Wednesday, 15 August 2007

US foreign policy: Weapons of Mass Destruction

Today, I have heard one of the most chilling programmes on the radio for a very long time. I used to work in a local radio station, and I listen to the wireless all the time, as I hardly watch much TV, apart from the news and Still Game.

It was a long day at work today, and I finished about 19.45h. On the way back, I realised that Hecklers, the new Radio 4 debate program was on. Excellent, I thought: long day in the office, but a pleasurable drive back from Edinburgh to Glasgow listening to informed opinions and intelligent debate.

But the proposer of tonight’s programme was one of the most dangerous and deluded people I have ever heard on the BBC.


Patrick Clawson, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, argues that
it would be better to have a war with Iran than to allow its government to
develop nuclear weapons. He debates the issues with a panel of hecklers,
including George Galloway, in front of an audience at Chatham House in London.


This individual argued, in his soft American tone and paused, affable, if slightly irritating speech, that it would be in the best interests of the West to go to war against Iran rather than to allow that country to develop nuclear weapons. Patrick Clawson is deputy director for research of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. More info on the interesting views espoused by Mr Clawson here
Don’t want to go into a tangent here... but Near East? I always thought it was Far East but never mind...

After a few minutes listening to his disparaging arguments I started to feel sick. My legs were trembling. Listening to that man gave me the creeps. I was listening to a man advocating going to war against Iran as a pre-emptive step to bring stability to the region.
Now, where have we heard this line of argument before?

Although the program is called Hecklers, it is nothing of the sort. The proposer has three slots in which he can develop his argument and the ‘hecklers’ (panellists) are not allowed to interrupt during the first 3 minutes or so of each slot. Then a bell goes off and the panel guests are allowed to raise questions. Today, George Galloway MP was always the first to speak up after the bell rang.

Whatever one thinks of Mr Galloway and his politics and media persona, it is undeniable that the man is a great orator, and one of the few MPs in Parliament willing to challenge the establishment. If only there were a few more like him, perhaps this country would not be now fighting a pointless and illegal war based on false “intelligence”. As much as I disagree with the majority of Gorgeous George’s politics, today he was top notch. He tore apart every one of the arguments put forward by Mr Clawson.

I recommend that you set aside about 1 hour of your time to listen to the program via the BBC Radio 4 website.

It shows to what extent American foreign policy is the cause, rather than the cure, for most of the ills in the Middle East and the Gulf region. For Mr Clawson, it is quite alright that Israel already has nuclear weapons pointing at Iran and other states, and that we (as in the US and the UK) are supplying conventional and nuclear weapons to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The former is a theocracy where women are second class citizens. The regime in Saudi Arabia is probably the most tyrannical in the region, and certainly the least accountable to the population. As for Pakistan, it is a breeding ground for Al-Qaida terrorists, and a country divided between a secular or moderate population and the mullahs supporting Islam fundamentalism. What happens if the latter ever get into power and get control of the nuclear weapons supplied by the US and the UK?

Exactly this is what happened a few decades ago. In order to overthrow the Soviets from Afghanistan, the US financed and supplied the Mujaidins with training and conventional weapons. Once the Soviets were expelled from the region, they turned against the US and the West. These are the origins of Al-Qaida: US finance and training. The US trained and armed Osama Bin Laden. That is the result of US foreign policy.

You may be too young to remember: Iran was a democracy a long time ago. However, its leaders did not yield to US and UK foreign policy so the US&UK instigated a coup after Iran's elected government renationalised the oil industry; then the Shah took over and instituted a dictatorial regime. Read more about Operation Ajax in the Wikipedia. Yes, we (the US and the UK) instigated a coup against a democratically elected government to get control of Iranian oil.
The people of Iran rebelled, both the secular moderates (yes, there was a Communist Party in Iran...) and the Islamists joined forces and they did overthrow the dictator; sadly, the radical Islamists won the internal battle for government control. Then they turned against the US and against the West.

Remember the Iran/Iraq war of the ‘80s. Well, guess what: Saddam Hussein was supported by the West and supplied with the conventional and chemical weapons he used in the bloody war against Iran. We (US and UK) supplied Saddam Hussein and his regime with weapons. A few years later, the US and the UK bombarded Iraq, causing mass civilian casualties but without deposing the dictator. In 2003, we then have the illegal invasion of Iraq by the US-led coalition and the country is now is a much worst state, on the brink of civil war and engulfed in sectarian violence, than it was with Saddam in power. And now the Iraqis are turning against the US and the West.

Do you see a pattern emerging?

You can read all this and much, much more in the extraordinary, priceless, colossal book “The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East" by Robert Fisk.
Admittedly, I have not yet started reading the book. A certain master degree thesis on Credit Default Swaps is taking a lot of my spare time –about 1 year and 4 months to be exact.

So you can imagine my anger when this very dangerous man was arguing live on BBC radio 4, the moral and cultural backbone of Britain, that a US strike against Iran would somehow encourage middle-class Iranians to rebel and overthrow the tyrannical dictatorship of the Council of Guardians. It was frightening.

However “imperfect” (a word he constantly used to refer to the Non-Proliferation Treaty) the Iranian electoral system is, at least people can and do vote. The same cannot be said of Saudi Arabia, apparently the West's ally in the region, with its total disregard for human rights and lack of any progress towards democracy or a more equal society for men and women.

He also said that an attack against Iran would prevent the NPT from becoming irrelevant, even though there are “imperfections” (i.e: non-compliance) in the system. He said something along the lines of “I would hate to lose that imperfect instrument in the pursuit of the perfect instrument”. In other words: it is ok for the UK, the US, France, Israel, India, Russia and others to violate the terms and the spirit of the NPT, but not for Iran. Some hypothetical, yet-to-happen, imperfection is punished by war; current imperfections are ignored. To say this smacks of double standards would be an understatement.

We are told that Iran, according to Mr Clawson, is an “irrational player”, behaving according to an “apocalyptic theocratic view” of the world. At this point I almost choked on my chocolate bar. Is it not the President of the United States who had claimed that God had given him permission to go to war in order to prevent the threat of an Iraqi attack against the West? To me that sounds pretty much like an irrational player with a theocratic apocalyptic view of the world.

No nation has behaved more irrationally in the Middle East than the US. Supporting and arming some dictatorships; going to war against others; and doing both with some, as in Iraq. Yet, Mr Clawson, and the US political establishment, either Democrats or Republicans, are in complete denial about the havoc, mayhem and suffering US foreign policy has created around the world, especially in the Middle East.

The last point put forward by Mr Clawson is beyond surreal. He argues that an US-led attack against Iran would unite Iranians in blaming their own government for developing nuclear weapons and thus provoking a crisis. This popular rebellion would result in the Iranian regime engaging (i.e: yielding to US foreign policy) with the West. For someone who claims to be an expert in the Middle East, this is surely a joke.

But the warmongering lunatic goes on: according to him, an attack against Iran should not mean a land invasion of the country, but rather targeted, high-precision attacks against military objectives. Have we not heard this before? Yes, we have. As recently as 2003, when the US-UK coalition targeted attacks against Iraqi military infrastructure resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties and the destruction of hospitals. I also remember a certain aspirin factory in Sudan that was targeted with a combination of intelligence and high-precision weaponry.

Mr Clawson also argued that not only Iran’s population would rebel against their elected leadership following a US attack, but also that Iran’s neighbours would rise to the challenge and support US action too. This is the world of fantasy inhabited by the neocon revolutionaries in the US.

This last point was absolutely demolished by all panellists. One by one, audience members and panellists reduced Mr Clawsonlightweight argument”(quote from a former correspondent of the FT in Tehran) to what they are: absolute warmongering shite. The only voice of support came from, wait for it... an US Embassy employee.
Priceless if it was not so depressing.

What is scary about this man and his ilk is their level of delusion; their disregard for the facts about the Middle East, and the loss of human life; their arrogant ignorance of the damage US foreign policy has caused in the region in the last 40 years, 20 years or even since the ill-conceived invasion of Iraq. As with the Iraqi non-existent weapons of mass destruction, an enemy is created and the threat is hyped up in the friendly press, and thus war is justified. Their irrational minds see no flaw in this perverse logic, despite its disastrous consequences in Iraq, or in Iran decades ago.

War is still another option in the US foreign policy toolkit and the neocons have not learnt anything. And now they want to start another war against Iran. History will not be kind to these despicable people.

And the question for us in Britain is: what will PM Gordon Brown do? Will he be America’s lap dog like former PM Blair, or will he have an “ethical foreign policy”, as New Labour promised in 1997? I am not sure I want to know.

Next week, Hecklers will hopefully be less frightening and distressing. Tax specialist Richard Murphy argues at the free market Institute of Economic Affairs that Britain should stop trying to woo the foreign super rich with tax breaks.

18 comments:

Tom said...

Thanks for the tip about Hecklers. I'd not heard it before and this programme in particular makes for great listening!

BTW: watch out when you mention Americans! Commenters at the increasingly mendacious Iberian Notes blog have now made it clear that they regard any disagreement with any American as 'anti-American'. This comes after that blog's author claimed that criticism of Bush counts as anti-Americanism because he was elected by some Americans.

Rab said...

No problems Tom; when Hecklers is over, hopefully The Moral Maze will return to the schedule.

Regarding Iberian Notes, I read it in the same way as many Catalans listen to COPE radio station: part masochism, part comedy value. Following their bizarre logic, PP’s criticism of the PSOE is anti-Spanish, and criticising the Tripartit surely must be anti-Catalan
It’s good for a laugh every now and then though.

If you follow British politics, the Curious Hamster is pretty good.
http://bsscworld.blogspot.com/

Tom said...

The problem with Iberian Notes is that it seems to be moderately popular with people outside Spain - who often have no idea quite how distorted and misleading it is.

Something should be done.

Neil said...

"Following their bizarre logic, PP’s criticism of the PSOE is anti-Spanish, and criticising the Tripartit surely must be anti-Catalan"

Rab
Welcome to your world. Your logic: Criticism of your comments (or of the powers that be in Catalonia) makes me profoundly anti-catalan. Will you now try and do your usual? i.e. spout off about my anti-Catalan writings on Barcelona Reporter without ever quoting anything I've said (because it isn't actually anti-Catalan, was never meant to be and was probably aimed at the generalitat/ayuntamiento).

Scarily enough, I find myself agreeing with most of this post you wrote and didn't find it anywhere near as comedic as some of your other efforts.

Rab said...

Welcome back Neil. You have not disappointed me.
You seem to have an obsession with this blog. Now you claim that "Criticism of your comments (or of the powers that be in Catalonia) makes me profoundly anti-catalan".

I will not do anything Neil, you do it all by yourself. As ever, as always. Another cheap jibe and no back up, no evidence. Can you point me what motivates you to write the above waffle?

The only comedy here is you trying to portray yourself as a neutral, no-axe-to-grind observer on Catalan politics: you are nothing of the kind.

Miquel Marzabal Galano said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Miquel Marzabal Galano said...

Hi,
I would like you to look at my blog and put a link (if you wish) on your blog.
I have a similar blog in Catalan language, but I think that we should work on more international attention to our situation rather than just talk to ourselves or to a wall (Spaniards who will never agree with us).
http://independentcatalonia.blogspot.com/
Best regards from Holland

Roger said...

Rab, I think you are being too nice with Neil here.

Neil my friend, it is fucking obvious that you are anti-Catalan since all your postings in this bloc or in Barcelona Reporter share the same characteristics:

- Undermining Catalan language and culture.
- Reject full legal and social status equality between Catalan and Spanish language. For you it is ok that Spanish is mandatory under Spanish law, but you disagree if the same principle is applied to Catalan language.
- Constantly criticise any efforts made to increase Catalan self-government.
- You are obsessed to the point of paranoia with anything related to improving the political, economic and cultural status of Catalonia.

To any discerning observer it is so obvious that you are anti-Catalan and that you are obsessed by it, and that is as clear as there is day and night. I personally think you were dumped by a Catalan girl and you have not got over it yet.

Check this website, they maybe able to help you: http://www.actad.org/
Health Warning: the website is in Catalan and Spanish. Shock and Horror!

Neil said...

Okayyy...

"You seem to have an obsession with this blog."
Eh? My first post in over 3 months here (that's a guess - please check that if you wish). It's also my second or third visit in all that time. You call that an obsession? How misguided you are...


"As ever, as always. Another cheap jibe and no back up, no evidence."
Eh? I've just highlighted your own wonderful brand of hypocrisy (again) by stating exactly why and making a clear-as-daylight parallel between those you criticise and the way you go throwing your weight around. Nevermind Rab.


"Can you point me what motivates you to write the above waffle?"
Well, I can tell you why I am sometimes motivated to pick you up on the stuff you write.


I don't like your exclusionist tone, the intrinsic divisiveness of your blog with its dominant stance being criticism of Spain rather than looking forward to what Catalonia can do to promote itself. It's really easy to pick you up on your double standards and hypocrisy with regards to this, so I occasionally do so, even though you pretend they don't exist.


Like Tom in his crusade against Iberian Notes, I also believe that this blog is read outside of Catalonia and that people will take it as the truth, where in reality it can be far from it. For example your statements 'Their (Ciudadanos) policies will cause our language and culture to disappear within a generation', 'The (Catalan) language will disappear in a few years, and we will become just like any other region of Spain' etc.). All complete bull. I am not on a crusade though: I have already stated, my previous post was my first here in several months (honestly Rab, that does not make it an obsession - or a crusade OK?).


I am still of the opinion that you do more harm than good with your waffle in regard to an independant Catalonia. There is far too much anti-Spain bias and not enough "In Catalonia we could..." type of stuff. In fact, a quick look through your headlines over the past year or two reveals such beauties as:


- Spanish censorship alive and well (II)
- Spanish censorship alive and well
- And thus the cultural genocide goes on
- The fallacy of Spain’s democracy
- Spanish democracy? Don't make me laugh
- Spain's institutional hatred against all things Catalan
- Another publication reveals the truth about latent fascism of the Spanish Conservative party
- Spain and this shambles of Franco's democracy


How many articles have you written recently (or ever?) that dissect and delve into what Catalonia could, should and can do? I'll let you come up with that figure...

Basically, you and this blog are far more anti-Spanish than you are pro-Catalan. Dispute it at your leisure and back it up with fact, if you please.

You appear to care more about slating Spain than the well being of Catalonia. This is my opinion backed up with some facts (i.e. your 'articles') that do lend themselves very well to my opinion of you. By all means call me out as profoundly anti-Catalan again (will you ever back that up with fact?), but it will further prove some of my other points.

I hope that goes some way to answering your question. Do read on as it will expand a little more.


"you trying to portray yourself as a neutral, no-axe-to-grind observer on Catalan politics: you are nothing of the kind."
First part wrong: second part right.

I will take this opportunity to tell you my views seeing as you have idea. It may be inconsequential to you, but at least I will have tried.

In general, I'm not fond of the generalitat, not too keen on a few of the ajuntament ideas and I dislike fascist leaning groups like the ERC, their youth wing and various others who come under such a banner, be they pro-Catalonia or not. I also get pissed off with those who are into self-fullfilling martyrdom and those who take the attitude 'if you are not pro-Catalan, you must be anti-Catalan' (or vice versa). I wouldn't say that was neutral by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a stance that is against those who you align yourself to.

I like to take in and hopefully understand other peoples points of view, especially if I don't agree with them on certain things (another reason why I pop along here once every month or two). It's the the best way to get a balanced view of what is happening and the perception of the populous. Some people love to have 'mutual wanking' (excuse the term) sessions with those who they agree with - I don't. It hardly ever expands ones horizons and merely makes one more narrow minded. You may think all this means that I portray myself as neutral. It doesn't. Balance and neutrality are different things. Oh yeah, almost forgot, the Catalans favourite subject: Language. I usually take a disliking to anyone using language as a (usually exclusionistic) political tool. They are simply retarded in their outlook on life.



Roger, really, what planet are you on? If you want to join Rab in slotting me into 'the other team' so you can throw stones at me, please try to act like an intelligent adult if at all possible. If making such ludicrous accusations, back them up with fact! You have not stated anything that even hints at proving your "fucking obvious" accusations. Nothing at all. You have not quoted one single thing that I have written. If it is so "fucking obvious" that I am so "profoundly anti-Catalan", you would surely be able to find a *multitude* of things that I have written to make your putrid rant of a passage into pure undeniable fact rather than that of the laughable fiction that it is (and you should've been able to do so with very little effort, given that it's so "fucking obvious"). But you did not. Instead you find it more plausible to just spout unsubstantiated bullshit.

As Rab would say, you Roger have just made many a 'cheap jibe and no back up, no evidence'. But I don't think he will cry foul on that one. He's on your side so it's OK. Double standards, hypocrisy... it's all there.

I bid you all a good day.

Rab said...

Tom: nothing needs to be done, we need more comedy on the blogosphere now that the Manuel Stimulation blog is closed to the public.

Miquel: consider it done, I will update my template asap and I will add your blog to the list.

Neil: you deserve a separate post, you are a special case.

Roger: while I agree with the basic premise of your post (Neil is anti-Catalan and the language he uses to convey his views is the same as the one used by the Spanish nationalists), the link you have added to your post is rather tasteless. Save these kind of jokes for your next Edinburgh Fringe performance: Sin Bin.

Rab said...

Listen Neil, I was going to waste two hours of my time in order to reply to your message until I read this:
"In general, I'm not fond of the generalitat, not too keen on a few of the ajuntament ideas and I dislike fascist leaning groups like the ERC, their youth wing and various others who come under such a banner"
After working +10hour days for the last few weeks I have no desire to waste my energy in someone who shares the language of Libertad Digital, the Spanish Nationalists'pamphlet.

When you describe a party with the democratic credentials of ERC as "fascist", you automatically disqualify yourself. By using the language of the Spanish Nationalist Right, you align your ideas with theirs. And then you are surprised when people accuse you of being anti-Catalan? Well, don’t use the language of the anti-Catalan Spanish Nationalists then.

So ERC is a fascist party now? And I guess the PP is a centre-right modern party right?
As we say in Scotland: AYE RIGHT!
(double positive makes a negative)

I will remind you that:
- Thousands of ERC sympathisers where exiled after the Spanish Civil War, won by the real Fascists with the support of the Nazi military machine.
- ERC was founded in 1931 and fought the war against the Fascists.
- That President Companys was captured by the Nazis and handed out to Franco's regime, who executed him.
Just a bit of history there for you so you learn when to use the "fascist" word. For your information, ERC is a social-democrat party in favour of Catalan independence. The rest is bullshit of the highest order or else how do you explain that ERC is in a coalition that has made an immigrant from Andalucia the current President of Catalonia. Honestly I cannot see any other nationalist party supporting an immigrant as President. Any Flemish parties will make a Wallon a President of Flanders? Any chances of someone from Turkish origin (never mind what generation...)being elected to Germany’s PM job. Any chance of an Indian or a Polish émigré being elected to power in the UK, or Germany, or an Algerian in France, or an Irish being UK PM? (Let’s leave football players out of this though…)

Thankfully, despite you pathetic claim, the truth is that ERC is a modern, left-of-centre party and its only policy is to pursue the wellbeing of Catalan citizens, and to ensure the Catalonia has a prosperous economy and a good standard of social welfare. My mother, an immigrant from the south of Spain, votes ERC. You need to get this in our head or you will never ever have a clue about Catalan politics and Catalonia.

As for your accusing my blog slating Spain all the time, being negative, etc, etc, and that I should be more positive. Well, you are kind of missing the point: it is because the Spanish state is intend on ensuring the economical, cultural and political decline of Catalonia that Catalonia is unable to increase its economical, cultural and political status. It is impossible for Catalonia to improve its infrastructure with a 12-15% fiscal deficit for example, and when the Spanish state just completes just a fraction of infrastructure projects in Catalonia compared to what appears in the Budget. It is impossible to promote Catalan language when the Spanish state refuses Catalan parliamentarians to use it in the Spanish Parliament in Madrid, etc, etc. ... Ad infinitum.
Trust me, I would write something else if I could but reality is what it is and no amount of optimism is going to change the fact that the Spanish state wants and pursues policies that are detrimental to the wellbeing of Catalonia and its citizens. When reality changes, then I will change my blog to reflect that.

As for the future of the language, it is the consensus amongst the sociolinguistic community that unless the situation changes, Catalan is condemned to disappear. Only having full legal equality with Spanish, or independence from Spain, will prevent such outcome:
http://www.racocatala.cat/articles/14834 or do your own Google search. I am sure you will not ask me for help regarding sources for this claim.

You are quick to accuse this blog of being divisive and exclusionist but you always fail to acknowledge your own double standards. You obviously write very well, but just because you are good with words, it does not mean that what you write is any more truthful or accurate.

You constantly claim in writing to prove many things, and to establish clear parallels, and to state exactly why I am so wrong and you are so right. But the more your write, the more clues you leave behind your trail. An another example of your Catalonophobia is this very article: a post about US foreign policy as turned into another of your diatribes focused on the merits or otherwise of the pro-independence camp in Catalonia, or the policies I support, and about what I write. Yet, when you attempt to refute one of the issues I write about, facts and reality disprove your point.

Under the appearance of neutrality lies a profound antipathy towards anything related to Catalan language and advancing Catalan self-government. And yes, I have to concur with Roger that you seem to be obsessed with anything that may improve the social or legal status of Catalan language, or any advances in self-government or anything that will improve life in Catalonia at any level. I have never read any of your arguments which conveyed something positive about Catalonia advancing its own cause, closing the fiscal deficit, or legal status equality for the language, more self-government, or the ability to raise and keep taxes as the Basques and Navarra do. To you Catalonia has no option but to be just like any other province of Spain, economically dependant on Madrid's government budget allocation, culturally subjugated to Spanish language and culture, and politically submissive of whatever central government decrees -and stop moaning. Well Neil, 300 years on, Catalonia is still not giving up, however precariously, and we are not going to give up easily. ERC represents about 15% of the electorate and is a mainstream party and growing every day because...guess what? every day more and more people are getting fed up with the status quo I describe in my blog.

-----------
PS1: For goodness sake, I have wasted more time that I wanted to.
PS2: you were right about your not being obsessed with this blog. I concede that I was wrong: I got you mixed up with Ox. Apologies for that. Your last post was months ago.

Neil said...

ERC.
I did not say the ERC were fascist. I said they were fascist leaning. i.e. they have fascist tendencies. They are not out and out fascists. Maybe you misunderstood 'fascist leaning' to mean pure fascist. I'll explain what I meant. Have a look at these statements:

- to have an ex-terrorist in a senior position
- to try and extort money out of their workers
- to want to ban an official language from being spoken in schools
- to use the threat of violence to prevent freedom of speach

These are all things that the ERC and their younglings have done.

Rab, regardless of their history, Lluis Companys or other 'credentials' that you say history automatically gives them, the fact is that today, right here and right now, I have offered reason to the my view that the ERC have a fascist streak running through. I am not alone in that thinking (includes other 'pro-Catalans' no less!). I know a fair bit about Companys and have respect for him. But he is of little relevance to the inner workings of the ERC in 2007, almost 70 years since his murder.

Would you do me the honour of answering these two questions Rab:

1) Do you agree that in recent times, the ERC/JERC have actually done the things mentioned above?
2) Do you believe that those who employ such techniques may well have a certain amount of fascist tendency within them?

I may agree with some of their sentiments, but I think their ideas on implementing them are completely retarded in todays world. Spare me anymore mention of the PP unless relevant. I don't really like ERC or PP.

When you called it 'pathetic' that I believe that the ERC have fascist tendencies, you did so without ever asking as to why I believed that. That is so very tragically poor of you Rab. It perfectly sums up your 'style'. Perfectly.


BLOG
I do not accept your reasoning of: 'My blog is anti-Spanish because that is the only thing possible to do' (I have summarised that for you - if it is not accurate I am sure you will let me know). I give you another clear-as-day example here - It will tell you why I challenge your reasoning on this:

Ian Llorens used to have a blog (shame he stopped) that occasionally made some great points that had no hint of being anti-Spanish. He mainly concentrated on what Catalonia should do for itself. Sure he did occasionally have the odd anti-Spanish (and other groups) thing going on, but not the consistent stream of hatred that you concentrate on.

His blog was proof Rab. Proof that one does not have to be so anti-Spanish as you. If I can try and summarise Ians posts: He had a basis of Catalan pride & culture, international recognition through business (+other things) with widening acceptance of language (not exclusion) underpinning his thoughts. That's a lot closer to my beliefs and ideals than yours of hatred and anti-Spainishness. His less politically oriented posts were often simply promoting Catalan cuisine, culture etc. There is none of that here within your posts. Just a dominance of hate filled anti-Spanish criticism.

Your intrinsic belief that your blog must be anti-Spanish & devoid of any positive Catalan promotion material logically shows where your priorities are: Rubbishing the Spanish and not the promotion of a unified & independent Catalonia.

You were presumably a regular reader of Ians Blog? Hopefully you will see that what I have said about it is fairly accurate. So, please answer these questions Rab:

3) Do you agree with what I have just stated about Ian llorens blog?
4) Do you still believe that posting mainly anti-Spanish opinion is the only route to take?

I politely request that you answer the four questions that I have asked you. By all means add your reasoning and insight, but do try to be objective!

True to form, you dedicated your last two paragraphs at nothing more than putting me down (I use the language of someoelse who is anti-Catalan so therefore I must be aswell? Piss poor Rab, piss poor). Ask me a sensible, relevant, unloaded question and I will probably reply, as usual.

Enjoy your weekend one and all.


P.S. Whilst I also do not have much spare time, I suggest that you Rab dedicate less of it to speculative name calling and concentrate on answering the 4 reasoned questions above.

Rab said...

Neil,

Your obsessive hatred against ERC is becoming tiresome and it reveals more about you than you want to acknowledge. Let’s look at your 4 points.

"+ To have an ex-terrorist in a senior position."
Well, easy one: one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter. Mandela was a terrorist, Arafat was a terrorist, Martin McGuinnes (Sinn Fein) was a terrorist, etc, etc. All these people have held positions of power after their "terrorist" past. Does their past invalidate them for a political career? Flimsy argument if there was ever one. By the way, can you remind me who was a terrorist in the current leadership of that party? Not that I care much just curiosity.

For the real fascist party, Neil, look no further than the Spanish Partido Popular. This is a party that was founded by Manuel Fraga, a Minister during the Franco regime. You know, Francisco Franco, the true Fascist dictator. When this party organises a demonstration for whatever reason, part of its supporters wave Spanish pre-constitutional (aka fascists) flags, the ones with the imperial eagle, the same flag they waved under Franco. That is a fascist party Neil: a party founded by a Fascists, supported by (some) people with Fascist views and a party who upholds a pretty fascist view of how Spain should be run.

"+ To try and extort money out of their workers."
This shows that you know nothing about how political parties fund themselves in Spain. Dear Neil: all parties "levy", "extort", "recoup","receive a contribution" (select one) money from the workers they have appointed in the public sector: PP, PSOE, IU, CiU, ERC. The lot. All of them. It is the system. Unethical? Yes. Dodgy? Very. But they are all at it.
What happened in this case is that ERC made a silly mistake: they send out letters as opposed to the whispering in the cafeteria, or during fag breaks. You see, their error is that they believed that the funding of the party should be transparent, as opposed to a web of deceit and secrecy, and they decided to go public with the finance letters. All parties do it Neil, in one way or another. If anything, that episode showed the inexperience and naivety of ERC at the top level. In any event, there is one party that has one convicted fraudster in their ranks: Jose Maria Sala for the PSC-PSOE. This man is a convicted criminal (fraud and corruption), served his sentence and is now, wait for it, responsible for "Training and Development" (Formació) in the PSC-PSOE. A convicted fraudster. Your second argument also fails the test: all parties have skeletons in the closet.

+"To want to ban an official language from being spoken in schools
Incorrect and just plain propaganda. ERC did not want to ban any language from being spoken in schools.
ERC proposed linguistic guidelines in schools similar to what is done in France, Belgium, Netherlands, etc. They wanted to introduce a "language protocol" for school teachers so that Catalan language was used as a means to help integrate pupils of different nationalities and ethnic groups and avoid the sad situation whereby children group themselves according to their mother tongue or nationality in the playground. It was a policy to aid integration, as it is done in many other countries in the world.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/5305484.stm - for example in Belgium.

This kind of language protocols are pretty common in southern France, for example in Perpignan and Toulon, where I have family and friends. In any casy, ERC backed down after another media onslaught and the original proposal had been manipulated to the limit.

You see, the thing in Catalonia is that language has been used as a way to stop people integrating fully into Catalonia. The PSC-PSOE in the Barcelona area have been masters at this. Last century it was with the immigration from the south of Spain, and now they are doing it with the immigration from South-America and North Africa. My parents were never encouraged to learn Catalan. Instead they were encouraged to attend the "Feria de Abril" and other fake flamenco events in the Barcelona area. The purpose of these events is to perpetuate their condition of immigrants in order to obtain what is known as the captive vote. (voto captivo).
Pedro Morón de la Fuente, from my home town of St Boi, and others explain this issue pretty well in this book:
http://www.esferallibres.com/libros/librodetalle.html?libroISBN=8497343107

In any case, if you are worried about a political party that wants to ban an official language in schools, you need to look no further than what is happening to the Catalan-speaking villages in the counties of La Franja, Aragón. They have no linguistic rights whatsoever. Catalan language is not even recognised by the authorities. That seems to me a very "fascist" way to eliminate a language from being spoken. Not to mention the prohibition imposed by the Spanish government (both PSOE and PP) on the use of Catalan language in the Spanish Parliament in Madrid. That is: Catalan elected representatives are banned from using their own language in the Spanish Parliament. That is a very "fascist" policy, is it not? In this respect Spain is not like Switzerland, or Canada, or Belgium. Your third argument also fails to prove anything of substance.

"+ To use the threat of violence to prevent freedom of speech"
Can you be more specific as to the event(s) you are referring to? ERC condemns the use of violence to further political aims, as stated in their political principles.
http://www.esquerra.cat/web_nova/arxius/DIangles.pdf (English)

In any case, if you are worried about the use of violence, perhaps you should know about the attacks suffered by bookshops in Valencia or Barcelona, and only because they sell books in Catalan. Or the threat of violence enshrined in Article 8 of the Spanish Constitution, whereby the Army is used by the Spanish State to threaten and frighten any supporters of self-determination in the Basque Country or Catalonia. Or the violence dished out by the Policia Nacional or Guardia Civil whenever a member of the public tries to address them in an official language, for example Catalan.

There are hundreds of episodes of violence against Catalan speakers every single day, I sincerely hope they merit your virtous concern:
http://webs.racocatala.cat/coneixeu/Actualitat/Repressi%F3/Recull_Llengua.html
for an old sample. Or a more recent case:
http://www.vilaweb.cat/www/ep/noticia?noticia=2527950 a Moroccan immigrant fired for speaking in Catalan. Institutionalised linguistic persecution by the Guardia Civil in Mallorca. Getting fired for using the language of the country you are living in seems a bit violent to me.

Perhaps if you are worried about the health of freedom of speech in Spain, you would also be interested to know that about 10-15% of the electorate in the Basque Country are not allowed to vote for their elected representatives. Newspapers, pubs, community centres, anything that is related to the radical pro-independence Basques is prohibited, regardless of whether there is an operational link with ETA or not. It is as if some ideas are banned: independence and not accepting the "holy unity" of Spain. That sounds a bit like freedom of speech is under severe threat in Spain, especially if you want to challenge the status quo and oppose the policies of the Spanish state.

So Neil, your first 4 points that you have used to tarnish the good name of ERC are as feeble as your pretence of being a neutral observer concerned by what you describe as anti-Spanish bias in this blog.

Let’s recap again:
1)Almost all parties in Spain have former terrorists or fascist sympathisers in their ranks. One party was founded by a Fascist Minister of Franco and their supporters wave Fascist flags during their demonstrations.
2) All parties in Spain use "levies" for their funding.
3) ERC did not want to ban any language but institute a "language protocol" like many other countries in Europe do. However, Catalan language is indeed banned by the Spanish state in the Spanish Parliament, which in theory it is the forum where all Spaniards should be represented. Yet, Catalan parliamentarians are prohibited of using their own language. And in Catalan-speaking areas like La Franja, Catalan language is not even recognised by the administration. A sure-fire way to kill off what is already a weak language in these areas.
4)ERC rejects the use of violence to further political causes but the Spanish state does not hesitate to use violence against anyone who challenges the status quo and asks for the right of self-determination for Catalonia or the Basque Country. And we find that the threat of violence in enshrined in the Spanish Constitution, Preliminary Section, Article 8.

Neil, your "reasons" prove nothing about ERC other than your own bias against them.


I will now do the honour of answering your questions:

1) 1) Do you agree that in recent times, the ERC/JERC have actually done the things mentioned above?
As I have explained in the preceding paragraphs, your 4 points are pointless –pardon the pun. They are a weak manipulation and a recycling of half-truths and propaganda. Refer to my text above.

2) Do you believe that those who employ such techniques may well have a certain amount of fascist tendency within them?
Since I have proven than your 4 points are clumsy manipulations of non-facts, I fundamentally reject the idea that ERC have a certain amount of fascist tendency within them. In fact I state the opposite: ERC has proven to have a very open minded approach to pursuing the independence cause by appointing a President who is a declared anti-independence person. Let's not forget that ERC has appointed an immigrant with a precarious knowledge of Catalan language as President of Catalonia. That seems to me a very moderate, and open-minded, pro-independence party. A political party that can work with its enemies.
If you say that about ERC, you have to say the same about all political parties in Spain as I have evidenced when refuting your 4 points above.

I trust that the fact that the PP was founded by a Fascist Minister under Franco is pretty relevant. We kind of guessed that you did not like ERC but thanks for the clarification anyway.

I reaffirm my view that to describe ERC as "fascist" is pathetic and an insult to the memory of the thousands of ERC supporters that were killed and exiled during the Spanish Civil War. ERC is a political party that was banned by a fascist regime until 1978. To tar their name with the "fascist" brush only evidences your own prejudice and hatred against them. You are using the language of the Spanish Nationalist Right, and therefore I see perfectly reasonable to describe your views as anti-Catalan, prejudiced and biased. Nothing wrong with that: I have my political opinions and you have yours. But please spare me the pontificating and patronising tone as if you were the saviour of truth. You dislike ERC, I understand.

BLOG
Well, I too don’t accept your description about "the consistent stream of hatred". I don’t hate many people in this world, let alone Spain. My parents are from Spain. I have family in Spain (Madrid of all places). Some of my best mates are from Spain: yesterday I had lunch with one of my best mates, from Burgos, will you believe it.
I don’t hate Spain. What I do is to describe the policies and the dynamics the Spanish state employs in their pursuit of the perfect Spanish nation-state. I would fill me with joy if Spain was like Belgium or Canada. I was a Spanish federalist a few years ago. But the more I travelled around Spain and abroad, the more I realised that Spain will never be like Belgium or Canada, or Switzerland and that only Catalan independence would ensure the end of this political cul-de-sac.

Don't make the same mistake as Iberian Notes. I criticise and I profoundly oppose the policies pursed by the Spanish state in its present form. I describe those policies. I don't hate Spain.

Your questions:

3) Do you agree with what I have just stated about Ian llorens blog?
I do agree that Ian’s blog is far better than mine’s. Of that there is no question. I have written that in his blog and in this blog.
http://trenator.blogspot.com/2007/06/blogus-interruptus-common-sense-is-so_02.html

The way I see it is this:
I describe what Spain does to prevent Catalonia fulfilling its potential. In my view, it is impossible and self-delusory to separate the two issues. I accept that many readers will perceive my blog to be more Spanish-focused than Catalan-focused. But to talk about Catalonia’s potential without referring to the constraints and barriers being imposed by the Spanish state is nonsensical.
Would a football summariser explain a football game only describing the merits of one team? Of course not, you take the opposition into account.

To me this political battle is the same: there are two multi-dimensional players who have been in a collusion course for the past few centuries. I describe the opposition’s play. If you disagree with how I describe the opposition’s game, then challenge me in the individual posts and the issue being covered in that post.

But I have to say that hijacking this post about a BBC Radio 4 program and US foreign policy and turning it into a debate about this blog’s style and about Catalan politics only confirms my impression that your views are very prejudiced and that you seem to have some kind of obsession about Catalonia.

you still believe that posting mainly anti-Spanish opinion is the only route to take?
First, I reject I post anything that is inherently anti-Spanish. I describe what Spanish state does from my point of view. As I wrote above, do not get mixed up between policies and nations. I concede there may be other options but I have already discussed them in previous posts. For example:

http://trenator.blogspot.com/2007/07/hopeless.html
http://trenator.blogspot.com/2007/06/fading-nation.html
http://trenator.blogspot.com/2007/05/immigrant-president.html

In summary, Catalonia, during the last 100 years, has tried to "dialogue", "engage", "modernise" and "negotiate" with Spain. As I wrote in 'Hopeless', Catalonia's big mistake has been trying to change Spain. The only way forward is to break away unilaterally; if Catalonia is to have any kind of future, a pro-independence majority needs to be formed and push forward to exercise the right of self-determination. In order to persuade more people to join the pro-independence camp, I feel it is necessary to tackle the myth that the Spanish state will accommodate Catalonia as Canada has accommodated Quebec.
This issue is central to this debate, and I deal with it in this blog without beating around the bush. Yes, I agree my style may be perceived as abrasive or confrontational, and that other blogs have more flair. Well, the truth is that part of the problem is Catalan politicians don’t tell it as it is and are too afraid of conflict. They are obsessed with the politics of consensus and prudence. As someone other Catalan said before, "la prudència ens farà traïdors" ("Prudence will make traitors of us"). They are coward; they are mutilated politicians, always scared of what El Periodico o La Vanguardia might write. I don’t have that problem. You don’t like my style. I don’t like many things in this world either but that’s just the way it is.

Neil, of course that I put you down. When you describe a democratic party like ERC as ‘fascist’ (let’s not forget, a party persecuted by the real Fascists) you automatically align yourself with the Spanish Nationalist Right, whether you like it or not.

You need to understand this: the words that we use, or the assumptions we harbour when elaborating our message, sometimes convey more meaning than what we are saying. In your case that was patently obvious: you used the vocabulary, the implied assumptions and propaganda stories of the Spanish Nationalist Right, and quite rightly I put you down. I will have more time for your point of view when you are able to elaborate your own political discourse without borrowing from Libertad Digital, ABC et al.

I hope to have answered your questions.

I am going on holiday and will be back in mid-September. Probably the blog will be discontinued until I finish my thesis in early October.

Goriaïnoff said...

"It shows to what extent American foreign policy is the cause, rather than the cure, for most of the ills in the Middle East and the Gulf region."

I think US foreign policy certainly does not help matters, but blame it to such an extent for the situation there is rather far fetched.

The people mainly responsible for making a mess of things there these days are the locals, not the Americans. No, America is no saint, but come on, who is? In any case, we all know what is going to happen the second (make that the nano second), oil runs out in that part of the world: the entire world will stop being interested in Israel, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, et al.

Maybe then they will sit down and sort themselves out, until then, I think it will be more of the same ad infinitum.

Goriaïnoff said...

And Neil...I honestly don't know why you bother replying to nationalists.

You know they don't live in the real world where real life happens. I can only understand you giving rab so much airtime because you are bored.

Nationalism is like anorexia. It does not matter that you can prove to them they are not fat even when looking in the mirror, in their heads, they are fat.

Ditto for these people. Even after you've proven it to them, Catalonia is still fat.

Anonymous said...

Neil,
I admire your efforts to try to rationalise with these guys. This is my first, and very possibly last, visit to a blog that embodies all the ignorance and intolerance of substantial elements of Catalan nationalism today.

Phil said...

Catalan nationalism is becoming more and more undemocratic and violent: If you're not with them, you're against them.

Roger said...

Anonymous and Phil:

Another two posters obsessed by their own Catalanophobia. I remind you this post is about US foreign policy guys...

I suggest you read the following articles:

http://www.racocatala.cat/articles/15069 - a councillor in Valencia attacked by Spanish nationalists.

http://www.vilaweb.cat/www/elpunt/noticia?p_idcmp=2579353 -witnesses in a murder trial obliged to speak Spanish by the judge.

http://www.vilaweb.cat/www/noticia?p_idcmp=2577179&p_edi=General - TV station being shut, their only crime using Catalan language.

http://www.nngg.org/comunicacion/index.php?sec=lectura¬id=285- a Spanish party obsessed with symbols, identity and nationality. And they threaten the use of force (the Army) to pursue their policies.

I wonder what you have to say about the above.

Catalonia has always been a land of transient people and a net receiver of migration flows for centuries. There has never been any tension or significant civil unrest within the population. However, we have been, and continue to be, victims of the Spanish State campaign against our language, culture and nationhood. We are only asking for our language to be protected like Spanish language is protected by the Spanish Constitution. We are only asking to be treated fairly and equally.

Catalan nationalism is the most tolerant, open-minded and welcoming in Europe: a Catalan pro-independence party has appointed an immigrant to President of Catalonia. As we say in Catalan, "és català qui viu i treballa a Catalunya" (Catalan is he who lives and works in Catalonia). Unprecedented. Catalan nationalist parties regularly form coalitions with Spanish parties who fundamentally oppose each other.
Please show me an example in the world where that is the case before vomiting your prejudiced anti-Catalan bile.

On the other hand, the Spanish parties, PP and PSOE deny the people of the Basque Country to express their view on the future of their nation, as their elected representative committed himself to do in his party’s political manifesto. He was voted in by the Basque people and now Spain does not want him to do what he was elected to do.

Democracy? I don’t think so.