Following blogs on American commercial involvement in Iraq, the news of the kidnapping of British civilians in Baghdad brings to light the U.K.’s dealings.
From what Americans involved in commercial enterprise have said they went to Iraq expecting to “help out” the Iraqi people. Unsurprisingly many Iraqis don’t see it that way, and the deaths of four contractors with the exhibition of their charred remains, while deeply disturbing, illustrates this.
We wish fervently for a happy outcome to the abductions. The questions raised though are what precisely the companies are doing there. There are huge sums of money involved, and those who choose to work in this most dangerous of places can earn considerable sums. Many are former army personnel who return to their former lives on a much higher rate of pay. Are they involved in a humanitarian quest for the people of Iraq, or are they involved, as the Americans have shown to be, involved in the humiliation and torture of Iraqis. Many of the victims have been not insurgents but ordinary people going about their day-to-day business.
From George Rishmawi
Greetings and Salaam from Palestine.
The Stop Bleeding of Bethlehem Campaign has a new Blog website. For more information with regarding Non Violent Direct actions in the Bethlehem area in Palestine please visit the site.
Below one can find links to videos showing what happened in Artas village during the past few days.
(Some links about uprooting trees failed to work and have been omitted, but those that do work are harrowing enough and make the point about the barbarity of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine with their belief that they are entitled to act and do what they like. Time for an international outcry – many Jewish people share the outrage: see Jewish Voice for Peace. J.T.)
Imagine Cafe can be found on Harborne High Street in Harborne in Birmingham U.K.. It is a Japanese restaurant and something of a rarity run by local people. As an article in the Birmingham Post on 3rd February 2007 pointed out it is extremely difficult for individual enterprises to continue on the high street given the prohibitive rates charged by the City Council. Long established and traditional businesses have either gone, or are struggling to survive.
Go to high streets in towns and cities up and down the country and you’ll find the same chain stores selling the same merchandise. To find a local business selling something different can be a pleasant and exciting experience. This used to be the case in central Brum. I used to spend time in Vincent’s in Needless Alley browsing through racks of recordings, many rare and unusual, while a few doors away my wife found a large stock of needle craft materials. While the Bullring Shopping Centre can be proclaimed as a major success for drawing shoppers internationally it does not have local produce apparent. Thankfully the Farmers’ Markets still appear in New Street and in Kings Norton.
Some progressive local authorities recognise the importance of keeping local concerns thriving and apply differential charges for this purpose. Birmingham City Council’s Tory/Lib-Dem alliance describe themselves as such, but when the idea was run past the leader, Mike Whitby, he just said he would give it some thought. Better be quick Mike before things disappear for good!
The Washington Post (27/5/2007) highlights an incident involving Blackwater, the private American security firm hired to guard commercial interests in Iraq.
“Blackwater confirmed that its employees were involved in two shootings but could neither confirm nor deny that there had been any casualties, according to a company official who declined to be identified because of the firm’s policy of not addressing incidents publicly.
Blackwater’s security consulting division holds at least $109 million worth of State Department contracts in Iraq, and its employees operate in a perilous environment that sometimes requires the use of deadly force. But last week’s incidents underscored how deeply these hired guns have been drawn into the war, their murky legal status and the grave consequences that can ensue when they take aggressive action.” (Source: Washington Post 27/5/2007)
40 years after the short but bloody war lasting just 6 days, Israel prepares to celebrate. One man has created a spoiler. He is in his mid seventies and a renowned international lawyer who is himself Jewish and survivor of the Nazi holocaust. He has now reminded the Israeli government and the rest of the world that he warned at the time that settlement on Palestinian land by Jewish settlers would be illegal. This remains his view.
“The declaration by Theodor Meron, the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s legal adviser at the time and today one of the world’s leading international jurists, is a serious blow to Israel’s persistent argument that the settlements do not violate international law, particularly as Israel prepares to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the war in June 1967.” (Source The Independent 26/5/2007.)
As the supermarket chains hold more and more influence over us as consumers, what at the end of the day is the more important, the service they give us or the sustenance of huge profit? A Guardian report (22/5/2007) raised the question. What are the messages their staff are getting if they flout health standards in order to pass on out-of-date products or take short cuts in day to day practice?
Suppliers are also put forward for question with bins of dead maggot-infested carcasses next to live birds. We have already seen something of the Bernard Matthews operation where the practice of rearing live birds intensively is a pandemic waiting to happen. One of our leadership hopefuls, David Milliband, was at pains to blame wild birds and protect suspect business practice. New Labour’s priorities in practice.
A message to Iraqis from Citizens around the World:
“We support the Iraqi people’s sovereign right to the country’s oil. We reject the pressure campaign led by the Bush Administration and multi-national oil companies to force Iraqis to adopt this draft Oil Law, which risks conceding extraordinary rights over revenue and production to foreign corporations.
Iraq’s oil wealth should be shared fairly among all Iraqis to help them rebuild their country. We affirm the right and responsibility of Iraq’s national parliament to take the final decisions on this matter, and call on the US President and Congress to respect Iraq’s sovereignty. We stand in solidarity with Iraqi leaders who oppose this unwarranted foreign interference.”
Sign the Avaaz petition
According to an Observer report (20/5/2007) children are needing more and more counselling and medical attention as a result of the exam-ridden culture that is Britain today.
I trained as a teacher in the reviled sixties, when the campaign for comprehensive education was alive and well, and before the onslaught on schools and other public institutions insisting standards had to be driven up. I would never argue that there wasn’t room for improvement in education provision, but those who cried “education, education” and “education” have had other agendas. The National Curriculum was a tool to impose a particular view on state schools. The private sector continued to do what it liked. The “nationalist” curriculum was more of a political weapon to fight against the “multiculturalism” that was creeping into the system. While this might have been expected from a Tory government, the take up and intensification of the onslaught by New Labour wasn’t.
The video linked here shows how much corporations have made out of the misery of Iraqi people. Yet everyone still votes for capitalism in the UK, New Labour being among the most enthusiastic exponents. Sadly politicians cover up their own agendas for personal advancement with claims that public services will improve. The evidence is that under privatisation they won’t.
The video illustrates one company, Blackwater, who send their employees into the battle zone but take no responsibility for what might happen to them. It also reports that those weighing in on routine torture and brutality are civilians. I believe Britain is also employing private security firms in Basra.
A few people look a bit bothered about my article. Tried writing to Dr Kaur, but there appears to be no such e-mail address. Pity because it was written in such polite terms.
I tried responding but the e-mail bounced back. Both Councillors Hamilton and Atwal owe their success completely to Arjun Singh who worked with Khalid Mahmood and a prominent member of the Soho Road Gurdwara to get elected in 2004. Arjun had previously pledged to donate a considerable sum of money to campaign against Khalid, next moment we find them working together. Khalid was rather desperate at that time for support from Sikhs in the former Sandwell Ward.
People came to the meeting who were not entitled to do so. Although they didn’t live in the ward some were on the electoral register at addresses in it. Some quite small properties showed a large number of residents living there. I wrote to the Labour Party at the Regional Office with evidence – twice; I spoke to Birmingham’s legal director and the Chief Elections Officer who told me they were too busy dealing with the postal vote issue! Arjun gave one reason for leaving Labour as his dissatisfaction with postal voting. Placing people improperly on the electoral register is just as fraudulent but he remains silent on this matter.
Dr Kaur accuse me of calling Arjun a gangster. My article doesn’t anywhere say that!