Weekend was enjoyable, and very full.
Saturday morning I went to a teach-in on Iraq. I probably wasn’t at my most alert – a 10am start isn’t ideal when you have to travel to London first, and when you finished work at 2am the previous night.
But the speakers were excellent. I’d expected Rahul Mahajan to be a bonkers Marxist and/or conspiracy theorist, mainly on the grounds that his blog is called Empire Notes. He did a good job of looking at things through the eyes of particular segments of Iraqi society. So Sadr comes across as paranoid, and the non-Iraqi jihadis are idealistic young men lost in a foreign country, who don’t know their way around and are easily manipulated by local groups.
Kamil Mahdi (a British-Iraqi economist, and CASI ally of times past) was an odd choice to give the opening rant. He was OK, but I’d rather have heard him talking about the economic situation. Then there was Ismael Dawood, who I hadn’t heard of and was introduced as an Iraqi Human Rights activist. He just went straight through a selection of human rights abuses commonplace in Iraq, and what changes he wants to get rid of them. Totally clear, ad very compelling. I’ve been searching for anything else he’s written/done, but all I seem to turn up are adverts for this events, and articles about a cricket-player with the same name.
I also got to spend a while talking to Mike L, who I see far too little of these days. He still manages to know everything about everything, and about politics in general. Among the fascinating things he told me is this:
Victor (Viktor?) Bout is one of the world’s most notorious arms smugglers in the world. The US and UK claim that he supplies Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban. He’s supplied weapons to fighters in Sierra Leone, Angola and the DRC. His assets were frozen by a UN Security Council Resolution. So, generally a pretty nasty guy. Britain has been pressurising other countries to wash their hands of him. But DfiD (the department for international development) has been paying him to ship Armoured Personnel Carriers to Basra.
I’d rant about the ‘ethical foreign policy’, but it’s been too long since we even pretended to have one of those. Anyway, all this took me up to the early afternoon. Then I went off to see ioerror for the first time. But that’s going to need a post of its own.