The British Labour Party is in the process of rehabilitating Tony Blair. In my latest for Al Jazeera, I follow Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s shot across the bow with one of my own, presenting irrefutable evidence of exactly what Blair knew before he joined Bush’s war against Iraq.
It is a fact that by early 2003, British intelligence had established that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction or a weapons programme. In several secret meetings in Amman with Iraqi intelligence chief Tahir Jalil al-Habbush, the head of MI6 for the Middle East Michael Shipster had already received detailed reports on the absence of Iraq’s weapons.
This story was confirmed by former MI6 chief Richard Dearlove to Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Ron Suskind who recounts it in considerable detail in his book The Way of the World. According to Dearlove, the meetings happened with the full knowledge of Bush, Cheney, George Tenet and Tony Blair. After the war, Suskind reveals, Habbush was resettled by the CIA and paid $5 million in hush-money to prevent him from undermining the official narrative.
Living Under Drones, a new report from Stanford and New York universities, was a difficult piece of fieldwork – I was with the law students in Peshawar as they tried to interview victims of the CIA’s drone war. But it has made an important contribution to the drone debate by identifying the innocent victims of the CIA’s reign of terror: the entire civilian population of Waziristan (roughly 800,000 people).
Until now, the most heated dispute has revolved around how many drone victims in the Pakistan border region are dangerous extremists, and how many children, women or men with no connection to any terrorist group. I have been to the region, and have a strong opinion on this point – but until the area is opened up to media inspection, or the CIA releases the tapes of each hellfire missile strike, the controversy will rage on.
An important new report from the Stanford and New York University law schools finds drone use has caused widespread post-tramatic stress disorder and an overall breakdown of functional society in North Waziristan. In addition, the report finds the use of a “double tap” procedure, in which a drone strikes once and strikes again not long after, has led to deaths of rescuers and medical professionals. Follow the conversation #UnderDrones
In this month’s TaxCast: A whistleblower reward threatens banking secrecy – where will the money go next? Bangladesh considers expanding a regressive VAT tax and Professor Prem Sikka on the neglected role of the Big Four accountancy firms aka the ‘pin-stripe mafia.’
Produced by the Tax Justice Network, the show is hosted by Naomi Fowler. Each 15 minute podcast follows the latest news relating to tax evasion, tax avoidance and the shadow banking system. The show features discussions with experts in the field to help analyse the top stories each month.
Save the Children has released a report on the suffering of Syria’s children, based mainly on interviews with children in Jordan’s very basic Za’atari refugee camp. The Guardian reports on it here. I contributed to a discussion of the report on the BBC World Service’s World Have Your Say programme. My interjections come between thirteen and seventeen minutes.
The classic 1937 film, written and narrated by Ernest Hemingway.
This documentary film uses footage of war and glimpses of rural Spanish life in its portrayal of the struggle of the Spanish Republican government against a rebellion by right-wing forces led by General Francisco Franco and backed by Nazi Germany and fascist Italy. The film was written by Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos (among others) and was narrated by Hemingway.
A highly informative interview with Nadia Hijab, Senior Fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies as well as Co-Founder and Director of Al-Shabaka: the Palestinian Policy Network.
In this episode of Palestine Studies TV we sit down with Nadia Hijab, Senior Fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies as well as Co-Founder and Director of Al-Shabaka: the Palestinian Policy Network, to discuss international aid to the Palestinians and it’s effects on Palestinian society, politics, and Israel’s occupation.
Palestine Studies TV is a project of the Institute for Palestine Studies.
In Amusing Ourselves to Death, a prophetic work on the impact of television on culture, the late media scholar Neil Postman compared two dystopias. One was George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four, a world of strict thought control and surveillance where dissent was drowned under screams of torture. The other was Aldous Huxley’sBrave New World, a culture of permanent distraction, immobilized by entertainment and diminished by superficiality. One society was watched by Big Brother; the other entertained by it.
Postman found Orwell’s vision irrelevant to western democracies. Modern society, he said, was less a prison than a burlesque. Like Huxley’s nightmare vision, culture was being impoverished by distraction and trivia, and thought devalued. The problem wasn’t so much entertainment as the habit of mind that resulted from being permanently stimulated and amused, leaving little space for reflection.
The case against television may have been overstated. It was after all a passive medium and individuals were free to walk away. Internet too in its first incarnation had limited claim on our lives. But things have changed dramatically with Web 2.0. We no longer just consume information; we also create it. Barriers to entry are lower and technical skills are no longer necessary. Combined with smart phones and wireless technology, we are in the midst of an epochal change. We are dependent on technology in a way we have never been before.
Ken Loach’s documentary about the 1984 UK Miners Strike and the Tory government’s vicious campaign of violence which finally subdued it. The film features the miners and their families experiences told through songs, poems and other art.