Thursday, September 30, 2004


From Gene, at Harry's Place : 'Marc Cooper, a thoughtful antiwar leftist, has some comments about Johann Hari's interview of Christopher Hitchens.'

johann's Late thoughts on the Hitchens interview

 (a) against the extreme and undemocratic neo-liberalism imposed on much of the world’s poor by the IMF and World Bank; there is no freedom in a sweat-shop [must come back to that later]

- The fight to end the spiritual tyranny of ‘religion’, better labeled organized superstition, and to ensure its replacement with Enlightenment values

and Hiiiiitchens     In enemy territory? An interview with Christopher Hitchens (the free link)

another intelligent commentary by Norman Geras  -

Hitchens is still with you on that one (the fight to end the spiritual tyranny of ‘religion’) : secularism is his big thing. That's presumably why he thinks 'the war against Islamic Fascism trumps all other issues'.

I was struck by  this , which I give in very brief extracts (remember too, this is after a victorious and justified war, as another review put it) :

Our Hidden Lives, by Simon Garfield, excerpts from five diaries kept in the 1940s in response to an appeal from Mass-Observation.....

Reviewing the book in the Times, John Carey ...

Herbert thinks that all German POWs under 25 should be sent to a lethal chamber, to ensure the future peace of the world. Edie takes the view that "every Jap should be killed. Horrid little yellow beasts". B Charles, ever the individualist, puts forward the alternative suggestion that "it would be a good thing if the whole of France could be swallowed up in an earthquake, along with the entire population". All the diarists are more or less anti-semitic,
...his comment about general anti-semitism reminds me of my childhood in the early '70s. Anti-semitism was just dying out then, but you still heard comments of that type from time to time. It was dying of old age, as the option was closed to post-war children for obvious reasons. My generation had moved on, chiefly to bias against newer types of immigrant.
Atrocity doesn't breed atrocity: atrocity gives room for those looking for an excuse for atrocity.
Good point. I would just add this : there is always a lot of hatred in the world, never much love. Belief systems - Christianity, Islam - that, in their unperverted forms, put the latter at their hearts, are not to be treated as enemies, even by those of us who do not have any particular belief in the supernatural.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Well fancy that...

Robin Cook, interviewed on the BBC yesterday, called upon Tony Blair to undertake never again to take the country to war on the basis of intelligence only, but only in the case of self-defence, a UN resolution or a humanitarian crisis and, echoing Charles Kennedy (see), give a pledge specifically concerning Iran.

Looks like the Ginger-Ginger alliance is back in business (as mentioned by that political betting website) ...

Stuck in traffic this morning. Still, at least it allowed me to hear the whole of the BBC interview with Tony Blair. 20 minutes, nearly all on Iraq...

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

France, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria...

Michel Barnier, on France Inter 27 Sep, sounded quite conciliatory : elections in Iraq are vital. Half the 10-minute interview was devoted to Haiti. BBC WS later reported him as saying that the international conference on Iraq, proposed by the US State Department Saturday (for October, November), should include the question of the withdrawal of US troops.

King Abdullah of Jordan said that extremists could be the only winners in the elections, unless the security situation improves.

Eric Martin - (September 20, 2004) Lebanon 2.0: Selling Beirut to Baghdad

'a pre-1967 Lebanon in which an elite of notables presided over a pluralistic republic, open to foreign capital, and free enterprise. Beirut in those days was known as the Paris of the Orient
the one in the late 1970s and early 1980s after the collapse of the Lebanese political system in the 1975-76 civil war. '

Never mind Lebanon pre-1967 or in the late 70s and 80s, what about Lebanon now. Beirut is a thriving city again from what I've heard. Instead the hostage-taking of former years this many accused it of (but which it now denies), Hezbollah now engages in the political process.

Syria is pulling its troops back. Even France supported a UN resolution for them to withdraw from Lebanon. Now there's a surprise.

Just caught a bit of this on the BBC : a play that has been running in Damascus for a year satirises official TV for showing a 'cultural programme' while Saddam Hussein's statue fell in Baghdad...

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Britain first

The idea that Britain is somehow going against its own interests in being too close to the US has been heard before, but here it is again in Niall Ferguson's article in The Spectator (registration required). I'm still not convinced.

The people who believe in the special relationship are 'a select number of professional elites' : military men, those in the intelligence services, city chaps  who work for 'the bulge bracket Wall Street firms', some academics 'especially (ahem) those recently lured away from Oxford and Cambridge by their more generously endowed Ivy League competitors', summarized as those 'flying on flatbeds across the Atlantic'. Well, I'm none of those things, more a beneficiary of European economic integration and interested in French culture and politics.

In contrast to '1917, when it seemed that Britain could not defeat Germany without American financial and military support', ' by the time of the second world war, it was a great deal less self-evident ... that the salvation of the British empire lay in the hands of the United States. On the contrary, Franklin Roosevelt made the break-up of our empire an explicit object of American policy...' Bizarrely, US intervention is seen as more welcome in 1917 than in 1941, when Britain's survival was at stake. Churchill was right to sleep soundly on the night after Pearl Harbour.

Anyway, we don't want our empire back, do we ? Ferguson speaks of the US in some instances being in competition against the waning British empire (as in Saudi Arabia and Egypt). But, in the 1980s large Saudi defence contracts went to the UK, as a sort of proxy for the US. As for Egypt, this is where the argument gets really hard to follow. Presumably, he is talking about the US block on British (and French and Israeli) actions over Suez, but equally Eden, who saw Nasser as another Hitler, could be seen as a forerunner of Bush and his attitude toward Saddam Hussein.

The interests of Britain (and Europe) surely converge in terms of values. I won't say democracy or freedom, but pluralism, or to put it more bluntly, belief in a system where people are not imprisoned or tortured or killed for their beliefs. This surely is more important than the distinction between Christian America and secular Europe that Ferguson dwells on. In more material terms,  Europe (and Japan etc) have an interest as much as the US in not seeing the Middle East (and its oil) controlled by a ruthless dictator.

Of course, we could just allow the US to defend the values and interests of the West. France and Spain do not suffer much from their positions. But then one is reminded irresistibly of Orwell, in his essay on Kipling, contrasting someone who 'at least tried to imagine what action and responsibility are like' with 'a permanent and pensioned oppostion' whose 'quality of thought deteriorates accordingly' and 'the one-eyed pacifism of the English..."making mock of uniforms that guard you while you sleep".'

In any case, Britain's foreign policy, apart from Iraq,  has remained aligned with that of the other major European countries. Mr Blair's address to Congress in July 2003,('a masterpiece of flattery that was ...nauseating to me') also contained these words : 'Iran and Syria, who give succour to the rejectionist men of violence, made to realise that the world will no longer countenance it, that the hand of friendship can only be offered them if they resile completely from this malice, but that if they do, that hand will be there for them and their people;the whole of region helped toward democracy. 

And to symbolise it all, the creation of an independent, viable and democratic Palestinian state side by side with the state of Israel. '

Aside from the developments with Libya, Britain has stayed within the position of the EU-3, along with France and Germany, on Iran, despite occasional attempts by writers in The Guardian to suggest that Blair has detached into a position of demanding 'regime-change'.

Staying on the subject of Iran, BBC WS reported that LibDem leader Charles Kennedy  has demanded that Tony Blair give a pledge at the next election that there should be no attack on Iran. I don't think any British Prime Minister could or should give any such assurance, not that I think there is much likelihood that there will be any attack involving the UK, or the US for that matter. Much more likely are Israeli air-strikes, with incalculable consequences, we are told.

Vladimir Putin said that Russia would ditch the Bushehr project should Iran breach any IAEA agreements (Reuters). It is not clear where Russia stands on the key issue of uranium enrichment. Iran cannot be forced to abandon this, but they might negotiate it, if the US (for example) showed sufficient respect for their sovereignty and dignity.

Update (27 Sep) Still in The Spectator, the career of Andrew Gilligan (diplomatic and defence editor)  is clearly flourishing post-Hutton. Funnily enough, Mr Blair yesterday again refused to apologize for removing Saddam Hussein.

Meanwhile, in the New Statesman there is an interview, or rather a John Kampfner opinion piece interspersed with an interview with Jack Straw (free when I accessed it).

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Jospin has spoken in Le Nouvel Observateur.

Bernard Guetta asks : why is the Left consubstantial with the European project ? 2 traditional reasons :
1. hatred of nationalism, reinforced by the second world war ;
2.  a united Europe is needed to have sufficient weight to defend social policies against global capital.
add to this
3. it is urgent to have a counterweight to the 'new unilateralism of the US'.

François Bayrou : the left is reaping what it sowed (récolte ce qu’il a semé)- by pushing the idea that liberalism is a horror and Europe equals liberalism (the British left used the same argument in 1975, I recall). Blindingly obvious that France alone cannot stand up against global capital. (France Inter, 23 Sep)

By the way, Blairisme isn't quite dead (see) : they used one of his speeches in an advertisement for Eurostar.

Ken Bigley

I think the crisis will drag on for some time yet. By killing the 2 Americans quickly, the terrorists have created a sense of urgency and now they can put pressure on the weaker link (the next Spain ?). Rather than making unrealistic demands like the withdrawal of US/UK troops, they are making ones that seem reasonable, like the release of women prisoners. Adnan Pachachi (on BBC WS) said that these women worked for the Ba'athist regime which the islamists viewd as atheistic.

Commentators like John Kampfner cannot resist repeating the 'Iraq is a disaster' mantra and the well-publicised attacks of the brother-in-Amsterdam on Tony Blair must be music to the terrorists' ears. If they killed the British hostage now, all this would be over and the affair quickly forgotten.

By the way, the role for NATO in Iraq seems to have been sorted out now.

Update (26 Sep) Mick Hartley has this : Kenneth Bigley ]

Bronwyn Maddox in The Times Friday also pointed out the sophistication of the terrorists in killing the Americans, hoping to drive a wedge between the US and UK. Careful Bronwyn, that sophistication word is in danger of being deprecated due to overuse by the the NYT, according to Greg Djerejian.

David Blunkett, interviewed on the BBC, said : 'you call them sophisticated...'.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Poverty tax

Lula , Chirac and Zapatero are  talking about a global tax to alleviate poverty in the world. This is contrasted to the US, allegedly exclusively, military approach (France Inter, 21 Sep).  A listener pointed out that at international gatherings the most luxury cars seem to belong to the poorest nations. They, of course, have dictatorial regimes. 

Then, Bush proposed establishing a democracy fund within the United Nations.

The 35-hour week and so on

The FT was fairly sniffy (about Chirac) : 'Last year's much trumpeted pension reform , to bring public sector pensions gradually into line with the private sector. excluded the railway and power workers because of their militancy. The president has supported the 35-hour week, which the business community blames for a decline in France's international competitiveness.' (Leader, 4 Sep)

SIAW wrote that France and Russia were 'both of them, funnily enough, still capitalist states the last time we looked.' Well yes, there is a lot of empty rhetoric about resisting mondialisation, but undeniably in France and Germany the frontier of political debate is different from that in the UK. Apart from  the 35-hour week and more generous (unaffordable ?) welfare and health systems, French workers are resisting privatisation in gas and electricity.

France Inter was trumpeting the other day Renault's creation of thousands of jobs. A more severe crisis seems to lie in Germany. Volkswagen is threatening to relocate to Eastern Europe. The reason may lie in the figures highlighted by  Le Monde Économie for labour costs in manufacturing industry (in dollars) : Germany 24.31, US 21.37, EU15 19.87, Japan 19.01, UK 18.03, France 17.27, Poland 4.1...

Meanwhile, the 'Mrs Thatchers' are waiting : Frau Merkel of the Christian Democrats and Nicholas Sarkozy (can we really believe that 70-something Chirac rather than Sarko will be the right's candidate in 2007 ? )

In the local elections in Saxony and Brandenburg, both the SPD and the Christian Democrats lost ground. Both the far-right NPD and the former communist PDS made gains. Someone said that in many cases their propaganda is indistinguishable. Their increased vote seems to be a protest against Schröder's 'reforms' (cutting welfare). Even Daniel Cohn-Bendit of the Greens, commenting on France Inter, 20 Sep, thought that the problems financing the welfare systems had to be faced.

A good old bit of socialist theory : ' "Work without end" has been the history of capitalism. Fordism added `endless consumption'  and the Keynesian conviction - check the old textbooks -  that expanded output should always have precedence over reduced work-time...'
('A World Market of Opportunities? Capitalist Obstacles and Left Economic Policy', The Socialist Register 1997 )

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Kerry and options for Iraq

Comments on Gregory Djerejian's on Jaw-Dropping Fare Indeed

As one commenter said, Nader is on the Florida ballot. As a European and British, this is nothing to do with me, but as Christopher Caldwell argued in the FT (11 Sept), Nader's campaign forces Kerry to adopt a more anti-war line, so as not to lose votes to him. Pure political opportunism ? Of course. I remember James Rubin in Foreign Affairs a year ago writing that we might have had to go to war, but waiting to autumn (fall), getting wider international backing and a 2nd resolution; and in the buildup to war, arguing in a British TV debate, very much along the lines of leaked British documents : "The truth is that what has changed is not the pace of Saddam Hussein's WMD programmes, but our tolerance of them post-11 September." (Is Rubin one of the less than adequate prospective 6th floor appointees at State that Greg mentions, I wonder.)

Having said that, if Kerry is elected, he might manage to get a little more European support. He would be able to say : 'I didn't want this mess any more than you did, put now we're in it, it would be a disaster if we didn't sort it out...' It's not much, but it is something.

As for the options now, Arjun (20 Sept 07:35 PM ) is right to say that what Iraqis want is key, but I'm less confident than he that this will allow foreign forces to stay for as long as is needed. If an Iraqi government is truly sovereign and representative, it could ask US troops to leave. The occupation was very unpopular and, rightly or wrongly, many Iraqis see the foreign troops as the problem not the solution.

In the short term, more troops, more activity on the ground, are probably needed. Trying to deal with the terrorists / insurgents from the air is a disaster in PR terms. There was a rumour a few months ago that 3000 more UK troops were to be sent. Nothing came of that, but it may still be under consideration. A hard sell ? Yes.

The NYT story that Greg links does say : 'Meanwhile, the Iraqi security forces are growing steadily. ... "Their capabilities are still uneven, but they're improving as we arm and equip them better, improve their infrastructure, give them additional training, and help them weed out the weak leaders..." '  It's a race against time and touch and go, I'm afraid.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Iraq still on the frontpages

Forget the predictably hysterical frontpages in The Guardian and The Independent (18 Sep), the FT's had the most interesting story : US snubbed by block on Nato officer plan

'France and Belgium on Friday underlined their continued misgivings about involving Nato in Iraq by blocking a plan to open a training academy for senior military officers there.
Michèle Alliot-Marie, French defence minister, warned the planned presence of about 300 Nato training personnel was unlikely to quell the violence in Iraq. "Iraq needs stability and it is not by putting more uniforms into the country that Iraq will have that." '

Update (20 Sep) : The Daily Telegraph's was interesting too of course : Secret papers show Blair was warned of Iraq chaos (registration required). See also this and this (the most detailed).

Timothy Garton Ash had some remarks on the Euro trio in an article called 'The end of Blairismo'.

Gregory Djerejian was rightly incredulous and comptemptuous of the Euro trio's attitudes and the remarks of French defence minister.

Election in Kazakhstan Sunday

Bl**dy big country in Central Asia. The leader of one of the main opposition parties was convicted on what sounds like a trumped-up charge and is now in internal exile, near one of the gulags where Alexander Solzhenitsyn was held. This according to the BBC World Service (couldn't find anything on their website - should be under 'Asia Pacific'). According to Reuters in the FT, 'The US yesterday (17 Sep) echoed European concerns...'

Anyone remember Afghanistan ? Long feature in the FT (sadly not a free link), My enemy’s enemies...

Update (23 Sep) Kazakh ruling party claims victory

Review of a Review

Alastair Macaulay on Embedded at the Riverside Studios, FT 11 Sep 2004

As I know from reading him in the FT magazine, Macaulay shares the anti-Iraq war view that has become more or less the orthodoxy, though not generally in the FT mag, and here he says 'Since I bear no love for Bush and company...'

The review is inadvertently revealing. 'You can't help wanting Tim Robbin's  Embedded to be better than it is.' He expresses this idea 3 times. One character 'seems funny in retrospect - even though it's virtually impossible to laugh at him in the theatre.'

So, he's honest enough to admit that the play is not very good. What he doesn't want to see is that the play is bad, not because of any technical failings, but because its whole argument is superficial.

British Culture

The FT magazine was in good form again last weekend (11 Sep). There was John Lloyd on the angry old men, like John Le Carré. Then there was Aleks Sierz : 'British theatre leads the world in political drama, but at the moment all the plays say the same thing. In the words of The Times columnist Stephen Pollard, plays inspired by September 11 "range from attacking Bush and Blair for being stupid to attacking them for being evil" '.

Only one, Nine Parts of Desire, 'gave a voice to one of the reasons for the war : the oppression of the Iraqi people.'

Gillian Slovo, one of the authors of Guantánamo, says 'The New York Times had to apologize twice to its readers for its blind support of Bush.'  Sierz rightly refutes this in square brackets. The whole sorry story is tracked here. The only novelty Slovo brings us is the 'twice'. 

Friday, September 17, 2004

Post (or rant) of of the month

SIAW in superb form, after their break. Some short (relatively) extracts :

'our position is in favour of democracy - even in the limited and corrupted form of liberal or bourgeois democracy - and against dictatorship, for the simple reason that the former at least offers openings for further progress (along with all the crap it also offers), while the latter offers only (as a certain far too frequently quoted British socialist once said) the prospect of a jackboot stamping on a human face forever.' Ah, but it's difficult to avoid quoting him, isn't it ?

'It’s not a question of good versus evil - in the real world it never is - but of a very great evil, potentially going on unseen and unpunished for still more decades under one or other of Saddam’s sons or henchmen, and a much lesser evil that has been seen and stopped, and will shortly be punished.'

Roula Khalaf's article that I mentioned in an earlier post is mainly concerned with the failures of the US occupation, but there are some reminders of the (unseen) atrocities of the Saddam era.

When  Mohamed Baqir al-Sadr. was arrested in 1979, his sister, Bint al-Huda, herself a religious authority, was taken with him. Her body was never found but Shi'a scholars believe she was raped before she was murdered.

When Mohamed Sadiq al-Sadr (Muqtada's father) was, everybody presumes, assassinated in 1999, there were riots among the Shi'a. 'Tanks and artillery forced their way in... As many as 800 people are believed to have died in Sadr city.

programmes about Saudi Arabia

There were some programmes on TV about Saudi Arabia (a month or 2 ago, one of these 'BBC4 on BBC2' things, there was about 3 hours worth and I've only just got round to watching it, but it's very good).

One point it made was that the Saudi monarchy relied at various key points in its history on the ulema (clerical establishment) to legitimize its actions.

Mick Hartley has a post on Saudi, too.

'[T]he Saudi Mansur al-Nuqeidan (born 1970), [...] was educated at a religious seminary in Saudi Arabia and served as the imam of a Riyadh mosque. As a member of an Islamist group, he was involved in violent [he] is one of the most courageous critics of extremist Islam.'

Update (18 Sep) : I think people like Michael Meacher (for example, on Channel 4's programme about 9/11 conspiracy theories) miss the point when they say that Bush was determined to secure control over middle east oil supplies. They have always controlled them, in a way, through alliances and so on.

Following the 1973 war between Israel an Arab states, Saudi Arabia imposed an embargo. The US considered the use of military force to secure the oilfields. What actually happened, as revealed by the said BBC programme (written by Jihan El Tahri and made in conjunction with Arte France and others) is no less interesting. The US said the embargo was threatening supplies to the fleet in East Asia and hence putting in danger the struggle, which the Saudis supported, against communism in Vietnam. King Faisal said to Aramco officials 'May God help you', in other words, find a way round the embargo, but do not get found out.

The Radio Times, in its review of the C4 programme on 9/11 CTs, said the one claim that did stick, was the one about Saudis being allowed to leave the US immediately after 11 Sept (à la Michael Moore), but as the 9/11 Commission established, they were not allowed to leave until after the airspace had been re-opened. In this, those adverts in the US, the ones with the Saudi government 'part' played in a British accent, are right.

A couple more snapshots. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, there was a 3 day news black-out in Saudi Arabia. Now everybody watches the Arab satellite channels. Even Crown Prince Abdullah watches al-Jazeera.

When Bush made a very pro-Israeli speech in 2001, the Saudis reacted furiously. According to the Crown Prince's foreign policy adviser, the US responded with some proposals - for a 2-state solution etc. The Saudis said fine, state them publicly. 3 days later came 9/11 and the issue was 'put on the back burner'.

One thing not mentioned by the programme. The Hashemites, under Sharif Hussein, were allied with the British (Lawrence of Arabia and all that). In the 1920's, they lost out to the Saudis in the Arabian peninsula, partly because they were seen as having betrayed Islam by  fighting against the Ottoman Empire.  As a sort of compensation, Hussein's sons received the thrones of Iraq and (Trans-)Jordan. However, the newly-established Saudi kingdom became an ally of Britain's. For example, before the days of oil, the kingdom was heavily dependent on revenues from pilgrimages to Mecca. When these were reduced during World War II, it received subsidies from Britain and the US.

This was one of the British 'spheres of interest' that sooner or later was taken over by the US, like Greece in  the late 1940's (read the 'Truman doctrine' speech). These continuities of British and US policy are not something that people like to dwell on too much. The programme even suggested that Saudi Arabia looked to the US as an ally because it was surrounded by hostile states like British-backed Iraq!

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Kofi Annan

says the Iraq war was illegal, because of the lack of a 2nd resolution (in a BBC interview, also reported by France Inter, 16 Sep).

Update (17 Sep) : the whole interview is to be broadcast Sunday on the BBC World Service. Of course, the 'it is illegal' had to be dragged out of Annan by the interviewer, but predictably that phrase has been seized upon - front page of  Le Monde's website yesterday. On France Inter's opinion piece Geopolitique this morning, speculation by Bernard Guetta about the timing : since the US policy in Iraq is a failure, Guetta claims, Annan is seeking to emphasize the UN's distance from it.

NYT had this : U_N_ Chief Ignites Firestorm by Calling Iraq

Update (23 Sep) - minor : grammatical or spelling

The constitution and the 35-hour week.

The beauty of Le Monde Économie is that it's possible to download the whole thing as a PDF file. 14 Sep 2004

Chirac, Schröder and Zapatero met Monday (13 Sep). There was the obvious photo-opportunity for the anti-Iraq (war, occupation ?) trio (Update: they're still dragging their feet about training for the Iraqi security forces, as agreed at the UN. Anything rather than give Bush a present before the election), but the media also focused on the contrast between Chirac's socialist counterparts' enthousiasm for the proposed EU constitution (especially Zapatero's) and the division among the French socialists.

Laurent Fabius is leading the 'no' camp, amidst accusations of opportunism

France Inter has had a lot on this. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a week or so ago, said the choice was between what is now proposed (treaty of Brussels II ? - the first was in 1965) and the current arrangements (treaty of Nice), not between Brussels II and some imaginary treaty.

Francois Hollande today (16 Sep) stressed the need to work with other socialists in Europe - Blair, Zapatero. Europe is the only defence against liberalisme (global capital) and the American hyperpower. Like defending the 35-hour week. If the PS rejects the constitution, it is likely the referendum on it will also be lost and hence the constitution. [It could go ahead if Britain rejects it, but not if France does, apparently.] So, the future of the whole world depends on the decision of the PS activists (militants). Far too important for it to be a matter of personalities, of course.

In reply to a listener's question (the UK has gained more influence by always saying 'no') : the people who would be most pleased by a 'no' are President Bush and the leader of the British government.

Everybody is waiting for Lionel Jospin to speak. He is expected to give an unenthousiastic 'yes'.

Some googling to check this out. The last 2 are big PDF files, giving contrasting views.

Oui à la Constitution

CONSTRUIRE L’EUROPE POLITIQUE - 50 propositions pour l’Europe de demain

The Essential Guide to the European Union - RUTH LEA - CENTRE FOR POLICY STUDIES - 2004

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Literature and Politics

I only started this weblog in order to comment on Salam Pax's. Now here I am rambling on about literature. Most untypical. Over the last 3 years, I've just saved a couple of things under 'Lit' : one was Tolstoy's novel about the struggle with the Chechens; the other was The Ballard tradition (accessed 21 Sep 2003), which I never got round to reading.

Here are a few comments from various weblogs and forums.

On Chechnya here, here and here(these last 2 have an estimated life expectancy of 1 month).

On Putin's suggestion that the West wanted to destabilize the Transcaucasus, even John Kampfner thought this was Soviet-era conspiracy theory type thinking. He was one of the journalists who had a 3 3/4 hour session with Putin. There should be more on this in The New Statesman, 11 Sept (not free).

Loretta Napoleoni had an interesting article in The Times , 9 Sep (again, chargeable). See also Poisoned by Putin, Anna Politkovskaya, September 9, 2004.

Some more of my comments.

On The future of the left ---------- Sudan- the Black Book
also here

Hannah Arendt and the Jewish people

Venezuela and Chavez

'Integristes'"in Islam and Catholicism

French culture

The French now have a translation of the 9/11 Commission report, according to Le Figaro.

Monday evening (13 Sep), TV had an interview with an Iranian woman Chahdortt Djavann, author of Que pense Allah de l'Europe ? She seems to be a militant laïciste, strongly opposed to le voile, seeing it as a flag of the islamists. I'm still not convinced that women who wear it are forced to, or that it's the role of the French state to force them not to wear it. Review here (fairelejour - pour la défense des libertés).

I could also have seen a French version (warning :big pdf) of The Hamburg Cell, if I hadn't gone out for a meal. This was on Channel 4 a couple of weeks ago (recorded but not yet seen it).

Back to those 2 books, they were both on sale at a quite good bookshop at Charles de Gaulle airport (T2) - nice to see a section entitled essais. I didn't buy either, but was more tempted by Qui a tué Daniel Pearl ? (20 Euros) or even by a pocket-sized copy of Racine's Phèdre (2.30). I remember trying to find one of those after a BBC Radio 3 broadcast in summer 2000 of a version of it translated into modern American by Paul Schmidt. I can't analyze why that play made such an impact on me. Maybe it was just the brilliance of the rendering into contemporary language, but it seemed like a new play in its own right, though it followed the structure of the French play quite closely. Racine's play is based on Euripides' Hippolytus and some scenes are an almost exact copy. Maybe it just innoculated me a bit against the anti-Americanism that seems to have become an intellectual near-orthodoxy in the last 3 years.

In the end, I didn't buy anything, deciding that I needed not something else to read, but a congenial place to read all the other things on my 'laptop' (including the 9/11 Commission report in English) . I forgot there was a bar near the departure gate. By the time I got there, it was only 20 minutes before boarding time. Still, I've got both Le Figaro and Le Monde to read. Le Monde Économique is a real treat to look forward to. This time they've got a look at the complexities of the 35-hour week. This is the kind of in-depth analysis of economic and social issues that we seem to get less and less of in our so-called liberal/left papers like The Guardian and The Independent, even less so now that they are so preoccupied with their anti-Iraq war agenda.

Correction : it's Le Monde Économie, stupid.

a French version of The Hamburg Cell,

Monday, September 13, 2004

E-mail to Azmi Bishara

Sent yesterday. His box seemed to be full. Al-Ahram - An antithesis is not an alternative 'all the major imperialist wars America fought in the 20th century were waged under Democratic presidents: the Korean War under Truman, Vietnam under Kennedy and Johnson, and Afghanistan under Carter.' Azmi, Korea ? Who do you think started that one ? Or do all "America's wars" automatically become "America's imperialist wars" ? What is happening to language (and hence clear thinking) here ? Best Regards, David P, UK.
Salam Pax - going down to Funky Town....again My comments : Somebody said on an earlier thread that they are disenfranchised. What the f... does that mean. They are unemployed. They have no jobs. They have no clean water or sewage systems and the rubbish is not collected. So, the people suffer from diseases like typhoid. As Rouala Khalaf, the FT's Middle East editor, reported (4 Sept 2004), after a visit to Sadr City, Saddam Hussein kept their education level low. The one thing they do have is 2 years of military service (and weapons). So, it seems we are still facing the same problem of an over-militarized society that Saddam Hussein faced after the Iran War (which he was himself largely responsible for and proceeded to solve in a disastrous way by invading Kuwait).