Of politicians and other b...
If you are like me, and find party conferences as boring as the pre-elections broadcasts, you may have missed a pivotal moment on Labour’s conference yesterday. Thankfully the TV news made a lot of it though, and Ed Miliband’s acknowledgement that the Labour government was wrong invading Iraq on the tails of the USA was shown again and again. Of course, the statement was 7 years overdue but still was welcome.
What made the occasion ineffable though was showing the stony faces of the front bench big cheeses and the comments exchanged by David M. and Harriet Harman, All things considered I still don’t know who takes the high road: David M. by stubbornly refusing to accept his (and his party’s) mistake or Ms. Harman happily accepting the new party line and cheering the new leader’s vision. Was anybody reminded of the news the same day showing the North Korean ruling party congress?
Whether David M. wants to be a part of his brother’s front bench or not I find unimportant, what is worrying is that no matter what, the people that Labour will elect for the front bench are going to be the same ones that were strenuously defending the Iraq catastrophe until the day Ed M. put across the opposite argument. Politicians, eh?.
In many decades of campaigning for Palestinian’s rights I have seen, read and heard many compelling arguments to sympathize with the struggle these dispossessed people carry on for a country they can call their own, actually for the return of the country they called their own. Palestinians commemorate in May what they call Nakba, the catastrophic events that culminated with the flight and the expulsion of ¾ million Palestinians off their land to make way for the state of Israel. In any other part of the world I believe that justice would dictate that Israelis and Palestinians should share the same land, with equal rights in the same state, a logical solution that looks utopical now, on the other hand today the two state solution may seem the most practical way to bring some sort of stability to this one Middle East powder-keg, and even that seems ages away.
Hastings Against War joined the Nakba commemoration showing a film following Jody McIntyre’s visit to the city of Bilin last year. Bilin is one of those towns in the West Bank on the shadow of the separation wall built by Israel and suffering from the harassment and often whimsical decisions of the Israeli army effectively isolating Bilinians from their agricultural land, schools, hospitals on the other side of the wall by controlling checkpoints .
The people of Bilin regularly protest against this blockade and when Jody joins a protest march the film shows him follow a road littered with the debris of spent tear gas grenades; as they approach the wall a Palestinian guy plants a flagpole by the wall, Israeli soldiers try to dislodge it and respond to the protesters jeers by lobbing tear gas in profusion. There is plenty of filming of soldiers raiding houses in the middle of the night and lining up men, women and children against the wall and subjecting them to psychological distress and what irks the most is the apparent randomness and sheer pettiness of the army’s actions, but the image that stayed in my mind was to see Jody alone by the wall in the middle of smoking gas grenades looking very vulnerable sitting in his wheelchair. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that Jody is a handicapped 18 year old British journalist, follow his blog in http://jodymcintyre.wordpress.com
If voting changed anything ...
What a wonderful May day week end I’ve been having . Not only I was able to go out in the streets to leaflet for a responsible vote, (ie. No votes for the BNP), get a green nose and chin while watching the always fascinating parade of the Jack in the Green, but more importantly, perhaps, I suddenly decided who to vote for.
What? you may say, only now? The truth is that for the last few years I was in the ranks of the undecided. Dare I not vote? While troubled about Elections 2010 I did not watch the debates, did not read manifestos nor listen to the endless prattling of the media pundits, but campaigning in the streets (even if it is not for a specific party), gets you talking to a lot of people, many of them uninformed, many misinformed and of course a few bigots. It is an experience that all party politicians should indulge in, especially between elections but unfortunately they don’t and millions are spent in guff on only the last few weeks, hardly the best way of informing the electorate, and so leaving the discourse to be dictated by the loud, the ignorant, the opinionated, the media and of course, the rich.
Actually once things became clear in my mind a decision was easy, and in so doing I indulged in the very British habit of rooting for the underdog, and not surprisingly a conversation with a friend a couple of days ago helped to make up my mind; the fact is that in the last seven general elections I have been able to vote, only once I voted for the winning candidate. A lot of wasted votes, you may think: but for me it is clear that one lives much more easily voting for the right candidates than spending time calculating odds and trying to vote tactically.
I have also put up a couple of posters on the window, but small ones I confess.
What a terrible disappointment we must be to our former Prime Minister. All this pretty straight kind of guy ever wanted to do was what was right, or at least what he believed to be right, which is not necessarily the same thing. Yet in his selfless quest to make the world a better place, he just kept coming up against the innate suspicion of an unworthy British people. , Tony Blair finally gets it off his chest. “There’s always got to be a scandal as to why you hold your view”, he moans. “There’s always got to be some conspiracy behind it, some great deceit that’s gone on and people just find it hard to understand that it’s possible for people to have different points of view and hold them…for genuine reasons.”
In an interview last week with Fox News no less
The lack of self-awareness in that remark is truly staggering. Blair can honestly hold a view – but if anyone holds a different one, that’s a conspiracy. And has it dawned on him that his conduct of government that so outraged the Butler inquiry – decisions taken by a clique of cronies, sensitive items never minuted, the Cabinet (let alone Parliament) kept out of the loop – actually feeds into the idea that something fishy was going on? Apparently not.
Blair is beginning to cut a rather pathetic figure, less the world statesman, more the pub bore who just cannot resist telling you what a raw deal he’s had.
A few weeks ago a friend asked me to join him in London to protest at the Iraq enquiry when Tony Blair was to testify. You may remember my opinions about the Chilcot inquiry, not flatteringreally, so I said the only reason I would go to London in connection with TB would be at his arraignment for war crimes.
Since then the mood of the media has certainly intensified, what with the testimonies of Geoff Hoon, that weasel, and Jack Straw and a flock of civil servants and lawyers going over things that had already been said; still the circus rolls on. One can’t ask too much sharpness from these knighted gentlemen (and a Baroness) questioning other mostly retired knighted gentlemen (and the odd Baronesses) It is not a court, you see, it is done so we can learn the lessons they say.
Mind you Jack Straw’s testimony pissed me off greatly, he tried so hard to convince us that the decision to support going to war was the hardest he ever faced, he did so only after much consideration, with a heavy heart, fully aware of the suffering it would bring but at the same time conscious that it was a courageous moment, and he did it for our safety and more importantly for the people of Iraq and the Middle East. It would have made me cry in sympathy if I half believed him.
catastrophic results, hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, deaths and terrible injury of British and allied troops, millions of displaced Iraqi citizens, an Iraqi civil war, many more "collateral" deaths due to the breakdown of the Iraqi healthcare system, horrendous economic costs [over $1tr globally], the breakdown of trust in UK & US government, and the alienation of moderate Islamic opinion, will always weigh on his conscience but his mettle did not waver. Our relatlionship with the US President and our very own safety was a risk, so a few late nights and a troubled conscience are surely worth it. Being a better communicator that Straw he will probably end up handing his hat around for donations for his favourite charity.
Tony Bliar will take the same approach, and he will claim he could not shirk that heavy burden that being a leader put on his shoulder, the
Lied to his party, Parliament and British people? He’d never, just used the arguments that were at his disposal, and there were precious few people in power and media that dared defy him. Shame on them, and shame on us because we are not forcing an inquiry on what we are doing in Afghanistan .
Hastings peace campaigners are not that many so attempting even one action is sometimes a struggle but going for two on the same day could have been only a dream, actually last Saturday we commemorated the anniversary since the end of the Israeli invasion of Gaza with a stall in the town centre and afterwards some of us moved to Barclays Bank on Queens Rd. to picket and leaflet highlighting bankers profits from war and destruction all over the world.
On 27 December 2008, Israel began its indiscriminate land and aerial assault on the civilian population of Gaza. This included the illegal use of white phosphorus bombs in built-up areas. More than 1,400 Palestinians were killed in three weeks, over 300 of them children. Since then, Israel's continuing siege of Gaza has left its trapped population with severely restricted access to food, medical supplies and clean drinking water. Steel and concrete are not allowed into Gaza, leaving its people unable to rebuild the 8,000 homes that were destroyed during the Israeli attacks, or to repair their devastated infrastructure.
At the information stall in the town centre we collected signatures for a petition to Hastings MP Michael Foster to urge the UK government to exert international pressure to implement the recommendations of the Goldstone Report, which include investigating alleged war crimes committed during the three week assault and immediately ending the inhumane siege of Gaza.
In Hastings and all over the world people watched in horror at Israel’s disregard for human life. At the same time financial corporations were raking in the profits from the massacre of Gaza’s civilians. Barclays Bank was one of them. Barclays are the UK’s largest invesgtor in the arms trade with over £7.5 billion invested in companies who supplied weapons to the Israelis for the bombardment of Gaza.
Barclays Bank is the New York Stock Exchange “market maker” for ITT, the American company owning EDO, the arms manufacturer in Brighton. EDO makes equipment to interface between fighter aircraft and the bombs that were dropped in Gaza. Last year Amnesty International reported finding fragments of MK-82 bombs, EDO made bombs that end up being supplied to Israel.
Bankers and Institutional investors are the glue that finances the state terror wreaked by the arms trade. Companies like ITT and EDO do not operate in a vacuum, but are propped up by the network of corporations and investors which constitue the global capialist system, which puts profit before peace, greed before people.
At Saturday’s picket we held large placards denouncing Barclays complicity in the arms trade and asking its customers not to accept that their money be used to finance war, death and suffering.
The Hastings Against War leaflets on Gaza and Barclays can be ordered through their website.
108 British soldiers were killed in Afghanistan in 2009, it took only 3 days to see the first one to be killed this year.
How many more will be killed until we see the need for a new way.
I recently discovered a section in the Channel 4 website called Factcheck , I thoroughly recommend it, and it has a page copying the reasons used by Tony Blair and G. Brown to justify the British participation in the Afghan war. As it happened later with Iraq the mission varied as times went by and the latest lie, I mean version, in the PM speech last November seems to be that we (please include me out) are fighting Al Quaida in Helmand so we don’t have to fight them in the streets of Bradford. That logic has taken us from Afghanistan to Iraq, to Pakistan, to Somalia, threatening to do Iran, and now to prepare us for an intervention in Yemen.
Can we see the pattern? Can we see the future of a permanent war against an enemy that because it is ubiquitous and unattached to any country can operate from anywhere. Blatant exploitation of nationalistic sentimentality that it is, people react quite rightly to the parades of young soldiers coffins in Wootton Bassett but they also remain skeptical about the conclusion that the government has a blank check to carry on this war indefinitely and even expand it to anywhere in the world.
We must fight this idea we are being fed relentlessly that the only way to support our troops is to support this war. I say it is precisely the opposite.
It may be reverse snobbery but I like Christmas, the lights, the trees, the Nativity sets, the shopping and yes the presents, giving and receiving, the good, the bad and the unexpected. One of the latter I got this time was Leonard Bernstein’s Mass. I knew Bernstein’s West Side Story so his qualifications were a tad dubious but here is a wonderful piece, based on the Latin liturgical rite with the odd contemporary pieces in-between. One of this is based on some lines by Paul Simon that seemed to me a perfect summation of the lethargy and confusion of the decade
“Half the people are stoned
And the other half are waiting for the next election
Half the people are drowned
And the other half are swimming in the wrong direction”
Some people may say that 2010 will give us the opportunity to stop sleepwalking and start afresh, I hope it will be so. After all the future is up to us. Happy new decade.