Saturday, 23 March 2013

The Invasion of Iraq - 10 Years On

Well done George W. Bush. Kudos to you too, Mr. Blair. How many lives lost? Homes destroyed? Families torn apart forever? And for what exactly, remind me? Oh yes, to liberate the people of Iraq. Funny how the media, at least on this side of the pond, no longer keeps up the fa├žade of commenting on the “liberation of Iraq” and now correctly refers to it as “the invasion”. What exactly has been achieved by this act of aggression, 10 years on? Saddam Hussein is dead, yes. But in his place Iraq now has what has been called one of the most corrupt governments on earth. The country has been turned into a breeding ground for militant extremism, and Iran has been freed from the threat of a powerful hostile neighbour, allowing them to focus their energy on quietly building their nuclear capabilities while the rest of the world looks on in impotent horror.

Nobody talks about the weapons of mass destruction any more. Yes, I mentioned the WMD. The ones the war was fought over. The ones George W. said we'd find sooner or later. The ones dear Mr. Blair said Saddam could use to hit us within 45 minutes. If we wanted to hit a country which was clearly developing deadly weapons the target in 2003 was obvious. North Korea. (The fact that they kicked out the UN nuclear inspectors and said they were going to restart their nuclear programme for electricity purposes was a big hint). But of course that would've been too complicated. I'm sick and tired of the leaders of powerful countries treating their citizens like imbeciles. A little honesty now and again wouldn't go amiss. For example, “I don't care if Saddam has WMDs or not. He tried to kill my pa, so he's going down.” I get that argument. Or “Listen chaps, if we don't get alongside America on this one, we could get sidelined on the world stage. He really needs our help, and I trust him. Let's do this; I'm not sure of the details, but I think it's the right thing to do and we should stand by our special friend.” Loyalty, while admitting ignorance of the details; I get that too. Alas, we didn't get much honesty leading up to the invasion. It was instead a symphony of lies, half-truths and not-so-hidden motives (oil anyone?).

I used to have an online friend from Iraq, many years ago. She used to say that the Americans made things bad in Iraq and she wished they'd never come. Recent interviews by the BBC in Iraq echo the same sentiment. Perhaps those truly helped by the invasion, you know, those cheering crowds who are thrilled that the Americans and the British stormed in to give them back their freedom, are camera shy. Or maybe I just watch the wrong channels.

A lot of us have got over the anger triggered by the war in Iraq. Unfortunately it's not so easy for the Iraqis to do so, nor for the families of the departed soldiers; brave men and women who put themselves in harm's way, following their leaders' orders to the bitter end.

Mission accomplished, Mr. Bush?   

Friday, 22 March 2013

The Great British Weather

I can't believe it.  Here we are, at the end of March, and frosty winds assault me daily.  I feel as if I were living somewhere much closer to Antarctica than the map suggests. England, dear England.  Yet again you have disappointed me.  It's not enough for your football team (not soccer, FOOTBALL) to underperform on a regular basis, or for your politicians to woo voters with promises of great things only to turn around and impose illegal wars, tuition fee rises and modern marital rights in place of genuine economic and social advancement.  No, on top of it all, you have to choose to act like the Swiss Alps right now, at the Spring Equinox.  Rule Britannia.  Where is my spring?  Dare I hope for a summer?

We are the undisputed champions of miserable weather.  Not catastrophic weather, mind; earthquakes, typhoons and tsunamis are rarely seen, if at all.  I'm talking about that constant drizzle that can't decide if it's going to turn into rain or not, and takes entire day to make up its mind; the dark, long, cold and miserable nights which begin at 4pm for a sizeable proportion of the year.  Even when the sun decides to shine, it's either to taunt you for a few minutes before it ducks behind those lingering dark clouds, or to blaze with such ferocity that, with the accompanying humidity, you pray ferverently for a return to cooler times.  We British are never satisfied with the weather, and I think the weather knows it.  This must be why it has decided to punish us.  If this keeps up, I'll be moving to Bermuda.  I wish...

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

The Trouble with UK Politics

I remember when I first came to the UK in 2003.  I lived with my Uncle, a staunch Labour supporter, who made me understand that for the UK's immigrant population, there was no real alternative to a Labour government.  I believed that for years, until, like the animals in George Orwell's classic, I looked from pig to man and man to pig, and couldn't tell the difference any more.

What, really, is the difference between the Labour and Conservative Parties these days?  Even the Liberal Democrats have abandoned their "party of protest" status and jumped in bed with the Conservatives.  They have no identity whatsoever. 

I have no idea who to vote for in the next elections.  I don't even have a credible protest party to vote for!  No, the Monster Raving Loonie party doesn't count.

(Sigh).  A few years ago I was ready to defect from Labour to the conservatives.  I was ready to be a card-carrying member, actually.  Now, I seriously feel the Conservatives are a party designed to maintain the traditional status quo - the hereditary rich preserve their status, the 'old boys' are taken care of and rich corporates shake hands with the politically powerful behind closed doors, smiling as they draw up plans to throw crumbs to the deserving poor, to help them some way up the social ladder.  Not too far up, mind.  The status quo must be maintained, after all.  After all these years under a Conservative-led coalition, I now understand why my dear Uncle felt there was no option for socially mobile immigrants than Labour.  I just wish, dearly wish, I could look at the Labour party and believe that they'd produce credible alternative policies.

I'm rambling, I know.  I'm just upset right now.  Upset at a political system that prides itself on open theatre (read Prime Ministers Questions), ministers and shadow ministers jostling for cheap party-political points, the main goal apparently being to hold office.  The good of the country and its masses don't seem to be paramount in any politician's mind.

This is why I've often touted the idea of benevolent dictatorship.  An epiphany! Eureka!  I've finally got it!  The trouble with UK politics is that nobody cares, really.  The politicians don't care, the people don't care, everyone's just trying to live from day to day, to build up their careers and their lives.  People know politicians aren't working for them, politicians know that we know, and just do enough to convince us that there's no point changing them for an alternative set of rogues sitting across the room.

What's the solution?  Let's just abolish Parliamentary democracy altogether and hand powers back to the Monarchy.  Wait a second... Charles is next in line... (sigh)... I'm not so sure about that idea now....