Lobby Southwark council against the cuts 22 Feb

22ND FEB LOBBY LEAFLET version515feb 5pm

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Reminder: March Against the War THIS SATURDAY

afghan_demo_201110

Assembling at 12 NOON, SPEAKER’S CORNER. for more details check http://stopwar.org.uk/content/view/2045/186/

The East Dulwich Stop the War Group will meet at the bus stop outside Chener Books at 11am!

PUBLIC MEETING ON AFGHANISTAN AND TRIDENT

Stop the War and CND have organised a joint meeting in Parliament on Monday 28
June, at which Jeremy Corbyn MP, Paul Flynn MP and other MPS to be announced,
will speak on the government’s war policies and commitment to renew the Trident
nuclear missile system. The meeting is open to all.

STOP THE WAR/CND PUBLIC MEETING IN PARLIAMENT
MONDAY 28 JUNE: 6.30PM
CUT THE WAR – SCRAP TRIDENT – BRING THE TROOPS HOME
THATCHER ROOM, PORTCULLIS HOUSE
BRIDGE STREET LONDON SW1A2LW ALL WELCOME.
With Jeremy Corbyn MP, Paul Flynn MP (other MPs to be announced), Lindsey
German, Andrew Murray, Kate Hudson and a member of Military Families Against
the War.

Boycott Israeli Goods (‘bads’?) this Saturday

After Israel’s murderous attacks on the flotilla
bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza, the plight of the Palestinians has
been highlighted and the case for a boycott is more urgent than ever.

We will be running a stall focussing on asking people to boycott
Israeli goods on Saturday 26th June, 11am – 12:30am, outside the Co-op, Lordship Lane,
East Dulwich. Hope you can join us!

A familiar sound in the skies…

Same pilots, same helicopters, different flag. And the russians pocket the funds. Congratulations to the Pentagon! Doesn’t mention of course that the people they gave Stinger missiles include many of the groups they’re now fighting, including that naughty Saudi fellow Osama bin Laden

U.S. military criticized for purchase of Russian copters for Afghan air corps
By Craig Whitlock
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 19, 2010; A01
The U.S. government is snapping up Russian-made helicopters to form the core of Afghanistan’s fledgling air force, a strategy that is drawing flak from members of Congress who want to force the Afghans to fly American choppers instead.

In a turnabout from the Cold War, when the CIA gave Stinger missiles to Afghan rebels to shoot down Soviet helicopters, the Pentagon has spent $648 million to buy or refurbish 31 Russian Mi-17 transport helicopters for the Afghan National Army Air Corps. The Defense Department is seeking to buy 10 more of the Mi-17s next year, and had planned to buy dozens more over the next decade.

The spectacle of using U.S. taxpayer dollars to buy Russian military products is proving a difficult sell in Congress. Some legislators say that the Pentagon never considered alternatives to the Mi-17, an aircraft it purchased for use in Iraq and Pakistan, and that a lack of competition has enabled Russian defense contractors to gouge on prices.

“The Mi-17 program either has uncoordinated oversight or simply none at all,” said Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), who along with Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) has pushed the Pentagon to reconsider its purchase plans. “The results have led to massive waste, cost overruns, schedule delays, safety concerns and major delivery problems.”

U.S. and Afghan military officials who favor the Mi-17, which was designed for use in Afghanistan, acknowledge that it might seem odd for the Pentagon to invest in Russian military products. But they said that changing helicopter models would throw a wrench into the effort to train Afghan pilots, none of whom can fly U.S.-built choppers.

“If people come and fly in Afghanistan with the Mi-17, they will understand why that aircraft is so important to the future for Afghanistan,” said Brig. Gen. Michael R. Boera, the U.S. Air Force general in charge of rebuilding the Afghan air corps. “We’ve got to get beyond the fact that it’s Russian. . . . It works well in Afghanistan.”

U.S. military officials have estimated that the Afghan air force won’t be able to operate independently until 2016, five years after President Obama has said he intends to start withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan. But Boera said that date could slip by at least two years if Congress forces the Afghans to fly U.S. choppers . “Is that what we really want to do?” he asked.

The U.S. military has been trying to resurrect the decimated Afghan National Army Air Corps since 2005, when it consisted of a few dozen furloughed pilots and a handful of decrepit Mi-17s.

Because Afghan airmen had historically trained on Russian choppers, the Pentagon decided to make the Mi-17s the backbone of Afghanistan’s fleet. The Soviet Union specifically designed the Mi-17 for use in Afghanistan. U.S. officials say it is well-suited for navigating the altitudes of the Hindu Kush mountains, as well as Afghanistan’s desert terrain.

With few reliable roads, helicopters are a primary mode of transport in Afghanistan. U.S. forces depend on them to deploy troops to isolated areas, provide them with supplies and airlift them out when they are wounded. Until recently, Afghan pilots have steered clear of combat but have used their Mi-17s to transport high-ranking Afghan officials, including President Hamid Karzai. U.S. officials hope the Afghan air corps eventually will be able to defend its own skies and serve the fast-growing Afghan National Army.

Afghans are also training on Mi-35 Russian-made attack helicopters and Italian-designed C-27s, a fixed-wing aircraft used to transport troops and supplies. The air corps has 48 aircraft and 3,300 personnel.

Boera said plans are to expand to 146 aircraft and 8,000 personnel by 2016. Pentagon officials said they had originally projected that Mi-17s would compose half the fleet, but they are considering scaling back.

About 450 U.S. service personnel are in Afghanistan to train and advise the Afghan airmen. Training the air corps has been a painstakingly slow process, much more so than U.S. efforts to train Afghanistan’s national army and police.

Afghan pilot recruits, many of whom are illiterate in their native tongue, are required to learn English — the official language of the cockpit — before they can earn their wings. U.S. officials say it usually takes two to five years to train an entire flight crew.

So far, only one Afghan pilot has graduated from flight school in the United States, although dozens are in the pipeline. That has forced the air corps to rely on pilots who learned to fly Mi-17s during the days of Soviet and Taliban rule.

Gen. Mohammed Dawran, chief of the Afghan air corps, said most of those pilots are in their 40s and set in their ways. Requiring them to start fresh on U.S. copters would be an uphill battle.

“They learned the previous system and different ideas,” he said in an interview. Most of the veterans also don’t know how to fly at night or in poor visibility, when a pilot must rely on an aircraft’s instrument panel to navigate.

The Russian choppers are far more basic birds than U.S. models such as the UH-60 Black Hawk or the CH-47 Chinook. The Mi-17 is steered with a stick and rudder and usually lacks such amenities as Global Positioning System navigation. Afghan maintenance crews, accustomed to making do with whatever materials are handy, are skilled in making repairs with used soda cans and other makeshift parts.

The U.S. government has bought Russian choppers for other allies as well. The Pentagon purchased eight Mi-17s for the Iraqi air force, although defense officials say they have no plans to acquire more. The Defense Department has also purchased or leased 14 Mi-17s for Pakistan, although Islamabad recently returned some after a crash raised questions about their safety.

In addition, the U.S. Special Operations Command would like to buy a few Mi-17s of its own, so that special forces carrying out clandestine missions could cloak the fact that they are American.

“We would like to have some to blend in and do things,” said a senior U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the clandestine program. “But the Russians know this. Russia has a small monopoly on Mi-17s. They are now exorbitantly priced.”

Critics in Congress said the price per chopper has tripled since 2006, from $6 million to $18 million. Pentagon officials dispute this, saying that the lower prices were for used, less capable Mi-17s, and newer models retail for about $15 million.

Defense officials and analysts said that U.S. helicopter manufacturers, struggling to produce enough aircraft for U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, might not have the capacity to make more for the Afghan air corps right away.

Still, under pressure from Congress, U.S. defense officials have indicated that they are leaning away from their Russian buying binge.

“As a ‘Buy American’ kind of individual, I think it’s totally appropriate as we go forward that we continue to assess the program,” Army Secretary John McHugh, whose service oversees foreign helicopter purchases, told the Senate Appropriations Committee in March.

Staff writer Greg Miller contributed to this report.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s nephew speaks out

(from the Christian Science Monitor)

Peace for Israelis and Palestinians? Not without America’s tough love.

An Israeli student explains why the US should act on moral outrage over Israel’s discriminatory policies before it’s too late

By Jonathan Ben-Artzi / April 1, 2010.

Providence, R.I.

More than 20 years ago, many Americans decided they could no longer watch as racial segregation divided South Africa. Compelled by an injustice thousands of miles away, they demanded that their communities, their colleges, their municipalities, and their government take a stand.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Today, a similar discussion is taking place on campuses across the United States. Increasingly, students are questioning the morality of the ties US institutions have with the unjust practices being carried out in Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territories. Students are seeing that these practices are often more than merely “unjust.” They are racist. Humiliating. Inhumane. Savage.

Sometimes it takes a good friend to tell you when enough is enough. As they did with South Africa two decades ago, concerned citizens across the US can make a difference by encouraging Washington to get the message to Israel that this cannot continue.

A legitimate question is, Why should I care? Americans are heavily involved in the conflict: from funding (the US provides Israel with roughly $3 billion annually in military aid) to corporate investments (Microsoft has one of its major facilities in Israel) to diplomatic support (the US has vetoed 32 United Nations Security Council resolutions unsavory to Israel between 1982 and 2006).

Why do I care? I am an Israeli. Both my parents were born in Israel. Both my grandmothers were born in Palestine (when there was no “Israel” yet). In fact, I am a ninth-generation native of Palestine. My ancestors were among the founders of today’s modern Jerusalem.

Both my grandfathers fled the Nazis and came to Palestine. Both were subsequently injured in the 1948 Arab-Israli War. My mother’s only brother was a paratrooper killed in combat in 1968. All of my relatives served in the Israeli military for extensive periods of time, some of them in units most people don’t even know exist.

In Israel, military service for both men and women is compulsory. When my time to serve came, I refused, because I realized I was obliged to do something about these acts of segregation. I was denied conscientious objector status, like the majority of 18-year-old males who seek this status. Because I refused to serve, I spent a year and a half in military prison.

Some of the acts of segregation that I saw while growing up in Israel include towns for Jews only, immigration laws that allow Jews from around the world to immigrate but deny displaced indigenous Palestinians that same right, and national healthcare and school systems that receive significantly more funding in Jewish towns than in Arab towns.

As former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in 2008: “We have not yet overcome the barrier of discrimination, which is a deliberate discrimination and the gap is insufferable…. Governments have denied [Arab Israelis] their rights to improve their quality of life.”

The situation in the occupied territories is even worse. Nearly 4 million Palestinians have been living under Israeli occupation for over 40 years without the most basic human and civil rights.

One example is segregation on roads in the West Bank, where settlers travel on roads that are for Jews only, while Palestinians are stopped at checkpoints, and a 10-mile commute might take seven hours.

Another example is discrimination in water supply: Israel pumps drinking water from occupied territory (in violation of international law). Israelis use as much as four times more water than Palestinians, while Palestinians are not allowed to dig their own wells and must rely on Israeli supply.

Civil freedom is no better: In an effort to break the spirit of Palestinians, Israel conducts sporadic arrests and detentions with no judicial supervision. According to one prisoner support and human rights association, roughly 4 in 10 Palestinian males have spent some time in Israeli prisons. That’s 40 percent of all Palestinian males!

And finally, perhaps one of the greatest injustices takes place in the Gaza Strip, where Israel is collectively punishing more than 1.5 million Palestinians by sealing them off in the largest open-air prison on earth.

Because of the US’s relationship with Israel, it is important for all Americans to educate themselves about the realities of the conflict. When they do, they will realize that just as much as support for South Africa decades ago was mostly damaging for South Africa itself, contemporary blind support for Israel hurts us Israelis.

We must lift the ruthless siege of Gaza, which only breeds more anger and frustration among Gazans, who respond by hurling primitive, homemade rockets at Israeli towns.

We must remove travel restrictions from West Bank Palestinians. How can we live in peace with a population where most children cannot visit their grandparents living in the neighboring village, without being stopped and harassed at military checkpoints for hours?

Finally, we must give equal rights to all. Regardless of what the final resolution will be – the so-called “one state solution,” the “two state solution,” or any other form of governance.

Israel governs the lives of 5.5 million Israeli Jews, 1.5 million Israeli Palestinians, and 4 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. As long as Israel is responsible for all of these people, it must ensure that all have equal rights, the same access to resources, and the same opportunities in education and healthcare. Only through such a platform of basic human rights for all humans can a resolution come to the region.

If Americans truly are our friends, they should shake us up and take away the keys, because right now we are driving drunk, and without this wake-up call, we will soon find ourselves in the ditch of an undemocratic, doomed state.

Jonathan Ben-Artzi was one of the spokespeople for the Hadash party in the Israeli general elections in 2006. His parents are professors in Israel, and his extended family includes uncle Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr. Ben-Artzi is a PhD student at Brown University in Providence, R.I.

Lambeth Stop the War Election Hustings

Lambeth Stop the War Election Hustings
A chance for you to ask candidates questions about Afghanistan, Civil Liberties, Nuclear Weapons, Palestine and the War on Terror generally
Monday 19th April
7:30pm – 9pm
The Brix, St Matthews Church, Brixton Hill, SW2 1JF

The confirmed speakers are (in alphabetical order):

  • Rahoul Bhansali – Conservative candidate for Streatham
  • Jeremy Drinkall – Anti Capitalist candidate for Vauxhall
  • Joseph Healy – Green candidate for Vauxhall
  • Daniel Lambert – Socialist candidate for Vauxhall
  • Chris Nicholson – Liberal Democrat candidate for Streatham
  • To advertise this we’re doing:

  • Leafletting Brixton tube station, Thursday 15th April, 6pm – 7pm
  • Stall outside Brixton tube, Sunday 18th April, 2pm – 3:30pm
  • Lots of outreach and leaflets to shops
  • If you can help out at our stalls, or want hard copy publicity, please email us