Iain Dale says he has gotten quite an angry response from conservative bloggers on his statement regarding the Palestinians. While I can't say I agree with his stance on that issue entirely, I've been an admirer of his for some time now, and I have to take an angry exception to some of the quibblings of one of his readers. It may not be my place to do this, but damn if I'm going to keep quiet about something that upsets me as much as this did.
Stick with me, here. I promise, I have a point.
Mr. Dale says he has "only ever met one American who has ever understood the Irish issue" and that we tend to "look at Ireland through some very rose tinted spectacles". Well, he's right. Most of us do. But I've been reading about the area and its troubles for over ten years, and to be perfectly honest, know more about it than most British people I talk to. Maybe that's why I post so much about it in here.
It's those "rose tinted spectacles" and their view that first attracted me to the issue a decade ago. It's always painted as some grand struggle for freedom, a nation attempting to recover her identity and territory, a people sacrificing, sometimes with their own lives, to see this struggle through to its ultimate aims.
Mr. Dale, I ripped those "rose tinted spectacles" off after ten minutes of serious investigation into the true history of the region. Then I threw them on the ground and stomped them into pieces, and have done my best to see that everyone of my fellow countrymen and women that I have possibly had the slightest influence over might do the same. I've had little success. Alas, my voice is a small one. But I intend to keep using it.
So here's what his gentle reader wrote, in comparison of Israel/Palestine to Britain/Ireland:
To a guy like me, watching from across the ocean, it does seem to be a bit of a case of the pot calling the kettle black here. To take my own advice, I'll be specific: anti-Catholic discrimination, prison conditions so bad they inspire hunger strikes to the death, frequent allegations of torture, demonstrators being shot over the years, people murdered outside of the UK (!) by the SAS, paramilitaries that a lot of folks say are tolerated by the UK... not a pretty list, sir. What justifies that? Don't the Irish deserve their Ireland - it's not as if you need it, and the Protestants were mostly English settlers anyway. They still wave the flag of old England a lot, at least when I see them on TV. Why not just let them come back?
First of all, this is the flag of England:
And this is the flag of the United Kingdom, of which Northern Ireland is still a part of:
I've never seen the former displayed in Northern Ireland. Perhaps this is the flag the writer speaks of:
An unofficial flag, popular among Unionists.
Second, allegations of torture, innocents being mercilessly shot, etc., etc., etc. As Mr. Dale pointed out, none of this has been substantiated. The day that it is, I'll post a correction here, complete with an apology. Until then, find and offer proof or shut up about it.
Finally, the part that really got to me, the part that I've spent the last ten years desperately trying to de-mystify in the minds of Americans: "prison conditions so bad they inspire hunger strikes to the death".
Here are the sort of things that the ten men who commit suicide by self-imposed starvation in 1981 were collectively either convicted of or known to have taken part in: murder, theft, extreme violence, intimidation of neighbors whom they felt did not display enough sympathy for their cause, car hijacking, bomb construction and detonation, planting of land mines, extortion, possession of weapons and ammunitions, and vandalism. Bobby Sands and two of his associates ran away from the scene of a police shootout, after bombing a furniture store, abandoning two of their wounded "comrades". This is hardly a definitive list.
Now, let's review a list of the "strikers" demands:
*To be exempt from wearing prison clothes.
Previous prisoners who were allowed to wear their own clothes were known to have hidden contraband in them. Not wearing easily recognizable prison uniforms also makes escaped convicts less distinguishable from the regular population.
*To be exempt from prison work.
It wasn't chain gang-type work these men were expected to perform. They were required to keep their own cells, toilets, and showers clean. They refused to do so.
*To have freedom of association with fellow political prisoners.
Again, prisoners who were allowed this freedom in the past used the time to plot further murderous activity and were know to have set up make-shift terrorist training schools.
*The right to organize educational and recreational facilities, to have one weekly visit, to receive and send out one letter per week and to receive one parcel per week.
Visits and educational materials are not unreasonable demands. However, most of these "visits" involved passing information regarding future attacks, and by "education", these men did not mean reading up about the Battle of Hastings or learning for the sake of self-improvement.
*Entitlement to full remission of sentence.
To be cleared of all criminal charges that they were convicted of in a fair trial. Enough said.
These were not demands for basic amenities. These were demands that essentially asked that the prison and state contribute to the furthering of their criminal activity. If conditions for these men in the Maze were in fact bad, it was by their own doing. They were known to have urinated on the floor of their cells and spread their feces on the walls in protest, and then refuse to clean their messes up.
If Sinn Fein ultimately wants to see a united Ireland, and uses politics alone to acheive this, as Gerry Adams so excels at pretending they do, I have no problem with that. Distribute pamphlets. Debate. Utilize any non-violent method of persuasion available. But to subject people to constant inclemency, force them to live in fear and sadness, is completely unacceptable. The fact that some politicians have seen it fit to negotiate with these people is beyond my understanding. But then again, I don't have to live with it, and the people that do need to sort out the solution for themselves.
But politics alone won't see a united Ireland. Put it up for a vote to the people in Northern Ireland tomorrow, and the Republicans would lose by one of the most embarrasing landslides in the history of free elections. Perhaps that's why the IRA employs violence - because intimidation is the only option they have available to acheive their ends.
So, fellow Americans, have sympathy for the cause of a united Ireland. Dream about it, hope that one day it will be true. But please, do not construct imaginary heroes out of the molds of killers and thugs like Bobby Sands and Francis Hughes. Do not demonize the government of the Britain as some evil, oppressive regime subjecting the people of Northern Ireland to daily torture and depravation. Do not idealize a situation that is real, is bloody, and has claimed the lives of thousands of people.
The Northern Ireland Secretary of State, John Reid, has told the Commons that more is needed from the IRA than "simply a ceasefire". ...
There have been allegations the IRA trained Colombian guerillas in weapons and was involved in a raid on a police Special Branch office at Castlereagh in Belfast on 17 March.
Dr Reid said that he believed the leadership of republicanism wanted the peace process to work, but he said there must be an end to all paramilitary attacks and targeting. ...
However, Mr Adams again maintained that the IRA ceasefire was intact, and said people should focus on other issues.
Non-terrorist english translation: Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain! Nothing to see here, folks! Move along, now!
Britons are heading to the polls today for local elections. Most reports indicate mass apathy, though the BBC is reporting the turn-out so far as higher than expected.
Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie cast their votes at a polling station close to Downing Street, while Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith was set to vote in his Chingford constituency and Lib Dems leader Charles Kennedy got lost on the way to his polling place and had to be redirected to the proper area by uniformed police officers. *
*guilty, guilty. I made the last part up. The real story says something like "he voted in London" or whatever. He's just such an easy target.
Having made such an utter mess of things in the Middle East, George Bush has an increasingly personal interest in setting matters right.
Okay, I'm not quite sure what to do with that one.
For 15 months the US president persisted with an irresponsibly semi-detached policy that allowed Israel's prime minister Ariel Sharon a destructive latitude and played into the hands of Palestinian extremists.
If Mr. Bush had been more focused on these troubles the suicide bombings would never have happened. Uh-huh. Sure.
In the US, Christian fundamentalists and conservative Republicans co-opted Israel into their wider, post-September 11 struggle against international terrorism and the "forces of evil", an unholy alliance encouraged by Mr Sharon.
Again, um...er...well, speechless.
In Britain and other parts of Europe, meanwhile, with public opinion shifting towards the Palestinians, criticism of Israel became confused with fears of a revived anti-semitism.
Actually, it was the vandalism of synagogues and formal announcements by police authorities asking Jews to try to not be so darn Jewish in public in order to avoid being attacked that aroused those fears. Sympathy for people without a homeland is one thing; thinking that maybe the whole idea of blowing up people and driving them into the sea in an effort to wipe their race off the planet is groovy is another.
...Mr Sharon's blunt defiance of repeated US demands that he withdraw there and elsewhere...
One moment, the US is semi-detached, the next moment, we're making demands. What a silly lot, we are.
...and now, his outrageous refusal to cooperate with a UN inquiry.
One group of protestors has split off from the main group and have found themselves cut off. There is the potential for things to turn quite ugly. I am with a group of about 200 protestors, many of them the anarchists that we have seen throughout the day, who are involved in a stand-off with the police
Of those, about 100 seem to form the core of those involved in facing down the police. There are a few bottles - mainly empty - and crunched-up cans being thrown towards the police lines, which number a few dozen. The police are donning their riot gear and I can see there are scores more officers in reserve in vans. From the rioters point of view they might be thinking that they are a bit outnumbered, but there are more than enough of them to cause some serious damage.
Businessmen working in one of London's most exclusive districts have been urged by police not to wear suits and ties today amid fears of attacks by anti-capitalist protesters attending the annual May Day rally.
Now, if I were really Princess Emily, I'd see to it that the headline read more like this:
City warned to arm themselves for May Day
Businessmen working in one of London's most exclusive districts (lucky bastards) have been urged by police to put on the best damn suit they own and carry knives, baseball cricket bats, or other household items easily fashioned into a simple weapon in order to defend themselves from frothing-at-the-mouth protesters with nothing better to do than irritate the responsible population by attending the annual May Day rally.
Happy May Day. On this day, thousands upon thousands of idiots and simpletons will be taking to the streets to protest the fact that life isn't fair. Peter Briffa is hitting the sidewalks of London to harass and make fun of a few of them. Good man.
It's actually not that big of a deal here in the U.S. As VodkaPundit Stephen Green points out, "we're too busy getting rich to bother".
It's also been five years since New Labor and Tony Blair seized the government of Great Britain and began leading it back down the path marked "Socialist Shithole - THIS WAY". Read the reflections of Britons on this occassion here. Some of them aren't very nice.
Other important events on this day in history:
*Elvis and Priscilla were married in 1967.
*Primo-butthead Joseph Goebbels offed himself in 1945.
*Much to the chagrin of Sean Connery, the Act of Union was signed 295 years ago, uniting England and Scotland.
*The Duke of Wellington, famed for kicking Napoleon's ass at Waterloo, was born on this day in 1769. Happy birthday, Duke.
That's six - count 'em, six, reasons to justify getting drunk on a Wednesday. Cheers!
A former British explosives expert now working for the Red Cross in the Jenin refugee camp has found 200 explosive devices that are identical to those used by the IRA in Northern Ireland, according to a report in The Sunday Telegraph yesterday.
An unfashionably late posting on my part, espcecially in blogdom, considering it was first reported two days ago, but an important piece of information worth further reading.
What it all boils down to is this: I think that overall, we allow - hell, encourage - a very disproportionate and inappropriate level of importance to be attached to what teenagers think and feel. Contrary to the accepted wisdom out there, I have thought for a long time now that kids today probably should get a lot less attention, not more. Of course, this doesn't apply to poor pathetic ghetto kids whose parents barely even acknowledge their existence at all. But these school mass-murders aren't being done by those kids anyway. It's the kids who come from comfortable homes, whose parents are at least somewhat high achievers, and who have at least some potential for success in life themselves who are doing the killing out there, or at least the non-gang-related media-spectacular killing anyway.
Read the whole thing, if you haven't already.
After Columbine, I thought we spent far too much time asking "Why?! Why?!", when it seemed that the reason why couldn't have been any more conspicuous: those young men were class-A, premium grade mofos. Being marginalized by your peers is hardly a reasonable catalyst for murder. "They picked me last for soccer teams in gym class, and for that they must die"??? Something went wrong, I mean, really wrong in their minds, and Mike just might be hitting on some of the reasons for that.
It has been said so many times that the world changed completely on September 11 last year, but has it?
While terrorists were crashing passenger jets into the World Trade Centre in the US, thousands of British protesters were gathered outside the UK's biggest ever arms fair.
Lucky for them.
But by the afternoon, as one officer took great delight in informing me, we were "sick for continuing to protest after what happened".
Sick, if not altogether stupid. If anything, the attacks proved that it doesn't take lofty weapons or heavy artillery to wreak havoc and kill thousands.
Post September 11 protesters are "sick" for challenging the policies of our "leaders", many of whom - as has been written many times in the last seven months - arguably contributed to the terrorist attacks in the first place.
No, you were "sick" for a number of reasons. The first being that you seem to be under the impression that gathering together in large groups carrying signs that read "War is Unhealthy for Children and Other Living Things" is going to honestly make a difference of any kind, anywhere. But you're right - many of our "leaders" did contribute to the terrorist attacks. "Leaders" like Osama bin Laden, Yasser Arafat, and Sadam Hussein, to name a few.
The billions western states spend on arms every year certainly didn't prevent the attacks.
No weapon in the world can prevent a sneak attack, fucksticks. Those arms, however, might offer a reasonable explanation as to why such attacks are a) exceptionally infrequent and b) haven't happened since.
This week, tens of thousands of trade unionists, along with anti-globalisation, anti-capitalist, anarchist and environmental protesters will mark the day by congregating in city centres across the world.
And the rest of us who are not unemployed will be busy working. On our breaks, we will probably take a moment to laugh at you.
In London, two separate protests - one beginning in Mayfair, the other ending in Trafalgar Square - will attempt to show that, despite everything, the world has not changed that much.
Obviously not. The global idiot/non-idiot ratio has apparently remained constant.
It is still a world where British politicians condemn the rise of the French right in one breath, and in another call for asylum seeker children to be imprisoned to prevent them "swamping" our schools.
Jean Marie Le Pen = Tony Blair? Kindly explain.
It is still a world where the US, with UK support, pursues a national missile defence system, which could not possibly prevent similar terrorist attacks.
No, it can only prevent worse ones.
And it is still a world where the most significant piece of news about last year's May Day protests in London, was that it stopped high street chains on Oxford Street from making £20m.
So? What's your point?
This year's event in Mayfair has been billed, clear as crystal, as a 'Festival of Alternatives'. The festival includes events exploring, discussing and presenting an alternative vision to capitalism, exploitation and military aggression.
ZZZZZZZZZ...Oh, excuse me. You were saying?
The programme includes workshops on alternatives to consumerism, skill-sharing, wildlife projects, clothes making and low impact lifestyles.
It would seem to me that the only alternative to consumerism is death. And what on earth is "skill-sharing"?
The biggest challenge the protest movement faces is not its violent elements but its ability to offer viable alternatives.
Downing Street's diplomatic skills were stretched to breaking point last night over the dilemma of where to sit four warring former prime ministers at the official dinner for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. ...
Lord Callaghan of Cardiff, who was deposed as Prime Minister by Baroness Thatcher in 1979, conspicuously omitted to invite his nemesis to a dinner at Downing Street earlier this month to mark his 90th birthday. Sir Edward Heath is barely on speaking terms with John Major, let alone Baroness Thatcher, whose record on Europe he criticised on his 80th birthday. On the same day Mr Major entertained Sir Edward at Downing Street when the Queen and Prince Philip were guest of honour. There was no Lady Thatcher in attendance that evening.
Conversation during the dinner remained light, and parties were said to have avoided stabbing one another with the flatware by consuming extortionate amounts of gin and wine. Celebrity chef Rick Stein later confessed to adding a subtle quantity of demorral to the roast troncon in order to avoid any bloody confrontations. At one point during the evening, Sir Edward Heath was overheard asking Mrs. Thatcher "Are you going to finish that?"*
"While it might appear to be sweet revenge for the Inquisition, it is best to resist the impulse to burn some Catholic priests--and the cardinals who covered up their criminal activities--at the stake."
It's always exciting to have the opportunity to watch democracy in action, so be sure you cast your vote for the newest color of M&Ms. I believe it is the first planet-wide election ever, with the outcome affecting the lives of millions for generations to come. Don't be left out.
Lloyd Shepherd remembers Soft Cell in the Wanker. The article is only remarkable because they were one of my favorite bands back in the glory days of Reagan and Thatcher.
Caroline Sullivan also wonders why us 80's kids are nostaligic for a "decade of terrible music and even worse fashion", which prompts the question "Has this woman completely forgotten the painful and hideous era commonly referred to as 'the seventies'?"
Say what you will about Duran Duran (I was a big fan in my pre-adolescence. In case you're wondering, Simon was my favorite.), Flock of Seagulls haircuts, and "Karma Chameleon". Nothing will ever be worse than disco.