Thursday, December 31, 2009

Three good reads and timely

As we reach the end of the year, and not quite over the holiday mood, or the weather, I thought it might be an idea to write about three books I have been reading. If any of you have been given book tokens (do people still give book tokens? ) it might even give you ideas if you have not already got the books.

Margaret Buber-Neumann survived the most inhuman regimes in the 20th century, and witnessed what must be one of history's cruellest betrayals. A nursery nurse, appaled by poverty and injustiuce, she joined the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), and after divorce with her first husband Rafael, son of the philosopher Martin Buber, took up with a member of the KPD politbureau, Heinz Neumann.

After Hitler took power, the Neumanns went to Moscow, finding employment in the work of the Comintern, but in April 1937 the Stalinist purge extended to the internationals. The GPU came for Heinz Neumann, and that was the last Margaret saw of him. Neumann was secretly executed, and then Margaret Buber-Neumann herself was arrested as the "wife of an enemy of the people", and sent to Karaganda, the Central Asian labour camp.

In 1940, after the Nazi-Soviet pact came into force, she and fellow-German and Austrian prisoners found themselves put on another train, this time heading west, they knew not where. Not until they reached the frontier, and saw they were being handed over to the Gestapo. "Bitterly I recalled the Communist litany: Fatherland of the Toilers, Bukwark of Socialism; Haven of the Persecuted.."

It was during the handover that she learned from another prisoner what had happened to Heinz. Then it was on to Ravensbruck concentration camp, where she was fortunate enough to be found relatively privileged work, and fortunately for us survived near-fatal illness to write this account of everything she heard and saw. 'Under Two Dictators', first published in 1949, is a historic document, and its republication in 2008 was timely, when not only the Hitlerites but the latter-day Stalinists are trying to whitewash their idols' crimes against humanity and go into denial.

Margaret Buber-Neumann's sister, Babette, incidentally, was married to another victim of the Nazi-Soviet pact, the famous Willi Münzenberg, creator of a host of front organisations. When the Nazis invaded France, Munzenberg, a refugee, was 'sprung' from French custody, only to die mysteriously. In 'Willi Münzenberg: A political biography' (1974), Babette Gross leaves little doubt that this German Communist was disposed of as an embarrassment by the Stalinist team that had 'rescued' him. The Italian Trotskyist Pietro Tresso and his comrades met a similar fate (as described in Pierre Broue's book 'Meurtres Au Maquis') after their escape from a Vichy prison camp. Unfortunately, though its easy to find stuff denouncing Munzenberg and his work, written by anti-communists, in our public libraries, Babette Gross's book is not so easy to come by.

Harking back to days of hope before these betrayals and tragedies, Janine Booth's 'Guilty and Proud of It!' is a heartening reminder that the labour movement has thrown up something better than Labour sell-outs and Stalinist bureaucrats. Ninety years ago, the London borough of Poplar was an area of docks, railway yards and sweatshops, in the words of Edgar Lansbury, "a place where money is made and lives destroyed".

His father George Lansbury became mayor of Poplar at the head of a team of Labour councillors, including Communists like Edgar, who were determined to translate socialist ideas into real improvements and raised expectations for Poplar's working people, including those without work. They built homes, and public baths, and clinics, raised low-paid council workers' wages, including equal pay for women; and rather than cut benefits for the unemployed, they decided to withold the precept which Poplar, along with much richer boroughs, was supposed to pay fort the police. Knowing the penalties, the councillors marched to court, and to prison, where they managed to conduct council business and defy the government, backed by those who had voted for them.

This was 'Poplarism', an inspiration to those who believed they could go into politics to change things for the masses, rather than enriching themselves, and a source of ill-disguised terror for more conventional Labour careerists with their sights on peerages and bank directorships. With a foreword by John McDonnell MP, 'Guilty and Proud Of It!' is well-illustrated, detailed and yet readable, and Janine Booth, an active RMT trade unionist and socialist, as well as an East End mother, is not afraid to discuss more recent battles and whether this 1920's fight has lessons in today's circumstances.

For those who'd only seen Shappi Khorsandi Live at the Apollo or on Have I Got News for You, her appearance at Stratford Circus this Autumn to introduce her book 'A Beginner's Guide to Acting English' may have brought some surprise, as will the book itself. Breaking into the male-dominated stand-up scene and 'spontaneity' may take bravery behind the girly giggles, but there's more to it.

The book does not sit comfortably in the familiar genre of funny foreigners learning the strange ways of English life and language. Without losing her light touch, Shappi reveals the less amusing side of exile, whether the childhood encounters with racism and prejudice, or getting used as a little girl to phone calls from ferocious men threatening to kill her father.

'Baba'(Daddy), Hadi Khorsandi, a popular Iranian satirist, was delighted to see the Shah overthrown by the people in 1979. Shappi's mother had explained to the children how the Shah lived in luxury and did nothing for the poor. But when the revolution was usurped by the "men in black who never smiled", the Khorsandis became not just exiles but threatened targets for the ayatollah's death squads.

Little Shappi thought she would write to Khomeini explaining that her dad was just a nice man who made everybody laugh, and that if the ayatollah came to visit her mother would make him delicious soup. She worried about the Islamic authorities flogging a girl for not wearing correct hijab, and whether they could come to her primary school in Ealing.

Shappi knows her Iranian history, and momentarily surprised her Stratford audience with a reference to how the CIA and MI6 overthrew Dr.Mossadeq for nationalising oil. Two former US presidents had apologised "but Tony Blair just asked 'Dr.who?'

Her sympathies in the book are for ordinary people, like those who sat in the Rex cinema, in a poor district of Abadan, munching pistachio nuts and pumpkin seeds as they watched a controversial film, and were burned to death, more than 400 of them. People thought it was the Shah's secret police who had bolted the doors and started the fire. Later they learned it was ruthless Islamists who calculated it was better to let the innocent be their "martyrs".

I hope I have not put anyone off "A Beginners Guide to Acting English". It is a rich dish, mixing sweetness and spice, and if you find yourself brushing away a tear along with the laughs, well that's life isn't it? Read and enjoy!

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Forging the way to war?

"SECRET DOCUMENT EXPOSES IRAN'S NUCLEAR TRIGGER" said the Times headline on December 14, stepping up the temperature under the pot of intrigues and allegations against the Iranian regime, threatening to boil over into all-out war.

For Iran's President Ahmadinejad, facing renewed trouble and bitter demonstrations at home, it is a gamble whether to rely on the international tension and foreign war threat to reinforce his hand against the opposition.

For the Israeli government. focussing attention on the supposed Iranian nuclear threat is a way of diverting it from what "poor little Israel" - the Middle East's only nuclear power - is doing to the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.
They just hope that nobody remembers which country started the nuclear arms race in the region, refused to sign the non-proliferation treaty, and kidnapped and locked up one of citizens who acted as whistleblower and told the truth.
Or like this man, Mordechai Vanunu, people might demand a nuclear weapons-free Middle East.

The British and US governments meanwhile keep hypocritically denouncing Iran as a source of "terror" even though they have relied on the Islamic regime's co-operation in their wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. When things are going badly someone must take the blame.

Since the nuclear document story appeared in the Times, right-wing commentators have been demanding impatiently why we're waiting for war, even though the story came as the public was being reminded about the lies Tony Blair used to get us to war in Iraq. Today, Tory William Hague (the man told off by Zionist Lord Kalms for using the word "disproportionate" about Israel's onslaught on Gaza) has an article in the Telegraph saying sanctions and diplomacy can foil the Iranian "bomb plot".

But how real is the evidence for this Iranian plot?
"Nothing in the published 'intelligence documents' shows Iran is close to having nuclear weapons", commented Sussex University professor emeritus of physics Norman Dombey, on December 22..

How real were the Times documents anyway? Today, reporting from Washington for the usually well-informed IPS news service, Gareth Porter says:

" U.S. intelligence has concluded that the document published recently by the Times of London, which purportedly describes an Iranian plan to do experiments on what the newspaper described as a "neutron initiator" for an atomic weapon, is a fabrication, according to a former Central Intelligence Agency official.

Philip Giraldi, who was a CIA counterterrorism official from 1976 to 1992, told IPS that intelligence sources say that the United States had nothing to do with forging the document, and that Israel is the primary suspect. The sources do not rule out a British role in the fabrication, however.

The Times of London story published Dec. 14 did not identify the source of the document. But it quoted "an Asian intelligence source" - a term some news media have used for Israeli intelligence officials - as confirming that his government believes Iran was working on a neutron initiator as recently as 2007.

The story of the purported Iranian document prompted a new round of expressions of U.S. and European support for tougher sanctions against Iran and reminders of Israel's threats to attack Iranian nuclear programme targets if diplomacy fails.

U.S. news media reporting has left the impression that U.S. intelligence analysts have not made up their mind about the document's authenticity, although it has been widely reported that they have now had a full year to assess the issue.

Giraldi's intelligence sources did not reveal all the reasons that led analysts to conclude that the purported Iran document had been fabricated by a foreign intelligence agency. But their suspicions of fraud were prompted in part by the source of the story, according to Giraldi.

"The Rupert Murdoch chain has been used extensively to publish false intelligence from the Israelis and occasionally from the British government," Giraldi said.

The Times is part of a Murdoch publishing empire that includes the Sunday Times, Fox News and the New York Post. All Murdoch-owned news media report on Iran with an aggressively pro-Israeli slant.

The document itself also had a number of red flags suggesting possible or likely fraud.

The subject of the two-page document which the Times published in English translation would be highly classified under any state's security system. Yet there is no confidentiality marking on the document, as can be seen from the photograph of the Farsi-language original published by the Times.

The absence of security markings has been cited by the Iranian ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, as evidence that the "alleged studies" documents, which were supposedly purloined from an alleged Iranian nuclear weapons-related programme early in this decade, are forgeries.

The document also lacks any information identifying either the issuing office or the intended recipients. The document refers cryptically to "the Centre", "the Institute", "the Committee", and the "neutron group".

The document's extreme vagueness about the institutions does not appear to match the concreteness of the plans, which call for hiring eight individuals for different tasks for very specific numbers of hours for a four-year time frame.

Including security markings and such identifying information in a document increases the likelihood of errors that would give the fraud away.

The absence of any date on the document also conflicts with the specificity of much of the information. The Times reported that unidentified "foreign intelligence agencies" had dated the document to early 2007, but gave no reason for that judgment.

An obvious motive for suggesting the early 2007 date is that it would discredit the U.S. intelligence community's November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, which concluded that Iran had discontinued unidentified work on nuclear weapons and had not resumed it as of the time of the estimate.

Discrediting the NIE has been a major objective of the Israeli government for the past two years, and the British and French governments have supported the Israeli effort."

Besides giving further details which cast doubt on the "neutron initiator" story and its possible sources, Porter reminds us that we have been here before:

"In 2005, Giraldi identified Michael Ledeen, the extreme right-wing former consultant to the National Security Council and the Pentagon, as an author of the fabricated letter purporting to show Iraqi interest in purchasing uranium from Niger. That letter was used by the George W. Bush administration to bolster its false case that Saddam Hussein had an active nuclear weapons programme.

Giraldi also identified officials in the "Office of Special Plans" who worked under Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith as having forged a letter purportedly written by Hussein's intelligence director, Tahir Jalail Habbush al-Tikriti, to Hussein himself referring to an Iraqi intelligence operation to arrange for an unidentified shipment from Niger."
(see article in full at


and what happens to a real whistleblower

Ironically, it was the Sunday Times - then under different management - which published Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu's account of Israeli nuclear weapons developed at the Dimona plant, more than twenty years ago. Mossad then arranged for Vanunu to be kidnapped from London, and the agent of conscience served 18 years in jail, 11 of these spent in solitary confinement.

Vanunu is still not allowed to leave the country, and yesterday he was arrested for an alleged "parole violation", - speaking to a foreigner - after he arranged to meet a Norwegian woman friend in an east Jerusalem hotel. His lawyers say the original ban, imposed after he was detained two years ago, referred to meetings with journalists.

This latest arrest comes little more than a week after a former head of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission said Vanunu could not have any secrets to disclose now that might endanger security.
"I've always believed he should be let go," said Uzi Eilam, a retired brigadier-general who ran the nuclear project between 1976 and 1986 - the year Vanunu was captured. "I don't think he has significant things to reveal now".

Vanunu has said he would like to leave Israel. He disagrees with its treatment of the Palestinians. He has also called for an end to Israel's nuclear programme as part of a nuclear-free Middle East, seeing this dangerous region as a necessary priority in aims for world-wide nuclear disarmament and world peace. Unfortunately his courage has not been matched in the slightest by world statesmen who remain hypocritically silent on Israeli weapons - said to number 150 ready for use - while admonishing Iran on weapons it has not yet got.
So Vanunu is persecuted because he is a
political threat - and from the sheer vindictiveness of the Zionist state.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

From currents to the Whirlwind

IT must be about 20 years ago that I met with an old acquaintance from my teenage years in Manchester, as we were assembling for a demonstration in Kilburn. We'd each been active in different quarters of the Left. He, a bright and confident lad, had led a dissident faction out of the Socialist Workers Party and gained respect for a time for his economic analyses, as well as campaigning against the South African apartheid regime.

To my surprise, he asked me whether I did not find the political situation depressing. He looked pretty gloomy, as if he meant it. I said no, considering the upheavals in South Africa and eastern Europe, as well as signs that people had had enough of Thatcherism in Britain. He seemed to think the Tory government could ride out any crisis, having gained popularity by letting people buy shares and council houses. When I mentioned "negative equity" and repossessions he acknowledged there was a problem, but said he could not see middle class homeowners becoming militant and leading a struggle. At that point someone interrupted our discussion, so I did not get to remind him that the idea of embourgeoisement rested on working class people having become home owners.

Not long before this I had heard a leading member of the Communist Party's so-called 'Euro' faction, linked with the magazine Marxism Today arguing that Thatcherism had successfully evened up the differences between the classes, that old-fashioned industries like coal and steel and manufacturing were giving way to a different economy, based on information and services, in which working class traditions of struggle and solidarity, and aims like public ownership, were out of date. Afterwards, a couple of Labour Party members were shaking their heads in disbelief. "You say he is a Communist?" asked one old boy, as it happens a veteran of the Polish Bund and Soviet labour camps, amazed to find erstwhile Stalinists now well to his Right!
"He's right to say Thatcher has changed things", commented an academic involved with urban planning problems. "but the way he presents the changes you'd think he was speaking for Thatcher herself".

My old Mancunian associate has continued battling on, though last time I saw him he still looked gloomy. Arguing that Britain remains an imperialist nation, a "country that sustains the standard of living of its citizens through the income generated by a ‘gigantic usury capital’, he sees nothing new about New Labour. Noting the gap between rich and poor has not been reduced, indeed has grown wider under this government, he is too busy knocking down the opportunism of his one-time SWP comrades to ask why this should be so, when the Labour imperialists could presumably continue delivering reforms and improvements on the basis of super-profits? Seeing no contradiction in the "official labour movement" he can see no good coming of it. Only corruption, from which the dedicated "revolutionaries" must remain pure, while seeking forces for change elsewhere.

Our Marxism-yesterday, marketing Maggie-today man on the other hand, moved on, swimming with fellow ex-CPers in a "think tank", making his way up the bourgeois media ladder, serving as an adviser to Tony Blair, and becoming a freelance guru advising managements on how to encourage "participation" and cope with change. I don't know whether he is finding trade slack these days, or has launched innovative short courses like "How to break the news of mass sackings".

Capitalism has always been subject to booms and slumps, and yet while Tories sneered at Gordon Brown's promise to end boom-and- bust (as though anyone could), the current global crisis seemed to catch the Left and the labour movement largely unprepared even to wage defensive actions, let alone a political offensive. At the end of the second annual conference called by the National Shop Stewards Network in 2008, a delegate proposed that the following year's conference should be strictly for workplace representatives.
"This time next year a lot of people here might not have any workplace!", I commented to my colleagues.

The following year's conference had plenty of reports on workplace struggles, but also a well-attended workshop on the history of the pre-war unemployed workers' movement. My own trade union council had still been discussing what to do about the money in the bank from our old unemployed workers' association when it occurred to us we might have to start a new one.

Bob Archer is secretary of the National Shop Stewards Network, but like others involved, Bob is also a political activist. A member of the United Socialist Party formed by sacked Liverpool dockers and former councillors, he edits the Marxist journal Socialist Studies associated with it. In this pamphlet Reaping the Whirlwind, published for the journal, Bob makes no claim to crystal ball predictions, but sets to work tracing the tangle of financial wizardly by means of which capitalism sought to mystify the real nature of wealth production and free itself from base labour, only to crash in the way it has.

The 'neo-liberalism' which emerged as 'Reaganomics' in the 'States and Thatcherism here purported to champion independence from the state, yet this was a myth, extending only to freedom from redistributive taxes, the costs of welfare, and restriction on money movements, while using the state to crush working class resistance (as we saw at Wapping and with the miners' battles), and to provide help, not just in subsidies but by opening up areas like transport, public utilities, health care, education and local services to private profit.

Globalisation has meant shifting manufacturing and other investment to poor and so-called "developing" countries, driving down pay and conditions in the richer countries (with the tendency when necessary to use migrant labour with restricted rights), while, as in the case of China, profits have come back to be invested in the United States.

Large numbers of people who might never have borrowed money before are heavily in debt, having had to rely on credit for basic necessities such as a roof over their head. The pretence was that this was about "freeing" the people (Tory propaganda boasted of "giving people the right to buy their homes", always emphasising the word "giving" as though people were being given something free). At the same time local authorities were not free to build more homes for rent. Meanwhile the idea of mutuality was taken out of building societies, and the housing finance market opened to all. The other myth was that wealth came from "risk-taking". The upshot was billions invested in dodgy loans, with big bonuses for bankers, while thousands of homes have had to be repossessed, first in the United States, then Ireland, then here. If this brings house prices down remaining home owners are left with negative equity, meaning they are paying out more than their houses are worth. Meanwhile, builders decide to build fewer homes, and both the housing problem and unemployment get worse.

There is no mystery as to why Britain is worse effected than other European countries, and no point in pretending it's just down to Gordon Brown. This country is the most dependent on its financial sector, and
its people the most indebted (for housing and education, as well as consumer goods). As I've said before, our leaders have fulfilled that much of the Churchill legend - "Never have so many owed so much to so few".

Without cluttering up his pamphlet with quotations from the Marxist classics, or entering into "sectarian" polemics, Bob Archer effectively demonstrates the truth of the labour theory of value, and shows that attempts to refute it, pretending wealth could be created purely by manipulating money, have not disposed of either class struggle or crises. At most, they have given the crisis its present shape, and shifted the battles into different terrain.

It is when we come to how and why the working class was weakened in organisation and readiness, and how we can overcome these weaknesses to raise again the banner of socialism, and at a higher level, that the analyses becomes problematic. Was the collapse of the Soviet Union, -from which neither Bob nor I accepted leadership - really such a factor in demoralising class-conscious workers and socialists, or was our confidence sapped by decades of bureaucratic treachery and brutality before? Would workers in either the Soviet bloc or Britain have let industries be privatised so easily if we had really felt state ownership meant they were ours?

We don't expect a pamphlet on the financial crisis to include an analysis or reappraisal of Stalinism and social democracy, on both of which new work needs to be done. Bob Archer mentions the shipping of coal from Poland during the miners' strikes. But Arthur Scargill, though one of the best of union leaders, whose struggle with Thatcher has earned him wide respect, had made the mistake of thinking "our enemy's enemy is our friend" when siding with General Jaruzelski against the Polish workers' efforts to establish independent unions, assuming the latter was just a conspiracy by the West. Jaruzelski and Thatcher didn't let ideological emnity stand in the way of business as usual between them as friends. China too, which many, especially in the "Third World", saw as an alternative, is still the 'bad boy' of Western propaganda in some respects, but economically America's ally, an asset in the way it maintains the exploitation of its workforce.

How we look at the crisis, and at past mistakes, is a factor in how we can try to build a new workers' party to fight for a better future. Bob Archer aims to contribute to the discussion, and he suggests some basic points of policy which few could disagree with - defence of the public health service, opposition to privatisation, support for "powerful and re-democratised local government" to provide services, defence of civil rights, opposition to those who stir race or religious hatred to divide people, and so on.

Acknowledging that this is but a start to discussion, Bob warns: "Nothing could be more dangerous than a sectarian approach in which small and often tiny groups try to impose cut-and-dried policies, worked out to the last dot and comma, which they have decided in advance".

Indeed, looking at it another way, workers are coming into struggle -often in what were previously quiet places, and raising new issues, which enable new alliances to be built (as witness the Vesta workers and environmental campaigners). But there is a problem. Instead of a wide open gate and welcome for political discussion, along with solidarity, they are confronted by a host of competing booths, outside each of which they are either admonished for doing things wrongly, or promised that this is the one true way to salvation, through whose narrow portals they must squeeze, having wiped their feet of their misconceptions. This too has to be tackled. But fortunately Bob Archer's work is not part of that problem, and may help us towards overcoming it.

Reaping the Whirlwind, The financial crisis and what it means for the labour movement,
by Bob Archer, Socialist Studies pamphlet, £2.
ISBN 978-0-9564319-0-5

Socialist Studies, PO Box 154, L25 8WW


Bob Archer has written to say:

The only inaccuracy in an otherwise immaculate review of “Into the Whirlwind” is that I am not secretary of National Shop Stewards Network, but Press and Website Officer.

Linda Taaffe is Secretary.

It would save both of us embarrassment if that could be put right…

Thanks Bob.

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Harrowing Tales of Hoffman

SPARE a thought for Mr.Stephen Gash, of the campaign "Stop the Islamisation of Europe" (SIOE). After all, 'tis the Season of Goodwill to All Men. Well, maybe not. Together with the English Defence League, SIOE has been campaigning against Muslims and their mosques. His is no narrow nationalism, mind. His website includes support for Israel and for "Serbian Kosovo", as well as proclaiming "Islamophobia is common sense".

On Sunday, December 13, SIOE had called a demonstration in Harrow, where anti-Muslim demonstrators were humiliated in September when they tried to march on the new mosque. This time they urged ex-servicemen to come and dignify their protest, and called on Jewish people to join them if they wanted to defend Israel. Mr.Gash said he expected 1,500 demonstrators.

He got 15 odd supporters(some very odd!),who were confronted by ten times that number of counter-demonstrators, including trade unionists, Greens and members of the Jewish Socialists' Group. Leaving later under police protection Mr.Gash reportedly promised he would never come to Harrow again. I'm sure local people will hold him to that.

Next day I read an interesting exchange in the bloggers' section of the Jewish Chronicle web site:

Continued support for Harrow Central Mosque

By Rabbi Aaron Gol...
December 14, 2009

Getting the message through to our local Community that we will not stand for the hatred being put out by the English Defence League and their ilk.

The following was posted by the Harrow Central Mosque:

"Today’s demonstration by the Stop Islamisation of Europe and the English Defence League was in every measure a miserable defeat for the hate mongers and the Islamaphobes.

The Harrow Central Mosque is extremely grateful that people from so many backgrounds and faiths stood shoulder to shoulder in support of and in solidarity towards this great centre of peace and harmony."

Rabbi Frank Dabba Smith spoke both inside and outside of the mosque in support of the Harrow Central Mosque.

In the Jewish and local press, the surrounding Liberal and Reform Communities played important roles in countering the arguements of the EDL and others who had asked Jews to stand with them (!) with Israeli flags:

To which one Jonathan Hoffman replied:

'Excellent. I'm sure the members of the Harrow Central Mosque will be there to help us at the next antisemitic Amnesty or BRICUP meeting. Maybe you and Rabbi Frank Dabba Smith will be there too as well as "the surrounding Liberal and Reform communities"'.

You might almost think from the sarcastic tone that Mr.Hoffman would have preferred a more favourable response to Stop the Islamisation of Europe. To be fair, he didn't say that, and so far as I know he was not in the vicinity of Harrow mosque on December 13, with either side of the demonstrations.

But we do know Jonathan Hoffman. A City economist by profession, he is co-vice chairman of the Zionist Federation, and has put himself about a bit, writing letters to the media, and staging demonstrations outside events like the Skies Are Weeping concert (in tribute to martyred activist Rachel Corrie) and an alternative carols evening at a Bloomsbury church organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. On both occasions, Jewish people were participating inside, while outside Hoffman's crew of hard-right Zionists made up their numbers with Christian sympathisers. Outside the carol service they even found a man who made anti-Jewish remarks, and was duly videoed and reported (in the Jewish Chronicle), as though he was running the event. Very professional.

Amnesty International has criticised Israel's treatment of detained Palestinians, and recently hosted a meeting about discrimination on water rights, an issue which War on Want has also taken up. BRICUP, the British Committee for Universities in Palestine, supports an academic boycott of Israeli institutions, which they say are complicit in occupation policies. How does either activity count as "antisemitic" or compare with SIOE targeting an entire minority and its place of worship? While the boycott campaign has been a Palestinian initiative, several of its advocates here are Jewish and Israeli academics. Whatever their opinion of it, why should the Harrow rabbis, let alone Muslims, be expected to help Jonathan Hoffman opposing meetings?

Incidentally, when there was a real antisemitic incident, the desecration of Jewish graves in West Ham cemetery a couple of years ago, I saw synagogue members and Muslims at the demonstration of solidarity called by anti-racists. I didn't see Mr.Hoffman or his motley crew, and I don't suppose he heard about it. Well he can't be everywhere.

But we have been hearing about Jonathan Hoffman again this week. According to reports carried by the Jewish Chronicle and initially, the BBC, he asked a question about one of the speakers at a BRICUP meeting in the School of Oriental and African Studies(SOAS) in London, and upon hearing his name, members of the audience began shouting him down, saying he was "JEWISH!" Oddly enough, this account is disputed by other people who were at the meeting, several of whom are themselves Jewish, as were some of the speakers, notably South African minister and ANC veteran Ronnie Kasrils. They say they encountered no anti-Jewish hostility or remarks, that the BBC report should have mentioned who Hoffman was, and that any barracking was due to his politics and what he had to say, which the chair urged people not to respond to because it was a distraction.

I may mention that I was in SOAS myself the week before the BRICUP meeting, to hear David Rosenberg of the Jewish Socialists' Group(JSG) talking about the Warsaw ghetto fighter and lifelong human rights activist Marek Edelman. The audience was appreciative, though not as large as one might wish. The JSG does not have a group within SOAS (yet), but the invitation to Dave to speak came from the SOAS Palestine Society. That may not prove anything but it does suggest SOAS is not quite the "den of iniquity" that some people might have us imagine.

Although I was not at the BRICUP meeting, I know some of the people who were, and trust their account of it. The event has appeared on You Tube anyway. It was Hoffman who characterised it as "antisemitic", though somehow he missed the people shouting that he was Jewish -as does the video. That detail appeared in an account by one Raheem Kassam, an executive member of Conservative Future. It hence made its way into a BBC report - which did not address the purpose of the meeting, what the speakers had to say about Israeli "Apartheid", who they were, or who Jonathan Hoffman is, but was headlined:

Jewish man jeered at Soas university debate

Page last updated at 21:28 GMT, Thursday, 17 December 2009
Footage has emerged of a man being told he is "not welcome" after revealing his Jewish name at a School of Oriental and African Studies debate on Palestine.

To say "footage has emerged" when the video had been available for well over a week is almost as misleading as the pretence that it was only his "Jewish name" that aroused opposition. As a result of protests the BBC has now changed its report, and quotes two of the Jewish people who did not consider the meeting "antisemitic", Mike Cushman and Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi. Naomi had spoken before Hoffman, mentioning more than once that she was Jewish, without anyone heckling her or saying she was unwelcome. The Jewish Chronicle website has still not altered its story. Mike is also concerned because once a false story has appeared on the internet it can carry on circulating and being commented upon, without people knowing it has been scotched.

The first time I saw Jonathan Hoffman was outside the Hackney Empire four years ago, when he turned up with a dozen or so protesters objecting to the concert "The Skies are Weeping", which featured the world premiere of the cantata of that name, opus 75, by Philip Munger, in memoriam of Rachel Corrie. Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli bulldozer as she tried to stop it demolishing a Palestinian family's home.
Her mother Cindy flew in for the concert, at which other performers included Israeli Tsivi Sharett's TS Ensemble and al Hurryya Palestinian dabka dance troupe.

The concert was dedicated "in memory of the lives lost during the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank", not specifying their nationality. An item on the concert appeared on BBC television the following night, largely focussed on the "controversy" around it, and protest by "Jewish people" -no mention of the Zionist Federation -outside. Reporters had interviewed soprano Debbie Fink, who sang the cantata and organised the concert. She made a point of telling them she was Jewish, as were many of the sponsors, artistes, and workers behind the scene. (and a large part of the audience). Debbie was cut right out of the BBC report, which gave the last word to Jonathan Hoffman. To add insult to injury, some Jewish people who had come along to support the concert were described on BBC TV as Hoffman's protesters!

Those of us who complained eventually obtained an acknowledgement from the BBC that its coverage had given a misleading impression. Debbie Fink received a personal apology. Posting to the Just Peace UK discussion list Debbie has congratulated friends who got the BBC to change its report this time, but added "Yes, we should push for an apology but it will be hard! When I had that saga over the coverage of the World Premiere of the Skies are Weeping on BBC London News, I worked my way up the complaints ladder and eventually got an apology, but only a private one."

Back in October, Hoffman was criticised by a vice president of the Board of Deputies, Jerry Lewis, who said the Zionist Federation co-chair's efforts for Israel often did more damage than good. “I’m painfully aware his tactics have been the cause of many complaints to the Board, and his behaviour has been less than helpful.”

But in a blurb boosting Hoffman's blog and his courage braving the "bear pit" at SOAS, Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard writes: "In the battle to put Israel's case and to fight against bigotry, there are few more committed people than Jonathan Hoffman, Vice President of the Zionist Federation.
He can sometimes be a bit too committed for some, but no one can deny his energy, efforts and fearlessness."

Sure, the performer has a lousy schtik . But he has a damn good agent!

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

In Lasting Respect Designed to Remember. Mosaic for Stockwell. Morning Star photograph

AFTER losing a brother, battling for the truth, listening through a painful inquest, but seeing no justice, the family of Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes, killed by police as he sat on a train on his way to work, have taken what consolation they can from the tributes of friends and the sympathy of the public.

Now that support, expressed in meetings and demonstrations and a veritable shrine outside Stockwell tube station, is to be given more permanent form. Here's the news:

'Today, on International Human Rights Day, the family of Jean Charles de Menezes can announce that permission has been granted for the official installation of a permanent memorial to Jean outside Stockwell tube station.

'After hundreds of signatures were collected in support of a petition backing the mosaic and following discussions between the family and London Underground, agreement was reached to place it on the wall outside of the station.

'The mosaic will serve as a permanent reminder of the Menezes family's fight for justice and will replace the shrine that has been maintained for four and half years outside Stockwell tube station.

'The mosaic was created by artist Mary Edwards with help from Jean's cousin Vivian Figueiredo and Chrys Vardaxi.

Speaking on behalf of the family, Vivian Figueiredo said:

"All of our family are so happy this memorial has been approved and we thank London Underground for their support. The pain of never achieving justice for Jean's killing continues to haunt us everyday. But knowing his memory will be kept alive in the local community through this memorial is a tribute we could not have dreamed of. We thank all the members of the public who have supported us from the bottom of our hearts"

Jean's family will be joined by special guests to unveil the beautiful locally-designed mosaic at 9:00am on January 7th 2010 to mark what would have been his 31st birthday. Further information on this event will be issued in early January.


Jean Charles family have earned not just sympathy, but respect and admiration for the dignity and determination they have shown. Often we sign petitions without much confidence they will work. That this one has suggests the London Underground authorities sensed the public feeling behind it. It will be good to show that on January 7.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Iraq, Iran, Stop the killings! Start uniting for liberation!

CO-ORDINATED car bombings in Baghdad yesterday wrecked buildings and killed 127 people, injuring many more. It was the third such attack in the Iraqi capital in less than six months. Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki blamed a new alliance of Islamicist militants and Ba'ath leaders, whom Iraqi intelligence claims have been meeting in Syria.

Whoever planned this attack, they managed to do no damage to a US convoy which had just left the city, and to cause maximum death and suffering to ordinary Iraqi civilians who were working in the buildings or just happened to be in the streets nearby. Many people were angry not only with the bombers and whoever is behind them, but with the Iraqi authorities who had failed to protect citizens. People were asking how it was that four vehicles packed with explosives were able to get through the official checkpoints.

If, as newspapers suggest, the bombers' aim is to show that the Iraqi government cannot provide safety without the American occupiers, how does this square with the aim of getting the Americans out? In any case, the Iraqi people continue to suffer both unofficial and official terror, the depradations of bombers, and death squads terrorising opponents, and the shadow of the hangman.

We might note, incidentally, that two villains were missing from Nuri al-Maliki's allegations. The first was Saudi Arabia. It was reported a while ago that most armed intruders entering Iraq 9apart from the US, British and allies of course) came over the Saudi border. But it would not do to accuse the Saudis of a hand in anything. The second is Iran, because contrary to what Western politician's and press were suggesting a while back, the Ayatollahs' regime has acquired a strong interest in the post-invasion order in Iraq, from which it is benefitting.

TWO appeals have come my way concerning state killings. The first has come from an Iranian poet in exile, Reza Hiwa:

An Appeal on Behalf of those in Iran’s DEATH ROW

The other day
when I learned the news
I gave my word to the village
I promised to the world
that I don’t let this happen
My sister is in DEATH ROW

Subsequent to the fraudulent presidential election of June 2009, the Iranian regime is treating the Iranian people worse than an occupation force might do. Every dissident voice is silenced through intimidation, imprisonment, torture, rape, and street killing. Currently we see the beginnings of a new wave of executions, reminiscent of what happened to the Iranian opposition in the 1980s.

On November 11, Ehsan Fattahian was hanged to die. His original sentence of 10 years imprisonment was converted to the death penalty by the Appeals Court. Such a move contravenes even the laws governing the Iranian judiciary system.

Since then, the Iranian regime has continued to add to the list of those consigned to its DEATH ROW. The latest victim is a female Kurdish political activist, Zeinab Jalalian.

The IRI DEATH ROW now contains at least 26 prisoners. It has become a macabre reflection of the people of Iran in its entirety, with its many ethnic groups, religious faiths and political affiliations. It includes fourteen Kurdish prisoners, seven members of the Baha’i faith, four accused of affiliation with pro-monarchist groups and one member of the People’s Mojahedin Group. What seems common to them all, according to this regime, is their enmity towards God (Moharabeh).

We the signatories of this letter call on the people of the world and their governments to raise their voices in defence of innocent lives in Iran and to denounce these executions.
We urge you to create local committees with the participation of women’s organisations and launch a full fight to get the maximum awareness and reaction to Zeinab’s impending execution.
We urge all those in a position of authority, at any level, including members of governments, parliamentary representatives, and all other elected officials to break their silence and to condemn the death sentences in Iran.

We ask cultural, artistic, sportive, scientific, academic and human right figures to join our appeal and to raise its visibility. We ask you to sign and promote the “Save IRAN from executions” Petition, urging UN to vote for a Security Council Resolution condemning these death sentences.

Please help us save our sister Zeinab and all others confined to this SHAME ROW. We cannot avert our gaze, once more, and allow further atrocities to take place.

Non Iranian Signatories:
Noam Chomsky (Philosopher and Linguist, Massachusetts)
Maja Janovich (Historian, Journalist, Belgrade)
Teni Kenerakis (Human Rights activist, Munich)
Fabien Patrigot (Film Director/Producer, Paris)
Petra Plötz (Human Rights Activist, Munich)
Uli V. Sanden (Human Rights Activist, Munich)
Howard Zinn (Historian, US)

Iranian Signatories:
Maryam Afshari (Political Activities, Journalist, Guttenberg)
Abtin Aineh (Poet, ?)
Kazem Alamdari (?, ?)
Javad Assadian (Poet, Writer)
Shabnam Assadollahi (Human Rights Activist, Ottawa)
Maryam Azimi (Women Rights activist, Germany)
Afshin Babazadeh (Poet, London)
Monireh Baradaran (1988 Massacre Survivor, Human Right Activists, ?)
Shahnaz Bayat (Women Rights activist, Germany)
George Boghozian (Human Rights activist, Canada?)
Chahla Chafiq (Writer, Paris)
Marjan Eftekhari (Women Rights activist, Switzerland)
Zoya Eskandarian (Women Rights activist, ?)
Fereshteh Farahani (?, ?)
Mohammad Fattahnia (Poet and translator, ?)
Iraj Ghahramanlou (Doctor, Human Rights activist, Exile)
Avideh Hashemi (Human Rights activist, Paris)
Laleh Hassanpour (Writer, ?)
Naser Hissami (Writer, Stockholm)
Reza Hiwa (Poet, Paris)
Maryam Hossein-Khah (?, ?)
Iran Freedom (?, ?)
Jila Golanbar (Women Rights activist, ?)
Koohyar Goudarzi (?, ?)
Mohammad Jalali Chime (M. Sahar) (Poet, ?)
Rahman Javanmardi (Human Rights activist, Rotterdam)
Ali Kalai (Iranian Blogger, Human Right activist, ?)
Monireh Kazemi (Women Rights activist, Frankfort)
Ayaz khonsyawashan (Writer and Journalist, Bergen)
Ali Kalai (Human Rights activist)
Sattar Leghai (Writer, Journalist)
Firuzeh Mahmoudi (United4Iran International Coordinator, ?)
Sirus Malakooti (Chairman of Artists Without Frontiers, London)
Dr. Kavian Milani (Human Rights activist, Vienna)
Mehrdad Mashayekhi (?, ?)
Behzad Mehrani (Blogger, Activist, ?)
Shokooh Mirzadegi (Writer and Journalist, US)
Khadijeh Moghaddam (?, ?)
Firuzeh Mohajer (Writer, University Professor, ?)
Nahid Mokry (Women Rights activist, Stockholm)
Shahin Navaie (Women Rights activist, Berlin)
Mahshid Pegahi (Women Rights activist, Germany)
Zeinab Peighambar-Zadeh (Journalist, Women Rights activist, ?)
Aida Qajar (Blogger, Activist, ?)
Maryam Rahmani (Human Rights activist, ?)
Mahshid Rasti (Human Right Activist, Stockholm)
Mojtaba Samiei-Zadeh (Blogger, Activist, ?)
Aida Saadat (Women Rights activist, ?)
Fayzeh Salehi (Women Right activist, Stockholm)
Mojgan Servati (Sociologist, Writer and Researcher- Monster)
Rouhi Shafiei (Sociologist, Women Rights activist, ?)
Shahabeddin Sheikhi (Photographer and Political Activist, Tehran)
Shirin Tabibzadeh (Editor, activist)
Nireh Tohidi (?, ?)
Abbas Vali (Boğaziçi University, Department of Sociology, Istanbul)
Bita Yari (Blogger, Political activist, ?)

The second message, received via the newsletter of Iraq Occupation Focus, concerns an issue I have raised before, the number of people facing the death penalty in Iraq.

4 December 2009

The Iraqi authorities must immediately stop the executions of more than 900 people on death row who have exhausted their legal appeals and could be put to death at any time, Amnesty International said.

The prisoners, who include 17 women, are said to have had their death sentences ratified by the Presidential Council, the final step before executions are carried out.

At least 120 people are known to have been executed in Iraq so far this year.

"In a country which already has one of the highest rates of execution in the world, the prospect that this statistic may rise significantly is disturbing indeed," said Philip Luther, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

Many of the condemned prisoners have been convicted of offences such as murder and kidnapping. Some are likely to have been sentenced after unfair trials.

The government is reportedly trying to present itself as being tough on crime and capable of overcoming the difficult security situation in the country, before the national elections in 2010.

Opposition politicians have expressed concern that executions may be carried out to allow the ruling al-Da’wa party to gain political advantage ahead of the elections. They have called on the government to temporarily suspend all executions.

One of those women facing execution is Samar Sa’ad ‘Abdullah, who was sentenced to death on 15 August 2005. She had been found guilty of the murder of her uncle, his wife and one of their children in Baghdad.

Samar Sa’ad ‘Abdullah was reported to have blamed the killings on her fiancé, who, she said, had carried them out in order to rob her uncle.

At her trial, Samar Sa’ad ‘Abdullah alleged that, after her arrest, police in Hay al-Khadhra, Baghdad, had beaten her with a cable, beaten the soles of her feet (falaqa) and subjected her to electric shocks to make her “confess”.

The judge failed to order an investigation into her allegations, and sentenced her to death.

Her father, Sa’ad ‘Abdel- Majid ‘Abd al-Karim, told Amnesty International the trial was concluded in less than two days, that he was not permitted entry to the court, and that Amal ‘Abdel-Amir al-Zubaidi, one of Samar’s lawyers, was ordered out of the court by the trial judge.

Samar Sa’ad ‘Abdullah's death sentence was confirmed by the Court of Cassation on 26 February 2007.

Since the reintroduction of the death penalty in August 2004, at least 1,000 people have been sentenced to death and scores have been executed. There are no official figures for the number of prisoners facing execution.

After all avenues of appeal have been exhausted, death sentences are referred to the Presidential Council, composed of the President and the two Vice-Presidents, for ratification, after which they are carried out.

The President, Jalal Talabani, opposes the death penalty and delegates his ratification powers to the two Vice-Presidents, who do not oppose its use.

Amnesty International has repeatedly urged the Iraqi authorities to establish an immediate moratorium on executions. "The Iraqi government must heed international demands to stop executions," said Philip Luther.

Thousands of Iranian students took part in demonstrations on Monday, and here in London members of Hands off the People of Iran (HOPI) joined a demonstration outside the Iranian embassy.

Whatever the different politics of those opposing the two regimes in Baghdad and Tehran, and the variety of those on death row, there can be agreement that neither regime has the right to carry out these death penalties on political opponents or those scapegoated for the crimes of past regimes. There can be agreement too that what the imperialists offer is not liberation, as has been shown in Iraq. But nor is the ruthless killing of ordinary working people any kind of popular resistance, whoever carries it out.

In the past, both Iraqi and Iranian regimes, as well as outside powers, have used armed groups and even genuine national struggles, against each other, only to dump and even crush them when circumstances change. The People's Mojihadeen of Iran, who found backing and bases from Saddam Hussein in Iraq have now been disarmed, fighters and families have been rounded up and face deportation, and they are reduced to appealing to the West, which whatever its differences with Iran still as them on its "terrorist" lists.

During the Iran-Iraq war some Iranians, Iraqis and Kurds here in London managed to mount a demonstration together against the war. Now while the Iranian and Iraqi governments are in alliance, would be a good time for genuinely democratic, progressive, anti-imperialist and socialist Iranians, Iraqis and Kurds, and those campaigning in solidarity with the workers and oppressed in both Iran and Iraq, to get together and discuss perspectives and a common strategy.

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Monday, December 07, 2009

Iran erupts on student day; and workers have their say

“Mousavi is an excuse, the entire regime is the target”

“Mousavi is an excuse, the entire regime is the target”

YESTERDAY was Student Day in Iran, and though it was supposed to be an officially recognised day commemorating the anniversary of a murder of a student by the Shah’s security forces during President Nixon’s visit in 1953, this year the Islamicist rulers, rightly fearing it would be turned against them, deployed police and so-called "Revolutionary Guards", or Pasdaran, in an attempt to contain the demonstrations on campus, and keep them off the streets.

Foreign reporters were banned, but in these days of mobiles, videos and the internet it proved impossible for the regime to conceal what was happening. Here were some of the scenes:

The resistance to Ahmadinejad's 'victory' last Summer may have seemed to peter out, but if anything the fact that official opposition leaders backed down has strengthened and unleashed the forces for real change, those who want to get rid of the whole regime rather than merely changing figureheads.

According to the Freedom and Equality seeking Students, " Possibly millions of students, youth and workers took to the streets in protests against the regime and the barbaric repression since the rigged June elections. Though hard to confirm, today’s protests could be the biggest since the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Protests have taken place in Tehran, Isfahan, Mashhad, Arak, Karaj, Orumieh, Kerman, Rasht, Shiraz, Ahvaz, Kermanshah and Hamedan and there have been reports of soldiers protesting at Qom Airbase. Protestors carried Iranian flags that omitted the Allah sign showing that the movement is moving beyond the slogans of the June protests".

"In preperation for these demonstrations the regime formed lines of police, Basij (pro-government militia) and Pasdaran around the universities, squares and monuments in the major cities. The government also attempted to limit internet access with up-to 50% of attempts to connect failing, however, the regime failed to stop the flood of information that is now on hundreds of blogs, twitter and news sites. The mobile phone network was also shut down in central Tehran and limited in other parts of the city. At one point the Basij were scene frantically searching computer rooms at Tehran Polytechnic University in an attempt to stop pictures and videos coming out. Protestors managed to organise the protests and relay information of road blocks etc through the internet and land lines in defiance of the government. Once again the Iranian youth has shown the world that the state cannot keep a lid on protests and unrest.

Repression and Resistance

Repression and Resistance

"On the streets the state repressive forces backed up by militia assaulted and arrested protestors but were met with courage and defiance.

"At Hamedan University two students were thrown from the second floor by Basij scum, reports indicate that both students have sustained severe injuries. There were also heavy clashes between students and security forces here. At the hospitals in Tehran police with dogs prevented injured protestors from entering, arrested and attacking people who looked like protestors. At Amir Kabir University students were savagely beaten by security forces, where a prominent student leader; Majid Tavakoli was arrested. At the Medical College in Tehran Basij thugs attempted to break up a demonstration beating several students, there were reports of some badly injured protestors at this demonstration. At the Polytechnic University students clashed with the police and managed to repel them for a time shouting “Marg Bar Khamanei” (Down with Khamanei!) as the focus of popular anger shifts from Ahmadinejad and onto the Supreme Leader and the entire Islamic Republic. At Razi University in Kermanshah militia and police had a massive presence but failed to stop the student demonstration.

"At Sanati University in Isfahan in Kermanshah student protests were attacked by security forces. Professors at Beheshti University joined with the 2,000 strong protest to scenes of massive cheering and chants of ‘Death to the Dictator’. In Kurdistan students burned images of Khomanei and Khamanei in the University, they were also protesting the murder of socialist fighter Ehsan Fattahian who was executed on the 11th November. There were protests and clashes at Azad Shahrkord University, Elm o Sanat University, Sharif University, Azad University of Mashhad, Azad University of Najafabad, Sanati University in Isfahan, Hormozgan University, University of Zanjan, Yasooj University and others. School students have also taken part in the demonstrations, at a high school for girls in Tehran they gathered and chanted slogans".

On a smaller scale than the student actions, but perhaps of more coming significance, workers too were making their views known:

A Statement by Iran Khodro Car Workers – December 6 2009

Fellow workers and friends,

During the last few days tens of workers, students and grieving mothers [a reference to mothers of young people killed following protest gatherings on December 4] have been arrested and sent to jail. Many of our colleagues and fellow workers are in prison. Tens of students, who are our children and our allies, are incarcerated. Mothers have been held. The government is closing its eyes to reality and arresting anyone they want. The country is under the grip of security forces and people do not even have the right to gather in a public park.

- In which country is it illegal to demand payment of unpaid wages?

- In which country is it forbidden to go to a park or to climb mountains? [The regime has banned students from climbing in case they organise political meetings under the guise of mountain climbing]

- What is the crime of our grieving mothers?

- In which country is it illegal to form workers’ organisations?

Fellow workers, how dare they be so shameless? We must protest! The situation created by the government is unbearable. Freedom is a basic right of all human beings

Long live freedom!

Group of Iran Khodro Workers
Translated and distributed by Hands Off the People of Iran

Thanks to Manchester University student Chris Stafford of HOPI for compiling the students reports, and
to Yassamine for translating the workers' statement.


Services no longer required

AFTER the recent row in Britain about whether Gurkhas could stay, a friend in the United States has just drawn my attention to a website about US military veterans of overseas origin, who find that serving in the armed forces, even with distinction, does not necessarily bring US citizenship or right of residence, as they were led to expect.

The site is :

It includes, ironically, patriotic poster imagery about a "band of brothers" and "supporting our boys", and this quote:

"When your tour ends," Obama said to those now serving, "when you touch our soil, you will be home in America that is forever here for you, just as you've been there for us. That is my promise."

Then it tells you what really happens, to people like Rohan Coombs; US Marine, Persian Gulf war Veteran, Jamaica:
Rohan came to America with his mom and sisters from Jamaica when he was only 9 years old. Rohan graduated from high school in New York and promptly joined the military to serve the country he loved.
Rohan joined the marines in 1988 and was deployed to Iraq a few years later. While in the military Rohan filed for his citizenship but was told “You are property of the United States Government, that makes you a citizen”. No further action was taken on Rohan’s part because he wasn’t going to second guess his commanding officer.
It wasn’t until Rohan got out of the military with an honorable discharge that things started to go downhill for him. Rohan suffers from PTSD and was unable to recognize it. He started using marijuana to ease the suffering from what he saw in Iraq during combat. During this time his wife had passed away 4 days before Christmas. This was devastating to Rohan and like his PTSD he did not seek help with dealing with his wife’s death.
He has been told he was a citizen for saying the oath to the military and for being told he was property of the U.S. and that made him a citizen. Now the judge in his case is telling him he is not a citizen and that he should be deported back to a country he hasn’t been to in over 30 years.
This is a man who fought for our country….he didn’t even fight for a country where he was born. This is a man who unselfishly joined the military to serve a country he loved and now that country is turning its back on him. There is no justice right now for our veterans. There are over 30,000 who are facing this same dilemma. Please if you can help in any way!! Please help our veterans who fought for this country and suffer PTSD because of it.
Robyn Sword/fiance,
10251 Fern #359
Stanton Ca 90680
Robyn Sword on facebook

Karla Rivera;US Navy was recently placed into removal proceedings because she failed to file Form I-751 to lift the conditions on her permanent residence—despite the fact that she is eligible for a waiver of the timely filing of the form, and despite having a pending citizenship application. It is unlikely that the United States Government will ever deport Karla—or that there would be any rational reason to deport Karla—but this sailor has had to attend removal proceedings on the other side of the country, at her own expense, despite having a pending citizenship application that will likely be approved. Not only is Karla’s time being wasted with this exercise, but the US taxpayers are paying for the time of immigration judges and DHS attorneys so that Karla can be forced to engage in a
Kafkaesque dance with the immigration bureaucracy. And she must take time away from her navy job to do so.
taken from the following link;

Lawrence Williams; US Army Vietnam veteran. He was born in Guyana, lived in the United States for over 35-years and has three adult American children. To become a United States Citizen, Williams put his life on the line, signing a contract to join the U.S. Army to fight in the Vietnam War. However, the U.S. Army did not live up to its end of the contract—no one from Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), or the Guyana embassy cared to lifted one finger to take a hard look into this breach of contract whereby Williams, who is ailing and was receiving treatment, was deported to Guyana.

Vets are being deported, in some cases to countries they left as children, after tangling with immigration restrictions or getting in trouble with the law. On the lawbreaking aspect, we learn that more than half of those who leave the forces with Post-Traumatic Stress symptoms soon end up getting arrested or jailed.

This reminds me of the statistic in Britain for how many homeless and rough sleepers are ex-services.

This story also reminds me of a piece of music from the Hungry Thirties.

That song came out the year after unemployed ex-servicemen, First World War veterans, camped in Washington to demand payment of money they were owed, were forcefully and brutally dispersed by the army in which they had served.

We have seen lots of changes but the system - the very system these men and women have served to defend - does not change.

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Saturday, December 05, 2009

Stop Israel swallowing whole of Jerusalem

RESISTANCE continues to the 'ethnic cleansing' of Jerusalem, the evictions and demolition of Palestinian homes, and what both human rights organisations and a European Union report confirm is a deliberate concerted policy, of wrenching East Jerusalem away from its West Bank hinterland and clearing Palestinians out.

In August, two families, totalling 59 people, including 19 children, were thrown out of their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah quarter, and settlers moved in. The Israeli Justice Ministry and authorities pretended this was just a matter of individual property disputes going back to Ottoman times; but the settlers moving in were newcomers, the (Israeli) Jerusalem municipality announced plans to build new homes in the area, and though a US State Department spokesperson said the evictions conflicted with Israel's obligations under the US-backed "road map" for peace, American millionaire Irving Moscowitz also has plans for property development in Sheikh Jarrah.

Arab families have put up what resistance they can, and last week a group of mainly Israeli youth marched against the clearance and settlement of Shaikh Jarrah.

The rights group Hamoked has reported:
"In 2008, the Ministry of the Interior revoked the Israeli residency status of 4,577 residents of East Jerusalem – including 99 minors. The number of cases of revocation of residency in 2008 alone is equal to approximately one half the total number of cases of residency revocation between 1967 and 2007. In April 2009, HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual sent an application under the Freedom of Information Law to the Ministry of the Interior, for receipt of information about the revocation of status from residents in East Jerusalem in 2008. This application was submitted by Hamoked for the second year in a row, after being forced to petition the court on the matter. The figures submitted by the Ministry of Interior clearly indicate a considerable broadening of the application of the residency revocation policy exercised by Israel in East Jerusalem since its occupation. This policy and Israel’s efforts to “encourage” residents of East Jerusalem who have lived there for many generations to uproot themselves and move elsewhere has been consistent over many years. The annexation of East Jerusalem to Israel has rendered the residents of the annexed area permanent residents of Israel, a status that differs from that of citizens in that residency may be revoked at the discretion of the Ministry of Interior. The revocation of residency status is not automatic, since the administrative authority has discretion in the matter. According to the data received, most of the revocations in 2008 were performed as part of a “campaign” which the Ministry initiated between March and April 2008, during which the Ministry actively sought out Palestinians who had lived
outside of Israel for more than seven years and revoked their residency under the revocation parameters set forth in the law. The West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been considered “abroad” for purposes of status revocation since 1996.

European Union consuls in Jerusalem have re-iterated what a suppressed report a few years ago pointed to. Israel is following a policy designed to sever East Jerusalem from the West Bank. Having unilaterally annexed the whole Jerusalem area and ringed it with settlements, the Zionists have no intention of letting East Jerusalem become capital of a Palestinian state under a peace agreement. They are carving up what remains of Palestine into separate chunks, and controlling movement between them. Anyone who is serious about wanting peace must do something to save East Jerusalem.

Here is Barak Ravid on the European envoys' report, in Ha'aretz on Thursday (December 3):

'A classified report drafted by European consuls in East Jerusalem and Ramallah slams Israeli policy in East Jerusalem and recommends that the European Union take steps to strengthen the Palestinian Authority's status in the city. It also advises taking various measures to protest Israeli policy in the city, as well as sanctions against people and groups involved in "settlement activity" in and around it.

"The report, a copy of which was obtained by Haaretz, is updated annually by EU representatives to the PA. This year's report was completed on November 23 and presented to EU institutions in Brussels a few days ago. Due to the sensitivity of the document, the EU has never before published it, and in previous years Israel pressed the EU hard not to do so, for fear the publication would further undermine the European public's already negative view of Israel.

Senior Foreign Ministry officials said this year's report "left a harsh impression" in Brussels and helped Sweden promote its plan to have the EU formally recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.

The report accused both the Israeli government and the Jerusalem municipality of working deliberately to alter the city's demographic balance and sever East Jerusalem from the West Bank. It said that both bodies assist right-wing organizations, such as Ateret Cohanim and Elad, in their efforts to implement this "strategic vision," especially around the Holy Basin area. These organizations buy houses in Arab neighborhoods, and make "attempts to implant further Jewish settlements into the heart of the Muslim Quarter."

The municipality, the report continued, discriminates against the city's Arab residents with regard to building permits, health services, education, sanitation and more.

"During the past years, Palestinians have received fewer than 200 building permits per year," it said. "Based on the population growth, permits for another 1,500 housing units annually would be necessary to cover the housing needs." For instance, the EU report noted, the village of Silwan has received only 20 building permits since 1967.

Though 35 percent of Jerusalem residents are Arab, only 5 to 10 percent of the city's budget goes to Arab neighborhoods, it continued. As a result, these areas present "a sharp contrast" to "West Jerusalem neighborhoods and East Jerusalem settlements where Israelis live."

A significant portion of the report deals with archaeological excavations in Jerusalem, especially near the Temple Mount. These digs, it charged, focus mainly on Jewish history.

"Archaeology in this case has become an ideologically motivated tool of national and religious struggle carried out in a manner that modifies the identity and character of the city and threatens to undermine its stability," the report said.

On another issue, it stated: "The expansion of Israeli settlements has sparked a trend of settler violence against the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem. Such criminal actions have been witnessed by Israeli police but are not met with adequate intervention."

Israel's closure of Palestine Liberation Organization and PA institutions in the city was also blasted in the report: "The general sense of neglect felt by many East Jerusalemites and the absence of Palestinian state-sponsored institutions and secular organizations are paving the way for Islamic religious organizations to expand their influence."

The European consuls proposed several measures to strengthen the PA presence in the eastern part of the city and pressure Israel to stop harming the Arab population. They include the following:

"Ensure EU presence at Israeli court cases on house demolitions or evictions of Palestinian families" and "when there is a risk of demolition or eviction of Palestinian families."

EU "celebrations, commemorations and national or Europe day events to be held in East Jerusalem."

"EU missions with offices or residences in East Jerusalem to regularly host Palestinian officials for dinners with senior EU visitors."

"Avoid having Israeli security accompany high-ranking officials from member states when visiting the Old City or East Jerusalem."

"Refraining from meeting Israeli officials in their East Jerusalem offices."

"Information sharing on violent settlers in East Jerusalem to assess whether to grant entry to the EU."

Four years ago when a report was produced it was the British government which used its presidency of the European Union to suppress it, even though it was Britain's consul in Jerusalem who had drafted it.
Then organisations like Jews for Justice for Palestinians and the Jewish Socialists' Group, affiliated with European Jews for Just Peace, obtained and published the report, and wrote to MEPs about it.

We can be grateful perhaps that Tony Blair, who was British prime minister then, has not succeeded in his bid to become European President, even if the person who has stepped into the job is little improvement.

More to the point, we can draw attention to this Early Day Motion now in the British parliament:

EDM 314
Linton, Martin

That this House supports the proposed statement by the Council of the European Union drafted by the Swedish Presidency calling for negotiations on a two-state solution leading to an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital; welcomes the statement’s clear reiteration that settlements are illegal under international law, as are the separation barrier on occupied land and the demolition of homes; agrees that all three constitute an obstacle to peace by threatening to make a two-state solution impossible; and asks the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to endorse this document at the meeting in Brussels on 7 December 2009.

32 signatures at 4 December 2009

Let's second that.

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Bhopal: No end to the suffering, no beginning for justice

TWENTY FIVE years after an industrial catastrophe that caused death and suffering on the scale of a major natural disaster, people are still being affected, and survivors are still waiting to see justice. Trade unionists and environmental campaigners joined local people in a demonstration through the north Indian city of Bhopal early today to mark the anniversary of the Union Carbide disaster, also known as the Bhopal disaster.

It was just after midnight on the morning of December 3, 1984, that the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal released clouds of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas and other toxins, which spread through the shanty towns near the factory, gassing and blinding people. Eventually some half a million people were exposed to the poisons. The official death toll immediately after the calamity was 2,259, and the government of Madhya Pradesh later confirmed 3,787 deaths caused by the gas release. But others put the deaths as high as 10,000 within 72 hours, and say as many as 25,000 people have since died from gas-related diseases.

Bhopal was once called the lake city, because of the lakes around it, and known for its greenery. The state authorities have tried to assure people that it was becoming safe. But reports now say 390 tonnes of toxic chemicals abandoned at the Union Carbide plant continue to leak and pollute the ground water in the region and affect thousands of Bhopal residents. Toxins have been found in the milk of animals grazing in the area, and of local mothers. Many local people have developed cancers, and experts say children conceived in Bhopal have ten times the chance of being born with defects as those from other areas.

Children were given pride of place on the demonstration in Bhopal. Campaigners are demanding that the government of India set up a commission to deal with all the problems caused by the disaster. They also demand more adequate compensation for victims and their families, and more effort to bring those responsible to justice.

Union Carbide tried at first to deny responsibility for the disaster, and adding insult to injury, blamed worker sabotage, though no evidence was found. What was found was that management had tried to cut corners in production at the Bhopal plant, neglected maintenance, failed to take safety precautions that would have been standard in its US operations, ignored warnings of danger from workers. "By 1984, only six of the original twelve operators were still working with MIC and the number of supervisory personnel was also cut in half. No maintenance supervisor was placed on the night shift and instrument readings were taken every two hours, rather than the previous and required one-hour readings.[16][26]Workers made complaints about the cuts through their union but were ignored. One employee was fired after going on a 15-day hunger strike. 70% of the plant's employees were fined before the disaster for refusing to deviate from the proper safety regulations under pressure from management.[16][26]"

In addition, nothing was done to warn local people or advise them what to in a chemical mishap.

There are currently civil and criminal cases related to the disaster ongoing in the United States District Court, Manhattan and the District Court of Bhopal, India against Union Carbide, now owned by Dow Chemical, and arrest warrants pending against Warren Anderson, the American who was Chief Executive Officer of Union Carbide at the time of the disaster. Despite moves going back to 1993, India has still not managed to extradite Anderson. A fresh arrest warrant was issued in July this year, and the Ministry of External Affairs says it is still pursuing the matter with US officials.

The Dow Chemical Company purchased Union Carbide in 2001 for $10.3 billion in stock and debt. Dow has publicly stated several times that the Union Carbide settlement payments have already fulfilled Dow's financial responsibility for the disaster. Dow took over Union Carbide’s liabilities in at least three US cases but when it came to the Indian victims of Bhopal, Dow said it did not owe anything. Dow’s CEO Michael Parker insisted that compensation money intended for the Bhopal gas survivors - some of the poorest people in the world - should pay for the clean up of the site.

In 2002 there were hunger strikes around the world, including the United States, to demand that Dow meet its obligations. Satinath Sarangi, an Indian engineer who had gone to help Bhopal people and founded a free clinic, spent 19 days outside the Indian parliament, where he was joined by some Bhopal women. Some 94 percent of the Bhopal survivors - 150,000 of them seriously and chronically ill - had received all of $500 for their lifetime loss of health and livelihood. Satinath Sarangi said that “because an exemplary punishment of Carbide/Dow would set limits on the conduct of other multi-national corporations, and so affect their profits, the United States administration has openly and blatantly pressured the Indian government to hinder the course of justice in Bhopal.”

In June last year a group including women and children who walked from Bhopal to Delhi to stage a peaceful protest were set upon savagely by police. "To teach the Bhopalis a lesson, more than 15 policepersons, including one woman cop and two plainclothesmen, strip-searched, whipped and slapped Bhopali youth and children who were in police custody last night. Suresh Pal was stripped, beaten and locked up. 11-year old Yasmin, who walked from Bhopal to Delhi, and six-year old Nagma were beaten up by the police, while 19-year old Imran was whipped with a belt and hurt in the eye for intervening when policemen began abusing and dragging Rachna into the lock-up. Mahendra Singh, a plainclothesman who masterminded the operation, said "In saaliyon ke kapde fado." (Tear the clothes off these bitches). "
Maybe the forces of law and order behaved in this brutal way towards the victims in an attempt to overcome their shame at the law's impotence in bringing the criminals to book.

A year after the Delhi protest and hunger strike a fresh extradition move was begun. But Nityanand Jayaraman, a social activist working for the victims, said not a single accused had been sentenced so far. "The judiciary is moving at an astonishing slow pace. All the Indian accused are out on bail and Anderson does not appear before the court. He is enjoying the government's protection as India does not want to upset the US."

More on this anniversary:

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Tony Blair and the Fortunes of War

AS Britain's inquiry into the Iraq war has brought out damning evidence on the Bush and Blair government's responsibility and its causes, reports from Iraq continue to show the awful consequences.

On November 14 the Guardian front-paged the report on children being born with deformities in Falluja, where US forces used white phosphorus, and some say, depleted uranium munitions, 'freeing' the city from insurgents. See:

(previously reported in this blog on October 19

At the weekend, while Iraqis might have been expecting to celebrate the festival of Aid el-Adha, in however difficult circumstances, there were fears the post-invasion Iraqi government intended to execute nine women, the first of 126 who have been sentenced to death. Their 'crime' appears to be that they were educated professionals who served in various positions under the previous regime. One was a head of the nuclear energy centre, another Minister of Work and Social Affairs.

Now that Iraq has a government on good terms with the neighbouring regime in Iran, they seem to be becoming rivals in one respect - who can kill more of their own citizens. Amnesty said this year that "Iraq now has one of the highest rates of execution in the world. At least 1,000 people are believed to be under sentence of death, 150 of whom have exhausted all legal remedies available to them and are therefore at serious risk of being hanged. In this document, which includes case studies, Amnesty International calls on the Iraqi authorities to halt all executions, to commute all pending death sentences and to ensure that trials meet with international standards".

Women's Solidarity for an Independent and Unified Iraq (WSIUI) have accused Prime Minister Nour el Maliki of using lynch mob methods. WSIU called for a halt to executions, and abolition of the death penalty. The women's movement also condemns the use of torture to obtain confessions, and "the persisting practice of arbitrary arrests by the Iraqi security forces. We condemn their arrests of women in lieu of their men folk. These are practices, they inherited from the occupiers".

"Soft language and bombastic slogans regarding the’ new democratic Iraq’, fail to disguise the miserable existence of the majority of Iraqis under the occupation. Iraqis are living on the poverty line, without the most essential of services, without stability and security and at the mercy of organised criminals and corrupt security forces, corrupt or apathetic government officials. Now, the sovereignty lacking Iraqi government intends to commit judicial murder".

When we add the activity of religious militias, gangs and death squads to those of the state, we can see a pattern. It suits both imperialist predators and domestic reactionaries to drag Iraq down from modernity to backwardness and dependency.

Besides women, sexual minorities have been a favourite target for violence. It is reckoned that 720 people have been murdered. Homosexuality is not illegal, but far from stopping the homophobic violence the police seem more concerned with waging their own harassment by monitoring gay cafes and internet chat rooms.

I dare say those liberals and democrats who supported the war, and accused us of wanting to leave Iraqis under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, did not have this kind of 'freedom' in mind. (Only marginally better have been those in the Stop the War Coalition who insisted that supporting secular and progressive Iraqis wasn't part of our remit as peace campaigners.) Don't bother apologising. Tony Blair hasn't. He still insists he did nothing wrong.

General Sir Michael Rose, not exactly a peace campaigner, disagrees: "Britain was taken unprepared into war on false grounds, and the inevitable result was the destruction of Iraq, enormous loss of life and continuing political turmoil in the Middle East. Worse, the war has radicalised Muslim opinion against the West throughout the world, even spawning terrorism on ...the streets of London....Why I believe Blair should stand trial - and even face charges for war crimes Mail Online
Gen. Sir Michael Rose, one of Britain's most distinguished generals, denounces the former Prime Minister and says there is no point holding the Iraq inquiry without apportioning blame.'

Unlike the women on death row in Baghdad, our former prime minister is not facing any consequences for his crimes. True, he did not achieve his ambition of becoming European president. But what with his banking sinecures, speaking engagements, book deals, charities and other little earners, he must be among the richest retirees in Britain.

To be fair, Blair has done his bit for Labour's promises of "affordable housing". He managed to afford £4.45 million for a home in Connaught Square, in London's Belgravia, not far from the little pad Wafic Said provided for the Thatchers. Then in May 2008 he found the means to afford £5.75 million for Sir John Gielgud's old place, described as "a small stately home" in Buckinghamshire. On top of his bills for these places, there's the £560,000 a year lease for Blair's Mayfair consultancy office, in Grosvenor Square near the US embassy. But as the Guardian's David Leigh and Ian Griffiths tell us, that is paid for through a company called Windrush Ventures.

"So mystifying are the former prime minister's financial structures – which involve highly specialised limited partnerships and parallel companies – that the Guardian today launches an open invitation to tax specialists and accountants to attempt to explain the motivation behind such structures. We have published the Companies House documents and other legal papers regarding the structure of the partnerships at and invite expert comment via our site at

'There is no suggestion Blair is doing anything illegal. But he refuses to explain the purpose of the secretive partnerships. Tax specialists say Blair could use these unusual arrangements at some point in the future to seek to transfer millions tax-free to his four children. Blair denies, however, that the structures are such an inheritance tax avoidance scheme, known as a "family limited partnership"'.

These partnerships can also be used to protect partners from liability. But Blair's partnerships seem to be with nobody but himself. "Millions of pounds have been funnelled through one arrangement called Windrush Ventures and a second parallel structure called Firerush Ventures. They may handle some of the large amounts coming in from Blair's book deal, his six-figure speaking fees, his banking and insurance consultancies, and his pay from Middle Eastern regimes. Blair's profit-making commercial schemes involve 12 different Windrush and Firerush legal entities centring on a pair of "limited partnerships".

"His spokesman, former No 10 staff member Matthew Doyle, refuses to say who Blair's partner is. Windrush Ventures No 3 LP, for example, consists on paper of a partnership between an entity owned by Blair himself and an anonymous off-the-shelf company. .. This company in turn conceals its true ownership. Its shares are listed as held by the lawyers, acting as nominees".

"This partner company does not appear to have made any significant investments on its own behalf. The register shows that its sole contribution to the partnership when it was set up in December 2007 was the sum of £19. The Guardian asked Doyle who owned Blair's partner company. We also asked for the terms of the partnership agreement which divides up the rights to Blair's money. We asked the purpose of the schemes, and what funds had been paid into them. Doyle refused to answer. He even refused to say why the name 'Windrush' was chosen".

I'm not a lawyer, accountant or a tax expert, but I might be able to offer a suggestion about that name. Or know a woman who can. A while ago, heading north from Liverpool Street, I regretted not being able to buy any film for my camera, as there outside the offices of a company called Windrush were a band of young people dressed as pirates, waving cardboard cutlasses and going "Argh, Jim Lad!" and so forth. It was all good fun, but aimed at making a point, and here is an item from Corporate Watch by a woman who has trained her spy glass on Windrush:

'Windrush Communications is the British company which organises the Iraq Procurement Conferences, where corporations discuss the privatisation of Iraq's assets (see Corporate Watch Newsletter December 2004). Ewa Jasiewicz takes a closer look. Windrush began as an independent global publishing house, producing corporate journals and websites for trade and financial instiutions. Its glossy mouthpieces and e-digests promote the culture of commodification and privatisation.. The conquering of new markets and the wars which smash them open are sanitised and normalised. In these journals the corporate elite theorise and advocate their socially and environmentally destructive agendas. Windrush Communications Ltd was founded in December 2002 as an independent private company. Formerly known as Wishwell Ltd, it was renamed Windrush in February 2003. It’s Docklands-dwelling Director is 48-year-old John Lumb while Raminder Singh-Barmi holds the post of Managing Director of Iraq Procurement. From publishing it graduated two years late to the esteemed position of being the organiser of the glittering and gargantuan Iraq Procurement Conferences. So far there have been three: London April 2004; Jordan November 2004 and Iraq Oil and Gas, Amman, August 2004.

'These events bring together politicians, ministers, and business people from the world over (Iraq’s Electricity, Health, and Oil ministers plus British governmental representatives and Jordanian ministers have all attended the events) to broker deals, talk shop, and re-configure the economy, markets and future of an entire nation - in the image and interests of the rich and powerful, corporate and governmental. The legality of these events has been called into question by anti-war activists arguing that the sell-off of Iraq’s assets under an Occupation-created law on Foreign Investment --Order 39 -- violates the Geneva Convention and Hague Regulations and amounts to pillage.

'Curiously there is more than one business venture involved in Windrush Communications’ work. A company named Omega Marketing Worldwide which appears to be new shares the address and telephone line of Windrush at Clergy House, Mark Street, EC2, and Windrush’s former Production Manager, Ben Pilley, has been transferred and promoted to Managing Director of Omega Marketing Worldwide.

'The relationship between the two companies is unclear, as is the relationship between Windrush and the 'Iraq Development Program' - again, undefined, except that all procurement conference registration fees must be paid to ‘The Iraq Development Program’. The IDP also enjoys exclusive hotel rates, a perk usually afforded to companies close to government. Windrush’s move into the field of international corporate politics came when it became the official Media Partner (read ‘publicist/PR agent’) for the British-Arab Chamber of Commerce. A large company with over 25 years service to the business, government and academic sectors, the BACC provides these sectors with information and analysis of how, where, when and what to privatise, control and justify next. The BACC has a board of over 80 Directors. Its Vice-Chairman is Sir Alan Munro, former British Ambassador to Algeria and Saudi Arabia, who has admitted having a salaried position advising companies on how to break into the Saudi Arabian market -- however his position at the BACC is 'voluntary'.

'Windrush began their project of contract brokering and pillage promoting with three initial websites designed to identify markets for businesses - 'Rebuilding Iraq News', 'Iraqi Business Project' and 'Iraq’s Key Industries', before picking up the gauntlet from where The Iraq Program Management Office (PMO) left off.

'The PMO itself was set up by the US puppet Coalition Provisional Authority to oversee all contracts funded by the new US government's appropriation of over $18.6 billion for Iraq's reconstruction. Windrush joins an industry of post-conflict reconstruction corporate guides, such as 3C New York, which ‘establishes contacts between procurement agencies in the U.S government and potential contractors in the U.S. and abroad’ with its Iraq Project. privatisation, old and new, with fresh spaces, platforms and alliances to carry out the next phase of free market capitalism deeper into the Middle East. This is in sync with George Bush’s declaration of a Middle East Free Trade Zone within the next 10 years -- a zone dependent on war, occupation and death for its survival. Windrush were unavailable to comment, stating that the company is not giving any media interviews at the moment. see:

I don't know whether this Windrush and the one that helps Tony Blair manage his financial affairs are one and the same company or related, or if someone involved in thinking up names just had a sense of humour. Perhaps the Guardian reporters will find out.

It would have been too much in bad taste to have called Blair's wealth a "windfall".

As Sir Michael Rose says:

"Over 100,000 Iraqi civilians and more than 4,500 soldiers from coalition forces have been killed during almost seven years of the occupation - and probably ten times that number have been injured. Two million Iraqis have fled their country and another two million have been internally displaced.

Up to $3 trillion has been spent on the war by America - a staggering sum that is likely to have played a significant part in the collapse of the American banking system and helped create the present difficulties facing the world economy".

Read more: