The Iraqi government have withheld a license for the U.S. security firm Blackwater to operate in Iraq. In 2007 employees were involved in the fatal shooting of Iraqis. The use of privateers in war zones is highly contentious, but the number of civilians involved has risen sharply. In the first Iraq war the number was small, but it has become common not only by the U.S. but other governments have privatised war along with virtually every thing else.
Individuals employed by these outfits, which can be seen to have made considerable profits, are not covered by rules of engagement. They and their families can lose out too if they are killed or wounded on duty. While they are active, however, they can earn considerably more than military personnel and they live in luxury apartments which should be well protected given the nature of their declared expertise.
Barack Obama’s appointment of George Mitchell once more signals the change we hoped for if not entirely expected. Gerry Adams gives a personal and informed view in the Guardian (28/1/2009) based on his own dealings with the man who expanded a lot of energy and patience in brokering a deal in Northern Ireland. The way in which he faced obstruction from many quarters.
Once again Obama is wasting no time in addressing key issues required to signal change from the last administration at least. In an interview aimed at Arab nations he outlines his approach
There certainly is a welcome difference because the intention to use diplomacy as a tool is highlighted. However I don’t know how convincing he is in putting over his impartiality, particularly vis-a-vis peace between Israel and Palestine. As I’ve prveiously noted Obama’s speech to AIPAC suggested either a pro-Israeli mind set or an ignorance of the existing peace plan. His statement that Jerusalem could not be divided went against that, and is something that George W. Bush would not say. He was forced to retract quite hurriedly. He also continues to talk about Iran’s nuclear ambitions destabilising the region but ignores Israel’s nuclear capacity.
On the plus side Obama states his intention to talk and listen and refers to his own experience of living in Muslim countries and to members of his own family who are Muslim. This may or may not have some effect: already his image has been torn and the deeply offensive term “house-negro” applied. The United States has a distance to travel before it shed the reputation for war mongering and colonial-style foreign policy. The beginnings heralded for withdrawal from Iraq and the closure of Guantanamo Bay are indications to welcome. What is continuing to happen in Afghanistan and Pakistan point in a different direction. Obama is in danger of being seen as being run by the U.S. (hence the comment above) rather than achieving the change he says he wants.
Demonstrate Wednesday 28th January 1:00pm
Styal Prison, Styal Road
Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 4HR
Prison campaigners and mothers Joan Meredith and Yvonne Bailey have called a demonstration to take place. The call for protest comes after the latest self-inflicted death of mother Alison Colk at HMP Styal on 8th January 2009.
The campaigning organisation INQUEST has referred to Styal as:
‘a prison with a disturbing history of deaths of vulnerable women’.
Joan Meredith and Yvonne Bailey have worked together with and supported prison justice movements such as INQUEST, No More Prisons, the late Pauline Campbell and The Howard League for Penal Reform for several years. They are both mothers and wish to help stop the devastating effects of such deaths.
Further information and interviews from:
1. Joan Meredith: 01948-860862 or mobile (available on mobile from
Wednesday at 12.00 noon): 0781-6928232
2. Yvonne Bailey: (on Wednesday at the demonstration)
Background links and articles:
Joan Meredith | Yvonne Bailey
News release by Frances Laing, freelance journalist and blogger.
The inauguration out of the way, George W taking his taxi out of the White House into oblivion (some hope, Tony Blair’s still hanging around) and Obama has acted on one of the promises. While the jury is still out the effect of Obama’s order or request (both are reported, so which is it?) to close Guantanamo Bay is still awaited.
Clearly expectations on Obama are sky high and in many cases unrealistic. Individuals are hoping to see a turn around in saving jobs and homes, so the inevitable disappointments will kick in at some point.
Ban Ki-Moon visited Gaza and was appalled by what he saw, including the damage to United Nations buildings. Will the U.S. listen or continue to sideline the United Nations, or use it only when convenient?
Barack Obama spent the day before his inauguration in the community, painting the walls of a centre which accommodates young people. In politics there is much scepticism, but I felt the image was a good start to what he says he is about in making changes.
Michael Tomasky in the Guardian outlines what he will be looking for in Obama’s Presidential Address. He expects that the outgoing Bush will be thanked for what he contributed to the U.S. – a difficult one – “it will be more gracious than he (Bush) deserves”. An article in the Birmingham based “Stirrer” sums this up for me.
As the dust settles and a unilateral cease fire is announced by Israel, coincidentally in the dying embers of the Bush regime characterised by blood lust, the evidence is emerging of the crimes against humanity laid down in international law. The full horror is compounded that world leaders have acted with timidity and partiality. Israel appears to be regarded as right whatever happens in its name, the Arab world is wrong and any act to defend even human life and rights regarded as an act of terror. Eyewitness accounts can be read here.
Thus people of the tiny stature of Blair can rail against the rocket parts smuggled into Gaza through tunnels. Little matter that here is a population caged in like animals while state-of-the art weaponry of unimaginable horror is unleashed indiscriminately against men, women and children. Their injuries are said to be horrific, but the illegal use of phosphorous we know about and there are suggestions that depleted uranium is present in the wounded. Much of this is manufactured in the U.S. and it wasn’t smuggled clandestinely through rabbit warrens. Bush, Blair and others are complicit in war crimes and many others have failed to act.
The insistence that reporters should be kept out of Gaza is leading to questions: just what is Israel using on unarmed civilians? We know about phosphorus shells, supposedly illegal particularly in densely populated civilian areas. Cluster bombs? Well we know their effects in the Lebanon and that children are still at risk from them.
Early on an eye witness reported seeing bodies with limbs or heads missing, and there was another report of depleted uranium traces being detected on the wounded. The repeated mantra that Israel is avoiding harm to civilians makes little sense from what we are finding out with or without reporters present. Still there is prevarication on bringing war crimes accusations against this war mongering state, backed by the U.S. with the outgoing president still active in sanctioning killings on an unimaginable scale.
David Miliband will speak. Hold on to your hats ‘cos he’s going to announce that “the War on Terror” was a mistake. A lie in fact. Well Dave everyone already knew that but no one wanted to expose Emperor Bush’s new clothes.
Anyway Miliband has succeeded in grabbing the headlines for himself. Now it will be interesting to see the linkages around the decision for political leaders to dodge this one so consistently and comprehensively.
First he has been regarded as a Blairite, particularly at the time he was seen as a major contender for Brown’s mantle. So is he at it again putting down his marker? Having regarded so much of his previous utterances as silly or crass I’m not denying that this needed spelling out, not least because of the damage that Bush and his Neo-con deliberately contrived the scam. And Milband’s supposed friend, Middle East Envoy T.B. accepted it all verbatim lying every bit of the way and continuing to do so. Result millions dead, maimed, exiled in its name. So I hate to tell our hero Silly Milly that it’s a lot too little too late.
I think many of us felt uneasy about Peter Mandelson’s resurgence – if that is what it was. He’s been quite active in his devious way while in exile in Europe. However a piece in the Guardian today (13/1/2009) shows how Blair is not very far away. So even why he is making his millions (£14 or 15 last year) he as time to dabble in politics. The poodle has his toy poodle doing what poodles do like peeing on the carpet.
New Labour became New Labour by stealing Thatcherite Toryism. They became better Thatcherites than the Blessed Margaret. Gordon Brown has always been among the group that forged New Labour, but it seemed that there was some distance between him and Blair. However when Brown took over the New Labour leader’s mantle he soon fell foul particular of Blair’s supporters. They wanted someone else and if you remember David Miliband emerged briefly as a potential successor charging off to Georgia in the wake of David Cameron and generally trying to make himself look serious. Sorry David (take you pick which one), didn’t work mate.