Thursday, 25 April 2013

UN should authorise no fly zone over Syria and arm the rebels

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In March 2011, as Colonel Gaddafi was posed to slaughter civilians in Benghazi, I urged that the internal community intervene and together with a NATO enforced no fly zone, humanitarian aid and intelligence and military support for the rebels that a New International Brigade should be formed of freedom fighters from overseas. It is time again, as Syria is ripped apart by the fighting to say 'enough is enough' impose a no fly zone, arms democratic rebels and create a New International Brigade. 
With reports that possibly sarin has been used against civilians in Syria, another red line of brutality and war crimes has been crossed.
Bashar al-Assad (cropped).jpg
President Assad - a brutal tyrant
President Bashar Assad had the persona of a more modern, progressive leader in the early days and hopes were high that he could usher in democracy and greater freedom to the wonderful country of Syria. Instead he has submitted to the worst excesses and developed the ego of a tyrant.
The respected Human Rights Watch summarise the situations as: "Syria responded to months of peaceful protests with brutal force involving indiscriminate air and artillery assaults on residential areas and apparent targeting of civilians, and torture, which constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity".
A protestor at a Trafalgar Square rally standing in solidarity with people across the Middle East and North Africa
Amnesty International have reported: "According to the UN, at least 70,000 people have died since pro-reform protesters took to the streets of Syria in February 2011. Many were shot by security forces while participating in peaceful protests or attending the funerals of others killed. This number continues to rise."
French Rafale could patrol the skies and protect civilians
The United Nations Security Council should impose a no fly zone and destroy the Syrian air defences. If the Syrian Air Force wishes to engage NATO forces then the full might of NATO should be used to completely degrade its capacity to control the skies. Those groups within the Syrian Opposition that actively support democracy should be armed with rifles, transport and heavy artillery. Training should be provided and military advisers made available to ensure that the Syrian Rebels have access to the professional training to uplift their capability to fight and win this war.
If Russia (and China) stubbornly refuse to support a new resolution authorising such support to the Syrian rebels then with great reluctance, as a last resort, I would support NATO or individual countries such as the UK and France taking direct action. Humanity cannot stand by and watch the slaughter continue in Syria as the great citadel of culture and history is ground in dust and rubble. Active intervention is required now.
With reports of foreign fighters entering Syria and supporting the Rebels, it would be better to organise a distinct unit professionally managed and controlled by those democrats. A New International Brigade dedicated to Syria would add a new capability to the ranks of those fighting for their freedom and reassure the West that small arms were not going to terrorist groups. 
New International Brigade could assist the Syrian Rebels
Make no mistake, the route to democracy and the ending of tyranny is never easy and there will be problems ahead but those fighting for freedom will win. Think about it. 100% certainty that Assad's reign of terror will end one day.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Boston terror attacks show the need for relentless vigilence

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Again a democracy faces a terrible attack on innocent people with the police and security services racing around Boston's streets confronting terror suspects and engaging in a furious exchange of fire to try and stop them. It is a confusing, frustrating, shocking spectacle of individuals setting out to kill, maim and wound ordinary civilians who were watching a fun marathon and cheering on loved ones and friends wishing to acknowledge the strength and bravery of ordinary folks conquering 26.2 miles.
What inspired, transfixed and converted young men, so filled with hate that they carefully built professional bombs and casually walked through the streets of Boston knowing they had backpacks filled with deadly materials?

They then watched the race and gently placed the bags on the ground filled with explosives designed to shoot out ball bearings and nails into people. The brothers did not appreciate what it takes to train and complete a grueling race of over 26 miles where muscles are pounded, joints are hammered and the mental anguish can destroy you. They had no respect for those ordinary men and women competing. They must have been fully aware that a young boy, Martin Richard aged just 8 years was standing on the railings lifted up to see over them, as the runners went by towards the finish line. 
Martin Richard, aged 8 years killed by a bomb
Nearby, Krystle Campbell, aged 29, a restaurant manager from Medford, Massachusett was watching excitedly as was Lu Lingzi, a Chinese national who was a student from Boston University. 
Krystle Campbell, aged 29 years
Lu Lingzi, 23 years
The bombers knew what would happen when their plans succeeded; they would kill and horribly maim decent people. Perhaps a small clue to the inhumanity is found in a quote by the older bomber brother, Tamerlan: "I don't have a single American friend, I don't understand them." 

Tonight - The search goes on to find the other suspect
Therein lies the clue to how we solve this type of terror. We need a greater understanding and compassion across ethnicities, cultures and religions. We cannot allow the warped mentalities of violence to succeed. We must make those who feel disillusioned, despairing and isolated to engage and communicate.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
Tamerlan Tsarnaev - American Life of Boston bombing suspect
Tamerlan Tsarnaev
Tonight the search goes on for one suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev aged just 19 years old who is a fugitive from justice, probably still hiding in Boston. Another suspect, his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev aged 26 years old had been killed earlier today, in a shoot out with the police. Yet they are real people. They were born in Chechnya and supported their country's independence. They lived and breathed like everyone else but something dark inside of them convinced them that to 'right a wrong' in their minds required the deaths of the innocents. The questions remain:-
  1. Who trained the brothers in 'terror' tactics of bomb making?
  2. Where dd they buy the ingredients for their bombs?
  3. Did the brothers receive help from other individuals in the US?
  4. Why did they choose the marathon?
  5. Given they left the bombs and were not suicide bombers, did they have plans to attack other targets or did they want to escape?
  6. Are the brothers part of a sleeper cell?
  7. Are other cells waiting to strike targets in the US or were they working alone?
As police tried to intervene to stop the brothers, MIT police officer, Sean Collier was killed in the line of duty. Another man sacrifices his life as a public servant.
Handout picture of the MIT police Sean Collier officer who was shot and killed.
Sean Collier, aged 26 years
Our prayers are with the families of the dead and the 180 injured and we stand in total solidarity with them and the good people of Boston. We cannot ever allow terror to win. Ever. Those thinking of such atrocities must be found and stopped. 
Map of Boston

Then we need to relentlessly counter such thinking by finding and communicating with those round the world that think differently and convince them to engage and debate. Tolerance and understanding is the way to end this madness but it will take time and patience whilst never surrendering or compromising our values of democracy, justice and freedom.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Baroness Thatcher: show respect for the dead

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An effigy of late British former prime minister Margaret Thatcher is carried during an anti-Thatcher party celebrating her death in Trafalgar Square in central London on April 13, 2013.  (AFP Photo)
I cannot believe the awful, shocking protests, gleeful demonstrations and so called parties that have sprung up (craving self publicity) after the death of an elderly women. I remember, the cruel, rapid effects on parts of society from her Government's policies in the 1980's. I remember crying at seeing the miners humiliatingly forced back to work (although Arthur Scargill was equally to blame). I remember the images of ghost lands appearing, where once there was a thousands of jobs in manufacturing cars and bikes. I remember the strident views on nuclear weapons and I remember the riots
But through that all, I was brought up to believe in certain rules of society. You show respect for the elderly, you open doors for ladies, you look out for other people's kids, if you see them fall over. You care about other people in society; the antithesis of Thatcher's vision for some parts of Britain  But that means according her respect in death and to honour the good parts of her revolution. No one other than the most ardent followers of Mao or Stalin could think that we need to return to the State diktats of allowing trade unions almighty power over the economy or denying working people real chances to escape poverty and acquire wealth.
To watch those young people getting drunk and celebrating her death demeans Britain. What does the world think when it sees shocking images of chants, posters and burning effigies in the streets. Baroness Thatcher wasn't some dictator who had people tortured. The British people elected her three times over. She was the product of our democracy, whether we liked it or not. 
Revellers at the outdoor party marking the death of Margaret Thatcher, at Trafalgar Square
So to dance at the death of a democratically elected leader is chilling. A song is racing up the charts, propelled by hate. What's next, protests outside or inside church at a wedding or someone we hate? Protests at christening of a baby born to parents we despise? No, a narrow section of society have forgotten the rules of decency and respect. It is a worrying symptom of the illness in a small strata of modern humankind.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Hand bagged by H.R.H. Lady Thatcher

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Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven, 13 October 1925 – 8 April 2013

As a newish Member of Parliament, in July 1999, I was dawdling along the corridors of power, staring at the statues and paintings, when I heard a familiar voice behind me closing in fast and talking away nine to the dozen, to an entourage. Before I could turn around, I was slightly caught and spun sideways and I saw a swinging handbag. As I straightened myself up annoyed, I heard "Are you alright, dear?" and a concerned Iron Lady peering at me at close quarters, patting my arm. I nodded awestruck and nervously managed to say, "Er, thank you, Ma'am" before she was gone in a flash towards the Lords. I then understood why she left smiling broadly; I had addressed as Her Majesty. I probably had made her day.

I can still see the auburn coloured, perfectly coiffured hair and immaculate suit bobbing along in the throng, towards the House of Lords. 
She was a woman on a mission and prepared to knock anyone out of the way but someone who at times also cared deeply about others.
I wondered what my late father who respected her but was incredibly upset by what she had done to millions of working people in 1980's, would have made of his son's encounter and the fact that I treated her as Royalty? 
Today is not the day to sneer and belittle. Today is the day to show respect for the passing of a great former British Prime Minister. Whatever people think; love or hate her, she was a true leader; charismatic  determined and visionary.
RIP, Ma'am.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Urgent talks with North Korea are for peace not appeasement

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Kim Jong-un meets top North Korean military officials
These are worrying days as the tick tock of the countdown can be heard each day, towards conflict in the Korean peninsula. There can be little doubt that First Secretary Kim Jong Un was incensed with the way that his country was treated after a satellite launch on 12 December 2012. It is at best unlikely that satellite launch technology will apply to military missile technology, given it has no re-entry shield, no armed warhead and no targeting capacity. Nevertheless, the near universal condemnation infuriated the North.
On 12 February, North Korea conducted its third nuclear test resulting in the United Nations agreeing a new round of sanctions on 7 March. With the US and South Korea then carrying out joint military exercises that started on 1 March, the timing could not be worse and both countries should have appreciated that it would cause anger in Pyongyang, even if such anger may at times be synthetic.
By 11 March the North unilaterally scrapped the armistice that had been the key diplomatic thread holding together peace in the peninsula.
Understandably, South Korea was commemorating the deaths of forty six people in the sinking of the Cheonan warship blamed on the North in 2010 on 26 March but this provided an opportunity to ratchet up the escalation with Kim then terminating the 'hotline' the next day, used as a back stop to prevent misunderstandings and keep some political channels open. The response from the US? To drop dummy bombs on a South Korean island using stealth bombers on 28 March, which played into the dangerous game.
On 2 April, North Korea tore up its commitment to mothball its nuclear facility at Yongbyon and two days later moved a missile to the the east.
North Korea is an easy source of late night show scorn, derision and jokes but at the end of the day, no one wants to see this political situation slip into physical conflict that takes lives. The US has again been caught out with little apparent understanding of the situation even though President Obama has made much of his 'Pacific Pivot' strategy. Belatedly the US is trying to calm the escalation but so far it isn't working and there is no sign of proactive steps to engage in discussions, even through the United Nations or independent third party groups.
It is not appeasement to open a dialogue without any pre-conditions. Talks do not mean giving into threats but as with any other conflict and disagreement, communication is vital to find ways to build trust and confidence between two sides. 
FIRST ON CNN: North Korea could be planning missile launch, official says
Taepodong-class missile Intermediary Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM), about 20 meters long seen in 2012
There is speculation that a test missile will be launched off the east coast of North Korea this week or next, into the Sea of Japan or aimed at Oki Islands or part of South Korea or Japan. This will provoke a counter wave of tough speaking and military manoeuvres in South Korea and by the US with perhaps North Korean ships or ports being quarantined, further prompting the next response from the North. It could mean the firing of armed missiles into South Korea or Japan or an invasion of islands around South Korea such as Seogeom, Maldo or Yeonpyeong. 
File:North Korean missile range.svg
Where does it end? Neither South Korea nor the US will sit back and allow any part of South Korea to be attacked or captured. North Korea may then trigger waves of salvos of artillery fire over the border. Sleeper agents in the South will be 'painting' the artillery fire to hit key military and industrial targets. That will produce a huge firepower of response over several days with large numbers of missiles and bombs being dropped to significantly reduce the North's capability to wage war. Is that likely? No. Could it happen? Yes. One misunderstanding by deliberation or by accident, could trigger a scenario that leads to loss of life.
At some point a dialogue has to start and so the sooner communications are opened and meetings are held the better.  Through dialogue comes constructive steps of improving relationships and the hope that North Korea will eventually lead towards a path of democracy or at least peaceful engagement in the international community. Whether through the Six Party Talks or another forum, there is an urgency now to get started and decelerate the dangerous situation.