Than Shwe’s foreign friends


Having already cited Amnesty’s report on the possibility of our local arms industry having supplied the Burmese Tatmadaw, news arrives from David Bloom on WW4 Report that the junta have a rather more significant supplier. And Bloom has dug up a detailed report from William Ashton in Jane’s Intelligence Review from back in 2000, telling us just who that supplier is. Yes, it’s the country that has the most illustrious record of sanctions-busting, including its supplying of Ian Smith’s Rhodesia, apartheid South Africa and neo-Nazi colonels in Guatemala. Guess who:

In August 1997 it was revealed that the Israeli defence manufacturing company Elbit had won a contract to upgrade Myanmar’s (then) three squadrons of Chinese-built F-7 fighters and FT-7 trainers. The F-7 is a derivative of the Mikoyan MiG-21 ‘Fishbed’ jet fighter. The FT-7 is the export version of the GAIC JJ-7, itself a copy of the MiG-21 ‘Mongol-B’ trainer. Since they began to be delivered by China in 1991, the Myanmar Air Force has progressively acquired about 54 (or four squadrons) of these aircraft, the latest arriving at Hmawbi air base only last year. In related sales, the air force has also acquired about 350 PL-2A air-to-air missiles (AAM) from China and at least one shipment of the more sophisticated PL-5 AAMs…

Around 1998 Myanmar negotiated the purchase of 16 155mm Soltam towed howitzers, possibly through a third party like Singapore. These guns are believed to be second-hand pieces no longer required by the Israel Defence Force. Last year, ammunition for these guns (including high explosive and white phosphorous rounds) was ordered from Pakistan’s government ordnance factories. Before the purchase of these new Chinese and North Korean weapons, Myanmar’s largest artillery pieces were 105mm medium guns, provided by the USA almost 40 years ago. Acquiring the Israeli weapons thus marks a major capability leap for Myanmar’s army gunners. It is possible that either Israel or Pakistan has provided instructors to help the army learn to use and maintain these new weapons.

Nor has the Myanmar Navy missed out on Israeli assistance. There have been several reports that Israel is playing a crucial role in the construction and fitting out of three new warships, currently being built in Yangon.

Ashton further speculates that the Israeli state’s increasingly close relationship with the Burmese junta may be connected to a broader promotion of its commercial and strategic interests in the region, as evidenced by its already close relationship with Singapore and penetration of the Chinese arms market. That seems plausible to me, and may be worth considering when the Empire and its ideological caddies start shooting their mouths off about non-proliferation. It may be comforting to believe in an Axis of Evil, where the “democracies” line up neatly against the “rogue states” (anyone remember the “Slobo armed Saddam” story for an especially ludicrous example?), but the reality of the arms trade is that the bottom line trumps all other considerations.

Hat tip: Mark.

In his own inimitable style, Senator Harris gives the Unionist Party the benefit of even more of his advice


The News Letter is fascinating in many ways, not least because of the importance that it assumes, and that the wider media grant it, in setting the ideological agenda for unionism. Actually, its interest in more recent years has been more in its symptomatic nature than in the conscious influence it wields. After a long period of staunch support for Trimble appeared to have put the paper on a hiding to nothing, new editor Darwin Templeton set about revitalising the paper by trying to turn it into the DUP’s house journal. In the runup to the Stormont election, when Big Ian was promising a battle a day in the Executive, the News Letter’s coverage reached such a peak of slavish Paisleyolatry that even the North Koreans might have found it a little over the top.

Since then, of course, the Chuckle Brothers have become ensconced at Stormont and there hasn’t been a battle a day, or anything like it, despite Nigel Dodds being more than usually grumpy. As a result, the News Letter has been vacillating between support for Papa Doc and puffing up the attempts by Jim Allister to form a new dissident unionist party. It’s as if Darwin doesn’t know which way to turn.

But that isn’t the most interesting thing in today’s News Letter. The most interesting thing, which gets a huge front page splash, is an address to the Official Unionists by legendary pundit, polymath, newly appointed Saorstát senator and friend of this blog Eoghan Harris. As you might expect, Eoghan was on good form – he’s not quite the polemicist of his Marxist-Leninist days, but he does give you plenty to chew on. Here I’ll just chew on some of the highlights:

What I am going to suggest will I am sure outrage many of you – it’s the Unionist equivalent in 2007 to the consternation I evoked in 1989 when I told the Workers Party that it had to embrace liberal capitalism and the market economy or die. For what I am suggesting is that there no longer is a real foundation for the continued existence of two Unionist Parties and that from a position of relative strength you should approach the DUP about the creation of a new united Unionist Party.

Well, a few people have been mooting this of late, but I like that heavy hint that the OUP will go the way of the Workers Party if it fails to follow Eoghan’s advice. Come to think of it, didn’t the WP do rather well for a few years after Eoghan defected?

Sinn Fein has suffered a major setback in the recent general election in the Republic, but it is far from accepting the long-term legitimacy of partition or the Northern Ireland state. The SDLP shows few signs of reconsidering its strategy of competing for suitably ‘green’ credentials with the Shinners. And while the southern political class has signed up for the acceptance of Northern Ireland’s right to exist, there still remain powerful forces in the Republic’s media and in the collective unconscious of the southern electorate that cleave to a nationalist narrative of the carnage which Northern Ireland endured for 30 years. As for the British political and administrative class, despite the herculean efforts of David Trimble, it remains profoundly uninterested in NI and there are little reserves of support or sympathy for the Unionist cause.

One can see here just how much Eoghan has assimilated the paranoid unionist worldview, where the Provos are as subversive as ever, the SDLP nearly as much, the Dublin media deeply republican – and I love “the collective unconscious of the southern electorate”, which sounds to me like the classic D4 locution “I just can’t understand these people”, and is a little incongruous coming from Eoghan in his current populist Fianna Fáil mode. And of course, those perfidious FCO mandarins who would just love to cut the Nornies loose.

By the way, as Brendan Clifford could tell Eoghan, “Northern Ireland” isn’t a state. And does the pseudo-Zionist reference to the North’s “right to exist” have an actual significance, or is it just a flourish?

Thankfully, and thanks in many ways to the work of both Bertie Ahern and David Trimble, you can look south to the many many people in all the main parties who have no time for Shinner apologetics or for northern nationalist whinging.

A nod to two patrons, and a sly backslap to Eoghan’s good self for shaping the media-political discourse in Dublin in a decent direction. And he is correct that most Leinster House politicos are now profoundly post-nationalist.

There are many tasks which need urgent attention. And one of the major tasks is that of contesting the history of the past 37 years. Progressive democrats in both states have a major job of work to do particularly in not allowing those who lost the war to win the battle to define our recent history. In this matter I must respectfully claim that Unionists have not been good at countering the Shinner narrative which can rely on BBC NI through a mixture of bad elements and a lazy unreflective ‘leftist’ world view that is as unsympathetic to Unionism as it is to Israel and the USA.

Well, now the DUP can seemingly be counted as a progressive force. And this stuff about the BBC is just a rehashing of one of Gail Walker’s less interesting tropes. If Eoghan had seen Nolan’s interview with Big Ian earlier in the year, he might have been surprised. Our resident shock jock didn’t go much deeper than “First Minister, why are you so popular?”

Remember it was DUP spoiling tactics that gave Fermanagh and S Tyrone to Bobby Sands.

This is wrong. Not just in terms of judgement, but factually wrong. That by-election in 1981 was a straight fight between Sands and Harry West. Perhaps Eoghan is telescoping time and conflating 1981 with Michelle Gildernew’s victory twenty years later. Eoghan then, puzzlingly, asks Sir Reggie to show the spirit of Michael Collins. I wish I could have been there, just to see what the unionists made of all this.

But this really defies summary. Go and read the full text, and marvel at the peregrinations of Eoghan’s rhetoric.

Government agency to stop sponsoring spawn of Satan


I’m absolutely loving this. Judges often say daft things, but Judge Alan Berg is a smart cookie. Sentencing a man in connection with a head-butting incident on the Jeremy Kyle show, Judge Berg was right on the money:

It seems to me that the purpose of this show is to effect a morbid and depressing display of dysfunctional people whose lives are in turmoil, often in some perceived or actual dispute with each other for the purposes of titillating bored members of the public who have nothing better to do in the morning than watch trash TV.

It is less a show than a form of human bear-baiting – that is how I see it – which goes under the guise of entertainment. It should not surprise anyone that these people, some of whom have limited intellects, become aggressive with each other.

This type of incident is exactly what the producers want.

Big up, Judge Berg. Now the Manchester Evening News reports that the city’s magistrates court will no longer be screening Mr Vile for the entertainment of defendants and witnesses waiting for their cases to be heard:

Mr Rutherford [the court manager] said: “In light of comments made by District Judge Berg I made the decision to follow this up by changing the channels on televisions outside the courts. From now on shows such as the Jeremy Kyle show will no longer be shown.”

Judge Berg welcomed the move. He said: “If it be the case that programmes such as the Jeremy Kyle Show are being shown on the TV sets outside the courtrooms in Manchester’s magistrates’ building and being watched by people facing criminal proceedings then I consider it to be, at best, unhealthy and, at the worst, having a potentially damaging impact on their minds. I believe it wouldn’t assist defendants in being in the appropriate frame of mind when they come before the court. This is the type of show that whips certain people into a frenzy.”

There has also been the claim that an alcoholic guest was plied with lager to get him riled up before going on the show. Producers take issue with this, but it was in the Sun so it must be true.

Finally, word comes through that Kyle is losing his £500,000 annual sponsorship from the government agency that runs Learndirect. That’s right, a body charged with promoting adult education was sponsoring Jeremy Kyle. At the risk of sounding like Richard Littlejohn, that’s something you really couldn’t make up.

Rud eile: I liked this article on Burma from Alan Bock. It’s about as intelligent a commentary as I’ve seen so far.

Peace-loving loyalists threaten Comical Robin


While the UDA have been meeting Social Development minister Margaret Ritchie to flag up their peace-loving credentials, and tighten their grip on that £1.2m “conflict transformation” grant, news comes through casting doubt on those credentials. That was the death threat made yesterday against, among others, Andersonstown News editor Robin Livingstone. The threat was said to have come from the Red Hand Defenders, which is the UDA in a funny hat, and sums up nicely that organisation’s approach to free speech. For more details, I refer readers to the NUJ.

And while we’re plugging good causes, Amnesty is holding a Burma solidarity demo outside City Hall at noon tomorrow. And have a look at their story on the possibility that our local arms industry could be supplying the Burmese junta.

San idirlinn, sa Phoblacht na mBananaí…


I rather like Éamon Gilmore. Had I been a member of the Labour Party, which I’m not, I’d be quite happy with him taking over the leadership. He’s a smart guy, has some ideas, knows how to express them and isn’t hemmed in by the inherited orthodoxies of Stickiedom. On the other hand, I can’t quite figure out what he thought he was doing coming up with the idea of a no confidence motion in Bertie. Grabbing a cheap headline with a motion that was bound to fail is something you might expect from Electric Enda, who, all credit to his persistence, is still trying to put himself forward as an alternative taoiseach. But I would have hoped for a slightly more sober approach from Gilmore.

I’ve written before about my views of the Tribunal system (apologies for the repetition), and I also direct readers to WorldbyStorm on this issue. Just to recap, the Tribunals, apart from their dubious constitutionality, have become an enormous white elephant. Their main material function – apart from their political function – is to provide journos with easy copy and multimillionaire barristers with a very substantial state subsidy. With no end in sight, and a projected bill that could well top a billion euro, a sane body politic would have introduced strict anti-corruption laws (and maybe stricter ones than those currently in place are called for) and then moved to wind the Tribunals down. Unfortunately, since Des O’Malley browbeat Charlie into setting up the Beef Tribunal in 1991, no government has had the balls to get a grip on the legal eagles.

So we have this current situation with Bertie. We should reiterate that there has been no proof, nor anything like it, that Bertie has done anything illegal. Unethical and dishonourable probably, but no smoking gun of illegality has been found. All that Mahon has been able to demonstrate so far is that Bertie is a bit dodgy, a bit of a geezer, a little bit werrrr, a little bit weyyyyyy, a little bit arrrrgggh. But we knew that already. Did anyone really expect him to break down in the Dáil and wail that his entire political career had been a complete fraud?

Then there is the partisan aspect. The one thing that keeps me from straight out calling for the Tribunals to be scrapped is that that’s what the gaimbín wing of Fianna Fáil would like to happen. But that’s not to say that they don’t have a point. No matter the fact that Frank Dunlop paid off politicians of all parties; both the official opposition (Fine Gael and Labour) and the real opposition (the Irish Times) have shown a touching faith in the idea that endless exposés of “Fianna Fáil corruption” would oust the Soldiers of Fortune from power. (The gormless left of course also cling to this notion, with their little placards calling on the gardaí to arrest elected representatives.) The recent election should have proved otherwise, but I suppose that for a certain type of political mind it just proves that the Irish population get the leaders they deserve.

But there is a dynamic here that FF supporters are keenly aware of, and it’s a dynamic that undermines the credibility of the entire Tribunal system. Multiple judicial tribunals have been sitting for so many years, at such hideous expense and with so few tangible results that the only way they can be redeemed is by claiming the scalp of the Taoiseach. And, in the absence of a smoking gun, that means poking around in Bertie’s personal finances and trying to make him look so shifty that he becomes too much of a hot potato to remain in power. Trouble is, Bertie’s personal finances are so convoluted and his brass neck so tough that we could see this whole saga drag on for the rest of our natural lives. Well, maybe a few people would be satisfied with that, but it doesn’t do much for the public good.

Rud eile: No, I haven’t forgotten Gail Walker this week, she just didn’t interest me that much. We had the media’s treatment of Britney Spears, Sir Hugh Orde’s bit on the side and yet again some slagging off of the BBC. Elsewhere in the Telegraph this week, Lindy McDowell branched out from local politics to have a pop at Ahmadinejad, although not surprisingly she managed to bring the Provos into the argument. For another view of Ahmadinejad’s American adventure, you may find Justin Raimondo interesting.

There really is nothing like good journalism!


Following up on the Respect debate, I notice the new Weekly World Worker News [pdf] is online. I have to admit, I was curious to see what the Conrad Party of Great Britain would have to say for itself in the current situation, and whether it would have any shocking new revelations. The answer to the latter is “no”.

Jim Moody writes of the SWP leadership’s pas devant les enfants attitude, and raises the same question that I had previously, whether the SWP and Respect running a virtual news blackout was a useful way to operate. Fair enough. He also ruminates on the allegation that the SWP CC has been circulating a dossier on George’s failings, and rousingly proclaims, “The SWP must come clean.” Subtext: if you’ve got a spare copy, please pass it to the Weekly Worker.

The main article on Respect is yet again penned by crack Kremlinologist Peter Manson. Manson’s big rhetorical flourish of the week is that Respect should be reckoned among the living dead, which accounts for the grisly picture of zombies adorning the WW cover page, and reproduced with Manson’s article – and people complain about my images!

Manson is faced with the problem of hyping up an inconclusive NC, and predicting the outcome of this weekend’s recall NC, which will probably render this WW redundant by Saturday night. As a result, he relies on some remarkably broad statements of futurology, and his usual novelistic touches (Rees “calmly pointed out” etc.).

What is now absolutely clear is that, whatever the sniping at the SWP CC, the CPGB are backing them against almost everybody else in Respect. I suspect this relates to their desire to recruit stray SWP members, but Manson’s rationalisation is that the SWP represents the proletarian, socialist wing of Respect, as opposed to the petty bourgeois Asian businessmen in Tower Hamlets. “Stung by the criticisms of the abandonment of principle in the Respect popular front – criticisms which originated with this paper and eventually started to be repeated by its rank and file – the SWP is most definitely looking to find a way of breaking with Respect’s businessmen’s wing.” And Manson goes on to describe the SWP as the “working class component” of Respect, where it might be better described as the Baggy Trousers component. (All the teachers in the pub…)

This is rather curious, because prior to this row breaking out, the Weekly Worker had run endless reports of Respect meetings where George was the most radical person in the room, and the SWP constituted a consistent right wing. This seems rather plausible to me, more so than the scenario that Manson is currently putting forward. Manson also fails to mention, as does the John Rees-Elaine Graham Leigh document he quotes, that far from the SWP being on the side of progressive Muslims and against “communalism” in Tower Hamlets, it has consistently backed the Bengali small businessmen against more radical Muslims – with the notable exception of the handful of Muslims who have become members or fellow travellers of the SWP. Manson skips over this opportunistic posturing from Rees, for the very good reason that he and his parasitic organisation are engaged in some opportunistic posturing of their own.

The WW also runs a defence of Mark Fischer’s participation in the Michael Crick hatchet job on Newsnight, in response to well-aimed criticisms from Andy and Liam. I’ll be honest here, the sectarian mischief-maker in me was hoping that Ian Mahoney or Elaine Harrison would pop up as character witnesses. Unfortunately, Mark is defended by fellow Cymro Cameron Richards, who has the disadvantage of being a real person. After bigging up the WW’s role as a whistle-blower (some would say gossip sheet) on the left, Cameron bums and blows about using the class enemy’s media to argue for communist positions. Which would be fine, if Mark had said anything distinguishable from Oona King. Cameron also blows some smoke about George McNeilage collaborating with the News of the World in the Tommy Sheridan affair, while failing to mention the actual actions of the Tangerine Man or the CPGB’s shamefaced, crabwise support for him. I’ll mark Cameron’s report card, “must try harder”.

It is therefore a surprise to come across Mike Macnair’s report of the Oxford Respect AGM, which is actually relatively sober and keeps the speculative Kremlinology to a low level. Peter, Cameron, read this and pick up some tips.

Lads’ TV fails to take off


Just a quick return to the question I raised at the launch of Nuts TV:

But presumably there is a market for this sort of thing, or at least a big enough market to sustain a small digital channel, or IPC wouldn’t be stumping up the money for it. The unanswered question is, whether the channel can sustain any level of interest.

If the initial viewing figures are anything to go by, it appears not. Figures from the launch night show an audience beginning at 28,000 or 0.14%, falling to an average of 9,000 or 0.10%. And that was on the first night, following an extensive advertising campaign and lots of plugs on Chris Moyles’ radio show. The latter may not be unrelated to Mr Moyles’ sidekick Comedy Dave presenting the sports segment. Bearing in mind that Nuts magazine sells around 200,000 copies a week – and Moyles has a listenership of well over seven million – this bodes ill.

Not surprisingly, over 80% of the audience was male. More surprisingly, the average viewer’s age was apparently 42. Since the magazine has an extremely young readership, and the channel was supposed to be aimed at the 16-24 age group, being watched by dads rather than lads is not a good sign.

As I’ve already indicated, I’m not a reader of the magazine and not a great fan of the channel. But I would guess that much of the channel’s problem stems from the fact that the magazine is smutty and the channel isn’t. I tuned in hoping for something like L!ve TV, with a bit of car crash potential, only to find a relatively inoffensive show in the Live and Kicking or Big Breakfast mode. Granted that I’m not the target audience, but I would suspect that your average lad tuning in to a channel based around the Nuts brand would be looking for two things – boobs and football. Now, football is ridiculously expensive to show, and broadcasting regulations limit how smutty you can get, but if you’re prepared to settle for blokes talking about boobs and football you may as well listen to Moyles. And there’s a good reason why he’s on the wireless.

So it looks as if the lad mag hasn’t quite managed the species jump into lads’ TV. I can’t say I’m terribly surprised that it wouldn’t work in TV terms, but I had reckoned on there being a relatively big market out there that would give an enterprise along these lines a fair wind. There you go.

Rud eile: I would be journalistically justified in using an image of Lucy Pinder, the face of Nuts TV, to illustrate this post. But I’ve taken a bit of stick for the unfortunate outbreak of cheesecake on these pages some weeks ago, and I’m trying to keep things relatively clean. So, with no relevance whatsoever to the subject matter, this post is brought to you by the late Mehmet Shehu. Maybe this will win points for retro tankie chic.

Rud eile fós: I enjoyed Gerry Anderson’s quip on the radio about the bluetongue outbreak. According to Gerry, Jim Davidson and Roy Chubby Brown have only days to live.

And another accolade!


Following on from the Sunrise’s appearance in Mick Fealty’s top twenty of Irish blogs, management is hugely pleased, and slightly astonished, to note that Andy has given us the number two spot in his list of the top left blogs in the Celtic Isles and England. With a much deserved number one spot to Cedar Lounge.

Like many Socialist Unity readers, I’ll be checking out the listed blogs I’m not familiar with and will probably mine the comprehensive list shamelessly for links. And a quick shout out to Bob from Brockley, who has one of the most irresistible blog titles I’ve seen. I’m sorry that Bob doesn’t like my snide attacks on the Decent Left, but I hope he sticks around as he’ll find snide attacks on lots of people. Our offensiveness at least endeavours to follow strict equal opportunities guidelines, although I wouldn’t put much money on this blog surviving a Section 75 audit.


Trots celebrate famous golfer

While walking along Botanic Avenue this afternoon, I noticed something quite odd. There were a succession of big posters of Che Guevara adorning the lampposts. “The revolutionary ideas of Che Guevara”, they proclaimed. On reflection, this wasn’t necessarily odd. The students are back at Queens and the left will be trying to run meetings that might entice a few punters in.

But who was puffing Che? I know the IRSP claim an affinity with old Ernesto, but they haven’t done any student work in living memory, if indeed they ever did. The Shinners perhaps? Maybe in Dublin, but the Tyrone farmboys at Queens don’t go in for that sort of thing – a night of rebel music with a Wolfe Tones tribute band would be more their scene.

For a minute or two I thought it might be Militant. Socialist Youth occasionally use Che’s image in recruitment drives, which is a bit bemusing as I can’t readily think of an organisation less like Che Guevara than Militant. The kids tend to figure this out, if not immediately then when an adult SP member tells them Cuba is a Stalinist dictatorship and the CWI wants to overthrow the regime.

On close examination, I discovered at the bottom of the posters, in extremely small type, the legend “Socialist Worker Student Society”. Now this really had me scratching my head. As Mike Gonzalez will happily tell you, or at least did the last time I saw him, Che went from guerrillaism to, during his time in government, being far more Stalinist than the pragmatic Fidel, then reverting to guerrillaism during his Congo and Bolivia adventures. Neither brand of politics is something that the SWP has historically been keen on, and, much as they might recognise Che as an inspiring figure, they never much rated his revolutionary ideas.

It’s a puzzler all right. Maybe, what with the insurrection in Iraq, the comrades have revised their opinion and come out in favour of armed struggle, except in Ireland where it’s illegal. Or perhaps, with a commercial nous more Ben Dover than Swiss Toni, it’s just a matter of finding a sexy image that will pull in the punters. It’s unfortunate that I have to work tomorrow, or I might have toddled along to hear the new line. But if you’re a Queens student reading this, don’t let an old cynic put you off. Go along by all means, and enjoy yourself. Just remember to ask questions.

And no, the posters didn’t feature Che playing golf. It might have been more fun if they did.

Conspectus of the latest Decentiya

I’ve been putting this off, but it will be put off no longer. Disappointingly, the current Democratiya does not contain Marko Attila Hoare explaining how the Serbs sank the Titanic and kidnapped Lord Lucan, nor Oliver Kamm droning on about his older brother’s penis the charlatan Chomsky and how he prevents our Ollie from being rightly recognised as the world’s most important intellectual. In the absence of the obvious targets, however, there are still a few zingers.

There is a letter about the repression of trade unionists in Iran. A worthy cause, but it’s notable that about the only time Democratiya shows any interest in the labour movement anywhere in the world is when you can bash Ahmadinejad.

Todd Gitlin writes a not entirely coherent piece on anti-Americanism, which somehow winds up with a denunciation of “Chomskyites” for opposing intervention in Bosnia, which apparently they saw as “an assault on decent socialists”. Not surprisingly, Gitlin does not quote Chomsky himself on Bosnia, because he couldn’t find anything approximating that.

One David Adler writes on Amitav Ghosh. Ghosh has of course written many interesting things about many subjects, but what interests Adler is Ghosh’s opposition to political Islam, which he can then use as a stick to beat Arundhati Roy, who is brought into the argument at a dubious tangent.

There is an extract from Barry Rubin’s new book on Syria. I don’t know if Rubin has been faithfully excerpted, but he seems to be arguing that Washington is straining every sinew to create a Palestinian state, and has been for two decades, only to be thwarted at every turn by the Assad regime. Why do I not find that convincing?

Irfan Khawaja writes on international law and war. His conclusion is that, for the good of all, international law should be ripped up. No, I tell a lie. International law should only apply to the Third World – the Empire should have a special dispensation to do whatever it pleases.

Gerard Alexander asks, Why aren’t we hearing all the good news from Iraqi Kurdistan?

Mark Gardner, press supremo for the Community Security Trust, writes on anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Not surprisingly for someone working at the CST, he believes British society is awash with anti-Semitism, as exemplified by hostility to the Israeli state. The best summary of this is in the old joke that the Engageniks are worried about anti-Semitism because it might lead to criticism of Israel. Gardner also sees something sinister in the SWP’s description of Israel as the US’s attack dog in the Middle East, and asks why the SWP protests the dog and not the master. Perhaps he’s missed all their anti-war activity. [Update 2.10.07: Mark is keen to point out (see comments below) that he is referring specifically to boycotts, and not to protests more generally. I still think the question is a loaded rhetorical one, and I don’t believe the SWP to be an anti-Semitic organisation, although I do think they could save themselves a lot of grief on this issue by being more subtle.]

Dave Rich, Gardner’s sidekick at the CST press office, reviews Ed Husain’s The Islamist. Bearing in mind that Husain hasn’t been involved in Islamist politics for a dozen years, and has spent most of that time outside Britain, we might wonder what Husain can tell us about present-day political Islam in Britain, even assuming that he’s being honest and accurate. Nonetheless, Rich (they couldn’t have got a tame Muslim to review this?) loves it, not least because Husain provides lots of ammo for anyone looking to smite the enemies of the Jews call for the banning of Hizb-ut-Tahrir and the marginalisation of the MCB. This is really a slightly more sophisticated rehash of the Ratbiter column in Private Eye. All we need is a plug for the neocon farmhands of the fraudulent “Sufi Muslim Council” as representing “decent Muslims”.

Dan Erdman has a swipe at the American palaeoconservatives, a group who I rather prefer to the Decent Left. Dan writes, “The website is another popular outlet. The site’s title and amateurish design have led more than one confused commentator to mistake it for a left-wing site – an effect which may not be wholly unintentional – but the brains behind the operation belong to an old-right libertarian by the name of Justin Raimondo.” Nothing gets past Dan – I would never have guessed it myself, if Raimondo didn’t write a weekly column for Michael Crick had better look to his laurels.

Evan Daniel calls for the Yanks to box smarter in their drive to overthrow the Cuban regime, considering that the embargo and Congressional funding for the ultra-right yo-yos in Miami may not be a good idea.

Tristan Stubbs writes on the slave trade, contrasting civilised Britain with barbaric Sudan. That’s for the benefit of anyone who thought Sudan wasn’t a repressive hellhole. Never mind, Tristan, wait till the next issue and Todd Gitlin will be claiming the “Chomskyites” support the Sudanese regime.

Jean Bethke Elshtain posthumously enlists Sidney Hook in support of the invasion of Iraq. Well, perhaps Hook in his dotage might have done so.

There is also a short review of Primo Levi, which doesn’t really fit with the rest of the journal but I assume is there for connoisseurs of Judaica. It’s not bad.

Finally, Alan (Not The Minister) Johnson conducts a rambling interview with Anne-Marie Slaughter about ethical foreign policy. The essential points are: America – yo! Genocidal dictators – boo! International law – maybe, as long as the Big Moral Empire still gets to be the enforcer of values. Armed intervention – can we get back to talking about high-flown values?

And that’s the house journal of Decency for this quarter. We read it, so you don’t have to.

More from Aaro Watch on the Scoopies’ turn at the Labour conference.

Update 30.9.07: Barry Rubin points out to me that of course Washington was opposed to the idea of a Palestinian state before 1993, and the failure of the Oslo process had other causes than the Damascus regime. I look forward to reading his book, which no doubt will have more nuances than I picked up from the extract.

« Older entries