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‘Rich Man’s War – Poor Man’s Blood’

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I found this photo recently, taken 13 years ago on this day at an anti-war protest held here in Cork. I’ve re-touched the image only for effect and re-posted it below.

Rich Man's War...Back in 2003 we were being told that the US led invasion of Iraq was all about finding those “weapons of mass destruction”. On the other hand the banner suggests a different narrative to do with oil and greed. From the vantage point of 2016 I thought it might be worth it to take a quick look over what we now know. Here it is:

CNN ran an article on April 15th 2015 about the Iraq war. In Why the war in Iraq was fought for Big Oil the following was noted:

  • Before the 2003 invasion, Iraq’s domestic oil industry was fully nationalized and closed to Western oil companies. A decade later, the same industry was largely privatized and utterly dominated by foreign firms.
  • ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and Shell Oil all set up operations in Iraq once the war was ‘officially’ concluded.
  • A number of smaller American oil service companies are also doing business in Iraq.  One particular company that is busy there is Halliburton, a firm linked to Dick Cheney who was George W. Bush’s running mate in 2000 US Presidential election.
  • Also noteworthy is the fact that Western oil companies are now at the head of efforts to produce more oil from Iraq oil fields – considered to the among the largest and most lucrative in the world.
  • CNN notes that this did not happen by accident either. “Representatives from ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Halliburton, among others, met with Cheney’s staff in January 2003 to discuss plans for Iraq’s postwar industry. For the next decade, former and current executives of western oil companies acted first as administrators of Iraq’s oil ministry and then as “advisers” to the Iraqi government.
  • The Bush Administration also led the way in forcing through contracts in the Iraq oil industry hat are highly favourable to Big Oil. CNN again: These contracts “provide exceptionally long contract terms and high ownership stakes and eliminate requirements that Iraq’s oil stay in Iraq, that companies invest earnings in the local economy or hire a majority of local workers.”

What about the other side of the equation – Poor Man’s Blood. Business Insider, drawing on data from the Iraq Index [The Brookings Institute] and the Costs of War Project, reported as follows last year. To date:

  • 134,000 civilians have been killed directly due to the Iraq War.
  • 2.8 million persons remain either internally displaced or have fled the country.
  • 655,000 persons have died in Iraq since the invasion that would not have been expected to die if the invasion had not occurred. This particular piece of data has its origins in a study explained here and published by The Washington Post.
  • The cost of war has been estimated at $2.2 trillion. This figure referring to costs up to 2014 only. It is expected that they are will rise further.

Oh, and those “weapons of mass destruction”?  They haven’t been found… I guess you could say the protest banner was spot on.

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Written by Kevin Doyle

March 8, 2016 at 3:17 pm

Anarchist Lens: What’s Wrong With This Photo?

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Mick Barry Says...What’s Wrong With This Photo?

For a lot of people, the photo on the right is just another snapshot of a candidate looking for votes in the forthcoming Irish general election. On one level, that’s a perfectly fine way to view the photograph. However, the picture also captures a fault line in left politics that is worth looking at.

The anti-water tax campaign is the most serious movement to emerge, to date, in Ireland in opposition to austerity. It is a campaign with plenty of strands to it but one thing is clear: community (and collective) action has been decisive to its success. Although resistance has been at times sporadic and uneven, no one doubts that the current upsurge in struggle against water meters is one of the largest mobilisations seen in the country for decades. Large numbers of ordinary citizens have been drawn into political action in which their own self-organised efforts have been decisive to the outcome. As a result it has also been, for many people, an empowering experience that has renewed an awareness of the existence of community, shared interests and the power of taking common action to achieve goals.

“Bigging-Up”

The Barry photo, however, is not about any of this. Although the candidate is a socialist (and a member of the Socialist Party now trading as the Anti-Austerity Alliance) you will notice that there is little – sorry, nothing – on his banner about collective struggle. Instead the focus is on the candidate. The banner, prominently on display during a recent protest march in Cork, is mostly about ‘bigging-up’ the candidate as a potential spokesperson for the anti-water tax campaign. This is in turn the core idea behind the Right2Change platform which aims to get the anti-water tax movement to buy into the idea that ‘trusted’ politicians will sort out the water tax issue on our behalf. Needless to say for aspiring politicians this is a win-win situation: they get to promise that electing them is the solution to all our problems and in turn they use the grassroots campaign as a platform on which to build their careers.

The bitter disappointment that was Syriza (in Greece) has not quite sunk in for many on the electoral left in Ireland. For that reason many still see Syriza’s strategy as the way forward. Recall that it took the Coalition of the Radical Left (translation of Syriza) nearly eleven years to reach their dream of forming a government in Greece. During those eleven years considerable time and energy was put into the electoral project. When they finally made it into power they discovered that they were toothless in the face of the establishment. Capitalism, let’s face it, is an entrenched system of power and privilege. It won’t be unseated by a few parliamentarians throwing temper tantrums. Embedded authoritarianism and a resourceful State structure stand bang smack in the way of even basic progress. In the end, in Greece, Tsipras and a range of politicians were humiliated and they couldn’t do anything about it.

A Hefty Price-tag

The more ambition left politicians in Ireland have a Syriza style movement (and strategy) in mind – minus the tragic end, one hopes! They are hoping to see this emerge from the current anti-water tax fight. On one level this looks attractive: after all what could be simpler than voting austerity out of existence?  But really, I ask you, is it going to be that easy? More importantly an unspoken, hefty price-tag  has to be paid if the electoral route is followed.

Time and again grassroots movements have experienced a decline in momentum and power as soon as they switch to an electoral focus . An example of of this was the fate of the German Green Movement in the 80s and 90s analysed here. A more relevant and recent example it that of Podemus in Spain. We Can (translation of Podemus) was formed in 2014 and has  shamelessly cashed in on the network of organisations created in Spain from 2011 onwards to fight austerity. As the Podemus electoral project grew in scope it sucked energy and activism from those organisations which had led the fight against austerity in the communities – for example the anti-eviction movement PAH. Not only that, as Podemus grew, it in turn began to shed its more radical political positions in favour of a business friendly political image. Where have we seen that before?

There is a real danger now that the same outcome could come to pass here in Ireland in the anti-water tax campaign.

The Fault Line?

No!So back to the fault line in left politics. What is it then? The alternative view of how change can be brought about involves avoiding the parliament (and persona based politics). Instead the aim is to resource the grassroots movement that has emerged around the anti-water tax campaign and then extend it outwards so that it can link up with and encourage similar developments in other areas where social conflict is happening. So important strikes need support. Direct action efforts around homelessness needs support. The aim all time is to build popular activism, to move in a horizontal direction as opposed to a vertical one; to emphasis participation and democracy as much as possible. To take one example, a crucial fight is happening right now in respect to the LUAS strike in Dublin. The Establishment has realised this and the LUAS workers have been pilloried in the media at every turn. Will the LUAS workers have to fight on alone or will a grassroots solidarity emerge to help them win their battle.?How could that type of solidarity be built and what shape would it take? These are matters that a grassroots movement could and should address.

An alternative strategy then would never have a banner like Barry’s near it. The alternative banner would show a large group of people – similar to what is shown just above – under the slogan: Tgether we are strong. Together we have the power. Somehow that slogan just doesn’t seem to fit with getting elected to the parliament. But therein lies the important difference.

The FBI’s Long Arm…

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Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center (TEDAC)

The FBI’s Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center (TEDAC)

According to legend the FBI always gets its man – leaving sexism aside for the moment.   Whether true or not, a recent case undoubtedly highlighted the extremely long reach of the US’s famous law enforcement agency.  The case involved Anis Abid Sardar, an Iraqi national, who was working in London as a taxi driver.  Last month Sardar was convicted of killing a US soldier in Iraq in 2007 and for this heinous crime he has been sentenced to serve a minimum of 38 years in prison – in the UK.

It seems that Anis Sardar became involved in the resistance to the US occupation of Iraq and took up making improvised explosive devices or IEDs.  One of the bombs that he made exploded under a troop carrier west of Bagdad in 2007 killing “34-year-old Sergeant First Class Randy Johnson, of 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment” . Some months after the attack Sardar was fingerprinted as he entered the UK having travelled via Syria.  Seven long years passed and then he came into the sights of the FBI.  The Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Centre (TEDAC) identified his fingerprints on a number of devices that were similar to those that killed Randy Johnson.  They issued a warrant for Sardar’s arrest and just last month he was convicted in what Sue Hemming of the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service described as a “landmark prosecution”.

Now you might ask what is TEDAC?  Well that’s part of what’s interesting .  The FBI’s Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Centre is located at the FBI Laboratory in Quantico in Virginia.  In the FBI’s own words it is the “US Government’s single repository for IEDs that have been collected or are of interest to the United States government.”  To put it another way ‘it’s the bomb library of America.’

The FBI are extremely proud of TEDAC.  It comprises a huge warehouse to where are repatriated the remnants of any device used against US agencies or its armed forces.  Right now there are thousands of boxes in the warehouse awaiting examination (see above).  When a device explodes anywhere and the target is US troops, the fragments from the entire conflagration are gathered up, logged and transported all the way back to said TEDAC facility in the USA.  Just imagine the logistics involved here for one moment.  The gathering of everything from a bomb blast must take place; the attention to detail must be paramount; everything is then packed up and posted in over to Virginia.

Amazing right.  Take a look at the photo above of the warehouse and those racks of crates and you get some indication of the huge effort that is taking place.  Every single one of those crates is a crime waiting to be solved.  This is cutting edge detective work alongside a cutting edge commitment to justice too.  Am I not right?

Eventually these bits of metal are examined and checked, and sometimes, as with the case of Sardar a prosecution results.  The FBI notes that ‘Since its creation in 2003, TEDAC has examined more than 100,000 IEDs from around the world and currently receives submissions at the rate of 800 per month. Two million items have been processed for latent prints—half of them this year alone.’  An FBI spokesperson added, ‘We have a lot of experience identifying IED components and blast damage.  As a result we have identified over 1,000 individuals with potential ties to terrorism.’

So there you are.  Shit hot, right?  TEDAC and everything associated with it is a commitment to justice that is second to none, right ?Except… Wait a minutes… What about…?

A killer droneThe question is HOW do you square up this dedicated pursuit by the FBI of men like Sardar with its polar opposite: the mounting tally of deaths associated with the US’s drone bombing campaign?

Before I set down another letter on WordPress, let me hasten to point out here that I’m not intending FOR ONE MOMENT to get into the matter of whether or not the US is entitlement to wander about the globe killing what it terms ‘legitmate’ targets at will.  That is not for now.  Afterall, a lowly writer such as I, who am I to question the right of the United States to execute at will those it deems to be its enemies?

Instead I will confine myself here to what are termed collateral deaths associated with this drone campaign?  In a recent interview regarding the Naming The Dead project, Jack Serle of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism  said, ‘We don’t have an absolute figure on how many people have been killed, but our best estimate is about 2,318. I don’t think it’s realistic to think that we’ll be able to name every single one of them, partly because a lot of people have died anonymously.”  To date in fact NTD have managed to name just over 700 individuals.

Site of a suspected U.S. drone strike on an Islamic seminary in Hangu district, bordering North Waziristan, November 21, 2013.

For me it beggars belief that in t his day and age this sort of murderous activity can go on with no one or no organisation able to stop it, but there you are it does.  The point however is that with regard to the US’s drone bombing campaign, significant numbers of civilians are being killed each week.  This is simply a war crime, but one that is happening week in and week out now.  The drone bombing campaign contravenes all the usual standards of conduct in war – where reasonable effort must be made to avoid the targeting of civilians.  And in almost all the cases I know of there isn’t even a war on in the first place.  The US is targeting  and killing at will in areas of the world where it sees fit.  Which puts TEDAC and the FBI’s investigative prowess into a somewhat different light, no?

The Naming The Dead project got underway due to the fact that in many of the cases where drone bombings have been conducted, the extent of the destruction and the arbitrariness of the attacks is such that no one knows often how many or who has died.  It is not unusual on any day to have on the newswires a brief report that a drone bomb attack has taken place.  In such reports the general number of casualties is reported on.  The names of the victims are rarely given… and the world moves on.  [Rest assured that no stellar effort by FBI or anyone else for that matter is going to take place in regard to these murderous attacks; in fact the victims’ families will be doing well if they manage to recover the remains of their loved ones.]

As I composed this post, I noted that the following report appeared on the wires.  It is entitled, Fresh US drone strikes have claimed the lives of at least 14 people in the troubled eastern part of Afghanistan.   To summarize the information in this report.  There were six casualties on Friday when a group of people were targeted by a US Drone flying over eastern Paktia Province.  ‘Witnesses and local resident say the victims were civilians, but Afghan officials insist that they were all Taliban militants.’  Furthermore, it is noted that later on that same Friday, ‘eight people were killed in another US drone strike in the eastern Nangarhar Province.’ The following is also noted: ‘The US has stepped up its drone campaign across Afghanistan in recent weeks.’  And the following was also noted:

  • June 5th at least 15 civilians lost their lives in a US drone strike in Alishir district of Khost province near the border with Pakistan. Local residents said the victims were attending the funeral of a local tribesman.
  • On June 4th Separate drone attacks across Nangarhar had claimed at least 17 lives the day before.

If you wish to know more about the extent and nature of the US’s drone war, the following pdf is worth examining.

So there you have it.  One the one hand people are beavering away in TEDAC day in and day out, scouring fragments of metal, powering up scanning electron microscopes, piecing together tiny fragments of prints – generally DOING THEIR DAMNEDEST to find those criminals out there in the world.  While on the other hand, under the same grand canopy that is US Justice and Law Enforcement, people are being blown to smithereens at will, with such gay abandon that in many cases it isn’t even known who is being killed or who they even are.

I guess you’ll drawn your own conclusions from all of this but I know one thing for sure, the days of having one law for one set of people in the world and another for another set, is long over with.

 

Related Links and Articles

Living Under Drones

Targetting the Rescuers

Written by Kevin Doyle

June 20, 2015 at 12:58 pm

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