Sunday, January 27, 2008

Exactly How Does The USA Leave Iraq?

I have just discovered this. It was published by the American Magazine "Mother Jones" on 18 October, 2007. The two quotations which follow are from the editors' introduction to that issue. They set the scene for what is an important contribution on Iraq which needs to be known outside of the USA.

... it's not just the administration that has its head in the sand; to varying degrees, we all do. For those of us who argued against invading, it is tempting to simply demand an end to "Bush's War" and wash our hands of it. But as General Anthony Zinni, former head of U.S. forces in the Middle East, told us, "Your conscience is not clean just because you're a peace demonstrator." In other words, just because you weren't in favor of going in doesn't mean you're not responsible for what happens when we pull out...

Yes, Bush, a leader with all the impulse control of a petulant three-year-old, "broke" Iraq. But we own it now. Time to get ready with the apology, the checkbook, and whatever else is required.

I Told You So

The line argued above is in line with a position I adopted between the invasion of Iraq on 18 March, 2003 and its conquest on 1 May, 2003. Having vigorously opposed the invasion, on 27 March I raised the following point in the Commons -

"Should we not have a debate on the humanitarian arrangements in Iraq to handle the current crisis? However hon. Members voted in relation to the war, surely we are all deeply concerned about the humanitarian crisis that exists in that country at the moment. For instance, Basra is the gateway to Iraq. It has an extensive dock marshalling yard and a railway line to Baghdad, and if it can be used properly for humanitarian provisions, that is all to the good. We should be able to debate those matters on the Floor of the House."

Unfortunately, no such debate was forthcoming and by my then turning my attention away from a "troops out" position my friends in the anti-invasion movement thought I had sold out. I was amazed that they were not automatically following the line I was taking.

Given that an invasion was then underway, we now know that the numbers of troops involved and the nature of forward planning were totally inadequate. It would have been revealing if the debate I had called for (and continued to press for) had actually taken place.


I thank "Rwendland's" contributions in my Comment Box for providing me with links which led me on to find "Mother Jones".

Baghdad's Children Of War

See this video as posted by "Treasure of Baghdad" and originating from NBC.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Reasons For An Iraqi Commitment.

This is Hadi Saleh. He was the International Secretary of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU). He moved out of exile to help establish this major organisation as soon as Saddam Hussein was being removed from power. When I was an M.P., I had the privilege of Chairing two meetings which Hadi addressed in the Commons. On an evening in January 2005, masked assassins broke into his home in Baghdad. They bound, blindfolded, burnt and tortured him. Finally strangling him to death with electric wire. His life was an inspiration to all Trade Unionists and socialists. It is celebrated in the TUC publication "Hadi Never Died".

This is Najim Abd-Jasem who was kidnapped, brutally tortured and murdered by terrorists in Iraq in March 2007 because of his Trade Union activities. He was the General Secretary of the Mechanics, Printers and Metalworkers Union in Baghdad. I was also privileged to meet him in Arbil almost a year earlier. With other Trade Unionists from areas such as Basra and Baghdad, he had flown to the safer area of Iraqi Kurdistan to meet with our delegation from British Trade Unions and Labour Friends of Iraq. The meeting was hosted by our friends in the Kurdistan Workers Federation. I reported on our meeting with Najim and his fellow Trade Unionists last April.

This is my certificate of Honorary Membership of the IFTU which Hadi helped establish. It was presented to me at the meeting in Arbil in which Najim took a prominent part.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Peter Principle*

Ever since I posted this item, I have been running a one-man campaign to have Peter Hain stand (or equip himself to stand) for the leadership (and not just the deputy leadership) of the Labour Party.

I offer no prizes for anyone who works out why I have dropped my campaign at this particular time. I have also given up waiting for Godot and recognise there is now no feasible candidate for the future leadership of the Labour Party. The only significant avenue left for the pursuit of democratic socialism within the Labour Party is political education, political education, political education.

* = The Peter Principle is "the principle that members of a hierarchy are promoted until they reach the level at which they are no longer competent" (The Concise Oxford Dictionary).

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Yesterday's Men

What is the status of the "Manifesto for a New NATO" which five military has-beens have recently produced? It proposes that the West should be ready to resort to a pre-emptive nuclear strike in various circumstances. (Podcast here for details).

To start with, it would help if the public could have ready access to the Manifesto, rather than having to depend upon media reports. In over 650 references to the Manifesto on Google, I can't find a copy of the full document nor the means to obtain it. I would be grateful to anyone who could provide me with this missing link.

Yesterday's report in The Guardian included the following claim - "The manifesto has been written following discussions with active commanders and policymakers, many of whom are unable or unwilling to publicly air their views. It has been presented to the Pentagon in Washington and to Nato's secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, over the past 10 days. The proposals are likely to be discussed at a Nato summit in Bucharest in April."

Does this mean that the Manifesto was in some way commissioned by NATO (or the Pentagon), or do they investigate anything from old military relics? If it is the latter, then as I am pensioned off from parliament perhaps the Commons would like to set up a Select Committee to examine the pearls of wisdom coming from my blog.

With a bit of luck, NATO will bin the old fogies Manifesto just as the Commons would if I sent them a link to my blog. I grant, however, that (in theory) once I get to read the full Manifesto I might be swept off my feet by its erudition - just as others could who stumble upon "Threescoreyearsandten".

The Guardian gives these details about the authors of the Manifesto. I add the links. -

John Shalikashvili
The US's top soldier under Bill Clinton and former Nato commander in Europe, Shalikashvili was born in Warsaw of Georgian parents and emigrated to the US at the height of Stalinism in 1952. He became the first immigrant to the US to rise to become a four-star general. He commanded Operation Provide Comfort in northern Iraq at the end of the first Gulf war, then became Saceur, Nato's supreme allied commander in Europe, before Clinton appointed him chairman of the joint chiefs in 1993, a position he held until his retirement in 1997.

Klaus Naumann

Viewed as one of Germany's and Nato's top military strategists in the 90s, Naumann served as his country's armed forces commander from 1991 to 1996 when he became chairman of Nato's military committee. On his watch, Germany overcame its post-WWII taboo about combat operations, with the Luftwaffe taking to the skies for the first time since 1945 in the Nato air campaign against Serbia.

Lord Inge

Field Marshal Peter Inge is one of Britain's top officers, serving as chief of the general staff in 1992-94, then chief of the defence staff in 1994-97. He also served on the Butler inquiry into Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and British intelligence.

Henk van den Breemen

An accomplished organist who has played at Westminster Abbey, Van den Breemen is the former Dutch chief of staff.

Jacques Lanxade

A French admiral and former navy chief who was also chief of the French defence staff.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

That Photo

The photo opposite is claimed to depict Sheffield FC shortly after their formation as the first Football Club in the world in 1857. Doubt was thrown on this claim in an article by Denis Clareborough in the current issue of the "Dronfield Miscellany". Sheffield FC's ground being now situated in Dronfield - a short distance from my home.

The Take From Denis

Denis placed this comment under a copy of the above photo -

A photograph reportedly of a Sheffield Club team in 1857. This is almost certainly incorrect as Sheffield Club players were identified in their first few seasons by wearing either red or blue caps and it was some years later before a sophisticated style of kit with badges appeared. The badge, incidentally, may be that of the (London) FA and I have seen a report that this photograph included Lord Kinnaird, a famous footballer and a leading member of the FA who wasn't born until 1847.

Raising The Issue With Brendan

The photo was used by Brendan Murphy on the cover of his book "From Sheffield With Love". The book includes the following acknowledgement - "Cover photograph of Sheffield FC, believed to have been taken in 1857, courtesy of The Club." Sheffield FC being known as "The Club".

Drawing from the article by Denis, I questioned the status of the photo in an item I placed on this blog on 7 January. I also e-mailed Brendan, providing him with a link to the item I had posted.

To his great credit, Brendan then looked into the matter seriously. From his research, he came up with the conclusion that the photo is NOT what he believed it to be. He informs me that in association with his publishers "(w)e will also have to change the cover of future editions", in order to replace the photo.

My Interpretation Of Brendan's Research

Brendan has given me permission to publish his response on this blog. This appears at the close. First of all, I make seven points which are my understandings of Brendan's findings as drawn from both his e-mail and his book.

(1) When Sheffield FC were asked for photos to use in illustrating Brendan's book about their Club, the photo in question was the one they supplied. Although Brendan was surprised that a photo from 1857 existed, he assumed the Club was correct.

(2) Denis in his Dronfield Miscellany article referred to the possibility that a Lord Kinnaird appears in the photo. Brendan's book contains a full-page photo of Kinnaird and provides details of his distinguished career in football (see pages 93 to 95). Also of relevance, he states that Kinnaird was born on 16 December, 1847. Kinnaird came to grow a fine red beard and Brendan now recognises him as being the player in the photo who is seated on the end seat on the left in the middle row. This itself rules out the photo having been taken in 1857, when Kinnaird was still a child. Furthermore Kinnaird never played for Sheffield FC. But in a wide ranging career in the London area, he did play a number of games for combined London teams against their Sheffield equivalents. This initially included a game at Battersea Park in March 1866 when Kinnaird was only 18.

(3) Furthermore, Brendan's book also carries a full page photo of Charles William Alcock (1842-1907), who was the Secretary of the Football Association and was the man who first proposed that this body should set up a challenge Cup, which was established as the FA Cup. Two chapters of Brendan's book are centred on Alcock's career. Brendan now recognises Alcock as being the player in the middle of the three people in the front row of the photo. Along with Kinnaird, Alcock was also in the London team at the above Battersea Park game in 1866. The players turning out in that game (for both London and Sheffield) are listed in Brendan's book on page 66.

(4) Brendan does not, however, believe that the photo was taken as early as 1866. For as stated above, Kinnaird was only 18 at the time and he looks older on the photo.

(5) In 1871 well before Sheffield United was founded, Alcock took an unofficial London team to play a combined Sheffield team at Bramall Lane (which was mainly in use as a cricket ground). JC Shaw a co-founder of the Sheffield-based Hallam FC and later President of the Sheffield FA, turned out in goal for the London team as they were a man short. Brendan does not recognise JC Shaw in the photo, so this also seems to rule out the photo arising from the 1871 game.

(6) On pages 99 and 100 of his book, Brendan shows that Alcock played his only official international game for England against Scotland in 1875, in a 2-2 draw at the Oval and that he soon retired from playing football later that year. Brendan judges that the photo was, therefore, taken between 1872 and no later than 1875, and that it is of team of London based players. Such a team visited Sheffield for games from 1872/3. At some stage the London team came to adopt a white strip and probably used the emblem shown in the photograph.

(7) Brendan seems to have established the parameters for the photo. Only further research can clarify the matter. It is not, however, feasible to argue that it is an early photo of Sheffield FC.

Brendan's E-Mail

Dear Harry,

Delighted to get your mail and so glad you enjoyed the book. I assume that although you are a Macca you are now living in Sheffield? Thanks for that link.

That they are not in red or blue does not necessarily mean it is not them as this rule was established in the rules of 1858 (article 11)* but the emblem on some of the shirts is NOT suggestive of Sheffield FC. I have done some homework today and Denis Clareborough appears to be right in his assertion that it is not Sheffield FC. My book contains a photo of Lord Kinnaird and without doubt I now see that this is the man on the left of the middle row (compare the two). Not only that but the book also contains a photo of Alcock - compare this with the man seated centre bottom - it is Alcock! Denis suggests it is the London FA but they did not form till the 1880's and Alcock stopped playing in 1875. It is more likely to be the generic London side that played matches prior to the London FA's formation. They visited Sheffield from 1872/3 onwards though Alcock had taken a team of London-based players up in 1871 (see page 69 'From Sheffield With Love'). As early as 1866 Sheffield had played London in London and both Alcock and Kinnaird had played so the photo could have been taken by representatives of Sheffield FC and taken back with them. This would have made Kinnaird 18 and he appears older than this in the photo. It is more likely that the photo was taken in Sheffield so the earliest it could have been is 1871, in which case it was Alcock's assembled team of London-based players and not an official London side. JC Shaw of Sheffield played for London that day but I cannot identify with any certainty out of the 11 players in white (assuming he was lent a kit). If it is later then it is of the official London side (but predating the London FA) but no later than 1875 when Alcock stopped playing, age 32. I do not know what strip Alcock's unofficial team wore (and I do not know if Kinnaird was in the side); the London strip was all white but I do not know when they adopted this strip. My hunch is that it is the London side some time between 1872-75. There is an outside chance that it is the Wanderers who also known to have played in white shirts in addition to their usual violet and orange numbers and fielded Alcock and Kinnaird but I think this is unlikely as I think London did play with the emblem shown. I am happy for you to publish this on your blog and I will let the editor know by c.c. We will also have to change the cover for future editions.

Kind regards and well done on the detective work,

Brendan Murphy

Notes by HB

* = I think that this should read "article 12".

Sheffield FC have made two further uses of the photo recently. One is in a publications entitled "The People That Make Sheffield FC What It Is Today" which is published at £5. The photo appears at the top of page 2 in a section entitled "A Brief History". The other is here.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Abramovich - Eat Your Heart Out

Whilst I am a lifelong Sunderland supporter and a season ticket holder and member of my local team Sheffield FC, it turns out that I also own almost 0.04% of Chesterfield Football Club. This came as a big surprise.

It arises because in 2001 the Chesterfield Football Supporters Society (CFSS) was established in order to save the Club from liquidation. In support of its work, I joined the CFSS as a founder member and shareholder. Then in 2002, I became a life member and hold a great "Life Membership" badge.

The CFSS did a job which every football supporter should admire, taking a 75% share of the Club and saving it from administration.

There have been changes in the operations of the Club and I now find that I hold 400 shares in Chesterfield Football Club (2001) Ltd out of a total of almost a million shares. On my calculations, I own 0.04% of the Club.

Unfortunately, I seldom see them play nowadays. It is the same with Sunderland, but I can catch the Black Cats on TV as with that great win over Portsmouth yesterday.

I will try to make a game on a free Saturday at Saltergate, when Sheffield FC aren't at home. After all 1/2500th of it is mine, all mine.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Violent Deaths In Iraq Since The Invasion

Whatever our attitude is towards the presence of Coalition and Private Military Forces in Iraq, everyone needs to accept that the violent death toll it has (and still is) experiencing since the invasion has been (and continues) to be horrendous.

At last, however, we have a feasible survey giving us an indication of the numbers involved between March 2003 to June 2006.

For this period Iraq Body Count came up with a figure of 47,668. Although it has always shown that its figures are only from firmly verifiable cases and have, therefore, always been a minimum figure. We were then given the figure of 601,027 violent deaths for this period from a highly problematic survey in the Lancet.

The Lancet figure is extrapolated via death count meters (such as the one above) which appears on the blogs of many who are committed to an immediate "Troops Out" stance. The meters claim that their figure shows the latest death count.

Now, however, what seems to me to be the most feasible estimate of the numbers of violent deaths over the period of the Lancet's survey has just been published. "The Iraq Family Health Survey Study" groups has come up with a figure of 151,000. It is well worth reading this.

Their figure is three times larger that of Iraq Body Count and four times smaller than the Lancet's wild guess. So the figure on the meter at the top of this post needs to be divided at least by 4 - with the possibility that the rate of violent deaths (which are still terrible) may recently have declined.

But in my mind, I will in future divide the death count meter figures by four. That still gives a figure that should lead us all to give our hearts and minds towards what we can do to further the future well-being of the Iraqi people. We are in a better position to do this when we know just what the above terrible facts are.

Monday, January 07, 2008

What Is The Status Of This Photo?

This is the cover of Brendan Murphy's book "From Sheffield With Love" which deals with the formation of Sheffield FC who are the world's first football team. More details about the book are available here from the publishers.

The photo on the cover is reproduced by courtesy of Sheffield FC and is "believed to have been taken in 1857". It is a photo which is used widely by the Club itself.

Doubt about the status of the photo is, however, given in an article by Denis Clarebrough in the current edition of "Dronfield Miscellany"(see "publications") - in which I have an article on a separate topic. Denis is himself a football historian and is preparing his sixth book on Sheffield United.

Sheffield FC have also historically been known as the Club or Sheffield Club. Denis makes this following comment under a copy of the photo -

A photograph reportedly of a Sheffield Club team in 1857. This is almost certainly incorrect as Sheffield Club players were identified in their first few seasons by wearing either red or blue caps and it was some years later before a sophisticated style of kit with badges appeared. The badge, incidentally, may be that of the (London) FA and I have seen a report that this photograph included Lord Kinnaird, a famous footballer and a leading member of the FA who wasn't born until 1847.

Brendan Murphy has previously publicised his book on this blog - here. Whilst I will be attending a meeting to be addressed by Denis Clarebrough on "Sport in Dronfield" on 24th April. Sheffield FC's modern stadium is in Dronfield.

I will seek to raise with Denis the issue of the status of the photograph. In the meantime, Brendan and others might like to comment on this matter. I will also raise this question with the Club.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Gordon's Lack Of Imagination

This is a Xmas Card which Gordon Brown sent out in 2002 when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer. Unfortunately, it isn't his only creation which is lacking in imagination. I comment below on his latest interview in today's Observer.

When Brown Goes To Town

Today's Observer runs an interview with Gordon Brown as if it was his Mission Statement for 2008 - see here and here. The topics which he discusses are, however, dictated by the questions he is asked. So perhaps what is missing from Brown's responses are not entirely his own fault.

Although I imagine that some preparatory discussions between 10 Downing Street and the editorial team on the Observer would have taken place to clear the ground for what was to be discussed. I assume this explains why we get no embarrassing questions about missing personal hospital, benefit and driving records. Nor about cash for favours. It is also clear that if a Prime Minister has something else to tell us, he can easily find a way to do this in the context of a press interview.

What Is Missing

I grant that Britain faces a number of immediate problems which Gordon was required to address. These arise from matters such as serious economic buffeting, terrorist dangers, significant sections of the workforce remaining unskilled and record levels of personal debt. So we could expect Prime Ministerial gravitas on the need of tackling such problems. He is, however, thinner on solutions than he is on our need to gird our loins.

Gordon needs to understand that his core labour voters can not live on fresh nuclear power stations, private house building programmes and ID cards alone. We need something to inspire us and to work and vote for. With a few relevant policy proposals to fit into the picture, there is plenty of mileage to be gained from using some old fashioned socialist rhetoric about fairness, social equality, co-operation, justice for the world's deprived and saving the planet. He doesn't even have to mention what he sees as the politically embarrassing "S" word when arguing for such values. Indeed he does dip his toes into the water with a mention of having met the Kyoto targets and the need to look for more radical targets for 2050. But words on these read like a footnote rather than a chapter heading.

Overall there is little to indicate that he has a vision which relates in any way to his Party's traditions. He merely wishes to be seen as a more relevant technocrat than his Tory and Lib-Dem opponents (which he might be, but that is all).

Problems With Gordon's Specifics

1. He wants "financial management and financial budgeting" to be taught in schools. What is needed instead are educational provisions (open for life) which stimulate our intellectual imaginations and widen our horizons. That will give us the wit to know how to run our bank and mortgage accounts. And it will have many more spin offs, including the advancement of intelligent and caring forms of democratic participation.

2. His commitment to ID Cards is also only half-thought out. We can use ID cards for clearly progressive purposes, such as ensuring that everyone who is entitled to benefits receives them and in ending the scandal of 2 million of those who are entitled to vote being missed off relevant electoral registers. But we can't do that under a half-cocked scheme in which "existing British citizens" can opt out of holding ID cards. The case for ID cards should rest on socially valuable ideas being operated on universal criteria. It seems that we will be getting neither from Gordon.

3. When it comes to the need to make long term commitments, Gordon gives us nuclear power, an expanded Heathrow and a housing programme from which Councils are mainly excluded. It is a programme to drain one's blood rather than send it pounding. Gordon's proposals call for other matters to be placed on the agenda. How are nuclear power stations to be made secure and subject to democratic control in their operations? Will we tackle the problem of the need to ration people's aeroplane and other forms of travel? Why can't we have an option to enable democratically elected Council's to be landlords?

4. If we are to attract people away from the forms of Islamic extremism revealed in Ed Husain's "The Islamist" by winning the hearts and minds of the people concerned, then might not the most fruitful and least discriminatory way of doing this be to try and capture ALL our minds for the principles of sharing, participation, mutual support, anti-discrimination, democratic involvement and co-operation. There you are Gordon; all that can be said without once using the "S" word.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

All Clear - Almost

Contrast this picture with the image I posted yesterday. It appears immediately below this one.

Apart from that yellow streak down my back, I received an all clear from the clinic.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Annual Check Up

I am going to see the clinician tomorrow to get the verdict on my annual check up. I hope that they have managed to test the sample.