Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Friday, October 27, 2006

Just to make you feel better...

October's death toll so far

US 96
UK 1
Other 2

Security forces 144
Civilians 1,119

Source: The Guardian

And while I'm at it, it seems my freiends at The Economist have taken up the same chalice as I have below. Obviously, their argument is much more persuasive and succinct than mine. [God love their Style Guide. A book to live one's life by]

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The things you hear...

"Yeah, hi, is that Mary? ... My name's David XXXXXXXX. I'm chasing a fingerprint and criminal record test... Sometime in August... 19th XXX 1970... Yeah, I recently bought a brothel, and I need the test submitted to the Office of Fair Trading so I can begin trading."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Coherent Strategy

I am not really sure what Messrs Beazley and Rudd have in mind when they talk about a withdrawal from Iraq. Strangely enough, I am not really sure what Messrs Bush, Blair and Howard mean when they say they will "stay the course", or "change tactics but not strategy" (mindless, ridiculously nuanced guff, designed to convince American voters that their president hasn't turned the Fertile Crescent, the Cradle of Civilization, into a smoking, money-sucking blood-spattered bomb-site). So far, there are about 650,000 Iraqi civilians who will never know what any of these men mean—about 100 people are killed per day at the moment—and we're approaching 3,000 American GIs over the duration of this ill-judged colonisation (a significant number—approximately the same amount of people killed in the Felling of the Towers 5 years ago).

So basically, no-one in Australia has been able to articulate a strategy for resucitating this basket-case of a nation that we have played our part in creating. Without wanting to dwell on the descriptor "basket-case", the previous leader of the Australian Labor Party announced a "troops home by Christmas" policy. My question for him was, and remains: "If we unceremoniously remove our troops," (hang on, it would occur ceremoniously) "what intentions do we have towards these people whose land we have invaded and trashed?" Is the answer "Leave it ot the Iraqis to sort out, it's their country"? Is it "Let the Americans sort out their own mess, thereby creating their Middle Eastern Trojan Horse"? Mr Latham seemed to think the Australian electorate was so stupid as to accept that a four-word policy had some sort of logical rationale behind it that might help the poor people we have invaded to restore reliable electricity and potable water. Mr Howard certainly thinks all the Australian public wants is platitudes rather than substance, though his soundbites are shorter—"stay the course", "cut and run"—and Mr Beazley, well, poor old Kim.

Bottom line: neither of the current "left" reponse—troops out now—nor the "right" response—stay until the job is done—take into account that what was once a structured, relatively wealthy, secular nation ruled by a despot, can no longer stand on its own because of what has been done in our name; what is the US trying to achieve there? do we agree with these aims? do we blindly stay or is turning our backs the right way to go? Is there any way we can, as a nation, exert pressure on these modern-day conquistadores? I can name only one prominent "coalition" leader, of the Liberal Democrats in the UK, who has thought beyond platitudes:

Sir Menzies Campbell: New strategy must come through UN

The Independent, published: 24 October 2006

Any new strategy for Iraq requires an understanding of the mistakes that have led to the current crisis.

De-Baathification was excessive and unjust, and the disbandment of Iraqi security forces created a power vacuum. There have been prolonged delays in the transfer of political power, restoration of governance, and the training of Iraqi security forces; a failure to rebuild police forces; a paucity of civilian officials with sufficient expertise; and inadequate measures to re-establish services, with poor financial oversight.

At the same time, there has been a disproportionate use of military force, a failure to apply accepted counter-insurgency techniques or alternative means to minimise violence, and a system of abusive, indefinite detention of Iraqis.

It is now essential that through the United Nations, the Iraqi government and its allies develop a new strategy. What might it contain?

First, a regional contact group could strengthen and promote the constructive engagement of Iraq's neighbours, assist dialogue with insurgent groups and improve border controls. Iran and Syria can no longer be ignored.

Second, enhanced measures are required to train Iraqi security forces. Third, a comprehensive, UN-led disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration strategy is necessary to deprive illegal armed groups of their grip on power.

Fourth, there must be an end to systematic detentions by Iraqi and US forces. These are in breach of international law and have perpetuated the insurgency. Fifth, expanding United Nations and World Bank involvement in the reconstruction process would enhance delivery, transparency and accountability.

Sixth, Iraq needs a programme for the withdrawal of coalition troops, to counter the perception of occupation and illegitimacy. Iraqis view coalition forces not as liberators, but as occupiers.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

How to tell you really are ageing:

I left a note under someone's windscreen wipers today:
"Do you buy two parking meter tickets when you take up two spaces? Please park properly in the future."

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Forgive me father, for I have sinned

Another installment from the Chilean seashore. This time a camp for underprivileged boys...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Scenes from a Chilean Beach Resort

The beach:

The principal entertainment:

The icecream:

The cuisine:

The other entertainment: