Saturday, 19 March 2011

Enforce UN Resolution 1973 - Now

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Image: Smoke billows from a Benghazi neighbourh
Smoke billows from Benghazi - UN action must protect the Libyans - Getty Images
It would appear this morning from BBC reports that pro-Gaddafi forces have attacked with impunity the people of Benghazi. In spite of protestations from Gaddafi spokespeople that they have not attacked the rebels, it is quite clear a fighter jet was circling the city and was shot down. It was likely to have been a rebel fighter. Enough is enough. No more prevarication. No more hesitation. Stop Gaddafi's troops now. The so-called ceasefire is fragmented and not fully implemented and Gaddafi has not withdrawn troops who are on the streets in many towns and cities. If he had been serious they would be returned to barracks and the police force left to undertaking regular duties. Journalists have been left beaten and their lives threatened. Gaddafi's thugs patrol the streets of Tripoli.
Air defences should be destroyed. Tanks and heavy artillery should be destroyed. The loss of life should be minimised but Gaddafi's generals know that if they simply contact rebel forces and raise the flag of Libyan independence they have nothing to fear. The democratic forces in Libya are acting reasonably and in a civilised manner. The National Transitional Council will happily accept pro-Gaddafi forces if they switch allegiance.
Typhoon fighter
Typhoon Fighter - can protect Libyans from Gaddafi's aircraft
Nimrod R1
Nimrods - can undertake surveillance on Gaddafi's tanks and troops
Some campaigners are protesting against military action. I have to say that on this occasion they are wrong. For those who are pacifists I salute their principles and resolute position but innocent people must be protected. This is not Iraq. 

  1. In Libya, the United Nations has authorised legal action through Resolution 1973. There are no arguments over what it means. It is clear and unequivocal. In Iraq the legalities of the war were at best opaque and at worst completely illegal. 
  2. In Libya, regional authorities have called for action. The Arab League (League of Arab States) has passed a resolution backing a No Fly Zone. In Iraq regional authorities were against military action.
  3. In Libya, democratic forces have tried peacefully to protest and have been murdered and arrested by Gaddafi. The National Transitional Council has united the rebels and is applying democratic principles to wanting a free Libya. In Iraq there was a fragmented opposition with some dubious individuals and groups who were puppets of the invading army.
  4. In Libya no occupying army will be used by foreign governments. In Iraq it was a huge ground force who swept into the country and dismantled the state delivering seven years of utter chaos and death through a colonial type government that remains in a precarious state.

No, this is a righteous action taken by UN authorised forces but they need to act now!
Libya's democratic forces need support now

Friday, 18 March 2011

Turn the tide against Gaddafi (القذافي)

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UN Security Council members vote for the resolution at the UN
The United Nations have taken decisive action against Gaddafi
It was a welcome birthday present for me, to hear live on the radio the United Nations' votes cast in Resolution 1973 against Colonel Gaddafi to authorise protection for the civilians of Libya. This is a 'No Fly +' resolution since it allows "all necessary measures" to protect civilians. That doesn't just mean patrols over Libyan airspace, it also means the NATO strike force has the legal right to stop and destroy artillery and tanks positions around Benghazi and other cities. Rapidly the war can swing back to support the Libyan democrats seeking freedom and justice. 
Even if Gaddafi steps up the attacks against the citizens of Benghazi and enters the city streets (making it more difficult for the UN air strikes) the logistical lines of support stretching back to Tripoli can be quickly severed, all Gaddafi's aircraft can be forcibly grounded and if needs be, the heavy weaponry can be silenced.
Gaddafi Benghazi Libya News
Now Gaddafi's days are numbered. The Rebels can reverse the tide of the war
David Cameron deserves great credit for his courageous in leading (with France's President Nicolas Sarkozy) the international effort to gain legal backing for military action. I will be the first to criticise Cameron when I see fit but without his leadership thousands of Libyans would be killed, injured and tortured by Gaddafi's murderous troops. 
Prime Minister, David Cameron has shown impressive leadership to support Libyan rebels
I trust the contingency plans of the past few weeks are well advanced to allow pinpoint attacks to destroy ground installations, military airstrips and the aircraft of the Libyan armed forces within the next 24 to 48 hours. Benghazi just needs to hold out for that amount of time and then the pressure will start to lift on the city.
Gaddafi now has a simple choice; resign and flee the country or the Libyan democrats will be turning the tide of the war and with the UN authorised action roll back the advances. If Gaddafi truly wants to protect civilians (as he lamely tries to claim) then he will stand down his troops and allow a peaceful transition to a democracy with free and fair elections.
In the likelihood he will cling to power, his army will be destroyed. Gaddafi's troops should now save themselves and stop the civil war by switching to support the legitimate National Transitional Council. Gaddafi's troops are better to do the honourable thing and contact the NTC by flying the rebels flags. Otherwise, the terrible consequences for those around artillery, tanks and aircraft will be a terrible death. I hope that the Gaddafi troops, who are in the main decent men with families, will support the NTC and rapidly reverse the war to enter Tripoli and end the murderous, mad rule of Colonel Gaddafi.
Democracy is coming to Libya

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Libyan rebels should be offered New International Brigade

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Fitxer:Emblem of the International Brigades.svg
New International Brigade could assist the Libyan Rebels
Gaddafi’s army closes in on Benghazi and the hopes of a quick victory for the rebel Democrats have slipped away to the new terror of Gaddafi’s henchmen now seeking retribution as they sweep eastwards. The international ‘community’ meanwhile agonises over any significant action and Gaddafi is using the interlude to regain as much ground as possible. The possible no-fly zone even if agreed may now be too little, too late.
It was always going to be very difficult for the rebels to militarily defeat Gaddafi given the billions of hard cash he could bribe both his own troops and the mercenaries flown in. Likewise some estimates give him a four to one advantage in troop numbers and an overwhelming (if not total) advantage in hardware such as artillery and tanks. It is a magnificent and surprising result that the rebels have slowed the advance down given the odds against them. Unless UN sanctioned military help is authorised within the next few hours or days, the situation looks bleak for the rebels. If the Libyan rebel authorities agreed, an International Brigade of volunteer troops could be the only hope of providing international military support. All Democrats should see that such moments in history rarely come along. The Arab Spring of Freedom must not fail for international prevarication, lack of leadership and a failure to back democratic rebels in Libya. However, force should only be as a last resort. With Gaddafi’s troops approaching Benghazi, we have reached a point of last resort.
File:Flag of Libya (1951).svg
Libyan rebels losing ground to Gaddafi

As I urged two weeks ago, the international community had to act quickly to give the rebels any real chance of success. The opportunity has now almost gone. It is absolutely right that any action should be legal and proportionate. But it should not have been difficult for the United Nations Security Council, if they truly believe in democracies flourishing (and since some on the Security Council are hardly paid up democracies no wonder there is prevarication) to take quick decisive action. France is the only Western country who have had the courage to recognise the National Transitional Council.
So what next? A no fly zone (now backed by the Arab League) and a naval blockade would still slow down the advance of Gaddafi’s forces. If air support was given it would halt and potentially push back Gaddafi’s forces as the lines of communication can be easily broken up with airstrikes. However, once the conflict was inside suburban areas, airstrikes would be too risky.
If modern arms were supplied to the rebels then by playing for time they could re-group, re-train and potentially with their enthusiasm make up a professional fighting force that would then at the very least be able to robustly defend the east of Libya. The civil war would enter into a stalemate but then time would be on the rebels’ side. If they can halt any further ingression into the East then over weeks and months the tide would turn back. The international community would see that Gaddafi can be finished off through rigid sanctions and the weight of opinion would grow even amongst supporters that if a united Libya was ever to be returned then the price would be Gaddafi’s removal.
Without governmental and pan-governmental support for action then the end of the rebels could be a matter of a few days or weeks. If Benghazi falls then the Libyan National Transitional Council (LTNC) would flee to Tobruk or have to leave the country. The reign of terror on the civilian population would commence with secret and public arrests and thousands if not tens of thousands will be killed and/or tortured. It will be a vicious, deadly purge of any opposition. Gaddafi must not be allowed to win. The man is a deluded, megalomaniac with a penchant for violence and cruel, authoritarian rule.
The opposition has now organised around the Libyan National Transitional Council led by the Chairman, Mustafa Mohammed Abdul Jalil. He is a potential prime minister in-waiting who can lead the country through a peaceful democratic revolution for free and fair elections. However, Jilal and the LNTC do not command adequate armed forces to be able to win the battle nor perhaps to even halt Gaddafi’s troops.
Mustafa Abdul Jalil - Chairman of the Libyan National Transitional Council
The Arab Democratic revolution in 2011 is a beautiful Spring of hope and freedom. In Egypt and Tunisia, the transition has relatively been peaceful. It demonstrated a new beginning for a poor people who suffered at the hands of despots. That democratic revolution needs to be nurtured and assisted according to the wishes of the Arabs and North African peoples.
The simple truth is that in Libya Muammar Gaddafi is a fascist of the first degree. He will not negotiate in good faith and has committed great atrocities on both his own people and on international targets such as Lockerbie and Berlin bombings. The opposition have set out clear democratic principles and commitments that make them a worthy champion of freedom. Whilst it is difficult to know exact details of policies and how a democracy would be introduced in Libya in the middle of a civil war it is difficult to be critical of the rebels. They are simply surviving.
LIBYAN ARAB JAMAHIRIYA, Ras Lanuf : Libyan rebel fighters run for cover as shells explode nearby during clashes with forces loyal to leader Moamer Kadhafi, just few kilometers outside the oil town of Ras Lanuf on March 9, 2011. AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT
There are indications that some foreign intervention would be welcomed and as Gadaffi’s forces move Eastwards there may be even greater urgency to allow foreign intervention as long as it is with the permission and authority of the Libyan National Transitional Council.
If there was the genuine prospect of a ceasefire, or an honourable negotiated truce then it should be tried but the speed and success of the counter drive by Gaddafi’s troops to regain ground means that options are limited.
All democrats around the world have a simple choice, either back military force to protect the rebels or allow them to suffer at the hands of overwhelming odds by a brutal Fascist.  
In 1936, right wing generals sought to overthrow a democratically elected Government in Spain. When the advance of the generals was recognised, International Brigades were offered and accepted by the Government to support the loyal Spanish troops. I believe the time has come and as a last resort that a new International Brigade should be offered to the LNTC. If they say no, then so be it but if they agree then such forces would have to fall under the authority and command of the LNTC and at all times exercise discipline and respect for the people they are supporting. It is suggested with a heavy heart as swift action by NATO under UN authority could easily halt Gaddafi and potentially force him back but time is running out.
I have opposed war when I could see a clear, peaceful alternative but I cannot see such an alternative in Libya. I am not a pacifist although again there is a time for such honourable beliefs and actions. Young and old, men and women and shades of every tribe seek freedom. They are now being pushed back and if defeated the retribution will be horrific.  They need support.  Warm words are not enough. Hesitant no fly zones are not enough. Action is needed now.
The epochs in history arrive once in a generation and all Democrats should rally behind the Libyan Rebels.
The New International Brigades (IB) should formally request permission of the Libyan National Transition Council to form up in Benghazi and defend the revolution. Whatever capacity they wish the IB to serve so it should follow.  From house to house, street to street and city to city the innocent must be protected. 
Democrats of the world look at your consciences, see the tears of Libyan justice and hear the first cry of Libyan democracy. Now is the time to unite on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea for the Arab Spring of Freedom.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Bugging and bungling their way around those in the public eye

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The latest twist to the saga of newspapers illegally listening into people’s phones and voice mails was the revelation that a collapse of a court case has revealed a private investigator had links to bent police officers, the News of the World and other papers such as the Mirror Group.
bugged cell phonesThere are times when it seems like something out of a thriller novel or film. David Cameron hired Andy Coulson as his Director of Communications knowing full well that Coulson was paying a man called Jonathan Rees who had illegally purloined information on people in the public eye. Nick Clegg was aware of the information on Coulson and did nothing to try and stop the appointment.
Jonathan Rees, left, was rehired by Andy Coulson, right, at the News of the World
Jonathan Rees illegally passed information to Andy Coulson's News of the World
Coulson always stated he knew nothing of the appalling practices at the News of the World and that there was the single rotten apple in the business who got found out. It is now becoming clearer that there was an office full of journalists paying private investigators to hack into mobiles to get them any information they could turn into ‘stories’.
The Guardian’s report today only makes it more and more likely that the previous police enquiries were utterly compromised and never professionally undertaken to root out the wrong doing across various newspapers. Rees paid corrupt police officers cash to hand over confidential information. There are accusations that the Police mis-led Parliament over phone hacking. Chris Byrant MP has done a sterling job in robustly tearing open the secret criminal world involved in phone hacking and more power to his elbow that he will continue to do so.
Chris Bryant MP - championing the truth about phone hacking
Given I was subjected to a man claiming to be a police officer I wonder whether it was a real police officer in the pay of a journalist or private investigator or whether it was a shady character impersonating a police officer to try and find out private and confidential information. The dirty tricks that have been going on, are only just coming out into the light. It is a chilling thought that some of the very people who should be protecting individuals may also be prepared to pass confidential information to people posing as journalists. What happens if they were duped and passed information not to a journalist but a terrorist or other criminals?
One wonders if the current Met Police investigation can be trusted and whether the officers have been vetted and screened to ensure that they can be trusted? Given the Police have yet to approach me (although my solicitor has voluntarily offered to assist them on my behalf) for a statement, how on earth can I and others have any real confidence that they are seriously investigating every aspect of this case?
Sue Akers
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers in charge of phone hacking investigation
What else and who else is to be exposed for illegal practices? How many voicemails were hacked? What information was used or acted upon to blackmail people? How many and which police officers have been helping to feed information to journalists and private investigators? What emails are being investigated by the police to see if there is an audit trail of wrong doing? When will the police contact each and every victim and ensure their cases are thoroughly investigated?
There are far more questions than answers and the murky world of journalists, private investigators and bent coppers will continue to be illuminated by the truth.

Audio and eBooks are 'hear' to stay

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The world is changing. The sales of eBooks is increasing rapidly and according to some figures are now outselling paper back copies. The Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader have overcome the longstanding problems (to a large degree) of the readability of the screen and eye strain using a technological device as opposed to paper.
I confess to still preferring the feel of a solid block of paper in my hand to take places but the weight is a real nuisance and on holiday taking more than one or two books is nigh on impossible without incurring the risk of tipping over weight limits on baggage.
I have no complaints about reading a book digitally and there are some advantages that the book won’t be damaged and you page is instantly remembered without the fluffing around of dropping your bookmark and then re-reading half a chapter trying to find the page you were on.
Bloomsburys have for instance just reported this month that there e-book sales for last year increased 18 fold (yes you read that right). Google has launched its eBooks with over 3 million titles.
But for long car journeys listening to a good digital audio book is a pleasure (especially after listening to the news spool around endlessly). Sitting on the train or bus rather than just listening to music, an audio book can whisk you away from the crowded cabin to another imaginary world (without crowded buses and trains). I remember my step-father enjoying Talking Books especially once his sight deteriorated as he got older and he would take the tape recorder into the garden as he was turning over the vegetable plot. No doubt the neighbours enjoying the odd Agatha Christie novel as well.
Digital Audio Books for instance can cost just £3.99 for any audio book, once you have signed up. For those avid book listeners that is a bargain. 

Download an Audiobook for just £3.99!

For the next generation, will they turn more to digital books that they read or listen to, rather than the paper copies? I hope not entirely, otherwise the shelves of teenagers will be just lined with Xbox and PlayStation games. Books are a superior form of entertainment (says that ageing man in the corner of the train gripping a book…).

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Libya stands on the edge

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New volunteer fighters loyal to the opposition movement attended their first day of training at a base in Benghazi, in eastern Libya, on Tuesday - New York Times
As Gaddafi’s loyalist troops head East, this is a crucial moment for both the fate of Libya and the North African, Middle East revolutions. Gaddafi still commands a significant number of loyalist soldiers and weaponry and the reality is that the rebels have few troops and few weapons.
ANALYSIS - Foreign intervention unlikely unless ...
Can the rebels defeat Gaddafi? If they lose they will be massacred.
The International Community debates and wrings its hands over whether to impose a No-Fly zone. In the meantime fighter jets are flying over Ajdabiya and attacking a major arms dump. So far it has been only partly hit. Yet it lies unprotected and open to pillagers and either being retaken or destroyed by Gaddafi’s forces. Twice fighter pilots have deliberately missed the arms dump. These brave ‘misses’ will not continue forever.
A convoy of some 100 vehicles are heading east. Whilst it is not clear the number of troops and types of weaponry, it is unlikely that the rebels can stave off a full frontal attack, especially whilst fighters can attack with impunity.
This is the closest that the Libyan people have come to throwing off the shackles of its tyrant, Gaddafi. Yet due to Gaddafi deliberately keeping the Government institutions weak, there is no readymade alternative to step into the power vacuum in the east of Libya. It is taking time to form an alternative form of Government.
If the International Community does not act swiftly (within the next week), Gaddafi will slowly take part the rebel areas and the retribution will be brutal. There can be no doubt that he will slaughter thousands if not tens of thousands of people – men, women and children who have defied him or been in the rebel areas.
The United Nations could impose a No-Fly zone but with Russia opposing and ready to veto such a Security Council resolution what are the alternatives?
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks in ...
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
1.       International minimal intervention – Assets continue to be steadily frozen or seized from around the world which will paralyse the Libyan Government’s purchasing power. An arms embargo will stop the Government purchasing new weaponry. Assisting fleeing refugees so safe havens are created in neighbouring states with sufficient temporary homes, food and water supplies set up to protect refugees.
The risks – Gaddafi’s forces free to attack the rebels at will both from land and air. Massacres will ensue in a bloody civil war as the International Community stands on the side-lines although those lucky enough to escape Libya would be protected. However, the risk is that the rebels are beaten and Gaddafi imposes a brutal retaliation.
2.       NATO military protection – A NATO imposed No-Fly zone and sea blockade to control supplies (including stopping all sea bound arms) into Libya. The rebels are supplied with weaponry to assist their fight.
The risks – Without a UN Security Council Resolution, such a NATO No-Fly zone would probably be illegal. A vaguely worded resolution may suffice to provide legality to such NATO action. Supplying arms to in effect civilians in rebel areas is fraught with difficulty. Who do you give the arms to? Do you supply training? If so, how and where, because then you may end up despatching a UN or NATO force of advisors and training staff that would require protection. Supplying arms will inevitably lead to more bloodshed. What if the arms fall into Gaddafi’s hands?
3.       International military offensive – A UN force is rapidly put together and despatched to Eastern Libya to provide a buffer zone of protection which will in effect mean a war between Gaddafi and the International Community. Or the UN/NATO mounts an all-out attack with a major force against Gaddafi. Or finally, the only major army in the region to provide any sort of credible force that may not be opposed by Russia and China would be Egypt. But the generals have their hands full with trying to keep order in their own country. It is possible that an Arab/African army could be put together but it would take many weeks and would only be mobilised if Gaddafi was seen to be massacring his own people.
Unidentified  Egyptian army major generals greet ...
Egypt's Generals - could they mobilise an army to support the Libyan rebels?
The risks – This is a nightmare scenario since only the US can mount any sought of NATO campaign and President Obama will not enter another war after scaling back in Iraq and trying to disentangle from the bloody conflict in Afghanistan. Arabs and Africans would be outraged if a US army landed in Libya. Only an overwhelming force could be sent. If it is too small it will be endanger of failing and creating a buffer zone between the two sides can only be carried out with any kind of credibility by the blue beret UN troops. The US will not allow its troops to pertain to be a UN force and a tough UN resolution is not going to be passed at the UN Security Council, unless Gaddafi starts to massacre thousands and the bodies appear on TV. Even then it is likely that China or Russia would veto such a force.
So, the likely scenario is Number One – International minimal intervention. The International Community will be keeping fingers crossed that the rebels can get organised and sufficient troops can be found to fight Gaddafi’s forces. 
The Quixotic Rise of Libya's Colonel Muammar Gaddafi
At the 2009 G8 when Gaddafi was seen as a 'statesman'
In the meantime there will be a civil war lasting months and if Gaddafi wins then there will be a long, secret and bloody war against those that rebelled. Therefore, if he appears to be winning, the best hope may be for Egypt (perhaps with logistical, technical and intelligence support from NATO) mobilises some sort of liberation army to send across the border and swiftly end Gaddafi’s rule. He should be arrested (if possible) and sent to the International Criminal Court to faces charges for human rights abuses. Then there is just the little matter of handing over power to a democratically elected Government of Libya and to quickly pull back all liberating forces. There are no easy solutions but the risk of doing nothing or little, will result in tens of thousands of civilian and rebel militia deaths, if Gaddafi wins.
Embassy presence
What price freedom? Freedom fighters need international support