Wednesday, December 01, 2010

No nukes would be good news

Asians in London demonstrate against India-Pakistan nuclear weapon sparring. Nice to hear statesmen also worried.


I WASN'T expecting too many startling stories from the latest Wikileaks exposures, and so I haven't been disappointed. I am pleased to hear US and British leaders have been worried, as they ought to be, about who might get their hand on Pakistan's nuclear weapons, and at the dangers of a nuclear flare-up between India and Pakistan.

It might have been better if they had done something to stop either of these Asian states acquiring nuclear weapons in the first place.

I am not surprised to read that the Saudi rulers, who have waged a proxy war against Iran in the guise of sectarian killings on Iraqi streets, just as they assisted the Taliban in Afghanistan, should have been urging the United States to move from sanctions to open war on Iran, using the pretext of its nuclear programme. Only last year first the Saudis and then the Israelis were, like embarrassed lovers caught snogging, denying reports of an agreement by which Israeli planes could cross Saudi airspace to attack Iran.

It is evident from some of the leaked documents that both the Israeli military and some Arab regimes are at least as concerned about what the Saudis call "Iranian meddling" in the Middle East, its influence in places like Lebanon and Gaza, as over its real or pretended nuclear threat.

Meanwhile, of course, they reserve the right to meddle themselves, whether through Mossad's activities in Iran or Saudi preference for a military dictatorship in Pakistan.

Some of the leaks may amuse, such as the undiplomatic comments on the behaviour of British royals, or the Russian leaders' resembling Batman and Robin, or the Pakistan government allegedly trousering $26 million intended for barbed wire and protection against a feared Taliban air attack. Were they overestimating Saudi aid to the Taliban (where did they put those planes from British Aerospace?), or since the Afghans might not have an airfield among their mountains, expecting a raid by flying carpet (eastern Vertical Take Off)?

More seriously, some leaks may do some good, as in the denunciation of Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa as a war criminal, which has led to cancellation of his visit to the Oxford Union (not as a criminal but because Thames Valley police could not guarantee security), and embarrassment for Tory Defence Secretary Liam Fox who was keen to do business with him.

Whatever doubts I might have had about the documents and those leaking them have been settled for now by the response of America's desperate and dangerous loony party. Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee has called for whoever leaked the 250,000 US diplomatic cables to be executed. His fellow potential Republican nominee, Sarah Palin, anxious that the average American voter should remain almost as ignorant as she is, wanted Wikileaks founder Julian Assange "hunted down". (Swedish and British police seem to be finding reasons to comply with this wish)

"And anyone who had access to that level of information was not only a person who understood what their rules were, but they also signed, under oath, a commitment that they would not violate. They did", says Huckerbee " … Any lives they endangered, they're personally responsible for and the blood is on their hands."

And what about the lives they may have saved?

Bradley Manning, a 23-year old army intelligence analyst has been charged with transferring classified data and delivering national defence information to an unauthorised source. He faces a court martial and up to 52 years in prison.

Kathleen McFarland, who served in the Pentagon under the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations, and now works for Rupert Murdoch's Fox News, says "It's time to up the charges. .. Let's charge him and try him for treason. If he is found guilty, he should be executed." Not bad from a 'news' organisation noted here for jingoism, tax evasion and using illegal means such as telephone hacking to spy on people.

Seems the colonies are getting in on the act. Tom Flanagan, a senior adviser to Canada's Tory prime minister, Stephen Harper, issued a 'fatwa' on Canuck TV: "I think Assange should be assassinated, actually," he said. "I think Obama should put out a contract and maybe use a drone or something." Flanagan chuckled as he made the comment but did not retract it when questioned, adding: "I wouldn't feel unhappy if Assange does disappear."

Funny, that's what a lot of people, including Canadians I know, feel about the Harper government and its advisers.

But when the patriots have finished going on about "American blood" (as distinct from other brands, which they don't mind shedding), and the jokers have finished chuckling about contract killings, other people may feel that we owe the whistle blowers a debt. So much of this official secrecy, in "the Land of the Free" or anywhere else, is nothing to do with saving the lives of services personnel let alone the public, and all about saving embarrassment to politicians and exposure of racketeers.

Here in the homeland of the "mother of all parliaments" we have seen how we were lied to, to get us into war with Iraq. If we are going to be dragged into more bloody messes like that in Afghanistan, or expected to vote for those who commit crimes in our name, we have a right to know what's really happening.

One man who did what he could to alert people to the dangers he saw, and did eighteen years for it, mostly in solitary, is Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu. As he wrote in a poem from prison, "I am your spy". Vanunu is still prevented from travelling and punished for speaking to foreigners.

VANUNU . "I am YOUR spy".

Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate, and Gerry Grehan, Chair of the Peace People, Northern Ireland, have written to President Barak Obama, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, other world leaders and prominent personalities, to ask for their help in obtaining the lifting of all restrictions on Mordechai Vanunu and for him to be granted freedom to leave Israel.

"We are appealing to you on behalf of a good man, a man of peace and conscience, who was returned to prison for three months on 23 May 2010. He was released from prison on Sunday 8 August 2010. We need your support to help gain his freedom from Israel.

"He is Mordechai Vanunu the Israeli nuclear whistle blower. In October l986, Vanunu told the world that Israel had a Nuclear Weapons Programme. He was kidnapped and given 18 years imprisonment for espionage and treason. Twenty four years later he continues to be punished. In the Jewish Scriptures there is great emphasis on justice and freedom. He served the full 18 years of his sentence (twelve years in solitary confinement, described by Amnesty International as 'cruel, inhuman and degrading'). Upon his release, the Israeli Government put severe restrictions upon him, including forbidding him to leave Israel and speak to the foreign media. It was the breaking of these restrictions, in summer 2004, by speaking to the foreign media, (mainly a long interview to the BBC), which resulted in his being returned to solitary confinement again this May.

"In June Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience and called on the Israeli authorities to lift the restrictions immediately. 'The restrictions on Mordechai Vanunu arbitrarily limit his rights to freedom of movement, expression and association and are therefore in breach of international law. They should be lifted and he should be allowed to start his life again as a free man. Mordechai Vanunu should not be in prison at all, let alone be held in solitary confinement in a unit intended for violent criminals. He suffered immensely when he was held in solitary confinement for 11 years after his imprisonment in 1986 and to return him to such conditions now is nothing less than cruel, inhuman or degrading." 18 June 2010 Amnesty International

"Yet, now that he has been released from prison he still has to remain in Israel and the restrictions will be reviewed and probably renewed yet again, as they have been renewed each year for the past 6 years. Vanunu is seen as a traitor by some, a hero by others. One thing is clear, he has been punished and served the full sentence and it is time after 24 years to do the human thing and let him live as a free man.

The Israeli Supreme Court continues to accept the Secret Services' claims that he still has secrets, but a report by Reuters, 20 December 2009, shows that he does not :

" ... Yet Uzi Eilam, a retired army brigadier-general who ran the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission between 1976 and 1986, said anything that Vanunu -- a cause célèbre among disarmament campaigners -- might still disclose about Dimona is of little relevance. "I've always believed he should be let go," said Eilam.

"I don't think he has significant things to reveal (about Dimona) now."

However, we believe that he will be free and our hope is that you will in some way facilitate his early release which would be welcomed by a world waiting and watching for a peaceful and secure future for Israel and its people. We would greatly appreciate your advising us of any action you take -

Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate
Gerry Grehan, Chair of the Peace People

Numerous international figures have added their names to the letter, and there is an international online petition:

Since his first release from prison Mordechai Vanunu has not had any new secrets to reveal. But he has urged that the troubled Middle East should be made a nuclear weapon-free zone, as an urgent first step towards a nuclear weapon-free world.

We have seen the death and suffering which the Israeli 'Defence' Forces have been prepared to inflict with largely "conventional" weapons on Gaza and Lebanon. There are well-funded American Christian outfits more fanatical than any ayatollah, who are spending money in Israeli politics, hoping to push Israel towards a nuclear Armageddon.

We don't know whether Iran's Ahmadinejad is really developing nuclear weapons. But besides providing a pretext for imperialist war on Iran, such a "threat" only offers the prospect of a massive, murderous suicide bombing which cannot liberate anybody. The Palestinian people want their homeland, not a radioactive ruin.

Instead of hypocritically punishing Iran, which hasn't nuclear weapons, while supporting Israel, which has, the great powers and the so-called international community could combine to demand that Israel give up its nuclear weapons, and in so doing, remove the Iranian or other governments' arguments for the right to develop theirs. This balanced approach would be much more effective than war threats or sanctions.

Demanding a nuclear-free Middle East might also seem hypocritical, since America and Russia, not to mention France and Britain, have not given up theirs. But its success might well be a first step in the world-wide move, giving people both confidence and determination to make their rulers continue the process.

Is the Israeli government, besides its vengefulness, concerned that freeing Vanunu to roam the world would give a boost to such a campaign? Are other governments afraid that having him free might encourage their own whistle blowers, besides loosening their grip on the power to destroy?

All these governments, whatever their differences, are ready to conspire against you and I.

Blessed are the whistle blowers! If knowledge is power, then we need those who give us the chance to know.

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home