On the one hand we are panic stricken over carbon emissions and their effect on global warning, on the other we appear to be pussy footing about any real challenge to clogged up roads for getting about. Clearly more and more people are using the train and probably a lot more want to. So is putting up fares for rail users going to help?
Here in Birmingham we are still waiting with bated breath about an announcement about New Street Station (£350 million, no hang on that’s a porkie, the government are offering £128 million) which has become hideously overcrowded. But it seems like we are going cap in hand to the minister for a titbit when what is needed is an expanded national service, one that gives people a choice not only of not using the car but one where you don’t have to get on a plane to get into Europe. Now you can only do that in London and the South-east and once more Thames-link (£5.5 billion upgrade) appears to be putting that region at the front of the queue.
A news station at New Street will be a breath of fresh air (literally) for passengers but it doesn’t do much for a clogged up system which doesn’t have too much room to manoeuvre. Two tracks between Coventry and Wolverhampton taking high speed intercity, local traffic and freight.
Can we afford a decent transport infrastructure that moves away from dependence on roads. Can we afford not to as we build more and more roads akin to car parks.
The Independent (21/7/2007) prints an article about a wounded soldier whose life has been blighted by his experience and feeling of abandonment now he has served. He has feelings of guilt because a much valued comrade died beside him.
We are brought up to respect life, by family, school, religion. Entry into the army teaches a different ethos. Clearly that ethos does not last beyond the requirements of the institution which requires such behaviour. Blair had gone but now Gordon Brown is presiding over the same situation without a foreseeable solution. Little pretence is given about the fate of Iraqis, but when British soldiers die crocodile tears are shed as their names are read out in parliament. If you don’t die but are just hurt you have years ahead to face. Alone it seems.
Muslims are remembering a cameraman working for al Jazeera who was arrested on his way into Afghanistan. He had a legitimate visa but is being held as an “enemy combatant”. So it appears that the Muslim world feels that any one of them is fair game to fit into the label “terrorist”. Family and friends are working for his release.
The article in Al Jazeera contains a poem from Sami Al-Hajj which speaks of the humiliation of his incarceration.
This poem is an excerpt from an article which appeared in the Independent on June 21, 2007.
Humiliated In The Shackles
By Sami al Hajj
When I heard pigeons cooing in the trees,
Hot tears covered my face.
When the lark chirped, my thoughts composed
A message for my son.
Mohammad, I am afflicted.
In my despair, I have no one but Allah for comfort.
Interviews by Sunni Muslim groups with the Guardian newspaper make interesting reading if only they break the simplistic notions we are fed daily that the enemy is either al-Quaeda or “terrorists” is some way associated with them.
Claims are made that the internal groups “fighting for freedom” in Iraq resent the intervention of foreign-led groups, as al-Quaeda is, which make them look responsible for the sectarian violence dogging the country. They make it clear there will be no end to violence while America and allies remain. As for “the surge” this has resulted in higher U.S. casualties unsurprisingly.
As for Britain it now has the advice of the Iraqi commission which doesn’t come up with any clear answers to this desperate situation. Not only are we bound hand and foot, by inplication of their analysis, the U.K. remains high on the hitlist of “terrorist” attacks.
Going to war has a price. Added up it must be colossal, but much of the price just isn’t counted. Injuries to personnel are expected beforehand, but according to a report in The Independent (15/7/2007) the long term care of those injured physically and mentally is unprepared. In 2007 injuries are increasing. Advances in treatment in the field have improved so more serously injured survive.
The more revelations about what is going on the more revulsion, the more futility is revealed. As combatants reveal their feelings and report on the reality the more the case is made for stopping it Now. In America the surge goes on with Bush increasingly embattled as members of his own party cross the floor with the Democrats. In U.K. the Great and the Good have meet to decide what should be done. It’s the “Iraq Commission” No can’t cut and run. Can’t give a timetable either.
Consumers and shareholders are concerned with the products they buy and rising dividends often without knowing and caring about the provenance of the goods and services. So if dividends in Halliburton or Blackwater shoot up, “Hooray!”, never mind that it has come from lucrative security contracts in Iraq. Caterpillar however has faced challenges to its sale of its products to Israel where its huge armoured vehicles destroy Palestinian homes and farms and the company has had to face battles in boardroom and courtroom.
The following comes from Jewish Voice for Peace:
“Caterpillar gets bad publicity in the boardroom, the courtroom, and the press.
JVP protestors at Caterpillar lawsuit
Caterpillar may want to ignore any responsibility for the sale of bulldozers to Israel used to demolish the homes and uproot the orchards of Palestinian civilians, but we won’t let them.
On Monday, July 9th, the family of Rachel Corrie, and 4 Palestinian families–whose family members were killed or injured when Caterpillar bulldozers demolished their homes on top of them- finally got their day in court. Representing the families at the U.S. Court of Appeals in Seattle were Duke University law professor Erwin Chemerinsky, attorneys from the International Human Rights Clinic at Seattle University School of Law, and Maria LaHood from the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York. Read more about the case here.
As Rachel Corrie’s mother Cindy wrote, “It was moving and momentous, after four years of seeking accountability, to actually be in a court room, to feel a bit of the majesty of the law and the hope that we still find in it.”
JVP was among the many supporters outside: a crew of members from the Seattle and Puget Sound chapters (photo above) joined the coalition of peace activists in front of the courthouse and held signs rooted in our Jewish values and our respect for human rights. As a national organization with regional chapters (and more on the way) we are able to respond more quickly and to multiply our voices.
This action was on the heels of our work in June in Chicago, where JVP once again introduced a shareholder resolution that put Caterpillar on notice about its corporate misconduct, generating global attention about the inhumane policy of home demolitions. JVP has been working in coalition with the Sisters of Loretto and the Mercy Investment Group on these resolutions, which bring the issue of home demolitions to the mailboxes of every CAT shareholder and to the ears of CAT’s Board of Directors.”
Some left wing comment supports Mugabe as a victim of international capitalism conspiring against him. In view of reports such as this from Al Jazeera I don’t find such a simplistic response at all realistic.
As I have tried to show in a number of entries regarding African countries (although exploitation of multinationals joined by the Chinese doesn’t begin and end there.
My stay in Zimbabwe was with people who remain privileged compared to the indigenous population. They have resources from abroad which actually become more valuable, certainly within a burgeoning black market so they can survive and provide employment for a few. Some 80% remain unemployed.
An article has appeared on the BBC News site: Prisons fail to ‘learn lessons’
Pauline Campbell demonstrates every time a woman dies in a British prison. She has been arrested on numerous occasions and is frequently intimidated by either the police or prison van drivers (now usually in private hands with low paid staff) or both. The recent demonstration at Holloway is well recorded where Pauline and another bereaved mother, Gwen Calvert are shown being manhandled by a burly police officer. Pauline is thrown to the ground.
Pauline has spoken to people at high levels in government and is recognised by leading organisations. They recognise her courage and tenacity. Yet the treatment she gets on demonstrations and in court has to be seen to be believed.
Fortunately Pauline is in the habit of documenting not only the deaths, but the subsequent demonstration to draw attention to them and the consequences of doing this.
The comment “It’s the fact that the entire war is an atrocity.” is from a member of the U.S. army quoted in the Independent (12/7/2007).
The point is made that in U.S. both Republicans and Democrats are portraying atrocities highlighted in Abu Ghraib prison as aberrations rather than part of a systemic problem: the entire war operation. It has been clear for a long time with the focus on numbers of war dead from U.S. and allies compared to the much larger number of Iraqis killed that this is a war between the nations. Nevertheless the pretence that the invading forces are there to protect life and rebuild the country is still an underlying assumption. Nor is the massive civilian presence representing multinational business interests included in the count. In U.S. as well as U.K. all parties end up playing the same game.
The peaceful protest following the death of yet another woman in prisons in the UK is documented here.It shows a police officer manhandling Pauline Campbell and another protester, Gwen Calvert a pensioner whoseson Paul died in Pentonville . It shows the privatised prison van which was driven in a manner to intimidate those demonstrating about the death.