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Tuesday, April 27, 2004

52 diplomats shred blair policies

this is notable, if for no other reason than diplomacy isn’t usually done in such a blunt, public way. i can only imagine the frustration these people must feel.

Dear Prime Minister,

We the undersigned former British ambassadors, high commissioners, governors and senior international officials, including some who have long experience of the Middle East and others whose experience is elsewhere, have watched with deepening concern the policies which you have followed on the Arab-Israel problem and Iraq, in close cooperation with the United States. Following the press conference in Washington at which you and President Bush restated these policies, we feel the time has come to make our anxieties public, in the hope that they will be addressed in parliament and will lead to a fundamental reassessment.

The decision by the US, the EU, Russia and the UN to launch a “Road Map” for the settlement of the Israel/Palestine conflict raised hopes that the major powers would at last make a determined and collective effort to resolve a problem which, more than any other, has for decades poisoned relations between the west and the Islamic and Arab worlds. The legal and political principles on which such a settlement would be based were well established: President Clinton had grappled with the problem during his presidency; the ingredients needed for a settlement were well understood and informal agreements on several of them had already been achieved. But the hopes were ill-founded. Nothing effective has been done either to move the negotiations forward or to curb the violence. Britain and the other sponsors of the road map merely waited on American leadership, but waited in vain.

Worse was to come. After all those wasted months, the international community has now been confronted with the announcement by Ariel Sharon and President Bush of new policies which are one-sided and illegal and which will cost yet more Israeli and Palestinian blood. Our dismay at this backward step is heightened by the fact that you yourself seem to have endorsed it, abandoning the principles which for nearly four decades have guided international efforts to restore peace in the Holy Land and which have been the basis for such successes as those efforts have produced.

This abandonment of principle comes at a time when rightly or wrongly we are portrayed throughout the Arab and Muslim world as partners in an illegal and brutal occupation in Iraq.

The conduct of the war in Iraq has made it clear that there was no effective plan for the post-Saddam settlement. All those with experience of the area predicted that the occupation of Iraq by the coalition forces would meet serious and stubborn resistance, as has proved to be the case. To describe the resistance as led by terrorists, fanatics and foreigners is neither convincing nor helpful. Policy must take account of the nature and history of Iraq, the most complex country in the region. However much Iraqis may yearn for a democratic society, the belief that one could now be created by the coalition is naive. This is the view of virtually all independent specialists on the region, both in Britain and in America. We are glad to note that you and the president have welcomed the proposals outlined by Lakhdar Brahimi. We must be ready to provide what support he requests, and to give authority to the UN to work with the Iraqis themselves, including those who are now actively resisting the occupation, to clear up the mess.

The military actions of the coalition forces must be guided by political objectives and by the requirements of the Iraq theatre itself, not by criteria remote from them. It is not good enough to say that the use of force is a matter for local commanders. Heavy weapons unsuited to the task in hand, inflammatory language, the current confrontations in Najaf and Falluja, all these have built up rather than isolated the opposition. The Iraqis killed by coalition forces probably total 10-15,000 (it is a disgrace that the coalition forces themselves appear to have no estimate), and the number killed in the last month in Falluja alone is apparently several hundred including many civilian men, women and children. Phrases such as “We mourn each loss of life. We salute them, and their families for their bravery and their sacrifice,” apparently referring only to those who have died on the coalition side, are not well judged to moderate the passions these killings arouse.

We share your view that the British government has an interest in working as closely as possible with the US on both these related issues, and in exerting real influence as a loyal ally. We believe that the need for such influence is now a matter of the highest urgency. If that is unacceptable or unwelcome there is no case for supporting policies which are doomed to failure.

Yours Faithfully,

[Complete list of signatories – alphabetical order]
Brian Barder; Paul Bergne; John Birch; David Blatherwick; Graham Boyce; Julian Bullard; Juliet Campbell; Bryan Cartledge; Terence Clark; David Colvin; Francis Cornish; James Craig; Brian Crowe; Basil Eastwood; Stephen Egerton; William Fullerton; Dick Fyjis-Walker; Marrack Goulding; John Graham; Andrew Green; Vic Henderson; Peter Hinchcliffe; Brian Hitch; Archie Lamb; David Logan; Christopher Long; Ivor Lucas; Ian McCluney; Maureen MacGlashan; Philip McLean; Christopher MacRae; Oliver Miles; Martin Morland; Keith Morris; Richard Muir; Alan Munro; Stephen Nash; Robin O’Neill; Andrew Palmer; Bill Quantrill; David Ratford; Tom Richardson; Andrew Stuart; David Tatham; Crispin Tickell; Derek Tonkin; Charles Treadwell; Hugh Tunnell; Jeremy Varcoe; Hooky Walker; Michael Weir and Alan White.

posted by roj at 9:25 am  

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

happy 10th birthday

south african democracy

posted by roj at 9:19 am  

Saturday, April 24, 2004

keeping abc honest too

hot on the heels of the new york times mistake, we got another hot one from abc….


geography quiz in the morning! 25% of your final grade!

at least get the headlines right….

update (2004.04.25): more than 30 hours later, the headline remains.

posted by roj at 5:02 pm  

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Harry Babbitt

ha ha ha HA ha

posted by roj at 3:40 am  

Friday, April 23, 2004

the new york times runs an old sat image

ok, this is just irresistable…. i’ve been poking around for satellite images of the north korean explosion site since it happened, and i’m a bit surprised that none are available… at least no good ones. anyway, that means i’ve seen a few images of the area lately. and then i saw one again….

but more surprising is that the new york times is running a year-old image with a big black spot near a rail yard and not disclosing that it’s a year old. i can only assume they picked this nice, black scorched-looking spot because it’s the only thing in the image that looks… blown up. sorta. only it’s not. it was like that a year ago.

the new york times front page, with the caption on the popup version of the image “Estimates of the death toll in a huge train blast at a North Korean railroad station varied today from 50 to several hundred, with thousands injured.” the popup version of this image is 217k:


the original image from digital globe is dated may 13, 2003. this version has been scaled down, rotated and the area of interest highlighted, but the original is here. (warning: that’s a 4-meg image). the popup version of this image is 470k:


wow. so the meta-roj blog busts the new york times? amazing.

[thanks to straup and wiredfool for the lead]

posted by roj at 3:35 pm  

Friday, April 23, 2004

no coffins – one lesson learned from vietnam

we may not learn many lessons from previous wars, but the bush administration has definitely learned to avoid showing the price of war.

war has become abstract.

“protecting the privacy of the families” is the official party line. i’m just guessing here, but i think, maybe, some of those families wouldn’t mind sharing the truth – war is not abstract to them anymore.

posted by roj at 4:10 am  

Friday, April 23, 2004

diebold woes in california

diebold has been a fixture around here since the dawn of the meta-roj blog, so i was quite anxious about the big news coming from california this week. unfortunately, i’ve been a bit busy and i haven’t had time to really dive in too deep, so i can’t provide some brilliant insightful commentary of my own (or even really borrow someone else’s!), so what i’ll do is share these tidbits and point you in some directions to follow on your own, should the issue move you….

there are two laws introducedin california to ban electronic voting. the relevant amendment seems to be attached to sb 530 and sb 1723.

sb 530 and sb 1723

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a city or
county may not use any form of direct recording electronic device as
part of its voting system for the November 2, 2004, general election.

the effect of this language would seem to preclude use of the diebold equipment in the california general election unless some really substantial changes are made to the equipment. these amendments are offered in response to the conclusions of the voter systems panel convened to study the problem.

problem? what problem? 573 of 1,038 polling places in san diego county failed to open on time because of diebold computer malfunctions. and that’s just the beginning. i guess your vote doesn’t count if the machine isn’t working while you’re at the polls.

the california secretary of state has a page providing the source materials and reports on the march 2, 2004 elections and the performance of the voting machines. lots and lots of reading material here.

Diebold President Robert J. Urosevich

We’re not idiots, though we may act from time to time as not the smartest

posted by roj at 4:00 am  

Friday, April 23, 2004

the bbs documentary (revised)

this is something in which i had a miniscule contribution, so it’s time to congratulate jason scott on the bbs documentary. via slashdot, apparently the project has reached the major milestone of “the wrap.”

[update: title changed to limit spam targeting]

posted by roj at 3:45 am  

Thursday, April 22, 2004

are we safer yet?

Airport Screeners Do Poorly, Panel Told [washington post, registration possibly required]

“The failure rates are comparable from 1987 to today, ” said Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.).

“We really ought to be doing a better job for all the money we’re spending,” said Mica, who threatened to subpoena Ridge and the others if they fail to respond to his request for a meeting.

at least we don’t have to worry about children or fish hijacking planes anymore. except that the fish made it through.

posted by roj at 11:53 pm  

Thursday, April 22, 2004

continuity in representation act

passing 306-97, h.r. 2844, the continuity in representation act cleared the house.

this law requires special elections within 45 days if more than 100 of 425 representatives are killed.

no word on diebold‘s plans to wipe out 100 or more representatives to pump up business, but expect a press release any day now…

posted by roj at 11:45 pm  
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