Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Iran linkorama

Note: I posted this yesterday because the uprising in Iran is continuing, alongside a ferocious and desperate crackdown on it by the government - and yet te mainstream media in the West seems to have absolutely no interest. While some attention is paying paid to Iran's nuclear ambitions, the struggle for democracy seems to be yesterday's news. We need to continue to show our solidarity with the people in Iran. A couple of links added near the bottom.

Iran Solidarity

News from the struggles in Iran
Raye Man Kojast
Euston Manifesto
Alliance for Workers Liberty/Campaign for Peace and Democracy
And, while we're here, a voice from the other side: more disgusting regime apologetics from our old friend Mehdi Hasan. Oh, and here's the probably clinically insane uber-contrarian Slavoj Zizek arguing that we should give Iran's nukes a chance (via Petra).

And here's one more. You thought that CND was about nuclear disarmanement? As in unilateral? As in no more nuclear weapons? Well, no, its chair, Kate Hudson, is in favour of nuclear weapons actually! Well, if they're Iranian... Here she is, from 2006, interviewed by the supposedly anti-Stalinist SWP (via Champagne Charlie).

Friday, September 25, 2009


I said I'd be blogging less but blogging better in 5770. As a prelude to that, here are all the places I lingered on the web this week. I'll try harder to surf less next week.

Fascism and anti-fascism
Mind the gap, New Labour! Something about the EDL doesn’t add up. A socialist view of the BNP threat (and, if you read that, please read Duncan's comment on it). Back to 1980, when things were simpler: Skinheads - the cult of trouble.

Sarf London
Francis walks the Thames with Iain Sinclair. Freedom for Brixton! Victory in the battle of Lewisham Bridge (background here). Blackheath has survived the climate camp. Where I'll be tomorrow night, and where I went out in the late 1990s.

Noam Chomsky, Kosova and genocidal causality.

Ruling class watch
Hiring a cleaner is like buying a porn mag - or why the liberal elite like illegal migrants to clean up for them. Remembering the real Alan Clark: a Tory toff with a taste for Hitler.

Working class watch
I recently linked to Walter Benn Michaels' criticism of the Runnymede Trust's Who Cares About the White Working Class? In the latest issue of LRB, the editor, Kjartan Páll Sveinsson, has a rather week reply (scroll to the bottom), which I post here for the sake of completeness. I think a better defence can be made. (For other pro-Michaels views, see Just Left and Unambiguously Ambidextrous. For a related theme, reached via here, see Michael Lind.)

Iz/Pal, Middle East
More on the TUC targeted boycott: AWL, Benny Weinthal and Eric Lee, Gene, OneVoice, Jewish Labor Committee, Hugo Rifkind. Meretz UK on the Goldstone report. James Baldwin on Richard Falk on Richard Goldstone (well, not exactly, but the James Baldwin quote is totally spot on). Gershon Baskin on the right of return. Ahmed Badawi on Palestinian recognition of the Jewish state. Fred Halliday on the Libyan kleptocracy.

Iranian revolution
I was planning no Iran links, because you can get them from Kellie, Jams or Entdinglichung, except this one from Adam Holland on Juan Cole's belated but welcome change of heart about the Iranian president. (This, for reference, is the longest post I ever wrote about Professor Cole.) And this one from Michael Ledeen, on Groucho Marx and the death spiral of the Iranian dictatorship. And on Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial: Stroppy/Coatesy. And Stuart Applebaum speaking at the Stand for Freedom in Iran rally.. Listening again to the 1970s Iranian funk linked to here, I couldn't help but think maybe the Shah wasn't so evil after all, certainly compared to what came afterwards...

TNC's blog round-up post which includes stuff by me, but also some good stuff too.

Bob's beats
First up, Matiyahu's "Struggla", social justice reggae or unauthentic Zionist minstrelsy? Follow the discussion at Kasama. I join in at no.42.

The version of Leonard Cohen singing his classic "Chelsea Hotel", at the bottom of this post, live in Israel in 1972, is truly sublime. The shaky amateur YouTube, from Valencia last week, with the great man singing "Bird on a Wire", then collapsing from food poisoning, is rather disturbing.

At almost the opposite end of the musical spectrum, I enjoyed the second of the two mp3s here, East London's Dizzee Rascal singing "We can't tek no more", produced by the great Shy FX, whose masterpiece is, of course, UK Apachi's "Original Nuttah", one of the best songs ever. I once saw Apache UK with Shy FX in some municipal festival in a dusty field in South Bermondsey, at the begining of the golden age of the original UK junglists, and it changed my life forever. Listen to Dizzee endorsing "Original Nuttah" here. I was a bit shocked to see that UK Apachi, aka Abdul Wahab Lafta, does not have a wikipedia page. Someone, go write one! I've been thinking a lot recently about Prevent and Engage and about Britishness - but, really, just watch this and that's all you need to know. (This paragraph dedicated to Courtney - where are you geezer?)

Finally, and in another stark contrast, I'm still on a Sufi music tip, and last week's video seemed to go down well, so here is Niyaz, a US-based band fronted by Persian exile Azam Ali. Thanks to Jams for introducing me to Niyaz. (I was going to embed this, but realised Jams did it ages ago.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fauxialism watch

1. Caudillismo
Here's one Labour Party MP who has been taken in by Hugo Chavez's fauxialism: Colin Burgon. This stood out:
From the Spanish Civil War, to the coup in Chile and the apartheid struggle in South Africa, and now the solidarity campaigns around Cuba, Colombia, Venezuela and Honduras, the British left has stood up for democracy and justice.
Hmm. So the Stalinists in Spain who murdered Andreu Nin and Castro's dictatorship which imprisoned Pablo Pacheco Avila are on the side of democracy and justice? So, no, Colin, actually Denis is more or less right about Chavez. Colin Burgon is akin to the likes of Stafford Cripps in the 1930s, refusing to condemn the Moscow trials because the Communist Party were supposedly on the right side in Spain.

Hugo Chavez also appears on Neil Clark's list of "lefties who didn't sell out", along with some other scumbags. Read Comrade Coates for the antidote.

This is not to say, by the way, that Chavez is an evil demon, just that he is no hero. Here's a more balanced view: David S with more on the Chavez movement and the Jews.

2. Fauxialism with Chinese characteristics.
Other fauxialists line up with Han Chinese chauvinism, such as some of the commenters on Andy Newman's post here. Contrast Andy's version to Blood & Treasure's.

3. Stalinophilia?
Here's Louis P on the Stalin nostalgia of Socialist Unity and Noah and Calvin Tucker:
I first got the sense that something was amiss back in October 2008 when an excerpt from Georgi Dimitrov’s speech to the Seventh World Congress of the Communist International, 1935 appeared without comments on the Socialist Unity blog. Dimitrov is best known as the architect of the Popular Front strategy that led to a disaster in Spain, when the coalition between bourgeois parties and the CP took a hard line against the kind of radical measures that could have rallied the people against Franco.
In the comments section, Newman chided a Trotskyist for bringing up Spain since “the USSR was the biggest provider of arms to the Spanish republic by a country mile.” As somebody who spent a number of years in the British SWP, Newman obviously knew that this was not under dispute.
One of his tag-team partners Noah Tucker joined in with a burst of rhetoric that I have not seen since the 1960s:
Andy has already pointed out that the USSR armed (not disarmed) the Spanish Republican forces. Perhaps I should also remind you that it was the Soviet Union- and also China, the GDR, Czechoslovakia etc, and after 1960 Cuba, who provided the revolutionaries in the Third World with the munitions with which to fight imperialism.
Where do you think that the Koreans and the Vietnamese got their MiGs from? Who provided the ANC, and Zapu and Zanu with AK47s?
So there you have it. Revolutionary politics boils down to armaments. Who needs strategy and tactics when the Manual of Arms will suffice?[...]
So the question remains, what would attract radicals in 2009 to the Soviet leader who arguably was responsible for the counter-revolution of the 1990s? [...] The answer is to be found in the impotence of the left. Frustrated by the failure of the antiwar movement to have achieved success in Iraq or Afghanistan and by a never-ending diet of neoliberal economics, there is yearning for a muscular left that could have stood up to the capitalists. Despite his history of placating the imperialists, Stalin enjoys a reputation of implacability that owes more to Cold War stereotypes than reality. It is this mythology that has mesmerized Newman and the Tucker brothers and nothing else.
Here's Andy's response.

Incidentally, this is a follow up to Proyect's post on Winston Churchill nostalgia. There, Louis attacked two posts by Andy Newman (Popular Front Against Fascism, advertising some Philosophy Football products, and Churchill and the anti-fascist war), and an article by Christopher Hitchens. These are issues too complex to deal with today, but I think Andy is at least half right, and Hitchens almost completely right. Here's Andy's response. Andy is certainly right about Nicholson Baker, whose Human Smoke he describes as "widely ridiculed pseudo-history". For more on Baker, read Max Dunbar.

Note: the word "fauxialism" stolen from Michael Weiss. Except I just noticed he spells it faux-cialism. Which do you prefer?

Daily Mail-o-Meter

Enjoy this.

See also: Tabloid-Watch.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Total rubbish

I'm a bit slow on the uptake, but I see that Total Politics has finally published the results of its completely dodgy and unrepresentative poll of UK political blogs, voted for by the overwhelmingly Tory readership of the Iain Dalesphere (oh, look at that, Dale came no.2!)

Disgracefully, this blog is not on it (although I perversely did well in the Labour list and OK in the left of centre list). So, congratulations and/or commiserations to those of my comrades who are the faint rays of sunshine breaking through the Tory cloud cover: 29 Harry's Place, 33 Stumbling & Mumbling, 34 The Daily (Maybe), 41 A Very Public Sociologist, 42 Dave's Part (note: I'm linking to his actual blog, not the site he left in 2006), 47 Third Estate, 62 Bickerstaffe Record, and 65 Socialist Unity. If you're really into this sort of stuff, here is the Green top 25, which includes 1 The Daily (Maybe), 3 Peter Cranie, 5 Barkingside 21, 7 Green Ladywell, and 19 Weggis.

Update: I was just about to press publish, when I caught this, and found that I am at no.138. That puts me just eight places behind Lenin's Tomb. So, more congratulations and/or commiserations are in order, to: 104 – Peter Cranie , 107 Harpymarx, 108 – Though Cowards Flinch, , 133 Tory Troll , 141 the other Bob , 148 Splintered Sunrise , 151 Stroppy Blog , 158 Normblog , 160 Rupa Huq , 178 Alex Massie , 186 Left Outside, 199 Madam Miaow Says , 200 Dave Hill. Apologies to those in the 201-300 zone, as I ran out of energy before I got there.

Late Rosh Hashanah post

The Moishe Oysher from Louis P. Listen to some samples of his music here.

Which reminds me, I read in the JC that Google now translates Yiddish. Note to Google: according to Meyer Levin, the Yiddish for website is polotinia platz). Test it for yourself on The Youth Will Sleep No Longer.

Oh, and if you didn't follow Matt's link to the NPR piece with loads of cool Iranian funk from the 1970s, including "Hava Negila" by Dia Prometido, apparently a Tehran-based Chilean Bahai band, then do.

Added: This will make your mouth water (actually, probably only if you are an Ashkenazi Jew). [H/t Jogo]

Saturday, September 19, 2009


First of all, a happy new year to all of my readers for whom today is new year's day, especially Noga, TNC, Matt, Snoop, the Zsters, Daniel and Keith. This year, I plan, among other things, to blog less but blog better. Added Saturday night: And do I have any Muslim readers? I'd like to think I do. If so, Eid Mubarak! Especially to Selma in Tehran, who it is good to see back on-line after a worrying hiatus.

Towards a cosmopolitan politics
Francis Sedgemore and Chris Dillow on immigrants. Marko Milanovic on the wikipedia approach to reality and competing narratives on Gaza and Bosnia (via the Debate Link).

The shit still piles up
CounterPunch's promotion of the Swedish blood libel and its medieval antecedants (plus more libels spotted by David S). Luis Roniger: Antisemitism, Real or Imagined? Chávez, Iran, Israel, And the Jews [pdf]. Osama bin Laden's book recommendations: Walt and Mearsheimer.

Isn't subversion enough?
Uncarved on Hackney squatters and gentrifiers. Francis on the Climate Camp at Blackheath as a tragedy of the commons. Datacide says: You cannot blow up social relations! Michael Berube asks What's wrong with cultural studies (via Ignoblus, who tells you why you should read it if you have any doubts). Some views on the TUC and others boycotting Israel: Mod, Dave S, Mira, Ben C, and Reb Sean of the AWL. Added: and Champagne Charlie.

Heroes of the week
Kevin Elliott and Barry Delaney. [H/t Jogo] Added: and the people of Iran.

Bob's beats
Via uncarved, I just found the wonderful Musik Line. Listen to this wonderful mix of 1970s Moroccan music, including folk, blues, Sufi and fusion. Read these notes on Gnawa and the black diaspora in Morocco. Meanwhile, apparently the Midlands have been having an Indian summer. (South London alternates between last gasp of summer and full-blown Autumn.) Here's Coleman Hawkins in honour of that pleasure.

To conclude, here is some Punjabi Sufi music from Pakistan. This is Sain Zahoor, singing "Allah Hoo", a Sufi Muslim devotional poem. That odd stringed instrument he is playing is an ektara, which is a traditional instrument of wandering troubadours in the Indian subcontinent, and, I think, most strongly associated with the Bauls, to whom I was first introduced by my Yiddish teacher.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Terror and British Islam

1. Jogo sent me an interesting e-mail with some observations about the reporting of the sentencing of the Lucozade plotters. He refers to the New York Times' report, although exactly the same could be said of the Guardian's, Independent's or the BBC's. The short ITN report does not even use the words "Muslim" or "Islam" once.
"Three Britons?" Three what? Leaving aside the headline, nowhere in this story is "Muslim" used as a description of the defendants; the word appears only one time, as "Muslim grievances." Really, one could almost say it's amazing that the Times was not deterred, out of "sensitivity," from printing the defendants' photographs. This is getting ridiculous. "Muslim" is an essential feature of "who" and "what" these men are. By their own standards, they're Muslims MORE than they are "Britons." And they ACTED as self-aware, self-defining Muslims in a cause they themselves define as a "Muslim" cause, and, in their thinking, done on behalf of Muslims. So why is the press reluctant to call them that?

If a man who is white raped a woman who is black -- and if that were all there was to the story -- then I think the the man should not be described in news stories as "white."

But what if the man -- let's just say -- told friends that he was going out that night to "rape a black bitch." And then found a black woman and raped her? And, prior to doing it, had made a video of himself saying the same thing, and justifying it as a deed that served justice?

Don't you think that news articles, somewhere deep in the paragraphs, even one time, should identify him as white?
2. One of the reasons for the excessive sensitivity of the liberal media about the use of the word “Muslim” here is presumably the lobbying of the likes of the Muslim Council of Britain. The MCB and its fellow travellers are among those who use what David Hirsh calls “the Livingstone Formulation”, that the so-called Israel lobby “cries antisemitism” in order to deflect criticism of Israel. But I find it hard not to conclude that the self-appointed representatives of British Islam (the Muslim lobby?) are rather quick to cry Islamophobia, often apprently to deflect criticism of Islamist violence.

The Muslim lobby website iEngage recently commented on Matthew Sinclair of the Taxpayers Alliance, writing at CiF, who noted that “The government have distanced themselves from the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) after it boycotted Holocaust Memorial Day.” (Note: hosting this right-wing anti-Muslim crusader is surely evidence that CiF is not totally in the hands of Islamism’s fifth columnists, as some of my anti-anti-Zionist colleagues like to think.) iEngage clarify: “The MCB didn’t attend HMD this past year in protest of the war in Gaza and not for reasons of a boycott.” I hate to cry antisemtism, but... Whatever one thinks of the conflict in Gaza (and I for one was absolutely not a supporter of the way the Israeli state prosecuted that war), how does it make sense to respond to it by not taking part in a commemoration of the millions of Jews and others killed by the Nazis before the Israeli state was created? It only makes sense if you cannot distinguish Jews from Israelis, and blame all Jews, living or dead, for everything Israel does. Which is, er, antisemitic, no? (And I won’t bother to question “not for reasons of a boycott” means.)

3. Ed Husain’s response to the Taxpayers Alliance report is far better. However, I was disappointed to see Husain’s deployment, in his article on the Lucozade plotters, of the Eurabia/Londonistan discourse which I criticised here. While I agree with his conclusions, and am glad that message reaches the Daily Mail’s readers, I take issue with this: “Large parts of our cities have become Muslim ghettos, where you can wake up in the morning and go to bed at night without seeing a non-Muslim face.” I think this is simply untrue. I spend a lot of time in the most Muslim parts of London’s East End, and it is quite simply impossible (unless you don’t leave your front door) not to see a non-Muslim face. A quick check on the National Statistics website will reveal that in the most Muslim parts of Tower Hamlets the proportion is little more than a half. I don’t know the North so well, but I’ve spent enough time in Bradford, Keighley and Burnley to doubt that Husain’s claim is true of anywhere in Britain.

But, even if it was, I stand by my earlier point that everything we know about the two sets of July 2005 plotters and of the Lucozade plotters tells us that Jihadism is not bred in such enclaves but recruits from people on their margins and from wholly outside it. In other words, Husain’s claim is irrelevant to his argument, and strengthens the already prevelant prejudices of the Daily Mail readership. I’m afraid I have to agree, on this, with iEngage.

4. On the other hand, we need to take seriously this comment to my earlier post from Jogo: the “existence of a virtual Eurabia, or the looming threat of it (posited by your usual suspects) -- as it pertains to large communities, as sociological fact or trend -- is not incompatible with the genesis, growth and informal institutionalization of a bizarre cult that attracts Westernized, assimilated, multi-racial, educated, relatively privileged, terrorist individuals.” It is not the case that “the threat of the one (Eurabia) is disproven by the existence of the other (the Terror Cult). I think they're two different (or differentiatable) things. Both of these can exist simultaneously, sharing the same large space (Britain).” Jogo goes on to note, quite correctly, that “the Terror Cult (hermetic as it appears) needs a ‘soft infrastructure’”, a wider community in which to swim.

This is quite true. The apocalyptic scenarios portrayed by Melanie Phillips, Robert Spencer et al (and, in this sad instance, Ed Husain) are false and exaggerated, and feed into racist fears. But anyone who spends any time in the East End of London and knows what they’re looking for will feel the presence of a broad-based Islamist movement, not composed of terrorists or would-be terrorists, but certainly fellow travellers and soft supporters of Jihadi violence. Politically combating this movement is an essential task, which is why Ed Husain’s work is important, why the Prevent agenda needs to be critically supported, and why the work of iEngage in aiding and abetting the movement is so reprehensible.

Further reading from Asim Siddiqui and Yahya Birt, and further commentary from The Spittoon and Pickled Politics.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Hardy perennials

First, links to some posts on the topics that I obsess about. Rosie on Germaine Greer and Tariq Modood on Salman Rushdie. On free speech (or not) for fascist scum, see Max and David, with quite different views (latter has long comment by me, which touches on IWCA/Hope Not Hate debate from here).

Roland has a huge bag of links here. It includes one to me, for which I am appreciative, but desprite that is a great list. It includes Stark's review of Inglorious Basterds. Lots more reviews of that can be found here, and Matt's can be found here.

TNC has taken up the academic books for the masses challenge here. It's a great list: dig into it.

Update, Saturday night: I just noticed that I am no.23 in the Total Politics list of Labour blogs. This is odd, as I wouldn't think of this as a pro-Labour blog, and it puts me above both more Labour-y and more high-profile blogs like the other Bob, Rupa Huq, Blood & Treasure and Three Score Years & Ten. Not to mention Frank Field MP, John McDonnell MP, and David Miliband MP, but I guess they're only part-time bloggers...

Update 2: Martin has published a response to the responses on his anarchist challenge, reminding me of my outstanding task. (My pal Poumista also promises to join in too).

Update 3, Tuesday morning: More on taxonomical inanity here.

Update 4, Wednesday lunchtime: More from the Modster, and a suprising outburst of niceness between him and Andy Newman in the comment thread.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Weekending: Bob's beats

This week's edition is all music-related, some items more far-fetchedly so than others.

On Locust St.
First, I've neglected Locust St (last featured back here), so have missed some of the juicy-looking mp3s. One of the features of this wonderful blog's series on the music of the 20th century is putting in place some of the jigsaw pieces of how American forms of intercultural conviviality sometimes under cover of darkness, sometimes in apparently corporate industrialised settings, created extraordinary world-changing moments of creativity. My own main interest there is in soul music and black/Jewish relations, and I've (in a much more pedstrian way than Locust St) told bits of that story in my posts on Ellie Greenwich, Jerry Wexler and Estelle. The 1921 installment, for example, tells the story of Sam Lanin:
Jimmy Durante, remembered today as a TV personality and the narrator of Frosty the Snowman, began as a jazz pianist. Durante was of the first generation of musicians to make a living out of playing jazz, in part by shuttling between NYC studios, playing the same piece three times in a day for three different labels.

Much of this hustle was due to the Russian-born bandleader Sam Lanin, who had become the intermediary between record labels and the growing pool of studio jazz players. So if a label wanted someone to record a new Broadway hit, they would call Lanin, who would quickly throw together a studio group and get the track cut in a couple days. And he'd being doing the same thing for another label at the same time.

So a session player like Durante was working in dozens of "jazz groups" simultaneously. Take the sextet "Lanin's Southern Serenaders," which featured Durante on piano and Phil Napoleon on trumpet, and "Ladd's Black Aces," which was pretty much the same group. Both Lanin's and Ladd's groups cut the exact same tracks, in nearly identical versions, within a few days in August 1921 for a series of different labels.
The rest

Tonight I'm planning to go to the Sydenham Blues Club, which I think is at the Golden Lion, to see the great Earl Green and the Right Time.

And, to finish, here's the great Charles Mingus, courtesy of South London-based Soulblending.

*= Hat tip Jogo.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The lessons of the Lucozade plot

I have a strong personal stake in the so-called Lucozade plot, the plot to explode several trans-Atlantic flights using ingenious liquid explosive devices concealed in lucozade bottles. I was due to fly, with my family, on one of the target flights on the day in August 2006 when the plot was foiled. That long, gruelling day at the tense, chaotic airport, and the subsequent days of indecision about whether to catch another flight, and the day we actually flew, with the fear that it may well be our last day on earth, were extremely stressful – but as the details of the plot emerge I realise more and more how close to being killed I actually was.

Reading the details of the second trial which has finally concluded at Woolwich Crown Court, four lessons strike me – four myths are exposed as utterly wrong. In the writing that follows, I am referring to the eight men who were tried. Of these, Donald Stewart-Whyte was found not guilty. Some of the others were found not guilty of some of the more serious charges, and the jury was unable to reach a verdict on many of the charges. Although the innocence of some of them, particularly Stewart-Whyte, is conceivable, the fact that all were involved in jihadist groups means my observations about the jihadist ideology and milieu based on their examples would stand even if they were innocent of this specific plot. However, it seems clear that the jury’s verdict had to do with the technical quality of evidence, an issue that relates to one of the points I make below, and that the overwhelmingly likelihood is that they were all involved in a bomb plot. Note: Slight edit 10 Sept to put quote marks around the section titles, to make it clear to casual readers that these are the myths I am questioning, and not my own views.

1. "Terrorism as the voice of the voiceless". There is a common view, especially on the left, that terrorism is a cry of despair, the voice of the utterly dispossessed, born out of grievance and poverty. Terrorism, the argument goes, will go away when we remove the grievances, grievances for which the West is largely to blame. However, looking at the biographies of the plotters, it is clear that most of them were from reasonably well off backgrounds, and reasonable life chances, were well educated and articulate, and had other opportunities to express their grievances. Wahid Zaman was a biomedical student at a top university, and, in his “martyrdom video”, said “I have not been brainwashed, I am educated to a very high standard.” He was articulate; he spoke at rallies and had articles published in his university's student magazine. Donald Stewart-Whyte was an art student, a white boy, who went to the “prestigious” Dr Challoner’s Grammar School in Chesham. His father was a Conservative Party agent, his mother a teacher. Tanvir Hussein was also highly educated. In fact, terrorism, far from being the voice of the voiceless, seems to be a weapon of the relatively privileged, of intellectuals.

2. "Londonistan, Eurabia". A familiar argument, particularly in North America and particularly on the right, is that Europe, with its official policies of multiculturalism, has sleep-walked into segregation, has created Islamified ghettos or no-go areas which breed terrorists. This is the Britain and Europe portrayed by Melanie Phillips, Geert Wilders, Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes and their ilk. The details of the plotters reveal this to be a myth. The plotters were in fact extremely westernised, assimilated even. Waheed Zaman’s favourite TV programme was Only Fools and Horses. Tanvir Hussein experimented with drink, drugs and girls at college. Stewart-Whyte, Umar Islam (from a Christian Caribbean background) and Ibrahim Savant (of Indian and English parentage) were all converts. It is true that one of the July 2005 bomb attempts was perpetrated mainly by young men from one of the areas (Beeston in Yorkshire) which is predominantly Pakistani Muslim. But it is also true that the Beeston bombers turned to radical Wahhabi Islamism as part of a rebellion against the traditionalist Sufi Islam of their parents; becoming Wahhabi meant they could, for example, marry white girls rather than the Mirpuri village girls chosen by their parents. In other words, jihadi violence is not something anachronistic imported to the West through immigration and breeding in multiculturalism’s ethnic enclaves; it is modern, Western and appealing to converts and the apparently most integrated of Muslims.

3. "The war on terror". There seem to have been two approaches to the investigation and foiling of the plot. British intelligence and security services, reporting regularly to Tony Blair on the case, carefully infiltrated and watched the plotters, building up a slowly expanding picture of their networks, and gathering robust trial evidence. They let it run its course, confident they would know when they needed to act. American intelligence and security services, reporting regularly to George W Bush, seemed to want to make quick arrests to shut the network down. British stubbornness, resisting the pressure to swoop, seems to have enabled them to catch the High Wycombe branch of the conspiracy, which was not visible at first. It also seems that the Americans were obsessed with what they called "al Qaeda central", rather than seeing the terrorists as an extremely dispersed and loose net. It seems that America pressured Pakistan into arresting Rashid Rauf, who connected the conspiracy to Al-Qaeda networks. This in turn forced the British to “scramble”, cracking down on the conspiracy earlier than they meant to. This scrambling, seems to have been a major factor in the poor quality of the evidence the prosecution has been able to present at trial, leading to an embarrassing failure to convict some of the plotters. In this instance, the American approach was mistaken, and the culture around the war on terror under Bush – conceived as a military war rather than as a strategy of investigation and prevention, and staged as a high profile public spectacle – proved counterproductive.

4. "The terrorists have already won". There is a certain civil libertarian line – whose vulgar, common-sense, non-dogmatic version you often hear at airports when passengers are irked about having to hand over the over-sized perfume bottles they have in their carry-on – which says that defending us against terror is not worth the price of the curtailment of our “rights”. Our privacy, our freedom of movement, even our right to carry hair gel in our hand bags, are precious, and if we create a draconian security state which abrogates these, then the terrorists have effectively already won. This argument, which we can currently hear most loudly and articulately from those civil libertarians who are calling for an end to control orders, is disingenuous. If the 2006 bomb plot had succeeded, some dozen big long haul planes would have been downed over the sea, with few if any of the passengers surviving. The threat is real, and, as the old saying goes, the bombers only have to be lucky once, while the rest of us have to be lucky all the time. We have managed to be lucky now in Britain since July 2005, but it has not just been luck, and we should be grateful to the security services for the protection we have had.

Monday, September 07, 2009


I found at Shiraz Socialist that I made the dubious Total Politics "Top 100 left of centre blogs", weighing in at 47. I don't give much credence to the list, but any loving is good loving so I'll take what I can get, as they say. The list is rather blighted by Alastair Campbell coming in at no.4. Above me, congratulations are due to: no.9 Stumbling & Mumbling, no.10 The Daily (Maybe), no.12 A Very Public Sociologist, no.13 Dave's Part, no.14 Third Estate, 37 Harpymarx, 38 Though Cowards Flinch and 44 Tory Troll. Some of those behind me include 52 Splintered Sunrise, 53 Stroppy Blog, 55 Barkingside 21, 57 Normblog (inexplicably and undeservedly down from a more apprpriate 20), 65 Left Outside, 69 Madam Miaow Says, 70 Dave Hill's London Blog, 71 Shiraz Socialist, 72 Green Ladywell, 78 Oliver Kamm ,93 Grimmer up North, and 95 Martin Bright.

At Shiraz Socialist I wrote "I hadn;t realised the results were in. I can now reveal that I voted for you guys in my no.2 slot (after myself of course) and am rather suprised to have undeservedly beaten you. Congrats to Chris D. And glad we both beat Clark and Kamm. The only way is up comrades."To which The Exile said "I am sorry that Bob feels to the need to gloat about Neil’s position in the list. At the end of the day, and unlike Gimlet Kamm, Neil believes in the old socialist values of equality of outcome and a fully collectivised economy." He continues "We should also remember that if it hadn’t been for Neil taking up my anti-harki campaign and giving it valuable publicity, today the warmongers would be able to console themselves with the thought that although they lost the war they had saved the scabs. Sorry, losers, but facesavers are not on offer these days." This is a completely disgusting position. What he calls "harkis" (the term is incredibly offensive: it properly refers to Algerians who fought with the French in the Algerian war) are the Iraqis who sought asylum in the UK after they were targeted for translating for the Coalition forces. Their right to asylum here is so clear-cut, only a morally perverse person (i.e. Clark and The Exile) would take that view. I know Martin M rates Clark, so he might want to defend him.

Moving on to something far more elevating, The Contentious One has replied to the Five Words meme - and is on splendid form. Highly recommended.

Following up the UAF/Hope Not Hate debate here, there is a fair amount in the left blogosphere about the BNP appearing on Question Time - see, e.g. Dave S, AVPS, Sim-O, Soho Politico, Bart Cammaerts, Denis MacShane, Sunny. I'm too tired to formulate my response now.

Finally, here is what TNC says you should read.