Archive for the ‘Colombia’ Category

Fascism and the Murder of the Homeless

September 26, 2017

Last week or so Mike put up a story reporting how a gang of thugs had decided it was amusing to set alight a homeless man and his sleeping bag. The man’s injuries were so severe he had to be taken to hospital. Mike made it clear that while those responsible were just thugs acting independently, nevertheless their actions were result of Tory propaganda, spread through the right-wing press, demonizing the very poorest in our society as scroungers and a threat to the good, righteous and thrifty Thatcherite respectable classes. He felt that such crimes were on the rise.

I’ve read and seen enough on the plight of the homeless over the years to get the impression that such attacks are very common. A few years ago the Evening Post in Bristol interviewed a young homeless woman, who described her mistreatment by members of the public. She said that one man had even tried to get into her sleeping bag with her.

Way back in the 1990s during the war in the former Yugoslavia, the ethnic cleansing carried out by the Serbs and the other participants in that war, the Croats and the Muslims, was copied across the Atlantic by the Fascists in South America. There was a report on the news one evening about attacks on the poor and destitute by the supporters of the right-wing government in Colombia. These thugs had set upon and killed a homeless man, in what they boasted was ‘social cleansing’.

Now in Trump’s America we see real Fascists coming out the woodwork again, marching in support of forced repatriation, racial segregation and chanting anti-Semitic slogans, such as ‘The Jews shall not replace us.’ Meanwhile the neoliberal policies pursued by the Republicans and Clintonite Democrats are forcing working Americans into grinding poverty, including homelessness.

Violence against the homeless, along with other poor and marginalized groups has always existed. But it’s being encouraged by the rhetoric of the mainstream right-wing parties and the vilification spewed out by the right-wing press. And these parties are moving closer towards real Fascism, as shown by Trump’s vocal supporters in the Alt Right. I wonder how long it will be before we see real Fascists making similar boasts about ‘social cleansing’ over here.

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‘Bomber’ Fallon and the Merchants of Death Arms Fair in London

September 17, 2017

Mike today has put up a piece over at Vox Political commenting on Michael Fallon’s speech yesterday at the DSEI arms fair in London. Fallon, who earned the monicker ‘Bomber’ because of a speech in which he declared that Britain had a moral duty to bomb the peoples of the Middle East, now went on to say that, thanks to Brexit, Britain’s future as the world’s leading arms exporter looked good. And that we should try to sell armaments to anyone in the world, regardless of morality.

Mike makes the point that Fallon’s comments are insensitive, coming as they do when Britain is selling arms to Saudi Arabia, which is using it to kill innocent civilians, including children in schools and madrasas, in Yemen. And Saudi Arabia has no qualms whatsoever against using such armaments against us. 17 of the 19 people involved in the 9/11 hijacking were Saudis, and the trail of responsibility for that atrocity goes right up to the top of the Saudi government itself.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/09/17/warmonger-fallon-wants-the-uk-to-sell-arms-to-anyone-who-wants-them/

This weekend’s Counterpunch also carries an article by Michael Dickinson, ‘Stop the London Death Fair’, about the DSEI trade fair and its dealings with some of the world’s most evil and repressive governments. It begins

Roll up! Roll up! Ballistic missiles and hand grenades! Drones, helicopters and warships! Rocket launchers, tanks and assault rifles! Welcome to the biennial London Arms Fair! Showing now until 15th September at the Excel Centre in Docklands, the Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEI) – “a world-leading event that brings together the defence and security sector to innovate and share knowledge” – presents one of the world’s biggest arms bazaars, displaying the latest high-tech arms and surveillance technology, crowd control and weaponry. This year the exhibition is split into five key zones: air, land, security and joint, all showcasing the latest equipment and systems. DSEI is organised by Clarion Events, with extensive cooperation from the British government.

Military personnel, politicians, private defence contractors and consultants mingle as they shop. Countries accused of war crimes and human rights abuses, Algeria, Angola, Colombia, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Pakistan, Turkey, the UAE, and Ukraine are among the invited. Although not an official guest, the Israeli arms industry has special pavilions at the venue, where over 34,000 visitors are expected to view the latest in killing weaponry for sale, exhibited by more than 1,600 arms companies, including the US and UK giants Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and BAE Systems.

With authoritarian regimes such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and Azerbaijan among the official UK government guests in attendance, this year’s keynote speakers at the opening day conference included British Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and many of the top brass in the UK military establishment. Fox said that overseas governments had an inaliable right to defend themselves and that if they could not buy the equipment they required from developed countries with effective controls, like the UK, they would look elsewhere. Last year Britain’s arms export industry turned over 3 billion pounds.

Andrew Smith, a spokesman from the activist group Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) said: “DSEI is one of the biggest arms fairs in the world. It exists purely to maximise arms sales. Prime Minister Theresa May and her colleagues may talk about promoting human rights but DSEI could not happen without the full support of government. A lot of the regimes in attendance have been linked to terrible human rights abuses, and events like DSEI only make them more likely in future. It is vitally important to spread as much awareness as possible of this terrible arms fair taking place. ”

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/09/15/stop-the-london-death-fair/

Conservative governments, including Margaret Thatcher’s, keenly supported the British arms industry, and this policy was taken over, along with just about everything else, by Tony Blair and New Labour. It’s hardly surprising. George Orwell remarked when he finally gave up his anti-War stance in the face of the Nazi threat, and went to work for the BBC writing anti-Nazi and pro-war material, that if you’re a member of the British upper and upper middle classes, you’re bred for war. This has always been true, ever since the modern armed forces emerged from the military aristocracies of the Middle Ages. The officer elite has always been solidly middle class, although there has been some efforts to make it more diverse.

The government has tried to defend its massive support for the arms industry by arguing that arms sales open up foreign markets to British industry generally. After buying some of that ‘wonderful kit’ David Cameron enthused about, foreign nations would go on to buy other British products and services. But they don’t. They buy British weapons, tanks and other pieces of hardware, and nothing else.

And the British ruling class, its politicians and senior civil servants, also stand to benefit personally from the arms trade. Private Eye for decades has exposed the revolving door between the MOD and British defence ministers, and the arms industry, in which British generals and officials find very lucrative places on the boards of defence contractors and arms manufacturers once they retire or leave office.

As for the private military contractors, previously known as mercenaries, that the British government has supported, these have been used by the Tories to give unofficial support to regimes, where it would have been otherwise embarrassing for Britain to send in the regular army. Like Sri Lanka.

It hardly needs stating that the arms industry is a deeply immoral trade, and that by lauding Britain’s role in it Fallon has shown the complete absence of any kind of moral consideration for the victims of these weapons and a complete indifference to the nature of the regimes he intends to sell them to.

As far as he’s concerned, war is a business. And business is good.

Close down the arms fair, and kick out Fallon and the rest of his vile government.

William Blum’s List of American Foreign Interventions: Part 2

February 15, 2017

Jamaica 1976
Various attempts to defeat Prime Minister Michael Manley.

Honduras 1980s
Arming, equipping, training and funding of Fascist government against dissidents, also supporting Contras in Nicaragua and Fascist forces in El Salvador and Guatemala.

Nicaragua
Civil War with the Contras against left-wing Sandinistas after the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship.

Philippines 1970s-1990
Support of brutal dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos

Seychelles 1979-81
Attempts to overthrow country’s leader, France Albert Rene, because he tried to turn his nation and the Indian Ocean into nuclear free zone.

Diego Garcia late 196-0s to Present
People of the largest of the Chagos islands forcibly relocated Mauritius and Seychelles so that Americans could build massive complex of military bases.

South Yemen, 1979-84
CIA backing of paramilitary forces during war between North and South Yemen, as South Yemen government appeared to be backed by Russia. In fact, the Russians backed North and South Yemen at different times.

South Korea
Support for military dictator, Chun Doo Hwan, in brutal suppression of workers’ and students’ uprising in Kwangju.

Chad 1981-2
Political manipulation of Chad government to force Libyan forces of Colonel Gaddafy to leave, aided Chadian forces in the Sudan to invade and overthrow Chadian government installing Hissen Habre as the ‘African General Pinochet’.

Grenada 1979-83
Operations against government of Maurice Bishop, and then invasion when Bishop government overthrown by ultra-leftist faction.

Suriname 1982-4
Abortive plot to overthrow Surinamese government for supporting Cuba.

Libya 1981-89
Attempts to overthrow Colonel Gaddafy.

Fiji 1987
Prime Minister Timoci Bavrada of the Labour Party overthrown as neutral in Cold War and wanted to make Fiji nuclear free zone.

Panama 1989
Overthrow of Manuel Noriega, long-term American ally in Central America for drug trafficking. The real reason to was intimidate Nicaragua, whose people were going to the elections two months later and stop them from voting for the Sandinistas.

Afghanistan 1979-92
Backing of Mujahideen rebels against Soviet-aligned government then Soviet forces.

El Salvador 1980-92
Backing of right-wing dictator and death squads in country’s civil war against dissidents, after first making sure the dissidents got nowhere through democratic means.

Haiti 1987-94
US government opposed reformist priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide, aiding Haiti government and its death squads against him. However, after he won the 1991, they were forced to allow him back in. They then extracted a promise from him that he would not aid poor at expense of the rich and would follow free trade economics. Kept army there for the rest of his term.

Bulgaria 1990-1
Massive campaign by the US through the National Endowment for Democracy and Agency for International Development to aid the Union of Democratic Forces against the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the successor to the Communists.

Albania 1991
Another campaign to keep the Communists out, in which the Americans supported the Democratic Party.

Somalia 1993
Attempts to kill Mohamed Aidid. The motive was probably less to feed the starving Somali people, and more likely because four oil companies wished to exploit the country and wanted to end the chaos there.

Iraq 1991-2003
American attempts to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Colombia 1990s to Present
Aid by US to suppress left-wing guerillas.

Yugoslavia 1995-99
Campaigns against Serbia government during break up of the former Yugoslavia.

Ecuador 2000
Suppression of mass peaceful uprising by indigenous people of Quito, including trade unionists and junior military officers on orders from Washington, as this threatened neoliberalism.

Afghanistan 2001-to Present
Invasion and occupation of country after 9/11.

Venezuela 2001-4
Operations to oust Chavez.

Iraq 2003-to Present
Invasion and occupation.

Haiti 2004
President Aristide forced to resign by Americans because of his opposition to globalisation and the free market.

For much more information, see the chapter ‘A Concise History of United State Global Interventions, 1945 to the Present’ in William Blum’s Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, pp. 162-220. I realise that many of the Communist regimes Washington sought to overthrow were hardly models of virtue themselves, and often responsible for horrific acts of repression. However, the US has also sought to overthrow liberal and Socialist governments for no better reason than that they sought to improve conditions for their own peoples against the wishes of the American multinationals. And the regimes Washington has backed have been truly horrific, particularly in Latin America.

So it’s actually a very good question whether America has ever really supported democracy, despite the passionate beliefs of its people and media, since the War.

Lord Simon of Highbury: Why Was He in Government and Not Behind Bars?

April 25, 2016

Okay, I’m writing this because it’s left me furious ever since I read about it when putting up the article on Saturday. This was a piece on the ‘Fat Cats’ Directory’, the list of company directors and senior management, who had entered government under Tony Blair in George Monbiot’s book, Captive State. It was a long list of incompetents, who had run their companies into the ground; the self-interested – scientists on the boards of biotech companies, who got on the boards of the funding bodies to give themselves even more money; the environmentally negligent; and the simply exploitative. These last were various company directors, who had made masses of employees redundant, or cut wages, and had been put in charge of Bliar’s ‘welfare to work’ programme and the minimum wage board. But there was one person on the list, who struck me as particularly odious: Lord Simon of Highbury. Here’s what I wrote about him:

Lord Simon of Highbury

Chairman of BP
Vice-Chairman of European Round Table of Industrialists. Under his direction, BP assisted the Colombian government in forcing peasants off their lands, and imprisoning, killing and torturing trade unionists. Gave money to the 16th Brigade, notorious for murder, kidnapping torture and rape.

Minister for Trade and Competitiveness in Europe
One of the ministers responsible for implementing the ethical foreign policy.

By any standards, this resume makes the man a Fascist collaborator. So why is he in government, and not facing trial at the Hague for crimes against humanity? What does it say about our society, that a creature like this can breeze in and out of the halls of power in chauffeur-driven limousine, wining and dining with the highest in the land, when he has doubtless been responsible for some of the most horrific atrocities? Why has he escaped censure, let along prosecution, when others haven’t?

In the Nuremberg Trials of the Nazi leaders at the end of World War II, many senior executives of the various firms that served the Nazi state were also tried, and convicted for collaboration. The firms they managed, like the horrific IG Farben, which produced the cyanide gas used against Jews in the death camps, were deliberately broken up into their constituent companies.

Unfortunately, too many Nazis escaped justice, and Nazi hunters like Simon Wiesenthal spent their lives trying to hunt them down and bring them to justice. And it was apparently the same rage that spurred the Baader-Meinhof gang to commit some of their terrorist attacks. They were also outraged that members of the Third Reich had escaped justice, and were living very well in the Bundesrepublik. And so they began their campaign of murder and terrorism. I’m not trying to whitewash or glamorise them here. They were responsible for some of the most horrific terrorism offences of the 1970s. For example, they firebombed a Berlin synagogue, supposedly as part of a campaign against Israel, which they perceived as a colonialist state. They were violent criminals, but when it comes to killing the men, who ran the death camps and torture squads of the Third Reich, you can understand their rage.

It’s the same rage that motivates people to protest and physically fight the clowns in the various far-right Nazi parties – the BNP, National Action, EDL, National Front, North West Infidels and so on. Many of the members of these groups are violent thugs, guilty of the most horrific attacks on innocent people, including murder, simply because of their race or political opinions, and have rightly been jailed. But these are very small fry compared with monsters like Lord Simon. He has aided and abetted an organisation that has violently removed people from their land, and murdered and tortured trade unionists and left-wing activists. By the same standards we applied to the Nazis, and to Radovan Milosevic and the rest of the genocides in Serbia, he should be standing in a dock in a court room at the Hague, waiting for sentencing.

But he isn’t. Instead, I’ve no doubt he still pursuing a very lucrative career as the director of an extremely profitable multinational. Or else he’s taken up a very pleasant retirement. Either way, I doubt his troubled by either the consequences of his actions, or lawsuits from his victims. I don’t doubt that wherever he lives, it’s nice and quiet, very haute bourgeois, and exclusive. He’s probably thought a good neighbour by the others around him.

I am certainly not urging anyone to turn to terrorism and try to copy the Baader-Meinhof Gang or the violence of some of the Antifa street fighters. All I am trying to do is express my outrage that this man was given a place in government, and try to work out why someone with a record as odious as his was being given a gracious welcome at the highest seats of power. My guess is that it’s because he was a wealth businessman. He wasn’t directly responsible for the atrocities committed by the Colombian government, and his company is ridiculously wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice. As for the murders and death squads of the various South American Fascist regimes, they’re protected by pretty much the same apathy expressed by Neville Chamberlain in his infamous comments about Czechoslovakia. They’re ‘far-away’ countries ‘of which we know nothing.’ And the only people, who get worked up about what goes on there are the ultra-left types Private Eye’s been satirising for years in the guise of Dave Spart.

Monbiot’s List of the Corporate Politicos in Blair’s Government: Part One

April 23, 2016

Chapter six of George Monbiot’s book, Captive State, is entitled ‘The Fat Cats Directory’. The book is about the way big business has wormed its way into government, so that official decisions and policy reflects their interests, not those of Mr and Mrs British Public. In the ‘Fat Cats Directory’ he lists the businessmen and senior managers, who were rewarded with government posts by Tony Blair in May 1997. The list gives the name of the businessman, their ‘previous gluttony’ – a summary of their corporate careers, and ‘Subsequent Creamery’ – their posts in the British government. Those lists are:

Lord Marshall of Knightsbridge.
Chairman of British Airways
– President of the Confederation of British Industry

– Put in charge of Gordon Brown’s energy tax review, and helped promote the government’s campaign against the Millennium Bug, even though his 1999 holiday brochures told customers that they wouldn’t be responsible for any problems caused by computers malfunctioning due to it.

Ewen Cameron

President of the County Landowners’ Association
Owner of 3,000 Acres in Somerset
Opponent of rambling.

Chairman of the Countryside Agency, concerned with tackling the right to roam, social exclusion in rural areas, and someone, who has very definitely contravened the Countryside Agency’s rules on the maintenance of footpaths.

Lord Rogers of Riverside

Architect of Heathrow’s Terminal 5 on greenbelt land
Architect of Montevetro Tower, London’s most expensive building.

Chairman of the government’s Urban Task Force.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville

Chairman of J. Sainsbury Plc
Chairman of the Food Chain Group
Principal backer of biotech company Diatech
Funded construction of the Sainsbury Laboratory for research into genetic engineering
Replaced skilled jobs with unskilled shelf-stacking.

Minister in Government’s department of trade and industry
Minister with responsibility for science and technology
As science minister, led Bioindustry Trade Delegation to US
Ultimate control over Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Chairman of the government’s University for Industry.

Lord Simon of Highbury

Chairman of BP
Vice-Chairman of European Round Table of Industrialists
Under his direction, BP assisted the Colombian government in forcing peasants off their lands, and imprisoning, killing and torturing trade unionists. Gave money to the 16th Brigade, notorious for murder, kidnapping torture and rape.

Minister for Trade and Competitiveness in Europe
One of the ministers responsible for implementing the ethical foreign policy.

Jack Cunningham MP

Adviser to agrochemical company Albright and Wilson (UK)
Member of Chemical Industries Association lobbying for deregulation of pesticides.

Secretary of State for Agriculture
Chair of Cabinet Committee on Biotechnology.

Sir Peter Davis

Chairman of Reed International, which made 900 workers unemployed.
Chief Executive of Prudential Corporation Plc, company most responsible for miss-selling pensions.

Appointed by Treasury head of New Deal Task Force.

John Bowman

Director of Commercial Union, which possibly miss-sold 7,900 pensions.

On the board of the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority.

Lord De Ramsey

President of Country Landowners’ Association, sold part of his enormous Cambridgeshire estate for house building, and in doing so destroyed a pond of Great Crested Newts. Lobbies against regulatory burdens on agriculture. Grew genetically modified sugar beet on his land for Monsanto.

Chairman of Environmental Protection Agency.

Paul Leinster

Director of SmithKline Beecham (SB) Plc, which polluted streams in Sussex and Gloucestershire. Previously employed by BP and Schering Agrochemicals, part-owner of bio-tech company AgrEvo, which was publicly shamed for breach of environmental regulations for growth of GM crops.

Head of the Environment Agency’s Environmental Protection Directorate.

Justin McCracken

Managing director of ICI Katalco, responsible for a long list of plants polluting the environment with carcinogens. In 1999 it was listed as the worst polluting company in Europe, responsible for pouring 20 tonnes of hormone disrupting chemicals into the Tees. Also allowed 150 tonnes of chloroform to escape into groundwater at Runcorn. From 1996 to 1997 Friends of the Earth recorded 244 unauthorised pollution incidents from its Runcorn plant.

Regional General Manager, Environment Agency, North-West Region.

Dinah Nicols

Non-executive director, Anglia Water. In 1999 it was prosecuted six times for pollution.

Director-General of Environmental Protection at the Department of the Environment.

Ian McAllister

Chairman and managing director of Ford UK. The company was a member until December 1999, of the Global Climate Coalition, lobbying against attempts to reduce carbon monoxide emissions.

President, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, which has lobbied against the Department of the Environment’s standards on ozone, lead and sulphur dioxide pollution from cars. Also lobbied against European directives against exhaust gases, removal of lead from petrol, and forcing motor manufacturers to install catalytic converters.

Chairman of the Government’s Cleaner Vehicles Task Force.

Chris Fay

Chairman and Chief Executive of Shell UK, the British company with the most controversial environmental record due to pollution incidents in Britain and in the Niger Delta.

Executive director of BAA Plc, attempting to double size of Heathrow Airport.
President of the UK Offshore Operators Association, oil industry group responsible for lobbying against environmental regulations.

Chairman of the government’s Advisory Committee on Business and the Environment.

Brian Riddleston

Chief executive of Celtic Energy, an open-cast mining corporation which destroyed the Selar Grasslands Site of Special Scientific Interest in Wales, wildflower habitat and home of extremely rare march fritillary butterfly.

Member of the Government’s Countryside Council for Wales.

Graham Hawker

Chief executive of Welsh utilities company Hyder, which sp0ent £42.2m on making people redundant, and only £700,000 on research and development. Opposed windfall tax on privatised utilities.

Chair of the New Deal Taskforce in Wales

Martin Taylor

Chief executive of Barclays Plc. Multimillionaire manager of company which made 21,000 redundant in ten years to 1997.

Lord Haskins

Chairman, Northern Foods Plc. Member of Hampel Committee on Corporate Governance. This was criticised by Margaret Beckett for failing to recommend ways for companies to regulate themselves.

Chair of the government’s Better Regulation Task Force.

Peter Sainsbury

Managing director for Corporate and External Affairs, Marks and Spencer.

Head of Better Regulation Taskforce’s Consumer Affairs Group, whose duties include consumer protection. This decided that voluntary measures and ‘consumer education’ were better than regulation.

Geoffrey Robinson

Director of Central and Sheerwood plc, property owned and chaired by fraudster and pension raider Robert Maxwell. C&S merged with Robinson’s TransTec, to form Transfer Technology Plc. Company later collapsed.

Paymaster General.

Pax Christi and Christian Anti-War Groups

December 27, 2015

Several of my relatives are Roman Catholics. I was at their parish church yesterday, as I’d been invited to join them for a special family service. Looking around one of the stalls in their church carrying the church’s religious and devotional literature, I found several newsletters from Pax Christi. They’re the official Roman Catholic peace movement, and are part of a broader Christian organisation, the Network of Christian Peace Organisations. The other Christian peace groups in the Network include the following:

Anglican Pacifist Fellowship
Baptist Peace Fellowship
Campaign Against Arms Trade Christian Network
Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
Christian International Peace Service
Church and Peace
Community of Reconciliation
Congregational Peace Fellowship
Fellowship of Reconciliation England
Franciscan Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation
Martin Luther King Peace Committee
Methodist Peace Fellowship
Northern Friends Peace Board
Pax Christi
Quaker Peace and Social Witness
Student Christian Movement
United Reformed Church Peace Fellowship.

Pax Christi in Britain publishes a monthly newsletter, Justpeace. The April 2015 edition gives a brief history of Pax Christi International and an overview of their activities across the world. According to the newsletter, it was

founded in France in March 1945 as Catholic movement for peace and reconciliation following World War II, Pax Christi International is now a network of 115 member organisations on five continents with over a hundred thousand members worldwide.

Recognised by Pope Pius XII as the official Catholic peace movement, Pax Christi has also always been autonomous, with members of the hierarchy, clergy and laypeople working together as equals for peace and reconciliation in situations of violence and war around the world. The presidency of Pax Christi International, for example, is shared by a bishop, Bishop Kevin Dowling from South Africa, and a lay woman, Marie Dennis from the United States, both of whom were elected by Pax Christi member organisations.

Pax Christi International has held consultative status at the United Nations since 1979 and is working at the UN in Geneva, New York, Vienna and Paris. It is also officially represented at the African Union and the Council of Europe and has regular access to the European Parliament, the European Commission and NATO.

Among its activities across the world, Pax Christi is involved in

* a multi-year strategy to address deep-seated racism in the United States

* dynamic ‘sports for peace’ programs in South Sudan and Haiti

* strategies to integrate former combatants back into their own communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo

* courses in preventive reconciliation using the principles of haikido in the Philippines.

* efforts to address destructive mining practices in Colombia and Peru;

* advocacy and campaigning at a national and international level for the abolition of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons; for a meaningful arms trade treaty; for an end to the use of depleted uranium in weapons.

* ‘peace week’ initiatives, many of them annual, in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, the African Great Lakes region, Kosovo, Russia, Croatia, the Philippines and Colombia.

* collaboration with local partners to support active nonviolence in southern Mexico.

* excellent grassroots peace education programs in Lebanon and Philippines.

* exchanges of experience between civil society from the Middle East and from Central Europe on their role in bringing about nonviolent social change

* work with the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), our partner in Brazil, in response to growing conflict over land – and

* ongoing work with civil society groups in Syria, Iraq and Palestine.

The Network of Christian Peace Organisations and Trident at the General Election

The NCPO also produced a General Election Briefing for this last year’s election in order to promote disarmament and specifically to tackle the government’s intention to introduce Trident. Their very short – four page! – pamphlet outlined the way Christians and church groups could work to promote peace, and had short sections on the issues of Military Spending and Human Security, Renewal of Trident, the UK Arms Trade , the UK Armed Drones Programme and Britain’s Role in the World. It included questions and requests that should be asked of politicians respecting these issues. The pamphlet also carried details of other organisations dealing with those specific issues and their websites.

Pax Christi and Atomic Weapons

Pax Christi also produced a little pamphlet outlining their opposition to nuclear weapons. This included statements by the Church, including papacy, condemning them. Pope Francis last year (2014) declared that ‘Nuclear deterrence cannot be the basis for an ethics of solidarity and peaceful coexistence among people and states’.

His predecessor, Benedict XVI, in 2007 was much stronger in his condemnation. He said, ‘What can be said, too, about those governments which count on nuclear arms as a means of ensuring the security of their countries?… that nuclear weapons have any place in civilised society, is not only baneful but also completely fallacious. In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims’.

The Vatican II Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World in 1965 states in article 80 that

Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities and or extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and humanity. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.

This is all enough to have Pat Robertson and the right-wing American evangelicals start screaming ‘Social gospel! Social gospel!’ at the top of their lungs, before launching into a long tirade about how ‘cultural Marxism’ is undermining society. And just to show you how ‘Christian’ some of these right-wingers are, a few of them flew into a rage this past year when Pope Francis said something rather left-wing. They like Christianity, but only when it appears to support their prejudices and policies.

I’m not a member of Pax Christi or any of the other organisations. But if you’re a Christian and would like to join their witness for peace, their address is:

NCPO, c/o Pax Christi,
St Joseph’s, Watford Way,
London NW4 4TY

and their website is http://www.ncpo.org.uk

Pax Christi is also on the web. Their address is http://www.paxchristi.net.

May God bless them and their work.

Vox Political: Tories Suppressed Reasonable Drug Policy, Lib Dems Claim

December 29, 2014

Mike over at Vox Political has a piece on the departure of the Lib Dem minister, Norman Baker, from the Home Office. Baker threw in his job the department because he believed that it was blocking a genuinely reasonable and effective policy to combat drug addiction. The article’s title is Tories turned down ‘reasonable and practical’ drugs policy proposals – Baker, and it’s at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2014/12/27/tories-turned-down-reasonable-and-practical-drugs-policy-proposals-baker/. It begins

Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat who quit his Home Office job earlier this year claiming it was “like walking through mud”, has released details of proposed drugs policy reforms that he says Home Secretary Theresa May suppressed.

When he left, he said the will “to take forward rational evidence-based policy” had been in “short supply”, referring in particular to a Home Office report published in October, which found “no obvious” link between tough penalties and levels of illegal drug use.

He has now outlined his backing for three suggestions which he said the Home Office had drawn up:
◾Treating addicts with prescribed heroin under clinical supervision
◾A “Portuguese model” in which those who commit minor drug offences are offered treatment rather than facing criminal charges
◾Medicinal use of cannabis for certain conditions.

This isn’t the first time the Lib Dems have criticised the government for its policy on drugs. There is a section of the Lib Dems that periodically calls for the legalisation of cannabis. This has been debated on and off since I was at school. It even had some support from senior police officers. I can remember when this was debated back in 1983 or so when Thatcher was the elected dictator a chief constable saying he didn’t object to its legalisation. He tried it, and all it made him do was giggle.

Dangers of Cannabis Use

Cannabis does have its dangers, just like nearly every other kind of drug. Unlike heroin, it is not physically addictive. Excessive use may cause ‘cannabis psychosis’, where the user is tipped over into a form of insanity, though I know some mental health workers, who dispute this. It can also cause sterility in boys, who smoke it before puberty.

Medical Benefits of Cannabis

It’s significant here that Baker has not called for its blanket legalisation, only for its medical use to be legalised. This is perfectly reasonable, as cannabis has been known to be an effective treatment for the pain from MS, certain forms of arthritis and some people have found that it helps reduce the nausea from chemotherapy for cancer. There is therefore quite a strong case for its use as a medical drug, under strict supervision.

Benefits of Heroin vs. Methadone for Addicts

As for treating heroin addicts with that drug, again under medical supervision, this sounds shocking but is actually also entirely reasonable. Years ago I attended a computer course at one of Bristol’s FE colleges. One week it was running a drugs education campaign, in which members of one of the anti-drugs organisations wandered around attempting to persuade the students not to get involved in it. I think they were former addicts. Certainly the one I spoke to was. He told me that he believed that the current treatment of heroin addiction with methadone should be discontinued, and replaced with heroin as methadone was more harmful and more addictive than the drug it was intended to treat. It takes longer to come off methadone than it does heroin. Methadone does more damage to the system than heroin, and actually makes the user feel physically sicker than heroin. So while the use of heroin instead of methadone to treat heroin addiction seems simply wrong, even, perhaps, something of a reward for getting on the drug in the first place, like the use of marijuana for medical purposes there is actually good evidence to support it.

Matthew Parris’ Criticism of Tory Drugs Policy

There is little doubt that the current drugs policy is a shambles. Surprisingly, there’s a large section of the Tory party that actually knows this and agrees. One of them is Margaret Thatcher’s former Personal Private Secretary, Matthew Parris. Parris had got the sack from that post, after he replied to a letter addressed by an elderly lady to the Leaderene. The letter writer had complained about the poverty she was experiencing due to Maggie’s policies. Parris responded by telling her to shut up and stop complaining. The news of this got to the Mirror, and Parris got the sack. He later appeared on Radio 4 saying that his dismissal wasn’t quite like it was reported in the press, as the lady’s letter was a general rant about a number of topics, including being disturbed, so he claimed, by the noise from the local Asian children.

Parris was, however, an opponent of the government’s attempts to stamp out drug use hard through tough legal penalties. He didn’t believe it worked, and wrote an article in the arch-Tory magazine, The Spectator, explaining why. The article appeared over a decade ago now. It’s immediate cause was unilateral declaration by Anne Widdecombe that if the Tories entered government, they would come down even harder on drug use. This alarmed many others in her party, who didn’t share her opinions. There was, no doubt, a utilitarian aspect to this, as some of them may have been alarmed at the prospect of losing support from the Libertarians, who generally support drug liberalisation. Several very senior Tories came out to criticise the woman, who’s been dubbed ‘Doris Karloff’. A number even said that they’d tried cannabis themselves, and it had done them no harm. One had even smoked it in his pipe at Uni. This last revelation shocked Parris, who said that he couldn’t care less what the Conservative gentleman smoked – it could have been cowpats for all he cared. What he found shocking was that the man had smoked a pipe.

Treat Addiction as Disease, not Crime

The furore coincided with a general debate on the government’s drugs policy. It’s interesting that Baker points to the Portuguese system as a successful model for treating drug addiction. At that time in the early Noughties, the country that was held up as a suitable model for a successful drugs policy was either Switzerland or Austria. The approach, however, appears similar in that drug use and addiction is treated as a medical problem, rather than a crime. The result has been that those countries that have taken such an approach have a much lower incidence of drug addiction than Britain. Parris’ article pointed this out, and explained the reason for it. Basically, it’s the old one that if you make something a crime, then it becomes glamorous and seductive. It becomes ‘forbidden fruit’, and so some at least are drawn to it, simply because it is forbidden. If you make it a disease, which needs treatment on the other hand, it becomes much less attractive. No-one really likes being sick.

This approach was not, however, pioneered in Portugal, Austria or Switzerland. What is not mentioned in these reports, but was in Parris’ article, is that it was the system used in Britain under Ted Heath and Jim Callaghan. And according to Parris, it was beginning to pay off, with the number of addicts falling. In fact, according to Parris, the government may even have felt that they had beaten the drugs problem.

Then Maggie came along, and reversed it.

Why?

Reagan and the War on Drugs

According to Parris, Thatcher was forced to due to pressure from the Americans. Reagan had just entered the White House, and launched his ‘War on Drugs’. This was the renewed offensive against drugs, which domestically saw children encouraged to inform on their parents for smoking the weed. Internationally, it saw American troops launched into Latin American countries, like Colombia, to destroy the drug trade and the international gangs that deal in it at source. The result has been a bitter devastating war that has cost tens of thousands of lives in countries like Mexico, Nicaragua and Guatemala, and which shows no signs of stopping. The drug gangs in those countries are deeply unpleasant and responsible for truly horrific crimes and atrocities. They need and deserve to be stamped out. Military force, however, is not sufficient for this. A new approach is needed, which acts against the trade and the gangs that support it by reducing consumption in the affluent global north and west. One way of doing this is simply by reducing its attractiveness.

Conclusion: Make Drugs Less Attractive by Showing Them as Disease

Instead of looking at drugs as part of a rock ‘n ‘roll lifestyle, where young, hip rebels live fast, die young and leave a beautiful corpse, the view should be that the reality is that drugs will leave you poor, sick and dead. And due to the ravages of the chemical disease, you definitely won’t be beautiful.

From what I understand, the approach Norman Baker recommended isn’t a case of being ‘soft’ on drugs. In Portugal, Switzerland and the other countries that have adopted it, drugs are still illegal and their medical use tightly controlled. It really is a case of simply moving from treating it as a crime to a disease, which needs to be cured. This was, after all, the British policy, before Reagan decided that the troops needed to be sent in, and Maggie obediently complied.