The Arsenal Of Democracy

Double standards on the Arab Spring

We are all aware that western intervention in the disputes of other nations is rarely done for the ‘humanitarian’ reasons the leaders are always so quick to claim. Underlying hostilities and old wounds which appeared benign soon come back to the surface when an excuse for war can be found, and if this excuse can be for the protection of democratic values, even better.

With the Libyan rebels making ground-breaking advances, capturing Gaddafi’s compound and coming ever closer to capturing the man himself, it is clear that this would not have been possible without the involvement of the international community.

With NATO air strikes removing much of Gaddafi’s communications system, the organisational assistance, and the intelligence and reconnaissance assistance, a strong backbone was provided for a military organisation which would have otherwise lacked the structure to pull off such a manoeuvre.

Whilst all this was occurring, Libya’s neighbours in the Arab world were experiencing the same turmoil but to different extent. Some fell semi-gracefully with the leaders stepping down to make room for the new generation, some fizzled out, and others, like Syria, blaze on as brightly today as ever, with aid from the western world consisting of words of support for the rebels, and hollow words of warning to president Bashar al-Assad.

On the action in the Middle East, David Cameron said,

This has to stop. We have to make it stop. I think it is vitally important that action takes place. That action takes place urgently,

He also continues to stress the importance of intervention,

It is better to take this action than to risk the consequences of inaction, which is a further slaughter of civilians, and this dictator completely flouting the United Nations and its will.

When Cameron spoke these words he spoke them as the cause and justification for military intervention against Gaddafi and his forces. The claims are not misleading or misrepresentative of the facts.

In order to quell the calls for his resignation, Gaddafi had turned his armed forces on his own people, using tanks and snipers to disperse protests, sending them into hospitals to execute and torture possible rebels, imprisoning and beating writers and intellectuals who were against him, rationing electricity, food, and water, censoring his own people and, allegedly using rape as an act of war.

Whether or not one believes western military intervention is right or not, we can agree Gaddafi committed unspeakable evils against his own people in violation of the UN Charter on Human Rights and international law.

Is it not the case though that these same laws have been broken by Bashir al-Assad? He also has used armed forces to break up demonstrations, killed protestors, censored citizens, and tortured, imprisoned, and killed opponents. The result is an EU travel ban and US and EU asset freezes for al-Assad, along words of support for the Syrian opposition.

It is clear that there are secondary reasons for intervention in Libya and if we look into the histories of both nations and their leaders we can see what these may be.

Although both leaders have taken a firm stance as anti-Israel and anti-West, the strength of these convictions has taken the leaders down different routes. Al-Assad’s main outlet for this has been within the Middle East, with accusations of support for militant groups, Syrian links to the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, and a stance against the invasion of Iraq during the Syrian turn as a member of the UN Security Council.

Compare this to Gaddafi’s history.

Since taking power 42 years ago, Gaddafi has attempted to purchase nuclear weapons from China in ’72 and again from Pakistan in ’77, and in 2003 announced Libya’s active programme to develop weapons of mass destruction (later found to be consisting of 23 metric tones of mustard gas and 1,300 metric tons of precursor chemicals).

In the 1970’s, Gaddafi was a major player in forcefully increasing the cost of oil, demanding higher concessions from western oil companies, enflaming the energy crises. Most importantly of all, however, is the extensiveness of Gaddafi’s blatant support for terrorist organisations and activity.

During the 1980’s Gaddafi made it clear that Libya has supplied weapons to the IRA, financed the Nation of Islam and Al-Rukn (an organization known for planning the destruction of US government buildings and bringing down an airplane), and was training “suicide squads” to attack the US and Europe. The best known of these events remains the Lockerbie Bombing, in which 243 passengers and 16 crew members of a London Heathrow flight to New York’s JFK were killed when a bomb was detonated, with 11 people being killed by the wreckage falling on the town of Lockerbie, Scotland.

Muammar Gaddafi has, on several occasions, taken personal responsibility for ordering the bombing and with the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Libyan intelligence officer found responsible for the bombings, in 2009 on compassionate grounds, the party-like reception he received on his touch down in Libya, with Gaddafi personally meeting him off the plane was a huge embarrassment for the west.

Just like with the invasion of Iraq, the intervention in Libya is not so much about the humanitarian or the support of democracy but it is about settling old scores and past humiliations. For the west, a Gaddafi controlled Libya has long been a hostile state and with his removal it can only become more open to the west, improving financial, social, and political ties beneficial to the west (and arguably to Libya also).

In Syria the same is not so. Although al-Assad has been a great critic of the USA and Israel, any attacks on the west have been limited and with his removal the west is gambling on whether the Syrian people will democratize and westernize, or simply turn to pan-Arabism, turning away from the west.

Abstinence Only or Everything But?

Everybody who has ever taken part in sex education in school remembers it vividly.

The awkwardness of the teacher’s attempts at nonchalant-ness, combined with horrifyingly graphic images of body parts affected by sexually transmitted diseases. In truth, sexual education did as much for one’s sex drive as Jaws does for fishing off the New England coast.

Still, a large part of the population, especially in the States, seems to believe the opposite.

The vocalism of many in the States on a need for an abstinence-only sex education, where sex ed. is required, is amplified and heard daily on right wing radio and television.

However, a new study in the wake of New York City mandating sex education shows the true correlation between a lack of quality sexual education, teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases shows some un-surprising results.

Salon pointed out 8 key states, all of whom teach only ‘traditional’ values (sex only within marriage, abstinence, etc.), and don’t require the classes to be scientifically accurate (this is, of course, where sex education is taught at all as the subject is not mandatory) and all of whom have high rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. These states are:

  • Alabama – has “among the highest rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, of any state in the union,” according to youth advocate Amplify. 15th highest teen pregnancy rate
  • Arkansas – 5th in for Chlamydia, 7th for gonorrhea, and 10th for syphilis. 8th teen pregnancy rate
  • Florida – 1st in HIV infections, 12th in teen pregnancies
  • Indiana – teens “are among the least likely to report having used condoms the last time they had sex,” according to Amplify
  • Louisiana – 1st in syphilis, top ten for both Chlamydia and gonorrhea, 11th in teen HIC
  • Missouri – higher than average rates of STIs, lower than average condom use amongst teens
  • Texas – 5th highest teen pregnancies, 3rd in young people with Aids, 4th in syphilis amongst teens
  • Virginia – 8th highest rate of syphilis, a cost of $3.1 bill in taxpayers money due to unplanned pregnancies between 1991 and 2004

In Great Britain, although the argument may not be taking place as loudly, there has been a constant debate about how sexual education should be taught to our children, summed up by two opposing bills slowly processing through government at this moment.

Nadine Dorries MP is suggesting we should be teaching our teenage girls about the importance of abstinence as an anecdote to the sexualisation of modern society. While Chris Bryant MP has put forward a bill that aims at extending sex education and mandating it for all schools.

Although the bills have only passed their first read, and may not be as extreme as any US counter parts in their opinion to abstinence, we can be sure the arguments for and against will follow the same lines. Advertising sex to children who are too young, or properly equipping them against the risk of pregnancy and STIs, substituting education for ignorance.

All of which ignore the middle ground, a ground of compromise and, possibly, solution.

Would it not be great to be able to develop a sex education system that, not only properly equips an entire generation with the tools to approach sex with an understanding the risks and responsibility painfully missed at the moment, but also with a level of maturity and confidence for our youth to transcend the peer-pressure and social persuasion surrounding sex?

The True Cost of the London Riots

In the wake of the riots that tore through the outer boroughs of London and continued across the cities of the UK and across the Atlantic, many are quick to point fingers at the rioters and the government, and many a quick to speculate how this may affect, “Brand London”. However, few have commented on the likely effects this will have on the relationship British society has on the youth, a relationship already strained by severe cuts, mistrust, and fear.

Many have been quick to blame David Cameron’s conservative government and the cuts that have undoubtedly hit the worst of hardest, as Professor John Pitts, a criminologist and youth culture expert, said:

“Many of the people involved are likely to have been from low-income, high-unemployment estates, and many, if not most, do not have much of a legitimate future…Those things that normally constrain people are not there. Much of this was opportunism but in the middle of it there is a social question to be asked about young people with nothing to lose.”

This train of thought can be continued in order to blame the cuts for the riots, an honest reaction to social mistreatment, an argument dismissed by most of society as an unnecessary validation for mindless violence by people who care little for society and no respect for the people of this society who provide funds for the government support received in these difficult times.

Unfortunately, as much as people would wish to believe this to be an act of mindless violence, unprovoked, and un-blamable on society, we must consider the affects that the cuts have had on these areas. Haringey Council, the local council of Tottenham where the riots started, closed 8 out of 13 youth clubs. This combined with low unemployment is bound to create a sense of boredom, of apathy, and of a feeling that they have been left behind by the society they are supposedly a part of. Add to this a sense of discrimination against youths, a discrimination that intensifies as we move into the inner cities and there seems to be an inevitability that this growing boredom encourage the youth to live up to the opinions society has about them.

We must not be mistaken and attempt to create a legacy around these events as a social revolution. The acts of those days, do however show the incredible power and strength this faction of society has and, most freighting of all, how little moral or social compass they have for directing this power. This was not a protest in reaction to mistreatment by society, but rather this was a natural reaction to such mistreatment, easily avoidable.

The true costs of the riots are not simply economic costs and the cost to the reputation of London. The true cost is that the reputation British youth has developed, a reputation of criminality, directionless, and capable of anything is a reputation the proved right to be fearful of and for generation to come prejudice against inner city youth will be justified, however right or wrong this may be, by the events of three nights one summer.

Netanyahu to negotiate on ’67 borders?

The Israeli-Palestinian border has remained one of the most contested issues in international relations for half a century. Despite a continuation of Israel’s slow but constant encroachment onto recognisable Palestinian soil and a public hard-line stance, reports are surfacing that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu may be weakening.

Ahead of the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations next month, Netanyahu has reportedly proposed a plan to negotiate borders with the Palestinian Authority (PA). Both Israel’s Army Radio and Channel 2 television reported on Tuesday that they may be based on the pre-war 1967 border, which Netanyahu described as ‘indefensible’ earlier this year.

Israel have been vocal about their opposition to Palestine’s bid for statehood and this could be an attempt to re-open the prospect of negotiations, taking the lead from the failed attempts of last September. These negotiations ground to a halt over the issues of illegal settlement construction, with the chief negotiator for the PA, Saeb Erekat saying: “Can we hear from your lips that you accept two states on 1967, and a stop to settlements, so Palestinians can resume negotiations?”

If true, Netanyahu’s acceptance of a border negotiation on the 1967 line would represent a major step forward for the two-state solution. Though Saeb Erekat says that: “So long as you don’t hear it from Netanyahu’s lips, don’t pay attention to it.” But why would Israel make such claims in order to block the Palestinian bid?

One reason may be Netanyahu’s apparent demand that the PA recognises the Israel as a “Jewish State”. This would be a major boost for Israel in the negotiations as this is something the PA has so far refused to do in public, despite The Palestinian Papers revealing they have done so in private.

The second and more obvious reason may be to slow down the Palestinian’s bid. With Israel’s biggest supporter, the US, supporting a renewal of the peace talks and Obama’s vocal wish of a two-state solution “based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed-upon swaps”, it seems less and less likely that Israel may have the Security Council veto that would have been an inevitably with previous administrations. In these circumstances it would be necessary to delay Palestine’s bid by any means necessary.

For Israel, the recognition of Palestine as a State undermines its own birth story; ‘a land without a people for a people without a land.’ A true state of Palestine will not only confirm in International Law the rights of the people of Palestine to a land of their own – a land many Zionists still see as rightfully Jewish – but also confirm their rights as equal to those of the people of Israel. Article 2 of the UN Charter reads: “The Organization is based on the principle of sovereign equality of all its members.” With Palestine as its recognised equal, the military occupation, the building of settlements, and the disproportionate responses will be questioned by a much stricter version of International Law.

Protestors Loyal To President Bashar al-Assad Attack Embassies In Damascus

In response to the US and French ambassadors to Syria visits to Hama on thursday, pro-government activists attacked both embassies today, injuring embassy staff and vandalizing property.
The two ambassadors visited the town of Hama, a strong-hold of the rebels, to a hail of rose petals and olive branches to show solidarity with their cause. The act was quickly dismissed by the Syrian government and the state news agency, who said the following:
"The Ambassador, under the cover of visiting some hospitals, also met with some people in the same framework of inciting more violence and instability and in attempt to sabotage the ongoing national dialogue and deepen discord and sedition among the Syrian people who strongly reject and condemn such foreign instigation.”
Witnesses to the event described activists smashing windows and scaling the fences of the compound, spraying graffiti describing US Ambassador Robert Ford as a ‘dog’. Later on in the day, a mob also attach the home of Robert Ford, in an act which Secretary of State Hilary Clinton robbed the Syrian president of his legitamcy, and followed by saying: 
"If anyone, including President [Bashar] Assad, thinks that the United States is secretly hoping that the regime will emerge from this turmoil to continue its brutality and repression, they are wrong."

Just as protests against Israel during the Nakba were seen as an attempt by the Syrian leadership to transfer the force of the people hatred from their own regime to the old enemy of Israel who, it is assumed, their is a consensual hatred for, it may be so that the Syrians are attempting to do the same by creating a scape-goat out of America and France. This could partly be down to some lasting Cold War paranoia on the part of the regime, but is more likely an attempt to use such paranoia to reignite distrust in the west within the loyalists and attempt to pass that flame to the rebels.
This kind of blame has not been uncommon during the Arab Spring (Colonel Gaddaffi claiming the Libyian rebels were drugged by Israel and brainwashed by the west comes to mind) and it will be interesting to see the American reaction to such propaganda and the ensuing act against US soil.

Video from Hama, Syria has shown protestors greeting US and French ambassadors, Robert S. Ford, and Éric Chevallier as they visited the city of Hama of Thursday holding olive branches and throwing roses in Aasi Square.Victoria Nuland, a spokesperson for the US state department confirmed the following day, Reuters has reported, that the ambassador’s car was “surrounded by friendly protesters who were putting flowers on the windshields, they were putting olive branches on the car, they were chanting, ‘Down with the regime.’”It is reported the ambassadors were presented for “4 DVDs of evidence” by one activist on Twitter named Edward Dark, but for Mr Ford and Mr Chevallier left the square to avoid the planned protests for that day and reportedly to avoid becoming “the story himself”.The Syrian government were quick to denounce the act, with the state run news agency SANA (Syrian Arab News Agency) running this quote from an official source from the Foreign Minister:”The presence of the US ambassador in Hama city without obtaining a prior permission from the Foreign Ministry as stipulated by instructions distributed repeatedly to all the embassies is clear evidence of the US involvement in the ongoing events in Syria and its bids to aggravate the situations which destabilize Syria.”The same website later reported that the visit from the Ambassadors was intended as a chance to meet ‘saboreurs’, incite “more violence and instability”, as well as a way to “deepen discord and sedition among the Syrian people who strongly reject and condemn such foreign instigation”. 

Welcome to the Republic of South Sudan


After a long and bloody civil war the Southern Sudanese voted for independence in January and today this comes into fruition. Here’s to a long history of peace and stability.

Subaru First Target In The Saudi Women’s War On Motor Industry


Subaru has become the first company targeted by The Saudi Women For Driving coalition to pull out of Saudi Arabia until the ban on female drivers has lifted. The demand has come through a petition which reads:
"As Saudi women our lack of freedom of movement places an extreme burden on our lives. We lack a public transportation system and the most basic errands and medical appointments are missed due to the difficulty and expenses of arranging transportation, notwithstanding educational and work opportunities. Our lack of this basic right to drive our own cars creates many safety risks for women on the roads, and relying on strangers as drivers has jeopardized the safety of women and children in many documents cases."
The reason for the targeting of Subaru is due to their strong position in the west as a strong advocate for women’s rights, sponsoring women’s surf festivals, the U.S. Women’s Triathlon Series, “Subaru Women’s Week” packages for skiers and the Outstanding Woman in Science Award for the Geological Society of America, whilst selling cars to the only nation that refuses the right to women to drive their products.
Hilary Clinton, targeted by a similar petition, formally declared her support for the movement just a day before the petition was released. Clinton herself described the women of The Saudi Women For Driving as ‘brave’ and a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State, Victoria Nuland and said the issue of driving had come up in conversation between Mrs Clinton and Saudi Prince Saud, following that she was excersing “quiet diplomacy”:
“I think she is making a judgment on how best to support universal human rights for women. There are times when it makes sense to do so publicly and there are times for quiet diplomacy.”
Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., the owners of Subaru commented that Subaru dealers in Saudi Arabia had not “received any information of any campaigns,” as well as telling journalists, “We only have dealers in Saudi Arabia, and no factories. Our annual sales in the country are limited to only 300 to 400 units.”
Benjamin Joffe-Wait, human-rights editor for told reporters the campaign may be extended to General Motors and Hyundai, two cars brands driven by Manal al-Sharif who was arrested last month in Khobar.