Category Archives: Europe

Libyan justice

So Saif Gaddafi wants to go on trial in the international court at the Hague while the new rulers of Libya say that violates their sovereignity. I don’t blame Saif if the justice he gets is like his father’s. Rough justice indeed which made areal life spectacle enjoyed by the world. At least Hillary Clinton laughed her socks off. The thin veneer of civilisation indeed!
Presumably then the US will support the new Libyan administration which can hardly claim not to have blood on its hands. I believe it’s important to hear what Saif has to say. NATO cannot claim that it stuck to the UN mandate as is claimed. It was clearly about safeguarding civilians. To the NATO allies it was about safeguarding the oil supplies they want so badly want and will use any pretext to get it. Probably a lot more suffered as a result. I would think that NATO will not welcome Saif Gaddafi telling all he knows about what has been going on in Libya. As usual the media have followed a narrow one-sided path so as usual we remain ignorant of the full story. Curiously Al Jazeera seems more pro-western while Russia Today has provided a broader outlook.

10 year war against Terror goes on creating unlimited Terror

Who has gained from the endless “War on Terror”, as it is called, 10 years on? Not the people of Iraq or Afghanistan, or now those in Libya, with threats to take “shock and awe” to other theatres. As one writer points out the threat to security of western countries is economic rather than military, so spending on dropping ever increasingly sophisticated and horrifying weaponry has no point. That is unless you work in the arms industry or have shares in it, as many proponents of the endless war tend to do.
Modern warfare is made endless because of the use of weapons which are supposedly illegal. So cluster bombs continue to kill and maim years after they are used, often deliberately sown towards the end of a conflict to reap a grim harvest of life and limb of the young and innocent for years to come. The US and Israel did this in Vietnam and the Lebanon. An increasingly widely used menace is the drone. Just sit back in your arm chair thousands of miles away and find your target. Kids do it in their living rooms, except they are playing games. Actually they are being programmed to become the next murderers as fantasy becomes a reality. What is the difference?
Yet David Cameron is still able to spout about how everyone has benefited from unleashing terror upon terror. How the wretched in Iraq and Libya have been helped to democracy, their overthrown leaders replaced by unknown, untested, shadowy figures who will bow to western governments demands for the worlds limited resources. The cost? Enough in monetary terms to settle the economic crisis many times over I would guess, but this doesn’t begin to look at the human misery in terms of lost and damaged lives. It doesn’t consider the environmental damage, which has been enormous but hardly registers as a concern in media coverage.
Obama told the world he can change things. He can stop the war. He can close Gitmo. Apparently he can’t, and egged on by the likes of Cameron continues with yet more. A once settled Libya is now open for the taking. Yes there may have been serious concerns about life and liberty there, but this overlooks the concerns that exist in these hypocrites’ own back yard.
Ten years ago Tony Blair bared his chest and placed an image of Britain on it saying “shoot here”. They heard him and obliged!

Yes PM we are fighting back, or hadn’t you noticed?

Across the United States and Europe the battle over the assault on the public is taking off, with a firm response to Britain’s attack on public services, jobs and pensions planned for 30th November, Around 30,000 assembled in Manchester to register their displeasure with the Con bit of this appalling government.
When we take to the streets however can we expect more heavy handed policing to crack down on us for having the temerity to protest against loss of pay and poorer, less safe working conditions? Which of the weapons will you choose to use against us: water canon, rubber coated bullets, cs gas?
What is happening to us as a result of the austerity measures imposed on us by a rich, well-fed elite? More are growing hungry as food bills rise with food supplies controlled by profit-hungry corporations. More will be feeling the chill as energy prices spiral upwards so many will have to choose between going hungry or enduring the cold – probably both. Public services are no longer able to pick up the pieces as councils dispense with experienced staff who ran our “essential services”. No longer essential the most vulnerable are suffering the consequences. Yes Mr Cameron we will fight back you are assured.

Libya. “This was a war of France against Italy”

Even before the the dust has settled and the guns have fallen silent the “black gold” rush has begun. International oil countries are busy trying to secure lucrative deals – better than they were able to while Gaddafi was around – and governments are staking their claims against the strength of their relative involvement in bringing down the Libyan regime.
The demonisation of Gaddafi is a reversal of views formally held. Blair courted him and so did Sarkozy. Now Cameron spews venom and Sarkozy has turned himself inside out. Nothing is said about the way wealth was distributed internally to provide health, education and housing to the people. It was a key member of the African Union. Now black Africans are in acute danger as the victorious rebels turn on anyone it identifies as supporter of the toppled power. Racism it seems is rife, not that that will bother European powers.
The duplicity of the western powers that turned on Libya is well described in the comment from an Italian commentator on Russia Today. “No Italian media would ask me for an interview” declares the speaker as she describes the motives for the bombing. She denies that the oil wealth was withheld pointing to the considerable benefits in housing, education and health available.

The Soviet Union, 1961

This was the time of the cold war, Gagarin andthe race for space and the blunt speaking Nikita Khrushchev. The history of the shoe as a potent symbol has remained a folk memory much as its later use as a sign of contempt when was hurled at former US President George W Bush. Khruschev was thought to have used his to thump the table when at the UN to show his displeasure with the debate. (A photograph of him shoe in hand is said to be a fake!) Stalin was still evident with statues abounding throughout the eastern bloc, though not for much longer. The Moscow mausoleum still contained his preserved remain next to Vladimere Illych (Lenin). Julia joined us as our guide. A staunch member of the Communist Party she fed us with unending statistics of 5 year plans.
Birch woods and remote villages broke the monotony of the landscape. We stopped to take photographs of one settlement of wooden dwellings. A truck drew up and the official riding on the back jumped off to enquire what we were doing. Julia was nowhere to be seen as we were left to explain ourselves. The militia man demanded our cameras and that we open them up to expose the films we had taken. Julia was to be found sweating and trembling at the back of the coach. Clearly her failure to stop our activities would have consequences.
We stayed in Minsk overnight. My recollections were of wide boulevards along which early morning cleaning took place with lorries spaying fountains of water to lay the dust. Anyone near, or with window left open, would have had a soaking too!
Moving on to Smolensk we were taken to the Orthodox Cathedral with the ornate screen covered in gold leaf.
So onto Moscow. A huge hotel and we go down into the communal showers. It seems as if the whole of the diverse peoples of the USSR are represented. It is steamy and friendly. One of them who appears to be far the far east of the USSR wants Mike to scrub his back.
Meal times are not that appetising although the borsch (beetroot soup) is fine. Small apples are on the tables. One day we visit the Exhibition of Economic Achievements where there is a whole range of items displayed, including on space exploration. Big rosy apples (are they real?) are on display. Later at the dinner table Tony has a fine specimen of an apple in front of him on the table! I dreaded to think what it had been treated with….

Fifty years ago

Some haunting anniversaries reminding you how time and tide wait for no one. Fifty years ago the Berlin Wall was begun and I was in Warsaw when I heard it announced on the news. Since it was broadcast from the Communist state we were told this was to protect people from the Capitalist west. We were on route to Berlin and so saw work in progress.
I was nineteen at the time and was on a coach trip which took in Prague, Warsaw, Minsk, Smolensk and Moscow. It should have included the Ukraine and cities of Kiev and Kharkov but an earlier trip had found a low bridge which had meant the coach deflating its tyres to pass under!
Czechoslavakia was my first penetration of the “Iron Curtain” and the first impression was dismal as the border area gave the impression of being abandoned. Here the coach was joined by an elderly American, Mr Winter Smith, with whom I became well acquainted since he was to share a room with me. He had a habit of getting lost in the large cities we stayed. In the middle of the night the phone would ring alarmingly and voice would ask “Does Mr Winter Smith live here?”
Prague is a beautiful city with a rich and brutal history. Dominating the scene from the Charles Bridge over the Vltava then was a huge monument of Joseph Stalin.
Instead of driving across Czechoslavakia directly into the USSR we headed north stopping in the town of Nachod. My memories of this place are confined to an evening in a bar, probably that of the hotel. The unscheduled stop meant we did not have a chance to see the place by day. We certainly talked to the locals but as the evening drew on it began to seem that the language barrier was something of a problem. An increasingly inebriated fellow began his interrogation of me. “Communist? Ni Communist?” which I understood to be asking if I was a Communist or not. The problem is I wasn’t sure what the answer was he required as he became more and more aggressive. The problem was resolved when we withdrew to our rooms ready for an early start to Wroclaw and the long road to Moscow across Byelorusse. It seemed to me that Napoleon and Hitler’s armies would have been defeated by the boredom of the flat featureless landscape.
Up through Warsaw, to where we would return, to our first experience of the Soviet Union. As I remember the border post was miles from nowhere. There was a wide court yard with the coach parked along one side. It was surrounded with trees. The wait was long and so we started to kick a ball around. Big Dave from Australia was a reporter for Reuters and then there was mischievous Tony, a fun loving New Zealander. Mike was from the UK, later to move to Ontario in Canada with wife Chris. We are still on touch. Two northern lads ( I think they were Geordies who liked Russianising everything like beer became “beerski”.!) Considering we were surrounded by armed guards I wasn’t sure what we were doing was wise. It was to be how we passed the time at such border crossings. While this was going on our coach was minutely scrutinised and photographed underneath. Finally we were off with Minsk our first stop.

The killer was vainglorious, lethal, meticulous and utterly callous

The description of the Norway massacre seems to me to describe very well the content of games and films readily available and marketed aggressively. Once I used to buy music I liked from HMV but now it’s pages are dominated by games and films promoting the violence. The title of this article is a quote from today’s Independent and it could well describe leading game called “The Call of Duty”, which provides impressionable people precisely the excuse that seems to have prompted the Norway killer’s activities.
During earlier reports it was stated that the perpetrator of the mass killings, to which world wide revulsion has been made manifest in the mainstream media, was in the army. Presumably then that is where he learned his facility with arms.
To those living in war zones there is nothing unfamiliar about this terror. It is a daily feature of life. While many may not hold the political views underpinning the terror armies provide a haven for those who do giving them the ability to carry out killings on predominantly Muslim people – those the Norway killer identifies as alien and undesirable.
Private firms commissioned increasingly frequently to operate in war zones are known to harbour sentiments associated with the far right. Erik Prince of Blackwater (now changed to Xe) had a mission against Islam which he was able to realise through sending staff to Iraq. The company carry out secret missions involving assassination in places like Pakistan, not officially a war zone so far.

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What must we do to save ourselves – and who is in control?

Two big questions addressed in articles in today’s Independent. Not new questions and pretty obvious to many of us, but I put them here as markers.
The continuing battles for oil and the hacking down of rain forests are both suicidal projects, long recognised as such. Turning round an oil tanker has long been a description of a difficult task. Given the drivers of today’s controllers of wealth there isn’t even a will to stop the beast. It is being driven forward at an increasing rate of knots taking us towards oblivion. The US is on board, and so in the European Economic Union. Will any individual countries be able to jump ship? Looks as if Greece is about to be pushed with Spain also visibly suffering.
Who is control? Added to this is the power of the corporations with once again Money at the centre.

Give peace a chance. Not if there’s Money involved

There will be no peace. Not so long as big business calls the shots. The UK was among those flogging their specialities in killing to Libya and Bahrain up to the wire.
Meanwhile it is revealed sales of death from the US to Israel are revealed.
The revolving door system where retiring politicians, government officials or army staff take up lucrative appointments advising the arms et al industries is well oiled. In the UK there are numerous appointments listed since 1999.

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The Nuclear Lobby

Information on the latest of incidents in Japan in the history of nuclear panic is emerging slowly and in a variety of versions. The Japanese government is advising people to close to the stricken power stations to stay indoors and to close windows. People of Tokyo are said to be unconcerned. Is that so? Governments of other countries such as UK and France are advising nationals to leave pronto. What do they know?
Much about Chernobyl was kept under wraps so as not to discredit the nuclear industry elsewhere. An earlier “accident” at the former Windscale plant in the UK in Cumbria was reported as a minor problem at the time. Although the British government went as far as renaming the reactor to help air brush memories away. The truth has taken longer to emerge. The “incident” was close to a major disaster.
We know that politicians past and present are involved in the “revolving door” joining powerful multinationals as advisers. We don’t want nuclear power, it’s dangerous for us and for our children. Those we elect are soon bought off with lucrative offers to exert influence on governments. The nuclear lobby is alive and well. You bet it will put a gloss on Japan.

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