After communism and capitalism, there is asterism.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The nature of dictatorship

Ala Bashir - Saddam's private doctor -  was on BBC Radio 4 last week. His interviewer, Gill Pyrah, had come in expecting to have some juicy stories of the 'Roman Decadence' of Saddam and his family. Instead, he single handedly dispelled all the sensation and myths around Saddam and gave us some uncomfortable truths. His argument went right above the head of the interviewer and left her in a state of bewilderment. It shows that if you really want to understand a dictatorship - ask an Iraqi.

For your benefit I transcribed the full interview below. Ala is not a politician so his thesis is one of an observer. but it should be taken to heart by anyone who talks about revolutionary change.

Ala's main thesis is that Saddam is not an aberration but that his behaviour is a direct consequence of his position of power.

[Saddam] is not mad. He is a perfectly well balanced person. but I think what is wrong is the power it is the relationship between man and power. I have seen many examples like Saddam even worse than Saddam.

I would add to this that to rule Iraq you must either be truly democratic or a ruthless dictator. Essentially Saddam's Baath party had no choice but to be so ruthless. They had no popular base amongst the people so the only option was to repress any opposition totally.

Ala goes on to explain the reason why power affects people in this way.

The problem is there. This disease is there in society. ... The disease of power and hate. I mean Saddam he was just a normal consequence of what is going on in society - its the hate, its the aggression.

This is very true and I think the one fatal error of Marx. Concentrate power in the hands of a few people and the hate and power will take over - no matter how good the person is. Soviet Russia applied Marx's Dictatorship of the Proletariat to defend their new state. It worked. But once the proletariat had established itself, the dictatorship would not let go. Stalin was not intentionally a dictator but Russian society responded well to a new Tsar. Stalin did not create Stalin, Russia created Stalin. Europe had the advantage that its ruling class was divided and power could not be concentrated in the centre. Even the new capitalist classes that took over from the feudal lords had to balance the interests of the old landed gentry.

But Europe as a society is no better. When Europe had military and technological advantage over other continents did it use this to guarantee peaceful trade? I think  not!

So on to Ala's solution...

I think that we need a very high dose of love.

As I said, he is no politician.

Here is the full transcript...

Q: For 20 years a plastic surgeon that specialised in reconstructive surgery Ala Bashir was private physician to the Iraqi president Saddam Hussein your story is told in insider trapped in The Insider: Trapped in Saddam's brutal regime. How were you trapped?  You told you were in the UK you trained and you discovered all these marvelous new plastic Surgery techniques. You could have gone anywhere in the world could you not?

A: You mean before once I went back to Iraq ...

Q:  No when you went back to Iraq and saw the way the wind was blowing, you couldn't get out?

A: But my love to the country all the time was more than my dislike to the regime and at that time I was the head of the plastic surgery in Iraq - I was involved in a teaching program and training of doctors in the field of plastic surgery. And we succeeded in graduating about 36 specialists in Iraq. I used to have 1000's not 100's of patients because of the Iraq Iran war. Many very young soldiers were left with hideous deformities and in our field usually patients need 3 to 4 operations.

Q: so you were doing reconstructive surgery and surgery on people who had terrible burns.

A: Yes and also the usual reconstructive and cosmetic surgery.

Q: Just the same there must have been many many right thinking people who would say in your place 'I would have said no to Saddam' and would not have got into bed with him.

A: No this is difficult if I could have said no this would not be a dictatorship its difficult nobody could have said no. Plus the fact we as medical doctors cannot choose our patients.

I'm telling you during the Iraqi Iran war I and my colleagues treated many Iranian soldiers and officers and we saved a lot of lives at that time they were our enemy. This was our duty.

Q: And you were close to Saddam you could be called in his black Mercedes at any minute to do a small dressing for a wound for him or come and see one of his women or perhaps come and try to repair the wounds his mad son Uday had inflicted on his sexual partners or on his friends. You were watching something that was almost Roman in its decadence.

A: Well, I'll tell you, it was a nightmare. Not for me but for the Iraqis. In fact the main factor and reason why I wrote this book - it isn't about these details of Saddam and is family and the rest of the criminal peoples - it was basically about how people how humans behave under the 2 phenomena of hate and of power. This is why I wrote this book these details are not important in the book but mainly it is about this because I read history not only in Iraq but for other countries because I believe that whatever happens in Iraq it is an experience that doesn't belong to Iraqis it belongs to human beings anywhere. inside Iraq the majority of Iraqis are good people they are innocent good people.

Q: But of course...

A: I'll tell you they are squeezed all the time between two periods one time there is a tyrant the other period the tyranny of a group of people - you know - they move under a shadow of hate and aggression. but the end result for the Iraqis the same whether it is one or many individuals.

Q: Can you give us an idea of Saddam's mental state of mind when he was for example deciding the Marsh Arabs are not real Arabs we can exterminate then, when he was deciding he was going to throw 100's of people into jail or have them shot because they displeased him is this mad or is this power that's...

A: No no it is not mad. He is a perfectly well balanced person. but I think what is wrong is the power it is the relationship between man and power. I have seen many examples like Saddam even worse than Saddam. you know you can see people very good very quiet person once they get power in their hands they will completely change. The problem is this plus the fact they start to move under the shadow of hate. This is what stands to me and I was amazed by the great influence of misuse of power on man.

Q: but you saw him misuse the power.

A: Yes

Q: You were very very close  to him you could see that 1000's or 100's of 1000's of your fellow Iraqis were having their lives ruined by him. You were very close, you were in a position actually to see him off to give him The Injection, to get rid of the man. Did it ever occur to you that that could be the appropriate thing to do?

A: Well this is a very difficult thing to ask me to do because you are asking me to betray my profession values and principles of life.

Q: but you could of been saving 1000's of lives having done it.

A: No this is not true, this is not true because the problem is not with Saddam, the problem is there this disease is there in society.

Q: The disease of power

A: The disease of power and hate. I mean Saddam he was just a normal consequence of what is going on in society - its the hate, its the aggression.

D.R. (another guest interrupts): he created that to start with.

A: No - well he was created by the society. He was.. I mean look - Saddam he came from very poor, very poor backwards family, then he became very powerful man. How it comes? I mean if you take Saddam - and bring him here in London would he do the same - what he has done?

D.R.: he wouldn't be able to would he?

A: so there is a problem and we have to face it.

D.R.: A problem of his creation. He created that problem in Iraq didn't he?

A: No - I mean he was a normal consequence of this. He was a very bad example of this because he governed Iraq for almost 35 years. This is it. But, I tell you in 1958 on 14th of July the first revolution in Iraq some people they went to the royal family, they killed them, they dragged them through the streets, they killed the prime minister they cut him to pieces, you know there was no Saddam at that time. It is this problem.

D.R.: so where did it come from?

A: Well this is the thing - I think that we need a very high dose of love.

Q: Well this is a conversation that will continue with the people around the table. Now many people listening will have heated arguments on the basis of what you said...

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Politics of Technology

Just for fun - lets compare browser useage on the biggest Conservative blog - Instapundit to the browser useage on DailyKos (in the previous post) ...

The result is interesting - firstly IE vs. Firefox is just the same. But look at the Safari useage! On Daily Kos - its 8% on Instapundit its 3%. Its proven - Progressives prefer Mac's. So Steve Jobs - in the extremely unlikely event that you are following my blog - you now know where to put your political funding $$$'s.

More issues are raised from these stats - why is it that the Progrssives use more older browsers? How come only Conservatives use Opera? Your comments are welcome...

Monday, July 25, 2005

Tech News - Critical Mass

When you read the tech news they say that the Firefox browser has 8% of the market. But this gives a false picture of what is really happening. To get a better idea go to the site meter of the DailyKos blog - and click on the browser statistics:

This from a blog that get over half a million visits a day from the kind of surfers that should matter for such statistics. i.e. people who are using their web browser for information. As you see - Internet Explorer has about 47% while Firefox/Mozilla hits 38% (44% if you add Netscape). Project this forward a few months and IE will be in a small minority. Microsoft should be worried.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Axis of Oil - Tying the Strings

In my letters to the FT I argued that the consequence of a failed state in Iraq could create a war that would suck in the regional countries. I also vaguely hinted that such a regional war could be the basis of a greater world war because of all the oil interests in the region.

Now recent news has clarified the picture greatly.

Firstly, with the elections, the US has effectively handed control of Iraq to the religious Shi'ite parties and given Iran a direct political interest in Iraq. With the news of the pipeline agreement I quoted below, Iran has a now significant economic interest in Iraq. As Stirling Newbury at BopNews said, this is now the age of Peak Oil. In this age there are more customers for oil than the world has capacity to supply. The future is now a competition by world powers to secure fuel suplies at source. In this race China has thrown in its hat with Iran with a 25 year, $70 Billion Oil and Gas supply agreement. With Iran's pipeline agreement with Iraq, a new 'Silk Route' has been created. The old Silk Route was an ancient trade route that linked Arabia to China. The new silk route will be a pipeline that pumps oil from Iraq, via Iran to China and goods will fly back from China to the Middle East.

Throw into this the US, which is still rattling its sabres over Iran and the Chinese Nuclear threats over Taiwan sounds much more ominous.

This threat by General Zhu Chenghu came at a strange time. The Financial Times was right to point out that there is no logic for China to ruin its favourable trading status with the US by threatening nuclear war over Taiwan of all things!

Given that China is now dependent on Iran for its fuel supplies for the next 25 years, an American tactical nuclear strike on Iran would be a bit of an inconvenience to say the least. In this context the threat by General Zhu is clear. Mess with with China's core interests (be it Taiwan or Iran) and China will not hesitate to use its nuclear weapons.

On the other side a Chinese-backed nuclear-armed Iran unified with Iraq will create a new super power that will make Israel and the US in turn all but irrelevent in the region.

The Cuba Missile Crisis is a walk in the park compared to this!

Axis of Oil 4 - The State of Peak Oil

Stirling Newbury over at BopNews made another of his excellent summaries:

To recap the state of Peak Oil

  1. The peak of all petroleum production is likely in the 15 to 30 year time frame.
  2. The demand problem means that regardless of the production curve, oil will be in short supply that entire time.
  3. The quality of oil is going to drop, and the peak of light oil is much closer.

This is leading to another factor: a drive to control oil strategically, by the Chinese and by the Europeans. Rather than the current market where almost every molecule of hydrocarbon goes on to one big sloshing marketplace, the future is going to have a race to lock up increasingly scarce supplies of fuel, particularly what can be called "high transport grade fuel".

Axis of Oil 3 - Some American Madness

Quoted from the August edtion of the American Conservative by Billmon:

The Pentagon, acting under instructions from Vice President Dick Cheney's office, has tasked the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) with drawing up a contingency plan to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States. The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons.

Within Iran there are more than 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-program development sites. Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option. As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States.

Axis of Oil 2

Iran, Iraq to build 3 pipelines to exchange Iraqi crude for Iranian oil products
07.18.2005, 06:52 AM

TEHRAN (AFX) - Iran and Iraq are planning to build three pipelines, at Iran's expense, to cover Iraq's urgent need for petroleum and refined oil products, said Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh.

Iraq will export crude oil to Iran, and Iran will transport petroleum and other refined products to Iraq, which is suffering from shortages in its petrochemicals industry, the minister told a press conference, attended by Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, who is visiting Iran.

Zanganeh said the agreement has not yet been signed, but the exchange will begin 10 months after it is signed.

'The plan is for Iran to buy 150,000 barrels per day of light crude from Basrah (in southern Iraq)', he said.

'In return, Iran will supply petroleum, gasoil and kerosene (to Iraq)', he said. 'The gasoil and kerosene will be supplied by the Abadan refinery (in Iran)', the minister added. The petroleum will be imported by Iran on Iraq's behalf.

'The Iranians will build two oil pipelines -- one to transport gasoil and kerosene from Abadan to Basrah, and another to transport crude from Basrah to the Iranian refinery.'

'A third pipeline will be built between the (Iranian) port of Mahshahr', near Abadan, 'to transport imported petroleum to Basrah' for Iraq, he said.

'The construction and the financing will be Iranian', the minister said. He did not give financial details of the deal.

Iraqi Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Ouloum, who was accompanying the prime minister on his visit, said on Saturday that a memorandum would be signed in the next few days: '150,000 barrels per day of crude will be transported from Iraq to Iran and 50 mln litres of refined products from Iran to Iraq. The project will be operational within a year.'

'For the moment, only Iranian companies are expected to take part in the reconstruction of the Iraqi oil industry,' he said.

Axis of Oil

China, Iran sign biggest oil & gas deal

China's oil giant Sinopec Group has signed a $70 billion oil and natural gas agreement with Iran, which is China's biggest energy deal with the No. 2 OPEC producer.

Under a memorandum of understanding signed in Beijng Thursday, Sinopec Group will buy 250 million tons of liquefied natural gas over 30 years from Iran and develop the giant Yadavaran field.

Iran is also committed to export 150,000 barrels per day of crude oil to China for 25 years at market prices after commissioning of the field.

Iran's oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh, who is on a two-day visit to Beijing pursuing closer ties, said Iran is China's biggest oil supplier and wants to be its long-term business partner.

Official figures show that China imported 226 million tons of oil in2003, about 13 percent of which coming from Iran. Beijing expects to secure foreign energy supplies by the deals for its economy, which has turned China into a major oil importer but suffers severe power shortages.

Source: CIR

People's Daily Online --- October 31, 2004

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Quote of the Day

The typical office worker is interrupted every three minutes by a phone call, e-mail, instant message or other distraction. The problem is that it takes about eight uninterrupted minutes for our brains to get into a really creative state.


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Its like deja-vu all over again

The cold war brinkman ship of Nuclear superpowers is back.

China is prepared to use nuclear weapons against the US if it is attacked by Washington during a confrontation over Taiwan, a Chinese general said on Thursday.

"If the Americans draw their missiles and position-guided ammunition on to the target zone on China's territory, I think we will have to respond with nuclear weapons," said General Zhu Chenghu.
"We . . . will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all of the cities east of Xian. Of course the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds . . . of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese."
 Financial Times 14 Jul 05

Not only that but China is now looking to secure oil resources at source. Back to the old days of sphere of influence no doubt.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Marxism is alive and well and living in Britain!

The BBC today announced the result of its poll to find the greatest philosopher and Marx came no. 1 by more than double his nearest rival. Out of 34,000 votes. This despite a last-minute effort by economists to get their hero David Hume to the top.

I liked what Eric Hobsbawm said... The end of Communism has let people rediscover the range and force of his ideas without being engangled with Moscow.

Time to dust off your old copies of the Communist Manifesto...

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Respond to the Terrorists in London

After time for shock to subside and calm reflection to take hold - it is time to comment on the London Bombings.

Part of me responds as an Iraqi. Iraqis are saddened by the London bombings because it is so close to what we have experienced daily for many years. But Iraqis are also angery and resentful by the way this dominates the world media compared to the way deaths of Iraqis are treated. One Iraq - who speaks for many said:

"This is because Iraqis are like chicken and nobody cares about the killing of a chicken, but the British are the lords of this world."

However this does not solve anything and this is the point of my post. A well cosidered and typical reponse is from Harrys Place.

see the full post here...

I wish to thank Harry for such well considered post. I followed Harrys posts for a long time and though I may think he is wrong - sometimes very wrong - his thoughts are heartfelt and he takes his politics seriously. So, Harry, please take these comments seriously too.

The struggle against these terrorists is the identical if not part of the struggle against the racist right in the UK. I see no difference between these terrorists and the National Front (NF) or the British National Party (BNP). They both seek to dehumanise sections of society to legitimise their actions against them.

It is wrong to compare the 7/7 bombings to the actions of the IRA. The only link is the spectacular size of the explosions. A long time ago the IRA relaised that indiscriminate killings of innocent people in England is counter to their aims.

It is also wrong to single out the Muslim community to look into their own society. You cant just lump muslims into one category and say 'look at you'. There is not just one kind of Muslim. Britian has a liberal cross section of Muslims from over 100 million from societies all over the world. To say there is a generic Muslim society is also in its own way a racist generalisation. The group that supports this terrorism comes from very specific and small cults. Much like the kind of cults that led Oklahoma Bomber.

No - if you want to understand who these terrorists are look into your own society. Look at the way racists victimise and kill people they view as inferior. Remember the Asian boy who was killed by a racist thug at Feltham Young Offenders Prison. Remember the racist guards who put those two in the same cell. Have you forgotten the Brixton Bomber or the Soho pub bombings? The painful truth is that such terrorism exists at home. I would go further to say that such racial/religious terrorism is alien to Arab culture but something that has been exported to the Middle East from Europe.

Understand this and the effective response is clear. There is the need for all political society to unite against the terrorists - stop grandstanding on Galloway - his position on how to deal with the terrorsts is not that far from those of the conservative right or Harry's Democratic Left. Stop saying things like - its a bit rich coming from someone who said this about Iraq or that about Palestinians. Iraq and Palestine are a thousand miles away - this is on our doorstep  - we will only unite by sober dedbate and common aims.

The way you deal with this is to create a broad movement like the Anti Nazi League ands the various Anti Fascist Associations and bring in all sections of society.

Maybe Britain should learn something from the Iraqis. In the 1920's and now when a Shia or Sunni community was hit by an attrocity, people from the other community would cross over and show solidarity by praying together in the victims mosques.

So my message to all the British and the Left at this time is first look into yourselves for the casues and stop dividing each other over matters that are not related. If you want to stop these bombers go to the mosques and show solidarity with all the Muslim communities. Listen to these communities and let them hear you. Dont allow one section of society to become alienated from the other. In the same way the Anti Nazi League went to the poor working class communities that were/are the recruiting grounds of the racist thugs go to the same communities that are the recruiting grounds for these thugs.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Quote of the Day

Two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity. And I am
not sure about the former.

-- Albert Einstein