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Three horses of Bush

It is 12 January 2003 and US president Bush has rallied his troops for what he calls “The first war of the 21st century”. What is your view of this crisis, where, briefly, do you stand? This is the question we are putting to people around the world, especially those with their own public reputation and following. Our aim, to help create a truly global debate all can identify with.
Pervez Hoodbhoy
12 January 2003

Three horses draw George W. Bush’s furiously racing chariot of war. Their names are Vengeance, Greed, and Fear. Vengeance is a young steed born on 11 September 2001, and gallops well. Greed is old but sturdy, can smell oases of oil from afar, and understands his master’s corporate compulsions. The third horse, Fear, is weak and anaemic. Despite lashes from the Texan’s whip, he is a drag on the team. Nevertheless he is indispensable for convincing the American public that a puny Saddam Hussein, castrated of weapons of mass destruction, remains a mortal threat to a superpower many oceans away. So far the finest spin doctors in Washington have failed to make Fear strong, and Hans Blix has not been totally helpful. Fortunately, Vengeance and Greed have made up admirably well.

The fanatical hordes spilling out of Pakistan’s madrasas see not the horses, nor care about them. But they do imagine seeing Richard the Lion Hearted bearing down upon them. It is, for them, a war between Islam and kufr (unbelief). Sword in hand, they pray to Allah to grant war. Belief in final victory is, of course, never doubted by the faithful. They seek the modern Saladin, one who can miraculously dodge cruise missiles and turn them back to hit their launchers. Who will he be? How many decades, or centuries, shall the modern Crusades last? Surely, a lot longer than you and I will be around for.

Originally published as part of a debate on 12 January 2003 Writers, artists and civic leaders on the War: Pt. 1.

See also Writers, artists and civic leaders on the War: Pt. 2.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals


To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.


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