Sunday, December 31, 2006

The veil is not Islamic

Its really not!

I hate how this has been blown out of all proportion but the media is giving it so much attention that the stereotypical image of a Muslim women as wearing the headscarf now dominates the public consciousness. And its not true. Most moslem women don't cover their heads and nowhere in the Koran does it say they should do- the proscripton states that modesty is the goal, not invisibility.

Ah, the torrid corruption and hypocrisy of Western Society!

Robert Fisk rocks onwards once again, carefully describing how the US and Britain gave Saddam all of his chemical weapons and then expressed public horror as he deployed them against the Iranians and Kurds whilst patting each other on the back in secret about how they had developed a lucrative little export market. There's more in this report from the same paper.

Another little gem here about how a nation's religious beliefs are negatively correlated with its social health. 3 guesses as to who has the least healthy and most religious society of all of the developed Western democracies . . . . . . .

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Woman beaten on a bus in Israel for refusing to "sit at the back"

I found this on LGFwatch- Little Green Footballs' alter ego.

Dirty, nasty little bunch of mysoginist fucks- that's what the haredi are.

Fuck religion.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Lipid quantification

I posted earlier about Bligh & Dyer's assay for total lipids and how I had arse results. A little reflection has led me to consider that user error may remain a possibility but before I can test for it I need a working lipid assay to validate it with. So I have been pndering the different techniques open to me, including a plate assay that quantifies triglycerides, cholesterol and phospholipids- thereby giving me quantitative values for storage, physiological and structural lipids. There is also the opportunity of developing an HPLC method to give me more detailed data, however lipid HPLC presents a fecking minefield of challenges from co-eluting peaks to the avilability and appropriate nature of standards. Finally, I have the option of running an alternative to the Bligh & Dyer assay developed by Frings et al which look straightforward.

Whatever I decide to do it has to be developed rapidly, without excessive cost and it has to be feckin reliable. I am sick of non-Ronseal assays- i.e. things that do not do exactly what it says on the tin!

Oh well, at least my Scope For Growth work is progressing in a positive direction due to the excellent advice of Prof J I Spicer ["Spicey John"]. That chap rocks.

Friday, December 15, 2006

finally- the conclusive evidence of Blair the Warmonger's lies

Carne Ross, Britain's key negotiator to the UN, dodges threats of prosecution under the Official Secrets Act to relate how, in the run up to the war, British Officials had no reason to suspect that Saddam either had any WMD or represented a threat to British interests.

We all knew it was lies. Its such a shame that 600,000 Iraqis, nearly 200 British Service Personnel and several thousand US Personnel had to die before it was established.

Thanks Tony! (You cunt.)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

This is wrong on so many levels

Its the Christian computer game where you control the forces of heaven strugglin against the devil's hellish rule on earth. But its developers actually state that the game is intended to evangelise to children. Its also age-restricted due to its violent content and is being promoted through churches!

When is society going to realise that the only way these absurd cults can propagate their insane message is through the minds of children? It scares me half to death when I think of people like Truth in Science in this country and these morons in the US specifically crafting strategies to expose children to the nightmare morality of organised religion (you will go to hell and burn for all eternity if you are judged to be a sinner- no wonder thousands of catholics experience post-traumatic stress throughout their adult lives from childhood sermons about sin).

Anyway there is more on the game and some excellent analysis of the sick mindset that developed it here.

The end of the article mentions another game that has become freely available on the net that is distinctly jihadist in its plot- the aim of the game is to kill George W Bush and other leading neocons. Sounds rather good fun to me (I am probably joking).

I'd be proud to be branded an Idiotarian

I was browsing Wikipedia when I encountered the entry on Little Green Footballs. Its interesting how they brand anyone who disagrees with their messages of hatred as an "Idiotarian". I was half tempted to get into their comments and mince up their cosy little ball-cupping session with a few carefully chosen words as I did earlier this year to the blog Neo-Neo-Neo-Neo-Con. But then I recalled that that experience merely angered me further at the ignorance of these people and frankly I've got better things to do with my time. That and the fact that the comments are not publically accessible so as to ensure that people such as myself, bent upon introducing silly things like reason into their world, can be prevented from doing so.

Anyway read the wikipedia article and see if you are an "idiotarian". Seems like pretty much everyone in the world is apart from the Israelis and the LGF residents themselves.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

my 13 hour day

I was at work at 0930 this morning and left the lab at 2220. I feel amazin! (if a little knackered :) )

Spent 8 hours doing LC-MS and then another 4 and a bit playing with worm pooh! Yeay!

Should get me some goddamn kudos when this gets published though ;)

Science tigers, ho! Raowr!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Rupert Murdoch - "the most pernicious force in the country by far"

Good old NS, they do keep the real shit rolling out (that profanity was deployed in the hip-hop "couture" stylee, BTW).

Fuck Murdoch. He's a little bastard.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I love it! -"The anti-choice movement is genocidal"

A particular gratifying read. Its nice to see someone out there who feels the same way as me (and the opposite way to my nemesis on the forum: Imp.

Cornish waste incinerator PFI could be disastrous for the Westcountry

This looks like another case of New Labour selling the region's future to the highest bidder. Not sure if anyone else caught a program recently aired on a terrestrial channel- (sorry for being vague- I remember it being on in the background)- about schools in the North East that were built by PFIs and then closed down after only a couple of years as they had insufficient pupils to justify keeping it open. The school had been shut for two years and as the PFI ahd a contract for something like the 30 years in this example the council had to keep up their contractual maintenance payments to the PFI for doing nothing!

Anyway, the link gives you all the detail I've got. Could be the subject of another (useless) letter to my MP.

I just signed the Euston Manifesto

Its here. You lovely peeps out there may be interested in reading it and signing it too.

I find it fascinating that my country has no simple constitution or statement of values or a manifesto such as this (the mere idea of Blair accepting its tenets is laughable). The only thing that worries me is that it lacks a profound endorsement of secularity. . . . Hmmmmmmmmm, methinks I will email them to suggest such a 'ting.


Saturday, November 18, 2006

onward rocks Robert Fisk, speaker of truths

Robert savages Blair. Blair rolls over and cries like a baby, pleading for forgiveness for his insane and illegal foreign policy. . . . . I wish!

Robert Fisk: A terrible legacy of hatred and death

This is the hell we have bequeathed to the Arab peoples of Iraq

Published: 18 November 2006

So the Ministry of Fear now has a Dowager of Fear, the good Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller who has discovered in the sanctum of MI5 another 30 "terror plots" to terrify us - and an entire generation of plots before the show is over. And how Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara admires her. "I think she is absolutely right that it will last a generation," he announces. Absolutely, indeed. The favourite Blair adverb, always trotted out when he really, truly and of course absolutely believes he is right; which is not the same at all, of course, as actually being right, which needs a lot more than belief to support it.

What is this trash? Accepting - which Blair can't do, can he? - that the risk to us is caused by his pusillanimous, mendacious policies in the Middle East (and that of his lord and master in Washington) would cut this latest bulletin from the Ministry of Fear down to a mere couple of years' worth of terror instead of a generation.

And note the smarmy way that officials in the Ministry of Fear now try to squeeze in a little bit of truth to take the edge off all those lies. According to Lord Carlile of Berriew QC, the war in Iraq is not to blame for the "terror plots" we are facing. No, "it is now clearly the case that although the Iraq war did not create violent jihad, it has become a convenient excuse for violent jihad". Come again, my good Lord? Now, let me get this right. Iraq has nothing to do with the "terror plots" - this, he says, is "clearly" the case ("clearly" being a notch down the road of lies from "absolutely", which might be pushing Lord Carlile's luck on this occasion). So the threats have nothing to do with Iraq but, er, well, yes, he tells us that they have, because the inventors of the "terror plots" lie to us about the real reasons for their deeds.

Note the deceit in this. We are permitted to link Iraq to the "terror threat", providing we do so on the grounds that the perpetrators are lying to us about Iraq. And so what are the real reasons for the plots? Why - Lord Blair again - the answer is they hate our "values", values which Blair cared nothing about when he illegally invaded Iraq. And sometimes, wading through this drivel, I wonder what the Iraqis think of it, those who are paying - in their tens of thousands of lives - for our folly?

I am thinking of some real terror in Baghdad, the terror that comes through the letter box or is stuck on to walls. Now here are real terror plots for the Dowager of Fear to get her teeth into, plots to massacre and "cleanse" whole communities from their homes and cities on the grounds of their religious sect. And so let's take a look at some really ferocious terror, collected on the streets of Baghdad and from the front doors of those who are indeed facing a generation of threats, many of them scrupulously collected by local UN officials and put together by my Italian colleague, Mario Portanova, of the Milan magazine Diario. They are printed, not handwritten, and they are poisonous.

"To the ignoble rejectionists, who sold their religion and community for worldly rewards," begins one note from a Sunni group about its Shia Muslim countrymen. "It is clear that you must be classified among those who have betrayed the covenant of Allah and his Prophet, and are intellectually and actively involved in fighting against the mujahideen [holy warriors]. Therefore we grant you 24 hours to vacate this righteous [sic] district, otherwise punishment and retribution shall be your fate. Allah is greater. Praise and grace be to Allah [signed] The Islamist Army in Iraq."

It should be noted that many of these terrible notices of intent to murder are preceded by the first words of the Koran: "In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful." Now here's another threat from the "Day of Atonement Brigades", a Shia group: "To the disloyal Palestinians, declared enemies and Saddamist Baathists, specifically those who reside in the al-Shououn district (of Baghdad). This is a warning that you will be liquidated if you do not move completely away from this district within a 10-day period. Let this be a warning to all, without exception."

And here's the literary work of the "Allahu Akbar Brigades", who are probably Sunnis, which specifically targets schoolgirls: "Death, crucifixion, amputation of hands and feet ... will be the retribution against those who defy Allah ... To all lascivious women who due to their mode of dress encourage sexual titillation, beware this will lead to worldly damnation. Bullets and the cudgel will be the punishment for those who have no morals, and those who persist in wearing short, provocative clothes. We are fully aware of what takes place after noontime in the school halls on Museum Road and elsewhere. We know about the ... secret meetings that are taking place. We are present among you and know all there is to know ..."

And now for the work of an al-Qa'ida affiliate, directed at Shia: "In view of the sectarian criminal acts which are being perpetrated by the so-called infamous Mehdi Army and the deceitful Badr Forces, including killing, abduction, deportation and displacement of the Sunni community in Mahmudiyah, Rashidiya, al-Shaab, al-Shattah and al-Hurriyah ... this formation has decided to respond twofold to each attack ... an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth ... accordingly it has been decreed that you (Shias) must leave the Sunni community areas, including al-Ghaziyah, within 24 hours, otherwise we will chop off your heads as the militias have been doing to the sons of the Sunni community."

There are many other pages. One calls on Shias to "leave their burrows" in Baghdad within two days or "taste the fire". Another warns Shias not to visit their local mosque. "To those who pray at al-Sajad mosque, a horrendous death shall be your fate should you come within close proximity of this mosque ... Cursed are the agents of the occupiers."

This, of course, is the hell we have bequeathed to all the Arab peoples of Iraq, this nightmare of genocidal threat and murder. All for non-existent weapons of mass destruction. And yet there is the Dowager of Fear trying to frighten us. That there may be "plots" I don't doubt. But given the hell-disaster we have helped to unleash in Iraq, is it any surprise?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Bligh & Dyer

I spent 2 hours tonight putting my lipid quantification data into excel and the result? -BULLPOOP!


Bollocks to this assay.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Palestinian apartheid degenerates into a simple slaughter


This shit makes me ANGRY!

What can I do? I might as well rub my own shit on my face as write to my MP about this.

I fucking hate the UK's political system.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

machismo and peace keeping

Interesting article from openDemocracy regarding the prevalence of machismo in international diplomatic forums.

I can't help but think that testosterone incites the majority of diplomatic breakdowns. I remember a conversation I had with my MRes supervisor about endocrine disruption and whether or not the prevalence of xenoestrogens in the environment could benefit society by changing patterns of male behaviour. Certainly in societies with a patriarchal culture the unassailability of the male ego can simply halt the application of common sense to many of the challenges of peace-keeping.

Another interesting anecdote came from a family friend who was posted to Bosnia with the RAF. As an air-traffic director she had to liaise between the different local and international forces to manage access to the contested airspace, not to mention tiptoe around the variety of inflated male egos that inevitably dominate such conflicts with their petty territorial squabblings. I remember her recounting how she was deployed in many deadlocked situations as a conflict breaker as in the Balkan culture it is inconceivable that a women is superior in any way to a man. In such situations she was introduced to negotiations and then authorised to offer minor concessions to the opposing delegation- whose egos would not let them be outdone by a mere woman- and who would promptly attempt to outdo these concessions and subsequently engage in an escalation to the point where she could get them to dance naked on a table if she was so inclined!

Another example comes from my own country where it appears that the job of bailiff is being taken by more and more women (I think it was a BBC article but I can't find it, grrrr). It appears that many tense situations are dealt with in a far more diplomatic and less aggressive manner by the fairer sex, possibly because they come across as less threatening (?).


I am continually enraged by some people's ability to condemn my entire progressive philosophy with a single syllable. "Left" or "Right". Such absurd polarisations do nothing for any debate on politics as I am convinced that such generalisations lost any real meaning at the end of the Cold War. Is it not clear that modern policy requires elements of both these political paradigms? Does not the European social democracy model occupy the high moral ground that should be the goal of every progressive civilisation that does not aspire to mediaeval moral standards or environmental holocaust? On the other hand I believe that our democracy, in the UK at least, is fatally flawed. President Blair was elected by less than a fifth of the population! How this degenerate little toerag can drag our nation's credibility through the pile of excrement that is Iraq and still retain his position of leader of our nation eludes me. Substantial reform along the lines of compulsory voting policy is essential if the substantial socially and culturally deprived section of the white lower classes are to be made to participate in the democracy in which they live. I believe that everyone has a responsibility to engage with their society. What, if not that, does the word society mean?

Friday, November 03, 2006

3 posts in a day You lucky, lucky peeps, you!

I just wanted to get my hattrick in by linking to Johann Hari's most recent article. Its a nice piece of insight into the subtleties of American politics. I like Johann's writing- he's good at picking out important detail such as this.

This week I have been mostly discovering . . . Sam Harris!

He's a fascinating chap if ever I've heard of one, and a good, upstanding antitheist. Apparently-

"At age 19, he and a college friend tried MDMA, better known as ecstasy, and the experience altered his view of the role that love could play in the world. ("I realized that it was possible to be a human being who wished others well all the time, reflexively.")"

Well, that just goes to show the power of ecstasy really. If anyone is under any misapprehensions regarding my stance on the issue I have consumed ecstasy recreationally for many years and can enthusisatically corroborate Sam's experience. There is little less harmful than consuming ecstasy recreationally (a respected neurologist once commented that it was "safer than aspirin"- much to the fury of the conservative press). Anyway, with MDMA you don't have to inhale smoke, you don't have to burn anything, you don't get angry, woozey, trippy, anxious, depressed or nervous- you just feel amazing and wonderfully empathic. Its like having a mental link with all of your friends. The come down is a little low but compared to a hangover its nothing! Rather like being a little forgetful and a littl etimid. There's little to criticise about the experience.

Well, I've just got Sam's 1st book and I'm going to have a little read and let you know what its like. I just finished Dawkins' "The God Delusion" and it was marvellous so although this may be a bit like reading the same material again I'm attracted to the subtleties that might differentiate the 2 works.

the legacy of "President Blair"

More Blair-bashing today, kids! John Pilger does stirling work outlining the incredible damage that Blair has done to our country.

In case you are thinking that I focus too much on Blair's wrongs and not enough on his rights, I am happy to admit that certain aspects of our government are improved under New Labour. The SureStart program provides a much-needed helping hand in life to many of our countries poorest families and without it our estates would be a good deal grimmer than they are.

. . . . .Erm . . . . That's all I can say about that really. One 'good' against a hundred 'bads'. Not a very good account of yourself there, Tony.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The ridiculously inadequate nature of democracy in the UK

Well, I received a reply to my recent letter to my MP and it was every bit as unsatisfying as the first attempt. The text of the letter follows with the response after that.

Dear Madam,

I am writing to enquire why your government has failed to call for the trial of various Israelis for a plethora of war crimes that have been committed, both in the recent Lebanese genocide, as well as in the continuing Palestinian apartheid. These events have been documented in detail by organisations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the International Committee for the Red Cross. I am sure you understand that such organisations have impeccable credentials when it comes to reporting such offences and in light of the substantial evidence they have presented, both to the UN and to the EU I would like to know what your government’s position is on this matter and you will be calling for the indictment of the characters responsible in the Israeli government, administration and military in the International Criminal Court. (To pre-empt your obvious response that Israel has not ratified the convention empowering the ICC, I would like to point out that Article 12 of the Rome Treaty provides that, in addition to jurisdiction based on Security Council action under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter and jurisdiction based on consent by the defendant's state of nationality, the ICC will have jurisdiction to prosecute the national of any state when crimes within the court's subject-matter jurisdiction are committed on the territory of a state that is a party to the treaty or that consents to ICC jurisdiction for that case. That territorial basis would empower the court to exercise jurisdiction even in cases where the defendant's state of nationality is not a party to the treaty and does not consent to the exercise of jurisdiction. References this document: I have little doubt in my mind that the Lebanese government would be very obliging in giving consent to the ICC to preside over the trial of the individuals responsible for war crimes upon its territory and against its citizens).

Furthermore I wonder if you are aware of several recent reports regarding the deployment of chemical weapons by the Israeli Defence Forces both in South Lebanon and in the Gaza strip. I was appalled to discover, once I began looking for reports of such attacks on line, that such weapons have been deployed somewhat routinely by the Israeli Defence Forces, eg:

I am in no doubt whatsoever that our incredibly well funded intelligence services will have far more information than I can offer. Furthermore, The Independent has carried several reports recently regarding “mystery weapons” being deployed against Gazans by Israel. Reports can be found at these addresses:

These weapons appear to be phosphorous-based, similar to the weapons deployed by the US troops in their assault on Fallujah last year that drew such international condemnation as “chemical weapons”. I hope that you are aware of this and that your government is only biding its time to publicly declare their opposition to the indiscriminate use of such weapons upon women and children. If you could let me know how you feel on this, and the former matter, and when such announcements will be made I would be most grateful.

As a final courtesy would you also let me know when your government will be calling for an end to the Palestinian apartheid, or at least a lifting of the oppressive military occupation imposed by Israel? I read today that many of Gaza’s 1.5 million prisoners are being forced to survive on scraps from rubbish dumps. Denied permission to leave shore in fishing boats, their orchards and houses bulldozed and their livestock machine gunned in their fields, I am appalled that such oppression goes on without (further) substantial international condemnation of Israel’s actions. This also represents collective punishment of a nation and can be added to the previous list of atrocities awaiting justice on the international stage.


Chris Pook

And the reply:

23 October 2006

Dear Mr. Pook,

Thank you for your letter of the 11th August.

To start, I find it interesting that you call only for the trial of Israelis in the International Criminal Court with no attempt to provide parity and ask for the indictment of members of the terrorist organisation Hizbollah. The aims of Hizbollah are clear, in the words of its 'spiritual' leader, Sheikh Fadlallah, it wishes to 'obliterate' Israel. Another leader of Hizbollah, Hassan Nasrallah is more forceful still, in Lebanon's Daily Star in 2002 he said, "If they [the Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide". The words and actions of Hizbollah are under international law war crimes. Hizbollah deliberately targeted civilian areas with Katyusha missiles, such as their bombardment of the Israeli city of Haifa, with no military justification whatsoever -this is a war crime. It ought to be stated that nearly half the victims of this bombardment were Israeli Arabs. Hizbollah as an organisation have a stated aim of genocide, have targeted civilians and have a long history of attacks on Jews worldwide, including the 1994 bombing of the Jewish Center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 innocent civilians and wounded nearly 300 others. Under international law, there is a strong case for the indictment of Nasrallah as a war criminal, but you neither mention Hizbollah nor apply the same criticisms of Israel to this extremist organisation.

For the last six years Iran has supplied Lebanon with Katyusha missiles, a stockpile which prior to the recent conflict grew in size to around 12,000 short and medium-range rockets that could strike northern Israel. In 2004, the UN Security Council called on Hizbollah to disarm and for the Lebanese government to expand its control of the border region, yet no progress was made, instead Iran continued to supply its terrorist proxy installing missiles in residential areas and in some instances, in private homes.
It is worth recalling the beginning of the current spate of hostilities, just this time last year southern Lebanon was remarkably peaceful, and with Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza strip there were signs of hope in the Middle East. Yet all this was instantly destabilised by Hizbollah's capture of eight Israeli soldiers on the 12th July: this involved crossing the border onto Israeli soil, with complete disregard for the potential consequences for Israeli or Lebanese life.

From the very beginning of the conflict, the British government made it clear it wanted peace, but not at any price. In St. Petersburg, the Prime Minister with Kofi Annan first suggested the idea of an international force to police the border between Israel and Lebanon to bring stability to the region. Furthermore, the UK government did all it could to aid the efforts of UN and EU representatives to find a solution to the fighting: it was a pair of UK helicopters that flew Javier Solana and UN Secretary General's Special Envoy Vijay Nambiar to Beirut and provided them with logistical support on the ground. Very quickly, the UK government pledged £6.2 million worth of aid to provide priority relief needs.

The recent conflict was regrettable, and a terrible waste of human life, but we ought to be clear who is to blame. Israel did not invade Lebanese territory on June 12th -Hizbollah invaded Israel to deliberately provoke it into a regional conflict. Hizbollah are an extremist organisation whose end is genocide, Israel as a democratic state is an entirely different entity altogether. I hope this answers some of your questions, if not please do not hesitate to contact me further.

Jamie Ewing .

Parliamentary Assistant to Alison Seabeck MP

As you can see not a single question has been answered and instead I have been the delivered a sermon on the (undebatable) evils of Hizbollah and the (very debatable) wonders of the United Kingdom.

And they claim democracy is dead! Ha!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

why hasn't Tony been impeached or otherwise dismissed from office yet?

It says it all.

Every day I read another commentator demanding to know why, in the face of incredible evidence against him, Blair remains in office. Why is the little shit still smiling back at me with that grim little "the world's woes are on my shoulders" look every time I watch the news?

The bastard needs to go. My MP hasn't even replied to the last letter I sent her. This whole government needs to go. Screw the Tories too, VOTE FOR A FUTURE! VOTE GREEN!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Clare Short resigns the whip and continues to speak out against Blair's incompetence

Clare rocks too.

Clare Short: I quit because this is not a Labour government

Ruthless use of the whips' power crushed the spirit of MPs

Published: 22 October 2006

I'm afraid the reality is that I have lost confidence in Her Majesty's Government. This is very sad. The opportunity of 1997 was as big as that of 1945. Under Neil Kinnock and John Smith, Labour had prepared itself for power as a modern social democratic party. Tony Blair brought extra gloss, but we were set to win. New Labour has done a lot of rewriting of history.

The Government did reasonably well for the first three years. The rot set in with the second term. Blair had become more confident and did not want his legacy to be spin and focus groups. When I left the Government over Iraq I assumed there would be great debate in Parliament and party to hold Blair to account, and to start to put things right. I soon found that the system was broken.

Then came top-up fees and the unwillingness to consider other options, such as a graduate tax. I was seeing more and more asylum-seekers at my advice bureau and it became clear that the system was a mixture of cruelty and incompetence. The endless targets, initiatives and reorganisation of health and education were undermining much of the good the extra money was doing. Criminal justice policy was dictated by the tabloids. Then came plans for mega-casinos to regenerate poor areas. And even more seriously, control orders and proposals for 90-day detention. The rhetoric of the "war on terror" was inane. The policies exacerbated the problem.

Increasingly, I voted against the Government and was saddened as the Labour conference became a rally for the leader. I returned to the back benches expecting to use the Commons to make my case but found it transformed. All bills were guillotined. Ruthless use of the whips' power crushed the spirit of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

My unhappy relationship with the whips started early. Hilary Armstrong, Chief Whip, made threats. She said I must not say that we were spying on Kofi Annan, nor that Tony had deceived the country by taking it into war. Because I would not agree, I became a pariah.

I considered not standing in the 2005 election but friends were sure the party would recover and convinced me I should stay. Sadly, there was no fightback. Gordon Brown was increasingly diminished and forced to say he supported all that Blair had done.

Then Brown backed the commitments to a renewal of Trident and nuclear power without any serious debate. It seemed nothing would change. At the Hay book festival this year, I said there was a high likelihood the next election would produce a hung parliament that could give us a changed electoral system; then all such questions could be reopened. The Chief Whip wrote to say I was not allowed to say this because it would mean Labour MPs losing seats.

There were constant stories in the press to say I was to be expelled or punished in some other way. I decided not to stand in the next election and thought that, with just a couple of years to run, the whips would leave me alone. Then, while I was Addis Ababa trying to help an NGO that was in trouble, I received media calls about a public rebuke from the Chief Whip and threatening letters saying that informing the whips of my visit did not mean I had permission to go. It seemed they planned to prevent me speaking at the lectures and meetings I had committed to, and that a stream of rebukes was inevitable. The elastic snapped.

This is not a Labour government. And I have no confidence in it. The right thing to do is resign the whip and sit as an independent Labour MP. After 23 years in the Commons and 36 in the party, I have decided to use my last couple of years to speak freely. Many of my constituents have spent the weekend telling me that I should not go, but when I say that I will be there until the next election they are more content.

Our political system is in trouble. The Middle East is burning. I feel very sad that my relationship with my party has ended up like this. But electoral reform is the key to fixing our politics and changing our country. There is no point in being in public life if you are not allowed to speak.

Clare Short is MP for Ladywood

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Liberty in the 21st century UK

The limits of liberty: We're all suspects now

Identity cards. Number-plate surveillance. CCTV. Control orders. The list of ways in which the Government has sought to manipulate and define the limits of our liberty grows ever longer. Ten years ago, the novelist and polemicist Henry Porter would have felt silly speaking out about human rights in Britain. But that was before the most fundamental assault on personal freedom ever undertaken. Now, he argues, it's time we woke up to reality

Published: 19 October 2006

On new year's day 1990, three days after becoming president of Czechoslovakia, Vaclav Havel looked his people in the eye and spoke to them as no one had done before. It is difficult to read his words without feeling the vibration of history of both the liberation and the horrors of the regime that had just expired, leaving the Czech people blinking in the cold sunlight of that extraordinary winter.

This is what he said. "The previous regime, armed with its arrogance and intolerant ideology, reduced man to a force of production. It reduced gifted and autonomous people to nuts and bolts of some monstrously huge, noisy, stinking machine whose real meaning was not clear to anyone. It could do no more but slowly and inexorably wear itself out, and all the nuts and bolts too."

That perfectly defines the true tyranny, where the state takes all liberty and bends each individual will to its own purpose. And here is the interesting thing that Havel put his finger on: no matter how brutal or ruthless the regime, the act of depriving people of their freedom starts the stopwatch on that regime's inevitable demise. What he was saying was that in modern times a state can only thrive in the fullest sense when individuals are accorded maximum freedom.

I agree. Individual liberty is not just the precondition for civilisation, not just morally right, not just the only way people can reach their full potential, live responsibly and have fun; it is also a necessity for the health of government. Ten years ago I would have felt silly speaking about liberty and rights in Britain with the very real concern that I have today. But I am worried. And it's not just me. Last month Le Monde asked "Is Democracy Dying in the West?". In the spring of this year Lord Steyn, the distinguished former law lord, made a speech despairing at this Government's neglect for the Rule of Law, which was followed by Baroness (Helena) Kennedy's alarm call in the James Cameron Lecture.

The inescapable fact is that we have a Prime Minister who repeatedly makes the point that civil liberties arguments are not so much wrong as made for another age [my italics]. We have a Government that has ignored the Rule of Law, reduced rights and has steadily moved to increase the centralised power of the state at the expense of the individual.

So I don't feel quite as silly or as alarmist as I might.

The relationship between the state and individual is really at the heart of any discussion about democracy and rights. In Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union it was the state's mission not just to prevent people from expressing themselves, from moving about freely and unobserved, from pursuing their chosen careers and acting upon their religious and political convictions, but to stop them from thinking freely. It needed to occupy people's thoughts - to take up a kind of permanent residency in the mind of the average citizen. And as the many psychological studies published in the Nineties make clear, this led to psychic disrepair on a massive scale - paranoia, clinical depression, chronic internalised anger and learned helplessness.

We fell morally ill, Havel said in that speech, because we became used to saying something different from what we thought. We learned not to believe in anything, to ignore one another, to care only about ourselves. Concepts such as love, friendship, compassion, humility or forgiveness lost their depth and dimensions, and for many of us represented only psychological peculiarities.

Why am I harping on about communism? It died and was buried 17 years ago, at least in Europe and Russia. We're into another century. We've got Google and speed-dating and globalisation and melting ice caps and reality TV and al-Qa'ida and al-Jazeera and Al Gore. We've moved on.

As a character in Alan Bennett's The History Boys says, there is no period more remote in history than the recent past. Indeed, but we need to remember that recent past a little more than we do. For one thing, our knowledge of what existed on the other side of the Iron Curtain meant we valued and looked after our own freedoms much more than we do today.

It is perhaps the absence of an obvious confrontation between freedom and tyranny that allows Tony Blair to say that civil liberties arguments are made for another age. I profoundly disagree with this. It is dangerous arrogance to say that the past has nothing to teach us and that all the problems we face now are unique to our time.

During his speech to the Labour Party conference, Tony Blair said: "I don't want to live in a police state, or a Big Brother society or put any of our essential freedoms in jeopardy. But because our idea of liberty is not keeping pace with change in reality, those freedoms are in jeopardy."

What in heaven's name did he mean by that? Liberty is liberty. You can't update it. You can't divide it. You are either free, or you're not. A society is either just, or it isn't. People have rights or they don't. The rule of law is upheld, or it isn't.

But Blair believes there is nothing that can't be modernised, updated, pared down or streamlined to keep pace with change. And liberty is no exception to the modernising fury which serves as New Labour's only ideological foundation. What the Prime Minister is saying in this cute little Orwellian paradox is that in the particular circumstances of the war on terror and the rash of crime and anti-social behaviour, we must give up freedom to be free.

What an odd idea! Who is to decide which freedoms are essential and which can be sacrificed to make us secure? Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Lord Falconer or the former Stalinist and now Home Secretary John Reid?

"Those who would give up essential liberty," observed Benjamin Franklin, "to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither freedom or safety." That's exactly right because you can't barter one for the other even though that has been the tempting deal on offer from the British and American governments since 9/11. The truth of the matter is that relinquishing our rights in exchange for illusory security harms each one of us, and our children and grandchildren. Because once gone, these rights hardly ever return.

But let's just return to the first part of that statement by Tony Blair - the bit about him not wanting to live in a police state, or a Big Brother society. Don't get me wrong, we do not live in either a police state or a Big Brother society - yet. But there is no Englishman alive or dead who has done more to bring them about.

The trouble is that it's happening so very quietly, so very discreetly that few really see it. You have to concentrate very hard to understand what's going on and put the whole picture together because so much has been buried in obscure corners of legislation.

We used to believe in innocence until guilt was proved by a court. Not any longer. That distinction disappeared when the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act came into force and police started taking innocent people's DNA and fingerprints and treating them as a convicted criminals.

We used to believe in Habeas Corpus. Not any longer. Under terrorism laws, suspects may be held for 28 days without being charged. Now the Home Secretary wants to make that 90 days, and Gordon Brown seems to share that view.

We used to believe that there should be no punishment without a court deciding the law had been broken, and that every defendant had the right to know the evidence against him. Not any longer. Control orders effectively remove both those rights and John Reid said recently that he wanted stronger powers to detain and control, and stronger powers to deport, which would clearly require the UK to derogate from the European Convention on Human Rights.

We used to believe that an Englishman's home was his castle. Not any longer. A pincer movement by the Courts Act 2003 and the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 put paid to the 400-year-old principle that entry into your home could not be forced in civil cases.

We used to believe in the right to be tried by jury. Not any longer. The Government plans to remove trial by jury in complicated fraud cases and where there is a likelihood of jury tampering. It would like to go further.

We used to believe there was a good reason not to allow hearsay evidence in court. Not any longer. The anti-social behaviour order legislation introduced hearsay evidence. The maximum penalty for breaking an Asbo can be up to five years in jail. Hearsay can send someone to jail.

We used to believe in free speech, but not any longer. People have been detained under terrorism laws for wearing anti-Blair T-shirts. Walter Wolfgang was removed from the Labour Conference for heckling Jack Straw about the Iraq war. A woman was charged under the Harassment Act for sending two e-mails to a company politely asking them not to conduct animal experiments. Her offence was to send two e-mails, for in that lies the repeated action that is now illegal. A man named Stephen Jago was arrested for displaying a placard quoting Orwell near Downing Street. It read: "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." And a mime artist named Neil Goodwin appeared in court recently charged under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act for what? Well, doing an impersonation of Charlie Chaplin outside Parliament. His hearing was a grim comedy. Mr Goodwin's statement to the court concluded: "In truth, one of the first things to go under a dictatorship is a good sense of humour."

We used to believe that our private communications were sacrosanct. Not any longer. The Regulatory Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and its subsequent amendments provide such wide terms for the legitimate tapping of phones, the interception of e-mails and monitoring of internet connections that they amount to general warrants, last used in the 18th century under George III.

I could go on because there is much more, but I worry about boring you and I know I am beginning to seem obsessed. There will be many reasonable people among you who will argue that the fight against terrorism or some other compelling problem makes the removal of a fragment of liberty the best option available to us. A little bit here, a little bit there doesn't really matter, particularly when it involves somebody else's rights. Without thinking very deeply, we say to ourselves "if you've done nothing wrong you've got nothing to fear from these new laws". Not true. There is something to fear - because someone else's liberty is also your liberty. When it's removed from them, it's taken from you even though you may not be able to conceive of the circumstances when you might need it. A system of rights must apply to bank managers, illegal immigrant cockle pickers and every type of defendant otherwise it doesn't count.

Cumulatively, these small, barely noticed reductions in our rights add up to the greatest attack on liberty in the last hundred years. No wonder the Prime Minister dismisses traditional civil liberties arguments as being made for another age. With his record he can do nothing else.

In an e-mail exchange between him and me in the spring, he suggested a kind of super Asbo for major criminals. This is what the unmediated Blair sounds like. "I would go further. I would widen the powers of police to seize cash of suspected [my italics] drug dealers, the cars they drive round in and require them to prove that they came by them lawfully. I would impose restrictions on those suspected of being involved in organised crime. In fact I would harry, hassle and hound them until they give up or leave the country."

I'm sure that echoes many people's desire just to be rid of these awful people. But think about it for a moment: Tony Blair is a lawyer, yet nowhere is there any mention of due process or the courts. Apparently it will be enough for the authorities merely to suspect someone of wrongdoing for them to act. And the police won't be troubled by the tiresome business of courts, defence lawyers or defendants' rights. I wonder what Vaclav Havel would think of such a suggestion. Certainly, he would be all too familiar with the system of arbitrary arrest and state persecution that Blair seems to be suggesting.

Blair dresses up his views in a vocabulary of modernisation and inclusivity. Yet when he talks about rebalancing the criminal justice system in favour of the victim, it takes just a few moments to see that this will be achieved by doing away with the priority in our legal system of protecting the accused from miscarriages of justice. He simply wants to reduce defendants' rights in order to satisfy public demand for more prosecutions.

It is now plain that he intends nothing less than to open the ancient charters of British rights in order to tip acid into them.

The way cabinet ministers think of themselves today and what they do are at odds. They think of themselves as reasonable, tolerant, humane and liberal people, but their actions tell an altogether different story. This brings me to the Big Brother state that Tony Blair says he doesn't want to live in, but which has nevertheless rapidly come into being during his premiership.

Most people have very little understanding of what the ID card scheme will actually mean for them. They think that it just involves a little plastic identifier. But it is much more than that. Every adult will be required to provide 49 pieces of information about themselves which will include biometric measurements - probably an iris scan and fingerprinting. If you refuse to submit to what is called, without irony, enrolment, you will face repeated fines of up £2,500. The Government is deadly serious about this thing because of a simple truth. They want to know pretty much everything there is to know about you.

Personally, I find the idea of having a card repugnant and I cannot believe it will be long before policemen are stopping us on the street and asking for our papers. But this is by no means the most sinister aspect. Every time your card is swiped when you identify yourself, the National Identity Register will silently make a record of the time and date, your location and the purpose of the ID check. Gradually, a unique picture of your life will be built, to which nearly half-a-million civil servants are apparently going to have access.

But of course you will never be told who is looking at your file, or why. And nor will you be able to find out.

MPs must take responsibility for passing this invasive law but they cannot be blamed for the other half of the Big Brother society that is upon us. I refer to the total surveillance of our roads in a linked-up system of Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras. These cameras cover every motorway, major dual carriageway, town and city centre and will feed information from billions of journeys into one computer, where the data will remain for two years.

The decision to put British motorists under blanket, round- the-clock surveillance was never taken by Parliament. It just happened. As the cost of processing enormous quantities of data came down, the police and Home Office just simply decided to go ahead. Traffic cameras became surveillance cameras. This, I gather, is known as function creep, and, as always, half the pressure comes from technological innovation.

We are about to become the most observed population in the world outside North Korea, and absolutely no work has been done on how this will affect each one of us and what it will do to our society and political institutions.

I worry that we are not alert to the possibilities of social control. No matter how discreet this surveillance, it increases the spectral presence of the state in the everyday consciousness of each individual. I grant that it is a slow process and that it is nothing like the leaden omnipresence of the Stasi in the GDR. But I think we're heading for a place from which we will not be able to return: the surveillance society where the state will crowd in on the individual human experience and threaten the unguarded freedoms of privacy, solitude, seclusion and anonymity. We may continue to attest to the feeling of freedom but in reality we will suffer more and more restrictions. Inexorably we are becoming subjects not citizens, units on a database that may be observed and classified by a Government which is taking control in areas where it has never dared in democratic times to trespass before.

Where this will all lead I cannot say, but I do know that it is neither good for us nor for the state. Humans work best when they have the maximum freedom, and so does government. As our Government gains more power in relation to us, confusing itself on the way with the entity and interests of the state, it will become less responsive to our needs and opinions, less transparent and less accountable.

Havel said of the Communist tyranny in that glorious but sombre new year's day speech: "None of us is just its victim. We are its co-creators." That is true of any society. And I believe we all need now to acknowledge what has happened to British rights and do something about it.

Firstly, there needs to be some kind of formal audit made of the rights which have been already compromised. An exact account. Linked to this should be a commission looking into the effects of mass surveillance. Second, we need a constitution which enshrines a bill of rights and places our rights beyond the reach of an ambitious Executive and Parliament. Third, we should be writing to our constituency MPs or clogging up their surgeries - asking what they are doing about the attack on liberty. And fourth, all schoolchildren should be taught about British rights and freedoms, what they mean and how they were won. History, as the National Trust is fond of saying, matters. Rights and liberties are as much a part of our heritage as St Paul's Cathedral and Shakespeare's plays.

This may all sound rather prescriptive but I have become certain over the last two years that we need to do something to save us from our Government and the Government from itself.

This was taken from the Summerfield Lecture given at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, on 12 October as part of the annual literary festival. Research by Emily Butselaar

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Church Leaders condemn Christian Zionism movement out of hand

Oh, this is beautiful!

"THE JERUSALEM DECLARATION ON CHRISTIAN ZIONISM" - Statement by the Patriarch and Local Heads of Churches In Jerusalem

"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God." (Matthew 5:9)

Christian Zionism is a modern theological and political movement that embraces the most extreme ideological positions of Zionism, thereby becoming detrimental to a just peace within Palestine and Israel. The Christian Zionist programme provides a worldview where the Gospel is identified with the ideology of empire, colonialism and militarism. In its extreme form, it laces an emphasis on apocalyptic events leading to the end of history rather than living Christ's love and justice today.

We categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation.

We further reject the contemporary alliance of Christian Zionist leaders and organizations with elements in the governments of Israel and the United States that are presently imposing their unilateral pre-emptive borders and domination over Palestine. This inevitably leads to unending cycles of violence that undermine the security of all peoples of the Middle East and the rest of the world.

We reject the teachings of Christian Zionism that facilitate and support these policies as they advance racial exclusivity and perpetual war rather than the gospel of universal love, redemption and reconciliation taught by Jesus Christ. Rather than condemn the world to the doom of Armageddon we call upon everyone to liberate themselves from the ideologies of militarism and occupation. Instead, let them pursue the healing of the nations!

We call upon Christians in Churches on every continent to pray for the Palestinian and Israeli people, both of whom are suffering as victims of occupation and militarism. These discriminative actions are turning Palestine into impoverished ghettos surrounded by exclusive Israeli settlements. The establishment of the illegal settlements and the construction of the Separation Wall on confiscated Palestinian land undermines the viability of a Palestinian state as well as peace and security in the entire region.

We call upon all Churches that remain silent, to break their silence and speak for reconciliation with justice in the Holy Land.

Therefore, we commit ourselves to the following principles as an alternative way:

We affirm that all people are created in the image of God. In turn they are called to honor the dignity of every human being and to respect their inalienable rights.

We affirm that Israelis and Palestinians are capable of living together within peace, justice and security.

We affirm that Palestinians are one people, both Muslim and Christian. We reject all attempts to subvert and fragment their unity.

We call upon all people to reject the narrow world view of Christian Zionism and other ideologies that privilege one people at the expense of others.

We are committed to non-violent resistance as the most effective means to end the illegal occupation in order to attain a just and lasting peace.

With urgency we warn that Christian Zionism and its alliances are justifying colonization, apartheid and empire-building.

God demands that justice be done. No enduring peace, security or reconciliation is possible without the foundation of justice. The demands of justice will not disappear. The struggle for justice must be pursued diligently and persistently but non-violently.

"What does the Lord require of you, to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)

This is where we take our stand. We stand for justice. We can do no other. Justice alone guarantees a peace that will lead to reconciliation with a life of security and prosperity for all the peoples of our Land. By standing on the side of justice, we open ourselves to the work of peace - and working for peace makes us children of God.

"God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation." (2 Cor 5:19)

His Beattitude Patriarch Michel Sabbah
Latin Patriarchate, Jerusalem

Archbishop Swerios Malki Mourad,
Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem

Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal,
Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East

Bishop Munib Younan,
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land

August 22, 2006

openDemocracy have more.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Our implication in the unsettlement of the ME

Robert Fisk rocks on:

Robert Fisk: The Age of Terror - a landmark report

With chaos stretching from Afghanistan to the Mediterranean, we have never lived in a more dangerous time. Over the next 15 pages and 7,000 words, our man in the Middle East looks back over a lifetime of covering war and death, and lays out a bleak future for all of us - one that even those living in the comfort of the Home Counties cannot escape

Published: 08 October 2006

A few days after Lebanon's latest war came to an end, I went through many of the reporter's notebooks I have used in my last 30 years in the Middle East. Some contained the names of dead colleagues, others the individual stories of the suffering of Arabs and Kurds and Christians and Jews. One, dated 1991, is even splashed with a dark and viscous substance, the oil that came raining down on us from the skies over the Kuwaiti desert after Saddam blew up the wells of the Emirate. It was only after a few minutes that I realised what I was looking for: some hint, back in the days of dangerous innocence, of what was going to happen on 11 September 2001.

And sure enough, in one notebook, part of a transcript of an interview I gave in Toronto in the late 1990s, I see myself trying to discourage the Middle East optimism of my host. "There is an explosion coming in the Middle East," I tell him. What was this explosion I was talking about? I find myself writing almost the same thing a couple of years later in The Independent - I refer to "the explosion to come" without locating it in the Middle East at all. What was I talking about? And then, most disturbingly, I re-run parts of a film series I made with the late Michael Dutfield for Channel 4 and Discovery in 1993. Called From Beirut to Bosnia, it was billed as an attempt to record "Muslims growing anger towards the West."

In one sequence, I walk into a destroyed mosque in a Bosnian village called Cela. And I hear my voice on the soundtrack, saying: "When I see things like this, I think of the place I work, the Middle East... I wonder what the Muslim world has in store for us... Maybe I should end each of my reports with the words: 'Watch out!' " And when I checked back to my post-production notes, I find the dates of all our film sequences listed. I had walked into that Bosnian mosque, watched by Serb policemen, on 11 September 1993. My warning was exactly eight years too early.

I don't like journalists who, in middle age, start to pontificate morbidly about the wickedness of a world that should be full of love, or who rummage through old notebooks in search of pessimism. So I own up at once. Surely we don't have to be weighed down by the baggage of history, always looking backwards and holding up billboards with the "The End of the World is Nigh" written in black for readers too bored to look at the fine print. Yet when I sit on my seafront balcony today, I am waiting for the next explosion to come.

Beirut is a good place to reflect on the tragedy through which the Middle East is now inexorably moving. After all, the city has suffered so many horrors these past 31 years, it seems haunted by the mass graves that lie across the region, from Afghanistan to Iraq to "Palestine" and to Lebanon itself. And I look across the waters and see a German warship cruising past my home, part of Nato's contribution to stop gun-running into Lebanon under UN Security Council Resolution 1701. And then, I ask myself what the Germans could possibly be doing when no guns have ever been run to the Hizbollah guerrilla army from the sea. The weapons came through Syria, and Syria has a land frontier with the country and is to the north and east of Lebanon, not on the other side of the Mediterranean.

And then when I call on my landlord to discuss this latest, hopeless demonstration of Western power, he turns to me in some anger and says, "Yes, why is the German navy cruising off my home?" And I see his point. For we Westerners are now spreading ourselves across the entire Muslim world. In one form or another, "we" - "us", the West - are now in Khazakstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Egypt, Algeria, Yemen, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Lebanon. We are now trapped across this vast area of suffering, fiercely angry people, militarily far more deeply entrenched and entrapped than the 12th-century crusaders who faced defeat at the battle of Hittin, our massive forces fighting armies of Islamists, suicide bombers, warlords, drug barons, and militias. And losing. The latest UN army in Lebanon, with its French and Italian troops, is moving in ever greater numbers to the south, young men and women who have already been threatened by al-Qa'ida and who will, in three of four months, be hit by al-Qa'ida. Which is one reason why the French have been pallisading themselves into their barracks in southern Lebanon. There is no shortage of suicide bombers here, although it will be the Sunni -- not the Hizbollah-Shiite variety -- which will strike at the UN.

When will the bombers arrive? After further massacres in Iraq? After the Israelis cross the border again? After Israel - or the US - bombs Iran's nuclear facilities in the coming months? After someone in the northern city of Tripoli, perhaps, or in the Palestinian camps outside Sidon, decides he has seen too many Western soldiers trampling the lands of southern Lebanon, too many German warships off the coast, or heard too many mendacious statements of optimism from George W Bush or Tony Blair or Condoleezza Rice. "There will be no 'new' Middle East, Miss Rice," a new Hizbollah poster says south of Sidon. And the Hizbollah is right. The entire region is sinking deeper into bloodshed and all the time, over and over again, Bush and Blair tell us it is all getting much better, that we can all be heartened by the spread of non-existent democracies, that the dawn is rising on Condi's "new" Middle East. Are they really hoping that they can distort the mirror of the world's reality with their words? There is a kind of new dawn rising in the lands from the old Indian empire to the tides of the Mediterranean. The only trouble is that it is blood red.

It is as if the Bushes and Blairs do not live on this planet any more. As my colleague Patrick Cockburn wrote recently, the enraging thing about Blair's constant optimism is that, to prove it all a pack of lies, a journalist has to have his throat cut amid the anarchy which Blair says does not exist. The Americans cannot protect themselves in Iraq, let alone the Iraqis, and the British have twice nearly been defeated in battles with the Taliban, and the Israeli army - counting it as part of the "West" for a moment -- were soundly thrashed when they crossed the border to fight the Hizbollah, losing 40 men in 36 hours. Yet still Blair delayed a ceasefire in Lebanon. And still - be certain of this - when the fire strikes us again, in London or New York or wherever, Blair and Bush will say that the attack has nothing to do with the Middle East, that Britain's enemies hate "our values" or our "way of life".

I once mourned the lack of titans in the modern world, the Roosevelts and the Churchills, blood-drenched though their century was. Blair and Bush, posing as wartime leaders, threatening the midget Hitlers around them, appear to have gone through a kind of "stasis", a psychological inability to grasp what they do not want to hear or what they do not want to be true. And they have lost the thread of history.

In the past, we - the "West" - could have post-war adventures abroad and feel safe at home. No North Korean tried to blow himself up on the London Tube in the 1950s. No Viet Cong ever arrived in Washington to assault the United States. We fought in Kenya and Malaya and Palestine and Suez and Yemen, but we felt safe in Gloucestershire. Perhaps the change came with the Algerian War of Independence when the bombers attacked in Paris and Lyons, or perhaps it came later when the IRA arrived to bomb London.

But it is a fact that "we" cannot take our armies and warships and tanks and helicopter gunships and para battalions for foreign wars and expect to be unhurt at home. This is the inescapable logic of history that Bush and Blair will not face, will not acknowledge, will not believe - will not even let us believe. All across the Middle East, we are locked in battle in our preposterous "war on terror" because "the world changed forever" on 11 September, even though I have said many times that we should not allow 19 murderers to change our world. So we live in a darker world of phone-taps and "terror plots" and underground CIA prisoners whose interrogators set about victims in secret, tearing to pieces the Geneva Conventions so painfully constructed after the Second World War.

And in a world betrayed. Remember all those promises we made to the Arabs about creating a wonderful new functioning democracy in Iraq whose example would be followed by other Middle East states? And remember our promise to honour the fledgling democracy of Lebanon, the famous "Cedars Revolution" - a title invented by the US State Department, so the Lebanese should have been suspicious - which brought the retreat of the Syrian army. Lebanon was then held up to be a future model for the Arab world. But once the Hizbollah crossed the frontier and seized two Israeli soldiers, killing three others on 12 July, we stood back and watched the Lebanese suffer. "If there is one thing this last war has convinced me of," a young Lebanese woman put it to me this month, "it is that the Lebanese are on their own. I can never trust a foreign promise again."

And this is true. For the direct result of the disastrous Israeli campaign has been to turn the Hizbollah into heroes of the Arab - indeed the Muslim - world, to break apart the fragile political stability established by the Lebanese prime minister, Fouad Siniora, and to have Hizbollah's leader, Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, declare a "divine victory" and demand a "national unity" government which, if it comes about, will be pro-Syrian. The language now being used in Lebanon by the country's political leaders is approaching the incendiary, lethal grammar of pre-civil war Lebanon.

Samir Geagea, the Christian ex-militia commander, brought out tens of thousands of supporters to jeer at Nasrallah. "They demand a strong state but how can a strong state be built with a statelet in its midst?" Geagea demanded to know after the Hizbollah suddenly announced that it has no intention of handing over its weapons. Indeed, Nasrallah is now boasting that he still has 20,000 missiles in southern Lebanon, a claim which led the Druze leader, Walid Jumblatt, to abuse Nasrallah as a creature of Syria - there is speculation over the depth of his relationship with Damascus but his arms certainly come from Iran - and to say to him: "Sayed Nasrallah, rest your mind, I will not reach an agreement with you. When you separate yourself from the Syrian leadership, I will possibly hold a dialogue with you." Thus two more paper-thin links - between Lebanon's Druze community and the Christians and the larger population of Shiite Muslims - have been broken. And that is how civil wars start.

Had Bush - indeed Blair -- denounced Israel's claim that it held the Lebanese government responsible for the kidnapping and killing of its soldiers, and demanded an immediate ceasefire, then the disaster that is destroying Lebanon's democracy would not have happened. But no, Bush and Blair let the bloodshed go on and postponed hopes of a ceasefire for the Lebanese upon whom they had lavished so much praise a year ago. Just last week, the Lebanese recovered the bodies of five more children under the rubble of the Sidon Vocational Training Centre in Tyre. Ali Alawiah identified his children Aya, Zeinab and Hussein and his nephews Battoul and Abbas. All would have been alive if even Blair and Margaret Beckett had demanded a ceasefire. But they are dead. And Blair and Beckett and Bush should have this on their conscience.

The fact they don't speaks sorrowfully of our double standard of morality. Almost all Lebanon's 1,300 dead - which comes close to half the total of the World Trade Centre murders - were civilians. But we don't care for them as we do our own "kith and kin". This is the same sickness that pervades our policies in Iraq where we never counted the number of civilians killed, only the tally of our precious soldiers who died there.

How did we come to be infected by this virus of negligence and betrayal? Does it really go back to the Crusades or the ramblings of Spanish Christians of the 15th century - whose portrayals of the Prophet Mohamed were infinitely more obscene than Denmark's third-rate cartoonist - or to the vicious anti-Muslim ravings of long-forgotten Popes who seem to obsess the present incumbent of the Vatican? I am still uncertain what Benedict meant by his quotation of the old man of Byzantium - while I am equally suspicious of his almost equally insulting remarks at Auschwitz where he blamed Nazi Germany's cruelty on a mere "gang of criminals". But then again, this is a Pope - anti-divorce, anti-homosexual and, once, anti-aircraft - who has signally failed to follow John Paul II's devotions on the need for the seed of Abraham to acknowledge the love they should show to each other.

This failure to see the Other as the same as "us" is now evident across the Middle East. Some months ago, I received letters originally written to his family by a young Marine officer in Iraq who was trying - eloquently, I have to add - to explain how frustrating his work with Iraqis had become. "There is something culturally childish in their understanding of Western governance and management that will require immeasurable education and probably several generations to overcome if they find it of any interest," he wrote. "Our understanding of their tribal governance and its relationship to formal civil management is equally naïve and charges our frustration... The reality is that they cannot, culturally, comprehend our altruism or believe our stated intentions... Liberation will compete with invasion as our legacy but locally we are ideologically irrelevant... I share the American fascination with action and it has consistently betrayed us in our foreign policy."

The reality in Iraq is summed up by the same American Marine officer's description of the building of the Ramadi glass factory, a story that shows just how vacuous all the stories of our "success" there are. "The Division has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into a glass factory. It does not work. It will take millions of dollars to rehabilitate and modernise. There are supposed to be 2,500 Iraqis employed there but they have nothing to do and no more than 100 arrive on any given day to sit in their offices as new computers and furniture are delivered with our compliments... It is like walking through a fictional business that physically exists. It may be Kafka's revenge. Most rooms are empty but are still preserved as they had been under a layer of dust. Some areas hold a man at a desk in a stark room too large for him. It is like Pompeii being slowly reoccupied, as if nothing had happened. I stood on a tall mound of broken glass outside. Shards of window panes shattered in the process of manufacturing them. The windows of the city were poured and cut here once... This glass was made from sand, desert made invisible until exposed by reflection. The bright sunlight makes little impression on the pile due to a dull coating of dust but the fragments fracture further and slide beneath my feet with the sound of ruin. Walking on windows and unable to see the ground." Could there be a more Conradian description of the failure of the American empire in Iraq?

And does it not echo a remark that TE Lawrence - Lawrence of Arabia - made of Iraq in the 1920s: "Do not try to do too much with your own hands. Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly... Actually, also, under the very odd conditions of Arabia, your practical work may not be as good as, perhaps, you think."

A different kind of alienation, of course, is reflected in our dispute with Iran. "We" think that its government wants to make nuclear weapons - in six months, according to the Israelis; in 10 years, according to some nuclear analysts. But no one asks if "we" didn't help to cause this "nuclear" crisis. For it was the Shah who commenced Iran's nuclear power programme in 1973 and Western companies were shoulder-hopping each other in their desire to sell him nuclear reactors and enrichment technology. Siemens, for example, started to build the Bushehr reactor. And the Shah was regularly interviewed on Western television stations where he said that he didn't see why Iran shouldn't have nuclear weapons when America and the Soviets had them. And we had no objection to the ambitions of "our" Policeman of the Gulf.

And when Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic revolution engulfed Iran, what did he do? He called the nuclear programme "the work of the devil" and closed it down. It was only when Saddam Hussein invaded Iran the following year and began showering Iran with missiles and chemical weapons - an invasion supported by "us" - that the clerical regime decided they may have to use nuclear weapons against Iraq and reopened the complex. In other words, it was the West which supported Iran's original nuclear programme and it was closed by the chief divine of George Bush's "axis of evil" and then reopened when the West stood behind Saddam (in the days when he was "our strongman" rather than our caged prisoner in a dying state).

The greater irony, of course, is that if we were really concerned about the spread of nuclear technology among Muslim states, we would be condemning Pakistan, most of whose cities are in a state of almost Iraqi anarchy and whose jolly dictator now says he was threatened with being "bombed back to the Stone Age" by the Americans if he didn't sign up to the "war on terror". Now it happens that Pakistan is infinitely more violent than Iran and it also happens that it was a close Pakistani friend of the Pakistani President- General Pervez Musharraf - a certain scientist called Abdul Qadeer Khan - who actually gave solid centrifuge components to Iran. But all that has been taken out of the story. And so they will remain out of the narrative because Pakistan already has a bomb and may use it if someone decided to create a new Stone Age in that former corner of the British empire.

But all this raises a more complex question. Are we really going to carry on arguing for years - for generation after generation of crisis - over who has or doesn't have nuclear technology or the capacity to build a bomb? Are "we" forever going to decide who may have a bomb on the basis of his obedience to us - Mr Musharraf now being a loyal Pakistani shah - or his religion or how many turbans are worn by ministers in the government. Are we still going to be doing this in 2007 or 2107 or 3006?

What I suspect lies behind much of our hypocrisy in the Middle East is that Muslims have not lost their faith and we have. It's not just that religion governs their lives, it is the fact that they have kept the faith - and that is why we try to hide that we have lost it by talking about Islam's "difficulty with secularism". We are the good liberals who wish to bestow the pleasures of our Enlightenment upon the rest of the world, although, to the Muslim nations, this sounds more like our desire to invade them with different cultures and traditions and - in some cases - different religions.

And Muslims have learnt to remember. I still recall an Iraqi friend, shaking his head at my naivety when I asked if there was not any cup of generosity to be bestowed on the West for ridding Iraqis of Saddam's presence. "You supported him," he replied. "You supported him when he invaded Iran and we died in our tens of thousands. Then, after the invasion of Kuwait, you imposed sanctions that killed tens of thousands of our children. And now you reduce Iraq to anarchy. And you want us to be grateful?"

And I recalled seeing a train load of gassed Iranian soldiers on the way to Tehran, coughing up mucus and blood into stained handkerchiefs and coughing up the gas too because I suddenly smelled a kind of dirty perfume and walked down the train opening all the windows. I saw their vast wobbling blisters upon which ever-smaller blisters would form, one on top of the other. And where did this filthy stuff come from, this real weapon of mass destruction Saddam was using? Components came from Germany and from the US. No wonder US Lieutenant Rick Francona noted indifferently in a report to the Pentagon that the Iraqis had drenched Fao in gas when he visited the battlefield during the war. So do we expect the Iranians to be grateful that we eventually toppled Saddam?

Needless to say, the division between Shias and Sunnis - especially in Iraq - can reach stages of cruelty not seen since the European Protestant-Catholic wars; nor, in this context, should we forget the conflict we are still trying to control in Northern Ireland. Islam as a society, rather than a religion, does have to face the "West"; it must find, in the words of that fine former Iranian president Mohamad Khatami, a "civil society". And it is outrageous that Muslims have not condemned the slaughter in Darfur or, indeed, in Iraq and, one might add, on the battlefields of the Iran-Iraq war where one and a half million Muslims killed each other over almost eight years. Self-criticism is not in great supply across the Muslim world where, of course, our spirited Western political conflicts and elections sometimes look like self-flagellation.

As for our desire to award the Muslim Middle East with "our" democratic systems, it's not just in Lebanon that we have proved to be much less enthusiastic about its existence in the Arab world. The former US ambassador to Iraq - once he realised the Shiites would join the Sunni resistance if they did not have elections, for democracy was originally not going to be America's gift there - accepted a dominant role for Muslim clerics in the government, thus ensuring discrimination against women in marriage, divorce and inheritance.

When Daniel Fried, the US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs visited Paris last year, he lectured European and Arab diplomats on what he called "the US-European imperative to support democratic reform and democratic reformers in the Middle East" - forgetting, it seems, that just such a man, Khatami, existed in Iran but had been snubbed by the US. His failure as a genuinely elected president produced his somewhat cracked successor. Fried, however, insisted that bringing democracy to the Middle East "is not for us a question of political theory, but of central strategic importance", something that clearly didn't matter less than a year later in Lebanon and certainly not when the Palestinians participated in genuine elections, of which more later.

Fried took the risky step of quoting the French historian Alexis de Tocqueville to back his claim that democracy, far from being a fragile flower, was "robust, and its applicability is potentially universal". The former French foreign minister, Hubert Védrine, was invited to reply to respond to Fried's words and he cynically spoke of "people who have historical experience, who have seen how past experiences turned out", the subtext of which was: "You Americans have no sense of history." Védrine spoke of meeting with Madeleine Albright when she was the US Foreign Secretary. "I told her we had no problem regarding the objective of democracy, but I asked whether it was a process, or a religious conversion, like Saint Paul on the road to Damascus." And he quoted the Mexican writer, Octavio Pas: "Democracy is not like Nescafé, you don't just add water." For historical reasons, Védrine told Fried, "Because of colonialism, the Middle East is the region of the world where external intervention is most at risk of being rejected."

And when it is imposed, as America says it would like to do in Damascus, what will happen? A nice, flourishing electoral process to put Syrians in power or another descent into Iraqi-style horrors with a Sunni-Muslim regime in place in Damascus?

And so to "Palestine" - the inverted commas are more important than ever today - and its own act of democracy. Of course, the Palestinians elected the wrong people, Hamas, and had to suffer for it. Democratic Israel would not accept the results of Palestine's democratic elections and the Europeans joined with America in placing sanctions against the newly elected government unless it recognised Israel and all agreements signed with Israel since the Camp David accords of the 1970s. Even when Ariel Sharon was staging his withdrawal of 8,500 settlers from Gaza last year, he was shifting 12,000 more settlers into the West Bank, and George W Bush had effectively accepted this illegality by talking of the "realities" of the Jewish settlements still being enlarged there. And that was the end of UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 upon which the "peace process" was supposed to be based - Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied in the 1967 Middle East war, in return for the security of all states in the area.

One of the few honourable American statesmen to grasp what this portends is ex-President Jimmy Carter, who wrote after the Palestinian elections in May this year that "innocent Palestinian people are being treated like animals, with the presumption that they are guilty of some crime. Because they voted for candidates who are members of Hamas, the US government has become the driving force behind an apparently effective scheme of depriving the general public of income, access to the outside world and the necessities of life... The additional restraints imposed on the new government are a planned and deliberate catastrophe for the citizens of the occupied territories, in hopes that Hamas will yield to the economic pressure." Oh, for the years of the Carter administration...

And now we have the wall - or the "fence" as too many journalists gutlessly call it. The Palestinians went to the International Court in the Hague to have it declared illegal because much of its course runs through their land. The court said it was illegal. And Israel ignored the court's decision and, once more, the US supported Israel. Here was another lesson for the Palestinians. They went peacefully - without violence or "terrorism" - to our Western institutions to get justice. And we were powerless to help them because Israel rejected this symbol of Western freedoms.

Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister whose Lebanese bombardment was such a catastrophe, still says that the wall is only temporary, as if it might be shifted back to the original frontiers of Israel. But if it is only temporary, it can also be moved forward to take in more Jewish settlements on Arab land, colonies which, it must be noted, are illegal under international law. Olmert says he wants to draw "permanent borders" unilaterally - which is against the spirit of Camp David which Hamas is now supposed to abide by.

And how does US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice respond to this? Well, try this for wriggle room. "I wouldn't on the face of it just say absolutely we don't think there's any value in what the Israelis are talking about." And if the US does recognise - which it will - unilaterally fixed borders of the kind proposed by Olmert, it will sanction the permanent annexation of up to 10 per cent of the Arab territory seized in 1967, contrary to all previous US policy and to the International Court. All this, of course, is part of the new flouting of international laws which the US - and increasingly Israel - now regards as its right since the world "changed forever" on 11 September, 2001.

Remarkably, however, the US still believes that it is increasingly loathed in the Arab world not because of its policies but because its policies are not being presented fairly. It's not a political problem, it's a public-relations problem. Curiously, that is what Israel thought when accused of killing too many Lebanese during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. What we do is right. We're just not selling it right. Hence, the appointment of Karen Hughes as US "Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy". Her line is straight to the point. "I try to portray the facts in the best light for our country," she said after her appointment. "Because I believe we're a wonderful country and that we are doing things across the world."

The columnist Roger Cohen placed her problem in a nutshell. The problem are the facts. And they include the fact that, in the 65-year period between 1941 and 2006, the US has been at war in some form or another for all but 14 of them. And people around the world have got tired of this. They got tired of America's insatiable need for an enemy - and suspicious of all the talk of democracy, freedom and morality in which every war was cast. They stopped buying the US narrative. Hughes says that the vision followed by bin Laden's followers "is a mission of destruction and death; ours a message of life and opportunity." Well, yes. "If only it were that simple," Cohen wrote.

At that Paris meeting with Fried, Védrine won almost all the arguments, not that Fried realised it. Védrine pleaded with the Americans to exercise caution in the Middle East. "We don't know how things are going to turn out in Afghanistan, Iraq or Egypt," he said presciently. "This is a high-risk process, like transporting nitroglycerine. You talk about an alliance; if there is an alliance, it must not be an ideological alliance, but an alliance of surgeons, of professionals, of chemists specialised in explosive substances. If we set out to do this, it will take 20 or 30 years, far longer than the second Bush administration."

But the US Marines and the 82 Airborne are not surgeons or chemists. They are losing control of lands they thought they had conquered or "liberated". Iraq is already out of control. So is much of Afghanistan. Palestine looks set to go the same way and Lebanon is in danger of freefall. A series of letters in The New York Times in April this year suggested that ordinary US citizens grasp the "democratic" argument better than their leaders. "Democracy cannot be easily imposed on people who are not prepared to accept it," one wrote. "Democracy cannot be exported," wrote another. "Changing a political culture happens only if the people embrace it. Iraqi society is too traumatised by the history of Saddam Hussein and the war to do more than survive both at this point." Spot on.

It may well be that journalists in the "West" should feel a burden of guilt for much that has happened because they have, with their gullibility, helped to sell US actions much more effectively than Karen Hughes. Their constant references to a "fence" instead of a wall, to "settlements" or "neighbourhoods" instead of colonies, their description of the West Bank as "disputed" rather than occupied, has a bred a kind of slackness in reporting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Just as it did in Iraq when so many reporters from the great Western newspapers and TV stations used US ambassador Bremer's laughable description of the ferocious insurgents as "dead-enders" or "remnants" - the same phrase still being used by our colleagues in Kabul in reference to a distinctly resurgent Taliban which is being helped - despite General Musharraf's denials - by the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI.

Much worse, however, is the failure to enquire into the real policies of governments. Why, for example, was there no front-page treatment of this year's Herzliya conference, Israel's most important policy-making jamboree? Most of the important figures in the Israeli government - they had yet to be elected - were in attendance. The conference was the place where Ehud Olmert first suggested handing over slices of the West Bank: "The choice between allowing Jews to live in all parts of the land of Israel" - the "land of Israel" in this context included the West Bank - "and living in a state with a Jewish majority mandate giving up part of the land of Israel. We cannot continue to control parts of the territories where most of the Palestinians live."

However, most speakers agreed that the Palestinians would be given a state on whatever is left after the huge settlements had been included behind the wall. Benjamin Netanyahu even suggested the wall should be moved deeper into the West Bank. But the implications were obvious. A Palestinian state will be allowed, but it will not have a capital in east Jerusalem nor any connection between Gaza and the bits of the West Bank that are handed over. So there will be no peace, and the words "Palestinian" and "terrorist" will, again, be inextricably linked by Israel and the US.

There were articles in the Israeli press about Herzliya, including one by Sergio Della Pergola in which he warned of the "menace" to Israel of Palestinian birth rates and advised that "if the demographic tie doesn't come in 2010, it will come in 2020." Earlier conferences have discussed the possible need for the revoking of the citizenship rights of some Israeli Arabs. Already this year, Haaretz has reported an opinion poll in which 68 per cent of Israeli Jews said they would refuse to live in the same building as an Arab - 26 per cent would agree to do so - and 46 per cent of Israeli Jews said they would refuse to allow an Arab to visit their home. The inclination toward segregation rose as the income level of the respondents dropped - as might be expected - and there was no poll of Palestinian opinion, though the Palestinians might be able to point out that tens of thousands of Israelis already do live on their land in the huge colonies across the West Bank, most of which will remain, illegally, in Israeli hands.

All these details are available in the Arab press - and of course, the Israeli press, but are largely absent from our own. Why? Even when Norman Finkelstein wrote a damning academic report on the way Israel's High Court of Justice "proved" the wall - deemed illegal by the Hague -- was legal, it was virtually ignored in the West. So, for that matter, was the US academics' report on the power of the Israeli lobby, until the usual taunts of "anti-Semitism" forced the American mainstream to write about it, albeit in a shifty, frightened way.

There are so many other examples of our fear of Middle Eastern truth. Our soft handling of Hosni Mubarak's increasingly autocratic regime in Egypt is typical. So is reporting of Algeria now that British governments are prepared to deport refugees home on the grounds that they no longer face arrest and torture. But arrest and torture continue in Algeria. Its recent amnesty poll effectively immunises all members of the security services involved in torture and makes it a crime to oppose the amnesty.

Is this really the best that we journalists can do? Save for the indefatigable Seymour Hersh, there are still no truly investigative correspondents in the US press. But challenging authority should not be that difficult. No one is being asked to end the straightforward reporting of Arab tyrannies. We are still invited to ask - and should ask - why the Muslim world has produced so many dictatorships, most of them supported by "us". But there are too many dark corners into which we will not look. Where, for example, are the CIA's secret torture prisons? I know two reporters who are aware of the locations. But they are silent, no doubt in the interests of "national security".

This reluctance to confront unpleasant truths diminishes the reader or viewer for whom Middle East reporting in the US media is almost incomprehensible to anyone who does not know the region. It also has its trickle-down effects even in theatres, universities and schools in America. The case of the play about Rachel Corrie - the young US activist twice run over by an Israeli bulldozer while trying to prevent the demolition of Palestinian homes - taken off the New York stage was one of the more deplorable of these. I was also surprised in the Bronx to find that Fieldston, a private school in Riverdale - was forced to cancel a college meeting with two Palestinian lecturers when parents objected to the absence of an Israeli on the panel. The fact that Israeli speakers were to be invited later made no difference. The school's principal later announced that the meeting would "not be appropriate given the sensitivity and complexity of the issue". Complex problems are supposed to be explained. But this could not be explained because, well, it was too complex and - the truth - would upset the usual Israeli lobbyists.

So there we go again. Freedom of speech is a precious commodity but just how precious I found out for myself when I addressed the American University of Beirut after receiving an honorary degree there this summer. I made my usual points about the Bush administration and the growing dangers of the Middle East only to find that a US diplomat in Beirut was condemning me in front of Lebanese friends for being allowed to criticise the Bush administration in a college which receives US government money.

And so on we go with the Middle East tragedy, telling the world that things are getting better when they are getting worse, that democracy is flourishing when it is swamped in blood, that freedom is not without "birth pangs" when the midwife is killing the baby.

It's always been my view that the people of this part of the Earth would like some of our democracy. They would like a few packets of human rights off our supermarket shelves. They want freedom. But they want another kind of freedom - freedom from us. And this we do not intend to give them. Which is why our Middle East presence is heading into further darkness. Which is why I sit on my balcony and wonder where the next explosion is going to be. For, be sure, it will happen. Bin Laden doesn't matter any more, alive or dead. Because, like nuclear scientists, he has invented the bomb. You can arrest all of the world's nuclear scientists but the bomb has been made. Bin Laden created al-Qa'ida amid the matchwood of the Middle East. It exists. His presence is no longer necessary.

And all around these lands are a legion of young men preparing to strike again, at us, at our symbols, at our history. And yes, maybe I should end all my reports with the words: Watch out!