Monthly Archives: October 2007

British security firm under investigation in Iraq

I’m always interested to read about the privatization of gun carriers. Stories keep surfacing in Iraq mostly from US, recently Australia and now the UK. A firm is being sued over an American soldier’s death. Well, it’s argued, you have to carry arms to protect yourself. Often it doesn’t look that way as the Blackwater trigger-happy guards have shown.
Meanwhile in Afghanistan security firms are being closed down. I’ll be following this up!

Olive Farming in Palestine

Al Jazeera shows the reality for the olive farmer of Palestine. The fight for confiscated land goes on as illegal settlers continue to get support from the Israeli authorities.
While violent action repeatedly captures the headlines, the non-violent action resistance to the aggressive attacks by illegal settlers goes on without comment.
The olive harvest is key to sustaining the Palestinian economy. Support is given by international volunteers who have done much to ensure right of access to Palestinian property is upheld.
The Israeli army is supposed to protect Palestinian farmers from attack and legislation put forward to strengthen their position. However army personnel use tactics such as demanding permits and “co-operation”, and placing impossible obstacles in the way.

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Three Reports on British Prisons

Pauline Campbell sen me the following information:
Neha Kumar recently completed an MA degree in International Journalism at City University, London, and has now returned to Tokyo.
“Suicides in UK Prisons” (Photo: Pauline Campbell)
20 September 2007
“Private Prisons: a success or failure?” (Photo: Web)
14 October 2007
“No to Women’s Prisons” (Photo: BBC)
14 October 2007

Routine abuse of detainees

As a Briton I have been brought up in a climate of indignation and outrage at stories of abuse by “foreign” regimes. Such stories have been legion in the media and countless books. The persistent stories of abuse and worse by people supposedly “on your own side” in consequence gives an initial reaction of disbelief. Guantanamo Bay, Iraq, an over-stuffed prison system and ejection of those already persecuted has dealt with that.
I call on my MP, Khalid Mahmood, to support an Early Day Motion to make significant changes to practices, procedures and approaches to people detained and open to abuse by all and sundry put in their charge. Many of these “guards” are part of the privatisation that New Labour indulges itself in.

Shaheed Bhagat Singh

Bhagat Singh has been celebrated with a group from the Indian Workers’ Association and the Asian Rationalist Society (Britain) performing a play about his life and achievements. I went to The Drum in Aston to see a film followed by a talk and discussion in which Bhagat Singh’s nephew and nearset living relative, Professor Jagmohan Singh spoke.
I had the privilege of meeting Professor Singh a few day earlier. He clearly embraces Bhagat Singh’s life as a freedom fighter against the injustices of a brutal, oppressive colonial power, and his socialist convictions. The film was very much in the Bollywood tradition with the cast breaking into song and dance routines. Even as Bhagat and his two colleagues approached the gallows we were treated to heroic music and lyrics. Still it communicated a story unknown to many. It was a story which to me transcended a place and time when governments continue imperialist practices and place market forces before equality. Jagmoham Singh was dissatisfied with the presentation however emphassing the omission of important facts. Where were the Muslim freedom fighters who supported Bhagat Singh? This is an important point at a time when among the Indian community stories of enforced conversions to Islam are rife when there are many instances where people form different faiths stood shoulder to shoulder. There are further examples coming from the events of 1857 which are also being celebrated on the 150th anniversary.

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US held British troops down in Basra

It seemed to me that if the UK had any idea of pulling out of Iraq others would think differently. A report in the Independent (16/10/2007) says just that, and during this period they had to face the bitterest fighting they had endured.
“The US warned that a brigade of troops would be sent from Baghdad to take “appropriate action” to maintain security. The delay in withdrawal resulted in some of the fiercest fighting faced by British forces since the invasion of 2003, leading to the deaths of 25 British soldiers and injuries to 58 others, as well as dozens of Iraqi casualties. Two of the British dead were at the base, Basra Palace, while at least 10 others died in supporting operations.” Source The Independent 16.10.2007.
As the report points out the consequence was the loss of more British lives.

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Farepak. A year on the struggle continues

I received the following e-mail from SLP in Scotland:
“As the first anniversary of the Farepak disaster approaches, SLP member and Chair of the Farepak Victims Committee (FVC), Louise McDaid, interviewed on BBC News 24 tonight, (Saturday), stressed that the fight for justice for the thousands of working class people affected by the Farepak collapse is continuing.
Louise asked for the Labour government to show consistency when she compared the struggle of the FVC with the government’s attitude to the recent Nothern Rock crisis, and then sounded a warning because Farepak is now in administration and the administrators costs from January to October are £300,000, a sum that will come out of the victims own money!
Although not a penny has yet been returned to thousands of Farepak’s victims the FVC are determined to fight on until justice is done.
For background to the Farepak collapse and the struggle of the FVC, please see the SLP national website which has a separate section on Farepak.
Also – Crime and Justice Foundation (an organisational offshoot of Kings’ College London) have produced a report influenced by the FVC that is to be launched soon. The director of said organisation is keen for Louise to attend the press launch in London. According to him interest is so high that for the first time ever they have had to break their own press release embargo.”

(Report from SLP Scotland).

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MIssion invisible

Another impossible story as Blair visits Hebron. They took the opportunity of telling him – and showing him – as it is. The story tells us he was appalled. How come? It’s not the first time he has visited the West Bank. In Ramallah he upset the Palestinians greatly by his abrupt departure after refusing to lay a wreath and show any respect to the recently deceased Yasser Arafat. Is this an indication of how the stratospheric effects of being a leader put you in a cocoon?
Meanwhile it is business as usual as the Israeli government goes ahead in continuing annexation of Palestinian land. This makes it more and more impossible to envisage a viable Palestinian state with its headquarters in East Jerusalem.
Will Tony Blair’s new “discoveries” be transmitted back to New Labour? Since it’s economic logic that drives our lives humanitarian considerations don’t figure. So Tony Blair’s “Mission Impossible” is now described as “Mission Invisible”. This is entirely in accord with what has been going on in Palestine under his nose as leader during his years in office. Clearly his briefings omitted uncomfortable truths in Palestine, Iraq or Afghanistan. A good relation with the far right administration that had hijacked America was all that mattered then and continues to matter now. For all Brown’s initial efforts to distance himself from his predecessor he has now merged into the scene moving even against social democracy. Brown wasn’t joking as he welcomed the Blessed Margaret back to HQ. As Blair took Thatcherism to new heights here is Brown attempting to lay the trumps. It is only incompetence which has left the door open for Cameroon to reclaim the legacy.

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War crimes, civilian perpetrators and casualties.

This week two more deaths of civilians in Iraq by private security operations, this time Australian. Two Armenian Christian women had their car riddled with 40 bullets, yes 40 bullets. Soldiers in such a situation can face a court, but there appear to be no rules of engagement for these rogue companies who are out for profit from their dubious services. Blackwater we hear are to face war crime charges following their involvement in civilian deaths, while the family of those killed in the latest attack have threatened to turn over every stone to bring the perpetrators to book.

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Was it a mistake to leave New Labour?

I still can’t bring myself to see how bad it is. New Labour. Now even Polly Toynbee has given them up. I remember talking to her at the introduction of the NHS reforms when Frank Dobson announced the demolition of the “Berlin Wall” between the NHS and local government social care. I raised some mild concern then about what was happening and was sharply dismissed as an unbeliever in the face of the Blairite agenda. Now she announces ” a shipwreck” and the “death of social democracy” in the hands of Brown and Darling.
Privatisation is showing itself clearly as the creator of a crisis in key public service. The deaths of 90 patients at the hands of the Maidstone & District NHS Trust has happened while the board had their eyes on the problem they had paying off their PFI debts. This is a result of New Labour, not Tory policy. Now Blair has gone to create havoc elsewhere it is clear that there is an endless queue of replacements who not only shun socialism but don’t even support a pale shadow in the pretense of social democracy.

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