Wikileaks ‘Collateral Murder’ video

A few days ago Wikileaks put out a video of civilians being slaughtered in Iraq. So far it has had well over 1mn hits

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John Pilger on the Third World War

Recent article by John Pilger published by truthout.org

Have a Nice World War, Folks

Thursday 25 March 2010

Here is news of the Third World War. The United States has invaded Africa. US troops have entered Somalia, extending their war front from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Yemen and, now, the Horn of Africa. In preparation for an attack on Iran, American missiles have been placed in four Persian Gulf states, and “bunker-buster” bombs are said to be arriving at the US base on the British island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

In Gaza, the sick and abandoned population, mostly children, is being entombed behind underground American-supplied walls in order to reinforce a criminal siege. In Latin America, the Obama administration has secured seven bases in Colombia, from which to wage a war of attrition against the popular democracies in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay. Meanwhile, the Secretary of “Defense” Robert Gates complains that “the general [European] public and the political class” are so opposed to war they are an “impediment” to peace. Remember this is the month of the March hare.

According to an American general, the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan is not so much a real war as a “war of perception.” Thus, the recent “liberation of the city of Marja” from the Taliban’s “command and control structure” was pure Hollywood. Marja is not a city; there was no Taliban command and control. The heroic liberators killed the usual civilians, poorest of the poor. Otherwise, it was fake. A war of perception is meant to provide fake news for the folks back home, to make a failed colonial adventure seem worthwhile and patriotic, as if “The Hurt Locker” were real, and parades of flag-wrapped coffins through the Wiltshire town of Wooten Basset were not a cynical propaganda exercise.

“War is fun,” the helmets in Vietnam used to say with bleakest irony, meaning that if a war is revealed as having no purpose other than to justify voracious power in the cause of lucrative fanaticisms, such as the weapons industry, the danger of truth beckons. This danger can be illustrated by the liberal perception of Tony Blair in 1997 as one “who wants to create a world [where] ideology has surrendered entirely to values” (Hugo Young, the Guardian) compared with today’s public reckoning of a liar and war criminal.

Western war states such as the US and Britain are not threatened by the Taliban or any other introverted tribesmen in faraway places, but by the antiwar instincts of their own citizens. Consider the draconian sentences handed down in London to scores of young people who protested Israel’s assault on Gaza in January last year. Following demonstrations in which paramilitary police “kettled” (corralled) thousands, first-offenders have received two and a half years in prison for minor offences that would not normally carry custodial sentences. On both sides of the Atlantic, serious dissent exposing illegal war has become a serious crime.

Silence in other high places allows this moral travesty. Across the arts, literature, journalism and the law, liberal elites, having hurried away from the debris of Blair and, now, Obama, continue to fudge their indifference to the barbarism and aims of Western state crimes by promoting retrospectively the evils of their convenient demons, like Saddam Hussein. With Harold Pinter gone, try compiling a list of famous writers, artists and advocates whose principles are not consumed by the “market” or neutered by their celebrity. Who among them have spoken out about the holocaust in Iraq during almost 20 years of lethal blockade and assault? And all of it has been deliberate. On January 22, 1991, the US defense Intelligence Agency predicted in impressive detail how a blockade would systematically destroy Iraq’s clean water system and lead to “increased incidences, if not epidemics of disease.” So, the US set about eliminating clean water for the Iraqi population: one of the causes, noted UNICEF, of the deaths of half a million Iraqi infants under the age of five. But this extremism apparently has no name.

Norman Mailer once said he believed the United States, in its endless pursuit of war and domination, had entered a “pre-fascist era.” Mailer seemed tentative, as if trying to warn about something even he could not quite define. “Fascism” is not right, for it invokes lazy historical precedents, conjuring yet again the iconography of German and Italian repression. On the other hand, American authoritarianism, as the cultural critic Henry Giroux pointed out recently, is “more nuance, less theatrical, more cunning, less concerned with repressive modes of control than with manipulative modes of consent.”

This is Americanism, the only predatory ideology to deny that it is an ideology. The rise of tentacular corporations that are dictatorships in their own right and of a military that is now a state with the state, set behind the façade of the best democracy 35,000 Washington lobbyists can buy, and a popular culture programmed to divert and stultify, is without precedent. More nuanced perhaps, but the results are both unambiguous and familiar. Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, the senior United Nations officials in Iraq during the American and British-led blockade, are in no doubt they witnessed genocide. They saw no gas chambers. Insidious, undeclared, even presented wittily as enlightenment on the march, the Third World War and its genocide proceeded, human being by human being.

In the coming election campaign in Britain, the candidates will refer to this war only to laud “our boys.” The candidates are almost identical political mummies shrouded in the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes. As Blair demonstrated a bit too eagerly, the British elite love America because America allows it to barrack and bomb the natives and call itself a “partner.” We should interrupt their fun.

‘Special Relationship’ no more?

The recommendation of a cross-party foreign affairs committee is trying to stop use of the phrase ‘special relationship’ with reference to the US and UK. This paragraph from the guardian article pretty much sums it up:

“In words that will be interpreted as criticism of Tony Blair’s decision to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with George Bush on the invasion of Iraq, the committee said: “The perception that the British government was a subservient ‘poodle’ to the US administration leading up to the period of the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath is widespread both among the British public and overseas. This perception, whatever its relation to reality, is deeply damaging to the reputation and interests of the UK.”” (emphasis added)

The reality of foreign policy is not important here, but the image. That this committee thinks there is anything to salvage of this image may seem incredible, but it’s pretty obvious why they would want to sever this phrase. The move is similar to the US decision to scrap ‘War on Terror’ for ‘Overseas Contingency Operations,’ in which terrorism is still used as an excuse but the overall project rhetoric is sanitised to depart from the first-term bush administration talk of crusades and the like, thereby satisfying elements of the intelligentsia who rightly ridiculed the former phrase.

There is a link between the ever less popular war effort and the legitimacy of the entire political establishment, which is faltering thanks to the bank bailouts and the pathetic flop in Copenhagen among other things. Popular wars are bound to the strength of nationalist sentiments, providing opportunities for flag-waving galore and blurring lines between country, state and government. Granted the occupation of Iraq was never popular over here, but the broader project of the War on Terror contained ideas very pervasive to this day. Government has nonetheless received the knock mentioned above, and has to reformulate rhetoric accordingly: one of the most common ways of doing this is to scrap phrases like ‘special relationship,’ with the aim of obfuscating reality.

How much influence the Foreign Office ever had over US foreign policy is debatable, but if it is true that that influence has waned, this move is simply weakness dressed as strength, less influence dressed as greater autonomy. Since the interests involved are much the same, however, this is less important than it may sound, in the same way that cadbury’s chocolate is the same whether owned by kraft or not.

Naturally, those in the peace movement will continue to deconstruct the rhetoric and describe the reality of foreign policy.

Haroun Lazim

Mainstream political fluff: report on Monday’s meeting

Laura Harvey has written a report for counterfire.org on our Monday meeting. Click the link below to read it!

http://counterfire.org/index.php/news/82-stop-the-war/4320-election-candidates-get-a-grilling-in-south-london

General Election Question Time tomorrow!

Don’t forget, we’re hosting the General Election Question Time tomorrow with a panel of parliamentary candidates who will be standing in Dulwich and West Norwood or Camberwell and Peckham in the forthcoming general election. An opportunity for voters in Southwark to question the candidates.

Everyone welcome!

Date: Monday 22nd March
Time: 8:15pm
Venue: East Dulwich Community Centre, Darrell Road SE22 9NL

Yes, this post is a little close to the event, apologies.

Iraqi Election Report

piece of mortar

By Hani Lazim, formerly active in East Dulwich Stop the War and a member of the Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation (IDAO), currently living in Baghdad

Sunday 7th of March 2010 was an election day to choose members of parliament, as the system chosen by the Iraqis is parliamentarian.

It was obvious from the start that the opinions of the majority of the people I met in the street, on public transport, at work, in taxis etc were in support of the newly formed coalition led by the PM Nuri al-Maliki. This was not due to his achievements but due to the negative campaigns of the other coalitions blaming any lack of progress in the fields of electricity, water, public housing, reasonable social care, health, public transport and many other services on the Maliki government. Yet all of them are part of the government and Maliki cannot remove any of them because of the nature of the type of government that Paul Bremer III has devised, by which a government decides by agreement of all ethnic groups, sects and religious representation in parliament. The previous parliament did not function as a free and sovereign institution, but the heads of the political entities decided amongst themselves and the voting in parliament was just a rubber stamp. The PM has no power to change ministers, whether good or bad, as they are imposed on him and they work according to the wishes of their political masters and are protected by them, though some of these masters are corrupt and some were aiding terrorism, as are some MPs.

Maliki runs the country largely by emergency decrees, as over 50 laws passed by parliament have been stopped by one of the members of the presidency (three presidents and two vice presidents), each of whom has the right of a veto or simply does not sign the law, and so it will stay on the shelf. The exception to that is laws of interest to the USA, such as the security agreement for the USA army to pull out of Iraq. Parliament became an obstacle to achieving any major investment or large projects such as improving electricity or housing, as it cut the budget to them deliberately, so they will not be counted as an achievement by the PM’s government. In fact, they passed a law within three days to give MPs pensions for life of 80% of their current wage of over US$40,000per month (yes, per month – the average wage of middle income is US$500), on top of diplomatic passports for them and their families for life (!) and many other privileges.

The above information came out during the debates, exposed largely by the PM when he faced criticisms from his opponents. Saudi, Iranian, Kuwaiti and other neighbors interfered and the biggest was the USA, some by huge funds, others by pressure, and of course some by violence.

There was a curfew imposed on that day to any travel by any vehicle. Some of my nephews and family moved to an area three km away so all of us stayed in one house in the area where they should be voting.

My nephew and I woke up very early and walked round to the station where he was allocated to vote. The mortars started and some bombs went off far away from our area (south east Baghdad). The streets were almost empty at that time, but as soon as the sound of the bombs was heard lots of people came out and walked to the polling stations. All walks of life, old and young, men and women and lots of very old and disabled in their wheelchairs. It was a response I never anticipated. Kids claimed the streets and most of the major roads became a football pitch. Some young dads joined in the fun. Food stores were open and people talked to each other in groups on the street outside their corner shops (no big super stores).

Around lunchtime a mortar shell exploded two streets from our house and some of the splinters fell in the vicinity of the house where the children were playing. No damage done but it was horrific, as they were still very hot to touch. See above picture.

Some politicians claimed victory before the close of polls. Some started talking of forming coalitions and government! The same politicians shouted foul and cheating next morning without any count of votes having been announced.

I voted and it was simple – you show your papers and your name should be there on a register and they tick it. Some observers were there. They pointed to a room where I should go. There, I showed my proofing papers and had them stamped, my name ticked on their register and was given a stamped ballot paper, went to a booth, marked and folded the ballot paper and inserted it in the box, dipped my right forefinger in a staining ink and left the room. In the room beside the officials there were political observers, no words were heard from any.

(Received 14/3/2010)

Support the Gaza demonstrators

Last year’s antiwar demonstrations saw some of the harshest British policing in years. Below is a recent report as seen on the Fitwatch blog (see links):

Further harsh sentences were doled out yesterday as more of those arrested at the Gaza demonstrations last year attended Isleworth Crown Court for sentencing. A total of fifty people are to be sentenced for taking part in violent disorder during the protests outside the Israeli Embassy in Kensington last January. Previous sentencing has ranged between twelve months and two and a half years.

A further two defendants, both described as being of ‘exemplary character’ were yesterday sentenced to two years imprisonment. Another, for whom this was also a first offence, was sent down for 12 months. Four who had been under 18 at the time of the offence received detention orders ranging from 8 to 12 months. One was given a suspended sentence on grounds of mental illness, and two others were adjourned for pre-sentence reports.

The court was told how the defendants were fighting with police, although most of the allegations were of throwing or hitting out with flimsy placard sticks at riot police in full protective gear. A few of the defendants were also accused of ‘assisting’ others with picking up and throwing crowd control barriers that had been used by police to kettle protesters.. But there were no reports of any injuries sustained by anyone as a result of their actions. One man, a university student, got twelve months for throwing a single missile. His family sobbed in the gallery.

The court was not told about – nor seemed at all interested in – the context in which this violence happened. The court was not told about the police violence that was meted out on Gaza protesters during the numerous protests that took place in December and January last winter. How protesters were forced into pens, despite the crush that this caused. That protesters slow to move were pushed, shoved and sworn at, and those who objected, or who tried to move back barriers were hit with shields and batons.

Neither was the court interested in the political situation that was unfolding at the time. One of the defendants had recently visited part of his family in Gaza, a family including young children who were inevitably suffering under the brutal and unlawful military offensive that Israel had launched. It mattered not at all. He was sentenced to two years.

The Judge made it clear that the aim of these sentences was to act as a ‘deterrent to others’. It was not the behaviour of the individual that was important, he said, but the collective behaviour of the crowd.

These sentences cannot be seen as anything other than political, given the sustained effort and committment the state has put in to bringing so many people before the courts. The ‘deterrent’ effect intended is surely that of making Muslim communities fearful of taking to the streets again.

It is vital that the antiwar movement condemns these actions as an attack on the movement and an attack on ordinary Muslims. Check out the No More Isolation blog (nomoreisolation.wordpress.com) to find out what you can do.