Monthly Archives: March 2011

Doctor consultation dream.

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Last night I dreamt of logging onto my blog and seeing the number of hits go up many times.I was happy but then worried that this was false. Could my hits really be so high.

 

Later I was speaking to doctor in London – Lonsdale. I complained for a sore back. He asked what exercise I took; I said I swim but have not been in a couple of weeks. This is true. He suggested that I do so more often. I intend to do so. I had said to myself before drifting akip –  I will have a dream….

 

There was more to that dream but I do not remember it.

 

Something about London. A dream.

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I had some dream about dear old London town last. I was there and was happy walking around and using public transport. I have been in the Ukraine for a few months now and pine for the British Isles. I am going back to the British islands in 3 weeks or so. Travel may be a metaphor for something else. Quite what I cannot think.

A dream about going to Heathrow.

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I was in London. I was headed to Heathrow. I do not know where I was due to fly from there or indeed if I was supposed to meet someone arriving. The fact that I did not know this did not seem strange. It did not even occur to me.

Anyhow I was in Hammersmith on a rainy evening. I remembered the billboards. I remembered seeing a billboard there in 1997 that asked what one thought of Gerry Adams  – terrorist or statesman. I know he is the former.

I went into a station to find a train to Heathrow. There are no trains from Hammersmith to Heathrow but in the dream this did not matter. I recognised the station somehow. It was not the interior of Hammersmith tube. I looked around and saw gates to platforms. A screen announced a train to Windsor and Eton. I had been talking about that place last night to Florina and Ana.

Then I was walking through a tunnel. I saw a lane for cars to my left. I heard a voice announcing over a public address system that people were able to drive this was to Heathrow. Then I saw lots of people on bicycles speed past me to my left on the car lane – there was a cycle path to my right. I was moving very slowly. Then I realised I was on a bike. Why was I so slow? I made an effort and then I was moving fast. I was speaking to Florina about cycling last night. I also spoke to her from my wish to travel.

 

”The Road to Guantanamo”. A review.

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I support George W Bush on most issues. I believed and continue to believe that armed action in Iraq and Afghanistan by the coalitions was the right thing to do. I further believe that it was right to send battlefield detainees to Guantanamo Bay and hold them outside most of the provisions of the Geneva Convention. Watching this film was scintillating though I cannot call it entertaining. It was also useful in forcing me to re-examine my opinions.

The detenus came across as humans. In an armed conflict one tends to de-humanise the enemy. It is easier to kill them that way. I am glad to say I have never been within a 100 miles of a battle and I never wish to experience war. To my surprise this film included interviews with the detainees themselves, news footage as well as dramatic reconstructions.

It focuses on 4 Britishers of Pakistani ancestry who went to Pakistan in October 2001. They then crossed over the porous border just as Afghanistan was becoming a war zone between the Taleban and the coalition. In fact Afghanistan had long been the scene of fighting between the Northern Alliance and the Taleban.

It seems a strange decision to cross the frontier into a war zone unless of course one intends to fight. Not a nice spot for a holiday at the time. These youths were all pious Muslims who say a preacher besought the congregation to go to Afghanistan and help. Help in what sense? Fight? If not there was a lot of humanitarian work to be done except these men do not seem to have recounted doing any. It was a bizarre choice to go to Afghanistan at the time and even suspicious but that does not in itself make them terrorists.

These men came across as nice guys but that does not mean they were not engaged in terrorism. One can come across as amiable and indeed be very amiable on a personal level and still hold loathsome views and commit the most horrendous crimes. They say they went to Taleban controlled areas. The town they were in came under attack by the coalition and they surrendered to the Northern Alliance. Every man – even if not a combatant – was treated as though he were one. They were held in poor conditions. There was some harsh treatment form the Northern Alliance. Their arms were tied to tight they say. They were held in a container with no ventilation – that was cruel, if it is true. The Northern Alliance shot through it to provide breathing holes. The prison they were kept in was very overcrowded. They were not fed enough and allowed no exercise. I am of course taking everything they said at face value. For most of the program they gave an impression of veracity. Occasionally I did see the blink rate race. This is a sign that they are probably being mendacious.

They then came to the attention of the US military. The US had heard that some prisoners spoke English. Why did these men identify themselves? They may have feared the consequences if they were discovered not revealing this fact. They may have thought it would get them better treatment. They were interrogated. They interrogators did not abuse them. Shouting and the use of foul language is not abuse in these circumstances. Holding a gun to someone’s head when he is not a significant threat I do consider to be wrong. These men were tied up and on their knees in front of two armed men. The US considered these men to be highly dangerous but I think they took it too far. I began sympathising with these British Pakistanis a lot.

The US military had these men in a pen for days or weeks. They lack of exercise and the fact that they were not allowed to talk seems very unfair. The American troops moved these guys around by dragging them very fast. I suppose this was to make escape or fighting very difficult.

The men allege that they were chained in uncomfortable positions and forced to listen to very loud music. I found myself thinking of this as torture. Maybe that word is too strong. Abuse would be better. The men do not allege beatings -electric shocks and so on.

Ifound myself losing respect for the US military. Are you so feeble that you have to keep the men hooded and chained when they are in your custody – when you are trained soldiers –  when you have guns and they have none –  when they are thousands of miles from home and successful escape is a virtual impossibility?

The interrogation sessions did not include mistreatment. It seems to me that the US invented things to try and scare the detainees into implicating themselves. ”So and so said you did this…” The strategy is to convince the prisoner that he has already lost and the only thing he can do to help himself is to confess.

I think it probable that these men were involved in terrorism in a minor way. I believe that some of them have subsequently admitted that.

I feel it was wrong to deny them lawyers, contact with him and consular services for so long. The US authorities seemed to be so convinced that these men were guilty that they were not willing to consider that they might be innocent.

I re-state that in the extraodinary circumstances after 9/11 it was right to use extraordinary measures. In that most dangerous time peoples’ rights had to be curtailed temporarily. The thing is this must be temporary. It must have a sunset clause. Of course in wars compromises have to be made and innocent people suffer. The encroachment on individual rights must be a short term thing. It cannot go on for ever.

The British Army banned hooding after it was used in Northern Ireland in 1972. The US very unfairly criticised the UK excessively. Yet the US military used this method over 30 years after the British military scrapped it as an abuse.

The US seemed to think the prisoners were super fighters. They had to be chained and hooded. I will say this for the US policy I do not think that any American guards were seriously harmed by the prisoners or anyone escaped. The US authorities always said these men were too dangerous to be allowed better treatment.

Obama promised to close Guantanamo by January 2010. Over a year has gone by since that expired. Why is the media not holding him to account? He is getting too easy a ride.

The men in the documentary claim that a mentally disturbed prisoner was badly beaten because he kept calling out at a female soldier. If that is true then that was an abuse.

The scene where a guard stamps on and kills a scorpion to save a prisoner was revealing. Suddenly a guard seemed to care for a prisoner. The prisoner thanked him profusely. It was a rare moment of warmth in the film between the two sides.

Of course that the US did is nothing compared to what her enemies did. Yes, the US should set the standard for good behaviour. I must remind myself though that this film is totally one-sided. It allows assertions by one side to go unchallenged. It shows the US personnel as being arrogant, bigoted, ignorant, cruel, fascistic and brutal at all times. They Americans only once come across as decent in that scorpion incident. To be fair this depiction of the Americans has some truth in it especially when seen from the perspective of those held by them in such conditions. It was almost funny when the American woman asked the prisoners to work for the US. What – after all this you think we like you guy? In my mind I was cheering the prisoners on when they swore at the guards and won little victories.

What can I say in favour of the US treatment of these men? The prisoners were well-fed; they had clean clothes; they were washed; they had medical care; they slept in clean warm and dry places; they were provided with the Koran.

Much though I disagree with Islam and indeed all religions I do not oppose it. If people wish to be strict Muslims and pray five times daily and so forth I would do nothing to obstruct them. Of course such people can be totally good people.

”The Long Firm”

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I watched this lately. It was gripping. There were no weak performances. Harry is a gay Jewish gangster. He does not come across as gay at all. It glamourised 1960s gangsterism when they only hurt bad people or so the myth goes. Again it made me long for those times that I never lived through. There was police corruption then. I am not aware of any now in the UK.

The sets were also evocative. The clothes and hairstyles summoned up the era for me. Those were the days!

In the end Harry spends ages in prison and a prick of a radical lecturer idolises him as an anti-capitalist resister. In fact Harry is a capitalist with knobs on.

The Long Firm is of course a means of defrauding suppliers and making a big profit into the bargain. Harry explains this. The trouble is Harry is shown to be totally likeable. The film is too sympathetic to these scum.

Prick up your ears

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I watched this film a couple of weeks back and rather enjoyed it. It is about the gay playwright Joe Orton. I try to be a hetero version of him in recording my adventures in Nighttown as James Joyce would call it. I wonder if ”ears” in prick up your ears is an anagram of arse –  prick up your arse.

Gary Oldman played Orton and is not gay nor is Alfredo Molina who played his boyfriend. The script writing was fabulous. It was very droll. The word play was so witty. Oldman played Orton as being cheeky yet somehow shy. It was very convincing. It made me long for London long ago when jobs were easy to find and housing was cheap. There was less traffic. On the other hand sex was persecuted – even heteros were not so free. Sundays were so boring. Everyone smoked it seemed.

I first heard of Orton about 1997 when I watched a production of ”what the butler saw.” I identify with his frustrated lover who feels fame has passed him by and he is sexually starved. I heard my female neighbour noisily copulating for a long time last night and was very jealous. I am not sure whether it is someone above or below us.

A dream of Gabrielle

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I was dreaming of my spouse Gabrielle. I was hugging her and later petting her buttocks. Then I awoke to find she was shaking me to get me up. I am not sure what I dreamt of earlier. Something about using public transport with a middle-aged woman.

Stop the bombing of Libya.

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It it strange for me to find myself arguing against military action. Over the past decade I have found myself on the opposite side of the argument over Afghanistan and Iraq. I maintain the same views on those two conflicts. Here the circumstances are different. I am no pacifist but one must only go to war with a very, very strong justification indeed.

My motto is ”if in doubt, stay out.” What is the overriding reason for taking military action in Libya?

I remember Rageh Omaar –  the Scud stud – expressing his views on the Iraq conflict a few years back. He believes that British involvement has been catastrophic. ”Let me put it another way”, he said, ”what has France lost by staying out?” I would like to say the same thing here. Would it significantly damage the UK’s relations with France and the US? No. If the Libyan rebels win will they hate us for not helping? No. They would have to hate most of the world then.

France, the UK and the United States have all launched air raids against Gaddafi’s war machine. He has not sponsored terrorism in about 15 years. Why is it essential to attack him and why now? I have heard no convincing answers to that. I doff my cap to the anti-Gaddafi fighters but what legitimacy do they have to call themselves a government. Just because Gaddafi is bad  – and he is horrific – it does not automatically follow that his enemies are good? If he wins –  as he probably shall – his enemies who are captured will likely be horrifically tortured and killed. This happens all over. We cannot save everyone who is oppressed. I know it is better to save some than none.

It is curious that France should lead the charge over this. I remember in 2003 she was dead set against the Coalition’s military action against Saddam Hussein’s regime.

At least Gaddafi and his mob will be easier to defeat than Saddam’s crew. Libya has a much smaller population than Iraq. There is a major insurrection against Gaddafi ongoing right now. Ok, in Iraq the Kurdistan region was effectively independent before the Coalition went in. However, there was little fighting between Kurdish forces and pro-Saddam forces.

Gaddafi will likely survive and be anti-Western more so than he has been in the last 15 years. On the other hand he might be cowed and not want to piss off Western countries.

The UK, US and France are all too busy in Afghanistan. Gaddafi is no threat to them. He may become so now. This decision to impose a no fly zone has been taken on the one hand too late and on the other hand hastily. Had it been implemented a month back the revolution may well have been crowned with success by now. Western capitals were gripped with something must be done -itis.

This war is avoidable. It is not a war of national survival. Gaddafi wanted to prevent this fight as being between Libyan independence and Western oil theft. The attackers have lent this bogus claim a spurious credibility. People who might otherwise oppose him may well back him up now.

I ask Obama, Sarkozy and Cameron – how many personnel are you willing to lose over this? When the casualties mount will you stick with it? The British public mostly opposes its military’s presence in Afghanistan despite only 200 or so Britishers being killed there in 10 years. How many Libyan civilians are you willing to kill before you do more harm than you tried to prevent? What are the probable and even the possible ramifications of this war? Will this inflame Arab and Islamic opinion against the crusader states anew? This shows all the signs of not having been thought through. Have contingency plans been made for the likely outcomes.

Gaddafi survives – what do we do then? Do we accept him or keep up some sort of sanctions that only make him more irate? Gaddafi is ousted and one of his circle takes over to rule on as before –  what do we do then?  Do we recognise this leader or do we say he is as filthy as his former master? France has already recognised the opposition as the rightful government. What legitimacy do they have. ”The Libyan people”. We hear this phrase bandied about much by do-gooder Western statesman. As if the Libyan people are homogenous or unanimous against Gaddafi. All those years of pouring praise on Gaddafi by state media have seeped deep into the conscious and the unconscious mind of many Libyans.

What if this all devolves into a protracted civil war – do we wade in or get out?

The revolution succeeds  – what do we do then? Do we help organise elections or what? What if these elections are blighted by massive cheating and violence. Libya has not had a proper democracy before and they are unlikely to get it all right the first time around. The likelihood of a fairytale ending – of Libya turning into an Arab Norway is very slight.

I shall be honest enough to admit that there are some disadvantages to stopping armed action now it has begun. It will make these lands seem feeble, inconstant. Gaddafi might be stringer than ever.

Do we wants mass illegal immigration in the EU from Libya? I say no.

Tunisia and Egypt could have helped but have not. That should tell us something. They have their own internal troubles to settle. We could just be prolonging the agony of the revolution. At the very least these air strikes have been imprudent. Why stir up a hornet’s nest. I thought Colin Powell’s lesson of Vietnam is instructive. Either go into a war totally committed or else not at all. No half measures. One should not fight half heartedly. It is the will to win that counts. The Communists in Vietnam fought the US to a standstill by being determined by being will to suffer millions of casualties. Not by better weapons, tactics, training or anything of that nature.

David Cameron says it borders on racism to say Arabs cannot manage a democracy. Why else have so few Arab democracies emerged? In fact one could argue that no fully democratic states have ever emerged in Araby. Palestine is fairly democratic but riven with corruption and fighting between different political parties. Hardly a democratic model. Democracy is not always exportable. Some people like dictatorship. This is an uncomfortable fact for many naive Occidentals. One must be chary about exporting democracy. Robespierre disagreed with the French Revolution being brought to Germany by military means –  ”no one welcomes armed missionaries.” We would do well to remember his sage words. He was a fanatic and a man of violence yet even he recognised that essential truth though he overstated it.

 

Here is a quotation for Carl Schurz –  a German-American 19th century politician.

”The man who in times of popular excitement boldly and unflinchingly resists hot-tempered clamor for an unnecessary war, and thus exposes himself to the opprobrious imputation of a lack of patriotism or of courage, to the end of saving his country from a great calamity, is, as to “loving and faithfully serving his country,” at least as good a patriot as the hero of the most daring feat of arms, and a far better one than those who, with an ostentatious pretense of superior patriotism, cry for war before it is needed, especially if then they let others do the fighting.”

 

There may be great job opportunities in Libya whatever the outcome. People will be afraid to go. I may go to Afghanistan or even Japan. People will be stupidly scared of it because of that tsunami. It killed 10 000 out of 150 000 000 people – come on!

The Plan Man.

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I watched this film starring Robbie Coltrane. It was engaging but not superb. I have some admiration for daring criminals. But I must remember they are wicked people and are very cruel to ordinary folk. Bank robbery is certainly not without victims. These thugs are vicious and deserve long spells in gaol.

Anyhow Coltrane plays an advocate in Scotland. His wife was as plain as a pike but not a mass of fat like he is. His wife is a Labour politician. She puts her lippy on her trout pout. Before she appears at a press conference she says it is lipstick and tits that count. Soon she is boned by a senior English policeman whose marriage is breaking up. She is going to move in with this South Britisher but in the end decides not to.

Coltrane defends crims. He gets them off. He starts to plan bank raids. These are indeed carried out.

Some of the film is far-fetched with criminals taunting the police outside a station and provoking a chase.

He plans a bank raid and draws in gangs from all over the UK. The gangsters are just so hackneyed. Have they all studied the same ”how to swagger like a gangster” manual? When Coltrane is planning the raids he looks extra wooden. It is so unconvincing.

I must say this. Some of the characters are recognisable. The police and some of the chattering class friends of Coltrane are credible. The film is at least fast-moving.

The bank raid at the end with the criminals running to an airport is ridiculous. Do police chiefs really say ”knock, knock, knock” to all units? The most unbelievable part is the escape in helicopter. Then it lands somewhere else. Rather than make Coltrane come with them the criminals who already suspect let him stay aboard. Why let him escape in the chopper? They do not even shoot at it as it takes off.

Dream of a fold in the ground.

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Last night I dreamt I was walking across a wind blasted heath. The grass was brownish. I thought of the words of Danny Boy –  the valley’s hushed with snow. The snow had melted not long before and that explained why the grass had not photosynthesised for a long time. I was accompanied by a middle-aged woman – she was short and amply nourished but I did not look at her. She walked to my right. She possibly represents my boss Denisa. We were warmly dressed against the spring chill. I do not know why I did not look at this female. I think she was a brunette. I did not resent her.

We came to a fold in the ground – like a tiny gully. This dead ground would be a good place to hide. No road or sign of any habitations was around. We did not go into that deep in the earth – it was like a long and discrete gash a metre deep. It was such as one sees in Zulu Dawn where the Zulus hid.