argument. We are told that, thanks to a declining birth rate, we have a looming labour shortage, ie not enough people for the jobs available. It seems blindingly obvious that if we remove a large chunk of the working age male population and stick them in the army this shortage will be exacerbated. Look at the effects of this last time round. After world war two, as the country needed to rebuild, tens of thousands of young men were whisked off to the far corners of the globe so that the Imperial façade could be propped up that little bit longer. At home, with a diminished supply of labour, wages rose, the prices of British goods relative to those abroad rose, and our manufacturing industry collapsed. This wasn’t solely down to National Service, but at the start of our post war economic decline, it was a major contributing factor.

And even if we brought back National Service, where would we send them? After 1945 there was still plenty of Imperial pink on the map to absorb the Lads Army. National Service conscripts were sent to places like Cyprus, Malaya, Borneo, Kenya, Aden and Oman and saw action in all of them. Where would they go now? Iraq? Afghanistan? Can you imagine the outcry there would be in this country when the first coffins containing the bodies of 18 year old conscript soldiers arrive back from Basra?

And what of the cuddly option of community service? Its says a lot about British society that people leave such a trail of filth behind them that kids have to be drafted in to clear it up. It also says a lot that people wont help at a deaf centre or an old peoples home unless they have been conscripted. What we are faced with is the problem of indifference and apathy. People will drop litter in their street because they know the state will send someone along to clear it up for them. Having an army of road sweeps will only cause this to continue. Likewise with volunteering. Old people, for example, used to be cared for by their families but now they are farmed out to residential homes because of the same expectation that the state will take care of it. What needs to be tackled is the apathy and indifference that causes these problems, not the harmful effects.

The current clamour for bringing back National Service has been prompted by the increased of yobbish behaviour, an epidemic of low (and not so low) level crime and general anti social conduct most regularly represented in the form of ‘binge drinking’ and footage of young women with not much on flashing TV crews and young men fighting, vomiting and urinating in town centres all over the country every Friday night. The causes for this are many, and it is vital to note that the proponents of National Service do not seek to prevent this problem before it arises, merely to stick you in the army when it does.

In short, the reintroduction of National Service is a silly idea for silly people seeking imaginary solutions to very real problems.

England’s Dreaming

“Doh!”

Once again the England football team has been beaten, knocked out of a major tournament and shown up as being not good enough on the world stage. We kidded ourselves that we had a chance this year, but like every tournament since 1966, England have been disappointed.

Quite simply the players are not good enough. Look at Argentina, Brazil, France, even Portugal. All these teams contain players who are comfortable on the ball and can retain possession. England don’t have that. When someone like Joe Cole comes along, a player who can take a ball with him and beat a man, he is hailed as the latest Great White Hope of English football. The truth is that most top teams have plenty of players like that in the side.

A lot has been said about the great goal that Argentina scored against Serbia, 24 passes and a goal at the end of it. Did England make 24 successful passes all tournament? English passing is rubbish but, in large part, that is because our players are wedded to their positions. Christiano Ronaldo thinks nothing of playing on either the left or right of midfield, when the Argentines were building up to Cambiasso’s goal, perhaps every man who touched the ball was out of position. You see it when Arsenal play. They have players who can beat a man but they primarily rely on quick, short passing. When an Arsenal player has the ball, his team mates run to him, into the space, and always give him an easy pass. When Beckham gets the ball out on the right, every England player starts pelting towards goal, arms in the air, waiting for him to lob a long ball in. Again, a player like Rooney, who will travel round the pitch playing the match where he finds it, is an exception in English football.

But if our players are so ordinary, why did the nation fool itself again that we have a chance of winning the world cup? This team has been built up as the ‘Golden Generation’, a team replete with world class talent. But look closer. Paul Robinson is an uninspiring keeper and Beckham is past it. A couple of years ago much was said about the embarrassment of riches at centre back, but when John Terry went off who was his replacement? Sol ‘Wibble’ Campbell. Sven was slated for taking Theo Walcott, undoubtedly a mistake, but who would he have taken in his place? Jermaine Defoe who has struggled all season to get a game at Tottenham? Darren Bent who plays for mid table specialists Charlton? Andy Johnson who has been plying his trade at such hum drum locales as Gresty Road and Deepdale for a year? This Golden Generation had no strength in depth.

But we have been constantly told that these players are ‘great’. Think about the word great. In terms of monarchs, in all British history only Alfred has earned that epithet. In football however, it gets applied to almost anyone who can stand up straight. But, if you are asking people to pay Premiership ticket prices of up to £50, you have to tell them that they are seeing the very best. A fan may well pay £50 to watch ‘great’ players such as James Beattie or Gareth Barry, but if you said to him “Well, actually all these players are really quite ordinary”, who would be willing to shell out £50 to see it?

So English fans are fooled by the players agents, the games administrators and press, into thinking that the vast sums they are spending are being spent on watching the very best football has to offer. It has to be like this because if the emperor ever gets twigged as being bollocky buff, the gravy will plough in the buffers. While ever the ordinary boys of the England team are touted as world beaters to justify the vast sums of money charged to watch them, the fans will continue to be disappointed.