Saturday, September 30, 2006

A disproportionate attack, considering Labour's disgraceful policy

BEIRUT. Should we have worried about wrong slogans damaging the "peace process"?

THANKS to the wonders of modern media I was able to watch and listen to some of the Labour Party conference in Manchester live last week. Thanks to the dumbing-down policy of the BBC
I had to do so on my PC, viewing their specialist parliament channel, because the public service broadcaster thinks the public should only be interested in housebuying, snooker, cooking and car boot sales, and if a few of us oddballs want to watch what is happening in political parties, the TUC or the mother of all parliaments we ought to go to a specialist channel.

Anyway, as luck would have it, who should come to the rostrum while I was watching but Neil Nerva, briefly a councillor in Brent, but speaking for "the Jewish Labour Movement". If this conveys pictures of heroic underground struggle in Tsarist Russia and occupied Europe, or the battle to organise in immigrant sweatshops, forget it. "The Jewish Labour Movement" is the name the Zionist party within Labour which used to be called Poale Zion has misappropriated for itself to fool the unwary and claim a status it does not deserve. But let's give them a hearing.

Neil spoke about how disgraceful it was that "members of the left marched through London chanting 'We are all Hizbollah'", during Israel's war in Lebanon. "Do they know what Hezbollah is? Do they know what it stands for? Do they think such behaviour aids the peace process?"

Peace process? Israeli forces were bombing residential areas of Beirut, destroying bridges and power stations and attacking refugee columns, and we should have worried whether the wrong slogans chanted in London might endanger "the peace process"?

As Neil knows perfectly well what used to be called the "peace process" was halted some time ago, while President Arafat was still alive, when Israel stopped talking and laid siege to the Palestinian leader in his compound. Since then Ehud Olmert has declared that the so-called "security" wall - cutting deep into Palestinian territory, separating villagers from their land, and carving what is left of Palestine into embattled enclaves - would be Israel's final border. Hardly an earnest for a genuine "two-state solution".

Israel has imposed siege conditions on Gaza, and cut of the Palestinian Authority's funds with British, US and EU support, causing poverty and hunger. The Israeli government refused to negotiate over the capture and exchange of prisoners, preferring to bomb Gaza's infrastructure and essential services, bringing immense suffering on ordinary Palestinians, particularly the young, the sick and old. It is holding elected Palestinian leaders captive.

The Hizbollah operation against Israeli forces in the Shaba Farms area may have been intended to relieve pressure on Palestinians in Gaza. Once again Israel could have sought to negotiate, but instead took it as pretext for a pre-planned all-out attack on Lebanon, probably with US encouragement. It was after Israeli planes bombed Beirut airport that Hizbollah resumed rocket attacks on Israel, which had not happened in over a decade. "Hizbollah launched rockets into civilian areas from civilian areas", Neil Nerva claimed, "Communities in both northern Israel and southern Lebanon found themselves spending a month in bomb shelters".

I doubt whether rockets were launched from amid tower blocks in Beirut's streets, hardly the easiest place to manouvre a rocket launcher to take aim and withdraw, as would make sense. I don't know how well such missiles can be aimed. Certainly they seemed to strike not strategic targets but working-class districts in Haifa and Palestinian towns and villages, such as Deir Al Assad. These places were not provided with shelters, and now they are also being denied compensation to rebuild.

All the time that people were suffering and dying in this unnecessary war British media kept saying that Israel was "making war on Hizbollah". Labour's Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett stood with Condoleeza Rice and the Israeli government against any cease-fire, and British airfields (including the civilian Preswick airport) were used to rush US munitions to Israel, including bunker busting bombs such as caused the death of civilians including children sheltering at Cana, on July 30.

As Dave Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialists' Group told the London demonstration on July 22,
"You do not have to share or support the ideas of Hamas of Hezbollah to say that the bombardment of civilians is wrong, detention without trial of thousands of Palestinians is wrong, discrimination between Jews and non-Jews in Israel is wrong, or to say that the Israeli government should negotiate with the democratically elected Palestinian government, which means: negotiate with Hamas"
(see full speech and more about Jewish Socialists' Group).

I wasn't chanting "We are all Hizbollah" on that demonstration, nor were most people. But I can understand the temptation that Lebanese and other Arabs and sympathisers felt to do so, seeing what was happening, and the way Israel and its media supporters pretended it was only fighting "the terrorists". Whatever we think of Hizbollah's ideas or misguided missiles, the Lebanese resisters of whatever ideology deserve respect for putting up a better and braver fight against Israeli invasion than any Arab regime has ever done.

For George Galloway or his supporters to attempt to bask opportunistically in its glory is less impressive. But was this the most disgraceful thing happening?

Neil Nerva was speaking at the annual conference of the British Labour Party, the party of Blair and Margaret Beckett. The society for which he was speaking is also linked with the Israeli Labour party, and used to tell everyone how Israel's nuclear programme launcher Shimon Peres was the best hope for Middle East peace. Former Labour leader Peres joined Kadima, and his successor Amir Peretz dashed hopes that he would be a peacenik by becoming Olmert's Defence Minister before this war.

Ex-MP Reg Freeson, Neil Nerva's colleague in Brent East Labour Party and in Poale Zion- the Jewish Labour Movement, wrote in the latter's Jewish Vanguard of both Hamas-Hizbollah and Israeli aggression, saying Jewish people were horrified by the killing of civilians, and condemning US-UK backing for the war and opposition to a cease fire. (A Wicked Summer Too Far, Jewish Vanguard

From what I know of Neil Nerva - and I was speaking to him at the Grunwick strike commemoration only the other week - I would not have expected him to be more right-wing than Reg Freeson, even if obviously he would not agree with myself. Both Neil and his father, former Poale Zion chair Laurie Nerva, were signatories to Jews for Justice for Palestinians, which has been taking some stick from pro-war Zionists.

There was a fair amount of applause for Neil Nerva's speech when he attacked those who had disgraced themselves by shouting for Hizbollah. I hope Labour delegates concerned that opposition to aggression should have had the correct policy and slogans will ask why they were not allowed to discuss any of the resolutions on Lebanon that were submitted to their party conference.

By all means criticise people and slogans in the solidarity and anti-war movements, but if you are speaking at a Labour Party conference there are surely more deserving targets to aim for. Otherwise your attack too becomes misguided and disproportionate!

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Guns n' Roses

UNDER investigation, but probably not alone,
3rd Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment.

I'VE had a bad habit for as long as I can remember. Every so often I ask questions which people either regard as a wind-up, reacting with annoyance, or ignore, apart from giving me funny looks and moving on to another subject. It's not that I'm clever or devious. I really am that naieve.

Ten years ago, a few of us were sitting in a London pub one evening discussing the day's news, specifically some shootings. I ventured to say that I had been wondering where all the guns were coming from. I grew up in the decades after World War II, when plenty of people had military experience, and we still had conscription. There must have been quite a few souvenirs about. We occasionally heard rumours of someone's uncle possessing a firearm, but rarely read news of them being used - even by professional criminals.

Nowadays they seem to be plentiful, allegedly a fashion accessory in some circles, and used quite casually - young women gunned down in a drive-by shooting in Birmingham, and just recently a 15-year old boy shot dead in Moss Side, Manchester, apparently by mistake for someone else. Various factors must have contributed to this state of affairs, to the demand as well as supply.

One explanation I heard given for the availability of weapons was the break-up of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. In Prague, I saw Russian soldiers selling army watches and other surplus, and I don't doubt more lethal hardware was available down some backstreet. Probably tanks and WMDs too, if you went further up the military ladder. But the weapons more often used have been easier to pack Uzis and, in the case of the Harlesden shootings we were talking about, an Ingrams machine pistol, an American weapon.

Well, one of our number that evening in the pub was a copper, and not normally shy when airing his opinions , but he did not seem to have any theory to offer about the supply of shooters in our cities. Then somehow the subject was changed. Or so I thought. An ex-para who had only recently come out of the Army, was shaking his head over some news he had heard that was not, I think, in the papers - Army SIB's raiding several barracks for illegal drugs.

We didn't get further into that, because the other team had arrived for our quiz match. But later various scraps of information floated together in a backwater of my mind. Ingrams taken off captured Argentinians in the Falklands. The army's investigators making drugs raids. An apocryphal tale I heard from someone about trading unidentified pills to eager British squaddies in Bosnia to obtain diesel. Well it helped get badly needed supplies to Tuzla, and at least the squaddies won't have got pregnant.

I've asked my question about where the weapons come from in various places, without answers, but not so far aired the little theory that took shape in my nasty over-imaginative mind. Until this item appeared today in The Guardian.

Army examines illegal trade in guns from Iraq
Richard Norton-Taylor, Monday September 25, 2006, Guardian

Army prosecutors are investigating the "unlawful possession" of guns by British soldiers who allegedly smuggled the weapons out of Iraq and sold them on the black market for drugs and money.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed yesterday that the Army Prosecuting Authority is conducting an inquiry, following a report that soldiers from the 3rd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment had sold the guns. It is understood that they are not British army weapons.

"The Royal Military police carried out an investigation involving the unlawful possession of small arms," a spokeswoman said. The case was now in the hands of the prosecuting authority, the MoD added.

The guns were allegedly taken from Iraq into Germany, where the battalion had a base, on at least six occasions, according to the Sunday Times. It said it had been told that some of the weapons had been exchanged for cocaine. The allegations come as a growing number of soldiers are being tested positive for drugs and amid reports of a burgeoning trade in illicit guns in Iraq.

The battalion completed a tour of duty in southern Iraq last year and is now based in Warminster, Wiltshire.

Let's keep all this in perspective. Jamaica's boom in gun crime in the 1970s, which has eventually had its imitation in Britain, began with firearms shipped in from the 'States, either by American organised crime looking for an alternative offshore base to Cuba, or the CIA setting out to destabilise the Manley government. Come to think of it these conspiracy theories are not mutually exclusive.

Britain's worst shooting sprees, at Hungerford (sixteen people killed and fifteen wounded in 1987) and Dunblane (1996, sixteen children and their teacher shot dead) were carried out not by Yardie gangs or terrorists but by supposedly respectable citizens whom the police trusted with legally licensed weapons, including at Hungerford an AK47.

In London we have had painter and decorator Harry Stanley shot dead because someone thought a repaired table leg he was carrying home was a firearm, and electrician Jean Charles de Menezes shot seven times in the head because a police surveillance team thought he looked like a "terrorist". Opinion has become divided as to whether the ordinary citizen going to or from work is in more danger from the villains or from those who are supposed to be protecting the public.

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Papal Bull

GATE of hell, called JASENOVAC.

and a couple who met earlier.
April 20, 1939, Berlin, Papal nuncio(ambassador) Cesare Orsenigo with the birthday boy.

ON September 16, 1982, Falangist Christian forces operating as allies of the Israeli military entered the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps in Lebanon and butchered between 800 and 2,000 or more Palestinian and Lebanese Muslim civilians, mostly women, old men and children.

It is hard to establish the precise number of victims, or the extent of Israeli involvement, which is said to have included bulldozers burying masses of corpses. Under international law an occupying army is responsible for the protection of civilian lives under its dominance. The camps were surrounded by Israeli forces, and Israel's own Kahane commission found General Ariel Sharon, who had ordered the army back into Beirut and sanctioned the fascists' entry into the camps - a supposed hunt for "terrorists" - culpable. This did not prevent his ultimate rise to political power in Israel to commit further crimes, while the Israeli authorities which had taken no action against him after the inquiry fought successfully with US help to prevent legal actions being taken in other countries.

Of one thing there is no doubt. The main force which carried out the slaughter in Sabra and Chatila consisted of people who call themselves Christians, adherents as were their commanders of the Maronite Church which though indigenous to the Middle East and maintaining its own rites and traditions,is in communion with the Roman Catholic Church.
Of course their motivation was to maintain political power rather than further religious zeal, and it is likely their Palestinian victims would have included Maronites, as did the Lebanese Left parties which fought on the side of the Palestinians in the Lebanese civil war and more recently against Israel's second invasion.

All the same, I was disappointed some years ago, having helped draft a leaflet on the Sabra and Chatila anniversary which mentioned Israeli involvement, for a commemoration event in which my friend Rabbi Mike Feinberg participated, to hear that the person presiding over this ecumenical event - a Catholic priest as it so happened -had insisted that nothing be said about responsibility for the massacre. At a meeting afterwards of the Joint Committee on Palestine only myself and a young Palestinian woman questioned this forgiving silence.

In May 1997, before setting out for his visit to Lebanon Pope John Paul II urged its people to "find in the love of your country the energy necessary to conquer divisions and to overcome all the obstacles that face you,"
and called for "national reconciliation and social reconstruction."
The previous month he had paid a visit to Sarajevo, preaching his message of reconciliation and forgiveness. This was just four years after the atrocity at Ahmici where Croat nationalist forces slaughtered 116 Bosnian Muslim villagers, on April 16, 1993, burning women and children in their homes. Evidently that was how the special units of the HVO were to implement their part of the Owen-Vance partition plan, by ethnic cleansing what they saw as their part of Bosnia. Having destroyed the mosque, they raised a triumphant cross, as in other places they conquered.
But the Pope spoke of the "Queen of Peace", alluding to a vision of the Virgin at Medjugordje, which militant Croat Catholics had made their inspiration.

There were protests in Serb-held areas of Bosnia when Pope John Paul II came to visit the city of Banja Luka, on Sunday, June 22, 2003. This was because he was to hold a mass at the Petricevac monastery, a Franciscan monastery from which came Tomislav Filipovic, a priest who led Croat Ustashe killers to massacre 2,730 Serbs, including 500 children, in 1942. Filipovic went on to be a commander at the infamous Jasenovac concentration camp which the Ustashe ran for the Nazis. He acquired the nickname "Father Satan". As many as 600,000 people were butchered at Jasenovac - Serbs, Jews, Roma, and also Muslims and Croats if they resisted the fascists. After the Second World war the Vatican provided an escape route for Ustashe leaders fleeing justice, and received its share of wealth stolen from their victims.

In 1998 Pope John Paul beatified Cardinal Stepinac, wartime Archbishop of Zagreb whom Tito's postwar regime jailed for his support to the Ustashe state. On his visit to Banja Luka the Pope once again appealed for forgiveness, explicitly mentioning crimes committed by Catholics. After his death Bosnians, Croats and Serbs alike paid tribute. But not all Catholics have accepted the message in good grace.
"The top ranks of the Catholic Church in Croatia have refused to pay reverence to the victims of Jasenovac and are openly against the policy promoted by Pope Benedict XVI in his recent visit to Auschwitz". (Croatian bishops spiting the Pope over Jasenovac, report by Robert Bajrui,

John Paul's successor, Benedict XVI, born Joseph Alois Ratzinger, a Bavarian police officer's son, joined the Hitler Youth in 1941 and later served in the German army. There is no evidence he agreed with Nazi ideology or committed any atrocities. He is a conservative in church matters and in politics, wanting Europe to return to "Christian values". Claiming both moral and intellectual superiority for Christianity he declared a few years ago that "The Enlightenment is of Christian origin and it is no accident that it was born precisely and exclusively in the realm of the Christian faith.... "

This outlook ignores the vital part of tolerant Islamic civilisation in carrying on intellectual development from ancient and Classical learning. It also convenientlyy forgets the Church's long history of persecuting and destroying those like Galileo who thought differently. It was the seafarers, pirates and merchants who circumnavigated the globe, undermined the Church's old order, and laid the basis for Western modernity.

On September 12, lecturing on "Faith, Reason and the University" at the University of Regensburg, Benedict asserted that "reason and faith go hand in hand", but that Islam had become unreasonable when the Prophet ordered followers to spread their faith by the sword. According to the Pope, that is unreasonable, because faith is born of the soul, not of the body. How can the sword influence the soul? To support his case, the Pope quoted - of all people - a Byzantine Emperor, who belonged to the competing Eastern Church. At the end of the 14th century, the Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus claimed to have debated with an unnamed Persian Muslim scholar. In the heat of the argument, the Emperor (according to himself) flung the following words at his adversary:
"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached".

In fact, as the Pope himself acknowledged, though with less notice taken than his admonition against jihad, the Qur'an specifically forbade the spreading of the faith by force. He quoted the second Sura, verse 256 (strangely fallible, for a pope, he meant verse 257) which says: "There must be no coercion in matters of faith".

So why quote a Byzantine allegation about a non-existent command? True, Mohammed did lead followers to battle Jewish and Christian tribes in Arabia, but as Uri Avnery has pointed out (see article reference below) this was for political hegemony, not an attempt to forcibly convert them. As for jihad, Muslims would argue that there are strict rules as to when it can be justified (e.g. against oppression), and that even then it can take many, not just military forms. If it can be argued that Muslims do not always behave so impeccably that is another matter. Much Christian history is a far cry from turning the other cheek and loving-thy-neighbour-as-thyself, and religious Zionist settlers don't exactly follow the often-repeated Biblical injunction to "oppress not the stranger, for you were strangers", etc.

How does the Muslim tradition of jihad compare with that of the Crusade? Or the Papal Bulls granting indulgences to those who waged war on the infidel, as they had in the Reconquest of Spain? As for conversion at the point of the sword, let's not forget that even those who converted were not safe from torture and murder when the Inquisition got under way.

In 1099, the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem and massacred its Muslim and Jewish inhabitants indiscriminately, in the name of "gentle Jesus, meek and mild". At that time, though Muslim armies had first entered Palestine some four centuries before, they had not sought to force Islam on its largely Christian people.

On the contrary, it was the invaders from western Europe who brought the sword of persecution and massacre of innocents to the Middle East, often pausing to plunder and murder Jews and others, including fellow- Chistians, on the way.

In November, 1202, the army of the Fourth Crusade besieged and sacked the port city of Zara(Zadar) on the Dalmatian coast, ransacking its Christian churches. They did this at the behest of the city state of Venice, to which they were indebted, to destroy a rival. The Pope initially excommunicated them, but reinstated them when they explained that they needed the money to proceed to war on the Muslims. Within a couple of years the Crusaders had sacked Christian Constantinople, looting and destroying churches and monasteries, and killing thousands of innocent civilians.

By the end of the 14th century, power relations had changed. The Crusader kingdoms had gone, Manuel II's Byzantine empire was shrunken to a few provinces, and the Ottoman Turks had advanced into Europe. On May 29, 1453, a few years after Manuel's death, Constantinople (Istanbul) had finally fallen. But before this Manuel toured Europe, asking rulers for support, promising to reunite the church, and trying to incite Christians to a new crusade.

It is five years since the head of modern Empire, George Bush II, promised "this crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take awhile." His use of the word "crusade," was "most unfortunate", said Soheib Bensheikh, Grand Mufti of the mosque in Marseille, France. "It recalled the barbarous and unjust military operations against the Muslim world,"

George Dubya is no professor of theology, unlike Pope Benedict XVI, nor that smart at anything by all accounts. He may have been no more aware than most Western politicians and journalists that the word "crusade" arouses horrific visions in those conscious of their history, But the use of high-flown phrases like "clash of civilisations" and "war on terror" to disguise a sordid and savage grab for wealth is nothing new. Could it be that the Pope, supporting a "Christian Europe" (and opposing Turkish entry to the EU) and alliance with US imperialism (and its born-again Protestant fundamentalists), did not stumble into offending Muslims, but took a deliberate step?

Two interesting articles commenting on the Pope's remarks: -
The Pope, Islam and History - Editorial from the New York-based Jewish Daily Forward.
The Sword of Muhammad - by Uri Avnery


Friday, September 22, 2006

In spite of everything....

“Knowledge is the conformity of the object and the intellect” IBN RUSHD

“You must accept the truth from whatever source it comes”

"Philosophers have interpreted the world. Our task however is to change it"

Shana Tova and Ramadan Karim

to all my readers

and especially a healthy, active and happy New Year to those marching tomorrow September 23 in Manchester and Paris and anywhere else, to those who can't come but are with us, and to comrades in every land.
Our Day Will Come.


A Rum Business

AMERICAN business, at least the section closest to George W.Bush's heart, is hotting up the competition in the world chutzpah stakes. What do you do when you come up against a successful competing product? Simple - pinch the competitor's brand name.
It helps if you have an understanding legislature. On October 21, 1998 at the request of the Senator Connie Mack of Florida, the US Congress passed a federal budget bill with a little amendment tagged on, known as Section 211.
It is also being called the Bacardi Law.

What it says is that the US authorities can deny the right to renew a trade mark in the United States. So any US company would theoretically be free to appropriate a brand name that has proved a winner and use for its own inferior product. That sounds to me like the counterfeiting we hear about, when trading standards officers descend on Delboy down the market selling dubious designer-label gear and Brut after-shave just before Christmas. Only this time, it's all legal, officer.

The World Trade Organisation(WTO) has a Dispute Settlement Board which decided a few years ago that Section 211 was incompatible with WTO principles. But it seems it's one thing laying down the law to poor countries turning out cheapo goods or otherwise infringing WTO rules, another when a poor nation protests at what American business is doing. Cuba's UN ambassador has complained to the WTO's Dispute Settlement Board over the actions of the Bacardi company.

On July 28 the US Office of Foreign Assets Control denied a request for a specific license to renew the registration of the trademark Havana Club at the US Patent and Trademark Office. Havana Club is the Cuban rum which has been doing well in European and other markets.

Bacardi likes to use its Latin image in sales here, but even before the Cuban revolution it had transferred its distillery operations from Havana to Puerto Rico, in order to secure tariff benefits on US territory. The move allowed the firm to obtain a ruling in its favor to maintain the brand name when it left Cuba, registering its headquarters first in the Bermuda tax haven and then Miami.

Cuba had started to produce Bacardi rum again, but had to comply with international rules and stop using the name. Then about ten years ago, Havana Club overtook Bacardi sales in Italy, and became a serious competitor elsewhere. Claiming it had paid the Arechabala family for the rights to the Havana Club brand name, Bacardi began selling rum produced in the Bahamas by Galleon SA under the Havana Club name. Cubans say the Arechabalas went out of business long before and hadn't the name to sell. The company ceased production when Havana Club International, a joint venture between the Cuban Havana Ron y Licores company and Pernod Ricard of France took legal action to prevent the false use of its name.

I'm no connoisseur of rum. I rarely drink the stuff. But back in 1972 I spent a season working in what must be one of the country's biggest fish and chip restaurants, on the seafront at Morecambe. (Those familiar with my political background and the dramatis personae of post-war Trotskyism will be amused to hear it was the branch of the Blackpool-based Pablo's). Towards the end of the season as nights drew in and queues dwindled the manager would shut up shop and pour the Bacardi, in paper cups that we topped up with Coke or Limeade from the taps on the counter. Bacardi and Coke I found too sickly, so I preferred it with Lime. Even so, it didn't become my tipple of choice, but since it was buckshee, I wasn't complaining.

In 1992 I went on holiday with friends in the Czech Republic. Our little hotel in the sticks of Moravia had a limited range of bevvies, but Plazdroz (that's Pilsner Urquell to you, and what British pubs call a "Premium Lager") on draught at something like 20p a pint was fine. Only after my evening meal I fancied a "short" with my black coffee, and took to the local dark Tuczinska rum, which was cheap and cheerful, a bit like the sort of flavour you used to get in rum-and-butter toffee and similar confectionary.

"That is very bad", a relief barmaid called Renate said one evening when I was on my fourth or so. "Oh, it's not that bad," I assured her, feeling she was being unduly critical of her nation's product "No, all that coffee you are drinking, it is not good for you," Renate explained. At this I ventured to suggest she might like to accompany me back to England as a personal health carer, but she frowned that she did not understand my English and turned to another customer. My drunken leer has been known to have this sudden effect on comprehension.

Anyway, by way of a change, my drinking companions suggested we try the more expensive Havana Club which had pride of place on the top shelf. It was a clear, white rum. I can tell you it is definitely not confectioners' rum, and definitely not Bacardi. I'd say it was for the serious drinker. Even though, if I had to choose a rum it would be Cockspur, which I sampled at a party once, a friend having brought some back from Barbados (unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, he had only brought along one bottle, or I could have developed a taste for the stuff). But like I say, I'm no rum expert.

In the case of Budweiser, the US company kept the Czech Budweiser-Budvar beer from being sold under its name for years (well, since 1939, which was a conveniant date for stopping Czechs doing business. Hitler had taken his prize from Munich, and the Bank of England was about to hand over the Czech gold reserve entrusted to its safe keeping to the Germans). After the fall of "communism" the US Budweiser company tried to buy the Czech breweries, but alerted by the Campaign for Real Ale the Czechs resisted, and now Czech Budweis-Budvar is sold in the US and Canada - but as "Czechvar".

Bacardi have mounted numerous court actions to get their hands on the Havana Club trademark, before taking advantage of the "Bacardi Bill". Meanwhile the European Union, which might conceivably have some brand names of its own to protect has let the United States keep setting new dates to comply with the DSB recommendations and regulations.
In 1999 Bacardi’s lawyers won a case in New York state using Section 211, but in in January 2004, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) of the U.S. Patent and Trademark decided in favor of Havana Club International, which now sells its well-known rum in 80 countries., and against Bacardi-Martini's efforts to sell its own, non-Cuban version of Havana Club in the United States.

Meanwhile the Washington Post reported in 2002 how Florida Governor Jeb Bush was taking up Bacardi's case with the Patent and Trademark Office. The rum producer reportedly donated huge sums of money to the Republican Party. Senator Mel Martinez has been accused by the CREW anti-corruption group in Washington of accepting over $60,000 from Bacardi. The Post also reported on December 4 that Rodríguez-Marquez belatedly presented the necessary federal report showing that he had spent $500 million on "lobbying" since 1998. Besides that, Bacardi spent another $2.2 million contracting "lobbyists".

The president’s brother then wrote to James Rogan, director of the Patent and Trademark Office on Bacardi-Martini's behalf. asking that the expired patent (from Cubaexport) should be cancelled immediately." Rogan, appointed by President George W. Bush, met secretly with individuals from the governor’s office. Rodríguez-Márquez himself has acknowledged that he met with State Department authorities, contacts of Vice President Dick Cheney and White House political advisors.
HCI demonstrated that Havana Club was not confiscated, but the Arechabala family simply failed to renew the trademark and gave up the business when it faced financial difficulties in 1955. The Cuban firm took control of a company that was bankrupt.

The TTAB ruled last January that Bacardi’s attempt to invalidate HCI’s registration of the trademark had no legal basis because Cubaexport had registered the trademark in the correct way in Cuba and had transferred registration to the United States in 1976, three years after the Arechabala family had permitted its expiration. In 1993, Cubaexport and Pernod-Ricard formed HCI and renewed the trademark name.

Democrat Charles Rangel – who together with 14 other Congress members from both parties endorsed the bill – stated at the time how "Cuba and the United States have respected one another’s trademarks for the last 75 years. It is shameful to think that Congress can liquidate this area of cooperation in order to benefit one particular interest (that of Bacardi), at the expense of hundreds of U.S. citizens with trademark names."

The U.S.-based National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC), founded in 1914 by a group of US companies, and serving some 350 firms, is concerned that the Bacardi privilege could boomerang. NFTC president, Bill Reinshi has stated that more than 5,000 U.S. trademarks that have been registered in Cuba since 1918 and a further 400 registered since 1959 were at risk thanks to Section 211, "which infringes on the commitments reached with Cuba."

He added that U.S. trademarks that are registered in Cuba — including McDonalds, Pepsi, Coca-Cola and Nike — and global recognition of the same "are vitally important for the economy of the United States." For the first time in 40 years, these trademarks are appearing in Cuban warehouses, he said, but they are at risk because of 211, given that it gives the Cuban government the option of not respecting international treaties that protect trademarks registered by the Untied States in Cuba. President Fidel Castro said in 2001 that Cuba could sell Coca-Cola, Bacardi rum and Cuban anti-AIDS medicines patented by U.S. companies.

But the Bush administration is looking after Bacardi. Under orders from the State Department, J. Robert McBrien, director of its Patent Office, refused the Havana Club International joint venture the necessary license to renew ownership of the trademark on its patent and trademarks register, despite the fact that the company has owned the right to do so since 1974, when it paid the $500 fee required on time. The decision was based on laws surrounding the so-called "embargo" of Cuba. In this way, last August 8 the rum manufacturer was then able to announce that it would once again bring a rum called Havana Club onto the U.S. market.

And now for some more on the authentic Cuban product. With sound:

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

British Friends of Franco

FRANCO; "The Leader of our cause today", Captain Victor Cazalet, MP, March 23, 1938.

This year has been the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, and seen a fair bit of attention given the many brave left-wing volunteers who went to Spain to fight fascism. Whatever our views on the policies which led to their defeat, we recognise in their courage and motivation, under whichever banners they fought, a spirit we could well do with.
By way of a change from our usual arguments within the Left, I thought it might be interesting in this blog to look at some people who have not had so much attention in this anniversary year. Maybe their political successors should be doing the honours, but in case they are shy, I thought we'd look at the Brits who supported Franco.

ONE Summer morning in 1936 a plane took off from Croydon airport, piloted by Captain Cecil Bebb, with a friend, Major Hugh Pollard as navigator. The flight log showed it was bound for the Canary Islands. Two young platinum blondes were on board to make it look like a pleasure trip.

Special Branch at Croydon monitored all international flights. They may have known that this was no joy ride. Major Pollard was an experienced MI6 officer, Spanish-speaking and with firearms expertise. He had worked under journalistic cover in Ireland, Mexico and Morocco. His superiors in the intelligence services probably had a fair idea of his object in flying to the Canary Islands. The commander of the Spanish garrison there was one General Francisco Franco, whom the Spanish Republic had sent there some months before to keep him out of the way. Franco already had a reputation for his part in suppressing the Asturian miners, and his hostility to the Republic. Had a Spanish plane landed in the Canaries the authorities might have been alerted, but the British flight didn't arouse suspicion.

The plane flew Franco and right-wing conspirator Emilio Mola to Tetuan in Spanish Morocco. On July 18, 1936, some Spanish generals announced a coup against the elected Socialist government. Franco arrived in Morocco the following day to raise support from Spain's African army. The generals had thought their coup would give them power within a couple of days, but the Spanish people resisted, and so the Civil War had began.

Franco's flight had been planned over lunch at Simpsons in the Strand where Douglas Jerrold, editor of the right-wing Catholic English Review met Luis Boli­n, London correspondent of the ABC newspaper and later Franco's propaganda and censorship chief. They decided to charter a De Havilland Dragon Rapide aircraft and a pilot, Captain Cecil Bebb, from Olley Air Services at Croydon.

Jerrold brought Major Pollard, into the plot and arranged for him to travel on the plane as navigator, along with Pollard's daughter, Diana, and another young woman, Dorothy Watson, as 'cover'. (BBC History Magazine, April 2002; article by Michael Alpert, Emeritus Professor of Spanish history).

Jerrold's work was only beginning. As the civil war raged in Spain, Franco's forces were backed by Nazi Germany and Italy with arms, men and planes, while the Soviet Union and left-wing volunteers went to the aid of the Republic. The British and French government's official policy was "non-intervention", in effect denying help or supplies to the Spanish republic.

In London, Jerrold was already a member of the pro-Nazi Anglo-German Fellowship, which counted Tory peers and MPs, banks and big companies (ICI, Unilever, Dunlop, Tate and Lyle to name a few) among its supporters. To this he added the Friends of National Spain, which made a particular play for Catholic support against "the Godless Reds" as well as counting on the usual right-wing Tories.

"I recognise General Franco to be a gallant Christian gentleman, and I believe his word", declared Sir Henry Page Croft, MP for Bournemouth, at a Friends of National Spain meeting. Lord Redesdale, father-in-law of Sir Oswald Mosley, and a member of both Friends of National Spain and the Anglo-German Fellowship, said Franco was leading a crusade for all that they held dear. The Earl of Glasgow said in the House of Lords that he could not see "Why this country should insist on the withdrawal of Italian troops from Spain before they had finished the work they were sent for". He also objected to a request to Franco to abstain from acts of vengeance on his entry into Barcelona.

Captain Archibald Maule Ramsay, MP for Peebles, chaired another pro-Franco organisation, the United Christian Front, and bitterly denounced the Bishop of Chelmsford for supporting the Spanish government. "The United Christian Front has fought to prove the real fact, that General Franco was fighting the cause of Christianity against anti-Christ", Ramsay wrote in a letter to the press. Among the United Christian Front's aristocratic supporters was the Earl of Home, whose son Lord Dunglass MP was acting parliamentary private secretary to Neville Chamberlain at the time of Munich.

In 1940, with Franco in power, which he would hold till 1975, Major Hugh Pollard became MI6 station chief in Madrid. Sir Archibald Maule Ramsay, who had become convinced that communism was a Jewish plot, and formed the pro-Nazi Right Club, was detained under Defence Regulation 18b on May 23 1940, following the arrest of his associate Tyler Kent for espionage.

Captain Victor Cazalet, MP for Chippenham, and committee member of the Friends of National Spain, differed from the others in supporting Churchill against Appeasement, and sympathising with Jewish refugees from Nazism. During the war he became liaison officer with General Sikorski, and was killed with the Polish leader in July 1943 when their plane came down into the sea off Gibraltar. (The circumstances remain subject to controversy).

Mid-Bedfordshire MP Alan Lennox-Boyd, a member of the Friends of National Spain before taking government office, went on to be Colonial Secretary in the Tory government in the 1950s, presiding over repression in Malawi and Kenya, including the notorious Hola concentration camp. In 1955 he defended the use of whipping against schoolboys in Cyprus. Such methods were more usually associated with Hitler and Franco, Mr. Fenner Brockway (Lab.) said. We don't know whether that bothered Lennox-Boyd.

Lord Dunglass became better known as Sir Alec Douglas Home, briefly Tory prime minister from 1963-4, when Labour got in led by Harold Wilson.

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Who decided to bust Grunwick pickets?

POLICE hold line at Grunwick. Home Secretary Merlyn Rees told strikers they had right to halt buses and persuade people not to go in. But police evidently had different instructions.

(pic P.J. Arkell, Marg Nicoll collection)

AROUND 400 people must have attended Brent Trades Union Council's event commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Grunwick strike on Sunday. Contrary to my earlier expectation, strike leader Mrs.Jayaben Desai was able to come and speak, despite recent illness and a family tragedy (a son's death). This is one frail but very determined lady.

Jayaben shared a platform with niners' leader Arthur Scargill, who led miners to join the Grunwick picket line, former Brent TUC secretary Jack Dromey who gained prominence supporting the strike, and Derek Walsh, whose postmen defied the state and their own union leadership at the time by refusing to handle Grunwick mail.

Among tributes paid to the diminutive strike leader perhaps the most moving came from a young woman trade unionist of Asian background who said she had not been born at the time of the Grunwick strike, but had always been inspired by the picture of Mrs.Desai to know that she could stand up and fight for what was right. In response, Jayaben said modestly that she had only reflected her times, along with her fellow-strikers, and was thankful for having had the chance.

Besides reminiscences and discussion, which inevitably turned to more recent struggles like Gate Gourmet, the role of the unions and union officialdom, and the failure of Labour to repeal Tory anti-union laws, there were films and a photographic exhibition, Indian food, and performance by the Banner Theatre and singer Leon Rosselson. All in all, though not without controversy, the day was a good one for all.

Not that everybody was happy to see Grunwick being commemorated. Tory councillors in Brent had the Trades Council's publicity leaflets banned from the borough's libraries. The Tricycle Theatre which hosted the event received a letter from someone who said she was a former Willesden resident, denouncing those who had joined the Grunwick picket as a "rentacrowd", and claiming she had seen miners sticking knitting needles into police horses. Oddly enough, despite plain-clothes police mingling among the crowds, hundreds of arrests in the two-year strike, and some pretty imaginative charges, this lady and her shocking evidence of equine abuse doesn't seem to have figured in any of the court cases.

On one day alone in 1977 some 243 people were injured outside Grunwick. Many had bones broken. When a policeman was hurt it made front-page headlines. Meanwhile magistrates boasted of the stiff sentences they were handing down on people arrested at Grunwick.

Thinking about the police determination to bust the pickets and keep supporting trades unionists and students away from Grunwick, I remember a conversation I had about a year before the strike with a young police officer in the West Midlands. He told me he had been on duty at Saltley coke depot in Birmingham in 1972 when engineering factory workers decided to come to the aid of the picketing miners. "The moment we saw those union banners coming over the hill we knew we were defeated".

The police decided to withdraw from Saltley depot that day, the gates were closed, and workers claimed a victory for which the Tories never forgave them. But by the time of the Grunwick strike a decision was evidently taken to beat the strikers and their supporters by whatever means were necessary. Admittedly the Metropolitan Police were probably less inhibited than their Midlands counterparts about turning local streets into battlefields, and attacking working people. In the newsreel film you can see the Special Patrol Group thugs enjoying their violence. But the use of tough measures and horses was a sign of bigger and worse to come against the miners, and the printworkers at Wapping. There's your rentamob, and well-paid for it.

There were 4,000 police to guard Grunwicks, many more than there had been at Saltley. Unless we imagine a backstreet colour processing lab was somehow as important as a major fuel depot - or Murdoch's presses - we have to see the decision to break Grunwick's pickets was political. But whose decision was it, considering Labour cabinet ministers, including the now Baroness Williams actually came on the picket? Again, who decided that the Post Office could allow the right-wing National Association for Freedom(NAFF) to handle Grunwick mail, in breach of the Post Office Monopoly Act, as Derek Walsh says, and yet to lock-out Cricklewood post office workers for refusing to handle Grunwick mail, thus breaching its own obligations to ensure mail service to the public? Who decided that post office unions could be dealt with under laws designed to deal with mail robbery if they did not discipline their members?
The unions retreated from solidarity action, letting the dispute go to ACAS, and law. The Scarman tribunal recommended reinstatement of the strikers, and recognition of the union. But Grunwick boss George Ward ignored it, and the House of Lords found for Grunwick. There was no law for the workers.

Having signed up for the International Monetary Fund's loan, the Callaghan government had to adopt the austerity measures which led to the so-called "winter of discontent". Discussion at Sunday's Grunwick commemoration rightly turned to how right-wing union leaders helped the government by doing everything to weaken and undermine the kind of solidarity shown at Grunwicks. But should historians be interested, there is also much to be uncovered about how, and where, and by whom, decisions were taken about the use of force against workers, that should help us understand more about how Britain is really governed.

COPIES of the films Stand Together and Look Back at Grunwick produced by Newsreel Collective were made available on one DVD for the event and at £6 sold like the proverbial hot cakes, or whatever. It may be possible to order, though I'm not sure of the price, from Brent Trades Union Council, 375 High Road, Willesden, NW10 2JR

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Friday, September 15, 2006

"Insane and monstrous" cluster-bombing

CHILDREN often main victims
of devil's toyshop

"What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs" said the head of an Israeli army rocket unit in Lebanon, quoted by Meron Rappaport in the daily Ha'aretz a few days ago.

Quoting his battalion commander, the rocket unit head stated that the IDF fired around 1,800 cluster bombs, containing over 1.2 million cluster bomblets. In addition, soldiers in IDF artillery units testified that the army used phosphorus shells during the war, widely forbidden by international law.

Confirming what UN observers alleged, the officers said the vast majority of the explosive ordinance was fired in the final 10 days of the war. The rocket unit commander stated that Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) platforms were heavily used in spite of the fact that they were known to be highly inaccurate. MLRS is a track or tire carried mobile rocket launching platform, capable of firing a very high volume of mostly unguided munitions.

The basic rocket fired by the platform is unguided and imprecise, with a range of about 32 kilometers. The rockets are designed to burst into sub-munitions at a planned altitude in order to blanket enemy army and personnel on the ground with smaller explosive rounds. The use of such weaponry is controversial mainly due to its inaccuracy and ability to wreak great havoc against indeterminate targets over large areas of territory, with a margin of error of as much as 1,200 meters from the intended target to the area hit.

The cluster rounds which don't detonate on impact, believed by the United Nations to be around 40% of those fired by the IDF in Lebanon, remain on the ground as unexploded munitions, effectively littering the landscape with thousands of land mines which will continue to claim victims long after the war has ended. Because of their high level of failure to detonate, it is believed that there are around 500,000 unexploded munitions on the ground in Lebanon.

To date 12 Lebanese civilians have been killed by these mines since the end of the war.According to the commander, in order to compensate for the inaccuracy of the rockets and the inability to strike individual targets precisely, units would "flood" the battlefield with munitions, accounting for the littered and explosive landscape of post-war Lebanon. When his reserve duty came to a close, the commander in question sent a letter to Defense Minister Amir Peretz outlining the use of cluster munitions, a letter which has remained unanswered.

It has come to light that IDF soldiers fired phosphorus rounds in order to cause fires in Lebanon. An artillery commander has admitted to seeing trucks loaded with phosphorus rounds on their way to artillery crews in the north of Israel.A direct hit from a phosphorus shell typically causes severe burns and a slow, painful death. International law forbids the use of weapons that cause "excessive injury and unnecessary suffering", and many experts are of the opinion that phosphorus rounds fall directly in that category.

The International Red Cross has determined that international law forbids the use of phosphorus and other types of flammable rounds against personnel, both civilian and military.

Those most likely to be killed or maimed by cluster bomb minelets are farmers working in their fields, children and other innocents. "Cluster bombs are delivered by a large canister and disperse over awide area, a sort of lethal piñata. The bomblets come in many sizes.Some are tiny, even smaller than 2 inches in diameter. Kids are constantly trying to kick them or pick them up with the result in the loss an arm or leg or even death."
September 2 / 3, 2006
Blanket Immunity from War Crimes
When Criticism of Cluster Bombs is "Anti-Semitic" , by STANLEY HELLER

But during the Lebanon war the council of rabbis in the West Bank settlements issued a statement that in war, there is no such thing as "innocents" among "the enemy". Before the soldiers spoke out the head of Germany's Jewish community council, Charlotte Knobloch, accused a minister in Angela Merkel's government of "antisemitism" for saying the UN should investigate Israel's use of cluster bombs. And even as the soldiers were making their frank comments about cluster bombs and phosphorus it was reported that a delegation of visiting rabbis urged the Israeli forces to abandon their supposed restraints on endangering civilians. So much for religion as a brake on barbarity.

We know that US supplies of bunker-busting bombs such as used at Kana were rushed to Israel via British airfields. I don't know whether the cluster-bombs were also US-made. From the Vietnam war to Iraq and Afghanistan, US forces have used cluster bombs. During the NATO intervention in Yugoslavia the US forces dropped 1,100 cluster bombs, each scattering about 200 bomblets, while RAF planes dropped 531. Earlier during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia there were reports of Serb forces using cluster-type munitions supplied by Hunting Engineering, a company based in Ampthill, Bedfordshire. In 2001 this became INSYS, which is now owned by Lockheed. It supplies munitions used by Apache helicopters.

After the 1982 Lebanon war the Reagan administration introduced a temporary ban on cluster bomb sales to Israel saying they had been misused. A campaign launched during the latest Lebanon war to stop British military supplies to Israel says:

The UK licensed arms sales to Israel worth £22.5m in 2005 – more than twice the amount in the previous year. These licences included military equipment such as weapon control systems, ammunition and components for rockets, tanks and
combat aircraft, all of which have been used in the occupied
territories. The F-16 fighter jets and Apache combat helicopters which were recently used to bomb towns and villages in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon contained significant UK components.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

How the British public is helping US power companies make bigger profits from the poor

OH! The joys of privatisation! Some while back I wrote indignantly about the poor old pensioners who were getting letters on what looked like water company-headed paper suggesting they better insure against underground water pipes bursting on the way to their homes. The letter spoke about the costs of special digging equipment and difficulty of finding engineers and plumbers, and warned the water company might not accept responsibility. Fortunately the pensioners told me they had binned the letters, but the companies keep trying it on.

My electricity supplier has come up with a new one. After all this rivalry competing to offer lower prices, seems reality - particularly the Middle East crisis - is making itself felt. Wholesale power prices are likely to go up this Winter, they warn, and the company is reviewing its prices, so why not take the opportunity to pay a premium up front and be protected against price increases?

Somehow these ever-so-reasonable suggestions make me think of a heavy barging into my hall. "Nice little place you've got...wouldn't like to see your lecky or your water stopped."

But irritating as the ways of sales managers may be, they are but a small part of the privatisation game, and maybe not really to blame. Whereas when we look at government ministers.. . and international financial institutions...

The aid charity War on Want this week published a report on the power company Globeleq, which is wholly owned by the British government's Department for International Development (DFID) through CDC, its private sector promotion arm. It says Globeleq has paid hundreds of millions of pounds to US power firms that wanted to withdraw from the "developing world". Two such companies, AES and El Paso, have benefited by over US$1 billion.

One in four of the world’s population, or 1.6 billion people, lack access to electricity – two-thirds of them in Asia, with most of the rest in sub-Saharan Africa. The International Energy Agency estimates that electricity services must extended to a further 600 million people by 2015 in order to meet the UN Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day.

Globeleq operates in 16 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and is pursuing further acquisitions in a bid to be “the fastest growing power company in the emerging markets”. But, according to War on Want, rather than helping bring electricity coverage to poor communities, privatisation has brought sharp tariff increases which many people cannot afford. Since Globeleq took over the national grid in Uganda last year, domestic customers have faced price rises of 70 per cent for their electricity.

The arrival of companies like AES, Enron and EDF in developing countries during the 1990s saw dramatic price rises in electricity. When the Indian state of Maharashtra opened its power sector to Enron, this forced the state electricity board to extend farmers’ tariffs by a crippling 400 per cent to meet extra costs. Electricity privatisation led to higher tariffs in the Dominican Republic and left the government with more than US$135 million in debts to private firms.

Britain's international development secretary Hilary Benn said last year that Britain would no longer make privatisation a condition of its assistance to developing countries. "Yet 40 per cent of UK aid goes through multilateral institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, which continue to impose harmful conditions such as privatisation", War on Want's report points out. "

War on Want Chief Executive Louise Richards said: “DFID’s mandate is to reduce poverty. But the promotion of privatisation through initiatives like Globeleq hurts poor people. We call on the government to stop advancing the privatisation of public services and to help developing countries build genuine solutions to poverty.

“The British government last year promised to drop conditions such as privatisation on its overseas aid. Yet DFID has announced that it will channel a record £1.3 billion of UK assistance through the World Bank in the next three years. We urge the government to withhold its contributions to the World Bank and IMF until these institutions stop imposing harmful conditions such as privatisation on the poor.”

Thanks to Paul Collins of War on Want for drawing my attention to this report, and call. "New Labour" is so far gone and sold on capitalism its hard to believe it will change. Still, no harm in trying, I suppose. And it is only right the British taxpayers should be told where our money is going.


British company mines trouble in Bangladesh

BANGLADESHIS in east London have been losing jobs as textile work is transferred to Bangladesh. Meanwhile garment workers there are fighting for their rights and owed wages, while an even angrier explosion is continuing over a British-owned company's opencast mining plans.

I've come across the report below on a libertarian communist news and discussion site. (see for full report and pic).

News from Bangladesh
Submitted by Ret Marut

Unrest continues across Bangladesh, with widespread strikes and the mass revolt against an attempt by a British company to begin destructive open cast mining in Phulbari.
In the capital, Dhaka, the unrest continues. In the garment industry there are ongoing clashes almost daily; regular walkouts by workers protesting conditions, strikers marching to other factories calling out fellow workers, workplace occupations, employers' lockouts, bosses' property regularly attacked. Workers also often block main roads and clash with police and army. Much of this is fuelled by disputes over unpaid back pay and also the failure by the bosses' federation to implement most of the concessions agreed after the major revolt of May/June, continuing on a lesser scale to the present

"At least 50 people were injured as police clashed with several thousand garment workers blockading the city's Airport Road yesterday demanding a pay rise and end to 'inhuman treatment'.
The demonstrations by the workers of four garment units of NASA Group went on for three and a half hours at Khilkhet intersection,
forcing hundreds of vehicles to be stranded on either direction along the busy thoroughfare during the morning rush hour.
Vehicular movements came to a standstill on the road stretching from Mohakhali to Khilkhet while on the other side, thousands of commuters from Uttara and beyond were stuck in a miles-long
tailback from 8:30am till 12 noon.
As the police clubbed the demonstrators to clear the road, a clash broke out between them and the garment workers. At least
10 teargas shells were fired to disperse the agitators who retaliated by throwing stones at the policemen.
The garment workers also damaged around 20 vehicles during the demonstration that escalated into a pitched battle leaving
50 of them injured." (Daily Star, 15/Aug/06)
There have also been struggles elsewhere; strikes in the river transport and sugar and jute mill sectors. Teachers have been on strike over employment conditions and for a living wage. Rumours circulate around the country; of recent workers' uprisings involving thousands in different areas, but all news has been censored.

In Phulbari, 217 miles (350 kilometres) north of the capital, Dhaka, there has been major resistance in the last few days to an opencast mining project that would forcibly resettle up to 100,000 people (though the mining company claims only 40, ooo). This would include thousands of indigenous people, mainly Santal. At least five people were killed and about 50 injured as police and Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) opened fire on demonstrators advancing towards the office of the British-owned Asia Energy Corporation (Bangladesh) Pvt Ltd in Dinajpur.

"Thousands of demonstrators, mainly farmers and indigenous people including women armed with bows and arrows and sticks, joined the protest apprehending massive eviction and loss of farmland that might be caused by the implementation of the Phulbari Coalmine Project."(New Age)

A 14-party oppositon coalition are conducting negotiations with the government in an attempt to control the movement, but the mass activity that has seized the town appears to have a strong autonomous element to it. Rail and road links with the rest of the country are blocked. On Monday the troops withdrew, as did Asia Energy staff, and the town fell into the hands of thousands of protesters who ransacked the company offices

"Boiling with anger after Saturday’s police firing which left 5 people dead and scores injured, the locals carried out arson attacks on at least six houses and business establishments belonging to ‘dalals’ (collaborators) of the British company, torching and ransacking whatever they found there. The police in riot gear looked on in silence as over 30,000 farmers, indigenous people and petty traders staged demonstrations all day on Monday..." (New Age)

A general strike and regular street demonstrations in the town continue.
The property of those who have collaborated with the mining interests has been extensively targetted;

"People from different neighbourhoods of Phulbari and surrounding villages started pouring into the town since early in the morning. They cut off the upazila town from the rest of the country by felling tress, electric poles, putting up barricade on a bridge and burning spent tyres and wood. A 15,000-strong mob first attacked an oil mill owned by Hamidpur union parishad chairman [i.e. chair of a local administrative council], Anwar Ali, at about 11:00 am, threw everything out on the street and set them on fire. One and a half hours later they attacked the house-cum-office of one Bulbul Chowdhury, burning three motorbikes, two refrigerators, 15 bicycles and other valuables. An information centre of Asian Energy and some other shops in the town were also damaged and set ablaze till 3:00pm. The angry mob turned down the request of deputy commissioner of Dinajpur, Tahsinur Rahman, thana nirbahi officer and police officials to show restraint.‘We would beat them to death if they are captured,’ one of the demonstrators yelled. ‘These people are helping (Asia Energy) to realise their ill-motive,’ the youth said. Meanwhile, people accused by the locals of helping Asian Energy to go ahead with their plan have fled the town."(New Age)

London-based Asia Energy have agreed a contract with the government to mine the 570 million tons of coal in the area over a 30 year period. 70% of Bangladesh remains without electricity yet the company website says the projected 15 million tons of coal mined per year will be "mostly ... export coal." . They claim on their website to be "Making natural resources work for the people of Bangladesh"; clearly the locals do not see the trashing of their environment or eviction from their lands in such a rosy light and have
shown admirable resistance . Offers of compensation, including cash and colour TVs, have been rejected. The indigenous peoples are at a particular disadvantage in this respect, as their relationship to the land means they have no title deeds to prove any private 'ownership'.
The company's latest website statement also claims, in an attempt to reassure investors; "Asia Energy PLC said today preparations for its Phulbari Coal Project in Northwest Bangladesh would continue in the aftermath of last weekend’s violent protests. "We are continuing to work positively with the Government of Bangladesh to make this project a success," said Asia Energy Chief Executive Steve Bywater. "The Government has assured us that it remains committed to the project." (

This is a major project, with investment of £700 million ($1.1billion). But the class struggle is proving a tough obstacle. With the present level of resistance, one would expect either an eventual compromise solution negotiated by the politicians claiming to represent the movement (who are using the issue to damage their political rivals but would undoubtedly also grab such foreign investment if they held power) - or a bloody repression. But with the present mood in Bangladesh, the authorities appear to have realised the danger of such a move and, for the moment, have ordered restraint from the security forces.
On Tuesday there was a nationwide strike in solidarity with the Phulbari resistance. Yesterday (Weds) there was rioting in Dhaka, as hundreds of students clashed with cops. One cop died from a heart attack after receiving a head wound from a thrown brick. These protests are reported to have been organised by the main opposition party, the Awami League, who are attempting to use popular protests to destabilise the government to further their own political ambitions. How cynical this is becomes obvious when one bears in mind that it was the Awami League that granted the Phulbari mining licence when it was last in government. It is sometimes hard to measure from this distance the exact meaning of strikes and other events in Bangladesh; some strikes are called by opposition parties simply as a means to damage their political rivals in power, with little motive to advance workers' conditions. But the sheer scale and explosive spontaneity of recent events such as the garment workers' and Phulbari revolts suggest a strong autonomous current of class struggle emerging among workers earning some of the lowest wages in the world.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

What Blair won't tell us, but Netanyahu does

I went around to see Moshe, an Israeli friend, the other day to talk about the war of which the 50th anniversary is approaching, when Israeli troops invaded Egypt, and the British and French governments joined in as arranged; while all the time British Prime Minister Anthony Eden insisted there was no collusion; Britain only wanted to seize back the Suez canal to separate the two warring sides.

They thought they would topple Nasser, and put an end to Arab nations thinking they could run their own affairs. Ben Gurion brandished his Bible and roused the Knesset to its feet claiming that in taking Gaza, Sinai and the island of Tiran Israel was only "liberating" its historic, indeed God-given, lands. Moshe lost a few friends at the Mitla Pass, thanks to a glory-seeking general who went beyond his orders, called Ariel Sharon (he was to go beyond his remit again in Lebanon in 1982).

There were demonstrations in London saying "Eden Must Go!", and in the end, Eden went, while Nasser gained the heights of his prestige and leadership in the Arab world. The Israelis had to withdraw when the United States as well as the Soviet Union told them to get out. Having failed as they'd hoped to stop the Algerian liberation war, the French rulers fought on to bloody defeat, then turned their ambitions to Europe as a counter to the super-powers. Suez was a major turning point in the twentieth century, Moshe says. You can read some more of our discussion in the forthcoming issue of Jewish Socialist magazine.

From looking backwards, to more recent wars, and those to come?
Moshe has sent a message to friends about another Prime Minister who doesn't want to admit the truth about his wars, or to listen when he's told that it's time to go:

Dear Friend,

Why is Tony Blair clinging to office like a leech? My guess is that a major reason is that he has a particular bit ofunfinished business to deliver. Blair's decline started when, delivering on a promise he had made to GW Bush, he took Britain into the Iraqi quagmire, against the wishes of the British people. Two members of his cabinet resigned over this.

The recent revolt in the New "Labour" Party was largely caused by widespread disgust with Blair's scandalous stance during the July-August Israeli assault on Lebanon, when -- once more standing
shoulder to shoulderwith GW Bush -- he refused to call for an immediate ceasfire. For a secondtime, Blair acted as though he was delivering on a promise he had made to Bush. Could it be that Blair's secret promises to Bush have a third item? What could this item be? I am speculating, but it seems likely that it has to do with Iran.

On his recent visit to the US, Israel's former Prime Minister BenjaminNetanyahu -- who has very close relations with the leading neo-cons who make US foreign policy -- told his audience at the Hudson Institute that"President Bush is preparing to ditch the United Nations to take on Iran alone".

He went on to say:"Largely ignored in the coverage of Mr. Bush's speech Tuesday on the waron terror, Mr. Netanyahu told his audience more than once, was Mr. Bush's statement that 'the world's free nations will not allow Iran to develop anuclear weapon.' Not that the 'United Nations won't allow', said Mr.Netanyahu, but that the 'free nations' of the world won't allow.

Mr.Netanyahu called it a sign that on the Iranian problem the president waspreparing to stop working through the United Nations and instead work with whoever would join
him."Unfortunately, said Mr. Netanyahu, Britain and America, along with Israel and Iran, are the only countries at the moment that understand what is at stake if Iran acquires the bomb."

Note the reference to the coalition of the willful, the trio: "Britain and America along with Israel". As I said, I am only speculating, but this sounds as though Netanyahu --briefed by his neo-con friends -- knows something about Blair's future stance on Iran that we don't. To deliver on this promise, Blair would need to stay in office a while longer. To read a report on Netanyahu's speech at the Hudson Institute go



The right-wing former Israeli premier had so much media time in Britain while the blitz on Lebanon was on I thought the BBC might be renamed the "Bibi" Netanyahu. But here's some remarks from Netanyahu that should have got more coverage than they did. Thanks, Moshe.

and now:

School's Out for Bomber
The man whose government has waged more wars than most people can remember has been advised by his spin merchants and witch-doctors that to prepare his gradual way out and win back some popularity he should do stuff like visiting schools and appearing on "Blue Peter". It has not got off to a good start.

Blair made his announcement about resigning 'within the next twelve months' at the Quintin Kynaston School in St.John's Wood, north-west London. It is one the Specialist Schools the government is keen on, and it has had flattering inspection reviews from Ofsted. He had been before a few years ago, so he may have thought his visit would all go fine.

Somebody should have told him. Some Quintin Kynaston teachers and others don't like his plans to hand a successful school like this over to private interests and out of elected local authority control, even that of the city of Westminster. A lot of the school students and teachers don't like the fact that two of the students are facing deportation with their mother to Iran, where they face political persecution. Quintin Kynaston pupils have already had protests over this.*

And then there is the little matter of war, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and tomorrow - Iran? Having heard that Blair was coming the anti-war protestors were waiting for him at the school gate. The school head teachers, anxious perhaps that their school's kids - some of whom have family in places like Lebanon - might not be Blair's tame captive audience, decided to send most of them home, keeping just the goodies behind to provide a background for photo opportunities.

This too was a mistake. As the kids filed out many of them joined the demonstration outside. School Students Against the War already had a following in the school, some of whom have been on the big anti-war demos in London before.

So the head teacher and deputy heads were out trying to push kids away and tell them to go home, "or you'll be in trouble!". They snatched placards off the kids, and a man claiming to be a police officer joined the effort, but the kids refused to be intimidated, and told reporters what they thought of Tony Blair and his wars.
(report and pix from protest, see

The head has accused peace campaigners of "using" the school students for political purposes. So what was Blair trying to do, with the school's help? Apparently a popular young education assistant, Robin Sivapalan, is being disciplined for his support to the protest (though it offically had support from NUT and other unions).

I met some Quintin Kynaston students outside Brent Town Hall yesterday evening. I was there with fell-trade unionists to protest at leaflets for this weekend's Grunwick commemoration being banned from public libraries in the borough. The girls from Quintin Kynaston came with a petition in defence of Robin Sivapalan, which of course we all signed. They are getting a good education in civic affairs, even if it isn't the one the authorities intended.

* For more on Iranian school student threatened with deportation:


Sunday, September 10, 2006

The price of coal in India...

While looking up other matters about India, I found the item below in the Tribune, Chandigarh.
I have decided to put it in my blog as a reminder that besides political and religious extremism and terrorism, ordinary everyday capitalism also kills. Guess the death of 50 miners, though bigger than the toll from the horrific Malegaon bombing, is nothing to India's infamous Bhopal disaster.
So that is why it has not made the British media.

50 miners feared dead

Blast triggers gas leak, fire in Dhanbad

Dhanbad, September 7 At least 43 of the 50 miners trapped in a coalmine here have died due to inhalation of carbon monoxide following an explosion underground and the authorities virtually ruled out the survival of the remaining.

“Rescue teams have located 43 bodies from the Bhatdih mines of which 34 have been brought to the upper level,” the Dhanbad Deputy Commissioner Bela Rajesh said, adding efforts were on to trace the remaining bodies.

Fearing the worst, Coal Minister Shibu Soren, who visited the accident site, announced a compensation of Rs 3 lakh to the families of the deceased workers and a job to their kin.

Bharat Coking Coal (BCCL) Chairman and Managing Director Partha S. Bhattacharya had earlier said “the possibility of the survival of the miners is bleak.

Twenty rescue teams from BCCL and other Coal India subsidiaries, Eastern Coalfields and Central Coalfields, were engaged in rescue operations and were drilling holes to let in fresh air into the mine which collapsed yesterday trapping the miners at Bhartdih mine. Four of them managed to come out.

Soren said rescue teams were close to the site of accident at the gassy mine under Nagda colliery of BCCL.

“The miners were working at a depth of 460 metres (1,510 feet) when the explosion and the gas leak reduced the oxygen level to almost zero,” Bhattacharya said.

Although rescue operations were launched overnight, officials said they had given up on finding any survivors as rescue teams had only been able to get past level six or seven of the 18-level mine. The 50 miners were believed to be trapped in the last level.

Thousands of locals, including families of the 50 men, crowded outside the mines and shouted slogans criticizing the state government.
Rescuers said a fire in the mine, triggered by the blast, had made their task tougher. “We can’t breathe at all,” one rescuer said. “And there are no maps of these mines, so finding our way through is also difficult.” — PTI, Reuters

...and China

India and China are supposed to be competing Asian "miracles", destined to new economic superpowers. So we might as well note this from the London Independent:

China's coal catastrophe
China produces more coal than anywhere else in the world, fuelling the country's economic boom. But it comes
at a terrible price: the mines are the world's deadliest, and their
environmental impact is catastrophic. Safer - and cleaner - technology exists.
But is there the political will to make it happen?
Report by Clifford Coonan
Published: 29 July 2006

The trucks rattling away from the collieries in China's Shanxi province are on a tight schedule. There are lumps of coal lying on the grass verges beside the roads. Pollution from the coking plants chokes the air while in some places the whole landscape looks like it's been coated with fine coal dust.
Datong is one of these places.
The city is one of the three most polluted in China ...

and then there is opencast mining in Bangladesh, by a British-owned company, concern over which has prompted a general strike; but I'll get back to that.

It will shortly be the 72nd anniversary of Britain's worst mining disaster, which occurred at 2am on Saturday morning, September 22, 1934 in the Gresford colliery, near Wrexham, north-east Wales, which had perhaps the deepest shaft in the country, the Dennis section. Heavy unemployment had forced the miners to risk dangerous conditions for low pay.

The Gresford Disaster

You've heard of the Gresford Disaster,
The terrible price that was paid;
Two hundred and sixty five colliers were lost,
And three men of the rescue brigade.

It occurred in the month of September
At three in the morning that pit,
Was racked by a violent explosion
In the Dennis where the gas lay so thick.

The gas in the Dennis deep section
Was heaped there like snow in a drift,
And many a man had to leave the coal-face,
Before he had worked out his shift.

A fortnight before the explosion,
To the shotfirer Tomlinson cried,
"If you fire that shot we'll be all blown to hell!"
Now no one can say that he lied.

The fireman's reports they are missing
The record of forty-two days;
The colliery manager had them destroyed
To cover his criminal ways.

Down there in the dark they are lying.
They died for nine shillings a day;
They have worked out their shift and now they must lie
In the darkness until Judgement day.

The Lord Mayor of London's collecting
To help out the children and wives;
The owners have sent some white lilies
To pay for the poor colliers' lives.

Farewell our dear wives and our children
Farewell all our comrades as well,
Don't send your sons down the dark dreary pit,
They'll be doomed like the sinners in hell.

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Saturday, September 09, 2006

India's religious war claims more lives

BOMBERS targetting Muslims have killed 37 people and injured as many as 200 in Maleagaon, north east of Mumbai. The attack took place on Friday near a cemetery outside the Nurani mosque in the centre of the city.

Four blasts killed people who had come from Friday prayers to gather and honour their dead, as is traditional on the festival of Shab-e-baraat. The first two, hidden in paniers on bicycles, were near the mosque entrance,the others hiden among flowers by the graveyard. Two more unexploded bombs were found later. Many of the victims were children taking part in a religious procession, and beggars near the mosque entrance. Several people were injured, trampled as crowds fled in panic.

Later a crowd surrounding a police station, relatives asking for information about their loved ones, grew and turned into a riot as police fired shots in the air to disperse them. While vounteers rushed to the hospital to donate blood, elsewhere in the town police vehicles were stoned and torched. The Maharashtra state government rushed reinforcements to Maleagon and imposed a curfew. Mumbai police's Anti-Terrorist Squad and Rapid Action Force units also arrived.

Maleagaon,a Muslim majority town has been the scene of inter-communal violence before, and protests against the invasion of Afghanistan, but the bombing attacks were most likely carried out by organised Hindu extremists as a "reprisal" for the July train bombings in Mumbai which were blamed on Muslim terrorists.

The rise of Hindu supremacist organisations in India, with links to parties in government, has led to worsening religious intolerance and violence in what had previously been seen as a secular republic. Christian organisations have expressed ooncern in a statement condemning the Maleagaon bombings. The All India Christian Union, the All India Catholic Union, and the United Christian Action say:

"Who are these people who will kill the young and the old, men
and women collected at a graveyard to remember their dead parents on Shab -e-baraat?

Who are these people who will plant bombs in train compartments so that strangers they have never met will die a terrible death, on the spot, or as anonymous injured bleeding to death from their wounds in a hospital.

In the death and mayhem it generates, terrorism in India is the same as anywhere else in the world. But if the violence is perhaps directed towards the State elsewhere, in India, non-combatant communities are targetted to foment confrontation and aggravate mutual distrust.
Patently, every community is a target in this vicious binary of death where one act of violence has in it the seeds of the next one.

No single sub-text can explain or justify the motives, or defend the bloodletting.

Governments, the one in New Delhi and those in the States, do well in calling for peace between communities, but they also cannot absolve themselves of their responsibility. Modern intelligence techniques help, but more important are winning and retaining confidence of all communities, specially the minorities. There must be no religious profiling, but similarly, people must see that government agencies will not be swayed by extraneous circumstances or political vested interest.

The Christian community, itself the victims of a sustained hate
campaign and violence against its people, institutions and holy
symbols, condemns such gruesome acts of wanton violence.

We call for peace as we call on the authorities to work actively in restoring the faith of all communities in the rule of law and equity in administration.

Our sympathies and our prayers are with the kin of the dead, and with those recovering from injuries sustained in today's explosions in Malegaon in Maharashtra.

Dr. John Dayal

Member: National Integration Council
Government of India

National President: All India Catholic Union (Founded 1919)
Secretary General: All India Christian Council (Founded 1999)
President: United Christian Action, Delhi (Founded 1992)
Member, Justice and Peace Commision
Archdiocese of Delhi

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Friday, September 08, 2006

Bouchery in Bangladesh

Bangladeshi freedom fighters capture Pakistani troops. Popular art holds bitter memories that politicians can't erase.

WHILE George Dubya Bush -or his scriptwriters - have learned to mouth clever phrases about "Islamo-facism", Asians opposing reactionary religious terror from whatever denomination are asking whether the West's pretended concern for "democracy" really applies to them.

Bush and his advisers reach for phrases to justify US aggression in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and Israel's blitz on Lebanon, a possible trial run for war on Iran. Evoking the glow of nostalgia for being the good guys of World War II heroism, the pro-war liberals and ne-cons will thank you not to mention how the Bush family did well doing business with Hitler. Nor must you join the game of comparisons by remembering how the Gestapo justified deportation and torture by saying it was combatting "terrorists".

But what about countries where reactionary Islamic regimes and parties suit the requirements of US empire? The most obvious case is the Saudi tyranny, which may not be submissive enough for the taste of some 'neo-cons', but has served the purpose of Western imperialism and oil interests long and well-enough.

The British Foreign Office minister Lord Triesman recently declared that his government's priorities are "freedom, justice and opportunity", adding: "We want all governments to be accountable to their people, and we want a strong international system based on the rule of law".

I don't know who the Saudi regime is accountable to, or how Israel's bombing in Lebanon, including cluster bombs which are still killing children, squares with international law. But having steadfastly resisted calls for a cease-fire in Lebanon, the Blair government has quietly approved a £10 billion deal to sell 72 British Aerospace Eurofighters to the Saudis. It is a continuation of the massive al-Yamamah contract from Thatcher's days, and whether or not the planes ever see action, or where, it is good for the directors of British Aerospace.

Getting a slice of the action in oil-rich Saudi Arabia is expected (we would not want those Saudis spending their billions on development and eradicating poverty in the Middle East). But what of poorer but perhaps strategic countries? Twenty five years ago, after suffering massacres and atrocities at the hands of the Pakistani Army, which was US-backed, the people of what had been called "East Pakistan" fought and established their poor but proud independent state, Bangladesh.

"Kill 3 million and the rest will eat out of your hands", Pakistani dictator General Yahya Khan was reported to have said; and Bangladeshis later estimated that three million of their people had been killed.

The Pakistani Army was helped by collaborators from the Jamaat e-Islami party, such as Matsur Rahman Nizami, who advocated total expulsion of the Hindu minority population as a solution to the country's problems. On December 14, 1971, the Rajakar militia created by these Islamicists took part in the massacre of university professors, writers, musicians and artists, so this day is still called Bhuddijibi Dibos, the Killing of Intellectuals day.

After the Liberation War, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared a general amnesty, and there has been no official trial or investigations of the Jamaat e-Islami for war crimes. The conditions of the amnesty barred them from politics, but military ruler Ziaur Rahman let them make a comeback. Today the Jama'st e Islami is in coalition with the ruling Bangladesh National Party, and Nizami is one of their ministers.

The Bangladesh Observer reported last month that US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher had given Jama'at e Islami a clean bill of health. ‘(Richard) Boucher also considered Jamaat-e-Islami as a democratic party and didn’t find any evidence of Jamaat being involved in bombing or connected to bombing.’ -The Bangladesh Observer report (5 August 2006)

Jahed Ahmed recalled that "prior to Mr. Boucher, Harry K. Thomas—the former US ambassador to Bangladesh—also gave similar testimony about Jamaat. Although many secularists and liberals of Bangladesh origin were perplexed to hear such certification of Jamaat coming from US officials, some nevertheless were not surprised and instead commented- expecting US paving a way to a democratic and secular Bangladesh is merely a day dream. America doesn’t, and need not care if a democratic and secular Bangladesh is established. So long as the ruling party in Bangladesh favors America’s imperialist and profit-only based foreign policies, US would continue being on their side. So what, even if that party happens to be as fascist as Jamaat! This is not any new invention, but a re-discovery of a bitter truth in the new light".

Just how little Jamaat e-Islami has moved from its Rajakar killing-the-intellectuals days might be judged the fact that its student wing, Islami Chatra Shibir, last month issued death threats to two eminent secular intellectuals, Hasan Azizul Haque, Professor of Philosophy at the Rajshahi University and Professor Zafar Iqbal at the Shahjalal University of Science and Technology. The two nastik-murtadas, or filthy atheists, were warned that their tongues would be cut out, that they would have their throats slit, that their bodies would be chopped up and thrown in the Bay of Bengal.

As Jahed Ahmed points out, these threatening letters and phone calls in Bangladesh are no joke.
" In the past, Jamaat gang had made successful use of this political tool to incite assaults, persecutions and violence against such dedicated secularist as (late) Prof. Ahmed Shariff, (late) Prof. Humayun Azad, author Taslima Nasrin, and poet Shamsur Rahman (recently passed away). We didn’t and cannot forget how Jamayat-Shibit (known as "Islami Chatra Songho" in ‘71) gang using same pretext killed some of the brightest secular minds of Bangladesh in 1971. History would also testify-how Maolana Moududi--Jamaat’s founder & guru--caused deaths of several thousands of minority Quadiyanis in the West Pakistan during Ayub Khan’s rule. The Pakistan Judiciary held Moududi responsible for the bloody riot and issued death sentence against Moududi in their verdict but Moududi was granted a pardon after then Saudi King Faisal sided with Moududi and personally called up military junta Ayub Khan. (my emphasis -CP)

"That’s Jamaat-e-Islam. Such a cowardly and hypocritical political party which didn’t make its voice vocal against recent US-supported Israeli invasion of Lebanon, massacre of hundreds of innocent Muslim men, women and children. Indeed, those raising voices against such barbaric act in Bangladesh were NOT so called Islamic Jamaat, but country’s progressive and secular forces! Why did Jamaat keep quite? One may wonder. I’d answer: Jamaat cannot afford to provoke US by any means, even if whole of Lebanese Muslims men-women were to be killed".

So long as Bangladesh's reactionary Islamicists keep in line with US policies why should Washington worry about them whipping up ignorant mobs to wage 'Black Hundred' style terror against leftwingers, secularists, and democratic intellectuals? Wasn't it just such Islamicist gangs that were used to massacre communists in Indonesia at the side of the CIA-backed military?

What should worry us in Britain is the extent to which the democratic, secular and progressive forces in Bangladesh are left to take their brave stand alone, ignored by so-called liberals and socialists here who have been taken in by those fronting for the Jamaat e-Islami.

Thanks to Awaaz-South Asia Watch

and Mukto-Mona

for drawing attention to this issue.
Other than quotes from Jahed Ahmed, opinions are my own.

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