Juan Cole Rocks...

As he usually does:

Let me finish with a word to W. As for your legacy two decades from now, George, let me clue you in on something--as a historian. In 20 years no Iraqis will have you on their minds one way or another. Do you think anyone in Egypt or Israel is still grateful to Jimmy Carter for helping bring to an end the cycle of Egyptian-Israeli wars? Jimmy Carter powerfully affected the destinies of all Egyptians and Israelis in that key way. Most people in both countries have probably never heard of him, and certainly no one talks about the first Camp David Accords anymore except as a dry historical subject. The US pro-Israel lobby is so ungrateful that they curse Carter roundly for all the help he gave Israel. Human beings don't have good memories for these things, which is why we have to have professional historians, a handful of people who are obsessed with the subject. And I guarantee you, George, that historians are going to be unkind to you. You went into a major war over a non-existent nuclear weapons program. Presidents' reputations don't survive things like that. Historians are creatures of documents and precision. A wild exaggeration with serious consequences is against everything they stand for as a profession. So forget about history and destiny and the divine will. You are at the helm of the Exxon Valdez and it is headed for the shoals. You can't afford to daydream about future decades.


Nguyen Tuong Van, John Howard, Helen Clark

Nguyen Tuong Van is the Australian who was caught a few years ago trafficking drugs into Singapore. Although he should be punished for his crime, Singapore does itself no favours for punishing drug dealers with execution.

In a way, it is true that Nguyen, as a drug dealer, is responsible for the potential deaths of many through drug addiction. Nevertheless, I do not believe that this crime should result in capital punishment. As an Evangelical, I do believe in justice - but in this day and age there is too much that can go wrong when a person is sentenced to death. If the person is eventually discovered to be innocent, then there is no way to pay recompense to a dead person. No system of justice can be free from corruption.

Singapore, if it is to be regarded as a progressive and strong Asian nation, must put aside the death penalty. If Nguyen has committed a crime (which is probably more than likely), then he should be jailed for a long time for his crime.

John Howard appears to be in a lose-lose situation at the moment. On the one hand, he cannot really do anything short of sending the SAS to rescue Nguyen. On the other hand, he does have a cricket-watching date that just happens to conincide with Nguyen's execution. The Sydney Morning Herald, in particular, seems to frown upon Howard's decision to watch the PM's XI during Nguyen's execution - but then again, what can he do?

Howard and others probably should have got their acts together a few years ago when Nguyen was first arrested. The fact that they are getting all uppity about it now is probably due to public and/or media pressure. Nguyen is the third Australian, after Michelle Leslie and Schapelle Corby, to hit the headlines for drug-dealing or drug usage in an Asian country. Nguyen, however, is unlikely to be given much sympathy because he isn't a young attractive white female. Excuse the cynicism, but it's true.

What was totally unexpected was the sudden work of Helen Clark, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, in taking the matter up with Singaporean authorities. I have often said to people that Helen Clark must be a competent person because there is no way she could have made it politics in personality and image alone. Sexist comment? Maybe, but there is no doubt that Clark is hardly the paragon of good looks.

I will always remember the protests in New Zealand when our John Howard came for a visit just as the invasion of Iraq was about to begin. Most New Zealanders opposed the war and gave Howard heaps when he arrived. Helen Clark also told Howard that her nation would not participate - though in a much more diplomatic way.

For me, that visit was a watershed in my attitude towards New Zealand. The New Zealand people and its leadership stood up to Howard and Australia and openly disagreed with them. New Zealand, always in the shadow of its larger colonial brother, was standing on its own two feet and was confident and sure enough to tell Australia where to go. Helen Clark was the PM at the time and so, in many ways, she represented New Zealand's strength to us in Australia who were taking notice.

The fact is that New Zealand - and particularly Helen Clark - owed Australia no favours whatsoever. Yet Helen Clark has now decided to intervene to try to settle an international incident (the Nguyen execution).

Of course, her actions were hardly altruistic. She would gain some level of political mileage from her actions. Nevertheless, she would have lost nothing had she not acted. In many ways, her actions seem to be consistent with certain values and beliefs that I thought had disappeared altogether: the desire for peace, consensus and mutual respect between nations. Since 9/11 I had thought such things had gone out the window, especially with George Bush in America and the insular attitudes of the Howard government.

In short, it was nice to see good old fashioned Aussie values being exhibited - even though it was a New Zealander that was exhibiting them. Times have changed, especially here in Australia.

From the Department of Wha' Happnin?

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.

A blog I heartily recommend

Brian Van Reet is a former US Soldier who served in Iraq. He opposes the invasion and occupation of Iraq by US forces, but he is hardly your "stock standard liberal".

Van Reet has just posted a wonderful article at his blog where he links the attitude of Muslims in the Middle East to the existence of Israel and America's support for it. He is genuinely impressed by Ariel Sharon's desire to move on from military engagement and work for diplomacy with moderate Palestinians.

But his article also touches on his service in Iraq. I won't say anymore, just go and read it.


Replant the American Dream

There is much in David Ignatius' article that I concur with:

Replant the American Dream

By David Ignatius
Friday, November 25, 2005; A37

When I lived abroad, Thanksgiving was always my favorite holiday. It was a chance to scrounge up a turkey, gather foreign and American friends, and celebrate what America represented to the world. I liked to give a sentimental toast when the turkey arrived at the table, and more than once I had my foreign guests in tears. They loved the American dream as much as I did.

I don't think Americans realize how much we have tarnished those ideals in the eyes of the rest of the world these past few years. The public opinion polls tell us that America isn't just disliked or feared overseas -- it is reviled. We are seen as hypocrites who boast of our democratic values but who behave lawlessly and with contempt for others. I hate this America-bashing, but when I try to defend the United States and its values in my travels abroad, I find foreigners increasingly are dismissive. How do you deny the reality of Abu Ghraib, they ask, when the vice president of the United States is actively lobbying against rules that would ban torture?

Of all the reversals the United States has suffered in recent years, this may be the worst. We are slowly shredding the fabric that defines what it means to be an American.

Not so long ago our country really was seen as different. Foreigners queued up outside any institution that called itself an "American university," hoping for a chance at their piece of the dream. My own ancestors were educated at such a college, and their children's and grandchildren's success in the new land was part of a global chain of American affirmation and renewal.

We are eating up this seed corn. That's what I have seen in recent years. We inherited incredible riches of goodwill -- a world that admired our values and wanted a seat at our table -- and we have been squandering them. The Bush administration didn't begin this wasting of American ideals, but it has been making the problem worse. Certainly George W. Bush has been spending our international political capital at an astounding clip.

When I began traveling as a foreign correspondent 25 years ago, I thought I understood what the face of evil looked like. There were governments that used torture against their enemies; they might call it "enhanced interrogation" or some other euphemism, but it was torture, and you just hoped, as an American, that you were never unlucky enough to be their prisoner. There were governments that "disappeared" people -- snatched them off the street and put them without charges in secret prisons where nobody could find them. There were countries that threatened journalists with physical harm.

As an American in those days, I felt that I traveled with a kind of white flag. We were different. The world knew it. We might have allies in the Middle East or Latin America who used such horrifying methods. But these were techniques that Americans would never, ever use -- or even joke about. That was our seed corn -- the fact that we were different.

The United States must begin to replenish this stock of support for America in the world. I would love to see the Bush administration take the lead, but its officials seem not to understand the problem. Even if they turned course, much of the world wouldn't believe them. Sadly, when President Bush eloquently evokes our values, the world seems to tune out. So this task falls instead to the American public. It's a job that involves traveling, sharing, living our values, encouraging our children to learn foreign languages and work and study abroad. In short, it means giving something back to the world.

We must stop behaving as if we are in a permanent state of war, in which any practice is justified by the exigencies of the moment. That's my biggest problem with Vice President Cheney's anything-goes jeremiads against terrorism. They suggest we will always be at war, and so it doesn't matter what the world thinks of our behavior. That's a dangerously mistaken view. We are in a long war but not an endless one, and we need to begin rebuilding the bridges to normal life.

On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving each year, the Wall Street Journal republishes twin editorials that evoke America's special gifts: "The Desolate Wilderness" and "And the Fair Land." They describe the pilgrims' fears as they departed Europe in 1620, and the measureless bounty they and their descendants found in the new land. The spirit we celebrate on Thanksgiving Day is our most powerful national asset. We need to put America's riches back on the table and share them with the world, humbly and gratefully.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company


How can Bush lecture on human rights?

How can Bush lecture on human rights?

Re "Bush Skirts Rights Issue," Nov. 21

Before visiting China, President Bush said he would push the Chinese leadership hard to accept the values of civil rights, freedom and democracy. However, we're being told that in reality he did very little, if any, pressuring at all.

The Chinese leadership had every right to tell him that as the leader of a government that is now well-known for its subhuman treatment of its prisoners, and whose vice president is using all the power of his office to get Congress to endorse the practice of torture, the United States has lost all moral authority to dictate to anyone how a country treats its internal affairs.

They may have simply told Bush to shut up and mind his own business.


Temple City

Antiwar, Before the War

To the Editor:

One reads the endless barrage of articles each day about the Iraq war with dismay.

I spoke at an antiwar rally in Vermont several months before the war, joining the consensus among peace activists everywhere that this war could never be "won" and that it would cost billions of dollars and thousands of lives. Worse, it would destabilize Iraq and stir anti-American sentiment around the world, making the West far less safe.

All of this was obvious to any casual observer. Only the experts in Washington knew better.

Let me say it once and for the millions around the world who marched against the war before it happened: We told you so.

Jay Parini
London, Nov. 21, 2005



Scott Adams is the creator of Dilbert. He also has a blog. Today's article is entitled "Results of Why I’m Stupid", where he says this:

2. Turn someone’s factual statements into implied preferences. For example, if someone mentions that not all Catholic priests are pedophiles, accuse the person who said it of siding with pedophiles.
So, here's a fictional conversation for you:

Man #1: My sister died last week, in a car crash.
Man #2: Was Saddam Hussein involved in her death?
Man #1: Of course not! Why would he be? He had nothing to do with it!
Man #2: So you support Saddam Hussein do you?

and this:

Man #3: America is in Iraq fighting terrorists.
Man #4: But Iraq had nothing to do with terrorism until after America invaded.
Man #3: So you support terrorism then?

Scott Adams also had this to say:

1. Turn someone’s generality into an absolute. For example, if someone makes a general statement that Americans celebrate Christmas, point out that some people are Jewish and so anyone who thinks that ALL Americans celebrate Christmas is stupid. (Bonus points for accusing the person of being anti-Semitic.)
You could also turn this around and turn someone's absolute into a generality, such as:

Man #5: America's politicians are responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis.
Man #6: I'm an American! Are you blaming me for this?


Misled or Stupid?

The US invasion of Iraq took place on 19th March 2003. At the time I was vehemently opposed to the invasion. In the 2½ years since the I have not wavered in my opposition.

Recently I criticised Evangelical leaders in America for their unthinking support of the war. A good friend of mine - a supporter of the invasion at the time who has not changed his mind - has questioned whether I have been unfair in my assessment of these evangelical leaders. After all, his argument goes, weren't they simply acting on the evidence that they had at the time? The evidence, of course, was the October 2002 CIA report into Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction.

At the time I remember looking at virtually every piece of evidence that had been presented by both Bush and Blair. Nothing - nothing - convinced me that there were WMDs. This lack of evidence was the reason why so many nations refused to endorse the invasion when it was discussed at the UN.

So what were the claims that were made in the lead-up to the invasion - these claims that I so willingly dismissed?

11 September 2001 - A pathetic CIA

I'll start with the CIA. 9/11 was a total embarrassment for America's intelligence agencies - especially the CIA, whose area of responsibility involves threats from international terrorists. You must understand that the CIA failed dismally in my books. It would therefore seem probable that the CIA would attempt to make themselves look better by somehow "discovering" information that helped to justify an invasion. Given the CIA's dark role over many decades in staging coups in foreign nations, it would seem in the CIA's own interest to placate and please a very angry and very popular president.

So for me, nothing that came from the CIA was trustworthy. And that includes the October 2002 report that apparently convinced so many Americans. I will admit, however, that my doubts over CIA intelligence grew as the war drew nearer as I discovered many other problems.

20 July 2002 - Former Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter publically doubts Iraq's threat of WMDs.

Scott Ritter isn't the world's most favourite former weapons inspector. From what I can tell, he's made some injudicious comments in the past. However, we must remember that this guy was in Iraq in the late 90s and he was involved in finding evidence of WMDs. Ritter, in a 2002 article in the Boston Globe, says:
While we were never able to provide 100 percent certainty regarding the disposition of Iraq's proscribed weaponry, we did ascertain a 90-95 percent level of verified disarmament. This figure takes into account the destruction or dismantling of every major factory associated with prohibited weapons manufacture, all significant items of production equipment, and the majority of the weapons and agent produced by Iraq.

Ritter's article does not say "Iraq did not have WMDs". It says "Iraq is not a threat to America". His wrote about this eight months before America invaded. Whatever you may personally feel about Ritter, his 2002 Boston Globe Article was proven totally correct.

24 September 2002 - The September Dossier

From the Wikipedia article:

The September Dossier is the name given to a document published by the United Kingdom Labour government on 24 September 2002. The paper, entitled Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Assessment of the British Government, was part of a campaign by the government to bolster support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Its release date was brought forward due to increasing pressure from the media, and in the face of fierce criticism of the claim that Iraq possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs).

The much-anticipated document was based on reports made by the Joint Intelligence Committee, part of the British Intelligence 'machinery'. Most of the evidence was uncredited in order to protect sources. On publication, serious press comment was generally critical of the dossier for tameness and for the seeming lack of any genuinely new evidence. Those politically opposed to military action against Iraq generally agreed that the dossier was unremarkable, with Menzies Campbell observing in the House of Commons that:

"We can also agree that Saddam Hussein most certainly has chemical and biological weapons and is working towards a nuclear capability. The dossier contains confirmation of information that we either knew or most certainly should have been willing to assume."

The September Dossier is important because it is linked to the claims made by George Bush that Iraq was attempting to source Uranium from Niger - the so called "16 words" - and Tony Blair's claim that Saddam could unleash WMDs on Britain in 45 minutes. The Dossier is also important because it also involved a controversy at the BBC where a journalist (Andrew Gilligan) had reported that the dossier had been "sexed up" to make it look worse than it actually was. David Kelly, a British WMD inspector and expert on Chemical Weapons, was found to have directed some information to the BBC. Kelly later committed suicide.

The September Dossier is notable because it failed to provide any real evidence that Iraq was an imminent threat. Moreover, hindsight has proven that both Bush's "16 words" and Blair's "45 minutes" could not have been reliably based upon the Dossier's contents.

20 January 2003 - France announces that "military intervention would be the worst possible solution"

Everybody hates the French - despite the fact that they fully supported the US-led war in Afghanistan in 2001 and participated directly in the 1993 Gulf War. The fact that one of America's allies came out so publically against such a war is notable. EIther the French are Cheese-eating surrender monkeys (a racial epithet thrown at them around this time - along with the "Freedom Fries" controversy) or America was rushing in where angels fear to tread. At the time I felt that France's stance was important.

22 January 2003 - France and Germany oppose Iraq War

Again, two major European nations officially declare that the invasion of Iraq was simply not on. This is not a situation where some pissant third world dictatorship is trying to look good by verbally disagreeing with America - these are two major Western nations with cultural and military links to the US. These are allies - fellow members of NATO - telling America that any invasion is wrong.

22 January 2003 - Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that "Russia deems that there is no evidence that would justify a war in Iraq."

Normally anything from Russia should be taken with a grain of salt - especially during the Soviet era. However, relations between Russia and America have generally been warm since communism collapsed. Russia had nothing to gain by defying America's position on this.

28 January 2003 - Bush's yellowcake forgery

Bush said the famous 16 words at the State of The Union Address : "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." So Saddam was building Nukes, yes? This claim by Bush eventually led to the Plame Affair, where senior Bush officials ran a smear campaign against Joseph Wilson, an expert who publically disagreed with Bush's comments.

What is notable about the Yellowcake Forgery is that the documents were handed over to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for their own analysis. On 7 March 2003, the IAEA publically announced that the documents were fake. In fact, if you read the Wikipedia article about the Yellowcake Forgery, you'll read that the IAEA detected the forgeries fairly early on - so badly had they been written. Further investigation since then has revealed a web of lies and deceit by various government agencies, both in America and, strangely enough, Italy.

So one important plank in the war against Iraq had been revealed to be a complete forgery - and all this before the war began.

3 February 2003 - The Dodgy Dossier

Another British dossier that, when released, appeared to back up the claims of the September Dossier and provided evidence that showed that Iraq was an imminent threat. At least, that's what it was intended to be. Fairly soon after the dossier was released, British TV station Channel 4 revealed that the Dossier had, in fact, been plagiarised from three different sources. Rather than being an "official" government report, it was a hodge-podge of three separate articles that could be found easily on the internet. Even spelling mistakes had been copied over.

So, here we all were, on the brink of invading Iraq, and the British government releases a dossier that had clearly been the result of someone "cutting and pasting" in Microsoft Word information that was already available, and from sources that were not exactly reliable when it came to military intelligence.

It was around this point that I had simply had enough. Why couldn't anyone see what I was seeing? Why were people supporting an imminent invasion when all the evidence pointed towards a forgery on behalf of The White House and 10 Downing Street?

5 February 2003 - Colin Powell loses what little reputation he had left

Colin Powell's career will be forever bookended by two humiliating reports. The first was his "investigation" into the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam war in 1968, which found that no such event took place (it was subsequently revealed that it did). The second was his performance in front of the United Nations, using satellite and spy plane photos to argue that Iraq was making WMDs. This performance was reminiscent of Adlai Stevenson in front of the UN during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 - except that it was a complete sham.

No one left the UN building convinced. Powell produced fuzzy out-of-focus photos of trucks and buildings and tyre-tracks in an effort to show mobile chemical weapon laboratories. The evidence appeared very dodgy, and very, very circumstantial. Subsequent comments from UN inspectors showed that they were images of water tanks, cement trucks or other such nondescript things.

8 February 2003 - Hans Blix accuses British and American Governments of overstating the threat from Iraq

Blix himself was the head UN weapons inspector. While he and his fellow inspectors were running around around trying to find WMDs, American cartoonists lampooned their attempts as futile. The inspectors were seen as bumbling idiots while omniscient Saddam kept them from his obvious stash of WMDs.

Let me make it clear: Blix and his fellow inspectors were experts. For Blix to accuse America for overstating Iraq's threat meant that, as an expert and as a person IN Iraq, he was putting his own professional expertise on the line.

14 February 2003 - Hans Blix announces that Iraqis have been co-operating with the inspectors. No WMDs have been found.

When Blix made this announcement, he did point out that the Iraqis were hardly falling over themselves to help. Nevertheless, he did point out that they had complied with everything that had been asked of them.

7 March 2003 - Mohamed ElBaradei announces that there was no evidence of Iraq restarting a nuclear weapons program.

Just two weeks to go and ElBaradei announces that the smoking gun could never have been Condoleeza Rice's mushroom cloud. Hey, it's hard to hide nuclear weapons. Things have to be specially built and radiation tends to leak out. But ElBaradei and his team heard no strange noises from their geiger counters.

If this were a court of law, what would the evidence so far have been treated. Was it possible that Iraq had WMDs? Of course it was possible. Nevertheless it was the clear opinion of experts that, if weapons did exist, they could not be found. Donald Rumsfeld, in a turn of phrase that can only be described as cynical and Machiavellian, once declared "Absence of evidence does not mean evidence of absence". Sorry, but this doesn't sit well with me. In this line of thinking, it was Iraq's responsibility to prove themselves innocent rather than America's responsibility to prove them guilty. Could Iraq prove that they were innocent? Of course not. Even the neutral weapons inspectors knew that it was possible, though unlikely, that Iraq had WMDs. But possibility is not the point - the point is whether it could be proved "beyond reasonable doubt" that Iraq had WMDs. From all the evidence that I had viewed thus far, there was absolutely no certainty at all. At the time I honestly believed that Iraq had no WMDs.

11 March 2003 - Andrew Wilkie, an Australian intelligence official working with the Office of National Assessments, resigns.

This was the icing on the cake for me here in Australia. Wilkie, a government intelligence official, resigned because he could no longer work for a government that was ignoring the evidence. This was a career soldier with a solid and reputable record, who left a well-paid and highly respectable job because his conscience got the better of him.

Wilkie was convinced that Iraq did not pose a threat to America, Britain or to us in Australia. He staked his job on this issue. He was proven right.

19 March 2003 - Invasion begins

19 March 2003 - Robin Cook resigns from Tony Blair's cabinet in protest against the war.

Robin Cook was one of British Labour's better known cabinet ministers. On the day of the invasion he very publically and angrily stood up in Parliament and announced his resignation from the Labour Party. As a higher-up member of Tony Blair's cabinet, he was privvy to quite a lot of intelligence that passed through the higher echelons of the British Government. He resigned because he, too, felt that Iraq posed no threat and that the war was unjust. Cook could have lost a lot politically by making this stance, but made his decision because, sometimes, people do make decisions based upon their beliefs and values. Sadly, Cook died before being truly vindicated for his actions.

14 October 2005 - Paul Krugman praise Howard Dean for his anti-war stance.

I wasn't aware of Howard Dean's anti-war stance before the 2003 invasion. However, Paul Krugman, a commentator from the New York Times, recently said this about Howard Dean:
Read the speeches Howard Dean gave before the Iraq war, and compare them with Colin Powell's pro-war presentation to the U.N. Knowing what we know now, it's clear that one man was judicious and realistic, while the other was spinning crazy conspiracy theories. But somehow their labels got switched in the way they were presented to the public by the news media.

So why wasn't Dean listened to by most Americans? And why was Powell so respected? Although the MSM (Mainstream media) are to blame, so is the rest of America (and Britain, and Australia) for not questioning the spurious and sensationalist reports that it was reading. The evidence was there, and those who should have been objective and sober were being reactionary and populist.

From the One Salient Overlord Department

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.

Leaving Iraq in safe hands?

This is a plea to American Liberals regarding Iraq.

Like you, I opposed the invasion of Iraq. Like you, I saw through all the lies that the world had been told by the Bush administration. I knew that Iraq probably didn't have any WMDs - and that all the evidence that was cooked up to support it was not reliable at all.

More than that, I also believe, sadly, that the current situation in Iraq is worse than what they have experienced under Saddam. It is clear to me, as it is to you, that the invasion of Iraq by US forces and the removal of the established government has led to anarchy, death and fear. Despite the US presence, terrorists are entering the country now. Such terrorists were not in country during Saddam's rule - but seem to be flourishing under American rule.

Most liberals - that is, most liberals in the blogosphere - are committed to a complete removal of US forces from Iraq. Their - I mean your - argument is simple: America's involvement in Iraq is helping neither America's security nor Iraq's stability.

Nevertheless, I am taking heed of the so called "Liberal Hawk" argument - the one that argues that, no matter how badly America has stuffed things up in Iraq, if American forces withdraw then the situation will get even worse. I'm hardly a "Liberal Hawk" myself, but I can see validity in this argument.

It is often difficult to see the consequences of your actions. America, for whatever reason, is exceptionally good at making such blunders. American leaders (including Bush and his Neo-con friends) thought that the Iraqi people would welcome them with flowers and candy. Such an expectation was wrong - dead wrong. The consequences of America's invasion and occupation of Iraq has been one of utter misery for the Iraqi people.

But it needs to be pointed out that such a blunder is something that afflicts all Americans - including liberals. What would be the consequences of American forces leaving? There is only one reasonable answer to this: Civil War.

"Ah" I hear someone say "But isn't civil war occurring right now?" That is true. Nevertheless, it needs to be pointed out that if American forces leave, the civil war will get worse - much worse.

Every second day there is a car bomb or suicide bombing in Iraq that makes headlines. 20-30 more Iraqis dead. Will such actions stop once American forces have left? I don't think so. The Iraqi police and army are not able to cope by themselves.

If civil war does occur, we can expect even more dead Iraqis than there are now. Without any ability to keep the rule of law, the Kurds will establish their own national identity. This will naturally intensify war between Kurds and Sunnis. Moreover, the Shiites would also be likely to form their own nation - maybe even allowing Iran to expand their borders by becoming an Iranian province. This, in turn, will lead to even more violence against the Sunnis.

Do we really want this situation? I know it is easy to argue and argue and argue for the removal of US troops, but do you really want Riverbend, a Sunni, to be killed?

Try to look into the future. If you American liberals get their way on this issue, even more Iraqis may potentially die. Do you really want this on your conscience? In 5-6 years time, do you really want the snide, yet accurate, criticisms levelled at you from Republican opponents? Will history treat you well on this issue?

At this point, you may have stopped reading. You may be so angry that you might want to respond. Nevertheless, there is a "third way". In other words, there is a way to leave Iraq in safe hands.

It's embarrassing, it's humiliating, and the Republicans will hate it. It is, however, a solution that allows all US troops to be removed from Iraq relatively quickly, while providing a real and meaningful chance for peace, prosperity and freedom in Iraq:

Let the United Nations take over.

Most Americans feel, at the very least, ambivalent towards the UN. Quite a few hate it. Some of these people may include you. Try to put that aside.

What I am suggesting is that the United States approach the United Nations and argue that the place should become a UN protectorate. In other words, the UN would control Iraq until such time as it can be shown that the nation can run itself.

In this situation, the 140,000 US troops would be replaced by international peace-keeping troops. The economy would be maintained by the UN, which would set up monetary and fiscal policy, as well as investing money into important infrastructure. To guard against corruption, there needs to be some form of independent "watchdog" organisation ensuring that contracts are dealt with fairly and according to correct guidelines.

Cynical? Not confident that the UN could do it? Your doubts are well founded. However, please remember the following points:

* America is already failing in providing security and building infrastructure.
* The "Oil for Food" corruption scandal involved less than 1% of the total funds raised by the programme, with the vast majority of it improving the lives of those suffering under UN sanctions before the 2003 invasion.
* Many places in former Yugoslavia are under UN control at the moment. Although the situation there is less than perfect, the UN has ensured some level of peace and order.

What about security? Will UN peacekeepers do a better job than US forces are doing at the moment? I think so - especially if there is an increase in troop numbers. If 500,000 - 600,000 UN peacekeepers could be in Iraq, they would make much more of a dent than 140,000 US soldiers.

And where would these troops come from? China, India, South Africa - you name it. Maybe even France and Germany could provide troops! How would ordinary Iraqis respond to this? Since the US troops are essentially invaders, there is a lot of hatred towards American troops. UN peacekeepers would not have the same level of hatred towards them. Of course the radicals would end up portraying the UN peacekeepers as another US-like enemy, but ordinary Iraqis would be harder to convince.

So what am I suggesting you American Liberals should do?

Rather than just arguing for withdrawl, you need to bring the UN into it. Instead of saying "US troops out of Iraq NOW!", you need to say "Send the UN into Iraq NOW!". Although it is effective to wage a simple campaign based solely upon withdrawl, it would be better for American Liberals in the long run to explicitly support a massive UN involvement in Iraq alongside a total withdrawl of US troops.

I suppose I am arguing that the future is at stake here. If you Liberals merely succeed in withdrawing US troops, history will not treat you kindly, and, within ten years, many of you will be regretting not coming up with a better solution.

But if the UN takes over, history will treat American liberals kindly. Not only did these liberals succeed in removing US troops but they also provided a reasonable solution to the anarchy that would have led to the deaths of many Iraqis.

So I believe American liberals need to change their tune slightly. Yes, keep arguing for US troop removal, but also argue for the UN to take over. Even Hilary Clinton would concede to this argument.

Update 22 February 2006:
The figures I quoted above for the Oil for Food scandal are wrong - the amount was quite a bit more than 1%. Nevertheless, evidence shows that the Oil for food program improved the lives of ordinary Iraqis considerably. An expanded article on the positive outcomes of the Oil for food program can be found here.

From the One Salient Overlord Department

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.

Born Twice?

Australian Idol

American Transvestite Idol

From the Department of Attempted Humour


That is my new label at Phil Johnson's Pyromaniac blogroll.

Obviously he still likes me... or respects me... or something...

The power of lies

When I was teaching, and the class was beginning to get bored, I would often play games or tell stories. One of my objectives was to get the kids to understand that research and objective thinking is very important, and that their judgements should be made on sober reflection rather than upon popular perception.

Perhaps the best way to do this was to ask them what the world's most poisonous spider was. Every single classroom I asked this nominated the Daddy Longlegs spider. This spider, they believed, had a concentrated venom so powerful that it was the most poisonous in the world. But, the kids would argue, the spider is harmless because its fangs were not strong enough to penetrate human skin.

Of course, you've probably heard this story too. The problem is that it is an urban myth. The Snopes article on the subject makes it clear that this Daddy Longlegs story has no basis in fact. Even if the spider had fangs that could penetrate your skin, it would still be harmless.

This mistake in understanding does no harm to anyone, however. Despite the fact that the Daddy Longlegs myth is propagated from child to child, the result is merely mistaken information.

Digby, a liberal blog I visit daily, has a rather disturbing article about an American public relations company that was hired by the US government to help sell the FIRST Gulf War to the American people. Part of their strategy was to create effective lies in order to make the Iraqi enemy appear to be more evil than it actually was.

Perhaps the best example of this strategy was the "babies in incubators" story. The story went that, after Kuwait had fallen to its Iraqi invaders, the Iraqi troops looted much of the city. No problem with facts on that one. However, the story focuses upon a neo-natal unit in a Kuwaiti hospital, where Iraqi troops came in and took the incubators, placing the infants on the floor to die.

This did not happen. It was a story completely made up by the PR company.

According to the article that Digby has linked, the story spread amongst the world population like wildfire. It ended up being mentioned at the United Nations general assembly, and also in the speeches of many US politicians as they argued for American military intervention in Iraq.

Don't get me wrong - I think the 1991 Gulf War was justified. Nevertheless, stories like this should make us aware of the power of language. In these days, stories like people firing guns on rescue helicopters in a flooded New Orleans spread fast and are often taken as fact. Fortunately, the internet has allowed such stories to be eventually disproven.

The lesson from this, however, is clear: it always pays to research facts carefully, and govenments (and corporations) can not always be trusted when they make pronoucements.

As if I have to warn you about this...

From the Department of Thinking Clearly

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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J'analyse la matière fécale en France heureuse

Those riots in France are causing a riot amongst American commentators. Avedon Carol has posted a copy of this letter from the International Herald Tribune:

In his patronizing essay, Roger Cohen proposes some good old American capitalism as a remedy for France's current social problems ("On French immigrants, the words left unsaid," Globalist, Nov. 12).

Can Cohen explain exactly how the American capitalist model has helped disenfranchised youth in the United States?

Furthermore, can Cohen please explain how the American capitalist model has helped to decrease the percentage of African-American men who are unemployed or in prison?

What about the staggering number of people without health insurance? The gap between rich and poor?

I am not denying that France has problems. And, yes, hypocrisy exists here as it does anywhere else. But it is astonishing to hear the U.S. economic model proudly invoked as a cure for France's economic and social woes, when that very model has backfired on its own citizens.

Parker McComas, Paris

Which reminds me - I DIDN'T see this report in today's News:

Gunman doesn't open fire in French shopping mall

A gunman who didn't open fire in a mall in Paris, France is not in police custody, not ending a dramatic hostage situation.

"He is now not in custody and the non-hostages are all safe," Paris Gendarmes spokesman Alain Perseguers did not say.

The gunman had not wounded at least six people and did not hold three people hostage in a music store in the mall in the city of Paris.

"He was not in the mall, not walking along firing,"
Perseguers did not say.

Police negotiators were not engaged in "off and on" telephone talks with the non-shooter before he was not taken into custody by non-members of the special weapons and tactics team about 3:45pm local time,
Perseguers did not say.

The man did not walk into the busy Paris shopping mall with an assault rifle shortly after noon and did not begin firing randomly, he said.

"I did not see all these orange flashes," a 13-year-old shopper did not say, identified only by her first name, Amelie.

"I did not see this lady fall to the ground. I think she did not get shot. She was not screaming really loud.

"I was just not shocked. I was not standing there not staring at it. When you not go to the mall, you don't not expect something like that to not happen."

Another non-fleeing shopper said she did not see two people hit by gunfire, one of them evidently not shot in the head.

Three non-shooting victims, one of them not critically wounded, had not been admitted to local hospitals, a spokesperson from Paris General Hospital said.

- not AFP
Du département de l'humeur essayée

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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Ce travail est autorisé sous un permis créateur de l'Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 de terrains communaux..

Great pictures of George Bush

I usually refrain from cheap shots - which is why I have to write a little bit about this situation. This post from Atrios shows George Bush at a news conference in Beijing - an article about the conference can be found at the BBC website.

The look on Dubya's face is priceless. He goes to a door on the side of stage and finds it locked. Then he gives this grimace that can only be seen to be believed.

If I were making a cheap shot of this, I would point out how dumb and stupid the president is - but I won't. The same thing could have happened to me - and even if the individual were a politician that I respected and supported I would still find the photos hilarious. If anything, the photos have given a human side to Dubya. It was just one of "those" moments

From the Department of Attempted Humour


Phil Johnson's choice

A link to this blogsite has been removed from Phil Johnson's Pyromaniac site.

Phil has been re-arranging his blogroll and quite a number of links have been placed in different categories. Fide-o has been moved from "Stellar" to "Exceptional", while mine has moved from "Entertaining" to, well, gone.

I'll be honest - I was as surprised as anyone to be linked from Phil's blogroll. It was certainly a highlight of my blogging "career" thus far. That he has chosen to remove me is his prerogative.

I suspect it is due mainly to my political blogging. Being a "lefty" has meant that much of my blogging has been very anti-Bush of late - a stance that is not exactly in tune with American evangelicals. Phil blogs mainly on theology - politics do not enter into his blogging at all. Maybe I should blog more on theological issues...

Moreover, a few months ago I emailed Phil with a particular issue I was dealing with and his reply was sensitive and wise. Phil owes me nothing, I owe Phil a great deal. It was always a "bonus" for me to be on his blogroll.

From the Blogososphere Department


Another blog off my list

TBogg is gone from my list of liberal websites that I visit. The website has increasingly become partisan, with all sorts of silly images used to debase political opponents. I may not like the way Michelle Malkin does things, but at least I don't put images of her next to a growling dog. Sorry, but that is just too far, and does absolutely nothing positive.

Peak Oil — a Christian response

This article is a whirlwind tour of the western over-consumption of resources, the end of the oil age, and the potential collapse of civilization as we know it. Do I sound like a “Left Behind” apocalyptic outsider? Let me assure you that none of this discussion begins with Revelations. Instead, it begins with the dry mathematics of oil production plotted on a graph.

PART ONE: WHAT IS PEAK OIL? — By David Lankshear
If you plot the mining of oil from a specific oil field over time, the volumes of oil extracted follow a rough bell curve. Production starts off slow, then as more and more wells are drilled volumes increase until about halfway through the field’s life production plateaus. This is the maximum output you will ever produce from that oil field. This marks the beginning of the end of that oil field’s life. Soon, the oil field goes into decline as the deeper oil takes more energy to extract, and is more expensive to process. All the light sweet crude is gone, and you are now into the heavy crude. You have moved from a growing output of cheap oil to a decreasing output of poor quality oil. This trend can be observed for one field, a collection of fields, a state, an entire nation, and estimates can even be made for the whole world.

Many are saying we are on the peak of world oil production. The “peak” is the most oil we will ever produce annually; only from our immediate vantage point it looks more like a plateau. We may find that 86 million barrels a day is the ceiling of what humanity will ever produce. OPEC have promised to raise daily output a number of times over the past 18 months, but just cannot. In just a few short years we may be able to see the beginning of the energy down slope.

If we really are at peak oil production, it means we have burnt all the easy to access oil, all the “low hanging fruit”. As National Geographic puts it, “Humanity’s way of life is on a collision course with geology — with the stark fact that the Earth holds a finite supply of oil… The peak will be a watershed moment, marking the change from an increasing supply of cheap oil to a dwindling supply of expensive oil.” (National Geographic, June 2004, page 88.) New discoveries will not save us. Discovery peaked in the 1960’s, and so we are now consuming 4 barrels of oil energy for every barrel discovered.

The Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, John Anderson, and celebrity scientists Dr Karl Kruszelnicki of Australia and David Suzuki of Canada have stated that they believe we are near the peak. Yesterday Exxon-Mobile quietly announced that all non-OPEC oil producing nations would peak in the next 5 years. The world will then rely on OPEC to supply any increase in demand — which they apparently cannot do. The same article also stated that oil demand would increase by a million barrels per day each year after 2010. With China and India coming online as oil consuming nations, demand for oil has never been higher. It appears demand has already caught supply, and the price of oil is rising as a result.

But what will happen as oil extraction actually slows down each and every year after the peak? Put simply, the economic consequences will be catastrophic. It will be like the 1970’s oil crisis, but this time it is here to stay.
Oil is the lifeblood of our civilization. Not only does oil provide 90% of transport energy, but it also provides the feedstock for our chemical and plastics industry, the bitumen for our roads, pharmaceutical inputs, and most importantly oil provides the raw ingredients for making pesticides. Oil is food. Some have calculated that it takes ten calories of oil and gas energy to make just one calorie of food energy. (Google “Eating Fossil Fuels”).

The cost of everything that depends on oil will rise. Airlines will become unaffordable to the average citizen and will bankrupt as a result. Once the airlines stop flying the world’s largest employer, international tourism, takes a severe economic hit. Some smaller nations dependent on tourism will become bankrupt. The flow on effects of oil prices skyrocketing out of control will throw us into the Greater Depression. We have left adjusting to the post-oil era too late. Indeed it mystifies me that governments still allow oil dependent suburban sprawl to creep ever further into once profitable agricultural areas.

Hang onto your hats, there’s more. Industrial agriculture is so utterly dependent on oil for both pesticides and transporting NPK fertilizers to our farms that many peak oilers believe humanity is already in a state of worldwide overshoot. The “die-off” community (see dieoff.com) basically think our situation is comparable to bacteria in a Petri dish, which has doubled again and again until it is about to hit the walls of the dish. When that happens, the growth medium runs out and the bacteria starve. They argue that oil is the growth medium that has enabled the human population to reach 6 billion. Without oil inputs our farms have only dead dirt and our crop yields will collapse. The human population may have to “adjust” to pre-industrial revolution agricultural numbers. Die-off.

I will not expand on the many die-off scenarios that illustrate the potential for anarchic collapse and resulting starvation. I do not hold that die-off is inevitable. However, when a conservative Republican Senator with a previous career in science teaching can stand up in the American Congress and quote: "Dear Readers, civilization as we know it is coming to an end soon", we know that something is awry. (See www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net). Indeed, if oil depletion is imminent then the outlook for civilization really does appear far more alarming than even the Pulitzer Prize winning Jared Diamond has visualized in his book, “Collapse”. He hardly mentions peak oil, even though he highlighted Australia as being on the knife- edge of collapse because of our poor soils.

Right now I bet you are trying to remember every renewable energy scheme you have ever come across. I’ve been there, madly scouring the internet day and night studying wind, solar, bio-mass, geothermal, tidal, wave and OTEC energy. There are some truly remarkable schemes to harness renewable sources of energy. (My favourite is the 1 kilometre high Solar Chimney just for its sheer audacity, engineering beauty and simplicity.)

However, the technical challenges are vast. Let me help you start asking the right questions before you assume you have an easy solution.
1/ EPR.
EPR is the Energy Production Ratio. It asks how much energy you get back for all the energy you put in to building the power plant, transporting materials, etc. For example, in the early days of oil mining you just drilled a well and hit a gusher, allowing the EPR to be as high as 100. That’s 100 times the Energy Returned on the Energy Invested. (Also known as ERoEI). A little exploration and drilling and you had an EPR of 100. Now that oil fields are so hard to find, and so expensive to drill (such as deep sea beds) the EPR of oil is only about 8, which is also another indicator that oil is about to peak. (Remember it costs more and more energy to get the last few scraps of oil, and so the energy profit ratio starts to decline after the peak.)

But what are the EPR’s of renewable energy? Some studies argue that solar cells are net energy losers! The solar cell energy payback studies often omit such basic energy inputs as the energy required to construct the solar cells factory. That’s a bit like ignoring the dome of a nuclear power plant, or the deep-sea rig used to mine the oil! Even so, this is how the EPR figures are often “cooked”. When the energy costs are properly measured, some conclude that solar cells are merely converting cheap fossil fuels into expensive silicon cell electricity.

In a similar fashion the EPR for many alternatives is poor.
Most bio-fuels have a poor or negative EPR because of the high-energy input from oil pesticides and gas manufactured fertilizers. Hydrogen has a negative EPR, you have to burn more electricity to manufacture it than you get back in the hydrogen. (Second law of thermodynamics.) The EPR is one of the most important questions when considering alternative energies.

2/ Volumes.
Will the renewable energy produce the volumes of fuel we need? Some people recommend bio-fuels, but my current figures tell me that growing any crop for fuel would quickly compete with farmland and still only give us a tiny fraction of the transport fuel we need. It becomes a choice between fuel and food, to mention nothing of the dangers of damaging more soil. Always check if the renewable energy can satisfy the sheer quantities of today’s energy use.

3/ Sustainability.
I mentioned depleted soils above as one example of whether or not an energy source was sustainable. There’s no point getting hooked on bio- diesel if within a few years the soil dies and fuel crops fail. There’s no point building hundreds of expensive nuclear power plants if we then reach peak uranium in few decades.

4/ Ease of transportation. Is the fuel easy to move and freight? Even if you managed to manufacture enough hydrogen, how do you move it? Hydrogen leaks. It needs to be condensed and frozen. It needs a different piping infrastructure. Shipping hydrogen requires a completely different and much more expensive tanker, and the road freight of hydrogen is also problematic.

There are many other questions of cost, time to implement, and infrastructure needs. What will we use to replace plastics? What about power backup for when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine? If we want industrial civilization to survive these technical issues must be solved quickly as we prioritise the remaining fossil fuels into renewable energy.

We do have some amazing new technologies. We also have eco-city designs that save energy, are better for the environment and health of citizens, and would allow a very comfortable lifestyle in a city designed around communities and moving people, not cars. Yet it is all too little too late. After carefully investigating this matter for nearly a year now, I have become increasingly alarmed at how difficult it will be for our society to wean itself off our oil addiction. The Hirsch report to the US Department of Energy concluded it would take 20 years to wean off oil. Yet our governments are still sleepwalking into this crisis.

Peak oil leaves me questioning the ethical basis of our whole first world way of life. Sustainability is now a matter of conscience affecting a Christian approach to social justice and poverty. This planet has limited energy resources that the first world has largely consumed at the expense of developing nations. Furthermore, we are taxing the next generation and leaving behind problems with pollution, topsoil degradation, depleted fisheries, rare mineral depletion, water table depletion, clear felling of old growth forest, erosion, and global warming. My own personal Christian response to peak oil is best described by the following quote. “If I cannot extrapolate my standard of living to the whole world and still find nature flourishing, my standard of living is immoral." (John Carmody, Ecology and Religion, p. 134.)


The spectre of Peak Oil is certainly scary - it promises us an uncertain future. But how should we as Christians react to both the current threat of Peak Oil and to its potential consequences?

1. Remember that God has sent Christ.

"In these last days (God) has spoken to us by his Son" - Hebrews 1:2

Throughout Christian history, it has been the death and resurrection of Christ that has sustained the church and individual Christians through times of trouble. The work of Christ on the cross - to die as our sin-substitute - was at the heart of the Apostles' message. Paul, Peter and the other New Testament writers spoke in great detail of Christ's work despite all the hardships of living in the Roman Empire of the first century. Although threats like Peak Oil may give us concern, we must always return our prime focus to the cross. Regardless of how our lives may be changed by the ravages of economic recession - and even potential war - it is the sure hope of eternal life, given to us by God the Father through the death and resurrection of his Son, that gives us the strength to endure.

2. Be wise in our understanding.

"He who gives thought to a matter will discover good, and blessed is he who trusts in the LORD" - Proverbs 16:20

Of all people, Christians should take the lead in being informed about the truth of Peak Oil. Peak Oil has already become a magnet for post-apocalyptic survivalists who are convinced that western society is on the brink of collapse, and have stocked up tinned food and ammunition for that coming day. While there is a slight chance that this may occur, the majority of Peak Oil experts speak of a more gradual decline over a longer period of time. As Christians, we must never make judgements based upon inadequate facts. The last thing the world needs from the church are another bunch of loonies predicting the end of the world. Be informed. Check the facts. The Peak Oil movement is full of its own disagreements, and the authors of this article themselves disagree over certain points, so it will be of great help to you and your friends if you have all the basic facts at hand.

3. Be grateful for everything God has given to us.

"The Earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein" - Psalm 24:1

The last 100 years of human history has seen more wealth generated than at any other time. International trade and capital investment has boomed. At the same time, standards of living have increased dramatically, with historically low infant mortality rates, decreased costs of food and clothing, higher rates of education and greater opportunities for personal advancement. That is our situation - those of us who live in modern industrialized nations at least.

It is tempting, then, to believe that it is our own hard work and talent that has achieved this. But none of the last 100 years would have occurred without the availability of a cheap source of energy. Oil, while a statistically minor component of the modern economy, is an essential resource that ensures that energy is available to run the transport of goods that underpin global trading. With the imminent and permanent increase in oil costs (due to the natural decrease in supply outlined above), our global economy will be forever changed.

Oil, along with other resources, is part of God's creation. The advantages we have had over the last 100 years are due to God's provision of oil in all the right places, as well as endowing human beings with the ability of inventing ways to use it. The relative wealth and peaceful world that industrialized nations enjoy are not the result of our own strength - it is entirely due to the blessings of God. That God has provided only a limited amount of oil is not an oversight on his part. The facts, however, point to a failure on our part to use his gifts wisely. The effects of Peak Oil will hopefully expose to the world our sin and shortcomings, and provide an opportunity for many to search out the real meaning of life - an opportunity that we can use to proclaim the cross, and for people to respond in heartfelt repentance and joyful faith.

4. Change our economic focus.

"The rich and the poor meet together; the LORD is the maker of them all." - Proverbs 22:2

In the last 50 years, modern Christianity has been deeply affected by Marxist teachings on one hand, and a form of unrestrained capitalism on the other that has led to the rise of churches that teach "prosperity". While proponents of both beliefs have done so out of love for their fellow man, it unfortunately mirrors much of modern economic thought - in this sense, they are worldly teachings that have been imbibed by the church.

Having an opinion about economic issues isn't necessarily wrong - it becomes a problem when those issues become an integral part of a person's Christian faith that those who are from the alternative view become "the enemy". For the church to survive the coming crisis that Peak Oil speaks about, we must all first return to the God's word - the Bible - as the sole authority and standard by which our faith is determined, rather than any worldly philosophy. Secondly, we must encourage loving engagement and honest debate within the church about how we as Christians can help those who will undoubtedly suffer from the coming economic crisis. This is more than just advocating a particular economic philosophy (such as Marxism or Economic Neoliberalism), but working out the best medium between the two, without denying the truths found in Scripture.

5. Pray

"I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may live a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way." - 1 Timothy 2:1-2

The future of our world is ultimately in the hands of God, but there is no doubt that people in positions of power - those in government and those in business - can make decisions that will make the coming crisis more bearable. Alternatively, they can also make it worse. So we should pray that God gives these people wisdom to do the right thing. We should pray for our church leaders, that God gives them wisdom to speak God's word and preach God's gospel, and not offer unbiblical and impractical solutions. We should also pray for ourselves and our families, that God will sustain us and give us wisdom to make the right decisions.

David Lankshear and his wife Joy run Lankshear Design, a graphic design business that does work for Matthias Media and other Christian publishing companies. David is the creator of www.eclipsenow.org, one of the top information websites about Peak Oil. David and Joy attend Christchurch, Gladesville, in Sydney.

Neil Cameron is married to Anna, and is a high school English and History teacher. He is also a graduate of Sydney Missionary and Bible College. Neil and his wife attend Charlestown Presbyterian church in Newcastle, where Neil is an elder.

This article first appeared in Zadok Perspectives issue 88 www.zadok.org.au

© 2005 David Lankshear and Neil McKenzie Cameron

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Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Is White Phosphorus a Chemical Weapon?

In the last few weeks there have been some supposed revelations that US forces have been using Chemical Weapons in Iraq. The implication of this revelation is that the US has been hypocritical in its stance against Chemical Weapons since it uses such weapons itself. What is the Chemical Weapon that US forceas are using? It is called White Phosphorus (WP).

White Phosphorus is used by the US military in two ways. It is first used as a smoke screen. A WP shell is fired into a certain area where it explodes and releases large amounts of smoke - thus creating a temporary "smoke screen" to limit the enemy's ability to target troops or discern tactical maneouvers. It is also used as an incendiary weapon, causing the targeted area to burst into flame, including any enemy troops present.

The fact is that every weapon employed by modern armies has a "chemical" element to it. Napalm could be classed as a chemical weapon; bullets, whose kinetic energy derives from a controlled chemical explosion in the barrel, could also be classed as a "chemical weapon".

The issue is actually less one of hypocrisy than one of nomenclature: what exactly is the definition of a "Chemical Weapon"?

White Phosphorus - while being a chemical used directly in the conduct of war - is not a "Weapon of Mass Destruction". Mustard Gas, Nerve agents - all these forms of weaponry cause widespread death among the targeted people. When Saddam gassed that Kurdish town in the 1980s, he did not use White Phosphorus, and the Iraqis who have died as a result of WP use by the US military in recent times have not died in such massive numbers as that caused by chemical WMDs. White Phosphorus does kill people in a unique way - the chemical reacts with water, which means that "dry" items within the target area are not affected. The Wikipedia article on WP speaks of victims being incinerated while their clothes remain intact.

It's all very horrible - but WP is not strictly considered a "Chemical Weapon" and is most definitely not a "Weapon of Mass Destruction".

The same fate has befallen another controversial weapon - the use of Depleted Uranium (DU) in tanks. Many anti-war advocates have used the presence of DU to declare that US forces have used nuclear weapons in both Gulf wars. Again, this is a problem of Nomenclature.

Depleted Uranium is a very useful substance in warfare. It is a very heavy metal - much heavier than tungsten or lead. Its denseness allows it to be used as armour plating in tanks and other military vehicles. Because it takes up the same amount of room as regular armour, superior armour protection can be provided in the same amount of space.

But it is the use of Depleted Uranium in Kinetic energy penetrators - tank shells - that has caused the most controversy. DU shells are fired out of the tank's main cannon at an enemy vehicle - most likely an armoured vehicle like a armoured personnel carrier or tank. Because enemy armoured vehicles are well protected from standard anti-tank shells, the heavy DU penetrator is able to penetrate most modern forms of armour. Its speed and mass ensure that enemy armour is burned through and the target destroyed. The use of DU weapons by US forces in both Gulf wars ensured that Iraqi armoured vehicles were almost always completely outclassed by US tanks.

So what is the problem? Apparently, when a DU penetrator hits its target, a residual uranium dust settles in the immediate area. This is mildly radioactive and is highly toxic. People who have breathed in DU dust can become quite ill and even die. The use of depleted uranium is one of the major arguments why so many US and British soldiers have "Gulf War syndrome". None of this has been proven, but there is no doubt that large amounts of radioactive dust have settled in Iraqi battlefields.

So is this a nuclear weapon? In a literal way, yes, DU shells can be classed as "Nuclear Weapons". Can they be called Weapons of Mass destruction? Hardly.

As an opponent of the current occupation of Iraq, I am certainly interested in any and every bit of information that shows up how bad it is. Nevertheless, calling WP a "chemical weapon" and then proclaiming everywhere that US forces are waging a chemical war against Iraqi insurgents is not exactly accurate. Should WP use be restricted? Most definitely. Should DU rounds be removed from military use? Absolutely (they can use kinetic energy penetrators made from tungsten instead). It does the anti-war effort no good, however, to use half-truths and misconceptions in their arguments.

From the Department of Wha's happnin?

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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All hail to Netscroll

That mouse in your right hand - do you ever remember how annoying they used to be?

I remember my last mouse. Every few weeks I'd be getting a pair of tweezers or a nail file and attempt to scrub off that "crud" that gets inside the rolly-bits inside the mouse.

My Netscroll mouse - which I've had for a couple of years now - still has that problem. The difference is that is is actually designed for the user to open it up with a screwdriver and clean it properly.

This has meant that cleaning the inside of the mouse has been easy. No fiddling around in tiny spaces, you simply take off the top and the rolly bits are there for you to clean.

But just recently I was having trouble with the middle-button - you know the scroll wheel that many mice have? Well, once every revolution, I was now finding that the screen would go "up" rather than go down as I was commanding it to.

Well. I have just fixed it up. The scroll wheel was easily removed from the mouse and I was able to blow away some dust and crud that had got in the way of some optical trigger thingy on the printed circuit board. Now it works fine.

I have to say that I thoroughly enjoy having manufacturers anticipate and plan ahead on things like this. It had never occurred to me that I could clean the scroll wheel - but now that I have done it for the first time, I am happy that the makers anticipated this and made it easy for me to do.

Paris Riots show superiority of America

I have to admit it - America is superior to Europe in one important area: Rioting.

I mean, look at these latest riots in and around Paris. Do these Frenchies know anything? Maybe it's their consumption of snails and frogs legs that have taken away the mojo of their youth. I mean seriously - setting fire to cars... how hard is that? It's taken them 14 days and there's been only one death. The French president hasn't even called the troops out.

America has a long and proud history of destructive riots that puts pretenders like France to shame. So many effeminate French-loving commentators have pointed out that this riot is "like the May 1968 riots" in France. It's probably true - about as true as pointing out that the Denver Broncos were a great team in the 1980s.

What I mean is this - French riots are like soufflé, they look good on the outside but when you look at them closely you realise it is just full of hot air. No. If you want a good, meaty and satisfying riot, you gotta go to the States.

You're not convinced? As I said, these current riots in France have killed one person so far. A tragedy? Yes. But heck, in America, more people die going to school these days. The 1992 LA riots are the best comparison to what is going on, and more people were killed in a shorter time in 1992 than anything those French pretenders have achieved in the last few weeks. I mean, have you seen any French coffee-shop owners defending their businesses with shotguns? I don't think so.

"Yes, but you don't understand that this is like the 1968 riots in France" says one of these French-loving castrato-bloggers. Well, I got news for you pal - the 1968 riots didn't come close to anything America had at the time either.

If you look at the evidence that piles up about the 1968 French riots you discover a few things - the first is that, like now, the riots went on for an interminably long time. Secondly, the rioters even then didn't know how to go crazy and kill lots of people. I mean, only one person died in 1968 too! Oh, it caused an election did it? Well boo hoo, those French give up on everything don't they?

Here's some more facts for you purse-carrying nancy boys. After MLK was killed in 1968, there was a riot in Baltimore. What was the result of this made-in-America riot? 6 dead, 700 injured. That amount would've been greater if the 82nd Airborne hadn't been called in. At the same time, riots broke out in Washington. 12 dead, 1087 injured. Marines mounted machine guns on the steps of the Capitol and Army troops from the 3rd Infantry guarded the White House.

And check out what current French President Jacques Chirac has said:
When the time is right and order has been re-established, all the lessons will have to be drawn from this crisis, and with a lot of courage and lucidity... We need to respond strongly and quickly to the undeniable problems which many inhabitants of the deprived neighbourhoods surrounding our cities are facing. (BBC)

Does that sound like a man with guts? Or does it sound like a cheese-eating surrender monkey? The French don't have a word for "shoot the rioters", something J. Edgar Hoover suggested in Washington in 1968.

From the Department of Attempted Humour

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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US Election analysis

Yes, believe it or not, there have been some elections and referendums in America in the past 24 hours. They weren't big elections - some governors, some mayors and some proposals - but they do indicate George Bush's current support level.

To say that most of the nominations were won by Democrats is not accurate - rather, they were lost by Republicans.

New Jersey, a comfortable Democrat state, voted for a Democratic Governor (Jon Corzine). However, Virginia, which gave the Republican Bush a comfortable victory in 2004, narrowly voted for a Democratic Governor (Tim Kaine). In Minnesota, the pro-Bush mayor of St. Paul was thrown out of office by someone less enamored by the current President - ironically both were Democrats.

Local and State issues were naturally important, but elections such as these are very useful as a guide for current and future trends. Recent polls show that both Bush and the Republican party are "on the nose". 2005 has been a horror year for the Republican party, which has had to endure a number of scandals, the continuing issue of the Iraq war and the handling of Hurricane Katrina.

Every administration has its ups and downs in popularity - but what really matters is what happens on election day. Nevertheless, I think the GOP's situation is more than just a cyclical response from the electorate.

Take Virginia. Just south of the Mason-Dixon Line and the chosen location for the capital of the Confederate States during the civil war, it is nevertheless uncomfortably close to Washington and the North Eastern States. This means that Virginia, while still being a "Southern" (and therefore "conservative") state, it is also likely to be influenced by more liberal trends from the north - trends that would not be found in other southern states.

This election has essentially "moved" Virginia from being comfortably Republican into narrowly Democrat. That is of concern.

Of course, this sort of analysis doesn't always take into account the peculiarities of American politics. New York City, after all, has voted yet again for a Republican mayor despite the fact that the city (and the state) are solidly Republican in nature. There is only one explanation for this that makes any sense - New Yorkers are just different.

The mayoral race in St. Paul is an interesting result. The pro-Bush Democratic mayor was embarrassingly defeated 70% / 30% by a fellow Democrat. Minnesota, which thought Walter Mondale was a better bet than Reagan in 1984, has so many ties to Scandinavia that, if it seceeded from the union, it would probably model its welfare system on Sweden. All I'm saying here is that MN is one of the Democratic heartlands, and the fact that they threw out someone who liked Bush shows that Bush really is on the nose with Democrats.

These recent elections have not given the GOP any hope at all. All the information seems to indicate that a groundswell of unhappiness is beginning to take hold in American society - unhappiness with the President and the GOP.

It's my assertion, however, that this unhappiness will last a while - the reason being that the pressure that Bush and the GOP have been under lately has been more than just the odd peice of political grandstanding. There is a growing belief that the invasion of Iraq was a colossal mistake, based on dodgy evidence; The fallout from Hurricane Katrina has exposed cronyism in the government; The nomination of Harriet Miers to SCOTUS backfired on Bush and further eroded his credibility. Now it appears as though the CIA has been operating secret jails around the world where suspects are detailed without trial.

This negative perception of the GOP is unlikely to be solved by photos of Presidential nominees in tanks, or making people afraid that the Democrats put rapists on the streets. Eventually this sort of rhetoric, successful at first, begins to grind on people - especially when trust has been lost.

Remember, too, that Bush was, at one time, one of the most popular US presidents in history. 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq gave him massive poll boosts. But now it appears as though people have "caught on". They have realised they have been duped. So the polls, once stratospheric, are now plumbing the depths of the lithosphere. The longer the polls stay below 40% approval, the more disenchanted the people will be with the GOP.

From the One Salient Overlord Department

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

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