Talking Points for 19 June

Good morning! It’s Priya blogging in London while the team are up in Glasgow. We will have another live programme from there today, but the debate has yet to be decided. So if you have any suggestions, get in touch below.

So here are a few thoughts:


9 British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan in just 10 days, including the first female to die there.

More soldiers are dying more frequently as suicide bombing tactics increase. Soldiers who expected to go there and win hearts and minds without a single bullet being fired, are discovering a darker reality.

The British Government will increase troops, while a former head of the Army says it would be wrong to set a timeframe on withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. Are they right? Is this a winnable war?

John Reid, the then Defence Secretary, said in April 2006:

We would be perfectly happy to leave in three years’ time without firing one shot, because our mission is to protect the reconstruction,” he told a press conference in Kabul.

In August the same year the commander of Nato’s International Security Assistance Force at the time, the British General Sir David Richards, painted a picture of what was actually happening in Helmand:

Days and days of intense fighting – being woken up by yet another attack when they haven’t slept for 24 hours.

This sort of thing hasn’t really happened so consistently I don’t think since the Korean war or the Second World War. This is persistent low level, dirty fighting

Why are foreign troops in Afghanistan? What can they really achieve? Is it time to think about withdrawing?



The potential First Lady has, since Hilary bowed out, come to centre stage.

Last night, she attempted to show her warmer side by hosting a chat show. Although it wasn’t without some controversy. Many wouldn’t consider calling her husband ‘pathetic’ much of a crime, especilly if all she had meant was empathetic.

This ‘scandal’ does not surprise Maureen Dowd. According to her, Michelle is the new, unwilling contestant in Round Two of the sulfurous national game of “Kill the witch.”

She’s not just a woman, she is a black woman, so doubly damned, as a disgusted Daily Kos noted last week.

Do you agree? Is she being unfairly treated? Or is this par for the course when your husband is going for one of the biggest jobs in the world?


Fuel prices are increasing. People are protesting.

The Bush government wants more offshore oil drilling, although many don’t think this is a solution. And there may not be enough ships anyway.

Saudi Arabia has agreed to increase output, despite the obvious advantage of continuing high prices. Venezuela will not be increasing it’s production, and doubts whether Saudi’s move will make much difference.

The Nation says: the cure for higher oil prices is…higher oil prices. Read it and tell me if you understand it.

Scotland apparently has plenty of oil in the North Sea, after reserves were said to be dropping.

So what do our studio guests make of Oil Question? Increase production now? Or keep it steady so that the oil will last longer…

37 Responses to “Talking Points for 19 June”

  1. 1 Mohammed Ali
    June 19, 2008 at 10:58

    @Michelle Obama,
    I don’t think she’s unfairly treated. That is the game of politics, things that are not said to you in your private life are what you should except when you get into the dirty game of politics. She must now brace herself for more and more of these including people practically insulting her.

    @high oil prices
    Offshore drilling, you think that’s the solution, you must be making some serious mistakes around here. Here is the solution and is simple, “Just tell Mr. Bush to put halt for the search of NUCLEAR WEAPONS/WMD in Iraq, stop his threatening Iran with war because of aledgely possessing or attempting to posses WMD, balance his Israel and Palestine policy”. With this done, I can assure you that oil prices will drop considerably.

  2. 2 Hanson Klitte, Belgium
    June 19, 2008 at 11:15

    Just a little rand about oil drilling and the US. Americans should start producing and selling low fuel consumption vehicles. That’s all i have to say.

  3. 3 Rick
    June 19, 2008 at 11:22

    Oil price in Brisbane today is US$5.83 for
    a US gallon. Lead story on the evening news is a new trend by consumers to trade their guzzlers in on smaller, more efficient cars.
    Warms my little green heart.

    On Afghanistan
    An occupation force is an occupation force. The Talaban is on home turf and has no where to retreat to and no timetable. We need to take them seriously with serious military commitment to wipe them out or pack up and go home sooner rather than later. In the end the Afghanis will have to look after themselves post occupation. We cannot impose our values or install our puppets on a population that doesn’t want them.

    On Mrs. Obama
    It is unrealistic to expect our politicians to be saints, let alone their partners. Wasn’t it Kerry’s wife who killed his run at the top job? Bad enough that one has to be saint but two in the same family?
    Kind of reduces the qualified applicants for the job don’t you think?

  4. 4 VictorK
    June 19, 2008 at 11:26

    Re Afghanistan, there are two central questions that need to be posed. First, what vital British interest is at stake there? And second, assuming the existence of some vital British interest, is sending in the Army the best or only way of securing that interest?

    The answer to the first is that Afghanistan does not even relate to a minor British interest, let alone a vital one. The well-being of the Afghan government and people is not a British concern. No one has yet explained how terrorists based in Afghanistan represent any conceivable threat to Britain and its people. In fact, the opposite is true: Britain and its allies have killed a number of Afghan civilians, and there are the usual stories of abuse and brutality. But no British civilian has ever to my knowledge been killed or mistreated by an Afghan. Who represents a threat to whom?

    The British army is just one of several institutions that has become hopelessly politicised by the Labour government (the police and the civil service are some of the others). The army should confine itself to privately advising Ministers on the conduct and winnability of the campaign. The objectives and justification of the campaign, and whether or not Britain should remain in Afghanistan, are political judgements, and not things that professional soldiers should ever express an opinion about. We are now routinely exposed to the grotesque spectacle of ordinary soldiers being interviewed for propaganda sound-bites about how much they believe in their mission to re-build the country, to stop the Taliban coming back to power, to build schools and let girls get an education etc. As if the Taliban soldiers couldn’t give eually plausible sound-bites about fighting to end the occupation of their country, fighting for independence and self-government, fighting to defend their customs and way of life against crusaders, fighting to prevent girls and boys being tainted by the influence of Western materialism, etc.

    The production of poppies (note, as with Iraq, the constantly shifting and multiple explanations that are given to justify the unjustifiable) is often cited as another justification for our presence in Afghanistan. But surely that’s an internal matter for Afghans; occupying the country for that alleged reason would be on a par with proposing the invasion of Britain or the USA because both countries are homes to arms manufacturers, or both really do possess weapons of mass destruction.

    There should be an immediate withdrawal of British (and other) troops from Afghanistan. We should deal with whoever comes to power there (most likely the Taliban). And we should learn the virtue of minding our own business.

  5. 5 Jack Hughes
    June 19, 2008 at 11:38

    @ Hanson Klitte: what kind of car do you drive ?

    I drive a Honda CRV and she drinks petrol. It hurts when I fill her up. But that’s only every 3 weeks because most days she stays in the garage.

    Do Belgians walk everywhere or do some of your fellow-citizens drive big cars ?

  6. 6 Will Rhodes
    June 19, 2008 at 11:45

    So what do our studio guests make of Oil Question? Increase production now? Or keep it steady so that the oil will last longer…

    The hyperbole around the “lack” of oil is mystifying. There isn’t a lack of oil – the production of oil hasn’t dropped and the use of oil is, almost, exactly the same as it was 2 years ago – give and take a few thousand barrels – certainly not enough to effect the cost.

    What has effected the price of oil is quite simple but, for some ungodly reason, people cannot grasp. The very, very weak American dollar! Speculators are investing in oil rather than currencies – the US dollar specifically – and that in turn is making commodities rise.

    The world currency, the US dollar if weak will always make things seem much more expensive. It is simple economics. What would help is if the Euro was used instead of the US dollar – a much more stable currency, but that isn’t going to happen.

  7. 7 Katharina in Ghent
    June 19, 2008 at 11:54

    @ the cure for higher oil prices:

    It’s quite obvious: since the costs for getting the oil from off-shore or oil-sands are so much higher than “just sticking your finger in the sand and the oil comes out”, it only makes sense to do so when the oil price is high. Because it IS high, it also makes more sense to invest into new exploration to find new resources.

    However, to me this is not an excuse to lay hands on a declared animal refuge in Alaska. I understand that Mr. Bush may have some problems in general with the word “refuge”, in any pronounciation, but then somebody should explain it to him. What he and we all should do is invest in alternative technologies which make us less dependent on oil for transportation and will help us save it for more productive purposes.

  8. 8 Hanson Klitte, Belgium
    June 19, 2008 at 11:56

    Most of the time I use the bicycle. It is good for health and in my age it definitely keeps me going.

    I drive a VW Polo Blue Motion. It runs on diesel and that really keeps my fuel consumption low. It may not be the most exciting car to drive, but then why would anyone have a really fast big engined fuel drinking car if in most countries there are speed limits.

    If you fancy a bit of excitment you can allways go and drive aroung a racing track in a rented sprots car. I must admit i do that sometimes, midlife crisis i guess.

    Of course people in Belgium drive big cars, but they also pay green taxes. Public transport is also great.

  9. 9 Katharina in Ghent
    June 19, 2008 at 11:57

    @ Jack Hughes:

    Many Belgians take the bike to work, it’s very popular here. I have an Opel Zafira (9 years old) which uses about 10 liters for 100 km, which is already rather bad, compared to newer cars, I also have to fill up every 3 weeks or so, and yes, it hurts.

  10. 10 Brett
    June 19, 2008 at 12:04

    @ Hanson:
    Wow, I wish I had a VW Polo!

    I have a few different forms of transport lol:
    70’s or 80’s Miyata road bike
    78(?) Columbia Commuter Moped
    VW Passat Wagon for long trips (Yes v6, and it loves gas 😦 ) Though Im working on selling it and picking back up an older 70s or 80s VW for long trips.
    And a 93 Solectria Force EV

    I cannot tell you how dissapointed and upset with the government I will be if the offshore ban is lifted. I still have hope in the US’ ability to maintain its environment, and while it doesn’t have a good track record, I have faith in its ability to stand ground on the policy we have and move forward with proactive policy in the future. Drilling ANWR and offshore oil here in the US will not only put our fisheries and wildlife at risk, but foster our dependance on cheap(er) oil only for us to be left high and dry when it runs out.

    “Oh but we just need more time with cheap oil to develop alternative fuel and forms of transportation…”
    Give me a break! It’s like an addict saying “Oh, cmon, just one more hit…” We had decades of cheap oil and fuel and lazily putted along in our trucks and SUV’s all the way back to the gas station.

  11. 11 Hanson Klitte, Belgium
    June 19, 2008 at 12:17

    This is the problem with oil. People will allways pay for the petrol however much it costs. So even if car manufacturers produce more energy efficient cars still petrol prices will go up because a) the supplies are falling, and b) oil companies are basically run by a cartel.

    These people want to get rich and they want to continiue getting rich.

    I just make a personal choice, I can afford a bigger thirster car but i don’t want to. Even then if everyone did what I am doing, still petrol prices would be rising and oil producers would be getting rich only a bit slower. In business profit margins are everything, everything is passed on to the consumer and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. The same applies to all types of energy.

  12. June 19, 2008 at 12:51

    @ Oil prices.

    Economics tells you that markets will charge a price that the consumer is willing and able to pay. Guess what, we are “willing and able” to pay $4 a gallon. So even if some how we could increase the supply, and that would reduce the supply/demand ratio, it aint going to have any effect on the money in our pockets. Say that does drive the cost down to $80 a barrel. The only thing that is going to do is drive up profit margins along the supply chain. Unless you think that these nice oil generators have a soft spot for us consumers and are only trying to help us.

    It is funny how this administration used “spreading democracy” as a justification for war. Oil demand from the two fastest growing economies has increased exponentially over the past 10 years. As a member of the civilized first world countries, do you really want to see democracy and prosperity blossom around the world? That will be even more people competing in the auction known as “free market”.

    If you want a quick fix to oil prices, break the economy. No “gas tax holiday”. Raise taxes until it hurts. spread the economy out straight, and break it over the governments knee. Find out what point American are no longer “willing or able” to pay for gas. At least it will be our government collecting that money then. once we are severely broke and not buying gas anymore, our innovative forces will kick in, and we will be of our foreign dependence. I know pretty radical, but we are really in a Chinese finger trap here.

    The dollar is week, that is true but that is the effect of “republican taxing”. You all might recognize it as printing more money. The dollar needs strengthened, but while that will mean oil prices will physically stop raising, the actual cost of oil will continue to increase.

  13. 13 Mohammed Ali
    June 19, 2008 at 12:51

    Here in Liberia I walk many days to go to work. I’m doing this to avoid using cars many times so as to help reduce the rate of Green house gas emission. It is also good for the body.

  14. 14 Will Rhodes
    June 19, 2008 at 13:03

    Economics tells you that markets will charge a price that the consumer is willing and able to pay. Guess what, we are “willing and able” to pay $4 a gallon. So even if some how we could increase the supply, and that would reduce the supply/demand ratio, it aint going to have any effect on the money in out pocket. Say that does drive the cost down to $80 a barrel. The only thing that is going to do is drive up profit margins along the supply chain. Unless you think that these nice oil generators have a soft spot for us consumers and are only trying to help us.

    Applauds, applauds, applauds!!!!!

    A cartel, selling to a cartel that is governed – by a cartel, isn’t going to do the consumer any good at all.

  15. 15 steve
    June 19, 2008 at 13:07

    Australia is the most obese nation now, no longer the us! wohoo!


  16. June 19, 2008 at 13:11

    30 Year War and Soaring Oil Prices

    TEHRAN – Was the Invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 premature? Was the 2003 Invasion of Iraq necessary? Could the Eight Year Iran, Iraq War 1980 – 1988 have been averted?
    The power struggle in the world is not over, but the fall of the Soviet in 1991 put the universe at the mercy of America.
    Here again, US President George W. Bush is not of the stuff of George Bush senior., a different kettle of fish altogether. Senior served as CIA chief which moulded him into a meticulous strategist and unerring president.
    Bush minor has publicly regretted his warring image. There has been nothing but war during his Administration. Aided and abetted by former British prime minister Tony Blair, calamity ensued. It will be a long time before the world recovers. His answer to rising oil prices: “Start offshore drilling in the States.”
    Yet when Tony Blair came to power in 1997, he invented British foreign policy. He routed rather than defeated the Conservatives. They seemed relieved to be leaving. Falklands’ War, yes, but Lady Thatcher and John Major had no foreign policy in these parts. She hoped that the Russians would leave Afghanistan, that’s about it. Admittedly, she gained a good deal for Britain from the EU.
    The trouble with Tony Blair was that once he embarked on war, he couldn’t rein in the fighting and end the chaos in Afghanistan or Iraq.
    Back to oil and oil majors, ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, TOTAL, Chevron are private companies. They won’t be pushed around. Profitability is their prime target. The same with the car industry. It is not doing enough to convert to CNG, which is cheaper, cleaner, and more plentiful. There must be some coordination between governments, oil industry and car manufacturers in order to give the public a better deal. It is up to governments to plan long-term strategies for cheaper fuels.

  17. 17 Brett
    June 19, 2008 at 13:17

    Here in Liberia I walk many days to go to work. I’m doing this to avoid using cars many times so as to help reduce the rate of Green house gas emission. It is also good for the body.

    This week actually I started a project to see how much I could reduce my total miles traveled by individual auto transport, how much I could substitute alternative travel, how much I could save both financially and in carbon emissions.


    I plan on bi-weekly reviewing of my goals and either keeping them as-is or reducing the amount of allowable personal auto transport. The goal is to eventually be commuting by bike 100% of the time. Getting into the swing of things is hard, especially waking up early, but ive been doing it for a few weeks and its going well thus far. This week is my first time documenting the progress.

  18. June 19, 2008 at 13:20

    Yes, Akbar,

    George Sr. was quite a brilliant man in many respects. In 2000 I voted for this yutz in the general hoping that some of that of that brilliance had transferred. Turns out Sr. had kept it all for himself. On the grand chess board, stopping at the Iraq border and not being pulled into “fool’s mate” was uncanny for a world leader. We now controlled the center of the board. We win as long as we are patient. Then came “the fool”.

  19. 19 Shirley
    June 19, 2008 at 13:32

    Priya! Yaar! Dost! We missed our TP 19 Jun last night! Thank you for setting it up for us.

  20. 20 Dennis
    June 19, 2008 at 13:46

    Hi Priya…And also the rest of the team in Glasgow…

    I think that the world should looking for oil
    as soon as possible…

    @ Shirley, june 19,2008 (@) 1.32pm comments, i also missed the “TP”….

    (i will read the others questions later in the eastern time zone, i have to attend a diagnostic centre meeting for my math problems)….

    Onondaga Community College
    Syracuse, New York
    United States of America

  21. 22 John in Salem
    June 19, 2008 at 14:10

    So it seems the cure for an expensive addiction is to make the drug more affordable by increasing the supply.
    Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?

  22. 23 Shirley
    June 19, 2008 at 14:12

    The song that John Augustine quoted at the end of his post on he health care thread – is that the same one that opens CSI Miami? (The Who: “then I get on my knees and pray… We won’t get fooled again.”)

    When the bombing started in Afghanistan, I cried. It was a Sunday. I was at the mosque. To this day, I thank God that I was there ant not home to cry by myself. Someone announced that the bombing had begun. Everyone gathered in the prayer hall, and we all prayed together. It was so emotional.

    I know that Al Qaeda and the Taliban were holed up there. But the way that we have been going about it in Afghanistan just does not seem right to me. There are aspects of our occupaiton that really seem to reek of oil and its infrastrusture. We keep on attacking civilians, whetehr by accident or by design. And Guantánamo is wrong, through and through. But it is hard for me to put it clearly into words. It’s more of just a feeling.

    Operation Iraqi Liberation. What’s that spell? Operation Iraqi Liberation. O-I-L.

    My family thinks that we should stop worrying about Mother Nature and just drill away at the last of the oil that is tucked away in our national parks. Such talk rolls my stomach over. If anyone (Brett, Dwight, etc) could throw links my way so that I could be better informed on the subject, I would really appreciate it. These people don’t seem to care how many acres of pristine land they turn into wasteland, or how many people get lung cancer and asthma, as long as they can make their money on a non-sustainable, dirty energy source. Their “fuel alternatives” like “clean coal” and nuclear power have just as bitter a taste as the oil. When will people leanr that if we change the way that we build our houses and buildings and the way that we transport ourselves that we wouldn’t need as much energy in the first place? When will they realise that the fuel of tomorrow is wind, air, etc.; and that tomorrow is today?

  23. June 19, 2008 at 14:31

    Afghanistan, Menace or Tragedy

    TEHRAN – The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1978 was supposedly to counter US influence in Iran. All that is left of the that conflict today is the desolation of the country and squalor of the people.
    Iran and Pakistan are in the frontline of the conflict. Both are looking for a solution, but given the arms race, drug trade and internal power struggle, it will be a long time before anything is settled.
    Britain must remain in Afghanistan because it knows what it is doing, and can help to bring all sides to the negotiating table.

  24. 25 Mark Purdy
    June 19, 2008 at 14:32

    What!!! is happening to this country?

    Soaring fuel prices, inflation at its highest in 11years, falling house prices, food prices increasing and no financial help to compensate! yet we the British public stand by and do nothing but accept it. Are we as a nation being too soft with the organisations we trust with our money?

    Fuel Prices

    It’s not the price of oil that is driving up the cost of living it’s the amount of tax at the pumps placed by the government. what a lot of people don’t realise is that the price of agricultural diesel is around 59p-75p per litre, although it is illegal to use red diesel in vehicles for use on public highways, people don’t realise that agricultural diesel is actually standard white diesel with a dye additive to distinguish it for tax purposes. Surely it is more expensive to produce white diesel then add a dye to it? This proves that, contrary to what the government tell us, the extortionate cost of white diesel from the forecourts at £1.31 per litre is down to tax and tax alone. However we are being brainwashed and conned by our government that it’s the price of oil that is driving the price of fuel up at the pumps, the UK pays the same price for a barrel of oil than any other country like the USA for example but the good old yanks still only pay around $4.00 for a GALLON of fuel, for those who don’t know the mathematics that’s around £2.20 for 4.5406 litres of fuel and even the Americans are complaining about how much fuel costs! I don’t think they realise how grateful we would be if the UK prices were the same. we are paying £5.9481 for a Gallon, that was another little wet one that our government slipped to us when they changed us over from gallons to litres but didn’t adjust the price of fuel accordingly. For the environmentalists out there, did you know that diesel does not produce dangerous carbon dioxide it burns cleaner than petrol and is more economical on fuel consumption and is cheaper to produce? Yet the government shout out we must do more to save the environment from greenhouse gasses and then TAX US MORE FOR DOING OUR BIT and what do we do about it as a nation NOTHING?

    The price of fuel is having a drastic effect on the cost of living by pushing up the transporting of food costs which are being passed on to the consumers by rich supermarket giants that have crippled the smaller local shops with their buying power. Now the energy suppliers have jumped on board the band wagon threatening us that their prices are set to increase by 40% by the winter if this keeps going the vast majority of the poorest people in the UK, namely the elderly, sick, disabled and one parent families will have to make a difficult choice this winter, HEAT OR EAT as they will not be able to keep up with rising costs of living especially as we have all just been told during a meeting of greedy fat cats in living in ivory towers (or was it a meeting of bankers at Mansion House?) that to keep inflation down wages must not be increased! Despite the fact tanker drivers just been awarded a 14% pay rise over the next two years, fair enough it is a dangerous job that they do but the odds are that they are at no more risk than Jon doe biking to work on a morning to tie knots in sausages for twelve hours and he wont be on 40,000k per annum. Still we stand by and do NOTHING?

    Here are the nothing’s that we are doing to improve our nation, our finances and our future. We are putting our money into the banks and building societies that are supposed to look after it for us and pay interest on our savings like the Northern Rock for example that had almost all of their customers withdraw their savings when they realised they could lose their money due to the banks bad debts. How long will it be before other banks find themselves in the same predicament given the fact that the UK is on a very fine line before it falls into recession?

    We invest in pensions that, as we are warned, policy values can go DOWN as well as up and over the years they have done practically nothing but go down (maybe they should put all their stocks into oil as it certainly seems a good bet for profit)

    To top it all off we vote into government bull**** bureaucrats to manage our country, tell us what we can do and cant do because we as a nation cant be trusted to look after ourselves or make our own choices. For this pleasure we allow the government to tax us to death, then pay them extortionately for the privilege of doing so while they take what is left of the UK’s cash, provided by its citizens, to spend millions on dropping bombs in poorer countries to get their hands on more oil, to add tax on it line their own pockets make more bombs and try to look for another oil rich country to pick on (Iran) and then the government has the audacity to tell us that we live in a democracy (or is it a monopolised dictatorship I think they both mean the same)

    What can we do about it?

    Personally I am ready to vote for a vote of no confidence in any government withdraw my savings from the bank buy a safe and keep it in there at least I know I wont lose it. If everybody else did the same in mass protest to the way we are being conned, swindled and embezzled, the government and banking sectors would soon realise that they need us a damn site more than we need them.

    Brothers in arms unite

    power to the people


  25. June 19, 2008 at 14:45

    @ Mark Prudy

    Sorry for the quick edit. The rest of your post is valid. The acronym you used references a word considered “profane” by most. I have the world’s worst potty mouth. Sailors learn new techniques from me, but as a moderator I think that allowing acronyms that are commonly understood to include harsh language makes way for entrance into a grey area that we all generally don’t want to go down. Thanks for your contribution, and if any of the other community members think I am wrong, I won’t edit out acronyms again. Or I will better explain my reasoning.

  26. 27 VictorK
    June 19, 2008 at 14:45

    @Steve: you shouldn’t have bothered with the Darfur rape story (which has been reported on before – boys and girls are also regular targets for this kind of treatment).

    Since there’s no obvious angle from which to blame George Bush or the West (though I’ve read comments from people blaming Israel and declaring the whole thing a plot against Islam) this story will continue to be reported on at the margins. Never underestimate the sensitivity of the Western media when it comes to reporting stories that cast Islam in a bad light: people who insist on referring to ‘disaffected youths’ aren’t really going to be able to report candidly on the racial, cultural and religious nature of what’s happening in Darfur (yes, I know the Darfuri are Muslims too, but they fall into the morally insignificant category of ‘African Muslims’ – an ethnic fact that makes a world of difference. When did you last see a Muslim on this forum, or anywhere in the world for that matter, express concern over their plight?) . It’s funny: some Western liberals will work themselves into an anti-racist frenzy if you make a general and critical remark about the state of Africa. But let Africans be raped, robbed and murdered for purely racial reasons and many of the same liberals will be surprisingly tongue-tied. Their murmurs over Darfur don’t begin to compare with the splendid passion with which they have pursued George Bush for years. Besides, the people suffering are of the darkest hue (as in the DRC of Congo and Somalia): don’t expect anybody to care very much, not even Africans. We need to discuss real tragedies like the Palestinian Holocaust (I sometimes think WHYS is a bit like the UN Security Council: this subject has a permanent seat) or the process for arraigning George Bush before the World Court when his term ends for being history’s greatest war criminal (though if the descriptions of him so generously posted the other day as ‘stupid’, ‘an idiot’, ‘a moron’ , ‘an imbecile’ are anything to go by he ought to have a good defence.

    The Darfur crisis will be resolved when the people of Darfur are all dead or fled. Then the world will forget, if it ever remembered.

  27. 28 VictorK
    June 19, 2008 at 14:56

    Akbar: you wrote – “Britain must remain in Afghanistan because it knows what it is doing, and can help to bring all sides to the negotiating table.” But what interest does Britain itself have in bringing people to the negotiating table. Whether Afghanistan is ruled by the Taliban or by a democratic government means nothing to me or to most British people. We have no reason to be there and ought to leave.

  28. June 19, 2008 at 15:00

    @ VictorK

    There is always opportunity to blame GB. Since we are talking economics here, there is this little thing called “opportunity cost”. Opportunity cost is the cost (sacrifice) forgone by choosing one option over an alternative one that may be equally desired. It is the cost of not making the other choice when making decisions. So instead of helping to stop human rights violation, he engaged in a war for personal profit, ironically in the name of human rights violations. What cold the America people have done with an extra trillion dollars? hmmm

  29. 30 Roberto
    June 19, 2008 at 15:15

    The Darfur crisis will be resolved when the people of Darfur are all dead or fled. Then the world will forget, if it ever remembered.

    ——— The overriding question is when, if ever will the African people and their leaders ever develop enough so that they can be an influence for positive policies and development?

    The west cannot impose change and aid seems to hurt as much as help. Now the Chinese are buying up resource markets in a different approach. We’ll see where that leads.

  30. 31 VictorK
    June 19, 2008 at 16:02

    @Dwight: as I understand opportunity cost it’s about mutually exclusive desirable choices. An isolationist might argue that there would have been nothing ‘desirable’ about the US getting involved in Darfur and that from the perspective of national interest such involvement was never a choice for the US (as opposed to pressuring Africans, Arabs and Muslims to do something about the problem). Or one could object to what you said by countering that there is no exclusivity about waging war in the Middle East and doing something about human rights in Darfur (even if it only meant pressuring others to act, though it could mean sending arms to the Darfuri). Or it could be argued that the real opportunity costs (which are not purely economic) was between (a) the US being involved in the Sudan financially via private companies and the administration bringing pressure to bear for better human rights treatment (indirectly, via those businesses), and (b) American businesses disinvesting from Sudan and the US being, as a consequence, reaping moral goodwill for that act as well as forestalling criticism that ‘America’ was working alongside a genocidal regime.

    [b] is in fact what happened, when Western liberals successfully argued that it would be best to get American corporations out of Sudan, despite their being open to moral, political and public pressure about how they conducted themselves there re human rights, and (by implication) to have their places taken by morally obtuse regimes like China (what other kind of regime would choose to invest there?), who don’t care in the slightest how many Africans are raped or murdered, and who can’t be pressured to care (being amoral or immoral), so long as the oil keeps flowing. Liberal opinion has already dictated the choice about US involvement in Sudan, something that George Bush bowed to but didn’t lead, just as liberal and public opinion – rather than George Bush – has made it impossible for the US to engage in any more high-minded ‘virtuous wars’ for fear that they might not be so high-minded and might lead to Iraq-style disaster.

    But I think the most interesting thing about Iraq and Afghanistan is that they have destroyed the moral authority of the American government. People can now reasonably object to American involvement in Darfur by alleging that it could turn into a second Iraq because the Americans have shown that they lack the intelligence, the competence and the resolve to manage such critical situations, and certainly lack the moral right to presume to solve such a crisis. In the same way, though Iran is a potential threat, the US is weakened in its ability to deal with it, to the extent that people may now reasonably doubt the truth of anything the Bush administration alleges. But I don’t think it fair to blame George Bush for Darfur. That’s the responsibility of the Sudanese regime, with minor portions of blame going to the members of the African Union and the Arab League.

  31. June 19, 2008 at 16:03

    Hi VictorK
    I sympathize when you say: “We should deal with whoever comes to power,” but what do you do with the countless factions which thrive on Arab money in Afghanistan? How do you dampen Pakistani ambitions?
    Incidentally, what should Iran do? What will happen to 2 million Afghan refugees in Iran and another 2.5 million in Pakistan if no solution is reached?
    Opium production in Afghanistan has reached 8,000 Tons. We already have 2.5 million addicts of our own, without worrying about the millions of youngsters at risk in the rest of the world. What to we do with that?
    Please don’t leave us in the lurch.

  32. 33 VictorK
    June 19, 2008 at 17:40

    @Akbar: I’m very much in favour of maximum disengagement between the Western and Muslim worlds, except for trade, diplomacy and possibly education.

    I hope that Afghanistan has a stable and prosperous future. But I can live with it if it becomes a poverty-ridden centre of anarchy. It’s for the Afghans to shape their own lives, for better or worse.

    Iran is often described as the region’s second super-power, after the US so conveniently removed Saddam and facilitated the collpase of Iraqi society (mainly through the good offices of the Iraqis themselves). Is there any truth to that description, do you think? If so then I think Iran should take the lead – according to where its national interest points – in stabilising the region, or at least that part of it that falls within its sphere of influence. Does Iran have the power and the will for such a role, or is it a paper tiger? What seems beyond doubt is that a solution to the region’s problems imposed externally and by non-Muslims will be neither welcome nor durable. What are Iran’s strategic interests? Following a withdrawal of the failed Coalition would a projection of Iranian power into Iraq and Afghanistan be better-suited to bringing those countries to order? What is the relationship between the Taliban and the Iranian regime? Could they work together? We assume that Iraq’s Shiite majority could co-operate with Iran, but presumably the Sunni insurgency would continue – would the Iranians want to get caught up in that?

    It would be interesting to hear your views on this. But I think the West, and the US especially, need to embrace the idea that Iran might have a positive role to play in the region, a role that it is clearly impossible for any Western power to take on successfully. .(I also think that the three-way partition of Iraq should be seriously considered).

  33. June 19, 2008 at 18:18

    Hi VictorK
    I don’t believe there is a divide between the Muslim, Christian and Jewish worlds. Muslims in the Mideast have money and influence, and they are looking at ways to use that power.
    There is no solution in sight to the Afghan issue. It is the back door to China. Sooner or later, China will make a move in this direction.
    “I can live with (Afghanistan) if it becomes a poverty-ridden centre of anarchy,” you say; but can you? What would happen if three or four million Afghan refugees turned up in Greece on their way to France and Britain?
    Unfortunately, it is no longer possible for Afghans to shape their own lives, there is simply too much involved. Don’t forget that they were sidelined from the rest of the world for the best part of thirty years, like Iran. Deep scars remain from the Russian and American invasions, not to mention the feudal state of the country.
    Iran is in trouble. There are murmurs that it will not accept “uranium enrichment suspension.” EU must put its foot down. Talking to Iran is like talking to a blank wall. Nothing is settled. Thuggery persists, narrow-mindedness to the point of hanging gays and eliminating dissenters and political activists.
    So many problems face the quasi-archaic prelacy in Iran. What is to happen to
    4 million expatriates stranded across the world? When is reparation and indemnity for property seizure during the Revolution to be disbursed?
    The Iran, US problem is worsening. In many instances, Washington is the main obstacle to peace, – e.g. Iraq.
    Iran was perfectly happy with Saddam, but the shia problem, the sharia and rule by opinion, – fatwa etc.. – is problematic. Public patience with prelates is wearing thin. Iran does have the power and the will to contribute to regional peace, but not while prelates are in control.
    Iran must follow in the footsteps of NATO and Britain in Afghanistan, otherwise, we will be back in the post-Rabbani days.
    There is no question of Coalition Forces withdrawing from Iraq, if there is to be a united Iraq. Iran has its own channels of communication with the Taleban, just as Britain, US, NATO, Pakistan and Saudis. The shia, sunni conflict is far from settled, but it is the key to regional peace and stability.

  34. 35 VictorK
    June 19, 2008 at 19:15

    @Akbar: thanks for your very interesting response.I was particularly struck by your remarks about the Iranian prelates and the extent to which you consider them a problem for your society.

    Re the hypothetical 4 million Afghan refugees. 15 or 20 years ago, they might actually have found refuge in Euope. But in recent years the perception of Islam and Muslims in Europe (and the West generally) has undergone a radical change. Muslims are regarded as a social problem when it comes to their increasing unwillingness – if not determination – to assimilate (I am writing in general terms; there are of course exceptions). They are regarded as a risk to public safety in that any large community of Muslims is likely to start breeding terrorists. and they are never short of grievances to motivate them. 4 million Afghan refugees, however desperate their plight, would never be accepted in Europe today. The same perception makes it a near-certainty that Turkey will never become a member of the European Union. It is cerrtain that we in Europe will face many more outrages like the London and Madrid bombings, outrages that will further harden attitudes towards Muslims. And countries like Holland and France, where an increasing proportion of the poulation is Muslim, are headed for serious problems, including the possibility – in the long term – of civil war. Islam is a growing problem for Western Europe.

    The EU is notoriously weak and conciliatory. I don’t see it putting it’s foot down in its dealings with Iran. The Americans are rightly fearful of the options a nuclear Iran might give to terrorist groups. The Israelis are anxious about that but are just as concerned about the possibility of a direct Iranian attack. I wonder how much of a gap there is between your President’s rhetoric about obliterating Israel and Iran’s real intentions. The Mullahs may be reactionary but I doubt if they are suicidal, and everyone knows that Israel has a considerable nuclear arsenal. I think Ahmadinejad has probably persuaded Israel to deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions in a very direct way through his words, when the reality may be that Iran had no actual intention of ever getting into a nuclear conflict with the Israelis. It’s Israel, not the US, that will put it’s foot down on this.

    I was very surprised to read that Iran was perfectly happy with Saddam. Is that in retrospect, seeing what ‘liberation’ has unleashed in Iraq? Was Iranian opinion more sanguine in 2003 when he was toppled and Iraq’s future seemed full of possibilities?

    You are right about a united Iraq requiring a continued Coalition presence. But since that presence cannot be indefinite it does suggest that a united Iraq is not a realistic or worthwhile objective. Iraq is a creature of the international community. It was, as I recall, the League of Nations, operating through Britain, that established the Iraqi state from the remnants of the Ottoman empire. There is no compelling historical reason for maintaining the political unity of this or any other artificial state (partititon would benefit several African countries too). The natural divisions in Iraq between Kurd, Sunni and Shiite point to the establishment of sub-states that reflect these divisions and loyalties. It is only the naive optimism of Western leaders that has prevented this solution being countenanced (Blair, bush and Brown all parrot their commitment to Iraqi unity, but none of them has ever said why). Solving Iraq’s problems by abolishing Iraq would be a bold but decisive move (alongside an India-Pakistan, or rather a Tureky-Greece transfer of populations).

  35. 36 John LaGrua/New York
    June 19, 2008 at 21:14

    Drilling for more oil to continue the profligate use of fossil fuel is what you would expect from Bush .It takes 7 years to produce oil from new wells ,hardly helpful in the current crisis.Conservation must become the serious choice..fuel efficient cars moving toward non petrol fuel ,nuclear energy to replace generation for electricity and public policy to encourage ending wasteful use now.”Turn out the lights” the cities of oil; importers are ablase at night ,ornamental but no longer viable.

  36. June 20, 2008 at 10:27

    Hi VictorK

    Sorry for the late reply. We are three and a half hours ahead of you.
    Your remark on Muslims and Turkey is an eye-opener, I didn’t think of it that way.
    Pls refer:
    VIZ: Grueling Task Awaits Ahmadinejad Back Home
    UN Dampens Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions

    The Iraq problem is far from over. Partition of Iraq has its dangers. Talebani might keep his house in order while he’s alive, but the Kurdish problem will erupt sooner or later. Syria, Turkey, Iran and even Russia are all involved. Arabs will not take kindly to the partition of Iraq. You can already see the effects of factional and ethnic tensions.
    Can shiites contribute to peace and stability in Iraq, remains to be see. Iraq Foreign Minister Houshyar Zibari said that the US, Iraq treaty would be signed by the end of July on Wednesday. Should we disregard talks of resistance and opposition to the accord?

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