08/08/2014 Newsnight


The stories behind the day's headlines with Kirsty Wark. US air strikes in Iraq. Did a London estate really fly the Isis flag? Are there votes in drugs? Plus, loom bands.

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American fighter aircraft have been dropping bombs on Islamic State


fighters marching on Iraq's Kurdish capital.


So what is President Obama's gameplan?


A new humanitarian intervention, but familiar dilemmas -


once you've started, how long are you willing to keep going?


The US State Department's Marie Herth will try to answer that.


It was reported in The Guardian this morning that a "jihadist" flag was


Newsnight went there to try and find out.


And Nick Clegg has come up with a new drugs policy -


no prison sentences for possession of drugs for personal use.


Is this a half-baked attempt to get the stoner vote?


Would drug policy change your vote in the next general election? Yes,


it is a human rights issue and a civil rights issue. People are going


to prison for absolutely no reason over this.


I'll put that to the Justice and Civil Liberties Minister,


President Obama assured the American people the US would not be dragged


into fighting another war in Iraq, but the bombs began to drop today


in the north of the country, as he finally responded to the advance of


Islamic State militants, formerly known as ISIS, who now


The reasoning the President gave was to prevent


a possible act of genocide against minority groups, including


Christians and Yazidis, who are stranded, starving and surrounded


The US expanded its offensive tonight with air


strikes on a seven-vehicle convoy near the Kurdish capital, Irbil.


Earlier, I reached the BBC's reporter,


who is in a church being used by Christian refugees in the city.


Can you describe to me what is happening in Irbil tonight? I am in


St Joe Joseph Church in Irbil. Here, hundreds of families, children,


elderly people, or in the backyard of the church, lying down, most of


them having recently escaped from ISIS. Many of these people are from


Mosul as well. A month ago, they ran away from Mosul and found refuge in


Qaraqosh. They stayed with their family and relatives, but two days


ago, ISIS took over that city as well. There are hundreds of people


in this church. Many community centres and schools in the town are


packed with Christian refugees. They will know that the Americans have


come in with air strikes. What do they want from the United States? I


have talked to many people, and they said, we don't want anything, we


just want to go back to our homes. It is difficult to live like this. I


have seen hundreds of children lying down on the ground in the backyard,


sleeping over a blanket. A family of 12 showed me ten loaves of bread.


They said, that is all we have had all day. What do they make of the


American bombing? I think many of them believe the Americans take


action very late. They said, they could have stopped ISIS a long time


ago, when they were a small group. Many are angry. They are hoping the


Americans will be able to push back ISIS so that these people can go


home. So given President Obama's clear


reluctance to be the world's policeman since he took office,


why is American firepower now once Here's our Diplomatic Editor,


Mark Urban. The United States is bombing Iraq


once again ma and that is the last thing a president who got American


forces out of their three years ago would have wanted. This is a


situation that is a difficult challenge, but it cannot be solved


by the American military. Support can be provided by the military, but


this situation will only be solved by the Iraqi people and a government


that reflects the views of Iraq's diverse population. The president


comfort with the King of Jordan today as well, trying to form a


common front against the ISIS advance and support an Iraqi


government widely felt to be the author of its own misfortunes. The


stakes have been raised as a result of what ISIS did in June. That means


Iraq was facing a word many people use, but correctly in this context,


an existential threat. Was it going to hang together as a country? If


ISIS establish themselves for any length of time in the north-west of


Iraq, in the Sunni Arab areas, the Kurds to go their way would have


increased and the country would have cracked. In recent days, ISIS has


been pushing outwards on every point of the compass. To the west, they


have taken the Yazidis city and Kurdish posts on the Syrian border.


To the north, they have hit the curb. Pushing eastwards, Christians


have been driven from Qaraqosh, and ISIS fighters have got within 30


miles of Irbil. To the south, they have continued to press on Samarra.


Now, the response. American supply drops for refugees on Mount Sinjar


last night. Then a Kurdish push to force a grand corridor for the


Yazidis to escape into Syria. And this afternoon, US planes bombed


ISIS artillery close to Irbil. The Iraqi air force also has been


delivering aid to the Yazidi refugees. These pictures are sent to


show its drop this morning on Mount Sinjar. Further assistance is on its


way, and Britain is likely to join in. We welcome what the Americans


are doing, in particular to bring humanitarian relief and prevent any


further suffering. But our focus is on assisting that humanitarian


mission and using our military in support of the Americans in terms of


refuelling and surveillance to underpin their mission and add to it


with food drops of our own. As for ISIS, they have been preparing for


this moment. They understood only too well that if American bombs


started falling, the dynamic of their struggle with change.


TRANSLATION: Don't be cowards and attack us with drugs. Instead, send


your soldiers, the ones we humiliated in Iraq. We will


humiliate them everywhere, God willing, and we will raise the frag


-- flag of Allah in the White House. Where is all this leading?


Well, American boots are already on the ground. Special force is


directing those air force tracks around Irbil. They are helping the


Kurds at the same time as the Kurds are pulling away from Iraq. What if


those Kurdish forces buckled? Well, the Americans seem determined to


limit their military commitment. So its effect may also be limited in


the military sense, although politically, it is a big change. It


is the plight of refugees that finally tipped the scales for this


American intervention. In Iraq, it puts them on the same side as Iran


and Syria. The politics of the Middle East just got harder still.


Earlier this evening, I spoke to Marie Harf of the US State


Department. President Obama really does not want


to be doing this, does he? He was forced into it. I totally disagree.


The president did not hesitate to authorised action to assist in


humanitarian terms, but also takes that to protect our people in Irbil.


He was also clear that we will not get bogged down in Iraq, but we do


have a long-term relationship here. We will help them fight ISIL. But he


pledged to get the US out of Iraq, and now a Rubicon has been crossed


because you are back in. Isn't this a failure of foreign policy? Not at


all. We are back in a different way. The president pledged to bring a


large contingent of US troops home, and he did. But he also said we


would have a long-term relationship and help Iraq with security


challenges. What you have seen is very different from the situation he


inherited. It is appropriate to help them fight ISIL, to help the deck


our people and to help bring water and food to people starving,


potentially a genocide on top of this mountain. But do you keep


arming until ISIS is no longer a threat and everyone is safe? There


is no long-term US military solution here. Our goal is to stop ISIS's


advance towards Irbil. That underpins what we are doing in terms


of air strikes to protect our people have there. Longer term, it is to


give space for the Iraqi forces to get back on their feet and help them


fight this on their own. Ultimately, we cannot be fighting this fight for


them. But that is not enough. You have to keep at ISIS because they


keep coming back. We know that people in Irbil wish things had


happened earlier, because ISIS is 40 kilometres from Irbil. Will there be


more military strikes? When this crisis first started in June, we


took immediate steps. We created joint operation centres in Irbil and


Baghdad to help the Iraqis fight this threat. We also increased our


surveillance to get more eyes on the ground. But they could not do it on


their own, so you have had to come in. It is a tough challenge here.


One reason we have unable to act so quickly over the past 24 hours is


because we increased our eyes on the ground. We will continue working


with the Iraqis to help them fight this threat. Two things have


happened. There was confirmation tonight that ISIS have taken the


biggest dam in Iraq and there is a possibility of flooding cities and


also cutting electricity. Will you act militarily to get the dam back?


I am not going to preview where we take military action. That is not a


smart strategic move. But it is very concerning to us that the Mosul Dam


appears to have been taken. It is a fluid situation. We will continue


working with our partners to see what we can do.


In the studio with me now is Sundas Abbas, the High Representative


The Turkmens are one of the minority groups who have been


targeted by Islamic State militants in Northern Iraq.


Are you relieved that the Americans are in militarily? We are definitely


relieved that the Americans took steps which should have been taken


months ago, when Mosul was taken control of by ISIS. All abilities


and towns around Mosul -- the villages and towns around Mosul, the


Turkmens fled their towns. Whoever was left was executed by ISIS. Even


the other towns and villages around Kirkuk have been under the control


of ISIS. One of them has been under siege. So actually already, 250,000


Turkmen have been displaced by ISIS, and at that point, the


Americans did nothing? That is correct. It was overlooked by all of


the international community. It was not acknowledged by them and they


have not taken action. Do you feel that the international community


thinks that Turkmen do not count? This is what we think. They do not


count us as part of Iraq. A month ago, 250,000 people fled the town of


Tal Afar. They are losing their children every day. You heard


Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, saying they would help.


What do you want Britain to do? People urgently need help. I would


like to highlight what is happening in one place which has been under


siege by ISIS for two months now. There is no electricity, no water.


There is a lack of health care. That's each must be broken. Do you


think that Iraq can exist without tolerance of religious and ethnic


minorities? -- with a tolerance of minorities? This is a good question.


I think it could, if they believe in it and they get help from the


Americans to get over this crisis. And is it worse or better than when


Saddam Hussein was in power? This is a very good question. Many people


ask me, and I am asking myself as well. Under Saddam Hussein's


regime, we suffered a lot, especially Turkmen. But I think we


knew who was our enemy. Now, we don't know who is our enemy.


where Israel resumed air strikes in Gaza today


after Palestinian militants fired rockets into the country following


With two wars seemingly without an end in sight,


what effects are they having among communities back in the UK?


This morning the Guardian newspaper reported from an East London housing


estate on what it called the highly provocative raising of a black flag


with white writing, similar to those flown by jihadist groups.


Guardian journalists who approached Asian youths on the estate said


So was this an act of support for Islamic State militants?


We sent Secunder Kermani to investigate.


This is the predominantly Bangladeshi estate in the East End


Borough of Tower Hamlets. Today, it was reported that a black flag had


been hung up here amongst various pro-Palestinian messages. It was


later taken down. Police told us other reporters had been threatened


on the estates. Some of the residents, who did not want to be


named, did agree to talk to us and even brought the flag back out.


Although controversial nowadays, it is believed to go dance -- go back


centuries. They felt angry about being labelled as a jihadist. Do you


think, in hindsight, perhaps putting up the flag was a mistake? People


have put the wrong spin on it. Not at all. Look, what does that say? Do


they know what it is even says? What does it say? One Muslim, one


community. It is a declaration of faith. We believe in one God,


Mohammed. It is not sake, we are terrorists. If I put a union flag


up, would that make me a far right, EDL member will stop I would put it


up to show I am a member of the community and I'm supporting the


team, and this is the country I grew up in. This is just my faith. Do any


of you guys support the Islamic State? Do you think they are a group


that you would admire? We are Muslims. They are killing Muslims.


Why would we support somebody killing their own brothers and


sisters? It doesn't make sense. Like many British Muslims, these men feel


passionate about events in Palestine. How many times have the


Israelis on children's question of who is questioning it question mark


no one. No one. -- who is questioning it? Art British Muslims


expressing the passion you feel they are going on about. Are they


relaying those views? Trust me, they are not. Have you seen what is going


on in the House of Commons? There are like Forum five people sitting


there in the House of Commons. -- four or five people. Halal meat


though, they want to get on the bandwagon. What is that about?


Concern has been growing about support of British Muslims was


groups like bashful groups like ISIS. The groups have said tonight


that the flag would go up again -- groups like ISIS. They will go up


again at some point this evening. Trust me.


Cocaine, cannabis, heroin, amphetamines - any drug of choice.


Today, the Liberal Democrats have said if it's for personal use nobody


should go to prison, and they are trumpeting this as the first step to


Roughly 1,000 people in England and Wales were imprisoned for


possession for personal use last year and the Deputy Prime Minister


So is this really a thought through attempt to tackle


drug addiction, or just an attempt to grab some summer headlines?


From Central America, through Afghanistan, from Turkey, drugs are


a worldwide business, transaction, that in this case, ends here on the


streets of London. What the Liberal Democrats are announcing today is


not legalisation, it isn't decriminalisation, but it is a move


in that direction. We have to take this step-by-step. The first thing


we want to end, and we are committing as a party that we will


end, is chucking people behind bars they have -- because they have in


their possession, for their own personal use, drugs. The only thing


negative is people 's perceptions. One in ten have taken an illegal


drug in the last year. On a summer night in west London, this group of


activists are happy to smoke and show their faces on camera. The


question is, how far will the UK go with this over time? In terms of


cannabis, that will definitely be legalised in everybody's life time.


If I had to be asked, in the next five or ten years in the UK, a


legalised market with medical cannabis available. Is it


inevitable? It is. Would a change in policy on drugs change your vote in


the next election? Yes, absolutely. It would have a massive effect


because it is an important issue, a human rights issue, a civil rights


issue. There are people going to prison for this and being


criminalised for absolutely no reason at all. The number of people


locked up after getting caught with a controlled substance has dipped in


recent years, but in 2013, more than 1000 ended up with a custodial


sentence where possession was the main offence. Interestingly, around


half of those were caught with a class B drug, most likely cannabis.


But still, the numbers jailed are a tiny fraction of those cautioned at


more than 30,000 per year. In the last 15 years we have criminalised


1.5 million people for possession of drugs for their own personal use. We


cannot overestimate the damage that that does to an individual. We have


to remember as well that the majority of those who have been


criminalised our young people. We are giving these children criminal


records, which affects their choices in terms of education, their


employment opportunities. But the Lib Dems in this building behind me


are taking a bit of a risk with this policy. For some, it is a let down,


not the big announcement on decriminalisation they hoped for.


For those on the other side of the debate, it is dangerous and sending


out the wrong message at the wrong time. It is basically legalisation


by the back door. There is so much with that policy proposal. In the


UK, we are seeing the greatest reductions in levels of drug use we


have seen for decades. So the suggestion to weaken the criminal


justice contribution here risks turning round the decrease in levels


of drug use we have seen for decades. So the suggestion to weaken


the criminal justice contribution here risks turning round the


decreasing drug use and risks escalating drug use. All this comes


when there is a clear worldwide shift towards liberalisation.


Colorado and Washington in the US have now legalise cannabis.


California could follow soon. Other countries from Uruguay to Portugal


have changed their laws. In many of those places, the shift has been led


by groups of cannabis users getting together to grow and share the drug.


We are starting to see that happen in the UK, where 60,000 have joined


Internet-based social clubs like this in the last three years. We are


not the only country in the world that are going down this social club


option. There are 11 countries in Europe that have adopted this, just


cannabis consuming citizens who want safer and fairer laws. The misuse of


drugs act is there to control cannabis and it is not controlling


it by any means, or any drug in this country. Today's Newsnight not make


a difference to the people sat around this table, but it's a small


part of a wider trend -- today's news might not. But it is part of a


larger trend across the world changing drug laws.


Here with me is Simon Hughes, the Justice and Civil Liberties


This applies to all drugs and is about personal use, but how do you


define the amount used for personal use? If somebody gets stopped, the


police decide whether it is for personal use or therefore supply.


And they charge appropriately, and they would do the same. But people


need to know themselves whether what they are carrying would be


reasonable for personal use? How can people feel safe and comfortable


what they need? The law has been clear that if you are caught with a


very small amount, clearly something you are able to use only, and it is


regarded for your own use. If you're the law thinks you are carrying a


stash. There is no legal definition. That is correct. I'm going to do


this, because it is to give people a sense of what this is. Here we have


some powder. I'm glad you are producing this and not me. Here is


some powder. Let's say this was cocaine. That would be about three


or ?400 worth. A tiny amount. That would be regarded as personal use?


I'm not the judge or the police officer or the Crown Prosecution


Service. Let's put it another way. Let's say you have a great capacity


for it, so this is worth ?2500, and it is whatever it is, and it will


last you a long time, and you live in a rural area and you want to get


enough for a year. Here you are, and you live in rural Cornwall and you


want to get a supply every year. This is for personal use. What do


you do with that? The police do the same all the time. If they stop


somebody in Cornwall with that stash, they would question them, and


if the answer was I go to London once a year and collect what I need,


and you can check, they have to decide whether they believe what


they are being told. But that is disastrous the people. Actually, I


will throw half of this over my shoulder, because then it won't be


too upsetting for the police. I will come at the issue in another way and


I understand what you are asking, and we are not changing the law to


make it legal where it is not. But the law is not clear. And if you


were being radical, you would change the law. We need a definition of


what is actually for personal use and not. The law is clear enough


that every year 80,000 people get convicted in this country for drugs


for personal use in England and Wales. The law is clear that when


they get to the courts, there is a distinction between a caution...


This will be such a lot of police time. No, it is the opposite. Only


4% of people who are convicted for personal use" link, so actually,


this is a fuss about nothing. -- in the clink. My department is a prison


service. Last year there were 2000 and more people who went inside for


possession and they came out after three months or six months. There


are a lot of drugs in prison and the evidence is, counterintuitively,


that the reconviction rate for those who go inside for drug possession is


higher than those who get dealt with in another way, so we are trying to


move this from a law and order, Home Office way. You have been banging on


about this since 2002 and you haven't got anywhere. If you are


going to get somewhere, wouldn't you say decriminalise and be done with


it? That would be the radical way. It would be, and some people


supported. Do you support it? No, because the evidence around the


world is that if you move it from Loren order to a health issue, the


benefit is dealing with drug addicts and give them a better lifestyle at


the end of it -- law and order. You can't have an event,


or a protest, or a charity these days without


a wristband to mark your support - Now there's a new craze


for looping multicoloured rubber bands together which are nothing to


do with good works, but which has made their inventor ?80 million in


three years and spawned warnings of The Pope and the Duchess


of Cambridge are both fans but unless you have young children


or grandchildren, or nothing to do, loom bands have possibly passed you


by. How exactly have tiny multi-coloured


rubber bands come to rule the world? As part of Newsnight's commitment to


the plastic arts, we have commissioned Rosie Emerson to make a


work that could hardly be more provocative and timely. Miss


Emerson, who specialises in exposing materials to sunlight is creating a


piece inspired by the two. -- loom bands. Deal with that, culture show.


Everyone is wearing them it seems. You told us what you wanted, and we


were listening. A major Newsnight take on loom bands, this summer's


must have bad. They came about when a crash test engineer was enjoying


down time with his family. I got the idea for my daughters. They were


making bracelets, so I wanted to impress them. That is why I came out


with the tool to make great designs, and also one that they can make by


hand. The tool of his is now worth millions. He is no dummy. What he


dreamt up was essentially a little plastic loom around which deaf


fingers can weave coloured rubber bands into various pleasing designs


and patterns. And that reminds me, how is the artist getting on with


them? As the paper behind them changes colour in the sun, the bands


remain stubbornly resistant to the elements, like cockroaches. I have


come to meet a group of youngsters in a village just outside Cambridge


to show them how to make loom bands. This would be the loom, hence the


name, loom bands. Actually, they seem to be doing all right by


themselves. Try and make me look good in this, OK?


They are involved in a national project to get kids making art in


school, using loom bands to create sculptures in praise of summer. At


least it keeps them off their phones and computers, sort of. It's like


the things we did in the 70s, macram? and French knitting, but


they were comparatively boring, but now with the you Tube, they have


this sort of inspiration feeding in. It is taking it beyond, I think,


what any one person would do in their house and we are all using


tablets to get the inspiration. Is it as fun as playing a computer


game? I think so. Maybe even better. It is sharing. A shared agenda


plaything? My goodness. They shared gender plaything. -- a shared gender


plaything. It is easy to sneer at loom bands, but I like the idea it's


getting people to do things. At the end of the day, its creator. At the


end of the day, it could lead to somebody being a designer. I have


seen dresses made out of it. It is aimed primarily at kids, so to get


them to become the extras with their fingers, the earlier the better.


Bring it on. -- to become dextrous with their fingers. Don't get the


idea we are endorsing the product. After all it has been linked to


rubber bands in eyes, severely twanged fingers and it is in the


greenest thing in the world either. We were caught by surprise that the


craft would be that popular. So we are thinking about how to instruct


the customer on how to recycle the product. Artist Rosie Emerson is


doing her bit for recycling the loom bands. Will LeCras soon be a shadow


of itself? -- Will this craze soon be?


Somebody needs to give me their bracelets so I can pretend I have


made a good one. There. I've just finished that. That's not bad. I'm


quite proud of that. Pretend you made them all. Something for the


weekend. Have a nice weekend. Good night.


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