Monday, October 31, 2005

One man's profit, another man's grave - War and Global Coolie trade

"Welcome to Kellog Tower"

a corner of the Halliburton empire.

TWO items picked up by Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter,
show another grim aspect of the involvment of big US firms in Iraq.
War, and before that sanctions, have resulted in mass destruction and unemployment in Iraq. Iraqi workers want to rebuild their country and their lives, but firms are importing Asian Coolie labour, not just because it is cheap, but to do work which Iraqi workers would refuse either on principle or because it would make them targets.
Desperate and deceived as to where they are going, and what they are in for, these unfortunates - "third country nationals", or "TCNs"are being used to try and make Iraq safe for continuing American occupation.

U.S. cash fuels human trade

The Chicago Tribune reports (October 9th): American tax dollars are fueling an illicit pipeline of cheap foreign labour, mainly impoverished Asians who often are deceived, exploited and put in harm’s way in Iraq with little protection. The U.S. military has allowed KBR to partner with subcontractors that hire labourers from Nepal and other countries that prohibit citizens from being deployed in Iraq. That means brokers recruiting such workers operate illicitly.
The U.S. military and KBR assume no responsibility for the recruitment, transportation or protection of foreign workers brought to the country. KBR leaves every aspect of hiring and deployment in the hands of its subcontractors. Those subcontractors often turn to job brokers dealing in menial labourers. They lure labourers to Iraq with false promises of lucrative, safe jobs in nations such as Jordan and Kuwait, even falsifying documents to complete the deception.
Even after foreign workers discover they have been lured under false pretences, many say they have little choice but to continue into Iraq because they must repay brokers' huge fees. Some U.S. subcontractors in Iraq and the brokers feeding them - employ practices condemned by the U.S. elsewhere, including fraud, coercion and seizure of workers' passports.

Asia’s Poor Build U.S. Bases in Iraq

Corpwatch report (October 3rd): Tens of thousands of third country nationals (TCN) are employed through complex layers of companies working in Iraq. At the top of the pyramid-shaped system is the U.S. government, which assigned over $24 billion in contracts over the last two years. Just below that layer are the prime contractors like Halliburton and Bechtel. Below them are dozens of smaller subcontracting companies. This layered system creates an untraceable trail of contracts that clouds the liability of companies and hinders comprehensive oversight by U.S. contract auditors.
But there is also a human cost to this savings. TCNs frequently sleep in crowded trailers and wait outside in line in 100 degree plus heat to eat slop. Many are said to lack adequate medical care and put in hard labour seven days a week, 10 hours or more a day, for little or no overtime pay. When frequent gunfire, rockets and mortar shell from the ongoing conflict hits the sprawling military camps, American contractors slip on helmets and bulletproof vests, but TCNs are frequently shielded only by the shirts on their backs and the flimsy trailers they sleep in.

Vote of confidence?

IOF Newsletter also takes a detailed look at results in the Iraqi constitutional referendum, and includes this snippet from the New York Sunday Times (October 17)
Iraqi election officials said that they were investigating what they described as "unusually high" vote totals in 12 Shiite and Kurdish provinces, where as many 99 percent of the voters were reported to have cast ballots in favour of Iraq's new constitution, raising the possibility that the results of Saturday’s referendum could be called into question.

I bet Mr.Talabani's boys are searching out that bold one per cent right now.


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Sunday, October 30, 2005

Germany shuts out Iraqi trade unionists

THEY say "Money Talks".
This is Big Money.

The Greenford, west London, offices of Kellog, Brown, Root, part of Haliburton, the big US corporation that kept vice-president Dick Cheney on its payroll and was first in the rush for fat military and government contracts from the war on Iraq. From tackling oilfires to building cages at Guantanamo, Halliburton is there. In Britain, the US corporation's tentacles stretch from Devonport naval dockyard and the army's tank transporters to NHS computers, and dustcarts in Ealing. The London borough's cleaning and refuse services are handled by Cardinal, another Halliburton offshoot.
In the United States, Halliburton was investigated over contracts and charging. The British government lets the giant firm alone. But in Iraq, oilworkers belonging to the General Union of Oil Employees said they could maintain the industry themselves, and chased Halliburton contract staff out.
They say money talks.
Maybe Big Money doesn't need to do more than whisper in the right ears.
So long as it can rely on governments to stifle the voices of those who stand up against it.

Iraqi women trades unionists barred from Germany

GERMAN trades unionists and others concerned with peace and human rights have just been denied the chance to hear an important but little-heard point of view, by an action of some faceless bureaucrats. What's behind their decision we don't know, though we have our suspicions, because they won't say

Two Iraqi trades unionists were due to start a three week tour of Germany on October 20. Mrs. Bushra A.Abbood and Taha A Ibrahim Breshdi would have been the first women from the Iraqi oil workers' union to make an overseas visit. If media coverage in Germany is anything like that in Britain, Iraqis as sheikhs, religious fanatics, women in chadors and terrorists, then you are unlikely to see or hear an Iraqi trades unionist, let alone a woman trades unionist.

Nor do we get the viewpoint of Iraqi workers resisting the occupation, privatisation and corporate plunder of their country; Iraqis who don't confuse popular resistance with terror against their people, as intent on removing the Ba'athist bosses as on seeing the back of the occupiers.
That viewpoint, too often ignored by many on the Left let alone the bourgeois media, is the stand of the General Union of Oil Employees in Basra, which Bushra and Taha were representing.

The Initiative Group organising the tour had done its work. More than a hundred German trade unions, peace groups etc were looking forward to welcoming the two Iraqi women. Some MPs supported the visit. Tour organisers say they had been assured for several weeks before that there should be no problems with the visa applications. Then on Tuesday, October 18th, with two days to, the visas were refused. Why?

The German Foreign office refused to tell why the visas were denied, saying that ˜Under German law and in line with established international practice, no reasons for such denial need be given".

Lawyers acting on behalf of the the Initiative Group have issued an interim charge against the German Foreign Office to challenge the Visa denial. The group are also urging supporters in Germany and other countries to protest to the German Foreign Ministry and embassies.

You can e-mail the foreign office at
I have done so.

The General Union of Oil Employees now has an English-language website at

There is a UK support group for the oil union
for which campaigning journalist Ewa Jasiewitz is spokesperson.

Ewa Jasiewicz
UK Support Committee for the GUOE
0044 7749 421 576

Last but not least, Hassan Jumaa of the GUOE , who came here last year to meet British trades unionists and had a standing ovation at the Stop the War conference, will be among the 'Voices of Iraq' speaking at the Iraq Occupation Focus teach-in, at University of London Union, on November 26.


War kills people not maps

War kills people not maps

WAR can no longer be ruled out, says Tony Blair, in respose to the speech by Iranian President Ahmadnejad about Israel being "wiped off the map". For millions of people in Britain, Iran, the United States and Israel, the thought of another war in the Middle East, with who knows what destruction, is too terrifying to contemplate.

But frightening though it is, it may suit their governments to take that risk. It may suit Blair and Ahmadnejad to play with fire just as it once suited Thatcher and General Galtieri to send young men to their death in the South Atlantic to gamble their way out of troubles at home.
Only this time it's not some godforsaken islands at stake, but a Middle East packed with explosive material in every sense, and innocent people at risk in Tehran, Tel Aviv, Gaza or London.

To put the Iranian "threat" in perspective it is nothing new. Ahmadnejad may have raised a response from his crowd but he was only quoting what Ayatollah Khomeini once promised. This did not stop Israel or the Western Allies doing business with Iran. Israeli middlemen even helped Washington's covert arms supplies to Iran to keep its Gulf War going with Iraq.

Iran's rulers may have helped and encouraged co-religionists in Lebanon, but the Hizbollahi fought a resistance war, driving Israeli forces back over their border not wiping Israel off the map. We don't know whether Iranian intelligence services were involved in terror bombings in Buenos Ayres, or even the Lockerbie airliner bombing (seen as a reprisal for US navy downing an Iranian airliner with similar loss of life. The US ship's commander was decorated). But British security services, government and media have preferred to look away, in order to improve relations with Iran.

Only now it is different. Not because of a speech in Tehran. Not even because of Iran's nuclear development, which the British government had previously been urging be dealt with my diplomatic means. Iran, incidentally, is a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty, whereas Israel, with its nuclear arsenal is not. As for UN inspectors, let's not forget Israel's "inspector", Mordechai Vanunu, still under what amounts to house arrest. We may wonder why an oil-rich country like Iran needs nuclear power, but with concern about climate change some people here are reviving the argument for nuclear energy.

On September 18, police in the Iraqi city of Basra stopped a car whose occupants tried to shoot their way past a checkpoint. In it they found two British special forces personnel in Arab dress, with explosives and remote detonators. This was near an important Shia mosque, and the men were allegedly making to look like Sunnis. The British Army, hitherto presented in the media as "friendly" occupiers, smashed its way into Basra police station to free its men, killing people and destroying cars and property en route, and incidentally releasing 150 other prisoners.

We can't help wondering how many covert operations had been carried out in Iraq before the two men got caught. The British media loyally claimed the men were on "surveillance", dropped mention of the explosives from later bulletins, then carried the story that the Basra police were really Muqtada al Sadr's militia. Then Tony Blair accused Iran of smuggling explosive devices into Iraq, and declared without any sense of irony that "neither Iran nor any other country has the right to interfere in Iraq"!

Since then there have been reports of bombings in Iran which the Iranian government is blaming on British special forces. The British naturally denies any such suggestion, just as it always insisted it was only trying to keep the peace between warring factions in Iraq. The name of the game is Diplomacy, but like the Three Card Trick, "Don't watch their mouths, watch their hands".

There have been fears for some time that Bush wanted to make Iran, or Syria, his next target, and while Jack Straw for a time played "good cop", it was thought Israel was being prepared politically and militarily to make the move. If so, and notwithstanding the difficulties, Ahmednejad has helped Western govenments and their media set the scene. Some of Iran's wiser spokespersons are trying to explain that he did not mean it, while inside the country those wishing he'd shut up say he is not up to his job.

"That, they would claim, is showing in domestic affairs as well, for the president's promises during the election campaign that he would tackle corruption, create more jobs and ensure that Iran's oil income was distributed more fairly have not so far been followed by any solid results, although there have been some corruption arrests. By contrast, he has delivered promptly on his commitment to battle liberalism, feminism and secularism, banning films, closing websites and sending out enforcers to pull the chador firmly down on the foreheads of Iranian women again, and is good on staging huge demonstrations such as the anti-Israel ones in Iran yesterday"..
(Guardian leader, Saturday 29 October).

In fact, having got in amid economic and social unrest which is continuing, with strikers facing brutal police repression, the president looks for enemies abroad. So it has been, so it will be, with no real help either to the Iranian people or the Palestinian people whom the Iranian presdent pretends to support.

About maps, and chaps
And now a word about maps. When I was a kid we had a few atlases at home, but Israel did not figure in any of them. Instead, there was still a place called Palestine, (and what's more it was still coloured British imperial pink!). Not a political decision, just that like many of our books, the atlases were second-hand, bought on Shudehill Market, and the State of Israel was not yet ten years old. People my parents' age still referred to Israelis as "Palestinians", and even the Zionists still had a "Joint Palestine Appeal".

In 1948, it was Palestine that was wiped off the map, by the combined effort of the Israeli army and Arab states. Decades afterwards it was not only Israel's Golda Meir who foolishly declared there were "no such thing as Palestinians". Politicians, Right and Left spoke only of "secure borders" for Israel and the Arab states. In 1986, soon after stepping off a plane at Ben Gurion airport (near where Arabs were driven from their town of Lydda in 1948), I was handed an Israeli Tourism Ministry map, and naturally it showed no Palestine, nor any borders for Israel.

"Geography is about maps, and history is about chaps", as schoolboys used to say. We might think the world has learned some history, the hard way, but only last year I heard that a Palestinian film was refused entry to a festival because organisers said there was "no such country as Palestine".

Hopefully it will be Israelis and Palestinians who eventually reach a just peace, despite all the worse than useless governments, and they will decide how to share the country. I still think it most likely this will start by Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders allowing the Palestinians to set up their own state.
But sooner or later, once conflict has given way to normal relations, movement, sharing of water resources and trade, people may well decide to dispense with the border (I am assuming they will have torn down the monstrous Apartheid wall long before this, unless a few points are left as tourist objects, like castles in Wales).

Then Israel as we know it will be "wiped off the map", while Israelis and Palestinians, Arabs and Kurds, and perhaps even Iranians, move around and mingle freely, as equals, constructing a socialist federal Mashraq, a United States of the Middle East.

Im tirzu, zeh lo agada.


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Skies Are Weeping

ON Tuesday November 1, I'll be attending a concert. Not just any old concert but one featuring a World Premiere, indeed a double premiere. It's called The Skies are Weeping, a concert for Justice and Peace, it's on at the Hackney Empire, and will be the world premiere for a Cantata for Rachel Corrie. Rachel was the young American peace worker who was crushed to death as she stood in the path of an Israeli army bulldozer pleading with the occupiers not to destroy the home of a Palestinian family. Before she met her death, the 23-year old American had written an e-mail to her family, describing what she had seen in the occupied Gaza strip. She wrote: "I have had nightmares about tanks and bulldozers and you and me inside. Tanks and bulldozers destroyed 25 greenhouses -the livelihoods for 300 people. I really can't believe that something like this can happen in the world without a bigger outcry against it."

The cantata, Opus 75 by Philip Manger, was inspired by, and woven around, a poem, The Skies Are Weeping, by Thushara Wijeretna:

The skies are weeping,

The birds have flown away,

With rain-sodden flowers in hand,

I wait for you, Rachel

The second movement is dedicated to British photographer Tom Hurndall, shot dead by an Israeli sniper, as he tried to snatch two Palestinian children from the firing line.

Philip Manger has had his music performed in major venues, and often addressed environmental and humanitarian issues. He had wanted to premier this work in the United States, in Alaska, where he lives. But it seems no concert hall in "the Land of the Brave, Home of the free", Rachel Corrie's homeland, was prepared to stand up to pressure from supporters of the State that killed her. There were threats to the composer and performers.

So Hackney next Tuesday will have something to be proud of.

Besides the cantata, the concert will feature the UK premiere of The Singer of Wind and Rain, Palestinian lyrics by Gregory Yountz. The soprano is Debbie Fink, with Dominic Saunders on piano, Caro Cervantes and the London Percussion Ensemble. In addition, the Debka group Al Hurrya will perform Palestinian dance, and Tsevi Sharret's TS Ensemble will provide a pot pori of Israeli, Palestinian and Yemenite songs stirred into jazz.

Tuesday's concert, is dedicated in memory of all who have lost their lives during the long Israeli occupation. Should it make any money over costs, this will be divided between the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme.

All this might seem perfectly commendable and respectable. Indeed besides support from people like the Jewish Socialists' Group and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the concert is backed by a number of personalities from the arts, and has obtained grants from the Arts Council and the Holst Foundation. But to add a sharp discordant note to the occasion, we hear the Zionist Federation of Great Britain is calling on supporters to mount a protest opposite the Hackney Empire.

So, do they only support the killers of Rachel Currie and Tom Hurndall, or are they scandalised by the thought of money going to Israelis who oppose house demolitions, and people working for mental health in the Gaza communities? The protest call - only so far seen in an e-mail, perhaps the Zionist Federation did not want it displayed on its website - accuses the concert organisers of being "haters of Israel".

The Zionists say they will remember "all the Rachels killed by Palestinian terrorism". That's just to psych themselves up and give themselves a pretence of decency. Nobody, except, I suspect, the Israeli embassy, has asked them to put on such a provocation. More than one relative of bombing victims has blamed the occupation and Israeli policies for the tragic spiral of bloodshed.

Tuesday's concert, supported by the families of Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall, is dedicated to "the memory of all the people lost during the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank".

Maybe the Zionists hope to frighten the Hackney Empire into cancelling the concert? Whoever they dupe into taking part, the aim of their demonstration will be that killing and oppression continue.

The concert is for justice and peace, they are for injustice and war.

This is all the more reason to go along to the Hackney Empire next Tuesday, to enjoy the night, and make sure the concert succeeds. Be a good idea to book in advance.

Tickets: £17.50, £15.50, £13.50, £10 Hackney Empire, Mare Street, E8 1EJ

Box Office: 020 8985 2424

For more information, go to: or email Donations If you would like to donate towards putting on the concert, cheques should be made payable to ' 'The Skies are Weeping' Project and sent to'The Skies are Weeping¹ Project, PO Box 34265, London NW5 2WD. Surplus funds will go to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme. Anyone sending donations of £100 or over will be listed in the programme and invited to our reception afterwards. Transport Train: Silverlink (North London Line) to Hackney Central. One West Anglia to Hackney Downs/London Fields Tube: Central Line to Bethnal Green, then 106/254 bus Victoria Line to Higbury and Islington, then 30/277 bus or Silverlink train. Bus: to Mare Street: 30, 38, 48, 55, 106, 236, 242, 253, 254, 276, 277, 394, D6, W15, N38. N55, N106, N253 Car: Free parking Tescos, Morning Lane.

Patrons and supporters include: Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Prof Noam Chomsky, Julie Christie, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Sir Richard Eyre, Moris Farhi MBE, Uri Fruchtman, Jeremy Hardy, Miriam Karlin, Dr Jane Manning OBE, Miriam Margolyes OBE, Susie Orbach, Roger Lloyd Pack, Dr Ilan Pappe, Anthony Payne, John Pilger, Harold Pinter CH, Lynne Reid Banks, Afif Safieh - former Palestinian General Delegate to the UK, Richard Rogers, Sir Antony Sher, Prof Avi Shlaim, Clare Short MP, Baroness Jenny Tonge, Andy de la Tour, Frances de la Tour, Susannah York, The Corrie Family, Jocelyn Hurndall, Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, Musicians Against Nuclear Arms, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Jewish Socialists' Group, Just Peace UK, International Solidarity Movement, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Council for Arab-British Understanding


Monday, October 24, 2005

"They're not treating us like people"

It may be before your time, but the party in office under that nice Mr.Tony Blair used to have a slogan, "Labour -the Party that Cares". I can remember some people being cynical about it back then. But I doubt whether even they realised how it would become, after "modernising", or maybe post-modernising, so blatantly:
"New Labour - the government that doesn't give a f%&**."

Here is a speech given by 19-year-old Flores Sukula to a meeting in parliament on 17 October. She is an asylum seeker from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), whose family (mother, brothers and sisters) was one of the first to be made destitute under new asylum laws.

"Our lives are very difficult now. For twelve weeks we have had all benefits taken away and, as we aren't allowed to work, we have to survive on the charity of others. It's inhuman and degrading. The government, they're not treating us like people, like human beings. We're just targets or statistics to them: but we're not statistics, we're real people. There aren't really words to express how we're feeling.The government say their policy is fair. How can it be fair for my mum to be so depressed she's had to go on medication, she's crying all the time, for us to be spending sleepless nights?
Is it fair for me to have missed another day of college to come here to plead for our lives when I should be studying so I can become a midwife and help British women? Is it fair to say to a mother, "How would you feel if we took your children off you?" which was said to my mum back in August? I was there but you can imagine. What kind of question is that? Is it fair? Or is it degrading?
This policy is ripping apart our family. We can't go on like this. We've young kids. They need a proper diet. They need security not constant stress and misery.
We can't go on like this. We can't go back to the Congo. We saw our mother beaten and the soldiers said they were going to come back and kill us all if we didn't tell them where our father was. I was there. I was fifteen then. My brother Daniel was 12 years old and Destin 3 years old. We all remember it. How could we forget? But we weren't asked to give any evidence. The Home Office never asked us anything. They just said my mother was lying. But it's our lives. We were there. We know, if we go back our lives will be over.But here the government wants me and my mum and brothers and sister to be homeless and live on the streets and myself my brothers and sisters may be taken into care. How can they say this to a mother? To a loving family?
It's ripping us apart.
We've got feelings, we're people. We should have human rights. But it doesn't feel like it at all.My brother Destin who's 7 now, we've had reports from school of him being distant and having funny turns. He's so stressed out. They thought he was ill but now they think it's stress and they're saying he's got special needs. He's just not the same person anymore.My sister Benedicte is 9 months. But since August we can give her nappies and baby milk only because local people are helping us. What's going to be her future? The answer depends on you, and people like you. Are you prepared to help us and people like us? Or do you think it's right and civilised what's happening to us and other families? Please think about it. We've got to change this Section 9 policy."

Some public service union branches have said they'll encourage members not to co-operate in implementing Section 9. And under the slogan "Don't Make War on Children" there's a Day of Action against Deportations and Detention on Saturday, November 19, with a march in Manchester starting from the UM Students Union, Oxford Road, assembling at 12 noon, and another assembling in London on Horseguards Avenue at 1pm, to march to a rally at 2.30 in Hyde Park.

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Saturday, October 22, 2005

Subversives and Conspirators

picture Westmorland Gazette,

These are Lancaster's "George Fox 6", students who were found guilty of "aggravated trespass" because they invaded the George Fox conference centre at their own university and leafletted against a business conference being held there by firms like Shell and British Aerospace. Lancaster University Vice Chancellor Paul Wellings insisted on the prosecution, accusing the leafletters of "intimidation".

The Six, four of them current students, one a Lancaster graduate and the sixth a member of St. Martins College (affiliated to the Uni) have had costs of £300 each awarded against them as well as being given conditional discharges for two years meaning that if they re-offend, the punishment for this conviction can be looked at again. Two of the six are now subject to proceedings aiming to apply Criminal Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (CRASBOs) against them, which may well prevent them from ‘associating’ with each other - to do so would then become a criminal offence, all because they demonstrated about the commercialisation of research and the presence of some of the worlds biggest and most unethical businesses being on campus.

Looking at Lancaster's links with the military industrial complex, and the rise of "strategic studies" at the university, I recalled the conference on police-military co-operation in "counter-insurgency" held at the University in the early 1970s. My fellow Lancaster graduate Nigel Todd, now a Newcastle Labour councillor, has reminded me of "Robert Moss (so called 'security' expert) who regaled the gathering, which we gatecrashed, with the view that joint Police-Military operations were essential because the country was under threat from serious terrorists, including the Clay Cross Councillors!"

For those too young to remember, the Labour councillors at Clay Cross, in Derbyshire had not smuggled explosives from the mines and quarries to guerrillas operating in the Peak District. They did supply milk to the local schoolchildren, in defiance of the Tory government which had abolished it. They refused to implement the Tory Housing Finance Act, and somehow contrived not only to keep down rent and rates but to give council workers a big pay increase.
For this they were dragged before the courts, surcharged and barred from office.As Clay Cross councillor David Skinner (brother of MP Dennis) remarked::
"Our opposition was based on being honest with ourselves andthe people who put us there and because, even in local government, it is possible to assist in changing society. To hear most councillors talk one would imagine they are incapable of organising resistance to the impositions of the central government. If all the Labour councils followed the example of Clay Cross it would be impossible to carry out the Housing Finance Act".

Using local government to defend working people and even help in changing society! How fantastic that idea must seem today, when we look at our local councils loyally serving Blairite policies, shedding services and privatising. How old-fashioned. People might actually think it was worth voting.
But back to our "security expert" Robert Moss. He was an associate of Brian Crozier in operations linking the mucky work of CIA and MI6 spooks with helpful journalists and sympathetic academics. Forum World Features, which planted suitable material in the media, begat the Institute for Study of Conflict, which was then reborn as the Research Institute for the Study of Conflict and Terrorism (RISCT), whose director Professor Paul Wilkinson of Aberdeen University often popped up as a government advisor and media expert on "counter-terrorism".
Moss also joined Crozier in the National Association for Freedom, NAFF, along with Norris McWhirter, Michael Ivens of Aims of Industry, and Winston Churchill, junior, MP. But two particular items stand out on the Robert Moss CV. He worked for the Economist Foreign Report, and was Economist correspondent in Chile, producing a book "Chile's Marxist Experiment"(1974), supposed to justify General Pinochet's 1973 coup against the elected President Allende, which brought mass arrests, torture and murder.
These right-wing specialists in countering "subversion" boasted of their part in plotting the downfall of Labour government, and they hoped, smashing the power of trade unions. It was a speech written for Margaret Thatcher that earned her the title "Iron Lady" and Robert Moss an invitation to Chequers.
We should not get carried away by conspiracy theories, but nor should we ignore evidence of real conspiracies.

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Bomber on the Strand

My proposal for a list of statues glorifying terror, which the Home Secretary ought to consider, has brought a few responses. Amanda from Camden suggested that Hereward the Wake be added to the list of heroes whose glorification might exert a bad influence on the young.
I'm still looking for a pic of Hereward's statue.
Meanwhile I see that he led a band of Danes - foreign immigrants! - to despoil and rob Peterborough's abbey cathedral. Becoming an outlaw, he responded to the beheading of a relative by beheading a dozen Normans. Hereward became a Saxon hero, and was romanticised in the 19th century by Charles Kingsley, but may have had some Danish blood so might qualify as a "foreign terrorist" for the Express and Mail whatever the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle said.

Bob from Newham has suggested the statue of "Bomber" Harris in front of St.Clement Danes church at the end of the Strand, where it joins Aldwych. Now, I appreciate that the Air Marshall was responsible for the deaths of half a million civilians by what he called "moral bombing" (i.e. without pretence of aiming for military targets). We normally distinguish between terrorist bombers who risk their own lives, particularly "suicide bombers", and the civilised kind who drop their bombs from a safe height then fly home for tea, but it is only fair to note that "Bomber" Harris enthusiastic bombing campaign cost some 55,000 aircrew as well.
Nevertheless, it is worth remembering Harris was on Our Side, and even started his career by bombing Afghans who threatened the Empire. So surely,however many deaths he caused, he cannot be called a "Terrorist"?

I've also heard from Leon Kuhn who has provided our imaginative improvement on the Harris statue. It is from a book he has produced with Colin Gill, called "Topple the Mighty", looking at various monuments and pieces of statuary, their historic background, and the responses they have aroused.
I'll probably say more about it some time. Anyway it is published (with a preface by George Galloway, no less), by friction books,, and at £6.99 for an entertaining and information-packed read, I'd recommend it for dipping into on your own strolls around town, or as a Xmas prezzy. But not suitable for fogeys of a patriotic disposition.


Friday, October 21, 2005

China Plates

SOME good news, against a sad background.
Min Quan, the Chinese rights and monitoring group, has campaigned to raise the real issues of exploitation of migrant workers behind the Morecambe Bay tragedy. It has encouraged people to resist the property tycoons threatening to swallow London's Chinatown (see poster on right).

It has also focused attention on Takeaway Racism - the racist harassment and violence that Chinese restaurant and takeaway owners and staff have to put up with.

On 23 April 2005, Mi Gao Huang Chen, a Chinese takeaway owner was brutally murdered in a race attack by a gang of 22 youths in Wigan. This tragedy was the culmination of a long period of racial harassment suffered by Mi Gao which the police failed to take seriously until it was too late. The police charged six white youths with murder.

Unbelievably, they also charged Mi Gao's partner, Eileen Jia, for daring to defend herself while attempting to save her partner.

Min Quan called on the DPP to drop all charges against her, and appealed for signatures for a petition from the public. We're often asked to sign petitions, on the street and online, and wonder wearily whether it does any good.
Well, for once it has.

As Min Quan's website reported on October 14,
Due to public outrage, the Crown Prosecution Service has decided to drop criminal charges of Affray and Common Assault against Ms Eileen Jia. Ms Jia has always argued that she was simply defending her partner and herself against a racially motivated attack. Nearly 1000 people signed a TMG Min Quan postcard urging the Director of Public Prosecution to intervene in this case. As a consequence the CPS has decided to take no further action against Ms Jia because "a prosecution is not needed in the public interest". The case against the real perpetrators is expected to start at Liverpool Crown Court on Monday 24th October 2005. Eileen Jia wishes to express her warmest gratitude to all those who have supported her in making the Crown Prosecution Service realise the grave error and injustice they have inflicted upon Eileen and the Chinese community by charging the victim of a brutal crime.
Read more ...

I'd like to to thank Anna Chen for drawing my attention to this news. Award-winning writer, actress and comic performer Anna was a founder member of Media Workers Against the War. She was also an effective publicity officer for the late Socialist Alliance until she came up against the dominant SWP faction's chicanery, prejudices and bullying, and decided she'd had enough. Anna was told by John Rees that Chinese workers were not important. What it is to be active in a minority whose struggles aren't fashionable with these "Lefts"!

At least Anna was spared witnessing the Socialist Alliance's drawn-out and painful demise at their hands, as they ditched it to join Gorgeous George.

Now working on a major novel about Chinese workers who built America's Pacific coast railways through the Rockies, Anna Chen continues to combine genuine commitment with irreverent, even startling, humour. She has a website about her cultural work at, and a play coming up on Radio Four.

It's in Woman's Hour Travel Stories: Upturned Roots series, and called
Red Guard, Yellow Submarine

So you've been brought up as a Red Guard ... in Hackney. You make your first ever visit to the motherland during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. How will clashing ideologies compete in the fragile battleground that is you? How high a price would you pay in order to belong?

Written and narrated by Anna Chen
With Kwong Loke and Carolyne Pickles
Produced and directed by Pam Fraser-Solomon
Series produced by Shabina Aslam
10.45am Thursday 10th November,
Repeated at 7.45pm You can also listen on line for seven days following the broadcast:
Scroll down and click on Woman's Hour drama

I'll be listening.


Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Ambassador and the Asylum Seekers

Long March Against War. Iranian, Iraqi and Kurdish socialists march in London during the Iran-Iraq war.

The Ambassador and the Asylum Seekers

Iranian exile Maryam Namazie was named Secularist of the Year at a ceremony in London recently. I don't always agree with Maryam, or the Worker-Communist Party of Iran of which she is a member. I thought the position they and their women's movement took on the hijab ban in France showed too much naievity about French secularism, and not enough suspicion of state power and racism. Maybe that's because they come from an Islamic country whereas I have lived all my life in an imperialist, and officially Christian one.

Anyway, I congratulate Maryam. Being a secularist and fighter for women's freedom takes some determination and courage, when you face not only the cruel intolerance of a regime like that in Iran, but the indifference, even hostilty, of much of the British Left, currently infatuated with "faith communities" and political Islam.

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament(CND) has just held its annual general meeting in London. Like many of my generation, I took some of my first political steps as a teenager by joining CND marches with my pals, and sporting a CND badge to school.

Though past its heyday of massive marches and youthful enthusiasm (even a young Tony Blair was a member), CND's aims remain as important as ever. After all the talk we heard of a "peace dividend" from the end of the Cold War, Britain under Blair's government is spending billions more on refurbishing its nuclear arsenal. Nothing has been done to curb Israel's nuclear menace. In South Asia, two powers which cannot feed their people or provide clean drinking water, let alone cope with natural disasters, are both brandishing nuclear weapons. Iran's nuclear reactor could provide, if not the weapons of war, the pretext for launching one.

CND is an important component of the Stop the War Coalition(STWC). Kate Hudson of CND is on the Stop the War executive. Veteran CNDer Walter Wolfgang, the octagenarian who panicked Labour's conference, naturally had a warm welcome at the nuclear disarmers' conference.

But the Campaign also had a more questionable guest speaker, in Iranian ambassador Mohammad Hossein Adek. Presumably this was because of the continuing threat of war against Iran. The British government, after its troops destroyed a Basra police station to free SAS men who had been captured, disguised in Arab garb with explosives near a Shia mosque, accused Iran of smuggling bombs into Iraq. "Other countries have no right to interfere in Iraq", announced Blair, oblivious to irony. Now the US State Department claims Iran is stockpiling chemical weapons, as well as developing nuclear capacity. We feel we've heard it before.

But even if all the allegations are untrue, and Iran has no warlike aims, is the regime one peace campaigners should associate with? The Worker Communist Party of Iran says not:
"In July this year two gay teenagers – one under 18 at the time of arrest – were publicly hanged in the Iranian city of Mashad for having a sexual relation.
Last August 16-year-old Atefeh Rajabi was hanged in the city of Neka because she had slept with a man she was not married to.
In July 2001 31-year-old Maryam Ayoubi was stoned to death in Evin Prison in Tehran for sex outside marriage…
These are just a few examples of the unbelievably horrific atrocities going on in Iran. In Iran you are arrested, flogged, tortured and executed for being a socialist, a communist, a union organiser, a women’s rights activist, a dissident student, an atheist, a non-Muslim or just for having ‘illicit’ sex. Tens of thousands of political dissidents have been executed for simply not wanting this fascistic regime."

Not the best of company. What makes it worse is that there are plenty of left-wing Iranian refugees, comrades who have marched with us against war and racism, who oppose the imperialist war threat against their people just as they opposed the tyrranies of Shah or ayatollah. Couldn't one of them have been invited instead of an ambassador?

In March this year, a group of Iranian comrades boldly set off from Birmingham, marching through Middle England to join the March 19 Stop the War demonstration in London. They had support along the way from socialists and anti-war activists. But what about the Stop the War Coalition? Read this letter:

Dear friends,

You are aware that in an act of protest against the threats of military intervention by US and its allies in Iran, five Iranian asylum seekers have set off on foot from Birmingham on 12th of March to join the national anti war demonstration in London on 19th of March. They are undertaking this action both to highlight and oppose the US threats against Iran and to appeal to progressive and freedom loving people in Britain to support their struggle against the barbaric Islamic regime in Iran.
We phoned your office on Friday 11th of March to ask for support for the protest walk and to ask about the possibility of a representative from the walk to say a few words from the platform at the end of the march. We were told to explain our position and upon my explanation we were told that Stop the War Coalition "cannot allow any statement against the Islamic regime in Iran from the platform".
We see ourselves as part of a movement for democracy in Iran that is moving towards overthrowing the reactionary Islamic regime. We see any intervention or even threats of intervention by the US and its allies against Iran as detrimental for our movement. We will vehemently oppose and resist such intervention. The reality of our movement is such that we can not drop our opposition to the Iranian regime because of the threats by the USA or drop our opposition to US threats because of the barbarity of the Islamic regime.
We are aware that the campaign Action Iran that you are promoting on your website belives that ‘ordinary Iranians are making advances towards democracy’. We strongly disagree with this analysis which is promoted by the Islamic Regime and its agents internationally. We believe that while the movement for democracy is growing in Iran, democratic rights are suppressed in increasing measure in Iran and ordinary Iranians are not making progress towards democracy.
We believe that Stop the War Coalition should be a broad based campaign and should not exclude the views of opponents of the Islamic regime while promoting the views of the supporters of this barbaric regime.

From: Arash Shakib, Organiser of the Protest Walk, Political Association of Iranian Refugees (Birmingham)

Some of us met these comrades as we were gathering at Hyde Park for the demonstration. But it was not till later that I read this letter on the Labournet.UK website, and felt angry. I've not seen any reply let alone apology.

Didn't the Iranian comrades deserve some respect, and a hearing? Why couldn't the STWC allow any statement against the Iranian regime from its platform? Are they so in hock to Islamic organisations? Do they imagine Blair is waiting for some remarks at a rally to excuse making war on Iran? Or was it just assumed that we, the poor bloody infantry at these rallies , are too thick to understand that you can be against the regime making your people suffer, but also against the US and British war machines bombing your people to hell in the name of their "freedom"?

I'm proud to be among the mass of people marching against Bush and Blair's wars. But not proud of our anti-war "leaders", when they invite an ambassador from a reactionary regime, but snub our fellow-socialists forced into exile by that regime. Not in my name!

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Lest we forget Indonesia

DOING BUSINESS with the dictator: Thatcher and Suharto

We are passing through the fortieth anniversary of one of the worst massacres in history, ranking with the crimes of Hitler or Stalin. Yet far from being brought to justice, the chief perpetrator, Indonesia's dictator Suharto, has retired in comfort. Far from intervening to remove his regime, US and British governments shored it up for decades, supplying it with arms and aid. ( see pic above of partners in crime). But after all they had helped install this murderous regime.
On 1 October 1965, a group of Indonesian army officers staged a coup attempt, killing six generals. General Suharto, not a target of the attack, struck back against the perpetrators. His troops fanned out across the country, assisted by Islamist gangs which they armed, slaughtering members of the Indonesian Communist Party, which was wrongly blamed for the coup attempt. The campaign was the opportunity to wipe out workers and peasants unions. Estimates of the death toll range from half a million to three million. No-one has ever been held to account for this appalling crime.
As in Iraq (which went through a similar, if smaller, bloodbath in 1963) and other countries, the hand of the CIA was not hard to detect behind the Indonesian coup. But it was not alone. British intelligence had sponsored a radio station in Singapore broadcasting to Indonesia. Like a Far Eastern version of the Czarist Black Hundreds, the British-backed propaganda speciality was combining anti-communism with inciting hatred of Indonesia's Chinese minority, who became pogrom victims. .
"I have never concealed from you my belief that a little shooting in Indonesia would be an essential preliminary to effective change," Sir Andrew Gilchrist, the British ambassador in Jakarta, informed the Foreign Office on October 5 1965. Declassified files show that Britain wanted the Indonesian army to act and encouraged it to do so.British policy was "to encourage the emergence of a general's regime", one intelligence official explained. Another noted that "it seems pretty clear that the generals are going to need all the help they can get and accept without being tagged as hopelessly pro-western, if they are going to be able to gain ascendancy over the communists". Therefore, "we can hardly go wrong by tacitly backing the generals".(Mark Curtis, October 6th, 05 "The Guardian"
As the regime settled down to rule mass arrests landed hundreds of thousands of people in prison. By the early 1970s, around 70,000 were still in detention, of whom not more than two hundred were ever tried. The innocent victims of this purge, and their relatives, still suffer discrimination to this day.
After reducing the incumbent President Sukarno to nothing more than a figurehead, Suharto took over as President in March 1966. From then until May 1998, when he was forced to step down, Indonesia was ruled by a military dictatorship responsible for massive and widespread violations of human rights throughout the country, especially in Aceh and West Papua, and in East Timor, which the armed forces brutally occupied in 1975.
"Tapol" is the Indonesian term for political prisoners, and TAPOL, based in Thornton Heath, Surrey, is the campaign that has worked for years to expose human rights abuses and atrocities in Indonesia, and in East Timor and West Papua..It has also exposed British and US support for the military, and now it is calling for compensation to surviving relatives of the massacre victims, and prisoners, who faced blacklisting for jobs even after their release.
Carmel Budiardjo of TAPOL, herself one of those jailed without trial, says:
"While millions of his victims still endure continued discrimination, Suharto the architect of their suffering lives in secluded luxury with his children who enriched themselves during his years in power. He must not be allowed to go unpunished."
TAPOL is calling for full rehabilitation and restitution for the victims of the 1965 tragedy and for Suharto to be brought to trial for the crimes against humanity committed by his regime. We should also be calling for the whole truth to be brought out on how US and British governments helped Suharto to power and backed his dictatorship.

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Glorification all around

IS the government doing enough to stamp out propaganda glorifying terrorism? Conscientious cititizens may be asked to help MI5 and Special Branch monitor sermons and speeches, images and pamphlets, even Old Chalkie's history lessons. But what about sermons in stone, or bronze? The production of graven images may be un-Islamic, but surely that is no reason to exclude them?

The pictures above form part of a dossier which I will consider submitting to the Home Office. They show that this glorification is all around us, wherever you look.

First, whatever your definition of "terrorism", Robin Hood, though he may not have bombed anyone did use violence for political ends, reputedly unauthorised redistribution of wealth from rich to poor, in other words totally against what New Labour stands for. According to the oldest ballads he and his band, probably high on some substance ("Merry Men") not only assaulted the forces of law and order, viz the Sheriff of Nottingham and his soldiers, and showed no respect for property. but mercilessly killed and robbed respectable rich citizens including senior members of the clergy.
I will leave it to the News of the World to expose his living over the brushwood with Maid(?) Marian, and the film censors will have to deal with the many films exploiting the attraction for our youngsters of this violent robber and class-warrior.

NEXT on my list, frighteningly near our Mother of all Parliaments is the statue of an Essex Girl racer whose dangerous driving with sword-bearing custom hubcaps was notorious.
According to archeologist Philip Crummy, surveying the charred remains which were all that was left of Roman Colchester after the Iceni came to town, this woman and her tribe had no mercy. "The civilian population was wiped out. There were no prisoners. Men, women and children were all killed,' he said.
No remains of any casualties have been found. Experts believe the Romans took their dead home and that many others were buried in mass graves. Estimates of the number of Romans and 'collaborators' killed by Boudicca and her followers vary, although Roman historians claimed that up to 70,000 people died ".
Yet the perpetrator of this slaughter of settlers and moderate Britons is honoured by a statue in Westminster, even showing her dangerous driving, and the Sun newspaper was so misguided as to call her "inspiring".

THE number of these glorifications may actually have been increasing, with scant attention from government, or even unwitting acquiescence, with public and lottery funding, boosted by the "Heritage" Industry. Educational? What sort of lessons are youngsters to make of monuments like this glamourous depiction of Rob Roy, an outlaw and cattle thief, waving his sword at visitors to Stirling castle!? .
We hear that people from Asian Muslim backgrounds must make a greater effort to integrate into our national culture, and people aspiring for citizenship must show a knowledge and acceptance of our way of life. But are we sure they are not being exposed to the wrong influences, and could not people coming here draw undesirable ideas of what British history is about?
Around the country there are other examples. They don't have to be destroyed, as some suggest. (And please do not take the law, or hammers etc, into your own hands) They could be rounded up and resited behind secure fences, where they will not influence our susceptible young, and could only be visited by approved scholars vetted by the Home Office. My survey has only just begun. You can help with your nominations.


Robin Hood statue at
Boadiccea at:
Information on sacking of Colchester:,6903,406152,00.html
Picture of Rob Roy - from the collection of Charles Pottins, esq., with thanks to National Express, Scottish YHA, and Supasnaps.

STOP PRESS:Police from the anti-terror squad are now seeking one Walter Scott.


Monday, October 17, 2005

For Orville and the others

The picture shows south London mother Clara Buckley (centre) with Women Against Pit Closures. It is part of an online exhibition from the Workers Press photo library published by Index Books as a contribution to Black History Month. I trust Index won't mind an ex-Workers Press journo borrowing it.

If you haven't met Clara Buckley personally, you've most probably met many like her, working, or laden with shopping in Brixton, Shepherds Bush, Harlesden or Moss Side, looking forward to Sunday when hatted in her finery she propels junior and his sister, spotless in their Sunday best, to sing with her in that chapel.
Maybe that was where godfearing Clara, an elder in her congregation, gained the confidence to fear no man when she stood and told people about her son Orville and how he died, and asked people to sign her petition for justice. That was how I first met her, in the corridor outside a meeting at Brixton town hall one evening. I forget what the meeting was about, maybe it was Lambeth Trades Council, but I couldn't forget about Clara and her son Orville.
Later she would stand with a stall on a Saturday morning near Brixton tube, and though a couple of my friends would help, they, seasoned political activists, could only watch in admiration at the way Clara could make a bunch of raucous passing youth stop, shut up, and listen to her story.
Orville Blackwood, 31, had a bit of a breakdown. He took the tube to the end of the line, Walthamstow, .held up a bookies with a toy gun for some paltry sum, then before he left, paused to write his name, Orville, on the board.
He was sentenced to prison, but then diagnosed as mentally ill, and transferred to Broadmoor.
The media seem to have a split personality vision of Broadmoor. Sometimes they talk as though the place was full of horrific monsters like Moors murderer Ian Brady. But the other day I saw the Guardian correcting itself for calling Broadmoor a prison when they should have described it as a "hospital". Yes, but as a comrade who was a nurse at Prestwich hospital, Greater Manchester, pointed out when we were discussing the Orville Blackwood case, the staff at Broadmoor are not members of a nurses' union like Unison, they are represented by the Prison Officers Association.
I don't know whether they are told that everyone brought into their institution is a monster, or perhaps they just come to work with the nervous assumption that the patients they deal with are highly dangerous.
Orville seems to have got through ribbing from the warders (jokes about Orville the duck, see?) without too much bother. He did not have much of his sentence left when one day he asked to be excused work saying he felt tired, and, as was standard practice, was taken back to a cell and left to rest.
He was lying down on his bunk when half a dozen screws, sorry nurses, came into his cell and held him down while a qualified member of staff was called to administer what proved a lethal injection. Orville was given a cocktail of tranquilisers, three times the recommended dosage.
Why a man who is lying down in his room needed to be restrained and tranquilised, we don't know. I have not seen any explanation offered. But it killed him.
Orville joined the statistics of black men dead in custody, three of them while in seclusion at Broadmoor. Despite Clara's campaign, which led to the original verdict of "accidental death" being quashed, a subsequent inquest returned to the same "accidental death" verdict. There have been various reports citing Orville Blackwood's death as an example of the need for changes in the way prisoners/patients are treated. But I would not say there has been justice.
Despite greater awareness, the number of deaths in custody has gone up steadily over the years, and those that are classed as suicides have been overtaken by others. (see Deaths in psychiatric institutions are not even monitored.
On October 29, United Family and Friends will remember those killed in custody, like Orville and the victims of police shootings, like Harry Stanley, Jean Charles de Menezes, and Azelle Rodney. They will rally in Trafalgar Square, at 1pm, then march silently down Whitehall, before raising their voices in protest at Downing Street. The notice says to wear black if you can, and bring your banners but not placards.

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Saturday, October 15, 2005

Trespass on the Corporate Campus

The picture is a card designed by Leon Kuhn for Artists Against the War.

If you haven't yet met Leon selling his cards at various events, you can find out more at
or e-mail
If you fancy using the picture please ask Leon. And buy some cards!

I have wanted an excuse to spread it for some time, and this time I thought it might illustrate the topic.

The card depicts "Islamic Fundamentalism" and "Free Market Fundamentalism".

The government, media and a right-wing think tank want to outlaw "extremism" on campus. But the government and academic authorities are keen to welcome another set of violent characters.

"Trespass" on the Corporate Campus

SIX students at Lancaster University have been fined £300 each and bound over to keep the peace, for the crime of "aggravated trespass". What they did, a year ago, was to gatecrash and leaflet a 'Corporate Venture' confernce at the university's George Fox conference centre, aimed at bringing together big business corporations and academics to "spin ideas" at one another.
It's ironic really. The hall is named after George Fox, the 17th century Quaker, who was jailed at Lancaster in 1660 for speaking his mind on peace and refusing to swear allegiance to the monarchy. The "George Fox Six" distributed leaflets objecting to the presence of companies like Shell and British Aerospace, with their warlike connections, and to growing commercialisation of university research.

Nowadays you can say almost what you like about the monarchy, but show disrespect for big business and you are asking for trouble.

The National Union of Students backed the students, and the Association of University Teachers branch at Lancaster urged the university to drop the charges, but the vice-chancellor insisted on prosecuting., at the same time assuring complainers that as a "criminal matter" it was "up to the courts". Notwithstanding all those notices which warned "trespassers will be prosecuted", trespass used to be a civil matter. But the students were charged under Section 68 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. (Introduced with all that fuss about all-night raves by good old Michael Howard, but strengthened by New Labour). This makes it clear that the offence stands only if the landowner considers that trespass has take place.

Behind Lancaster University's determination to come down hard on protestors lies more than its own policies. Education Minister Ruth Kelly has called for university vice-chancellors to crack down on "extremists", having previously called on the seats of learning to work more closely with business.

As the Lancaster students union says: "It’s part of what the government call the ‘third mission’, a project which enables universities to provide support to businesses at little or no cost, paving way for corporate sponsorship of research projects. The spin on the university website puts a ‘local community’ gloss on this, but in fact the biggest investors in Lancaster University and vice versa are huge multinationals such as arms manufacturers BAE Systems, who were at the Corporate Venturing conference with a host of others including GM companies Unilever and DuPont, Shell (guilty of shooting environmental protesters in the Niger Delta), and the Carlyle Group, who bring rich oil interests together such as the Bush and Bin Laden families. Hardly a leg-up for the ‘local community’ or even local businesses. Rather than supporting communities, it’s trans-national corporations such as these which are fuelling the flames of war, environmental destruction and privatisation which are destroying and impoverishing communities worldwide. . If students really want to make poverty history, we could start by looking at how our degrees are paid for". (Cara Simpson in SCAN, Lancaster students union news)

We might note that while the Lancaster students were facing trial it was being admitted that British Aerospace spent billions on backhanders and other inducements (such as providing prostitutes) to secure arms contracts from the Saudis. This ranged from bombers down to riot control batons. It is a fair guess that some of their hardware also reached the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. But the government which backs British Aerospace is protecting us and our "democratic way of life" from extremism and terror!

Incidentally, I've noticed a strange transformation in British entrepeneurs, if the police and judiciary are to be believed. Those hard-faced pugnacious tough guys in suits we saw in the Thatcher era ("No such thing as society!"), selling hardware to Saddam Hussein, have apparently become meek and timid souls who flutter in panic if some kid enters their midst proffering a leaflet. At least, that's what we gather from the judgments in the Windrush Communications (business conferences on Iraq) and Lancaster cases, where no evidence was given of damage,threats or violence, and yet protestors were accused of "intimidating" conference guests by leafletting. It's all part of the Orwellian doublespeak by which peace protestors are dealt with as "terrorists" and the arms trade is linked with "peacekeeping". Room for an academic thesis or two there, I think.

Academic Detachment

When I was at Lancaster as a mature student in the early 1970's, Vice-Chancellor Charles F.Carter, an economist, was said to admire the Masachusetts Institute of Technology and was already keen on developing the university's reputation in the field of business. There was a Business School with departments of Financial Control, Operational Research(OR) and Marketing, attracting postgraduate students from industry.. I remember a Maths student friend taking OR as his second subject referring to the uni as "Galgate Poly". (Galgate was a nearby mill village, now sans mill). Very witty, if somewhat snobbish and outdated now that all our polytechics have been reclassified as unis.

I don't know whether Lancaster University's dispute with women cleaners over union recognition, or battle the following year over victimisation of "Marxist" academics (the "Craig Affair") enhanced or hindered its claims to offer management expertise. But both these rows may have hidden another tussle quietly going on in the background.

In my first year on campus I became one of the student representatives on the Board of Senate. This newfangled participation was bitterly resented by some entrenched academics, and regarded with some distrust, or at least a lack of enthusiasm, by many students. But anyway, I thought I'd give it a go if only to see how things run. Among the perks was an all-expence paid weekend conference at a grand old country hotel near Keswick in the Lake District.
On the night we sat down to a good three-course meal, with wines. I was treated to a large post-prandial brandy by my prof, and relaxed into a big soft armchair in suitably soporific mood to enjoy the donnish wit and repartee of the academics debating whether the university needed a committee to oversee outside-funded research projects for ethical and academic standards. When someone mentioned utility someone else said "I rather thought the definition of 'academic' was 'of no possible use to anybody'". It was all good fun, a privilege to be in such company, and sinking further into my armchair I would not have dreamed of spoiling it.

"Did you realise what it was all about?", asked Bob our student union leader as we broke for coffee. I murmured something guiltily, realising I might not have grasped everything. Bob told me that the Politics Department wanted to set up a "strategic studies centre" which could independently pursue research funding. "Why do you think Charlie Carter said 'General Reynolds, what do you think?'"?
I'd missed it. Whatever his admiration for American univerisities, which had been up to their neck in the Vietnam war, Vice Chancellor Carter was a Quaker and unlike co-religionist Richard Nixon, he evidently still oberved some of their limits. Professor Philip Reynolds, head of the Politics Department, had come from the University of Wales at Aberystwyth, where they held NATO seminars. Some Lancaster politics students who did well were invited there for a treat,(computer) wargaming.

In 1974, amid rumours of coup plots and generals talking about counter-insurgency there was an out-of-term seminar at Lancaster about how the military and police could cope with civil unrest and disorder. By then I was working on a major construction site and most students would have been on holiday, but we managed to get someone into the conference, and the full story, (including how one "expert" regarded dissident Labour councillors at Clay Cross, Derbyshire as "terrorists"), on to the front-page of Workers Press. Leaving work that evening I was very proud to see my comrades at the site gate selling the paper with its headline about the "civil war" plans at Lancaster!

"General" Reynolds eventually succeeded Charles F.Carter, and in 1990 the University got its Centre for Defence and International Strategic Studies, based in Cartmel College. Professor Martin Edmonds became its director. His particulour interests are weapons systems and the Far East. As an example, a report on South Korea's first arms exporting deal, supplying electronic and other componets for Turkish artillery, says "The arms providers, Samsung Techwin, were congratulated by Martin Edmonds, director at Lancaster University's Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies, who said South Korea's 'extravagant efforts obviously have borne fruit'.

In January 2004, the CDISS decamped from Lancaster to Henley on Thames, which is handier for London and probably more congenial for Home Counties brasshats. It's new address is Centre for Defence & International Security Studies, The Court House, Northfield End, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire RG9 2JNTel: +44 (0) 1491 843134Fax: +44 (0) 1491 412082
Email: info@cdiss.orgInternet:
The publications director is a former political researcher from Lancaster University, Pauline Elliott.

Edmonds has now been replaced by Major-General(retd) Jonathan Bailey, former durector general of the Army's Development and Doctrine, particularly concerned with weapons procuremnt. CDiSS says its mission is "to be a catalyst for innovative focus on a range of defence and security issues and to foster harmony between academia, government and industry in order to promote unity of effort".

Apart from the international arms trade another interesting part of the CDISS is a programme on "revolutionary warfare and counter-insurgency". In my day blimps and "Daily Telegraph " readers would have had a fit if someone told them Lancaster had fostered a department teaching "revolutionary warfare"'! But times change, and this programme aims " to identify the successes and failures of strategies and tactics deployed against revolutionaries and terrorists by democratic states and to make recommendations for both the present and the future".

The programme is headed by Colonel Richard Cousens, former Director of Defence Studies for the British Army, described as "a Counter Revolutionary Warfare specialist with practical experience as an infantry officer. He completed seven operational tours in Northern Ireland with the Light Infantry and served in Hong Kong and Brunei with the Gurkhas. He led the Counter Insurgency instructional team at the British Army Staff College and has studied the relationship between Peacekeeping and Counter Revolutionary Warfare theory. He has had command experience in the counter insurgency environment as a platoon, company and battalion commander."

All of this must make him just the man to impress one of the Centre's associates, Joan Hoey, of the Economist Intelligence Unit.. As "Joan Philips" she was a leading member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, "Living Marxism"s Balkan expert (who ridiculed the idea that Serb nationalists had massacred thousands of people), and secretary of the RCP's front Campaign Against Militarism. Unfortunately the list of members and associates seems to have disappeared from the CDSS website, but when I last saw it, most of her fellow associates appeared to be former NATO and allied military personnel. Hoey and her comrades used to sneer at "laptop bombardiers". Now she can rub shoulders happily with real brigadiers.

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A Day in the Country

A late Summer day in Essex. The man in the black hat speaking is Gypsy rights campaigner Grattan Puxon. The group behind are Roma from eastern Europe. The young women had arrived in ordinary tops and jeans but donned more traditional garb to dance, enlivening and adding colour to an English Sunday afternoon.
But the occasion was serious, commemorating past and present victims of anti-Gypsy racism. Crosses and pictures reminded us of Auschwitz and Treblinka, of persecution and murders in Czechoslovakia, and the 'ethnic cleansing' of thousands of Roma in Kosova after its "liberation" by NATO.
Lest we imagined that such things only happened in faraway corners of eastern Europe, we were joined by the family of a 15-year old Gypsy boy murdered by a racist gang in Cheshire. The women nodded and quietly said "hear hear" when Grattan said that Gypsies no longer want to live on the road, "it is not safe for our children".
We'd gone to Upper Nazeing, near Broxbourne, to show solidarity with the families living there. They had bought this bit of land, parked their caravans, and installed facilities. They kept it cleaner and tidier than many a London street, even in suburbia.
Although the surrounding countryside was pleasant enough, this was no touristic idyll. To reach the site we drove down a lane lined with greenhouses. I imagine the owners would have been glad of available labour, such as travelling folk traditionally provided. But this was also Essex commuterland, where the BNP canvasses votes with tales of fictitious African invaders and incitement against those genuine countryfolk called "pikies" and "Gyppos". Tory newspapers have kept up the hysteria.
The families at Upper Nazeing were facing eviction by the council, due the following morning.. Some people intended staying overnight to support them, but we heard they had been granted stay of execution. Nevertheless the area was swarming with police that afternoon, in case we did I-don't-know-what, and we were filmed as we were leaving. The council waited a week or so before sending in the bulldozers and bailiffs.
Then a few months ago BBC News South East had an item saying local people in Essex were upset at the cost to taxpayers of cleaning up land after Gypsies were evicted from a site at Upper Nazeing. We saw a BBC reporter gingerly stepping amid mounds of litter-strewn rubble. It looked nothing like the place I'd visited.I checked they were talking about the same site. Then I wrote to the BBC, telling them that I'd visited the Upper Nazeing site with friends a week before the evictions, and seen none of the rubbish shown on television.
The BBC replied asserting that they always strove for accurate reporting.
Then it struck me. They had referred to a mess left after the Gypsies were evicted. That need not mean left behind by the Gypsies, though that was probably how most viewers would take it. It meant mess left after they were evicted. In fact, as witnesses to the eviction told me later, the bulldozers had arrived at dawn, and swept up stones and anything else in their path into heaps, including gas bottles and chemical toilet cleaner containers which spilled, polluting the ground. After that, particularly if the site was left unfenced, it would have been easy prey to fly-tippers, a frequent menace to any open land in or near our great cities. Blame-the-Gypsies is also an old tradition.
I wonder if it occurred to that young BBC reporter to ask why he was being invited to inspect the Upper Nazeing site so long after the evictions? When we were there we had no big media cameras showing interest, only a German TV freelance and socialist news photographer Molly Cooper, also freelance.
Now there are similar evictions of families at Bromley in Kent, after John Prescott refused to overrule the councils refusal of planning permission. As many as 1,000 people face eviction from a site at Dale Farm in Essex, where families had also bought the land and gathered hoping for security.
There was a small demonstration at Chemsford county court on September 29, while inside mother Margaret McCann told how Constant and Co., contractors hired by Chemsford borough council had destroyed her home at Upper Waltham last year. Bulldozers removed the top soil, and then they flooded the land with pig slurry to render it uninhabitable. Four-meter high earth banks erected without permission of the owners now surround the site, blocking access and causing flooding.
Nevertheless the court found for the council, in what rights campaigner Donald Kenrick had described as a "test case".
" When will the government pay heed to what is happening to Britain's most persecuted minority?", he asked. Perhaps the answer is, not so long as the labour movement, the Left, and the main anti-racist movements show so little interest or readiness to act in solidarity with Gypsies.

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