Archive for March, 2008

Government human rights watchdog attacks proposals for 42-day detention without charge

The government’s own human rights watchdog threatened last night to launch a legal challenge to Labour’s plan to introduce a law that would let police detain terror suspects without charge for 42 days.The Equality and Human Rights Commission says the key part of the counter-terrorism bill goes against human rights law and may breach the Race Relations Act.

As the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, renewed her appeal to Labour backbenchers to support the measure – amid growing international criticism – the EHRC prepared to brief MPs before the bill’s second reading in the Commons tomorrow. The commission makes clear it will mount a legal challenge if the 42-day limit wins parliamentary backing.

“If adopted, we may seek to use our legal powers to challenge the lawfulness of the provisions and to establish clear legal principles on the use of pre-trial detention,” it says in a briefing note to MPs.

The threat of a legal challenge from the EHRC, which has powers to take judicial review on legislation it considers may be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, is another setback to a government determined to increase the time terrorism suspects can be held without charge from 28 to 42 days.



Losing Afghanistan

Despite everything you hear from ministers on the news, Helmand is on the edge of a precipice. The only people, apart from the British public, who are fooled by the official reports insisting that everything is “on target” in Afghanistan are the ministers back in London who read them.

The officials who write the reports know perfectly well that they do not give an accurate picture. As one senior MI6 officer put it to me: “No one gets promoted by saying things are going badly in public. They do in private, and that just makes the cynicism so much worse.”

The Afghans themselves of course know what is really happening. The Government’s attempts to export the arts of spin to rural Helmand have been a dismal failure. Pretending black is white may have worked in Britain. It doesn’t work in Afghanistan.


Dravid reaches 10,000 runs

Well done to Rahul Dravid for becoming only the sixth batsman in the history of the game to reach Test 10,000 runs.

Noah Feldman’s ‘paternalistic Orientalism’

A few weeks ago Noah Feldman’s article “Why Shariah” received some attention on Muslim blogs.

Saïd Amir Arjomand offers a response at The Immanent Frame.

Update: Feldman responds to Arjomand.

UAE troops used Islamic connection to help win ‘hearts and minds’ in Afghanistan

The BBC’s security correspondent, Frank Gardner, can reveal that Arab soldiers have been taking part in dangerous missions alongside US troops in Afghanistan.Troops from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been delivering humanitarian aid to their fellow Muslims and, on occasion, fighting their way out of Taleban ambushes. Though Jordanian forces have been carrying out some base security duties, the UAE’s troops are the only Arab soldiers undertaking full-scale operations in the country.Until now, their deployment has been kept so secret that not even their own countrymen knew they were here.


The credibility of the Islamic Human Rights Commission

As a front for the for the few remaining Khoeminists in Britain, the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) can have little credibility.

If we really do need a network of Muslim human rights lawyers and activists, is it possible for them come together and form a credible body that is serious about human rights?

Con Coughlin not telling the whole truth on Iraqi deaths

Con Coughlin continues his theme of combining pro-war propaganda and anti-BBC screeds in a tirade against John Humphreys.

Coughlin is outraged that Humphreys, in an interview with Jack Straw, suggested “many more people have died since the war than died under Saddam Hussein”. He then goes on to cite an official Iraqi estimate of 150,000 deaths. Unsurprisingly, given his credentials as a propagandist for the Iraq invasion (and other future wars), Coughlin is telling half the story. The official Iraqi estimate is not uncontested or without its (qualified) critics and needs to be understood properly in the context of the ongoing situation in Iraq.

First, it should be noticed that Coughlin doesn’t give any source for his official Iraqi estimate. The only thing I could find were news reports made back in 2006 in which an Iraqi official had estimated around 150,000 dead. That figure was not, in anyway, a serious statistical analysis and merely citing the figure of 150,000 does not tell the whole story. The only other place Coughlin could have taken the 150k figure from was a survey conducted by the Iraqi Health Ministry (IHM) and the World Health Organization (WHO), which was published earlier this year in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). This study suggested an estimate of 151,000 violent deaths since the American-led invasion. Although the study does not estimate non-violent deaths (pdf), it has been possible to use the data provided in the WHO report to get a rough estimate a around 400,000 violent and non-violent deaths since the invasion. And Coughlin’s trumpeting of the official estimate of deaths since the invasion contrasts with his dismissive attitude toward the 2004 Lancet study even though the WHO/IHM used similar methods to gather and analyse the data.

Secondly, was Humphreys really referring to a total or absolute figure for deaths before and after the invasion? I didn’t get the chance to listen to the Today programme, but it wouldn’t surprise me if what he was comparing the death rates before and after the invasion (notwithstanding the point that Humphreys was conducting an interview so making provocative points is not necessarily an expression of his own opinion). A commentator at the Telegraph suggests this was the case (scroll down to the comment left on 25 March 2008 at 13:38). Whatever the case, Coughlin has abused the source of the 150,000 figure by portraying it as it is the total number of deaths. The WHO study — from where I presume the 150,000 figure must have been extracted — actually says the death rate after the invasion is substantially worse than for a period before the invasion. This concurs, broadly speaking and with all the caveats needed for such comparisons, with the more ‘controversial’ studies published in the Lancet, the second of which received so much press attention for its estimate that 655,000 may have died as a result of the invasion (and occupation). Les Roberts, who has been the public face for the Lancet studies, noted in a National Public Radio (NPR) programme that the both the study he was involved in and the WHO study have underlying similarities to try and gauge the effects on the mortality rate before and after invasion — the key difference between the two were the numbers of deaths attributed to violence (the WHO attributes much smaller number of deaths to violence).

In other words, it stills holds that “things have got worse [since the invasion], and they have got a lot worse, not a little bit worse”.

The good news, though, is that lots of people who read Coughlin’s blogs at the Telegraph have realised what a mendacious character he really is and are not buying into his spin.

Meanwhile, over at her Spectator blog, Mad Mel joins in with Coughlin attacking both Humphreys and Straw. She concurs with Coughlin’s use of the official Iraqi figure (and uses the opportunity to make terrible historical comparisons between Saddam and Hitler). Back in January Mad Mel was keen to denounce the 2006 Lancet study as a propaganda exercise funded by an anti-war billionaire (George Soros) and conducted by ex-Ba’athists. The source of Mad Mel’s attack was an article written by the editor of the National Journal, Neil Munro, which is full of smears and innuendo against the Johns Hopkins team that did the research. This is the same Neil Munro who in 2002 was cheering for the “destruction of Iraq” (complete with a stupid remark about 11th-century Wahhabism**), yet has the nerve to call into question the motives and intentions of those who carried out the 2006 Lancet study because they may have opposed such “destruction”!. In the same NPR programme involving Les Roberts, Munro make another smear suggesting that in terms of reporting the number of Iraqi dead there were essentially two camps: people who want to show the war was a success; and those who opposed the war and want to prove what a bad move it was so, ‘like the al-Qa’ida guys’, plant bombs in market places***.

People like Coughlin, Mad Mel’s and Munro would probably like Iraq mess to be extinguished from the news cycle (Coughlin has certainly decried bringing up the origins of the Iraq War). They would probably not like to be reminded of the disastrous effects of the invasion on the people the war was meant to liberate, especially if we remember the Iraq invasion was one of choice, not of necessity, and action that they helped push in the media. Is it surprising then that any reminder of the disastrous choice must be met with yet more lies and spin until the reminder is discredited? The likes of Coughlin, the false humanitarians who claim to support the oppressed, do not appear to be bothered with actually trying to understanding the effects of ill-thought out, uninformed, interventionist policies. For all their nationalistic and supremacist bombast about Our Way Of Life, they don’t seem to be bothered about the effects of such adventures (for which they will probably never have to personally suffer) on our national security and armed forces.

For further reading I would suggest Diane Farsetta’s article at PRWatch, the extensive Lancet archives at Deltoid and numerous posts at Crooked Timber.

*Does Mad Mel realise this is the same Lancet in which a study critical of her other pet hate, MMR vaccines, was published?

**It seemed beyond a simpleton like Munro to perform a quick check. Wahhabism, at the very earliest, could not have arisen before the mid-late 1700s, and even if its ‘true origins’ are pushed back to Ibn Taymiyya that is still only the 14th-century.

***Actually, the invasion of Iraq fits perfectly in with the ‘jihadist’ narrative.


RSS Talk Islam

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.