Friday, February 14, 2003
The Stop the War Coalition has some nice new posters up around here. They feature a large "No", with the left-hand vertical of the "N" listing the things they're presumably against. Let's run through the list:
war on Iraq
Well, that's the point of their campaign - you've got to let them have that
axis of oil
Isn't that Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Iran? Sarcasm aside, a moderately witty line
So presumably smart weapons, directed at targets identified by highly detailed human and information-based intelligence would be OK? (see below)
Could be avoided by conducting the whole operation from 50,000 feet, but I doubt that's what they mean. This is a perfectly reasonable fear to conjure up to motivate doubts about a war, but since the American Way of War, dedicated to minimising casualties on its own side, is despised by a lot of members of the coalition, it makes little sense. This phrase also conjures up memories of the last Gulf War, which most folks concerned about their own troops would view as near exemplary.
See above. Also conjures images of Vietnam, a more realistic source of fears about committing troops, though one the last Gulf War did a lot to dispell.
I guess they mean nothing's worth the West paying a "blood price" for. There are a lot of people who'd have to sadly disagree, though there would be a case that a "blood price" should not be paid in this instance.
Yes, let's just revert to Dresden-style carpet bombing. I'm sure that would improve the situation. Or is this an objection to the safety of the pilots dropping the weapons in an unchivalrous manner? They can drop unguided weapons from a great height too... "Smart" bombs aren't perfect, depend on you knowing what your target is, and can develop false confidence in their accuracy. There are suggestions that with smart bombs, the Americans have attempted to hit targets close to civilian premises. If the bomb hits, well and good, but if it misses it can hit civilian dwellings. Those shots wouldn't necessarily be attempted without precision weapons. On the other hand, the only way to achieve the same effect without them would involve massive bombing campaigns. Even the highest estimates of dead in Afghanistan over the whole campaign pale against the casualities untargeted weapons could inflict in a night's bombing.
In any case, "smart bombs" surely avoid the use of "brute force" (on at least some definitions), reduce the risk of "friendly fire" and "body bags", and vastly lower the level of
Perhaps the full phrase didn't fit on the poster. But this boils down to a rejection of all use of force, under all circumstances. The often callous phrase "accidents happen" sums up a fact of life. The West's investment in precision weaponry is an attempt to avoid killing civilians, and is generally successful. The "more dead than in the Twin Towers" estimates of civilian deaths in Afghanistan implicitly accept that America tries to avoid civilian deaths, and that, compared to almost every other conflict in history, they have recently been spectacularly successful in this.
If Iraq's army doesn't stand and fight (and America has been doing its best to encourage them to stay out of the firing line through psy-ops work), then they'll live and their children will keep their parents. Attempts to minimise our own losses (though the American Way of War) and civilian deaths (though the use of smart bombs) really should keep the number of new orphans to a tragic minimum. Indeed, if you really believe sanctions have had a devestating effect on mortality rates in Iraq, then removing Saddam Hussein and lifting sanctions will reduce the number of new orphans, not increase them
Yup. Nice new colonies we've got out there in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, etc. Perhaps Bush is just too dumb to do it right.
Like not caring about the children Saddam orphans in his purges or through maintaining his people in poverty? Or do they mean the kind of hypocrisy where though you can't do everything to make the world a better place, or to make yourself more secure, you do some things? Remind me to vote for whoever proposes abolishing the criminal justice system and the NHS, on the grounds they don't catch every criminal, nor cure every who is ill
Best call off your human shields then... Seriously, what's this about? No-one should do anything heroic? Is this opposition to even a palace coup in Iraq, or have they just run out of things to oppose?
Just run out of things to oppose, it seems. Quick fixes aren't the solution to every problem. But is seems better than another 12 years of a sanctions regime to me, and probably to a lot of Iraqis. If they Stop the War Coalition want a solution other than a quick fix (and no, not a slow ground war in trenches...), perhaps they'd better suggest it. But the poster doesn't give a a clue what they think.
PS: The PDF I've linked to has a natty blood-stain across it. Tip to the poster designers: when you print this in mono-chrome, it just looks like there's dirt on the poster.
Cannot find Weapons of Mass Destruction
"These Weapons of Mass Destruction cannot be displayed
The weapons you are looking for are currently unavailable. The country might be experiencing technical difficulties, or you may need to adjust your weapons inspectors mandate.
Click the Regime change button, or try again later.
If you are George Bush and typed the country's name in the address bar, make sure that it is spelled correctly. (IRAQ).
If you are an Old European Country trying to protect your interests, make sure your options are left wide open as long as possible. Click the Tools menu, and then click on League of Nations. On the Advanced tab, scroll to the Head in the Sand section and check settings for your exports to Iraq. "
Tuesday, February 11, 2003
"There is a high level of agreement with the charges made by General Powell against Saddam and the Iraqi Government. For instance:
88per cent believe that Iraq continues to abuse the human rights of Iraqis;
74 per cent of respondents believe that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction;
71 per cent think that Iraq has made no attempt to disarm, despite being required to do by UN resolutions.
68 per cent think that Iraq is working to acquire more such weapons;
77 per cent think that Iraq continues to hide its weapons;
59 per cent believe that Iraq helps and funds international terrorists; and
49 per cent think that Iraq has links with al-Qaeda.
Most people (61 per cent) believe that Iraq poses a threat to Britain, while 34 per cent do not.
Despite these views, only 34 per cent believe that the British and US Governments have made a convincing case for military action against Iraq, with 57 per cent thinking they have not. ....
The poll discloses two main reservations about military action. First,... 86 per cent [think] that UN weapons inspectors should be given more time to establish whether Iraq is hiding weapons. Twenty-five per cent think that the inspectors have found enough evidence already to justify military action, against 66 per cent who disagree."
Frankly, I find this incomprehensible. As this graphic of more data shows, 47% of people think that "The task of UN inspectors has been made impossible as Saddam has shown he can easily hide or move weapons".
Now, I realise people don't find transitive logic easy when answering polls. But if you think that the inspectors' task is impossible, then how can you think they should be given more time? Yet 47 - (100-88) = 35% of respondents presumably held that view. The only justifications I can see are either "more time" = "until the bombing starts" or a very sophisticated view that more time is needed to demonstrate clearly that the inspectors are being thwarted. But that's a rather dubious position, as the longer inspections go on, the stronger the counter-claim that nothing is there to be found.
The other side of this is that if the long list of things that a majority or large plurality believe, plus Iraq being a threat to Britain, don't justify action, then what would? Of course, the disagreeing with the claim that Britain and America "have put forward a convincing case" is compatible with believing what they've said on other grounds, but I doubt many people parse the questions that closely.
As far as I can tell, the poll says this: Iraq's bloody dangerous, and in breach of UN resolutions. But we don't like Bush, are a bit iffy about Blair when he gets like this, and don't want to send our boys off to the Gulf to fight and die. Hence we want a UN resolution, at which point everything would be OK.
Perhaps the UN Association of Great Britain and Northern Ireland should be hijacked by people looking to explain more about how a lot of countries make their votes?
*the text has been reformated and the data reordered for ease of reading
"Scientific way to discover what the nation is thinking
How many people do you poll?
We interview a thousand people by telephone. Because some are reluctant to take part, this involves between 3,000 and 4,000 telephone calls.
We start polling on Friday evening and finish during Sunday afternoon.
How can only a thousand people accurately reflect the views of the whole population?
A randomly chosen cross- section of a thousand people has a very high chance of showing accurately what the population as a whole thinks, provided that, crucially, every type of voter has an equal chance of being polled.
A small but representative sample is much more likely to be accurate than a very large, but unrepresentative one (which is why phone-in polls are rarely if ever as accurate as ordinary polls).
How can you make sure that the people you poll are representative of the population?
Experience has shown that it is easier to reach a representative cross-section by telephone than by any other means. We pick telephone numbers from directories covering every region of Britain and add 1 to the final digit, thus generating entirely random numbers that will include unlisted numbers and cover every part of the country. These are dialled repeatedly so as to reach even very busy people. The final sample is adjusted, so that if we end up with slightly too many from one social or age group or too few of another, this is corrected before the results are calculated.
How accurate are poll findings?
A properly conducted poll on this scale should, 95 times out of a hundred, yield findings that are accurate within a margin of plus or minus 3 per cent. Bigger samples produce even greater accuracy, as long as they are representative.
Is internet polling not at least as likely as telephone polling to be accurate?
More than 95 per cent of British households have telephones. Only just over half of households have internet access. Moreover, this is not evenly distributed across the public: three quarters of over-65s and two thirds of social group DE (unskilled workers) do not have any access to the internet.
Why not poll people on mobile phones?
It is possible randomly to generate mobile phone numbers in much the same way as land-line numbers, but because there are no directories of mobile numbers by area, it would be harder to adjust for where people live. Mobile phone usage does not cover anywhere near as much of the population as ordinary telephones.
Are your polls politically as well as demographically representative?
We weight the whole sample to make sure that it is politically balanced. Voters are often reluctant to admit their views, or to answer poll questions at all, if the party they support is unpopular. So a sample that is otherwise representative can start off with too many supporters of one party. Unless this is corrected, this could produce a skewed poll. This is one of the reasons why most polls over the past ten years have put support for Labour far above what the party has actually achieved in elections. To correct this, we ask how people voted at the general election and adjust the number of past supporters for each party to the actual result of the election.
What other adjustments do you apply to poll findings?
Traditionally, pollsters leave out people who say they do not know how they will vote and calculate percentage support for parties excluding these “don’t knows”. This rests on the assumption that the don’t knows hold the same views in roughly the same proportions as those who will answer. Recent evidence suggests that this assumption is wrong, mainly because of the spiral of silence. We address this by reallocating don’t knows who are certain they will vote to the party they voted for before, using a formula derived from previous elections. This takes account of how good a predictor people’s past vote has been of future vote and has proved the most accurate method of adjustment in past elections.
How do you deal with the fact that a lot of the people you poll will not actually vote?
We ask people how likely they are to vote, in a way that makes it easy for people to admit that they may not."
Monday, February 10, 2003
"A few paragraphs that should have been in the original article were omitted; fortunately, advanced Happy Fun Technology has been employed to redact the article to a more fitting state:
Mr. Fischer recounted Germany's arguments for international inspectors to continue their efforts in Iraq, especially given new intelligence disclosed last week by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, and he contrasted those arguments with the American case for military action.
"I am not convinced," Mr. Fischer said. "This is my problem."
Rumsfeld then smacked Mr. Fischer in the head.
"You convinced now?" asked the American Defense Secretary. After Fischer did not reply, Rumsfeld smacked him again. "How 'bout now? [smack] Now? [smack] You convinced yet? [smack]" Fischer, crying like a little girl, tried to crawl under the podium, shouting that "Schroeder made me say that!".
Rumsfeld kicked the German foreign minister one last time, muttered "Lousy Hun" under his breath, and yielded the floor."
Guess it depends on your sense of humour. The rest's good too. Lord only knows how a "Common European Foreign Policy" would ever work...
England team to play France:
J Robinson (Sale Sharks); D Luger (Harlequins), W Greenwood (Harlequins), C Hodgson (Sale Sharks), B Cohen (Northampton); J Wilkinson (Newcastle), M Dawson (Northampton);
J Leonard (Harlequins), S Thompson (Northampton), J White (Bristol Shoguns), M Johnson (Leicester, capt), B Kay (Leicester), L Moody (Leicester), N Back (Leicester), R Hill (Saracens).
Replacements: M Regan (Leeds), G Rowntree (Leicester), D Grewcock (Bath), L Dallaglio (Wasps), A Gomarsall (Gloucester), P Christophers (Bristol Shoguns), J Simpson-Daniel (Gloucester).
" think Hodgson's selection at 12 is an inspired tactical decision - an absolutely fantastic move by Woodward and his cast of a thousand coaches.
On the one hand it has the same benefit as I thought the Bart selection would have, in that it gives Hodgson a chance to prove he has the big-match temperament against the best. There is no doubt at all he has the talent (in many ways, I have long thought Hodgson has more natural talent than Wilko, although I can't deny I'm a bit concerned by the extent to which his eyebrows almost meet in the middle). After last year's 6N I emailed a mate in Aus to give him a heads up on Hodgson, saying I thought he would be the No 10 of choice by RWC. I'm less sure of that now but nonetheless, I think he's prodigiously talented and where anyone gets the idea he has no pace is beyond me. I suppose it's a bit like those people who said Ben Cohen had no speed, Jason Robinson can't tackle and so on. In other words, people who don't know jack-shit about him, will look for a reason to doubt. Apart from anything, he will clearly be playing a 2nd 5/8 type role, in which case he doesn't need to be the fastest bloke on the pitch, he just needs to make the defence hesitate for a split second.
From the tactical perspective, they know exactly what Betsen was planning to do: he did it last year and completely screwed Jonny's game (to the extent, as I read in an interview a couple of weeks ago, the longer the game went on the less Jonny knew what to do to get himself out of trouble). These people are not in the job to set up meaningless macho battles; they know what Betsen is going to do, so they're trying to make him do something else. If Betsen concentrates solely on Wilko, Hodgson will have the time of his life. If Betsen gives Wilko a bit of space because he needs to think about the threat of Hodgson, the England back row and Cohen will kill him.
It seems that Woody is repeating the process he used to bring Jonny on, a few years ago. Then it was Mike Catteight who was the usher, this time it is Wilko himself. Hodgson has a beautiful natural sidestep, a great boot and is a top-class tackler, so ushering him to the highest level of rugby at 12 is a fanstastic thing to do.
I'm as happy to see him at 12 as I am to see White at 3. Superb.
The only improvement I believe Woodward might have made is ditching Back, putting Moody at seven and Dallaglio at 8. Apart from that, I'm as happy as a pig in pooh.
Did someone say picking Luger is a retrograde step? Idiot. "
Of course, he fails to mention Charlie's worrying lack of experience at centre (as I understand it, none...). But this is a BIG CALL, which will hopefully have capitalised rewards. If you need to know if Hodgson can play centre, you try him out in the big game with plenty of time before the RWC.
If Hodgson does well, great. If Hodgson does badly, there's time to look for other options. But you'll have seen how he performs against the very best, rather than trying to extrapolate from a game against Italy (say; no offence Italy...).
Also worthy of note is that this may eliminate the "who to play at full-back" issue. Hodgson seems to get Jason Robinson into moves when they're playing together at Sale - this could well carry over into England. And Mike Catt's role will be reprised, but with a superior runner, and someone we'd trust to kick goals. Call him Catteight.two. Excellent.
Or it'll all go tits up. But that's what makes watching fun.
(NB - being lifted off the ground is not what makes scrummaging against a 46-year-old prop with a team of oxen behind him fun. Just say no kids...)
Sunday, February 09, 2003
This isn't proof of active help in recent years. Nor is it proof that Chirac had his hand in the till - I have absolutely no reason to think that the case. However, prompted by Bremner, Bird and Fortune*, I did dig this out:
"BACKGROUNDER: FRANCE IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's first visit to a Western capital was to Paris in 1972, when he agreed to sell France huge quantities of oil. Jacques Chirac, then prime minister, paid a trip to Baghdad two years later.
France quickly became Iraq's largest weapons supplier after the Soviet Union. In 1976, Chirac [Prime Minister at the time] was centrally involved in providing Saddam with a nuclear reactor at Osirak. Israel bombed it in a pre-emptive strike in 1981."
I have absolutely no grounds for this speculation, and Iraq was on generally good terms with the west back then, I think. But say France had known of Iraq's intentions for the use of the reactor back in 1976. That would rather tie things together.
Only a wild theory, nothing to back it up, and who sold what to Iraq in the 70s and 80s hasn't exactly proven to shower anyone with glory.
* A UK satire show that's far better so far tonight than I'd expected this series to be... The scene was a mock interview with Chirac. Asked if the English and the French had a love-hate relationship, "he" replied:
"Mais qui. Sometimes you love us and we hate you, sometimes you hate us also..."
"ONE of the greatest treasure troves in history is to be displayed on the internet in a Russian initiative to resolve its ownership. The cache of several hundred million pounds’ worth of art was stolen by Soviet troops from Europe at the end of the second world war.
The Kremlin’s idea is to allow rightful owners in Germany and other European countries the chance to stake their claim, but the difficulty of proving ownership suggests that most of the haul will end up being officially declared the property of Russia.
More than 1m plundered items, including paintings by Manet, Degas and Tintoretto, will begin to be displayed on a website this week. Descendants of the original owners will have 18 months to search the site for lost treasures and put in a claim."
Dear Sir / Madam,
I am George Walker Bush, son of the former president of the United
States of America George Herbert Walker Bush, and currently serving as president of the United States of America. This letter might surprise you because we have not met neither in person nor by correspondence. I came to know of you in my search for a reliable and reputable person to handle a very confidential business transaction, which involves the transfer of a huge sum of money to an account requiring maximum confidence.
I am writing you in absolute confidence primarily to seek your
assistance in acquiring oil funds that are presently trapped in the republic of Iraq. My partners and I solicit your assistance in completing a transaction begun by my father, who has long been actively engaged in the extraction of petroleum in the United States of America, and bravely served his country as director of the United States Central Intelligence Agency.
In the decade of the nineteen-eighties, my father, then vice-president
of the United States of America, sought to work with the good offices of
the president of the republic of Iraq to regain lost oil revenue sources in
the neighboring Islamic republic of Iran. This unsuccessful venture was soon followed by a falling out with his Iraqi partner, who sought to acquire additional oil revenue sources in the neighboring emirate of Kuwait, a wholly-owned U.S.-British subsidiary.
My father re-secured the petroleum assets of Kuwait in 1991 at a cost of sixty-one billion U.S. dollars ($61,000,000,000). Out of that cost, thirty-six billion dollars ($36,000,000,000) were supplied by his
partners in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf monarchies, and sixteen billion dollars ($16,000,000,000) by German and Japanese partners.
But my father's former Iraqi business partner remained in control of the
republic of Iraq and its petroleum reserves.
My family is calling for your urgent assistance in funding the removal
of the president of the republic of Iraq and acquiring the petroleum assets of his country. Unfortunately, our partners from 1991 are not willing to shoulder the burden of this new venture, which in its upcoming phase may cost the sum of 200 billion dollars ($200,000,000,000). The costs of the long-term management of the country will be higher, but covered by the sale of the petroleum assets, which will then be under our control.
Without the funds from our 1991 partners, we would not be able to
acquire the oil revenue trapped within Iraq. That is why my family and our colleagues are urgently seeking your gracious assistance. Our distinguished colleagues in this business transaction include the sitting
vice-president of the United States of America, Richard Cheney, who is an original partner in the Iraq venture and former head of the Halliburton oil company, and Condoleeza Rice, whose professional dedication to the venture was demonstrated in the naming of a Chevron oil tanker after her.
I would beseech you to transfer a sum equaling ten to twenty-five
percent (10-25 %) of your yearly income to our account to aid in this important venture. The internal revenue service of the United States of America will function as our trusted intermediary. I propose that you make this transfer before the fifteenth (15th) of the month of April.
I know that a transaction of this magnitude would make anyone
apprehensive and worried. But I am assuring you that all will be well at the end of the day. A bold step taken shall not be regretted, I assure you. Please do be informed that this business transaction is 100% legal and extremely profitable. The Republic of Iraq is known to have the largest oil reserves * in the world, and all those who have made the transfer by the 15 of April will share in the petrol revenue for the following fifty (50) years. So far it seems that only the government of the United States of America and that of its 51st province are willing to take this bold step and share the revenue. Do not let yourself escape this golden opportunity.
I pray that you understand our plight. My family and our colleagues will
be forever grateful. If you wish to participate in this transaction, please reply in strict confidence to the contact numbers below, or simply do nothing. If you do not, please make it very clear in the loudest
Sincerely with warm regards,
George Walker Bush
* Ah, this isn't strictly true - it's Saudi again. But close enough.