Archive for the ‘Water’ Category

Corbyn Storms It, While ‘Strong and Stable’ May Collapses

June 12, 2017

Okay, it wasn’t an outright victory for Jeremy Corbyn. But it wasn’t a defeat either.

Like many people, I was surprised and delighted by last week’s election result. I’d gone to bed early Thursday night, as I couldn’t bear to watch the election coverage. I was afraid that, despite the polls showing that Labour had cut the Tory lead down to only one per cent, there would still be a Tory landslide, or at least a workable majority.

I was, therefore, highly delighted to wake up to find that May had lost her overall majority, and was therefore looking around for anyone or anything that would shore up her government by going into coalition with her.

Unfortunately, she has found one in the Democratic Unionist Party, founded by Ian Paisley in 1986 to oppose the 1986 Anglo-Irish agreement. The DUP is socially Conservative and deeply sectarian. They back teaching Creationism in schools, denying climate change, keeping abortion banned in Ulster and violently denounce gay rights. This goes back to when Ian Paisley in the 1970s founded S.U.S. to oppose the legalisation of homosexual acts between consenting adults. The organisation’s name stood for ‘Save Ulster from Sodomy’. This always struck me as an hysterical reaction. It’s as if he was afraid that Northern Irish people’s heterosexuality was so fragile, that the moment homosexuality was legalised every man and woman in the province would immediately turn gay. Or else he had some kind of nightmare that gays from across the world were massing at the Irish border or just across the Irish Sea, ready to charge in like an invading army.

Just as worrying is the party’s hatred of the Irish Republic and Roman Catholicism, and its links to a series of Loyalist paramilitary terrorist groups, most notably the UDA. It’s leaders have posed with Kalashnikovs in their mitts, and wearing the uniform of Loyalist terror groups. These links remain strong, despite the DUP’s official rhetoric condemning terrorism in Ulster.

In short, they’re the type of organisation, which several Protestant Ulster people I know came to Britain to get away from. Just as I know Irish Roman Catholics, who don’t want to go back to Ulster because of the same violent prejudice in their communities.

May hasn’t exactly gone into coalition with these clowns. She’s trying to hammer out a ‘supply and confidence’ agreement, in which the DUP will support the government on a bill-by-bill basis. And even that’s looking rocky, and she made the mistake of annoying her new partners in government by announcing the alliance before it was to be formally arrange on Tuesday.

May’s formation of government with these bigots is also something of a problem for many Conservative MPs. About 19, according to Mike, are openly gay, and so put in a very awkward position through this alliance with a rabidly homophobic party. Ruth Davidson, the gay head of the Conservative party, and who is going to marry an Irish Roman Catholic, has already Tweeted her displeasure. Not that this may make any difference. Despite Cameron’s attempts to make the Tories look nice and friendly to minorities – pro-gay, anti-racist, more women MPs – this alliance shows the real nature of much of the Tory party. They’re reverting to type. As for the 19 gay Tory MPs, given the entrenched hypocrisy of the Tories, where the say one thing and do another, it’s likely that they’ll swallow their principles and troop through the ‘Yes’ doors to support the government anyway.

Even with the DUP on board, the Tories only have a bare majority of two. That means that they’ll have to do as Labour did when they only had a majority of five in the mid-70s: cram every single one of their members into the chamber to support them. To the point where they sent the whips round to check no-one was in the toilets.

Far from being ‘strong and stable’, May’s position looks very, very precarious. The Bow group, a Tory think tank, are considering holding leadership elections and there are murmurings from the backbench 1922 Committee. Unfortunately for the Tories – but good for us – all the other contenders for the leadership are actually more unpopular than May. The leading figure is Boris Johnson, but while 23 per cent of people said that he was more likely to make them vote Tory, 33 per cent stated that he’d put them off.

People have started discussing the possibility that there might be another election in October. Mike has put this forward, and suggested that it could be as early as August. And May herself may not last the week.

As for Corbyn, he’s increasingly looking like a prime minister in waiting. This has been the biggest movement towards Labour for the past forty-five years. And it has roundly refuted the claims of his critics that he was ‘unelectable’. Instead, it has confirmed the worst nightmares of the neoliberal establishment – that he is only too electable. The Blairites now have absolutely no grounds for their intrigues against him. Indeed, if Corbyn can do so well despite their attempts to unseat him, it’s probably fair to say that if the Blairites had done the decent thing and supported their leader and the broad mass of the party’s members and supporters, he’d probably be in Number 10.

His success shows that a very large section of the British people are sick of austerity, sick of Thatcherism, sick of the privatisation of the NHS and private ownership of utilities, sick of exorbitant rents, the threat of homelessness, stagnant wagges and a harsh and callous attitude to the poor, the sick, disabled and the unemployed, which has seen them thrown off benefit, to die in misery and despair.

Tony Greenstein, one of the great people, who comments on Mike’s blog, has written on his own that the one thing that Corbyn should not do is water down his policies to make them more acceptable to those inclined to vote Tory. And he’s right. Not only would this leave some of the causes of Britain’s misery in place, it would weaken his own position electorally. People are heartily sick of a Labour party which does its best to emulate the Tories. This was the reason why New Labour lost five million of its supporters from 1997 to its fall, and why Ed Miliband lost the 2015 election.

Corbyn now needs to keep the pressure up – to continue his attack on the Tories. According to Survation, he’s now several points above them in the polls. Let’s hope and do what we can to maintain and increase this lead, until the government falls and we can have a real, Socialist, Labour leader in Downing Street.

For further informed comment, see the following blogs and posts:

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/09/may-spoke-of-the-coalition-of-chaos-now-shes-going-to-form-one/

https://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2017/06/09/oh-what-a-night/

https://buddyhell.wordpress.com/2017/06/09/the-tory-dup-pact/

http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/general-election-2017-7-weeks-ago-this.html

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/11/downing-street-mistaken-over-dup-deal-this-inspires-no-confidence-over-brexit/

And male feminist vlogger and general scourge of the far right, Kevin Logan, has produced this video showing precisely how deeply unpleasant the DUP are:

Report into Funders of Terrorism in UK May Be Suppressed by Tories

June 4, 2017

This is disturbing, but it really wouldn’t surprise me if the Home Office really did refuse to publish a report into the foreign sources of terrorism here in the UK.

Mike over at Vox Political has put up a piece from the Guardian, which explains how the Home Office’s extremism analysis unit was instructed by David Cameron to investigate the financing of extremist groups in the UK from abroad one and a half years ago, and to report their findings back to the PM and Theresa May.

The Home Office has now stated that the report has not been completed, and may never be published, as its contents are ‘extremely sensitive’.

The Lib Dem spokesman for foreign affairs, Tom Brake, has written to May asking her to confirm that the report will not be shelved, and commenting on the link between Islamic extremism in Britain and the Saudis’ funding for mosques. Mr Brake writes

“It is no secret that Saudi Arabia in particular provides funding to hundreds of mosques in the UK, espousing a very hardline Wahhabist interpretation of Islam. It is often in these institutions that British extremism takes root.”

The Guardian itself states

The contents of the report may prove politically as well as legally sensitive. Saudi Arabia, which has been a funding source for fundamentalist Islamist preachers and mosques, was visited by May earlier this year.

Mike states in his piece that by ‘very sensitive’ the report

seems to mean they concern the UK’s own relationship with Saudi Arabia under the Conservative governments of David Cameron and Theresa May.

Mike makes the point that we should not be selling arms to the Saudis, as we don’t know what they’re doing with them. He also cites Tweets from Tom London, who states that we need to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia and the funding of mosques by them.

Tom London also attacks May’s Tweet that the Tories will increase the powers of the police and security services, and inflict longer sentences for terrorism-related offences.

Mr London rightly asks how this is going to deter jihadis, who commit their atrocities with the intention of committing suicide.

While Rachael, another Tweeter, put up a photo of May receiving a medal from one of the Saudi princes, ironically commenting that ‘we are too tolerant of extremism in Britain.’

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/06/04/report-that-could-link-uk-to-terror-funders-may-never-be-published/

It’s been known for a very, very long time that ISIS and its predecessor, al-Qaeda, was receiving funding from very high levels in the Saudi government. This includes the current regent, Salman bin Salman, and the head of Saudi intelligence. I can remember reading a paper in one book on contemporary sources of Islamist terrorism how the Saudis financed al-Qaeda insurgents attacks and incursions into Syria and Iraq.

Twenty-four pages of the official report into 9/11, compiled by the American government, were suppressed until the families of the victims forced Obama to publish it. Again, despite security around the report, it was widely understood that these pages had been suppressed because they pointed to the Saudis as the nation behind the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

Despite the massive evidence to the contrary, the Republicans are continuing to ignore the roots of global terrorism in Saudi Arabia, and are instead blaming Iran as the major source of terrorism around the world.

You don’t need to guess very hard why this is: oil, and anti-Russian geopolitics dating from the days of the Cold War. Since the 1920s America has backed the Saudis militarily in return for the right to exploit the country’s vast oil reserves.

The Americans are also careful not to alienate the Saudis because of the massive damage the Saudi’s oil embargo inflicted on the West during the oil crisis of the 1970s. That convinced the Saudis that they had the economic power to manipulate global affairs. All they have to do is lower the price of oil, and it wipes the domestic American oil industry off the map.

The West has also cultivated the Saudis, along with Israel, as a valuable ally in the Middle East in the long, imperialist campaign to eradicate secular Arab nationalism. Secular nationalist regimes, such as Nasser’s in Egypt, were considered by the Americans to be either Communist, or linked to Communism. This is one of the reasons why the Americans are so determined to overthrow Assad in Syria. The Ba’ath regime there is secular, and an ally of the Russians. Syria is a nation of diverse sects and faiths, with a population that includes Shi’a and Sunni Muslims, and also Christians. The dominant sect politically are the Alawis, who are Shi’a. As such, the regime also has important links with Iran.

While the Ba’athist government has massacred and oppressed its Sunni opponents, and has been a police state, it is much more tolerant than Saudi Arabia. Christians enjoyed greater freedom and were able to serve in the administration, because one of the founders of the party in the 1920s had been a Christian.

Iran has funded terrorism in Europe and further abroad. However, while it is a very repressive society, it is still more tolerant than many other nations. Counterpunch and The Young Turks have produced articles and reports showing that, despite the Iranian regime’s rhetoric calling for the destruction of Israel, Jews in Iran are actually well treated. I’ve also heard scholars researching religious syncretism in the Middle East state that the regime has also been keen to show how it does not oppress the Zoroastrians, the country’s indigenous monotheistic religion.

It is very different in Saudi Arabia. The only religion tolerated in that country is Wahhabi Islam. Non-Muslim religions, such as Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and so on are banned, as is Shi’a Islam. There are Shi’a Muslims in Saudi Arabia, but they live in villages without running water or electricity and with higher rates of poverty and unemployment. They are forbidden to build mosques and their religious literature is also banned. Chillingly, one of the major Saudi religious figures I can’t remember whether it was the Supreme Mufti or the Sharif of Mecca even went so far the other year as to denounce the Shi’a as enemies of the faith and ‘worthy of death’.

The Saudis have been backing very hardline, very intolerant interpretations of Islam across the world, from Muslim communities in Bosnia and the Balkans, to Chechnya and Pakistan and beyond.

And foreign funding of mosques and the influence of extremist foreign imams has been an issue since the 1990s and the demands for the execution of the novelist Salman Rushdie for blasphemy for his book, The Satanic Verses. I can remember reading in the Encyclopedia of Islam at College that foreign countries tended to finance mosques over here in blighty as a way of influencing their congregations. And the imam, who received Rushdie back into the faith when the novelist briefly tried to make his peace with the religion, also wrote in the Financial Times that there was a pressing need to train and supply more imams, who had been born and grew up over here. The lack of native British Muslim clergy meant that the immigration authorities were allowing into this country mullahs from places like Pakistan, who held extreme and intolerant views. This is why the British government has a programme to support and fund British Muslims studying for the clergy, and to promote a more liberal interpretation of the faith.

But the British government has also done its share of importing Muslims terrorists from around the world. Thatcher gave asylum to members of the Mujahideen, who had fought the Russians in Afghanistan, even though these were violent religious extremists. But they were acceptable, because they were anti-Communist. The family of Salman Abedi, who blew himself up killing 22 and injuring another 60 innocents in Manchester last Monday, were members of a Libyan Islamist terrorist group. They had been given sanctuary over here, and the warnings about them, including by members of the city’s Muslim community, were ignored, because the British government had used them in the NATO campaign to overthrow Colonel Gaddafy.

If we really want to stop terrorism, we should stop selling arms to the Saudis and block their funding of extremist mosques and groups. We should ourselves also stop supporting Islamist terror groups around the world. At the moment the American government is supplying arms and training to the rebels in Syria, despite the fact that they are all hardline terrorist groups, or connected to the hardliners, and the arms will inevitably find their way into the hands of ISIS and al-Qaeda militants.

Of all the politicians, it is Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party, who have stated that they will stop arms sales to the Saudis.

May definitely will not. She and Cameron have both been to the Middle East to try and sell them more British weapons, just like Blair and then the Tory governments before him.

And Corbyn has set up a shadow minister for peace and disarmament, and promised to turn this into an official department if he gets into power.

Much of the radicalisation of the Muslim world has occurred because of the carnage inflicted on the Middle East through the western invasion of Iraq. That doesn’t excuse atrocities like that committed against the great people of Manchester and our capital. Just as it doesn’t excuse the other murders the Jihadists have committed without number against ordinary, peaceful Muslims across the Middle East – in Iraq, Syria and Turkey, and in places like Pakistan. But it is a contributing cause, which Corbyn has said he wants to stop.

As the great man has said, ‘Tough on terrorism, tough on the causes of terrorism’.

Don’t believe liars like May and Boris Johnson, who will take away more of our liberties in the campaign against terrorism, while doing nothing but give more money to the Saudis and other backers of these thugs and other like them.

Vote for Corbyn and the Labour party on June 8th.

Nigel Farage’s Outrage over Noel Fielding, Kathy Griffin and the Comic Severed Head of Trump

June 3, 2017

One of the latest controversies to lurch across America last week was when Kathy Griffin, a comedienne on CNN, posed with a dummy severed head of Donald Trump. The Republicans went berserk with outrage and the network ended up apologising and sacking Griffin. One of those, who weighed in on the issue was Nigel Farage, one of Trump’s staunchest British supporters, who appeared on Fox and Friends to give his view of the matter.

The Fuhrage declared that Griffin got what ‘left-wing politicians’ like her deserved. He told of how a stand-up comedian on the Beeb had made a joke about stabbing him, but the BBC are still using him.

In this clip from Sam Seder’s Majority Report, Seder and his team discuss Griffin’s offensive photo, and tell the joke about stabbing Nigel Farage and reveal what horrible malcontent told it.

It was Noel Fielding, one of the performers in the surreal comedy show, The Mighty Boosh. The joke ran

‘I’m a fly, buzzing around the lampshade. The pineapple said to me that the poor monkey had taken the lamp to Nova Scotia. Oh, and stab Nigel Farage.’

As for Kathy Griffin’s stunt with the mock head, Seder’s team make the point that Republican politicians said far worse about Obama when he was in office. Seder himself jokes about how there was no outrage when Nancy Pelosi held up Trump’s severed testicles in Congress.

He also makes the point that the Fuhrage’s appearance on Fox and Friends probably isn’t unrelated to the fact that he has just been named a person of interest in the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s connection with Russia.

This doesn’t mean that Farage is under suspicion of wrongdoing himself, only that he is believed to have information on the affair.

I can understand the Republican’s offence over Griffin’s image, but as The Young Turks have pointed out in another video, it’s hypocritical. They made absolutely appalling comments about him and his family when he was in office, while Ted Nugent boasted about how he’d like to kill Obama and various other Democrat politicos. Like when he declared that Killary ‘could suck on the muzzle of [his] gun’.

There was absolutely zero outrage from the other Republicans about these appalling comments.

While Griffin probably did go too far, I don’t see how it should be worth her job. It’s joke horror, and she was not inciting anyone to kill the president. Unlike some of the Republicans, who have quite seriously talked about the need for a revolution against Obama, who, they decided, was a ‘Nazi-Communist-Atheist-Muslim’ activist determined to destroy America.

As for Fielding, he was joking too.

People joke about killing celebrities all the time. Some of us can remember when Bill Hicks joked that he had a new idea for a TV show, ‘Let’s hunt and kill Billy Ray Cyrus with dogs’. He also made a joke about Ed Meese, one of Reagan’s staffers. This particular specimen, Hicks joked, was a child serial killer, who’d eventually commit suicide for his crimes in his bathtub. Then they’d find the skins of all the children he’d butchered in his attic.

It’s extreme material, though there was a point to it. Reagan’s government was depriving the poor of funding and welfare support. And in South and Central America, Reagan was supplying arms, training, funds and other aid to real Fascist death squads, who committed unspeakable atrocities. Compared to the horrific things they did in real life, describing Meese as a child killer is very bland.

Trump again is rolling back just about every liberal piece of legislation protecting the poor, the sick, the disabled and America’s precious and beautiful natural environment. All for corporate profit. This has meant the brutalisation of indigenous Americans, protecting their tribal lands and water, and the other Americans, who’ve stood with them. He is also a threat to America’s immigrant communities, and his ICE immigration police have broken up families.

Just as Nigel Farage’s UKIP threatened to do over here.

And lastly, Seder makes a good point when he states that the outrage over Griffin is what happens when Conservatives take over all three centres of power in the government: the outrage they feed on has to come from the culture, as they can’t reveal the far more genuine anger and outrage against what they themselves have done to America’s vulnerable and working people.

Counterpunch Interview with Palestinian and Israeli Nonviolent Campaigners

May 6, 2017

Last week, Counterpunch published an interview by Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb with Sami Awad, a Christian Palestinian, and Yoav Litvin, a former Israeli soldier, about their campaigns to bring about an end to the brutalisation of the Palestinian people and conflict between Jews and Arabs in the Holy Land, based on the Gandhian principles of nonviolence and civil resistance. For example, Sami Awad in the articles states that he is horrified that Palestinian children don’t have Jewish friends, thanks to the system of segregation. Rabbi Gottlieb also notes that apart from the well-known conflict between Israelis and Arabs there are also tensions between Eurpean and American descended Jews and the Mizrahim, the indigenous Middle Eastern Jews. She states that the myth of the Jews returning to their ancestral homeland after 2000 years of exile has resulted in the Jewish state erasing the long history of the region’s indigenous Jews.

In her introduction, Rabbi Gottlieb writes

Sami Awad and Yoav Litvin are two men whose lives have been deeply impacted by the events of 1948 and 1967 when Palestinians were collectively driven from their homes and villages in order to make room for Jewish settlement. The Israeli Occupation of Palestine is ongoing; Israeli policies that resulted from the events of 1948 and 1967 continue to create daily suffering in the lives of Palestinians.

Sami Awad comes from a lineage of Palestinian Christians from Bethlehem. He was influenced to follow the path of nonviolence by his uncle, Mubarak Awad, a follower of Gandhi. Sami created an alternative institution, The Holy Land Trust, which is part of the wave of nonviolent movement building dedicated to resisting Occupation, which grew out of the first Intifada.

Yoav Litvin went through a personal journey from acceptance of the pre-determined role of Zionist soldier-guardian, to a person who dissents from the Israeli status quo regarding Palestinians. He uses his skills as a psychologist/neuroscientist and writer/artist to promote accountability, healing and reconciliation.

People who resist the systemic violence of Israeli Occupation in Palestine and Israel have a lot to teach us about building nonviolent movements for justice and social change under extremely challenging conditions. Millions of Palestinians suffer under a settler-colonial regime that is engaged in continuous appropriation of land, ghettoization and isolation, the imposition of hundreds of check points that curtail freedom of movement and economic growth, destruction of homes, villages and farm land, forced water deprivation, the blockade of Gaza, constant military invasion and assault, two separate and unequal systems of justice and so many other features of Israeli rule that deprive Palestinians of their capacity to live peacefully and without fear upon the land of their ancestors or fulfill their personal dreams. In addition to the Israeli Jewish and Palestinian conflict, social, political, cultural and economic divides among Ashkenazi and Mizrahi Jews in Israel is another complex component of the process of conflict transformation. The Zionist myth of a 2000-year absence and subsequent return of Jews to the land erases the long history of the Jews of the Middle East who are indigenous to the region.

In response to Israeli apartheid, Palestinians have chosen to resist forced removal from ancestral lands with a variety of mostly nonviolent tactics. Inspired by the successful South African struggle to end apartheid, Palestinians called upon the international community to take up boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) as a nonviolent solidarity tactic on July 9, 2005 after the International Court of Justice declared the Separation Wall illegal on July 9, 2004. In addition to BDS, Palestinians employ prisoner hunger strikes, Friday demonstrations against the Separation Barrier, the creation of ‘Tent Cities’, and Palestinian cultural arts to remain ‘sumud’, that is, ‘steadfast’ to their commitment to keep living on ancestral lands and preserving Palestinian culture. Palestinians refuse to be erased from history and place. Intifada, in its original meaning, means to shake off oppression through the art of resistance. This is a daily, and unavoidable practice for Palestinians, as it is a condition of existence under Israeli occupation for those who remain.

Israeli Jews who dissent from Occupation, although few in number, continue to create methods of solidarity in support of Palestinian human rights. Groups such as Israeli Committee Against Home Demolition (ICAHD), Combatants for Peace, Breaking the Silence, Who Profits?, Anarchists Against the Wall, Machsom Watch, Shministim, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and +972 are platforms of resistance to Occupation. The Palestinian community living inside ‘1948’ also engages in resistance through alternative institution building and human rights advocacy that includes groups like Adalah-the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, Adammer (prisoner rights) and many more. Palestinians living inside Israel face ongoing assaults on their capacity to remain on traditional lands and neighborhoods as well as achieve equal rights under Israeli law. The ongoing atmosphere of racism is the price Palestinians pay for continuing to live in Israel.

This is a fascinating alternative insight into the activism of decent, honourable men and women, seeking to remove a monstrous injustice. Much of this is new to me. I don’t believe I’ve heard anyone talking about non-violent resistance by the Palestinians. The news you hear about from the region seems to be exclusively about bloodshed. I’ve come across the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions, but have never come across many of the other Israeli groups mentioned in this article, such as Combatants for Peace. I’m not surprised, however. Amos Oz in his book, The Israelis, records the sorrow and guilt expressed by many Israeli soldiers for their role in expelling Palestinians during the Six Day War.

The article’s at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/04/28/never-give-up-nonviolent-civilian-resistance-healing-and-active-hope-in-the-holyland/

May the Lord bless all those striving to bring a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and indeed to everyone trying to create a better future in the Middle East, one without terror, sectarianism, and imperialism.

Jimmy Dore: Pentagon-Backed Rebels Fight CIA-Backed Rebels in Syria

April 20, 2017

Here’s another brilliant little video from the Jimmy Dore Show, which casts further light on the US’ role in spreading the carnage and chaos in Syria. In this clip, the comedian, with his co-hosts Steffi Zamora and Ron Placone, talk about a story which appeared in March, 2016, in the Los Angeles Times. The Pentagon and the CIA are backing different rebel factions in Syria. The Pentagon is backing one bunch as part of their campaign against ISIS, while the CIA is arming another group in order, the paper claimed, to bring Assad to the negotiating table. As Dore points out, this isn’t what the CIA and its government paymasters want. They want to oust Assad altogether. He reminds his viewers how the United States was approached by Saudi Arabia and Qatar several years ago. The two Arab nations offered to pay if America invaded Syria and overthrew Assad. They want to put an oil pipeline from their countries through Syria into Turkey, but Assad, an ally of Russia, is opposing it. This is the real reason behind the concerted military campaign against Assad, loudly supported by the American media. It has absolutely nothing to do with humanitarian atrocities by the Syrian leader. It’s just about oil, and corporate profit.

But the different rebel factions are turning their guns on each other, fighting over the territory between Aleppo and the Turkish border. Not only have they been fighting in the northern suburbs of the city of Aleppo itself, but in February 2016 the Fursan al-Haq, or Knights of Righteousness, a militia backed by the CIA, was thrown out of the town of Marea, 20 miles north of the Aleppo, by the Syrian Democratic Forces advancing from Syria’s Kurdish areas, backed by the Pentagon. The paper stated that this shows how little control US intelligence has over the various factions it funds and arms in the Syrian civil war.

Dore makes the point of comparing this to the chaos of Iraq and Libya. Both are now failed states, and the latter is riddled with terrorist factions. The politicians and military had absolutely no clue how to run these countries, or what to do if they ousted the dictator. And now they’re doing it again. He goes further and states that America shouldn’t be trying to overthrow other governments, when it can’t even supply its own people with clean drinking water in Flint, Michigan.

Dore states that this shows that these stories do get into the news. He was moved to talk about this story because a person he was talking to about the situation in Syria not only didn’t believe him, but called him a conspiracy theorist, like Alex Jones. So Dore decided to present this piece of news, to show how bonkers he must be to get something like this from the mainstream press. He cites the example of another American news commenter, who used to come on his show with a stack of papers to show that the items he was talking about really had happened, and were in the press. However, they weren’t on the front page. They were buried on page 18, and only appeared every one in a while. But as George Bush said, the essence of lying is to keep repeating the lie. So the American press puts on the front page stories about how Assad is a butcher, who must be overthrown. He then goes on to say that if it was up to him, the New York Times would have on its front page the news that 45 million Americans were now living in poverty in the richest country in the world. And 33,000 people every year die from lack of healthcare, although he qualifies this by saying he’s not sure if its the real figure.

The Case for Prosecuting Blair as War Criminal for Iraq Invasion

April 8, 2017

War Crime or Just War? The Iraq War 2003-2005: The Case against Blair, by Nicholas Wood, edited by Anabella Pellens (London: South Hill Press 2005).

This is another book I’ve picked up in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham. It’s an angry and impassioned book, whose author is deeply outraged by Blair’s unprovoked and illegal invasion, the consequent carnage and looting and the massive human rights abuses committed by us and the Americans. William Blum in one of his books states that following the Iraq War there was an attempt by Greek, British and Canadian human rights lawyers to have Bush, Blair and other senior politicians and official brought to the international war crimes court in the Hague for prosecution for their crimes against humanity. This books presents a convincing case for such a prosecution, citing the relevant human rights and war crimes legislation, and presenting a history of Iraq and its despoliation by us, the British, from Henry Layard seizing the archaeological remains at Nineveh in 1845 to the Iraq War and the brutalisation of its citizens.

The blurb on the back cover reads:

After conversations with Rob Murthwaite, human rights law lecturer, the author presents a claim for investigation by The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Maanweg 174, 2516 AB The Hague, The Netherlands, that there have been breaches of the ICC Statute by members of the UK Government and Military in the run up to and conduct of the war with Iraq. That there is also prima facie evidence that the Hague and Geneva conventions, the Nuremberg and the United Nations Charters have been breached, and that this evidence may allow members of the UK and US Governments, without state immunity or statute of limitations, to be extradited to account for themselves. The use of hoods, cable ties, torture, mercenaries, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, aggressive patrols and dogs, is examined. Questions are raised over the religious nature of the war, the seizure of the oil fields, Britain’s continuous use of the RAF to bomb Iraq in 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1990s archaeologists acting as spies, the destruction of Fallujah, the burning and looting of libraries, museums and historic monuments; and the contempt shown towards Iraqis living, dead and injured.

In his preface Wood states that the conversation he had with Rob Murthwaite out of which the book grew, was when they were composing a letter for the Stop the War Coalition, which they were going to send to the International Criminal Court at the Hague. Wood himself is an archaeologist, and states that he is particularly shocked at the imposition of American culture in Saudi Arabia. The book’s editor, Anabella Pellens, is Argentinian and so ‘knows what imprisonment and disappearance mean’.

In his introduction Wood argues that there were four reasons for the invasion of Iraq. The first was to introduce democracy to the country. Here he points out that to Americans, democracy also means free markets and privatisation for American commercial interests. The second was to seized its oil supplies and break OPEC’s power. The third was Israel. The United States and Israel for several years before the War had been considering various projects for a water pipeline from the Euphrates to Israel. The Israelis also favoured setting up a Kurdish state, which would be friendly to them. They were also concerned about Hussein supplying money to the Palestinians and the Scuds launched against Israel during the 1992 Gulf War. And then there are the plans of the extreme Zionists, which I’ve blogged about elsewhere, to expand Israel eastwards into Iraq itself. The fourth motive is the establishment of American military power. Here Wood argues that in the aftermath of 9/11 it was not enough simply to invade Afghanistan: another country had to be invaded and destroyed to demonstrate the effectiveness of the American military machine.

Chapter 1 is a brief history of Iraq and its oil, with a commentary on the tragedy of the country, discussing the Gulf War and the Iraq invasion in the context of British imperialism, with another section on British imperialism and Kuwait.

Chapter 2 is a summary of the laws and customs of war, which also includes the relevant clauses from the regulations it cites. This includes

Habeas Corpus in the Magna Carta of 1215

The establishment of the Geneva Convention and the Red Cross

The Hague Convention of 1907: Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land
This includes a summary of the main clauses, and states the contents of the regulations.

The United Nations Charter of 1945

The Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal, 1945
This sections shows how the judgements are relevant to the British invasion and occupation of Iraq. It also gives a summary of the judgments passed at the Nuremberg trials, beginning with the indictment, and the individual verdicts against Goering, Hess, Ribbentrop, Keitel, Kaltenbrunner, Frick, Streicher, Rosenberg, Frank, Funk, Schacht, Doenitz, Raeder, Von Schirack, Sauckel, Jodl, Von Papen, Seyss-Inquart, Speer, Von Neurath, Fritzsche, and Borman.

The Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Protocols, containing extracts from
Convention 1 – For the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in the Armed Forces in the Field; Convention III – Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War; IV – Relative to the Protection of Civilian persons in Times of War.

There are also extracts from

The Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, 1954;

Protocol 1 Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts, 1977.

Protocols to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious Or to Have Indiscriminate Effects, Geneva 1980.

The 1997 Ottawa Convention and the treaty banning mines.

A summary of the rules of engagement for the 1991 Gulf War, which was issued as a pocket card to be carried by US soldiers.

The 1993 Hague Convention.

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, 2002.

The International Criminal Court Act of 2001 and the incorporation of the Rome Statute into British law. This gives both the aims of the act and a summary of the act itself.

Lastly there are a few paragraphs on the Pinochet case of 1998, and extradition as a method of bringing justice.

Chapter 3 is on allies in war as partners in war crimes committed.

Chapter 4 is on the deception and conspiracy by Bush and Blair, which resulted in their invasion. This begins by discussing the American plans in the 1970s for an invasion of the Middle East to seize their oil supplies during the oil crisis provoked by the Six Day War. In this chapter Wood reproduces some of the relevant correspondence cited in the debates in this period, including a letter by Clare short.

Chapter 5 describes how Clare Short’s own experience of the Prime Minister’s recklessness, where it was shown he hadn’t a clue what to do once the country was conquered, led her to resign from the cabinet. Wood states very clearly in his title to this chapter how it violates one of the fundamental lessons of the great Prussian militarist, Clausewitz, that you must always know what to do with a conquered nation or territory.

Chapter 6: A Ruthless Government describes the vicious persecution of the government’s critics and their removal from office. Among Blair’s victims were the weapons scientist Dr David Kelly, who killed himself after questioning by the Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee and MOD and an intense attempt by Blair and his cabinet to discredit him; the Director General of the BBC, Greg Dyke, Gavin Davies, the Beeb’s chairman, and the reporter, Andrew Gilligan. Others target for attack and vilification included Katherine Gun, a translator at GCHQ, the head of the nuclear, chemical and biological branch of the Defence Intelligence Staff, Dr Brian Jones, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, a Deputy Legal Advisor to Foreign Office, George Galloway, Paul Bigley, the brother of the kidnap victim Ken Bigley, and Clare Short. Bigley’s apartment in Belgium was ransacked by MI6 and the RFBI and his computer removed because he blamed Blair for his brother’s kidnap and beheading by an Iraqi military faction. There is a subsection in this chapter on the case of Craig Murray. Murray is the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, who got the boot because he told the government that the president was an evil dictator, who had boiled someone alive. This was most definitely not something Blair wanted to hear.

Chapter 7 is a series of cases studies. Each case has its own section, which includes the relevant Human Rights and war crimes legislation.

7A is on the breakdown of the country’s civil administration and political persecution. The two are linked, as Blair and Bush had all members of the Baath party dismissed from their posts. However, membership of the party was a requirement for employment in public posts across a wide range of fields. Wood points out that you could not even be a junior university lecturer without being a member of the party. As a result, the country was immediately plunged into chaos as the people who ran it were removed from their positions without anyone to take over. In this chapter Wood also discusses the unemployment caused by the war, and the disastrous effect the invasion had on the position of women.

7B is on the destruction of services infrastructure.

7C is on damage to hospitals and attacks on medical facilities.

7D is on the destruction and looting of museums, libraries and archaeological sites. Remember the outrage when ISIS levelled Nineveh and destroyed priceless antiquities in Mosul? The US and Britain are hardly innocent of similar crimes against this most ancient of nation’s heritage. The Americans caused considerable damage to Babylon when they decided to make it their base. This included breaking up the city’s very bricks, stamped with the names of ancient kings, for use as sand for their barricades around it. Remind me who the barbarians are again, please?

7E – Seizing the Assets is on the American and British corporate looting of the country through the privatisation and seizure of state-owned industries, particularly oil. This is very much in contravention of international law.

7F – Stealing their plants. This was covered in Private Eye at the time, though I’m not sure if it was mentioned anywhere else. Iraq has some of the oldest varieties of food crops in the world, among other biological treasures. These are varieties of plants that haven’t change since humans first settled down to farm 7-8 thousand years ago. Monsanto and the other GM firms desperately wanted to get their mitts on them. So they patented them, thus making the traditional crops Iraqi farmers had grown since time immemorial theirs, for which the farmers had to pay.

7G describes how the Christian religious element in the war gave it the nature of a Crusade, and religious persecution. The aggressive patrols and tactics used to humiliate and break suspects involve the violation of their religious beliefs. For example, dogs are unclean animals to Muslims, and would never be allowed inside a house. So dogs are used to inspect suspect’s houses, even the bedrooms, by the aggressive patrols. Muslims have their religious items confiscated, in contravention of their rules of war. One man was also forced to eat pork and drink alcohol, which is was against his religion as a Muslim. The message by some of the army ministers and preachers that Islam is an evil religion means that Iraqis, as Muslims, are demonised and that instead of being viewed as people to be liberated they are cast as enemies.

There are several sections on the restraint of suspects. These include the use of cable ties, hoods, which have resulted in the death of at least two people, setting dogs on people, standing for hours and other tortures, which includes a list of the types of torture permitted by Donald Rumsfeld, aggressive patrolling, killing and wounding treacherously – which means, amongst other things, pretending to surrender and then shooting the victims after they have let their guard down, marking the bodies of victims in order to humiliate them, the deliberate targeting of the house owned by the Hamoodi family of Chemical Ali, the mass shooting from aircraft of a wedding party in the Iraqi desert by the Americans, but supported by the British; another incident in which people gathered in a street in Haifa around a burning US vehicle were shot and massacred; cluster bombs, including evidence that these were used at Hilla; the use of depleted uranium. Thanks to the use of this material to increase the penetrating power of shells, the incidence of leukaemia and other cancers and birth defects has rocketed in parts of Iraq. Children have been born without heads or limbs. One doctor has said that women are afraid to get pregnant because of the widespread incidence of such deformities; the use of mercenaries. Private military contractors have been used extensively by the occupying armies. Counterpunch has attacked their use along with other magazines, like Private Eye, because of their lawlessness. As they’re not actually part of the army, their casualties also don’t feature among the figures for allied casualties, thus making it seem that there are fewer of them than there actually is. They also have the advantage in that such mercenaries are not covered by the Geneva and other conventions. Revenge killings by British forces in the attacks on Fallujah. 7W discusses the way the Blair regime refused to provide figures for the real number of people killed by the war, and criticised the respected British medical journal, the Lancet, when it said it could have been as many as 100,000.

In the conclusion Wood discusses the occupation of Iraq and the political motivations for it and its connection to other historical abuses by the British and Americans, such as the genocide of the Indians in North America. He describes the horrific experiences of some Iraqi civilians, including a little girl, who saw her sisters and thirteen year old brother killed by British soldiers. He states that he hopes the book will stimulate debate, and provides a scenario in which Blair goes to Jordan on holiday, only to be arrested and extradited to be tried as a war criminal for a prosecution brought by the farmers of Hilla province. The book has a stop press, listing further developments up to 2005, and a timeline of the war from 2003-5.

The book appears to me, admittedly a layman, to build a very strong case for the prosecution of Tony Blair for his part in the invasion of Iraq. Wood shows that the war and the policies adopted by the occupying powers were illegal and unjust, and documents the horrific brutality and atrocities committed by British and US troops.

Unfortunately, as Bloom has discussed on his website and in his books, Bush, Blair and the other monsters were not prosecuted, as there was political pressure put on the ICC prosecutor and chief justice. Nevertheless, the breaches of international law were so clear, that in 2004 Donald Rumsfeld was forced to cancel a proposed holiday in Germany. German law provided that he could indeed be arrested for his part in these war crimes, and extradited to face trial. To which I can only salute the new Germany and its people for their commitment to democracy and peace!

While there’s little chance that Blair will face judgement for his crimes, the book is still useful, along with other books on the Iraq invasion like Greg Palast’s Armed Madhouse, and the works of William Bloom, in showing why this mass murderer should not be given any support whatsoever, and his attempt to return to politics, supposedly to lead a revival of the political centre ground, is grotesque and disgusting.

The book notes that millions of ordinary Brits opposed the war and marched against it. Between 100 and 150 MPs also voted against it. One of those who didn’t, was Iain Duncan Smith, who shouted ‘Saddam must go!’ Somehow, given Smith’s subsequent term in the DWP overseeing the deaths of tens or hundreds of thousands of benefit claims after their benefits were stopped, this didn’t surprise. He is clearly a militarist, despite his own manifest unfitness for any form of leadership, military or civil.

Dr Cornel West on Standing with the Native Americans, Teaching Public Philosophy and Castro

December 2, 2016

This is a clip from Democracy Now, in which the anchor, Amy Goodson, talks to the very distinguished radical Black professor, Dr. Cornel West. Dr. West is a radical Christian theologian and philosopher, standing up for the poor and minorities. In his personal appearance and speaking style, he reminds me of the great, progressive evangelical preachers of the 19th century, who campaigned against slavery and the exploitation of the poor in both America and Britain. His clothing style strikes me as rather 19th century, and when he talks, he describes people as ‘brother’ and ‘sister’. He’s campaigned for Bernie Sanders, and also for Dr. Jill Stein of the Green party.

In this segment, he talks about going to Standing Rock to show his solidarity with the water protectors and the Native peoples. He states that this is the greatest coming-together of the 200 First American nations since the 19th century. He doesn’t intend to anything, except follow orders and support them. Amy Goodson asks him what he thinks about Barack Obama, as Obama visited Standing Rock in 2014. This was unusual for a president, and he has talked about supporting Native Americans. He sent in the US corps of engineers, and has tried to broker arrangements between the three parties involved. Dr West agrees, but says that Obama has managed to impress people by talking ‘pretty words’ while actually doing very little about the situation.

Dr. West also talks about how he is about to take up a new post at Harvard, teaching engagement in public philosophy. He looks forward to this appointment teaching young minds about taking up the great issues that confront America and the world. He also says that it’s going to be post where he shares and learns from others from different political perspectives, such as Conservatives and Centrists.

Finally, Goodson asks him about his views on Fidel Castro. West makes it clear that he admires the Cuban dictator, and the support he gave to the struggles of Africans and the Cuban people against imperialism. He also condemns Castro as a dictator. He criticises him for the way he hung to power and oppressed his people. He himself has gone to Cuba, and was taken to the palace to be upbraided by the Cuban authorities. He was a radical, democratic Socialist, who believed in the circulation of elites. That means not letting anyone person stay in power for too long, and throwing them out after a little while to get a fresh leader in. He made that point about Castro, and so was accused of being counterrevolutionary. But he also makes the point that the Cubans were oppressed under Battista. He therefore salutes Castro for his anti-imperialism, and the Cuban medical and educational systems. He says that Castro was a great revolutionary, ‘and I’m a revolutionary Christian. I love it.’

Many Black Americans have expressed and given their support to the Native Americans at Standing Rock, and identify with their struggle. And I don’t think it takes a genius to see why. It seems to be that both peoples have a shared history as the dispossessed, exploited victims of White supremacism, a supremacism that is coming back under Trump, and which many Whites are also very firmly against. It’s excellent that Dr West is giving the Native peoples his support, and it’d be interesting to hear his experiences of standing with the Water Protectors.

The Young Turks on Bernie Sanders at the White House Urging Action against DAPL

November 28, 2016

Yesterday I posted a piece from The Young Turks’ reporter, Jordan Cheriton, interviewing Oscar Salazar, one of the water protectors demonstrating against the North Dakota pipeline. Mr Salazar is an immense fan of Bernie Sanders, and invited the self-declared ‘democratic Socialist’ politico to make a personal visit to Standing Rock. Bernie Sanders has been a vocal supporter of the water protectors for a long time, joining their struggle before most other big name supporters. He is also known for his own interest and support in Native American issues, in sharp contrast to the majority of American politicians. The media were surprised during his campaign to win the Democratic presidential nomination earlier this year when he took the time to talk to Native delegates to the Convention, and he has visited and spoken to Native Americans about the issues that matter to them on their reservations.

In this short clip from The Young Turks, Michael Shure, Jimmy Dore and Bill Mankiewicz discuss the speech Sanders made at the White House, urging Barack Obama step in and stop the pipeline, even if it means declaring the area a national monument. Every environmental study states that this is necessary. Shure states that he believes that Obama is not ignoring the protest simply to obey the wishes of powerful corporate donors. But he doesn’t know why he isn’t acting either. Jimmy Dore, who is also bitterly critical of Obama’s foreign policy stance and his legacy in continuing Bush’s wars and the expansion of the surveillance state, states that he doesn’t know either, particularly how Obama can sleep at night knowing that the pipeline, and very many other injustices, are going on. He also quotes a speech from Obama, in which he talked about restoring tribal self-determination, security and prosperity to Native Americans, and while they couldn’t erase the scourge of broken promises in the past, they could move together in creating a new chapter in their shared history. Dore concluded from this that Obama knows what to say, he just doesn’t know about putting it into practice. Both Dore and Mankiewicz state that he should do so now. Mankiewicz also states that he thinks that Obama called the army engineers, believing this was enough to sort the matter out, at least until it became someone else’s problem. It hasn’t, and the problem is escalating.

As Dore’s quote shows, people have long memories, and the part of the media that is actually serious about doing its job does hold politicians to the promises they make. And unfortunately for Obama, the demonstrators at Standing Rock are very well aware that the violation of the Sioux nation’s reservation for this pipeline fits in the with the long history of broken promises and the forcible seizure of tribal land. If the president ever was serious about this speech – if it was ever anything more than pretty words – then he should do something about it now, and stop the pipeline becoming yet another entry in that long list of broken promises.

TYT: Actor James Cromwell Blasts Oil Police Thugs and Corporate Media

November 27, 2016

This is another clip from The Young Turks about the protests against the oil pipeline at Standing Rock. In this piece, James Cromwell, the Hollywood actor, talks to The Turks’ Jordan Cheriton about how the thuggish behaviour of the rozzers at Standing Rock and the way the protests have been completely ignored by the mainstream corporate media shows the racism against Native Americans. When there are demonstrations elsewhere, the cops react decently. They arrest people, but don’t usually attack or maltreat them. Here it’s different. And this shows the racism against Native Americans. He also notes that when there are protests and riots in the east, the mainstream media are there. But they’re not covering this protest, with the exception of The Young Turks, because they’re really controlled by the oil companies and the bottom line of not doing anything that would upset their sponsors. The only way to be informed in this country [America] is by people looking it up on YouTube. The clip ends with another Native American chant, which I believe must be in the Sioux language, against the pipeline.

Cromwell’s appeared in a number of Hollywood blockbusters. I remember him from Star Trek: First Contact and Deep Impact. He’s not the first big name Hollywood actor, who’s lent their voice to Native protests. Marlon Brando also did so in the 1970s, when he joined one of the peoples on the West Coast defending their fishing rights against another company. Cromwell is also right about people turning to the internet to see what’s really going on. This applies to both left and right, though sometimes people from radically opposed parts of the political spectrum look at the same news sources. I was talking the other day to someone, who clearly viewed themselves as a supporter of small government, who also watched RT as well as Fox News.

The mainstream media and the Beeb in particular are complaining about the way their ability to shape the political consensus is breaking down. They moan that it is making people more polarised in their opinions through people of different political views watching only the news channels that share their opinions. But the underlying problem is not addressed or even acknowledged. The mainstream media has a very pronounced corporate bias. Cromwell describes how it works in America. Over here in Britain, where we supposedly have the impartial BBC, the Corporation is still biased. Books and studies have been published, most recently by Cardiff, Edinburgh and Glasgow universities, showing that the Beeb is very much biased towards the establishment. They are far more likely to interview Conservative MPs and managing directors than Labour MPs and trade unionists, and when they do, they are far more likely to accept automatically the views of the Tories and businessmen as being true. And I’ve quoted Barry and Saville Kushner, the authors of Who Needs the Cuts?, how they were constantly infuriated by the Corporation’s automatic assumption that cuts were necessary and the way BBC announcers and reporters shouted down Labour leaders and politicians, who dared to contradict them. And the other year Mike reported how the Beeb was very definitely not reporting on the massive demonstration against its bias that was occurring on its very doorstep. It did report it online, but definitely not as an item on the television.

If people are abandoning mainstream media, it’s because that media is flagrantly biased. It therefore deserves to lose viewers until it corrects this.

TYT: Water Protector Urges Bernie Sanders to Come to Standing Rock

November 27, 2016

In this clip, The Young Turks journalist Jordan Cheriton, who’s been reporting on the Standing Rock protests against the oil companies’ efforts to drive a pipeline through Sioux treaty land, interviews Oscar Salazar, one of the water protectors. Salazar’s wearing a jumpsuit and clothing covered with Bernie Sanders’ face. He’s a big fan of Bernie Sanders, because of the way Sanders has stood up and talked about the issues facing Native Americans. He makes the point that when Sanders did so, he was thought crazy by the media. Sanders has been an outspoken critic of the oil company and the pipeline, and has supported the protestors and water protectors. Salazar states that such supported is needed because of the way indigenous Americans have been and are being treated, and the way the Native community has much to teach other Americans about living in harmony with the environment. At Cheriton’s urging, he looks into the camera, and asks the Congressman to come to Standing Rock to see for himself what is going on, and states that the protestors are not going to back down and the demonstration will continue.

The clip shows some of Sanders’ tweets supporting the water protectors, and footage of the protestors in the river being blocked and sprayed by the police goons to stop them going on to the island on which the tribe’s dead are buried. The clip ends with the Native chant about the protests against the pipeline.