Wednesday, October 06, 2004

6 October 2004: Fresher

At the AKT team meeting yesterday, Nigel said that while he and a few others were off at EKAW in Northamptonshire, those of us who remained should continue to push back the forest of ignorance. Another academic who shall remain nameless offered the observation: "Oh yes, they've all arrived now, haven't they?"

They have indeed.

It's easy to tell, particularly during the first two weeks of October. The Student Union shop suddenly begins stocking extra types of sandwiches, for one thing. But there are other, less pleasant, effects. Walking back across campus to the Computer Science building I was hounded - bombarded - with people wanting me to have a free bag of this, a free package of that, stuff encouraging me to bank with this one particular bank, go see this one particular insurance company, join this one particular section of the armed services. All around me eighteen-year-olds were looking bamboozled and wondering how to figure out that which is important (signing up for the Medical Centre and the Library) from that which is less important (joining the Medieval Nose-Picking Society). I just closed my eyes and blundered through the hordes, although in reflection there's usually someone or other offering a free year-planner wall poster, so perhaps I'll go back again this afternoon. To think, I'll be teaching labs and tutorials for this lot in a couple of weeks.

So ends the summer of peace and solitude. So ends weeks of being able to walk across campus and through the botanical gardens without seeing a single person. So ends the joy of going to the gym mid-afternoon and finding it almost deserted. I'll have to start going first thing in the morning again.

Elsewhere in the world, it seems Uncle Don Rumsfeld (bless 'im) has changed his mind yet again on the links between Saddam and Al-Qaeda. Uncle Colin Powell, as you may recall from the Blair blog, assured the UN of clear links between the two, despite a number of people pointing out that while Saddam perhaps didn't mind Bin Laden, Osama for his part loathed all things Saddam, especially his secular (ie non-clerical-Islamic) fascist government. Anyway, Uncle Don said on Monday that he hadn't seen any evidence linking Saddam and Osama, which came as something of a surprise to Uncle Colin presumably. Uncle Don later retracted his statement, saying he'd been misunderstood. Meantime, the UN Weapons Inspectors have concluded that Saddam didn't have any WMDs, although he did have them in the past (well, we sold him a bunch of them, and he must have either used them all or destroyed them as the UN told him to), and he was planning to get some more. He was planning to have a programme to get some WMDs. All inside forty-five minutes, presumably? Saddam was one of the nastiest, brutal dictators on the planet, and yes we're better off without him, but the whole thing is starting to stink quite badly. No WMDs, no link to Al Qaeda... and yet 49% of Americans and 21% of Brits continue to think Saddam was responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks. Were the public misled by their political leaders into supporting the Iraq war?

Tony doesn't think so. Tony says the intelligence convinced him of the need to invade, and that we should trust him (remember all that stuff about "if you'd seen the intelligence I've seen, you'd agree"?), despite the fact that Robin Cook, Clair Short, John Denham et al saw the same evidence and said they didn't think there were WMDs to be found. And there aren't any. So either Tony was incompetent, in which case he should resign, or he knowingly lied and misled Parliament and the country, in which case he should resign.

Tony Blair remains Prime Minister as of this afternoon, and nobody seems to mind, or even suspect there's anything wrong.

Talk about the forest of ignorance.

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