Murdering one’s neighbours after elections; additional observations

Posted in Africa, arms, Corruption, democracy, hillary clinton, Kenya, Mali, murder, Obama by Deputy city editor on January 8, 2008

In Britain, elections are rigged, votes are meaningless, there is corruption (often involving arms deals) at the very top, yet the popular consensus is do not grumble, and get on with the business of making money.  Voting be stuffed!

When the outcome of the fraudulent election is announced and is as predicted distasteful, or ridiculous, we certainly do not murder our neighbours, or at least not in any number, as has recently been the case in Africa. Why not?

I am not sure the inhibition of kinetic street outcomes is that durable, in a society (our own) where the streets have become meaner and the population of disenfranchised grows larger and angrier.

So it is easy to see civil society spinning out of control. It would start with the immediate neighbors. One has nothing especially against them. They are a decent couple, but they are in the way. They ruin the view.

So why not hack them to death and reduce their bungalow to the ground? I merely ask the question.

Obviously this is the basest and most offensive fantasy but how improbable?

I am not sure that we in the so-called civilised countries are so incapable of violence as our African cousins, even if we have recently been out of the habit. Nor that we are innocent in the African slaughters. Many of the Kenya’s troubles can be laid at Britain’s dorstep, including the corruption of the political class not to forget a sordid colonial history.

Perhaps as the opportunity to prosper becomes reduced, as skills are proletarianised or exported, the defects in our own so-called democracy will provoke murderous expressions by the disenfranchised.


Updated: I thought Obama would probably sweep all before him even if I reserved the right not to hope for too much. Maybe he might, still – but it was not to be in New Hapshire. His proposition is more positive and attractive than the others. It also seems authentic. Perhaps American democracy is still about to redeem itself. Perhaps that is too much to hope for. For the moment, Obama offers a choice of hope and change versus fear and hate.


My hairdresser points out that Obama would not be America’s first black president which has already had two with the post currently occupied by Wayne Palmer, played by the actor DB Woodside, above, on the Fox drama 24. I do not watch this but I am told it is very popular hence Americans are not just ready for a black president they are used to the idea.


Fox News has been told to lay off Obama. This instruction can only have come from the wily old fox himself. This means that KRM and his friends realise that Obama might well be the next president. It will be essential for Rupert that he be on the side of the winner. Fox is still its wretched self on everything else. Coverage of the Hormuz straight was directly from the Gulk of Tonkin tradition of craven, loyalist journalism. Fox has however decided (at this stage at least) not to get on the wrong side of the Obama phenomenon.


Recommended ++ : the movie Bamako now available on DVD. Incredible portrait of a courtyard in Mali’s capital where Africa itself is on trial. In French with optional English subtitles.

Zoé’s Ark; Sarko’s drowning

Posted in Chad, Corruption, Darfur, France, Media, news, Refugees, Sarkozy, spectacle, Tchad by Deputy city editor on October 30, 2007

Zoé’s Ark drops the Elysée in the deepest of African fiascos. French nationals are being held in Chad where they are threatened with 20 years in jail for allegedly kidnapping children from Darfur.

Chad’s president, Idriss Déby, has played a blinder with the rhetoric. He says the French may even have planned to kill the children and harvest their organs. Sixteen Europeans including nine French citizens are now being held in the affair. And this, as a seemingly deranged Sarko is on his way to Washington for what was to have been a triumphant reunion with his friend George Bush.

By any standards Déby, a French-educated kleptocrat, election-rigger and warlord whose controversial son was recently mysteriously killed in Paris, has pulled off a magnificent coup de théâtre, not so much striking a blow against the snooty French, but grabbing Sarkozy by the nuts and squeezing.

In addition to the pretty French nursemaids and their helpers he holds three journalists and seven Spanish air crew. And a Boeing 757. So kerching! It’s pay day for Déby. Sarko, meanwhile, looks deranged and not at all the man in charge of even his own emotions after storming out of an interview with 60 Minutes, after he was asked about, er, Her.

He unwisely staged his tantrum in the presence of Lesley Stahl, one of the grandest dames of American TV news. Asking about Cecilia may have been impertinent but it was certainly predictable. So why was Sarko not prepared? He had already called his press secretary an “imbecile” for having wasted his time by scheduling the interview on a busy day. Such self-revelation is not the calm, collected, controlled behaviour of a statesman. Not even if Sarko is right and it is true that the American media are utterly debased in their obsession with sex and celebrity over substance.

As if this was not bad enough, now Sarko is being made to look like a goat by an African thug who is never off French television without poisonous declamations in immaculate French. So much for the brotherhood of Francophonie.

One can imagine Sarko’s mood on the Presidential Airbus on his way to Andrews AFB. Whether this is just an affair of an inept NGO, as Sarko might wish us to believe he believes, it has turned into an affair of hostage-taking. The French public will not tolerate their girls being thrown into a malarial African prison. Sarkozy knows it. Chad knows it.

The children be damned; they are actually practically the least important consideration of all. Were the children from Darfur? How will anyone ever know? Were Zoés people offering these children a worse life? Most people in that part of Africa can only dream of going to France. Perhaps the paperwork was dodgy. I would prefer to cast my own sympathy with the NGO. They knew what they were doing was dangerous. But they may have underestimated the political cynicism of the regime in Chad, not to forget the political cynicism in Paris.

You do not need to be a Lacanian analyst to understand the political toxicity of this for Sarko. This is an affair ripe with symbolism.

What is Sarko going to have to pay to get the French team home? What does Chad want? Guns? Jets? Helicopter gunships? Prime real estate in Neuilly? Cash – obviously.

The swaggering performance of the Africans is an ironic tribute to Sarko’s own default posture but with the whip firmly in the hand of the Africans. This is a media nightmare for the French government. Chad has complete control of the media on their end, they will control the images, hence the French media, and can create any facts they want. This is a very big problem for Sarko, demanding a coolness that one must increasingly doubt he possesses.

Sarko needs to get a grip.

A smarmy performance

Posted in broadcasting, Corruption, Media, TV by Deputy city editor on October 19, 2007

A smarmy and disingenuous performance by Michael Grade on Channel 4 News last night. The organisation of which he is the executive chairman, ITV, has behaved in a blatantly corrupt way. Nearly £8 million has been, in effect, stolen from viewers. But nobody will be fired. Grade has always been a self-regarding, pompous shit*. Don’t forget he was in charge at the BBC when that august institution was similarly defrauding its viewers (although on a lesser scale). Now he is exposed as the man who has concluded, pace his interview with Jon Snow, that despite a criminal conspiracy to defraud the public, nobody must pay the price (other than ITV’s shareholders). He’s wrong. ITV has been engaged in organised crime. Taking money under false pretenses is called fraud. The following question presents itself: where are the police?

*Expletive chosen carefully – Grade will know why.

Sea of whitewash: UK ‘defence export services organisation’ is “closed” in reorganisation

Posted in Britain, Corruption, Defence Defense, Saudi Arabia by Deputy city editor on July 9, 2007

Be careful what you wish for. A victory for the Campaign against the Arms Trade is deafened by the sound of shredders…

Another brilliant piece by Rob Evans and David Leigh in The Guardian revealing that: “The Treasury is planning to disband the government’s controversial arms sales department. The 450-strong defence export services organisation (Deso), based near Oxford Street in London, has long been the target of anti-corruption campaigners and opponents of the arms trade.”

After years as a government bag man on corrupt arms deals, Deso will cease to exist, not because of a sudden atack of scruples by ministers. The motive is more transparently that of making plenty of distance between ministers and “history” before investigators get any closer to the murky story of the Deso. It will soon be as if Deso had never been. Or so the government (and opposition) will be hoping.

It seems very unlikely, with the amount of shredding likely to be now underway, that the entire story will ever readily become known. Although in broad outline we already know of the alphabet of corrupt dealings by BAE and the British government, all over the world, from Arabia to Zimbabwe.

The ultimate alibi of the BAE executives is that it was all done ensemble with the government – both the former conservative and current labour ones. So, reason BAE, they cannot have committed a crime. What was done was sovereign, and nothing to do with them. And it was anyway all in the past. Thus the dust is being swept under a very thick carpet. The government will mumble about a department that no longer exists, and ministers will say that what is important is the way forward.

American criminal investigators may uncover some insalubrious facts, although The Guardian is pretty well on top of this. But even the most ambitious federal prosecutors might have difficulty prying lose the inside stories of arms deals in which BAE and the British government got up to some jolly scrapes, to say the least. Sadly, my fantasy of one day observing BAE Systems executives drgged to the USA in handcuffs, is unlikely to be fulfilled. Neither is the chance that dictators still in office will have their bank accounts investigated, or that stolen sums might be restored to national treasuries.

Is this the end of special treatment for BAE Systems? How will it finance commissions on its Eurofighter deal with the Saudis, if ministers refuse to sign the checks? I notice the first “private” A380 has been odered: is this part of the Eurofighter deal? Will the MoD now procure weapons on the basis of its requirements for its own troops, or as part of an export drive, lubricated by corruption? Why is it so difficult to imagine that this leopard will readily change its spots?

The slave trade/the arms trade: spot the difference

Posted in Corruption, Defence Defense by Deputy city editor on June 14, 2007

Over budget, overdue, useless – the Eurofighter

Tony Blair’s recent “apology” for Britain’s role in the slave trade will, one hopes, be followed in some distant future by another British prime minister apologising for his country’s role in the arms trade. Which is worse – selling slaves from Africa or selling weapons to Africa?

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children… This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

Former U.S. President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, in a speech on April 16, 1953

BAE Systems, formerly British Aerospace, is one of the biggest arms manufacturers in the world. Other than producing arms it also produces prostitutes for the use of Saudi princes, huge “commissions” for the use of African dictators, massive “consultancies” for those who do it favours, and colossal lies. When it is not behaving corruptly in Africa and the Middle East, it is corrupting politics in Britain.

The symbiotic relationship between BAE Systems and British politicians is part of a tapestry which supports my long-held thesis that Britain is among the most corrupt countries in the world, and unchallenged for hypocrisy.

You probably cannot buy a driving licence in the UK as you can in, say, Albania. But you can buy a seat in parliament. And you can pervert British and international law more or less at will – as demonstrated by the intervention of Blair’s lackey, the attorney general Lord Goldsmith, to derail the biggest of the corruption investigations against BAE.

BAE threatens journalists who try to uncover these corrupt practices although frequently does not have to. There are plenty of idiot hacks around like Jeremy Clarkson who produce thinly-disguised BAE propaganda (Clarkson has written admiringly of the Eurofighter – as did the BBC’s former defence correspondent before he went off to become a flack at NATO).

Fortunately The Guardian and The Sunday Times have not bent to the pressure. The Guardian indeed has been spectacular in its persistence.

All for nothing, it seemed. With the help of the British government, BAE has made away with (so far) a clean pair of heels.

Now here is an ironic development. It is reported in today’s Guardian that the American Justice Department may investigate BAE in connection with hundreds of millions washed through a Washington bank account controlled by the Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi ambassador, who used some of the funds to run a private Airbus A340.

Campaign against the Arms Trade – click image for link

What a beautiful thing it would be to see BAE’s executives dragged off in handcuffs to the United States. One can only hope that American justice will be revealed in all its savagery for the knighted plunderers.

Those connected to British politics have also benefitted. Mark Thatcher, half-witted son of the former prime minister, somehow made £12 million in the fall-out from BAE’s contracts with the Saudis. Oddly, he remains at large.

As a sort of defence, it has to be said that BAE makes some truly dreadful weapons. The Eurofighter is the classic example – years late, scores of millions over budget, essentially useless. The Tornado before it was another dire aircraft. I suppose it is arguable that the essential uselessness of the Royal Air Force is a good thing as it inhibits Blair and his regime from even more reckless and destructive military adventures.

Even the SA-80 rifle produced by BAE was a lemon that British special forces still refuse to use. BAE’s weapons may well be more dangerous to those who are equipped with them than to anyone who is a target.

The immorality of selling arms to tyrants and dictators is justified by those who say that if we didn’t do it, someone else would. That’s amazingly exactly the same logic adduced to support the continuation of the slave trade.

Update: According to today’s Guardian Prince Bandar did nothing so undignified as to spend his billion pounds buying his own Airbus. BAE bought it for him. And still pays the running costs.